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An Unexpected Message from Frigga

My household sits down together each Sunday night and does divination for the week. It gives us a guide, shows us where potential spiritual weaknesses are, where we can better focus on the Gods, where we might fall flat –which provides the opportunity to take reparative steps beforehand—and often brings up other issues that are good to know in advance. It helps us prepare and to be more functional and effective during our week. Usually, we just use a lithomancy system and then move on to various sacred sortilege systems as needed but this week, for the bulk of the divination, we were using a system devoted to Frigga. As always, we ask the God’s permission – whichever Deity Whose system we’re using –before closing out the session for the night, and we were told She had more to say. What She said, which was crystal clear through the lines that came up, was unexpectedly all about modesty. 

Without going into any specific detail, we had been reading about an issue that might involve greater purity/purification taboos. So, the person in question was facing a potential uptick in their obligations and, since these can be difficult and inconvenient to navigate sometimes, there was concern (1). Frigga answered this by a discourse on modesty. I’ll recap key points here.

Like many of us, my housemate had an automatic connection in her mind between modesty, purity, and sex. I think this is part of the paucity of our language, and also the inheritance from two thousand years of Christianity that positions both modesty and purity specifically (and pretty much only) in the body and sexuality, and particularly in women’s bodies and sexual expression (2). This makes it difficult for us to discuss these things without that shadow impinging on our understanding. The first hurdle was putting aside those presumptions. 

In the divination, were told that modesty and purity are essential to proper living. It’s not about sex. One could work as a prostitute and still have massive purity taboos (3). Modesty is about integrity, about reflecting our devotion to the Gods in a way that impacts everything we do in our world. To make sex alone the locus of purity or modesty puts a terrible pressure on these things, unfairly, and colors them in ways that are more damaging than not. Our job is to expand those categories again. 

In ancient Rome, there was a Goddess Pudicitia, Who goes hand in hand with the Goddess Pietas. Both of these Holy Powers were so important that Their temples were central to Rome. Their names mean “Modesty” and “Piety” respectively.  From Them we learn that purity is integrity of action and behavior. It may include the body, but it’s not about the body alone. Integrity is how we follow our Gods, allowing Their guidance to seep into our lives. Tying purity to the body, to sex alone renders any other outlet for it illicit. It is then granted no purchase in any other sphere. By putting too much weight on sexual purity alone, we go to one extreme or the other because we’re overburdening this one thing. Because of Christianity, purity weighs everything towards reifying sex and then denigrating it. That is not correct, certainly not for us. 

Now, of course our body, our dress, our conduct will likely be impacted by our awareness of proper modesty (which will be different for everyone based on their sacred work, their Gods, their tradition, etc.), because it is through the body that we engage with our world. It’s the most obvious and apparent marker of our individuality, our physical presence, our agency. We’re corporeal beings, so of course our corporeality will come into play as we contemplate modesty and purity. It’s important, however, to remember that just because our sense of modesty may be demonstrated through the body, that the body is one of many ways this can be enacted, it’s not solely about the body nor even primarily so. The body is just one physical marker of many in which this virtue might play out. It deserves no more weight than any of the others.

In fact, putting too much emphasis on appearance and dress as markers of modesty or purity is problematic in another way too. It can lead to one appearing to be modest but not actually being so. When we focus on trifles, as a friend of mine once said, we become trifling. It is far better to actually be virtuous (however one defines that) than to seem to be so. Authenticity is crucial in our spiritual endeavors. 

We had a lively discussion about these things after the divination concluded, the results of which you see here in this post. One thing I haven’t done here is clearly define either ‘modesty’ or ‘purity.’ This is, in part, because those things will always be shaded by our Gods and traditions and those devotional worlds are different for each of us. For instance, the very things that help me to maintain spiritual purity within my devotions to Odin pollute my friend who is a Freya’s woman. Likewise, the very things that help her to maintain purity, pollute me. This is one of the main reasons why it’s so important – at least I think it is—to understand these concepts broadly, leaving room for the Gods to move, act upon, and inspire us in our understanding.

