A Roman Ritual Template

It has been a challenge to adapt ADF's standard liturgical formulae for a Roman hearth culture, and being the legalistic, formulaic Roman that I am, I need to accompany this article with certain disclaimers. First of all, this is most certainly a work in progress; I'm working out the kinks as I go along, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Secondly, I have drawn from sources as widely varying as Cato's De Agri Cultura to Ceiswr Serith's Pagan Book of Prayer. I am certainly open to suggestion, though I am not likely to begin studying haruspicy with real livers, nor am I likely to do an entire Roman rite extemporaneously. The middle ground between reconstruction and inspiration is where I stand :)

And so as the proper Roman, I must offer thanks in advance all who have assisted in making this template possible, including, but not limited (and in no particular order), to Nova Roma, Ceiswr Serith, Jason, Cato, Varro, Ian Corrigan, Isaac Bonewits and countless others who have made ADF liturgy what it is today.

As with most ADF rituals, we begin with a...

Musical Signal

I use a bell. Your mileage may vary. I would assume the most authentic Roman reconstructionists might preface their rituals with blasts from a trumpet to get everyone's attention, then the remaining ritual action would be accompanied by a flutist, in order to drown out any ill omens (or hecklers). I prefer to begin with a bell, then set it aside for the remainder of the rite.

[Note: I am skipping the procession in this template, since most Roman rituals would have been in a clearly established sacred space – usually a temple or sacred grove used for no other purpose – and there would have been no need for the celebrants to pass from the profane to the sacred. Again, your mileage may vary. Feel free to add a processional.]

Honoring the Earth-Mother

My favorite Earth Mother blessing is based on prayer by Ceiswr Serith, though I have adapted it to the Roman goddess Ops, goddess of the stores (in a rather literal sense). In the urban community, it was Ops who provided sustenance to all the folk, and so it seemed appropriate to first ask her blessing and invite her to join us as we worship the Kindreds. (Offerings to Ops would be made into the mundus.)

Ops Mater. Goddess of the bounty of the earth,
We send out words in praise of you, from whom all worlds flow.
Mystery of mysteries, this continual creation,
like a fountain forever bubbling up from the Earth's darkness
She is a cup that is never empty.
Generous One, eternally giving gifts,
We pray to you; we praise you.

All: Ops Mater, we praise you. (bend and kiss the ground)

Evoking the Bardic Deity

Apollo is one of the few Greek deities who was assimilated wholly into the Roman pantheon without being equated with a pre-existing deity from Latium. It seems appropriate to pray to Apollo as both a deity of poetry and music, but also a deity of divination. This particular evocation was pretty much divinely inspired – I cannot take full credit for it – and may be used in whole or in part for this module of ritual.

Phoebus Apollo, bringer of light, son of
Zeus, the almighty and Leto, the rich-haired, who
Bore him at Delos, where all manner of men now
Come bearing gifts, fine and fragrant for thee.

O Lord Apollo, who bears the gold sword, who
Shoots from afar with his bright silver bow;
Mighty slayer of dragons and lover of beauty;
Whose arrow strikes truer than Marsyas or Cupid.

Thou, who humbled the streaming, scheming Telphusa;
Whose lilting lyre delights all Olympus;
Whose oracle utters Zeus's unerring will;
Whose art, aim, and intellect reigns supreme over all.

Sweet-tongued Apollo, who sings for the Gods, may'st thou
Guide thence our praises to bathe them in honor;
For we are but mortals, and thou art a God;
Only this boon we beg thee, grant to us now:

That our voices be pleasing to Gods, Spirits, and Manes;
That the aim of our rite strike its target precisely;
That our blessings and theirs pass freely between
The realms of the Kindreds and the lips of our Seer.

All: Macte virtute esto! (This translates loosely as "Well done!" A simple "Macte" would also be appropriate.)

Acknowledgement of the Outsiders

The celebrant carries out an offering for Mars Silvanus, as protector and warder against the adverse influences of the wild. Traditionally, Silvanus received offerings of pork, fat and grain. I suspect he has an appreciation for greasy fast-food, so I think offering him "sliders" – White Castle burgers – seem to keep him fairly happy, though I have also offered more wholesome turkey bacon, whole wheat flour and olive oil, too. As always, your mileage may vary.

(Because I think the Roman deities appreciate it when we try it in Latin, though this is a bit less formulaic and more vernacular...)

Mars Silvanus Pater,
te precor uti sis bonae volentatis et propitious mihi domui familiaque nostrae,
ad quod offero hoc sacrificium,
uti nos defendas, et tu prohibeas et avertas, et averrunces omnia adversa, tam visibilia quam invisibilia, quae nos opponere volunt.

