Winter Solstice 2003 – Saturnalia

Brief Outline:

Earth Mother Prayer
Procession & Purification
Ritual re-creation of cosmos:
Evocation of gatekeeper
Establishing the sacred center w/3 gates
Opening the Gates
Beneficial influences:
Apollo as Bardic Deity
Silvanus as Protector against negative forces
Vesta as hearth fire – lighting the sacrificial fire
Invocations to the Three Kindred
The Story of Saturn
Main sacrifice
Praise offerings
Piacular offering
Omen of Return
Consecration and receiving of waters of life
Unwinding, thanking all invoked
Closing the Gates


Latin phrases:
Ita sit – “so be it” or Ita est – “so it is”
Macte est/Mactete esto – “be blessed”; or more literally, “be increased”
Quirites – folk/people

Roman deities:
Ianus – gatekeeper
Ops Mater– earth mother/goddess of bounty
Silvanus – god associated with the wilds
Saturn – ancient deity of Rome, probably predating the founding of Rome itself
Vesta – goddess of the hearth

Roman cosmology & symbols:
Fire/well/tree = focus/mundus/portus
Primary focus of religion/everything else is COMMUNITY (as opposed to land/agriculture)

Musical Signal

Celebrants gather out in the garage, and Ritual leader rings a bell to get things started.

Honoring the Earth-Mother (Jenni)

Ops Mater. Goddess of the bounty of the earth,
We send out words in praise of you, from whom all worlds flow.
Mystery of mysteries, this continual creation,
like a fountain forever bubbling up from the Earth’s darkness
She is a cup that is never empty.
Generous One, eternally giving gifts,
We pray to you; we praise you.

All: ITA SIT! So be it.

[As celebrants pass outside from the garage to the house, they may sprinkle a pinch of dried flowers or kneel and touch the Earth.]

The Processional/Sigil Marking / Purification(s) of Participants

Celebrants process from the garage to the house, singing a Satunalia-ized version of “O, Come, All Ye Faithful.” As they enter the house, they are offered a bowl with scented water and a towel to wash their hands (Lees and Jim). As they enter the house through the back door, they pass through incense and each is given a candle, lit from the hostess’s hearth fire (Jenni).

Oh Come, All Ye Druids
Oh come, all ye druids,
Gather at the center.
Oh come ye, oh come ye
To worship the Gods.
Sing Praise to Saturn,
God of Romans’ Golden Age.

Oh come let us unbind him
Oh come let us unbind him
Oh come let us unbind him
Saturn the King.

(repeat until all have gathered)

Final Verse:
Adeste Quirites
Laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite
ad sanctum centrum.
Satorem cantante
Rex aura aetatis

Venite inligemus
Venite inligemus
Venite inligemus
Rex Saturnus

Universal Spirit Prayer (Mike)

You who are without name
You who are without gender
You who are without form
Spirits which exist in all Creation

We, the Children of the Earth
Call out to you
And ask that you bless this work and our lives.

All: ITA SIT! So be it.


Take a moment to find the center of your mind, body and soul.

Breathe deeply from your belly the air in this sacred grove, charged with anticipation and potential. Exhale fully through your mouth; then, through your nose, fill your lungs with the clean, cool aroma of this moment. Allow that sacred air to circulate and surge throughout your body.

Now continuing to breathe from your belly, stand firm and feel the Earth’s pulse through the soles of your feet. Curl your toes into the ground, rooting yourself into the bosom of the warm, nurturing Earth. Draw another deep breath while imagining tendrils of roots and vines connecting your self with the soil beneath you.

Now stretch forth your hands to those closest to you, and grasp hands or simply touch them, if you can. At one with the cosmos and at one as a grove – we are, as a community, greater than the sum of our parts. We stand as a grove in a forest of trees, one folk.

The waters support and surround us
The land extends about us
The sky stretches out above us.
At the center burns a living flame.
May all the Kindred bless us.
May our worship be true.
May our actions be just.
Blessings, and honor, and worship to the Holy Ones.

All: ITA SIT! So be it.

Specification of Ritual Purpose & Historical Precedent / Naming Deity of the Occasion

Saturnalia is the Roman festival of the god, Saturn. It was traditionally celebrated on the 17th of December, the date that Saturn’s temple in the Forum Romanum was dedicated. While the actual ritual took place only on the 17th, the holiday was traditionally celebrated with feasting and merriment for an additional three to seven days. 

Perhaps the most well known of the Roman religious holidays, Saturnalia was certainly one of the most popular. Catullus, referred to it as the “optimus dierum” (the best of days).

