Posted by: aediculaantinoi | October 6, 2010

Translating Sterculinus

I have briefly mentioned the cultus of Sterculinus here previously, and to a variety of people in person at various stages. But, I should probably do some full disclosure, as it were, before I move on to the Latin translation I promised on Monday. I’ve mentioned some of this in a previous entry, but I’ll review it here nonetheless.

Sterculinus, also known as Sterculus and Stercutus, was a Roman god who was considered the father of Picus, and was later syncretized to Saturn. He is the Roman god of manure-based fertilizer. He is one of the few gods that Augustine of Hippo, in De Civitate Dei contra Paganos, actually admires and says did a good thing, if understood in a euhemeristic way, because he invented something that helped farmers and thus helped the human community through fertilizer. There are many Roman gods who are rather focused and specialized in their realms of influence, and Sterculinus is only one amongst hundreds.

When I was working on The Phillupic Hymns in 2008, in the second batch of poems (of 130 poems in it, over 100 were written in two periods between April 21 and May 5, and then between May 22 and June 9), Sterculinus came forward and I had no clue how to deal with him. I had pretty much all of the poems that I was going to write planned, and adding another one for a deity this obscure and this new to me was not exactly in my plans. As I am not a farmer, nor even a gardener, I didn’t know how or why I should be honoring Sterculinus, even though I could appreciate what his invention does for the continued survival of humanity–or, as Dale Pendell might say, to keep the hallucinogenic experience of human consciousness still going via its assistance to the production of vegetable carbohydrates. So, I added him to the poem on Tellus Mater, and that seemed to do it for that moment.

At PantheaCon in 2009, he popped up again, and I was trying to piece together why. Then it occurred to me what manure-based fertilizer actually is, and what the discovery of it entails, and therefore what the “purpose,” you might say, of Sterculinus’ role in it happens to be. Sterculinus is the god of doing useful things with shit, quite literally; of making waste into the mulch for new growth; of taking something apparently useless and even disgusting and making it something life-giving and life-enhancing. So, he seemed like a very useful deity with whom to cultivate a relationship!

Therefore, the following Latin text has (at least) two levels of meaning: a literal one and a figurative one. Indeed, the usage of “shit” in English in modern speech is very rarely literal.

Testamenti Decem Sterculini

“The Ten Witnessings of Sterculinus”

I. Excrementum accidet.

“1. Shit happens.” And, indeed, it does–hopefully, at least once a day for a healthy person.

II. Excrementum tui cura.

“2. Take care of your (own) shit.” If it is your shit, you should take care of it. That means not only keeping track of your things and where you put them, and taking care of all of your own possessions, but also not leaving your own shit–both literally and figuratively–to others to clean up or look after. Flush the damn toilet when you’re done there!

III. Excrementum non sparget, nisi agricola sis.

“3. Do not spread shit, unless you are a farmer.” Leave the spreading of manure to the professionals, who know how to do it in order to make it profitable. Don’t take it into your own hands to spread shit, because you’ll just get dirty and smelly, and you may find that where you spread it is not appreciated by others.

IV. Si excrementum exagitas, alios esse felices non speras.

“4. If you stir shit up, don’t expect others to be happy.” Indeed, this is a very good reason to refrain from stirring shit altogether; it is best left as it lies, to be taken away and dealt with by the professionals.

V. Si excrementum ludes, alios interesse te non speras.

“5. If you play with shit, don’t expect others to join you.” It’s not an activity that appeals to everyone, nor should it, nor should you be upset if others don’t want to join you. The phrase “not my kink” applies here very much.

VI. Si excrementum tui non olet, flatus tui te prodent.

“6. If your shit doesn’t stink, your farts will betray you.” Everyone’s shit stinks, though some perhaps more than others. Remember this whenever you’re having to deal with both your own and other’s shit.

VII. Alios fodere excrementum non speras.

“7. Don’t expect others to dig your shit.” This is almost a corollary to #5, only on a slightly different level. No matter how interesting your own shit happens to be, it may not appeal to other people very much to see it or hear about it.

VIII. Excrementum fac.

“8. Do shit.” Which is to say, get shit done–and on a regular basis, if possible. As the above says, at least once a day.

