The primary sources for this ritual are Macrobius' Saturnalia (Bk. I, Chs. 7, 8, 10, 11) and Scullard's Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (pp. 205-7). (There is additional information available on the Saturnalia, Consualia and Opalia; see De Saturno & Jano Tractatus for background information on Saturn.)
This ritual is dedicated to the Gods and may be used for any nonprofit purpose, provided that its source is acknowledged.
C: Before going to the temple, it is appropriate to visit the store room or pantry, open it and give thanks for the stores. (This corresponds to the Consualia before the Saturnalia.)
S: Erects the temple (casts the circle) in the usual way. For example:
We circle round creating sacred space,
invoking from the Heavens holy grace.
We call the Gods to guard our solemn rite,
and ward this hallowed ground with walls of light.
Let sky above and earth below unite,
a bond established by Olympic might.
Let fear and discord leave without a trace,
and peace prevail within this holy place.
Let word be deed by this decree.
As it is said, so must it be!
(Sit verbum factum hoc decreto.
Ut dictum est, sic statim fiat!)
C: During the procession, as each worshipper enters the temple, he or she takes a handful of grain and pennies.
Welcome to the Saturnalia!C: All reply:
The Circle of the Year is cut in fourths,
and in the ancient lands of Greece and Rome
the darkening time from autumn equinox
to winter solstice was the time to plow
and plant the ground, to store away the seeds.
When this was done the people rested through
the winter months, until the Sun returned.
Three ancient Gods are honored at this time:
Saturnus, Ops and Cônsus are Their names.
Now listen to the Myth of Saturn's reign:
Before the mighty Gods that rule the world
from high Olympus' snowy peak were born,
Saturnus was the king of all the Gods
and Ops, His sister, was His wife and queen.
But when the time had come to yield His throne
in favor of a younger God, His son,
then Father Saturn would not step aside.
A fight ensued between the old and new,
Till Jove had thrown Saturnus from the sky.
He tumbled down to Earth, and with His wife
He made a ship and sailed to this, our land.
He taught the people many useful arts,
to save the seeds and sow them in the ground,
so we need never have to search for food.
He showed us how to breed our animals
so we might always have their meat and fur,
so they would help to plow the fertile Earth.
Saturnus first taught folk to strike bright coins
from shining silver, glittering gold and bronze.
He showed how money might be put away,
and saved, and put to use another day.
In these and other ways Saturnus made
our lives much easier and free.
His happy reign was called the Golden Age,
when there was food enough for everyone,
and people shared the bounty that they had,
and no one ever stole or fought or lied.
But when the end had come to Saturn's reign,
He wisely chose to set aside His crown.
He sailed away beyond the Northern Wind,
to Hyperborea, where He now sleeps,
upon a hidden island at the Pole,
where He awaits another Golden Age.
But till that happy time is come again,
in this, the coldest season of the year,
we go in thought to Saturn's snowy realm
to wake from sleep the ancient kindly king,
and ask Him once again to walk with us,
and let us live for this short time with Him,
enjoying blessings of His Golden Age.
I wish you, "Bona Saturnalia!"
When Saturn rules, all things are turned around,S: After a pause, S places Thesausus forward and says:
and everything becomes its opposite.
Just once each year this Image is filled up;
it's empty while Saturnus lies asleep.
We feed Him with the oil that's pressed from corn,
the golden nectar from the nuggets born.
So also we in wisdom store away
our energy to use another day.
Drink deep, Saturne, of this golden oil!
Return our gift and bless our sacred soil!
Saturnus has an aid, the God of Storage Bins,S: When everyone has been around at least three times, S says:
who guards the seed corn; Consus is His name,
which means to hide things, mostly underground.
We open up the secret storage chest
and place the seed corn safely into it.
From what we've reaped, we always save a bit,
uneaten, using it to seed new growth.
A portion of our hard-won money, too,
we put away to use another day.
And even some of our best thoughts are hid,
to later bring to light when they can grow.
All this and more is hidden in the Earth,
committed to the care of Mother Ops.
Remember all the bounty you have reaped;
Consider what it's wise to save inside.
Begin to circle sunwise now before
the altar; each time that you come to it,
deposit some, not all, of what you hold,
and place it in the sacred Treasury.
Keep circling till you've given everything
away, and while you circle, chant these words:
"Save the seed corn for the sowing;
Plant the seed to start it growing."
But now your weary work is almost done;
commit to Consus all the rest you hold.
You may stop chanting now; your seeds are safe!S: The Treasury may be moved back and replaced by the Cauldron of Earth.
In darkness they must lie until the time
when Sun returns to wake the seeds from sleep.
So also Saturn sleeps upon His bed,
awaiting to be waked and called to come,
to leave the Pole and bring His gifts to us,
abundant blessings of the coming light.
