My Imagining a Roman Afterlife

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Because of my brain injury, my ability to imagine things is difficult. Because of that, I decided to flesh out the Roman Afterworlds. What people think are the Roman Afterworlds were copied wholesale from the Greeks. What I came up with is based partially on Roman traditions, which leaves out any details of an afterworld.

The traditional entrance to the Underworld is the Mundus (the Pit). During the three days that the Mundus is opened, the Dead could roam freely among the living. Therefore the entrance and exit to the Roman Underworld would be the Mundus. This is the place the Newly Dead would head to when they died. The living could enter the Underworld through the Mundus.

The Mundus also serves as an underground granary and altar for Consus, the God of the Granary. When the Mundus is opened, He is concerned with the safety of the living. Therefore, Consus guards the entrance with Seia (Goddess of Sown Grain Seeds) and Tutilina (Goddess of Stored Grain). Consus would note the comings and goings of the Dead, ensuring that the grain stores are not disturbed.

Meanwhile, Mania Genita, the Goddess of the Dead, ensures that no Dead leave the Underworld except on appointed days (the Parentalia, Caristia, and Lemuria). Furthermore, She oversees the Lars, Gods of the Household and Families. The Lars are the Dead who watch over their former families. They roam freely among the living to protect their families and others.

Libitina, the Goddess of Corpses and Funerals would conduct the Newly Dead from their dying to the Underworld. At her temple, Romans did keep their registers of their dead. They also stored the equipment for burials to be borrowed by mourners there.

Once the Dead enter the Underworld, they are greeted by the Fates (Parcae). Morta, the Goddess of Death (of the Parcae) decides where the Dead go next. Poena, the Goddess of Punishment will take the impious Dead with Her. The virtuous Dead will be taken by Vediovis, a God of the Underworld and of Plagues.

Poena punishes the impious Dead by depositing them in disease producing swamps. In the middle of these swamps are volcanoes, with vents that emit hot gasses and poisonous vapors. Mefitis, the Goddess of Stench and Sewers, governs this place. She oversees the agony of the impious Dead, who cannot leave. Ill and gaunt, they wander about unable to find any rest.

Meanwhile, Vediovis takes the virtuous Dead to a place of land of amber fields and sparkling springs. Under the sky of an autumn afternoon, it is always harvest time. Thus, the virtuous Dead do not want for anything.

These Dead live in neighborhoods with their clans and families. Their houses are stone with large porches to sit outside. Each home has simple but comfortable furniture. They also contain a large mirror for the Dead to watch their descendants. The houses surround a magnificent garden which has a large mirror in its midst. This particular mirror allows the Dead to go into the world of the living when needed.

This afterlife would be peopled by people who follow the Roman religion. The Heroes of Rome would be there, along with the various Roman kings and consuls. Since they were deified, the Emperors would be with the Gods.

The virtuous Dead would enjoy the sciences and the arts. They would argue philosophy and hold athletic contests. They would be involved with the pursuits of their descendants.

This part of the Underworld is self-governing. The Gods of the Underworld are more concerned with the treasures and the fertility of the earth. Therefore, They have the virtuous Dead set their own laws.

In Roman tradition, the Dead are involved with the living. In my Afterworld imagining, I give the Dead a place to be instead of roaming the world. The virtuous Dead can leave to tend to their families, but the impious Dead cannot leave their miserable volcanic swamp.

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Roman Divination and Mathematics

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I practice a form of Roman divination that involves quartering the sky and looking for certain species of birds. To begin, I set up a perimeter using local landmarks. I quarter what I have marked off, then quarter within each quadrant again, forming a matrix of sixteen squares. I set a beginning and ending time to watch for birds entering, exiting or staying within the quadrants.

The six species used for this divination are the eagle, vulture, hawk, goose, woodpecker and crow. The eagle, vulture and hawks are good signs, the goose a warning, the woodpecker a conflict, and the crow a bad sign. The directions of ill omen are north and east, good omen – south and west. An odd numbers of birds is a good sign, while an even number is a bad sign. If no bird appears in the allotted time, it means a neutral event.

Each species of bird has their own methods of appearing. Woodpeckers move up and down trees, therefore I would look for a tree in a quadrant that I marked out. Meanwhile, vultures rarely land and instead circle the sky. Geese move in flocks, while hawks and eagles fly alone. Sometimes, several species will appear together such as crows and vultures. If a crow is exiting a northern quadrant, while a vulture is circling in an eastern one, it is a sign that your luck will be variable that day. Shades of meaning come from species of birds, their movements, their number, and their placement in quadrants.

The setting up of the quadrants sets a beginning probability of a bird appearing in one of the squares. Adding to this, the number and species of bird creates compound probabilities. Then there is the probability of that omen coming true such as sighting a vulture in the south-west quadrant.

Magic and Probability

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My garden condo building of ten units was built about seventy years ago. Field mice frequently come in from the outside and nest in the building. I have been working with the exterminator to get rid of the mice in my kitchen. Therefore, I decided to write a spell to banish the mice from my unit.

