Marriage in the Religio Romana

SCHOLA AETII·FRIDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 2018
by Gaius Florius Aetius

I must admit first, that this topic sort of caught on with me cold, so to speak. When people let me know their plans of marriage, I had not yet spent much time informing myself on it, so I took some time researching and want to present to you this example of what can be done. I have looked into traditions of the past and formed this Ceremony in accordance to the needs of the present.

INFORMALITY OF THE PAST

First, marriage in the past, especially during the time of the Republic and the Archaic times was something mostly informal. The daughter was in the hand of her father and given as a sort of property to the young man of another family. There was maybe a festival, depending on how rich the people involved were. In poorer classes the women just moved together with a man, and by “usus” - habitual cohabitation – they were presume to be husband and wife. And here already I must interject. Today daughters are no longer the possession of their fathers, and in our emancipated days I cannot condone such a perspective. So we will have to think of something that to a degree mimic the idea, without binding it to the Gender. So a suggestion would be, that the Parents of both spouses bring the couple before the gathering, as sort of “parental witnesses.” In Rome the father of the family was Pater Familias, and as such a sort of family king and had autocratic powers, he also was the religious representative of the family.

In our modern times we have essentially two problems here. First, I assume in many cases the father of any bride or groom is likely not a Roman Cultor. Second, in our emancipated days I am not supporting the idea of limiting any office to any gender. (Yes every, including Vestal Priests. I believe the time where any religious or private office is allowed to only one gender are not up to the time.) As such, the role of “Parental Witness” can be held by any family member, but the traditional order should be respected. IF there is a father it should be he, next the mother, next the brothers and then sisters. If all these do not exist it can be an Uncle or Aunt or a Cousin. That person would have to be a Roman Cultor and related in blood. Now, if you do not have anyone related in Blood to serve as “Witness for the family”, you can call a Roman Cultor of your Gens. Many Roman Cultors take on a Roman name, like my name is Gaius Florius Aetius, so anyone from the Gens Floria can work as my “Family Witness”, when my relatives in blood are all not Roman Cultors. Finally, if all that fails, any Roman Cultor you know can be Witness, one for the bride, which should be female, one for the Groom which should be male. They should be Roman Cultors, or at least Polytheists, and have some level of study of the Roman Religion and the Roman Marriage.

A WORD ON GAY MARRIAGE

I fully support gay marriage. I am writing this text in the heterosexual form, just because it is easier to write. Going with the time and the laws of the Nation, which have made homosexual marriage equal to the law, and since an overwhelming number of citizens shares this, at least here in Western Europe, it is right that the Priests perform Gay Marriages entirely equal. It must of course be with each individual Priest to accept it in accordance with his own Conscience. In that case, the wording of the Ritual has to be slightly altered to Spouse and Spouse or any term the couple chooses.

ECONOMY AND LAW

In Roman times, a marriage was always a huge act of economy and law: who becomes what property, pays what dowry, is under whose authority. Since in our day it is my opinion that the Religious Body is entirely separate from State and Worldly affairs and solely the caretaker of the spiritual aspects, any economic and legal elements of the religious ceremony are void. Whatever couples decide is nowadays no longer the matter of the Priesthood, and lies between them privately. Likewise a Wedding Ceremony should no longer reflect such archaic ideas, but focus on the concepts of love, trust, spiritual connection and shared responsibilities. While the Roman Religion of course accepts that if a marriage fails, people can divorce, any marriage should be taken very serious and at least with the clearly declared will to have a relationship for life. I believe that marriages only truly function, when we connect the idea to be married for life into the equation, so that people do not go lightly into it, and confirm the will to stand together in good and bad times, and see them reunited in the Afterlife. Realism shows this isn't always the case, but this idea that a partner is just interchangeable in a market of potential partners, has undermined our societies, and since today individuals are no longer bound by bonds of economy the Ritual must emphasize the spiritual connection which steps into its place. A Wedding Ceremony must make the mutual responsibility clear and should be a joyful and lush event, to which the couple looks back for all their life!

THE PROPER DAY

The Romans were very keen on avoiding unlucky days or days otherwise signified. Let me quote from L Vitellius Triarius “Religio Romana Handbook”:

“The Kalends, Nones and Ides of each month and the day following each of them, were unlucky (for marriage). So was all of May and the first half of June. … Besides these, the Dies Parentales Feb 13-21 and the days when the entrance to the lower world was supposed to be open, August 24, October 5 and November 8, were carefully avoided. … The Great Holidays too, and these were legion, were avoided, not because they were unlucky, but because on these days friends and relatives were sure to have other engagements.”


