Welcoming the Lunar New Year 4713 and the Kalends of Mars: Matronalia

It’s been a busy weekend for the Chicago Fellowship of Isis (FOI) Lyceum of Alexandria, one replete with two milestones: the re-launch of Isis-Seshat magazine, the quarterly issued journal for FOI members worldwide (I serve as the Executive Editor); and our first-ever public ritual, held last night, celebrating both the Chinese Lunar New Year 4713 (the Year of the Wooden Goat) as well as the Matronalia, the Roman Pagan festival honoring Juno as Goddess of Sovereignty; it occurred in ancient times at the onset of the Kalends of Mars (March 1). The evening was quite a departure from our usual public gatherings, wherein we enact a ritual chosen from the FOI’s official published corpus of liturgical texts for clergy training. Instead, Demetria, our Lyceum’s Priestess-Hierophant, and I devised a program comprised of short lectures (related to, in honor of the Year of the Goat, goat deities from around the world; astronomy and astrology; Taoism; the I-Ching; and Roman observances of Matronalia) broken up by the ritual activities of breath work, meditation, the blessing of seed packets, and a healing prayer circle we call the Pillar of Light, whose purpose is to channel energy for those not present who are in need of, and who have asked for, healing to enter their lives. Once the circle was opened, we celebrated with potluck feasting and cheerful conversations with the two newcomers who’d graced us with their presence; not only were they new to the Fellowship of Isis, but they were new to Paganism in general, so it was very pleasing to get to know them and receive their feedback that they found our gathering welcoming, informative, and heart-centered, which was music to my ears.

The addition of a Chinese New Year celebration to our “Wheel of the Year” roster of public rituals felt very natural, given that several of us have been in the habit for many years now of going as a group to Chicago’s Chinatown for every New Year’s Day civic parade and festivities. We’d rotate our choice of restaurants for the year and make reservations–in advance, of course–for roughly 25 people. After our festive brunch experience (it’s always festive when restaurants feature $4 brunch cocktails!), we’d view the parade together (it starts at 1 p.m. every year) and meander through the crowds and do some shopping, pay our respects to the Thousand-Armed Kwan-Yin statue at the Buddhist Temple on Wentworth Ave., and then go our separate ways. Whatever the weather, we always have a grand time.

Chicago's Chinatown always throws a great party on Wentworth Ave. for the Lunar New Year.

Chicago’s Chinatown always throws a great party on Wentworth Ave. for the Lunar New Year.

Demetria thought it only made sense to extend the scope of our annual focus to one wherein a greater number of people could spiritually benefit and partake not only of fellowship and celebration with us, but perhaps learn a thing or two (Demetria, an Egyptologist educated at the University of Chicago, is a veritable walking encyclopedia on civilizations of antiquity, East and West) and maybe even incorporate new practices in their spiritual traditions at home or in whatever groups they belong to.

I agreed with Demetria wholeheartedly and thus the planning for the “Celebration of the Year of the Wooden Goat” began. Considering that we had to cancel our public Imbolc gathering due to the Super Bowl Sunday snowstorm we experienced on February 1, it was almost a matter of urgency to offer the public a chance to join us in our fervent polytheistic public worship as Spring Equinox seemed too far off to make people wait.

Demetria’s Litany of Goat Deities

This was a very enjoyable exercise. Demetria distributed various handouts throughout the evening, including the “Litany of Goat Deities” she’d composed based on her research of cultures worldwide that have goat-headed gods and goddesses or deities that are associated with goats. Pan, of course, is the most easily recognizable example of the former; and the Norse Thor, whose sky-born chariot is pulled by twin goats, is a good example of a deity associated with these particular horned animals.

Thor and His stalwart goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr

Thor and His stalwart goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr

We went around the room (deosil, of course), dividing Demetria’s Litany line by line, reading faster and faster each time, and it turned out to be quite an energy-raising experience! Demetria gave me permission to share this publicly: try it and see for yourself!

Pan, AegiPan, Nomios, Agreus, Evander–sons of Hermes!
Kelaineus, Argennon, Aigikoros, Eugeneios, Omester, Daphoineus, Phobos,

Philamnos, Xanthos, Glaukos, Argos, and Phorbas! Sons of Pan! Grandsons of Hermes!
Satyrs! Fauns! Sileni! Bromos! Satyressae, Faunessae!
Juno, Carmenta, Hera, Amalthea, Artemis–nurturing nursing goddesses!
Zeus and Dionysos–billy-goat gods before they were bulls!
Athena, Medusa, Aphrodite, Mamitu,
Marduk, Ningiszidda,
Enki, Ea, Inanna, Dumuzi,
Ayezan, Legba, Azazel,
Christos, Cernunnos,
Rudrayani, Durga, Kali, Prakriti, Agni, Isa,
Shiva, Pushan, Kshumai,
Imra, Vayu, Gadhimai, Yang Ching,
Thor, Freyja, Heirdun,
Leshi, Krampus,
Khnum, Veiovis, Veles,
Lupercus, Faunus, Fatuus,
Fauna, Fatua, Fenta,
Caprina Galla,

Bona Dea!

