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!

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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.”

God of the Month: Venus

ndvenus

Venus of the Romans is a complex Goddess, who is often equated with the Greek Aphrodite. But Venus is more than the Goddess of Love, She is also the Patron of Gardeners and the Protector of the Graves of Girls. Venus Genetrix (the Mother of Rome) is the Ancestor of the Romans. Meanwhile, Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious) carries a spear into battle, and rides alongside her favorite generals.

The first temple to Venus was built in 295 BCE by Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges, Consul of Rome. He collected fines that were levied against women who were found guilty of adultery. Since it was built using those fines, the temple was dedicated to Venus Obsequens, the Goddess of Sexual Excess.

The second temple was built during the Second Punic War with Carthage. In a rite of evocatio, Dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus persuaded Venus Erycina (Venus from Eryx) to come to Rome. To defeat the Carthaginians, the Sibylline Books counseled to remove this Goddess from Sicily, which was allied with Carthage. After Venus Erycina came to Rome, She became the Goddess of Female Prostitutes.

Upon discovering the unchaste activities of three Vestal Virgins, the Romans consulted the Sibylline Books. To atone for this gross act of impiety, the Senate built a temple for Venus Verticordia (Venus the Changer of Hearts) in 114 BCE. This Venus is the Protector Against Vice.

For his military victories, Pompey claimed that Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious) blessed him. To celebrate his triumphs, Pompey dedicated a temple to Her in 55 BCE. She shared the space with a permanent theater which Pompey also wanted to build.

Julius Caesar introduced the cult of Venus Gentrix, the Goddess of Motherhood and Marriage. His family, the Gens Julia, had long claimed Venus as an Ancestor. After Caesar, Venus Gentrix became the Mother of the Roman People. In 135 CE, Hadrian built a temple to Her and Roma Aeterna (Eternal Rome). He considered Venus to be the Protector of Rome.

Roman Virtues and Principles

ndfidesRomans are guided by three principles in their Polytheism. First, Do ut des (I give that you may give) focuses on the reciprocity between the people and their Gods. Second, Ius divinus (sacred law) governs the right relations between humans and Gods. Finally, Pax deorum (peace of the Gods) stresses maintaining harmony between people and the Gods. These principles are rooted in pietas (piety). For Romans, this includes devotion to their families, the Gods, and their communities.

Added to that are the many public and private virtues that every Roman aspires to. Of the list of private virtues relevant to political action would be dignitas (a sense of self-worth), firmitas (tenacity), gravitas (a sense of the importance of the matter), prudentia (personal discretion), severitas (self-control) and finally veritas (honesty). These particular virtues both guide the conduct of the Roman Polytheist in politics, as well as define how to be an effective advocate. Following these virtues ensures that one does not degrade those for whom they advocate nor the Gods Themselves.

Meanwhile public Roman virtues provide a structure on what to advocate for. Abundantia is enough food for all. Aequitas is fair dealing between the government and the people. When conducting affairs let concordia (harmony between nations and between people) and fides (good faith in contracts) be the guides. Iustitia points to having sensible laws, and salus, the concern for public welfare. In the throes of advocacy, bonus eventus (remembering positive events) and fortuna (acknowledging positive events) should not be forgotten.

Virtues who are Gods:
Abundantia: With her cornucopia, this Goddess distributes grain and money to all.
Aequitas: Aequitas is the God of Equity.
Bonus Eventus: Depicted with a patera (cup) in his right hand and a wheat shaft in the left, this God ensures good harvests and successful enterprises.
Concordia: This important Goddess has a festival on July 22.
Felicitas (Prosperity): This Goddess represents the best aspects of communities.
Fides: This Goddess oversees oral contracts between people.
Libertas (Liberty): This Goddess personifies liberty in all its aspects – personal and political.
Pax (Peace): When Augustus re-established peace after the Roman Civil War, he made Pax a Goddess.
Pietas: This Goddess is usually portrayed with a stork, a symbol of filial duty.
Pudicita (Modesty): This Goddess, once represented the modesty of women, but later oversaw the moral uprightness of citizens.
Salus: This ancient Goddess also preserves public health.
Spes (Hope): Depicted about to depart, this Goddess holds an opening flower.
Virtus (Virtue) and Honos (Honor): These two Gods are usually worshipped together. They are also Gods of Military Courage and Honor.

God of the Month: Fausta Felicitas

Fausta Felicitas is the Goddess of Good Fortune and Luck. (“Fausta” is the adjective for “favorable.” “Felicitas,” the noun, means “good fortune.” This Goddess is depicted holding a caduceus for health and a cornucopia for wealth. She is also a protective Goddess of Peace and Prosperity. On October 9, Fausta Felicitas is worshipped with Venus Victrix (Conquering Venus) and Genius Publicus (Guardian of the People). Together, these three Gods protect the spiritual aspects of Romans.

