Vesta in the Modern Home

For the better part of the year, I have been having problems with my water heater. Many plumbers later, I discovered that the pilot light of the heater kept going out. To protect the flame from drafts, the last plumber fashioned a shield to stop the wind gusts from gutting it. (I live in an old building.)

Then I realized that the pilot light was Vesta, the Goddess of the Hearth. The Eternal Flame, Vesta gives the fire for cooking, heating and light. Therefore, the hearth is the sacred focus of the home. In Rome, Vesta is the Goddess of Hearth of Private Homes (and of Rome, itself).

Since the fire is the axis mundus, the hearth is the place to commune with the Ancestors. It is the place of welcoming for Them to be with the living family. In the singing of the fire, the voices of the Ancestors are heard. In my case, their voices are in firing of the furnace and in the flashing of the pilot light.

In the modern home, the kitchen stove is usually considered to be the hearth. The furnace and water heater are usually someplace else. (Mine are in a closet off the kitchen). But together, the three comprise the hearth. Without any of them, the home ceases to be. No heat makes the home unhabitable. No stove causes the family to eat elsewhere. No hot water is considered to be an emergency.

Later the water heating unit had to be cleaned out. As with a hearth, before laying a new fire, the ashes need to be swept clean. In Rome, during the Vestalia in June, the Vestal Virgins cleaned the sacred hearths and relit the fires. Therefore, for me, cleaning the water heating unit is the same.

In “Fasti,” Ovid wrote, “Vesta is the same as the Earth, both have the perennial fire. The Earth and the Sacred Fire are both symbolic of Home.” For me, Vesta is Home in the furnace, water heater, and stove.

Suggested Reading: Claude Lecouteux, “The Tradition of Household Spirits.”

Review: Modern Guide to Meditation Beads

Modern Guide to Meditation Beads
Shannon Yrizarry, Llewellyn, 2020

Since prayer beads are important in my religious practice, I decided to read Shannon Yrizarry’s “Modern Guide to Meditation Beads.” Yrizarry writes that meditation beads “are great for both the deep spiritual seeker and some needing a tool to help them with more simple day-to-day things.” (She refers to “prayer beads” as “meditation beads” since they are a “cross-cultural tool that can be used for secular uses.”) In her guide, Yrizarry presents topics such as the use of meditation beads, their history, and how to compose mantras.

In her small book, Yrizaary wants to be complete as possible, since she is introducing people to their use. Yrizarry writes that “using meditation beads is a life-transforming tool.” Use the beads “if you are feeling like you want to make a change in your life but don’t have clarity on what needs to change.” She explains that this works by subconsciously reprogramming the mind to what is helpful. Moreover, fingering the beads can provide a sense of calm, as well as, remind a person of their stated intentions.

Because of my brain injury, I often commission beads for my personal use. I found the discussions of how meditation beads are constructed and what to include to be helpful. The book has suggestions on what would be appropriate for what purpose. For example, a person could can match the beads to the Signs of the Zodiac, and then set-up intentions based on their attributes. For me, Yrizarry’s suggestions sparks my creative thinking for designing new sets.

As a part of using meditation beads, Yrizarry explains how to construct mantras and intentions. Mantras work to direct the person’s energy through applied attention. Moreover, the time spent setting up the intention directs the mind as well to the desired thoughts.

To have an effective mantra, Yrizarry suggests the following steps. First, determine what are the goals. Then clarify which one is the most important. Refine that intention to be clear as possible. An excellent intention should state what is wanted and reenforce why. An example would be “I am calm so I can feel peaceful.” When using the beads, remember to include “thank you” when repeating the intentions.

As for me, I use the “meditation beads” for my prayers. For example, I have a set is for Nanna-Suen, the Babylonian God of the Moon. This set consists of 108 beads of aquamarine and dark green aventurine, beads in a pattern for the cycles of the moon. As I say my prayers. I am focused on Nanna-Suen. Since I pray before retiring to bed, this invites the God into my dreams.

Roman Gods: Divine Julius Caesar

Because of his feats of defeating the Gauls and ending the Roman Civil War, Julius Caesar was considered an “unconquered God.” Moreover, the Roman Senate decreed him to be a Cult Image (Simulacrum) with Mark Antony as his priest (the Flamen of the Divus Julius). As a simulacrum, Caesar’s picture would be carried in a procession with the Gods. Since he reformed the Roman calendar, the Senate added also a new month – July – for Caesar. Just before his assassination, Caesar was named parens patriae – Father of the Fatherland.

After his death, people claimed that Caesar answered their prayers for healing. At his funeral cremation (Note 1), Romans demanded that he be made an official God. Moreover, they threw their clothes, valuables, and weapons into the funeral pyre as offerings. Later at Caesar’s funeral games, a comet (Note 2) was visible in the daylight for seven days. This was proof to everyone that Caesar had ascended to Godhood.

