Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egyptian Revolution

I'm happy that the people of Egypt are standing up for themselves. The revolution is inspiring. What is especially upsetting, besides innocent people losing their lives for protesting injustice, is that there are looters taking advantage of the distraction and raiding museums. Egyptology News is a blog which has updates from around the country.

Isn't this off topic? Hardly. Egypt's influence spread far and wide. They influenced Greece which colonized many areas of Italy, and pre-Roman Italic peoples with whom they traded. Once Rome stepped in, well, I don't want to get into the whole Cleopatra/Egypt/Rome thing. Not today, at least.

Isis worship spread far and wide, including to Italy. There was a Temple of Isis located in Pompeii, right along with the ones to Apollo, Diana, Jupiter, etc.

From  The Temple of Isis in Pompeii was small but ornate. It was destroyed in an earthquake in A.D. 62 but was rebuilt shortly after that. The renovation was financed by a freed slave in the name of his young son. There may have been political motivations for this since freed slaves were not allowed to hold public office, and the son who was appointed as a member of the city council was only six years old. The Temple has a mixture of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman architectural features. This is not surprising since Roman architecture of this period was very ornate, often used bright colors, and borrowed and mixed styles from many eras. There were many statues in the Temple of Isis and the portico walls were covered with elaborate murals. To the left of the temple was a small roofless structure containing a tank that may have held the sacred water from the Nile, which was very important in many Isis ceremonies. In the rear of the sanctuary was a room containing a marble table where sacred meals were probably served.

The Temple of Isis is the best preserved temple of Pompeii. It dates from the pre-Roman age and was almost entirely rebuilt after the earthquake of 62 A.D. at the expense of Popidius Celsinus. An inscription above the door mentions that Popidius Celsinus was only six years old when he was elected decurion. The sacred water of the Nile was kept in an underground passage. A large room that was used as a meeting room for the initiates of Isis is behind the temple.

Here is a fresco removed from the inside of the Temple, now in the national museum of archaeology in Naples.


May Isis bless us all.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Daily Practice (aka Adventures in Ancient Paganism)

Oh, the adventures I have had, just sitting here at the computer, trying to pick from the myriad of posts I've started! I've been pondering the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii, the Roman Hand of Power and dress of the Flamen Dialis, both of which were adopted by the Catholic Popes. This led me to muse about Pope Joan, and yet somehow this led me back around to... well, I could wind the labyrinth for ages.

This blog is part of a daily devotion. Not my only devotional act, but my public one. The form of my practice changes with the seasons, but there are daily, weekly and monthly devotions and rituals no matter the season. I'm in a sharing mood, so here we go:

In the past I have made a daily offering of fire and lit a candle while meditating on my Patrons and their nature. This was an incredible help and I felt more connected. That's really what it's about: connection to the Divine. I've made offerings of water in the past too. I tend to shy away from incense as a daily offering. I don't have the time to let incense burn every day, so that has become more of a weekly devotion. My earthly offerings have been food in the winter and tending to my garden in the spring and summer and autumn. Can't wait to talk Magickal gardening in the spring!

One of my earth based devotions is creating a permanent labyrinth on my property. I laid out the bricks and started digging it before the ground froze. It's currently under several feet of snow. It's a Minoan labyrinth. Even without having put it in the ground, I could walk it just with the marker stones. It's a wonderful meditation which I hope to make a daily one, if not weekly.

I celebrate the full moon and the dark moon as well. I use the same ritual every time. There is something to be said about the familiar rites. Once it's internalized, and not just memorized, you connect more with The Work. Same with the holidays. It seems like many groups feel the need to do something new every time. Not me. That's not how it's done in my Family, for the same reason I gave about the moons: The familiar ceremony helps you to go further than before. If you're trying to read off of a cheat sheet or regurgitate what you recently memorized it just doesn't have the same feeling or impact.

My devotions are a combination of ritual and extempore. The most meaningful devotions are the spontaneous ones. They are the most heart felt and not done out of mere obligation, but out of joy.

Speaking of spontaneous devotions, I am feeling moved tonight. Because I am weary of the snow, I offer this Hymn to Boreas, the North Wind, courtesy of Orpheus.

(Light frankincense)

"BOREAS, whose wint'ry blasts, terrific, tear
The bosom of the deep surrounding air;
Cold icy pow'r, approach, and fav'ring blow,
And Thrace a while desert expos'd to snow:
The misty station of the air dissolve, 5
With pregnant clouds, whose frames in show'rs resolve:
Serenely temper all within the sky,
And wipe from moisture, Æther's beauteous eye."


Back in the day. 10,000 years back in the day.

The Sicanians are thought to be the earliest inhabitants of the island of Sicily, perhaps the indigenous people. Because I am feeling terribly lazy tonight, I'm linking to an interesting article on the Sicanians in case you want to get up to speed on them. I'm in a cut-to-the-chase mood. The picture on their site is one included below. It's called The Temple of Diana.

"The temple a megalithic building dating back to the IX century B.C., is the only pre-classical monument in Sicily."
IgoUgo Photo: "Temple of Diana" in Sicily by Drever
There are Temples of Diana all over Sicily. This one is in Cefula. Segesta, Agregento, and other locations also have Temples of Diana, but the one pictured is the oldest. Segesta was also an ancient, possibly indigenous city tho the name might not be.

The inspiration for tonight's post are the neolithic carvings found in a cave on the northeast side of Mount Pellegrino.

Grotta dell'Addaura is a complex of caves in which bones and hunting tools and the general presence of Paleolithic peoples have been discovered. After Sicily was invaded in WWII, ammo was stored in the caves. "ohnoes!" I thought! "It will explode the drawings!" Some of the ammo "accidentally" went off and happened to blast away just enough to reveal the carvings which had been covered up by grime and time. The carvings are notable, for starters, because the focus is on people with a few animals in the "background" and because the people are shown in movement. Here is a picture:
I intentionally left it large so you could look at the detail and play along at home.

What do you notice in this picture?

To me it appears to be a circle of people dancing around 2 figures who are on the ground.
There are figures with what look like beards.
The figure at the top right looks like it has a bird head.
The figure below the pair on the ground looks like a woman to me.
There is a deer below her.

The carvings date to 8,000 BCE.

The earliest known cave paintings were thought to be in France. In the past decade they lost the crown. Paintings found in the Fumane cave in Verona date back about 42,000 years. Is that about 10k years older than the french cave? And they weren't just flint scribbles either. They were paintings. With red and yellow ochre found there as well. I've always said Italians are the best artists ;)

Proserpine, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
File:Dante Gabriel Rossetti - Proserpine.JPG

Thursday, January 27, 2011


"Psychopomps (from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός (psychopompos), literally meaning the "guide of souls") are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage." So says wiki.

This raises a few questions: Why is safe passage necessary? Is everyone escorted? A few chosen ones? Is it required? What if they don't want to go but would prefer to stay? Are they forced?

Some believe that Psychopomps work both ways, that they also bring life into this world as well as escort it out. I can see that: flip sides of the same coin. One who knows how to heal also knows how to harm. But is is all about entrances and exits? What of those who cross those barriers? There was a whole Orphic Mystery cult built around the idea of descending into the "underworld" and returning. Are Psychopomps guides to all in the underworld? Even those who wish to learn its mysteries and return to the "real" world with its knowledge?

Mercury (as well as the Etruscan Turms and Greek Hermes) and Hecate are both considered Psychopomps, but do either rally have the reputation for shepherding the recently departed? The two did, however, cross all three realms freely: Air, sea and earth. These two traversed the realms at will. Charon is the figure known for shepherding souls to the other world. So what did Mercury have to do with it? His association with travelers?

I suppose this was just a food-for-thought post, both yours and mine. More to munch tomorrow!


Why do I post something daily (or nightly, as the case has been)? It is an offering in response to a request. It is my offering to Mercury. He wanted words and, I have to say, the tiny amounts I post here barely scratch the surface of what bubbles up when I take the time to sit and think. One thought will float to the surface which will lead me to a book, which leads me to the author's other work, which leads me to a whole new post idea, but wait, there's another book I want to peek in first!

So thank you, Mercury, for leading me deeper into my practice by having to stop and think every night. Even my seemingly random Sappho post from last night was done only after an hour of research. There are things I would love to post about, but I can't give it the treatment it deserves, so I hold onto my notes and wait.

I feel incredibly inspired and incredibly happy to be of service and in service.

So for fun (because what is entertaining if not a service), here's Alessandra Belloni and the Pizzica Tarantata:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Too tired tonight for a full post, so I'll post a favorite poem of mine. What does Sappho have to do with anything? She lived in Sicily for a while, during political upheaval at home on Lesbos.

On the throne of many hues, Immortal Aphrodite,
child of Zeus, weaving wiles--I beg you
not to subdue my spirit, Queen,
with pain or sorrow

but come--if ever before
having heard my voice from far away
you listened, and leaving your father's
golden home you came

in your chariot yoked with swift, lovely
sparrows bringing you over the dark earth
thick-feathered wings swirling down
from the sky through mid-air

arriving quickly--you, Blessed One,
with a smile on your unaging face
asking again what have I suffered
and why am I calling again

and in my wild heart what did I most wish
to happen to me: "Again whom must I persuade
back into the harness of your love?
Sappho, who wrongs you?

