Household worship

Private worship is a foundational aspect of Hellenic religion. Such things associated with public rites, such as the grand temples and many festivals, are only possible because of the piety which grew from household rites.

To understand why household worship is so important, we must understand that in a sense a family is the basis of ones culture, and further that the household is the “center” of a family’s existence. Inviting the Gods into one’s home helps to ensure that one’s property, relatives, and worldly efforts are blessed by the Gods, and that the positive powers of the Gods will enrich one’s daily life.

 

“The most sacred, the most hallowed place on earth is the home of each and every citizen.  There are his sacred hearth and his household gods, there the very centre of his worship, religion, and domestic ritual.”

-Cicero (De Domo Sua 41, 109)

 

Lararium

lararium painting

The Lararium (pl. lararia) altar is the sacred place of the home where offerings and prayers are made to the Gods. The lararium is where both the deities that are responsible for the home (the Lares) and the patron deities of the family are worshiped and given small offerings. All Julian Hellenic homes are to have these altars, at which the family worshiped and interacted with the Gods connected to the family on a personal level each day. In essence, these altars provide a set “place” to make deity welcome, making each home, in a very real sense, a temple.

The looks of a lararium may vary widely. Some may be carved out of marble and have the apperance of a temple in miniature, and others may be a simple wooden cabinet or wall shelf. Regardless of grandeur, the important thing about a lararium altar is that it should be permanent, rather than something to be put away when the rites aren’t being held. Either the Gods have a place in one’s home or they don’t.

statuette of a larRituals would be done at the lararium to guarantee the family’s protection by the Lares, domestic spirits of the house. These spirits were often depicted as two young men in dancing postures, holding drinking horns. They were most frequently represented by small bronze statuettes, as shown on the left, or as painted images. Even more important than the Lares was the Genius of the family, a fertility entity responsible for the continuation of the family that symbolizes both ancestors and the spirit of family. Each Genius stood for the Paterfamilias, the spiritual head of the household, who, despite originally being a masculine title in Antiquity, can be any sex or gender. The Paterfamilias‘ birthday is also the feast day of the Genius.

 

 

Setting up a Lararium

 

 

  1. Location: Select a good location for the lararium. A good place for it is in the front room, or in the kitchen area near the hearth. It is dire that the lararium isn’t placed somewhere that is so remote that it’ll be ignored or forgotten, or in a place so obtrusive that it gets bumped into and knocked about during the course of the day.
  2. Set-Up: The simplest way to set up a lararium is to reserve a small one-tier wall shelf, or a table or cabinet as an altar. A department store, a hardware store or an antique shop will usually hold something workable. A lararium may be decorated to taste in classical style if one wishes, but it doesn’t need to be any special style or color.
  3.  Equip: Your lararium should have these essential tools
    • Incense— usually frankincense, it is a traditional offering to the Gods.
    • Acerra— a container for the incense. It should close tightly.
    • Turibulum— an incense burner.
    • Salinum— a container for sacred purifying salt.
    • Gutus— a container for milk or wine that is offered to the Gods.
    • Patera— a small, shallow offering dish.
    • Lucerna— a sacred lamp representative of the Goddess Hestia, known as Vesta in Latin. An oil lamp or a candle is fine.
    • Khernips— a bowl full of Khernips, sacred water made with salt and river water
  4. Snake image: A lararium traditionally includes a representation of a snake, which represents the Agathos Daimon, the protector of pantry and food stores. A simple painting or good quality photo of a snake is fine.
  5. Upkeep: Once your lararium is set up, you have a duty, as an ongoing act of devotion to the deities, to maintain your lararium and keep it clean. All this takes is dusting it and washing objects within and around the lararium, as well as properly disposing of food offerings.

 

Lararium Rituals

There are two simple rites done at the lararium: one in the morning and one in the evening. During these rites the Gods are honored, and asked to watch over the affairs of the family. While it is expected one approaches their lararium each day, there is a minimum that at the very least the private household rites should be observed on the Kalends, Nones, and Ides of each month.

