New Year, all year (and ritual forms)

This year’s New Year ceremony was similar to that of 2018: long, with main offerings of food and beverage to Janus, together with a small wreath to crown His image, followed by the monthly tributes for the calends to Janus, Juno and the Lares and Penates, and finally additional offerings to a considerable number of other deities. But there was also a difference that stretched the length of the ceremony and will, in all likelihood, produce a review of the rite I use to worship Norse gods.

All in the first step
In late December, while preparing things for the end of the month, I realized that my New Year ceremony, which follows the same structure for sometime now, includes almost all of the deities I honour yearly. It wasn’t intentional, but something that was built throughout the years, as I’ve added gods and goddess who, besides Janus, are auspicious or relevant to me and my parents, like Minerva, Jupiter, Diana, Mercury, Maia, Fortuna and Spes.

And then I thought: what if I took that accidental reality to its full intentional consequences, honouring, after the sacrifice to Janus and calends’ tributes, all the deities to whom I dedicate an annual ceremony? If, for instance, on September 5th I pay tribute to Arentio and Arentia, why not add them to the list of supplementary New Year offerings? It makes sense, it’s meaningful and so I did it. And the result was the following sequence of individual and collective deities:

Family Lares, Penates, Vesta, Nabia, Silvanus, Mercury, Maia, Quangeio, Juno, Hercules, Minerva, Diana, Apollo, Arentio e Arentia, Faunus, Reue, Jupiter, Fortuna, Spes and Ingui-Freyr.

There’s a logic to the sequence, which starts with the domestic realm, that naturally includes one’s ancestors, housewights, the goddess of the domestic hearth and then, via my personal theology, Nabia and Silvanus, the former because my Family Lar is a local aspect of Her and the latter because He presides over of the local Lares of my home city and ancestral land. Then one leaves the home and at that stage come offerings to the god of roads, Mercury, as well as to His mother and companion, Maia and Quangeio, with specific requests for me and my dogs. Then follows Juno, with prayers in my mother’s name, and Hercules, with prayers in my father’s name. And then, with more general requests for blessings, luck, health and protection, come tributes to the remaining deities on the list, with a Norse guest at the end.

Multiplication
There are however two deities on the sequence to whom I have no annual ceremony – Fortuna and Spes. The most obvious solution would then be to add two dates to my festive calendar, but it occurred to me that there’s an alternative with symbolic value as well: that of, in each sacrifice in the first nine days of the year, pouring an offering of honey to Fortuna and another to Spes.

Note that to me New Year isn’t just a day, but a whole festive season that extends from day 1 to the Agonalia of January 9th, which I dedicate to Janus, who thus presides over the beginning and end of the celebrations at the start of a new cycle of twelve months. In between, there’s Vialia, dedicated to Mercury and the Lares Viales for the opening of ways, literal and figurative, in the starting year, and Apotropalia, dedicated to Apollo with requests for protection and health. Note that all of these gods are linked in some way to door and entryways, for which reason they mark my celebrations at the doorways of a new year.

A growing list
But the number of deities honoured in the New Year ceremony will grow past the list above. The idea of paying tribute to all the gods and goddesses I worship throughout the twelve months had the unintended consequence of making me reconsider the rite I use for Norse deities, which is a mixture of Scandinavia and Roman elements, but not to the point of allowing a jump from one ritual praxis to another. They require separate openings and foci, so it wouldn’t be easy to annex a Norse section to the New Year ceremony.

The solution, in all likelihood, will be the construction of a new rite that must be essentially identical to the Roman, though with some particulars, just like the ritus graecus

Changes to the calendar
There’s another unintended consequence of the decision to add to the New Year ceremony all the gods I worship annually: by changing the type of rite used for Norse deities so as to include them fully in a Roman ceremony, I can honour them on the Calends or Nones without having to light an additional ritual fire and thus with the freedom to perform Freyja’s annual sacrifice on May 1st and Njord’s on July 7th.

Which adds to a review I already had in mind, namely changing the name of the festivity of December 31st so as to use Transitalia for the October 4th sacrifice to Mercury and the Lares Viales (a topic for another post), shifting Anubis’ offering day to February 12th so as to be on the very eve of Parentalia and adding Hephaestus to my religious practices, with a sacrifice on January 19th. But more on that in a few days.

In the meantime, happy New Year!

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Slowly, but surely – always & everywhere.

I’ve been looking for a Mercury-themed pendant for some time now. Seven years ago I had a small caduceus that eventually broke and I haven’t replaced it with a new one, partially because, well… it’s not the most appealing of symbols to me and it didn’t help getting asked every now and then if I was studying medicine or worked at a hospital. And mind you, this was in Portugal, where the common medical symbol is the one-snaked rod of Asclepius, which is the correct one, but people tend to conflate it with the caduceus. I suspect a lot of good folks are lacking a few classes of Classical Studies.

Anyway, short of a good pendant with an actual depiction of Mercury or Hermes – coin or other – and at a reasonable price, I considered other options. The ideal would be a scallop, because it’s commonly used by pilgrims in Galicia and could therefore easily stand for wayfaring, the Lares Viales and the Iberian aspect of Mercury. But again, the options available online are either disappointing or expensive and the best place to find them in abundance and at a good price is Santiago de Compostela. Ironically, I lived there for four months back in 2010 and what scallops I bought at that time I give them away as gifts, ignoring their mercurial value. Which is understandable, since Mercury only stepped into my life after I came back from Santiago, in what was the start of the ways-and-Lares-Viales-focused path that I’m currently on. So I’m going to wait for things to come full circle and one day return to Compostela, at which point, in a manner of symbolic milestone, I’ll buy two small silver scallops, one for me and another for Mercury. In the meantime, I opted for a turtle pendant.

The pendant – not actually made from turtle!

Obviously, the choice wasn’t random. It’s an animal with a mercurial link by way of the myth of Hermes’ birth and of how He invented the first lyre using a turtle shell. But in the Iberian cult of Mercury that I’m constructing, it’s also an animal representative of the notions of movement and change. Which may seem odd, given that the turtle is far from being the fastest of species, especially on land, but that’s exactly where its symbolic value resides: however slow, however seemingly non-existent, things are constantly moving and change is a permanent part of life. There are no final destinations, just stops and stages in a perpetual journey.

Granted, the turtle from the myth is a tortoise, a fully terrestrial animal, whereas the pendant, as seen in the photo, depicts at best a sea turtle or a terrapin, but that is nonetheless appropriate, since those are the two branches of the species that are native to Portugal. So there’s an Iberian note there, in line with an equally Iberian cult and similarly to what I had in mind with the scallop.

The Mauremys leprosa, also known as Spanish, Mediterranean or Moorish terrapin, is a member of the turtle family that’s native to Portugal. Photo by David Germano (source)

Thus, on the final days of August, I bought two pendants, one for me and another for Mercury, and placed them by His image in the domestic shrine dedicated to Him. There they stayed until the first Wednesday of September, at which time I removed them and kept them by the fireplace as I burned the offerings I make to Maia’s Son every month – cinnamon, fennel and wine, together with a candle that’s left burning on the shrine. And then I consecrated the pendants, sprinkling them with cinnamon and adding a portion of dark chocolate as an additional offering to signal the moment.

After the ceremony was over, one of the pendants was returned to the shrine, where it now stands next to god’s image. And the other I’ve been using every since as a symbol of luck, protection, of the perpetuity of movement and change and as a physical expression of a bound with Mercury, with whom I now share a small object.