If I had to define it, I’d say that modesty is right conduct, living in a way that best reflects our commitments to the Gods and ancestors. Dictionary definitions often define this as ‘decency of behavior’ and I think that is correct. For us as polytheists, what is ‘decent’ is shaped by our tradition and its values, and the Gods we venerate (4).  Purity is remaining free of miasma and keeping ourselves properly receptive to the Holy Powers and Their inspiration. Dictionary definitions include “careful correctness,” “freedom from evil,” and “freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, pollutes” (5). Maintaining these things, modesty and purity, means keeping ourselves as closely aligned as possible with the architecture of creation our Gods have crafted and of which we are a part, and as cleanly and closely entrained as is possible for a human to be, in devotion to our Holy Powers. 

I really like the idea of “careful correctness,” in part because there is nothing nebulous about that. It puts the locus of agency on the individual both for determining what is correct and then doing it. I think there’s also something about ‘modesty’ that speaks to one’s interior life, interiority of practice but I haven’t yet parsed that out fully. I do know that it starts not with external seeming but with deep, internal compunction to do and be that which is most pleasing to our Gods – whatever that is – and that within our traditions, we have remnants of ways in which to figure that out. 

This to the best of my ability, was what we received from Frigga, Sunday evening, October 25, 2020. 

Notes:

  1. Taboos happen naturally sometimes. One is told by a Deity or simply gets a powerfully strong sense that is later confirmed via divination that an action should be done or not done from here on out. These things are given by the Gods and spirits and I think part of the reason is to help us to cultivate specific aspects of our practice, or as a logical outgrowth of such cultivation. They’re not things to seek out or obsess over. When they happen, they happen. If they don’t, great. 
  2. To be fair, at least as far as the sixth century where I tend to live academically, men are also exhorted to be modest and sexually chaste almost as much as women are. I think problems arose in places where Christian identity came into conflict with Roman identity, the latter of which put a great deal of emphasis on the generative and procreative power of the man. It’s a complicated issue beyond the scope of this brief post, and it got significantly more complicated once Christianity achieved political power with the Edict of Milan.
  3. I would point out that prostitution can be considered sacred and healing work and in a proper society it would be openly positioned and respected as such. 
  4. It is likely also impacted by whether we are laity or called to specific specialist jobs like priest, diviner, or spirit-worker, etc. 
  5. These are based on definitions proffered by each entry here

Seven-Day Prayer Cycle to Pietas

Day 1: for Pietas, Who Brings Blessings

In the morning, before the sun rises,
while the moon still illuminates the sky,
gently inspiring with His beauty,
You rise to tend Your day.
Before the frenetic rush and riot
of family, work, and all Your daily tasks
vie for Your attention,
You seek out the comfort of the moon,
moments of serenity in which to order Your tasks;
and in that ordering, in the sanctuary of heart and mind,
Your finger each sacred obligation, each connection,
each covenanted commitment like the precious jewels they are,
and You remember, calling to mind their value, their importance,
and all the reasons You hold them true.
May we too do the same, oh Goddess,
may we restore and renew in the fastness of our beings,
all the sacred covenants to which we are bound.
May we remind ourselves again and again,
why we do this, and the love we bear
for our Gods and dead.
Hail to You, Pietas, may Your name
ever be spoken in reverence.

 

Day 2 – for Piety, Who is Mighty

She is a Goddess,
and Her name means grace,
righteous balance, and devotion.
She knows all the ways
In which to right our world.
She knows and proffers them to us
With holy hands.
She is harmony,
The resounding melody
Of all the spheres
Dancing in perfect rhythm.
She is ratio and perfection.
She is the royal road
Open to us all.
She has no need of armor or spear,
Sword or terrifying mace,
Though Her blessings fall
On every right-minded man
And woman too
Going forth to do their duty.
She has only to reveal Herself,
To enter a place, a heart, a home
And it is transformed
Into a victorious field
Where enemies of the Gods
May no longer dwell.
Hail to You, Pietas,
Sweet Perfection,
A Beauty found only in You,
By which we are raised up.

 

Day 3- for Pietas, Who Nurtures Tradition

Oh Goddess, Keeper of the most ancient and necessary of virtues,
Cultivator of the Holy, Guardian of sacred traditions,
Kindle within us the flame of fervent devotion.
Protect us from acedia, from pollution, from lack of care.
Inspire within us a desire, always, to do what is right and proper:
For our Gods, our ancestors, the land from which we draw sustenance,
And our traditions, the delicate and holy trust which have been given into our care.
Show us, Mighty Mother, how to tend these duties fully and well.
Let nothing deter us. Let nothing interfere, least of all our own fears
That our work will not be perfect.
Inspire in us a motivation as fierce and unstoppable
as the very turning of the seasons,
that we may cultivate within ourselves,
all the virtues necessary,
to live a life of devotion
pleasing to our Gods.
Teach us, Oh Goddess both gentle and firm,
To develop in ourselves the virtues of loyalty, fidelity,
Commitment and care, caritas toward the Gods
And each other.
Let us nourish what must be nourished.
With hearts and hands ever lifted in prayer.
Hail to You, Pietas, now and to our final breath.

