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.”

Daily Devotions

For me, being a Polytheist means daily devotions to the Gods. Like many modern Polytheists, my Gods do not all belong to the same Pantheon. Although I consider myself a Roman Polytheist, I do venerate Other Gods. Because of my brain injury and devotional work with the Dead, Anubis, Hekate and the Morrigan have requested devotions. Meanwhile, my Anglo-Saxon Ancestors want their family Gods honored. Finally for reasons unclear to me, the Gods of Babylon and Canaan have asked me for devotions.

To accommodate all the Gods Whom I honor, I had to set up a schedule. How did I go about doing this? First, I read the lore, and then did divination which days would be appropriate for which Gods. Finally, I broke my day into three parts – morning, afternoon, and evening for my devotions. Since we all have our daily rituals such as brewing coffee or checking our phones, including one for devotions seemed reasonable.

Mornings are devoted to the Household Gods. Before breakfast, I light a candle and offer incense. I offer to Janus (who always receives the first and last offerings) for his service in guarding the doors. Then to Apollo for the health of our family, and Juno Custos for guiding my family. Vesta, the Eternal Flame who warms our home, receives her offering and prayers next. Finally, the Genius of the Paterfamilias is thanked for guarding our family.

After I do this, I do my weekly devotions by splitting the various Gods into mornings and afternoons. My schedule is as follows – Monday – Anubis and Hecate (morning), The Lady of Beasts and The Morrigan (afternoon). Tuesday – Freya (morning), Anubis and Hecate (afternoon). Wednesday – Odin. Thursday – Hercules, Neptune and the Roman Pantheon (morning), the Gods of Babylon and of Canaan (afternoon). Friday – Frigga. Saturday – the Penates and Lars. Sunday – the Dead.

Why these particular days? Monday is “moon” day, and those deities prefer that association. Tuesdays is traditional for Freya, Wednesdays for Odin, and Friday for Frigga. Anubis and Hecate asked for Tuesdays, and the Gods of Babylon and of Canaan for Thursday. Since Thursday is Thor’s day, Hercules reminded me that it is his day also. The Roman Gods requested Thursday as well. Saturday is grocery day, which is when the cupboards are replenished. Sunday is for the Dead, since it is a day of reflection for me.

The evening is reserved for the Gods of the Month. Nightly, I say prayers to Them before going to bed. It is a part of my evening routine like brushing my teeth.

Hecate of the Greeks and Romans

Beloved of Neo-Pagans and Wiccans, Hecate is their God of Witches and Magic. Because of her connection with the Dead She is the Dark Goddess. Hecate is both the Queen of the Night and the Triple Goddess of Birth, Life, and Death.

Meanwhile, Romans feel ambivalent towards Hecate since She is one of the Di Inferi, the Gods of the Earth and the Underworld. Originally from Thrace, Hecate is associated with the Greek Eleusisian Mysteries. As Hecate Trivia, She is the Goddess of the Crossroads, and of Abandoned Infants. Virgil wrote of Her, “Hecate…Three in One…whose name is howled by night at the city crossroads!” In general, Romans prefer not to invoke Her.

Crossroads are liminal places where a person could cross into other worlds, because the worlds all met there. The Gates of the Dead open up at crossroads, which is why suicides and vampires are buried there. Instead of wandering the earth, they can enter the Underworld immediately. Since the Dead congregate at the crossroads, Hecate guards the Gates of Underworld. She see that no one leaves to bother the living.

For Romans, dogs are traditional doorway guardians. Therefore, hearing a howling dog at the crossroads meant that Hecate is present. In rites made at three-way crossroads, Ovid suggests sacrifices of dogs to Her, while saying nine prayers at midnight.

Ba’al Hadad of Canaan

The Polytheism of the Canaanites is usually contrasted with the Monotheism of the Israelites. While the nomads of Israel are usually depicted as being morally upright and virtuous, the urbanites of Canaan are always shown to be depraved hedonists who made child sacrifices. The truth is that the Israelites were ethnic Canaanites who split off during the early Iron Age. The Canaanites divided into the Israelites in the south and the Phoenicians to the north. The Canaanite Polytheistic practices that are condemned in the Old Testament are actually Israelite ones. The later editors of the Old Testament wanted to emphasize the pure Monotheism of the Israelites.