PREPARATION

The main Goddess of marriage is of course Juno, Queen of the Gods, and she should have a central role. One may consider creating an Altar with a Statue of her, or lacking the means, have a large and high quality print out image. Second is Ceres, who stands for the prosperity of the household. In the past a torch for Ceres was held up to grant the couple fertility. (Even when no kids are planned, or in the case of a same sex couple, a flame for Ceres bringing abundance should be present.) The Offering to Juno traditionally was a sow; if you cannot perform a traditional sacrifice, or do not want to, you may at least consider making the Wedding Dinner with something focusing on Pork meat, instead, to honor the traditional idea. I also add a flame for Vesta, protecting the new home, and have a bowl of clean and blessed water, blessed to Father Janus, since the old single status ends and the new status of marriage begins. So we have three candles or oil lamps: One for Juno, one for Ceres, one for Mother Vesta, and a bowl of Water for Janus. Then the offerings to Juno: a sow, or pork meat, a glass of wine, a bouquet of flowers and fitting incense. A glass of honey of Ceres and a glass of milk for Vesta. Besides is prepared a small cake each Spouse can offer later on. The Rings should be prepared and carried by the Witnesses. I suggest the groom and bride dress in white, since white is the color of purity and the color of the Priests, do highlight them from the rest of the crowd.

I suggest when candles are used, the candle of Juno is white and in the center, the candle of Ceres is red and to the left, and the candle of Vesta is yellow or golden and to the right. The candle of Vesta is given to the couple after the ceremony to start their household with the Flame of Vesta.

It is advised that before the marriage ceremony the bride and groom do not see each other for 24 hours. In the West we have the tradition of the “Bachelor Party”; it is up the the couple whether or not they want to do this, but of course the couple has to do this separately, each spouse with his or her friends. (And ideally a few days before the Wedding, so they have time to recuperate from the party.) People who are less party-fixated may also chose to have a time with friends in a more calm manner, like drinking tea or coffee and talking, or meditating a bit. It does not have to be such an excessive party, but it can also be a calm and serene day the spouses spend with good friends separately, when wild parties are not desired.

One day before the Wedding, each spouse is supposed to make a Sacred Bath. Males offer to Apollo, Females to Diana, fitting incense and then take a bath, praying to their respective God to clean them with this Bath to be pleasant in the eyes of the Gods and ready to meet their groom/bride. Just any makeshift prayer here is alright. It is merely a ritualistic gesture, to make a sort of “Great Ablutio”, a washing in form of a bath to clean away the old, single self. The day before the Wedding should be spent calm, each spouse by himself, without any distracting excitements, but in a collected, calm manner, so that the soul is not troubled at the next days by affairs of the last day. Any trouble coming to you at that day before, reject and tell people to bother you another day, if something arises.

The Roman custom said, that before the Wedding day, in the evening the bride placed some of her children toys at the Lararium, symbolizing leaving her childhood behind. At least at the first wedding, if the bride was young. It is a habit the couple can adapt, especially if both partners are young (say, under 30), and they both may do so and place a childhood toy or two before the Lararium in their houses, to symbolize to leave the childish ways behind. With a heterosexual couple, the bride has a flower wreath prepared, in a same-sex marriage either, both or none can use a wreath. Whether the couple decides to wear traditional Roman gear or contemporary clothing is left to them, but it should be elegant, clean and emphasize white or be entirely white, if possible.

In the past the bride was in the morning before wedding ceremony tied by the Herculean Knot, since Hercules too was a patron of marriage, and it was meant that this knot was only to be untied by the husband. I cite this only for historic completeness, but it is not a tradition I suggest, since it makes wife and husband unequal. One may of course give such knots to both spouses, or forfeit the idea, as it is preferred.

A FEW RULES

For the sake of completion, a few rules from the Roman customs must be adhered today. First, each spouse must be of legal age of his country, but no matter what the law of the country says, no spouse must be younger than 16 years. There can be no child marriages. Second, each spouse must be single, divorced or widowed, there is no polygamy allowed. Third, each spouse must be mentally capable to accept marriage, so people who are mentally ill and cannot understand the meaning to consent, can not be married. Also the couple to be married must not be directly related in blood. Finally a Sacerdos writes down the legal names of the two spouses, that they are legally married under the Gods, the document contains their legal and if existing their Roman names, and it is signed after the wedding ceremony by the spouses and finally the Priest. (Note: only a Sacerdos can do this, not an Officiant, so they have to find a Sacerdos who at least afterwards signs the paper.)


