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.”

Alphabets and Divination: Norse Runes

runes

My sense of the Runes is that they tell a complete story of the Wyrd of the Well. My goal as a diviner is to uncover this story, and find meaning in it. I regard the Runic Aettir as chapters in this story, with the individual Runes as sentences. (For me in Runic divination, the questioner is a thread in the tapestry of the Wyrd.) I need to attune to the Runes to discover how the questioner’s thread fits into the overall Story.

For learning the Runes, I decided to do two at a time. By learning in pairs, I could study them as a dyad. As I did, I would ask myself, “how do these Runes fit together.” I would contrast and compare each, as well.

First, I would lay out the entire Rune set to see how the Story develops. Then, I would take the pair of the day, and ask that these Runes speak to me. As their pictures would form in my mind, I wrote down my insights. As each Rune developed into a full picture, I placed it in my memory palace.

For me, the meanings of the Runes lie on a continuum. I regard the meanings of each Rune to be fluid with a center, end, and beginning points. The center point is the “standard” agreed upon meaning. The “standard” meaning also governs the beginning and end points. As a diviner, I see shades of meaning from either side of “standard.” Therefore the Runic insights that I got were usually variations of this “standard.”

An example of how this works for me is as follows. Hagalaz (“hail”), Nauthiz (“need”), Isa (“ice”), and Jera (“harvest”) can be viewed as one chapter of the Runic Story. These Runes can flow together to form a picture. Depicting disaster, Hagalaz is the hail pounding on the roof, causing the roof to cave in. After the roof falls in, the fire goes out in the home. Now the home owner has to make a “need” fire (Nauthiz) by rubbing two sticks together. While everyone, in the home, waits for the fire, they are “frozen,” much like the ice (Isa) that hangs from the eaves. When the warm weather comes, the ice melts, watering the fields. Jera is the field that becomes ready for “harvest.” Through these four Runes, the chapter of a cycle turning and a new one beginning is depicted.

For me, learning is to go inside each Rune to hear the story that each tells. Then, the Runes become pictures or scenes, which resides in my memory palace. When I access them, the Runes flow from one to the next, each telling me what I need to know.

Alphabet: The Many Uses of Irish Oghams

The various Oghams are used by the Irish in several ways. The Oghams were foremost an alphabet used for writing Irish. Numerous examples of boundary markers and other inscribed stones abound with people’s names written in letters from the Tree Ogham.

The Oghams have other uses as well. Some scholars think the Druids may have used them for a code language. Three Oghams often used for this purpose were the “Head in Bush,” “Head under Bush,” and “Serpent about Head.” The “Cattle Raid of Cooley” (“Ta’in Bo’ Cuailnge”) gives an instance of this. Cu’chulainn left an oak hoop with writing as a warning to the invading army. It was written in code that only Fergus mac Roi’ch, a Druid, could interpret. Fergus translated the writing this way: the army could not pass unless someone other than himself could duplicate Cu’chulainn’s feats.

In addition, several Oghams were used as mnemonic devices. For example, the Tree Ogham lists by letter – trees that are important to the Irish. Other such Oghams are “Animal,” “Bird,” “Color,” and “River Pool” to name a few. How these worked are as follows: First Aicme, Fourth Few letter would be in English “S.” In the Oghams, “S” would be “Sionnach” (fox in Animal Ogham), or “Seg” (hawk in Bird Ogham) or “Saille” (willow in Tree Ogham).

Some of the Alphabets such as the Foot Ogham and Nose Oghams were used as sign languages. However unlike the Sign Languages of Deaf people, these Oghams were used by hearing people, as a gesture type language. This gesture alphabet could be used to communicate quickly and quietly between people. Moreover, two people could hold a secret conversation while they were speaking out loud about general topics.

Another use for the Oghams is for magical purposes. In the British Museum, there is an amber bead inscribed with magical powers. The words on the bead cannot be translated into conventional Irish. Moreover, the O’Connor family who owned this bead used it to cure eye problems. They also used it in easing childbirth.

The modern use for the Oghams is divination. Where this modern notion comes from I do not know. Perhaps, the ancient Irish did use their Oghams for divining. Neighboring societies such as the Germans used their Runes for divination.