For if she flees, soon she'll pursue,
she doesn't accept gifts, but she'll give,
if not now loving, soon she'll love
even against her will."

Come to me now again, release me from
this pain, everything my spirit longs
to have fulfilled, fulfill, and you
be my ally

--Translated by Diane Rayor

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fertility God of Rome

Did you expect a part 2 from yesterday? Nah, not immediately. Soon? But for tonight let's talk about the main fertility god of Rome.

This fertility deity was the most widely worshiped God in Rome. He had many names, had 4 festivals in the first month of the Roman year and even has a day named after him. He predates Rome. He fathered Rome. Who else could I possibly be talking about but Mars.

The God of War was first a God of Fertility. He was the father of Romulus and Remus, lover of Love Herself, and the one called on in war. He is Gradivus, the strider, who precedes an army into battle. He is also the Avenger and the Protector. Before Rome, and his syncretization with the Greek Ares, Mars was a cthonic deity of Spring. His festivals are in March, he is called on to protect the herds of cattle and to fertilize the land. There ware ancient offerings to Mars Silvanus ("of the woods"). Check out our friends at Nova Roma for the text of the offering.

Who were his parents? Juno. Dad? I said Juno. Funny how she's been mentioned in posts this week. I need to stop writing at night because I'm tired and forget things more easily. Something was nagging me about why Juno was a Goddess of childbirth. Not just in general either. She was a Goddess of women for whom childbirth seemed impossible. It started with Minerva. Legend has it that Minerva sprang fully formed from the head of Jupiter. Wisdom and creativity personified. Think Juno would let that pass without evening the score? Not with her reputation.

Legend has it that Juno consulted the Goddess Flora about the matter. Flora plucked a specific flower and used to to impregnate Juno. The result was Mars. Born of the union of a Woman and a flower. Of course he was an earthy deity of fertility!

I want to keep going, especially since his animal was the wolf, but I must leave it for another post! I'll close with the following since we're talking about fertility deities: Happy Sementivae!

Sementivae, also known as Feriae Sementivae, is a Roman festival of sowing.  It is held in honor of Ceres (the goddess of agriculture) and Tellus (Mother Earth). The initial half of the event is a festival in honor of Tellus which runs from January 24 through January 26. The festival honoring Ceres occurs one week later, starting February 2. (From our friends at

The Directions and correspondences, part 1

North is Air, East is Earth. There, I said it.

There has been a long debate about where to place air and earth on the compass. I've long believed that Air is in the north because in the zodiac, air signs are always opposite fire signs (Aries - Libra for example). I've read the argument that the zodiac is at a different angle to the earth than a cast circle, but I don't buy it. The theory does not resonate with me. Astrology is about perception of the heavens, not about how something looks from an angle other than the perspective of the subject.

Many years ago, I read something by Mike Nichols and I shouted in triumph! Yes! Here is someone who understands my exact arguments! He has also noted others that hadn't occurred to me. His article, Rethinking the Watchtowers (and I hate calling them watch towers, they're Watchers!), makes the case for Air as North. He has 13 specific examples.

Here are a few of my favorites, tho you should surf over and read the whole article. It's one of the things I wish I'd written. But really, I was only 13 when he did it! lol

Altar Tools: " the four elements, two of them are feminine and two of them are masculine. The pentacle is a shallow dish inscribed with a pentagram, representing earth, and is here placed in the east. The womb-shaped chalice, symbolizing water, is placed in the west. They form the horizontal feminine axis. The phallic-shaped wand, representing fire, is placed in the south. And the equally phallic-shaped athame is placed in the north. They form the vertical masculine axis."

Seasonal: "Many occultists associate the four seasons with the four cardinal points, as well. Hence, winter = north, spring = east, summer = south, and autumn = west. (To be precise, it is the solstice and equinox points which align with the cardinal points.) Again, in most folklore, winter is associated with air and wind, as the icy blasts that usher in the season. In spring, it is the earth which arrests our attention, with its sudden riot of blooms and greenery. Again, south relates to summer, the hottest season (fire), and west relates to autumn."

Male/Female Axis "When you look at a typical map, north (the cardinal direction) is at the top. Any north-south road is a vertical line, and any east-west road is a horizontal line. Likewise, a "map" of a magic circle makes the vertical north-south axis masculine (with air and fire), while the horizontal east-west axis is feminine (earth and water). This makes logical sense. When we look at the horizon of the earth, we see a horizontal line. Water also seeks a horizontal plane. Feminine elements, considered "passive", have a natural tendency to "lay down." Fire, on the other hand, always assumes an erect or vertical position. Air, too, can rise upward, as earth and water cannot. Masculine elements, being "active," have a natural tendency to "stand up."

I will post more about this later, perhaps including a discussion on Traditional Chinese Medicine and their 5 element theory, where the relationship of the elements is symbolized by a pentacle!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


There was a post kicking around in my head all day. I even started to type it out here, but some things aren't meant to be casual posts. I do intend to write out some of these, and will likely share them here, but some are destined to be articles, some destined for a book.

I was going to post something from Ovid about keeping your girlish looks by applying lead to your face, but I changed course while reading. In Art of Beauty, Ovid refers to Juno's Bird: The Peacock. So let's go there tonight:

There is a superstition among Italians about keeping a bird in the house, especially a peacock. You just don't do it. Birds are kept outside and are not pets. You don't keep a peacock feather in the house because it can give the evil eye.

What's the big deal about Peacocks and why are they sacred to Juno? It started with Jupiter. You knew I'd say that... Jupiter was fooling around with a river Goddess, Io. Juno figured out what he was up to and went to catch him in the act. Jupiter turned Io into a cow, but Juno wasn't fooled. Juno demanded the cow as a gift. Caught, Jupiter had to give it to her or admit what he did. Juno had Argus, the 100 eyed Giant who never slept (some of the 100 eyes on his bodies were always open), guard "the cow." Jupiter wanted to spring Io from her cow-captivity. He sent Mercury lull Argus to sleep and kill him. Mercury was successful. Poor Argus :( Juno took all of his eyes and set them into the Peacock.

After our chat last night about Juno and Diana, I've gone back to reading The Aeneid. From the very start, Juno is trying to kill Aeneas. She hates Aeneas and is trying to do everything she can to stop him from founding Rome. In the future, she knows, he's going to use Rome to trash her beloved city of Carthage.

One side of my family didn't believe in this superstition. Perhaps because they're Sicilian, not Italian. Sicily had a closer relationship with Carthage, and in fact, some of the economic conditions leading to the slave revolts I recently posted about arose because whomever in Sicily had been loyal to Carthage had their land taken away by Rome and given to Roman generals as reward for service.

I suppose there's a certain logic to the peacock bias: Who would want the keep one of the eyes loyal to Juno in their home, especially if she is an enemy of Rome?

I have a peacock feather on my front door. It's like my magickal peep hole lol Of course I would honor the Goddess of Marriage in my home. It's attached to a broom, which, according to custom, should be by your door to sweep away any funky vibes from the outside.

And because I know you're wondering, here's some of what I was reading from Ovid. I know you want that ancient lead recipe (but don't use it!).

The bird of Juno, when his plumage is praised, spreads out his tail to be admired, and dumb though he be, is proud of his beauty. To kindle in us the fires of love, dress is more potent than the dark arts of the magician...

Then make haste and bake pale lupins and windy beans. Of these take six pounds each and grind the whole in the mill. Add thereto white lead and the scum of ruddy nitre and Illyrian iris, which must be kneaded by young and sturdy arms. And when they are duly bruised, an ounce should be the proper weight. If you add the glutinous matter wherewith the Halcyon cements its nest, you will have a certain cure for spots and pimples. As for the dose, one ounce applied in two equal portions is what I prescribe. To bind the mixture and to make it easy of application, add some honey from the honeycombs of Attica."

Yeah... don't try this at home!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Where can I get a winged penis candle?

Seriously, it's just that fun to see. Well, until it starts melting, I bet. Eeew, never mind. I posted too quickly yesterday, Spartacus premieres tonight and I won't get to see it until tomorrow when it's available on Netflix. In the meanwhile, I've been going over information about fertility magic in Ancient Italy. Here are two Goddesses of Fertility who I find interesting: Diana and Juno Lucina. Why do these Goddesses interest me?

Diana is my Patroness. Forget about her being an anti-man "virgin" and disavowing men. The ones who disavowed men were Vestal Virgins. Vesta. Not Diana. "Virgin" didn't mean no sex. Nor did it mean not bearing children. It meant independent. In her lore, Diana had several consorts: Lucifer to her Lucina, Orion, Verbius and each subsequent Rex Nemorensis. Diana, as Goddess, was Kingmaker. There is a notion, in more than just greco-roman lore, that to see or hear deity in true form meant death to a mortal. A man, such as Acteon, seeing a Goddess "naked" (as in without the cover of human form), would have killed him. Another theory is that the ritual of the Rex Nemorensis involves Diana revealing herself to the new Rex. Since he is the chosen one, he survives it. Any man who saw her as such but was not the chosen one would be killed. Back to the fertility stuff: Diana was Goddess of the Moon. Which is tied to a woman's cycle, hence fertility. Weee!

