God of the Month: Vortumnus (Vertumnus)

Little marrow type pumpkin and flower.

Little marrow type pumpkin and yellow flower.

Called The Changer, Vortumnus can be considered the God of Seasonal Change. He causes the plants to swell into vegetables. He turns the grapes purple and ripen the cherries. His influence becomes obvious in August, when the signs of autumn begin to show. At this time, the vegetables are ready to be picked. In the change from winter to spring, the focus is on Liber and Libera, who fertilize the plants. (Vortumnus does bring the warmth of spring.)

Vortunmus is the Protector of Gardens. His wife, Pomona, is the Goddess of Fruit and Fruit Trees. Together, They watch over the fruits and vegetables that we eat. During the Vortumnalia (August 13), I give thanks to Vortunmus for the produce from my grocery store, especially for the heirloom tomatoes.

Salve Vortumnus!
The Changer
The Turner
Your touch causes
The cucumber to ripen
The cherry to be sweet
You bring the changes of each season.
We feel You in the Autumn
But You are always there
The breath of warmth of Spring
The chill of Winter
Turning, turning the seasons one by one.
Salve Vortumnus!

Polytheism and Spiritual Pollution

Mention “miasma,” “pollution,” or “purity” in regards to Polytheism, and many Pagans will take umbrage with these terms. One reason is that Christianity has redefined these Polytheistic terms to match its theology. Since many Pagans are converts from Christianity, they will often think of these concepts in those terms. However, “miasma,” “pollution,” and “purity” had different meanings in Polytheism.

Paganism does have its version of “pollution” and “purity.” Pagans discuss “positive” and “negative” energies. People will cleanse themselves and their spaces routinely to clear out negative energy. For example, crystals are often cleansed before using them. Also, before rituals, many Pagans will smudge themselves to purify themselves and to clean out the ritual space.

Miasma and spiritual pollution are different from both negative energy and Christian sin. Negative energy powers destruction, sickness, and other such things. It can be removed by laughter or positive thinking. Sin is removed by baptism and confession. Miasma, which is specific to Greek Polytheism, is a “spiritual pollution that prevails over all, it is not an ‘evil thing.’” Continuing in his essay, Markos Gage says “Miasma is therefore something we incur in life, everyday life.” (Note 1)

In Roman Polytheism, castus (the adjective) means being morally pure, pious, or ritually pure. Piety (pietas) is maintaining the right relations between people, their Gods, their families, and their communities. Castitas (the noun) is the purity of the ritual and the participants. (Note 2) That means everyone must be physically and mentally cleansed before conducting a ritual. Before a ritual, people perform ablutions by washing their hands and asking that the water purify them.

An error conducted in a ritual is a spiritual pollutant. It negates the ritual and risks the anger of the Gods. It is not that a God will smite someone, but is to maintain the Pax Deorum, the Peace of the Gods. Religious negligence leads to divine disharmony and the turning away of the Gods. This leads to the loss of protection for the family, community, and the individual.

The closest thing that Roman Polytheism has to Christian sin is nefas. This can be defined as anything which is contrary to divine law. Nefas is a failure to fulfill a religious duty. Nefas is a willful act of religious violation.

Polytheists regard the world to be neutral, which differs from Christian theology. St. Augustine stated that the world is both corrupt and corrupting. Therefore, humanity lives in a Fallen World. To Polytheists, the world is both clean and dirty. Kenaz Filan explains, “The world is a clean flowing stream, and miasma the sewage dumped into the water. We clean the stream by filtering that sewage or by redirecting it…to where it can be properly contained.” (Note 3)

Why focus on purity and pollution? When a person prays, divine, or perform any other sacred act, they are engaging with the Holy Powers. There is a doctrine in U.S. law called, “Clean Hands” (also called “Dirty Hands”). (Note 4) The plaintiff cannot have the judge participate in an illegal act. One example is a drug dealer cannot sue to have his stolen drugs be returned. Another is suing the hit man you hired to kill someone for failure to do their job. As Judge Judy says on her TV show, “the courts will not help anyone with dirty hands.” I believe that in our relations with the Gods, we can think of purity and pollution in those terms.

