Advancing a Grade

You might recall my fictitious legionnaire Marcus and his wife Marcella. Well, we are revisiting them today for an exciting event.

Marcus’ grade is moving from Miles to Leo.

********************************* ~*~ ********************************

The transition began two days ago. Three men arrived at his house early in the morning. One of them asked for the pouch that Marcus had been presented when his grade advanced from Nymphus to Miles. A Miles no longer, the leather pouch would be presented to his replacement. Marcus was not sorry to hand the item over, as the prospect of being a Leo far outweighed sentimentality.

Together, the four men went to a local wine merchant. Marcus knew one of the three who accompanied him was Pater of his mithraeum, but he was unsure which of the three was Pater, Heliodromus, or Perses. The three men acted naturally; there was no solemnity in their demeanor as they discussed which inn they would visit for the midday meal. As it was Marcus’ duty to feed them, he tried to not flinch as they named a new, upscale establishment he had only heard about.

In the wine merchant’s stall, Marcus watched while the three men ordered a prodigious amount of wine. Directions for its delivery was made and, as one, the men turned to Marcus to settle the account.

From there, they went to a merchant who sold honey. Again, the amount ordered was staggering but, in this at least, Marcus had been warned that it was the incoming Leo’s duty to provide honey for the coming year. He would not be expected to do this again.

It didn’t make his purse feel any better.

Over lunch at the local bath house, Marcus was asked to detail his time as a Miles. There were good-natured shots fired into his list, but more wine helped keep things from becoming too serious. Marcus then returned home, convinced the next day would continue in a similar manner.

Marcella met him at the door with a warm hug. She knew what was happening, though without any details, and offered what support she could.

“I’ve had a package from my brother,” she said, placing a small box in Marcus’ hand. “He told me not to look, but to give it to you. He says you should take it with you and you’ll know when to use it.”

Marcella’s brother, who served the Empire in Egypt, was already a Leo so Marcus gratefully accepted the gift. “He’s been very good to us.”

Marcella smiled down at the box, “Yes, he has. I’ve already written our thanks.”

********************************~*~******************************

Breakfast was just over when the three men returned to Marcus’ home. Together they trooped to a local butcher. Marcus was quick to take them to the stall where a calf waited. When the calf had been born, it bore all the necessary auspicious markings, but had had a broken leg. As a result, Marcus had gotten it for half the usual price. Earlier, Marcus had sent a message to the butcher to remove the splint for the inspection, and he sagged with relief to see that the butcher had both removed the splint and fluffed the hairs to hide where the wood had been. He made a mental note to add a few extra coins to the man’s fee.

When one of men with him went into the stall and knelt next to the calf, looking hard at the leg, Marcus held his breath. The seconds dragged on. Finally the man nodded as he rose with a grunt.

“Acceptable. Will your wife be preparing the feast?”

Marcus breathed around his hammering heart. “I’ve hired a chef,” was as much as he could muster.

The man nodded again and waved a dismissive hand at Marcus, telling him to settle the account and leave directions for where the butchered calf was to be delivered. Marcus knew that they would oversee the ritual slaughtering, so he nodded his understanding and retreated to the front of the shop.

As Marcus stepped out into the busy street, he saw a man across the way push off the wall he had been leaning on. The man approached him with a wave.

“Marcus?”

It only took a second for Marcus to recognize and greet Gaius. “I haven’t seen you since…”

Gaius cut him off with a laugh, “Don’t say it! I’m feeling old enough.” As they clasped arms, Marcus wasn’t surprised to feel gentle pressure from Gaius’ thumb, alerting him to Gaius’ membership in the mysteries. Not that he needed a reminder, but then Gaius leaned towards Marcus’ ear. “I stopped by your house and told Marcella not to expect you tonight.”

They spent the rest of the day together, Gaius outlining what was upcoming and what was expected of his friend.

“I remember,” Marcus said at one point, “those graffiti at Caserna.”

Gaius nodded. “I’ve seen them, too. I think they did that to frighten the incoming Coraxis.”

“Putting them all together like that made me think it was all going to happen at the same time,” Marcus said, laughing at the prospect.

“That’s the idea, I’m sure. And now tell me, what did you prepare as an offering?”

Marcus’ gaze turned inward, his mind racing, but then he smiled, drawing the small box into view. “My wife’s brother sent me this. He’s stationed in Alexandria and said I would know when to use it.”

Sliding the lid off, they looked down at the fragrant pine cone.