Juno Lucina. Here's a Fun one. Both Juno and Diana were referred to as Lucina. There are references to Juno Lucina, and to Lucina being another name for Diana. Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia has some interesting arguments about past theories, including the idea that Juno and Diana were the same Goddess and syncretized incorrectly. Hmm I don't know. There is the fun theory that Herodias, aka Aradia, is a combination of Hera and Diana. Pages 136 and 137 have some great info about the votives found at the sanctuary at Aricia: clay representations of babies and wombs. There is evidence that Juno was thought of as a Moon Goddess too. She was Juno at the Kalends, Juno Covella (crescent moon), and Juno Lucina at the full moon. Do we have another contender for Triple Goddess of the Moon?
Again, Italy was a land of diverse people and diverse languages. Different names meant different things to different people who lived next to each other. However, as there was a temple to her, and she was said to be the wife of Jupiter and has her own festival on March 1st, the Matronalia, I will give Juno her props as a separate Goddess.

There is a third favorite on my list, but I will save Proserpina for another day and her own separate post.

On to the practical!

Italian folklore says eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but also the midwife near. Apples were thought to increase fertility.

To get pregnant, an impassioned plea would be made to the Deity of choice, a clay votive made of a baby and/or the womb and perhaps an offering, a contract? Amongst all the defixiones (curse tablets) found some were about getting something good and not just messing with other people. Not many tho. At least not of the ones found (the most were found in Sicily haha). Anyway, the principle is there: Petitioning Deity, making an offering, eating traditional foods associated with fertility. A fun Italian one is: Pesto sauce.
Whaaaaaat? Basil, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts were each thought to aid fertility. There has been some controversy recently about basil because it lowers estrogen levels. However, too much estrogen is as bad an impediment to fertility as is not enough. I was on the too much estrogen side of the equation and it interfered with my cycle. Pesto would've been my pal! I did, however, eat a lot of tomato and basil! Lycopene is thought to boost fertility too ;)

And if you missed it last night:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I am Spartacus!

In honor of tomorrow night's premiere of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, I'm going to post about the historical figure, Spartacus and the history of slavery in Italy.

I love Lucy Lawless (who doesn't love Xena?) and I'm a sucker for period shows, especially set in Italy. So when I heard about the show Spartacus: Blood and Sand, I decided to tune in. They should call it Spartacus: Blood and Sex, but what else would you expect from a Starz show? lol For those who don't know, the show is loosely based on the life of Spartacus, an actual person who led a slave revolt in Italy around 70 BCE. It takes place in a ludus, a gladiator school and gives insight into the politics and machinations of ancient Italy. The design team is amazing: The costumes, jewelry, sets, hair, props... I give props to the props, especially the winged penis candle which was lit for a fertility ritual. The story takes place in Capua. So why do they all speak with British accents? Seriously, I hate that. HBO did the same thing with their series, Rome. I want different accents! The Gaul, the Thracian, the Sicilian, the Capuan... I want to hear it! Booooo! I guess they do that to make it easier to understand, but seriously, it throws off the whole thing for me.

If you haven't seen the show, and want to (instant watch on netflix) then don't read on, for there be spoilers here:

The show actually follows the known history pretty well: Spartacus is believed to have been a Thracian who fought in the auxiliary for the Roman army. There is no record of how he went from soldier to slave. Some say he deserted the auxiliary. He was then captured but instead of being killed, he was sold to a ludus where he was trained as a gladiator. His wife was a prophetess of their tribe and sold into slavery as well.

Around 73 BCE, Spartacus incited a slave revolt which has come to be known as the Third Servile War. Spartacus started with about 80 slaves, having stolen weapons and supplies from the ludus, then went on to incite more revolts in the area of Capua. The small group quickly grew to 12,000, made up of men, women, and children. It was good timing on the part of Spartacus: Most of the Roman army was off fighting elsewhere, in Spain and Armenia.

Spartacus, and Crixus had over 150,000 fighting with them, both slaves. 30k wound up going south to continue their pillaging and raiding, while Spartacus led the rest north, allegedly to escape over the alps and send everyone back to their country of origin. At some point, Spartacus' group turned back south.

At one point Spartacus tried to negotiate an end to the rebellion, suing for peace for his followers and their release. He was refused. If the Romans let these slaves go, the others would surely follow. The war pressed on.

Unfortunately, Pompey's legions returned and joined the fight. They eventually quashed the rebellion, killing everyone either in battle or crucifying the rest along the Appian Way. Spartacus' body was never found. Some say he was killed along with the rest but not identified, others say he escaped. I prefer to believe the later, especially in light of the fact that they knew what Spartacus looked like from his attempts at a peaceful negotiation.

This was the THIRD Servile War, so waht was up with the first 2? The First servile war was in Sicily around 130 BCE. I'm not going to bore you with the historical land grab that involved Carthage and Rome, suffice it to say that wiki has a good basic description of the conditions that led to it:

The second servile war also started in Sicily: During negotiations to recruit soldiers for a campaign, Consul Gaius Marius agreed, at the behest of King Nicodemes, to release all of the Italian slaves under his command who'd been taken for failure to pay their debt. He didn't want his countrymen enslaved. About 800 were released. All slaves who'd been taken by tax-collectors left. Oops. When the non Italians were ordered back.. heh you think they went? Not so much. About 22,000 participated in that revolt. It took a while to get enough troops over to Sicily, but eventually the revolt was quashed.

So what's the deal with slavery in ancient Rome? It's said to have started with Romulus who decreed that fathers could sell their children into slavery to pay debts. Nice. Slavery was a common tool of economy building and was well established in Greece and Egypt and was also used in pre-roman Italy, by the Etruscans and others of he Latin league well before Romulus and Remus showed up.

There were debtor slaves and conquered slaves and economic slaves: When someone couldn't pay their taxes or owed money, they were arrested and sold into slavery. Rome liked to wage war. A lot. Rome had so many prisoners of war that there were specialists who'd travel along with the army to deal with the conquered, catalog them, and sell them into slavery. It's thought that about 40% of the population of Italy was made up of slaves.

Slaves could be freed at the whim of their owner, children born of slaves were considered property, and there were rewards for capturing escaped slaves, much like ancient greece and ancient egypt.

When did slavery end? Around 117 CE, Emperor Hadrian, of Hadrian's Wall, and Pantheon designer, changed many of the laws surrounding slavery to be more humane. "People who owned slaves no longer had the right to kill them. Nor were they allowed to force their slaves into becoming gladiators or prostitutes. Hadrian also abolished slave labor-camps. Finally, he changed the law that stated that if a man was killed by a slave, all his slaves would be executed" from Hadrian, Empire and Conflict.

Other sources go on to sat that slavery didn't disappear in Rome because of reform or religion but because the Romans found other sources of labor which didn't include the massive investment of money as purchasing a slave. Slaves were gradually replaced by wage laborers in the towns and serfs in the country.

We don't want to end on a downer, so here are some pictures from Spartacus: Blood and Sand!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You made me promises, promises...

When you make a vow to your Patrons that you're going to fast on the Full Moon, you will fast on the full moon, even when you forget what day it is and eat something quick. Well, at least that's true for me. I have been sick all day. I have an awful fever, nothing is digesting and I can't even look at food. Oops. Guess I need to send myself an e-mail reminder about the full moon date. I can't type much, so I'm going to C&P something from They have wonderful information on their site and try to replicate Religio Romana as closely as possible. I admire their research.

The six times sacrifices are made
There are six types of sacrifices that may be made in the Religio Romana.
1) First is to honor the gods and to commemorate certain events such as the dedication of a temple.
2) To propitiate the gods when some disaster has occurred or other event whereby the gods demand a sacrifice.
3) Similarly, if divination, dreams or visions reveal a requirement that a sacrifice needs to be made.
4) By far though, most sacrifices made by individuals are performed in thanks, after a contract was met by the gods. A vow (nuncupatio) is first made that a sacrifice will be offered, or that an altar will be erected, or a temple built or renovated, or some other action that will be taken to fulfill the vow, on condition that the god perform some request.  If the request is fulfilled, the deity having accepted the vow, then one is obliged to fulfill the vow (ex voto); failure to do so would make that person sacer.  Sometimes,
5) in expectation that prayers will be answered, a sacrifice is made, but there is no obligation on the part of the deity. Most often these types of sacrifices would be dedicated pro salute in hopes of being healed of some illness.
6) Lastly there are those sacrifices made, not to honor the gods or to fulfill a vow, but made instead as part of a purification rite.


That's the local name for Mount Etna, which erupted last week. I just read about this. I suppose I haven't heard about recent news out of Italy since my nose has been buried in books about ancient Italy.

So what's this place? Forge of Hephaestus (aka Vulcan)? Is he making weapons for a war? Cave of Polyphemus (cyclops from The Odyssey) whose eye was poked out? Tombstone of Enceladus (tried to kill the Gods, was trapped beneath by Zeus)? Is he making a comeback? It does seem like his mother, Gaea, is wreaking some havoc, I mean with the birds falling from the sky and the fish and the cows dropping dead and the mudslides in south America and the floods in Australia, the sun rising 2 days early in Greenland, and strangest of all: The tourists in NYC actually walking at a decent speed! I wonder what the ancient augurs would say about it...

