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My name is Tom and my interest in paganism is new but
I came around to it from my love of ancient Greek and
Roman history. As you may guess I really would like to
learn what I can from everyone. I do not even know where
to begin. If someone could maybe recommend a book or
two. I cannot really be a productive member right now. I
learn slow but I eventually get there!
Daimon. This Greek word has a long history, and the surer people became as to
its meaning, the further they were from its original senses. In Homeric or
archaic times (ca. early 8th century BCE) it seems to have had two primary
meanings: a being higher than a human but less than a god or goddess (nymph
would perhaps be an approximate female equivalent); and an expression meaning
`some god or other,' where the identity or name of the spiritual agency is
Daimoni in Homer is an adjective meaning `strange'. The presence of a daimon
or a spirit was uncanny, and the sign of a spirit's presence was a sudden change
in consciousness. Psychoactive substances (including the wines of antiquity,
which often contained psychoactive herbs) were believed to contain spirits or to
open the door, so to speak, to spirits (we still use the word `spirits' in this
sense metaphorically). Any sudden happening that seemed mysteriously
significant, such as a sneeze in council, was believed to be a communication
from `some god,' i.e., a daimon. Of such were omens.
Hesiod says that the men (humans) of the Golden Age, the long first phase of the
current world-cycle, when they had died became daimones who made it their
business to help living mortals. This resembles the Vedic teaching that the
most advanced souls are reborn at the beginning of a new cosmic cycle as divine
The Latin term genius, which originally meant inherited sexual vigor, was later
conflated with the Greek belief in a personal daimon, acquired at birth and
serving as a guide through life for its human host. The personal daimon was
thus a messenger from, or link with, the gods.
Pythagoras and his school believed that by following school teachings one could,
after a certain number of reincarnations, become a daimon and thereafter cease
to reincarnate in a gross material body. Initiates into the Bacchic and Orphic
Mysteries likewise expected an apotheosis after death, transformation into a
sort of daimon after a life lived carefully according to certain precepts
covering rituals, diet, hygiene and ethics. There are several possible sources
for this religious innovation, none of them traditionally Greek.
When Cyrus the great conquered Croesus' Lydian kingdom, the way was opened to
the Greek cities of Ionia, along the western coast of present-day Turkey. These
were absorbed, not without revolts and upheavals, into the Persian Empire, and
gradually influences from Zoroastrian and Mesopotamian religion filtered into
the Greek world in Europe. The notion of an ethically perfect deity demanding
human striving for ethical perfection began to appear among Greek thinkers like
Xenophanes, and Socrates and his pupil Plato gave the concern with goodness and
right behavior the primary place among serious human endeavors. Socrates' pupil
Xenophon, in his historical romance The Education of Cyrus, pictured the
Persians at the time of the foundation of their empire as being moral athletes,
much as he (mistakenly) viewed the Spartans of his own day. The actual behavior
of the Persians of his own time he attributed to decadence.
E.R. Dodds, in his informative albeit biased study, The Greeks and the
Irrational, looks elsewhere for the origins of this moral athleticism. Noting
that the quest for rising above the human condition was not present in early
Greece he hypothesizes that it may have come in via reports of shamans among the
Getic peoples north of the Euxine (Black Sea). We can read of them somewhat in
Herodotus (v. Abaris et al). From this, he says, a sort of proto-puritanism
arose, in which faculties humans did not share with the animals were attended to
exclusively in the attempt to rise to a suprahuman level (in Aristotle the
faculty of reason is singled out thus). This was probably emphasized in
opposition to the age-old effort to blend in with natural processes by imitating
the actions of animals, as in the periodic `orgies' of the Mossynoecians
(similar to those of the Picts and other barbarians), lying out in the woods and
fields on specific nights, copulating, in imitation of the seasonal matings of
animals, in order to participate in and encourage the overall fertility of
nature and therefore also of crops, flocks and herds.
The spread of the Persian Empire to the Ionian coast brought other religious
ideas to the notice of the Greeks. Mesopotamian religion identified the gods
with the planets, the `wandering stars,' and astrology traveled west. Around
the late 6th century BCE the names of some of the principal Olympian deities
were assigned to the planets. Aphrodite was associated with the planet we call
Venus today, following the Romans. Previously the planet had been called
Hesperus, the star of evening, as well as the star of morning, and the two were
not clearly identified as one by the Greeks. The old Mesopotamian
civilization, still speaking and writing and reading Akkadian (the Empire had
adopted Aramaic as its lingua franca), enjoyed a last flowering in astronomy and
mathematics in the temple schools and the Greeks learned from it in the last
The identification of Aphrodite with the planet we call Venus today meant that
there was a heavenly Aphrodite, Aphrodite Urania, as well as the earthly one
that appeared to Anchises and other mortals of legend. These projections of
heavenly deities began to be identified with the demigods or daimones.
Astronomical observations suggested that everything above the sphere (we would
say the orbit) of the Moon was eternal, and change was confined to the space
enclosed within the lunar sphere (because of the Moon's phases), including the
Earth. Thus, in the last centuries BCE, it was believed that daimones lived in
this infra-lunar world and came periodically to Earth to conduct their affairs.
Unlike the celestial Gods who were morally and physically perfect, the
daimones were a mixed lot; but until the Christians addressed the topic they
were not all considered evil.
`Saint' Paul changed all that. He speculated that Pagan Gods and Goddesses were
either demons or else simply errors, tales with nothing behind them. The former
explanation was prominent for the first nine or ten centuries of Christian
missionization, for the monks were confronted with peoples who had thousands of
years of religious experience behind them and well-elaborated systems of sensory
interpretation to take to that experience. The Pagans really saw and heard and
spoke with their deities, at least from time to time. It was necessary,
therefore, to begin the conversion process by making them fear nature spirits.
It was only after this work had been accomplished and generations grew up
insulated from Pagan religious experience, that Paul's second explanation could
be employed. The Norse scholar Snorri Sturluson, who lived in the late twelfth
and early thirteenth centuries, wanting to preserve what remained of the old
bardic poetry and its significance, wrote a compendium of Norse myths we call
The Prose Edda, prefaced by a prudent introduction explaining that all of these
fables were based on human error. He had Paul as an authority for this, and
though he encountered a good deal of ecclesiastical opposition from those who
accused him of trying to teach young people Heathenism, this approach to the
subject worked and the book was allowed to survive.
Meanwhile, the church's program of vilifying nature spirits as evil continued in
the less `converted' areas of northeastern Europe. The Finnish Kalevala,
relating what survived into the early 19th century of the folk songs of the
Karelian peninsula (a part of Russia today to the east of modern Finland),
exhibits a culture that has only been partly Christianized. Sacred groves and
sacrifices have been suppressed, but the Gods and Goddesses are still prayed to
alongside `God Almighty,' and magic of a poetic sort is still employed. The
name for the `Evil Demon,' Hiisi, is derived from a term for the old sacred
groves, and the Lapps are said to still serve demonic forces.
The last country in Europe to be conquered by the Christians and officially
`converted' (though they would remain in a dual faith condition for a number of
centuries thereafter) was the Pagan Lithuanian state. Enough of their
traditions (many written down) have survived into modern times so that the
ancient faith of that country, and of its neighbor, Latvia, is today in a
vigorous process of revival. A modern Lithuanian scholar has recently commented
on the nature of pre-Christian belief in nature deities before the missionizing
monks came on the scene:
"Jonas Balys wrote: 'There is no information to affirm that ancient Lithuanians,
before coming face to face with Christianity, had known of evil gods or evil
spirits. It looks like the same gods could help man and also harm him. This is
why the gods had to be appeased and made to be well disposed towards man, by
offering sacrifices to the gods.' "
From this brief survey of the history of the word `daimon' it would appear that
demons were the first entities to become demonized. Their importance to us
latter-day Neo-Pagans cannot be exaggerated, though, for it is only through
re-establishing contact with more immediate spirits that we can hope to reach
out to the greater Gods and Goddesses of nature.
BURKERT, Walter, Greek Religion, transl. John Raffan, Cambridge, MA, Harvard
University Press, 1985.
DODDS, E.R., The Greeks and the Irrational, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London,
Universoty of California Press, 1951.
FRAZER, Sir James, The Golden Bough; a Study in Magic and Religion, one-volume
abridgement, Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions, 1993.
HERODOTUS, The History, transl, David Grene, Chicago and London, University of
Chicago Press, 1987.
HESIOD, Works and Days, in Hesiod and Theognis, transl. Dorothea Wender, London,
Penguin Books, 1973.
LÖNNROT, Elias, compiler, The Kalevala, transl. F.P. Magoun, Jr., Cambridge, MA
and London, Harvard University Press, 1963.
ROSE, H.J., Religion in Greece and Rome, New York, Harper and Row, 1959.
STURLUSON, Snorri, The Prose Edda, transl. Jean I. Young, Berkeley, Los Angeles,
Longon, University of California Press, 1954.
TRINKUNAS, Jonas, ed., Of Gods and Holidays; the Baltic Heritage, Vilnius,
XENOPHON, Anabasis, transl. Carleton L. Brownson, Cambridge, MA and London, Loeb
Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1998.
__________, The Education of Cyrus, transl. H.G. Dakyns, London and Vermont,
Everyman's Library, 1992.
I'm happy to announce that after 3 1/2 years of having to go to libraries to use
the internet, I at last have online access at home again. I invite anyone still
reading these posts to propose topics they would like to see information on. I
also have all my books once more out of storage and at arm's length! Seems like
Mundus non est Fabula
Ian Elliott October 15, 2010
The Persian prophet Zoroaster, who was probably the first known anti-pagan
religious teacher, invented future myths, known also by the fancy Greek-derived
word `eschatology.' Traditionally, virtually all peoples have had past myths,
some childish like Kipling's Just So Stories, others sophisticated, which told
how the world came to be as it was. These myths recounted primordial events
that happened `in those times' (in illo tempore), or `once upon a time,' that
is, in some unspecified time in the long past. Having repeated the myth, pagans
were content to settle into the present with a completed picture of their world,
with everything important explained as a result of something that happened in
the past. They could proceed with farming and hunting, seed-time and harvest,
raising children and growing old, and honoring the gods of nature and the
ancestors, content in the expectation that the future would be much like the
To be sure, the Vedas and similar arcane teachings told them that the world,
like humans, grows old in time and dies, and then after a period of darkness is
reborn again. Because this was a natural cycle that could be counted upon to
recur endlessly, traditional peoples were not much concerned with it, unless
times were so hard as to suggest that the end of the cycle was near. Thus, when
the ancient Illyrians, known for their courage, were asked if they feared
anything at all, they replied that they were afraid of the sky falling. That
Zoroaster changed that. He introduced the notion of a single cycle, with people
living single lives only, on the conduct of which they were saved or condemned
and punished through all eternity. The world had a definite beginning in time,
and would have a definite end, after which time itself would be replaced by a
different mode of existence, eternity. This religious doctrine, through the
influence of the Persian court, infected Judaism, and, through it, Christianity
and later Islam. People who came under its dominance were hurled out of their
life in recurrent cycles into the realm of story. History was a side product of
this notion, not history as a simple collation of facts, but as a viewpoint
which selected certain elements and traced their changes as a sort of
development, or else a devolution, down to a final day of reckoning when the
world would collapse, the sky fall, the general strike would liberate the
working masses, Christ or his Persian counterpart the Saoshyant would appear or
return, and the elect would inherit the new Earth.