THE PLACE OF MARRIAGE

Traditionally the marriage was held in the house of the father of the groom. But today with few people having Roman Cultors as father, this can be done by only few. Most people will do it in any house that is practical. It can be a house of one of the family, ideally, one of the spouses, of course, the house of a Sacerdos or the one serving as Officiant. (I will come to that soon.) I would avoid any public place, parks, gardens, forests, first since Roman Weddings were held indoors in private houses, and second because of the risk of a disturbance. Few are so lucky to have a Temple or a dedicated Religious House or Room. The place should be cleaned and prepared for the ceremony and the party afterwards, which can have dinner and if desired dance. The wedding company may decide to organize the dinner (and dance) outside of the house, and only have the religious ceremony inside the house. The house should be decorated with flowers, ribbons, branches and made look festive and elegant. Prepare an Altar with the Statue of Juno (or a large print-out, please not a small postcard), the three candles, unlit, the bowl of Water of Janus at the side and flowers and incense ready.


THE OFFICIANT

Being a member of the Reform Cultus, I believe any Sacerdos can perform any ritual. Now the question who is a valid Sacerdos can not be answered here, since the Roman Government does not exist anymore, which back then was in control of dedicating Sacerdos. We know from other Polytheist religions, like Japan, that anyone who tends a shrine or temple is regarded as Priest. A Priest is one who lives like a Priest and performs priestly duties. That is, in the absence of a State Religion, the general habit of Polytheist societies, and it is the only way we have today. Ideally you would find a Sacerdos who is elected by his group or community, but you can also seek out a self taught Sacerdos, if the couple inquires into the background of the Sacerdos and decides this Priest is worthy to the Office. Finally, in the absence of any of these, a befriended Roman Cultor can step into the role of the Officiant, as in the past it was done by the Pater Familias. The Gods would not withhold the blessing on marriage for any question of formality, and they will understand that we have to work with what we have. On the contrary, attempting to do a Roman Marriage will surely find their favor! If a regular Cultor takes on the duty of the Officiant, he is advised to seek a council form any Sacerdos online, so he is prepared for that role.


THE WEDDING CEREMONY

Note: This is merely a suggestion. You may adapt the ceremony in any way you prefer. The wording is for the sake of simplicity formulated as husband and wife, but same sex couples have the same right, and just have to alter the wording. The ceremony is gender-equal, so all notions that define the role of women and men different, are absent. Traditionally oriented people may if they wish, enter such notions, but I do not suggest it.

The Priest (or Officiant) is waiting at the Altar in whatever priestly Robe are his garment. Only the Candle of Juno is lit so far. First enter the Guests and take seats, then each Family Witness bring in the groom and the bride; the order in which they are brought is decided before. The spouses are brought to the altar before the Priest, and the Family Witnesses step to the side.

An offering of flowers and wine (maybe pork also, as preferred), is prepared for Juno, a glass of honey for Ceres and a glass milk for Vesta.

I PURIFICATION (Ablutio)

The Priest washes his hands in the bowl.

“May Father Janus, Lord of Endings and new Beginnings clean my hand so that I am worthy to speak to the Gods.”

The Priest holds the bowl and each Spouse and the two Family Witnesses wash their hands likewise. The bowl is placed aside then.

Optional (Sacra Privata): We know that the Archaic Cult of King Numa followed Pythagorean symbolism, including circulation. The Priest may chose to clean the four directions of the room, especially when it is no regular temple, to clean the room and all attendees by sprinkling water. He then proceeds from the East clockwise:

“May the East be purified in the name of Vulturnus.
May the South be purified in the name of Auster.
May the West be purified in the name of Favonus.
May the North be purified in the name of Aquilon.”

You can replace the names of the Four Winds by any other representatives you like. We know the lore of the Four Elements was known in classic times, and likely originated from the Pythagoreans, too. So I think it makes sense that we align the ritual with the ideas of Numerology as it has come down to us through the various Western traditions. East as direction of Air could also stand for Jupiter, South as direction of fire for Vesta, West for Water for Neptune, and North for Earth as Mother Ceres.

II PREPARATION (Praefatio)

The incense is lit and the Priest turns to the image of Juno.