Whatever might be happening out there, this sure is a Mongibello:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exploring Etruria

I've been talking a lot about Sicily, but tonight I'm in the mood to pay some attention to another thread of my lineage, my Grandmother's side; That part of my family lived in what was once the southernmost part of Etruria, Naples. The name of the city is interesting. It's from the Greek, Neapoli, meaning New City. The Greeks founded the colony after the Etruscans were too weak to hold it any longer. Modern natives of the city still call themselves by the prehellenic name, Parthenopians, for the city of Parthenope. Wha? Parthenope was one of the Sirens from The Odyssey. She was so distraught that she was unable to entice Odysseus that she threw herself into the sea and her body washed up on the shore of the city, which took her name. There's even a bust of the siren, Parthenope in Naples.
I've always just plain known Greek lore. Later, when I was exposed to it, I felt the same way about the Etruscans. Maybe this is why I'm such a Shakespeare buff: He wrote about Greece and Rome, after all, and Etruscans too. I recall a trip with hubby to Penn's museum to view an Etruscan art collection many years ago. I found myself staring at one of the mosaics of a woman, riveted by the familiar pattern of her hair: It looked exactly like mine when I have it loosely pulled back. My fellow curly-girls will understand. When brushed back gently and held in place, my hair looks like waves on the ocean. It was a moment when I truly felt connected to my ancestors in more than theory, or as an amorphous energy I could tap into. Seeing the small things like jewelry, coins, mirrors, household objects, that mosaic... It felt like when we cleared out my Aunt's home after she died: Small snapshots of a person's life which help you to better understand who they were. A real person who led a life not that much unlike my own. This whole post might sound silly, and I am pretty tired tonight (almost posted some Aeneid quotes :P), so maybe I'm not quite able to express the awe and wonder I felt that day to truly Know and internalize something I'd always kinda got in theory. Anyway, on to the practical:

My Grandmother knew how to read the animals. This went far beyond the groundhog seeing its shadow. She could tell the weather by what our cat would do. The next day's temperature was predicted from the color of the sunset. Birds of different types and different singing styles noted at different times of day could yield all sorts if information, as did the appearance of spiders, whom everyone was forbidden to kill -this is also a rule in my house too. I've done a bit of reading on Native American animal lore and it's very different, not just because there are different animals involved, but the whole philosophy. There wasn't really any identifying with a particular animal, they just provide the information. My Grandmother was an Augur, she just didn't know the word for it.

So why don't you kill spiders? In short, they're an omen of prosperity. Killing one will bring rain, both literal as well as wet stuff on your head. Speaking of Spiders, I will be posting about the Tarantella in February.  So what's the post-to-do-list count up to now? I have about 20 listed, I think. Let's set a February angenda: Februus, Parentalia, Whip my Roman Sex Gods/Lupercalia, Black Madonna, Tarantella, Hexing as a necessary art, cleansing spells , Diana as a local Deity syncretized by Rome, Carthage/Dido. There. A plan with plenty of room to just go with what's on my mind at the moment or share something inspired by the day's reading. I'll also take questions if anybody posts one.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis

Oh, Sting, they just don't write em like they used to.

I started to write my blog tonight and, after a long day, thought "I got nothin." But that's never true. If there's a day when I'm truly not up for writing, I'll post something from Ovid or The Aeneid. I was going in this direction tonight, when I realized that I wanted to talk about these two. Odysseus, in the travels chronicled in The Odyssey, found lost himself all over Magna Graecia, which of course included Sicily and other settlements in mainland Italy. The location of Scylla and Charybdis, has long thought to be Sicily's Strait of Messina. So who/what were Scylla and Charybdis?

Scylla was, according to The Odyssey, a land monster who stood high atop a cliff and would chomp on the crew of the ship as it sailed by. Some of her characteristics: 12 tentacles, a cat's tail, dog heads ringing her waist, 4 eyes, 6 heads... Can we pile anything else onto this thing?
Charybdis was a giant yawning whirlpool within an arrow's length from Scylla's post.
Monsters were often something perfectly wonderful before they became monsters. Sounds like marriage (rimshot!). This seems especially true of the female monsters we come across in the lore of Greece. I'd like to be knowledgeable enough about other pantheons and societies to make an actual comparison. I can't go saying Greece was more sexist than their counterparts, even tho they did take a perfectly lovely Women's Mystery and insert kidnapping into it, Dionysus, and have it run by a man. But I digress. Eleusis is for the summer.

As the various legends go, Scylla was a naiad (water nymph). Someone, either Posideon or  another sea divinity, Glaucus, fell in love with her. She evaded him by going up onto the land where he (whichever "he" it was) couldn't follow. Either Poseidon's wife Amphitrite poisoned her bath or Circe did after falling for Glaucus who asked Circe for a spell to win Scylla. Nice, huh? The poor girl was trying to avoid being pursued and look what she got for her troubles!

Charybdis, another naiad, was the daughter of Poseidon and Gaia. She would take land and villages and forests for her Father while in the form of a whirlpool. For her loyalty to her father, Uncle Zeus came along and turned her into a monster, lest she help Dad take over his territory.

I find it sadly fitting that these women, who came to be known as the first "rock and a hard place," found themselves in that very same situation.

But not to end on a down-note, here's a favorite poem by Ovid
(it only looks long. It's worth the read and delicious licentious!)

To his Mistress...
Your husband will be with us at the Treat;
May that be the last Supper he shall Eat.
And am poor I, a Guest invited there,
Only to see, while he may touch the Fair?

To see you Kiss and Hug your nauseous Lord,
While his lewd Hand descends below the Board?
Now wonder not that Hippodamia's Charms,
At such a sight, the Centaurs urged to Arms;
That in a rage they threw their Cups aside,
Assailed the Bridegroom, and would force the Bride.
I am not half a Horse (I would I were):
Yet hardly can from you my Hands forbear.
Take then my Counsel; which observed, may be
Of some Importance both to you and me.

Be sure to come before your Man be there;
There's nothing can be done; but come how e'er.
Sit next him (that belongs to Decency);
But tread upon my Foot in passing by.
Read in my Looks what silently they speak,
And slily, with your Eyes, your Answer make.
My Lifted Eyebrow shall declare my Pain;
My Right-Hand to his fellow shall complain;

And on the Back of a Letter shall design;
Besides a Note that shall be Writ in Wine.
When e'er you think upon our last Embrace,
With your Fore-finger gently touch your Face.
If you are pleased with what I do or say,
Handle your Rings, or with your Fingers play.
As Suppliants use at Altars, hold the Board,
When e'er you wish the Devil may take your Lord.

When he fills for you, never touch the Cup;
But bid th' officious Cuckold drink it up.
The Waiter on those Services employ.
Drink you, and I will snatch it from the Boy:
Watching the part where your sweet Mouth hath been,
And thence, with eager Lips, will suck it in.

If he, with Clownish Manners, thinks it fit
To taste, and offer you the nasty bit,
Reject his greasy Kindness, and restore
Th' unsavory Morsel he had chewed before.
Nor let his Arms embrace your Neck, nor rest
Your tender Cheek upon his hairy Breast.
Let not his Hand within your Bosom stray,
And rudely with your pretty Bubbies play.

But above all, let him no Kiss receive;
That's an Offence I never can forgive.
Do not, O do not that sweet Mouth resign,
Lest I rise up in Arms, and cry, 'Tis mine!
I shall thrust in betwixt, and void of Fear
The manifest Adult'rer will appear.
These things are plain to Sight; but more I doubt
What you conceal beneath your Petticoat.

Take not his Leg between your tender Thighs,
Nor, with your Hand, provoke my Foe to rise.
Which I, myself, have practised all before!
How oft have I been forced the Robe to lift
In Company to make a homely shift
For a bare Bout, ill huddled o'er in hast,
While o'er my side the Fair her Mantle cast.

You to your Husband shall not be so kind;
But, lest you should, your Mantle leave behind.
Encourage him to Tope; but Kiss him not,
Nor mix one drop of Water in his Pot.
If he be Fuddled well, and Snores apace
Then we may take Advice from Time and Place,
When all depart, when Complements are loud,
Be sure to mix among the thickest Crowd.
There I will be, and there we cannot miss,
Alas, what length of Labour I employ,
Just to secure a short and transient Joy!

For Night must part us; and when Night is come,
Tucked underneath his Arm he leads you Home.
He locks you in; I follow to the Door,
His Fortune envy, and my own deplore.
He kisses you, he more than kisses too;
Th' outrageous Cuckold thinks it all his due.

But, add not to his Joy, by your consent,
And let it not be given, but only lent.
Return no Kiss, nor move in any sort;
Make it a dull and a malignant Sport.

Had I my Wish, he should no Pleasure take,
But slubber o'er your Business for my sake.
And what e'er Fortune shall this Night befall,
Coax me to-morrow, by forswearing all.                     

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When life gives you lemons...

Cheer! They're awesome in so many ways. Besides the typical lemonade, lemons are:

Aromatheraputic mood elevator
Bleaching agent
Bug repellent
Negative energy absorber
Perfect thing to use for a hexing or blessing.