“From Egypt? That’ll do nicely.”

image016

 

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Pattie fact #6?

Are you keeping a running total of the things I’ve shared with you about myself? Well, here’s a new one for the collection: in my mind, my ideal job would be art restoration.

I have no formal training, no art history degree… I just think restoring images to their former glory would be awesome. Like watching this guy on Youtube. Or when they did the Sistine Chapel over. I’ll never forget going back to college for an accounting degree (which, FTR, I don’t have) and meeting a woman who was going for the same degree. I asked her what she currently did for a living and she said art restoration. I was floored and asked why she wanted to change. She sighed and said that restoration was, “mind-numbingly dull.” HELLO???? You think being an accountant is going to be fun??? I like to say my job is stultifyingly dull, but mind-numbing works, too.

That was MANY years ago. 😉

In the way of such things, I was looking at some images today (thank you Szabo for your excellent posts) and noticed something that I’m kinda conflicted about. But before I say anything, please understand that I am working from an assumption. If someone knows the answer to my eventual question, don’t hesitate to set me straight.

So…. Imma just drop these here…

3. The dog and the snake
From Daily Lazy. And while there is no date on this image (or blog entry) I’m going by the URL and saying May 2013.  http://www.daily-lazy.com/2013/05/the-mithraeum-at-marino.html
dscn0706
From Szabo Csaba about Roman Religion, June 29, 2016.

Or, if you’d like:

side by side
I eyeballed the ratios, so you can blame me if you feel the need.

In his blog post of June 2016, Szabo says the mithraeum in Marino was then “recently reopened” and I’m guessing that restoration was the reason it had been closed. If you know for sure, let me know, please.

Now. Knowing what my ideal job is, will you be surprised to read that I’m not thrilled with this restoration? =D I remember people complaining bitterly, when the Sistine Chapel was cleaned, that subtle details had been cleaned away with the grime. Looking at the dog’s face, I’m getting that vib. The dog,  after cleaning, looks almost comic bookish to me. Is it because I’m used to seeing the “dirty” image in my mind? Most definitely. Will I get over it? Totally! I console myself with the thought that restoration typically includes preservation and conservation. I’m trusting that the people who were fortunate enough to lay hands on this image were working for its good, and for future members of this beloved mystery cult.

So tell me. What do you think of these two images?

And then this happened…

Birth is obscure and men are like rivers whose origins are often unknown.

Peter Brook, The Mahabharata

 

This is NOT a justification, it is simply a talking point to men that I do not associate with.

This appeared on one of the Mithraic groups on Facebook today:

no for women

 

Ass grammar aside, this kind of mentality, in this day and age, annoys me.

Enough of me believes in reincarnation that I’m willing to bet that I’ve been a man at some point.  But even if I didn’t feel that way, I KNOW Mithras touched ME on the shoulder, I didn’t approach Him. As a result, I work to promote, preserve and update an unknown religion that would not have welcomed me. And that last bit doesn’t matter to me because I know times have changed… for most of us.

So now I ask you; where are the men who are doing half of what I’m doing? I’m dying to hear from you. Here’s my email: qa9999aq@yahoo.com Please contact me. I want to compare notes on your most recent ritual.

Tauroctony Ritual

This place is blessed, holy, observant and bounteous: Mithras has marked it!

The Tauroctony/Spring Equinox/Full Moon will take place this coming Wednesday at 5:58PM. What a wonderful time as I’ll be home, awake and prepared! Not the usual combo, I can assure you.

[Strewing barley] Hail and welcome, bright-eyed Athena! Please accept these offerings in thanks for your guidance and support!

And it’s the prep that is currently consuming my mind, which is nice as I’ve been kinda sluggish recently. I have three different lists going (things I have, things I want, things I need to get.) I have about three lines of praise for the Lord of Light, which is cool because, as I told the wife over dinner, I just don’t do solemn.

Hail and welcome, Mithras! Today, at this hour, Your labors on our behalf are complete! Boreus has given way to Zephyrus as Sol’s glorious chariot enters the Ram.

My mental image of the upcoming event will take place on the patio. It was hot for Spring today, so I raked and blew it clean of leaves. I know which tablecloth I’ll use and my goal is to lay out a sumptuous feast. Happily the wife was just as enthusiastic as me, and together we were throwing out ideas.

The fruits of Your labor are before You. Rejoice and rest. Enjoy this bountiful feast prepared in Your honor.