Later, a temple was built on the site of Caesar’s cremation. Unusual for any temple, the Temple of the Comet Star had the right of asylum for anyone seeking refuge. Also, it contained the Rostra Aedis Divi Ioli for the emperors to give their official speeches at. Long after the temple fell into ruins, people continue to leave offerings there. Even today, cut flowers can be found at the site of the temple in Rome.

Divus Julius entered my life when I was studying “Caesar’s Gallic Wars.” The crisp, clean prose drew me in, and I felt his presence in the words. Later, this God appeared when I needed courage to follow through on a difficult experience. Because of his intervention, I emerged victorious. For that, on the Ides of March, I make offerings to Divus Julius.

Notes:
Note 1. A cremation within the ceremonial area of Rome was unusual.
Note 2. The comet was called “sidus Iolium,” the Julian Star.

Roman: Mars: God Of War and Protector of the Fields

Mars came to me early in my polytheism. For a long time, I struggled as to why the Roman God of War would want to be my Patron. I had nothing to offer Him. As I began to know Him more, I realized that Mars Pater (Father Mars) is a complex and multi-layered God. During the time of the Roman Kings, Mars along with Jupiter and Quirinus governed the State. Mars also defended the fields and protected the cattle. These elements together make Him a God of Sovereignty for me. Mars Pater incited people to protect their own and stand against those who would conquer them.

The month of March (Martius) is named for Mars. Besides being the God of War, He is also the Protector of the Fields and Crops. The Feriae Marti (Festival of Mars) includes besides the preparation for war, purification and rituals for planting and good harvests. This festival is important since Mars is the Father of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome. (The Ancient Romans regarded themselves to be the “sons of Mars.”)

Starting March 1st, which is the birthday of Mars, the Salii (Leaping Priests) dance through the streets of Ancient Rome. Wearing the original military uniforms of Rome, the Salii beat their sacred shields (ancilia) and sang ancient hymns to Mars (Carmen Saliare). They repeated this two more times on March 8 and 24. Beating hides and skins, the Salii drove out pestilence and disease. They sent away the Old Man of March (Mamerurius Venturius).

At the Regia (Temple of the Gods), the ancilia and hastae Martiae (spears of Mars) were kept in the Sacrarium Martis (Shrine of Mars). Shaped like figure eights, the ancilia were a gift from Jupiter to the Roman people. The Salii started their dancing, and the Roman army assembled at the Regia. Before leaving for war, the commanding general would shake the spears shouting “Mars Vigila!” (Mars Awaken). Then he would invoke Mars Gradivus (The Marcher) to lead the army.

Other events for Mars would be the Equirra, the horse races held on March 14. Then from the 19th to the 23rd, the arms and the soldiers would be purified for war. The purification of the war trumpets (tubae) was the Tubiluistrium on March 23. Then the war and planting seasons began in earnest.

Modern Romans do dance, sing hymns, and beat drums around fields in honor of Mars. Offerings of sliders (small hamburgers) are made to Mars, with prayers to protect the soldiers in His Care. (The sliders is a Group Unverified Gnosis of Roman Polytheists.)

This is a hymn to Mars, similar to what was sung by the Salii. (Marmar and Marmor are ancient names for Mars. Lares are the land spirits.)

“Carmen Arvale” of the Fratres Arvales
Help us, Lares!
Help us, Lares!
Help us, Lares! Marmar, let not plague or ruin attack the multitude!
Marmar, let not plague or ruin attack the multitude!
Marmar, let not plague or ruin attack the multitude!

Be filled, fierce Mars! Leap the threshold! Halt, wild one!
Be filled, fierce Mars! Leap the threshold! Halt, wild one!
Be filled, fierce Mars! Leap the threshold! Halt, wild one!

By turns call on all the gods of sowing!
By turns call on all the gods of sowing!
By turns call on all the gods of sowing!

Help us, Marmor!
Help us, Marmor!
Help us, Marmor!

Triumph!
Triumph!
Triumph!
Triumph!
Triumph!
–Translation by Amra the Lion, 2005

In October, the Armilustrium (October 19) is held to purify the soldiers and their arms. At this time, the soldiers become regular citizens. The weapons are stored away for future campaigns.

Salve Mars Pater!
At this time
Our soldiers become civilians
With garlands, we honor them
May they rest.

Salve Mars Pater!
At this time
The weapons of war
Purified and stored away
May they rest.

Salve Mars Pater!
Vigilant as always,
Alert as always
We thank You.
— Virginia Carper, 2016


The image is “Mars Prayer Card,” by Lykeia.

