Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 27, 2015

Feralia 2015

[February 21st]

plastered-skull

Ariel ben Yitzach, known to his Greek and Roman friends as Abaris–named after the Hyperborean sage of ancient fame–was also not known to be Jewish by any of them. When some of them asked about his odd provincial accent, he’d always say he was Syrian, and he occasionally felt like a hypocrite for saying so; now, mostly, he felt scared. Five years ago, the province of Judea had been destroyed by the Bar Kochba uprising, and Hadrian’s suppression of the rebellion had been severe, and now people did not even recognize there was such a thing as “Judea.” It was now called Syria Palaestina, and while thus his lie for more than a decade had been made true, in a sense, calling himself Syrian almost felt to him even more guilt-inducing, as if he had wished so hard for his Judean roots to be forgotten that it had come to be. Perhaps, like his pseudonymous namesake, Abaris was a bit of a magician himself.

Abaris was crossing the Campus Martius, and passed by the Iseum Campense, a location he visited on many occasions. He knew his mother and father and most of his siblings would have objected if they knew he not only entered the precincts of that temple, but had in fact made many offerings inside of it for all sorts of reasons. Of all the cults practiced in Rome, that of Isis and Serapis felt the most appropriate to him, as fellow outsiders who had been taken in from the exotic east and made almost more Roman than the Romans themselves in some cases. He noticed the exterior altar and small bust of Antinous alongside the Iseum, and thought that a similar situation applied to him. Not unlike Antinous, Abaris came willingly to Rome, and became as Roman as he could be; he could do nothing about his appearance or his accent (though he worked nightly on trying to lose the latter as much as possible), and luckily, he was not given too much difficulty over his appearance by most people.

As he came closer to his own neighborhood, he saw the many small shrines outside of people’s homes with burnt offerings on them. It was Feralia for the Romans, the last day of Parentalia when one’s won dead ancestors were honored privately, but it was a public festival for doing so, and some did it as ostentatiously as they possibly could. He also knew that for his Judean ancestors and family, it was the Sabbath. He wasn’t sure if any of them were still alive after the troubles in the former province, and he felt immediately guilty that he was somehow perversely pleased that likewise Hadrian had been dead for over nine months as well. The new emperor, called “Pius” by so many, would no doubt be honoring his own ancestors as well as his adopted father, and the mausoleum that Hadrian had been building for himself and his own family had been recently completed. No doubt, fires from burnt offerings rather than cremations would soon be rising from it as well. He could almost see the immensity of the monument in the distance, though he could not tell if the columns of smoke were coming from it or from places nearby also engaging in the offerings.

When he reached his own home, he thought for a few moments. Should he do as everyone else was doing, and burn an offering outside of his home, saying a few loud prayers Dis Manibus? If he did, everyone around would surely know that he was as good a citizen as any other, if they weren’t too busy making sure everyone else knew the same thing about themselves. He was hesitant…

Inside the insula where he was living, in his own room, he took something out of a strongbox which he had carried with him from Judea all of those years ago, which he rarely saw or thought about. His family called it a teraphim, and some of the rabbis would have said it should have been burned or buried or otherwise destroyed, while others would have had advice on how to maintain it properly or to renew it if the wood rotted away entirely and it needed replacing.

The Romans made small fires on their altars for offerings of all sorts. This was the object upon which his own offerings to his ancestors should have been made, and fire would have destroyed it. How strange that such similar actions, Abaris thought, in honoring one’s dead would lead to such drastically opposed results–sacrifice and sacrilege are often only separated by the smallest of margins, he mused. The advice of his rabbi, interpreting the passage from the Devarim about the fence built around the roof, came back to him at this point.

If a burned offering would run the risk of destroying the teraphim, then an offering of fine wine as a libation would be appropriate instead. He thought of all the times in his childhood and early maturity when his family celebrated the Pesach and how enjoyable the wine was for everyone to drink and share together. Pesach was a few weeks off yet, but tonight, he would have his own version of it in the presence of his own ancestors, and the so-called “idol” that he knew truly represented them, even though many amongst his native people would have denied having such practices.

