The Spirits of Ancient Rome

For the Romans, the world was full of spirits. Because they lived in a numinous world, Numina (spirits) could be found in growing crops or in the act of traveling. Moreover, places and things had their native spirit. In addition, the Romans regarded values such as “victory” as being numinous.

The Spirits of the Place were the Genius Loci. The Lares Compitales presided over crossroads, while the Lares Viales guarded the roads. Where the roads met, Roman erected altars to these Lares. Altars found alongside the road were for their offerings requesting safe travels.

In the home, the Lares Familiaris (Spirits of the Family) guarded the family. Meanwhile, everyone had a Genius (Juno for women) who was their guardian spirit. (The Genius of the Paterfamilias (Head of the Household) took the form of a snake in the home.) The Penates watched over the food stores of the home.

The family endeavored to ensure that the Lares and Penates remained content. A home where They were honored was a family that thrived. If the Lares were ignored, the family suffered. For example, offerings were made to the Penates to keep the pantry full. At the main altar (called the Lararium), the family made twice daily offerings to the Lares. Also, any food that fell on the floor during a meal was given to the Lares.

Since the main door protected the sanctity of the home, several Deities governed its parts. Janus was the God of the Threshold. Cardea governed the hinges, while Forculus watched over the physical door.

The Dead also interacted with the living. The classes of the Dead were di Parentes (the Ancestors), di Manes (the ordinary Dead) and the Lemures (and the Larvae), who were the unquiet Dead. Each group had special festivals when They were honored. February was when the Ancestors and ordinary Dead were given attention and offerings. The Romans wanted to be on good relations with these Dead since They guided the fortunes of the family.

In May, during the Lemuria, the Larvae sought families to haunt. At that time, the head of the household would walk around the home spitting black beans into corners. They did this nine times. Each time, they would chant, “With these beans, I redeem me and mine.” Meanwhile the rest of the family would bang on pots shouting, “Paternal ghosts, get out!”

The Romans sought to keep the Larvae and Lemures away from the family. The black beans were offered as a substitute for souls that the Larvae wanted. Also, the family would leave food offerings on broken dishes at the edge of their property. They did not want to offend the Lemures, but did want Them to leave. The broken dishes were so that the Lemures got the subtle message to leave.

The closest spirit in modern Western society to the Lares would be the Guardian Angel. In fact, Angels are one of the few spiritual entities that modern people still interact with. In the classes of Angels, Guardian Angels are the lowest and are assigned to take care of minor things.

According to Christianity, everyone has a Guardian Angel who has chosen them. This Being watched over a person from birth and kept them from harm. Guardian Angels would guide people in making good moral choices, so that the person could go to heaven. Then the Angels would advocate on their behalf to God so the person could can enter heaven. To honor the Angel, a person would surround themselves with depictions of angels. They would also learn more about the Angel and pray for them. Traditional practices for interacting with Angels would include prayer, fasting or meditating on angel images.

The Saints of Roman Catholicism would be similar to di Parentes. People often pray to Them for help. A person would light candles and ask a Saint to watch over them. Saint Jude is popular since he is the Saint of Lost Causes. Besides praying and lighting candles, people would wear medallions of various Saints for further protection. People would say charms (i.e. spells) to them such as the invocation to St. Apollonia to cure toothaches. Other charms would invoke St. John to heal a child’s burns.

Works Cited:
Adkins, Lesley and Roy Adkins, “Dictionary of Roman Religion.” Oxford University Press: New York. 1996.

Greer, John Michael, “The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2003.

Lecouteux, Claude, “Demons and Spirits of the Land.” Translated by Jon Graham. Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2015.
—, The Return of the Dead.” Translated by Jon Graham. Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2009.
—, “The Tradition of Household Spirits.” Translated by Jon Graham. Inner Traditions: Rochester (VT). 2013.

Mark, Joshua J. “Roman Household Spirits: Manes, Panes and Lares,” World History Encyclopedia. 28 Oct 2019. Web. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/34/roman-household-spirits-manes-panes-and-lares/, .

Scheid, John, “An Introduction to Roman Religion.” Translated by Janet Lloyd. Indiana University Press: Bloomington. 2003.

Turcan, Robert, “The Gods of Ancient Rome.” Translated by Antonia Neville. Rutledge: New York. 2001.

Roman Gods for July

Hot and dry July (Julius) has Romans focusing on the Gods of Water. The major festival for Neptune, the God of the Waters, is held in July. Also, Apollo, as the God of Healing, has games held in his honor. Other festivals held in July include the Nonae Caprotinae (Nones of the Wild Fig) and Lucaria (Grove Clearing). Meanwhile, July, the month itself, was under the guardianship of Jupiter.

Before the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar, July was Quinctilis, the fifth month. Later it was renamed for Caesar, himself, since Quinctilis was his birth month. In the last ten days of July, games were held in his honor as the Divine Julius.

