Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my 65th birthday. I was born on this day in 1947 ce at 7:17 am. Hooray for me!

Me in 1965

Me in 1965

     

Me in 1984  Me in 1994

                                            Me in 1984                        Me in 1994

Me in 2004

Me in 2004

I don’t seem to have any recent pictures of myself, but I am still probably fairly recognizable as the person shown above.  Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to me! I wish my income tax refund would come so I could go buy myself a present. 

Also, Happy Birthday to the Imperial woman Sabina, wife of the Emperor Hadrian. We do not actually know the date of Sabina’s birthday, but today has been assigned to her as the date of her apotheosis by the Ekklesia Antinoou. The recognition of her divine status can be regarded, in a manner of speaking, as her birthday among the Gods. Ave Sabina!

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Published in: on March 21, 2012 at 11:09 am  Comments (2)  
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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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Up With Global Warming

This post is not related to Classical Studies or Graeco-Roman religions. Some years ago, the idea of global warming was invented and since then various segments of the population have been running around in a panic proclaiming the end of the world. The general attitude expressed by these people is something like this: “The planet is getting warmer! Oh Woe! The ice caps are going to melt! The ocean levels will rise! Beach houses and cities at sea level will wash away! Oh Woe! It’s the end of the world! What should we do? We must stop global warming at all costs!!!!!”

To which I say: Get real, people. The climate is going to change. The climate reached an unstable situation a couple of million years ago and even geologically minor events can now cause warmer and cooler conditions. Human activities have apparently pushed the world climate towards warmer temperatures. This is good. If the climate was not getting warmer, it would be getting colder. Colder is bad. About 15,000 years ago the place where I am sitting right now was buried under a sheet of ice half a mile thick all year round, and it had been that way for many thousands of years. Sometime between 15,000 and 10,000 years ago the ice melted. The exact date, and the reasons that it happened, are currently a matter of acrimonius disputes,err, um, scholarly discussions among scientists. The point is that we do not know why the ice melted and that the natural trend is for the ice to come back. That would be very bad. We will lose coastal areas to rising ocean levels in the coming years, but that is much better than having most of North America, Europe, and Asia covered with gigantic ice sheets and arctic style tundra.

Some, if not all, of the changes in flora and fauna that could come here to Wisconsin in the future might be pleasant: palm trees instead of pine trees, mahogany trees instead of oak trees, oranges instead of apples, dates instead of cherries, parrots instead of crows, peacocks instead of geese, orchids instead of dandilions. Some changes would be more or less even in nature: jaguars instead of wolves, cobras instead of rattlesnacks, alligators instead of badgers. Some changes would be less pleasant, with creatures moving here that we don’t presently have: such as termites, fire ants, killer bees, giant hairy spiders, bigger bats to eat the bigger bugs. But, overall, global warming will bring more benefits than losses.  

Los Angeles would become a lagoon and the mountains of Beverly Hills would become tropical islands. I don’t know if that is good or bad.

Anyway, bring on those tropical breezes!

Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 8:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ostia Antica

