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.

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.”

Lucaria: The Festival of the Groves

bright countryside dawn daylight

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The Lucaria, held on July 19 and 21, is the ritual of clearing the woods – “letting in the light.” To prevent forest fires, the woods are cleared of debris. Fallen trees are chopped, and the brush is taken away. The focus of the Lucaria is to keep the forest healthy, which is important today as it was long ago.

As with all things Roman, various Gods oversee the process from the cutting to the carting of the brush away. The Goddess of Felling Trees is Coinquenda. The Goddess of Splitting Wood is Commolenda, (the Smasher). Deferunda (the Carter) oversees the carting off of the chopped wood, while Adolenda (the Burner) supervises the burning of the wood. During the Lucaria, these Goddesses are invoked in the clearing of the trees.

Since every piece of land has a guardian spirit, the resident Lar must be asked before digging into the earth or cutting down a tree. An offering should be made before any digging, hoeing, mowing, planting or pruning. When gardening, ask the Lar for graciousness towards you and your family. (The traditional words for the offering is “For the cause of carrying out the work (operis faciundi causa).”)

Silvanus, the God of Forests and Groves

bright countryside dawn daylight

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From ancient times, Romans have regarded groves to be sacred. Besides Silvanus (the God of Forests), other Gods are worshipped in groves. Diana (Goddess of the Hunt) and Dea Dia (the Good Goddess) had dedicated groves where sacrifices were made. At other places, travelers would stop, rest, and then make offerings of fruit. I do that when I visit parks.

Romans have different classes of woodlands. A locus is a small wooded area with beams of light breaking through it. A nemus could be either an arboretum or a clearing in the woods. It could be consecrated or simply be a place of inspiration. In contrast, the lucar is the cool, dark and silent part of the woods. The natural forest is the silva, and the saltus, the wilderness. As a rule, Romans do not go into forests (lucar, silva) because of the strange spirits who lived there. Odd noises that come from the forest are often unnerving messages for them.

Silvanus, the God of Forests, Groves and Wild Fields, guards the forests. He governs the Children of Fauna and Faunus who dwell in the deep woods (saltus). Popular among Romans, Silvanus still receives much veneration. Although He has never had a temple, Silvanus is worshiped in the forests receiving the first fruits.

Note: Silvanus has other aspects:
Silvanus Domesticus: Guardian of the house
Silvanus Agrestis: the flocks
Silvanus Orientalis: the boundaries of the property

My Imagining a Roman Afterlife


Because of my brain injury, my ability to imagine things is difficult. Because of that, I decided to flesh out the Roman Afterworlds. What people think are the Roman Afterworlds were copied wholesale from the Greeks. What I came up with is based partially on Roman traditions, which leaves out any details of an afterworld.

The traditional entrance to the Underworld is the Mundus (the Pit). During the three days that the Mundus is opened, the Dead could roam freely among the living. Therefore the entrance and exit to the Roman Underworld would be the Mundus. This is the place the Newly Dead would head to when they died. The living could enter the Underworld through the Mundus.

The Mundus also serves as an underground granary and altar for Consus, the God of the Granary. When the Mundus is opened, He is concerned with the safety of the living. Therefore, Consus guards the entrance with Seia (Goddess of Sown Grain Seeds) and Tutilina (Goddess of Stored Grain). Consus would note the comings and goings of the Dead, ensuring that the grain stores are not disturbed.

Meanwhile, Mania Genita, the Goddess of the Dead, ensures that no Dead leave the Underworld except on appointed days (the Parentalia, Caristia, and Lemuria). Furthermore, She oversees the Lars, Gods of the Household and Families. The Lars are the Dead who watch over their former families. They roam freely among the living to protect their families and others.

Libitina, the Goddess of Corpses and Funerals would conduct the Newly Dead from their dying to the Underworld. At her temple, Romans did keep their registers of their dead. They also stored the equipment for burials to be borrowed by mourners there.