My knowledge of spellcraft is limited. Therefore, I consulted various spell books for suggestions. I came up with a very simple spell. It requires a minimum of knowledge and follows standard magical correspondences. If it fails, I have the exterminator to fall back on. Since we began, the numbers of mice killed have been decreasing. Therefore, I feel detached enough from the result to do the spell.

For the spell, I would place two candles in the kitchen – one black, one pink. The color black is traditionally used in banishment spells. (Also, it is associated with the Dark Moon, a potent time for banishing.) As I focus on that burning candle, I would chant, “Mice, mice go away, Stay outside and play.” (I want to direct them to go out of the building.) I would light the pink candle afterwards to fill the kitchen with happiness.

To have the spell be as potent as possible, I need to do it at the Dark Moon, which is the traditional time for banishing. The three days of the Dark Moon is considered best for the removal of pests. A major problem, for me, is that it can only be done once a month during a three-day period.

To strengthen the correspondences, I would need to do the spell at the waning of the year. However, it’s springtime and I want the mice gone now. Since this is the waxing of the year, the banishing spell will be weakened. The object of magic is to have as many associations as possible within the working, since the whole is greater than the parts.

The traditional day and time to do a banishment spell is an hour after sunrise on a Saturday. The hour after sunrise is still a liminal time, while drawing on the influence of Saturday. Saturday is also the day I make offerings to the Household Lars (Spirits), who usually take the form of a snake. Since snakes do hunt mice, doing the spell at that time would add to the number of correspondences.

However, the Dark Moon only comes every twenty-nine days. A Saturday Dark Moon only occurs three times in 2018. If I wanted to do the spell on Saturday with the Dark Moon, I would have to wait until August before doing the spell. Again, the correspondences for doing the spell now would be weaker.

The other problem is that I want the mice to leave my building and not just my unit. There are ten units in my building and eleven in the adjoining building, which shares a wall. I would have to be very specific as to where the mice need to go, which is outside. I also do not want them to return. That may be beyond my modest abilities.

For a replacement time, I could do the spell during the Taurus Dark Moon since it relates to the home. Since I am using candles, the best time is midnight. Because I want the full power of the Dark Moon for magic, midnight would be the prime time.

To further direct the mice to the outside, I would add green and brown candles to the spell. Green is the color of the grass and brown the seeds. Also, these colors represent the earth element of which mice correspond to. I would burn them both after the black candle.

It would be a good spell since I am already working with the exterminator. If the spell fails, I still have the advice of the exterminator on ridding the mice. We need to plug the holes under the stove where the mice are coming in. Meanwhile, the exterminator is checking the outside of the building for mice holes.

Works Used:
Hollard, Ellen, “The Spellcaster’s Reference.” Newburyport (MA): Weiser Books. 2009.
Paterson, Rachel, “Animal Magic.” Winchester (UK): Moon Books. 2017.
—- “Moon Magic.” Winchester (UK): Moon Books. 2014.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, “Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard.” Franklin Lakes (NJ): New Page Books. 2004.

My Brain on Mathematics

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About seven years ago, a wall fell on me while I was shopping. I ended up with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and severe PTSD. I lived in fear of any wall or shelf taller than me falling and crushing me. I refused to go outside without a bicycle helmet.

A major part of my recovery was to learn how to calculate the odds of a wall falling on me. Because one had, I assumed that it was a common occurrence. What I learned was that outside of construction work, it was rare.

I reviewed statistics on the various causes of TBIs. One third were from strokes, while another third were from falls. One sixth of TBIs were caused by car crashes. Of the remainder, the most came from sports injuries, such as being beaned by a flying hockey puck. Being crushed by a wall was an outlier. (These statistics had excluded military TBIs and gunshot victims.)

Therefore, when I go shopping, I repeat to myself how slim the odds are for being crushed by a wall. (I have since given up wearing a bicycle helmet.) It has become a habit of mine to assess the probability of being hit in the head. (I have no desire to reinjure my brain.)

One specific thing that I did which involved probability and my TBI:
I assessed whether the falling debris from the Chinese space station would hit me. When I heard the reports of this space station breaking up, I panicked. After finding out that the debris field would include where I lived, I had a severe PTSD attack. Therefore, I researched how much space debris actually do reach the ground. Most are burned up in the atmosphere upon re-entry. Since 1985, only two reported instances worldwide involved people. Therefore, the probability of any space debris hitting me was miniscule.

The picture of Moby Dick and the boat illustrates how remote wall falling actually is and the trauma I felt (and still feel).

Alphabets and Divination: Norse Runes

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My sense of the Runes is that they tell a complete story of the Wyrd of the Well. My goal as a diviner is to uncover this story, and find meaning in it. I regard the Runic Aettir as chapters in this story, with the individual Runes as sentences. (For me in Runic divination, the questioner is a thread in the tapestry of the Wyrd.) I need to attune to the Runes to discover how the questioner’s thread fits into the overall Story.

For learning the Runes, I decided to do two at a time. By learning in pairs, I could study them as a dyad. As I did, I would ask myself, “how do these Runes fit together.” I would contrast and compare each, as well.