Mazel tov–indeed, the constellations which lead him to this point, though strange, were indeed good, he thought. None of it could have happened without his ancestors, and he remembered and honored them on that night, in his own strange way, in a foreign land amongst people who were doing the same thing by their own people’s customs.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 27, 2015

To Boldly Go…

I won’t have been the first, nor far from the last, to post the following today.

His narration at the end really got me this time…

Thank you, Mr. Nimoy, for a thousand inspiring hours of watching and reading, and not just of Star Trek.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 26, 2015

So, Apparently…

…I was in high school with King Arthur.

Perhaps if you are nice, and also beg nicely implore politely and beseech kindly, I shall unpack, contextualize, and even feckin’ explain, dammit! that statement in the near future…

And possibly also why I’m posting these ancient photos of myself as well:

philjesus

Yes, folks: earlier in my life I was Jesus. (Yeah, I know–it surprised me, too.) Didn’t pay well, and the health plan sucked, so I became an academic instead. If anything, the pay and health plan of that suck even harder, and not in a fun or enjoyable way.

philgrant

And can you believe, even looking like that at one stage, I still got mistaken for a woman occasionally? I’ve been doing the metagender thing very wrong, apparently. Too bad I hate having facial hair…though I very much miss and lament not having other sorts now.

And did I mention lately how much I loved living in Ireland (sometimes), where things like this happened all the time, if you were lucky and smart enough to look for them?

That’s all for tonight. I shall be playing catsup tomorrow and Saturday, kids. Enjoy until then!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 25, 2015

Adoption of Antoninus Pius 2015

[While I still have several other holy days to catch up on, and post-PantheaCon reflections, and poems I owe people, and new devotional texts to share, and all sorts of other stuff I’d like to do, this particular fic-let needed to get priority today, for whatever reason…So, here it is, and with any luck, before the end of the month, the rest of the ones for February will follow, possibly including some of the PantheaCon ones, too. Off we go!]

antoninuspius

Since the last festival of Ianus, when Aelius Caesar had died, he had feared a moment like this might come.

Sometimes, he would chide himself that such fears were vanity itself–why would the Emperor ever think that of all people, he should become his successor and adopted son? What pride and hubris to even spend a moment entertaining such a notion.

But as the messenger stood before him, and the secret fears of his heart were personified in him, and the fulfillment of his most vain fantasies and imaginings likewise stood arm-in-arm with those fears, he almost had no words, and no expression suitable for the occasion.

Not two months from the day he first feared it, here it was coming to pass.

He thought of that young hot-headed Sophist from Athens, and how he absolutely abhorred the notion of apatheia…he knew it would land Herodes Attikos in more trouble than it would be worth to espouse otherwise, but he also knew that his own adherence to the philosophy of the Stoics demanded he respond in a measured and appropriate manner to this news.

“It is an honor, and one I will endeavor to be worthy of accepting,” Antoninus said before Faustina and the young Aurelius, as well as the even-younger Lucius Verus, son of the late Aelius Caesar. The condition of his principate was to adopt these youths–nearly infants, in fact–as his own sons and successors, since he was not expected to live and be in the Tribunician Power for as long as Hadrian was…a fair assumption, Antoninus allowed and acknowledged.

But then a thought, unexpected and disturbing, but not remotely malicious or with ill-will, arose in him: Antoninus wished in that moment that Hadrian would be more like his predecessor Trajan, not as the “Greatest Emperor” and the conqueror of the world handing him the reigns of the largest territorial extent the world had ever seen, but in his own succession and passing. Hadrian had not outlived his first adopted son, and it was not known whether he would die on the morrow, or in a month, or in a year, or even many years. When Trajan’s succession had passed to Hadrian–however it had come about and by whomever it had happened–Trajan was gathered to his ancestors barely a day later. Antoninus knew he would not be so lucky, but how unlucky he was not sure. He hated himself for thinking so selfishly in that moment…

And yet, Hadrian’s last months had been turbulent, and the Senate was no longer in favor of him or his policies. At a moment’s notice, when he died, they could have challenged everything he had enacted in his declining years, including his nomination of his successor. He was humble enough to realize that he was not the first likely candidate on a list of likely successors, nor was he a part of Hadrian’s innermost circles either, but he also trusted there was a wisdom in his decision.