There are conflicting reports about when lemons were introduced to Sicily. There are reports of lemons around 300 CE, so say the scholars of such things on the internet. There are mosaics of lemons even earlier. Greece had lemons in the way way back, therefore Magna Graeca had it. Sicily was part of Magna Graeca. There are lemons on mosaics in pompeii. But I digress! On to the business of the night:

The lemon spell

Leland, a main source of this, seems to mix spells. You can find it in the early pages of Aradia. Here's my do-it-yourself version: At midnight, take your lemon and pierce it with happy things: colored pins in modern times, no black ones. Back in the day? Fragrant herbs? Piece of coral? Gem? Charge the lemon in your favorite way with your intent. In this case, it's for the blessing of whomever the intended is. The version in Aradia has an invocation of Diana, where it's Her power doing the work. You can do whatever you're comfortable with, but I do like asking Her Blessing.

If you use something for blessing, you can use it for the opposite. Instead of the above lovely things added, there would be rusty nails, dirt, black pins, bugs, and salt to name a few things. The ethics of hexing is another topic for another day.

This was a quickie post, but I will return to my cranktastic self tomorrow! \o/

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How do you say "retcon" in Latin?

I swear, I was going to do a post purely about actual, practical magickal work. Yeah, well, that was until I started researching tonight. I read/research every day. It's a habit I like to cultivate. I don't sit in a library, surrounded by dusty tomes for 8 hours, but I do take the time to read and to look up books and authors and information on the daily.

My views on the Catholic Church are no secret: Catholicism is genetically modified Paganism and was institutionalized to consolidate secular power over a vast empire with many diverse sects. Why not the other popular religion of the time, Mithrasism? Because "Mithranity" sounds stupid. Besides, they used the mythos of Mythras anyway.

My mission, since one of the lines of my Family tradition was very influenced by Catholicism, is to strip away the christian veneer and get down to the Pagan origins of our Magick. Tonight's example: The Novena.

For Catholics, a Novena is a prayer said every day at the same time for 9 days, or a prayer said every hour for 9 hours in a single day. Novenas are typically addressed to saints, tho you will find several for the various forms of Mary and of Jesus, including Baby Jesus (who apparently cries every time I get a hit on this blog). Since there is a saint for everyone and everything, there is a novena for it too.

What is "retcon" anyway? Retcon stands for retroactive continuity.

What's the deal with the number 9? The numbers of Mars and action? Somehow related to Pythagorean or Chaldean numerology? Our old pal, Livy, spoke several times about "the nine-days festival" on the last day of which there was a celebration for a specific deity and in the days preceding, a daily sacrifice made. I've read an account of Ceres and Mars. An oracle was consulted whenever something funky happened (like when a swarm of moths all gathered on the statue of Mars in the Colosseum). It seems to be an off hand account, as in these things were well known, even in the time the Ancient Romans would call "antiquity."

In The Iliad and The Aeneid there are references to 9 days of mourning after a death with a feast held on the 9th day.

Then there are Catholics who have claimed that it is done for 9 days because it's one day for each month Mary was pregnant with Jesus... er... seriously? When it was already commonly known before the start of christianity? That's what inspired tonight's post title. Retcon! Even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that the practice likely came from the above examples as well as the Parentalia Novendialia. The wha? The Parentalia was a 9 day festival from February 13 - 21 where "Romans remembered their dead, especially parents, including in the process some heavy drinking. On the 21st, they visited cemeteries outside the city and placed flowers, milk and wine on the graves of their parents. By doing this, they hoped to stop the dead from feeling hungry and returning to plague the living." Sound a bit like an October holiday we know? Don't get me started on the business of moving the festivals of the dead to October. I'll start on that in September.

So back to the novena business, and to the Saints for that matter. Many early saints were christianized pagan deities. Many local saint festivals were just a cover for local rites of antiquity. Google "Saint Domenic Snake festival." Domenica, in Italian, means Sunday. Day of the sun. Pagan sun god? Apollo. Whose snake handling cult resided in the area where Domenic's festival is now held? You guessed it. Domenic, whether he was a real person or not, was used as a cover for a festival that started over a thousand years before Domenic existed.

Novenas are a perfectly valid pre-christian magickal practice for a Pagan to use. The prayer is typically accompanied by lighting incense and a candle. Novena candles are readily available, especially thanks to the internet, or, light any size candle to begin and blow it out after. You can use the Catholic novenas: A book of these read like a well organized spell book (which it is), or use your own prayer to your own deity. There is something to be said for repetition- it reinforces your magickal intent, it helps you focus more clearly, and you are sacrificing your time and energy in exchange for something. Especially these days, time set aside, rearranging a schedule, is a sacrifice. And, as the ancient Greeks said, time is money. The candle and incense won't hurt either. The ancients knew the advantage of the number 9. (I've said it before: There's a reason why prices are $x.99 -to move you to action.)  A novena is typically: praise, petition, more praise, thanks. This can be done using an Orphic hymn written to a deity.

Orphic novenas? Here's one to Hermes:

Hermes, draw near, and to my pray'r incline, angel of Jove, and Maia's son divine;
Studious of contests, ruler of mankind, with heart almighty, and a prudent mind.
Celestial messenger, of various skill, whose pow'rful arts could watchful Argus kill:
With winged feet, 'tis thine thro' air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse:
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine:
With pow'r endu'd all language to explain, of care the loos'ner, and the source of gain.
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, Corucian, blessed, profitable God;
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, and in necessities to mortals kind:
(make your petition here)
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear;
Assist my works, conclude my life with peace, give graceful speech, and me memory's increase.

Do you use catholic novenas? Pre christian ones? Your own version? Do you vary devotionals based on the petition or deity petitioned? My answer: Yes. Yours?

Friday, January 14, 2011

This is not a "Dianic" tradition, it's an Italian tradition

"Society of Diana" is a euphemism from the poet Horace. It was written regarding a Sorceress. To say she was in the Society, or company, of Diana was a poetic way of saying she was a Witch.

I have to admit that I have a problem understanding those who call their practice "Dianic" and mean Women only, Goddess only, no need for a male counterpart type of worship. Please don't mistake what I'm saying here: It is important to have exactly this kind of tradition. I believe it is necessary to counterbalance the male energy in the world and the horrid acts committed in its name. Z Budapest is an inspiration. I'm glad women have a way to worship in which they feel safe, especially if having been harmed specifically by a man or by a patriarchal society. It's not for me. I need personal balance in my practice, so I leave it to them to balance the bigger picture.

My issue is using Diana as the central figure. Yes, Diana is the Goddess of young women and the hunt, but she has an equal: Dianus. Sure, she killed Actaeon for seeing her naked, but in the body of Her lore she has lovers, she has consorts. For example:

Verbius: "Virbius, was the Divine consort of Diana and long associated with the worship of Diana at Aricia. Under Greek influence, he was identified with Hippolytus, who, after he had been trampled to death by the horses of Poseidon was restored to life by Asclepius and removed by Diana to the grove at Aricia, which horses were not allowed to enter. Virbius was the oldest priest of Diana, the first "king of the grove" (Rex Nemorensis).... Frazer formerly held Virbius to be a wood and tree spirit, to whom horses, in which form tree spirits were often represented, were offered in sacrifice. His identification with Hippolytus and the manner of the latter's death would explain the exclusion of horses from his grove."
Orion: He and Diana become lovers. Apollo tricks Diana into killing him with an arrow. She's so grieved, she set him amongst the stars.  Did Apollo trick her in retaliation for Diana killing his baby-mama?

Diana killed women too, not just men? Yep.

Chione was so beautiful that both Mercury and Apollo fancied her. Each God had her on the same night, tho separately. Some legends say Mercury gave her a magical roofie and raped her. They also say Apollo tricked her with a disguise (date rape?). Chione bore twins, one child of each God. Apollo's son was Philammon and Xena fans will recognize Mercury's son, king of thieves, Autolycus.

So why did Diana kill the twice-raped Mother of her nephew? Chione boasted she was a better hunter than Diana. Some say she boasted that she was as beautiful. Well gee, either of those are perfect reasons to kill your nephew's mother.

Let's not forget the lore surrounding Kallisto (nothing to do with Xena this time). Kallisto was a nymph pledged to serve Diana. According to Ovid, she was raped by Jupiter and had his baby, Arcas. When Diana found out, some stories say she killed her, or turned her into a bear, or merely cast her out. Again, not so great for the Dianic woman helping, man eschewing idea.

"So, they're just myths, what's your point?"

The point when picking an icon for a certain belief set or virtues or ideals, use the one who fits. If you want a Female Goddess, one who is a sworn "virgin" why not Minerva? Why not the Goddess of Wisdom? Before Roman syncreticism equated her with Athena, Menrva was an Etruscan "goddess of a thousand works." A virgin Goddess of healing, magic, poetry, weaving, crafts, and of course, Wisdom. She was part of a trinity, equal to Jupiter and Juno. In Etruscan lore, equal to Tinia and Uni. She never had a male lover either. Hmm then again, there was that incident with Arachne. and Medusa....

If any Dianic Trad Witches happen to read this, and I hope some do: I've honestly tried to sort through the various web sites and Z Budapest books to find the answer, but I haven't yet: Why was Diana picked as the figure for this movement and Leland's Aradia material incorporated?

What my blogging has taught me so far: There are never any answers, just more questions.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Triskele reading

I've been reading the book Swastika, the Earliest known symbol and its Migrations, written in 1896 by Thomas Wilson (Why are so many of my current books from the late 1890s?). It refutes the theory that the triskele is a devolved swastika as some had apparently opined earlier. I read some interesting things I wanted to share on the theories of triskelion origin and my "who had it first" argument from an earlier post:

Page 874: "But its migration direct from Sicily to the Isle of Man can be traced through the pages of history..."