First, I would lay out the entire Rune set to see how the Story develops. Then, I would take the pair of the day, and ask that these Runes speak to me. As their pictures would form in my mind, I wrote down my insights. As each Rune developed into a full picture, I placed it in my memory palace.

For me, the meanings of the Runes lie on a continuum. I regard the meanings of each Rune to be fluid with a center, end, and beginning points. The center point is the “standard” agreed upon meaning. The “standard” meaning also governs the beginning and end points. As a diviner, I see shades of meaning from either side of “standard.” Therefore the Runic insights that I got were usually variations of this “standard.”

An example of how this works for me is as follows. Hagalaz (“hail”), Nauthiz (“need”), Isa (“ice”), and Jera (“harvest”) can be viewed as one chapter of the Runic Story. These Runes can flow together to form a picture. Depicting disaster, Hagalaz is the hail pounding on the roof, causing the roof to cave in. After the roof falls in, the fire goes out in the home. Now the home owner has to make a “need” fire (Nauthiz) by rubbing two sticks together. While everyone, in the home, waits for the fire, they are “frozen,” much like the ice (Isa) that hangs from the eaves. When the warm weather comes, the ice melts, watering the fields. Jera is the field that becomes ready for “harvest.” Through these four Runes, the chapter of a cycle turning and a new one beginning is depicted.

For me, learning is to go inside each Rune to hear the story that each tells. Then, the Runes become pictures or scenes, which resides in my memory palace. When I access them, the Runes flow from one to the next, each telling me what I need to know.

Alphabet: The Many Uses of Irish Oghams

The various Oghams are used by the Irish in several ways. The Oghams were foremost an alphabet used for writing Irish. Numerous examples of boundary markers and other inscribed stones abound with people’s names written in letters from the Tree Ogham.

The Oghams have other uses as well. Some scholars think the Druids may have used them for a code language. Three Oghams often used for this purpose were the “Head in Bush,” “Head under Bush,” and “Serpent about Head.” The “Cattle Raid of Cooley” (“Ta’in Bo’ Cuailnge”) gives an instance of this. Cu’chulainn left an oak hoop with writing as a warning to the invading army. It was written in code that only Fergus mac Roi’ch, a Druid, could interpret. Fergus translated the writing this way: the army could not pass unless someone other than himself could duplicate Cu’chulainn’s feats.

In addition, several Oghams were used as mnemonic devices. For example, the Tree Ogham lists by letter – trees that are important to the Irish. Other such Oghams are “Animal,” “Bird,” “Color,” and “River Pool” to name a few. How these worked are as follows: First Aicme, Fourth Few letter would be in English “S.” In the Oghams, “S” would be “Sionnach” (fox in Animal Ogham), or “Seg” (hawk in Bird Ogham) or “Saille” (willow in Tree Ogham).

Some of the Alphabets such as the Foot Ogham and Nose Oghams were used as sign languages. However unlike the Sign Languages of Deaf people, these Oghams were used by hearing people, as a gesture type language. This gesture alphabet could be used to communicate quickly and quietly between people. Moreover, two people could hold a secret conversation while they were speaking out loud about general topics.

Another use for the Oghams is for magical purposes. In the British Museum, there is an amber bead inscribed with magical powers. The words on the bead cannot be translated into conventional Irish. Moreover, the O’Connor family who owned this bead used it to cure eye problems. They also used it in easing childbirth.

The modern use for the Oghams is divination. Where this modern notion comes from I do not know. Perhaps, the ancient Irish did use their Oghams for divining. Neighboring societies such as the Germans used their Runes for divination.

Diving Deeper into the Irish Oghams

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Since I live in an urban area in the Southeastern United States, many of the trees from the Oghams are foreign to me. To find out if any of these trees lived near me, I used a field guide to look up the taxonomic names of the local trees to discover if they were the same species. For the remainder, I followed the advice of Caitlin Matthews, in her book The Celtic Wisdom Tarot, to look for a native tree that had similar qualities to a tree of the Oghams. I had reasonable success with that but did find that substitution could be a problem. For example, Muin, the “Vine” of the Ogham generally is associated with grapes, but the major vine where I live is kudzu.

However, I did find some similar species that did make a connection to some of the letters:

Aicme Beth (First)
Beth: European Birch: River Birch
Luis: Rowan: Mountain Ash
Fearn: Alder: Smooth Alder
Saille: Osier Willow: Weeping Willow
Nion: Ash: Green Ash

Aicme Huath (Second)
Huath: Hawthorn: Cockspur
Duir: English Oak: White Oak
Tinne: Holly: Holly
Coll: Hazel: Witchazel
Quert: Crab Apple: Crab apple

Aicme Muin (Third)
Muin: Grapevine
Gort: English Ivy: English Ivy
nGetal: Broom
Straif: Blackthorn
Ruis: Elder

Aicme Ailm (Fourth)
Ailm: Silver Fir: Balsam Fir
Onn: Gorse
Ur: Heather
Eadha: Aspen: Bigtooth Aspen
Idho: Yew