Temples and Sacred Space

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Temples and Sacred Space

Postby Titus Iulius Nero on Thu May 18, 2006 12:22 am

I was wondering if anyone knows of the historical way to make a temple blessed and sacred with the numina.
I have read about this, not sure where as of right now, and was interested in learning more about it.
If the historical way is preserved, please do tell! If not, has anyone made the attempt to reconstruct it?
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Thu May 25, 2006 2:13 pm

Salve Aeneas

hm, where have I seen this question before? Actually I have received similar inquiries by private email from about five others already, as well as yourself. Maybe it is a sign that our community of cultores Deorum has developed as plans are now in place to incorporate local organizations of the religio Romana and to establish at least two sanctuaries in the US and maybe another in Europe. I would like you to explain more what you intend. Is this a private sanctuary you wish to establish, or is it intended for a local community?

Anyway, you can get some ideas from the article that I earlier contributed to the webpage for the Collegium Religionum. "Consecration Rite" is about dedicating a small space as a Garden of Ceres. http://societasviaromana.org/Collegium_ ... ration.php

Then also I posted a reply to your question earlier on the religio list in NR, which I repost below and will continue here for the benefit of our sodales in SVR.


You would have to go through different phases, each pahse involving its own ritual or set of rituals.

In the first phase of the process you deal with the geni loci and with the Manes. So the first thing to do is to construct an altar in the western portion of the area you plan to use. It is called the Altar of the Penates. Why in the west should become clear later. The altar should be round and the wood placed in its focus should be in a round pattern. Later you will construct a second altar of square or rectangular shape, on which the firewood will be placed in a square formation. Round for terrestrial Di inferi, square for the celestial Gods. Also you will need to erect nine stations, which can simply be large stones to use as markers, but each will also act as a sort of altar. You need to collect rain water from a thunder storm. You need to collect water from rivers or streams, or springs from each of the four directions that define your area. The rivers define an augural region, and you will be setting off a space within that region. The water will be used later in the purification phase. Wherever you collect the water, you will need to perform a sacrifice to the geni loci of the river, stream, or spring. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but for anything you take you have to offer something in return.

The first step in each phase will be to offer sacrifice to your Lares. This rite can be performed at your lararium, but it would be coupled with a rite performed outdoors for the Manes. Offerings should include water for washing, and firewood, milk (not wine), bread, honey, olive oil, and salt. You can offer other things like fruit, but it is best not to offer meat. Whatever you offer will have to be repeated at least once each year, so keep that in mind. With the Manes propitiated you then perform a second rite to the genius loci of the place. Explain your intention and ask that, whether a God or Goddess, the genius loci agree with what you will do. The Altar of the Penates can be used for any terretrial deities you invoke during this phase. Offerings to the genius loci should be poured or placed on some natural feature such as a boulder or buried at the roots of a tree. Offerings to the Manes can be made in one of two ways. Either leave them at a crossroads or establish a place for the Manes, preferably beneath a blessed tree and bury the offering there. You will first clear the land and can invoke the assistance of such minor deities as Adolenda, Coinquenda, Commolenda, and Deferunda. After you clear the land repeat all the rites, giving thanks to the Penates, the Manes, the genius loci and to any other deities you might have invoked. Refer to Cato's De Agricultura 139-140 and to CIL vi.2107, lines 2-13 from the Tablets of the Arvales Fratres.


The second phase is then to mark out the land. Refer to Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis XVIII. 76-77. East of the Altar of the Penates you establish your omphalus. Just north of it you will later establish the sedes Silvani that will be used when taking the auspicia. The prefered date is the vernal equinox, the autumn equinox is an alternative. However it doesn't matter greatly what date you use. At dawn, from the Altar of the Penates, facing east, take note of the location of the rising sun. That will be your east. If done on an equinox, it will be due east. Draw a line in the ground to mark this east-west line, called the 'cardo.' erect the econd, rectangular altar next to the Altar of the Penates. Perform your rites for welcoming Janus and the celestial Gods, explaining your intentions to Them as well. Then at roughly the center of the area that you wish to set off, in line from the Altar of the Penates to your east on the horizon, erect the gruma (a wooden staff) and set stones around it to form the omphalus. Over the years, the omphalus is built up further by adding another stone each year. At noon, standing north of the gruma, with your shoulders aligned parallel to the cardo, draw a line through the central axis of your shadow from the tip of your shadow's head back to the gruma. Then from the gruma draw a second line of an equal distance, in line with the north-south line. This becomes your decumamus. done at noon on any day of the year, the decumamus will be due north-south. Your cardo, though may not be true east-west. Then you draw four more line out from the omphalus, forming an 'X' that divides each of the four quadrants marked by the cardo and decumamus. This gives you the directions of the eight winds, or Tempestes, for whom you offer a sacrifice at the Altar of the Penates.

At the end of each line you've drawn place a good sized stone to form a rectangle. Place another stone on the decumamus to the north of the omphalus. These become the nine stations to the auguraculum that you will later need. The land is still not dedicated. It is wild land. The central stone is the sedes Silvani. You can use it as an altar for Di inferi like Silvanus or Faunus, as They too should be propitiated during this phase. The stone will become a pallus in an altar you later erect over top of it. First however, you build over the stone a solid stone seat on which you will sit while taking the auspicia. Just south of this seat, within arms reach as you sit, dig a pit to be used to place offerings to the Manes. This will become your mundus. Just to the east of it construct a small, temporary, square altar. It is at this point, on this altar, that you make your vow to your deity of choice to set off a sanctuary in His or Her honor.

