Roman Virtues and Principles

ndfidesRomans are guided by three principles in their Polytheism. First, Do ut des (I give that you may give) focuses on the reciprocity between the people and their Gods. Second, Ius divinus (sacred law) governs the right relations between humans and Gods. Finally, Pax deorum (peace of the Gods) stresses maintaining harmony between people and the Gods. These principles are rooted in pietas (piety). For Romans, this includes devotion to their families, the Gods, and their communities.

Added to that are the many public and private virtues that every Roman aspires to. Of the list of private virtues relevant to political action would be dignitas (a sense of self-worth), firmitas (tenacity), gravitas (a sense of the importance of the matter), prudentia (personal discretion), severitas (self-control) and finally veritas (honesty). These particular virtues both guide the conduct of the Roman Polytheist in politics, as well as define how to be an effective advocate. Following these virtues ensures that one does not degrade those for whom they advocate nor the Gods Themselves.

Meanwhile public Roman virtues provide a structure on what to advocate for. Abundantia is enough food for all. Aequitas is fair dealing between the government and the people. When conducting affairs let concordia (harmony between nations and between people) and fides (good faith in contracts) be the guides. Iustitia points to having sensible laws, and salus, the concern for public welfare. In the throes of advocacy, bonus eventus (remembering positive events) and fortuna (acknowledging positive events) should not be forgotten.

Virtues who are Gods:
Abundantia: With her cornucopia, this Goddess distributes grain and money to all.
Aequitas: Aequitas is the God of Equity.
Bonus Eventus: Depicted with a patera (cup) in his right hand and a wheat shaft in the left, this God ensures good harvests and successful enterprises.
Concordia: This important Goddess has a festival on July 22.
Felicitas (Prosperity): This Goddess represents the best aspects of communities.
Fides: This Goddess oversees oral contracts between people.
Libertas (Liberty): This Goddess personifies liberty in all its aspects – personal and political.
Pax (Peace): When Augustus re-established peace after the Roman Civil War, he made Pax a Goddess.
Pietas: This Goddess is usually portrayed with a stork, a symbol of filial duty.
Pudicita (Modesty): This Goddess, once represented the modesty of women, but later oversaw the moral uprightness of citizens.
Salus: This ancient Goddess also preserves public health.
Spes (Hope): Depicted about to depart, this Goddess holds an opening flower.
Virtus (Virtue) and Honos (Honor): These two Gods are usually worshipped together. They are also Gods of Military Courage and Honor.

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Gods of the Month: September

For Romans, September is the month of sacred games to honor Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Later in the month, the Capitoline Triad, the Gods of State, is honored with a feast. The harvest is finished and now is the time to relax and to focus on matters of government.

For Babylonians, September is the time of the autumn rains. The long hot dry season has finally ended. The fields are being prepared for the barley planting. At this time, the Descent of Inanna is re-enacted to ensure that the land is fertile.

JUNO REGINA
On September 1, Juno Regina, the Queen of Heaven is honored. In 392 BCE, following a vow, Marcus Furius Camillus raised a splendid temple to this Goddess. Using the rite of evocatio, Camillus promised Uni of Veii that if She allowed him to conquer her city, he would build a temple to Her in Rome. Agreeing, Uni left the Etruscan city to become Juno Regina of Roman. She rules the State with Jupiter Optimus Maximus and Minerva as the Capitoline Triad.

JUPITER OPTIMUS MAXIMUS AND THE CAPITOLINE TRIAD
The Ludi Romani are held for Jupiter between September 5 -19. These sacred games (ludi) began in 566 BCE. The Romans held parades, races, and theatrical performances. Contrary to popular belief, there were no gladiatorial combats during the Ludi Romani.

The feast for the Capitoline Triad, known as the epulum Iovis (Feast of Jupiter), is held September 13. Statues of these Gods are dressed, wined, and dined. Traditionally only the Senators and magistrates attended this feast.

INANNA (ISTAR) (Note 1)
At the autumn equinox, Babylonians re-enact the Descent of Inanna. Her Descent into the Underworld is the hinge between the dry and rainy seasons. Inanna dies but is rescued. Since someone has to replace Her in the Underworld, Dumuzi, Her Shephard Consort, goes down for six months. His sister, Geshtinanna, Goddess of Autumn Wines, takes his place the other six months.

Note 1: Inanna has many names – Inana and Istar are well-known.

God of the Month: Volcanus (Vulcan)

ndvolcano

The ancient God of Fire, Volcanus has his festival, the Volcanalia on August 23. People pray to Him to not be destructive. Offerings are made to Him, Juturna, the Goddess of Streams, Stata Mater, the Goddess who Quenches Fires, Maia Volcani, His Consort, and the Nymphae of the Waters. It does not pay to stint on offerings to these Gods. On the day after the Volcanalia, Mt. Vesuvius erupted destroying Pompeii and surrounding towns in 79 C.E. (Volcanus is also the God of Volcanos.)