Once the Dead enter the Underworld, they are greeted by the Fates (Parcae). Morta, the Goddess of Death (of the Parcae) decides where the Dead go next. Poena, the Goddess of Punishment will take the impious Dead with Her. The virtuous Dead will be taken by Vediovis, a God of the Underworld and of Plagues.

Poena punishes the impious Dead by depositing them in disease producing swamps. In the middle of these swamps are volcanoes, with vents that emit hot gasses and poisonous vapors. Mefitis, the Goddess of Stench and Sewers, governs this place. She oversees the agony of the impious Dead, who cannot leave. Ill and gaunt, they wander about unable to find any rest.

Meanwhile, Vediovis takes the virtuous Dead to a place of land of amber fields and sparkling springs. Under the sky of an autumn afternoon, it is always harvest time. Thus, the virtuous Dead do not want for anything.

These Dead live in neighborhoods with their clans and families. Their houses are stone with large porches to sit outside. Each home has simple but comfortable furniture. They also contain a large mirror for the Dead to watch their descendants. The houses surround a magnificent garden which has a large mirror in its midst. This particular mirror allows the Dead to go into the world of the living when needed.

This afterlife would be peopled by people who follow the Roman religion. The Heroes of Rome would be there, along with the various Roman kings and consuls. Since they were deified, the Emperors would be with the Gods.

The virtuous Dead would enjoy the sciences and the arts. They would argue philosophy and hold athletic contests. They would be involved with the pursuits of their descendants.

This part of the Underworld is self-governing. The Gods of the Underworld are more concerned with the treasures and the fertility of the earth. Therefore, They have the virtuous Dead set their own laws.

In Roman tradition, the Dead are involved with the living. In my Afterworld imagining, I give the Dead a place to be instead of roaming the world. The virtuous Dead can leave to tend to their families, but the impious Dead cannot leave their miserable volcanic swamp.

Monotheistic Filter: Alphabets: Monogenesis

photography of the temple

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This is an example of how the Monotheistic Filter affects thinking in other areas.

In the 19th Century, experts in language studies formulated their equivalent of Darwinism called monogenesis (Note 1). According to this theory, writing progressed from the most primitive of symbols to the most evolved of letters. Chinese, which is symbolic (logographic), was considered primitive while the Roman alphabet, which is consonant and vowel based, was the most advanced. Of course, monogenesis implied that the pinnacle of civilization was Western European culture.

They believed that language started in a primitive form. (According to some linguists, Adam spoke the original language – probably Hebrew.) As people become more civilized, their language developed more complexities. Again this implies that only Western Europeans had the most advanced language. (Note 2).

The development of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean writing contradicts this theory. Developed over 3,500 years ago, Chinese writing has changed little since. It serves the spoken language well. In 1949, the Chinese government standardized the written characters. However, many Chinese still continue using the older forms.

In the 5th Century, the Japanese adopted Chinese writing, since they respected the Chinese culture. Because the Japanese language was so different from Chinese, women developed the hiragana alphabet while the men used the characters (kanji) for sounds and meaning. Later, katakana was developed to read Buddhist scriptures written with Chinese characters. Today, Japanese use all three – kanji, hiragana, and katakana as one writing system. Their writing system is logo-symbolic.

Meanwhile, the Koreans, who also used Chinese writing for their language, developed one alphabet. Like the Japanese, they used the characters for both meaning and sound until the 15th Century. At that time, King Sejong devised Hangul (Korean letters), which is a consonant and vowel alphabet. Today, many Koreans use Hangul instead of Chinese characters.

The Chinese developed symbols to write down their speech. The Koreans and Japanese then adopted the Chinese system for use in writing their respective languages. Because Chinese was different from Korean or Japanese, they used Chinese characters as a basis to devise their own systems of writing. The result was that each culture chose writing that suited their unique traditions and languages.

Note 1. This concept differs from claiming that there was a one original language spoken by early hominids.