As humanity approached the year 1000 CE many in the West expected this cataclysm
to occur. Genghis Khan was the prophesied Gog or Magog of Old Testament
prophecy who would fight the forces of the just at Armageddon. Many of our
surnames date from this era, when to ensure that they would be listed among the
`elect,' many people either took biblical names or else reinterpreted their old
heathen surnames biblically. You will still see these name-derivations naively
presented in books as though they were the original meaning. For instance, my
surname, Elliott, is supposed to derive from Elias or Elijah the prophet,
whereas its older form, Alfjot, clearly meant `from an elf-island', i.e., an
eyot. The same fear gripped the late heathens in Viking lands and is reflected
in the Elder Edda, at the end of the first poem, the Voluspo or Volva's
prophecy, though at the end of Ragnarøk a new cycle dawns. It is disputed
whether part, or all, or none of this future myth of the Norse came from
Now, the psychological impact of the future myth is to convert the world into a
story, and to place the believer in the middle of the story. It is
characteristic of most stories that they happen `in medias res,' i.e. in the
middle. That at least is where the action that depends upon the characters
happens. One is caught, to take a Biblical metaphor, somewhere between the
books of Genesis and Revelation, and just as one cannot determine just when the
myths of creation happened, so one cannot tell when the myths of destruction
will take place. One is caught indefinitely between the two, but as this
viewpoint generally denies rebirth of the individual as it does that of the
cosmos, the characters caught in the middle of the story cannot relax for a
minute but must ever strive to be counted on the side of the righteous rather
than that of the wicked, and there is nothing in between.
Science has, in the past 300 years or so, and among the more educated members of
the population in the West, largely replaced this dismal eschatology with one of
its own, in which we as individuals are fated to die after one lifespan but in
which human knowledge and progress can look forward to a future of indefinite
length; and perhaps mortality itself will be overcome, so that mankind will
become immortal, at least for as long as it can find habitable planets to live
on. The optimism attending science has been somewhat lessened in the past
century, especially by the advent of nuclear weapons, but we can still enjoy
science fiction with its open-ended future. And who, having tasted such fruit,
would want to return to the mundus est fabula of Zoroaster?
But it is not enough. Psychologically, we still see our lives as stories, and
grieve when we start entering what must be the final chapters. We of the West,
whatever we may profess to the contrary, cannot enter the certitude of
reincarnation enjoyed in India and other parts of eastern Asia. But we can, I
think, rediscover and re-enter the ancient pagan world as picture.
For that is what our age-old ancestors lived in, the world as picture. The
myths of the past provided a caption, and all that remained was to fit into the
cosmic picture one found oneself in. There is a book that conveys this feeling
admirably, a children's book by Margaret Wise Brown called Goodnight Moon, with
mystically quiet colored illustrations by Clement Hurd.
Here is a very small rabbit going to bed. He says goodnight to all the things
that share his room with him, including the Moon itself, seen through the
window. He is in his first room, the `great, green room,' where everything
began for him. He says goodnight to his comb, his brush, to the old woman
whispering `hush.' This book is not a story, for the little rabbit's story
hasm't really begun yet. His world is not a story, but a picture. That is the
fascination of Goodnight Moon.
If we change some of our habits, we too can go to sleep, and get up, in our own
`great, green room,' and it isn't necessary to become a little infant again in
order to do so. If we stop repeating conversations mentally after they have
occurred, or conpulsively rehearsing conversations to come, if we look at the
world out of the corners of our eyes as well as straight on, if we take in
shadows and leaves and clouds, if we see ourselves as headless (for that is how
we appear outside of a mirror), we will re-enter the world as picture. Then,
though we may not have the assurance of rebirth, we will not need it, for we
shall be the whole picture, not a character in a story, We shall attain to the
world as a picture and finally escape from the age-old, malefic influence of
I have added a photo album for Samnite illustrations. 4th C. BCE tomb frieze
from Nola now on display on Photos Page.
Anyone interested in tracing NW Italian ancestry should check out this group -
on Links Page.
Yahoo strips off the footnotes and plays hob with the bibliography page, so I
will also upload the following to the Files page.
* * *
Elements of a Personal Cult
by Ian Elliott
There is a sense in which the favorite deity has already chosen the devotee, and
an early step in establishing a devotional relationship is to examine any
unusual dreams or waking experiences that seem to be messages from someone.
Think back through your past, looking for experiences that preceded important
turning points in your attitude and approach to life. The experiences
themselves need not have been unusual in any obvious sense, making their
influence on us all the more mysterious. I can remember one morning long ago
when I was up at dawn walking to breakfast. I had had a personal disappointment
the night before, when suddenly a bright-eyed old lady, the only other person
around, looked at me as she walked vigorously by and said "We're the only ones
up!" I am unable to account for why that event has stuck in my memory, but my
life seemed to take a different direction after that; I felt healed where I had
felt injured within, and my attitude changed to hope from despair.
In some ways a devotee is like a fan of a movie star or rock musician, in a
state of enthusiastic identification. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about
a Scythian (the Scythians lived in what is now southern Russia) named Anacharsis
who traveled widely and came to adopt Greek religious customs. This fellow was
a devotee of the Mother of the gods, and when he was back in Scythia, as it was
a sacred occasion, he celebrated the mysteries of the goddess in a clearing in
the forest, pinning the sacred pictures to his clothes and dancing around
ecstatically. A Scythian got wind of him and reported to his local king, who
declared he would not tolerate Greek religious ceremonies in his realm and
ordered the devotee killed with an arrow.
Like a fan, a devotee will put up pictures or an idol of his deity. He will
study his deity's myths and celebrate or mourn them as appropriate, following
whatever rituals still survive. He will celebrate the birth of his god or
goddess on the appropriate date. He will follow the preferences of his deity if
these are recorded in the myths. For instance, in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter,
the goddess comes to Eleusis and is offered a drink of wine, but declines it in
favor of kykeion, which was a sort of barley-water flavored with mint. A
devotee of this goddess will therefore abstain from alcohol, at least during his
re-enactment of the wanderings of Demeter in search of her daughter Persephone,
drinking kykeion instead as a sort of communion with the divine.
Thus through prayers, offerings, examination of dreams and omens, ritual
enactment of myths, assumption of the deity's preferences and perception of the
deity in nature, the devotee seeks to be as close to his god or goddess as
possible. The key practice, however, is repetition of the divine name, often
with the deity's titles included. The Hindus call this japam; it might be
called a way of taking the color of the deity, coloring one's own experience
with his or her divine presence. That japam was performed in the West as well
can be seen from Jesus' preaching against praying "as the heathen do; for they
think that by much repetition they will the more readily be heard." This of
course is a misunderstanding of the purpose and results of japam. Japam is
performed at set times, as well as at random moments when the mind is idle.
During the set periods, a devotee will often make use of a string of beads or
dried seeds as a way of ensuring that a certain number of repetitions are done
without bothering the mind with counting. Hindus call these beads rudraksha,
and it is so effective an instrument that Catholics have adopted it in the
rosary, and even muslims make use of it. Among witches it was known as a
Herodotus' tale of Anacharsis is a cautionary one, and in general pagans thought
little of excessive devotion to a single deity, or even to deities in general.
Euripides' play Hippolytos warns against devotion to Artemis at the neglect of
Aphrodite, while his play The Bacchae warns against the rejection of the worship
of Dionysos and thus of ecstatic religion per se. Here, as always, the Greeks
believed in pursuing a balance, in the latter case a balance between religious
sobriety and religious intoxication. So whichever god or goddess takes your
fancy, be careful to set limits to your devotion. One way to ensure this is to
have second and third favorites among the gods, practicing minor devotions to
those deities as well as generally attending to all gods, demigods, and spirits.
This was common in antiquity, with devotions to one's special god or goddess
balanced out by devotions to family or clan deities or a patron deity of one's
Nor should the pagan devotee expect to be always especially devoted to the same
god or goddess. It was a practice since late Sumerian times to switch
allegiance to another chosen deity if one felt betrayed or somehow let down by
the old one. But even if there has been no let-down, our needs shift as we go
through life and Aphrodite will understand if a middle-aged man turns his
attention at some point to Hermes or Demeter. In that case, the pious pagan
made a special offering to the god or goddess being left behind, signifying a
voluntary surrender of his or her divine gifts. Thus, young girls entering on
puberty hung up their girdles in the temple of Artemis; perhaps that is where
the expression `better hang it up' originated!
Reflecting on my own practice, I have identified five elements that must be
present in any fully developed relationship with a pagan deity. These could be
called the deity's
(1) locus, (2) signs, (3) myth, (4) discipline, and (5) occasion for prayer.
The locus is the external dwelling or vehicle of the deity, whether outside or
inside. Some deities, like the sun god or goddess, have a single locus (the
sun, obviously); others have a generic locus, such as the oak tree for Cernunnos
or Thorr and other cognate deities. These would be outdoor loci, whereas an
idol or shrine would serve as an indoor locus. The traditional indoor locus for
Thorr (judging from 17th century accounts of Lappish religious practice) was the
house pillar, which held an iron nail at shoulder height; the head of the
household would sit next to the pillar and grasp the nail during thunderstorms,
to feel the power of the god. The locus, whether indoor or outdoor, would be
the proper place to pray to the god and leave offerings. In case of a generic
locus such as an oak tree, the worshipper should select that oak (if any) that
seems to contain the most power and direct his or her devotions to it on a
The signs of a deity are more ephemeral, being omens or communications from him
or her to the worshipper. These can be external (weather signs, sacred birds)
or internal (dreams, sudden inspirations, moods). The reading of bird-omens was
common among the ancients, the raven for instance being associated with Othinn
and Bran, and the dove with Aphrodite.
Dreams were commonly channels of communication with one's partner god or
goddess, and can still be used as such by anyone attentive to dreams and their
figures. They are also effective ways to talk with the dead.
Internal psychological events were regularly regarded by the ancients as links
to deity, especially at times of crisis. Thus, when Achilles is about to draw
sword in wrath against Agamemnon, Athena restrains him; a moment of sober
restraint, putting off retribution till the right moment, was regarded as an
epiphany of that goddess, as was saying the right thing at the right time, or
being inspired with a winning stratagem. Another example would be the sudden
quiet that sometimes descends on a gathering, which caused the Greeks to say
"Hermes is in the room," an expression later changed by the Church to "an angel
has passed through the room."
The myth of a god or goddess is often linked to the calendar, and provides
special sacred occasions for worshipping a deity and celebrating his or her
exploits. Cernunnos, worshipped by Celtic witches as the year-god, has a myth
tied very closely to the change of the seasons, with special celebrations at the
winter and summer solstices, when he changes his aspect from the god of the
waning to the god of the waxing year, and vice versa. The Greek deities each
had a `birthday' celebrated on a particular day of the lunar month; some
deities' births were celebrated on the same day. The festive or sacred occasion
is a sort of locus in time. Some deities' myths, such as that of the sun in
Tuscan witchcraft, also involved the worshipper's view or his or her own
destiny. The Tuscan witch expects to reincarnate on Earth until reaching a
certain stage of spiritual evolution, at which point he or she will go to the
astral world of the sun and there be transformed into a being of light,
possessing a `stellar' body.
