This month: every month

Penate 02

Apart from annual festivities, a religious calendar is also made of more regular ceremonies. In my case, monthly ones that are best explained now, in an introductory fashion, instead of enlarging January’s post with extra information.

Traditionally, the Roman calendar has three monthly celebrations: the Calends or the first day, the Nones (the 5th or 7th day) and the Ides, which fall on the 13th or 15th. The former are dedicated to Juno and the latter to Jupiter, but the presiding deity of the Nones is unknown. Minerva has been suggested by some, since She’s the only member of the Capitoline triad without a monthly celebration. Another possibility, more historical, is Faunus, which is known to have had a festival on the Nones of December and February and might have been a monthly event. Yet Ovid says they lacked a tutelary god (Fasti I).

For my part, during most of this year and given the historical ambiguity, I’ve been using the Nones to honour Minerva, Vesta, and Diana on a monthly basis. They’re all relevant in some way to my life as deities of crafts and academics, home, and dogs, respectively. However, I’ve been wondering if Vesta wouldn’t be best worshipped together with my Family Lares and Penates, who are honoured on all three monthly occasions, and there is such a thing as overcrowding when you try to give every deity a monthly ceremony. Plus, recent events have made me ask myself whether I should be prepared to follow one of the possibilities on the Nones and reserve them for Faunus. At this point, there’s no telling if we’re going to have a close relationship, if any, but the possibility has risen. So, as it stands, I’m currently leaving the Nones as Ovid says: without a tutelary god.

The traditional Roman calendar also has three dies atri or dark/unlucky days, which are those after the Kalends, Nones, and Ides. According to Ovid, their origin lies in Roman military defeats, thus creating an aura of ill-omens, but this should be taken with a few grains of salt. For one, because major religious festivals are known to have taken place during dies atri: the second day of the Parentalia on February 14th, the Compitalia on March 16th, or the third day of the Games of Apollo on July 8th. Plus, few of us today are of actual Roman nationality and the History of our countries probably includes a few positive events that took place on an unlucky day: for instance, one of Portugal’s best-known and defining military victories happened on August 14th, a dies ater. So the ill-omened nature is not set in stone and it didn’t prevent regular activities from continuing. Still, just as I celebrate the anniversary of Rome because that city is the origin of much of my religious life, I also like to honour its memory by maintaining a degree of ritual limitations during the unlucky days: I refrain from using the Gods’ names and call Them by titles alone (e.g. Lord of Thunder for Jupiter), generally avoid performing major ceremonies, and I don’t start new things (but I do continue what I started earlier).

To the Kalends, Nones, and Ides I added two other monthly celebrations of my own creation. The first Wednesday is given to Mercury, following the Greek practice of dedicating the fourth day of every month to Hermes. I wanted to have a Roman version to keep regular offerings to Him, of Whom I am so fond of and presides over so many things I do and like. A god that’s equally special to me is Ingui-Frey, my oldest devotion and to whom I dedicate the 21st of every month. This includes the 21st of February, which falls in the more sober period of the Parentalia. Initially, I thought of postponing, but then it occurred to me that Ingui is also a Power of the grave and of the ancestral line, so His monthly devotional fits well in a time of homage to one’s ancestors. I may also include other Vanir gods, if the timing and month is right. The choice of the 21st came naturally and predates my adoption of the religio romana: it matches the usual day of the solstices, during which I honour Ingui; also my birthday, which I used to commemorate with a dinner party and save a seat for Him next to me. And it doesn’t clash with the other monthly celebrations.

You know you’re still working out your calendar when you have to add something to a post you published 24 hours before. But after what may have been a knock from Faunus and the shattering of my previous arrangement for the Nones, I feel compelled to keep a monthly occasion for Minerva. There’s a reason for that: She’s a goddess of wisdom and knowledge, a patron of crafts and teachers, and I’m an academic in training, an amateur crafter sometimes, and I also teach classes (mostly History). How can I downplay the Deep-Minded Lady? So besides greeting Her every day after waking up and before going to bed, I decided to add another monthly devotional date to my calendar. And since Minerva had a festival on March 19th and June 19th, the former actually being considered Her birthday, I picked the 19th of every month.

4 thoughts on “This month: every month

  1. I must confess that I do enjoy getting to know details about other polytheits’ religious lives, it makes me feel less lonely. 😛
    Oh and be grateful for knowing the ‘hows’ and ‘whens’ of most of your rites, because we Gauls don’t have much left. I’d very much like to know what the Gauls did every 15th day of a month, for example. 😉

  2. I was wondering, do you structure your fasti around the Secular modern calendar or around the lunar one? I’ve been having trouble deciding whether to delineate the kalends, ides, etc based on the calendar date, or based on the lunar cycles. My household is Graeco-Roman with some norse as well (My patrons are Vulcanus and Minerva, and my Partner’s are Freya and Pan, while we both honor Hekate as a household diety as well). It is pretty complicated for us. As members of ADF, we keep the Regular 8 neopagan high days, but I also Keep the Vulcanalia and tibulustrium. Our household also honors Hekate’s Diepnon at the dark of the moon, and we are part of a men’s group that meets on the Sunday closest to the Dark of the moon. We’ve been working on slowly building our own hearth Fasti, but it’s been a difficult and time-consuming endeavor

    • I use the modern secular calendar. It allows for a more regular structure and that’s crucial for a balanced distribution of festivals and devotionals, especially since I have two other monthly occasions that are fixed. The only case of mobility is the first Wednesday of the month, which I enjoy having that way, since Mercury is a god of movement.

      In your case, I’d suggest you use the secular form as well: since it’s the standard calendar today, it makes it easier for you to combine the different pantheons and modern everyday life in a more or less harmonious way. The regularity you gain from it can then allow you to add one or two exceptions, like Hekate at the dark moon. This is just a suggestion, of course.

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