Note 2. According to modern linguists, there are no primitive languages. For example, Kivunjo, a Bantu language of Africa, has fourteen tenses and twenty noun cases. In contrast, English has seven tense forms and three noun genders.

Poplifugia, Nonae Caprotinae, Vitulatio

gray trunk green leaf tree beside body of water

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On July 7, the Nonae Caprotinae (The Feast of the Wild Fig) is held. Offerings of figs are made under the boughs of figs for Juno Caprotina by the serving girls of Rome. This festival is so ancient that even the Romans had trouble discerning what it was about.

Conflicting ideas about the origins of the Nonae Caprotinae adds to the confusion. Is it about the serving girls who saved Rome from the Latins? Or is it about Romulus, the Founder of Rome, who disappeared in a cloud? Is it related to the Poplifugia (the Flight of the People) held earlier on July 5?

The Palus Caprae (Goat’s Marsh) features in both Romulus’ vanishing and in the Popifugia. This is the place where he was taken up into a cloud. The Palus Caprae is also where the Romans fled in a panic (reportedly from the Etruscans). Meanwhile, Juno Caprotina, who receives the offerings of figs, is depicted wearing a goat headdress, and driving a chariot pulled by goats. A part of fertility rites, the goat is perhaps the unifying thread.

In Italy, figs are harvested in June and July. This fruit is noted for two things – being prolific and as a purgative. The Popifugia may have to do with the cleansing of the city, which would connect it to the Nonae Caprotinae.

Juno Caprotina overseas marriage and fertility. At the Nonae Caprotinae, one aspect of the festival celebrates the marriage of the caprificus (goat fig) and the ficus (fig). The Romans regarded the caprificus to be wild, and the ficus domesticated. (In the Roman mind, wildness is male, and domestication is female.)

The third related festival related to the Poplifugia and the Nonae Caprotinae is the Vitulatio, which is celebrated on July 8. Macrobius claims the Vitulatio marks the comeback victory of the Romans. As an act of thanksgiving, Vitula, the Goddess of Victory Celebrations, is given the first fruits.

Gods of the Month: 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). (Before the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar, July was Quinctilis, the fifth month. Later it was renamed for Caesar, himself.) (The Roman Calendar)

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.) (God of the Month: Apollo)

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. (God of the Month: Pales)

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.

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 votives of works of arts placed in the standing groves. On these two days, I make offerings to the stands of trees near my home.

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. (Gods of the Month: Neptune and Furrina)

Roman Divination and Mathematics


I practice a form of Roman divination that involves quartering the sky and looking for certain species of birds. To begin, I set up a perimeter using local landmarks. I quarter what I have marked off, then quarter within each quadrant again, forming a matrix of sixteen squares. I set a beginning and ending time to watch for birds entering, exiting or staying within the quadrants.

The six species used for this divination are the eagle, vulture, hawk, goose, woodpecker and crow. The eagle, vulture and hawks are good signs, the goose a warning, the woodpecker a conflict, and the crow a bad sign. The directions of ill omen are north and east, good omen – south and west. An odd numbers of birds is a good sign, while an even number is a bad sign. If no bird appears in the allotted time, it means a neutral event.

Each species of bird has their own methods of appearing. Woodpeckers move up and down trees, therefore I would look for a tree in a quadrant that I marked out. Meanwhile, vultures rarely land and instead circle the sky. Geese move in flocks, while hawks and eagles fly alone. Sometimes, several species will appear together such as crows and vultures. If a crow is exiting a northern quadrant, while a vulture is circling in an eastern one, it is a sign that your luck will be variable that day. Shades of meaning come from species of birds, their movements, their number, and their placement in quadrants.

The setting up of the quadrants sets a beginning probability of a bird appearing in one of the squares. Adding to this, the number and species of bird creates compound probabilities. Then there is the probability of that omen coming true such as sighting a vulture in the south-west quadrant.