Apollo Medicus

Your healing light shines

brighter than sunshine

Cleansing warmth

enveloping compassion

You give us the tools to heal each other, heal ourselves.

Radiant Apollo

preserving protector

slayer of dark ills

giver of life and health

I salute you.

Σας χαιρετώ.

Saluto Vos.


Happy Vestalia

Temple of Vesta

Image via Wikipedia

This is Vesta’s day. Today we honor the goddess of the living flame who makes domestic life possible. Though Vesta is very much a household goddess as she is the goddess of the hearth, Vestalia was a state celebration in Roman times.  The temple of Vesta, attended to by the Vestal Virgins, served as the hearth for the Roman empire. You can see a reenactment on the state holiday, done at the temple of Vesta:

I honor Vesta at my morning devotions by lighting a flame and asking for her blessing with my take on a common prayer: “Salve, Mother Vesta, may your flames always guide us. Mother Vesta, may all be well this morning in our house.” Today, I’ll bring her flowers and bread and mola salsa and say thank you to her for looking after us so well. Below you can find a link to White Moon Gallery’s suggestions on ways to honor Vesta.  Though it’s not Mos Maiorum, it is very nice indeed with many helpful suggestions.

Ten Roman Women You Should Know About

Aldegrever, Heinrich 1502-1555/61: Rhea Silvia...

Image via Wikipedia

  1. Egeria, the nymph who gave Numa Pompilius the gifts of wisdom and prophecy, and who acted as his guide and counsel while he established the traditions of Rome. Give her libations of water or milk in a sacred grove and see what gifts of wisdom or prophesy she might give to you!
  2. Rea Silvia, first of the Vestal Virgins. Legendary mother of Romulus and Remus, by way of a visit from the god Mars. Yes, Romans had myths with immaculate conceptions in them too.
  3. Julia Domna, Empress of Rome.  Born in Syria around 170 B.C.E., she was wife to the Emperor Severus. A patron of learning and the arts, she also went on campaign with her husband during war time, earning her the title of “mater castrorum”–“mother of the camps”.
  4. Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, often held up as the perfect example of Roman womanhood in ancient times. Besides giving birth to 12 children, she also used her social position to further her sons political careers, and went on to study in both Latin and Greek later in life. Her letters are some of the only surviving writing by Roman women.
  5.  Amazon and Achillia, two gladiatrix women honored in a relief carving in Halicarnassus after their retirement from the gladiatorial games
  6. Cornelia Metella, wife of Pompey Magnus. Said to be well-educated in geometry, music, and philosophy, she was a caring step-mother for Pompey’s children from his previous marriages.
  7. Livia Julia Augusta, Empress of Rome. Wife of Octavian, Julius Augustus Caesar, she was a power in her own right and well known for her forceful opinions.
  8. Clodia, best known as Catullus’s lover. Known for her beauty, wit, and wild ways, she inspired quite a lot of tortured poetry from Catullus before disapproving society and jealous rivals brought her down.
  9. Sulpicia, Roman poet and niece of Valerius Messalla Corvinus,  Roman statesman and legendary ancestor of the Hungarian aristocracy.
  10. Hypatia of Alexandria, premier woman scholar of Roman Alexandria.  Mathematician, Astronomer and philosopher, she was well loved and admired by her community until she was murdered in a political conflict with the Christian church.

Blessed Ides

Roman calendar

Image by diffendale via Flickr

The Ides are sacred to Jupiter, and this month we managed to all together as a family  to hail Jupiter.  We offered up wine, incense, bay, and a bit of our Ides meal. The meal-sharing is probably more appropriate for our Lars than for Jupiter, but I didn’t have the cheese on hand to make cakes. Next month perhaps we will do better.

Digging around for pre-formatted prayers, I stumbled across the website of the Gens Apollonia. They have a page of very helpful pre-made prayers for the Lararium, Kalends, Nones, and Ides. The Gens Apollonia is a kin group of Nova Roma, and so the prayers need a bit of adjustment for those of us who are neither Apollonea nor citizens of Nova Roma. The amount of rewriting needed is fairly minor, and the prayers are good.

I tend to move everything back into English because although my children and I know a fair bit of Latin, saying prayers in Latin reminds me strongly of my Roman Catholic upbringing. That in itself isn’t completely bad, but one of the big complaints about the Latin mass in the days when mass was said in Latin was that people in the pews didn’t understand it and therefore it led to a less than authentic religious experience. We have the understanding to do the prayers in Latin, but at this point I am unconvinced that it would be better to do them in Latin. We want to speak from the heart first and foremost. For now I think that’s easiest to do in our mother tongue.