This should give you some idea about the first two phases of the process. It is a process of building up towards your intention and it becomes more complex as you go along, because during each phase you would return to offer sacrifices to the genius loci, the Manes, and other deities, each at the appropriate locations. The next four phases are 1. the sanctification, 2. the purification, 3. the dedication, and 4. the consecration. The sanctification involves the taking of auspicia. The last three pahses can be combined into a day's caeremonia, and it is this ceremony that should be repeated each year as part of the dies natalis celebration of the sanctuary. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, but I will try to post a little something about each of these phases in separate posts.


There are a couple other lists where I intend to post on this same subject, and I may carry some of that over into this discussion here.

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Postby Titus Iulius Nero on Sat May 27, 2006 11:53 pm

Salve,

Sorry to post it everywhere, my curiosity and interest was quite over the edge so I was in dire search for an answer.

Again, your knowledge is most appreciated and I look very much forward to your future posts on the subject.

Vale Optime,
Aeneas
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Jun 09, 2006 5:43 pm

Salvete cultores Deorum et Sodales omnes

To continue this discussion here in SVR, a few posts that I made at other sites. This first one is on how to begin establishing the templum augurale, or auguraculum.

"Among our ancestors, no affair was undertaken, either in public or private, before taking the auspices." (Valerius Maximus 2.1.1)

The next step to dedicating a sacred space is to take the auspices. There is a process to doing this, and with good reason. Auspicia is an art. It is unlike other forms of Roman divination, those forms that Cicero called "natural divination," where one is "inspired." "Natural divination," said Servius, "is not by mind or reasoning, but instinctual in the manner of divining by inspiration." Roman understanding was quite literally an "in spirito" experience with the presence of a God entering into a person and appearing to that person either in a dream or vision, or else with a God seizing a person through whom to speak a prophecy. Another form of natural divination was through ecstatic experience where one's authentic being leaves the body and comes into the presence of the Gods, there to be revealled a vision. An auspicium is "artificiosum." One has to be learned and experienced in taking the auspicia, but it is not a mechanical practice. One still has to rely more on intuition than on rememberance. So it is not greatly a conscious effort. You have to be able to reach a state of mind where your unconsciousness enters into your conscious perception. One purpose of employing ritual is to enter such a state of mind, or what is called ritual consciousness. Thus an auspicium involves a good deal of ritual, where one must pay attention to detail and divorce your conscious mind from its everyday concerns. In that way, by the time you actually sit down to take the auspices you are somewhat "zoned out" at the same time that you are focused.

I'll get back to the ritual in a later post and we can also discuss some other things that are known about Roman auspicia, such as the traditional signs. First though we have to consider the setting. To review, you would at this point have two altars and have laid out a space with eight lines radiating out from an omphalus. Along each branch of the cardo, and each branch of the decumanus, you set a stone (four stones in all) at about three paces along the axes from the omphalus. I mean what we commonly think of as a pace, as a single step forward (I use to be a surveyor, in the old days before lasers, so I think of pacing off a distance in those terms). A Roman pace, you always begin with your right foot for good luck, right, left, right, in an easy gait, not a forced or extended step. This puts out your markers on the north-south and east-west axes. Then you pace out your other axes as well, but place your markers on the axes so that they align on those on the cardo and decumanus. In other words, you want to forma square or rectangle, not a circle. If a rectangle, it should be in a 5/6 proportion with the longer sides running parallel to the cardo.