 

Day 4 – for Pietas, Who teaches Devotion

Without piety, Oh Goddess, we are nothing.
Upon what other foundation ought our lives be wrought?
That gift of grace and understanding that You bear is precious;
and from the moment we were formed in our mothers’ wombs,
essential. Upon what else ought the work of our souls be focused?
It is a joyful, sustaining duty that You teach us,
to tend well our world of family and home,
city, town, and state, to render well the service
that rightfully ought to be given to these things.
But most of all, best and highest of all,
You teach us what it means
to be in right relationship with our Gods and ancestors,
with the land that nourishes us and all the spirits therein.
You help us to live in a way that nurtures these relationships,
that gives our own lives purpose and ensures that we contribute
to that which the Gods have built in ways that allow us
to rightfully pass it on into the hands
of those who come after us,
leaving all these things in better shape than we received it.
Hail to You, Pietas, may we always be mindful
of the sacred duty* for which we were born.

 

Day 5 – For Pietas, Whose Grace is Love

Piety is not a harsh, unyielding thing.
It is not heavy and vicious,
a burden to bear instead of a blessing.
Those who learn at Your feet,
who heed well the lessons You gently teach
learn the truth: that it is the sweetest joy
a mortal may taste in this world.
Piety is the honey-gold link of love
that ties us ever to the Gods and They to us.
It is the rich ambrosia that allows us to share
in the eternal feast of the Immortals.
It is wealth beyond measure,
that opens our lives to every abundance.
It all begins with Your lessons, Gracious Goddess,
and our own willingness to learn those things
that are Yours first and foremost to teach.
May we always be willing to do so.
may our hearts be filled with Your wisdom.
May our mouths feast on the sweetness of Your words.
May our souls rejoice in the beauty of this knowledge;
and may You bless us in this endeavor, every and always,
especially when we struggle the most.
Hail and honor to You, Holy and Sacred,
Hail, Pietas.

 

Day 6 – for Pietas, Who Keeps us Clean

It is Your grace that nourishes us
in times of deepest distress;
Your power that lifts us up
out of the muck and poison of modernity;
You, unyielding and unhesitating,
Who shows us a healthier, better way
in which to weave the tapestry of our lives.
It is You, Sweet and Gracious Goddess,
quietly formidable, ever-holy Keeper of our Traditions,
Who sweeps away the dreck, cleansing and purifying,
who lights before the eyes of our souls,
a torch that will lead us to the brightly hallowed
hearth of our Gods,
should we but cultivate the fortitude to follow it.
Help us to do just that, Pietas,
to cultivate within ourselves that precious fortitude.
Help us that we may be valiant in following You
and those things, intrinsic and integral
to the good of our souls, that You teach.
You, Oh Goddess, the sacred Presence
in which nothing wicked, nothing polluted, nothing evil
may find purchase, help us to but stay the course,
knowing that however dark and lonely the way may seem,
under Your tutelage we are never alone,
but stand resilient and whole with generations of forebears
who knew the rightness of honoring You,
supportively at our backs.
With your grace, we too may one day stand
with that august and hallowed company,
urging on in support, the next generation
of devout and pious polytheists
to but stay the course.
Hail to You, Pietas,
ever and always our guiding star.

 

