Fides– A Roman Virtue with no ADF Correlate

I recently did a short essay on Fides over on my Roman blog. Though it’s translated in Christian times as “faith”, it had a richer and different meaning in pagan times. In Roman times, if you had fides, you were a person who was honorable in mutually respectful relationships.

Honor has always been a very important virtue for me; it’s a virtue I was raised with. To be a person who keeps her word, who tries to remain in right relationship with others, to defend those in need of defending, to help those in need. This is honor to me. It’s not quite the medieval concept of honor, and it’s not quite Fides either. I think it’s closer to Fides than Honor. Either way, neither fides nor honor is an ADF virtue.  I suspect it’s meant to be covered by integrity.

The straight up definition of integrity, “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” shows a quite different virtue. It’s self-contained and for the most part, self-serving. This isn’t a bad thing, we do need to be true ourselves before we can be true to anyone else.  We usually trust people with good integrity, but if you think about it, a person with integrity might decide to act in ways that are not at all beneficial to another person or society, in service to what they consider to be some higher principle.

Fides is interesting because it functions first and foremost as social glue. In our highly individualistic society, the idea of fides seems hopelessly archaic. I think if there were more fides, and more people who thought fides valuable, modern life would function a great deal better.


A Name for my Roman Kin

Among the Roman reconstructionists, be they culture enthusiasts or religious devotees, it’s popular to take a Roman-style name. I haven’t had the most pristine history with magical/religious names. For the longest time, I refused to have a “magical” name at all, and went about the pagan community annoying everyone by clinging to my legal name. Finally, having had one too many “but why?” discussions with folks, I surrendered and took on Antigone as a magical name.

At first, Antigone served me well. I like her story as told by Sophocles. It’s a nice name that has meaning for me while avoiding all the Moondragonwolf Ravenflower Lightbearer stuff that annoys me to tears in pagan self-naming convention. But then Greek religious reconstruction started to get popular, and people started to assume that because I had a very Greek name, I must be following a Greek religious path. As Florence King once said, even my different drummer followed a different beat. I wasn’t at all interested in Greek recon as a lifestyle path, just in Antigone’s name.

About that same time, we started studying with OTO, and suddenly I needed a new, special, significant magical name. Bother. I decided on Terra Aeterna, as a multi-layered pun. Terra is a compaction of my given name, so I was keeping my name while supposedly taking on a new one. I’m interested environmental issues and you could read it as Earth Eternal, which sounds like an environmental activist group to me. It’s Latin, which the OTO people who I knew really liked, but it’s not very good Latin, especially as a name, thus giving it a Moondragonwolf Ravenflower Lightbearer sort of feel to anyone who has any Latin facility at all. Five seconds after we decided that OTO was not for us, I stopped using Terra Aeterna. There’s some deep psychological meaning to be divined from that, but I’m not going into it here. 😀

I was happy being magically nameless. But names are power, and names are community, so I’m once again surrendering to convention and taking on another name. After more than a bit of thought, I settled on Galea Rufia Prisca.

Galea is from Gallus, which means “from Gaul”, and so denotes a Celtic sort of background. It’s not quite Gael Kin, but it’s as close as I’m likely to get. The Romans called the Irish the Scotia, but I feel that Scotia doesn’t work as a praenomen and even if it did, it sounds like Scotland to the modern ear, not Ireland.

Priscus was another famous Romanized Celt, a slave gladiator known from a poem about Verus, a famous gladiator. It also means “antique”.  I don’t think that’s any sort of bad thing. I like antique things.

Rufus is “red headed”; I chose it rather frivolously because I dye my hair red.

I’m already having trouble with Galea, and my name is not quite 24 hours old. It’s not from the short list of Imperial Roman Patrician women’s names. Historically not everyone  had a Patrician name, and this is a feminine version of a historical name, so on one level I’m a bit sad.

I’m being serious with this Roman name and not succumbing to my natural goofiness.  I really like the Galea part, but if it’s going to be a hassle like my Society for Creative Anachronism name was, I’ll change it. Tita is another personally meaningful choice for me. It’s the fem version of Titus, and Titus is the Roman name closest in meaning to my father’s given name. I’d still have the Celtic gladiator cognomen to reflect my Romano-Celtic identity.

Happy Matronalia

Juno by Gustav Moreau (1826-1898)

Juno by Gustav Moreau (1826-1898)



Numa Tradition

Numa Pompilius was one of the legendary kings of Rome. He is listed as Romulus’s successor, and his period of rule was considered to be a mini golden, peaceful age for the Rome.  Inspired by the nymph Egeria, he created a whole order of religious rites and tradition. Some Roman traditions say he was taught by Pythagoras, but that would require some complicated time-travel since they weren’t contemporary.

Numa tradition varies from other Roman tradition in two major ways. One is that Numa did away with blood sacrifice, and the other is that he allowed for no statuary of the gods and goddesses. Numa tradition seems to have focused on having peace with one’s neighbors and living a right and moral life. These are things that resonate with me, and I am very glad to find a Roman tradition that doesn’t require blood offerings. That it is an older tradition makes it even better!

The Numa tradition does have offerings to the god/desses.

  • Mola Salsa, coarse ground emmer wheat meal mixed with pure salt
  • Bay Laurel
  • Honey
  • Milk
  • Flowers
  • Olive Oil
  • Wine

The emmer ((Triticum dicoccum) wheat is especially interesting, as it is a very archaic form of wheat.  It was used extensively by humans already on the decline and being replaced by spelt, barley and other grains by 3000 B.C.E., so if ever a grain was likely to be Proto-Indo European, emmer would probably be it.  (You can read about ancient grains  here if you like!) Beer is older than wine, but wine probably fits better in a  Mediterranean style tradition. Since I seem to be headed for a Romano-Celtic style of personal worship, I’ll save the beer for the Celtic kin. 🙂

I find it very odd in myself that I’m not comfortable with religious statuary. I spent my childhood in Roman Catholic church, with all its statuary and never felt distressed by the statures or prone to fetishizing them or idol worship. I thought as a child that Protestants who complained that Roman Catholics literally worshipped statues must be very dim-witted individuals indeed to harbor any such notions. Even when I was a kid, I understood the difference between idol worship and devotional aides. Now it’s less that I feel that representations are somehow profane and more that I feel that my worship doesn’t need such focuses. I’m sure it’s a bit peculiar to have a partly Roman inspired personal path that doesn’t include iconography of any sort. It’s nice to know that Numa and his followers would understand.

Numa tradition came and went and came back again during the long course of the pagan Roman empire. Rome was usually more about conquest than honoring Terminus, the god of boundaries and more about extravagant sacrifice and feasting than meal and salt. Even so, when the Romans felt they had got very far off track, it was to Numa and his simplicity that they returned.