This gives you eight stones laid out in the directions of the winds. Over each stone you build a small turf altar, or you could use the stones themselves as small altars, if large enough, or make a pile of stones and set a flat rock atop them. Each of these markers then become a station, each dedicated to a different deity. Which deities? Engraved markers have been discovered at Bantia, Lucania, and Banzi, and a platform at Cosa. The Cosa platform is 7.4 m or about 25 feet on each side. The distance between the cippi at Banzi was 3.3m or about 7.5 m per side. The engraved markers at Bantia do not include all eight stations, the western ones not found yet, but are consistent with some textual information - from Capella and isolated comments among other authors. We know that the northern station on the decumanus was dedicated to Caelius Nocturnus and the southern pole of the decumanus was dedicated to Sol Indiges, which at Lavinium was identified with Lar Aeneas. We know that the northeast station was dedicated to Jupiter. The Easternmost station at Bantia was engraved "RAVE." In Oscan Ravelanum means the Dioscuri, and the bronze litra from Nuceria likewise has "degvinum ravalanum" with the two fig trees of the Dioscuri. And again in Oscan, the Dioscuri are called "Iouieis pucleis" to signify the Penates. With Capella the east station is associated with Mulciber (Volcanus) while Varro IIRC associate it with Ceres. An often enough quote taken from Arnobius (Adv. Nat. 3.43) is used (probably wrongly) to identify the Penates with Apollo and Neptunus, but there is another quote that identifies the Penates with Vulcanus and Ceres. We do know that at least one of the stations was dedicated to the Penates, and whether you identify Them with the Dioscures, and in turn with the east station, or if you identify the stations on the cardo as Castor and Pollux, east and west, or as Penates in the east and Dioscures in the west, or as Volcanus and Ceres, east and west, it doesn't make a great deal of difference. You have to develop your own practice and what works best for you. The southeast station at Bantia was "FLUS," i. e. Oscan Fluusa = Flora. Oscan-speaking tribes did not worship Juno. Rather than the Capitolium trinity, Samnites and Sabines had a trinity of Diove, Cerria, and Fluusa, who are probably besti dentified with the original Aventine cultus of Ceres, Liber, and Libera. At any rate, with Jupiter in the northeast, an Oscan templum augurale may have had Cerria Iovila in the east and Fluusa in the southeast. With Ceres in the east, remember that Varro came from a Sabine heritage and not everything he talked about is necessarily a Latin tradition. Of the three examples of actual litui we have, the oldest was found at a Sabine town, and the Roman auspicia is connected with Numa, so private auspicia may relate back more to a Sabine tradition. Anyway, if you want to transpose over to a more Roman tradition, probably the southeast station should be dedicated to Juno, or otherwise to Ceres. Really there is not much difference. So now we have the more difficult matter of considering the western stations. We know that the Tempestes played some role. They may have designated the stations before each was dedicated to a particular deity, as the Tempestes would be identified with the eight winds. Or maybe one of the western stations was dedicated to the Tempestes collectively. Capella has the west dedicated to the Parcae. Or we can go back to the Dioscuri and consider Pollux in the west, et cetera. We also know that Summanus had a station dedicated to Him, and I think that was probably the northwest station opposite the station for Jupiter. That leaves the southwest station, which I tend to think may have been dedicated to Mars. In Etruscan tradition, those deities that hurled thunderbolts were Jupiter, Juno, Menrva, Cilens, Summanus, Sethlans(Silvanus), Vulcanus, Mars, and the three Tempestes. At Bantia we know that a central station was dedicated to Silvanus. So for the southwest we basically come down to a choice between Minerva and Mars, and why the southwest would be associated with Them will become clearer later.
You would not necessarily have to dedicate the stations as I outlined above, but you should play off of them as it will make a difference when you begin to actually take auspices and need them interpreted. Another thing to keep in mind is the sixteen sections of the celestial templum that you will later designate. The stations lay out eight directions with associated deities. The celestial templum is divided into upper and lower regions, thus sixteen sections. So, for example, in the northwest, the station is said to be dedicated to Jove, at least in the upper region, while the northwest is also associated with the Lares who dwell close and just below the celestial abode of the Gods. And in the southeast, although Flora is indicated at Bantia, She might be the lower region with Ceres in the higher celestial section, or you may prefer Tellus and Ceres in the southeast, whatever works best for you. So the station for the southwest might be dedicated to Mars and to Minerva, where later you would associate each separately to the lower and upper sections, respectively, of the southwestern region of the celestial templum. You can better figure out to which deities to dedicate each station after we go over some details of the ritual, and after you begin to see how the stations can be used in interpreting the auspices. There does not have to be any set plan, as you may decide to alter the deities that you call upon depending on the matter that you ask about.

In the center of your terrestrial templum augurale, just north of the omphalus and on the cardo, you also set up a station for Silvanus. This station can be worked into your augural seat. Or you can retain it as an altar for the Di Inferi. A pit should be dug within arms reach, into which libations for the Manes may be poured during the ritual. And you also need a small, square altar within in arms reach, on which to invoke Jupiter during the auspicium ritual. A tabernaculum can then be built around your augural seat. This is a square, three-sided blind, opened to the south. The auspex is to sit just inside the tabernaculum so that his periferal vision is somewhat shielded, and it should not have a top, like a tent, as the auspex should remain visible to the sky above.

Well that should give you some things to think about for the time being. And then later I can come back to this lay-out to discuss its roles in the ritual.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Jun 09, 2006 5:51 pm

Salvete cultores Deorum et Sodales omnes

Now that we have some idea of what is needed for a templum augurale we can beging to move into the ritual of an auspicium, or auspicandi ritus. We'll take this in steps in order to consider a few details. The auspicandi ritus itself can be said to break down into two parts. Rememebr, though, that the auspicandi ritus is only part of a lengthier caeremonia. The full ceremony begins before dawn, as some observations of the stars would be made and other rites are performed in conjunction with taking the auspices. In terms of the full caeremonia, the auspiccandi ritus would take place during the sacrificatio. The sacrificatio should never include an immolatio when an auspicium is to take place. The proscription of Numa that forbade use of blood sacrifices pertained mainly to auguria. Augures were thought to pollute themselves by taking any life. That did not exclude them from performing immolationes in private practice, but prior to assisting in an augurium they would have to first purify themselves. The difference between an augurium and an auspicium is only a matter of place and purpose. The ritual is the same, and for our concern of consecrating a locus, we are discussing an auspicium. Anyway, the auspicium falls into two parts. First is the "erecting" of the templum augurale, followed by the erecting of the celestial templum and the actual taking of the auspices.

Part of what is observed for an auspicium, in those wee hours before dawn, are the stars for weather signs. Weather signs can play a role in interpreting the signs that will be seen later. The Romans did not have a form of astrology, but the stars held significance none the less. It is a good idea to become familiar with Book 18 of Pliny's Historia Naturalis and Virgil's Georgic 1 as the rising and setting of stars plays the most important role in Roman weather predictions. Also the sight of the planets would indicate to the Romans which Gods might be observing the auspicium. And there is also the matter of where certain stars are observed as to where the celestial templum will later be erected. "From the sky above, like the stars, are the inaugurated places fixed (Festus 351a)." At the beginning of the year, when the public auspices are taken for inaugurating magistrates, a "celestial templum" is clearly visible. That is the Great Square, THE templum, that is observed in the constellation Pegasus, "The Thundering Horse of Jupiter." Projecting down its four corners to observable landmarks is a method of later determining where to erect your celestial templum. While it is still dark, standing before the altar of the Penates, facing west, the Auspex would perform his rites to the Manes as part of the praefatio of the caeremonia. "The Di Manes are invoked in auguries because it is believed that from them proceed all things on earth and in the sky (Fest. 157a)." Recall that next to and just north of the round altar of the Penates is a second, square altar to be used for the celestial Gods. Earlier the altar of the Penates was used to observe the rising sun when first establishing the omphalus. That is, the altar of the Penates and the omphalus form an east-west axis. North of the omphalus, on the decumanus, is where the sedes Silvani was to be located. The second altar, we'll say it is dedicated to Jupiter in this instance, forms a parallel east-west axis through the location of the sedes Silvani. This "altar of Jupiter" can be used during the praefatio to call upon the Gods who are associated with the planets you observe to act as your testores. So if you observe the planets Jupiter and Venus, then They will be invoked as They are already present witnessing your rites. BTW the Romans associated the planet Mars with Hercules rather than with Mars. As you call upon your testores, you orient on the planets, hand held manus supina, and you move around the altar of Jupiter as required so that the altar is between you and the planet. Then as dawn arrives, you orient on the sun as Janus Matutus and welcome in the coming of the Gods. Wherever the sun rises on the horizon in relation to the altar of Jupiter forms your east-west axis. This determines where the Auspex is actually to be seated on the decumanus and how he is to be oriented towards the south as he sits, with his right shoulder oriented on the altar of Jupiter and his left shoulder thus oriented on where the sun rose that day. This is one reason why you need a minimum of an Auspex and an Augur to perform an auspicium, in order to make these alignments that "fix" your templa into what the Gods designate.

