Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of March 1st - March 7th,  2002

Sacred Vestments

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   Although we are attempting to examine Ovid's Fasti, in chronological order,
Ovid

Ovid

January 9th in the calender keeps gnawing at me, demanding additional explanation. Our supposition is that the calendar Ovid is attempting to relate is the older calender of the Republic, whose lunar cycles coincided with the months. If this assumption is correct, January 9th would correspond to the Sun in Capricorn and the Moon in Taurus.

   If one reads the text for January 9th, there are a wealth of images which are included for that day. Sheep, bulls and even birds are thrown into the mix. True, the pastoral setting and amorous overtures do permeate the chief myth which is related here, that of Priapus and his would-be lover, but how can all of this collective imagery possibly be unified under a single celestial theme?

A coin of Ceres

A coin showing Ceres

   The answer is that all of these images do have a common denominator. Astrologically, Taurus deals with our possessions, security and peace of mind. In the natal chart, this energy deals with the paycheck we bring home each week, based upon our personal efforts and the sweat of our brow. This is the house of the coin of the realm.

   When dealing with the gods, this is also the house of financial exchange, but in this case it offers something of value to the gods. During the Age of Taurus, this religious association manifested itself in several ways. First, the bull (or cow, the gender was not as important as the species) was held to be the most sacred of animals. One either honored the animal by never sacrificing it (as in India or Egypt), or, by making it the highest gift one could offer the gods.
Moon in Taurus

Moon in Taurus

Then, as now, owning bulls was costly. One generally didn't offer a creature of this power, majesty and expense every day.

   In the Fasti, Jan. 9th is telling us what the sacred 'coin' is for each of several deities: to Ceres you offer a pig; to Diana, a deer. A goat is used for Dionysus, a donkey for Priapus, while the Persians choose the swift footed horse to send to the Sun. In effect, this is what each god considers valuable. If you wanted to contribute, if you wanted to ask for a blessing or stave off undesirable conditions, then these were the specific sacrifices that were offered to help incur their favor. In a way, it's like offering a donation or passing the plate in church, depending on how you look at it. You're hoping to solicit divine favor in return for your gift.

   This same thread of divine sacraments can also be found in the Bible, whose traditions were contemporary with the pagan rituals discussed here.
The Roman Calendar

The Roman Calendar

In Exodus, the second book of the Bible and the one which corresponds to Taurus, (see Episode XV of Athena Reads Her Bible,) the prices of commodities are established. The book opens with how much wealth, possessions and power the Hebrews have managed to accumulate in Egypt. This is looked on suspiciously by Pharaoh, who's heart, after each plague, is made stubborn (Taurus) as he refuses to let the people go. The end of Exodus is a list of sacred possessions used in the Temple; of robes, tables, lamp stands, fabrics, hangings, jewels, offerings, vestments, etc. Financing is organized here; with spiritual and earthly prices, restitution, property, interest, bribe, tax and the price of hire, while in Ovid, they are the sacrifices offered to the gods. Each represents what is valued by heaven.

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