I thought I had set WordPress to nag me when I hadn’t posted a blog entry in a week. I guess that after I wasn’t posting during my European trip, WordPress gave me up as a lost cause (sad!). Anyway, May’s a special month, obviously, for devotees of Mercury, since the month is named after Maia, that august mother of Mercury, and the god’s most noteworthy festival at Rome (Mercuralia) took place on the 15th. (Which is to say, the Ides of May.)
Naturally, I’ve been (more or less!) keeping up with a schedule of devotions to Mercury, Rosmerta and allied deities on their appointed days this month. For example, the Kalends of May (that’s the 1st) (yes, Beltaine, if you wish) was a date sacred to a number of goddesses whom I claim to be analogous to the Gaulish Rosmerta.
On Mercuralia, there’s a nice bit where you fetch water from the well at Rome’s Capene Gate and use it to sanctify all your wares and things you use for business. (Ovid has a very satirical report of this procedure in the Fasti.) That well has long since dried up, unfortunately, so my compromise is to take water from elsewhere and consecrate it, praying that by Mercury’s grace it may be for my purposes here as the water from the Capene Gate.
I’ve also been engaging in a kind of reverse cultural imperialism of the kind that I suspect I would strongly disapprove of … if I didn’t feel somehow obliged to attempt it myself. Namely, I’m trying to adapt the Gallo-Etruscan script for divinatory purposes, on the theory that (A) runes are widely so used, (B) runes are probably derived from a North Italic alphabet closely related to Gallo-Etruscan, and (C) the correspondence between Gallo-Etruscan letters and their cognate runes is closer than you might imagine. I know, this sounds like an absurd and anachronistic cultural mishmash, and it is. But it’s to solve a practical problem: I’m experimenting with various divinatory instruments. For close to a year I’ve been playing around with Virgilian bibliomancy—the so-called sortes uergilianae attested in antiquity (albeit in the notoriously unreliable Historia Augusta). For a variety of reasons, I’ve kept adapting that schema, and Apollo Virotutis (whom I always invoke for aid when attempting divination) has been very patient.
My latest concept is to use several instruments as a check on one another (as the Hittites apparently did): a Virgilian verse, a Gallo-Etruscan letter, and an observation of birds. Hopefully I can eventually become sufficiently discriminating with all of these methods that I won’t need to use all three together. In fact, I usually get by perfectly fine on instinct, as it were. I don’t have a finely tuned “god phone”, but some god—Mercury, as I believe—usually gives me the sense of a thumbs up or thumbs down, whether I’m using a divinatory technique or not. This is a gift, and I value it; but it also makes me think I’d have the potential to gain more divinatory skills than I’ve yet developed. I will be posting here if my forays into the alphabet of Lugano (a.k.a. Lepontic or Gallo-Etruscan alphabet) bear fruit!