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.

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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.

Gods of the Month: November

For Romans, November was the month of community and games. The Ludi Plebeii (The Plebeian Games) in honor of Jupiter Optimus Maximus were held for ten days. I see November as a month to celebrate the community and the blessings of the Gods.

Read more at: Gods of the Month: November 2016

In the Wheel of the Year for Neo-Pagans, November is the time to remember the Ancestors. Two Gods of the Dead that I have devotions for at this time are Hecate and Anubis. Hecate has a festival day on November 30. (This is also Lost Species Day.)

POMONA: A festival thanking Pomona, the Goddess of Orchards for the ripe fruit is held on November 1. God of the Month: Pomona

MANIA and DII MANES: The Opening of the Mundus (the Well to the Underworld) is conducted for the third time in the year on November 8. The Mundus and Me

FORTUNA PRIMIGENIA AND FERONIA: On the Ides of November (the 13th), Fortuna Primigenia and Ferona are honored. As the Mother of Juno and Jupiter, Fortuna Primigenia sets the destiny of children at their birth. Meanwhile, Ferona is the Goddess of Agricultural Produce. God of the Month: Fortuna Primigenia  and God of the Month: Feronia

TIAMAT: November 6 is one of the festival days for Tiamat of the Mesopotamian Gods. As the Great Mother Creator, She created Heaven and Earth with Her Body. God of the Month: Tiamat of Babylon

Gods of the Month: Gods of the Pantry (Di Penates)

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Roman Polytheists have many deities who protect the household. Di Penates, the Spirits of the Pantry (penus) guard the food stores. Three times a month (Kalends (1st), Nones (9th) and Ides (15th), the Lararium (household altar) is decorated with garlands in their honor. On October 15, a festival is held for Di Penates.

Di Penates are the Spirits of the Ancestors who have become the Keepers of the Hearth and the Stores. They preside over cooking and meals, inspiring the family to make and eat nutritious meals. Di Penates also help the family care about food that they consume. During meals, They are thanked for their role in the family’s well-being.

Any food that falls on the floor is offered to Di Penates. I usually give Them cereal each day and any leftover scraps from cooking. Di Penates help me with my meal planning and cooking. They also ensure that I have a well-stocked pantry.

Traditionally Di Penates are represented by snakes. Even today, these reptiles are enticed to stay near the stove and are fed milk. If the snake leaves the home, then disaster will follow, since Di Penates no longer protect the family. I have a pewter snake next to my kitchen cupboard, which I give milk to.

The veneration of Di Penates have continued, in subtle ways, in modern times. In some parts of Europe, homes still have pots behind stoves for bits of food. These pots are for the “Masters of the House” (i.e. Di Penates). Meanwhile, a cricket on the hearth brings prosperity and good health. A cricket in the living room ensures good fortune. “The Cricket on the Hearth,” a novel by Charles Dickens, features the cricket as a guardian angel.

Salvete Di Penates!
Kind Spirits of the Home
Who protect our stores
May we remember You.
May we thank You always
Kind Spirits of the Home
Salvete Di Penates!

God of the Month: Venus

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Venus of the Romans is a complex Goddess, who is often equated with the Greek Aphrodite. But Venus is more than the Goddess of Love, She is also the Patron of Gardeners and the Protector of the Graves of Girls. Venus Genetrix (the Mother of Rome) is the Ancestor of the Romans. Meanwhile, Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious) carries a spear into battle, and rides alongside her favorite generals.

The first temple to Venus was built in 295 BCE by Quintus Fabius Maximus Gurges, Consul of Rome. He collected fines that were levied against women who were found guilty of adultery. Since it was built using those fines, the temple was dedicated to Venus Obsequens, the Goddess of Sexual Excess.

The second temple was built during the Second Punic War with Carthage. In a rite of evocatio, Dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus persuaded Venus Erycina (Venus from Eryx) to come to Rome. To defeat the Carthaginians, the Sibylline Books counseled to remove this Goddess from Sicily, which was allied with Carthage. After Venus Erycina came to Rome, She became the Goddess of Female Prostitutes.

Upon discovering the unchaste activities of three Vestal Virgins, the Romans consulted the Sibylline Books. To atone for this gross act of impiety, the Senate built a temple for Venus Verticordia (Venus the Changer of Hearts) in 114 BCE. This Venus is the Protector Against Vice.

For his military victories, Pompey claimed that Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious) blessed him. To celebrate his triumphs, Pompey dedicated a temple to Her in 55 BCE. She shared the space with a permanent theater which Pompey also wanted to build.

Julius Caesar introduced the cult of Venus Gentrix, the Goddess of Motherhood and Marriage. His family, the Gens Julia, had long claimed Venus as an Ancestor. After Caesar, Venus Gentrix became the Mother of the Roman People. In 135 CE, Hadrian built a temple to Her and Roma Aeterna (Eternal Rome). He considered Venus to be the Protector of Rome.