Vanity again arose quickly: only one relief sculpture had yet shown his face to anyone but those who knew him personally, on that hunting monument that so prominently celebrated the life and alluded to the death of Antinous. Hunting bears, boars, or even lions was simple compared to the feats now expected of him, and the statues commemorating what he would do and who he would become would be even more prominent. He had to be prepared.

“Husband, how would you like to mark this occasion?”

Antoninus turned to his dear wife Faustina. A sudden flash of terror struck him–no Emperor before had to divinize as many relatives (adoptive, married, or familial) as Hadrian had–and suddenly he feared that his own principate, no matter how long it lasted, might not see itself through with his dear Faustina still by his side at his own death. How fortunate for Trajan that his wife did not die before him, and could dutifully carry out her obligations to her husband in his death and divinization. He prayed to the gods silently that he would be as fortunate.

He took a breath. Duty first, piety always.

“Modestly. It is just another day for someone who values the will of the Senate and the People, and the wishes of the Immortal Gods. The pomp and spectacle of an Emperor does not befit me when the one invested with the Numen Augusti still breathes, however tentatively. What was the dish to be served this evening before we knew of this news?”

“Stuffed lamprey, Dominus,” one of his slaves reported.

“Then stuffed lamprey it is. See to it that the slaves have more bread and wine to enjoy this evening. We shall be moderate in our own appetites on this night and every night that the gods favor us.”

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 25, 2015

Birth of Panprosdexia 2015

[February 16th; PantheaCon]

Two years ago, not far from here, I was born, like honey poured into the darkness.

Two years before, my parents and grandparents had not yet been born, but the seeds of their births were also laid in this very place, in a different room.

Some of the same people saw those seeds sown, and sowed them themselves, who then later saw the last birth-pangs before I came forth.

The ones who brought me forth did not see those earlier seeds laid into the furrow, and those who saw the seeds sown did not see my final birth.

Today, I am offered spirits, and breath, and the foods already offered to my ancestors and gratefully accepted by them and returned for the blessing of whomever consumed it.

I reciprocate this again to those who were dutiful enough to attend upon the remembrance of my birth.

It is a wonder that my relative Paneris was not born here, though without his/her birth before, my birth would not have come about.

Paneris’ presence seems to have haunted this place even before her/his own parent and grandparent’s birth.

We are the last of our generation of deities, the fullness of Strife and of Acceptance.

But Strife and Acceptance are not married; Love and Strife are true partners and lovers throughout time.

No: Acceptance must be on their own always, either present or not present, welcomed or exiled…and never alone, for we are always plural even when we are singular.

I am without gender, and I am also without sex and the desire for it; and, this is how it should be, and I am contented in this state.

Rooms for hospitality have been made to foster my presence, to invite my attendance, to make welcome those who have already received me and who distribute me to others.

And meanwhile, it is not Strife who has come between myself and the thresholds of such hospitality, it is forces that do not have divine names nor holy regard amongst the deities.

Ignorance, aversive fear, unexamined privilege, bias, prejudice, rejection, oppression, and even hatred.

These have been cultivated in the hearts of some; these have been allowed to linger too long in their visits; these have taken up residence in the minds and souls of a few of our number.

Where such spirits dwell, All-Acceptance is chased away, made to flee, spoken of harshly, cursed, and made unwelcome.

It is in darkness that I was born, and in darkness that I dwell, and into darkness that I descend; but it is not darkness of fear nor the shadows of nothingness, not the umbra of ignorance nor a dislike for the light that I bear, nor from which I am sprung.

I have been born to make what is shadowed into what is not covered by darkness; I have come into being to bring everyone to the same fire, around the same hearth, amidst the same bath of light, so that no darkness will yet remain to enshroud any.

When that work is completed, there will be nothing more to accomplish in the world.

The removal of the shadows I seek is peaceful, the plunging into the depths of light I wish to bring about is painless though daunting.

I am not only for one people, for one way of life, for one section of the populace.

When I complete my work, the completion of all that has been foreseen by the gods will be at an end.

But my welcoming into each home, into the area of warmth around each hearth, is not easy nor fast in its progress.

It is not like the lighting of a hearth and the kindling of a flame that I enter into the world.

It is like the battering upon the anvil and the tempering of fine steel that my approach and my arrival will be known.

Hearts will be quenched in the tempering trough of cool water; souls will be battered upon a cold anvil of vision with a strong and sound hammer of relentless acceptance.