Saturn’s temple contained a statue of Saturn, filled with oil and with its feet bound by woolen bands, which were removed for the festival. A great sacrifice was held at the altar outside Temple, followed by a public feast open to everyone. The sacrifice, like most public rituals, was a formal affair, though unlike most rites, sacrifices were made with heads uncovered, “from a conviction that no ill-omened sight would interrupt the rites of such a happy day” (Ramsay).

The banquets following the main sacrifice, however, set the tone for the remainder of Saturnalia, with parties, celebrations in the streets, and merry making. All courts, shops and schools were closed; it was an impious time to start a war or punish a criminal. Folks wore paraded around the city wearing the soft woolen cap (pileus), a recognized as badge of freedmen, exchanging presents with friends and shouting “Io Saturnalia!” 

In the home, a festive air reigned. A recurrent theme of Saturnalia celebrations involves a reversal of roles and an upset in the normal routine of things: servants, released from their usual toils, were served before their masters (sometimes wearing their masters’ clothing) and they were granted full freedom of speech; gambling was allowed in public — chaos presided over order for a day. 

Gifts were exchanged: beeswax candles to friends, and small pottery dolls for the children. Gifts might also include food items or small amounts of money. Small silver objects were typical, although it was considered extremely poor taste to offer valuable gifts to someone poorer who could not reciprocate in kind. 

This brief episode of social egalitarianism was a remembrance of the mythic Golden Age of Saturn, when all men were equal. 

Evoking the Gate Keeper

Salve Ianus Pater!
Ianus Inceptio, God of beginnings;
Ianus Brifons, Two-faced Ianus;
Ianus Patulcius, Opener of doors;
Ianus Domesticus, Protector of homes;
Ianus Quirinus; God of the folk
Lend wings to our prayers and conjure a portal between us and the world of the Gods.
Through your door, let the prayers of your supplicants pass to the Kindreds.

Establishing the Sacred Center

Congregation sings “Deck the Halls” holly branches are added to adorn the focus, the mundus and the portus.

Deck the Halls
(Fill in the fa-la-la’s)
Deck the halls with boughs of holly
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Don we now our gay apparel
Troll the ancient Yule-tide carol

See the blazing Yule before us.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Follow me in merry measure.
While I tell of Yule-tide treasure.

Fast away the old year passes.
Hail the New Year, lads and lasses
Sing we joyous, all together.
Heedless of the wind and weather.

Opening the Gates.

Jenni conjures the Gates, making an opening triskel on the triple center, saying:

Now, Janus
Join your magic with mine

And let the fire open as a gate,
Let the mundus open as a gate,
Let the doorway be the crossroads of all Worlds.

Ianus of Openings, admit us into the presence of the shining Ones

PORTAE DICUDANTUR – Let the gates be open!

All: ITA SIT! So be it.

Evoking the Bardic Deity (Jim)

[Jim pours an offering of wine into the mundus for Apollo.]
Phoebus Apollo, who bears the gold sword, who
Shoots from afar with his bright silver bow;
Whose lilting lyre delights all Olympus;
Whose oracle utters Zeus’s unerring will;
Whose art, aim, and intellect reigns supreme over all.

Sweet-tongued Apollo, who sings for the Gods, may you
Guide thence our praises to bathe them in honor;
For we are but mortals, and thou art a God;
Only this boon we beg thee, grant to us now:

That our voices be pleasing to Gods, Spirits, and Manes;
That the aim of our rite strike its target precisely;
That our blessings and theirs pass freely between
The realms of the Kindreds and the lips of our Seer.

All: ITA SIT! So be it.

Acknowledgement of the Outsiders (Mike)

[Mike carries out an offering of wine & sandwich (grain, lard & pork) for Silvanus.]

Mars Silvanus Pater,
te precor uti sies volens propitious mihi domo familiaque nostrae,
quoius re ergo hoc sacrificium offero,
uti tu adversos visos invisosque prohibessis defendas averruncesque.

Father Mars Silvanus,
I pray you be of good will and favorable to me and to our house and household,
for which purpose I make this offering
that you may prohibit, defend and avert things seen and unseen that may oppose us. 

All: ITA SIT. So be it.

Lighting the Sacrificial Fire (Jenni)

[Jenni lights a charcoal briquette from the focus and incense sprinkled on it when it is burning.]

Shining Lady, unite us all,
for by worshipping at a common hearth
we are made one family, one people.
Queen of the hearth, Vesta Mater, your household is here.
Let us pray with a good fire. 

All: ITA SIT! So be it.

