January 1: New Year
New Year is naturally sacred to Janus. The day starts with the usual morning greetings and, since it’s the Kalends, the lighting of candles and offerings of incense to the God of Beginnings, my Family Lares, and the Penates. After a meal and washing up, it’s time for the New Year ceremony, which has a very long praefatio or opening. Traditionally, Janus and Vesta are honoured at the start of a ritual, sometimes just the former and sometimes Jupiter is included. My normal ceremony includes the first two or even all three with the obvious goal of opening the rite, preparing the sacrificial flame, and having the blessing of the King of the Gods. But New Year being such a major starting point, I feel like I should include Powers that are relevant to me and my family, as if bringing everyone together on such an auspicious moment. As such, my praefatio has grown to include offerings and prayers to Juno, not just for the Kalends, but also for my mother’s sake; to Hercules on my father’s behalf; to Minerva for myself and Diana for our dogs; and also to Mercury, Jupiter, and Fortuna. Our Family Lares and Penates and also included, and as part of my Romanization process of Ingui-Frey, this year I added Him too. Once the opening is concluded, Janus’ image is crowned with flowers, the main prayer made, and the offerings stated before being presented and burned one by one. Vesta is also honoured at this stage, since She rules over the hearth, and the final part of the ceremony is for an expiatory offering – in case anyone was offended by any mistake – and a final libation to Jupiter.
I also add a flower wreath to my ancestor shrine and keep the crowed image of the God of Beginnings at the centre of our living room with incense sticks next to it, so we can make Him continuous offerings throughout the day. And it’s also a good day to start new things and make vows to one or more gods.
January 4: Vialia
Vialia is an idea of mine for a festival in honour of Mercury of by-ways and the Lares Viales. I created the name from the Latin word via and the choice of date was obvious, since four is a very mercurial number. Throughout the next twelve months, I will travel, tread, and run on urban and country roads, so it seems appropriate that I should honour the god and wights of the pathways so that I may journey and jog happily with Them or with Their blessing.
In the morning, a ceremony is performed in honour of Mercury, whose shrine is crowned with flowers. The god is asked to bless other wreaths, which I then take on the road in the afternoon; by bike, if the weather allows, or on foot if it does not; if it’s a working day, I’ll leave them as I move around. Whenever possible, piles of rocks are erected on the road side where an offering of wheat is made and a flower wreath deposited. If no stones are available, a tree or any other natural feature will do. Even man-made objects can be used to leave offerings to the Lares Viales, so long as it doesn’t interfere with traffic.
January 9: Agonalia
Agonalia is an ancient Roman festival that is not fully understood. It took place four times a year – January 9, March 7, May 21, and December 11 – but the deity that presided over it is uncertain and it seems ancient Romans themselves had doubts about it. Janus is one possibility, at least for the January Agonalia, which would make sense. I have therefore added it to my religious calendar to mark the end of the New Year celebrations: by January 9, the Vialia has been celebrated, midwinter decorations stored way and the resulting house cleaning conducted. It seems appropriate, therefore, that Janus should once again be honoured to mark the end of the New Year boost.
January 27: Geminalia
According to Ovid’s Fasti, January 27 is the anniversary of a temple dedicated to Castor and Pollux. This is assumingly the one built in honour of Their assistance at the Battle of Lake Regillius in 496 or 499 BCE, though Dionysius of Halicarnassus appears to indicate that the battle (and the temple’s inauguration?) was on July 15. So I had two dates to choose from and ended up picking the former, mainly because January is the first month and I enjoy the idea of starting the year with a healthy dose of physical exercise. That is, after all, what connects me to the Dioscuri: I’m not a sailor, a soldier, or a horse rider, but I do run half marathons, ride a bike, throw a boomerang, occasionally swim and play tennis, and will hopefully add other sports to the list in the future (I’m keeping an eye on archery and kendo).
So during last autumn I marked January 27 on my calendar and called it Geminalia. It’s not an historical name – at least to my knowledge – but it’s obviously derived from the Latin word gemini. If it’s a free day, I’ll wake up early, have breakfast, perform a ceremony for Castor and Pollux, and then workout. Maybe a bike ride, perhaps weight lifting, or maybe jogging. If it’s a working day, there are two options: integrate physical activity into the daily routine, like taking a boomerang and throw it during a break; or I can offer something to the Dioscuri or ask Them to bless an object on the 27th, but leave it untouched at a shrine before using it during the closest free morning or afternoon, when I can exercise at will.