Day 7 – to Pietas, Who Brings Joy

You, in Your quiet way nourish the Gods,
as Helios in His bright-streaming chariot
nourishes the earth with His journey.
You tend and turn the hearts of mortals,
to right contemplation of the Gods.
You inspire the hearts of philosophers,
to meditate upon the virtues.
You encourage artists in their work
of bringing beauty into being
lifting up aching souls to the heavens.
You whisper in the ear of the home-maker,
and call to mind the wisdom of the dead.
Your blessings fall on soldiers,
who protect their people,
on the teachers, who nurture
the next generation,
on bankers, secretaries, lawyers, farmers,
mechanics, on everyone,
on all those who work hard
to sustain themselves and their world.
Into each and every ear You whisper encouragement,
devotion is for everyone.
You hold out glimmers of promise,
that the Gods are here,
that it is right to honor Them,
that it is a joyful thing to make one’s life
a celebration of Their blessings.
You teach us that everything is sacred.
Everything is a secret doorway to the Holy,
and everything a means by which the Holy
can find its way back into our world
over and over again. You place into our hands
the key to that door bidding us to open it wide.
If we are brave, if we allow ourselves
to hear Your voice,
if we but run laughing in the direction
You encourage, then we too
in our own small way,
might blaze like Helios across the sky,
(hail Him, joyously!)
and light the hearth of our world,
with hallowing fire,
until any and all pollution
is burned away.
You are the ultimate Mystery,
the ever Glorious One,
and to You always and ever I bow.
Hail, Pietas.

 

Pietas

*the meaning of the Latin word ‘pietas’ that is also the name of this Goddess, is duty: to Gods, ancestors, land, city, family, state, etc. it was all bound up in the meaning of piety for ancient Romans, and from this came the Pax Deorum.

(prayer cycle by G. Krasskova; image by W. Mcmillan)

Day 3 – for Pietas

Oh Goddess, Keeper of the most ancient and necessary of virtues,
Cultivator of the Holy, Guardian of sacred traditions,
Kindle within us the flame of fervent devotion.
Protect us from acedia, from pollution, from lack of care.
Inspire within us a desire, always, to do what is right and proper:
For our Gods, our ancestors, the land from which we draw sustenance,
And our traditions, the delicate and holy trust which have been given into our care.
Show us, Mighty Mother, how to tend these duties fully and well.
Let nothing deter us. Let nothing interfere, least of all our own fears
That our work will not be perfect.
Inspire in us a motivation as fierce and unstoppable
as the very turning of the seasons,
that we may cultivate within ourselves,
all the virtues necessary,
to live a life of devotion
pleasing to our Gods.
Teach us, Oh Goddess both gentle and firm,
To develop in ourselves the virtues of loyalty, fidelity,
Commitment and care, caritas toward the Gods
And each other.
Let us nourish what must be nourished.
With hearts and hands ever lifted in prayer.
Hail to You, Pietas, now and to our final breath.

(by G. Krasskova)

Day 2 – for Piety

She is a Goddess,
and Her name means grace,
righteous balance, and devotion.
She knows all the ways
In which to right our world.
She knows and proffers them to us
With holy hands.
She is harmony,
The resounding melody
Of all the spheres
Dancing in perfect rhythm.
She is ratio and perfection.
She is the royal road
Open to us all.
She has no need of armor or spear,
Sword or terrifying mace,
Though Her blessings fall
On every right-minded man
And woman too
Going forth to do their duty.
She has only to reveal Herself,
To enter a place, a heart, a home
And it is transformed
Into a victorious field
Where enemies of the Gods
May no longer dwell.
Hail to You, Pietas,
Sweet Perfection,
A Beauty found only in You,
By which we are raised up.

(by G. Krasskova)

Two prayers

Day 1: for Pietas

In the morning, before the sun rises,
while the moon still illuminates the sky,
gently inspiring with His beauty,
You rise to tend Your day.
Before the frenetic rush and riot
of family, work, and all Your daily tasks
vie for Your attention,
You seek out the comfort of the moon,
moments of serenity in which to order Your tasks;
and in that ordering, in the sanctuary of heart and mind,
You finger each sacred obligation, each connection,
each covenanted commitment like the precious jewels they are,
and You remember, calling to mind their value, their importance,
and all the reasons You hold them true.
May we too do the same, oh Goddess,
may we restore and renew in the fastness of our beings,
all the sacred covenants to which we are bound.
May we remind ourselves again and again,
why we do this, and the love we bear
for our Gods and dead.
Hail to You, Pietas, may Your name
ever be spoken in reverence.

 

Day 1: for Pudicitia

You rise by moonlight, bright and shining,
cover Your head and seek the grace of offerings.
The resources of the home are at Your disposal.
You garb Yourself in respect, modesty, and self-control.
You are mindful of Your position and the obligations therein.
The incense You offer carries Your prayers to the Heavens,
for even the Holy Ones pray for a continuation of goodly order.
The wise wife follows Your example,
inspires the women in her home in piety,
honors her man with her integrity.
She is an adornment to Her home,
wealth beyond measure.
Goodness and bounty flow from her hands.
She restores and holds true to her commitments.
Bless us oh Goddess of chastity,
with the grace of mindfulness,
that we may honor You and the Holy Ones
in all we do.