Ancestors (Jenni)

The children of the Earth call out to the Mighty Dead.
Salvete, Majores et Di Manes!
Greetings, ancestors and divine dead.

You who were here before, we offer you welcome.
Ancestors of our blood, we offer you welcome.
You who guide us, we offer you welcome.

Come to our hearth, Ancestors
Meet us at the boundary
Guide us and ward us as we walk the elder ways.

Majories et Di Manes, mactete hoc sacrificio!

All: Ancestors, accept our sacrifice!

Nature Spirits (Lees)

The children of the Earth call out to the Spirits of this Land.
Salvete, Numinae et Indigites!

Kindred of earth, we offer you welcome
Kindred of the growing green, we offer you welcome.
Kindred who fly or walk or swim or crawl, we offer you welcome.

Come to our fire, Spirits;
Meet us at the boundary.
Guide us and ward us as we walk the elder ways.

Numinae, mactete hoc sacrificio!

All: Nature Spirits, accept our sacrifice!

Deities (Mike)

The children of the Earth call out to the Shining Ones.
Salvete, Dei!

To all Gods and Goddesses, we offer you welcome.
To all Gods of this place, we offer you welcome.
To all the deities of this household, we offer you welcome.

Come to our hearth, Shining Ones;
Meet us at the boundary.
Guide us and ward us as we walk the elder ways.

Dei, mactete hoc sacrificio!

All: Deities, accept our sacrifice!

Descriptive Invocation of Deity of the Occasion

The story of Saturn is older than Rome itself. Saturn reigned during the Golden Age of Latium, when all people were equal – there was no class distinction and there were no slaves. Everyone prospered and no one – even kings – set themselves above others. It was a time when the villages of Latium welcomed among them all who wanted to make their homes and share in the communities’ toil and bounty.

Tradition has it that Saturn, known as Kronos, King of Gods in Greece, was given an oracle that he would be defeated by his own son: In fear, the god devoured his offspring as fast as they were born, and he kept them sunk in his bowels. 

Many a time did Saturn’s wife, Rhea, grumble, to be so often big with child, yet never to be a mother; she repined at her own fruitfulness. And so when Jove was born she concealed a stone in a garment, which, Saturn, thinking it was the babe, swallowed. So had fate decreed that the sire should be beguiled. 

The fate of Saturn’s children is a story best told another day. Suffice it to say that the oracle was true, and defeated, Saturn fled Greece, driven from the celestial realm by his son, Jupiter, who, along with his siblings, reigned in their father’s place. And so to Latium during the reign of Ianus “in a ship came the sickle-bearing god to the Tuscan river after wandering over the world.” (Fasti) Just as Latium opened its arms wide to refugees of all kinds, Saturn was welcomed in Italy. 

When Saturn arrived by ship, Ianus received him as a guest. He learned from Saturn the art of husbandry, thereby improving his people’s lives, whose methods of farming before then had been brutish and rude. Saturn is credited with the invention of the art of grafting, with the cultivation of fruit trees, and with instructing men in everything that belongs to the fertilizing of the fields.
Ianus and Saturn reigned together in harmony for many a year and built two neighboring towns, which some say were on two of the Seven Hills of Rome. Their reign is said to have been a time of great happiness, both on account of the universal plenty that then prevailed and because as yet there was no division into bond and free.

It was during their reign that Saturn suddenly disappeared, and Ianus then devised means to add to his honors. First he gave the name Saturnia to the land ruled by Saturn. He then built an altar, instituting rites as to a god and calling these rites the Saturnalia – a fact which goes to show how very much older the festival is than the city of Rome. It was because Saturn had improved the conditions of life that, by order of Ianus, religious honors have been paid to him since before the birth of Rome itself. A pious posterity inscribed a ship on coinage to commemorate the coming of the stranger god to Rome, the other side depicting the two-faced Ianus. 

The statue of Saturn was filled with oil and was bound with woolen bonds, which were untied for the feast day of Saturnalia. Those who have associated Saturn with sowing have attributed this unbinding as symbolic of the seed bursting forth in the tenth month (both with respect to the calendar — December being the tenth month — and to pregnancy). 

Let the youngest here among us unbind of Saturn’s feet and so hearken back to the Golden Age of Rome!

[Children come forward to unwrap the bindings around Saturn’s feet.]

The main sacrifice

[Jenni washes her hands first]

Jenni sacrifices to Saturn: the first is gold; the second is wine. As she speaks the words in Latin, Mike echoes them in English.

Saturnus Pater,
te hoc aurum ommovendo bonas preces,
precor uti sies volens propitious illis Quiritibus te laudatis,
quoius re ergo hoc sacrificium offero.

