Prayers of Cato
by: M. Horatius Piscinus
M. Porcius Cato (234-149 B. C. E.)


I fr. 12: Jupiter, if it is greatly pleasing to You, that we, rather than Mezentium, should give offerings to You, accordingly may You make us victorious.

De Agricultura

The banquet feast of Jupiter is properly made in this manner: To Jupiter Dapalis offer large measure of wine. This feast day is made on behalf of oxen and ploughmen, and for those who have the feast prepared. When it becomes fitting to give an offering, you say, "Jupiter Dapalis, because it is the fitting custom in the house of my family to offer You a measure of wine at our banquet feast, for this reason may You accept and be strengthen by the feast we offer." Afterwards wash the hands, then take up wine (saying), "Jupiter Dapalis, may this feast of offering give You greater strength, and may this lesser portion of our wine offering that I now pour give You comfort." He may (also), if you wish, give (an offering) to Vesta. The meal to be served to Jupiter is skewers of roasted beef and an urn of wine. Then chastely profane the meal of Jupiter with the touch of your hand.

It is fitting to offer the porca praecidanea (to Ceres) prior to the time of reaping. For Ceres offer a sow as Her porca praecidanea before you store these fruits of the earth: spelt, wheat, barley, beans, and the seeds of field mustard. With wine and frankincense pray to Janus, Jupiter and Juno before sacrificing the sow. Offer piled cakes to Janus while saying, ?Father Janus, to You I pray with good prayers, offering You this pile of cakes, so that You might willing be favorable to me and my children, to my home and household. Offer fertum cakes to Jupiter and honor Him thus, ?Jupiter, to You I pray good prayers, offering You this pile of fertum cakes, in order that You, honored to receive these fertum cakes, may willingly be favorable to me and to my children, to my house and home.? Afterwards give an offering of wine to Janus, "Father Janus, for the same reasons given in the good prayers I prayed while offering You piled cakes, may You accept and be honor by this portion of wine I pour." Likewise for Jupiter, say, "Jupiter, be strengthened by this fertum, be honored by this portion of wine I now pour." Next sacrifice the porca praecidanea. When after the entrails are cut into portions and offered on the altar, offer a pile of cakes and honor Janus once more, in the same manner as before. Then honor Jupiter with an offering of fertum as before. Likewise (make your offerings to Juno and Ceres).

When clearing land, it is proper in Roman custom to do thus: offer a pig in atonement with these words, "Whether you, for whom this grove is sacred, are a god, or if you are a goddess, it is right to make an offering of a pig to you in atonement for clearing and enclosing this sacred place. Therefore and for these reasons, whether I or someone who I designate shall make offerings, may it be considered rightly done. I pray good prayers to you in regard to this endeavor, offering this pig in atonement, in order that you may willingly favor me, my house and home, and my children. On behalf of these things, may the offering of this pig in atonement honor and strengthen you."

If you wish to dig up the place as well, then another pig is offered in atonement in the same manner as before, saying in addition, "for the reason of conducting this work." If the work should be interrupted, or if due to public festivals and family feasts the work is delayed, then make another offering of atonement.

The proper way to purify the grain fields is in this manner. Order a piglet, a lamb, and a calf to be led around: With the favor of the Gods, everything may turn out well, so I entrust to you, Manius, that you may lead or carry as many of the sacrificial victims as you wish around my estate, my field, and my land. Speak before Janus and Jupiter, with wine to offer Them, and then say this:

"Father Mars, I pray and beseech You, to be willing and propitious to me, to our household and to our family, for which I have ordered this suovitaurilia to be driven around my grain fields, my land, and my estate, in order that You may prevent, repel, and avert, seen and unseen <decay and> disease, deprivation, desolation, calamities, and intemperate weather; I pray You allow the fruits, the grain, the vines, and the bushes, to grow strong and well and be brought to the storage pit. May You also keep the shepherds and their flocks safe, and give good health and vigor to me, to the household, and to our family. To this end it is, as I have said - namely, for the purification and lustration of my estate, my land, and my grain fields, cultivated and uncultivated - that I pray You may be honored and strengthened by this suovitaurilia, these suckling sacrificial victims. O Father Mars, to this same end I pray that You bless these sucklings in sacrifice."

In the same way make an offering with the culter knife to Janus of the strues cakes, and to Jupiter the fertum cakes. When you will sacrifice the suovitaurilia, it is proper to do it in this manner: "For the sake of this thing, therefore may You be strengthened by the sacrifice of this suovitaurilia."

It is forbidden to call the piglet, the lamb and the calf as they are. (Note: it was common to sacrifice mature animals rather than sucklings.) If less than all of the sacrifice is acceptable, then recite these words: "O Father Mars, if something in this suckling piglet, lamb and calf were not pleasing to You, then these pig, sheep and bull I offer as an appeasement." If there is doubt about one or two, then recite these words: "O Father Mars, because this piglet was not satisfactory to You, to You this piglet is offered in atonement."

To cure a dislocation by a charm: If any joint is dislocated it will be made well by this incantation. Take a green reed four or five feet long, split it in half and let two men hold the halves at their hips. Begin to sing a charm:


Sing until the halves come together. Keep tormenting them with a tool of iron. When they have come together, and one half reed touches the other, seize them in the hand and cut them off to the right and left, bind them on the dislocation or fracture, and it will be cured. However, go through the form of incantation daily over the man who has suffered the dislocation. Or else use this form of spell:


Or else say:


I pray he may be healthy, I pray his troubles cease; I shall harm what harms you.
© 2001-2018 Societas Via Romana