(by G. Krasskova)

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. 

:fig13

“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.

hadrian_pietas_dup_rev

 

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.)

Roman Pietas and Pudicitia

Piety was the defining characteristic of Roman religion. It was a complex and multivalent term that intersected with nearly every aspect of Roman life and thought. It is essential to understanding Roman religion as the Romans practiced it and it is essential for those of us approaching Roman Gods today to at least have some comprehension of why this was so important a part of the religion and how it was put into play. Otherwise we risk disrespect to the Gods and a cognitive and spiritual disconnect with actual Roman cultus. This is an issue in Heathenry as well, which I’ll touch on below. Roman writers like Tacitus commented on the intense piety of the Germanic peoples in contrast even to Rome itself).

Let’s start first with what the word ‘pietas, pietatis” means. (1) Generally according to the OLD it’s translated as piety and first and foremost duty toward the Gods (christians retranslated that as love toward God), also loyalty, patriotism, duty, conscientiousness both to the Gods and one’s civic duties. (2) In many respects ‘pietas’ was inseparable from ‘civitas’, civic consciousness.

Pietas was also a Goddess. She had two temples at Rome as did the Goddess Pudicitia — Modesty. (3) Modesty is a loaded term for us isn’t it? For the Romans it was a matter of *self* regulation. One was expected to behave modestly, i.e. with moderation as part of being an adult and it didn’t matter if one was male or female, the expectation was the same.(4)

I think this is difficult for those of us who assume separation of church and state. It is impossible to separate Roman religious values from their social ones. The two were inextricably intertwined. Now what does that mean for a modern practitioner of cultus deorum? (and what does it mean for Heathens because the same thing could be said of the Germanic peoples)?. I think for one thing, it means that when we run into contemporary mores that are incompatible with those of our religion, or vice versa, religious mores that are perhaps incompatible with the modern world we must consider them carefully, not immediately expunging one in favor of the other without deep thought. A process of translation of religious culture comes into play and one would hope that the wishes of the Gods in these matters would also come into play as well.(5)

I was going to keep this going and bring in quotes by Cicero, and Livy, Tacitus, and Pliny, and certain modern scholars on the importance of piety and modesty in Roman religion but I’ve decided not to do that. I was telling my husband what I was writing and suddenly this question hit me and this is where I want to end this piece because for me, this is all that matters.

The Romans venerated the Goddesses Pietas and Pudicitia. They gave Them temples and cultus, in Rome, in the heart of the city. As we struggle to restore polytheisms today, (in this case Roman polytheism, but one can extrapolate for other polytheisms too), and as we are faced with discomfort as our modern values conflict with ancient religious ones here’s the question with Pudicitia:

Are all our gods worthy of veneration except Her?

Notes:

1. We cannot assume that simply because we speak Latin derived languages that we have the same religious understanding and mindset as the ancient Romans. To do so ignores two thousand years of Christian cultural and religious influences.
2. OLD = Oxford Latin Dictionary. See also the entry here. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=pietas&la=la#lexicon
3. In similar fashion, Eidos, shame was Deified among the Greeks and Pudicitia, modesty was deified amongst the Romans. Obviously modesty — self moderation—was rather important to their religion when they went through the trouble of ascribing it to a Deity. Given how often the idea of modesty is used to devalue women, it’s important to note here that modesty was not expected solely of women in ancient Rome. It was a virtue equally expected of women and men.
4. “Modestia” actually means ‘moderation.’ ‘Pudicitia’ is specifically sexual modesty and restraint. I suspect the role of pudicitia for both men and women had to do with a separation of public vs. private. Romans lived much more of their lives in what we would consider the public eye. The division between what was public and what was private was much more permeable than for us today, at least in American culture (my swiss mother used to lament this lol). I suspect pudicitia was connected in some way with delineating private spaces, including the space of the body.
5. There is a saying familiar to anyone working in translation studies: “traduttore, traditore” which in English means “translator, traitor” the idea being that once you translate a text, no matter how diligent you try to be, you run the risk of betraying the original text and intent of the author. We need to be certain as we translate our practices into the modern day that we don’t do this with our gods and ancestors. There is a way to do translation well but it requires care.