Parilia: the Ancient Roots of Earth Day
Parilia is a Roman holiday in honor of the god Pales (whose gender is uncertain). As the guardian of the flocks and herds, April 21st was set aside as a day for shepherds to cleanse both himself and his flock. Rural in nature and predating the founding of the city of Rome, in time it became more urban over time and instead of being officiated by a shepherd, the ceremony was led by a priest. In more recent times, this holiday became Earth Day, where we set aside time to remember our responsibility to the environment.
When in the hands of the shepherd, acting as his own priest, the ceremony was very personal in nature. He would decorate the pen with greenery and place a wreath on the gate. At sunrise, the shepherd would kindle a purifying fire made of straw, olive tree braches, laurel and sulfur and the crackling of the fire would be interpreted by the shepherd as a good omen for the coming year. Once burning, the shepherd would jump through the fire and drive his sheep through as well, purifying them one by one. Then he would give an offering to Pales of millet cakes and milk before wetting his hands with dew and repeating prayers to the East. These prayers would be to protect himself and his flock from what we would call “bad Karma” brought on by accidentally trespassing on sacred grounds or mistakenly removing water from a sacred well. Finally, the shepherd would conclude his ritual by drinking burranica (a mixture of milk and boiled wine) before jumping through the fire three more times. The urban version of this ritual was a combination of the above ritual with other Roman religious practices, but this time the shepherd was replaced by the temple priest.
This is an excellent excuse for you to add some Spring decorations to you home and you could place a flower wreath on your front door. For this particular spell, the altar can face the East and you can add some greenery (real if you can obtain it or faux from a dollar store if there isn’t any Spring growth just yet) to it if you so desire. If you have a Cauldron or a Thurible for a small and contained fire, then so be it, but if not, then use a candle instead. For your offering, have a small bowl of milk and you can replace the millet cakes with cookies. In the aspect of Earth Day, you may also wish to add to your offering, giving something to the furry or feathered creatures such as bird seed or corn or even donating pet food to your local shelter. If performing this spell outdoors, take a few moments to “tidy up” the lawn, your personal environment.
At your altar, light the fire (or the candle) and say:
“I call to Pales, ancient guardian;
On this Earth Day for protection.
With Your sacred fire, I burn away the past.
Together we make magick with this spell I cast.”
Sit before your altar, close your eyes and firmly see in your mind what refuse from your life’s environment that you will dispose of. Take mental note of what Spring Cleaning you need to do to make way for the positive changes coming your way. The, because Nature abhors a vacuum, make a mental “checklist” of new actions and habits you will employ form this day on to have a protected, prosperous life. If you feel so inclined, take the time to meditate on this and ask your Totems or Guardian Angels for any wisdom they have to share with you. When finished, open your eyes, place the offering of cookies and milk ion the altar and say:
“I start my life anew on this day of Spring.
In return I give to You these offerings.
For the good of all and with harm to none,
So say I, so shall this be done!”
Place the cookies and milk outside for the Faeries and animals of nature -overnight and dispose of the next morning.
Sources: Encyclopedia of the Gods by Michael Jordan
Pagan Book of Says by Nigel Pennick