Diving Deeper into the Irish Oghams

ogham_vert

Since I live in an urban area in the Southeastern United States, many of the trees from the Oghams are foreign to me. To find out if any of these trees lived near me, I used a field guide to look up the taxonomic names of the local trees to discover if they were the same species. For the remainder, I followed the advice of Caitlin Matthews, in her book The Celtic Wisdom Tarot, to look for a native tree that had similar qualities to a tree of the Oghams. I had reasonable success with that but did find that substitution could be a problem. For example, Muin, the “Vine” of the Ogham generally is associated with grapes, but the major vine where I live is kudzu.

However, I did find some similar species that did make a connection to some of the letters:

Aicme Beth (First)
Beth: European Birch: River Birch
Luis: Rowan: Mountain Ash
Fearn: Alder: Smooth Alder
Saille: Osier Willow: Weeping Willow
Nion: Ash: Green Ash

Aicme Huath (Second)
Huath: Hawthorn: Cockspur
Duir: English Oak: White Oak
Tinne: Holly: Holly
Coll: Hazel: Witchazel
Quert: Crab Apple: Crab apple

Aicme Muin (Third)
Muin: Grapevine
Gort: English Ivy: English Ivy
nGetal: Broom
Straif: Blackthorn
Ruis: Elder

Aicme Ailm (Fourth)
Ailm: Silver Fir: Balsam Fir
Onn: Gorse
Ur: Heather
Eadha: Aspen: Bigtooth Aspen
Idho: Yew

Alphabets and Divination: Irish Oghams

ogham_vert

Because I am a diviner, I need to know many divination systems in order to do my work successfully. When my primary method gives murky or indefinite results, I often use an alternative method for gleaning more information. At other times, I switch my methods of divination to gain new insights. Therefore studying the Oghams fits in with my divination philosophy.

When people ask questions that affect the direction of their lives, many diviners will use four different methods of divination to assist that person. Each method will either add to the original reading or contradict it. Since they offer different perspectives to the same question, these other readings are helpful to the client. If the other readings contradict the first one, then knowing that is helpful for the client. Using the Oghams would add fresh insights to the original reading.

Studying the Oghams enhances my practice by offering a new way to approach divination. The Irish had different insights on the process than either the Norse or Tarot readers. Each new way of how to answer a question gives me more of an understanding of divination itself. Developed as an alphabet, the Oghams are steeped in Irish culture. They were employed by the Druids in their various “languages” of gestures, mnemonics, and secret codes. Because of these multiple uses, the Oghams offer more shades of meanings for answers in divination.

With the Tree Ogham, there is a connection with the living plants. Using each few of this Ogham, the diviner can tap into the wisdom of that tree or shrub. This makes for a more profound reading since insights from this Ogham comes from living entities. Furthermore, it taps into areas of the unconscious that other divination methods miss.

Moreover each few in the Tree Ogham has various kennings which give added shades of meaning to it. These kennings can pinpoint the precise meanings in a reading, and give depth to each meaning. Furthermore, the kennings offer alternative points of view. For “Tinne (Holly)” (second aicme, third few), the kennings include “one of three parts of a weapon,” and “o holly, little, sheltering one, thou door against the wind…” This gives a fuller sense of “Tinne” in a reading. For these reasons, the studying of the Oghams enriches my divination practice.

Lemures and Lemuria

Di Manes (The Dead) are separated into several groups. Di Parentes are the direct ancestors who guard the family line. The Lars (Lares) are the guardians of the home and the land. The Lemures (Note 1) are the Wandering Dead and can be considered “unwelcomed family ghosts.” Finally, there are the Larvae, who wish to do the living harm.

During the Lemuria (the feast of the Lemures), the Lemures try to find a home among the living. Some want to have a proper burial or justice be administered for their wrongful death. Others want a family to adopt Them, and give offerings in their memory. They want people to establish a cultus for Them.

The person who encounters the Lemures has several choices. They can adopt one but they really do not know who these Lemures were. The person can place offerings on their property outside their home. These Lemures will become the Genius Loci, the protectors of the place. Placing offerings at the boundary of the property will entice Them to become the Lares Compitales, the Guardians of the Crossroads. Most people will chose to place offerings at a crossroad, where the Lemures will become the Lars Viales, Guardians of the Roads and of Travelers.

Traditional offerings for the Lemures are three piles of grain, milk, honey, salt and oil. They should be placed on broken crockery, so that the Lemures do not feel at home. Give water to Them so that the Lemures may clean Themselves. No meat or wine should be offered.

