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!

God of the Month: Summanus

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On June 20, the shortest night of the year, black cakes are offered to Summanus, God of Nightly Thunder. As Jupiter rules the day, Summanus rules the night. He is the Protective God of the Night. Summanus may not be as well-known as the other Gods, but He is as important.

Summanus speaks to me at night in summer thunderstorms. Since my bed is next to the window, nighttime lightening wakes me up. Then I look out my window in awe at the display of lightening in the sky. For me, I make offerings to Summanus from May 1 to October 31. Then I switch to Jupiter from November 1 to April 30. This practice is personal to me, and is not traditional.

Salve Summanus!
God of the Night
You light up the dark
With your lightening.
You rumble to the stars
With your thunder.

We thank You
For protecting us
When we sleep.
Salve Summanus!

God of the Month: Juno Moneta

In 389 BCE, the sacred geese from Juno’s temple warned the Romans of an impending attack by the Gauls. Following another war with the Gauls, a temple to Juno, Who Warns (Moneta) was dedicated on June 1, 344 BCE. Juno Moneta has saved Rome from many invasions. Today, She warns people of other impending disasters such as earthquakes.

Salve Juno Moneta!
Who warns
Who advises

Your Sacred Geese
Once saved Rome
May we hear Them
May we heed Them
Before disaster overtakes us.

Thank You
For Your Warnings
Salve Juno Moneta!

God of the Month: Pales

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The Roman God(s) Pales is/are so ancient that their number and gender is unknown. Some authorities say that Pales is male, other – female. No one is sure if there is one or two Gods. Pales has two festivals – one on April 21, the other July 7. The second festival was referred the “two Pales” (Palibus duobus). Pales watches over livestock – sheep, goats, pigs, and cows. The Parilia of April 21 is for shepherds and sheep. At this time, both are cleansed and dedicated to Pales’ care. The July 7th Parilia is for smaller livestock.

I think of Pales as singular and plural, male and female. Beyond human imagining, Pales is a mystery to be experienced. Perhaps, we should know Pales as the sheep and pigs do. Can that be possible?

Salve Pales!
Of the Sheep
Of the Goats
Of the Swine
Of the Cattle

Protect them from harm
Let us know You as they do
Salve Pales!