Notes:
Note 1. Markos Gage, “Answers About Miasma,” from “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands,” Galina Krasskova, ed. P. 51. Markos Gage is a devotee of Dionysius and an artist.

Note 2. The Romans have a Goddess – Lua – who protects all things purified by rituals and for rituals.

Note 3. Kenez Filan, “Miasma” from “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands,” Galina Krasskova, ed. P. 69. Kenez Filan is the author of several books including “Drawing Down the Spirits (with Raven Kaldera)”. He is an initiated Houngan Si Pwen.

Note 4. Clean hands: “Under the clean hands doctrine, a person who has acted wrongly, either morally or legally – that is, who has ‘unclean hands’ – will not be helped by a court when complaining about the actions of someone else.” From The ‘Lectric Law Library, http://www.lectlaw.com/def/c202.htm

Works Used:
Galina Krasskova, “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands”
L. Vitellius Triarius, “Religio Romana Handbook.”

Not All War Gods Are the Same

animal zoo green predator

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Modern Pagans tend to regard the Gods as an aspect of a singular entity. For example, the Goddess religions treat the Goddesses of various pantheons as traits of the Great Goddess. Meanwhile, Nigel Pennick in “Pagan Book of Days” writes “The month of March is sacred to the Roman God Mars, whose equivalents are the Greek Ares and the old sky God of central and northern Europe, Tiu or Tiwaz. In northern and western Europe, this deity is known as the Celtic God Teutates and as the Norse God Tyr.” Pennick considers these disparate Gods to be the same “God of War.”

Lumping different Gods together is a long ingrained habit of modern thought. Living in today’s monotheistic culture indoctrinates people into thinking that only one God has ever existed.

Also, people have separated from the natural world through first Christianity and then by science. They now live in their minds, which is a monoculture in itself.

By divorcing people from their Ancestors (and later the natural world), Christianity forced Pagans to give up everything in order to be dependent on the church. It was a concerted effort by the early Church Fathers to flip the perception of how the natural order of life should be. They established arbitrary structures of how humans and the universe should be.

Eventually, the forced perception of nature being dependent on humans created cracks within Christianity. With the Protestant Reformation came the rigid dependence on the written “Word of God.” This was first formulated by Martin Luther as the sola scriptura (by scripture alone). Religious authority should come only from the Bible, which is God’s Word. Now among many Pagans, the written word is now the final arbitrator of truth.

Since the only thing that mattered became the written word, oral traditions were neglected,. This further extracted people from their world, with the Dead becoming figments of the imagination. This resulted in absolute reliance on the “lore” being evident among today’s Pagans. However, religion grows and changes through interaction with the natural world.

Meanwhile, Gnostic Christianity introduced the idea that humans with their own divine spark are trapped in physical bodies. Once gnosis (personal knowledge) is awakened, the divine spark will go free. Gnostics uphold that the material world is suspect and polluted. This theology evolved into the modern belief of the New Age religions: “We are spiritual beings in human bodies.” This detaches the person from the material world completely.

However, the idea that all “War Gods are the same” runs counter to nature. Consider English, which is used as a world-wide language. There are differences in dialects among native English speakers. For example, in the United States, “soda” and “pop” can mean the same thing – i.e. a “soft drink.” But “soda” can also mean “tonic water.” Asking for a “soda” could either get one a “soft” or a “hard” drink, depending on the region.

In my experience, the less people know or want to know, the more they tend to lump things together. Take snakes for example. There are nineteen families of these reptiles. However, most people think that all snakes are the same i.e. “a snake is a snake is a snake.” Not knowing the differences between snakes can kill you. The king and coral snakes resemble each other with yellow, black, and red stripes. The bands of the two species are in a different order. One is a venomous snake, while the other is a constrictor. Expounding on that further, it is critical to be able to identify the species of venomous snakes. The anti-venom serum (venom antiserum) used to treat snake bites is unique to each species. A cobra’s venom differs from a coral snake’s venom. Since time is critical in stopping the spread of the venom, a prompt identification is crucial.

Returning to the notion that “War Gods are the same,” it now makes little sense to think that. Even within a particular pantheon, the War Gods are all different. For example, the Babylonians have Inanna, the Goddess of Love, riding into battle leading the armies. Ningirsu (Ninurta), Lord Plough, is a God of War and also a God of Farmers. Nergal, whose symbol is the fly, brings death, pestilence and war.