Traditional Roman activities for Lemuria entails the paterfamilias (head of the household) rise at midnight to perform them. He walks through the house backwards making the mano fico (Note 2) (folding fingers around the thumb). As he does this, he spits out black beans into the corners of the house. Then he says nine times, “Haec ego mitto, his redimo meque meosque fabis.” (With these beans, I redeem me and mine.) Then the rest of the family would bang bronze utensils or pots and pans. They shout nine times, “Manes, exite paterni.” (Paternal ghosts, get out.)

As the head of the household spat the beans out, the Lemures would come and collect the beans. Supposedly, the beans were in exchange for the people. The clanging of the pots is to ward off the Lemures. This is how Romans perform an exorcism.

Modern Roman Polytheists will stay inside after sunset on the days of the Lemuria (May 9, 11, 13). Drawing the curtains and covering the mirrors, they prevent the Lemures from seeing and claiming them. Also, modern Romans Polytheists will sprinkle water into the corners of the house. Corners are sacred places in the home where the roof, floor, and walls meet. (Note 3).

Notes:
Note 1: The lemurs, near-primates of Madagascar, are named after the Roman Lemures, for their ghostly eyes.

Note 2: The mano fico is considered to be obscene by some modern Italians. Besides being a sign to ward off evil, it is also one for sexual intercourse.

Note 3: Corners of a house are the home of Lars and other spirits.

Further Reading:

Books by Claude Lecouteux: “Demons and Spirits of the Land,” “The Return of the Dead,” and “The Tradition of Household Spirits.”

This is a repost from 2017.

Beginnings of Writing: Cuneiform

archbab1

Alphabets and hence writing is magic incarnate. This is why there are Gods of Writing and Scribes to ensure that the words are right. The following is an essay on cuneiform which became the basis for the Roman alphabet used today.

In Mesopotamia, during the Uruk Period (3500 – 3100 BCE), many villages became cities. As they expanded, each new city had to reorganize to better govern and support their burgeoning populations. Out of this development came agriculture, trade, and writing.

In Sumer (3100- 2800 BCE), cities were organized around temples. The “en” (the economic official of the temple) kept track of the offerings and wealth. To keep inventory, an en had his “sangu” (accountants) survey everything. Since Sumer is located in an area of “clay muck”, the Sumerian accountants made clay figures for tallying. But, when the volume of goods became great, these figures became cumbersome to use. Then, the accountants started marking items on clay tablets. Because they were using wet clay, various scribes used a stylus which made wedge-shaped markings (cuneiform) in the clay.

Because Sumer had little in natural resources, many citizens focused on manufacturing finished goods. Their merchants developed trading organizations (“Karums”) to govern trade in raw and finished materials. Because of the Karums, Sumerian trade expanded from Mesopotamia to Egypt and Syria.

Adopting the inventory methods of the temples, merchants started using various tally symbols for items. Since, they needed to convey the concepts of orders, sales, and general merchandising issues, many scribes started using pictograms. These pictograms could then be combined to convey meaning. Merchants were able to convey crude messages over time and distance.

The first known writer by name was the priestess Enheduanna (daughter of Sargon of Akkad). After she wrote her hymns to Inanna, The Morning Star, she signed the tablet with her name and seal. The use of writing was both religious in nature as well as practical. Nisaba the Goddess of Writing was also the Goddess of Accountants.

Because Sumerian was a monosyllabic language, their scribes could convey any meaning by using pictograms as ideograms. Since Sumerian was rich in homonyms and homophones, they could have a pictogram represent a sound (phonogram), an object, or an idea. By using sounds as puns, Sumerian scribes expanded their writing vocabulary. They grouped symbols together to convey various concepts.

Later, Sumerian writing was adopted by the Akkadians and Elamites. Since their languages were radically different from Sumerian, these peoples needed to differentiate the meanings of each of the Sumerian symbols. Determinations (additions and modifications) were added to indicate parts of speech. Cuneiform was developed into a working alphabet.

The Phoenicians owe their phonetic writing system to the Sumerians. The Phoenicians did not invent their alphabet as much as exported their adapted version of the Sumerian one throughout the Mediterranean. The Greeks adopted their alphabet from the Phoenicians, calling it “Alpha, Beta” from the Semitic “Aleph, Beth.”

Notes:

1. Homophones: Words with the same sounds but different meanings and spellings.
Example: Pear and pair. A pair of pears is two pieces of fruit.

2. Homonym: Words with the same sound and spellings but different meanings.
Example: Fair and fair. Because the weather is fair, we are going to the county fair.

3. Please note that regional accents will change what are homonyms and homophones. In New England, aunt and ant are pronounced differently, while route and root are said in the same way.

Gods of the Month: May

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.

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.

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

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.