Apollo
On the advice of the Sibylline Books, Romans held games for Apollo for to ask for help in the Second Punic War (212 BCE). They had just experienced several major defeats. Then later, the games became yearly to thank Him for his help in ending a city-wide plague. The Ludi Apollinares (Apolline Games) are held from July 6 to 13. They include theater performances, games, and fairs. People would wear garlands and feast at the entrances of their homes.

Apollo was first considered to be a God of Healing by the Romans. Since He was a Greek God, his temples were built outside of the official boundary of Rome. During the Empire, the Romans also considered Him to be a God of Bards and Diviners. (Sol Indiges is the Roman God of the Sun.)

Pales
The second Parilia is held on July 7. (The April Parilia is for small livestock.) The July Parilia is for sheep and cattle. Animals and their pens are cleaned out and smudged with sulfur. Pales are/is the God/s of Livestock.

Juno Caprotina
Also on July 7, the Nonae Caprotinae is held. Traditionally, offerings of figs were given to Juno Caprotina under the wild fig (caprificus). This is to honor Her as the Goddess of Serving Women. In modern times, it can be celebrated by giving figs in Juno Caprotina’s name to service workers.

Honos, Virtus, and Victoria
On July 17, these three Gods are honored. Honos and Virtus is honor and bravery in the military respectively. Victoria is victory in war. This is a good day to honor those who have served in the military.

Silvanus and the Forest Gods
Lucaria, the Festival of the Grove, is held on July 19 and 21. Traditionally, the Romans would clear land or thin woods at this time. They made offerings of a pig to Silvanus and the Forest Gods for permission to clear wood. Lucaria also included votive works of arts placed in the standing groves. On these two days, I make offerings to the stands of trees near my home to Silvanus Lucaria.

Neptune and Furrina
Coming into the driest part of the summer, the Romans were concerned about their water supplies. Held on July 23, the Neptunalia celebrates Neptune in his role as the God of Irrigation. Neptune (Neptunus) is the God of Fresh Water, and Salacia, the Goddess of Salt Walter, is regarded to be His Wife. (Neptunus Oceanus is Neptune of the Oceans.) On July 25, the Furrinalia was held for the Goddess Furrina, who watched over wells and other underground water sources. Modern Roman polytheists hold ceremonies to thank both Gods for water.

Divus Julius
From July 21 to 31, games were held honoring Julius Caesar as the Divine Julius. Before his assassination, Caesar was named Parens Patriae, Father of the Fatherland. The Senate also decreed that he should have a cult image (simulacrum) to be carried with the Gods. After his death, the Senate made Caesar a God.

Examining Myths: Janet Rudolph, “One Gods”

Although I disagree with Janet Rudolph’s view of the “unity of religions,” (Note 1.) I agree with her points on how to examine various myths. “Each person is also human, each editor, writer and reader have the potential to filter the knowledge through one’s own ego, triggering biases and distortions. When accessing divine knowledge, divine truths can easily be changed into subjective opinion.” This I cannot stress enough; I have my own biases. Like Rudolph, I try to be straight forward as to what they are. The readers then can decide how to interpret what I or Rudolph writes.

Points made by Janet Rudolph in looking at myths:

  • What has been removed from the telling?
    In various versions of the same myth, certain things may be left out to emphasize other aspects. In the Neo-Pagan retelling of the “Descent of Inanna,” (Note 2.) the focus is on Inanna descending into and rising from the Underworld. Left out is Inanna’s indirect killing of Ereshkigal’s husband, the Bull of Heaven. (Note 3.) Leaving that out neglects Ereshkigal’s anger towards Inanna. That does change how the myth is read.
  • What is hidden only for initiates to know?
    The “Descent of Inanna” can be read in many ways. The Neo-Pagan version emphasizes the initiations into the mysteries of the Underworld. How Inanna leaves her godly possessions behind is how the initiates need to prepare to enter into the mysteries.
  • What has been changed to further a political agenda?
    “The Enuma Elish,” the Babylonian creation story, adds onto the original Sumerian myth. The exploits of the God Marduk of the Fifty Names is depicted as He defeats the Elder Goddess Tiamat, and recreates the world. Marduk of Babylon now rules the Pantheon. This epic omits Enlil, the Holder of the Tablets of Destinies who was the Head of Pantheon after Anu, the Father of All.
  • What if the actual messages are different from what the commentaries suggest.
    Herodotus (484 – 425 BCE) wrote in his “Histories” that the Babylonians practiced sacred prostitution. (Note 4.) This became the basis of several factoids that got repeated and expanded over time. What was overlooked was that Herodotus, a Greek, was writing at a time when Persia was expanding into the West. The actual Babylonian culture presents a different reality from what he wrote.

Rudolph details how she approaches myths, which I find useful.

