Polytheism Begins at Home

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Roman Polytheism (Religio Romana) is first and foremost a home-based religion. The home is the temple for the family cultus of the Di Familiaris (the Guardian Gods of the Family). This includes the Lars Familiaris as the Guardian of the Family and the Genius of the Paterfamilias (the Protector of the Head of the Household. It also includes Di Manes (the Ancestors of the Household).

At the main altar (the Lararium) I make offerings of food and incense as well as say prayers. Janus receives the first offering and Vesta the second. During my daily devotions (morning and evening), I ask for guidance and help from the Household Gods, Ancestors, and other Gods.

The Goddess of the Hearth, Vesta, who lives in my kitchen, experiences my efforts at cooking. The Penates look out for my food stores. The Lars look out for the general well-being for the family and home. Janus and the other Gods of the Door (Cardea, Forculus, Limentinus, Portunes) guard the inside and the outside. They oversee the liminal places protecting my family. The Lars Loci (Guardians of the Place) who guard the windows are included.

A Polytheist’s home usually has many altars to different Gods. I have two for the Ancestors in my bedroom, and two for the Gods of Indoor Plumbing under my sinks. The altar to Vesta, the Lars and Penates sits in my kitchen. Each altar receives offerings on a daily basis. The Lars receive food and milk, the Others incense and perfume.

The home is where the family and the Gods interact daily on an intimate basis. The altars provide a liminal space for formal devotions. The Gods and Others are not remote, but are with us always.

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4 thoughts on “Polytheism Begins at Home

  1. The traditional Roman religion was so orderly and neat. How unfortunate is it that it was challenged even before Christianity, because of foreign ideologies like Stoicism, Mithraism, Gnosticism, and Neoplatonism.

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  2. I have been pondering the way in which the gods are like neighbors. They are present around me and I notice them even if I don’t interact with them often or deeply. I decided that the pigeons must have their own minor guardian goddess, no doubt in the retinue of Venus, and I greet her as Columba when I see the flocks of pigeons (who are, after all, feral doves).

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