The gifts of a god or goddess generally depend on a certain ongoing discipline
on the part of the worshipper who hopes to receive them. No amount of worship
and offerings to Aphrodite will win her gifts without attention to personal
attractiveness, for instance. And if a pagan is already committed to a certain
discipline, finding the appropriate deity to serve as its sponsor is an
effective way to integrate him or her into one's religious life. Thus, as
Cernunnos is depicted shamanistically on the Gundestrup cauldron, I have
dedicated my own shamanic practices to that god, and thank him whenever I am
reminded to do them.
Finally, the occasions for prayer and offerings to one's chosen deity will
depend on the other elements and whether they are all present in one's life. If
one's god or goddess has a locus like an oak-tree, being by the oak-tree will
provide an occasion for devotion. The same is true of a special date in the
calendrical myth of that deity. Lacking a spatial locus and at other times than
festivals, one may select a time of day appropriate to the bodily or mental
occasion to pray. For instance, if the devotee holds communication with the
deity through dreams, praying just before going to sleep will be an obvious
choice, as will praying when awakening in the morning. Occasions when one or
more signs of the deity are evident will also serve, such as sudden windfalls
for Hermes or inexplicable moments of panic in the woods around noon for Pan.
In addition to elements pertaining to the object of a personal cult, the
attitude or posture of the devotee will enter into the character of the cult as
a whole. I myself lack an ecstatic devotional temperament, and my relationship
to my personal deity is one of pupil to master. From antiquity, the Hindus have
recognized five different attitudes one can take towards one's personal deity,
depending on temperament. These are called anta, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and
anta, a characteristic attitude among the sages of ancient India, is the serene
attitude. It does not involve intense feelings of love, and for that reason is
rejected by the more devotional Hindus as genuine; but it might suit many of us
nowadays, and in any case is a logical starting-point for anyone choosing a
personal god or goddess. For this attitude, it is enough to know (and bear in
mind) that the god or goddess is there.
Dasya is the attitude of a servant towards his (or her) master (or mistress).
This is an appropriate attitude for someone who feels a need to accomplish some
great work or task for the personal deity, such as organizing a coven, and also
comes closest to my own attitude of pupil.
Sakhya is the attitude of friendship. One sits before the idol as one sits with
a friend, just hanging out. This is also an appropriate view to take nowadays,
as we may not feel love for our deity but may come to like him or her,
especially over time.
Vatsalya is the attitude of a mother towards her child. It could also apply to
a father or other parent figure. It is protective and nurturing, and perhaps
entered into cults of the infant Hermes and Zeus, the latter especially in
Crete. One can imagine it being the attitude of a pagan towards little idols
Madhur is the attitude a man or woman has for his or her paramour; it is said to
contain the other four attitudes. It is not necessarily sexual (that would be
hazardous with the Olympians) but is definitely romantic or, in cases of deities
of the same sex as the devotee, is like hero- or heroine-worship. This was no
doubt the attitude of Hippolytos towards Artemis, and of Anacharsis towards the
Mother of the gods. As we have seen, this last attitude can run into trouble if
not kept moderate.
I hope these observations prove useful to those who wish to bring one or more
deities more fully and intimately into their lives. And one note more: it goes
without saying that pagans, being polytheists, will not have time or energy for
building cults of devotion to all the gods and demigods in their pantheon. In
this matter we do not differ from the pagans of antiquity!
ATHANASSAKIS, Apostolos N., trans., The Homeric Hymns, Baltimore and London,
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.
GUPTA, Mahendranath, or `M', The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, New York,
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1952.
HERODOTUS, The History, trans. By David Grene, Chicago and London, University of
Chicago Press, 1987.
NIKHILANADA, Swami, trans., The Upanishads, in four volumes. Reference is to
Volume 2. New York, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1952.
I am re-reading some of Plutarch's Lives and find them very suggestive of far
memory images. I just finished Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome and
architect of the old Roman civic religion, and combining this with my own
memories of the forum and the Palatine hill, I am enjoying a concrete feeling of
having 'been there' at the time. The original population of Rome comprised a
Roman contingent living on the Tarpeian (later called the Capitoline) hill, and
a Sabine settlement on the Palatine hill. They met in the middle for markets
and assemblies, in the low ground that formed the base of the future forum.
This had been marshy ground but was drained and levelled by Kings Romulus and
Tatius (the latter the Sabine king). It was agreed that the successor to Romulus
would be either a Sabine chosen by the ROmans or a Roman chosen by the Sabines.
The Romans were given the choice, and decided to opt for the first alternative.
Numa, a Sabine, was persuaded to assume the throne. He built the temple of
Vesta, making it round (cylindrical) like the cosmos, and afterwards the Regius,
or King's house, next to it. Part of the temple of Vesta still stands, but the
Regius disappeared before Imperial times. He divided the Roman and Sabine
populations by trade and craft to promote their integration with each other.
Really, you cannot do better than Plutarch to gain a vivid picture (however
legendary) of early Rome and how it looked.
Why Are You Pagan?
by Ian Elliott April 29, 2011
It was a great moment when I realized I didn't have to present arguments or even
reasons for my choice of polytheistic religion. Not that I couldn't argue for
it, as I've had long practice doing so. But I thought back to my childhood and
realized that my choice began then, even though, as a child in an Episcopal
family, I had not yet conceived the idea of leaving the church and striking out
on my own paths. Indeed, in those days (the 1950's) all we ever heard about the
ancient pagan religions was that they were finished, over and done with. But
people make religions, and we have all succeeded in bringing them back through
our own love and efforts.
I liked to read and was given a series of `All About' books, along with classics
simplified (and bowdlerized) for juveniles. One of these was `The Exploits of
Xenophon,' a juvenile version of Xenophon's `Anabasis,' his account of the march
of the ten thousand Greeks from the middle of the Persian Empire back to the
Greek world along the southern shore of the Black Sea. I was enchanted with the
tale, and frankly envied the Greeks their freedom to go where they liked and
rape and pillage as they chose; for, in my innocence, I had no idea what these
terrible words meant in terms of human suffering. I enjoyed the anarchy of it
all, and still do as a story.
Xenophon was very pious, and there were numerous accounts of sacrifices and
omens taken before battle, and I was immediately hooked on the old Olympian
religion. After that I read a library volume of Livy's `History of Rome,' the
first part about the regal period. This drew me in even further and confirmed
me as a lifelong classical romantic. I was incensed at not being allowed to
check out the book on my own junior library card! The volume was a Loeb,
dual-face with Latin on the left, small and beautiful, red stamped with gold.
Best of all, to my childish mind, was the fact that the book contained divisions
which were also called `books', because of course anciently they were printed on
by hand on scrolls, and a scroll can only hold so much. I didn't know that
then, and these books within a book were a delectable mystery.
When I realized, in my fifties, that these experiences were the basis of the
religious choice that has lasted throughout my adult life, it simplified the
polemical issue. "Why are you a pagan?" could now be answered, "Because I like
it" (leaving out any expletives). This seemed much more honest. I wonder how
many people have similarly realized the origin of their own religious
commitment? T.S. Eliot admitted that what decided him on the Church of England
was the architecture, for instance.
Because most of us become pagans in adulthood, we tend to assume that we had
adult reasons for doing so. But if we look carefully back to our childhood, we
may discover otherwise. In this sense, we can almost say that we were born into
it, just like the pagans of long ago.
Friendship with the Gods
Ian Elliott July 3rd, 2011
I have called this `friendship' with the gods rather than `devotion,' because
pagan religion does not require us to fake emotions the way the biblical
religions do. As many of us know, Jews and Christians are commanded "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy mind, and
all thy strength." Was a more impossible commandment ever given? The pagan
gods of nature, unlike Yahweh, "in whom we live, move and have our being," do
not compass us round about. They arise from chaos at the beginning of a world
cycle and build a new world out of matter in the chaotic state. "Chaos," which
later biblical theologians have mistranslated as a void, meant in Hebrew (and
other ancient languages) a devastation, the world left over from its destruction
at the end of the previous cosmic cycle.
So the gods build a new world around themselves and live in it as their cosmic
house. They create animals, plants, men, and other beings, of gross and of
subtle matter (spirit), to share their habitation with them. This is not
creation out of nothing; indeed, the idea of something coming from nothing was
at first absent from, and later repugnant to, the ancient mind. In the still
largely pagan Genesis, Yahweh creates Adam out of the dust of the ground and
breathes into him his breath-soul, in Hebrew his nephesh, made out of subtle or
elemental air. Odin, Vili, and Ve creaed the first man and woman out of an ash
and elm tree, respectively, found along the shore of the primeval sea.
Thus the gods are our neighbors, as well as, in a sense, our parents and elder
brothers and sisters. They inhabit the cosmic world of time and space with us.
They live a very long time, but not forever. They perhaps inhabit a higher
dimension as well as ours (there is no reason why our cosmic home should not
have more dimensions), but they do not inhabit eternity. They are not
transcendent in any absolute sense. They are wise, powerful, and generally
benevolent; but they are not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good. They are
persons like us, if incomparably older and more sublime and powerful.
This means that if I want to become acquainted with some of the gods, I must put
myself forward and greet them respectfully, as if for the first time, for it
will be the first time, at least for this incarnation. And the same rules of
social intercourse that hold between humans hold between humans and gods. To
take a 19th century parallel, it is like a country farmer calling on the local
squire for the first time. This gives us a clue to how best to approach the
If you were a country squire and a local farmer approached you for the first
time, fell on his face and begged for mercy, how would you feel about it?
Chances are you would not like it, and neither do the gods. Though, as we know,
a few gods here and there do like it, for they are after slaves rather than
friends and neighbors. But let us leave them to their slaves and focus on the
pleasant gods of paganism.
The story of the Pharisee's prayer in the New Testament, contrasting the praying
of a Hellenized Jew with the groveling of a more orthodox Jewish publican (tax
farmer), is informative for neo-pagans inquiring into the right way to approach
the gods. The Pharisee, though a monotheist, has learned the temple etiquette
of the Greeks. He stands before the altar in an attitude of self-respect and
thanks his god for having made him the way he is. He mentions his alms-giving,
his fasting, and his other accomplishments. The gospel account presents him as
self-satisfied and vain, but notice that he takes no credit for his virtues but
instead thanks his god for having granted them to him. Nearby, the wretched
publican (who oppresses the poor as a tax farmer) is groveling in the dirt and
imploring mercy from his god. The Pharisee notices him and adds thanks to his
god that he did not make him like that; in so doing, he is not blaming the
publican but assuming he cannot help himself: Yahweh has made him as he is, and
the Pharisee thanks Yahweh for making him a different sort of person.
The European pagans, except when in dire extremity from plague or famine,
approached their gods in this manner, for they wished to be friends with their
gods above all. They also generally prayed when in a light-hearted mood, and
this was no doubt very important the first time they made contact with a deity.
