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.

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.”

The Alchemical Process (One of two)

EmeraldTablet

The focus of alchemy is the transformation and unification of the body with the spirit. This could be thought of turning base lead into transcendent gold. The Emerald Tablet describes the process of the Great Work, which is the alchemist becoming one with the universe.

To obtain this transformation, the alchemist undergoes three phases – Nigredo (Black), Albedo (White) and Rubedo (Red). The Nigredo Phase is broken down into the operations of Calcination and Dissolution, which uses the elements of fire and water. The Albedo Phase has the Separation and Conjunction operations, which entails the elements of air and earth. The final phase, the Rubedo is divided into Fermentation, Distillation, and Coagulation. At the end of this phase, the alchemist exists on all levels of reality, merging with the Truth.

Dennis Hauck refers to these processes of the Three Magisteriums. Focusing on the Below, The First creates the Lunar Stone, the body’s life force. Albedo is the connection between the First and Second Magisteriums. Focusing on the Above, the Second creates the Solar Stone, the perfected mind. The Union of the two creates the Third, which is the Stellar Stone, the Universal Spirit.

“Its father is the Sun.” (Note 1)
The first step in the long process of the Great Work is Calcination. Physically, the substance is heated over an open flame. The purpose for this is to activate the inner and outer fires. The impurities of the materials are burned away. For the mind, the false selves are burned away from the alchemist, who lights their own inner fire.

“Its mother the Moon.”
Dissolution is the elimination of the dross, created in Calcination, by water. This brings the material into a purer state. For a person, this is working through their melancholia, which entails a lot of tears. (Note 2) The Dissolution Step is difficult for a person to get through but necessary.

“The Wind carries it in its belly.”
Starting with the Albedo Phase, Separation isolates the various components of the substances. This sifting is similar to panning for gold. For the Spirit, this is the stage of discernment where the person works to reclaim their essence.

Notes:

Note 1. Tiffany Lazic in “The Great Work” suggests associating each operation with the Emerald Tablet.

Note 2. In the “Idiots Guide to Alchemy,” Dennis Hauk writes, “Instead of running to Prozac, the true alchemist must work with the darkness and suffer through it in order to emerge transformed. By bringing this threatening material to light in therapy … the alchemist rises above the poisoning vapors.” (p. 135.) Prozac saved my life and aided me through my major depression. I believe this bias against medications for the malfunctioning brain is unnecessary and cruel.

Works Used:
Alchemy Lab, “Alchemical Theory: A Look at the Basic Principles of Alchemy.” 2019. Web. https://www.alchemylab.com/alchemical_theory.htm, <accessed 11 September 2019>.

Bartlett, Robert Allen, “Real Alchemy: A Primer of Practical Alchemy.” Ibis Press: Lake Worth (FL). 2009.

Gillabel, Dirk, “Alchemy.” Date unknown. Web. soul-guidance.com/houseofthesun/alchemy%202.htm, <accessed 11 September 2019>.

Hauck, Dennis William, “Sorcerer’s Stone: A Beginner’s Guide to Alchemy.” Crucible Books: Sacramento (CA). 2013.

—, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy.” Alpha Books: New York. 2008.

Lazic, “Tiffany, “The Great Work.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2015.

Anu (An): Father God of Mesopotamia

white clouds and blue sky

Photo by Ithalu Dominguez on Pexels.com

The oldest of the Gods, Anu is the Ancestor of the Elder Gods. Not only that, He is also the Most High God of the Anunnaki. As He gradually removed Himself from daily activities, Anu would award his power (the “anutu”) to a succession of Gods – Enlil, Marduk, and later Assur. They became, in turn, the de facto Head of the Pantheon.

In several creation stories, Anu made the cosmos (sometimes He worked with Enlil). In these stories, He created demons to protect the realms of the Gods. The demons were also to keep the humans in check since their noise bothered Him.

In other myths, the Primeval Mother, Nammu the Sea created Anu and his sister-consort Ki. She separated Anu from Ki, with Him becoming the sky, and Ki, the earth. The two then created the other Gods and filled the earth and sky.

