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.”

Gods and Their Cycles

diana_cacciatrice

As with everything in the universe, the Gods have also their cycles. When They move about our world, we sense Them deeply, When the Gods leave, They become remote to us. For example, Nanna-Suen, the God of the Moon of the Babylonians, follows the phases of the moon. He disappears at the dark and new moons. In the winter, when Odin rides with his Wild Hunt, a person can expect to encounter Him.

Modern people are baffled by cyclical time. Since the industrial age, societies have adapted to machines, which have no slack periods. People, on the other hand, have circadian rhythms that do not conform to unchanging machine time. Therefore, modern people become flummoxed with the disruption that the flu season brings. Even a snowfall will gum up the “well-oiled machine” of work, school, and commerce. Used to the inflexible rhythms of the industrial age, people have lost the ability to deal the ebb and flow of their lives.

Therefore, many people become alarmed when they no longer can sense a particular God. They forget that Gods are not on “machine time.” What we need to do is to understand the cycles of the Gods we revere. If we follow their rhythms, we will be in sync with the Cosmos.

For me, the Babylonian Gods are at their strongest during the equinoxes. The Babylonians have divided their calendar to start and end at the equinoxes. The summer, when the heat ruled the land, is the time for the Dead and Ancestors.

With the Gods of Canaan, summer is when Mot, the God of Death, stalks the land. Then, ‘Anat, a warrior Goddess, battles Mot and kills Him. With the coming rains of autumn, Ba‘al Haddad returns from the Underworld.

To know the Gods, the first thing is to step out of machine time. Remember that the Gods are not robots, but a part of the Cosmos. As we experience our ebbs and flows, so we can Theirs.

The Dance of the Hours

 

black and white photo of clocks

Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on Pexels.com

From a psychological point of view, people may experience time in one of two ways. “Polychrons” experience time as one continuous current much like a river flowing from the past through the present, and on to the future. Meanwhile, “monochrons” perceive time as discrete intervals, which are divided into fixed elements such as hours. Furthermore, societies tend to organize themselves on either of these perceptions of time. Since western industrial society is monochronic, the notion that time can be proven to be relative is plausible. (Of course a polychronatic society would not even consider the idea.)

However with a brain injury, my perception of myself is detached from how I feel. Therefore time, as it is measured, is nonexistent to me. Because I only perceive the illusion of time, it has become an artificial construct for me. Since I live in a monochronic society, I have to accept the idea that time exists in measured units. To be in sync with others, I have developed various methods of “timekeeping.” Otherwise, I would simply follow the rhythms of my body, the days, and the seasons.

Today, people live in a world where time is artificial and mechanistic. This is important for polytheists to understand, since monochronic time divorces modern people from their natural rhythms. How can anyone experience a God if her sense of time has been divided into discrete points? How can he ever understand the Fates: She who was Becoming, She who is Becoming, and She who will Becoming, and the Tapestry that They weave? To reclaim their sense of polychronic time, polytheists can look to nature and the seasons.

Works Used:

Fitzgerald, Waverly, “Slow Time: Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life.” Seattle: Self-Published. 2007.

Hahn, Harley, “Time Sense: Polychronicity and Monochronicity.” Web. http://www.harley.com/writing/time-sense.html.

Prosser, Simon, “Passage and Perception.” Paper. Web. http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~sjp7/passage_and_perception.pdf.

Time is a River and a Lake

pexels-photo-289689.jpeg

Time, as I experience it, runs counter to most people’s sense of time (Note). In my research on how others see time, I uncovered was that there is not complete agreement on how it is perceived. One thought on time is “presentism” in which “time is experienced but does not pass.” The other is “flowism” in which “time flows whether people perceive it or not.” According to the concept of “flowism,” people perceive the passage of time by reflecting on their experiences. The philosopher Immanuel Kant agreed with this. He wrote that “the phenomenology of passage of time is a necessary condition for any experience.” For him, time existed and was “true” whether we experienced it or not (A priori reasoning).

Before Kant, western philosophers traditionally defined time to be a construction of the self, starting with St. Augustine. (“I measure my self, as I measure time.”) Therefore perceived time is the “mental state of the beholder.” According to this philosophy, we perceive time as we feel. For example, depressed people usually see time as slowing down.

