"Imagine eight phenomenal Latinists having a blast and chatting in Latin about Ceres's influence on the seasons, and about our own favorite seasons."
- Baltimore leader Cathy Reed
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the group called Lupercal?
“Lupercal” was the name given to the cave where, according to Roman mythology, the she-wolf “Lupa” nursed the twins Romulus and Remus. The twins had been left in a basket, and cast out from their family. The cave is a space where they came together to grow stronger and from which they ultimately went on to claim their space as royals.
This is a metaphor for Latin studies. We have been excluded, through words and actions, openly and secretly, from spaces dedicated to obtaining increased fluency in spoken Latin. This opportunity gap has led to male-dominated spaces that silence the gender diversity in our field. Lupercal is a space for us to learn from each other, practice leadership skills, and receive support as we reach new heights of Latin fluency.
Why "Lupercal Legit?"
“Legit” is because Lupercal has a legitimate reason to exist, given the issues with gender exclusion in our field. “Legit” is also the present and past tense of the Latin verb “reads” and therefore helps us keep our character count down when we want to say, for example, “@LupercalLegit Cleopatram.” The fact that one verb can written past and present tense encapsulates our belief that history continuously impacts the present, and that the present benefits from communication with those before us.
Why do you read De Mulieribus Claris by Boccaccio?
De Mulieribus Claris (On Famous Women) is a book written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the 14th century. It is an index of 106 Latin biographies of women. Its primary purpose is didactic: to inform women how to (and how not to) behave. Seen by some as proto-feminist for its female theme and by others as sexist for its more condescending moments, it is ultimately a rich prompt for conversations about gender and sexuality. It was chosen as our key text because 106 Latin biographies should keep us pretty busy, it’s accessible to all, and many of the women are famous enough that context clues could help us comprehend the text. Finally, because it is in Renaissance Latin, it is written clearly and with a repetitive style and tone easy for those who regularly read the stories. It felt accessible and fresh. We use the Harvard University Press Latin-English bilingual edition, translated by Virginia Brown. You can buy your own copy here. The free Latin text is accessible online here.
Why is Lupercal closed to cisgender men?
Male-only spaces and co-ed spaces abound, but this has led to a field that is very male heavy in its highest level of spoken Latin. We see that these programs have left an opportunity gap that is keenly felt by women and gender non-binary Latinists. Lupercal is a way for Latinists of all genders to have equal access to high-quality spoken practice and programming.
In addition, the presence of men frequently reduces the likelihood of women speaking in co-ed groups. Many of us have experienced sexual harassment in co-ed spaces and appreciate the privacy of Lupercal so that we can process our own experiences and talk freely about gender issues that come up in our texts and lives. Finally, many new mothers express relief at being able to read Latin and breastfeed without feeling as though they must choose one over the other.
Doesn’t that mean Lupercal is sexist against men?
Lupercal providing an opportunity to practice spoken Latin—that exists for men more often than women—is not exclusive. Rather, it balances out an imbalanced array of Latin programs. In addition, because sexism involves power, it is not possible for sexism to operate against those in power. For more information about the mechanisms behind sexism, please consult the following:
The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson
Which Latin programs exclude women?
The Catholic Church has a long history of keeping spoken Latin alive, while unfortunately also excluding women from high positions. Because Latin still holds a strong place in the Vatican, the top Latinists in the world are disproportionately male.
This gap at the very top of Latin careers trickles down into summer programs, Latin conferences, and schools.
The Vivarium Novum is a spoken Latin immersion school outside of Rome. It allows women to pay to participate in summer programs, but is closed to women during the academic year.
Countless other programs disproportionately staff men as presenters, produce curriculum only curated by men, and are spaces where women and gender-nonbinary Latinists are routinely harassed or ignored. We at Lupercal see the impressive and diverse talent entering our field, and work to make sure that people of ALL genders have equal opportunities to improve their spoken Latin.
I’m still mad about Lupercal’s policy.
Ask yourself: what part makes you mad? Do you have a problem with women's-only spaces in general, like a Catholic all-girls school or your neighborhood book club for women who read Nora Roberts books together?
Or are you upset with the gender imbalance in our field? If so, please direct your energies toward the organizations that created the need for Lupercal to exist in the first place. Or, even better: focus your energy on reading Latin because that’s what we all love and are here for, after all!
If you still have issues you’d like to bring up about our gender policy, we invite you to contact one of the many “brothers” of Lupercal, who are men supportive of our mission who can help you process your concerns, answer your questions, and ideally help you feel included in these essential conversations. To become a brother of Lupercal, please click here.
I think Lupercal is great, but not for me because I am a man, or do not know Latin. How can I get involved?
You are warmly invited to read the book along with us, available for purchase here. Reading this book (with English and Latin on facing pages) will provide great conversation topics to discuss with Lupercal members, and is an enjoyable reading experience on its own.
We also have multiple funding needs, from book donations to retreat materials. For more information on giving, please click here.
You can also help by spreading the word, following our twitter @LupercalLegit, or volunteering!
Finally, you can apply pressure to programs that keep us outside their doors, their leadership meetings, and their conference schedules. If you attend a conference mostly run by men, or hear of a Latin program that excludes women, please write them to share your concerns.
Will Lupercal ever be open to men?
Aside from occasional pop-up events like at conferences, there are no plans for this. We do have a few boy babies who show up on occasion, though, accompanied by their moms! Shhhh…! Lupercal hopes to one day be open to all genders, when we can embrace the diverse talents in our field and read about herstory together.
Do you have programs for high schools or younger students?
We hope to soon! If you are interested in developing Youth Lupercal, please fill out our contact form and take the liberty of looking into funding opportunities for this work.
How does Lupercal operate?
Lupercal is run by a group of volunteers. All events are free, though depending on location, there may be museum tickets or coffee to buy. We are non-profit and entirely funded by donors. To help us continue our important work, please visit our giving page!
I’d like to start a chapter in my area! How do I get started?
Great! Currently we are putting a hold on starting new chapters, but you are welcome to use our materials to use in groups or schools. Once you've been meeting regularly as a group of 5 or more members, drop us a line and we can talk about the next steps of becoming an official Lupercal chapter. In the meantime, consider joining our facebook group, participating in an online group, buying a book, and checking out our FlipGrid platform so that you have plenty of ways to practice Latin in the meantime!
Which stories from Boccaccio's De Mulieribus Claris have you read so far?
We've read the biographies of many women, including Arachne, Camilla, Carmenta, Cassandra, Ceres, Circe, Cleopatra, Eve, Hortensia, (Pope) Joan, Leena, Lucretia, Marpesia & Lampedone, Medea, Medusa, Penelope, Proba, Sappho, Virginia, and Zenobia.
My question hasn't been answered, or I'd like to be in contact.
Please send us an email!