  • Layering.
    “Layering recognizes that differing interpretations can all be true.” This is looking at myths with a Polytheistic lens.
  • Examination of the form of Hebrew letters.
    The alphabet of a culture offers spiritual clues in a myth. Examining the mysteries of the alphabet is an exploration into a culture’s thoughts and language.
  • Spiritual forensics.
    This is pondering the meanings of the concepts and symbols of a myth. It also entails comparing the translations with the original language of the myth.

Notes:
Note 1. Rudolph wrote a trilogy of books – “One Gods,” “When Eve was a Goddess,” and “When Moses was a Shaman” to explore the myths of the Bible.

Note 2. Inanna, Goddess of the Morning and Evening Stars, decides to pay her respects to Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. This starts her journey into the Underworld.

Note 3. Gilgamesh had rejected her advances, and She wanted to punish him. Inanna asked that the Bull of Heaven kill him. Instead, Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven and Husband of Ereshkigal.

Note 4. Herodotus is called the Father of History and the Father of Lies.

One Gods: The Mystic Pagan’s Guide to the Bible

Blogging at “Feminism and Religion,” Janet Maika’i Rudolph presents her ideas of the “magic and spirit behind the Bible.” Both a Shaman practitioner of Divine Humanity and a Hawai’ian Alaka’i with Aloha International, Rudolph calls herself a “Mystic Pagan.” (Note 1.) In her writing, she endeavors to “strip away the layer of Patriarchy with its attempts to hide and change original teachings.” Rudolph aims to reach into ancient Pagan knowledge in order to reclaim “universal, earth-based mystical lessons.” She embraces in her writing, “the inter-arching oneness” of all. To do this, Rudolph examines myths across cultures to find the common elements.

Rudolph states her personal belief that “each person as a divine human has direct access to god (creation) and the mysteries without going through an intermediary.” She continues, “in the beginning all the threads, both the warp and weft, were spun from the wellspring of First Knowledge. First Knowledge is ancient knowledge of the stars, life, the veils between the worlds, and inter-arching all, the Great Mysteries.” (Note 2.)

“One Gods” is a part of a trilogy of books on the “shamanic lessons underpinning Biblical wisdom.” The other two are “When Eve was a Goddess” and “When Moses was a Shaman.” (Note 3.) Rudolph believes that the Bible is filled with ancient shamanic knowledge. For example, according to her, Moses did not only bring “the belief of Monotheism. He brought to the world, the understanding of nothing less than the Oneness of all Creation.”

When writing “One Gods,” Janet Rudolph had not been initiated by Serge Kahili King of Hawaiian Huna Shamanism. The focus of “One Gods” is from Rev. Jim Husfelt of the Divine Humanity Church, which believes in the Oneness of All. In her other books, Rudolph adopts King’s point of view as the “shaman is a healer of relationships.” Rudolph herself seeks to remember the original knowledge of humankind to guide others.

Rudolph writes that her cultural and ancestral Jewish heritage is important to her. She examines the myths of the Bible through a Monotheistic lens. Therefore, according to her biases, she sees these and other myths as converging onto a single religion and God. Also, Rudolph is a follower of the Goddess religions, and views through that lens as well. However, her writings do inspire a Polytheist as myself to regard Biblical myths in a new light.

Notes:
Note 1. Divine Humanity and Aloha International (Huna) are New Age religions. Founded by Rev. Dr. JC Husfelt, Divine Humanity believes that all things of creation hold within them a divine being. All are “non-dual and interpentrate.” Huna (Aloha International) was founded by Max Freedom Long and is now run by Serge Kahili King. Huna is New Age philosophy mixed with Hawaiian ideas.

Note 2. These are fundamental beliefs of many New Age religions.

Note 3. “When Eve was a Goddess” and “When Moses was a Shaman” repeats much of the materials in “One Gods.” Rudolph did include more myths in those books to compare and contrast with the Biblical myths.

Rudolph’s books can be purchased at her website: https://themysticpagan.com/books/

Coming Attractions and Readers’ Choice

Since I have gained a lot of new subscribers, I thought I would list what I was working on. Also, ask if anyone had anything they would like for me to write on.

Roman magic. Arabian magic. My definition of magic

Examining Janet Rudolph’s “One God, Many Gods.” She is a Monotheist who details how there both One and Many. I explore it from a mythic Polytheist point of view.

A Mesopotamian Ghost story for July, the month of the Dead. (I wrote it.)

“Birthing the Holy” by Christian Vaters Paintner. How to apply her writing to Polytheism. She explores the 31 Virgin Marys as one being.

Daily rituals are good for you.

My encounter with a flying cryptid, and what it is or could be – real, other spirit, from the Gods.

And of course, my monthly calendars.

Is there anything people would like me to explore further?

(Picture is of William Lily, famous Astrologer.)