We have discovered a most interesting website, www.ostia-antica.org , devoted to the city of Ostia. Ostia was the port city for Rome, at the mouth of the Tiber River. Goods and people arriving at Rome by sea landed at Ostia and then proceeded to Rome via road or up the Tiber River via barge. Ostia was extremely important during the late Republic and Imperial eras, and extensive ruins of the city have survived to the present day. The site provides maps of the site and detailed information about many of the buildings, including building floor plans, photographs, building usage, and restoration drawings for some structures. Details for temples, shrines, houses, apartment buildings, shops, workhouses, warehouses, guild halls, baths, bars, restaurants, hotels, inns, stables, and monuments. This is fascinating stuff. I have been to Ostia a couple of times, somewhat melancholy visits during the rain. A whole city, tumbled down, empty and abandoned. Except for the occasional flock of tourists. There is a rather good, if small, modern museum at the site. Ostia had a varied religious life. Inscriptions attest to the presence of, among others, Jupiter, Hercules, Ceres, Silvanus, Mithras, the Lares, Venus, Fortuna, Spes, Neptune, Mars, the Discouri, Bona Dea, Magna Mater, Bellona, Attis, Sabazius, Sol, Caelestis, Tutela, Serapis, Isis, Bast, Roma, Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Pertinax. Temples for some of these deities, but not all, have been identified in the ruins, and there are other temple buildings with no identifying inscriptions. Many houses and shops had private shrines. One of the interesting things about Ostia is that many, perhaps most, of its residents lived in multi story brick apartment buildings. The site also includes information about nearby Portus. Portus, with its storm resistant manmade harbors, eventually superceded Ostia as the administrative center for the area. Most of Ostia has been excavated today, but most of Portus now lies buried beneath the runways of Rome’s international airport. A fascinating website, well worth multiple visits.

Published in: on January 30, 2012 at 1:07 am  Comments (1)  
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Morality, Beliefs, and Ritual

Piscinus, over at the Religio Romana Cultorum Deorum yahoo group, recently reviewed “Ancient Supplication” by F. S. Naiden. Published by Oxford University Press, 440 pages and a bit pricey at $45. for the paperback edition, although cheaper used copies are available. A worthwhile book according to the review given by Piscinus. He concludes the review by noting that “There is a lot more in this book than the little attention it will receive warrants.” 

Piscinus provides several interesting quotations from the book:

“The modern tendency to neglect the act of judgment in favor of ceremony does not lack for an ancient precedent. According to diverse ancient sources misguided worshippers might evince the same tendency. They would perform a ceremony – in particular, they would bring the gods gifts – but would forget that the gods would evaluate them and might require more of them than a gift.”

“Socrates says that a good man and a god do not accept gifts from the wicked – thus rejuecting many, if not most – offerings to the gods. The notion that the wicked may give gifts to appease the gods meets with rejection too, for other passages show that gifts are no more acceptable for this purp0se than for any other. In the same vein, Isocrates says that rites would help a good man in the gods’ favor more than they would help a bad man. Aristotle says that the rites alone would never satisfy the gods, a worshipper needed to be deserving.”

“They object to supplication by the undeserving – to the performance of a ceremony when moral requirements have gone unmet. They want ceremony and morals to conform to one another.”

Piscinus provides a number of his own comments in the course of the review that are of value:

“People who insist that Roman ritual for the Gods may be performed by people who do not believe in the Gods, by people who are impure, immoral, and who act without true good intentions, simply do not know what they are talking about.”

“Ritual purity, as Cicero tells us, has everything to do with a guilt-free mind that results only from ethical responsibility and morality.”

“Roman ritual without belief is to be condemned.”

“Performance of Roman ritual without living an ethical life is to be condemned.”

“Performing a Roman ritual without being a moral person is to be condemned.”

“Anyone with an intrinsic perspective of the religio Romana would easily understand that this is the case. Why would the Gods ever listen to the prayers of someone who does not believe in Them, or who is a wicked person and thus would have only wicked intentions for offering sacrifice to the Gods? And why would any cultor want to have such unbelievers, immoral, or unethical people offer sacrifice on their behalf? Only someone outside the religion would advocate something different or hold that immoral actions would be overlooked by the Gods.”

I say, well said, Piscinus. I will also say that these comments by Piscinus are equally applicable to Greek, Egyptian, Caananite, Babylonian, and all the other ancient religions that are being revived today.

