The Goddess Pietas

Virginia Carper kindly reminded me to get off my butt and get on with preparing the online shrines to the Roman Goddesses Pietas and Pudicitia. It is in the works, but one of the things that I need to do is write an introduction (doesn’t have to be long) on Who each Goddess is. 

Here is what i have for Pietas. If any of you venerate Her, or if you have thoughts, please feel free to post below. I really would like to expand this a bit. I do intend to include a bit talking about how I venerate Her, but I haven’t put that part in yet. 

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“Pietas [Eusebia, Duty], most high among gods, whose heaven-favoured deity rarely beholds the guilty earth, come hither with fillets on thy hair and adorned with snow-white robe, as when still a present goddess, before the violence of sinful men had driven thee away, thou didst dwell among innocent folk in a reign of gold; come to these quiet obsequies, and look upon the duteous tears of sorrowing Etruscus, and brush them from his eyes with words of praise.” Statius, Silvae 3. 3. 1 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry 1st C. A.D.)

The concept of pietas – piety—was a core value for Roman polytheists. Piety was a little different in Latin than how we translate it today in English (the definition slowly changed in the 2nd and 3rd century thanks to Christian writers). To a Roman, it meant the duties and obligations owed the Gods, then one’s community, tribe, and family. Proper devotion to the Gods meant tending one’s human relationships well too. It meant both devotion to the Gods and pious behavior; and that is what it means to polytheists today.

The Romans also had a little known (today) Goddess named Pietas and She was the Protector and Guardian of this key virtue. One of Her primary temples was located in the heart of Rome, though she had many others in that city. In many respects, She may be called the Roman Goddess of duty, but Romans would have understood that first and foremost to mean their sacred duties. Her Greek counterpart is Eusebia. (I do not think they are the same Holy Power, but They certainly govern the same things).

Her iconography often includes images of Roman matrons making offerings of incense, which personally makes me speculate whether Her temples were served primarily by women. She is also associated with the stork, both because of its care of its parents in their old age and because they return yearly to the same nests. Several Empresses were depicted as Pietas on coinage, as they represented the integrity of the Empire at home. It was obedience to the teachings of Pietas that ensured success and well being for every person in the Empire.

As all of us work hard to take our polytheisms into the future, to see our traditions grow and evolve, I think we would be well served in calling upon this Goddess not just for help, but ongoing guidance as well.

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In suppliciis deorum magnifici, domi parci, in amicos fideles erant.

(They were lavish in their offerings to the gods, frugal in the home, loyal to their friends.)

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Posted on March 19, 2016, in Roman Things, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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