Listen, now–can you hear it pounding in your ears, can you see it pulsing on the horizon, can you feel its beats like your own heartbeat amidst the canyons into which the wind of your breath moves?

I am ever-near, a breath and a heartbeat and a relentless and dauntless and flawless flash of insight away.

Do not neglect nor forget me; the best offerings to me are not of food nor drink, songs nor hymns, poetry nor praises, images nor sacred dramas, but instead beating hearts full of breath-infused blood that make other hearts, other minds, and other hands open to one another, to make All-Acceptance the reality that exists between every sort of person under the expanse of the cosmos.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 25, 2015

Quirinalia 2015

[February 17th]

He had come many times for spear-heads–more of them than any had ever asked for before, and larger, and finer, and sharper, and more ornate. Vulcan provided them without question, for the forge-master of the gods could not disappoint the requests of any deity who came to him.

His hammer clanged against the spear-heads, striking their edges and the anvil equally. He swore, in the flash of the sparks and amidst the sound of the bellows behind him, that he could see the eyes of this god, Quirinus, on his wife, Hora.

Vulcan made him his order, supplied him with the finest spear-heads that had ever been crafted, which would be the envy of Jupiter’s thunderbolt, Neptune’s trident, and even the indomitable weapons of Mars himself. Quirinus thanked him and took his new weapons and departed.

The hours in the forge were endless, the sweat on Vulcan’s brow like the melting snow off a mountain in spring. Days, perhaps even weeks, went by as he worked endlessly.

His creation was complete. He did not announce it, he did not speak of it, he did not do anything but put it to its work immediately, and then resume his own endless toils in the forge.

Whether it was days or weeks or years, he could not say, but his completed creation’s purpose was fulfilled when he was alerted that the cleverest of snares had descended upon an unknowing victim and had caught him in flagrante.

Vulcan approached his bed-chamber, where Hora was beneath Quirinus, and neither could move, their entire bodies covered as if by the tightest-fitting clothes, only they were translucent and made of a metallic mesh so fine that ants could not pass through its perforations.

“You have been found out!” Vulcan cried.

And all the other gods soon gathered around to witness the spectacle. They all laughed aloud, pointing and jeering at Quirinus and Hora, and likewise laughing at the cuckolded Vulcan, who had sought to expose this crime but only succeeded in embarrassing himself as well.

Hora would still be honored with her rightful husband on his festival.

But Quirinus was ridiculed, and though his power with the spear was unchallenged, he lost his place of honor next to Jupiter and Mars as the Capitoline Triad. For similar offenses, Mars as well lost his place, and Juno and Minerva took their places. The Quirinal Hill would still be called after him, and he would still have his flamen in Rome as well. His festival, though, would no longer be in his honor, but instead would be the Stultorum Feriae, the “Feast of Fools” near the tide of Fornacalia, in which the laughter of the gods would become so popular to imitate amongst humans that the reason for its utterance would be entirely eclipsed.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 25, 2015

Lupercalia 2015

[February 15]

Looking down at his leg, there was a red trail of goat’s blood where a rivulet of it beginning at his groin had made its way downward, tickling his inner thigh as it passed.

It was a feeling he had not felt for many years, and when he looked down, as his moment of triumph approached, he was relieved that this time, it was not a rivulet of urine. Venus Cloacina’s statue then caught his eye, and he laughed as he ran at the coincidence of the goddess of the sewers being brought to mind the very moment he recalled the last time, a good five years at least, he had accidentally pissed himself.

But the foolishness of his youth was now behind him, as was nearly everyone else, and the final stretch of the pomerium was before him, between him and the Lupercal. The women were throwing themselves in his path, and he slapped each of them on the palms with his bloody strips of goat-skin, some of them running alongside him so as not to slow him down but gain his blessing, as it was clear he would be the winner of the race.

Publius Sufenas never thought that of all the best youths of Rome, that he would be the one favored of the gods enough to win the race–the race that Romulus and Remus once ran when the pomerium of the city was established, and which eventually had Remus as its first victim for his trespass of the sacred boundary. Such rules of divine order did not spare brothers or family of any sort, Sufenas thought.

