Deferunda is one of four Roman Goddesses known from an invocation
performed by the Arval Brethren when it was necessary to remove a problematic
fig tree from the grove of Dea Dia (apparently it
had self-seeded and was growing on a roof). The four Goddesses--Deferunda,
Coinquenda, Commolenda and Adolenda--are concerned with the proper ritual removal
of the tree.
The Arval Priests were a brotherhood of twelve priests who were
responsible for overseeing the rites of the Dea Dia, an early Roman grain and
fertility Goddess. Dea Dia is said to be another name for Acca
Larentia, the Goddess whose twelve sons (including Her adopted son, Romulus,
the legendary founder of Rome) were believed to have made up the first Arval
priesthood. They were the oldest religious brotherhood of Rome, and were known
to be quite ancient; their name derives from the Latin arvum, "a
plowed field", and they made offerings to the Lares (ancient guardian
spirits) to ensure a plentiful harvest. Their connection with the Lares is
also seen in the fact that Acca Larentia was believed to be the mother of the
Lares as well as the mother of the original Arvals.
It is not known if these Goddesses were invented for the occasion,
or if they were part of a tradition when dealing with such situations. Many
cultures have certain rituals that must be performed before removing a living
tree--from asking the tree's permission to making offerings to propitiate its
spirit--and the Romans were certainly ones to follow proper religious procedure
(one might call them superstitious), especially when sacred ground such
as the grove of a Goddess was concerned.
Deferunda's name, sometimes glossed as "Carter", is
from the Latin verb deferunda, meaning "to carry" or "to
transfer"; it can mean "to entrust" or "to refer for decision"
as well, and in this case it likely refers to the unavoidable need to remove
the tree, the implication being that the proper permission is being asked,
or a ritual announcement is being made. Coinquenda's name, which is not a Quenya
word, comes from the Latin verb coinquenda "to prune", or
"to cut down". She is sometimes said to be a Goddess of Trees, who
watches over and protects them, especially those in sacred groves. Commolenda,
"the Smasher" derives her name from commolenda, "to grind
down", possibly referring to the removal of the resulting cut branches,
logs and stump. Lastly, Adolenda's name, sometimes simply defined as "the
Burner", does come from adolenda, "to burn", but with
the richer sense of making a sacrifice or offering to the Gods; and in fact
the same word is also used with the meaning "to worship". Adolenda's
name especially underscores the sacred nature of this process.