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Archive for April, 2012

Salvete!

Today’s PBP post is about Ianus.  I thought it was fitting to write about him, as he is the god of new beginnings – among other things.

Out of all the Roman gods, Ianus is perhaps one of the more interesting – and the most recognizable.

And Ianus is a very major deity in the Roman pantheon.  It is to him that one prays before praying to any of the other deities, and he himself explains this in Ovid’s Fasti: “It is through I, who guards the thresholds, that you may have access to whatever gods you please… whatever you see anywhere – sky, sea, clouds, earth – all things are closed and opened by my hand. The guardianship of this vast universe is in my hands alone, and none but I may rule the wheeling pole.”

Related to this, the month of January and the first day of January are sacred to this god.  It is the first day of the first month of the new year and, traditionally, the ancient Romans gave each other gifts of figs and dates and honey, in order that – to quote Ianus again – “the whole course of the year may be sweet, like its beginning.”

A Roman coin of Ianus.  The glowing is an added effect.

Ianus is usually depicted holding a staff in his right hand and a key in his left hand.  He also is said to have two faces, one looking forwards and one looking backwards.  Sometimes he is depicted as bearded, sometimes clean-shaven, sometimes with one head as each.  Again according to him, “the ancients called me Chaos, for I am an ancient being.  Long ago lucid air and the three other bodies – fire, water, and earth – were huddled together all in one.  When once, through the discord of its elements, the mass parted, dissolved, and went in diverse ways to seek new homes, flame sought the height, air filled the nearer space, while earth and sea sank in the middle deep. It was then that I, until that time a mere ball, a shapeless lump, assumed the face and characteristics of a god. And even now, as a small memento of my former chaotic state, my front and back look just the same.”

He is a very patient deity, though I also perceive him as being quite solemn.  This isn’t to say that he is very serious; I get the feeling that he likes a good laugh as much as the next (as a disclaimer, this is all my own UPG; you might have had different experiences).  He was the first deity that I had any contact with when I first began looking into the Roman pantheon, which is fitting considering that he is the god of beginnings.

Ianus’ epithets include Bifrons (Two-Faced), Geminus (Two-Faced), Belliger (Bringer of War), Pacificus (Bringer of Peace) , Quirinus (Of the People), Patulcius (The Opener), Clusivius (The Closer), Ianeus (The Gatekeeper), Duonus Cerus (The Good Creator), Rex (King), Ianitor (Caretaker or Gatekeeper), Divum Pater (Father of the Gods), Divum Deus (God of Gods), and Matutinus (Of the Dawn).  Another epithet is Iunonius, which means “Of Iuno”: he is usually called this on the Kalends, which he is seen to help bring in with the help of the goddess Iuno.  He is the god of gates, doors, bridges, beginnings, endings, and time.

There are few myths about Ianus, and they are rather short.  One has him as an ancient king of Italy, who welcomed Saturnius (Saturn), another king, as a guest, in return for being taught the art of agriculture.  Another myth, one of a much darker tone, has him rape the nymph Carna, and, in a sort of repentance, he makes her the goddess of door hinges (her name changes at this point to Cardea).  He is also said to be the father of the minor deity Fontus (the god of springs and wells) with the nymph Iuturna, and the father of Venilia by the nymph Canens.

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Salvete!

This post is a little bit long, so at the end I added a “Tl;dr.”  I decided on the second post of the H series to be about two lesser-known heroes of ancient Rome and their myths.

What?  You might be asking right now.  Silly Iulla, the Romans had no myths of their own!

No.  The Romans did have myths of their own.  And I’m not talking about the myths which were originally Greek but given a Roman flair by changing the names of the persons and deities involved.  What I am talking about are the native myths of the Italic peoples, myths of their own gods and goddesses and of legendary heroes.

And it is the myths of the heroes that I am concerned about for today’s post.

I’m sure that you’ve heard of the most famous heroes: Aeneas, the legendary warrior who came all the way from the fallen Troy to Italy; Hercules, the Greek hero and demi-god who came to Italy to rid it of a great monster (yes, I am cheating a bit here: Hercules – or Herakles – is originally a Greek deity); and Romulus, perhaps the only native Italian of the bunch, the man who would found the city of Rome.

