Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Gift of Mercury Retrograde

The sun is setting outside right now and casting a beautiful orange glow; It's the perfect background for my latest Mercurial musings...

Everyone fears Mercury retrograde, and rightfully so! Mercury is said to be responsible for travel and transit and commerce and communication and knowledge (the learning and wielding of it)- the very foundations of society. When Mercury appears to turn retrograde in the sky, our basic patterns are disrupted. Sure, that's a bad thing when you're waiting 30 minutes for your train, or your bus doesn't arrive, or that email gets filed in drafts instead of sent, or worse- sent before you intended, or sent to the wrong person! But even a bad wind blows some good around.

The gift of this time is relief from the rut, protection from patterns. (Sorry, I can't think of any more alliterative examples.) This is a disruption in our basic way of thinking- we step outside of our usual patterns, willingly or unwillingly, but there we are. We can see our patterns and ruts and have the opportunity to adjust them. Mercury changes direction only from our perspective, so it is we who change direction, we are the ones seeing things differently, so take the opportunity to really see.

From Feb 23 - March 17th, Mercury retrogrades entirely within the sign of Pisces, from 19 degrees back to 5. Take a look at where this retrograde is in your chart (I like for free natal charts + transits) and use the opportunity to evolve your old patterns into new paradigms.

In the meanwhile, it wouldn't be a bad thing to give more offerings, especially frankencense, fragrant herbs, a poem (a nice haiku?) a song, and perhaps even a hymn.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The ancient Sabine tradition of chosing the Pontifex Maximus

The Romans were not the indigenous peoples of Italy. They founded a city and took their resources, and their religion, from neighboring tribes. They were heavily influenced by the Sabines and Etruscans. It is from them that we get the tradition about to be played out in Rome next month: The election of the Pontifex Maximus.

The pope's title is an ancient Italic magical tradition. The High Priest of Rome. The one who oversaw the Vestals, made sacrifices on behalf of SPQR, consulted the stars, the omens and the auguries and oversaw all of the Priests of the main deities of Rome. I was going to say "main temples" but those who had temples in Rome were transported there from other places for political reasons, such as Diana's temple from Lake Nemi. The physical location wasn't moved, but the relics held within the temple were. I digress!

There is plenty of debate about what "pontifex" originally referred to. Some say it's "bridge builder" or "way paver" but if you look at the Sabine language, it might just mean 5. They had a college of 5 priests. I'll go with that one. Quoth the holy wiki:

Five by Five

This explanation takes into account the fact that the college was established by Sabine king Numa Pompilius and the institution is Italic: the expressions pontis and pomperias found in the Iguvine Tablets may denote a group or division of five or by five.
The pontifex would thence be a member of a sacrificial college known as pomperia...

King Pompilius was the second king of Rome. He instituted many of the religious functions of Rome (the flamens, pontifices, fetiales and the salii), some say trying to turn the war-happy group into a more pious, kinder society.
According to the Augustan-era historian Livy, Numa Pompilius, a Sabine, devised Rome's system of religious rites, including the manner and timing of sacrifices, the supervision of religious funds, authority over all public and private religious institutions, instruction of the populace in the celestial and funerary rites including appeasing the dead, and expiation of prodigies. Numa is said to have founded Roman religion after dedicating an altar on the Aventine Hill to Jupiter Elicius and consulting the gods by means of augury. Numa wrote down and sealed these religious instructions, and gave them to the first Pontifex Maximus, Numa Marcius.

He didn't just use augury, he is said to have consulted Aegeria on the rites and rituals of Rome. Some sources say She was his "Divine Consort." Aegeria who, you ask? The same "nymph" who was worshiped at Aricia, at Lake Nemi, also spelled Egeria. There is some debate as to whether she is equated with Diana or just shared the natural grotto and lake, known as the Mirror of Diana. Anyone who has used a bowl of water for scrying under the full moon can thank Aegeria and Numina.

