Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves.
Saturn has a mixed bag when it comes to mythology. On one hand, He is a god of generation, dissolution, plenty, wealth, agriculture, periodic renewal and liberation. He is also a god of Time (Father Time) and in these aspects He is revered and honored. On the other hand he is a Roman version of the Greek deity Kronos who is depicted as eating his children, a force of chaos defeated by his three sons – Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. In both facets, He is a god of the “Golden Age” of mankind.
“In memory of which way of life, it has been ordered that at the Saturnalia slaves should everywhere sit down with their masters at the entertainments, the rank of all being made equal.” ~Justinus, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus
Saturnalia often focused on public ritual and celebration. The statue of Saturn, which normally had its feet bound with wool, was freed and a priest (which his head uncovered) made sacrifices (usually pigs) to Him. Saturn’s image was then laid on a couch to enjoy the feasting and entertainment with the people. Rituals and observances continued at home after the 17th.
The Sigillaria on 19 December was a day of gift-giving. These were often the pottery or wax figurines called sigillaria made specially for the day, candles, or “gag gifts.” This was to prevent the mark of social status. In a practice that might be compared to modern greeting cards, verses sometimes accompanied the gifts. Usually these verses were funny or bawdy.
The date 17 December was the first day of the astrological sign Capricorn, the house of Saturn, the planet named for the god. Its proximity to the winter solstice (21 to 23 December on the Julian calendar) was endowed with various meanings by both ancient and modern scholars: for instance, the widespread use of wax candles (cerei, singular cereus) could refer to “the returning power of the sun’s light after the solstice”.
This year’s Saturnalia is special in that Saturn is returning to his home in the sign of Capricorn. This will mark the end of a 29.5 year cycle and the beginning of a new one wherein Saturn is refreshed.
In Capricorn, Saturn’s astrological role is that of the wise teacher, task-master, disciplinarian, and reward-giver for ambition and hard work. This will be a time to put the nose to the grind-stone and receive great reward.
The end of this Saturnalia will also mark the beginning of my personal Saturn Return. This is when Saturn returns to its spot in my natal chart and marks a significant change in my life regarding karma, entering adulthood, and clearing out of non-beneficial beliefs and programming.
Due to the importance of this time in my life, I am making special observance of Saturn in my life, especially in 2018-2019. This begins today with the first day of Saturnalia. For those of you also experiencing a special connection with this astrological phase and deity, I will share some of my upcoming practice.
At Halloween, I bought a large amount of black taper and tea light candles. I loved that these have an almost green tint to them and will be using them in both my Saturn and shadow work. As I use them for my Saturn work, I am anointing them with a blend of Aromagregory’s Open the Gates (aka Road Opener) oil and Cypress essential oil. The crystal I was drawn to use for this work was Black Tourmaline, which is not only a grounding and protective stone but also one that is excellent for channeling. For my altar pieces I am using 2 cards to help me focus – from the Hermetic Tarot I have The Devil aka The Lord of the Gates of Matter and from Barbieri’s Zodiac Oracle I have Saturn. In the future I plan to incorporate black styrax/storax resin as an offering, but I haven’t gotten an order yet.
Before approaching the altar I cleanse,first with ritual bathing using Florida water soap (also from Aromagregory) and then with smudge spray using a blend of cedar and hyssop in witch hazel.
While I have other writings for Saturn, I love the Orphic Hymns and think they are perfect for approaching and praising the planetary energies/Deities.
My intention is to perform small, honorary ritual on Saturdays and daily during Saturnalia.
Orphic Hymn to Saturn
ETHERIAL father, mighty Titan, hear,
Great fire of Gods and men, whom all revere:
Endu’d with various council, pure and strong,
To whom perfection and decrease belong.
Consum’d by thee all forms that hourly die,
Cronos as Lord of Time By thee restor’d, their former place supply;
The world immense in everlasting chains,
Strong and ineffable thy pow’r contains
Father of vast eternity, divine,
O mighty Saturn, various speech is thine:
Blossom of earth and of the starry skies,
Husband of Rhea, and Prometheus wife.
Obstetric Nature, venerable root,
From which the various forms of being shoot;
No parts peculiar can thy pow’r enclose,
Diffus’d thro’ all, from which the world arose,
O, best of beings, of a subtle mind,
Propitious hear to holy pray’rs inclin’d;
The sacred rites benevolent attend,
And grant a blameless life, a blessed end.