Interacting with a Spirit of the Land

Because I live on the third floor of a garden condo, I have a small balcony. Living in an urban area, I have to be careful of mice. To interact with the Spirits of the Land (Genii Loci), I put out a small wooden box of seeds on a table on my balcony. For two weeks, I put out Honey Nut Chex and nuts instead. As I watched from my window, I took daily nature notes.

At various times during the day, two Ninja squirrels (Note 1) would come for the nuts. They would jump from the condo roof to the table. After eating the nuts, they would leap from the railing down two stories to the ground. Then, the Ninja squirrels would saunter away without a backwards glance. I was always amazed at their nonchalance.

I also had a party of blue jays (Note 2) who came and squawked at me. They would fight with the two squirrels over the food. Sometimes the jays would emerge victorious, chasing off the squirrels. As gifts for the food, they would leave colorful blue feathers for me to find.

Also, every day, at dawn and dusk, a charm of thirty sparrows (Note 2) would line up on the railing. While some roosted on the window sills and looked in, others fed their fledglings on the railing. While waiting, the fledglings would chirp loudly and flap their wings. Other sparrows took turns at the feeder.

I had a Downy Woodpecker appear at the window several times during the day and tap. Every time, it was because there was no Honey-Nut Chex. I found this all strange since woodpeckers prefer eating insects at tree trunks. This small woodpecker was black and white like all downies. However, this bird lacked the distinctive red spot on their head.

When I would sit outside on my balcony, the Downy would roost on the railing in front of me. Acting friendly and curious, the bird would cock their head towards me. I could feel bright and sparkly energy radiating from the Downy.

Since I had been a “pet whisperer” (before my brain injury), I decided to see if I could communicate with the Downy. Formerly, I would communicate with animals by sending them mental pictures and colors. In return, I would receive similar images. This Woodpecker was too bouncy for sustained contact, but they did send some images.

According to Morgan Daimler in “A New Dictionary of Fairies,” the Fae will shapeshift into birds from time to time. However, I could not find anything that connected woodpeckers with fairies. Therefore, I decided to mediate on the glimpses that I received from the Downy. I came up with “sprite” as a working name for this Being.

Teresa Moorey in “The Fairy Bible” said that Pixies are thought to be the souls of prehistoric peoples in England. Living in North America, I decided that the Downie was something similar, and could be called “pixy.” Moorey also pointed out that Pixies liked to dance on the ridge tiles of roofs. This particular Downy would grab the tiles of the condo roof with their feet (Note 3) and do a little jig.

Daimler said that Pixies have red hair. Over the two weeks, the Downie’s red spot would emerge and disappear. I believed that the Downy was a shapeshifted form of a Fae. Daimler also said that Pixies find people to be entertaining. The Downy tapping at my windows, watching my reactions certainly found me to be amusing.

John Kruse in “Beyond Faery” presents the idea that the Fae resemble humans, while Fae Beasts are more animal-like. He says that Hobs and Hags are Fae Beasts because they are hairier than the usual Fae. He concludes that it is “hard to draw hard and fast boundaries” between supernatural entities. Kruse does think that one difference is that Fae Beasts only interact with people and are solitary. Perhaps, the Downy is a Fae Beast instead of a Fae.

Notes.
Note 1. They were eastern grey squirrels.
Note 2. Flocks of jays are called “parties,” while those of sparrows are “charms.” This group was a mixed group of song and field sparrows.
Note 3. Woodpeckers have zygodactyl feet of four toes. The first and fourth face backwards, while the second and third face forwards. Their feet enable woodpeckers to climb vertically up trees.

Works Used:
American Bird Conservancy, “Types of Woodpeckers: All Native Woodpecker Species of the U.S.” 2021. https://abcbirds.org/blog20/woodpecker-species-united-states/, .

Bird Feeder Hub, “17 Woodpecker Species of North America (Pictures).” 2012.
https://birdfeederhub.com/woodpeckers-of-north-america/, .
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Woodpeckers Browse by Shape.” 2019. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/browse/shape/Woodpeckers,.
Daimler, Morgan, “Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folks.” Moon Books: Winchester (UK). 2017.
…,” A New Dictionary of Fairies: A 21st Century Exploration of Celtic and Related Western European Fairies.” Moon Books: Winchester (UK). 2020.
…, “Pagan Portals: Fairy Witchcraft.” Moon Books: Winchester (UK). 2014.
Kruse, John, “Beyond Faery: Exploring the World of Mermaids, Kelpies, Goblins & Other Faery Beasts.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2020.
Moorey, Teresa, “The Fairy Bible.” Sterling: New York. 2008
Sanchez, Tara, “Urban Faery Magick.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2021