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Canens & Veris

Canens, the daughter of Janus and Venilia, is the Roman goddess of song, known for her beautiful voice. She was a rare beauty, but her voice was even more rare and more beautiful. Canens could tame wild animals, calm thundering waters, captivate soaring birds, and move stones and trees with her voice. The name Canens comes from the Latin "canere", which means to sing, chant, recite, enchant, captivate. It is the word that gives us chant, enchant, and canon (as in a round of singing), among others.


According to Metamorphosis by Ovid, the goddess Canens was betrothed to Picus, king of Laurentum (on the banks of the river Tiber, approximately 25 km south of Rome). Picus, son of Saturn, was known for his great beauty and prophetic abilities. Although Picus and Canens loved each other deeply and powerfully, Picus allowed himself to be beguiled by the Greek sorceress, Circe. Circe lured Picus away from his hunting companions, and misled him by sending a phantom in the form of a wild boar across his path. Once Picus and Circe were alone, she declared her undying love for him. Since Picus was deeply devoted to Canens, he rebuffed Circe, who then became enraged and vowed to inflict on him the pain a woman feels when scorned. Circe turned Picus into a woodpecker, which even today is called picus in Latin.


When Canens discovered Picus was gone, she became crazed with grief and ran through the forest calling his name. She searched for him for six days and nights without food or rest, and finally, bereft of strength and overcome with grief, she collapsed on the banks of the Tiber, where she sang a final, tragic song to Picus, as a swan sings its only and final song as it dies. Little by little, devoured by grief, Canens withered away, leaving only her voice, disembodied, to sing her song. It is known as the Voice of the Woods, and according to Ovid, the place where Canens disappeared was later named after her by the muses.

The word Veris comes from the Latin word for truth and genuineness (ex veris = from that which is true/genuine). In other words, Cantaveris means "perform (sing/speak/recite) with authenticity."





Habinek, Thomas N. (2005). The World of Roman Song: From Ritualized Speech to Social Order. Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press

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