Up to this point the person who will act as Auspex has been ordering the caeremonia in the role of the Praeses. He is being assisted by others in performing preliminary sacrifices. The auspicandi ritus would then begin when the Auspex turns to the Augur and asks that he assist. I'll take that up next.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Jun 09, 2006 5:56 pm

Salvete gentiles Romani

Now that we have some idea on the setting, we can look a little at the ritual of taking the auspices. As in all formalRoman ritual, in practice it works into a dialogue among the participants. At the start of any Roman ritual the main celebrant (praeses or praetor/praetrix) designates who his or her assistants are to be by calling upon them by name and having them respond in acceptance. Throughout the ritual, the praeses "orders" his assistants to perform their parts. As an example, when Varro was explaining the name of the Agonalia (L. L. 6.12), he mentions how the minister sacrificii would ask of the praeses, "Agone?" "Shall I now perform my part?" To which the praeses would have replied "Age." The minister sacrificii in turn would order the popae and victimari to do their part in the same manner. By words and by gestures, a dialogue between the participating celebrants continue thoughout a ritual. Through such display of their various relationships in an hierarchial order, there becomes an infered relationship of the celebrants as a whole linked into and with the hierarchial order of the Gods. The divine order, at its lower echelon, include the Manes, the Lares, heroes, and the divi. The human celebrants represent the highest echelon of the living order that includes not only animals and plants, but semidivi as well. In fact, the living order and the divine order form into a single community built upon hierarchial relationships. The dialogue among the living celebrants focuses on the one who acts to "order" the caeremonia, i.e. the praeses. He in turn represents the celebrants, and the entire living community, in the dialogue that then continues between himself and the Gods. And in that latter dialogue, in order to be effective, the praeses must work his way through the verious levels of the divine hierarchy.

For an auspicium, the participants are standing at the two altars I mentioned earlier. The praeses of those initial sacrifices is also the auspex. He would then turn to the augur, calling him by name, to say, "I wish you to be (an assistant) to me in this sacred rite." The augur replies, "Thus have I heard." "Audivi." The dialogue then continues, "After the celebrant auspex has said to his assistant, 'Tell me when silence appears to exist,' the latter, without himself looking up or about, immediately replies, 'Silence appears to exist' (Cicero De Div. 2.34.71-2). We can look at another example, drawn from the Tavole Iguvium VI.a, where an Umbrian auspicandi ritus is described:

"He who shall go to observe the calling birds shall, while being seated, command the magistrate from the hut as follows: "Demand that I observe a green woodpecker on the right, a crow on the right, a woodpecker on the left, a magpie on the left, birds on the left, sacred calling birds on the left." The magistrate shall make these demands in these words: "There observe a green woodpecker on the right, a crow on the right, a woodpecker on the left, a magpie on the left, birds on the left, sacred calling birds on the left, for me, for the city of Iguvium, for this station which has been established." While the one observing the calling birds is seated in the chair, no one is to make a sound and no one else is to sit in the way until he who has gone to observe the calling birds shall return. If there is any noise or if anyone else sits in the way, he shall make the ceremony null and void. The templum where the magistrate remains for the sake of purifying Mount Fisus when established, is defined as follows:"

And then is described a circuit where sacrifices were to be performed at our altars around the city. This auspicandi ritus preceded a lustratio of the city of Iguvium (Gubbio). To consider the whole of an auspicandi ritus we have to step back for a moment, back to our setting, because it too would involve what can be called a lustratio of the auguraculum. The ritual began before midnight. Sacrifices were offered to the Manes at the altar of the Penates. The stone markers that were set up earlier then had to be transformed into stations, as nine auguli that create the auguraculum. The praeses/auspex moves around, from augulum to augulum, along with his ministeri, camillus, and augur. Each station in formed into a small altar, purified, wound with woolen fillets, decorated with garlands, onto which are poured libations, with prayers and vows offered to the particular deities of the auguli. The purification of these auguli is made with water drawn from the rivers, springs, and fountains of the surrounding area, setting the auguraculum within a defined area. "In the litany of the augures the boundaries of the Romanus were designated by calling out the names of the rivers Tiber, Spino, Anemo, Nodinus, and other rivers close to Rome (Cicero Nat. Deor. 3.20.52)." "The rivers are called three times by name (Fest. 250b)." The circuit probably began with the augulus of the north, dedicated to Caelus Nocturnus. The auspex hailed the abode of the Gods, his right hand held manus supina directed towards the North Star, "Heavenly Gods, I have heard the omens and offer thanks that you will grant an augury for us this day (Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 1.265-70)." He would continue in a clockwise direction, completing the circuit before returning to the altar of Jupiter in time to greet the rising sun.

