Day of Doom August 24

August 24 can be a dangerous day. In old Rome this is a day of the Mundus Patet, a day when the gateway between this world and the underworld can open, permitting the passage of baleful influences and spirits. In the Circus Maximus in Rome an altar buried in the earth would be dug up and revealed and sacrifices performed.

On August 24 in the year 79 ce Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and many other places. Many thousands must have died. Herculaneum was totally buried beneath volcanic debris and mud flows,  as was much of the surrounding countryside.  The taller buildings of Pompeii would have been still standing above the ash deposits but the city was never rebuilt. Its territories were reassigned to neighboring communities. This would indicate that most of the people of Pompeii must have died.  A great deal of salvage work was carried out at Pompeii after the eruption. Modern archaeologists have characterized this salvage work as “looting”, but it is really the modern archaeologists who are the looters, desecrating temples and tombs, and carefully using the surviving evidence to support their own pet theories about life in ancient times. The date for the eruption has become a matter of controversy. Maybe it was August, but maybe it was September, October, or even November. The surviving manuscripts are not consistent.  Much of the doubt about the traditional August date centers around a silver coin discovered in Pompeii. The coin is known to have been minted after August 79 ce, so how could it have been found at the destruction level? Very easily, actually. After the site was safe to approach, it must have been swarming for months afterwards with workers conducting salvage operations. One such person could easily have dropped a coin which made its way into the debris level.


On August 24 in the year 410 ce, the city of Rome was sacked by a horde of Christian Goths led by King Alaric. The Goths only held the City for three days, but caused quite a lot of damage, along with mass rape and murder. The Goths seized mostly portable items: coin, jewels, precious objects, silks, spices, and food. The city was stripped of food supplies.  Thousands of people were carried away as captives when the Goths left the City. Many of these people were killed when Alaric died soon after. Some of the buildings burned by the Goths seem a bit peculiar: the Tabularium, Basilica Aemilia, and Basilica Iulia. The basilicas and the Tabularium contained many government records regarding court cases, taxes (who is paid up and who isn’t), property ownership, leases, wills, inheritances, settlements, etc. Someone benefited from the destruction of so many official records, and it wasn’t the Goths, in my opinion.


On a lighter note

In the calendar of Neos Alexandria, today is the Festival of Inebriation, in honor of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. Sekhmet had decided to destroy humanity, but was given a bowl of beer dyed red, to imitate blood. Having become happily drunk after sipping from the bowl, Sekhmet decided to spare humanity. After all, a people who had invented beer couldn’t be all bad.  So, drink a toast to your favorite cat, and reflect a bit on just how ferocious a cat can be.

Published in: on August 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hercules Triumphant

In ancient Athens, Herakles was one of the deities honored on the fourth day of every month. In ancient Rome, surviving Roman calendars indicate two festivals dedicated to Hercules: April 3 to Hercules Victor and December 21 to Hercules. Roman temple dedication dates were also festival days for the Gods and several are known for Hercules: June 4 for Hercules Magnus Custos; August 12 for Hercules Invictus; and August 13 for Hercules Victor. There were many, at least 40, shrines and temples dedicated to Hercules in the city of Rome. The Great Altar, Herculis Invicti Ara Maxima, was dedicated to Hercules. A shrine might just be a sculpture or an altar rather than a building. Literary references and carved inscriptions indicate altars, monuments, or shrines to Hercules Cubans, Hercules Fundanus, Hercules Musarum, Hercules Olivarius, Hercules Pompeianus, Hercules Primagenius, Hercules Sullanus, and Hercules Triumphalis. The last named was simply a statue in the Forum Boarium. Hercules Victor possessed at least two temples under the name of Victor. Temples dedicated to Hercules were usually, if not always, small round buildings in a Greek style.

I propose a new modern cult dedicated to the Triumphant Hercules. The closest Latin version of that name appears to be Hercules Triumphalis, Hercules of the Triumph. The annual festival date shall be, at least provisionally and subject to change, March 6, which happens to be today. Today is the day of Hercules in my private liturgical calendar. This is all somewhat tentative and I do not know how it will develop.

Published in: on March 6, 2012 at 7:39 pm  Comments (1)  
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Private Calendars Part 2

Chaos wins and everything changes. The private liturgical calendar that I had outlined previously has come to its end. The only festival days that I have any intention of observing at the moment are March 21 for Wepwawet and April 16 for Apis. These two specific days are the recommendation of an oracle and might be one time events. Anything else I do this year might be on an entirely random basis, guided by the feel of the moment. Then again, I might have an inspiration and devise a new calendar, or revive the old one. Everything is up for grabs right now. I am adrift in a sea of chaotic ideas and possibilities, like a galactic cloud of sparkling stars in many colors. Should I follow this one, or that one?  I like the structured feel of the Roman calendar, but quite a bit of the Roman calendar is very specific to the city of Rome and to a vanished lifestyle which has little relevance to other locations or to modern life. This is even more so for the Athenian and Egyptian calendars.

