This tradition is sometimes called "Religio Romana" or "Roman Paganism". To have your event listed here, send details to "editor AT cultusdeorumromanorum DOT org". Meetup tag for Twitter, Flickr and YouTube: #CDRMup.

Cultus Deorum Meetups Worldwide

Join us in our Facebook Group.
Follow cultusdeorum on Twitter
Join our discussions on Facebook or Yahoo!

Romans, though you’re guiltless, you’ll still expiate
your fathers’ sins, till you’ve restored the temples,
and the tumbling shrines of all the gods,
and their images, soiled with black smoke.
~Horace, Odes, III, 6; A. S. Kline trans.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Calendar for April

The first day of the month is the Kalends, sacred to Juno.

The Nones falls on the 5th and the Ides, sacred to Jupiter, falls on the 13th.

The 2nd, 6th and 14th are unlucky (ater).

April is dedicated to Venus. We may think of Venus as "Goddess of love", but that is only a part of her domain. She is, more generally, Goddess of all generative power, or more correctly, the embodiment of that power. In the words of Ovid (Fasti, IV):
They say Spring was named from the open (apertum) season,
Because Spring opens (aperit) everything and the sharp
Frost-bound cold vanishes, and fertile soil’s revealed,
Though kind Venus sets her hand there and claims it.
She rules the whole world too, and truly deserves to:
She owns a realm not inferior to any god’s,
Commands earth and heaven, and her native ocean,
And maintains all beings from her source.
She created the gods (too numerous to mention):
She gave the crops and trees their first roots:
She brought the crude minds of men together,
And taught them each to associate with a partner.
No season is more fitting for Venus than Spring:
In spring the earth gleams: in spring the ground’s soft,
Now the grass pokes its tips through the broken soil,
Now the vine bursts in buds through the swollen bark.
And lovely Venus deserves the lovely season,
And is joined again to her darling Mars:
In Spring she tells the curving ships to sail, over
Her native seas, and fear the winter’s threat no longer. 
Titus Lucretius Carus began his book De Rerum Natura with a long dedicatory poem in praise of the generative power of Venus. The 1916 translation by W. E. Leonard is online:
Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men,
Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars
Makest to teem the many-voyaged main
And fruitful lands — for all of living things
Through thee alone are evermore conceived...
Leonard's metrical translation may be difficult for contemporary readers, who may prefer something more modern. An Epicurean philosopher, an atomist, a Roman, Lucretius was accused by early Christians of being "anti-religion" when in fact it is better to say that he was "anti-superstitio". Compare Leonard's translation of an excerpt from Book 1, 101-106 with the  prose translation of Ronald Latham:
Such are the crimes to which Religion leads.
And there shall come the time when even thou,
Forced by the soothsayer's terror-tales, shalt seek
To break from us. Ah, many a dream even now
Can they concoct to rout thy plans of life,
And trouble all thy fortunes with base fears. (Leonard trans.)
The Latham translatiion
Such are the heights of wickedness to which men are driven by superstition.
You yourself, if you surrender your judgement at any time to the blood-curdling declaration of the prophets, will want to desert our ranks. Only think what phantoms they can conjure up to overturn the tenor of your life and wreck your happiness with fear. (Latham trans.)
tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.
Tutemet a nobis iam quovis tempore vatum
terriloquis victus dictis desciscere quaeres.
quippe etenim quam multa tibi iam fingere possunt
somnia, quae vitae rationes vertere possint
fortunasque tuas omnis turbare timore! (Lucretius, Book 1, lines 101-106)
Readers of this blog are probably aware that the Latin religio does not mean "religion" in the modern sense, but rather something more like "duty" or "obligation", the recognition of the relationship that people have with the gods. (I am aware of the other, technical, sense that specialist Romans used, that of "violation", but that does not apply here.) What Lucretius is objecting to is the risk that one's sense of religio can be manipulated by "soothsayer's terror-tales", "blood-curdling declaration of the prophets", "terriloquis ... dictis" to create fear (timor). In other words, exactly the feeling of superstitio that is anathema to the true Roman Cultus Deorum. Through his Epicurean philosophy, Lucretius proposes an approach that makes the pietas of ordinary Romans immune to superstitio. It is possible that Latham, in choosing the word "superstition" in place of Leonard's "Religion", had this distinction in mind. Understanding this, we can see that Lucretius was not "against religion" and there is no conflict in his dedicating his book to Venus.