The God most often mentioned as the bane of Yahweh and the Israelites is Baal. The particular Baal in question is Ba’al Hadad of Mount Tzapunu, who is known as King and Judge. Ba’al in the Canaanite language means “Lord,” and became a way of addressing Yahweh as well.

Since Ba’al Hadad had died and returned from the Dead, the Canaanites regard Him to be the Protector of Humanity. In the Ba’al Epic, He fights with Yammu, the God of the Sea and Storms. After He defeats Yammu, Motu, the God of Death and Sterility decided to kill Ba’al. Dying, Ba’al goes to Betu Khupthati, the Canaanite Underworld. In his absence, the drought and heat destroys the earth.

Meanwhile, ‘Anatu, the Female Warrior Ally of Ba’al, searches for Him and Motu. Finding Motu, She chops Him up and feeds Him to the birds. Afterwards, Shapshu, the Sun Goddess and Protector of the Dead returns Ba’al Hadad to the Living. After She restores Motu, Shapshu referees the continuing dispute between the two Gods.

Ba’al Hadad keeps the world of humans fertile. He rides the clouds bringing the rains to ensure the earth’s fertility and abundance. These autumnal rains move from the coast eastward to the desert. Therefore, Ba’al Hadad keeps the balance between the desert of Motu and the ocean of Yammu, with his refreshing rains.

O Ba’al Hadad, King and Judge
Your Voice is Thunder.

O Ba’al Hadad, Rider of the Clouds
Mightiest of the Warriors,
You slew Lotan the Seven Headed Dragon
Lord of the Sky
Lord of the Earth
You Bring the Autumn Rains
You allow the crops to grow

O Ba’al Hadad, Protector of Humans
You calm the storms of the sea
You stay the sands of the desert

Further Reading:
Philip West, The Old Ones in the Old Book
Tess Dawson, The Horned Altar and Whisper of Stone

Gods of the Month: December

For Romans, December is a month to honor the Gods, who ensure the fertility of the earth. People are concerned about the winter sowing and the future crops. It is also a month for family and friends, including the local Nature Spirits. Saturnalia, which celebrates the Golden Age of Saturnus (Saturn), occurs in the middle of December. It is a time of lights, games, and gift-giving. Gods of the Month: December 2016

These are the Gods of the Month that I honor.

BONA DEA: December 3 is the day of women’s mysteries for Bona Dea, the Good Goddess. This Goddess of Healing also ensures women’s fertility. God of The Month: Bona Dea

TIBER RIVER AND THE SEVEN HILLS OF ROME: Two festivals – one for the Tiber River and one for the Seven Hills – occur on December 8 and December 11 respectfully. God of the Month: Tiberinus and the Seven Hills

CONSUS: The second festival for Consus, the God of the Granary is held on December 15. God of the Month: Consus

SATURNUS (SATURN): Saturnalia from December 17 to 24 celebrates the time that Saturnus Pater ruled the earth. God of the Month: Saturn

OPS CONSIVA: The Opalia is held on December 19 for Ops Consiva (the Sower). This Goddess of Abundance is the Consort of both Consus and Saturnus. God of the Month: Ops Consiva

ANGERONA: At the Divalia, on December 21, Angerona, the Goddess of Secrets is honored. God of the Month: Diva Angerona

ACCA LARENTIA: On December 23, the Larentalia was held at her tomb. She is the Founder of Roman and Goddess of the Lars.

Non-Roman Gods that I honor:

FRIGGA AND THE DSIR: On the Winter Solstice which is Mothers Night, I celebrate Frigga, the Norse All-Mother, Her Twelve Handmaidens and the Mothers of my ancestral line. God of the Month: Frigga and the Disr

THE ACHEULIAN GODDESS: An ancient Goddess from Paleolithic times, the Acheulian Goddess is for me the Goddess of Beginnings. God of the Month: Acheulian Goddess of Prehistory

Fortuna, Goddess of Rome

One of the most popular Gods of the Romans is Fortuna, the Goddess of Luck and Fate. It is said that She smiled upon Rome and granted the city, its destiny of being a great empire. When She arrived in the city in 600 BCE, Fortuna discarded her wings and took off her shoes. Afterwards, She pronounced Rome to be her true home.