Felicitas is a Roman virtue who became divine. As a public virtue, felicitas is the prosperity blessed under the protection of the Gods. As the Pax Divom, felicitas is the state of harmony with the Gods. At the beginning of rituals, Romans say, “Quod bonum faustum felix fortunatumque sit!” (May it be good, lucky, happy, and blessed!) This is to ensure the success of the rite.

Felicitas’ Aspects:
Felicitas Deorum: Luck of the Gods
Felicitas Perpetua: Everlasting Happiness
Felicitas Publica: The Divine Force of the People
Felicitas Republicae: The Fortune of the State
Felicitas Saeculi: Happiness of the Age
Felicitas Temporum: Prosperity of the Times

God of the Month: Fides

ndfides

Roman morality is governed by two sets of virtues – personal and public. These thirty-one virtues give Romans their moral, physical and spiritual grounding. Personal virtues are the qualities that ordinary people should aspire to. Meanwhile, public virtues are for the community to govern itself by. Because of their importance to Roman life, many of the public virtues have become deities.

Often mistaken to mean “faith,” fides is defined as “reliability between two parties, which is always reciprocal.” Fides is an essential quality for those who are in the public arena such as politicians. Since fides is the bedrock of relations between people and their communities, this virtue is now a Roman Goddess.

Rome’s second king, Numa Pompilius began the annual rites to Fides Publica (Public Trust) on October 1. Her temple in Rome held the state treaties. One of the oldest of Roman Gods, Fides holds the same place of importance with Jupiter Optimus Maximus (Jupiter the Best and Brightest) and Dius Fidius, the God of Oathtaking.

Salve Fides!
May we keep the trust of others.
May they keep our trust.
Let us have mutual faith.
Both are needed
For society to thrive.
Salve Fides!

Gods of the Month: October

This is Part Two of October festivals and other important days that I follow. Part One is Gods of the Month: October 2016.

October is a month to focus on the affairs of the state and of the community. Fides (Good Faith), Felicitas (Good Fortune) and Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious) are honored for the protection of the people and the continuing favor of the Gods. Di Penates (the Gods of the Pantry) are also given sacrifices for protecting the food stores.

Also, October is a month of transitions. The campaign season is over and soldiers return home. They and their weapons need to be purified before they can rejoin the civilian population.

For me in my personal devotions, I honor Hekate and Anubis (Gods of the Dead) who helped me in adjusting to life after my traumatic brain injury. October is also the beginning of the Wild Hunt by Odin, the All-Father of the Norse. I also honor Ba’al, Whose temples have been destroyed by religious fanatics.

FIDES PUBLICA
The Goddess of Good Faith and Trust, Fides Publica has sacrifices made to Her on October 1. This Goddess presides over oral contracts both political and social. Roman priests make offerings to Fides with gloved hands, to show their absolute trust in Her.

FAUSTA FELICITAS
On October 9, a festival is held for Fausta Felicitas, the Goddess of Good Fortune. As Felicitas Publica, She is the Divine Force of the State. People pray to Her in both aspects to keep the commonwealth prosperious and successful.

VENUS VICTRIX
The Roman Goddess Venus has many aspects. One of them is Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious), who protects the State. As Venus Genetrix, She is considered to be the Ancestress of the Roman People. As the Evening Star, Venus led her son Aeneas to Latium to settle.

DI PENATES
On October 14, Romans honor Di Penates, the Gods of the Pantry. Along with the Lars, Di Penates protect the household. Since They guard the food stores, Di Penates can be considered the Gods of the Food Banks. Taking canned goods to a food bank is one way to honor Di Penates.

Other Festivals and Observations:

MARS: In October, the Roman armies came home from the wars. The Armilustrium is the purification of the weapons and trumpets (tubae) on October 18. Gods of the Month: Mars

MANIA and DII MANES:  The Opening of the Mundus (the Well to the Underworld) is conducted for the second time in the year on October 5. The Mundus, Well to the Underworld

MEDITRINA: The Meditrinalia, the Festival of First Wine, is held on October 11.
FONS: Fons, the God of Springs, is honored at the Fontinalia on October 13. God of the Month: Meditrina

ODIN: Because my Anglo-Saxon Ancestors have an altar to their Gods, I make observances for these Gods also. The Norse Winternights, the beginning of the winter is From October 29 to November 2. The Wild Hunt starts at this time and continues through the winter. Ghost Riders in the Sky or the Wild Hunt

God of the Month: Ereshkigal of Sumer

The Queen of the Great Below, Ereshkigal rules the Underworld (Irkalla). This is the final destination from which there is no return – either for Gods or mortals. Ereshkigal keeps the Dead where They need to be, so the Dead do not wander off and plague the living.