December was the tenth month of the year,
in ancient Roman times, the year's last month.
And as the baby hides within the womb
for nine full months, but sees the light of day
within the tenth, so also everything
will be reborn beneath December's Sun.
Let each adult pass on the gifts, aroundS: If children are participating, S says:
the sacred circle, moving like the Sun.
Since ancient times these gifts have been exchanged:
the waxen candles, calling forth the Sun,
the little figures, symbols of our souls.
These inexpensive gifts have been decreed
by Saturn, so that no one will feel poor.
Now give your little figure to a child,C: The adults give their Sigillaria to children. If no children are present, the adults keep their Sigillaria.
to any child you like, but please make sure
that every child receives a little face;
the waxen candle must be kept by you.
S: Lights candle of first worshipper to his left, and bids him or her to pass the flame to the next so that it passes sunwise around the circle and back to S. S says:
Now as the Sun revolves around the Earth,S: When his candle has been lit, completing circle, says:
we pass the light around the circle thus,
and as each year the Sun returns to us,
the candle flame comes round to bring rebirth.
The lights remind us how Saturnus led
us from the murky night of ignorance,
and freed us from the dismal darkness of
starvation, to the light of wiser ways.
Now come around and let the adults putC: The adults plant their candles in the cauldron of Earth; the children place their Sigillaria on the altar. S does same with his.
their candles in this cauldron filled with Earth.
And come around and let the children place
their little figures in the Treasury.
In dedicating symbols of our souls,
we dedicate ourselves to Saturn's work,
but give ourselves through children to the task.
S: When this is done, S pours oil from Saturn into the oil lamp and lights it, while saying:
Saturnus brings the Sun's bright golden lightS: When the lamp is lit, S says:
that wakens hidden seeds to come to life.
The seed is nourished in the fertile Earth,
by Saturn's wife, the Queen of Plenty, Ops.
This time of year we loosen Saturn's bonds.S: As each woolen bond is untied from Saturn's feet, S prays:
The ancient God awakens from His sleep,
and rules the Earth as in the Golden Age.
Now circle round again and say this chant:
"Bring the light to wake the seed;
Let the shoot from earth be freed."
Continue circling sunwise, faster now;
continue chanting; call the holy Sun!
Saturne, Ancient Father, hear our prayer!S: When energy has been raised sufficiently, calls out:
As we untie Your woolen bonds this year,
so let the hidden seeds be brought to birth,
and let Your Golden Age return to Earth.
Now stop, and all call out three times with me!All:
Io Saturnalia!S: Produces "by magic" the cookies and/or other treats. For example, S opens the Thesaurus and pulls up wrapped cookies through the deposited seeds, pennies and Sigillaria, opening it to reveal the goodies. While doing this S says:
Behold the gift of Saturn! See His work!C: Each comes forward one at a time, touches the earth and looks skyward in prayer, then takes a cookie or other treat.
Behold how seed and money are transformed!
And see how carefully saved and hidden seeds
become the fruits that satisfy our needs.
Come forward now and taste the fragrant fruit,
the gift of Saturn and His sister Ops.
But share it with the people near to you,
for that's the law in Saturn's Golden Age.
Continue to enjoy till all is gone.
But don't neglect the Gods when all is well;
first touch the sacred Earth of Mother Ops,
and looking skyward where Saturnus dwells,
remember these two Gods and Consus too.
S: Says "Bona Saturnalia" to each celebrant as they come forward.
C: Should break off pieces and share with one another. Drink may also be offered and shared. Blessings may be exchanged, such as:
"May you always have enough, and some to share."S: When everyone has received, S touches Earth and offers formal thanks to Saturnus, Ops and Consus:
"May you never thirst!"
You gracious Gods: Saturnus, Consus, Ops,C: Repeat:
accept our thanks and look on us with love.
And let us see that seed corn must be saved,
that we need light to bring our seeds to fruit.
As we have done this day, so every day!
As we have done this day, so every day!
We very soon shall have our festive feast,S: May produce paper caps for those that don't have their own Pilei. S continues:
our little taste of Saturn's Golden Age.
Rejoice tonight for every rule's reversed!
Please dress in something comfortable
and wear a silly Saturnalia cap!
Soon one of you will be the chosen one,All:
the Saturnalia Ruler, picked by Chance,
to be the Lord or Lady of Misrule!
Before you leave the temple, will you please
accept a candle, take it with you too;
this way you'll take a little of the light,
the blessings of the Saturnalia.
The children too should take with them a gift,
a little earthen image, if they want;
the rest will be donated to the Earth.
The rite is ended, now all join with me,
and raise the sacred cry of Saturnalia:
Io Saturnalia! Io Saturnalia! Io Saturnalia!
S: Chooses the Saturnalia Ruler a bean baked into one of the cookies, by a specially marked candle or by some other means.
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