Since luck and fate comes in many forms, Fortuna, Herself, has many aspects. Fortuna as Fate is Fortuna Primigenia (First Born), who sets the fate of the new-born child. This ancient Goddess controls the life, fortune, and death of each person. Depicted with a ship’s rudder, Fortuna steers the fate of all. As Fortuna Viscata (the Fowler), She catches and holds people in her net. Since She is “Sticky Fortune,” Fortuna fixes their fate from which they cannot escape.

Fortuna oversees the luck of people in various ways. Fortuna Liberum watches over children, as Fortuna Barbata (boys) and Fortuna Virgo (girls) oversees their transitions into adulthood. Fortuna Muliebris cares for the well-being of women, and Fortuna Virilis for men. Fortuna Privata provides for the luck of the individual, and Fortuna Publica, that of the nation.

As “Luck-bringer,” Fortuna is worshipped in her many aspects. Some of them are Fortuna Blanda (False), Fortuna Dubia (Dubious), and Fortuna Brevis (Fickle). Fortuna keeps the balance by being fickle in bringing both good and bad luck. Meantime, Romans often paired Fortuna Manens (Enduring) with Fortuna Mobilis (Changeable).

Fortuna Bona (Good) balances out Fortuna Mala (Bad). Fortuna Mala is able to ward off bad luck since She brings it. Because Romans regard Her as a force of balance in the universe, She has an altar alongside Fortuna Bona. Together, They ensure that none have perpetual good or bad luck, and all will experience both.

Salve Fortuna Huiusce Diei!
Bring us good luck this day!

Salve Fortuna Balnearis!
Ancient Fortuna of the Baths
Bring all the soldiers, health and well-being.

Salve Fortuna Redux!
Home-bringer
Watch over the traveller.

Salve Fortuna Obsequens!
Indulgent One,
Look kindly upon us
We thank You.

Stonehenge in a Polytheistic Context

ndstonehenge

When discussing Stonehenge, modern people often forget to place this monument into a greater cultural context. Nearby Stonehenge is a similar stone monument at Avebury, which was built around 2500 BCE. Meanwhile, there are signs of a similar circle made of timber at Durrington Walls, which was believed to be built before Avebury. Archeologist Mike Parker Pearson, who has worked at the site, said that Durrington Walls marked the realm of the living, and Stonehenge, the Dead.

Parker Pearson who heads The Stonehenge Riverside Project sees the stones as linked to the Ancestors. Durrington Walls, with its post holes of wood in a circle, is linked to the Living. The physical connection between the two realms is the River Avon, the water.

The new theory is that Stonehenge was a monument of unification. During the solstices, people travelled from as far away as the Orkneys, the islands north of Scotland. At those times, crowds would feast on the animals that they have brought with them. Stonehenge became an axis mundi for devotion, since it brought the Living, the Dead, and the Cosmos together in one place.

The building of Stonehenge can be regarded in the same light as the building of a Gothic cathedral. From the beginning of the project, the entire community is dedicated to seeing the building finished. Everyone involved understood that this construction project would take several generations to complete. Therefore, the entire community dedicated themselves to the process, and organized themselves accordingly. Some people regarded it as a fulfilling of their religious duties, while for others it was their community obligations. Although the specific vision may have been altered through the years, the newer residents of the community resolved to finish the original project. Stonehenge became a monument of devotion.
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Works Used:
Bradshaw Foundation, “Stonehenge: The Age of the Megaliths,” 2011, http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/stonehenge/index.php.
NOVA, “Astronomy at Stonehenge,” 30 September, 2010. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/astronomy-stonehenge-au.html
“Secrets of Stonehenge,” 12 December, 2012. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/secrets-stonehenge.html
Richards, Colin, “Rethinking the Great Stone Circles of Northwest Britain,” Orkney Archaeological Trust, 2004, http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/dhl/papers/cr/index.html.