(And for those following along in English...)

Father Mars Silvanus,
I pray you be of good will and favorable to me and to our house and household,
for which purpose I make this offering
that you may prohibit, defend and avert things seen and unseen that may oppose us.

All: FIAT! ("So be it!")

Specification of Ritual Purpose & Historical Precedent/Naming Deity of the Occasion

This part of the ritual entails as much research and inspiration as the celebrants can muster. Some festivals (like Saturnalia, for example) are far better documented than others (such as Furrinalia). Good luck with festivals like Lupercalia and Furrinalia.

Centering, Grounding, & Merging

When in Rome – or your grove ritual – use the groupmind exercise most likely to work with the group of celebrants. I use a sort of condensation and expansion of ADF's "Two Powers" meditation. (This could be an article in itself, so I won't go into any more detail in this context). I finish out the meditation with one of my favorite prayers from Ceiswr Serith that establishes a universal visualization of the cosmos better than any other I know.

Take a moment to find the center of your mind, body and soul.

Breathe deeply from your belly the air in this sacred grove, charged with anticipation and potential. Exhale fully through your mouth; then, through your nose, fill your lungs with the clean, cool aroma of this moment. Allow that sacred air to circulate and surge throughout your body.

Now continuing to breathe from your belly, stand firm and feel the Earth's pulse through the soles of your feet. Curl your toes into the ground, rooting yourself into the bosom of the warm, nurturing Earth. Draw another deep breath while imagining tendrils of roots and vines connecting your self with the soil beneath you.

Now stretch forth your hands to those closest to you, and grasp hands or simply touch them, if you can. At one with the cosmos and at one as a grove – we are, as a community, greater than the sum of our parts. We stand as a grove in a forest of trees, one folk.

The waters support and surround us
The land extends about us
The sky stretches out above us.
At the center burns a living flame.
May all the Kindred bless us.
May our worship be true.
May our actions be just.
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the Holy Ones.

All: Macte virtute esto! ("Well done.") ... or... SO BE IT! (if you prefer)

Offerings to the Sacred Center

I admit, this is the newest and most radical variation from the standard Fire/Well/Tree of standard ADF liturgy, and that I am still working out precisely how best to open the gates in Roman ADF rites. Though I still have much work to do in this respect, this is the way I open the gates.

In Roman rites, we do not have a fire, well and tree. We have a focus, a mundus and a portus. That is, a fire (sacrificial fire, as opposed to hearth fire), an offering shaft (or pot of earth if you do not have a permanent ritual space) and a doorway. The latter is literally the portus, the portal between the worlds, of which Ianus (also known in the financial industry as Janus -- though the proper Roman pronunciation is "YAH-noos") is the gatekeeper.

The portus is the trickiest to create ritually. When doing an indoor ritual, I have a particular doorway in my home that is my portus. When doing an outdoor ritual, I have a particular gazebo in the public space in my community that I use as my portus. (I am still contemplating how I might construct a portable, transportable portus that would break down and fit in my Honda Civic. A garden trellis, for example, is just too big.)

Acknowledgement/Offering to the Mundus

(Rarely was the mundus actually opened in Roman times – twice a year, at best. In modern times, we do tend to be more welcoming to that which is below, and so we [warily] open the gateway to the underworld.)

Here is the mundus, the eye and mouth of the Earth.
Open for this brief time that we may receive all Numinae into our rite.
Beneath us, below us and sprouting through us are the waters of rebirth,
The mundus, gate to all of that which is below, we acknowledge and uphold.

[OPTIONAL –To the mundus, we make this offering: (If offerings to the gates are made, one of earth or peat might be appropriate.)]

All: Mundus patet! ("May the mundus be opened!")

Acknowledgement/Offering to the Focus

If at all possible, bring a bit of fire from the celebrant's hearth fire to kindle the ritual fire. This prayer is really to Vesta, who in early times was not precisely a goddess of fire, but more of an embodiment of the hearth itself. This particular prayer is adapted from one written by Ceiswr Serith.

Vesta Mater, Shining Lady, unite us all,
For by worshipping at a common hearth
We are made one family, one people.
Queen of the hearth, Vesta Mater, your household is here.
Let us pray with a good fire.

[OPTIONAL – To Vesta, we make this offering: (If offerings to the gates are made, one of incense might be appropriate for Vesta.)

All: Let us pray with a good fire!

Acknowledgement/Offering to the Focus

Stand we here as a doorway,
The folk a pillar between the worlds.
Together, we gather at this sacred portal
In wisdom, love and hope.

[OPTIONAL – To the portus, we make this offering: (If offerings to the gate are made, censing with incense or sage and aspersing with water might be appropriate for the Mundus.]