So, here are the lists, as you’ve already seen my lines of praise. 😉

Things I have: Tauroctony image, Bull’s Blood wine, Skinny (the cow hide), incense, the super-secret sacred something of my spelaeum, pine cones, hummus, pita, olives, olive oil, dates, almonds, water, honey, barley, a knife…

Things I want: Greenery, fresh pine cones…

Things I need to get: Meat to stab, bread, more barley, mint, figs…

And here’s the fun image for the day. I went up to the butcher at my local high-end food store, phone in hand, gallery queued. I showed him the picture of my sister before the tauroctony at Lens and zoomed in on Mithras’ hand. “I want the cut of meat where His hand is.” He didn’t bat an eye. “That’s the neck, you want a chuck roast.”

Gotta love New Jersey. XOXO

20180709_155056.jpg
How cute is she? >_<

 

 

The “Mithras Liturgy”

(Their quotes, not mine…. though, frankly, I agree with them.)

lit·ur·gy
ˈlidərjē
noun
noun: liturgy; plural noun: liturgies
  1. 1.
    a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted.

It was surprisingly easy to get a copy of the Hans Dieter Betz translation of The “Mithras Liturgy”, and I urge you to do the same. Inter-library loans are your friend! My borrowed copy didn’t even have to leave the state, coming to me from Princeton.

I wanted to see/read how complete a ritual T”ML” was thought to be. I went so far as to type it up, so as to REALLY pay attention to what I was reading. I can now say that I’m just not seeing what others might.

In the context of a ritual, I call upon Mithras by name. I don’t beat around the bush and allude to Him. Sure, I might add some pretty epitaphs, if I’m feeling really churchy, but coy I am not. MY Mithras is a soldier; He’s filthy, bone-weary exhausted, hungry, parched, but He’s also ready to fight, no matter what. I don’t see Him as, [line 696] “…immensely great, with a shining face,  [697] youthful, golden-haired, with a white tunic [698] and a golden crown and trousers, and holding in his right hand [700] a golden  /  shoulder of a young calf.” I’m adding the next line as a curiosity: [701] “This is the Bear which moves and turns the heavenly vault…”

You know what I get out of the above description? Some serious awareness-altering drugs were in use at the time of writing. Kinda makes me think of John on the island, eating the local flora, and writing Revelations.

That being said, I still want serious followers to read it. Just because I thought it was far too purple, doesn’t mean there isn’t something new to learn. I’m a big fan of the Queen Mother of the West, which is a sidebar to my actual love, the Shan hai Jing. (See! The things you don’t know about me are legend.) And Auntie, as She is known, is “fond of whistling.” Well, T”ML” is full of vox magica, which I apparently find charming.

And I’m going to conclude with one more snippet of Pattie info for your evening: I’m also a certified herbalist. Why do I mention this? Because the last hundred or so lines of T”ML” are how to make the mind-altering drug needed to see the white clad god mentioned above, but most importantly, how to identify the plants needed. Seriously, the author went on and on about an herb called Kentritis. Seems it was his bae. Sadly, it’s also unknown.

Sometimes life is just like that.

p-oslo-1-1-magical-papyrus-roll
Come on! It looks just like Him!

 

 

 

Cherry stones and potlucks

Schale mit Kirschen / röm.Mosaik - Bowl w.Cherries / Roman Mosaic / C3rd - Coupe de cerises / Mosaïque romaine / 3e siècle
Détail d’un parterre de mosaïque …

But I ask you, good men, how can anyone live without the occasional snack?          Suetonius, Claudius 40

When thinking of the food/feasting that was present in any given mithraeum, it’s always important to consider several things: the season, what was available locally, the number of members, the “event”, and that eternally crucial consideration, the cost. (While we’d all like to be able to “spare no expense,” it isn’t always possible or practical, so we’ll assume this last one and move on.)

It’s the height of summer here in lovely NJ, and the summer fruits are everywhere. I’m sure the exact same thing was happening at Lentia in Noricum where archaeologists collected about 8.5 pounds of cherry stones. What does this tell us about this mithraeum?
That it was in use during the summer, that cherries were available locally,  that feasting wasn’t limited to wine, meat, and bread and perhaps, most importantly, that many went home with stained fingers.

Clauss (p 115) gives us a nice shopping list of the kinds of food finds that send me running for my copy of Apicius. Meats came in the form of: cattle, pigs, sheep, lamb, goats, fish, shellfish, chicken and geese, as well as eggs. We know wine was important to Romans, and that water was important to Mithras. From the Earth we know that cherries, grapes, plums, damson, apples and walnut remains have been found.

