Lucaria: The Festival of the Groves

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The Lucaria, held on July 19 and 21, is the ritual of clearing the woods – “letting in the light.” To prevent forest fires, the woods are cleared of debris. Fallen trees are chopped, and the brush is taken away. The focus of the Lucaria is to keep the forest healthy, which is important today as it was long ago.

As with all things Roman, various Gods oversee the process from the cutting to the carting of the brush away. The Goddess of Felling Trees is Coinquenda. The Goddess of Splitting Wood is Commolenda, (the Smasher). Deferunda (the Carter) oversees the carting off of the chopped wood, while Adolenda (the Burner) supervises the burning of the wood. During the Lucaria, these Goddesses are invoked in the clearing of the trees.

Since every piece of land has a guardian spirit, the resident Lar must be asked before digging into the earth or cutting down a tree. An offering should be made before any digging, hoeing, mowing, planting or pruning. When gardening, ask the Lar for graciousness towards you and your family. (The traditional words for the offering is “For the cause of carrying out the work (operis faciundi causa).”)

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Silvanus, the God of Forests and Groves

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From ancient times, Romans have regarded groves to be sacred. Besides Silvanus (the God of Forests), other Gods are worshipped in groves. Diana (Goddess of the Hunt) and Dea Dia (the Good Goddess) had dedicated groves where sacrifices were made. At other places, travelers would stop, rest, and then make offerings of fruit. I do that when I visit parks.

Romans have different classes of woodlands. A locus is a small wooded area with beams of light breaking through it. A nemus could be either an arboretum or a clearing in the woods. It could be consecrated or simply be a place of inspiration. In contrast, the lucar is the cool, dark and silent part of the woods. The natural forest is the silva, and the saltus, the wilderness. As a rule, Romans do not go into forests (lucar, silva) because of the strange spirits who lived there. Odd noises that come from the forest are often unnerving messages for them.

Silvanus, the God of Forests, Groves and Wild Fields, guards the forests. He governs the Children of Fauna and Faunus who dwell in the deep woods (saltus). Popular among Romans, Silvanus still receives much veneration. Although He has never had a temple, Silvanus is worshiped in the forests receiving the first fruits.

Note: Silvanus has other aspects:
Silvanus Domesticus: Guardian of the house
Silvanus Agrestis: the flocks
Silvanus Orientalis: the boundaries of the property

Poplifugia, Nonae Caprotinae, Vitulatio

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On July 7, the Nonae Caprotinae (The Feast of the Wild Fig) is held. Offerings of figs are made under the boughs of figs for Juno Caprotina by the serving girls of Rome. This festival is so ancient that even the Romans had trouble discerning what it was about.

Conflicting ideas about the origins of the Nonae Caprotinae adds to the confusion. Is it about the serving girls who saved Rome from the Latins? Or is it about Romulus, the Founder of Rome, who disappeared in a cloud? Is it related to the Poplifugia (the Flight of the People) held earlier on July 5?

The Palus Caprae (Goat’s Marsh) features in both Romulus’ vanishing and in the Popifugia. This is the place where he was taken up into a cloud. The Palus Caprae is also where the Romans fled in a panic (reportedly from the Etruscans). Meanwhile, Juno Caprotina, who receives the offerings of figs, is depicted wearing a goat headdress, and driving a chariot pulled by goats. A part of fertility rites, the goat is perhaps the unifying thread.

In Italy, figs are harvested in June and July. This fruit is noted for two things – being prolific and as a purgative. The Popifugia may have to do with the cleansing of the city, which would connect it to the Nonae Caprotinae.

Juno Caprotina overseas marriage and fertility. At the Nonae Caprotinae, one aspect of the festival celebrates the marriage of the caprificus (goat fig) and the ficus (fig). The Romans regarded the caprificus to be wild, and the ficus domesticated. (In the Roman mind, wildness is male, and domestication is female.)

The third related festival related to the Poplifugia and the Nonae Caprotinae is the Vitulatio, which is celebrated on July 8. Macrobius claims the Vitulatio marks the comeback victory of the Romans. As an act of thanksgiving, Vitula, the Goddess of Victory Celebrations, is given the first fruits.

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. Other festivals held in July include the Nonae Caprotinae (Nones of the Wild Fig) and Lucaria (Grove Clearing). (Before the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar, July was Quinctilis, the fifth month. Later it was renamed for Caesar, himself.) (The Roman Calendar)

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 God of the Sun.) (God of the Month: Apollo)

Pales
The second Parilia is held on July 7. (The April Parilia is for small livestock.) 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. (God of the Month: Pales)

Juno Caprotina
Also on July 7, the Nonae Caprotinae is held. Traditionally, offerings of figs were given to Juno Caprotina under the wild fig (caprificus). This is to honor Her as the Goddess of Serving Women. In modern times, it can be celebrated by giving figs in Juno Caprotina’s name to service workers.

Silvanus and the Forest Gods
Lucaria, the Festival of the Grove, is held on July 19 and 21. Traditionally, the Romans would clear land or thin woods at this time. They made offerings of a pig to Silvanus and the Forest Gods for permission to clear wood. Lucaria also included votives of works of arts placed in the standing groves. On these two days, I make offerings to the stands of trees near my home.

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. (Gods of the Month: Neptune and Furrina)

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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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.

Divining with an Eight-Ball

As a Roman Polytheist, I regard divination as a conversation between humans and the Gods. As a diviner, I need to know multiple forms of divination. Different Gods prefer different systems to speak to people. Some forms are traditional such as Runes for the Norse Gods or wooden staves for Apollo. Other forms help to clarify the answer, which has been given. Many diviners who work in various Polytheistic traditions usually know at least eleven systems to employ. I use four regularly and have another five in reserve for further needs. As a diviner, I do need to know a variety of forms to do my work well.

I use the 8 ball as a divination tool. For me, it is a simple tool for a quick answer and for clarification. Sometimes the answer from the original divination is unclear or the querent needs more information. The “Yes,” “No” and “Maybe” aspects are useful to me. In Roman divination, the question asked has three answers – “Yes, the Gods will allow it,” “No, They won’t,” and “They don’t care what you do.” The “Maybe” of the 8 ball acts as “The Gods are not interested.”

Mathematics of receiving a certain answer in an 8 ball.

The probability of a positive answer with an 8 Ball (includes “maybe”).

P=10/20, with M=10, 20=N. 50 percent for “yes.”

The probability of a negative answer.
P=5/20 with M=5. N=20. 25 percent for “no.”