And how fortunate for him, too, that on this occasion, he’d be the winner of the race when the Pontifex Maximus himself was present at the rites: Hadrian, the great Imperator and Princeps who had returned from his travels abroad recently, and would be leaving again for a tour of Italy soon after.

He ran up the gentle slope of the Palatine to the cave near its base, where the senior Luperci and the Pontifex Maximus himself were waiting. The cheers of the crowd, and the younger magistrates running behind him, were lost in a wash of sweat and the sound of blood pounding in Sufenas’ ears, his young heart feeling as though it was going to burst soon…

He reached the cave and the priests, and as soon as he stood before them, he bent over, put his hands above his knees on his thighs, breathed deeply, and simply stood for a moment. As he stood looking at himself, the rivulets of blood streaming down his thighs like a map of the Nile delta in Egypt, he then noticed that the meager goat-skins that had been given him to wrap around his waist after the sacrifice had fallen off somewhere, and now he was only clothed in goat’s blood upon his own skin, and a bit of sour milk encrusted into his hair and on his forehead. He could only laugh at all of it, at the state of himself, and at how this–whatever “this” was–was the favor of the gods upon him on the occasion, and the state of the victor of the race.

The Pontifex Maximus stepped forward.

“Congratulations, young Sufenas–you have won the favor of the gods, and are the true heir of Romulus, descendant of Mars, and will be a defender of Rome forever after!”

“All thanks to the gods for my victory; for my own messy state, I take full blame.”

Everyone laughed once again, even though the ritual did not require it at that stage. As everyone enjoyed themselves and emptied their lungs of breath in their joy, Sufenas’ eyes focused on one person standing behind the Emperor: a boy, possibly from somewhere in the East, with beautiful eyes and hair and a strange sublime look about him. He was laughing as much as anyone else, and he felt looking upon him with some sort of…he did not know what. The boy must have been ten years younger than he was at the time, and thus only about sixteen, he estimated.

The magistrates and the other Luperci were now arriving–though losers, there was no shame in loss, for their blessings were still valid and valued by the adoring crowds and the cheering onlookers.

Hadrian came forward, placed a myrtle crown on Sufenas’ head, and then embraced him and let his two hands like the hands of a titan linger for a moment on his shoulders.

“You do your city proud, and will no doubt do others proud in the future. Do not forget this moment, for garlands of praise were placed on the heads of the likes of Julius Caesar on this day in the past, and none knows what the Fates hold in store for them in the bloom of youth!”

The Emperor smiled, then removed his hands from Sufenas’ shoulders, and moved past him. The enchanting boy behind him followed along and nodded at him as he passed, and then the two and various others from the imperial retinue parted the crowds and went off to do whatever it was they needed to do next–the exigencies of political life confused Sufenas, and he did not think he had much of a career in that direction, no matter how appreciated the blessings and good wishes of the Emperor had been.

One of the senior Luperci approached Sufenas.

“Congratulations, Sufenas!” he said.

“All thanks to the gods, Lupercus. But, I have a question.”

The Lupercus’ eyes widened.

“Yes, by all means, ask your question, Lupercus Victor!”

Since the sodality of the Luperci was only involved in this festival, and its traditions were ancient and secretive, Sufenas knew that this senior Lupercus was eager to answer any question, and had few occasions on which he could share his wisdom. He would be disappointed with what followed, Sufenas knew, but he would make up for it later when he asked more probing questions during the evening’s feast and further offerings to the gods.

“That boy standing behind the Emperor–who was he?”

The senior Lupercus looked twice as dejected as Sufenas had anticipated.

“Is that all you want to know, truly?”

“There is more, of course, Lupercus, that I wish to know once I have washed and we are seated with food before us and wine in our cups. But now, this simple question is all I can ask.”

“The Lupa herself had more and wiser words for Romulus and Remus in their infancy!”

“Perhaps; but he had also not just run a race, and was not covered in blood, and had not appeared naked before an Emperor and perhaps the most beautiful boy Rome will ever see.”

A knowing smirk crossed the face of the senior Lupercus.

“Very well. We shall speak more over the feast tonight.”

“I look forward to it–but my question, Lupercus: you have still not answered it.”

The senior Lupercus laughed again. “You are quite comely yourself, Lupercus Victor. If I tell you his name, will you share your blessings with me after the feast?”