The Mothers of Mercy: Kwan-Yin and Tara

We prayed to Tara and to Kwan-Yin for mercy and compassion. This is the prayer Demetria composed to Kwan-Yin:

Kwan Yin Prayer for All
Divine Kwan-Yin,
Your love is poured out upon the world.

Please share Your mercy, compassion, and protection
with all our family on Earth:
the two-legged, the four-legged, and many-legged;
those who fly, swim, crawl, slither, and creep;
the plant and mineral worlds, and all spiritual realms.

Divine Kwan-Yin,
We thank You for Your presence and inspiration,
we thank You for Your protection.
We thank You for all Your merciful works on this Earth.

The Pillar of Mercy, the Pillar of Severity: Juno and Justice

It might seem strange to segue from a ritual focus on Eastern/Buddhist Goddesses of Compassion to the Roman/Western Mediterranean Goddess of Sovereignty, Justice, and Marriage, but perhaps not when you consider that what links the two is Right Action, based upon the conscious willingness to separate one’s self from illusion/adhere to Divine Law. In the FOI clergy training book Fortuna, there’s a ritual entitled “The Throne of Destiny” and in it appears the Oracle of Juno. The Goddess, as channeled by the late Lady Olivia Robertson, tells us:

You know well the myths narrated about my Severity–how I punish presumptuous mortals. And I do! False ego drains the true self of life flow. The Deities known for meting out harsh punishment are those who teach you the most quickly! You can only learn to control this dream world by experiencing both good and evil. Divine Justice makes clear your choice.

The way to sovereignty is not through arrogance and tyrannising over others. It is through ruling one’s own elements of being. And this is very difficult, for who knows their own vices and weaknesses? Here I can offer guidance, for I am the Goddess of Justice. People will forgive you for unkindness, but not for injustice. It is not enough to love all: you need to be just to all. This is the prerogative of the Sovereign. Justice of the Sovereign includes both punishment and mercy, sceptre and orb.

In order to be ruler you need yourself to obey Divine Law. So first you must discover what this Law is! You need to accept inspiration. You will discover that Divine Law pervades not only the High Heavens but is within each creature and object through Nature Herself. Find this law within yourself and you will be Sovereign indeed! You will know Me as I truly am.

It’s heartening to know that the ancient Romans decided, at the outset of their new year (which began in March), to connect Divine Law with the primacy of honoring women/mothers/one’s female line of ancestors with the Matronalia festival, which began on March 1 with the turning of the Kalends (the Goddess Juno is also a cosmic time-keeper) to the month of Mars, the God of War who was first and foremost an agricultural god. And so Right Action to the Romans, in ensuring first that Juno on Earth was pleased (Roman husbands bought gifts for their wives on this day and they reversed roles with their female slaves!), meant that the earth itself could be counted upon, through prayer and sacrifice, to yield a bountiful harvest when the time came.

This made our modest ritual activity of blessing packets of seeds that we would later take home with us a very poignant activity. I chose poppy flower seeds (Persephone and I go way back) and I pray that they will flourish, especially now that there’s tangible evidence of waxing daylight! Huzzah!

All in all, it was a lovely gathering. And while another blanket of snow began to fall around 10:45 p.m. as Dan and I packed up our car with our ritual supplies, we left light of heart, knowing that the signs of spring are irrefutable.

Have a blessed Lunar New Year and Happy Matronalia! May your line of strong female ancestors, the goddess Juno, and the god Mars, bless you with wisdom, wealth, and happiness today and throughout the year!

So Mote It Be!

Post-Script: Crass Commercial Announcement: Isis-Seshat Magazine’s Winter 2014-2015 Issue Is Available for Purchase!

Yes, that’s right! You too can have your very own copy of the newly relaunched Isis-Seshat. It’s advertising-free and contains 47 pages of outstanding content of interest to all Pagans, not just those of a Kemetic persuasion. Essays and poetry include contributions from Pagan author luminaries such as Caitlín Matthews and Galina Krasskova. It’s been expertly edited by yours truly, and is only $8 an issue. Year-long subscription plans are also available. I can accept PayPal payments too! Contact me at hekua dot yansa at gmail dot com for more information! Grazie! Hvala! Spasiba! Obrigada! Merci! Thank you!

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