Obviously this whole process takes some time. Nothing is to be rushed. There is a purpose of going through this entire series of rites, with the auspex interacting with his assistants, for by this means he enters deeper into a ritual consciousness that is needed to perform the actual taking of the auspices. The last rite that he performs while still standing is the sacrifice to Jupiter, invoking the presence of Jupiter to attend. Following this rite, the auspex is then led to the center of the auguraculum, where he is to be seated at the sedes Silvani. The seating of the auspex becomes a rite in itself, and that is where I will take up in the next post.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Tue Jun 20, 2006 6:43 pm

Salvete Sodales

Next installment, and a rather lengthy post I'm afraid, and still not covering everything that would be involved, but here goes.


"The Romans long continued to observe this rule (of Romulus) relating to the auspices… Those who are preparing to assume a magistracy spend the night out of doors, rise at day-break and pronounce certain prayers in the open air. (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 2.6)."

Rising at midnight, spending the next several hours in performing rites for the Manes, establishing the auguli and greeting the sunrise, the auspex has by now entered into the ritual consciousness required for taking the auspices. A particular feature of the auspicundi ritus is the requirement that the auspex must remain seated throughout the rite. If he should rise for any reason, the rite would end and everything done up to that point would be vitiated. This requirement of being seated goes along with the other features of having the auspex sit just inside a tabernaculum, thereby screening his peripheral vision, and the employment of tibicenes whose flute-playing drowned out any unwanted sounds. A practical side to these features of the rite, I think, were precautions against the auspex from losing his ritual consciousness. A particular story that is repeated in a couple places warned what could happen if the auspex would be disturbed in anyway.

"The disturbing sound of a shrewmouse squeaking gave cause to Fabius Maximus to lay down his Dictatorship and C. Flaminius his Mastership of the Horse (Val. Max. 1.1.5; Plut. Marc. 5)."

The auspex sat on a stone seat, 'sella solida,' that would not creak or collapse beneath him during the ceremony. All of the other participants stood silently outside the tabernaculum. Once the auspex rises from his seat, for any reason, the auspicia is ended, and if not yet completed by then, the entire ceremony would be vitiated. It is probable that the auspex was ritually seated at his station by the attending augur. We don’t know if this would always be true. Someone like Consul Tiberius Gracchus, father of the famed Tribuni Plebis, was himself an augur, and in the one story told about him taking the auspices while seated in the garden of his political rival and father-in-law, Scipio Africanus, the impression we get is that he seated himself. In another story, where the participants were two women, Caecilia Metella seated herself in a shrine for a private auspicium. There, too, the rite ended when she gave her seat over to her niece, and thereby also provided the omen for the result she sought (see Valerius Maximus1.5.4 and Cicero On Divination 1.104, 2.83). But then there is the story of Numa, as told by Livy, where we see what might possibly had been used at public ausipicia, with the auspex being led and seated by the augur who then laid his right hand on the head of Numa.

"Accordingly an augur, who thereafter, as a mark of honor, was made a priest of the State in permanent charge of that function, conducted him to the citadel called the Arx and caused him to sit down on a stone facing towards the south. The augur seated himself on Numa's left, having his head covered, and holding in his right hand the crooked staff without a single knot which they call a lituus. Then, looking out over the city and the country beyond, he prayed to the gods, and marked off the heavens by a line from east to west, designating as 'right' the regions to the south, as 'left' those to the north, and fixing in his mind a landmark opposite to him and as far away as the eye could reach; next shifting the lituus to his left hand and, laying his right hand on Numa's head, he uttered the following prayer, 'Father Jupiter, if it is Heaven's will that this man Numa Pompilius, whose head I am touching, be king in Rome, do you exhibit to us unmistakable signs within those limits which I have set.' He then specified the auspices which he desired should be sent, and upon their appearance Numa was declared king, and so descended from the augural station (Livy Ab Urbe Condita I.xviii.6-10)."

After the auspex is seated he performs a sacrificial rite in the usual manner. There should be before him a pit and an altar or brazier to receive the offerings, and these wil necessarily have to be within arm’s reach. The ritual follows the Numa tradition, and thus would not include an immolatio and the libations should be honeyed milk rather than wine. We may gather something of the prayer of the praecatio that was used for this rite from a passage in the Aeneid 12.176-182

'esto nunc Sol testis et haec mihi terra vocanti,
quam propter tantos potui perferre labores,
et Pater omnipotens et tu Saturnia coniunx
(iam melior, iam, diva, precor), tuque inclute Mavors,
cuncta tuo qui bella, Pater, sub numine torques;
fontisque fluviosque voco, quaeque aetheris alti
religio et quae caeruleo sunt numina ponto:


"Be now my witness, Sol, and the spirits of this land to whom I now call, then, too, Almighty Father, and You also, Daughter of Saturnus, more kindly to us now, Goddess, I pray, and You, as well, glorious Mavors, under Your providence joined with us in war, I call upon the spirits of the springs and streams of this land, and upon all the divine powers, both in high heaven and in the deepest seas:"

In his commentary on the 'Aeneid' Servius Honorius wrote, "This is taken from the example of the augurs, what is called the Great Prayer. Moreover the Great Prayer is addressed to many gods, as in the following parts of the augury rite they pray for good results to come about in order that they may enjoy the outcome even better (Serv. Ad Aen. 12.176)." At this point the auspex would explain to all of the Gods what pending action is intended and for what reason, therefore the Gods, are being consulted. Later the same matter would be made into a "yes or no" question.