You would not wish to be friends with someone who pulled a long face the first
time he met you. The idea is not to fake cheerfulness, but to wait until you
are light-hearted and cheerful before making first contact with a god; and most
of your interactions with a deity should be conducted in the same way. After
all, the most common reason for prayer is to thank the gods, and in order to do
this sincerely we must feel thankful. They are sensitive to our feelings as
well as our words, and if we thank them while feeling depressed or deprived they
will know it.
Pick two or three deities to start, not all of them great gods, but on different
levels. It is good to start with household deities like the threshold and
hearth guardians. Then add in the sun and moon, and possibly the night. Night
is a great goddess, akin to chaos and fate, and we should salute her when
darkness falls. She is the origin and final destiny of men and gods, and it is
good to connect with her. We cannot ask her for favors (she is implacable), but
a positive relation to her helps us to accept those things in our lives which
Make a little altar or two to your new friends, and include incense, a candle, a
bowl of water, and possibly a dish of salt and/or grain (afterwards distribute
these to plants and animals). Light the candle and then address the deity. The
usual tradition is that the deity is not present until the candle is lit; it is
like putting through a call on the phone. This is convenient, for you would not
like the deity to watch you twenty-four hours a day, and the deity wouldn't like
it, either. They have other things to do. This is a big difference with the
biblical god, who watches us like a hawk day and night and never sleeps. The
gods sleep, and wake, eat and drink and laugh and make love, just as we do.
If you spend time occasionally with your gods you will get a sense of an ongoing
friendship with them. They will become part of your personal history, and you
will have a small share in theirs, which is their myth. Please don't think you
have to visit with them every day. Give them a break!
They do not seek to become your all-in-all; they are content to check in with
you occasionally. But if you ask them for a favor, you must thank them after it
is granted. And here you will receive a pleasant surprise. If you do not lame
your prayer by adding the words `if it is your will,' you will often find your
request granted, though not always in the way you anticipate. Do not ever say
`thy will be done'! This is one more example of a back-handed compliment paid
by biblical worshippers. Of course the god or goddess will do as he or she
wishes; you don't have to remind them that they have free will! Nor need you
reassure them of your friendship and continued loyalty if for some reason they
cannot, or will not, grant you your request. These practices contain veiled
insults to them.
As you continue in your friendships with gods and demigods (daimones, the local
deities of house and field), you may find your friendly feelings blossoming into
something like love and devotion. That is all right, but it is best to keep it
light in your prayers to them. Don't embarrass them by professing love, for
they know how you feel anyhow (when the candle is lit and you are praying to
them) and the gap between god and human cannot be bridged in any case; and to
put yourself forward in this way would be presumptuous, to say the least. Be
content to be good friends.
If you are a good neighbor to your gods, they will reciprocate.
Yahoo has eliminated direct access to Yahoo groups. I don't know if this means
they are getting ready to discard the feature altogether. But for now, you can
reach your Yahoo groups if you bookmark the address
With the completion of my series on 'Working with Elementals,' I have finished
presenting my inner practice in terms of Neopagan Witchcraft as I understand it.
At this time I feel that I have little else to say. I have enjoyed developing
my ideas and expressing them on this and some other groups. I am aware that
most of the subscribers to my groups are or have become, offline. Those of you
who still look in on Pagan Reconstruction and Joyful Witchcraft, my main groups,
are welcome to receive articles from this concluding series, or the whole series
if you so wish. The same goes for the other groups I have either founded or
contributed to as a co-moderator. You can request any or all of Working with
Elementals by emailing me at quicksilver101445@..., or at my more recent
email address, ianquicksilver@.... Some of these articles will also appear
monthly on the site www.paganpages.org under the heading `Prunings from the
My thanks to all of you for joining, and especially to those of you who have
been generous with your comments and postings over the years. May the gods
bless your endeavors.
Ian Elliott (Quicksilver)
The contents of the series Working with Elementals appear below:
Working with Elementals
Three Kinds of Knowledge (03/07)
The Power of Stillness doc rev (05/04)
From Silence to Will old doc rev (05/22)
Keeping Silence (05/28)
Redeployment of Energy old doc rev (05/29)
The Use of Elemental Will in the Circle (06/03)
Work in the South Quarter (06/23)
The Magical Personality (06/26)
From Will to Daring (07/07)
Entering the Quarter of Daring (07/11)
Do Spirits Exist?
If you say you believe in spirits these days, people look at you funny. Spirits
are regarded as relics of old ways of looking at the world that have been
superseded by the scientific outlook. A certain latitude is granted us to
continue to believe in persons and free will, but any other entities that cannot
be seen, weighed and measured in the laboratory are discounted. Effects from
the unseen world are assigned to impersonal forces, as if humanity consisted of
6 billion ghosts wandering through an otherwise uninhabited machine.
Where are spirits? Well, if there are any, they are right here. Then why can't
we see them? Because, under normal conditions, they inhabit wavelengths or
energy frequencies that fall outside our range of perception. We can only see
7/100,000ths of an ångstrom of the total energy spectrum. Infrared and
ultraviolet vibrations lie just beyond our ability to perceive, yet we know they
are there by their effects. The same is true of radio waves and gamma
radiation. If some of these energy flows are organized into persons, that is
more than scientists know, and, ordinarily, it is more than we can know about
it. People who claim to talk to spirits are considered either mentally ill or
at least weak-minded.
This attitude can be traced historically. Science had to struggle against the
power of the Church for the independence to conduct research and report
discoveries. The Church taught that psychological urges that were hard to
control came from spiritual entities called devils, and states of unusual
happiness and inner peace from other beings called angels, or directly from a
transcendent creator called God (a name derived originally from one of the
titles of Thor, meaning `the handy one'). The Church governed access to these
angelic or divine beings, and forbade traffic with the others. The Church, in
effect, was like a huge tourniquet on humanity's experience of spirits.
The scientific revolution against the Church re-asserted humanity's freedom to
investigate all phenomena, by denying the existence of spirits and insisting
that it was only investigating impersonal forces that could be understood in
solely mechanical terms. This meant that approaching anything other than other
humans on a personal basis was out; manipulation, not dialogue, was the approved
method. Some leeway was allowed to animal researchers to approach their
subjects on a simplified personal level, but the reports they drew up had to be
totally impersonal and concerned only with details of time and circumstance,
presented in terms of measurements. Behavioral psychology even extended this
impersonal approach to the study of fellow human beings. The researcher had to
alienate him or herself from his or her own personal feelings and only report
what could be detected by a third observer. The criterion of repeatability
demanded that all observations be confined to the realm of publicly verifiable
The rubric of science that excludes spirits is called `Occam's Razor,' named
after the medieval philosopher William of Ockham. It states that `entities
should not be multiplied beyond necessity.' Respectable tracts written by
scientists or research scholars, when encountering accounts of spirits, always
refer to such as employing superfluous explanations. Yet there are areas of
experience that require the use of personal knowledge, of communication of
subjective experience, which is excluded from the canons of laboratory research.
Science makes allowance for this in its place, which is always limited to
interpersonal transactions. Anything private, however, is merely subjective,
and nothing noetic or effective is to be expected from talking to oneself.
Now, the interesting thing is that certain schools of therapeutic psychology
depart from this model. They advocate dialoguing with one's inner impulses, as
if they were persons inhabiting one's inner mentality. Is the as if thrown in
to ensure that the patient does not fall into the error of schizophrenics, who
regularly hear voices and respond to them as though they were other entities
inhabiting their minds? If so, it would seem curious that cognitive therapists
(as they are called) think that the addition of two little words would be
sufficient to guard against this happening. Schizophrenia, as we are coming to
understand increasingly, is a biochemical condition, and perfectly healthy ,
`normal' people can talk to themselves without any danger of falling into that
condition. Small children and isolated old people, for instance, talk to
themselves frequently, as do people of intermediate age when they want to `see
what they think' about a given subject.
If, then , the as if is unnecessary from a therapeutic point of view, what
purpose does it serve? It is, I hold, a sop thrown to our culture's mandate
that `entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity,' and taking the notion
of spirits seriously is regarded as exceeding the bounds of necessity. Yet here
we see that the interests of resolving inner conflicts call for such dialogue,
though only as if we were talking to someone else. I pointed out to my last
therapist (the insurance rules changed shortly thereafter, ending some twenty
years of therapy and workshops for me) that, since we are not privy to each
other's mental processes, we are already speaking to each other as if we existed
as separate persons. He chuckled in response (the philosopher R.G. Collingwood
once remarked that people tend to be ticklish in their absolute
presuppositions). So dialoguing with inner `drives' (mechanical metaphor) and
`urges' as if they were persons simply amounted to dialoguing with them. It was
a distinction without a difference. This suggests a refinement to Occam's
Razor: "Entities should not be multiplied beyond, nor subtracted within,
necessity." We need as many entities as are necessary to deal with the world,
including ourselves, but no more than that number, and no less as well.
Nevertheless, in dialoguing with inner forces, I found I was not employing
`entities' (that is, assumptions as to existence) at all. I was simply engaging
in the act of dialogue. An inspection of ancient religious psychology, once we
strip off modern bias on these points (see e.g. The Greeks and the Irrational,
by E.R. Dodds, Ch. 1, for both the data and the bias) reveals that the act of
dialoguing, or engaging in what the later Church would call `traffic with
spirits,' was the sole concern of the ancients. If challenged as to whether the
gods actually exist or not, they would probably answer that the question,
besides being unanswerable, was irrelevant, since prayer and offerings were
found to be effective most of the time anyway. It was the act of interaction
with these `forces' (modern mechanical metaphor) that counted, not what one
believed about them. Bringing the question of belief into these studies is
anachronistic, since the emphasis on belief only arose with the advent of
Christianity and the subsequent defensive reaction against it among the late
The better studies in their better moments will admit that these questions
simply `never arose' for the people of those `primitive' times, but always
regard such non-questioning as a defect of pre-philosophical understanding; but
this is nonsense. Plenty of evidence exists that people three thousand years
ago and earlier questioned the existence of the gods, and we have the Memphite
Theology from Egypt as an example of the philosophical sophistication of deep
antiquity. So it is at least possible that the reason the question of
independent existence did not arise for people of those times was that the
question, if considered for a moment, was dismissed as irrelevant.
The question of whether there are spirits, then, changes into "Are there private
circumstances in which it is effective to take a personal approach in order to
cope with them in our lives?"
Someone might say at this point, "Oh well, if that is all you mean by spirits, I
am not very impressed. Do you mean we can never see one, or that they never
take the initiative to appear to us?" I can only give a personal answer to this
question: "Yes, on rare occasions; and when they do, you will probably wish they
Check out new photo album of Renaissance to Modern paintings depicting ancient
Italy. Three pictures so far.
One of the better recent books on the subject is Ancient Mystery Cults, by
Walter Burkert. Walter Burkert is Professor of Classical Philology at the
University of Zurich, and the author of Lore and Science in Ancient
Pythagoreanism, and Greek Religion. All three books are published by Harvard
University Press. Ancient Mystery Cults is copyrighted 1987. The contents are
an Introduction; Personal Needs in This Life and after Death; Organizations and
Identities; Theologia and Mysteries: Myth, Allegory, and Platonisn; The
Extraordinary Experience; and several Appendices including Notes, an Index of
Greek Terms, and a General Index. Mystery cults discussed include those of
Demeter and Kore (Eleusis), Dionysus, Isis, Mithras,and Meter (Magna Mater or
This information will also be copied to the Files Page.