Unfortunately, that’s all that you’ll see about the aforementioned heroes in this post.

There are two figures from the early Republic that I want to spend some time on instead – and both of them curiously embody the virtues that a Roman citizen prided him/herself with.  There is no actual historical evidence that they existed, being written about only by one or two prominent historians, but there is no doubt that their actions served as examples to ancient Romans on virtues and justice.

One year after the death of Lucretia and subsequent expulsion of the last King of Rome in 509 BCE, the Roman-Etruscan Wars were raging across the countryside.  One of these was waged between Rome and Clusium, an Etruscan city, in 508 BCE.  The King of Clusium, a man by the name of Lars Porsena, was asked by the disgraced King Tarquinius Superbus of Lucretian fame to become his ally against Rome.  Porsena accepted, and he and his army marched on Rome.

Enter a young Roman named Gaius Mucius Scaevola.  Yes, I know what his middle name looks like, and no, it does not mean what you think it means (sorry Inigo).  He, with the approval of the Roman Senate, snuck into the camp of the Etruscans with the intent of assassinating Lars Porsena.

He failed.

Instead, Mucius Scaevola was captured, and when questioned by Porsena gave this famous reply: “I am Gaius Mucius, a citizen of Rome.  I came here as an enemy to kill my enemy, and I am as ready to die as I am to kill.  We Romans act bravely and, when adversity strikes, we suffer bravely.”  He then stuck his hand into a blazing fire in order to prove his loyalty to the Romans.

Needless to say, this was the reason for his cognomen ‘Scaevola’, which means ‘Left-Handed.’

Mucius Scaevola

A second hero might bear a more familiar name:  Cincinnatus.  While Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was not exactly a hero to the plebeians – the average citizen of Rome – due to his staunch opposition of the establishments of their rights, the more well-off patrician families looked up to him as a man whom they should aspire to be like.

A citizen with much power himself, he was forced to sell his lands and pay a fine as a result of his son’s troublemaking in the forum (his son, Caeso Quinctius, had driven the representatives of the plebeians away from the forum in an effort to prevent them from reaching formal decisions) and retired to a small farm.

The next year Cincinnatus became a consul of Rome.  A year or two later in 458 BCE the Romans were warring with Aequian and Sabine tribes and one of the Roman consuls attempted to lead his army against them.  Unfortunately, he and his men became trapped in the Alban Hills and were fighting to escape.

A few cavalrymen escaped the battle and rode to Rome where they told the Senate what had happened.  They ordered another consul to nominate a dictator, a man who would serve the people for six months.  Cincinnatus was chosen.

Some senators travelled to his farm to tell him the news, and the newly-appointed dictator famously put down his plow and immediately donned the toga of his new office.  Sixteen days later he ended the war and returned to his farming, shedding the title of dictator with a resignation.

That was not the only time in his life that he would hold such an office: once more, in 439 BCE, he was appointed to put down a conspiracy.  This time, too, he resigned as soon as he had finished the job, and for the rest of his life was held in extremely high esteem by his fellow Romans.

Cincinnatus

Tl;dr version:  The Romans had myths and heroes of their own.  One was Mucius Scaevola, a man who attempted to assassinate a king who was an enemy of Rome, failed, and stuck his hand in a bonfire to prove his loyalty to Rome; and the other was Cincinnatus, a farmer-turned dictator who ended a war in 16 days and then returned back to his farm.

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Salvete!

Today’s (short) post is on haruspicy.  This isn’t something that I personally practice – it involves sacrificing an animal and looking at its entrails – but it is a very interesting form of divination that was extremely important to the ancient Romans.

Haruspicy is the inspection of the exta, the entrails of sacrificed animals, to ascertain the approval (or disapproval) of the gods.  Every part of the entrails was important, as anything, from the size to the color to the shape, could indicate a portent.  The name of the man that would perform haruspicy is a haruspex, an odd word that is Etruscan in origin.

An Etruscan haruspex. Note his interesting hat.

