In Roman polytheism, a ceremony is a performance of gestures and words intended to communicate with the Gods, praising, offering, and/or requesting something from Them. A ritual, strictly speaking, is the manner in which you perform the ceremony and there are different ways of doing it, depending on the deity. Most are worshiped according to the Roman rite, which requires one’s head to be covered, but the opposite happens if a ceremony is done using the Greek rite. There was also the taurobolium, a particular type of bull sacrifice that was performed mainly in oriental cults, and others would have specific rituals conducted inside the temples and religious precincts. These were the peregrina sacra or the foreign sacred things. A usual feature in most Roman formal ceremonies was music, which accompanied gestures and words and muffled any inauspicious sound. Equally traditional was the ritual fire, even when the deity being worshipped was aquatic. It’s the medium through which the offerings reach the heavens and it was also something vital in everyday life of the past, when fire was essential for heating, cooking, and lighting. As such, a flame on which to burn food and drink would have been easily available, but today electricity has taken over those roles. The oven might be the greatest exception, unless it’s an electrical one, and if you don’t have a fireplace, a large balcony, a terrace, a garden, or a land property around your house, chances are you’re left with two options: use a candle or place a metal bowl under your kitchen chimney (if it’s working!) to light up a small ritual fire in it.
One feature that is common to both Roman and Norse religious ceremonies is the communal feast and banquet. In northern Europe, it could also take the form of ritual toasting, which I incorporated into some of the rituals I constructed. Also easily adaptable is mola salsa or salted flower, which Romans sprinkled on living offerings to consecrate them, i.e., make them property of the Gods. The gesture was accompanied by the sprinkling of wine on the victim and gently moving the sacrificial knife along the back of the animal. Only a small portion was actually given to the Gods – burned, thrown into the water, or other option – while the rest had to be ritually profanated before it could be consumed by the worshipers. In this way, reciprocal gift-giving was established and people feasted under the blessings of the Gods. Since Ingui is an agricultural god and the more formal ritual I constructed involves the offering and consumption of a bread or cake, mola salsa fits perfectly into a ceremony to the god. As for sprinkling wine and using a knife to consecrate the offerings – non-living ones, in this case – I replaced it with a hazel wand, with which, for instance, one may draw an Ing rune or simply pass it over the food being given to Ingui.
Traditionally, a formal Roman ritual started with an offering to Janus, God of Beginnings. I struggled with this and wondered whether I was going too far if I placed the Divine Gatekeeper and Freyr in the same ceremony. Would I be Latinizing Ingui or turning Him into a Roman god? And would it be disrespectful to both deities? My initial idea, which featured originally in this post, was to replace Janus with Ullr, Who presides over oaths in the north. Yet the purpose of this series is not to construct rituals that look like pieces of a puzzle forcibly put together. It should be fluid, have an identity of its own and inspire. To simply replace Janus with Ullr does little in that regard. So I went for something along the lines of what is done by the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélagið: bells, a prayer to Ingui establishing friðr (peace, inviolability), a toast to the god and the pouring of drink on a ritual fire, waving a branch over the smoke and then all around, so as to bless the start of the ceremony and all those wishing to take part in it.
The bread rite is a sacrifice of a loaf and the idea came from this article by Jack Roe, which speaks of three aspects of Freyr as represented by honey, grain, and gold. Based on that, I worked the basic structure of a ritus romanus and constructed a formal ritual around a threefold Ingui: the nurturer, the sacrifice and the replenisher of life; honey, bread consecrated with flour and bread consumed with honey. In its full form, it is intended for great outdoor ceremonies followed by a communal feast. It is, if you will, Ingui’s Great Rite and the framework for others in His honour. A separate post presents a more home-friendly version of the epumelia, to be performed indoors and for a small group of people.
From Latin effundo, it is a sacrifice of beverage after the Norse practice of ritual toasting. It’s more than just pouring liquid as an offering, because it is a ritualized gesture, though less complex than the ritus panis. Ideally, it should be performed in group, including at home with family and/or friends.
There is also a place for more informal offerings and devotional acts, examples of which are listed in a seperate post. I also wrote a few ceremonies for other Norse deities closely related to Ingui, namely Gerda, Freya and Njord. They’re presented and explained in the last two posts of this series.