Several photos of ancient Roman and Italic interiors have been added to the
photo album, 'Ancient Interiors'.
Wishing everyone here a merry winter solstice celebration tonight. I will be
celebrating at home with my life partner and our younger son.
The Religious Experience of the Roman People
Wiliam Warde Fowler
THE RELIGION OF THE FAMILY
Some of the survivals mentioned in the last two lectures seem to carry us back
to a condition of culture anterior to the family and to the final settlement on
the land. Some attempt has recently been made to discover traces of descent by
the mother in early Latium; if this could be proved, it would mean that the
Latins were already in Latium before they had fully developed the patriarchal
system on which the family is based.
However this may be, the first real fact that meets us in the religious
experience of the Romans is the attitude towards the supernatural, or "the Power
that manifests itself in the Universe," of the family as settled down upon the
land. The study of religion in the family, as we know it in historical times, is
also that of the earliest
organisation of religion, and of the most permanent type of ancient Italian
religious thought. Aust, whose book on the Roman religion is the most masterly
sketch of the subject as yet published, writes thus of this religion of the
family: "Here the limits of religion and superstition vanish ... and in
vain we seek here for the boundary marks of various epochs." By the first of
these propositions he means that the State has not here been at work, framing a
ius divinum, including religion and excluding magic; in the family, magic of all
kinds would be admissible alongside of the daily worship of the family deities,
and thus the family would represent a kind of half-way house between the age of
magic and all such superstitions, and the age of the rigid
regulation of worship by the law of a City-state. By the second proposition he
means that the religious experience of the family is far simpler, and therefore
far less liable to change than that of the State. Greek forms and ideas of
religion, for example, hardly penetrated into its worship: new deities do
not find their way in--the family experience did not call for them as did that
of the State. It may be said without going
beyond the truth that the religion of the family remained the same in all
essentials throughout Roman history, and the great priesthoods of the State
never interfered with it in any such degree as to affect its vitality.
But in order to understand the religion of the family, we must have some idea of
what the family originally was. When a stock or tribe (populus) after migration
took possession of a district, it was beyond doubt divided into clans, gentes,
which were the oldest kinship divisions in Italian society. All members of a
clan had the same name, and were believed to descend from a common
ancestor. According to the later juristic way of putting it, all would be
in the patria potestas of that ancestor supposing that no deaths had ever
occurred in the gens; and, indeed, the idea that the gens is immortal in spite
of the deaths of individuals is one which constitutes it as a permanent entity,
and gives it a quasi-religious sanction. For primitive religion, as has been
well said, disbelieves in death; most of the lower races believe both in a
qualified immortality and in the non-reality or unnaturalness of death. In
regard to the kinship of a clan, death at any rate has no effect: the bond of
union never breaks.
Now a little reflection will show that a clan or gens of this kind might be
maintained intact in a nomadic state, or during any number of migrations; it is,
in fact, manifestly appropriate to such a mobile condition of society, and
expresses its natural need of union; and when the final settlement occurs, this
body of kin will hold together in the process, whether or no it has smaller
divisions within it. We may be certain that this was the one essential
kin-division of the Latin stock when it settled in Latium, and all through Roman
history it continues so, a permanent entity though families may die. Every
Roman lawyer will recognise this fact as true, and I need not dwell on it now.
It is when the gens has settled upon the land that the family begins to appear
as a fact of importance for our purpose. Such operations as the building of a
permanent house, the clearing and cultivation of a piece of land, can best be
carried out by a smaller union than the gens, and this smaller union is ready to
hand in the shape of a section of the gens comprising the living descendants of
a living ancestor, whether of two, three, or even four generations. This
union, clearly visible to mortal eye, and realisable in every-day work, settles
together in one house, tends its own cattle and sheep, cultivates its own land
with the help of such dependants as it owns, slave or other, and is known by the
word familia. This famous word, so far as we know, does not
contain the idea of kinship, at any rate as its leading connotation; it is
inseparable from the idea of land-settlement, and is therefore essentially
das Hauswesen, the house itself, with the persons living in it, free or servile,
and with their land and other property, all governed and administered by the
paterfamilias, the master of the household, who is always the oldest living male
ancestor. The familia is thus an economic unit, developed out of the gens, which
is a unit of kin and little more. And thus the religion of the familia will be a
religion of practical utility, of daily work, of struggle with perils to which
the shepherd and the tiller of the soil are liable; it is not the worship of an
idea of kinship expressed in some dimly conceived common ancestor; the familia,
as I hope to show, had no common ancestor who could be the object of worship,
except that of the gens from which it had sprung. The life of the familia was a
realisation of the present and its needs and perils, without the stimulus to
take much thought about the past, or indeed about the future; for it, sufficient
for the day was the evil thereof; for what had been and what was to come it
could look to the gens to
which it owed its existence. But in practical life the gens was not of much
avail; and instead of it, exactly as we might expect, we find an artificial
union of familiae, a union of which the essential thing is not the idea of kin,
but that of the land occupied, and known all over Italy by the word pagus.
Before I go on to describe the religion of the family, it is necessary to put
the familia into its proper relation with this territorial union.
The pagus is the earliest Italian administrative unit of which we know anything;
a territory, of which the essential feature was the boundary, not any central
the boundary. In all probability it was originally the land on which a gens had
settled, though settlement produces changes, and the land of gens and pagus was
not identical in later times. But within this boundary line, of which we shall
hear something more presently, how were the component parts, the familiae of the
gens, settled down on the land? Of the village community so familiar to us in
Teutonic countries, there is no certain trace in Latium. Vicus, the only word
which might suggest it, is identical with the Greek [Greek: oikos], a house;
later it is used for houses standing together, or for a street in a town. But
the vicus in the country has left no trace of itself as a distinct
administrative union like our village community; the vico-magistri of the Roman
city were urban officers; and what is more important, we know of no religious
festivals of the vicus, like those of the pagus, of which there are
well-attested records. The probability then is that the unit within the pagus
was not the village but the homestead, and that these stood at a distance from
each other, as they do in Celtic countries, not united
together in a village, and each housing a family group working its own land and
owning its own cattle. The question of the amount and the tenure of the
land of this group is a very difficult one, into which it is not necessary to
enter closely here. There can, however, be no doubt that it possessed in its own
right a small piece of garden ground (heredium), and also an allotment of land
in the arable laid out by the settlers in
common--centuriatus ager; whether the ownership of this was vested in the
individual paterfamilias or in the gens as a whole, does not greatly matter for
our purposes. Lastly, as it is certain that the familia owned cattle and
sheep, we may be sure that it enjoyed the right of common pasture on the land
not divided up for tillage.
We see all this through a mist, and a mist that is not likely ever to lift; but
yet the outlines of the picture are clear enough to give us the necessary basis
for a study of the religion of the familia. The religious points, if I may use
the expression--those points, that is, which are the object of special anxiety
(religio)--lie in the
boundaries, both of the pagus as a whole, and of the arable land of the familia,
in the house itself and its free inhabitants, and in the family burying-place;
and to these three may no doubt be added the spring which supplied the household
with water. Boundaries, house, burying-place, spring,--all these are in a
special sense sacred, and need constant and regular religious care.
Let us begin with the house, the central point of the economic and religious
unit. The earliest Italian house was little more than a wigwam, more or less
round, constructed of upright posts connected with wattles, and with a closed
roof of straw or branches. This would seem to have been the type of house
of the immigrating people who settled on the tops of hills and lived a pastoral
life; when they descended into the plains and became a settled agricultural
people, they adopted a more roomy and convenient style of building, suitable for
storing their grain or other products, and for the maintenance of a fire for
cooking these. Whether the rectangular house, with which alone we are here
concerned, was developed under Greek or Etruscan influence, or suggested
independently by motives of practical convenience, is matter of dispute, and
must be left to archaeologists to decide.
This is the house in which the Latin family lived throughout historical times,
the house which we know as the sacred local habitation of divine and human
beings. It consisted in its simplest form, as we all know, of a single room or
hall, the atrium, with a roof open in the middle and sloping inwards to let the
rain fall into a basin (compluvium). Here the life of the family went on, and
here was the hearth (focus), the "natural altar of the dwelling-room of
man," and the seat of Vesta, the spirit of the fire, whose aid in the
cooking of the food was indispensable in the daily life of the settlers. This
sacred hearth was the centre of the family worship of later times, until under
Greek influence the arrangement of the house was modified; and we may be
certain that it was so in the simple farm life of early Latium. In front of it
was the table at which the family
took their meals, and on this was placed the salt-cellar (salinum), and the
sacred salt-cake, baked even in historical times in primitive fashion by the
daughters of the family, as in all periods for the State by the Vestal virgins.
After the first and chief course of the mid-day meal, silence was enjoined, and
an offering of a part of the cake was thrown on to the fire from a small
sacrificial plate or dish (patella). This alone is enough to prove that
Vesta, the spirit of the fire, was the central point of the whole worship, the
spiritual embodiment of the physical welfare of the family.
Behind the hearth, i.e. farther at the back of the atrium, was the penus, or
storing-place of the household. Penus was explained by the learned Scaevola
as meaning anything that can be eaten or drunk, but not so much that which is
each day set out on the table, as that which is kept in store for daily
consumption; it is therefore in origin the food itself, though in later times it
became also the receptacle in which that food was stored. This store was
inhabited or guarded by spirits, the di penates, who together with Vesta
represent the material vitality of the family; these spirits, always conceived
and expressed in the plural, form a group in a way which is characteristic of
the Latins, and their plurality is perhaps due to the variety and frequent
change of the material of the store. The religious character of the store is
also well shown by the fact, if such it be, that no impure person was allowed to
meddle with it; the duty was especially that of the children of the family,
whose purity and religious capability was symbolised throughout Roman history by
the purple-striped toga which they wore, and secured also by the amulet, within
its capsule the bulla, of which I spoke in the last lecture.
Vesta and the Penates represent the spiritual side of the material needs of the
household; but there was another divine inhabitant of the house, the Genius of
the paterfamilias, who was more immediately concerned with the continuity of the
family. Analogy with the world-wide belief in the spiritual double of a man, his
"other-soul," compels us to think of this Genius, who accompanied the Latin from
the cradle to the grave, as originally a conception of this kind. The Latins had
indeed, in common with other races, what we may call the breath-idea of the
soul, as we see from the words animus and anima, and also the shadow-idea, as is
proved by the word umbra for a departed spirit. But the Genius was one of those
guardian spirits, treated by Professor Tylor as a different species of the same
genus, which accompany a man all his life and help him through its many changes
and chances; and the peculiarity of this Latin guardian is that he was
specially helpful in continuing the life of the family. The soul of a man is
often conceived as the cause of life, but not often as the procreative power
itself; and that this latter was the Latin idea is certain, both from the
etymology of the word and from the fact that the marriage-bed was called lectus
genialis. I am inclined to think that this peculiarity of the Latin conception
of Genius was the result of the unusually strong idea that the Latins must have
had, even when they first passed into Italy, of kinship as determined not by the
mother but by the father. It is possible, I think, that the Genius was a
soul of later origin than those I have just mentioned, and developed in the
period when the gens arose as the main group of kinsmen real or imaginary. I
would suggest that we may see in it the connecting link between that group and
the individual adult males within it; in that case the Genius would be that soul
of a man which enables him to fulfil the work of continuing the life of the
gens. We can easily imagine how it might eventually come to be his guardian
spirit, and to acquire all the other senses with which we are familiar in Roman
literature. With the development of the idea of individuality, the individuality
of a man as apart from the kin group, the idea of the individuality of the
Genius also became emphasised, until it became possible to think of it as even
living on after the death of its companion; in this way, in course of time,
the Genius came to exercise a curious influence on the idea of the Manes. The
history of the idea of Genius, and its application to places, cities, etc., is
indeed a curious one, and of no small interest in the study of religion; but we
must return to the primitive house and its divine inhabitants. There is one more
of these who calls for a word before I pass to the land and the boundaries; we
meet him on the
threshold as we leave the dwelling.
