God of the Month: Fides

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Roman morality is governed by two sets of virtues – personal and public. These thirty-one virtues give Romans their moral, physical and spiritual grounding. Personal virtues are the qualities that ordinary people should aspire to. Meanwhile, public virtues are for the community to govern itself by. Because of their importance to Roman life, many of the public virtues have become deities.

Often mistaken to mean “faith,” fides is defined as “reliability between two parties, which is always reciprocal.” Fides is an essential quality for those who are in the public arena such as politicians. Since fides is the bedrock of relations between people and their communities, this virtue is now a Roman Goddess.

Rome’s second king, Numa Pompilius began the annual rites to Fides Publica (Public Trust) on October 1. Her temple in Rome held the state treaties. One of the oldest of Roman Gods, Fides holds the same place of importance with Jupiter Optimus Maximus (Jupiter the Best and Brightest) and Dius Fidius, the God of Oathtaking.

Salve Fides!
May we keep the trust of others.
May they keep our trust.
Let us have mutual faith.
Both are needed
For society to thrive.
Salve Fides!

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God of the Month: Volturnus

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The coming storm

Volturnus is one of a group of obscure Gods that the Romans had a priest and a festival for. By the time of the Roman Republic, few Romans knew anything about this God. Since Volturnus was a God before the founding of the City, they continued his cultus.

The Volturnalia, held on August 27, is to protect the fruits and vegetables from shriveling in the hot winds of late summer. Therefore, Volturnus can be considered the God of the East Wind and of the Southeast Wind. (In Italy, the drying winds come from the southeast.) Ancient Romans called Volturnus, the Wind of Devastation “whirling around the heights who raises clouds of dust.” He can be seen as the God of Whirlwinds, Dust Storms, and Tornados.

In my personal practice, I see Volturnus as a God of Destructive Power. He governs the storms on land and fans the spreading fires. By remembering the Dust Bowl of the 1930s in the United States, I see that Volturnus tells humans when the land is being ill-used. We need pay heed to this God when the dust comes.

Salve Volturnus!
Little known God
Your cultus is still kept
We hear You in the dry storm
We see You in the dust cloud
We feel you in the hot wind
You touch Us
Telling Us
Be Awake
Be Aware
Salve Volturnus!

God of the Month: Volcanus (Vulcan)

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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!

God of the Month: Vortumnus (Vertumnus)

Little marrow type pumpkin and flower.

Little marrow type pumpkin and yellow flower.

Called The Changer, Vortumnus can be considered the God of Seasonal Change. He causes the plants to swell into vegetables. He turns the grapes purple and ripen the cherries. His influence becomes obvious in August, when the signs of autumn begin to show. At this time, the vegetables are ready to be picked. In the change from winter to spring, the focus is on Liber and Libera, who fertilize the plants. (Vortumnus does bring the warmth of spring.)

Vortunmus is the Protector of Gardens. His wife, Pomona, is the Goddess of Fruit and Fruit Trees. Together, They watch over the fruits and vegetables that we eat. During the Vortumnalia (August 13), I give thanks to Vortunmus for the produce from my grocery store, especially for the heirloom tomatoes.

Salve Vortumnus!
The Changer
The Turner
Your touch causes
The cucumber to ripen
The cherry to be sweet
You bring the changes of each season.
We feel You in the Autumn
But You are always there
The breath of warmth of Spring
The chill of Winter
Turning, turning the seasons one by one.
Salve Vortumnus!

Gods of the Month: Neptune and Furrina

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During the hot, dry month of July, Romans hold festivals for two Water Gods – Neptune on July 23, and Furrina, two days later. Both these Gods are petitioned for adequate water supplies – Neptune for watering crops and Furrina for drinking water. (Earlier in the month, Jupiter Pluvius is petitioned for rainfall.) Water is important for sustaining life.

Neptune

Often regarded as the Roman Poseidon, Neptune (Neptunus) is actually an old Italian God. Originally, He was the God of Springs, Streams, and Rivers. Because Neptune was (and is) the God of Fresh Water, his consort Salacia was (and is) the Goddess of the Surging Sea. In his oceanic form, Neptune is addressed as Neptunus Oceanus.

One thing that Neptune does have in common with Poseidon of the Greeks is that He also the God of Earthquakes. It seems for the Greek and Romans that the Water Gods causes earthquakes. Meanwhile, Volcanus (Vulcan), who has his forge in Mt. Etna, creates raging fires instead.

Furrina
Not much is known about the Goddess Furrina. She is connected to wells and underground cisterns. Therefore, Furrina can be considered the Goddess of Adequate Drinking Supplies or simply of Drinking Water. Say a prayer to Her when you drink from a public water fountain.

Salve Neptunus!                                Salve Furrina!
God of Waters                                   Goddess of Waters
Sustainer of Life                               Sustainer of Life
We pray for fresh water                 Teach us to protect the water
We pray for abundant water         Teach us to care for the water
We thank You, Neptunus!               We thank You, Furrina!

God of the Month: Hercules

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Temple of Hercules Victor

Hercules of the Romans is different from Heracules (Hercules) of the Greeks. They are both Demi-gods who performed the Twelve Labors (of Hercules). However, Hercules of the Romans is so uniquely Roman as to be another God.

As one of the early founders of Rome, Hercules set up the Ara Maxima (the Greatest Altar) for sacrifices. Cacus, a fire monster, who had been terrorizing the early Romans, stole Hercules’ cattle. After killing Cacus, He erected this altar (later known as the Ara Maxima of Hercules Invictus, the Unconquered Hercules), and sacrificed cattle to the Gods. Rejoicing at the demise of the fire monster, the early Romans celebrated Hercules’ victory, and made his altar a cult center.

Popular with merchants, Hercules receive one tenth of their profits. Unlike Heracules, He is considered a God of Commercial Enterprises. At the Ara Maxima, traders would make business deals, swearing oaths to Him. He is especially beloved by olive merchants, who called Him, Hercules Olivarius.

Nearby this altar, the Romans erected a statue of Hercules Triumphalis (Hercules Triumphant). Before setting off for battle, generals would ask Him, Hercules Victor (Hercules Victorious) and Hercules Invictus for victory. Afterwards in gratitude, successful generals would sacrifice at the statue, now clothed in triumphal robes.

In 218 BCE, on the orders of the Sibylline Books, a temple to Hercules Magnus Custos (Hercules the Great Custodian) was erected. The Romans then asked Him to save them from Hannibal of Carthage who was intent on invading Rome. Like all of his temples, this one was round. (Today, a person can ask for protection against home invasions from Hercules Magnus Custos.)

Hercules Musarum (Hercules of the Muses) is the Friend of the Muses. He is usually depicted playing the lyre. At his temple in the Circus Flaminius, Hercules and the Nine Muses were honored.

Hercules of Rome is a multi-faceted God/Hero. He is the Patron of Olive Merchants (Olivarius) and of Quarrymen (Saxanus, of the Rocks). Besides being noted for his gluttony and strength, Hercules is also recognized for being a Friend of the Muses. He is also Hercules Augustus, who protects the ruling emperor of Rome.

Salve Hercules!
You ended human sacrifices
You established the worship of fire
You slew Cacus, the fire demon
You protected Rome
You grant success in war
You sing with the Muses
You give health and strength
You grant commercial success
Undefeated and always victorious
Salve Hercules!