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.”

Egyptian and Roman Magic

Magic in Ancient Egypt was much like magic in other ancient cultures.  The Ancient Egyptians used it to communicate with and to bargain with various Gods.  They wanted the help of Divine Powers in their lives and later the Afterlife.

The most well-known use of Egyptian magic was the “The Book of the Dead” (“Spells for Going Forth by Day”).  These spells helped the Dead traverse the Underworld to arrive at the Afterlife.  Many offering formulas were written on the walls of tombs.  Usually this formula read “an offering which the Pharaoh gives” to various Gods for a desired end for named persons.  (Everything belonged to the Pharaoh, and only he could offer to the Gods.  Therefore everyone used the same formula to ask favors for themselves.)

Egyptian magic was largely word based.  Writing was itself could be considered an act of magic. Since writing came from the Gods, the hieroglyphs were sacred.  Hence, therefore written words could achieve magic.

Roman magic has some things in common with Egyptian magic.  In their rituals, Romans use rigid formulas.  If a mistake is made, the ritual is started over because the Gods would be displeased with the mangling of words.  A proper ritual is how Romans return the help provided to them by the Gods.

Romans used word squares or magic squares in their door foyers.  These squares had letters and numbers in puzzle form for the outside Manes to figure out.  This stalled the Manes from entering. While that was going on, the House Lars would assemble to defend the house.

Another similarity to Egyptian magic was the Roman devotiones (defixiones).  These lead tablets were written on and placed in tombs or nailed to trees.  These particular tablets asked various Gods for restitution, justice, victory, or love.  Many had a reward for fulfilling the request such as an offering.  Modern day practitioners of the Religio Romana use paper and bury it in the ground.  The usual Gods petitioned are Dis Pater and other Chthonic Gods.

One difference between Roman and Egyptian magic was that the Egyptians often used theirs to aid the Dead.  Meanwhile, Romans focused on the living, and keeping ghosts at bay.  The Romans wanted to keep the Dead happy, and to honor their Ancestors. However, the Egyptians focused on the Dead and their eternal Afterlife.

Squirrels: My Writing Muse

wpanimalredsq

Whenever I am blocked in my writing, I watch squirrels. I see them bouncing from tree to tree or chasing each other. At other times, one squirrel will dig up a nut that another had just buried. Once I witnessed a lone squirrel sneaking up on a curbside vendor to steal a nut-bar from her truck. Before the hapless vendor could react, this crafty squirrel leapt off the countertop and scampered off with its prize.

Squirrels inspire me with their activity. Rarely staying still in one place, they leap from one tree branch, grab another limb, and then jump to the ground. This reminds me of my free writing, when I jump from topic to topic. Working with my squirrel muses, I seldom know where they will take me in my writing or where I will finally end up.

Another thing that squirrels do is to bury nuts and forget them. Some of these nuts grow into oak trees, while other nuts are dug up for food by different squirrels. In several forms, these buried nuts provide food for the squirrels. Like the squirrels, I stash writing topics in a notebook. Sometimes, I add scraps of information to flesh out the topics. At other times, I mull over one topic until it emerges as a full grown essay. Like burying nuts, my habit of stashing topics and bits of information provide me with food for thought.

The inventiveness of squirrels is legendary. They foil the most determined attempts by ardent bird watchers to keep the squirrels from raiding birdfeeders. When I am stuck in my writing, I ask myself, “What if I was a squirrel…” I usually find an off-the-wall answer to my writing issue. In these ways, squirrels guide me in my writing.

Invocation to the Squirrel Muses
Lay out several nuts (acorns or hickory or walnuts, etc.) in your writing space. Then speak out-loud:

Welcome Fellow Squirrels into my space!
Let’s play, My Squirrel Friends!

Planting ideas, chasing words, jumping from topic to topic, inventing new wonders of
writing!
Flicking our tails in constant motion, we “chee” at the world, while we
Build nests out of words,
Create snug homes for
Ideas, phrases, sentences,
High in the trees of thought.

Let’s play, My Squirrel Friends!
Who wants some nuts?
Chase you up the tree of words!

The Laussel Goddess

laussel

Found in 1911 at Laussel Cave in France, The Woman with a Horn (Femme a la corne) has intrigued people ever since. Believed to be between 22,000 and 29,000 years old, the Laussel Goddess as She is also known as is considered to be an Upper-Paleolithic Venus. The Woman with a Horn has large breasts, belly, thighs, and genitals. As her left hand rests on her stomach, her right holds a horn above her head. The horn has thirteen lines etched on it.

Nobody really know what the Woman with the Horn is. The most common theory is that since She holds the Moon that the Laussel Goddess is the Great Mother who celebrates fertility. Through guiding women’s cycles by the waxing and waning of the moon, She ensures life.

Since She holds what seems to be a horn of plenty, the Woman could also be the Goddess of the Hunt. The horn acts an instrument to summon the spirits or a vehicle for the shaman to travel the worlds guiding the game to the people. Therefore, the Laussel Goddess could represent abundance.

During the Neolithic, people were erecting stone monuments to mark the solstices. These structures demonstrate that Neolithic peoples were aware of the cosmic order of time and space. In this context, the Laussel Goddess is a timekeeper of the moon’s phases.