It is, of course, well known to anthropologists that the door of a house is a
dangerous point, because evil spirits or the ghosts of the dead may gain access
to the house through it. Among the innumerable customs which attest this belief
there are one or two Roman ones, e.g. the practice of making a man, who has
returned home after his supposed death in a foreign country, enter the house by
the roof instead of the door; for the door must be kept barred against ghosts,
and this man may be after all a ghost, or at least he may have evil spirits or
miasma about him. It was at the doorway that a curious ceremony took place
(to which I shall ask your attention again) immediately after the birth of a
child, in order to prevent Silvanus, who may stand for the dangerous spirits of
the forest, from entering in and vexing the baby. Again, a dead man, as
among so many other peoples, was carried out of the doorway with his feet
foremost, so that he should not find his way back; and the old Roman practice of
burial by night probably had the same object. Exactly the same anxiety
(religio) is seen in regard to the gates of a city; the wall was in some sense
holy (sanctus), but the gates, through which was destined to pass much that
might be dangerous, could not be thus sanctified. Was there, then, no protecting
spirit of these doors and gates?
St. Augustine, writing with Varro before him, finds no less than three spirits
of the entrance to a house: Forculus, of the door itself; Limentinus, of the
threshold; and Cardea, of the hinges of the door; and these Varro seems to have
found in the books of the pontifices. I must postpone the question as to
what these pontifical books really represented; but the passage will at least
serve to show us the popular anxiety about the point of entrance to a house, and
its association with the spirit world. Of late sober research has reached the
conclusion that the original door-spirit was Janus, whom we know in Roman
history as residing in the symbolic gate of the Forum, and as the god of
beginnings, the first deity to be invoked in prayer, as Vesta was the last.
But Janus is also wanted for far higher purposes by some eminent Cambridge
scholars; they have their own reasons for wanting him as a god of the sky, as a
double of Jupiter, as the mate of Diana, and a deity of the oak. So, too,
he was wanted by the philosophical speculators of the last century B.C., who
tried to interpret their own humble deities in terms of Greek philosophy and
Greek polytheism. The poets too, who, as Augustine says, found Forculus and his
companions beneath their notice, played strange tricks with this hoary old god,
as any one may read in the first book of Ovid's Fasti. I myself believe that the
main features of the theology (if we may use the word) of the earliest Rome were
derived from the house and the land as an economic and religious unit, and I am
strongly inclined to see in Janus bifrons of the Forum a
developed form of the spirit of the house-door; but the question is a difficult
one, and I shall return to it in a lecture on the deities of early Rome.
So far I have said nothing of the Lar familiaris who has become a household word
as a household deity; and yet we are on the point of leaving the house of the
old Latin settler to look for the spirits whom he worships on his land. The
reason is simply that after repeated examination of the evidence available, I
find myself forced to believe that at the period of which I am speaking the Lar
was not one of the divine inhabitants of the house. When Fustel de Coulanges
wrote his brilliant book La Cité antique, which popularised the importance of
the worship of ancestors as a factor in Aryan civilisation, he found in the Lar,
who in historical times was a familiar figure in the house, the reputed founder
of the family; and until lately this view has been undisputed. But if my account
of the relation of the family to the gens is correct, the family would stand in
no need of a reputed founder; that symbol of the bond of kinship was to be found
in the gens of which the family was an offshoot, a cutting, as it were, planted
on the land. Still more convincing is the fact that when we first meet with the
Lar as an object of worship he is not in the house but on the land. The oldest
Lar of whom we know anything was one of a characteristic Roman group of which
the individuals lived in the compita, i.e. the spots where the land belonging to
various households met, and where there were chapels with as many faces as there
were properties, each face containing an altar to a Lar,--the presiding spirit
of that allotment, or rather perhaps of the whole of the land of the familia,
including that on which the house stood. Thus the Lar fills a place in the
private worship which would otherwise be vacant, that of the holding and its
productive power. In this sense, too, we find the Lares in the hymn of the Arval
Brethren, one of the oldest fragments of Latin we possess; for the spirits of
the land would naturally be invoked in the lustration of the ager Romanus by
this ancient religious guild.
But how, it may be asked, did the Lar find his way into the house, to become the
characteristic deity of the later Roman private worship there? I believe that he
gained admittance through the slaves of the familia, who had no part in the
worship of the dwelling, but were admitted to the Compitalia, or yearly festival
of which the Lares of the compita were the central object. Cato tells us that
the vilicus, the head of the familia of slaves, might not "facere rem divinam
nisi Compitalibus in compito aut in foco"; which I take to mean that he
might sacrifice for his fellow-slaves to the Lar at the compitum, or to the Lar
in the house, if the Lar were already transferred from the compitum to the
house. In the constant absence of the owner, the paterfamilias of Rome's
stirring days, the worship of the Lar at the compitum or in the house came to be
more and more distinctly the right of the vilicus and his wife as representing
the slaves, and thus too the Lar came to be called by the epithet familiaris,
which plainly indicates that in his cult the slaves were included. And as it was
the old custom that the slaves should sit at the meals of the family on benches
below the free members (subsellia), what more natural than that they should
claim to see there the Lar whom alone of the deities of the farm they were
permitted to worship, and that they should bring the Lar or his double from the
compitum to the house, in the frequent absence of the master? The festival
of the Lar was celebrated at the compitum, and known as Compitalia or Laralia;
it took place soon after the winter solstice, on a day fixed by the
paterfamilias, in concert, no doubt, with the other heads of families in the
pagus. Like most rejoicings at this time of year, it was free and jovial in
character, and the whole familia took part in it, both bond and free. Each
familia sacrificed on its own altar, which was placed fifteen feet in front of
the compitum, so that the worshippers might be on their own land; but if, as we
may suppose, the whole pagus celebrated this rite on the same day, there was in
this festival, as in others to be mentioned directly, a social value, a means of
widening the outlook of the familia and associating it with the needs of others
in its religious duties. This is the religio Larium of which Cicero speaks in
the second book of his de Legibus, which was "posita in fundi villaeque
conspectu," and handed down for the benefit both of masters and men from remote
antiquity. There were other festivals in which all the familiae of a pagus
took part. Of these we know little, and what we do know is almost entirely due
to the love of the Augustan poets for the country and its life and customs;
"Fortunatus et ille deos qui novit agrestes," wrote Virgil, contrasting himself
with the philosopher poet whom he revered. Varro, in his list of Roman
festivals, just mentions a festival called Sementivae, associated with the
sowing of the seed, and celebrated by all pagi, if we interpret him rightly; but
Ovid has given us a charming picture of what must be this same rite, and places
it clearly in winter, after the autumn sowing:-- state coronati plenum ad
praesaepe iuvenci: cum tepido vestrum vere redibit opus. rusticus emeritum palo
suspendit aratrum: omne reformidat frigida volnus humus. vilice, da requiem
terrae, semente peracta: da requiem terram qui coluere viris. pagus agat festum:
pagum lustrate, coloni, et date paganis annua liba focis. placentur frugum
matres Tellusque Ceresque, farre suo gravidae visceribusque suis. Ovid may here
be writing of his own home at Sulmo, and what took place there in the Augustan
age; but we may read his description into the life of old Latium, for rustic
life is tenacious of old custom, especially where the economic conditions remain
always the same. We may do the same with another beautiful picture left us by
Tibullus, also a poet of the country, which I have recently examined at length
in the Classical Review. The festival he describes has often been
identified with Ovid's, but I am rather disposed to see in it a lustratio of the
ager paganus in the spring, of the same kind as the famous one in Virgil's first
Georgic, to be mentioned directly; for Tibullus, after describing the scene,
which he introduces with the words "fruges lustramus et agros," puts into
perfect verse a prayer for the welfare of the crops and flocks, and looks
forward to a time when (if the prayer succeeds) the land shall be full of corn,
and the peasant shall heap wood upon a bonfire--perhaps one of the midsummer
fires that still survive in the Abruzzi. Virgil's lines are no less
picturesque; and though he does not mention the pagus, he is clearly
thinking of a lustratio in which more than one familia takes part
cuncta tibi Cererem pubes agrestis adoret.
This is a spring festival "extremae sub casum hiemis, iam vere sereno"; and I
shall return to it when we come to deal with the processional lustratio of the
farm. Like the descriptions of Ovid and Tibullus, it is more valuable to us for
the idea it gives us of the spirit of old Italian agricultural religion than for
exact knowledge about dates and details. There was, of course, endless variety
in Italy in both these; and it is waste of time to try and make the descriptions
of the rural poets fit in with the fixed festivals of the Roman city calendar.
Nor is it quite safe to argue back from that calendar to the life of the familia
and the pagus, except in general terms. As we shall see, the calendar is based
on the life and work of an agricultural folk, and we may by all means guess that
its many agricultural rites existed beforehand in the earlier social life; but
into detail we may not venture. As Varro, however, has mentioned the Saturnalia
in the same sentence with the Compitalia, we may guess that that famous jovial
festival was a part of the rustic winter rejoicing. And here, too, I may mention
another festa of that month, of which a glimpse is given us by Horace, another
country-loving poet, who specially mentions the pagus as taking part in it.
Faunus and Silvanus were deities or spirits of the woodland among which these
pagi lay, and in which the farmers ran their cattle in the summer; by
Horace's time Faunus had been more or less tarred with a Greek brush, but in the
beautiful little ode I am alluding to he is still a deity of the Italian
farmer, who on the Nones of December besought him to be gracious to the
cattle now feeding peacefully on the winter pasture:--
ludit herboso pecus omne campo cum tibi Nonae redeunt Decembres: festus in
pratis vacat otioso cum bove pagus.