Father Saturn,
With good prayers I offer to you this gold.
May it be your will to look with favor upon these folk who have honored you,
for which purpose I make this offering.

Saturnus Pater,
Uti te aurum ommovendo bonas preces bene precatus sum,
Eiusdem rei ergo macte vino inferior esto.

Father Saturn,
As with good prayers I offered you gold,
That you might favor those who have honored you,
So, too may you be blessed by this offering of wine.

All: ITA SIT. So be it.

Praise Offerings, Dance, Libations, etc.

[any additional praise offerings from the congregation]

Piacular Offering (Jenni)

[Jenni makes a final offering of gold, wine and incense.]

Saturnus Pater,
Gods and Goddesses,
Holy Ancestors,
Spirits of this place:
If anything that we have done here has offended you,
If anything we have done here has been incomplete,
If anything we have done here has not been in the proper manner,
accept this final offering in recompense.
Seeking the Omen of Return
So we have given of our love and our wealth
To the Powers, that they may know our devotion.

Now let our voices arise on the Fire
Let our voices sound in the Mundus
Let our words pass the boundary to the Otherworld.

Having sacrificed to the Powers
May we open to them
Asking what blessings they offer us in return
And the needs they have of us.

1. Mike asks: Have the sacrifices been accepted? (Jenni draws a myth card. If the omen is such that this question is answered in the negative, we go back and do another piacular offering, then start this part over.)

2. Mike asks: What do the Kindreds offer us in return? (Jenni draws a myth card.)

3. Mike asks: What further needs to the Kindreds have of us? (Jenni draws a myth card.)

Jenni: Please take a moment to meditate on the meaning of this omen. What uses have you and have Three Cranes for the gift of the Kindred [interpretation of #2 above]? How best can you and Three Cranes give to the Kindred [interpretation of #3 above]?

Induction of Receptivity

Ancient and Mighty Ones we have honored you
We pray you honor us in turn
For a gift calls for a gift
Hear your children:

All: Shining Ones, give us the Waters!

Consecration Agreement
We draw blessing from the Amphora of Blessing
We pour the Wine of Inspiration
Behold the holy Cup of Magic
The outpouring of Blessing from the Great Ones
When we share the draught of the Gods
We drink in wisdom, love and strength
To do as we will in the worlds
In service to the Shining Ones.

Hear us Father Saturn:
Hallow these waters!


All: Behold the Waters of Life!

As the cup(s) are passed around, participants sing:

Pour the Waters
Pour the waters, raise the cup.
Drink your share of wisdom deep.
Strength and joy now fill us up.
As the elder ways we keep.

When in ancient pagan days,
Fire was lit in sacred groves,
Powers of the gods did flow,
Bringing healing, wit, and love.

We in our time likewise go,
To the grove our trove to give,
To the gods, the dead, the sidhe,
And their blessings to receive.

So pour the waters, raise the cup.
Drink your share of wisdom deep.
Strength and joy now fill us up.
As the elder ways we keep.

(Repeat final verse until all have shared the waters)

Thanking of Entities Invited in Reverse Order

The Great Ones have blessed us.
With joy in our hearts,
Let us carry the magic from our sacred Grove
Into our lives and our work.
Each time we offer to the Powers
They become stronger
And more aware of our needs and our worship.
So now as we prepare to depart
Let us give thanks
To all those who have aided us.


All: We thank you!

O Gods and Goddesses of elder days, DEI GRATIAS VOBIS AGAMUS! 

All: We thank you!


All: We thank you!


All: We thank you!

To all those Powers that have aided us, we say again… GRATIAS VOBIS AGAMUS!

All: We thank you!

Mother of all
To you we return all we leave unused
Uphold us now in the world as you have in our rite.

All: We thank you!

Ianus Clusivius, closer of doors,
For your presence and power
Your guiding and guarding we say…

All: We thank you!

Final offering to Vesta:

(Jenni makes a final offering of incense to the sacrificial fire, which is left to burn out on its own.)

Vesta Mater, Queen of the hearth,
who by rights receives the last,
bless and guard all those who worship you
whether in their home or without
whether alone or with others
whether thinking of you or engaged in business.
Lady of Fire, receive this offering.
Affirmation of Past/Future Continuity and Success
Now by the Keeper of Gates and by our magic
We end what we began.

Now let the Focus be flame;
Let the Mundus be an urn;
Let the Portal be only a doorway.
Let all be as it was before
All: Let the Gates be closed!
Go now, Quirites
In peace and blessings
The rite is ended!