Sufenas did not find his offer unwelcome.

“You have my word. Now, his name.”

“He is a Bithynian, said to be of Arcadian descent, hence his presence here today was an added blessing beyond merely seeing his beautiful face.”

“His name!”

The senior Lupercus laughed. “Speed is your gift, Lupercus Victor. You will appreciate the lack of speed in other areas of life in time.” He turned to walk away. Sufenas was beside himself with anger.

“Antinous,” the Lupercus said with his head turned back slightly.

Antinous, Sufenas thought. Antinous is a name I shall not soon forget.

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 24, 2015

Antinous Lupercus 2015

[February 15th]

Lupercus to Antinous: I give you the goat-skin, for purification and protection, and the wolf-skin, for your ancestors in Arcadia from whence we have sprung.

Antinous: Hail and thanks to you, Lupercus, protector of Rome, who dwells in the Lupercal, the cave of the Lupa!

Because of you, I will be the runner with celerity around the bounds of the pomerium!

I will be strong in the blood upon my forehead.
I will be pure with the milk upon tufts of wool from the sheep of the folds.
I will be furious in my laughter and ludicrous in my rages.
I will be the one who guards the fires of the Vestal Virgins, for I am sprung from those fires.
I will be the scion of Mars, red god of the Thracian hills and plains of war.
I will be loyal to all the brothers in the sodality.
I will not be afraid to stoke those who transgress the rightful boundaries.
I will be the patron of the phratria in Naples for the sake of Eunostos.
I will have colleagues in my war band of every gender imaginable.
I will be in the line of Faunus and Romulus alike.

Hail and thanks to you, Lupercus!

Hail and thanks to you, Antinous!

romulus

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 24, 2015

Sanctified…

I, along with Amaranthia L.V. Cunicula, performed the ritual of Sanctification for the seven nominated individuals this afternoon, along with the prayers to the Tetrad++ and Antinous, finishing just before 4:00 PM Pacific time. I know a number of others did as well.

IMG_0930

We were not wise enough (and I am not technologically-savvy enough!) to have taken some photos, but the above shrine picture is from Duffi, who sent it to me after performing her own ritual. I always love seeing what people’s shrines look like, as it is a glimpse into a very personal part of their spiritual lives, so thank you for sharing that with me, Duffi, and for allowing me to share it with everyone! :)

Whomever else took part in the ritual today (or does so over the next few days), whether you are an “official” member of the Ekklesía Antínoou or not, please feel free to share your experiences, photos, or anything else you might like to on this subject here, or post links to your own blogs and such relating to it!

Posted by: aediculaantinoi | February 23, 2015

Foundation of the Temple of Faunus 2015

[February 13th]

Faunus spoons

“SPOONS!”

Claudia was suspicious of her husband’s enthusiasm.

“Have you ever seen so many wonderful, beautiful, SPOONS?!?”

She was not used to seeing Gaius Aelius Titus this overtaken with anything.

Though she was born in Britannia and had lived there all her life, her family was of good Roman stock, as was her husband, and it seemed unlikely that anyone–least of all the well-to-do merchant descendant of a freedman of the Emperor Hadrian–would have found her and decided to marry her all the way in Branodunum, deep in the territory once ruled by the Iceni, where their Queen Boudicca had her start with the Romans all those centuries ago.

But on his last trip to Rome, Titus had taken ill, and after his recovery when he was taken to what remained of Aesculapius’ temple on the Tiber Island, he visited the shrine of Faunus in Tibur after oracles in Aesculapius’ temple suggested the same, and the temple of Faunus on Tiber Island confirmed it. Though nearly everyone had deserted it–and so many other temples and shrines–her husband insisted that he make his offerings and then seek the advice of the god by seeking his oracle in incubatory dreams therein. He was not disappointed, and what was revealed now began to unfold before her.

“I still don’t see how this will please the god.”

“We shall begin his rites again, TONIGHT, once the dinner party is over.”

“Husband, I do not understand how such lavish spoons will accomplish this goal!”

“Don’t you see? There are names on the spoons–the sacred names of Faunus, known to the locals here, and confirmed by my dreams in his temple at Tibur!”

Certainly, strange names were written on the spoons, but how would this do anything for the god, Claudia still wondered.