The modern world has rendered humans from nature. Once people expected to encounter dragons and fairies when they went out their front door. Now divorced from nature, humans have forgotten their place in the web of life. The ecosystem of the cosmos includes humans as well as Ancestors, Gods, and Others. To reenter the ecosystem is to see the Gods as disparate Beings.

Further Reading:
Claude Lecouteux, “The Return of the Dead”
Nigel Pennick, “The Pagan Book of Days”
Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, “When God Had a Wife”

God-Bothered or Just Plain Crazy

ndvolcano

I have written that my belief in the Gods was an act of sanity on my part. I made my decision when I was at a crossroads between sanity and insanity. Since I had unexplained psychotic experiences, I was considered insane. However, I, instinctively, knew differently.

Since I was raised by Atheists, the rational, logical world was my reality. The imaginary domain was for children. Furthermore, religions were for deluded, delusional people. Belief meant having invisible friends, which was frowned upon. The supernatural was a product of an unsound mind.

Unfortunately for me, I was bothered by the Gods since my youth. Between the outside voices and visual hallucinations, it was all I could do to cope. I knew that the source of all of this was external and not internal. However, I lacked the knowledge to explain any of it.

I was caught on the horns of a dilemma. Was I crazy or sane? How could I slip through the horns or at least refute them? I first sought medical care but found no answers. Then, I read William James’ “The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature” (1907) (considered the classic on these matters). I found what I was looking for.

James describes “mysticism” in terms of my experiences. He said that they had four elements: 1) Ineffability: “mystical states are more like states of feeling than like states of intellect.” 2) Noetic quality: “although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth.” 3) Transiency: “Mystical states cannot be sustained for long.” 4) Passivity: “the mystic feels as if his own will were in abeyance, and indeed sometimes as if he were grasped and held by a superior power.” James’ writings on mysticism gave me a context to what was happening to me.

After reading James’ book, I investigated the lives of mystics, since they experienced the same things that I did. However, people regarded them to be touched by the Divine. For example, Julian of Norwich had visions of Christ, Mary, God, and Satan. Her writings are considered a masterpiece of mystical devotion. William Blake’s fiery visions in his poetry made me realize many people other than religious mystics were touched by the Gods.

My perceptual reality was of an oracle. Whenever a God was near, I would receive a prickly feeling, and the hairs of my arms would stand up. Once I was zapped with multiple bolts of electricity. If I was Christian, I would say, “I was slain in the Spirit.”

After dealing with the visions and the rest, I realized that I was “God-Bothered.” James said that “a religious experience testifies to an experience with something larger than ourselves.” The something “should be both other and larger than our conscious selves.” For me, this was freeing. My experiences had value, and were not creations of my mind.

In examining my experiences, I realized there was a variety in the types of them. I could sort them into various Gods. Each God had a different feeling and sense to Them. Neptune was a fluid but shocking feeling, meanwhile Nanna-Suen was a dreamy, soft sensation.

Now my next step was to decide who to listen to and who to ignore.

Prayer Beads: Inanna, Goddess of Babylon (2 of 2)

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GODDESS OF THE MORNING AND EVENING STAR

Materials

Goddess charm
Moon and star charm

33 beads

2 star beads
4 large sodalite
9 small sodalite
9 amethyst
9 yellow jasper

Order of beads:

Goddess charm
Star bead
Large sodalite

Small sodalite
Yellow jasper
Amethyst
Small sodalite
Yellow jasper
Amethyst
Small sodalite
Yellow jasper
Amethyst
Large sodalite

The pattern is the same for two more times. The result is three groups of nine beads separated by a large sodalite.

Large sodalite
Star bead
Moon and star charm

Prayers (adapted from hymns to Inanna)

Goddess charm: “Winged Goddess of the Morning, Inanna”
I call to You

Moon and star charm: “Winged Goddess of the Evening, Inanna”
I praise You

Star bead: “Winged Goddess of the Stars, Inanna”
I call to You

Large sodalite: “The Great Queen of Heaven, Inanna, I will hail.”

Sodalite: “Known by all lands from south to north.”
Yellow jasper: “Crown with great horns.”
Amethyst: “The pure torch that flares in the sky.”