I may use statues as a guide. I used to have a fabulous collection of statues, perhaps 80 or 90 pieces. This collection was disposed of a couple of years ago when I ran out of money and almost became a street person. A very close call. The only thing I kept was a replica of the Dancing Faun from the house of that name in Pompeii, which I use as a statue of Faunus. During the last several months I have started a new collection, with figures of Apis, Sobek, Sekhmet, Wepwawet,  Hermes, Pan, Hercules, Poseidon, Amphitrite, and Triton. A statue of Athena is on the way, and I am looking for a Zeus. I was just informed that a Zeus statue that I had ordered is not available until May, if then. Aargh! Back to looking, because I want something right now! So, these would be the deities around whom to design a new calendar. Maybe. I created flat icons for Hekate, Ianus, Antinous, and various associates of Antinous.

Published in: on February 25, 2011 at 7:41 pm  Comments (3)  

Private Calendars and Patron Gods

Even the best preserved of the old calendars of festivals and holy days, those of Athens and Rome, are imperfectly known. These ancient calendars refer to gods that are unknown or very little known today, or to cultural and political events that have no relevance to modern society, or to agricultural cycles that are very limited in their geographic location. It has become common practice for people today to create their own sacred calendars that are more relevant to their own interests and to modern life. I have such a calendar myself, which I have followed for more than a year now. It uses the modern months, based on the Roman solar year. I make no attempt to follow the lunar cycles. Quite often I do not even see the moon from one month to the next, so why should I use the lunar cycles to mark the passage of time. The sacred days marked on my calendar are dedicated to the deities to whom I feel the most linked and connected. At a minimum, the observance of a festival day consists of placing an image of the deity next to the altar, and the offering of a candle and a short prayer or hymn. Sometimes I perform a more elaborate ritual, with candles, flowers, decorations, offerings of food and drink, hymns, litanies, prayers, and meditation. The calendar has worked fairly well so far, but is becoming increasingly unsatisfactory. I am thinking of scrapping the whole thing and starting over.

The deities listed on the calendar are those to whom I have a link of some sort or in whom I have a more than common interest. I don’t really have a patron deity as such, a deity to whom I am intensely devoted, although perhaps I should say that I have a whole circle of patron deities, with varying levels of interest. 

Day 1 to Hekate. I used to think of Hekate as a sort of fringe goddess, limited to magick practitioners, and of little relevance to the world of classical Greece. Then, one evening in the summer of the year 2006, Hekate paid me a little visit and I changed my mind. Oh, yes indeed, I changed my mind! I approach Hekate from a Hesiodic perspective, seeing her as a bright and primeval goddess of sky, earth, and sea.

Day 3 to Athena. An oracle recommended that I approach Athena. This has not progressed very far.

Day 4 to Hermes. Problematic. Sometimes I feel that I should have strong links to Hermes, but sometimes I feel that I have disappointed him somehow.

Day 6 to Hercules. A long time ago I tended to think of Hercules as a muscle bound oaf of perhaps questionable divinity. Then one day, while in a museum gallery of Hercules statues, he made himself known to me in a rather startling fashion, and I have been a devoted admirer of him ever since.   

Day 8 to Poseidon, Amphitrite, and Triton. The trinity of the sea. A strong link, but mysterious and undefined. They stand at a door, or point the way to something, perhaps.    

Day 11 to Sobek. Mighty and ferocious, terrifying in his immensity, but kind and gentle to his own, of whom I am one.

Day 13 to Faunus. The link to Faunus has faded somewhat over time , but still persists.

Day 15 to Zeus Ammon. A weak link, slight and mysterious, but definitely a link.

Day 18 to Pan. A new link developing within the past couple of years.

Day 20 to Sekhmet. Fierce and welcoming. I used to think that I should have a special relationship with Bast, since I love cats, but nothing ever developed. Then one day Sekhmet said “I am here” and Bast said “Go to my sister Sekhmet”. So I went.

Day 22 to Apis.  An oracle recommended that I approach Apis. There is a link here, but weak and undefined. Or perhaps subtle. Sometimes I see Apis as a cosmic entity rather than as an earthly entity. The bull of the cosmos in addition to the bull of the Nile.  

I pay honors to other deities during the course of the year, as circumstances call for. I make offerings to Saturn and Ops in December and to Ianus at the beginning of the year. I once had very string links to Flora but those have largely faded away. I still pay honors to Flora during the Floral Games around May 1. Antinous has his own annual cycle of holy days and I observe most of those. Wepwawet is a new addition to my circle of deities. I have not assigned a monthly day for him yet.

Published in: on January 14, 2011 at 3:15 am  Comments (3)