It is thought that haruspicy originated in the Near East and was practiced especially among the Babylonians and the Hittites.  The latter brought the practice to Italy where it was taken up most heartily by the Etruscans, who in turn lent the practice to the Romans.

The Etruscans preserved their procedures for haruspicy in the Libri Tagetici, a set of books dictated by Tages, a strange figure who was said to have sprung up out of a field being hoed by a peasant.  He taught haruspicy to the high priests of the twelve Etruscan tribes and then promptly disappeared.

There is a famous model of a sheep’s liver – the favored portion of the entrails used for haruspicy by the Etruscans – called the Piacenza Liver.  It is thought to be from 100 BCE and was discovered in the town of Piacenza, Italy.  It is divided into portions which are ascribed to different deities: there are several regions and bumps on the model that are supposed to match up with the actual liver of the animal.

The Piacenza Liver.

Famously, according to the historian Suetonius, the haruspex Spurinna warned Julius Caesar that he should “Beware the Ides of March!”  Obviously, Julius Caesar did not take the warning to heart.

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Salvete!

So I’m writing this post as my first post for the Pagan Blog Project, a idea run by Rowan Pendragon over at OneWitchsWay.com.  She had an interesting idea to do an alphabetical post system whereby every Friday people post a topic about something starting with a different letter.  Every two weeks the letter moves one up in the alphabet: so this past week, April 6th, was the second Friday of the “G” posts.  I think it’s an excellent way to get ideas about posts and to keep a steady updating schedule.

…Needless to say, I came rather late to the PBP, and this will be my first post under that category.

I’m writing about the concept of the Roman genius.

A silver statuette of a genius.

The genii (plural form of genius) are tutelary spirits.  They are sort of guardians, not only of people but also of places – ever hear of a genius loci?  That is, quite literally, the tutelary deity of a specific location.  While the genius is the term used for the tutelary deity of a male, women had their own, called the iuno (taken from the goddess of women herself, Iuno).

In addition to being guardians, they are also the fount of creativity and talent for each individual: sort of like your own inner Muse.  Their creativity aspect was not always an internal one: they were seen as the forces behind the growth of such things as vineyards, for example.  The genii of humans were traditionally given an offering on an individual’s birthday.

Like every Roman deity, the genii and the iunones had many epithets for many occasions.  They could be prayed to in circumstances surrounding infants (as the Cuba, Cunina, and Rumina – the ‘lying down for sleep’, the deity of the cradle, and the deity of breastfeeding – attest), or, for stages in an individual’s life.

For household worship, the genius would be often on the lararium (the altar for the household gods, something that I will do a post about later) as a snake.  The snake was not seen as an animal with the pathos attributed it by some mainstream religions today; instead, it was seen as a symbol for fertility.  Other representations of the genius include a man, with or without wings, sometimes with his head covered by a toga, sometimes holding a cornucopia or an offering dish in his outstretched hand, or as a pudgy infant.

During the time of the Roman Empire it was common for the genius of the Emperor to be given libations as offerings.

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60 Adorations for Venus

Salvete!

I’ve seen some blog posts about adorations to deities, and I thought that this was a wonderful idea to do.  Not only does this help with learning their epithets, it can also help bring one more close to them, spiritually.

I decided to do my first set to the goddess Venus as the month of April has some festivals dedicated to her, including the Veneralia on the 1st.  I wouldn’t call her a patron, but I have had an interesting experience with her.  Like the Greek Aphrodite, Venus often gets flack for being sort of a dumb blond, a bimbo if you will.  This is really sad, because it is NOT the way that she should be seen.  Like all the gods and goddesses, she is incredibly complex, and seeing her in the former way is, well, not cool.  As a severe understatement.

Sorry about the mini rant.

Anyway, I did 60 adorations: partly because she has so many epithets, and partly because the numbers 6 and 12 are sacred to her.  In games of dice that were popular in ancient Rome, rolling two six’s was called a “Lucky Venus”.  Here they are!

