Tuesday, January 21, 2014

All Roads Lead to Rome

The pull is there. It has been there a long, long time. I just never took the time to listen to the voices that said, "Come home; give us cultus; worship us; enlarge us; stop ignoring us, for we have been ignored and mistreated for far too long." Maybe I was afraid to listen, because going to that place would require work I wasn't ready to do. Gently, gradually, the spirits I serve have been pushing me towards Rome, saying, "Here. Go. We will always be with you, but you do not belong to us. You belong to Them."

When I first recognized the call, I thought it was coming from the Greeks. I didn't WANT it to be Rome. Ancient Roman religion, I thought, was too cold, too transactional. The gods were just  Greek knockoffs anyway, right? Greece is where it's at -- Dionysos and Hermes and great, thundering Zeus. They had the myths. They had the mysteries.

But no. The voices became louder. "Not to Greece. To ROME." So I started reading, and as I did, the cultus of the Romans opened up to me in a way I had not anticipated, and I realized that so much of the foundation of Roman polytheism, particularly the concept of Numen, appealed to my little animist soul. The worship of the Lares and Penates, the spirits of land and house, was something I was already intuitively doing, though I used different names.

The transactional nature of worship became something beautiful to me, giving cultus and worship to the gods because it is right and pious to do so. To see the hand of the gods and the spirits of land, family, household, and community, even the state, at work in the lives of everyone took my breath away as I uncovered it piece by piece. The precision of ritual -- doing it over if you got it wrong, offering propitiatory sacrifices in atonement for unknown offenses, paying attention to the signs and omens the gods send -- makes sense to me. It is done because it is right to do it and because the gods deserve it, because it is ultimately about them and not us, though we hope to help our families and communities by and through them.

So everything has shifted for me. I have been reading over the classics with a new eye (and pen and paper beside me), poring over my beloved Aeneid for the umpteenth time, and making up a new and unfamiliar calendar of feasts and observances that is sure to make the coming year an interesting one.

This blog, young as it is, will also be taking a turn towards Rome. I may retitle it. I will definitely be staking out new territory here and will probably make some mistakes. If you feel like it, I hope you will follow along with me, and we'll walk towards Rome together. After all, all roads lead there, at least for me.

It feels good to finally be heading home.

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