IX. Excret aut ex olla desili.

“9. Shit or get off the pot.” Other people might need to use it more than you do, so do what you need to do as quickly as you can, without using more resources than you need or deserve. Don’t hog it and keep others waiting or wanting, or else more shit might have to be dealt with than you were originally aware of.

X. Excrementum es.

“10. Be the shit” or “You are shit.” The Latin here is interesting, because the singular imperative of the verb esse, “to be,” is the same as the second singular indicative active. You can take it either way here. Everyone wants to be the shit at some point in their life, so go ahead and do it. And, everyone feels like shit at some point in their life, and that’s also okay, too. We all have shit, and we’ll all be shit (in some form or another) one day, and we should never forget that. We have the ability to be totally and utterly fantastic at all times, and we also have the potential to be useless and awful, and often unpleasant for others to deal with in such a state. No one is either of these all the time, and a great deal of the time, we can choose which one we’d prefer to be. So, do so appropriately. It is okay to feel like shit and admit it when necessary; and it’s also okay to be the shit at some points because we deserve to be–but remember, even if you know you’re the shit, announcing you’re the shit may make some people less likely to want to be around you.

So, that all seems perfectly clear, doesn’t it? Julian of Norwich said that the design of the human excretory system was a sign of the love of God for humans. And, that’s fair enough. Sterculinus can teach us how to deal with our own shit in ways that are useful, while still acknowledging that shit is shit.

Perhaps Cloacina will also eventually reveal her profound ethical teachings to me in the future as well.


  1. Don’t forget– “Don’t start no shit, there won’t be no shit.”

    • Indeed!

      Though, keeping in mind both I and VIII, I think a little bit of shit is useful–healthy, even.

      (Which makes me wonder, is calling someone a “little shit” as an insult the implication that little shits indicate constipation and therefore lack of health? Hmm…I’ll have to think that one over…probably not, but anyway…?!?)

  2. Awesome! I strongly approve. May I link this to FaceBook? I think it’s useful knowledge.

    • Please feel free to! Anything here can be linked to as much as you like, since it is a public bathroom forum.

  3. Holy shit, that was way awesomer than I was even expecting.

    • Thank you! Glad you approve!

      And, perhaps “Holy shit!” should be the liturgical acclamation we use for Sterculinus–because, really, that’s what he’s all about! 😉

    • And, just in case you wondered, I ran it through Google Translate, and here’s what came out. (I’m still laughing…)

      1. Waste matter happen to us.

      2. Waste matter of your care.

      3. Waste matter does not scatter, unless the farmer if you want.

      4. KEEP ON THE MOVE If waste matter, and other some do not hope to be happy.

      5. If waste matter play, and other some to take part you hope that you are not.

      6. If your waste matter does not smell, the breath of thee, and will be betrayed.

      7. Others do not hope to dig the waste matter.

      8. Waste matter do it.

      9. Bit dismounted to or from a pot.

      10. You are waste matter.

      Apparently, this is the Engrish version of Latin translation.

      This is why good old human translation is probably best whenever possible…!?!

      • This is why good old human translation is probably best whenever possible…!?!

        Amen! Though this was rather amusing, so we ought to give the computer that.

      • I was laughing for a very long time with those results…I’m just imagining going “Oh, waste matter!” when I’m frustrated in the future. (It does remind me of the thing I saw on, with some video game, and a character said “Oh, excrement.”)

      • I think “Others do not hope to dig the waste matter” even conveys a better sense than what was intended! 😉

  4. I have just vandalized my own toilet. I hope you’re happy.

    • Well, then at least you know who did it! 😉

  5. […] In either case, I’d rather that no feces come into the picture at all. (Though of course Sterculinus can often help in that regard, but I […]

  6. […] don’t think I can do that with many other deities whose names I know off the top of my head. (Sterculinus, for […]

  7. A god for Americans without jobs right now, the 1 in 6 now living below the poverty line.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Indeed–and considering I’m one of those “1 in 6,” I’ve certainly been living with that in mind!

  8. […] of home, society, and the world around us.  From Gods of the home to Gods of state, from Gods of fertilizer to Gods of fertility, and many other facets of life, our Gods can help us to understand the sacred […]

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