Evoking the Gate Keeper

Salve Ianus Pater!!
Ianus Inceptio, God of beginnings;
Ianus Brifons, Two-faced Ianus;
Ianus Patulcius, Opener of doors;
Ianus Domesticus, Protector of homes;
Ianus Quirinus; God of the folk
Lend wings to our prayers and conjure a portal between us and the world of the Gods.
Through your door, let the prayers of your supplicants pass to the Kindreds.

[OPTIONAL – Ianus Pater, accept our offering! (An appropriate offering might be olive oil, wine, incense, doorknobs, WD-40... or whatever else you want to try with a god of doorways and beginnings.)]

Opening the Gates

In traditional ADF fashion, I still conjure the Gates, making an opening gesture (usually simply a circle) on the triple center, saying:]

Now, Janus
Join your magic with mine

And let the focus open as a gate,
Let the mundus open as a gate,
Let the portus be the crossroads of all Worlds.

Ianus of Openings, admit us into the presence of the shining Ones
IANUS PATULCIUS ADMITTE NOS IN PRAESENTIUM NUMINUM LUCENTIUM PORTAE APERIANTUR – Let the gates be open!

All: Let the Gates be open!

Offering to the Ancestors

The children of the Earth call out to the Mighty Dead.
Salvete, Majores et Di Manes!
Greetings, ancestors and divine dead.

You who were here before, we offer you welcome.
Ancestors of our blood, we offer you welcome.
You who guide us, we offer you welcome.

Come to our hearth, Ancestors
Meet us at the boundary
Guide us and ward us as we walk the elder ways.

Majories et Di Manes, mactete hoc sacrificio!

All: Ancestors, accept our sacrifice!

Offering to the Nature Spirits

The children of the Earth call out to the Spirits of this Land.
Salvete, Numinae et Indigites!

Kindred of earth, we offer you welcome
Kindred of the growing green, we offer you welcome.
Kindred who fly or walk or swim or crawl, we offer you welcome.

Come to our fire, Spirits;
Meet us at the boundary.
Guide us and ward us as we walk the elder ways.

Numinae et Indigites, mactete hoc sacrificio!

All: Nature Spirits, accept our sacrifice!

Deities

The children of the Earth call out to the Shining Ones. Salvete, Dei!

To all Gods and Goddesses, we offer you welcome.
To all Gods of this place, we offer you welcome.
To all the deities of this household, we offer you welcome.

Come to our hearth, Shining Ones;
Meet us at the boundary.
Guide us and ward us as we walk the elder ways.

Dei, mactete hoc sacrificio!

All: Deities, accept our sacrifice!

The Main Sacrifice

Wash your hands first and cover your head. (Roman sacrifices were performed capite velato – heads covered; Greek sacrifices were performed with the head uncovered – Graecus ritus.)

A pretty good formula to use (this formula more or less straight from Cato, because it is always a good idea to first address them in the language to which they are most accustomed...)

[insert name of deity] Pater/Mater (since you are establishing a patron/client relationship),
te hoc vinum [porcum, bovvum, etc.] ommovendo bonas preces, precor uti sies volens propitious illis Quiritibus te laudatis,
quoius re ergo hoc sacrificium offero.

Father/Mother [deity's name]
With good prayers I offer to you this wine [pork, beef, etc.].
May it be your will to look with favor upon these folk who have honored you,
For which purpose I make this offering.

All: Macte virtute esto! ("Well done!")

Praise Offerings, Dance, Libations, etc.

[any additional praise offerings from the congregation]

Piacular Offering

Being the let's-make-sure-we-cover-all-our-bases Roman that I am, I would never do a ritual without a piacular offering – just in case. So far, I think it has saved me from being struck by lightning, swallowed up by a suddenly opening chasm in the earth and being washed out to sea by a great wave. So, what the heck?

This final offering – for me – has traditionally been of gold, wine and incense. So far, that has covered all the bases (though I might also consider a golden apple). The text of the prayer is based on one by (liturgist extraordinaire) Ceiswr Serith:

[Deity(ies) name] Pater/Mater,
Gods and Goddesses,
Holy Ancestors,
Spirits of this place:
If anything that we have done here has offended you,
If anything we have done here has been incomplete,
If anything we have done here has not been in the proper manner,
Accept this final offering in recompense.

Seeking the Omen of Return

I still struggle for the perfect compromise between traditional Roman liturgy and Neopagan expectations. If I were a complete reconstructionist, I would simply ask if the offerings and rite were acceptable and wait to see if I were struck by lighting (or some other such obvious sign of displeasure). In the absence of any real "sign," I would assume all the Kindred were cool with my rite. My preference is simply to stand still, listen, and pay attention to anything out of the ordinary. (At my Neptunalia/Furrinalia rite in July, when I asked if the rite was acceptable, the sun came out from behind the clouds and the wind shifted – inexplicably – from the west to east. Works for me.)