To Venus

  • I adore you, Heavenly One.
  • I adore you, Bald One.
  • I adore you, Hairy One.
  • I adore you, Purifier.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Eryx.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Prostitutes.
  • I adore you, Lucky One.
  • I adore you, Mother of the Roman People.
  • I adore you, Goddess with the Pretty Bottom.
  • I adore you, Free One.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Fertility.
  • I adore you, Goddess of the Funeral.
  • I adore you, Passionate One.
  • I adore you, Goddess of the Myrtle.
  • I adore you, Graceful One.
  • I adore you, Sea-Born One.
  • I adore you, Indulgent One.
  • I adore you, Patroness of Pompey.
  • I adore you, Patroness of Sulla.
  • I adore you, Patroness of Caesar.
  • I adore you, Changer of Hearts.
  • I adore you, Forceful One.
  • I adore you, Lover of Anchises.
  • I adore you, Consort of Vulcanus.
  • I adore you, Mother of Cupidus.
  • I adore you, Lover of Mavors.
  • I adore you, Mother of Aeneas.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Horses.
  • I adore you, Goddess of April.
  • I adore you, Lover of Beauty.
  • I adore you, Victorious One.
  • I adore you, Cruel One.
  • I adore you, Killer of Men.
  • I adore you, Deceptive One.
  • I adore you, Golden One.
  • I adore you, War-Like One.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Foul Odors.
  • I adore you, Lover of Laughter.
  • I adore you, Whisperer.
  • I adore you, Spectator.
  • I adore you, Talented One.
  • I adore you, Bold One.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Chastity.
  • I adore you, Who is Fond of Vanilla.
  • I adore you, Goddess of the Spring.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Roses.
  • I adore you, Goddess with Spread Legs.
  • I adore you, Goddess with Beautiful Eyes.
  • I adore you, Blond-Haired One.
  • I adore you, Who is Seated on a Goat.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Good Navigation.
  • I adore you, Natural One.
  • I adore you, Honest One.
  • I adore you, Who Dwells in Gardens.
  • I adore you, To Whom the Swan is Sacred.
  • I adore you, To Whom the Dove is Sacred.
  • I adore you, Player of Dice.
  • I adore you, Shapely One.
  • I adore you, O Friend.
  • I adore you, Goddess of Love.

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Pagan Meme

So, I recently saw this on some other blogs, and thought I’d give it a shot.  I know this post is titled “pagan meme”, and the name “pagan” crops up several times in the meme itself, and I’m sorry about that.   I honestly couldn’t think of what else to call it, though I know that the name “pagan” can be pretty offensive to some people.  I also think this meme is rather silly, because it makes the assumption that the faith of whoever is taking the meme is Wicca-based and/or New Age-y and has a little Christianity thrown in there as well.  Among other reasons.

Without further ado, here it is:

The Pagan Meme

Do you have a magical/Pagan name?
No.  Well, I suppose I sort of do; I go around on this blog and other places as Iulla, which is an archaic Roman form of Iulia.  Which is not anywhere close to my real name.

How did you find Paganism?
Through the internet.  I’ve never had any pagan friends or even known any pagans, so it was all up to me to find my own path.

How long have you been practicing?
Only a year and a half.

Are you out of the broom closet?
With only a few people.  As far as my family goes, only one of my aunts knows that I am a Roman revivalist.  A good friend of mine also knows.  Those two people are the only ones that know the details; I honestly don’t feel that it’s necessary to go around telling everyone, whether in a religious discussion or not, what faith I follow.  If it’s relevant, I will, otherwise I won’t.

Solitary or group practitioner?
Solitary.

What is your path?
Roman polytheism.  I should say, archaic Roman and somewhat Etruscan polytheism.

D E I T Y
What’s your brand of deism?
I’m a hard polytheist, meaning I pray to/offer to/worship all the gods of the Roman pantheon and believe that they are all separate figures, not emanations from a single being.

Who is your patron God?
Mercurius and Ianus, but not in the sense of a “let’s be best friends, Mister God!” sort of way.  My work and hobbies, things such as travelling, learning languages, etc. fall under their jurisdiction.

Who is your patron Goddess?
Minerva, as the goddess of wisdom and schooling, and Iuno, as the goddess of women.

What Gods do you worship?
All of the gods of the Roman pantheon.  Some of the Etruscans as well: for example, as far as I’ve come across in my studies of the ancient Roman religions, the Roman Minerva was originally an Etruscan goddess called Menrva, and the two share very similar – if not the same – functions.

