A Pagan Goes to Rome
Posted on August 7, 2013
I returned home from my archaeological trip to Italy on the 30th of July, a month after I touched down. I’ve been keeping a low profile since then, but for my own reasons. Long story short, I’m having some time readjusting to the sheer oversaturated nature of American ignorance and self-importance. It’s giving me a hard time, going from being disconnected and isolated from any of that to thrown right back in the thick of it. But I’m coming through. My sleep schedule is still mucked up, though.
I have a lot to unpack, and not even talking about clothing or items. I didn’t get much time for sightseeing, given that I was working forty plus hours a week in the field in Genzano di Roma, which doesn’t have a very good transportation system. It has one bus that runs hourly to Rome itself. I got into Rome one day, and then Pompeii the next, and in short order explored some of the Alban Hills (Genzano, Albano, Lanuvio, and Nemi, to be precise). After the program ended I kicked around in Rome for three days and explored that city, as well as making it into the Vatican City on the free Sunday.
There’s a distinct difference in even the essence of spiritualism in a place as old and as grand as Italy, or the rest of Europe, when compared to many spots in the United States. We would tour former Roman basilicas turned into churches, and you could feel the years of religiousness saturating every fiber of the place. Even if they’re all stolen sites and built upon the ashes of previous religions. But stepping into the Catholic church in Albano, and stepping into the Catholic church of Saint Joseph up the road are two vastly different experiences. There is an inherent sanctity that I’ve not found anywhere in the Americas. Maybe I’m just a sucker for dim-lighting, massive amounts of candles, and esoteric feelings.
I can safely say that I’ve walked among some of the most holy Christian dead and found them to be unimpressive, at the least. Lacking, in the best. I guess a few people have hoped that this whole experience would have been a “phase” for me. No, can’t say that it is. The Gods of my ancestors, my peoples, and the old ways call to me, somewhere unshakably deep in my core. The only thing, the only person, that can shake them out would be myself.
As a note to the entry from July 9, 2013, I’ve been thinking about the appearance of the female figure while I was working. One of the directors overheard me speaking of the strange combination of factors that lead me to see this apparition. He told me that it would have more than likely been Iuno Sospita.
Doing some brief research, I’m more inclined to believe that if it were Iuno, it would have been Iuno Seispes. There’s a distinct reason for this: Iuno Seispes was the epithet of Iuno that was worshiped specifically at Lanuvium (modern day Lanuvio). She’s also known as Seispes Regia Mater. The tribes of the Latin League had different epithets of Iuno revealed to them, and the Iuno of these peoples fulfilled the roles of fertility, of sacral regality, and of military protection.
Iuno Seispes held a cult site at Lanuvium, which was later built up into a sanctuary city by subsequent administrations, especially as the Romans grew more and more powerful and absorbed the free cities of the Latin League. Specifically, it was Iuno Seispes that held the cultic activity of feeding a sacred snake with barley cakes (held by virgin maidens). I actually saw this site, and have pictures to unpack of it. After the subjugation of the Latin League by Rome, Iuno Sospita was exported from the city and a temple to her was erected some time later.
So really, it could be either one.
That history lesson aside, I need to sit down and think of the direction I’m going to take. But, as with anything, I’m really just getting started. The big thing is: I’m back. I am actually taking a little bit of a vacation before going back to work. I’ll unpack some of the photos that I think would merit appearance in this blog (in reality, many of them consisted of “Oh, look! Opus reticulatum! *click*“).
Thanks for reading.
I have carefully read your post and I have found it very interesting. I agree with you about the considerations you have made about Italy as sacred place with an enormous spiritual heritage.
I live near Rome and I have to say that for me, as Roman Pagan, going to visit the Sacred sites in Rome is always a “dramatic” experience as well as dealing with many other sites, sacred places, objects, statues and so on everywhere in Italy. I have the same feelings when visiting the etruscan sites as well as some Christian Romanic Balisicae of the VIII or IX century…
The problem is that the majority of he people living here is sinking into a deep “oblivion”. They not only simply “don’t know” but they refuse to know anything about this huge spiritual and cultural richness. The result is the continuing destruction of this heritage in a terrible cloud of apathy.
This is to say that it’s very difficult to be a Roman Pagan among “blind” people completely unused to understand the value of the richness around them. Probably people coming from abroad still have more sensibility towards all this because they don’t live over the roman history everyday.
So, keep your spiritual approach alive, forever.
Pax et Fortuna
My apologies for taking so long to respond to this. WordPress apparently thought that you were spam. I have since remedied this.
Honestly, when I was walking through San Pietro I found it lacking. There was an empty hollowness within it that just felt…I’m not sure. Maybe it was the sheer number of tourists that were visiting these holy sites (myself included). I feel when such things get commodified they tend to lose some of their flavor.
On the other hand, I was at the National Etruscan Museum and found it far more of a spiritual experience. So perhaps I am more inclined to sanctity within an educational setting. Education is a very big thing for me, and I feel that it is one’s personal duty to continue being educated in the world.
You are absolutely right about the apathetic cloud hanging over Italy. I think there’s something sick at the heart of the spiritualism in the Old World. I’m not sure what. Maybe it is just old age, maybe it isn’t. I was both surprised and unsurprised that Sunday Mass in Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano was not full.
But speaking as a New World resident, I’d give much to walk in the history that you experience every day. Even if it is to the point where people pass by a ruin and feel it is more of a nuisance than it is a historical piece of importance. It is truly a different world over the water, and I’m thankful I got to experience it.
Thank you for posting, and hope to see you again.