Many Gods West is an
alarming invigorating three weeks away! As I’ve mentioned in one or two previous posts, I’ll be presenting a ritual in honour of Dea Roma and Divus Augustus. I say “presenting” advisedly, because I will not actually be presiding over the ritual …. That will be up to somebody we elect to act as sacerdos Romae et Augusti, or priest of Rome and Augustus.
This position is meant to echo that of sacerdos Romae et Augusti at the Council of the Three Gauls as a respectful homage, though it will not be the same thing. The annual ritual of that council, held at Condate from 10 BCE onwards, took place on August 1 just like ours will. For the people of Gaul all through the Roman period, this priesthood was the high point of a person’s career, conferring bragging rights not only on the priests themselves, but on their local tribes as well. It was the kind of thing people would inscribe on their tombstones (for which reason we have the names of thirty-odd such sacerdotes preserved) (the first was C. Julius Vercondaridubnus of the Ædui—a delightful mélange of Latin and Gaulish in the best old style).
Now, the attendees, of course, will just be self-selected conference goers, not duly commissioned delegates from the various Gallic peoples. Still, given that this is breaking new ground, this is an awesome opportunity to win fame and glory, venerate some truly venerable deities, and, who knows, maybe even help (re)found a tradition. So think about it! If you’d want to take on this role, or know somebody who’d be perfect for it, you’ve got three weeks to mentally and psychically prepare yourself or them.
Why honour Dea Roma? Well, y’know, Western civilization, the classics, the Renaissance, plucky little burgh on a few hills that overcame all the odds and ruled most of the known world already, countless sculptures of Praxiteles known only from Roman copies, Ovid, roads, arches, aqueducts, etc.
Why honour the divine Augustus? Peace, clemency, reconciliation, building things in marble that one finds in wood, blossoming of the arts and literature, religious revival, making Roman civilization work for the millions of people under Rome’s rule, etc. (Plus, if you loathe Antony as much as I do, giving that puffed-up bullying renegade what he deserved! Just sayin’. By the way, Augustus and his sister took good care of Antony’s kids after their father’s suicide.)
I’ll try to make it fairly easy on the first sacerdos Romae et Augusti at Olympia (doesn’t that have a great ring to it?). You’ll have cult images of the deities in question, gifts to offer them (pre-approved via divination), and a script to follow most of the way through. What you will bring is your own zing, pizzazz, and priestly razzmatazz.
Of course, I’m being rather flippant. To take on this kind of honour, candidates should feel sufficiently clean—physically, psychically, and mentally—to do so. I’ll allow candidates to be their own judge on this. However, it is recommended to abstain for a few days before the ritual from any contact with the dead, sexual intercourse, eating particularly rich foods—whatever would make you feel unfit for the position. If you’re thinking of presenting yourself as a candidate, you’ll want to make sure your mind is clear, pure, and pious: meditate; cleanse yourself; do divination to make sure you’re not crossing any boundaries you oughtn’t.
Also, if you have something bright and white to wear, preferably with a hood or scarf or flap that you can use to cover your head, please bring it! Otherwise I’ll have a comparatively lame-looking stole on hand.
Do it! Your whole tribe (Thracian? Dionysian? Celtic reconstructionist?*) will be able to brag of this forever.
By the way, since this post will be dated 13 July, happy Apollinaria (final day of the Ludi Apollinares) to one and all! Hail Apollo! (As in, the patron of Augustus … and perhaps his spiritual father as well—there’s an intriguing story there ….)