Showing Respect for the Gods

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Piety for a Roman Polytheist includes using the proper gestures as well as offering the correct sacrifices. For the Gods of the Sky (i.e. Jupiter), a person looks to the sky, and has the palm of their right hand face up. For the Gods of the Underworld (i.e. Consus), the palm is facing down. For the Gods of the Earth (i.e. Tellus), the hand touches the ground. For other Gods, the palm faces the God’s Home. For Neptune, that would be the nearest body of water, and for Silvanus, the woods.

When I leave my home, I put my right palm to the door. I say prayers to the Gods of the Door (Note 1) to watch over my home. When I return home, I do the same and thank Them for their graciousness in keeping my home. Entering and exiting buildings, I do the same with my prayers to Janus, Who Guards the Liminal Places.

This may seem rather prosaic, but I am left-handed. Doing the opposite is automatic to me, so I have to concentrate on using the correct hand. The only time that the left hand is used is in making offerings. Since using both hands at once is problematic for me (Note 2), I do the following -right first, then left.

There are prohibitions for other gestures since they involve gaining power over the Gods. A person may never cross their arms, fingers, or legs when they pray. This is a form of magic against the Gods. Christian style of prayer with the hands clasped together is considered malefic magic.

When a Roman encountered a God (Note 3), they usually remained silent and standing. In “Fasti,” Ovid relates his discussion with Janus, who appeared in his room. Ovid could ask questions of the God, but only at the God’s leave.

The Gods will converse with people and listen to them. For example, King Numa convinced Jupiter to accept plants for sacrifices. However, this was at Jupiter’s discretion. King Numa could not arbitrarily decide to offer plants without first asking the God. To keep the Pax Deorum (Peace of the Gods), Numa accepts Jupiter’s final decision. But like any good Roman, he set up a contract between himself and the God.

Note 1: They are Cardea, Forculus, Janus and Limentinus.

Note 2: Because of my brain injury, I cannot use both sides of my body at the same time. If I do, I have seizures.

Note 3: Godly encounters include having the hair on your head stand up. A tingling feeling over takes you, and you feel fried by the electricity coursing through your body.

3 thoughts on “Showing Respect for the Gods

  1. I didn’t know there was so much detail involved. I like the use of hand gestures – while I’m not a polytheist, I can see the purpose of holding your palm up for the sky, touching the earth etc. Cunningham has something similar for Wiccans with the four elements having a different hand position for each one.

    Liked by 1 person

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