On the Volcanalia, people start their work by candlelight. During the day, everyone hangs out their clothes in the sun. This is to encourage the beneficial use of fire. At night, bonfires are lit and fish are thrown into the fire as sacrifices. Traditionally, red animals were also sacrificed. During this time, Volcanus is referred to as Volcanus Quietus, Vulcan at Rest, to prevent the fires of late summer.

Unlike Hephaestus, the Greek God of the Forge, Volcanus is not associated with creative fire. People do conflate these two Gods, but only Volcanus in His Aspect as Volcanus Mulciber, the Smelter, could be considered similar to Hephaestus. Volcanus, who dwells in Mt. Etna, is the destructive fire, who rampages homes and crops. He can be felt in the wildfires that overwhelm the American West. I see the fires of Volcanus as scouring and cleaning the earth. He burns away everything so that life can begin again.

Salve Volcanus!
The Fire Who sweeps across the land
The Fire Who destroys all in its wake.

May the Fire cleanse the land.
May the Fire bring forth new life.

May we accept Your Fire,
But we pray that Volcanus Quietus,
Be at rest during the dry season.
Salve Volcanus!

God of the Month: Portunus

Bunch of keys on white backgroundPortunus, an ancient Italic God, grants access to the gates (porta) and to the harbor (portus). He also protects the warehouses where grain is stored. This God is depicted holding keys. At his festival, the Portunalia (August 17), people offer their house keys in fires for blessings from Portunus for their homes. I pass my keys through a candle flame.

The Romans have many Gods, Who guard the entry into the home. Janus guards the door, Cardea the hinges, Forculus the doorway, and Limentinus the threshold. Portunus guards the outside gates. The liminal place between the Inside and the Outside is fraught with things unknown. Care must be made to ensure that only good things will come in and bad things leave.

Salve Portunus!
Guardian of Gates
We offer You our keys
Bless them and our homes

Guardian of Harbors
Aid the harbormaster in their duties.
Guide the ships to port
We thank You.
Salve Portunus!

Polytheism and Spiritual Pollution

Mention “miasma,” “pollution,” or “purity” in regards to Polytheism, and many Pagans will take umbrage with these terms. One reason is that Christianity has redefined these Polytheistic terms to match its theology. Since many Pagans are converts from Christianity, they will often think of these concepts in those terms. However, “miasma,” “pollution,” and “purity” had different meanings in Polytheism.

Paganism does have its version of “pollution” and “purity.” Pagans discuss “positive” and “negative” energies. People will cleanse themselves and their spaces routinely to clear out negative energy. For example, crystals are often cleansed before using them. Also, before rituals, many Pagans will smudge themselves to purify themselves and to clean out the ritual space.

Miasma and spiritual pollution are different from both negative energy and Christian sin. Negative energy powers destruction, sickness, and other such things. It can be removed by laughter or positive thinking. Sin is removed by baptism and confession. Miasma, which is specific to Greek Polytheism, is a “spiritual pollution that prevails over all, it is not an ‘evil thing.’” Continuing in his essay, Markos Gage says “Miasma is therefore something we incur in life, everyday life.” (Note 1)

In Roman Polytheism, castus (the adjective) means being morally pure, pious, or ritually pure. Piety (pietas) is maintaining the right relations between people, their Gods, their families, and their communities. Castitas (the noun) is the purity of the ritual and the participants. (Note 2) That means everyone must be physically and mentally cleansed before conducting a ritual. Before a ritual, people perform ablutions by washing their hands and asking that the water purify them.

An error conducted in a ritual is a spiritual pollutant. It negates the ritual and risks the anger of the Gods. It is not that a God will smite someone, but is to maintain the Pax Deorum, the Peace of the Gods. Religious negligence leads to divine disharmony and the turning away of the Gods. This leads to the loss of protection for the family, community, and the individual.

The closest thing that Roman Polytheism has to Christian sin is nefas. This can be defined as anything which is contrary to divine law. Nefas is a failure to fulfill a religious duty. Nefas is a willful act of religious violation.

Polytheists regard the world to be neutral, which differs from Christian theology. St. Augustine stated that the world is both corrupt and corrupting. Therefore, humanity lives in a Fallen World. To Polytheists, the world is both clean and dirty. Kenaz Filan explains, “The world is a clean flowing stream, and miasma the sewage dumped into the water. We clean the stream by filtering that sewage or by redirecting it…to where it can be properly contained.” (Note 3)

Why focus on purity and pollution? When a person prays, divine, or perform any other sacred act, they are engaging with the Holy Powers. There is a doctrine in U.S. law called, “Clean Hands” (also called “Dirty Hands”). (Note 4) The plaintiff cannot have the judge participate in an illegal act. One example is a drug dealer cannot sue to have his stolen drugs be returned. Another is suing the hit man you hired to kill someone for failure to do their job. As Judge Judy says on her TV show, “the courts will not help anyone with dirty hands.” I believe that in our relations with the Gods, we can think of purity and pollution in those terms.

Notes:
Note 1. Markos Gage, “Answers About Miasma,” from “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands,” Galina Krasskova, ed. P. 51. Markos Gage is a devotee of Dionysius and an artist.

Note 2. The Romans have a Goddess – Lua – who protects all things purified by rituals and for rituals.