In the news today is the announcement that the current pope will resign and a new pope needs to be chosen. I would say that the similarities in the process are striking, but if you've ever read this blog, you shouldn't be surprised in the least that the current Holy Roman Church is much the same as in the Ancient Roman Empire. A few examples:

Ancient (modern)
Only selected from the patrician class at first, then any qualified man (only selected from cardinals, tho technically all single catholic men are eligible)
Voted on by the  representatives of local tribes (Cardinals are in charge of different areas, or tribes of catholics)
Both, at one point could be elected by popular declaration of the people, but the practice was ended. It's said this is how Pope Joan was elected.

I'll pause here for now and leave you with this: I did not cause the pope to resign. It's just a huge coincidence he did it right after I posted my first proper blog of the year.

Lunar Cult in a Solar World

As an unabashed calendar nerd, I must admit that even I have trouble reconciling the ancient celebration dates with today's modern calendar. I'm not alone in this- even the ancients had problems with it! They would routinely add days to make the calendar coincide with the proper seasons and stars. So when do we celebrate the ancient feasts? There's some logic and some fudging, some guessing, and even some changes for the sake of convenience. That Catholics do this too, two examples: the recognition of Saint celebrations moved to the nearest Sunday and combining the Archangel celebration into one date.

So how do we plot our current season? I don't advocate trying to reconstruct the ancient calendar entirely for two reasons: The aforementioned date adding, and well, which version? Which period would you use? The years before Dionysus was added to the Lesser Mysteries? The period of the Republic? The reign of a certain Emperor? They shifted, added and removed celebrations as often as the Popes.

There is some research involved. It depends on the deities you work with. Solar? Lunar? Which phase of the moon? Which astrological sign? Which seasonal cycle are you following? A particular Mystery Tradition? A reconstructed cult of a certain era?

I will use Hekate's Deipnon as an example of modern. calendar issues:

Historically, Hekate's Feast was celebrated on the last day of the month. This is in reference to the LUNAR MONTH. That is, the last sliver of crescent of the Waning Moon. This is, in part, where some get the Hekate-as-Crone idea: If the first sliver of waxing crescent is the Maiden, and the Full moon is the Mother, some reason that the waning crescent is the crone. I don't agree with that assessment as I don't work with the Triple Goddess concept in that way, but that's a whole different conversation. As Aristophanes said of the timing of Her Deipnon: "kata ten noumenian hesperas," meaning: "on the eve of the new moon."

Hekate is a lunar deity. The Far-Darting one. Her parents are of the stars. She is why we see far- in the dark you see more of the night sky. She is to be celebrated on the last night of the lunar month, the Dark Moon. It irritates me when I see events celebrating Her feast on the last day of the solar month.

Please note: You should not care what I think. It is not my business what relationship you have with your deity. I am stating my opinion and the reasons for it. I do not judge you if you have done your research and come to your conclusions, or achieved gnosis with your chosen deity and set your date otherwise. What irritates me is the conflation of lunar and solar calendars as if they're interchangeable: They simply are not. That is lazy scholarship which is not at all respectful of the deity you're supposed to be honoring.

All said, I am personally conflating several celebrations this year: Parentalia was held on the 13th of the month, just as the moon waxed full. But which moon? The Wolf moon, as it was two days before Lupercalia. This year's "Wolf moon" was back on January 26th. The next moon is Feb 26th. How do we reconcile it? Which moon do we use? Part of the equation can be found in Astrology. For celebrations like Lupercalia, or the Lesser Mysteries, we look to the cross-quarter date, when we reach 15 degrees Pisces (It was Feb 4th this year). This week we have several celebrations: Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras, and Love Day. I'm going to take advantage of this tide of celebratory energy, work with the fixed stars and astrological sign, and celebrate the Parentalia this week. How is that ok when I'm bitching about the misuse of the calendar in the case of the deipnon? The Parentalia wasn't a lunar celebration, it was a seasonal one, conflated with the lunar celebration of the day. The later timing also works astrologically with the Feralia, the last date of the 9 day festival.

There is a logic to it, there is an ancient rhythm. that exists even today, with our solar based calendar. If you look for this rhythm you'll find it. Unfortunately, the tide of lazy scholarship pulls so many out to sea like a nasty undertow.

So go out TONIGHT, on the DARK MOON, and catch the last chance to celebrate Hekate's Deipnon this month. Soon enough the first crescent of the NEW MOON will appear and we will celebrate Hera, on the Kalends, the first day of the lunar month. :-D