And not all of this waste was disposed of thoughtlessly. Many mithraea had a refuse pit, within the actual building, to collect the remains of meals that were (we assume) purpose cooked. We suppose this means that an animal, sacrificed for some event, was then cooked to be consumed by the members. These bones couldn’t be tossed on the garbage pile, so were buried in the floor before the altar like honored guests.

In a video that is currently making the rounds, we see benches supporting bowls and plates on either side of the door to the central aisle of the Mithraeum of Symphorus.

bowls1

But there is no evidence of food in the video. IMO, it’s coming, much like waiting for the pizza to be delivered. Whoever was in charge of food for the event will bring it. Sure there were mithraea where cooking/reheating could be done on site (and this might be the case in the video and is simply a detail the artist omitted) but again, we’re forced to consider the size of the mithraeum in question, the financial means and, lets face it, the actual cooking skills of the members.

I recently spoke of holidays and imagined a member of the local mithraeum (let’s call him Marcus) kissing his wife (let’s call her Marcella) goodbye as he departs to celebrate Mithras’ birth. Let’s conjure Marcus up again, only this time Marcella’s handing him a large basket, stuffed with straw that’s blanketing a covered pot. It’s still hot, she tells him, but reminds him how to reheat it if they get to talking and the dish cools. Marcus heads out, knowing that other members were ordered to bring food, and that bread and wine will be provided by the mithraeum’s finances, so the feast is going to be awesome… especially if someone brings cherries.

unswept floor
A detail of the unswept floor mosaic at the Vatican Museum.

 

What Marcella might have made…

From a different translation of Apicius, Roman Cookery by J. Edwards. This book catches a lot of flack from “real” reconstructionists, but not from me. I’ll cook/eat just about anything and I don’t care how adapted the recipe is.

Roasted Duck in Spiced Gravy

3 lb duck (or a chicken, as your purse allows!)

3 Cups water

1/4 t aniseed

2 T olive oil

1 Cup duck stock (this is the reserved broth)

1 t oregano

1 T coriander

1/2 c boiled red wine

Simmer duck in water and aniseed for 30 minutes. Remove duck to a roasting pan, reserving broth. Season duck with olive oil, oregano and coriander. Pour reserved stock into pan and roast duck for 1 hour at 375°, basting from time to time. Add boiled wine to pan and cook 30 minutes longer.

Gravy

1/2 t ground black pepper

1 t celery seed

1/2 t cumin

1/4 t coriander

pinch of fennel

1/2 t rosemary

1/2 c boiled red wine

dash wine vinegar

1 c gravy from roasting pan

2 T red wine

1 T flour

Grind spices in a mortar (or mortarium if you have one!) Add spices to boiled wine, vinegar and gravy from pan. Bring mixture to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for a few minutes to blend flavors.  Make a slurry of red wine and flour, and mix into gravy to thicken. Pour over duck and serve it forth.

 

duck

 

 

Finding Him in unlikely places

I was about to post to my Facebook group, when I thought I might expand upon what I was going to say and speak to you all.

I’ve written about being fearless in your quest for information on Mithras, and while I’m speaking to your subconscious, I want you to keep a very open mind about finding Him in places you don’t expect. For instance…

eBay. Etsy.

While recreating Carrawburgh at Yale, I spent HOURS on eBay searching for Roman coins for Coventina’s Well. I was not going to pay more than $1 per coin, and frankly, that was high. I amassed quite a pile and finally had to pump the breaks on myself as I was getting carried away. I added a $1 fibula, some glass beads and pearls to the mix, as I knew they were items found among the coins. I think She was happy.

Now, this isn’t to say you’re going to find coins with Mithras on them, but Victory, Fortuna and Apollo are easily gotten, and since Roman’s didn’t worship Mithras alone, we shouldn’t either.

my coin
From my parents for my 50th birthday. I just adore Fortuna with Her rudder.

I stated recently that I’m not one for dress-up, and I know that puts me in a minority, so if you’re looking for a Phrygian cap, head to Etsy. (Keep in mind you’ll want red.) But don’t stop there! Search “replica roman” and you’ll find Samian and Castor ware, coins, statues of deities, fibula, oil lamps… everything you need to outfit your growing temple. Someday I’ll break down and buy a raven skull for my altar.