There is one more rite of familia or pagus, or both, of which I must say a word
before I return for a while to the house and its inhabitants. One of the most
important matters for the pagus, as for the landholding household, was the
fixing of the boundaries of their land, whether as against other pagi or
households, or as separating that land from unreclaimed forest. This was of
course, like all these other operations of the farm, a matter of religious care
and anxiety--a matter in which the feeling of anxiety and awe (religio) brought
with it, to use an expression of Cicero's, both cura and caerimonia. The
religio terminorum is known to us in some detail, as it existed in historical
times, from the Roman writers on agrimetatio; and with their help the whole
subject has been made intelligible by Rudorff in the second volume of the
Gromatici. We know that many different objects might serve as boundary
marks, according to the nature of the land, especially trees and stones; and in
the case of the latter, which would be the usual termini in agricultural land at
some distance from forest, we have the religious character of the stone and its
fixing most instructively brought out. "Fruits of the earth, and the bones,
ashes, and blood of a victim were put into a hole in the ground by the
landholders whose lands converged at the point, and the stone was rammed down on
the top and carefully fixed." This had the practical effect--for all Latin
religion has a practical side--of enabling the stone to be identified in the
future. But Ovid gives us a picture of the yearly commemorative rite of the
same nature, from which we see still better the force of the religio terminorum.
The boundary-stone is garlanded, and an altar is built; the fire is carried from
the hearth of the homestead by a materfamilias, the priestess of the family; a
young son of the family holds a basket full of fruits of the earth, and a little
daughter shakes these into the fire and offers honey-cakes. Others stand by with
wine, or look on in silence, clothed in white. The victims are lamb and
sucking-pig, and the stone is sprinkled with their blood, an act which all the
world over shows that an object is holy and tenanted by a spirit. And the
ceremony ends with a feast and hymns in honour of holy Terminus, who in Ovid's
time in the rural districts, and long before on the Capitolium of Rome, had
risen from the spirit sanctifying the stone to become a deity, closely connected
with Jupiter himself, and to give his name to a yearly city festival on February
These festivals on the land were, some of them at least, scenes of revelry,
accompanied with dancing and singing, as the poets describe them, the faces of
the peasants painted red with minium, according to an old Italian custom
which survived in the case of the triumphator of the glorious days of the
City-state. But if we may now return for a moment to the homestead, there were
events of great importance to the family which were celebrated there in more
serious and sober fashion, with rites that were in part truly religious, yet not
without some features that show the prevailing anxiety, rooted in the age of
taboo, which we learnt to recognise under the word religio. Marriage was a
religious ceremony, for we can hardly doubt that the patrician confarreatio, in
which a cake made of the anciently used grain called far was offered to Jupiter,
and perhaps partaken of sacramentally by bride and bridegroom, was the oldest
form of marriage, and had its origin in an age before the State came into being.
We must remember that the house was a sacred place, with religious duties
carried on within it, and the abode of household spirits; and when a bride from
another family or gens was to be brought into it, it was essential that such
introduction should be carried out in a manner that would not disturb the happy
relations of the human and divine inhabitants of the house. It was essential,
too, that the children expected of her should be such as should be able to
discharge their duties in the household without hurting the feelings of these
spirits. Some of the quaint customs of the deductio of later times strongly
suggest an original anxiety about matters of such vital interest; the torch,
carried by a boy whose parents were both living, was of whitethorn (Spina alba),
which was a powerful protective against hostile magic, and about which there
were curious superstitions. Arrived at the house, the bride smeared the
doorposts with wolf's fat and oil, and wound fillets of wool around them--so
dangerous was the moment of entrance, so sacred the doorway; and finally, she
was carried over the threshold, and then, and then only, was received by her
husband into communion of fire and water, symbolic of her acceptance as
materfamilias both by man and deity.
When the new materfamilias presented her husband with a child, there was another
perilous moment; the infant, if accepted by the father (sublatus, i.e. raised
from the earth on which it had been placed), did not immediately become a
member of the family in the religious sense, and was liable to be vexed by evil
or mischievous spirits from the wild woodland, or, as they phrased it in later
days, by Silvanus. I have already alluded to the curious bit of mummery which
was meant to keep them off. Three men at night came to the threshold and struck
it with an axe, a pestle, and a besom, so that "by these signs of agriculture
Silvanus might be prevented from entering." The hostile spirits were thus denied
entrance to a dwelling in which friendly spirits of household life and of
settled agricultural pursuits had taken up their abode. Nothing can better show
the anxiety of life in those primitive times, especially in a country like
Italy, full of forest and mountain, where dwelt mischievous Brownies who would
tease the settler if they could. But on the ninth day after the birth (or the
eighth in the case of a girl) the child was "purified" and adopted into the
family and its sacra, and into the gens to which the family belonged, and
received its name--the latter a matter of more importance than we can easily
realise. From this time till it arrived at the age of puberty it was
protected by amulet and praetexta; the tender age of childhood being then
passed, and youth and maiden endued with new powers, the peculiar defensive
armour of childhood might be dispensed with.
Lastly, the death of a member of the family was an occasion of extreme anxiety,
which might, however, be allayed by the exact performance of certain rites
(iusta facere). The funeral ceremonies of the City-state were of a complicated
character, and the details are not all of them easy to interpret. But the
principle must have been always the same--that the dead would "walk" unless they
had been deposited with due ceremony in the bosom of Mother Earth, and that
their natural tendency in "walking" was to find their way back to the house
which had been their home in life. Whether buried or burnt, the idea was the
same: if burnt, as seems to have been common Roman practice from very early
times, at least one bone had to be buried as representing the whole body. We
have seen that certain precautions were taken to prevent the dead man from
finding his way back, such as carrying him out of the house feet foremost; and
if he were properly buried and the house duly purified afterwards, the process
of prevention was fairly complete. His ghost, shade, or double then passed
beneath the earth to join the whole body of Manes in the underworld, and
could only return at certain fixed times--such at least was the idea expressed
in the customs of later ages. But if a paterfamilias or his representative had
omitted iusta facere, or if the dead man had never been buried at all, carried
off by an enemy or some wild beast, he could never have descended to that
underworld, and was roaming the earth disconsolately, and with an evil will. The
primitive idea of anxiety is well expressed in the Roman festival of the Lemuria
in May, when the head of a household could get rid of the ghosts by spitting out
black beans from his mouth and saying, "With these I redeem me and mine."
Nine times he says this without looking round: then come the ghosts behind him
and gather up the beans unseen. After other quaint performances he nine times
repeats the formula, "Manes exite paterni," then at last looks round, and the
ghosts are gone. This is plainly a survival from the private life of the
primitive household, and well illustrates its fears and anxieties; but the State
provided, as we shall see, another and more religious ceremony, put limitations
on the mischievous freedom of the ghosts, and ordained the means of expiation
for those who had made a slip in the funeral ceremonies, or whose dead had been
buried at sea or had died in a far country.
I have thus tried to sketch the life of the early Latin family in its relations
with the various manifestations of the Power in the universe. We have seen
enough, I think, to conclude that it had a strong desire to be in right
relations with that Power, and to understand its will; but we may doubt whether
that desire had as yet become very effective. The circumstances of the life of
the Latin farmer were hardly such as to rid him of much of the religio that he
had inherited from his wilder ancestors, or had found springing up afresh within
him as he contended with the soil, the elements, and the hostile beings
surrounding him, animal, human, and spiritual. He is living in an age of
transition; he is half-way between the age of magic and a new age of religion
NOTES TO LECTURE IV
 Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship, lect. viii. Dr.
Frazer finds traces of Mutterrecht only in the succession to the kingship of
Alba and Rome, of which the evidence is of course purely legendary. If the
legends represent fact in any sense, they point, if I understand him rightly, to
a kingship held by a non-Latin race, or, as he calls it, plebeian. Binder, Die
Plebs, p. 403 foll., believes that the original Latin
population, i.e. the plebs of later times, lived under Mutterrecht.
 Aust, Religion der Römer, p. 212.
 In historical times the household deities were often represented by images
of Greek type: e.g. the Penates by those of the Dioscuri. Wissowa, Rel. und
Kult. p. 147, and Gesammelte Abhandlungen, p. 95 foll., and 289. See also De
Marchi, La Religione nella vita privata, i. p. 41 foll. and p. 90 foll.
 De Marchi, op. cit. i. 13 foll. In the ordinary and regular religion of
the family the State, i.e. the pontifices, did not interfere; but they might do
so in matters such as the succession of sacra, the care of graves, or the
fulfilment of vows undertaken by private persons. See Cicero, de Legibus, ii.
 Mucius Scaevola, the great lawyer, defined gentiles as those "qui eodem
nomine sunt, qui ab ingenuis oriundi sunt, quorum maiorum nemo servitutem
servivit, qui capite non sunt deminuti," Cic. Topica, vi. 29. This is the
practical view of a lawyer of the last century B.C., and does not take account
of the sacra gentilicia, which had by that time decayed or passed into the care
of sodalitates: Marquardt, p. 132 foll.; De Marchi, ii. p. 3 foll. The notion of
descent from a common ancestor is of course ideal, but none the less a factor in
the life of the gens; it crops up, e.g., in Virgil, Aen. v. 117, 121, and
Servius ad loc.
 Crawley, The Tree of Life, p. 47.
 For the alleged extinction of the gens Potitia, and the legend connected
with it, Livy i. 7, Festus 237.
 See Marquardt, Privataltertümer, p. 56, and note 6.
 There is, I believe, no doubt that the etymological affinities of the word
familia point to the idea of settlement and not that of kin; e.g. Oscan Faama, a
house, and Sanscrit dhâ, to settle.
 The exact meaning and origin of the word has been much discussed. It is
tempting to connect it with pax, paciscor, and make it a territory within whose
bounds there is pax; see Rudorff, Gromatici veteres, ii. 239, and Nissen,
Italische Landeskunde, ii. 8 foll.
 See Rudorff, Grom. vet. ii. 236 foll.; Mommsen, Staatsrecht, iii. 116
foll.; Kornemann in Klio, vol. v. (1905) p. 80 foll.; Greenidge, Roman Public
Life, p. 1 foll.
 Mommsen, Staatsrecht, iii. 22 foll.; Kornemann, l.c.; Roby in Dict. of
Antiquities, s.v. "Agrimetatio," p.85. The view that there was freehold garden
land attached to the homestead gains strength from a statement of Pliny (N.H.
xix. 50) that the word used in the XII. Tables for villa, which was the word in
classical times for the homestead, was hortus, a garden, and that this was
heredium, private property. See Mommsen,
Staatsrecht, iii. 23. It would indeed be strange if the house had no land
immediately attached to it; we know that in the Anglo-Saxon village community
the villani, bordarii and cotagii, had their garden croft attached to their
dwellings, apart from such strips as they might hold from the lord of the manor
in the open fields. See Vinogradoff, Villainage in England, p. 148. For the
centuriatus ager, Roby l.c. We have no direct knowledge of the system in the
earliest times, but it is almost certain that it was old-Italian in outline, and
not introduced by the Etruscans, as stated, e.g., by Deecke-Müller, Etrusker,
ii. 128.  For Latium this is proved by the sepulchral hut-urns found at
Alba and also on the Esquiline. One of these in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford
shows the construction well. See article "Domus" in Pauly-Wissowa,
Real-Encyclopädie; Helbig, Die Italiker in der Poebene, p. 50 foll. Later there
opening in the roof.
 Von Duhn in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1896, p. 125 foll., and article
"Domus" in Pauly-Wissowa.
 This is Aust's admirable expression, Religion der Römer, p. 214.
 See the author's Social Life at Rome in the Age of Cicero, p. 242.
 Serv. Aen. i. 270; Marquardt, p. 126.