The inspiration of Venus (and Lucretius) is not confined to the Roman period. Jonathan Jones of the Guardian has written about how Sandro Botticelli was inspired to paint The Birth of Venus after reading Lucretius. He says, "The power of Botticelli's painting is that it brings an ancient religion back to life. To love this image is to worship the ancient Roman gods. Hail Venus!"

Veneralia: April 1. In honor of Venus

Megalesia: April 4 to 10. (Ludi Megalenses) in honor of Cybele (since 191 BCE, brought to Rome in 203 BCE)

Ludi Cereales: April 12 to 19. Games in honor of Ceres (since 202 BCE)
Ceres was first to summon men to a better diet,
Replacing their acorns with more nourishing food.
She forced bulls to bow their necks to the yoke:
So the deep-ploughed soil first saw the light.
Copper was prized then, iron was still hidden:
Ah! If only it could have been hidden forever.
Ceres delights in peace: pray, you farmers,
Pray for endless peace and a peace-loving leader.
Honour the goddess with wheat, and dancing salt grains,
And grains of incense offered on the ancient hearths,
And if there’s no incense, burn your resinous torches:
Ceres is pleased with little, if it’s pure in kind. 

Fordicidia: April 15. In honour of Tellus.

Parilia: April 21. In honour of Pales.

Vinalia urbana: April 23. In honour of Venus and the previous year's wine harvest.

Robigalia: April 25. In honour of Robigus, with foot races.

Floralia: April 28 to May 1. (Ludi Florales), games in honor of Flora.

Ideas for the Cultus Deorum in April

In many parts of the northern hemisphere it is the beginning of the gardening season, and so it is a fitting time to recognize the generative power of Venus. There is a translation of Cato's ritual for digging land here. I am not suggesting that every gardener needs to sacrifice a pig. On the contrary, you should feel free to adapt the rituals, and the exact dates, to suit your own situation. Look on our "Ritual" page (see the menu near the top of this blog) for guidelines on conducting your own ritual, including comments on the bloodless "Numa Tradition".

I invite you to add your ideas for April in the comments. I also welcome submission of photos to help us share what we do and how we do it.

Finally, we will also be discussing this on the Facebook group.

Note: The introduction to "Lucretius: On the Nature of Things" translated by M.F. Smith is available online by permission of Hackett Publishing Company.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Reconstructionism Methods: Community Practice

OK, so I have Blogger envy. Our friend, Helio, has been making some impressive series of posts on his blog, and I want to try to do the same. I've been thinking for a while about "method", and so I will start what I hope will be a series of posts on this topic.

When I say that I am a Cultor, I mean that I have some attitudes in mind, and they are specific to the Roman tradition. When I say that I am a reconstructionist, I mean that I have some specific methods in mind, and these methods are common to many reconstructionist traditions.

In a metaphorical way, reconstructionism is the process of trying to recover the best likeness of the photo that was on the cover of the now-lost box of a 1000 piece picture puzzle, while having just 100 pieces. The 100 pieces are scattered all over, and many of them are found embedded in other things. We have to collect those pieces and try to fit them together. We may be able to assemble some parts of the picture, but we still have many gaps. We can extrapolate around the edges of the bits we have, giving us pretty good confidence equaling maybe another 50 pieces.  The pieces that we have also give us information about the topic and the style of the picture, letting us make some fair guesses about more, maybe another 100 pieces. For the final 750, we can make sure that our educated guesses do not clash with the parts that we have. Can we get the whole original picture with perfect confidence? Obviously not. Can we come close enough that an ancient Roman, seeing our reconstruction, would recognize the original in the reconstruction? I think so.

Even if we do our best to reconstruct every possible aspect of the ancient traditions, another problem remains. What do we do in situations that never faced ancient Romans? How can we know the correct way to respond to a novel situation?

This is a recent thread from our Facebook group, and I copy it here with permission of the participants, because it is an example of exactly what I think we should be doing, in the most general sense:
  • solving modern problems by
  • reference to Roman practice and
  • comparing modern parallel traditions, combined with
  • personal experience.
It all started when a tongue-in-cheek article, "Goddess Caffeina, Roman Goddess of Coffee", made a member think of a serious issue:

