Sylvanus

Sylvanus

King of the Woodlands

ALSO KNOWN AS:

Silvanus

Sylvanus, horned spirit of forests, groves, and wild fields, presides over boundaries, thresholds, and hedges. Sylvanus literally means “Forest Spirit” in Latin and is the name used by the Romans to describe one or more spirits they encountered in Northern Italy—and perhaps as far as Pannonia, an ancient trans-Danubian nation now part of modern Hungary. What is known of him derives from Roman writings. Whether he had other local names is now unknown, but he has been responding to Silvanus for centuries. The Romans compared him to Faunus. He also resembles Pan in that he, too, reputedly enjoys scaring lonely travelers.

Sylvanus is the spirit of the wild, flourishing forest, but unlike Faunus and Pan, Sylvanus is not exclusively a wilderness spirit. When his woodland was cleared and cultivated, he evolved into a spirit of fields. Sylvanus is the protector of herds and cattle. In medieval France, Silvanus was identified with Saint Amador, who is sometimes called Sylvanus.

MANIFESTATION:

He is described as a horned spirit resembling Faunus. Sylvanus is usually accompanied by three Nymphs, the Sylvanae.

Sylvanus may derive from the Etruscan spirit Selvans. The forest is Selvans’ shrine: he possessed no temples, priests, or festivals. The subject of exclusively male veneration, he was worshipped in private.

ICONOGRAPHY:

Images of the Green Man may be used to represent him.

ATTRIBUTES:

Pruning knife, sickle, and a pine bough

ANIMALS:

Wolf, stag

Tree:

Pine

Sacred site:

Sylvanus was venerated with Diana at a shrine in Nettleton Shrub, Wiltshire, in the mid-third century CE. Based on archaeological evidence, the shrine was a major pilgrimage site.

OFFERINGS:

First fruits of the season were offered to Sylvanus alongside meat and wine. These were exclusively male rituals; women were not permitted to witness sacrificial offerings made to Sylvanus.

SEE ALSO:

  • Diana
  • Faunus
  • Green Man
  • Nymph
  • Pan

SOURCE:

Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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