Note 3. Kenez Filan, “Miasma” from “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands,” Galina Krasskova, ed. P. 69. Kenez Filan is the author of several books including “Drawing Down the Spirits (with Raven Kaldera)”. He is an initiated Houngan Si Pwen.

Note 4. Clean hands: “Under the clean hands doctrine, a person who has acted wrongly, either morally or legally – that is, who has ‘unclean hands’ – will not be helped by a court when complaining about the actions of someone else.” From The ‘Lectric Law Library, http://www.lectlaw.com/def/c202.htm

Works Used:
Galina Krasskova, “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands”
L. Vitellius Triarius, “Religio Romana Handbook.”

Gods of the Month: August

When Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar, the Roman Senate voted to name a month for him – “July.” Caesar’s calendar (known as the Julian Calendar) featured alternating months of 30 and 31 days. July of course had 31 days. In contrast, February had the fewest days – 29, with leap year adding an extra day.

When Augustus became Emperor of Rome, the Senate voted to add “August” after July. Since August only had 30 days, the Senate took one from February and added it to this month. The calendar was rearranged with June and September having thirty days. August could not have any less days than July, since Augustus was equal to Julius Caesar.

For Romans, August is a busy month of festivals. The harvest is coming due and needs to be collected. Since the summer is still hot and dry, the fire season has started. Therefore, the Gods of Harvest and Gods of Fires are honored.

Vertumnus (Vortumnus)
Held on August 13, the Vertumnalia is to celebrate Vertumnus, the Changer of the Seasons. Since He is also the Husband of Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit, Vertumnus receives the first fruits of the harvest. This God is depicted holding in his right hand, grapes, cherries, and other fruits, while at his feet sets a basket of cucumbers.

Portunus
To honor Portunus, the God of Ports and Keys, Romans hold the Portunalia on August 17. Because He first protected gates, Portunus is shown holding keys. During the Portunalia, people throw their keys into fires to safeguard their homes.

Volcanus (Vulcan)
On August 23, the Volcanalia is held to ask Volcanus, the God of Raging Fires, to “stay at rest.” Sacrifices are also made to Stata Mater, the Goddess of Quenching the Fire and Juturna, the Goddess of Streams as well. To honor Volcanus, herds are driven over fires, and fish are offered to Him. Also, people ask Him to protect their homes from fire.

Consus and Ops
The first sets of two festivals for Consus and Ops is held on August 21, the Consualia, and August 25, the Opiconsivia. The second sets of festivals is held in December. The first set celebrates the end of the harvest, and the second the autumn sowing. Between the August festivals, the Mundus Patet (the Door to the Underworld) is opened on August 24 for the first time in the year.

The Consualia, a public festival, featured horse racing. The God of the Granary, Consus is also associated with mules and horses. He also receives receive offerings of first fruits of the harvest.

Meanwhile the Opiconsivia for Ops, the Goddess of Plenty, is a private affair attended by the Vestal Virgins and the Sacerdos Publica (head priest). Ops in her role of Consiva (the Sower) is celebrated. Therefore during this festival to Ops, one hand touches the earth while invoking this Goddess.

Volturnus
Finally on August 27, the Volturnalia is held to ask Volturnus not to bring the drying winds. Originally an Etruscan God, Volturnus raises clouds of dust thereby causing much devastation. For the Ancient Romans, the drying winds came from the southeast, therefore Volturnus is also the God of the Southeast Wind.

Gods of the Month: July

Hot and dry July (Julius) has Romans focusing on the Gods of Water. The major festival for Neptune, the God of the Waters, is held in July. Also, Apollo, as the God of Healing, has games held in his honor. (Before the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar, July was Quinctilis, the fifth month. Later it was renamed for Caesar, himself.)

Apollo
On the advice of the Sibylline Books, Romans held games for Apollo for to ask for help in the Second Punic War (212 BCE). They had just experienced several major defeats. Then later, the games became yearly to thank Him for his help in ending a city wide plague. The Ludi Apollinares (Apolline Games) are held from July 6 to 13. They include theater performances, games, and fairs. People would wear garlands and feast at the entrances of their homes.

Apollo was first considered to be a God of Healing by the Romans. Since He was a Greek God, his temples were built outside of the official boundary of Rome. During the Empire, the Romans also considered Him to be a God of Bards and Diviners. (Sol Indiges is the Roman Sun God.)

Pales
The second Parilia is held on July 7. (The April Parilia is for small livestock. God of the Month: Pales.) The July Parilia is for sheep and cattle. Animals and their pens are cleaned out and smudged with sulfur. Pales are/is the God/s of Livestock.

Neptune and Furrina
Coming into the driest part of the summer, the Romans were concerned about their water supplies. Held on July 23, the Neptunalia celebrates Neptune in his role as the God of Irrigation. Neptune (Neptunus) is the God of Fresh Water, and Salacia, the Goddess of Salt Walter, is regarded to be His Wife. (Neptunus Oceanus is Neptune of the Oceans.) On July 25, the Furrinalia was held for the Goddess Furrina, who watched over wells and other underground water sources. Modern Roman polytheists hold ceremonies to thank both Gods for water.