However, folks attending modern, Neopagan rituals tend to want some sort of direction from the Kindred – some sort of "answer" to a question. Short of asking the resident diviner to perform a Tarot reading or draw runes [shudder], I have pulled three cards from a selection of cards from the Mythical Tarot. (I use only the major arcana cards with Greek mythology that can be easily associated with Roman deities.)

The ritual text is derived from (I believe) 6th Night Grove, ADF's standard liturgy, Latinized, of course:

So we have given of our love and our wealth
To the Kindred, that they may know our devotion.

Now let our voices arise on the Focus
Let our voices sound in the Mundus
Let our words pass through the Portus.

May we open to the Kindreds,
Asking what blessings they offer us in return
And the needs they have of us.

At this point, usually, I simply ask, "Have the sacrifices been accepted?" If I am celebrating with folks more accustomed to ADF rites and omens, I will use the (abbreviated) Mythical Tarot and the three questions (Have the sacrifices been accepted? What do the Kindred offer to us? What do the Kindred ask of us in return?)

If the omen is such that this question is answered in the negative, we go back and do another piacular offering, then start this part over. Until we get it right. (So far – knock wood – I have never had to make additional piacular offerings.)

Induction of Receptivity

(Adapted from standard ADF and 6th Night Grove, ADF liturgy...)

Ancient and Mighty Ones, we have honored you
We pray you honor us in turn
For a gift calls for a gift.
Hear your children:
NUMINA LUCENTIA, AQUAE VIVAE DATIS!

All: Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

Consecration Agreement

Behold the holy Cup of Magic
The outpouring of Blessing from the Great Ones
When we share the draught of the Gods
We drink in wisdom, love and strength
To do as we will in the worlds
In service to the Shining Ones.

Hear us [Father/Mother deity(ies) of the occasion]:
Hallow these waters!

ECCE AQUAE VIVAE!

All: Behold the Waters of Life!

(The cup is shared.)

Thanking of Entities Invited in Reverse Order

(Also adapted from standard ADF and 6th Night Grove, ADF liturgy...)

The Great Ones have blessed us.
With joy in our hearts,
Let us carry the magic from our sacred Grove
Into our lives and our work.

Each time we offer to the Powers
They become stronger
And more aware of our needs and our worship.

So now as we prepare to depart
Let us give thanks
To all those who have aided us.

Father/Mater [deity(s) of the occasion],

PATER NEPTUNUS, GRATIAS TIBI AGIMUS!

All: We thank you!

O Gods and Goddesses of elder days,

DEI. GRATIAS VOBIS AGIMUS!

All: We thank you!

O Spirits of this land

NUMINAE ET INDIGITES, GRATIAS VOBIS AGIMUS!

All: We thank you!

O Ancestors, our Kindred

MAJORES ET DI MANES, GRATIAS VOBIS AGIMUS!

All: We thank you!

To all those Powers that have aided us, we say again...

GRATIAS VOBIS AGIMUS!

All: We thank you!

Mother of all
To you we return all we leave unused
Uphold us now in the world as you have in our rite.
Mater Ops, GRATIAS TIBI AGIMUS!

All: We thank you!

Ianus Clusivius, closer of doors,
For your presence and power
Your guiding and guarding we say...
GRATIAS TIBI AGIMUS!

All: We thank you!

Final offering to Vesta

Make a final offering of incense to the sacrificial fire, which is left to burn out on its own. (This, too, is adapted from a prayer by Ceiswr Serith.)

Vesta Mater, Queen of the hearth,
Who by rights receives the last,
Bless and guard all those who worship you
Whether in their home or without
Whether alone or with others
Whether thinking of you or engaged in business.
Lady of Fire, receive this offering.

Affirmation of Past/Future Continuity and Success

Now by the Keeper of Gates and by our magic We end what we began.

Now let the Focus be but a flame;
Let the Mundus be an urn [or whatever you're using];
Let the Portal be only a doorway [gazebo, trellis, or whatever].

Let all be as it was before...

PORTAE CLAUDANTUR!

All: Let the Gates be closed!

Go now, Quirites
In peace and blessings
The rite is ended!

ALL: IO SATURNALIA!! (or Neptunalia, or Lupercalia, or whatever occasion you happen to be celebrating... or simply – my traditional ritual ending: WOO HOO!!!!)

Author Information

Rev. Jenni Hunt, Ret.

Articles by Rev. Jenni Hunt, Ret.

2017 Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, Inc.

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