This month for me has been focused very much on connecting with Juno, and so I find it very fortuitous that today came together in a way that allowed us to make a bigger gesture at Ides to Jupiter than I’ve managed in the past. Jupiter is Juno’s spouse, after all, and so if I’m to have a better understanding and relationship with Juno, I should try to be cordial to her spouse as well.

May the great Sky Father smile luck down upon you! And if you’re living in the current drought zone, may Jupiter Pluvius please send us rain to bless our crops and lands.

Juno Covella

M. Horatius Piscinus says that the 7th of each month is sacred to Juno Covella. Varro seems to be his source for this, but I’m struggling a little with my research on that. Today at my house, we worked a little more on Juno’s shrine outside. We also took out an offering. That strange little plate under the cake was a gift I gave to my mother as a Mother’s Day present many years ago.  When she passed away, it somehow got shuffled into her good china and passed back to me.  I decided to use it to carry offering to Juno because of its strong connection in my mind with Mother. It’s not the most beautiful thing, but it has undeniable meaning for me.

Offering to Juno

Offering to Juno

Prayer to Juno Covella

adapted from Marcus Horatius Piscinus’s “Oratio Juno Covella”

Hail Juno Covella, Goddess Eternal, She that holds the oldest shrines, most chate and pure of heart of all the Gods. We adore thee Goddess, We invoke you Juno, for it is written that you will bless those who call upont you and sacrifice to you.

I pray to you, Goddess Juno, and offer these gifts that you may favor my house and household and the households of my friends and commrades. May you also give favor to all that honor and serve You. May you be honored!

Juno Covella, I offer you this incense with earnest prayers that thou mayest be propitious to us, our children, our homes and our households.

Chaste and mighty Juno Covella, I pour out this offering of milk and honey to you with earnest prayers that you may be propitious to us, our children our homes and our households.

Eternal Goddess Juno Covella, may you be honored by the gift of this cake. So be it!

Kalends of May

the peacock is sacred to Juno

A week or so ago, I found the peacock in the picture above at a local discount store. For some time now, I’ve been casting about for some way to better connect with Juno, and the appearance of this peacock seemed to me like a sign. After giving it some thought, I got one and installed him in the front garden as the beginning of a shrine for Juno. I waited until today to do an initial dedication, as Kalends are sacred to Juno.

My daughter and I brought milk and honey and incense, and of course, prayers.  Over time I’d like to grow up this shrine, elaborate on it, but for today it is simply the peacock watching out for our House.

Hymn to Juno

Stately Goddess, do Thou please

Who art chief at marriages;

But to dress the bridal bed

When my love and I shall wed;

And a peacock proud shall be

offered up by us to Thee.

Robert Herrick, 1844

And as a side note, today is my 19th wedding anniversary.  Herrick’s poem seems doubly appropriate for us.  Our peacock is a dedication and not a sacrifice, but still perhaps auspicious to do on our anniversary.

Amore Coniugali

ancient roman marriage

Image via Wikipedia

Marital fidelity was held up as a State virtue in ancient Roman times. On the surface, it was so important that Gaius Julius Caesar divorced one of his wives because gossip had been spread that she was unfaithful– and still divorced her even though she was proven innocent. Despite all this public theater holding up marital fidelity as a Gods-required virtue, infidelity seems to have run rampant. Roman men had mistresses, sometimes set up in their own residences. Roman women had affairs.  Virtuous Gaius Julius Caesar had a natural son with Cleopatra. So why this public virtue of Amore Coniugali?

Amore Coniugali is a weapon of control set on women. In a patriarchal system that demands purity of genetic birthright, it’s the ultimate tool of authority.  In order for the State to be well ordered, in order for men to pass their family name and bloodline on, womens’ sex lives must be rigorously controlled. Proper parentage must be assured.  But the important virtue seems to have been “don’t get caught”. Getting caught in adultery could be serious peril for a woman, depending on how angry her family was about it and how deeply her husband’s family wanted to prosecute it. A woman with a powerful family of origin could theoretically get away with more (and demand more fidelity from her husband), but in reality any woman caught or suspected of adultery was in deep trouble indeed. Men’s penalties were both less severe and not as well enforced. A woman  might divorce an adulterous husband if her family (mostly her father or other male relatives) agreed, but it would require a wealthy and relatively powerful family to have this sort of protection.

Unlike the Greeks or later Christians, being an illegitimate child didn’t have a deep level of stigma in Ancient Rome. It was better to be a legitimate child of the house, but illegitimate children could still inherit property and be citizens if their birth circumstances allowed.  In itself, this is pretty enlightened as people can’t help who their parents are, but it points out once again that Amore Coniugali is more about controlling women than any other thing.