Moreover, philosophers have argued about how time flows. In “objective time,” time really does flow. In “dependent time,” time flow is an illusion of the mind. In his writings, St. Augustine complained that Pagans went in circles for they always returned to the same place in Time. Civilized people only move forward from the Resurrection of Christ. Today, the flow of Time, in modern western tradition, has become a forward arrow that only points upwards.

Notes: 1. I have a type of synesthesia, a neurological condition, which often accompanies brain injuries. A common form is tasting colors.

Works Used:

Janiak, Andrew, “Kant’s View on Space and Time.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 14, September, 2009. Web. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-spacetime/.

Le Poidevin, Robin, “The Experience and Perception of Time.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2009. Web. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time-experience/.

Musser, George, “Time on the Brain.” Scientific American. 15 September 2011. Web. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2011/09/15/time-on-the-brain-how-you-are-always-living-in-the-past-and-other-quirks-of-perception/.

Threshold Guardians

Bunch of keys on white background

Bunch of keys on white background

Thresholds are
Between places of
Not coming or going.
Crossing a Threshold
A ritual act.

Doors keep
Worlds apart
To keep in and to keep out.
Before from after
The In-between secure

Doors have Gods
Janus of Two Heads guards the Out and the In
Cardea of the Door stands firm
Limentius of the Threshold stands firm
Portunus of the Portal holds the key

Guardians have
Sacred obligations.
Each demands
A reason for opening
A reason for closing

Forculus of the Passage
The Guide through
The Threshold
Coming in and
Going out

Gods of the Month: January

Named for the God, Janus, the month of January is the hinge of the year: the old year ends and the new one begins. The second King of Rome, Numa Pompilius (715 – 673 BCE) reformed the Roman calendar by adding two more months – January and February at the beginning of the 10-month year. Thus the New Year began in January instead of March. (However, for Romans, both New Years are celebrated.)

January is the month for public vows and divination of the coming year. Festivals celebrating the beginnings of life – both human and plant are held. The Carmentalia is for childbirth, and the Sementivae is for crops. Also, the Gods of Healing are given offerings to ensure a healthy year.

JANUS
Janus, the two-head God, is the God of Beginnings and Endings. In Ovid’s Fasti, Janus explains to the poet why the year begins in the winter instead of the spring. “Midwinter is the beginning of the new Sun and the end of the old one. Phoebus and the year take their start from the same point.” God of the Month: Janus (Ianus)

AESCULAPIUS and VEDIOVIS
On January 1, dedications to the Gods of Healing were made at temples on an island in the Tiber River. A plague was stopped during the dedication of the temple of Aesculapius on January 1, 291 BCE. Meanwhile, Lucius Furius Purpurio vowed the temple to Vediovis on January 1, 194 BCE for the God’s help at the Battle of Cremona (against the Gauls).

God of the Month: Vediovis

God of the Month: AESCULAPIUS, the Healer

LARS OF THE CROSSROADS (Lars Compitales)
During January, the Compitalia is observed to honor the Lars who watch over the crossroads. At each crossroads, shrines are set up and dolls hung from them. I live at the nexus of three streets, and make offerings of crystals to the Lars. I also hang a wooden doll on my door knob for a day. Gods of the Month: Lars Compitales

CARMENTIS
January 11 and 15 are the two days of the Carmentalia honoring Carmentis, a Goddess of Childbirth and Prophecy. Prayers for safe childbirth are made to Her. For the two days, matrons celebrate their status in the family. In addition, divinations are done. God of the Month: Carmentis

TELLUS and CERES
Held between January 24 and 26, the Sementivae is a festival of purification to protect both the seeds and the sowers. Tellus and Ceres are entreated to keep the seeds safe. Oscilla (small clay discs) are hung in trees to ward off evil spirits. Gods of the Month: Ceres and Tellus

Feriae Sementivae: Early Spring Planting

Mapping the Universe – Roman Style

AAll Roads Lead To Rome.

colosseum coliseum flavian amphitheatre rome

Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Pexels.com

To explore and navigate a territory, people need a map. Most maps have correspondences, of which the most notable are the cardinal directions. Going north may take a person by a school and later a group of stores. Afterwards, in their mind, “North” corresponds to the high school and the local strip mall. If they go east, they will not encounter those particular landmarks but instead other ones. A map preserves these landmarks and sets the correspondences for a traveler to follow.