For the Sumerians, the Dead went to the world beneath the Earth’s surface. Called the Lower World, a stairway, from a cave in the earth, went down to the First Gate. As the newly deceased moved downward, They would give gifts to the various Galla who guarded the Gates. After going through the Seven Gates, the Dead would arrive before Ereshkigal. She would pronounce the sentence of death on Them as her scribe, Geshtinana recorded their names.

Ereshkigal never leaves Irkalla, nor do the Great Gods visit Her except for Nergal, Her Fourth Consort. Nergal (The Unsparing) has his escorts keep the Gates open when He returns every six months to sit by her side. During that time, Nergal rules with Her. The other six months, He wages war and sends the newly killed to Her.

Her Son Ninazu, God of Healing, and his son Ningishzida (God of the Dawn) would conduct business for Her in the Upper World. Namtar (Fate-Cutter), also Her Son, would go to the Upper World to spread the plague and pestilence. Her daughter, Nungal is considered the Goddess of Prisons and Punishment.

The Descent of Inanna

In The Descent of Inanna (c 1900-1600 BCE), Inanna journeys to the Underworld to visit her recently widowed Sister, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Great Below. As Inanna descends, She is forced to give up her royal power and is stripped naked. Leaving the Seven Gates behind, She enters the throne room. There, She finds Ereshkigal in labor with her late husband’s child. The Annuna, who are the Judges of the Underworld, surround Inanna and pass their judgement of death on Her. Ereshkigal then kills her Sister and hangs the corpse on a hook.

Meanwhile, Ninshubur, who is Inanna’s chief minister, seeks help from the Great Gods. Enki, Inanna’s Father, sends two Galla help rescue Inanna. They help Ereshkigal give birth, who then allows then to Inanna’s Corpse. Once Inanna is restored to life, She must find someone to take cher place. Eventually, She chooses her consort Dumuzi, who did not mourn Her. However, Dumuzi’s sister, Geshtinanna volunteers to take his place for six months each year.

Modern readings of the Descent of Inanna have Inanna shedding her old self, confronting her shadow, and emerging again whole. Read in conjunction with the Epic of Gilgamesh (c 2150-1400 BCE), the Descent of Inanna presents a different meaning. Inanna is instrumental in having Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven murdered. He is Ereshkigal’s husband and father of her unborn child. She wanted justice for the death of her husband, and leaving her unborn child fatherless.

However, Inanna avoided the consequences of her actions. She was able to convince Enki to return Her to life. Dumuzi and Geshtinanna paid for her decision to attain more mes (power) by going to Gugalanna’s funeral in the Underworld. The Descent of Inanna then becomes a story of one God seeking justice and being thwarted, since Inanna escapes punishment for her deed.

In The Descent of Inanna (c 1900-1600 BCE), Inanna journeys to the Underworld to visit her recently widowed Sister, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Great Below. As Inanna descends, She is forced to give up her royal power and is stripped naked. Leaving the Seven Gates behind, She enters the throne room. There, She finds Ereshkigal in labor with her late husband’s child. The Annuna, who are the Judges of the Underworld, surround Inanna and pass their judgement of death on Her. Ereshkigal then kills her Sister and hangs the corpse on a hook.

Meanwhile, Ninshubur, who is Inanna’s chief minister, seeks help from the Great Gods. Enki, Inanna’s Father, sends two Galla help rescue Inanna. They help Ereshkigal give birth, who then allows then to Inanna’s Corpse. Once Inanna is restored to life, She must find someone to take cher place. Eventually, She chooses her consort Dumuzi, who did not mourn Her. However, Dumuzi’s sister, Geshtinanna volunteers to take his place for six months each year.

Modern readings of the Descent of Inanna have Inanna shedding her old self, confronting her shadow, and emerging again whole. Read in conjunction with the Epic of Gilgamesh (c 2150-1400 BCE), the Descent of Inanna presents a different meaning. Inanna is instrumental in having Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven murdered. He is Ereshkigal’s husband and father of her unborn child. She wanted justice for the death of her husband, and leaving her unborn child fatherless.

However, Inanna avoided the consequences of her actions. She was able to convince Enki to return Her to life. Dumuzi and Geshtinanna paid for her decision to attain more mes (power) by going to Gugalanna’s funeral in the Underworld. The Descent of Inanna then becomes a story of one God seeking justice and being thwarted, since Inanna escapes punishment for her deed.