Following the phases of the moon is a common timekeeping method for many cultures. Ancient calendars are often lunar or have a lunar component to them. This is because the moon demonstrates a more concrete passage of time than does the sun. Since the Laussel Goddess does show the full and crescent moons, She offers a glimpse into the cosmology of the Neolithic peoples.

Modern Goddess worshippers see the Laussel Goddess as the “Keeper of Women’s Mysteries.” For them. She encourages women to embrace their womanhood and their bodies. As the moon changes, so do women. Together, each they dance the rhythms of creation, decay, and rebirth.

As for me, I see the Laussel Goddess as the Lady of the Cosmos. She ties magic, time, and space into a whole. Waxing and waning. She dances the cosmos into being. The Woman with the Horn gives birth to the universe and renews it. She maintains the harmony of the forces of life.

Oh Laussel Goddess
Woman with a Horn
Lady of the Cosmos
You dance the Universe
Into being
May we dance with You
May we honor Your Waxing and Waning
Oh Laussel Goddess
Woman with a Horn

God of the Month: Vediovis

Placeholder Image

One of the oldest of Roman Gods, Vediovis (Vejovis) is thought to be the first God to be born. Who Vediovis is became obscure through the years. He is depicted as a young man holding arrows or lightening and accompanied by a goat. Every spring in Rome, goats were sacrificed ritu humano (in the manner of human sacrifice) to Vediovis to avert plagues. This indicates that He is a God of the Underworld who could prevent or bring plagues.

Vediovis is the opposite of Jupiter. While Jupiter defended Rome, Vediovis was asked to attack the enemy cities. According to Macrobius, the Roman generals would pray to Dis Pater (God of the Underworld Treasures), Vediovis and the Manes (The Dead) to throw the enemy city into panic and terror. Therefore, Jupiter is the God of Defense and Vediovis is that of Offense.

In 200 BCE, Lucius Furius Purpureo vowed a temple to Vediovis for his help against the Gauls. Tribes in Cisalpine Gaul, spurred by the Carthaginian general Hamilcar, attacked and sacked Roman towns. Purpureo ended the siege of Cremona (and the attacks) with a brilliant victory. The Praetor of Cisalpine Gaul credited his win to Vediovis.

Note: Vediovis is not the Roman counterpart of Aesculapius, the God of Medicine, as popularly believed.

God of the Month: AESCULAPIUS, the Healer

aesuplrod

During a plague, the Romans went to Greece to seek the aid of Aesculapius, the Greek God of Healing. The priests at Epidaurus, his main cult center in southern Greece, refused to help the Romans. Then one of the snakes who lived around the temple came aboard the boat of the dejected Romans. Because this Snake was so heavy and large, they realized that It was Aesculapius, Himself. When they entered the Tiber River, the Snake left the boat and stayed on an island. There the Romans built a temple to Aesculapius to thank Him for His help.

At his temple on the island in the Tiber, people would come to be cured. They waited for the God to come to them in a dream and restore them to health. Afterwards, the people would offer votive figures of organs, arms, and legs to Aesculapius.

The Romans regarded the Aesculapian snake (the species of snake around the temple) synonymous with healing. Touching the snake would cure an ill person. Also this snake would point out various herbs for remedies. After transporting this species of snake in earthenware containers, the Romans would release Him around their baths and temples. For them, the Aesculapian snake was a representative of their God of Healing – Aesculapius.

A snake entwined around a rod has become the symbol for Aesculapius. Called by various names – Staff of Aesculapius, Rod of Aesculapius, Asklepian – this symbol now represents the medical profession. Many medical personnel such as first responders have it as part of their insignia.

Salve kind Aesculapius!
Gentle Healer
Come to us in our dreams

We pray for your mild touch
We pray for your tender compassion
Heal us, we ask.

Salve kind Aesculapius!
Gentle Healer

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.”

AESCUPLAPIUS 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).

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.

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.

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.

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.”

AESCUPLAPIUS 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).

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.

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.

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: Acca Larentia of Rome

On the Larentalia (December 23), the famen (priest) of Quirinalis (the Divine Romulus) performs the rites of parentiatio at the gravesite of Acca Larentia. This Goddess is considered to be a Divine Ancestor of Rome. However, She has three conflicting myths about Her being a Founder of Rome.

The first is that Acca Larentia is a very old Etruscan Goddess who cares for the Beloved Dead and their living families. This benevolent Goddess is the Mother of the Lars. Besides being a Household God, She is a Goddess of the Underworld.

When Rome was expanding its borders in Central Italy, they created a second myth. Acca Larentia, a human, was the mistress of Hercules. Later, she married Tarrutius, a rich Etruscan. When her husband died, Acca Larentia donated his lands to Rome. This was the basis of the Roman claim on disputed territories. After Acca Larentia died, She became a Divine Ancestor.

When Augustus reformed the Roman religion, he changed what Acca Larentia, the human was. She became the wife of Faustulus, the shepherd. Together, they adopted Romulus and Remus and raised them to manhood.

In all these myths, Acca Larentia is tied to Rome and to the Ancestors. I see Her as the Mother of the Lars. She cares for Our Dead and for us, the living. For me, She is a Goddess of my household.

Salve Acca Larentia
Mother of the Lars
Mother of the Beloved Dead
Guardian of the Living
Guardian of the Dead
Goddess of the Underworld
Goddess of the Household
Salve Acca Larentia!