Do you fear darkly aspected Gods/Goddesses, or rather respect them?
Both.  I think that the gods need a healthy dose of fear and respect.

Do you worship the Christian God?
No.

Do you worship animals? Or plants?
No.

N A T U R E
Do you regularly commune with nature?
No.

Taken a camping trip just to talk to nature?
No.

Describe the moment you felt closest to Mother Earth?
This has never happened.

Do you have a familiar?
No.

Have you ever called upon the powers of an animal in ritual?
No.

Or a plant?
No.

Do you hug trees?
No.

Give them gifts?
No.  But I probably should.

What are your favorite plants to work with?
I don’t “work with” plants.

What are your favorite trees to work with?
I don’t “work with” trees.

W H E E L O F T H E Y E A R
What is your favorite holiday?
Halloween.  Wait, what?  That’s not Roman, you say?  Well, I really like Saturnalia.

What is your least favorite holiday?
Valentine’s Day.  St. Patrick’s Day.  Not because of the Saints or anything, but because I feel like they have become highly commercialized.  It’s sad, really, how much people have forgotten/don’t really care about the history behind the holidays.

Have you ever held a ritual on a holiday?
On Roman holidays?  Yes.

Ever taken a day off work to celebrate a Pagan holiday?
No.

Do you celebrate Yule on the 21st rather than the 25th?
No.  I don’t celebrate Yule.

Have you ever felt the veil thin?
Yes.

Ever danced the Maypole?
No.

Know what the Maypole symbolizes?
No.

How do you usually celebrate the Pagan holidays?
I don’t celebrate  THE “pagan holidays”, per se.  But when I celebrate the ones of the Roman calendar, I usually give offerings and thanks to whatever deity(ies) the holiday/festival is for

.
D I V I N A T I O N
Do you use Tarot?

Not often.  I think that will change when I get my new deck.

Do you use runes?
No.  I have a set, but I don’t use them.

Do you use a pendulum?
No.

Do you use dowsing rods?
No.

Do you use astrology?
Yes.

Any other forms of divination?
Egg yolk divination and augury are pretty fun.

S P E L L S
What was the first spell you did?
I have never tried to perform a spell, and I can’t see myself doing so.  Ever.

What was the latest?
Never.

Ever done a love spell?
No.

A job spell?
No.

A healing spell?
No.

What was the most powerful spell you’ve ever performed?
None.

What deities do you usually call on?
None.  Although if I were to, I suppose I could ask Minerva or Hecate for their blessings, as they are goddesses of magic.

C R Y P T O Z O O L O G Y
Do you believe in vampires?
Other than that I believe that there are people who think that they are vampires, or have celiac disease (I think that’s what it’s called), or are psychic vampires who just drain emotions, no.  Not even the strix/striges, Lamia, or Empousa of myth.

Werewolves?

No.

Shapeshifters?

No.


Elves?

No.

Fairies?

No.


Dragons?

No.

Nymphs?

Sort of.  Not as in the lovely-maidens-that-dance-around-fields-and-forests-etc. kind of thing, but as spirits (numen) that inhabit trees and rivers and such.

Sprites?

No.

Mermaids?

No.

Satyrs?

See answer for the Nymphs, but turn this into horny-goatmen-who-play-flutes and there’s your answer.

Ever “seen” any of the above?
No.

Ever used any of the above in magic?
No.

Do you have one of them as a personal guardian?
No.

R A N D O M
Do you see a rabbit, a man or a woman in the moon?
I see the moon.

Own a cat?
No.

When you meditate, what does your happy place look like?
Either it’s a blank area, just sort of whitish-grey, or it’s a path somewhere.

Do you work with chakras?
No.

Do you believe in past lives?
Yes.

If so, describe a few briefly:
I may believe in them, but I have no idea what mine were.  I think if I were meant to know, I would, but I don’t, so I’m really not all that concerned.

Do you believe in soul mates?
No.

Do you have a spirit guide?
No.  Wait – does my iuno count?  Then yes.  I have a tutelary deity.

Is it always love and light?
No.

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