Religio Romano: Simple Daily Home Rites and Prayers

Religio Romano: Simple Daily Home Rites and Prayers

Religio Romano: Simple Daily Home Rites and Prayers

(Originally published in Oak Leaves No. 13.)

Early Romans were simple farmers and shepherds, and their gods and religious practices revolved around their homes, farms, and immediate community. Every household had some kind of shrine for the home deities, the Lararium, and would perform daily prayers honor the Lar, the guardian spirit of the household, and the Penates, the guardian spirits of the pantry or cupboards. In previous articles, I have discussed the basics of Roman hearth religion (see OL 10). I am now offering to share some very simple household prayers and rites suitable for a Roman household.

MORNING LARARIUM PRAYER

The Paterfamilias was traditionally responsible for leading the house hold each morning in a prayer to the deities of the household (the Lar and Penates) to thank them for keeping watch over the welfare and prosperity of the home and to ask that the coming day be fruitful and safe. In ancient times, the Paterfamilias was the male head of the household; however, in modern times, this need not be so. Just as the Paterfamilias of the community is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the community, the Paterfamilias of the household is responsible for maintaining a proper relationship between the deities and the household.

This particular prayer is designed to be performed before the lararium early in the morning after the Paterfamilias has been cleaned and purified, but before breakfast. The Paterfamilias stands before the lararium with arms outstretched and greets the household spirits:

Salve Lar Familiaris!
Greetings, household Lar!
Salvete Di Penates!
Greetings, Divine Penates!

{If you are making an offering, do so while speaking these lines; otherwise, omit the passages in brackets.}

Vos precor {hoc sacrificio obmovendo bonas preces} uti sitis volentes propitii mihi, {liberisque mei,} domo meo, familiaeque meae.
I humbly ask that you may bestow your blessing upon me, {my children,} my home, and my household.
{Mactete hoc sacrificio}
{Be thou increased by this which I give to you.}
Ita est!
So be it!

This is a great time for a few moments of daily meditation, particularly giving thought to what your plans, expectations, and hopes for the day may be and how the kindred spirits may be included and helpful during the day. A daily offering is not necessary, but is always an option, particularly if you seek especial favor that day. Moreover, this would be an ideal time for making a prepared or extemporaneous prayer or vow to a deity (or deities) for assistance in a particular situation. For example, when I had to leave my car at th shop for the day, I prayed to and made a vow to Mercurius (as one who is associates with commerce and fair business deals) Vulcanus (as one who is associated with metalwork and the forge fire), and any other deity who may have been able to assist me in keeping the cost of the repairs to a minimum. (It seemed to work, by the way; I had a loose spark plug, which was easily reconneted, and my mechanic didn't charge me a dime!)

DAILY MEAL PRAYER

At the evening meal (or whatever is the main meal of the day), it is appropriate to honor Vesta, the living flame, who is associated with the cook fire and the Penates. If, like me, you live alone and have irregular, quick meals, make a point of offering to Vesta a bit of whatever it is you're eating whenever you do sit down for a meal. Ideally, a place should be set for Vesta at the table with a serving of all that which the family is eating, then after dinner, but before dessert, the contents of the plate are cast into the fire on the hearth. As the offering is made, a short prayer to Vesta is made:

Salve, Vesta mater!
Greetings, Mother Vesta!
Accipe hoc sacrificium factum meo artificio de tua auxilia beata.
Accept this offering, made by my own handiwork with your blessed help.
Te precor humiliter uti sis volens propitia foco meo, domique familiaeque meae.
I humbly beseech you to bless my hearth, and the home of my family.
Macte hoc sacrificio.
Be thou increased by this which I give to you.

Throw the offering to the hearth (or place it in the offering bowl, as the case may be.)

Dea propitia sit!
May the Goddess be favorable!

PRAYER WHEN LEAVING HOME

Janus is the deity most commonly associated with doors in the Roman religion. He protects our homes from that which would bring harm to it or those within it. Not only is it a good idea to invoke Janus as a protector of the home, but Janus is also the gatekeeper between us and the realm of the deities. Establishing a good relationship with Janus may aid in enlisting his help in opening the gates in more elaborate rituals. It's not a bad idea to invoke him every time you enter and leave your home.

As you cross the threshold and close the door behind you, say:

Semper salve valeque, Jane Clusive!
Greetings always, Janus, closer of doors!

Extend your hands in supplication and say:

Me absente te precor uti sis domum, meam vigilans et ab injuria protegens.
I humbly beseech you to watch over my home in my absence, and protect it from harm.

Lock the door, then kiss your hand and touch this hand to the door, saying:

Ita est!
So be it!

PRAYER UPON RETURNING HOME

As you approach the entrance to your home, greet Janus, saying:

Salve Jane Patulci!
Greetings, Janus, opener of doors!

Extend your hands in supplication, saying:

Tibi gratias ago quod in me absentia domum meam vigilasti et ab injuria protexsti.
Thank you for watching over my home in my absence and keeping it safe from harm.

Kiss your hand, touch this hand to the door, and unlock it, saying:

Gratias tibi ago!
I give you thanks!

PRAYER OF ABLUTION (CLEANSING):

This is a short prayer than can be used whenever you shower, wash your hands, before a ritual or anytime you feel the need for purification. While washing, say:

Haec aqua a corpore impuritates, simile modo velut plumbum ad aurum mutando, eluat.
May this water cast out all impurities from my substance as from lead to gold.
Purget mentem. Purget corpus. Purget animum.
Purify my mind. Purify my body. Purify my spirit.
Ita est.
So be it.

If they were going to be attending or participating in a formal ritual, Romans would cover their heads, capite velato, to protect themselves from any evil omens en route to or during the ritual. If this prayer is used as an ablution prior to a ritual, it would be proper to cover your head with a shawl or length of cloth. As you do so, say:

Purus(-a) sim
May I be pure.
Immunis ex impurtates sim
May I be free from all impurities.
Mei facti fidi et justi sint
May my deeds be true and just.

Stand straight, your hands in a supplicant position, and say:

Juppiter mihi induat pietate.
May Jupiter enwrap me with Pietas.
Ita est!
So be it!

CONCLUSION

These are the first Latin prayers I have written, and they are ones I have begun to use on a regular basis. It's not necessary to address the Roman deities in Latin, and I wouldn't recommend anyone doing so without first learning some basics of Latin pronunciation. However, if you understand how to pronounce the Latin and feel more comfortable using it (speaking in Latin always reminds me of the days of Latin Masses and feels more formal to me), I believe the gods prefer it. The most important thing to remember, however, is that the more often you perform these small, daily rites and prayers, the closer you will grow to the deities. Your relationship will grow and you will feel their presence a little more each time your pray to them. Use the prayers in English or put them into your own words once you are comfortable with them. The Gods will hear you and appreciate your efforts and your piety.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Serith, Ceisiwr, The Deep Ancestors: Practicing Proto-Indo-European Religion, (forthcoming).

Nova Roma Website: Category: Roman Religion 2007.

Traupman, John C., Latin and English Dictionary, New York, Bantam Books, 1995.

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