Ba’al Hadad of Canaan

The Polytheism of the Canaanites is usually contrasted with the Monotheism of the Israelites. While the nomads of Israel are usually depicted as being morally upright and virtuous, the urbanites of Canaan are always shown to be depraved hedonists who made child sacrifices. The truth is that the Israelites were ethnic Canaanites who split off during the early Iron Age. The Canaanites divided into the Israelites in the south and the Phoenicians to the north. The Canaanite Polytheistic practices that are condemned in the Old Testament are actually Israelite ones. The later editors of the Old Testament wanted to emphasize the pure Monotheism of the Israelites.

The God most often mentioned as the bane of Yahweh and the Israelites is Baal. The particular Baal in question is Ba’al Hadad of Mount Tzapunu, who is known as King and Judge. Ba’al in the Canaanite language means “Lord,” and became a way of addressing Yahweh as well.

Since Ba’al Hadad had died and returned from the Dead, the Canaanites regard Him to be the Protector of Humanity. In the Ba’al Epic, He fights with Yammu, the God of the Sea and Storms. After He defeats Yammu, Motu, the God of Death and Sterility decided to kill Ba’al. Dying, Ba’al goes to Betu Khupthati, the Canaanite Underworld. In his absence, the drought and heat destroys the earth.

Meanwhile, ‘Anatu, the Female Warrior Ally of Ba’al, searches for Him and Motu. Finding Motu, She chops Him up and feeds Him to the birds. Afterwards, Shapshu, the Sun Goddess and Protector of the Dead returns Ba’al Hadad to the Living. After She restores Motu, Shapshu referees the continuing dispute between the two Gods.

Ba’al Hadad keeps the world of humans fertile. He rides the clouds bringing the rains to ensure the earth’s fertility and abundance. These autumnal rains move from the coast eastward to the desert. Therefore, Ba’al Hadad keeps the balance between the desert of Motu and the ocean of Yammu, with his refreshing rains.

O Ba’al Hadad, King and Judge
Your Voice is Thunder.

O Ba’al Hadad, Rider of the Clouds
Mightiest of the Warriors,
You slew Lotan the Seven Headed Dragon
Lord of the Sky
Lord of the Earth
You Bring the Autumn Rains
You allow the crops to grow

O Ba’al Hadad, Protector of Humans
You calm the storms of the sea
You stay the sands of the desert

Further Reading:
Philip West, The Old Ones in the Old Book
Tess Dawson, The Horned Altar and Whisper of Stone

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Fortuna, Goddess of Rome

One of the most popular Gods of the Romans is Fortuna, the Goddess of Luck and Fate. It is said that She smiled upon Rome and granted the city, its destiny of being a great empire. When She arrived in the city in 600 BCE, Fortuna discarded her wings and took off her shoes. Afterwards, She pronounced Rome to be her true home.

Since luck and fate comes in many forms, Fortuna, Herself, has many aspects. Fortuna as Fate is Fortuna Primigenia (First Born), who sets the fate of the new-born child. This ancient Goddess controls the life, fortune, and death of each person. Depicted with a ship’s rudder, Fortuna steers the fate of all. As Fortuna Viscata (the Fowler), She catches and holds people in her net. Since She is “Sticky Fortune,” Fortuna fixes their fate from which they cannot escape.

Fortuna oversees the luck of people in various ways. Fortuna Liberum watches over children, as Fortuna Barbata (boys) and Fortuna Virgo (girls) oversees their transitions into adulthood. Fortuna Muliebris cares for the well-being of women, and Fortuna Virilis for men. Fortuna Privata provides for the luck of the individual, and Fortuna Publica, that of the nation.

As “Luck-bringer,” Fortuna is worshipped in her many aspects. Some of them are Fortuna Blanda (False), Fortuna Dubia (Dubious), and Fortuna Brevis (Fickle). Fortuna keeps the balance by being fickle in bringing both good and bad luck. Meantime, Romans often paired Fortuna Manens (Enduring) with Fortuna Mobilis (Changeable).

Fortuna Bona (Good) balances out Fortuna Mala (Bad). Fortuna Mala is able to ward off bad luck since She brings it. Because Romans regard Her as a force of balance in the universe, She has an altar alongside Fortuna Bona. Together, They ensure that none have perpetual good or bad luck, and all will experience both.

Salve Fortuna Huiusce Diei!
Bring us good luck this day!

Salve Fortuna Balnearis!
Ancient Fortuna of the Baths
Bring all the soldiers, health and well-being.

Salve Fortuna Redux!
Home-bringer
Watch over the traveller.

Salve Fortuna Obsequens!
Indulgent One,
Look kindly upon us
We thank You.

Gods of the Month: Gods of the Pantry (Di Penates)

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Roman Polytheists have many deities who protect the household. Di Penates, the Spirits of the Pantry (penus) guard the food stores. Three times a month (Kalends (1st), Nones (9th) and Ides (15th), the Lararium (household altar) is decorated with garlands in their honor. On October 15, a festival is held for Di Penates.

Di Penates are the Spirits of the Ancestors who have become the Keepers of the Hearth and the Stores. They preside over cooking and meals, inspiring the family to make and eat nutritious meals. Di Penates also help the family care about food that they consume. During meals, They are thanked for their role in the family’s well-being.

Any food that falls on the floor is offered to Di Penates. I usually give Them cereal each day and any leftover scraps from cooking. Di Penates help me with my meal planning and cooking. They also ensure that I have a well-stocked pantry.

Traditionally Di Penates are represented by snakes. Even today, these reptiles are enticed to stay near the stove and are fed milk. If the snake leaves the home, then disaster will follow, since Di Penates no longer protect the family. I have a pewter snake next to my kitchen cupboard, which I give milk to.

The veneration of Di Penates have continued, in subtle ways, in modern times. In some parts of Europe, homes still have pots behind stoves for bits of food. These pots are for the “Masters of the House” (i.e. Di Penates). Meanwhile, a cricket on the hearth brings prosperity and good health. A cricket in the living room ensures good fortune. “The Cricket on the Hearth,” a novel by Charles Dickens, features the cricket as a guardian angel.

Salvete Di Penates!
Kind Spirits of the Home
Who protect our stores
May we remember You.
May we thank You always
Kind Spirits of the Home
Salvete Di Penates!

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!

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!