Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Vejovis ~ Haruspicy ~ Divination ~ Rome ~ Bath, England.

At the foot of Wikipedia's page for 7 March it's noted that this day is "one of the days dedicated to Vejovis (Roman Empire)". The other two days dedicated to Vejovis were 1 January and 21 May.

Curiosity sent me on a Googling trip.

The original significance of Vejovis has become increasingly hazy over the centuries. He was considered by Romans to be a god of healing, and associated with the Greek Asclepius. There has, though, been constant tweaking of his significance and use by the people. Also connected to his name: escaping from netherworld, Volcanic God responsible for marshland and earthquakes, guardian angel in charge of slaves and fighters refusing to lose. God of deceivers, called to protect right causes and to give pain and deception to enemies. He has been identified with Apollo, with the infant Jupiter, and the Anti-Jupiter, which could be suggested by his name. Aulus Gellius observed that the ve- that prefixes the name also appears in Latin words such as vesanus = insane, so interprets Vejovis as the anti- or opposite of Jove

A multi-tasking god for all seasons then?

Vejovis has usually been depicted as a youth holding a laurel wreath and arrows, standing next to a goat. A temple between the two peaks of the Capitoline Hill in Rome was dedicated to him.

An intetrpretation marked as "dubious" interested me most. Vejovis may be based on the Etruscan god of vendetta, known to them by the name Vetis written on the Piacenza Liver, a bronze model used in haruspical divination.

Forget Vejovis, what the heck was haruspical divination ?

See lines from T.S. Eliot's The Four Quartets: The Dry Salvages
To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,
To report the behaviour of the sea monster,
Describe the horoscope, haruspicate or scry,
Observe disease in signatures, evoke
Biography from the wrinkles of the palm
And tragedy from fingers; release omens
By sortilege, or tea leaves, riddle the inevitable
With playing cards, fiddle with pentagrams
Or barbituric acids, or dissect
The recurrent image into pre-conscious terrors—
To explore the womb, or tomb, or dreams; all these are usual
Pastimes and drugs, and features of the press:
And always will be, some of them especially
When there is distress of nations and perplexity
Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road.

It was haruspex Spurinna who warned Julius Caesar to beware the Ides of March.

E-notes tells us:
In Roman and Etruscan religious practice, a haruspex (plural haruspices; Latin auspex, plural auspices) was a man trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy, hepatoscopy or hepatomancy.

Haruspicy is the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry. The rites were paralleled by other rites of divination such as the interpretation of lightning strikes, of the flight of birds (augury), and of other natural omens.

Haruspicy is not original to Etruscans nor Romans, but considered to have originated from the Near East.

The Nineveh library texts name more than a dozen liver-related terms and before cuneiform writing was even deciphered, hints of the existence of Babylonian hepatoscopy were recorded in the Bible. One Babylonian clay model of a sheep's liver, dated between 2050 and 1750 BC, is conserved in the British Museum. The model was used for omen divination which was important to Mesopotamian medicine. This study was carried out by priests and seers who looked for signs in the stars, or in the organs of sacrificed animals, to tell them things about a patient’s illness. Wooden pegs were placed in the holes of the clay tablet to record features found in a sacrificed animal's liver. The priest or seer then used these features to predict the course of a patient's illness.
This, then, is where Vejovis could have picked up the connection to Asclepius and medicine.

Evidence has been found of haruspicy in Bath, England where words engraved on the base of a long-gone statue show a haruspex honouring a goddess.
(The inscription reveals that the stone was set up by L. Marcius Memor, a haruspex, who was a special kind of priest for whom no other parallel is known from Roman Britain. It was dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva and is likely to have supported a statue of her. See more on the stone HERE. )


Anonymous said...

GP: Thanks for an interesting "trip back in history".

I personally believe that the liver, traditionally related to Jupiter, can indicate, in reverse, so-to-say, expansionary phases or their contrary.

So it may be not exactly stupid to watch nature's signs. From there to kill a chicken or some sheep, just to see, might seam archaic. Times evolving, we may have interest today to observe irregularities in the functioning (or it's opposite) of the internet, the stock-markets etc.

There is a funny theory (maybe not so funny) that every 45 days the market should sort of crash or explode. Happened yesterday and it appears to be related to the Moon, I think. 45 days = 1 1/2 Moon cycles. Curious what will happen today/tomorrow, full Moon.

Wisewebwoman said...

Your rsearch never fails to enthrall me, T!

Twilight said...

Anon/Gian Paul ~~

Glad you found it interesting. I did too.

When the ancient habit of telling the future from entrails is mentioned i've always assumed that it was more akin to reading tealeaves, looking at shapes etc. It could have been that too, I suppose, but probably the "proper haruspex", just like theb "proper astrologer" would be looking for something more....and probably at the liver of the unfortunate beast or bird, to see whetehr Jupiter's movement is reflected there.

We might think of the internet as our innards these days, as you suggest - or more likely our brains, the way things are turning out.

Stockmarkets are alien entities to me, but - guessing - if the Moon rules people (as it does in horary astrology I think) then fluctuating moods of those operating the markets could surely affect the markets.

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~~ thanks WWW - I'm pleased! I enjoy the ride myself.