René: I find this hilarious, However it brings me to a serious question, we now sacrifice "new" things that the ancient romans didn't like chocolate or chiles or stuff like that so I was wondering, Since coffee is an intoxicant, is it under the sphere of Divine Bacchus or to what god does this drink belongs to? Would he accept libations and offerings of coffee? 
Agricola: Personally, I stick to things that were known to the Romans. Not because I think new things are wrong, but because doing so puts me in the right frame of mind. It reminds me that I have to adjust my way of thinking and not stick with the familiar old habits of thought. 
Bert: The Romans offered what was important to them, and precious. This would naturally have been relative to one's ability. The aristocrats, and other rich folks, are known to have sacrificed peacocks. Peacocks are from India, though somewhere along the line they also got attributed to Iuno. The original dirt farmer, cattle stealing Romans would not have had peacocks. 
Bert: While on a walk about the neighborhood I went into a Hindi Indian gift shop. In the back is an altar to Ganesha. Large statue with offerings before and on it: flowers, fruit, dollar bills, a bottle of Gatoraid and a small container of Hershey's chocolate drink. The Hindi pagans obviously don't have any problem with offering their immortals new and exotic things. (from a November post of mine on the Roman Recon wall) 
René: I think the same as the Hindu pagans, while it does matter what you offer it think that it is not more important than how pious you are, how you offer it and the fact that you even want to offer something, all of this makes those Above us, Around us and Beneath us happy and pleased 
Agricola: We didn't really answer the coffee/Dionysios question. I don't think that there can be a clear answer. I say, go ahead and try it, and then watch for signs that it is accepted or rejected. After a number of people do that we can compare experiences and decide. 
Anna: I know of Germanic heathens who offer tobacco and coffee to the wights and gods, but it is considered UPG [Unverified Personal Gnosis] and isn't taken as lore. I believe that if it lasts the test of time, it will be considered lore. 
Agricola: That's what I'm sayin'. 
Damian: Coffee is upper, Alcohol is downer so I don't see Bacchus there. Maybe Mercury (speed/trade/office work)? 
Livia: I think the American products like chocolate, maize, peppers, tomatoes all have their own deities. I wouldn't offer them to our deities, just like I wouldn't offer olives to some South-American deity. Coffee is a more complex matter. Apparently its use was started by Sufi Muslims, so it has no deities associated. I would be cautious in associating it with Bacchus, though. According to Francesco Redi (in his "Bacco in Toscana", written in 1685) Bacchus definitely despises such barbarian beverages as beer, or the newly introduced coffee, and likes Tuscan wine best. A different matter are offerings to the Manes. I offer coffee to my deceased aunt, as it was her favourite drink. Cigarettes are also common as offerings to deceased smokers in Italian cemeteries. 
Marco: Depends on why I am making an offering. I use copal, rather than laurel or frankincense, when offering incense for the spirits of the land in the Americas. And for Roman deities I usually offer what Romans would have offered. However, if I am just outdoors, speaking with Jupiter, and I happen to be drinking coffee, then I offer to share with Him what I have. In each case it is a matter of thought behind the sacrifice, and not so much what is sacrificed. If Romans had known about chocolate, they would have offered it, just as they offered other rare and precious goods to the Gods. They shared what they had. 
Helio: Two thumbs up, Marco Orazio! You took the words right out of my mouth!

I'm very proud of this group's ability to look at problems from different angles without going into conflict mode. Of course, there can be no definitive answer, but this kind of discussion moves us forward, deepening our understanding of Roman thinking and building our modern traditions on a sound basis.

Helio blogs at:

Marco blogs at:

Anna is host of the Roman Recon forum.

Damian blogs at

There is a long tradition of "Caffeina" posts, as this Witchvox article attests.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Everything you know about Stoicism is wrong.

A Guide to the Good Life
"... I had to cobble together a brand of Stoicism from clues scattered throughout the writings of the Roman Stoics. The resulting version of Stoicism, although derived from the ancient Stoics, is therefore unlike the Stoicism advocated by any particular Stoic." (William B. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life, p. 244)
William B. Irvine may not realize it, but he has succeeded where reconstructionists all too often fail. He has created a modern version of Stoicism that is based closely on ancient sources. Not just an ancient philosophy text, careful reasoning is used to present a coherent philosophy of life that is actually workable in today's world.

Some time ago I posted a small notice about Lifehacker's piece on Stoicism. I took my own advice and I bought a copy of Professor Irvine's book, "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy". In it, Irvine offers a well-grounded and scholarly, but very readable, discussion of Roman Stoicism and shows how it can be a practical modern philosophy of life.

As the quote above illustrates, Irvine's book is focused mainly on the Roman flavor of Stoicism. He starts where reconstructionists must often start; eliminating misconceptions.
"...unless you are an unusual individual, everything you know about Stoicism is wrong." (Lecture at the Center for Values in Sci & Tech)