Structure of a Formal Roman Ritual

A Roman Sacrific: Pouring a Libation

The Roman caeremonium is composed of a number of stages, each stage composed of one or more rituals. The arrangement of these stages, and the order in which they may appear, can vary according to the kind of caeremonium.  Here I follow a model posed by John North of University College London for the structure of Roman ritual, on which I have expanded some of the details.I. - PRAEFATIOThe preliminary stage of a formal Roman ritual begins with a praeco (herald) calling for people's a … [Read more...]

The Altar of Peace


Today, 30 January, is the anniversary of the dedication of the Ara Pacis, the Altar of Peace.   The image, below, is from the Ara Pacis, showing Tellus, who is Mother Earth, or else Ceres.  On Her lap sit Jupiter and Juno, or, as some think, Romulus and Remus. On either side of Her are Lympha and Nympha representing the waters from the air above and from springs beneath the land. Behind Her are the reed and poppies that are symbols of Ceres, as are the fruits in Her lap.  Today I would like to sh … [Read more...]

Rites, Rituals, and Ceremonies

ritus Herculis

The Latin term ritus means means a rite that is performed in the customary and usual Roman manner (Festus s. v.).  More specifically ritus refers to a Roman rite where prayers are correctly spoken, and the customary gestures and actions of Roman ritual are used. It is a marriage of prayer and action where the words giving meaning to an action and the action gives substance to the words. Furthermore a Roman ritus can be said to be composed of four parts:I The ApproachII The Gesture and … [Read more...]

Ritus Romanorum: an Introduction

Marcus Aurelius Sacrifices before the Capitoline Temple of Jupiter

"Lares, gods of my fathers, preserve me! While young and still nursing, you guided me when I played at your feet." ~ Tibullus I.x.15  At a makeshift altar of built-up turf, young Gaius' family had come to meet with their  gruff neighbor, Aulius Curius. Atop this altar Gaius' father and the other man had built a frame of sticks. His mother and another woman each held out lebetes, deep basins in which they each carried hot coals from their respective hearths. The coals were placed … [Read more...]

Opening Prayer

Sulis Minerva

Most holy Minerva, to You I call upon, virtuous dancer, come,  and for a moment listen to my prayer. I pray the You may guide my mind in this study that I have undertaken; kindle in me the Shining Light of Truth, and enlarge my understanding; open the gates to my soul that I may receive inspired guidance.Anchoring my thoughts in the full splendor of reality, hold me back from too much conceit of wisdom and from the paths of error by keeping me in intellectual converse with those realities … [Read more...]

Women as Pontifices

Performance of a Roman Ritual

"Numa appointed Numa Marcius, the son of senator Marcus, [as pontifex maximus] and all the regulations bearing on religion, written out and sealed, were placed in his charge. . . . He placed all other sacred functions, both public and private, under the supervision of the pontifex, in order that there might be an authority for the people to consult, . . . Nor were his functions confined to directing the worship of the celestial Gods; he was to instruct the people how to conduct funerals and a … [Read more...]