Honestly, I started typing it out, but there's a LOT! I can't copy and paste, but you can go check it out for yourself. The summary of points:

•Prior to the thirteenth century the Isle of Man was under dominion of the Norse Vikings
•There are seals with the Norse emblem, a "ship under full sail."
•Isle of Man is conquered by Alexander III of Scotland, who changes the emblem to the Triskelion

(So how'd this Scottish guy come by it? I have to learn about Scotland too? *headdesk* Thankfully the book goes on to make the following points:)

•Frederick II, the Norman King of Sicily, married Isabella, the daughter of Henry III of England
•The Pope winds up giving the crown of King of Sicily to Henry III of England for his son Edmund
•Henry III's daughter Margaret marries Alexander III of Scotland
•Happy family? He was "received with great honors"
•Alexander conquers Isle of Man
•Alexander replaces the Norse ship emblem with the Triskelion, symbol of his brother-in-law's kingdom. •The symbol was unused at the time- Edmund had boxed the triskelion flag when he took over.

Follow that? Yeah, I got a bit dizzy too. The author is convinced that the Sicilians had it first and then it migrated to the Isle of Man. Isn't it a great feeling when your research backs up your hypothesis? Even with tenuous historical connections? I will also be looking for evidence of the opposite argument, that the Manx had it first, I just haven't found it yet.

I happened upon this book in an odd way: The internet gave it to me. Has that ever happened for you? You're searching something and randomly, the perfect link, page, or passage appears? It's high-tech bibliomancy.

I'm going to assume you know what bibliomancy is or can look up the wiki entry (I'm currently a fan of the sortes Virgilianae). My method: I pick a book (any, it doesn't have to be a special one), concentrate on my question while holding it (much like with tarot) and then randomly open it to a page and point. The line pointed to is the answer to my question. The idea of setting the book on its spine and letting it fall open doesn't really work unless you have a huge tome with a big spine, and in a well-used book, favors the most well read pages. I also use this method to figure out if a book in the store is worth buying. I'll use the same prep as above, but ask the book if it should be part of my collection.

Tonight, I put my query into google books. Two simple words: Triskelion origin, and it came back with this fascinating book, written around the same time as the other books I've been referencing lately, and with the exact same hypothesis I brought to the table.

It also pointed me to this picture, of a coin with the head of Proserpina on one side and a triskelion on the other ;) made during the reign of Agothocles, King of Sicily (BCE 304 -289), who the author credits with Sicilian use of the Triskelion as it's official symbol... 1500 years before the Isle of Man used it as theirs...

Tomorrow: Hecate? Lupa? Aeneid? Candle magick? Little known Roman celebrations? Let's see what strikes my fancy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Politics of (Spiral) Dancing...

...The politics of oooo feelin' good.

So will this post be about using magick when dealing with politics, or politics when dealing with magick? Both, of course.

Let's start with the one that I abhor: Politics when it comes to magick. Solitaries might not get the magickal back up of someone else's energy, or the benefit of a coven-mate's experience, but one thing solitaries have got goin on is the removal from the political bullshit that happens when 2 or more people get together. Let's really call politics what it is: Pack hierarchy.

• The pack’s structure and hierarchy is centered around the Alpha pair.
• The dominant male and female control or influence all facets of pack life.
• Competition is also within the pack and without. Within, males and females compete for the role of Alpha.
• The Alpha pair maintain their position through a combination of force and the ability to lead and provide for the pack.
• The Alpha pair also controls the taking in of new members into the pack. In this way, they can control future competition for leadership while still serving the pack.
• New members increase the chance of survival as long as the pack size is controlled.
• They may even find that a rival pack has come into their territory. In this instance, competition takes on a social and survival role... Social, because the outcome of the confrontation can either secure or undermine the Alpha. Should one pack lose, packmates may take the opportunity to take control of the Alpha role.

Substitute "Pagan group" or "coven" for "pack" and there you have it. The above was taken from a discussion of Wolf pack dynamics. Is it any wonder that Wolves are at the heart of the founding of Rome? Romulus and Remus would not have survived without the Lupa.
(Speaking of... Lupercalia is just over a month away and I will be discussing "Whip My Roman Sex Gods," a favorite article I like to repost every year)

So what do you do when "politics" creeps in, as it inevitably does? It's not a gigantic community- you can't always drop a group and find another. And what if you like most of the group but a few bad apples are starting to spoil it with their bs? I don't know. It depends on the size of your, er, the size of your tolerance cup. I have a tiny little shot glass of tolerance for political games and have almost zero problem leaving a group because of it. Then again, I'm a solitary at heart. Practicing alone doesn't make you a solitary, you could be a coven kinda Witch and just not have found your group yet, and conversely, you can be a solitary who is practicing in a group. It's a mindset, not a current condition. Oh no! Another topic on which to expound! Add it to the list!

How about using magick for political purposes, as in influencing the direction of the country and its laws? I belonged to Isaac Bonewits' Spells for Democracy group which closed in the moths before he passed. He posted often about when and how to use our skills in the arena of the mundane political world. His keynote speech at NYC Pagan Pride was about this very subject. I will leave off tonight with two quotes from him and links to where to find more information about practical ways in which you can use your skills. 

From the group's description: "The policy of this discussion group is that it *can* be ethical to perform magic/invoke Divine energies upon people without their permission, and that it is *unethical* for Pagans and magical people to sit on their hands doing nothing when the wealthy and powerful control all other means of fighting for freedom."

"I repeat my proposal that we who live in the United States, currently the most powerful and therefore the most dangerous nation in the world, inaugurate a new Pagan Holy Day in the Neopagan calendar. Around every 4th of July, let us all invoke Lady Liberty, the Goddesses Freedom, Justice, Truth, and other appropriate deities (the Roman pantheon is filled with such personified abstracts and works well with the architecture and thinking patterns of the American government). Begin by reconsecrating the statue of Freedom in DC, the Statue of Liberty in NYC, or other local statues of Her. Ask Her/Them to increase Their influence, not just over Washington DC, but over all our state capitols as well, so that our legislators, executives, judges, and military/police will also act in accordance with Their highest ideals. In addition, let us cast our own spells, every year with Their help and guidance, to encourage our public servants to remember what they are: the servants of the entire public, members of all religions and none. (I have a page of Liberty Rite Materials that will provide some ideas and I would be happy to add more from my readers.)"

Who wants to meet me at the Statue of Liberty the first week in July?

La Vecchia and "The Black Book"

"Ay! La vecchia!"
This phrase was used by my Grandparents to mean "the old days," as in lamenting how things used to be. Others might hear the phrase and think of an old person, or old age. The context and inflection give us the definition as much as the words used. I'll go so far as to say that the Italian language, like Shakespeare, was not meant to be read, it was meant to be performed, hand gestures and all. The old ways, and the old days, were not forgotten. After all, Italy is the land that coined the phrase: "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Italians have long memories. Especially Italian Women.

I will let you in on somewhat of a secret; It's an open secret. We don't hide it, but unless you've been around us, you won't really get it: Every Italian Woman has a Black Book, whether it be a literal one, or in their head. (It has nothing to do with the "little black book" of lover's contact info.) I thought it was a generational thing, and to some degree it is, then again I've been around less Italians in the past few years. As I have taken up the mantle of my position, I have come to realize that I, too, have a Black Book. And it is filled. And it contains notes from my Mother's Book and my Grandmother's too.

"Arrite arready! What's this book thing ?" It's every gift ever given or received, every favor done or received, attendance at funerals, weddings, baby showers, and for all important family events. Italian accounts paid and receivable.

My Mom called one day to ask me a question. Hubby picked up the phone and took the call, so she asked him: How much did Aunt blah blah and Uncle So n So give you for your wedding 7 years ago? Hubby was stumped, wondering why she'd think he'd remember that. I took the phone, "opened my book" and gave her the number. Of course she had to know, she was going to their son's wedding the following week and had to give a gift!

I know who was and wasn't at my Grandmother's wake when I was 11 because of the wakes we did and did not go to in the 10 years following. There were obligations. "I don't even know this person," I protested. Her reply: "They came when your Grandmother died." I thought my Mom was being silly, but now I remember exactly who was and was not at my Father's wake 10 years ago. I know who owed my Grandmother favors, I know who my Mom has beef with and why and won't ever forget who did and did not support us in the past few years. There are people I'd love to write off but then I remember they were there for me at certain points. Cred, however, gets used up. How this started, I have no idea. It sounds very Mafia, doesn't it? Speaking of... Hubby thought I was crazy (that not all Italians could possibly do this, it's just my odd family) until we were watching The Sopranos. There's a wonderful scene where Tony and Carmela are getting ready for a wedding and she's sitting at the kitchen table and... writing the gift in a Black Book. Hahaha!

I've been doing a lot of blahblah lately, so here's something more practical:

I've been told by many "Scholars" that the stuff in Leland's Aradia is made up. My Grandmother never read any Leland, but somehow she knew what to do on a Tuesday. What she told me isn't exactly what's in Aradia: Gospel of Witches, but it's close enough (given differences in region and dialect) for me to call it the same thing. I'm not going to repost it here because honestly, Leland mixes two different things: The first part is removing "The evil eye" using oil. He calls it a common courtesy between Wizzards. o.0? He also neglects to describe the gestures he mentions or the "special incantation," which I know they wouldn't let him overhear unless it was midnight on christmas eve. But I digress. The second part is a Petition to Diana to go out and find what you need and lead you to it.

