Having been raised a Roman Catholic and attending a grand total of eleven years of Catholic school, I pretty much feel like I’ve already gotten in enough organized religion in my life to last me until I slip my particular surly bonds. I’m no longer what my Grandmother called “in the Church”. In actuality, I can’t say that I can even see it back over the horizon any more. It would be impressive and tough sounding of me to say that I had some sort of major “get me out of here!” moment with organized faith. Something where I tell them all to hang, put on my headphones and strode defiantly out the door and snarkily strode down Damnation Alley but it didn’t happen like that for me. It was more like I noticed the sun filtering trough a crack in the half open door and caught a glimpse of the trees and fields just out side and as everyone else bowed their heads, I edged out into the fresh air. I’ve never really looked back and have always been happy with my choice. I’m also not much of a joiner. That didn’t hurt either.
Since the organized religion thing isn’t my cup of tea, I’ve sort of found my own way over the years. I consider my self to be a fairly spiritual person and being a sort of arm chair student of history, I’ve enjoyed doing my own study of religious beliefs and customs as I’ve gone along. When you look at belief systems and religious myths from around the world with (what I hope is) a unbiased eye, no one’s practices or belief structures are any more unbelievable than any one else’s. On the face of it, they are all somewhat… odd to believe in from any out sider’s point of view, and some can seem very odd if from a radically different culture.
Some beliefs or rituals though, even if thousands of years out of date can really resonate with us even now. Or at least, they can with me. We visited a friend of ours in France some time ago and had a lovely trip. His house is in the Ardèche, just above the more famous Provence. This region is very dry, scrubby and chocked full of Roman ruins. While we were there, It got me thinking a lot of what it must have been like to live there as a citizen of the Roman Empire and what their lives were like, specifically at home. This started me thinking about House Gods.
Every house had many small shrines for various gods and offerings and thanks were brought to them often.
It kept the house safe and in harmony, so they believed, and I for one have no reason to deride them for their beliefs. My particular religious ancestors didn’t do so well with the Romans for quite a long time, unless you include them in the entertainment industry. Even still, Colosseum work wasn’t exactly a career. Still though, I really do like the idea of the House Hold Gods. It’s… quaint, homespun, private; and that appeals to me greatly. One of the reasons I “left” the Church all those years ago was that it seemed remote and secretive. I also chafed at being told what exactly to believe. If you thought otherwise, you were bad. Not much fun really. The idea of a smaller house god, a god that you could get miffed at and have it out with, appeals directly to my Libertarian streak. A god that you could bargain with appeals to my logical side. I also think it made people far more respectful of their dwellings and how they were kept. Not a bad thing at all.
I think were missing out with the loss of our little house gods. How often have you tried to cajole your car keys out of their hiding place or bargained with an appliance to work again. Just think. If you had your house gods, at least you’d know who to talk to about the problem. And if they ever seemed uncooperative… they wouldn’t say “no” to a slice of that cheese cake you’ve got in the fridge.