Prayer Beads: Inanna Goddess of Babylon (1 of 2)

GODDESS OF SEX AND LOVE

Materials:

Goddess pendant
21 carnelian beads

Prayers (adapted from hymns to Inanna)

Pendant prayer:
“Oh My Lady
Queen of all heaven and earth
May we live long in your embrace!”

Prayers divided into three sets of seven beads
Set one:
“She has called for the queenly bed!”
Set two:
“She has called for the bed of heart’s delight!”
Set three:
“She has called for the bed for sweetening the loins!”

GODDESS OF WAR

Materials:

Goddess charm
Lion charm

31 beads:
4 large tiger eye beads
9 small tiger eye beads
9 hawk eye beads
9 citrine beads

Order of beads:

Goddess charm
Large tiger eye

Citrine
Small tiger eye
Hawk eye
Citrine
Tiger eye
Hawk eye
Citrine
Tiger eye
Hawk eye
Large tiger eye

The pattern is the same for two more times. The result is three groups of nine beads separated by a large tiger eye.

Large tiger eye
Lion charm

Prayers (adapted from hymns to Inanna)

Goddess charm:
“I am Inanna!
The Gods are sparrows —
I am a falcon!”

Large tiger eye:
“When I stand in the front (line) of battle,
I am the leader of all the lands”

Citrine:
“When I stand at the opening of the battle,
I am the quiver ready to hand.”

Small tiger eye:
“When I stand in the midst of the battle,
I am the arm of the warriors.”

Hawk eye:
“When I stand at the end of battle,
I am an evilly rising flood.”

Lion charm:
“I am Inanna!
I make the heaven tremble
The earth shake.”

Babylonian Month of May/June

closeup photo of brown brick wall

Photo by ShonEjai on Pexels.com

In the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar, the month starting from the new moon of May is called Simanu (“Month of the Brick Gods”). The King would lay the first brick in the brick mold. Then brickmaking and construction could begin in earnest. The Gods of Bricks and Building were honored in eight rituals that centered on the brick kilns.

For modern people, this can be the time to celebrate masonry and other aspects of building. Think of how bricks provide for safe and snug homes. The beginnings of civilization could be said to be represented by bricks and mortar.

The Gods of Bricks and Building are:
Girra: The God of Fire. The God of Kilns

Girra (Gibil): God of Fire of Babylon/ Sumer

Kabta: God of Pickaxes, Construction and Bricks

Kulla, the Divine Builder of Sumer
Kulla: The God of Building.

Musdama: The God of Foundations. The God of Architects
Arazu: The God of Completed Construction
Nuska: The God of Fire. The God of Civilization.

Note: In Sumer, the time of the inundations of the fields began at the new moon of May. The month of May-June is known as Sig-ga.

The Gods Are Not Inventions

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In the “An Atheist’s History of Belief,” Matthew Kneale subtitles his book: “Understanding Our Most Extraordinary Invention.” The author posits that the Gods were invented by humans to keep bad things from happening. Eventually this developed into a transactional exercise where the Gods would do for you as you do for them. The traditional method to do this transaction was ritual. Kneale sees that the core of religious belief is trust in these invented Gods (or God}.

He writes, “Religions are created out of the fear of being alone and in the dark. So I suspect there will be a few more invented world views. What fears will they answer? This will depend on us. It will depend on how safe our world feels.” By using the word “invention,” he captures the problem of why modern people have trouble believing in the Gods at all.

What is ironic is that monotheism itself is an invented religion. Belief in only one God does not come naturally to humans. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince writes in “When God Had a Wife,” “In fact it was the invention of monotheism, with the will of the masses being overturned and the elite priesthood and prophets triumphing.” The authors continue, “The notion not just appealing to one god alone, but that there was only one god to appeal to in the first place would have been downright nonsensical…They must have felt hollowed out spiritually…The loss of the pantheon of deities caused real confusion — and real suffering.”  (emphasis – the authors’)

Furthermore, Kneale displays a common underlying assumption of modern people. He assumes a linear mythos – “when and how were the Gods created.” Modern people see the world in terms of finite time and space – everything has to have a beginning and an ending. The modern scientific view is of the march of progress, a straight upwards arrow to the future. The basis for this comes from the Christian mythos when Christ comes to establish His Reign on earth, thereby ending the old world. In contrast, the multiple creation stories of the Sumerians, and other Polytheistic cultures point to “what is,” and not “what will be” or “what was.”