Tuesday is THE day of the week to go shopping for that hard to find item. It's the day of Mars, dies Martis, and therefore action and the number 9, which is why most prices are $X.99. To do this, just concentrate on what it is you need and head on out shopping. I don't need to detail a ceremony for this, do I? Hold it in your mind, make an offering if you wish, then get on out there. It might not be the first place you go, but if you listen to your inner voice, you might notice it's amped up a bit, or you just might happen by a store, or feel compelled to pop into a certain place. Something to keep in mind: You might not find the item you thought of that day, instead you might come across something else that you had been looking for but had forgotten!

Let me know what you find :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Mystery Tradition of Parenting

How do you do The Great Work while doing The Great Work of Parenting?

Parenting a child is a Mystery Tradition unto itself. I don't just mean the actual pregnancy and birth, which are Women's Mysteries, but the raising of a child. For the uninitiated, who don't understand the joys, there are only annoyances: A coven mate, who has no children, recently complained about a two year old who was allowed to bounce around and annoy the other passengers while waiting for a delayed flight in an airport (she's lucky the child wasn't wailing). I was instantly offended when I read it; It felt incredibly judgmental. I've been the passenger, I've been the parent. Now, when I hear a child crying, my immediate reaction isn't annoyance, it's to decipher what kind of cry it is: Pain, tantrum, tired, hungry... it happens within an instant, it's not even a conscious thought at this point. My second thought is sympathy for the parent for having to deal with it around a hostile public. My third is to send some energy to both. Today, in fact, I shared a "been there" moment with a Mom whose child had been crying in a restaurant.

Sure there are challenges when raising a child, but the love, the magick, the joy of seeing the world anew through someone else's eyes, guiding someone through the labyrinth of life... It's more than worth it. When you are a parent, you can experience what it is to have true Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, not just as an ideal or goal or esoteric theory, but as an actual, immediate presence.

I'm not saying everyone should be a parent (I know people who should never ever procreate!). My point is that children should be embraced by the magickal community instead of shutting parents out with them. I don't mean every group should be a "family" group with kids running around blowing out the candles on the altar, but there are easy ways to work with those of us who are parents.

I decided to pursue a Community, rather than just keep to my Family Tradition, to not only expand my own magickal horizons, but also to have that community for my child. I want him to grow up around Magickal people. Unfortunately, many of these people, whom I love dearly and respect deeply, are not party to The Mystery of Parenting. By choice or by circumstance, there are not many who have children who aren't old enough to fend for themselves. This puts me in a bind. I feel like in the eyes of the majority, it's a hurdle. There are classes and meetings and gatherings I will inevitably miss. But there are easy ways to make it possible, especially with current technology.

I'm from a Family Tradition where your Family is your coven and the church is your community. Family is an integral part of the Tradition. Who do you pass your knowledge to? Who do you teach The Ways? Back when your life was on the line for your beliefs, you trusted no one but Blood. Helping make the family recipes, doing the every day rituals, working by your Mom's side and your Grandparent's side, learning without even realizing it... (I sometimes joke that my training was akin to Ralph Macchio's in Karate Kid: Wax on! Wax off!) This Adults only, children are an obstacle idea is completely foreign to me.

There are groups that do include kids: The occasional inclusive ritual, the season appropriate activity/workshop done while the adults are working. They've been wonderful, but also too few and far between.

Is it that there hasn't been a need? Are there too few children in the community to bother to make it happen? If I proposed something, would it be scoffed at? Do I care about a mere scoff? I have less leisure time, less disposable income and less sleep, but I have more motivation, more support and more unique insight. I'm not just doing this for me. I'm doing it for my child. I'd kill for him, I'll deal with scoffing like a cool breeze on a hot day.

Here's a quick guide for non parents:

I will Always have a priority that is higher than you.
I will Never be able to fully commit to an event, even after I have committed.
I Will bail on meetings and rituals at the last minute.
I Do want my child included, when appropriate, and no, not all the time (I need grown up time too!)
I Do want to do The Work, I just might not do it on your timetable.

Any Parents out there please feel free to add to this handy reference.

 Buona notte

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Sicilians use the 3-legged symbol on their flag. So do the Manx, on the flag of the Isle of Mann. The Sicilian Triskele is unique for including the head of a woman at it's center whereas other ones are just legs joined at the hip.

So who used it first? There is evidence to support both arguments:
• There are neolithic stone carvings in spiral form near Newgrange.
• Triskele/Triskelion come from the Greek word for 3-legged.
• There are Greek vases with the symbol on it, tho minus the woman's head.
• Celts lived in what became Northern Italy, but that's a far cry from Sicily, which had a history separate from and in addition to Italy proper.
• Greeks used the emblem on coins and ships.
• Pliny claims it was based on the shape of Sicily, whose 3 points are equidistant.

I believe the woman's head is a Goddess, worshiped at Lake Pergusa, which is in the exact center of the island and equidistant from the 3 capes. Proserpina (Persephone) is the Goddess of Sicily and is said to have been "abducted by Hades" from a lake in Enna. That's where Lake Pergusa is. The lake turns red at times over the summer. It has been called the Lake of Blood and was a gathering place for Women's Mysteries: "Lake Pergusa was once the location of an important religious center dedicated to female deities. Ceramic material found there dates to as early as 4000 BCE, and remains of circular and elliptical huts overlooking the lake date to 2500 BCE."-- Persephone's Sacred Lake and the Ancient Female Mystery Religion in the Womb of Sicily, Marguerite Rigoglioso.

Click above to download the article- it's fabulous. It confirmed nearly everything I felt was true about the Elusinian Mysteries, which has been added to the list of blog topics. Maybe I'll get around to posting about that this summer, 13 years since my visit to Eleusis.)

In the realm of historical research and who had more influence on whom, the vast expanse of trade and travel and conquering and wars has my head in a tizzy. I need to audit some classes on the warfare of the ancient greeks, romans and celts. Combine the wars, the colonizations, and the trade routes and it's a bit overwhelming. I need a guide who can help me take it in one logical piece at a time instead of trying to inhale it whole. I need a guide through this labyrinth.

Perhaps it's just one of those ancient archetypes ingrained in us all.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ancient Roman Hate-Fuck, huh?

Hubby came up with the title of tonight's post. (It was in reference to a discussion of the show Spartacus: Blood and Sand). I decided I needed to use that as a post title. What subject would possibly fit? It's a bit od a stretch, but who cares: Tonight's topic:

The Rape of the Sabine Women.

Why do they call it that? The actual word is "rapito" which means "kidnapped," not sexually violated. I digress. The story, in brief:

Romulus and Remus founded Rome. Romulus killed his brother Remus (where have we heard that before?) and names the city after himself. He also brought in ex-cons and outlaws to populate the city quickly. Makes for a great army, but not so much a great society when you have no heirs. The Romans needed to populate their city with Women.

They allegedly asked permission to marry from other local tribes but were rebuked. If you saw some big badasses trying to move in on your land, wouldn't you want them to disappear in a generation? The Romans were refused. Using their brains as well as their brawn, The Romans threw a big festival to Neptune and invited everyone to come- what we'd call a "family friendly event" these days. Folks came, especially the local Sabines. While the men were distracted with the games, the Romans kidnapped the women and took off.

By the time the Sabine men were ready to fight, Romulus had already negotiated directly with the women (which they should have done in the first place). He guaranteed them equal civil rights and property rights amongst other things. I wonder if he offered to let them go home if they said no. Anyway, the Sabine men finally get their asses in gear and wage war on the Romans when the Women show up and stop the fight. Livy attributes lovely speeches to the Ladies, something along the lines of "kill me instead, I don't want to live without my father or my husband." The men stop the fighting, the king of the Sabines gets to be co-ruler with Romulus (he died 5 years later... hmmm) and the Sabine families moved to Rome.  This is allegedly where the tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold came from.

Do I believe this actually happened? I have no idea. I think it's true on some level. I think they needed Women to survive, but I don't think a mass kidnapping is too bright, and I don't think it would've been all touchy feely with guaranteed rights, "real" marriages (as wiki reports)... what was the concept of "marriage" in those days anyway? (Is this period technically Roman or still pre-Roman? lol). I think the Romans would have had more resources than just having a bunch of ex cons kidnapping the local maidens. Part of the story that's especially fishy is that the women brought their children to the battle to stop it. Wha? FFS it took YEARS for the fathers, husbands and brothers of the Sabine women to get their shit together to get em back? That's what really sends this into the realm of fable for me.

When I'm in a good mood, I romanticize it- the neighboring women loved the Roman men and the mean Sabine daddies were keeping them apart. Bad mood? The evil men kidnapped the women and forced them to bear their children.

So what does this have to do with anything? Yeah.... I don't know. It something that's come up in my reading lately; I don't mean this specific story, but in general the idea that Rome was the America of the ancient world: Show up, found a city, intermarry with the natives (well, the colonists brought whole families here, but I digress), sections of the territory were ruled by several different far off powers until one group comes in and takes over the whole thing, war with one native tribe after another for a land grab until the natives are killed or assimilated... Sound familiar?

