May!

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!

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About DeoMercurio

I’m a Gaulish polytheist, now back living in lands ceded by the Council of Three Fires after several years’ sojourn in Anatolia and in the land of the Senecas, with frequent travels to Gaul along the way. My grandfather’s family came from the area around Trier, and I identify closely with the Treveri in my religious practice.
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4 Responses to May!

  1. disirdottir says:

    I inadvertently practice ailurobibliomancy (Why did the cats knock that particular book on the floor? Which cat did it?), but I suppose that’s unavoidable when one must quarantine kittens in the library/Pagan room. . . .

    I would be interested to hear how the Lepontic divination development goes. I was intrigued by the Etruscan connections when I discovered them, but admit to simply leaning Scandinavian in my Germano-Gallo-Roman practice, content to use the Elder Futhark as-is.

    Interesting that the Hittites cross-referenced methods (citation?); I have used that technique for some time. I find different systems have different strengths, and a survey method not only can affirm by reinforcement, but also give a more nuanced response.

  2. disirdottir says:

    Oh, hey, found this, thought it might be of interest.

    “. . . there is a form of haruspicy, called “ooscopy”, that is quite compatible with the modern world. Ooscopy substitutes an egg for the sacrificial animal and inspection of the opened egg for examination of the entrails.”
    http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/Har.html

  3. DeoMercurio says:

    Yes! I had heard of oöscopy, and I think it’s an intriguing idea. There are a number of reasons I haven’t gone down that route myself (for example, I don’t offer eggs as victims in the way that the liver in question was drawn from a sacrificed animal). But I’m glad somebody out there’s applying Etruscan techniques that way.
    I’m glad you’re interested in the Lepontic thing; such as it is, I think it’s ready for the beta stage. I’ll lay it out in a stand-alone post here presently.
    The citation for my Hittite tidbit is a publication I don’t take regularly: The Biblical Archaeologist, namely Gary Beckman (June/September 1989), “The Religion of the Hittites” (I was reading the article for my page on IOM Dolichenus). Ita dixit Beckman: “Countless records of augury, extispicy (divination through the reading of animal entrails), and a curious type of lot oracle (Kammenhuber 1976) have been preserved in the archives. These divination techniques were often used as checks on one another.” (p. 106). I liked the idea of checks (I think (even) Cicero would approve!).
    Clearly none of these methods, however, can compare to ailurobibliomancy!

  4. Pingback: Lepontic grammatomancy | Deo Mercurio

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