One should approach the ritual in clean clothing; and should cleanse themselves with khernips before approaching. It is best if the clothing are white; though it is not necessary. These rites should be done with a veil over the head (capite velato), which serves to protect one from ill omens that might present themselves during the course of the ritual, as solemn respect of the Gods and to symbolize through the covering of the head the covering and concealment of the soul by the body.

 

Morning ritual

  1. Wash both hands in khernips and pray:

“May this water cast out all impurities from my substance as from lead to gold.”

(Latin:Haec aqua impuritates a corpore velut plumbo ad aurum mutando eluat.”)

2. Place both hands upon your head and pray:

“Purify my mind.”

(Latin:Purga mentem.”)

3. Bring the arms down to your sides with hands in gesture to your body and pray:

“Purify my body.”

(Latin:Purga corpus.)

4. Place both hands on the chest, over the heart and pray:

“Purify my heart.”

(Latin:Purga animum.”)

5. Take a moment to focus and become fully present and affirm:

“It is so!”

(Latin:Ita est!”)

6. Approach the Lararium in capite velato, adoratio, and ignite the lucerna, then pray:

Be Thou well, Mother Vesta. May Your flames always guide us to the Gods.

7. Ignite the turibulum and burn some incense, with the right hand over the heart, pray:

Mother Vesta, may all be well this morning in the House of (Family Name).”

8. Pray with both hands manu supina:

Arise Father Janus, God of Good Beginnings. Arise, Janus Matutinus, Gate Keeper of the Morning Light.

9. Burn incense in the turibulum and pray manu supina:

Janus, Opener of the Way, may this incense find favor with You that all things beneficient and auspicious may be with us this day.

10. Offer a spelt cake sprinkled with salt and pray:

May You be honored by this cake that You may be kind and favorable my family.

11. Honor the Family Gods with some incense and pray:

(adoratio) Hail Lar Familiaris! May You bless and watch over our family this day.
(adoratio) Be ye well, Divine Penates, may You always preserve and maintain our house and household.
(anoint with olive oil) Be Thou well Genius/Iuno of the Pater/Materfamilias, may You guide us to all things joyous and fortunate.

12. Make an offering of bread drizzled with olive oil and pray:

With this offering of bread and oil, may our family and house be blessed with health and long life.

13. Pour a libation of wine to the Lares and pray:

May this wine find favor with You venerable Lares.

14. Adoratio while praying:

With this offering of bread and oil, may our family and house be blessed with health and long life.

15. Burn some incense while praying manu supina:

Be well ye Immortal Gods, if I have done anything to violate this rite may You kindly receive this incense in expiation of my mortal error.

16. Adoratio to the altar and announce:

It is done

(Latin: Illicet.”)

Evening ritual

  1. Wash both hands in khernips and pray:

“May this water cast out all impurities from my substance as from lead to gold.”

(Latin:Haec aqua impuritates a corpore velut plumbo ad aurum mutando eluat.”)

2. Place both hands upon your head and pray:

“Purify my mind.”

(Latin:Purga mentem.”)

3. Bring the arms down to your sides with hands in gesture to your body and pray:

“Purify my body.”

(Latin:Purga corpus.)

4. Place both hands on the chest, over the heart and pray:

“Purify my heart.”

(Latin:Purga animum.”)

5. Take a moment to focus and become fully present and affirm:

“It is so!”

(Latin:Ita est!”)

6. Approach the Lararium in capite velato, adoratio, and burn some incense, then pray:

(adoratio) Hail Lar Familiaris! May You bless us with a restful sleep this night.

(adoratio) Be ye well, Divine Penates, may You watch over us this night.

(adoratio) Be Thou well Genius/Iuno of the Pater/Materfamilias, may You bless us with fortuitous dreams of the coming day.

7. Adoratio to the lucerna and pray:

Be Thou well, Mother Vesta, may Your flames always warm our home and our hearts. May all be well this night in the House of (Family Name).”

8. Extinguish the flame of the lucerna, and then cover the lucerna with a dark cloth.

9. Burn some incense while praying manu supina:

Be well ye Immortal Gods, if I have done anything this day to offend You, may You kindly receive this incense in expiation of my mortal error.”

10. Adoratio to the altar and announce:

It is done

(Latin: Illicet.”)

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