Magical correspondences act as a map to the cosmos. By aligning a direction with an element, color, animal, et al., people can move from place to place in the universe. With each correspondence, they can arrive where they want to be.

Using correspondences in a ritual is similar to taking a bus to a destination. Each stop along the way informs a person of where they are at that moment. Sometimes, they have to change buses at transfer stations to reach their final destination. Like certain correspondences which serve more than one direction, a person moves through the cosmos by “changing buses” at these nexus points.

For Roman Polytheists, the most important part of a sacred map is the Pomerium (the boundary between sacred space (the Templum) and profane space. Within the Pomerium is the Focus (the Fire), which crosses all the worlds. Supported and fed by this world (the earth, which lies in the center), the Focus reaches up to the Realm of the Sky Gods and down to the Dark Underground of the Earth Gods. Fire exists everywhere from the magma of the earth to the stars of the sky. Therefore, the Focus can be regarded as the Cosmic Center of the universe.

The Hearth Fire, which is Vesta, the Goddess of the Home, burns at my altar to welcome the Gods and Ancestors to come and partake of my hospitality. The Hearth Fire offers my sacrifices to the Gods, and carries my words to Them as well. The living flame of Vesta helps me to re-orient myself in the cosmos, while doing my daily devotions.

The Mundus (the Pit) opens to the World of the Chthonic Gods and Lemurs (chaotic Dead). Beyond the Mundus are the treasures of the earth as well as the dwelling places of the Dead. For Romans, removing the lid of Mundus is fraught with danger, and care must be taken lest a lemur comes into the world. Offerings are made to Consus, the God of the Granary, to keep the Dead from leaving.

The Portus (Door) creates the portal between all the Worlds. Because of the Portus, within the Templum, all the worlds can come together at one place. Unlike the circle which for many neopagans moves through space and time, the Portus opens the gate to all the worlds. Guarding the Portus is the Gatekeeper, Janus of the Two Faces. Like the janitor of old at the door, Janus oversees this liminal place.

Works Used.
Newberg, Brandon, “Ancient Symbols, Modern Rites.” ADF Publications. 2007.
Scheid, John, “An Introduction to Roman Religion.” Indiana University Press: Indiana. 2003.

Adventures in Math: Sacred Geometry

622px-The_Pentagon,_cropped_square

The Pentagon (US) by Touch of Light

One thing came from my exploration of sacred geometry. I wanted to know more about circles, triangles, and squares — and why we are drawn to them. A circle (a line that meets itself) is complete. For this reason, many people have their sacred space be a circle. Triangles, the most stable shape, appear in building structures. Squares comfort us with their neat understandable boundaries.

Now I understand why I am in awe of The Pentagon. For years, I commuted to Washington D.C., changing buses at the transfer station located at The Pentagon. All major roads in Northern Virginia converge at The Pentagon (formerly called the “Mixing Bowl”). This low concrete building is the power center of the region.

A pentagon consists of three generating triangles, which form a triad. The mystic numbers of five and three combine to form eight which is divided into four and two, which added become six. As each number weaves in and out with the next, they add their special magic to The Pentagon, the building. What emerges from the dance of the numbers is a fortress of strength and resolve.

Note: Yes, I was a witness to the plane going into The Pentagon on 9/11 2001. I lost three friends in the fire. The Pentagon, itself, was on fire for three days until they put it out.

Works Consulted:
Coppens, Philip, “Salvador Dali: Painting the Fourth Dimension.” Eye of the Physic. 20 October 2009. Web. https://www.eyeofthepsychic.com/dali/

Crystal, Ellie, “Numbers and their Meanings.”Crystalinks,” 26 Sept. 2009. Web. http://www.crystalinks.com/numerology2.html

DuQuette, Lon Milo, “Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.” Destiny Books: Rochester Vermont. 1999

Hall, Judy, “The Crystal Bible.” Godsfield: Alresdord (UK). 2003

Hart, Francene, “Sacred Geometry Oracle Deck.” Bear and Company: Rochester (VT). 2001