Where does that leave us with this as a modern pagan virtue? Most pagans have a more open and egalitarian outlook on marriage, even if they don’t practice “open” marriage of the polyamorous kind.  A spouse should be a deeply cherished person, but people are no longer possessions. We don’t have slaves and we don’t rule over our wives as chattel.  Any return to that, any guarding wives’ or daughters’ virtue as a possession of fathers and husbands, offends me deeply.

As modern pagan women, we should “belong” only to ourselves. Our virtues belong to us, not to the men in our lives.  If in our marital agreements we agree to be monogamous, then both husbands and wives should honor that. This isn’t a matter of sexual purity, which is itself a repulsive concept to me, but a matter of love, care and honoring one’s agreements.   As virtuous, enlightened pagan people, we should not need a separate virtue to ensure that we love and honor those we have promised to love and honor in front of our Gods. No “amore coniugali”, not for this pagan woman.

Virtue Correlates

In my ADF studies, the nine virtues are Wisdom, Piety, Vision, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance, Hospitality, Moderation and Fertility. On Marcus Piscinus Horatius’s Religio Romana Cultorum Deorum’s discussion loop, the Religio’s virtues are Pietas, Fortitudo, Constantia, Amore coniugali, Moderatio, Amicitia, Pudicitia, Severitas, Iustitia and Fides.

There are some obvious correlates, though these are sometimes not as closely related as might appear on the surface, as is the case with Piety/Pietas. Again, these are not perfect correlates, but I think are close enough to talk about together.

  • Piety/Pietas
  • Constantia/Perseverance
  • Iustitia/Integrity
  • Moderatio/Moderation
  • Amicitia/Hospitality

I was going to put Fortitudo/Courage together, but instead ended up writing about why that didn’t quite work.

This leaves a handful of virtues from ADF and from Cultus Deorum without direct correlates. From the ADF list we have:

  • Wisdom
  • Vision
  • Fertility

though one could perhaps make a case for Fertility/Amore Coniugali. The problem with that is that fertility is more than simply producing human progeny and amore coniugali is for more than simply producing human progeny, but the things which fertility and amore coniugali expand into are not very related. One thing that they do share is that they are both virtues that are initially a very hard sell to modern people.

From Piscinus’s Cultus Deorum list, we have:

  • Amore coniugali (marital love)
  • Fortitudo (Fortitude)
  • Pudicitia (Chastity)
  • Severitas (self-regulation)
  • Fides (honor)

Pudictia and Severitas are also a hard sell to modern people. Pudicita/chastity makes me wince every time I see it, as it brings up notions of some of the worst suppressions of female sexuality and control of women in general in my mind. This isn’t a very useful way to think of it, and in any case I’m certainly not in favor of the modern “hook up” culture any more than I’m in favor of girls “marrying” their dads to keep their virginity under strict guard until they’re passed off to a husband. Severitas, with its overtones of austerity, has similar issues.

Writing virtues for ADF and Religio Roma means I’m going to be duplicating some things, worrying over others, and perhaps adding a few of my own that don’t belong to either, like the Virtus.  I wonder what my personal list will look like when I’m finished with these essays? Various ancient philosophers had their own lists of virtues that include different things than either Piscinus’s list or the ADF list, or even Christian or Jewish or Muslim virtues. I think Virtues are a wonderful organizing principle for one’s religious life, though, and I’m glad to have a lot to think about in relation to them.

Welcome to Rufia Prisca’s House

Salve, Omnes,

I’ve decided to split my Roman studies off from my ADF Dedicant blog.  Although in my heart and home ADF and the Roman kin are very much combined notions, for study purposes and for the purpose of sharing with various folks online, I think it’s better to separate the two.

For the purposes of being in communion with various Roman kin people online, I took on the Roman style name Tita Rufia Prisca. I am the domina (mistress) of my house. By this I mean that all the ritual activity, from morning devotions to planning out holiday rites and feasts, is my responsibility and carried out by me. In a historical Roman household, the dominus (master) of the house would have done the morning devotions at the Lararium. Even in the old days though, this duty occasionally fell to a woman. And this is a different time, when women are not housebound and take on different roles and tasks than they did in Classical times. I think the Immortal Gods, the Lares and the Penates understand!

Here on this blog, I’ll talk about Roman (or Neo-Roman, if you prefer) practices and beliefs and how they pertain to my house and practices, discuss what’s going on with the Roman calendar and how it plays out at my house, and probably natter endlessly about our Latin studies.

Gratias Tibi Ago, if you’re following along!