The actual taking of the auspices occurs during the middle of the sacrificatio of the augur's rite. That is something to keep in mind that as in other Roman rituals the auspicium is a special rite within another rite. In an augurium where auspices were taken on behalf of the State, it was Jupiter Himself who was called upon to provide the signs. In private auspicia the Lares, Picus or Picumnus were more likely called upon for family matters, where other deities might be called instead depending on the matter of concern. One begins the sacrificatio by offering incense and a libation, and then part of a cake, but the sacrifice is not completed until after the auspices are taken. When you get to that point, the seated auspex uses a lituus to mark out the celestial templum. "A lituus is the curved staff of the augur that is used to designate the measured space of the sky, for it was not permitted to use the hand (Servius, Ad Aeneis 7.187)." There is not a specific formula for marking out the celestial templum. Varro does give us one example, but even in what he said, he indicated that this was just one of the ways that a celestial templum was designated in the formal rites performed in the auguraculum on the Arx.

"Let the boundaries of my templa and the wild lands (tesca) be as I declare them with my words. That tree of whatever kind it is which I deem myself to have named, let it be the boundary of my templum and the wild land to the right. That tree, of whatever kind it is, insofar as I deem myself to have named it, let it be the boundary of my temple and the wild land on the left. Between these points I have established the templa and the wild lands by means of directing (conregione), viewing (conspicione), reflecting (cortumiones) as far as I have been most rightly aware of it within this limit" (Varro: On the Latin Language, VII.8 )

The intended action is then reworded into a question. An example form is provided by Livy, "Jupiter Optimus Maximus, and all You other gods and spirits whom it is proper to invoke, I ask that if it is good and right that (the proposed action) be done, that You will send clear and certain signs within the boundaries that I have marked." In our particular case where the intention is to designate a space that will be used as a sanctuary, you have to be very specific in stating what will be the sanctuary's boundaries. You can designate them by a point to point method. The stones that you set up as aguli should be inside the templum intended for your sanctuary, but other markers like them can be laid out for this purpose. You would at one stage perform something similar to Romulus' foundation rite where where the area on either side of the ploughed boundary was marked off by stones to designate the pomerium. Some sacred groves had a boundary designated by a treeline and outside of it, as part of the terrestrial templum, there were set stones or painted markers. You can do something like that first, or use natural markers to designate the templum of the sanctuary. The other way is what was used for tombs. Remember that a tomb is built within a religious templum. Outside the actual tomb were markers to designate the templum and some of these inscribed markers describe the templum. Mille pedes in fronte, trecentos cippus in agrum hic dabat. From Horace, "This pillar marked an area of 1000 feet in frontage and 300 feet in depth (Satires 1.8.12-13)." You find the same formula in some funerary inscriptions, "in fronte pedes... in agrum pedes..." You have to be very specific because not just any land can be consecrated as a sanctuary. See Cicero, De Legibus 2.18.45. The whole point of this process of establishing a sanctuary is to set it off from other land, and the point of taking the auspices is to attain approval of the Gods for doing this. Cicero quotes from Plato, "The earth, therefore, like the hearth in a dwelling, is sacred to all the Gods; wherefore no one should consecrate it a second time." By establishing a sanctuary you are, in effect, withdrawing its area from the other Gods, including the genius loci of the place, which is why this whole process has to be done properly. And this is a contract between you and all the Gods, so be very specific in what you are asking.

At this point the auspex next states exactly what kind of signs he will use as auspicia. Recall the Iguvium Tablets. The auspex says to the augur, "Demand that I observe a green woodpecker on the right, a crow on the right, a woodpecker on the left, a magpie on the left, birds on the left, sacred calling birds on the left." The magistrate shall make these demands in these words: "There observe a green woodpecker on the right, a crow on the right, a woodpecker on the left, a magpie on the left, birds on the left, sacred calling birds on the left, for me, for the city of Iguvium, for this station which has been established." What actual signs you might use depends on your particular location. There were traditional signs used for the auguria of State rites, but auspicia privita used a variety of signs in accordance with family traditions. Sometime we will have to take up a discussion of the sort of things that can be taken as signs and how they can be interpreted. Servius said, "to be certain, the older and greater auspices are those taken other than the tripudium, and not those used along with prayer (and sacrifice; i.e haruspices) (Ad Aeneis 3.374)." Cicero mentions, too, that "an old ruling of our college says that any bird may make a tripudium (On Divination 2.35.73)." The auspicia are the highest form of augury in the Roman tradition, relying upon the flight of birds first, and the calls of birds secondly, but there were also other signs used in the auspicia as well. As long as you designate first what signs you will use or not, just about anything can be used as a sign. Just keep in mind that you do not have to limit yourself to only those signs that were mentioned in Latin texts. Then, again from Servius. we know that this question was followed by the phrase: DA PATER AUGURIUM. Or, from Vergil, Da, Pater, augurium atque animis inlabere nostris. – "Grant, Father, an augury, and flow into our hearts" (Vergil, Aeneid 3.89).

