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