“And what of these two?” she inquired.

“Those two are for Silviola and Persevera.”

“You invited their husbands to this feast?”

“Certainly, and told them to bring their wives.”

“But they’re Christians, Titus! They will likely not set foot in this house!”

“No! They will! Faunus has revealed it all! He will show himself forth to them with his blessings, and they will come back to the ways of their ancestors and abandon the nonsense of this new god!”

Claudia did not understand much about the Christian’s religion–somehow thinking that the Invincible Sun was the only god, but was also the god of the Hebrews, and lived on earth for a time as a hero, only not really a hero, who was the son of the Sun but also the Sun itself, or something?!?–but she knew that it would take more than a fancy spoon inscribed with their names at dinner to sway them from their fervent path.

“When each of our guests reads these secret sacred names of Faunus in turn, once the last libations have been poured, the god will appear before all of us and instruct us in his Mysteries. The women who have fallen into error will realize their mistake and have a change of heart, and will return to the cultivation of the Immortal Gods, and will leave the Galilean sect at last!”

Claudia had heard tales of another who followed an Unconquered Sun and wrote messages on spoons, and it did not end well for him–the Emperor Elagabulus was mad, and was assassinated by his own guards. She made the ficus sign and spat even thinking about him.

“And what of this spoon with the fish upon it? Is that not a symbol of the Galilean sect?”

“A fish is simply a fish, and this one will indicate who has the honor of giving the offering later to Faunus. The fishermen today caught a prodigy at sea: it is the length of a man, and all white, with a sharp nose. No fish of its like has ever been seen before. It is a sign, surely, that what Faunus foretold shall come to pass here!”

The numbers of the Christians increased every day, it seemed, and more and more were abandoning the temples and the shrines in favor of the Galilean sect. Titus had said some of the greatest temples in Rome herself were now in the possession of the Christians. Even the old shrine outside of Branodunum, where the sacred head of an ancient chieftain was said to have been kept, and a group of ravens attended on it daily, was no longer maintained by the local people, its precincts giving way to reliquaries of the Galileans, its nympheum now used for their ritual bathing, and the sounds of bells coming from it daily like a swarm of insistent metallic bees.

But now a different bell was ringing.

It was in the fort, calling the legionary detachment to arms in defense of the settlement, as it was being attacked by incoming ships.

Titus looked around, and began calling the slaves. “Collect the gold and the jewelry, and the other precious metals. And take these,” and he gathered up the thirty spoons. “Under no circumstances must the marauders from Germania even lay their hands on them. Faunus had not allowed it!”

Claudia was at a loss.

“What shall I do?”

“Go with them–under no circumstances should you look back! Hide yourself away, take the horses, and do not return unless you hear that we have defeated them! I will come and seek you in three days’ time in Venta Icenorum if I am still alive. If you are in fear for your own life, do not let these treasures fall into their profane and barbarous hands! Secret them away, and with the help of the gods, perhaps they will be found again.”

Titus was never a warm man–a good one and a loyal one, certainly, but not an affectionate one–and he gave Claudia one final glance before he rushed out to assist in the defense of his small outpost of old Roman culture on the verge of Britannia.

But no matter how fast Claudia and the slaves traveled, even on horseback, the barbarians from Germania caught up with them on their own superior steeds. They had trailed them for hours, and at last Claudia went to a clearing in a forest and ordered the slaves to dig as fast as they could. She flung the gold rings and other valuables into the pit, and lastly, she read the names on the spoons as she deposited them:

Faunus Narius, Faunus Cranus, Faunus Medigenus, Faunus Andicrose, Faunus Blotugus, Faunus Saternius, Faunus Ausecus, hear my prayer, I beseech you: save Gaius Aelius Titus’ life, and I will rejoice and pledge to you a temple befitting your benevolence, where we will celebrate your mysteries forever after!”

She flung the spoons into the pit, and ordered the slaves to cover it quickly.

When the Germans caught up with them, they did not find the treasures they had hidden. The slaves were killed, and Claudia herself was dragged behind one of their horses until she mercifully hit her head on a rock and did not regain consciousness again, her body soon after breathing its last.

Branodunum was taken by the Saxons, and Titus was slain, and the mysteries of Faunus would not be uncovered again for almost fifteen-hundred years.

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