In a conversation in the Neos Alexandria yahoo group V. Valerius Volusus made a valuable observation: “I’ve seen classical polytheists attacked by Christians who accuse us of having no beliefs arguing from the common notion of classical orthopraxy or ritualism. However, that is a complete misunderstanding of what orthopraxy means (it’s a modern classification). Orthopractic piety does not imply that we have no systems of belief and formal theologies. Indeed, it was classical polythists who invented the very theological approach that Christians later coopted for their own purposes. The difference is not that we don’t have beliefs and doctrines concerning the nature of the gods and the place of humans in the divine order, it’s simply that we have no problem with heresy (hairesis). Heresy is anathema to political totalitarian regimes, but in the ancient world choice with regard to belief was considered to be perfectly acceptable situation – since rightly anything said about the gods can be no more than human and fallible speculation. On the other hand traditional rituals were considered to be more-or-less “set in stone”. The standard of piety was not based on beliefs, but on meeting traditional duties towards the gods using the correct ritual forms. Indeed, some stoic philosophers classified the virtue of piety as being the expression of justice towards the gods.”

“So, in terms of making a transition from an”orthodox” worldview like Catholocism or the various Orthodox Churches, it really comes down to whether we can accept heresy (haiesesis: choice, schools of thought) as the natural intellectual order for frail human beings who, when all is said and done, can claim diddly-squat when it comes to a knowledge of divinity.”

Well said, Volusus.

Published in: on August 22, 2011 at 11:19 pm  Comments (6)  
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Antonine Flag Designs

The Antonine Imperium posseses an official flag as a symbol of its identity and of its claims to sovereignty. The design consists of the ancient 16 rayed Macedonian sunburst surrounded by a wreath, centered in a field of purple, red, or yellow. The emblem itself may be black or gold/yellow in color. The sunburst symbolizes ancient Greek culture and the wreath symbolizes ancient Roman culture. Official flags can be square or rectangular. Here are some examples of Antonine flags:

 

The original color images used for these designs look better in person than they do here, but this will give the viewer a general idea of what is desired. The intention is for a rich imperial purple, or bright yellow, or bright red. Purple in particular can be a tricky color to work with. It seems to undergo a transformation after being scanned, uploaded, and then downloaded, so that the resulting shade is never quite the same as the original. Flags can be enhanced with decorative elements such as border fringes and tassels, and can be very sumptuous when using materials such as silk or velvet tapstry.

Citizens of the Antonine Imperium are encouraged to use and display the Antonine flag as a symbol of their cultural and religious interests, in appropriate and respectful ways. The flag belongs to the people of the Empire! (Incidentally, since the Empire is not currently recognized by any other sovereign entity, the flag design is also copyrighted by the founder of Antoninia, as a way of reserving its use to the Empire and its citizens.)

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Prayer for Healing

A simple modern prayer to request healing. Calm yourself. Say the words out loud slowly, don’t rush through them. While you say the words pass your hand, left or right, gently over or just above the afflicted area. Instead of using the word “heart” you could use the word “body” or the name of the afflicted area that needs to be healed. Instead of “the gods” you could name a specific deity or deities. 

 

Be healthy, heart, be healed.

Be healthy, heart, be kealed.

Be healthy, heart, be healed.

 

Through the grace of the gods.

Through the grace of the gods.

Through the grace of the gods.

 

So be it.

So be it.

So be it.

Published in: on July 8, 2011 at 5:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Nova Roma and Byzantium Novum

The world is full of strange things, isn’t it?

Way back in 1998 or so some people started an organization called Nova Roma. It was intended to be a reconstruction or revival of Roman pagan religion, organized in the form of a sovereign state modelled after the Roman Republic, with claims to real sovereignty as a national state, a so called micronation. It looked very promising and I was a member of Nova Roma in its earliest days. Unfortunately things started to go wrong soon after it was founded. Nova Roma was taken over by Christians and atheists who had no interest in pagan religion and just wanted to play games in Roman costumes. There was quite a lot of what can only be described as pure vitriol in the conversations on their Yahoo conversation groups. I left the group and started my own paper state, the Antonine Imperium. Nova Roma went on its merry way, collecting game players, scandals, and a number of very nasty people. I recently saw a claim that it didn’t matter if the person selected as their chief priest was really a Christian because the Roman religion was a matter of orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy. In other words, as long as their priests wore the right costume and said the right words it didn’t matter if the priests did not actually believe in the deities they were supposedly worshipping. At one time, I believe, Nova Roma claimed to have over 2,000 members. I have heard that there was a mass exodus or expulsion of members this past spring, so that there are only a few hundred members left. So who left, the good guys or the bad guys? Throughout its history Nova Roma retained at least a few sincere practitioners of Religio Romana. Are they still there?

