Caia Caecilia, also called Gaia Caecilia, is a Roman Goddess of fire, the hearth, healing, and women. Two seperate, though ultimately linked, Goddesses were known as Caia: Caia Taracia, and Caia Caecilia, also known as Tanaquil, an early Roman Queen (though some said Caia Caecilia referred to Tanaquil's deified daughter-in-law, rather than Tanaquil herself). Caia Taracia was a Vestal Virgin who was remembered for having given a large amount of land to the city of Rome; much like Acca Larentia, She was honored for the gift after Her death, and a statue was dedicated to Her. There is evidence that the stories of Acca Larentia and Caia Taracia spring from the same root—one of the territories (ager) given by Acca Larentia to Rome was called the Ager Turax, and "Turax" is a version of "Taracia".
Caia Caecilia was the Latin name of the famous Queen Tanaquil, wife of Tarquinius Priscus, said to have ruled from 616-578 BCE; the Etruscan name "Tanaquil", which means "the Gift of Grace", may possibly have been corrupted to "Taracia". Tanaquil was an ambitious, intelligent woman who was born of a noble family, who was well-educated in medicine and mathematics, and who was highly skilled in the Etruscan arts of augury and prophecy. She is credited with acquiring the throne for Her husband and predicting his rise to power: as they were riding to Rome, a great eagle swooped down and grabbed his hat; after flying very high it brought it back to him, and Tanaquil correctly interpreted this as meaning he would achieve great things.
Tanaquil also interpreted other omens relating to the kingship: one day Her servant-woman Ocrisia was offering cakes to the Lares (the household Gods) at the family hearth. Within the flames she saw a vision of a God, and related the experience to the Queen. Tanaquil told her to dress as a bride and shut herself in her room. That night Ocrisia was visited by a God (some say Vulcan, the God of Fire, some say one of the Lares), and became pregnant, later giving birth to a boy. This same boy, another legend says, was once observed to have flames around his head as he slept; Tanaquil recognized this omen also, and predicted that he was a future King. Which was true as well, for the boy was Servius Tullius, who would become the sixth King of Rome.
Tanaquil not only helped Her husband to attain the throne of Rome, but helped Servius to gain that title after Tarquinius was murdered by a rival faction. Tanaquil's plan was this: by pretending that the King was only wounded, Servius was allowed to slip into the role of interim ruler, and by the time it was announced that the King was dead (long after he actually had died), Servius had been accepted by the Senate as King.
Etruscan women were known for being confident and strong—an example of this is found in a quote from one of Servius's two daughters, both of whom were called Tullia. Though they shared the same name, one was ambitious and the other not at all: the ambitious daughter complained that her mousey sister lacked "the daring proper to a woman". Both parts of the name Caia Caecilia come from an Etruscan root cae or cai meaning "happy" which in Latin gave the common male name of Gaius. Caia Caecilia is an exception to the usual rule by which Roman women were named: generally, in the early times anyway, Roman women had one name only, which was the feminine form of their father's name, which explains why Servius Tullius's two daughters were both named Tullia. Infrequently, women would acquire a first name upon marriage, which would then be the feminine form of her new husband's name. Tanaquil took neither, and in fact is sometimes considered to be more famous and powerful than Her husband.
After Her death, Tanaquil was deified and perhaps assimilated to an earlier Goddess Caia. The deification of a mortal, though mocked in the time of the Empire, was not really that big a leap, religiously. The dead had long been given divine honors, as they were considered to be immortal, and the spirits of the ancestors were given offerings as a regular part of family worship. Both the Manes and the Lares, the guardian Gods of the household who feature in Caia's legend, find their roots in the spirits of the dead.
Caia's name shares its root with the name of Caeculus, a son of Vulcan, who was said to have founded the city of Praeneste. Caeculus's story shares many of the same motifs: it was said that his mother, a shepherd-woman, was seated by the hearth when a spark jumped out and landed in her lap, making her pregnant by the God Vulcan. Later as a young man, Caeculus asked for a sign from his father to prove his divinity, and Vulcan answered by surrounding him with a ring of flames, much like the omen seen around the boy Servius. Caeculus's story sounds like a different, probably older, version of Servius's that may have been appropriated by Rome to glorify their early history—the Romans were forever inventing propaganda to show that Rome had always been destined for greatness—for Praeneste is the older city.
Caia as a Goddess of women played a part in the Roman wedding ceremony. As part of the ritual, the bride and groom exchanged similar vows, the bride's being, Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia, meaning "Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia" (the groom's counterpart would of course be, "Where you are Gaia, I am Gaius"). Perhaps this can also be interpreted to mean "When you are happy, I am happy", for it was thought that invoking Caia would bring good luck to a marriage. And after the bride was married, but before she had officially entered her new home, if she were asked her name, it was traditional for her to answer "My name is Caia". The Romans honored Caia/Tanaquil for Her domestic skills, as fit their ideal of women, and in one of the (zillion and a half) Temples to Fortuna in Rome a toga She had woven for Servius Tullius was kept. Likewise, in the Temple of Semo Sancus (a God of Sabine origins) Her spindle and distaff (tools used in spinning yarn) could be found, along with the bronze statue of Caia Caecilia. Filings from this statue's sash were believed to have healing powers.
Additionally, Caia Caecilia is connected to Tiberius, the God of the Tiber River, which runs through Rome. She is also linked to the island in the middle of the Tiber, and may have had a small shrine there with Tiberius, where offerings were made to Them on the eighth of December. The Island was said to have been created when the Tarquins were finally run out of Rome, as Rome transitioned to the Republic; the people in their anger at the old Kings took all the grain from the fields that had been owned by the Tarquins and dumped it into the Tiber, creating the island. One of the earlier Tarquins, of course, had been Tanaquil's husband.
So then: Caia's various legends and connections are quite tangled, but there are some common threads—She is associated with the Lares and the hearth-fire, with Queenship and prophecy, and the land. It is noteworthy that Gaia Taracia was a Vestal Virgin, one of a priestesshood who served Vesta, the Fire-Goddess of the Hearth. Fire plays a part in many of the legends woven about Caia, and fire is used as emblematic of divinity in the story of Her male namesake, Caeculus: given Her Etruscan origins and the tales of Her exploits, it is tempting to see it as "the fire in the belly" of daring and audacity. Her connections with Acca Larentia (the Mother of the Lares) and the Lares themselves place Her at the Hearth, symbol of the center—of the home, or the State, as Vesta's temple in the Forum was the symbolic "central hearth" of Rome—and tie Her to the land, as the Lares were farmland-spirits in addition to spirits of the dead (for the dead were in early times buried on the family's land); She donates land to Rome, thereby increasing its size, and Her family is at the bottom of a legend about creating land. She may be then a Goddess of the territory of Rome, and a patroness of the Roman people; and as the Queen who represents the land, She gives the divine right of rule through Her gifts of prophecy, and acts as mother or Godmother to Kings.
The Romans, in adopting this Etruscan Deity, emphasized Her domestic household skills in accordance with their ideals, and invoked Her blessing over marriages and brides. Caia's fiery roots may not have been forgotten, though: the most important piece of a bride's wedding apparel was her veil, called a flammeum, so-named because it was the color of fire.
Also called: Gaia Caecilia, Gaia Taracia, Gaia Fufetia, Tanaquil, Thanxvil