On the Ides of November

The 13th or 15th days of every month are known as the Ides and are sacred to Jupiter. It’s an old Roman tradition dating back to the lunar calendar, where they would fall on a full moon. But the Ides of November have a special meaning, being the traditional date of one of the two Epula Iovis or feasts of Jupiter. Based on that, November 13th is when I perform my yearly sacrifice to the Thunderer, the Best and Greatest.

A few days ago, on the late night of the 12th, Lisbon was hit by a storm. There was heavy rain, strong wind, and roaring thunder. I woke up because of it and thought that there was no way I could burn offerings under that weather. I don’t have a fireplace, a roofed terrace, or a porch where I can set up a ritual fire when it’s raining. And because I share a flat, there’s no way I’m going to take over the kitchen to perform a sacrifice. So my usual options are a simple prayer and offerings on the clay altars I keep in my room or using a metal extension and bowl on the window so I can make a more traditional ceremony. Of course, the latter option depends on the weather and, since it was raining, the best I could do was pouring the offerings on the edge of the window and let the rain and wind carry them.

However, the morning of the 13th was dry and occasionally bright. So I made my usual prayers and offerings at my home shrine, presented Jupiter with what I had to offer Him and, as the weather seemed to be stable, prepared things for a traditional ceremony. I lighted a ritual fire outside my window, got a bowl of water to wash my hands in and a white cloth to cover my head. And then I called on Janus to open the sacrifice, gave Him incense and wine, as well as to Vesta, for the blessing of the sacrificial fire, before directing my prayers to the God of Thunder. I listed my offerings to Him and then poured them one by one in the flames after requesting the deity’s blessings. Vesta received another portion of incense at that point and a final one was made for expiation, in case any god or goddess was offended during the ceremony.

The fire eventually died out. I collected the remains of the offerings and carried them to a nearby park. My initial idea was to place them by an oak tree, but then I remembered about a high place, one of the highest in Lisbon, with a commanding view of the city. You can see downtown from there, as well as the river and the cities beyond it. There’s a park on that hill top and it would have been a perfect place for a temple to Jupiter, so I went there and left the burnt remains of the offerings on a spot where I would like place an altar to the god. The wind was strong, but the weather was dry.

The rain came back a few hours later, pouring intensely as thunder ripped through the night sky. I stood by the window and watched. The Ides of November had been like the eye of a storm: calm and bright in the middle of dark thundering weather.

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