The principal founders of Nova Roma were two gentlemen using the names Cassius Julianus and Vedius Germanicus. As I recall, Vedius left the group, came back later, and I think was eventually expelled. Cassius, their Pontifex Maximus, was eventually expelled for alleged “inactivity”. As far as I know both of these men are sincere people with good intentions. They made a lot of mistakes in setting up Nova Roma, but those mistakes were not as obvious at the beginning as they are now.

Here is where it starts to get strange. Two or so years ago an entity named Byzantium Novum was created. This is a revival of the so called Byzantine Empire, it claims limited national sovereignty, and its centerpiece is the Byzantine Christian Church, identified with the Greek Orthodox Church. Hellenic Graeco Roman paganism is included as a tolerated faith and there are no religious requirements imposed on members of Byzantium Novum. They claim to have about 200 members. Now get ready for this – the founding member is none other than Cassius Julianus! Would someone like to explain to me why a professed “pagan” would want to participate in the revival of a Christian empire? They do have a very nice website at www.byzantiumnovum.org It’s worth paying a visit.

Now, in real life there never was any such thing as a Byzantine Empire. The term “Byzantine” came into use by historians as a derogatory name for the later phases of the Roman Empire. The people of the “Byzantine” Empire called themselves Romans, they never called themselves Byzantines. The old Greek city of Byzantium was swept away to make room for the new city of Constantinople. Most of the buildings of old Byzantium were demolished to provide materials for the new city. And, there are people today who are descended from the last citizens of the empire. They call themselves “Romai” or something similar, not Byzantine. And I seem to recall that they are Greek Orthodox in terms of religion, perhaps aggresively so.

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 1:26 am  Comments (19)  
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Maxims and Admonitions

“Know yourself” and “Nothing in excess” are the best known of the Delphic Maxims once displayed at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. The contemplation of these very short phrases can be very instructive and inspirational. Here are my own versions of these ancient maxims.

 

Know Yourself

Know who you are and what you are.

Know what you can be, and what you can do.

Know what you can not be, and what you can not do.

 

Nothing in Excess

All things in moderation, including, sometimes, moderation.

 

Heaven helps those who help themselves.

The Gods will not do for Man what Man must do for himself.

 

***************************************

 

The stoic philosophers are advocates of the idea that one should accept the meanderings of fate and live a quiet and resigned life, detached from ordinary everyday concerns. The philosophers are not always correct or even practical in their ideas, and the pursuit of a resigned detached life is not necessarily a good ideal. Sometimes, rather than going quietly into the night, you need to go fighting and screaming all the way. Sometimes you should defy fate, as best you can. I rather like the old poem “Invictus” by William Earnest Henley, which can be viewed as a hymn to the virtues of persistence and determination.

 

INVICTUS

by William Earnest Henley

 

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance,

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishment the Scroll,

I an the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul.  

 

********************************************

 

Some general advice, culled from various sources:

 

If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.

 

Find a way, or make one.

 

Stay motivated and never lose hope.

 

Never, never, never give up.

 

Of course, advice is easy to give and hard to take, and even the best intended advice sometimes doesn’t work.

