Meet the Gods: Saturn
In case you don’t have enough holiday activities in December, you can add the 17th to your calendar and observe Saturnalia, one of the most popular ancient Roman festivals. It occurred around the time of Yule. Though originally a one-day event that ignored the distinction between masters and slaves, the activities came to fill an entire week, making for much merry-making and lechery.
Saturn was the son of Caelus, Father Sky, and Terra, Mother Earth. (In Greek mythology they were Cronus, Uranus, and Gaia, respectively.) To prevent a prophecy from coming true – that a son would dethrone him – Saturn ate his children as soon as they were born. Fearing the same fate for her sixth child, Saturn’s wife, Ops, hid baby Zeus and gave Saturn a rock wrapped in a blanket.
Later, Zeus gave a potion to his father, dislodged his siblings Ceres, Veritas, Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune, and Juno. Along with Zeus, they overthrew their father and became the Olympians. When Jupiter became supreme ruler, Saturn fled to Latium where he ruled over the Golden Age – a mythical time of peace and prosperity when everyone was equal. For teaching agriculture to the people, Saturn became known as a harvest deity. He also became known as the god of agriculture, abundance, peace, liberation, time, and prosperity. He is said to have believed that all people were equal, despite social status, and stressed the importance of living peacefully.
Saturn is often depicted as an older man with a long beard and curly, silver hair. His symbol was a sickle. The planet Saturn, as well as Saturday, are both named in his honor.
Eight columns remain of The Temple of Saturn, where Romans made sacrifices to insure an abundant harvest. Bread, cheese, and wine were also common offerings. While the foundation is believed to be original, the columns that still stand are from the third incarnation of the temple, built after the first two burned.
Saturnalia celebrated Saturn and commemorated the Golden Age. As a sign of being equal, all Romans wore the hat of the freeman; togas indicating social status were put away. There were banquets, games, drinking, and contests. Gambling bans were lifted and a roll of the dice make a commoner “King of the Saturnalia,” who would order people around as part of the merrymaking. Saturnalia also involved the exchange of gifts, with both the poor and the rich giving and receiving presents. The early Roman Christians substituted Christmas for Saturnalia, carrying over some of the practices such as feasting and gift-giving – making December a good time to call on Saturn for blessings in the coming year.
Merry part, and merry meet again.
About the Author:
All my life I have known magic was real. As a child, I played with the fae, established relationships with trees and “just knew things.” In my maiden years I discovered witchcraft and dabbled in the black-candles-and-cemeteries-at-midnight-on-a-fullmoon magick just enough to realize I did not understand its power. I went on to explore many practices including Zen, astrology, color therapy, native traditions, tarot, herbs, candle magic, gems, and, as I moved into my mother years, Buddhism, the Kabbalah and Reiki. The first man I dated after my divorce was a witch who reintroduced me to the Craft, this time by way of the Goddess. For 11 years I was in a coven, but with retirement, I have returned to an eclectic solitary practice. When accepting the mantle of crone, I pledged to serve and teach. This is what I do from my skoolie – a 30-year-old school bus converted into a tiny house on wheels that I am driving around the country, following 72-degree weather, emerging myself into nature, and sharing magic with those I meet. Find me at thewitchonwheels.com, Facebook and Instagram.