Eventually, Anu retired to the highest of the three heavens. When He did, Anu ceded his power to Enlil, first. Anu can be regarded as the “Chairman of the Board.” Before any God can assume the leadership, They have to receive his blessing first. He also conferred authority to earthly rulers as well.

Names:
Lord of Creation
Lord of the Great Above
Lord of the Firmament
Supreme Authority
Founder of Kingship
The Great An
Sustainer of the Universe
Father of All Gods

Note: There are three heavens. Lowest: the Home of the Stars. Middle: the Home of the Gods. Highest: the Home of Anu

Part of a Hymn to Anu:
“O Prince of the Gods, whose utterance ruleth over the obedient company of the Gods; Lord of the horned crown, which is marvellously splendid; Thou travellest hither and thither on the raging storm; Thou standest in the royal chamber to be admired as a king.

At thy word the Gods cast themselves on the ground in a body like a reed on the stream; They command blows like the wind and causes food and drink to thrive; at the word the angry Gods turn back to their habitations.

May all the Gods of heaven and earth appear before Thee with gifts and offerings; may the kings of the countries bring to Thee heavy tribute; may men stand before Thee daily with sacrifices, prayers, and adorations.”

Babylonian Months: February and March

agriculture barley field beautiful close up

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since the Babylonian year starts at the Spring Equinox, the period starting from the Winter Solstice could contain from three to four months. The lunar months of the Babylonian calendar have to fit within the solar year of equinoxes. The fourth month (intercalary) was usually inserted by a decree from the King.

In Sumer, the twelfth month was called “Sekigku,” (The Month of Grain Reaping). This was the time of the barley harvest, which happened everywhere in Mesopotamia. The Festival of Barley Consumption started mid-month and ended at the full moon. The Grain Goddess, Ashnan was given offerings, and the Beer Goddess, Ninkasi was praised. Ninkasi, the Babylonian Goddess of Beer   Modern Sumerian Polytheists will celebrate with bread and beer, giving thanks for both Goddesses.  God of the Month: Ashnan of Babylon

In the Standard Mesopotamian Calendar, the month is called “Addaru.” According to Astrolabe B, in the month of Addaru, “the vast fields of Ningirsu (Lord Flood) the sickle is not left behind.” When the reaping is done, the Barley Consumption Festival starts. People feast, visit each other, and play table games. Ninurta/Ningirsu of Babylon

Meanwhile, preparation for the Festival of Dumuzi is underway, which happens at the end of the month. Offerings of fruit, cheeses, honey, and oil are placed on boats, and sent downstream. The boats fetch Dumuzi from the Netherworld, so that He can prepare for his marriage to Inanna. Dumuzi (Tammuz) of Sumer, Shepherd Husband of Inanna

The Festival of the Carnelian Bed celebrates the marriage of Ninlil (Lady Wind in the Grain) and Enlil (Lord Wind). Since Addaru is the month of Enlil’s happiness, hymns are sung before the Bed. Then beer, incense, and goat meat are offered for the happiness of these Two Gods. Ninlil of the Gods of Sumner

The Standard Mesopotamian Calendar has a nineteen year cycle. One month is added in the 17th year before the Autumn Equinox – Ululu 2. In the 19th year, one month is added before the Vernal Equinox, Addaru 2. Each month has 29 or 30 days, which gives a year of 354 days. Therefore intercalary months are needed to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the solar year. These months usually had the festivals held in either Ululu or Addaru.

Ninkasi, the Babylonian Goddess of Beer

photo of beer

Photo by Tim Durben on Pexels.com

In ancient times, beer was an important staple in people’s lives since it provided nourishment. Wages for laborers were partially paid in beer. Offerings to the Gods included gallons of beer. 

For the Sumerians, this beverage was an essential part of their civilization.  Only cultured persons knew how to drink it properly. The Sumerians invented straws to drink their thick beer, which was served in bowls. (Yes, the Sumerians gave the world straws.) 