Published in: on June 9, 2011 at 11:06 am  Comments (1)  
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Pagans and Paganism

There has been some discussion recently about whether or not the word pagan should be used as a name for people who practice non Christian religions. The religious meaning of the word pagan means non Christian in general, or, more partucularly, non Christian, non Islamic, non Jewish, or non Abrahamic. So, yes, of course, a word which means non Christian (or non Islamic, Jewish, or Abrahamic) is perfectly appropriate for people who are not Christian (or Islamic, Jewish, or Abrahamic). As a category of belief and pracice, the term paganism is vague and general and includes polytheistic, henotheistic, monotheistic, and atheistic religions and philosophies.

 

Apparently some people have become disturbed that the general term of “paganism” includes new religions such as Wicca, and other belief systems that include elements that are not part of the traditional religions of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Babylon, the Druids, the Celts, the ancient Germanic and Norse peoples, etc. Some reconstructionists are afraid that their own religious movements will be viewed by the media as being connected to what might be described as “fluff bunnyism”, which includes such things as magic wands, fairy dust, claims that there is only one supreme goddess and god, dragon and unicorn lovers, earth worshippers, tree huggers, astrological fanatics, crystal fondlers, and glittery New Age dabblers. So these people, being afraid of the popular media, would like to discard the word pagan, since in their view the word has become irretrievably contaminated by the fluff bunnies. I say that these people are cowards and self deceivers. Someone who is practicing some form of revived Druidism, or Religio Romana, or Hellenismos, or Kemeticism, etc and claims to not be a pagan is engaging in self deception. The religious meaning of the word pagan was specifically and deliberately invented 1600 years ago as a description of the non Christian religions of the Roman Empire. It was intended as a mark of dishonor and disrespect, but it has since become a mark of pride and persistence for those of us who are loyal to the ancient gods. I have been a pagan for fifty years and I am not going to abandon that term for the exclusive use of fluff bunnies and Wiccans. Some people would like to substitute the word polytheist for the word pagan. That’s not going to work. The general public does not know what the word polytheist means, and the meaning of the word is almost as general as the meaning of the word pagan.  Pagan, however, does have a specific meaning that is more relevant to us in historic terms. Pagan, in a scholarly sense, refers to the pre Christian and pre Islamic religions of the lands around the Mediterranean Sea, including all of Europe and all of the Near East. Someone who is practicing one (or more!) of the original religions of that area is indeed a pagan, no matter how hard they pretend that they are not. The religious meaning of the word pagan has dark origins, but it has become a very useful term. So, I say, be pagan and proud! Don’t give in to the fluff bunnies and the modern media! 

 

It might be useful to briefly review the history of the word pagan. Interested persons should consult the Oxford Latin Dictionary for a discussion of the word. The word pagan is derived from the Latin word paganus. Paganus originally meant both a rural district and a person who lived in a rural district. The meaning of the word changed over the centuries and during the Roman Imperial era it came to mean the lower classes in general, ordinary people of no distinction, whether they lived in urban districts or rural districts. Sometimes it meant civilians or civilian affairs, as distinguished from soldiers and military affairs. The religion of Christianity became fashionable among the upper classes of the Roman Empire in the fourth century ce, and it became the favored religion of the Emperors and the military establishment. In spite of this, the majority of people who lived in the smaller towns and cities and in the countryside, and the urban masses of a few large cities, continued to worship the old gods and goddesses for generations after the Christians had taken control of the government. Because the pagani, the common district dwellers, continued to honor the old gods, the word paganus acquired a religious connotation. During the fifth century ce the word paganus came to mean anyone who was not a Christian or a Jew.  

 

A personal note: I consciously and officially became a pagan, of the Graeco-Roman variety, fifty years ago. It was in September or October of 1961. Perhaps September 14 or 21. I wrote the date down on a piece of paper which I kept for many years. Then the paper got lost or thrown away, and now I don’t remember the exact date anymore. Fifty year anniversaries are sometimes thought of as important. Maybe I should do something for it. What have I accomplished in fifty years? Hmmm. I survived.

Published in: on May 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm  Comments (6)  
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