Rome was the melting pot of it's day, no matter if they forced some of the melting or not. I find it fitting that so many Italians immigrated to New York City, including my family.

PS: Anita: This rambling post was for you ;)

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I was going to complain about how I need to up my Italian skillz because I can hardly do family research when it takes me forever to translate a web site. No need to blog that, just to stfu and practice, right? One web site, which I've seen before, has my family's coat of arms. There's even a fun little legend about how the name started:

One two Princes kneel before you. That's what I said now.... Ack! Effing Spin Doctors...

There were two Princes, Brothers. Each had a castle on the opposite side of a river. Water grew scarce, each needed it. They fought over the river -the about to take up arms against each other fighting, not the whining to mom that he stole my water kind of fighting. My ancestor came along and built a contraption which split the river and made it flow towards both Princedoms. He was declared Master of the Water and given his own land and title. That's one story of how I became a Mastromarino. Here's our coat of arms:

(had to remove it, will upload it elsewhere! 1/26)

The page that has the coat of arms talks about the ancient origins of the name and traces it back to, I think, Thrace. It tries to follow as the name evolves into Mastromarino and other offshoots. If you're fluent in Italian, please take a look at the page and let me know your take on it. There's a whole big deal about us being related to a Templar. Interesting...

If you're in the mood for some surname fun, check out where your name is most popular in Italy and in the US:

I'll post about why family lines are important, including the adopted ones, another time. Add it to my growing list of posts to post!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

La Befana!

"b?" "p?" "v?" Makes no difference to an Italian. 

La Epifania is the name of the holiday... An Italian saying it in dialect? La Befana isn't a stretch...

Do a quick web search and you'll find the wiki entry for the "modern" version of the La Befana story. The christianized version is basically: The 3 Magi are wandering, following the infamous star. They somehow find themselves in Italy and knock on a old woman's door. They tell her they're off see baby Jesus and are bringing gifts, does she want to go with them. She says no, but when she changes her mind it's too late, they've already gone ahead. To make up for it, she goes around giving gifts to all children she comes across in case that's the one they were looking for.

But where did this come from? You don't have to search much to find out:

Ovid, in his work, The fasti, has a Q & A session with Janus. When asked why given gifts of fruit, dates, pure honey and a coin to start off the new year, Janus replies that it's to start the year off both sweet, and prosperous. The gifts were called Strenae- the New Year's Gifts, Janus rules that which is new- that first moment, the threshold and crossing through it.

In Vestiges of ancient manners and customs discoverable in modern Italy and Sicily (which was written in the 1820's) talks about a celebration he witnessed in Florence which included: People running around that eve dressed in "burlesque costumes" with torches in hand, singing, shouting and blowing glass horns. The author even notes a book I can't find about Dea Strenia.

My family has always celebrated New Year's Eve by dressing up (not just fancy dress, but after midnight, the women would dress up in the men's clothing, pretend to smoke cigars, paint on mustaches, etc), blow horns, ring bells, shout and party and have sweet foods (desert) as the first food of the new year. This often included a fruit bowl and struffles, aka honey balls. The celebration might have been a bit toned down this year (I didn't dress up in hubby's clothes), but things haven't changed all that much!

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
con le toppe alla sottana:
Viva, viva la Befana!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reading List

I've been asked what is currently on my reading list.

You already know about two from my last post, assuming you made it that far. I don't think I was all that ranty yesterday, nevertheless, I'll post those two first. You might see a theme emerge:

Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia, Green
This book assumes you've read the already published accepted theories from the 30s and 60s. If you haven't, it's not hard to catch up (liberal quoting and explanation).

The Aeneid
I want a copy that has the English translation alongside the original Latin, but I'll deal with this one

Odes, Epodes, Epistles, Satires, Ars Poetica, Carmen Seculare, Horace

The History of Rome, Livy

The Histories, Herodotus

There are 3 more, 2 are reference but since I can't recall the correct titles, I'll have to come back and amend the list.

What am I reading for fun? The Percy Jackson series is good fun! Yeah, it's a kid's series, but he uses the legends well and it's eons better than that piece o crap movie they made of the first book.

Signing off for now, but I plan to post later about the Dark Moon!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Scholars, ranty.

Scholar: A specialist in a given branch of knowledge.

Paganism is not a branch of knowledge. It's a forest. Someone might be well versed in the modern origins of Wicca, or the Qbl, or Norse lore, or Italic deities.... One will not be a scholar of "Paganism." There is just too much.

I don't put much stock in folks who style themselves as "Pagan Scholars." I trust the research done by several anthropologists, especially when they admit when they don't know things and are willing to change previously held opinions. But again, I can take it or leave it. Give me the information and I'll process it myself, tyvm.

I'm not a scholar, nor do I pretend to be. I know a little about a lot, and a lot about a little. I'm the muggle's "Pagan Friend." I can give you the basics of many different traditions and tools like astrology, tarot, numerology, etc. I can point you towards resources and teachers for your interests, but I will never try to teach something I have not Mastered. When I am asked to teach a subject I have not Mastered, I will point the person to trusted sources where they can get the information they need. If that isn't possible, only then will I agree to impart what I have been taught, including full disclaimers on my level of learning and progress.

I am not a Tarantella expert, but I know enough to lead others through the dance, introduce them to the tool, and point them towards teachers who can take them to the next level. I am not a labyrinth scholar, but I can build one and lead you through it. No matter how much I learn, no matter how close I come to "mastering" a subject or being a "scholar" in a certain area, I know that there will always be others who have information to add: I will never stop learning new things about these subjects, even if it's through personal gnosis, a highly underrated form of learning.

I suppose that brings me to my next point of annoyance: Not all scholars can teach and not all teachers are scholars. Just because you know something (or everything) about a subject, doesn't mean you have the ability to impart it. Just because you learn something doesn't mean you can teach it. Just because you read a book doesn't mean you're qualified to impart that information. It makes me sick that some people have the audacity to hold workshops on a subject after reading a book or two and dare to charge you money for the privilege of regurgitating what they've read.

I've seen more confusion in the Pagan community over the last 20 years thanks to unqualified teachers as opposed to unqualified students.

Thanks, I felt the need to get that off my chest. 

So where are my scholarly interests these days? Lately, Pre-Roman Italy. I'm once again reading Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia and The Aeneid and studying the maps of the time. I would love to know how the Triskelion emerged in both Sicily and The Isle of Mann well before the Normans showed up in Sicily around 1000 - 1100 c.e. Sicily is the triangle shape, not Mann. Just sayin... I'm also quite interested in the Orphic and Homeric Hymns, but they will have to wait. I have two other books to read first.

And now that I've gotten off topic and I don't want to gather up my rant steam once again, I'm signing off!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Art of Devotion

Do you have Patrons? How do you deal with them? Are you a devotee? Do they "overshadow" you? Are you partners? Is it a parental figure relationship? A relationship of lovers? A business arrangement?

I've had all of the above, some concurrently.

Some of the relationships I've read about, have been old about and have witnessed first hand have been along the lines of extortion. A relatively well known example from Italian circles:

To sell a house: 1) Dig a hole in the dirt on your property. 2) Take a statue of Saint Joseph and put him in the hole head first. 3) bury the statue while speaking words to condemn him to suffer in that hole until your house is sold. 4) When the house is sold, dig him up, clean him off, and give him a place of honor in your new home.

This practice is nothing new; The ancient Romans kept a statue of Saturn bound with ropes every day of the year except for the Saturnalia. Funny how nothing on the internet mentions WHY he was bound, just that the ropes were untied on this date.

Plenty of spells and works in the Roman tradition call for the tying, burying, covering and otherwise threatening the being, deity or otherwise. Conversely, many promises are also extracted from petitioners for favor from small things such as specific devotions and offerings, to the promise of a new temple. How many Roman temples were built by leaders who wished to please one deity of another? Add it to my list of things to look up.

I have Patrons I have chosen, and I have Patrons who have chosen me. Lately I've been realizing how intimately they are related, but I will be posting about that a lot, I'm sure, as I use this space to work things out "on paper." I like to make daily offerings. It gives me a chance to practice gratitude and a more intimate connection with those I have invited into my life. I change the form and practice of my devotions seasonally, typically committing to 45 day stretches, approximately. It could be offerings of water, or incense, candles, energy, practical work if I'm in an Earthy mood, etc.

I'm going to close here for the moment. I'll likely revisit this post again soon.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Janus/Jana = Ianus/Iana = Dianus/Diana?

Say each name with an Italian accent.

They sound the same! In a language where "capacola" is pronounced "gah-bah-GHOUL" there are many ways to say the same thing without realizing it and even more ways to spell it. Remember too that, Italy, as we know it, was not one unified country until relatively recently. In antiquity it was divided into several regions which had their own distinct language and traditions. There are areas where one local dialect is so foreign to another that the countrymen cannot understand each other.

Diana, it has been claimed, is just an imported version of Artemis. Janus, it is said, was a Deity native to pre-Roman Italy and worshiped above others before the Romans took over. Both Dianus and Jana are allegedly their opposite aspect, not their consort but more like an Intelligence.

Do you have an opinion? Insight? Personal Gnosis?

I'm not ready to post my research and conclusions. I am once again reading The Aeneid. I've just started. There are free (legal) copies on line if you'd like to join me!