For the Sumerians, Beer was a gift to the humans from the Gods. Her Parents are Enki, the God of Fresh Waters, and Nintu, Queen of the Sacred Lake. The Goddess of Beer, Ninkasi was born by the flowing waters. She, Herself, is the beer, giving life to those who drink. 

Ninkasi is also the Goddess of Brewers. In Sumer and throughout the Middle Ages, women, as alewives, brewed beer for their families and communities. They were the original tavern keepers, selling their beer locally. In fact, brewing is an ancient womanly art and duty. 

Names:

Lady Who Fills the Mouth

She Who Sates the Desires 

Toasting with Beer:Nin-Kasurd!” (To Ninkasi)

Hymn to Ninkasi

The following translation of the Hymn to Ninkasi” is by Miguel Civil:

Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,

(Ninhursag is the Mother Goddess.)

Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you,
Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its walls for you,

Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
Ninkasi, your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.

You are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
Ninkasi, you are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date] – honey,

(Bappir is yeast starter bread.)

You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,

You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,

You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (…)(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.

When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

 (Yes, this hymn instructs on how to brew beer.)

Mesopotamian Gods of Canals

pexels-photo-739047.jpeg

Irrigation ditches seem to be a prosaic thing for a God to rule over. However when viewing ditches from a different angle, a person realizes that civilization depends on them. Dikes and canals are important for directing where water should and should not go. They prevent floods, and feed vast numbers of people. Dikes, canals, and ditches are important to the lives of humankind.

In Southern Mesopotamia, canals were crucial to that flourishing civilization. Situated between the fast moving Tigris and the slower Euphrates, Sumer was on a marshy alluvial plain. Rains in the north caused floods downstream in the spring. Meanwhile, the lack of rain in the southmeant that freshwater was scarce. It had to be obtained from the Euphrates.

Since the Gods valued order, They created civilization. The Gods “dug canals, cleared up dikes, water courses, and wells.” Canals are a part of maintaining that order of the cosmos. Therefore, Enki, the God of Fresh Water, appointed three Gods to govern the various types of waterways.

Enbilulu is in charge of the Tigris and Euphrates. As the River Warden, He is associated with the underworld. The “Enuma Elish” says that Enbilulu “knows the secrets of water and the running of rivers below the earth.” Below the abzu (the fresh water) is the River Hubar (“the river that blocks a man’s way”) of the underworld.

Meanwhile, Enkimdu governs canals and ditches. Assigned by Enki, as a God of Farming, this God knows the “most subtle geometries of the earth.” He gives freely of his knowledge to construct canals of transportation and ditches for irrigation.

The third God is Ennugi. Called “the Lord of Dike and Canals,” He is the Divine Canal Inspector. After inspecting the dikes, Ennugi notifies humans of breaches and other problems.

Lords of Canals,
You know the secrets of water
You organize plows, yokes, and teams
You open up the holy furrows
You irrigate the fertile fields
You keep the floods at bay
Lords of Ditches and Rivers,
You know the secrets of earth.
You keep the world order.

Roman Gods for February

romulus1

In February, Romans prepare for the coming of spring by purifying themselves, their homes, and their regions. “February” comes from februum (purgation), and the februa (expiatory rituals). Ceremonies for the Dead abound, since a part of purification is fulfilling the obligations to the Dead. For example, the Lupercalia and Quirinalia have specific purifications rites as a part of their rituals. In addition, the Terminalia and Fornacalia are a part of the worship of the Di Parentes (Parents). Meanwhile, the Feralia focused on all the Dead and the Parentalia on the Lar Familiaris (family spirit).

For Roman Polytheists, the focus on the Dead puts them outside the norm of Pagans, who usually follow the Wheel of the Year. For these Pagans, Samhain, held in October, is when the Dead walk the earth. Meanwhile, Imbolc, which is held in February, is the fire festival of Brighid. This time of restrained joy focuses on the returning of new life. In contrast, for Romans, February is the time that the Dead walk freely amongst the living.

