Life in Ritual Context

Antinous Harvests Grapes

“When celebrating the harvest, pour a libation to the Gods before you eat (Censorinus, De Die Natali 1.8-10).” Any activity may be transformed into a ritual, and ritual can be transformative of your normal activities. It is simply a matter of putting your activities into a ritual context.  Upon waking we address our Lares, maybe by offering some incense and lighting a candle or lamp for them. Then we go about our usual morning routine, cleaning and dressing for the day, adding in … [Read more...]

Dancing the Sacred Way

Sacra Via

Some years ago, an old woman came up to me, handed me two pennies, and said, “Go to Rome.”  Then last summer, on my first visit to Rome, I found myself with Livia dancing along the Sacra Via.There was the aura of Rome’s past glories, the romance of its ruins, and its monuments of the history and culture of the Eternal City. As the name implies, the Sacra Via passes along some of the holiest sites of Roma antica. By the end of Numa Pompilius’ reign, there stood the Temple of Vesta, the House o … [Read more...]

Odds and Evens

Roman Altar: "Whether you are a God or a Goddess"

“When you sacrifice to the celestial Gods,” Numa said, “let it be with an odd number; when to the terrestrial, with even.”Roman rituals are performed for a multiplicity of deities. There are three main categories of deities in our rituals – celestial Gods and Goddesses, terrestrial, and infernal. In performing ritual we have many differences to observe depending on which category of Gods are invoked. Never should a ritual invoke deities from different categories. The celestial deities are the … [Read more...]


Oblations of bay leaves, poppy heads and dried flowers.

Numa Pompilius developed rituals for Rome that were complex and difficult to perform, but not expensive. In this way he promoted reverence among the Romans without barring even the poorest from worshiping the Gods. “He gave (the pontifex) full solemn written instructions about the ceremonies, specifying for each sacrifice the proper offerings, the proper days and the proper temples and the way in which money should be raised to meet the expenses (Livy 1.20.5-6).”Today we can get some idea of … [Read more...]

Numa and Mola Salsa in Roman Ritual

Dedication of a Sacrificial Offering

Thirdly we come to a Postumnian Law that instructs us, “No sacrifices shall be performed without meal.”This refers to what we call mola salsa in Latin. It is the product of an ancient method of preparing far, a type of winter wheat.  Pliny the Elder tells us a couple things about the process. In one place he says, "Numa first established the custom of offering grain to the Gods, and of propitiating them with mola salsa; he was the first, too, as we learn from Hemina, to parch spelt, from … [Read more...]

Discussing Sacrifice in the Bhagavad-Gita

Archigallus Offers Incense

The other night Rita and I were discussing a passage from the Bhagavad Gita on sacrifice. My wife was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, attended Catholic schools, and still attends their services on occasion. She was confused at first on hearing the passage, because the Vedic view of sacrifice differs so greatly from what she had been taught is sacrifice. For her, sacrifice is about depriving yourself of something you enjoy, or doing something extra like saying additional prayers, novenas, or … [Read more...]

Sacrifice in the Numa Tradition


The Second Postumnian Law states: “Sacrifices are not to be celebrated with an effusion of blood, but consist of flour, wine, and the least costly offerings.”On this point the Numa Tradition is clear; it prohibits the use of immolations (L. pl. immolationes), and most specifically in the cultus for Vesta, Fides, Carmentis, Jupiter Elicitor, and Terminus. Immolationes are also prohibited in the worship of Feronia, for the Bona Dea and in rituals for several other Gods and Goddesses too num … [Read more...]