Opinione Cultores Deorum

Or, literally, the beliefs of the worshipers of the (Roman) Gods. Marcus Horatius Piscinus assembled this list for his Religio Romana mailing list and asked what we thought about it. I’ve been thinking on my answers, and decided to expand them out here.

That the Gods and Goddesses of ancient Rome do exist.

This is the basic belief where we all start. Otherwise, all our offerings and rites are simply playacting or public theater. I’m a hard polytheist, so I have no arguments here.

That our Gods and Goddesses are benevolent and parental towards humans.

For the most part I do believe that the God/desses are benevolent. Certainly they’re not malevolent, though sometimes I think they might be disinterested.  I think the ones that take in interest in a particular family or person can be, if not parental, paternal.

That the Gods do take an interest in human affairs and in the lives of Their individual worshippers in the same manner as parents hold an interest in their children.

Again, I think this is more along the lines of the interest a patron takes in his apprentices or sponsored artisans.  Though we may be as children compared to the greater wisdom of the God/desses, for me, I think it works better to think of these beings as patrons and not parents. This may be because my own parents have been deceased so long.

That through ritual we interact with the Gods, and not merely communicate our desires to the Gods. That, in fact, in ritual we participate in the Gods and the Gods participate in our communities.

I really like this sentiment. One of the things that has always made me uncomfortable about prayer is that it often seems like an unceasing want list. I would prefer to have a more reciprocal relationship with the divine in my life, even if the gifts I have to offer are small.

That proper ritual and proper performance of Roman ritual strengthens the bonds between mortal and immortal members of our society. That ritual involves prayer spoken aloud, coupled with sacrifice and actions. That prayer may not be given without an offering and no offering is acceptable without being conjoined in prayer. That offerings sacrifices to the Gods ought to be simple, inexpensive, and meaningful, given in a reverent manner.

I’m a bit worried about the first, proper ritual and proper performance. I think that orthopraxy strengthens group bonds more than perhaps any other thing. The danger lies in dwelling so deeply on details that one spends more time worrying whether one held one’s tongue correctly than on sincere offering. The rest relates back to that idea of reciprocity, which I very much agree with.

That by signs and visions the Gods may communicate to us during ritual or as a result of ritual.

I hope so, though I am struggling with what method of sign I think I can do best with reading. Auspices are nice, but sometimes a tool is useful.

That the Gods participate as members and patrons in the communities of cultores Deorum Romanorum. That the Gods serve as examples of how to live freely and independently, and while still living together in harmonious and peaceful society.

This is a truly lovely sentiment, and very reflective of how I would like to envision my life– surrounded by the divine.

That men and women are social animals, obligated to act for the improvement of their society. That they ought to deal with all others in accordance with the Roman virtues, actively engaging with others and with society as a whole while serving as a living example of Roman virtues. That all men and women, as with all of the Gods and Goddesses, have their own place in society and all are to be given due respect equally, according to their station.

Another lovely sentiment. We had a small brangle about the “according to their station” part on the list. The idea of a classed society as existed in ancient Rome is repugnant to people raised on the principles of democracy. Or at least they believe it’s repugnant. If you’ve ever worked in a service industry, you’ll know exactly what I mean.  A great deal of people who insist that they’re no respecter of class or position unfortunately mean that they are no respecters of persons. They turn into the haughtiest, most obnoxious creatures when they think they’re owed service and act quite abusively no matter how good the service is. This is not respecting someone according to the principles of democracy, nor is it a proper way to behave in a classed society either.

That the basic principles of Roman society are to harm no one, to be honest towards all others, and to give each his or her due.

This one doesn’t work for me at all. The “harm no one” part falls too closely to the Wiccan Rede, which is unsupportable as a central philosophy and the other parts are already covered by the “deal with others in accordance with the Roman virtues. I think that we won’t be out wantonly hurting people if we’re attempting to live a virtuous life, so I’ll say that the first part is also already included in the other sections as well.
That the Gods instill Roman virtues in us and that They serve as archetypes of those virtues for cultores Deorum to follow.

I’m not sure if the God/desses instill virtues and/or faults in us. It’s a point I’ll be mulling over for a while. I think rather they give us the capacity to act with virtue and/or fault, and it’s up to us to follow Their examples and live the right way.
That another life awaits us after death. That through the practice of Roman virtues a better life, among the Gods, can be attained. That an individual’s Authentic Being is divine in origin, and thus every cultor Deorum Romanorum has the potential to become a God or Goddess.

I have to believe in life after death, because I have to believe in reincarnation.  I believe that we are, in our various incarnations learning lessons and hopefully improving ourselves, but beyond that, I don’t know. I certainly believe that a spark of the divine exists in every person. Whether people become God/desses or not, I’m not sure. I see nothing wrong with venerating virtuous persons who have passed from this life, even if I don’t quite think of them in the same way as I think of the God/desses.
That our Lares are the deceased ancestors of our families, evolved into a higher form of spiritual beings on their way towards becoming Gods. That the Lares look after, protect, and guide the indiviual members of their families, while other Lares also guide and protect communities of cultores Deorum Romanorum.

I tend to think about the Lares in a more general way than the Romans did, as Ancestors, certainly,but as a larger class and variety of Ancestors than simply the fathers of my fathers.

That all creatures and all thing participate in the divine. As such, animals have souls that are divine in origin, and therefore that animals are capable of evolving spiritually just as humans can. It follows therefore that among the Lares of a community or of a family we may assume are some who in life had been members of our families while in an animal form.

Interesting codicil to the previous. We certainly believe at our house that our now deceased dog Maggie watches over us still. 🙂

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