Fornax and Quirinus
The Fornacalia is held between February 5 and 17. At this time, in ancient Rome, people brought grain to the communal ovens to be parched in the ancient manner of their fathers. Fornax, the Goddess of Bakers and Ovens, was invoked to keep the wheat from burning. The last day of the Fornacalia is the Quirinalia, also known as “The Feast of Fools.” This is the time that people who delayed bringing their grain came to fulfill their civic duty. Modern observances involved making bread from scratch, and making offerings to Juno Curitis (Juno of the Curia (Wards)).

Quirinus is thought to be the deified Romulus, and represents the Romans in their civic sense. “Quirites” is what officials addressed Roman citizens as. In their military capacity, Romans were called “Romani.”   Gods of the Month: Fornax and Quirinus

Di Parentes and Di Manes (The Dead)
The Parentalia starts February 13 and runs through February 21. The Caristia on February 22 officially ends this period of venerating the Dead. During this time, the Lupercalia and Feralia are held. Each ritual focuses on a different aspect of purification, families, and the Dead. The Parentalia is a private ceremony that the family does to honor their dead. The Feralia entails visiting the graves and making offerings. The Caristia is a family feast, where all quarrels between family members are settled. Family unity is then cemented with the household Lars. God of the Month: Di Parentes and Di Manes

Faunus and Inuus
On February 15, the Lupercalia is held. Traditionally, sacrifices were made at the Lupercal Cave in Rome, where the She-Wolf nursed Romulus and Remus. This was followed by the Lupercii (young men) running through the streets striking women with the februa (goatskin whips). This was to insure fertility in the women. Traditional Gods of Fertility, Faunus and Inuus preside over the Lupercalia. Modern observances entail prayers for purification and fertility, the cleaning of the house and self, and offerings left in secluded areas. Gods of the month: Faunus, Inuus, and the She-Wolf of Rome

Terminus
The Terminalia, held on February 23, honors the God of Boundaries. It is a time of purifying the land and redefining the boundaries between homes. The “beating of the bounds” which entails walking around the perimeter reestablishes the boundaries for another year. Cakes and wine are offered to Terminus during this activity. God of the Month: Terminus

“Double Hearths” in Polytheism

brown acorn

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Readers of this blog will note that lately I have been writing more about the Gods of Mesopotamia. I have a cultus for Them as well as for the Roman Gods. In modern Polytheism, this is referred to as “Keeping a Double Hearth.” That means following two disparate pantheons of Gods. It often entails keeping separate altars and festival calendars.

The concept of the “double hearth” probably comes from Monotheistic thinking. Since many modern Polytheists are from Monotheistic cultures, they often frame religious terms as learned in that religion. Embedded in Monotheism is the concept of “spiritual adultery.” This is the following of Gods other than Yahweh, even if Yahweh is included. Spiritual adultery breaks the covenant with Yahweh that is the center of Monotheist religion. “Crass idolatry” is frowned upon since it removes Yahweh’s blessings from the community. This is often offered as an explanation as to why Israel floundered. The Israelites were following false Gods such as Asherah, and therefore experienced the wrath of the One True God.

However, in the ancient world, Polytheists viewed religion differently. Polytheism, by its nature, is dedicated to the infinity of Gods. Because of this, religious pluralism abounds. Ancient cultures borrowed Gods from each other, adapted Them, created new Gods, or gave the foreign Gods more attributes. Meanwhile, the Gods themselves are not stagnant. For example, Anubis of the First Dynasty Egypt is different from Anubis of Roman times. (He is the same God with different cultural attributes.)

The Romans were noted for borrowing Gods from everyone. They had rituals to decide which Gods to borrow, and rituals to borrow the Gods. Furthermore, the Romans had protocols for establishing foreign cults. Meanwhile, many of the borrowed Gods obtained Roman characteristics. The borrowing of Gods from the Levant and Mesopotamia allowed their veneration to continue. Although They are not traditional Roman Gods, An, Marduk, and Nergal had Roman cults. So my following the Gods of Mesopotamia is not that odd.

Therefore what seems to be a “double hearth” is a continuation of ancient Polytheistic practices. Each God has their own cultus and devotions. It is in the divine infinity of the Cosmos. What is needed in following multiple Gods is an appreciation of their differences in their desires.