“Great Mother and Queen of the Gods Juno! I bring this incense before you, so that you bless this Sacred Wedding Ceremony and give this couple your blessing! Look down with benevolence on the people assembled here, and bless these two gathered here to get into Sacred Marriage under your guidance and protection, so that only Good Fortune may be theirs for all days to come!”

The Priest places the burning incense before the statue (image) of Juno.
“I call the Family Witnesses to come forth and call out the blessing of Ceres and Vesta on the couple.”

One Family Witness moves to the Candle of Ceres, the other to the Candle of Vesta.
Witness One (holding the golden/yellow candle of Vesta), lights the candle at the candle of Juno, speaks:

“Great Mother Vesta, I light this flame in your name and to your honor. May its light brighten this couple (name + name) so that their words may reach up the the Gods. May your flame bless their home and hearth. I humbly ask for your blessing upon them, so that their words and actions will be blessed by the Gods.”

Witness Two (holding the red candle of Ceres), lights the candle at the candle of Juno, speaks:

“Great Mother Ceres, I light this flame in your name and to your honor. May its light grand rich abundance to this couple (name + name), so that their lives are always blessed with good fortune and wealth. May your flame bless them with happiness and love, so that the Gods smile upon them! May their home and hearth be a place of good fortune and abundance, under the blessing of the Gods.”

Both place the candles back on the altar. When desired, the witnesses can light incense to each Goddess, but it may be a bit too much smoke for some, so this is optional.

III THE PRAYER (Precatio)

“Dear Couple, esteemed Family Witnesses and guests! We have come here together to form a union of Sacred Marriage between these two Spouses (name) and (name), so that their pathway, once single, now is made one. People have come together to forge their bonds of love and companionship since the earliest of days, for the human life is elevated to the highest esteem, when in love and trust two people come together and decide to share their life and to connect their souls as one. It is therefore my happy privilege to lead this ceremony in the presence of Juno, Queen of the Gods, herald of marriage, and in the company of all the Dei Consentes, the Twelve Gods, who smile down upon us on this special day!
Let us therefore seek the blessing of the Gods and pray for their guidance and support!”
The Priest places the offerings of Flowers, Wine (and pork if desired) on or before the altar to Juno.

“Great Mother Juno, Queen of the Heavens, Patron of Marriage and all the ways of piety and righteousness, I bring to you these offerings, so that you bless this couple (name) and (name) who want to form the union of Sacred Marriage and seek your blessing. Look always favorably upon them, so that their lives are guided by the Gods and only good fortune and abundance are theirs. Grand them the wisdom to stand together through all days of trouble which may come so that through their example, the world will become more blessed with hope and all good things!”

Witness One brings the glass of milk to the Priest. Priest takes it and places it on or before the altar (depending on the space), speaks:

“Great Mother Vesta, take this milk offered before your Sacred Flame, so that the household and hearth of this couple shall always be harmonious, a place of peace and tranquility, safe under the protection of the Dei Consentes. May your Sacred Flame burn bright in their house, and ward off all spirits of mischief and calamity, so that no Spirit or Daimon or Person of ill will can disrupt the Sanctity of their Home.”
Witness Two brings the glass of honey to the Priest. Priest takes it and places it on or before the altar.

“Great Earth Mother Ceres, from whom all abundance comes, take this honey offered to you, so that this couple and their family shall always be blessed by good fortune, well-being and health. Let them reap the fruits of their labor and all their works and toils be blessed with rich reward, so that their house is shown to be blessed by the Dei Consentes all the days of their life.”

IV OFFERING (Immolatio)

At this step the bride and groom (spouses) are offering something small to Juno at the altar, each stepping up alone, and offer something to Juno. This should be a personal declaration, so I do not write a pre-made text. Ideally each spouse offers a cake or fruits or a few flowers. It is merely a gesture that each spouse speaks to Juno, offers something and asks for guidance and blessing. Needs just to be a few sentences or words, no long speech.

Priest:
“The offerings have been given to the Gods and our Prayers have been said. We will trust in faith in the renewed Covenant with the Gods, the Twelve Dei Consentes and all the Gods to preserve the Pax Deorum among us. Let me now speak a few words to the couple.”

‘ The following can be changed in any way the Priest or Officiant desires, giving any inspiring speech and taking maybe in personal notes which the Officiant seems proper.