Obviously there is much more to be said about how one takes the auspices and we shall have to cover that at some later time. Important though is that no sign by itself can be used, but must be confirmed by another sign. One example, "I recognize You, Mightiest of the Gods; Be present now, Father, and confirm the omen of Your eagle." Nosco te, summe deorum / adsis o firmesque tuae, pater, alitis omen. (Silius Italicus, Punica 4.126-7)

The sacrifices are then completed. The auspex remains seated for a moment to see if there appears any signs that might vitiate the sacrifice. Rising, the taking of the auspices is completed, but the caeremonia would still continue as the participants would join with the auspex in performing the litatio. The Gods called as witnesses are thanked, and once more a circuit is made of all the auguli while making offerings, and thereby the set-off space is sanctified. As part of the litatio one says, "Di prohibete minas." In the Aeneid, Vergil has this prayer spoken by Anchises at the conclusion of sacrifices that were offered in reply to a dire prediction given by Celano while she was in the form of a bird (Aeneis 3.265-266). Di, prohibete minas; Di, talem avertite casum et placidi servate pios. "Prohibit, Gods, any menace. Avert disasters and kindly preserve Your pious worshippers."

The auspicium takes signs that are impetrativa. That is, they are signs designated by the auspex. The auspices would still have to be confirmed by oblativa signs, which can occur during the litatio or later. But it is the performance of the entire ritual, and not just the taking of the auspices themselves, that sanctifies your space. It is now set off from the surrounding area and needs next to be dedicated and consecrated to its purpose.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun Jun 25, 2006 10:15 am

Salvete cultores Deorum

Purification, dedication, and consecration

In 508 BCE, "the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitolium had not yet been dedicated, and it fell by lot to Marcus Horatius to perform the ceremony. (Valerius) Publicola set out for war against Veii. Valerius’ relatives were more disgruntled than was seemly that the dedication of such a great temple had been given to Horatius. They tried to block it in every way and, when their efforts ended in failure, at the very moment when the consul was in the middle of his prayer as he held on to the doorpost, they struck at him with the ill-omened message that his son had just died and that he could not dedicate the temple with his house in the shadow of death. Whether he refused to believe this or possessed great strength of spirit tradition does not say, nor is interpretation easy. He permitted himself to be deflected from his task only so long enough to order the body carried out for burial; then, keeping his hand gripped on the doorpost, he completed the ritual prayer and dedicated the temple (Livy 2.8.6-8)."


Burnt to the ground more than once during civil strife, the Capitolium, the most Roman of temples, was rebuilt on different occasions. Required was that it always be rebuilt to the same dimensions as its platform. A plan to expand the size of the Capitolium was considered once, but denied by the augures as a breach of the arrangement originally made with the Gods. The edifice of the Capitolium, that is, the aedes, could be rebuilt, altered, but what could not be changed in any way as it was sacred was the templum that defined the space on which the physical building sat. That had long ago been defined, and, contrary to Roman legend, we know today that the platform itself was no older than the fourth century. Each time that the edifice was rebuilt the Capitolium had to again be purified, dedicated, and consecrated. The templum which defined it did not have to be sanctified again. Because of the importance of the Capitolium, we know something more about the ceremonies by which it was rededicated, and therefore can look to them as a model when considering how we might dedicate and consecrate a sacred space today.

Thus far I have gone through some of the rites one would perform to establish the templum that defined a sacred space. From there you would proceed performing any necessary construction, and additional rites would be performed related to such work. Eventually, though, all would be ready and you would need to purify, dedicate, and consecrate your sacred space. Those three things can be done together within the same caeremonia, composed of various rites to make up the ceremony. Purification of the site would first take place as part of the pompa. As an example, we a description from Tacitus on how the Capitolium was purified when rebuilt in 70 CE under Vespasian.


"On 21 June, beneath a cloudless sky, the entire space devoted to the sacred enclosure was encompassed with chaplets and garlands. Soldiers, who bore auspicious names, entered the precinct with sacred boughs. Then the Vestal Virgins, with a troop of boys and girls, whose fathers and mothers were still living, sprinkled the whole space with water drawn from the fountains and rivers. After this Helvidius Priscus, the praetor, first purified the spot with the usual sacrifice of a sow, a sheep, and a bull, and duly placed the entrails on turf altars. Then in terms dictated by Publius Aelianus, the high priest, besought Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, and the tutelary deities of the place, to prosper the undertaking, and to lend their divine help to raise the abodes which the piety of men had founded for Them. He then touched the wreaths, which were wound round the foundation stone and entwined with the ropes, while at the same moment all the other magistrates of the State, the Priests, Senators, Equites, and a number of Citizens, with zeal and joy uniting their efforts, dragged the huge stone along. Contributions of silver and gold and virgin ores, never smelted in the furnace, but still in their natural state, were showered on the foundations. The soothsayers had previously directed that no stone or gold which had been intended for any other purpose should profane the work (Tacitus Histories 4.53)."


All this entails is a circuit within and around the perimeter of the templum, aspersing the area with water drawn from the local springs and streams as before, incensing the perimeter, and likewise carrying or leading the offerings around this circuit. It is the same as the lustratio that Cato describes of his estate (De Agricultura 141) and the ambulariae that Vergil mentions in the Georgics, as well as the lustratio mentioned in the Iguvium Tablets. The circuit is made at least one time around the entire templum, and then it would continue around the altar an odd number of times, but no less than three.

There is really nothing different in these ceremonies from other Roman caeremoniae except in the particulars of certain rites used within the caeremonia. In this case the special feature of the caeremonia would be the dedication rite that is to be performed during the middle of the sacrificatio. In the story of Marcus Horatius as told by Livy there is that one special detail of grasping the doorpost. As with a seated auspex who may not rise before the ritual is complete, here the praeses/praetor conducting the ritual cannot for any reason remove his hand once he begins the dedication. And he is grasping some part of that being dedicating, taking possession in the name of the Gods in the same way that a Pontifex Maximus took possess of a girl to become a Vestal Virgin or as a man would grasp his bride in a Roman wedding ceremony.