This linear logos devolves into humans creating the Gods by their own powers of the mind. Stemming from Kneale’s inventions, the Gods become “facets” of the One God. Eventually, these facets fall away leaving only the One God, who later becomes fiction Himself. Therefore the difference between many Gods, one God, or nothing lies only with humans. The human perception governs all reality.

Using the concept of “invention,” some Pagans theorize that the accumulation of belief in the minds of believers create the Gods. Therefore, these Gods can be replaced by science since it provides solutions to problems, that religion once answered. Once more, the Gods are reduced to fictions.

Judith O’Grady in “God Speaking” provides an alternative point of view. As she puts it – Gods dwell in Gods’ Land, and will manifest Themselves from time to time. O’Grady writes, “the in-dwelling Spirit does not come at the behest or exhortation of the human mind nor does the human create the Spirit. The Spirit must have some reason sufficient to Hirself for entering a place; Ze must “want” to.”

Further Reading:

Matthew Kneale, “An Atheist’s History of Belief”
Judith O’Grady, “Pagan Portals: God Speaking”
Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, “When God Had a Wife”

Roman Gods of the Month: May

beautiful blooming blossom blossoming

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

FYI: I put a monthly list of festivals of Gods for Rome and Mesopotamia in separate posts.

For Romans, May (Maius) is sacred to Maia, the Goddess of the Growth of Living Things. As the Mother of Mercury, She is also honored with Him at the Mercuralia on May 15. On May 1st, Maia’s festival day and on the 15th, a priest of Vulcan (God of Fire) will sacrifice a pregnant sow to Her. Maia is his consort since Vulcan (Volcanus) is also the God who ripens the earth with his inner warmth. Modern Roman Polytheists will offer burnt pork to Maia.

May is also a gloomy month since the Dead roam freely at this time. The Lemuria is to ensure that the Dead are placated and do not trouble the living. Meanwhile, the Rosalia focused on placing roses and violets on graves.

Maia, Goddess of Rome

The Days of the Dead
The major focus of this month is the Lemuria, the Roman Days of the Dead (May 9, 11, and 13). On these days, the Lemures (Larvae) seek out the living to have them give the Larvae proper burials. The Lemures also want people to make offerings in their memory to the Gods of the Dead. Meanwhile, the living do certain rites to ensure that Larvae not harm them or their families. (The Larvae could be considered the “Undead.”)

Until the 8th Century, May 13 was All Saints’ Day for Christians. During the 730s, Pope Gregory III changed the feast date to November 1. He wanted to accommodate the Celtic Christians, who had grown in numbers. Meanwhile, Roman Lemuria can be considered the Roman equivalent of Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.

Lemures and Lemuria

Banishing of the Lemures

Mercury (Mercurius)
For Romans, Mercury is the God of Commerce, Merchants, and Thieves. On May 15, merchants would bless themselves and their wares from his sacred well, which was located outside of the Sacred Boundary (Pomerium) of Rome. Modern Roman Polytheists will use water from local streams to bless their local banks and stores.

Julius Caesar noted that Mercury was the most popular God in the Celtic and Germanic regions closest to Roman territories. These peoples regarded Mercury to be the inventor of the arts. In Celtic areas, He was frequently accompanied by Rosmerta, Celtic Goddess of Abundance and Prosperity.

God of the Month: Mercury

Flora
On May 23, the Rosalia (dies rosationis (the day of the rose adornment)) is held. This was originally a military rite to honor the fallen. It later became a ritual to honor all the dead, with roses placed on graves. For the Rosalia, I would suggest going to a battlefield or military cemetery, if possible.

Flora, Goddess of Flowering Plants

The Ambarvalia
At the end of May, people would walk the perimeters of their fields bringing offerings of milk, honey and wine. Ancient Romans herded a boar, ram, and a bull around the boundaries, and then sacrificed them. Modern Roman Polytheists offer meats from the store, and ask for the blessings of Mars and Ceres on the crops.

The Ambarvalia