Building Stonehenge

ndstonehenge

During the Neolithic Period (5000 – 1000 BCE), along the Atlantic coast of Europe and in the British Isles, local peoples built and maintained great stone circles and megaliths. This activity started about 5000 BCE and continued on to about 2500 BCE. These megaliths, built by Neolithic peoples, had multiple uses. The purposes that archeologists believed that Stonehenge was used for included: worshipping the Ancestors, watching the heavens, and marking the cycles of the sun and other astronomical occurrences.

One of the last monuments to be built during this period, Stonehenge was constructed in three distinct phases over a 1,500 year period, starting in 3000 BCE. The process of building this monument included digging large ditches as well as erecting the more famous stones. In the case of Stonehenge, three different cultures added their particular refinements to this monument.

The first group to shape Stonehenge into what we know today was the Windmill Hill People. Thought to be semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers, these people also grew crops. What archeologists noted about these people was their propensity to orient their burials and monuments in the east-west axis. These directions were important to them, perhaps because of the rising and setting of the sun.

In the 1960’s, when builders were excavating a parking lot near the Stonehenge site, they found four post holes that was believed to hold large pine logs. (These holes are said to be about 10,000 years old.) Ancient peoples traveling the Salisbury Plain would see these posts from miles around. Set east to west, these post holes were considered to be the first evidence of the area’s great importance.

Starting about 3100 BCE, the Windmill Hill People took the existing post holes and expanded the site. Using various tools such as deer antlers and digging stones, they dug a ditch and formed a bank, with an opening in the northeast. Call the Great Cursus, this ditch was white from the chalk underneath the grass. Outside this ditch, these people dug fifty-six pits named Aubrey Holes (after their discoverer James Aubrey). In these holes, archeologists have found cremated remains of people.

One theory is that the Windmill Hill People were commemorating their Dead and their Ancestors. When archeologists studied the remains, they realized that the Dead were mostly adult males. People were being selected for burial there instead of it being used by everyone. When Stonehenge was first built, their society was an aristocratic male one.

Many people have assumed that the Aubrey Holes had an astronomical use. Following the phases of the moon was important to peoples in ancient times. One theory is that these holes marked lunar eclipses. Another theory is that the Windmill Hill People were marking particular phases of the moon. Other archeologists have noticed that the Aubrey Holes were aligned north-east and south-west. These holes then lined up with the sun at the solstices and equinoxes. This has led to another working theory that the Aubrey holes are a calendar of equinoxes, solstices, lunar eclipses, and solar events. The underlying assumption to this theory is that many early peoples followed lunar-solar cycles for practical and religious reasons.

Archeologist Clive Ruggles, who has studied the astronomy of the site believes that it was probably not an ancient observatory. He did note that the mid-summer and mid-winter solstices do line up. For him, this indicates their importance to Neolithic peoples. Ruggles believes that the people who first built Stonehenge wanted to keep in harmony with the Cosmos.

From the beginning of Stonehenge, numerous ancient peoples have added their particular visions to the site. Each succeeding generation built on the previous one’s efforts. We modern people will never know what the original purpose to Stonehenge was, but we can stand in awe of these early peoples who built it. Whatever Stonehenge was originally intended to be, it became a monument to the vision and tenacity of the Ancestors of Europe.
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Works Used:
Aveni, Anthony, “People and the Sky,” Thames & Hudson: N.Y, 2008.
Bradshaw Foundation, “Stonehenge: The Age of the Megaliths,” 2011, http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/stonehenge/index.php.

M, Richard, “Stonehenge,” MEgALiThiA, 06 Jan. 2006, http://www.megalithia.com/stonehenge/index.html.
Magli, Giulio, “Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy,” Copernicus Books: N.Y., 2009.
NOVA, “Astronomy at Stonehenge,” 30 September, 2010. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/astronomy-stonehenge-au.html
“Secrets of Stonehenge,” 12 December, 2012. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/secrets-stonehenge.html
Richards, Colin, “Rethinking the Great Stone Circles of Northwest Britain,” Orkney Archaeological Trust, 2004, http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/dhl/papers/cr/index.html.
Smagala, Suzanne, “Stonehenge,” August 2007, http://helios.acomp.usf.edu/~ssmagala/stonehenge/index.html.