We have a couple of examples from poetry of simple dedication prayers.

"Guardian of hills and forest groves, Virgin, whom young mothers thrice invoke at childbirth, listen and deliver them from death. Triple goddess, to you I dedicate this pine tree that now overhangs my villa, and each year the blood of a wild boar, who ponders an oblique thrust, I will gladly give to its roots as drink. (Horace Carmina 3.22.1-8)"



Hunc locum tibi dedico consecroque Priape,
qua domus tua Lampsacist quaque silva, Priape,
nam te praecipue in suis urbibus colit ora
Hellespontia ceteris ostriosior oris.

"This place I dedicate and I consecrate to You, Priapus, whose home and sacred grove is at Lampsacus, O Priapus, where You are especially worshipped among the cities of the Hellepontian coast, a place richer in oysters than all other coasts (Catullus, Fragmentum 2, in Terentianus Maurus 2755-2758)."


For a private sanctuary it was understood that worship would be offered in the manner of the sacra geniale of the family's particular cultus. Whatever was performed during the dedication would then set what had to be continued each year, on the dedication anniversary. The dedication prayer of a public sanctuary, even when privately donated and dedicated, was something more elaborate as it included the lex templi of the site. This is a very important part of the dedication prayer as it can include many different provisions. Due consideration must be given before dedication because the lex templi becomes part of the contract that you make with the Gods and when accepted it thus forms a sacred bond with the Gods. I will cover leges templi in a separate post in order to give you some examples of what kind of provisions they may have.

In the case of the Capitolium we know of another part of the original dedication ceremony, the Hammering of the Nail (Livy 7.3.5 ff). "There is an ancient law, recorded in archaic script and language, that on the Ides of September the chief magistrate shall hammer in a nail; the tablet was fixed on the right side of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, where the sanctuary of Minerva stands. This nail, it was said, served to mark the number of years at a time when there was little knowledge of letters, and the law was assigned to Minerva's shrine because number was Her invention." Marcus Horatius was attributed with first Hammering of the Nail at the time of the dedication, which was on the Ides of September, and since the record refers to a lex vestuta this may have been included in the lex templi spoken during the dedication prayer. Another practice of the Romans was to place a small stone at the family lararium on the dies natalis of each family member, recording their number of years, and similarly stones were placed each year at roadside shrines and at the family shrine for Terminus. Each stone or nail recorded an annual rite where the participants contributed partly of their numina and also the numina of the Gods that were invoked. Over time such offerings built up the sanctity of a site through the numina represented in the stones. Another thing to recall is that all Roman altars had a palus stone inside where, in a sense, the numen of the God who was invoked to receive an offering at the altar would remain after a ceremony. Likewise, as touching the altar was part of a sacrificial rite, the main celebrant extended his own numen into the palus stone. So any altar, and any site, where worship was offered repeatedly over generations would contain the numina not only of the Gods but also of the worshippers, who over time would become Lares. You see Cicero refer to this concept when he addressed the pontifices on returning his house, in as much as he asked what was more sacred than family shrines? The placing of a stone, or some other permanent marker, would therefore seem to have been part of an dedication ritual. Indeed, what Tacitus describes of the rededication of the Capitolium combined the idea of setting a foundation stone in place, making offerings by individual participants, and their burial on the site as all part of the purification ritual. We should probably understand this as a depositing of the numina of the participants, who might later be identified as Lares of the site. That part of the ceremony preceded the invocation of Jupiter to His new aedes in Rome. Burial of such objects that were used in ritual, ritual implements, images, and the like were considered to make the site religiosum first, sanctum second, and prepare the site for consecration before it became sacrum.

At the conclusion of the dedication rites, the sacrificatio would then be completed and the caeremonia proceeded further. In the case of the Capitolium or other aedes the consecration amounted to a lustratio that could only be performed by the pontifices. That is, it was just an additional caeremonia, but one performed in the usual manner. In the case of family shrines or privately dedicated shrines intended for public use, the purification and dedication caeremonia, when the site was first used for its intended purpose, was considered to be a consecration as well. All private shrines were considered religiosum, and only quasi sanctum or quasi sacrum through their continued use. A private shrine could be 'seized' by a God or Goddess, whereby it would then become sacrum, but as far as religious law was concerned all of the rites that I have been describing consecrate a place to religiosum. In order to convert any site to religiosum you must bury something of significance. That significant something can be the remains of any sacrifice you would offer during the dedication rite, in which case this burial would become part of the litatio of the caeremonia, or otherwise you would bury something like the image of a God during the dedication rite within the caeremonia. The nature of the shrine and its intended use may determine what you bury in the site. This is another consideration and one that should not be taken lightly. For a family shrine, as one example, you might bury some object that had been used by your ancestors - the assumption there being that a part of their numina thus buried makes the site religiosum by virtue of your Lares being incorporated on the site. If you are are dedicating the shrine to a particular deity, you might bury an image or even a stone that has been repeatedly used in ritual for that deity. The idea there is that each time you invoked the deity in the past, where that object or image was present, a part of the deity's numen was infused in the article. In the same way, a sacrifice used during your dedication ritual, if accepted, is assumed to have part of the deity's numen, and thus disposing of a sacrifice by burial would make the site religiosum.

So just to summarize, purification by aspersing pure waters of your local region and by carrying around the offerings you will sacrifice on a circuit around the boundaries of your templum; the dedication stating the purpose of the site, the rules on use of the site, and inclusion of something, through burial, to make the site religiosum; and then consecration is basically performed through initial use of the site. We speak of purification, dedication, and consecration as three separate rites, but they can be combined into a single caeremonia by which your sacred space is then established.

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