 Ap. Gellium, iv. 1. 17. For the sacredness of food and meals, see below
(Lect. VIII. p. 172).
 See a paper by the author in Classical Rev. vol. x. (1896) p. 317, and
references there given. Cp. The passage of Servius quoted above (Aen. i. 730),
where a boy is described as announcing at the daily meal that the gods were
propitious. For the purity necessary I may refer to Hor. Odes, iii. 23 ad fin.,
"Immunis aram si tetigit manus," etc.
 Primitive Culture, i. 393.
 The feminine counterpart of Genius was Juno, of which more will be said
later on. Each woman had her Juno; but this "other-soul" has little importance
as compared with Genius.
 See J. B. Carter in Hastings' Dict. of Religion and Ethics, i. 462 foll.
For Genius in general, Birt in Myth. Lex. s.v.; Wissowa, R.K. p. 154 foll.;
Stewart, Myths of Plato, p. 450, for the connexion of souls with ancestry.
 See the fifth of Plutarch's Quaestiones Romanae, and Dr. Jevons'
interesting comments in his edition of Phil. Holland's translation, pp. xxii.
and xxxv. foll. Cp. the throwing the fetters of a criminal out by the roof of
the Flamen's house.
 Civ. Dei, vi. 9. These are deities of the Indigitamenta; see below, p. 84.
 De Marchi, La Religione, etc. i. 188 foll.; Marquardt, Privatleben der
Römer, p. 336, "la porte est la limite entre le monde étranger et le monde
domestique" (A. van Gennep, Rites de passage, p. 26, where other illustrations
 See below, Lect. XII. p. 281.
 Wissowa, R.K. p. 96; Aust, Rel. der Römer, p. 117; Roscher in Myth. Lex.
s.v. "Janus"; J. B. Carter, Religion of Numa, p. 13. Cp. Von Domaszewski in
Archiv, 1907, p. 337.
 Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of Kingship, p. 286 foll.; A. B.
Cook in Classical Review, 1904, p. 367 foll.
 Gromat. vet. i. 302, line 20 foll., describes the chapels, but without
mentioning the Lares. Varro (L.L. vi. 25) supplies the name: "Compitalia dies
attributus Laribus Compitalibus; ideo ubi viae competunt tum in competis
sacrificatur." Cp. Wissowa, R.K. p. 148. But the nature of the land thus marked
off is not clear to me, nor explained (for primitive times) by Wissowa in
Real-Encycl., s.vv. "Compitum" and "Compitalia."
 "Enos Lases juvate." See Henzen, Acta Fratr. Arv. p. 26 foll.  Cato,
R.R. 5. Cp. Dion. Hal. iv. 13. 2. In Cato 143 the vilica is to put a wreath on
the focus on Kalends,
Nones and Ides, and to pray to the Lar familiaris pro copia (at the compita?).
 Marquardt, Privatleben, p. 172.
 The controversy about the Lar may be read in the Archiv für
Religionswissenschaft, 1904, p. 42 foll. (Wissowa), and 1907, p. 368 foll.
(Samter in reply). De Marchi (La Religione, etc. i. 28 foll.) takes the same
view as Samter, who originally stated it in his Familienfesten, p. 105 foll., in
criticism of Wissowa's view. See also a note by the author in the Archiv, 1906,
 Wissowa, R.K. p. 148; the details as to the altar occur in Gromatici vet.
i. 302. It was on this occasion that maniae and pilae were hung on the house and
compitum ("pro foribus," Macr. i. 7. 35); see above, p. 61. For the religio
Larium, Cic. de Legg., ii. 19 and 27. That the Compitalia was an old Latin
festival is undoubted; but as we are uncertain about the exact nature of the
earliest form of landholding, we cannot be sure about the nature of the compita
in remote antiquity. The passage from the Gromatici (Dolabella), quoted above,
refers to the fines templares of possessiones, i.e. the boundaries marked by
these chapels in estates of later times. See Rudorff in vol. ii. p. 263; Wissowa
in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. "Compitum."
 Varro, L.L. vi. 26. I have discussed this passage in R.F. p. 294; it is
still not clear to me whether Varro is identifying his Paganicae with the
Sementivae, but on the whole I think he uses the latter word of a city rite
(dies a pontificibus dictus), and the former of the country festivals of the
 Fasti, i. 663.
 Cl. Rev., 1908, p. 36 foll.
 Georg. i. 338 foll.
 See my discussion of Faunus in R.F. p. 258 foll. I am still unable to
agree with Wissowa in his view of Faunus (R.K. p. 172 foll.). I may here mention
a passage of the gromatic writer Dolabella (Gromatici, i. 302), in which he says
that there were three Silvani to each possessio or large estate of later times:
possessioni consecratus: alter agrestis, pastoribus consecratus: tertius
orientalis, cui est in confinio lucus positus, a quo inter duo pluresque fines
oriuntur." Faunus never became domesticated, but he belongs to the same type as
Silvanus. Von Domaszewski, in his recently published Abhandlungen zur röm.
Religion, p. 61, discredits the passage about the three Silvani, following a
paper of Mommsen. But his whole interesting
discussion of Silvanus shows well how many different forms that curious
semi-deity could take.
 Odes, iii. 18.
 Cic. de Inventione, ii. 161.
 pp. 236-284.
 R.F. 325, condensed from Siculus Flaccus (Gromatici, i. 141).
 Fasti, ii. 641 foll.
 See, e.g., Jevons, Introduction, etc., p. 138; Robertson Smith, Semites,
 See, e.g., Tibullus ii. 1. 55; Virg. Ecl. vi. 22, x. 27, and Servius on
both these passages. Pliny, N.H. xxxiii. 111; and cp. below, p. 177. For
primitive ideas about the colour red see Jevons, Introd. pp. 67 and 138; Samter,
Familienfeste, p. 47 foll. Cp. also the very interesting paper of von Duhn in
Archiv, 1906, p. 1 follconclusions are based on the widespread custom of using
red in funerals, coffins, and for colouring the dead
man himself: the idea being to give him a chance of new life--which is what he
wants--red standing for blood.
 I am not sure that I am right in calling this whitethorn. For the
qualities of the Spina alba see Ovid, Fasti, vi. 129 and 165, "Sic fatus spinam,
quae tristes pellere posset A foribus nexas, haec erat alba, dedit." In line 165
he calls it Virga Janalis. See also Festus, p. 289, and Serv. ad Ecl. viii. 29;
Bücheler, Umbrica, p. 136.
 The details are fully set forth in Marquardt, Röm. Privataltertümer, p. 52
foll. The religious character of confarreatio and its antiquity are fully
recognised by Westermarck, History of Human Marriage, p. 427. Some interesting
parallels to the smearing of the doorposts from modern Europe will be found
collected in Samter, Familienfeste, p. 81 foll. The authority for the wolf's fat
was Masurius Sabinus, quoted by Pliny, N.H. xxviii. 142 (cp. 157), who adds from
the same author, "ideo novas nuptas illo perungere postes solitas, ne quid mali
medicamenti inferretur." The real reason was, no doubt, that it was a charm
against evil spirits, not against poison; but it is worth while to quote here
another passage of Pliny (xx. 101), where he says that a squill hung in limine
ianuae had the same power, according to Pythagoras. Some may see a reminiscence
of totemism in the wolf's fat: in any case the mention of the animal as
obtainable is interesting.
 Dieterich, Mutter Erde, p. 6 foll. The idea is that the child comes from
mother earth, and will eventually return to her.
 For Roman names Marquardt, Privatleben, p. 7 foll., and Mommsen,
Forschungen, i. I foll., are still the most complete authorities. For the
importance of the name among wild and semi-civilised peoples, Frazer, G.B. i.
403 foll.; Tylor, Primitive Culture, ii. 430 foll. All these ceremonies of
birth, naming, and initiation (puberty) have recently been included by M. van
Gennep in what he calls Rites de passage (see his book with that title, which
appeared after these lectures were prepared, especially chapters v. and vi.). In
all these ceremonies he traces more or less successfully a sequence of rites of
separation (i.e. from a previous condition), of margin, where the ground is, so
to speak, neutral, and of "aggregation," when the subject is introduced to a new
state or condition of existence. If I understand him rightly, he looks on this
as the proper
and primitive explanation of all such rites, and denies that they need to be
accounted for animistically, i.e. by assuming that riddance of evil spirits, or
purification of any kind, is the leading idea in them. They are, in fact,
quasi-dramatic celebrations of a process of going over from one status to
another, and may be found in connection with all the experiences of man in a
social state. But the Roman society, of which I am describing the religious
aspect, had beyond doubt reached the animistic stage of thought, and was in
process of developing it into the theological stage; hence these ceremonies are
marked by sacrifices, as marriage, the dies
lustricus (see De Marchi, p. 169, and Tertull. de Idol. 16) most probably, and
puberty (R.F. p. 56). I do not fully understand how far van Gennep considers
sacrifice as marking a later stage in the development of the ideas of a society
on these matters (see his note in criticism of Oldenburg, p. 78); but I see no
good reason to abandon the words purification and lustration, believing that
even if he is right in his explanation of the
original performances, these ideas had been in course of time engrafted on them.
 In historical times the toga pura was assumed when the parents thought
fit; earlier there may have been a fixed day (R.F. p. 56, "Liberalia"). In any
case there was, of course, no necessary correspondence between "social and
physical puberty"; van Gennep, p. 93 foll.
 Wissowa, R.K. p. 191; J. B. Carter in Hastings' Dict. of Religion and
Ethics, i. 462 foll.; Dieterich, Mutter Erde, p. 77. The whole question of the
so-called cult of the dead at Rome calls for fresh investigation in the light of
ethnological and archaeological research. The recent work of Mr. J. C. Lawson,
Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, seems to throw grave doubt on
some of the most important conclusions
of Rohde's Psyche, the work which most writers on the ideas of the Greeks and
Romans have been content to follow. Mr. Lawson seems to me to have proved that
the object of both burial and cremation (which in both not be able to inhabit
the body again, and the two together return to annoy the living (see especially
chapters v. and vi.). But his answer to the inevitable question, why in that
case sustenance should be offered to the dead at the grave, is less satisfactory
(see pp. 531, 538), and I do not at present see how to co-ordinate it with Roman
usage. But I find hardly a trace of the belief that the dead had to be placated
like the gods by sacrifice and prayer, except in Aen. iii. 63 foll. and v. 73
foll. In the first of these passages Polydorus had not been properly buried, as
Servius observes ad loc. to explain the nature of the offerings; the second
more difficulties than have as yet been fairly faced.
 For recent researches about beans as tabooed by the Pythagoreans and
believed to be the food of ghosts, see Gruppe, Mythologische Literatur, p. 370
(Samter and Wünsch). Cp. R.F., p. 110.
 Ov. Fasti, v. 421 foll.; R.F. p. 107.
I have ordered the above title from Wiley-Blackwell's in UK. It should come in
the mail in a week or two. I will be sharing information from it on this site.
My new blog, Hedge Witch, is up and available at www.hedgewitch.co. I will also
be setting up a blog for household paganism, and will be reading through
Household and Family Religion in Antiquity (from Blackwell's) and posting
information from it on this group.
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