“Dear Couple. You have come here before the Altar of the Gods, thus renewing the traditional Pax Deorum, the connection between Gods and Men, and you have offered properly and in your name we have called for the blessing of Juno, Ceres, Vesta and all the Gods. The decision to share one's life with another is one of the most important steps in the life of any human being, so let me first congratulate you for this decision. That two people take responsibility for each other has since the most ancient times always been the beginning of all human civilization and prosperity, for only when we leave the egoist ways behind and vow to take responsibility for another, only then do we mature to proper adults, when we leave behind the childish ways living only for ourselves. It is in such married companionship that we learn that life shared is so much richer and offers so much more, than anyone just living for him- or herself.

We know the Gods are only the source of good, and we have formed the Covenant with the Gods since they are arbiters of progress and civilization, wherein the marriage of two is the heart of all human relation, and a great and inspiring example to the world, giving us all hope to leave behind our isolation and form more bonds for mutual benefit, forged of love and respect. As your decision shall be an inspiration to us all, so we all vow now and here in our hearts to support you in your journey together, so that your marriage shall not be a pathway of isolation, but you shall be welcomed in our entire community to which you belong!

Remember that all life contains challenge and change, and even in your marriage it will be so. We have called the Gods to guide and protect you through such times, and we here gathered shall stand at your side, as you two now take the greatest responsibility that two people can take. Such a great endeavor will be favored and blessed by the Gods, and united here we pray that all your days together shall be bright and full of happiness and bliss. The love that has guided you here will mature with the years, you both will learn in the process and grow even more together, blessed by the most precious of gifts, the love given by Amor, one of the oldest Gods himself. May our beloved God Amor always keep the flame of your love strong and alive, so you walk through all your days in blessing.”

V CONSUMATION (Reddito)

The way to consume a part of the offerings is a topic of differing views. Some burn or bury the offerings, others prefer to consume them later, or consume a part and toss another into the earth. I personally prefer the latter. In this case, the two spouses should each drink a sip of the wine of Juno, thankful for the gifts. If one does not wish this, this step is ignored and the offering is entirely given to the earth later by the Priest. If the couple is to drink a sip of wine at this stage, it is done first, before the rings are exchanged.

Priest:
“I ask you now, do you (Spouse name) wish to take this man/woman/spouse as your faithfully wedded husband/wife, to share life in good and in bad days until death do you part?”

Spouse One: “I will.”

Priest: “I ask you now, do you (Spouse name) wish to take this man/women/spouse as your faithfully wedded husband/wife, to share life in good and bad days, until death do you part?”

Spouse Two: “I will.”

Priest: “I ask you then to exchange rings.”

Family Witnesses bring each ring, each partner puts the ring on the hand of the other, saying “With this ring I take you as my husband/wife.”

Priest: “In the Name of Father Janus, Lord of New Beginnings, in the Name of Juno, Queen of the Heavens, I declare you (name), (name) as husband and wife!” (Same sex couples may replace it with “I declare you husbands/wives/spouses” or “I declare you rightfully married.” or something along these lines.

Priest: “You may now kiss.”

Couple exchanges kiss.

VI CONCLUSION (Conclusio)

Priest:
“Quirites, I present to you the newly wed couple!”

Guests cheer. “Feliciter” or any other wish of blessing.

“Great King Jupiter, Juno Queen of the Heavens, all you twelve Dei Consentes and all the Gods immortal, bless this couple and watch over them with benevolence. May nothing in this ceremony be displeasing, since we are guided by the righteousness of our minds and the love of our heart, so we seek forgiveness for our flaws and your eternal guidance! May this ritual strengthen the Covenant between you Immortal Gods and our Community!”

The Couple is handed the blown out candle of Vesta. Alternatively a new Candle can be given to them, but the flame from the first candle should be used to light the new one, so transferring the flame. They can so get a relatively new candle, not one that has burned down. It should be brought into their home and used to light all the following candles or lamps of Vesta in their home.

The Couple is led out of the room, optionally with a Wedding Song. Traditionally they lead a procession to their home, depending on whether this is possible. Or they lead a procession to a restaurant, if they decide to dine out with their guests. After than the guests accompany them to the door of their home. The Couple offers water and fire to their Lararium and place three coins as offering to the Lares. They place the Vesta candle (unlit) either on their house altar or before the Lararium. Other traditions, like carrying the wife over the doorstep may feel outdated to our days of equality, and can be done if the couple wishes so. Also the modern tradition of throwing a flower bouquet over the shoulders so that the one person catching it finds his/her love soon next, is a possible thing the couple can do. It is suggested that the Couple makes a small ritual and offerings to Juno, Ceres and Vesta each anniversary of their Wedding and maybe invite friends for a dinner at round anniversaries.