The Bedrock of Roman Polytheism: Pax Deorum

My polytheism centers on my efforts to maintain the Pax deorum (the Peace of the Gods), which is the center of the Religio Romana (the Roman religion). This is the harmony between humans and the Gods. Affirming the Pax deorum is the basis of pietas (Roman piety). What does this mean? Piety entails ritual purity, doing the rituals correctly, making daily offerings, and saying daily prayers. It is rooted in deep respect for the Gods.

Another part of piety is ius divinum (sacred law). This recognizes what is rightfully the Gods’. A part of keeping the right relations is understanding what the rights of the Gods are. Do They have the right to be as They are? Do I insist that apolitical Janus, the Doorkeeper of the Gods, be involved in the affairs of humans? Do I tell Ceres of the Aventine Triad to ignore the rights of the poor and downtrodden? To ignore Their Rights is an act of impiety and promotes ira deorum (the Anger of the Gods).

Another part of pietas is do ut des (I give that you may give), which is the reciprocity between the person and their Gods. This is a cycle of gratitude for each other. I give to the Gods expecting that They will return in kind. I give in gratitude for what They give to me, and so the cycle of gratitude continues between us. Since the tradition of Religio Romana is having a client-patron relationship with the Gods, I do for Them what They cannot do for Themselves, and They do the same for me.

These three principles – Pax deorum, ius divinus, and do ut des govern my Roman polytheism. It may seem restrictive and businesslike to some but it suits me. I embrace the Gods as They are, and They me. Order and structure in my polytheism gives me the freedom to love Them.

One of my practices is to follow the Roman festival calendar. From that, I developed a system of “Gods of the Month” to focus on for that month. It helps me to keep my devotions for the month and to celebrate the various festivals. I would include the Gods of the Month in my morning devotions and afternoon ones, repeating various prayers that I wrote.

Of course, from “Gods of the Month” comes “Gods of the Day.” Each day, I would write a short prayer for the God of the Day, after my breakfast and before morning devotions. My prayers do include Gods from other pantheons, Who have requested that I make offerings to Them such as Marduk of the Babylonians and the Gods of my Anglo-Saxon ancestors. For example, September and October, when squirrels are active, I write prayers for Ratatosk, the Squirrely One of the World Tree.

For me, being a Polytheist means daily devotions to the Gods. Like many modern Polytheists, my Gods do not all belong to the same Pantheon. Although I consider myself a Roman Polytheist, I do venerate Other Gods. Because of my brain injury and devotional work with the Dead, Anubis, Hekate and the Morrigan have requested devotions. Meanwhile, my Anglo-Saxon Ancestors want their family Gods honored. Finally for reasons unclear to me, the Gods of Babylon and Canaan have asked me for devotions.

To accommodate all the Gods Whom I honor, I had to set up a schedule. How did I go about doing this? First, I read the lore, and then did divination which days would be appropriate for which Gods. Finally, I broke my day into three parts – morning, afternoon, and evening for my devotions. Since we all have our daily rituals such as brewing coffee or checking our phones, including one for devotions seemed reasonable.

Mornings are devoted to the Household Gods. Before breakfast, I light a candle and offer incense. I offer to Janus (who always receives the first and last offerings) for his service in guarding the doors. Then to Apollo for the health of our family, and Juno Custos for guiding my family. Vesta, the Eternal Flame who warms our home, receives her offering and prayers next. Finally, the Genius of the Paterfamilias is thanked for guarding our family.

After I do this, I do my weekly devotions by splitting the various Gods into mornings and afternoons. My schedule is as follows – Monday – Anubis and Hecate (morning), The Lady of Beasts and The Morrigan (afternoon). Tuesday – Freya (morning), Anubis and Hecate (afternoon). Wednesday – Odin. Thursday – Hercules, Neptune and the Roman Pantheon (morning), the Gods of Babylon and of Canaan (afternoon). Friday – Frigga. Saturday – the Penates and Lars. Sunday – the Dead.

Why these particular days? Monday is “moon” day, and those deities prefer that association. Tuesdays is traditional for Freya, Wednesdays for Odin, and Friday for Frigga. Anubis and Hecate asked for Tuesdays, and the Gods of Babylon and of Canaan for Thursday. Since Thursday is Thor’s day, Hercules reminded me that it is his day also. The Roman Gods requested Thursday as well. Saturday is grocery day, which is when the cupboards are replenished. Sunday is for the Dead, since it is a day of reflection for me.

The evening is reserved for the Gods of the Month. Nightly, I say prayers to Them before going to bed. It is a part of my evening routine like brushing my teeth.

©Virigina Carper 2019

Polytheism with a Brain Injury

Having a traumatic brain injury (TBI) complicates my life in a myriad of ways. For instance, I lost my sense of time. How do I know what day it is or when to plan something? I developed a system of using a calendar, a timer, and a day-planner. I write everything on the wall calendar and in my day-planner. Then I work out the day in my planner, and use my timer. Another part of my system is to anchor my days with regular activity and weeks in the same way. Monday is ironing, Tuesday banking, etc.

How does this work for the Gods of the Month and regular festivals in general? I put the festivals on the calendar and work out the Gods for each. Then I have the God of the Day list in my planner for my daily prayers. I have daily devotions that entail a schedule of regular “Gods of the Week” such as Neptune is always Thursday. This helps me to remember the changing Gods of the Day.

Doing meditation and other things is trickier. I have times when I go into an involuntary fugue state (a form of an absence seizure). When that happens, I need someone to help orient me back to the present world. In that state, I do sometimes have encounters with Gods that I have to piece together. I usually look for daily signs that the particular God did contact me. Once The Morrigan spoke to me in my fugue state. When I brushed the incident off as my imagination, She threw me out of bed. (I landed on my rear.)

Because of my traumatic brain injury (TBI), various forms of meditation are interdicted for me. For example, to meditate by watching a candle flame causes seizures from the flickering. Also, imaging myself a tree reaching to the sky and the earth removes me from reality. The result is that I cannot find my way back. The meditations that are encouraged for people with TBIs involve physical activity that uses both hemispheres of the brain. These types of meditations encourage a healthy brain while being rooted in reality.

What I do daily is cursive handwriting. According to Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf Schools, writing in cursive can be both meditative and character changing. Writing a page of Lacy Ls does calm down a racing brain. The repetitive movement across paper by the hand is soothing and serene. It frees the brain while keeping it tethered to reality.

I meditate using activities that anchor my mind to my body. Walking is ideal since it calms me down and promotes better brain health. From my walks around my neighborhood, I learned how to be a nature mystic. Watching squirrels in the trees, as I walk, becomes a meditation on Ratatoskr of the World Tree. Walking keeps me grounded and yet allows for contact from the Gods.

During my weekly walk up and down a long, steep hill, I pondered the houses nearby and their lawn ornaments. As I did, I kept getting messages from my House Lars (Family and Home Spirits) that They wanted a kitchen altar for Their devotions and offerings. The House Lars wanted me to recognize Their efforts to keep my family and home protected.

To ensure that I was not imaging Their Voices, I looked for signs in nature. I kept seeing chipmunks gathering nuts, which I associated with the Lars and Penates (the Keepers of the Pantry). When I got home, I set up altars to both Groups. The one for the Penates is on top of my refrigerator, and the one for the Lars is next to the stove. (I also have one to Venus Cloacina under my kitchen sink. She is the Goddess of Sewers and Purification.)

©Virigina Carper 2019