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Author Topic: Cultus - How do you define it?  (Read 1803 times)

AlisonLeighLilly

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Cultus - How do you define it?
« on: January 25, 2013, 03:49:33 pm »
I wonder if you guys could help me out? I was thinking about writing about "cultus" for the Pagan Blog Project next week -- but before I jump in, I wanted to make sure I had a general idea of how people tend to use the word....

Recently, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus shared an essay over on the Patheos Pagan Portal in which he made a brief mention of the idea of "cultus." It's a term I've seen used here and there among other Pagans and polytheists, but only ever in passing. Lupus gave a brief definition in his essay, saying:

Quote
Cultus, for the present purpose, is active and deliberate interaction with divine beings.


I wondered what a more general definition of the word might be (beyond Lupus' "present purpose" for that particular essay)... So I did some googling, but wasn't able to come up with much. I did find the Cultus Deorum website, which has a brief paragraph on what the phrase "cultus deorum" itself means:

Quote
The meaning of "cultus" is far from that of its modern descendant, "cult", however. "Cultus"gives us such words as "culture" and "cultivation" and it means "care" or "nurturing". It appears this way, for example, in the English word "horticulture" (the care of a garden). The cultus deorum is the care for and nurturing of the gods and our proper, just, balanced and healthful relationship with them.


I've also seen the word "cultus" used by Pagans to describe a religious community or tradition, especially if that community is centered on one particular deity or group of deities (like the "cultus of Dionysus" or a "hero cultus"), which seems like just another way of saying "cult" while avoiding the modern-day negative connotations.

So.... how do you use the word? Have you seen it used very much? Is it an especially Greek/Roman polytheist thing, or does it have broader applications? Is this topic even interesting, or should I just write about something else? ;)

Thanks so much for your help!

--Ali

Castus

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Re: Cultus - How do you define it?
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2013, 05:05:55 pm »
Quote from: AlisonLeighLilly;93513
So.... how do you use the word? Have you seen it used very much? Is it an especially Greek/Roman polytheist thing, or does it have broader applications? Is this topic even interesting, or should I just write about something else?

I define cultus specifically as 'giving reverence/offerings'. To give cultus is basically the same to me as giving a special reverence, worship, or  devotion to a deity and to work towards maintaining the Peace of the Gods; that amicable give-and-take relationship between humanity and the Gods which if thrown out of balance can result in such things as the Sack of Rome. Every act of cultus given to the Gods goes towards maintaining the Pax Deorum like bricks and mortar to a wall.

I've never especially seen it used outside its specific context in the Religio Romana; and only very rarely in Hellenismos. Really though, I think that it could freely be applied to other traditions as well because the concept itself isn't that specific.
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AlisonLeighLilly

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Re: Cultus - How do you define it?
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2013, 06:20:45 pm »
Quote from: Castus;93525
I define cultus specifically as 'giving reverence/offerings'. To give cultus is basically the same to me as giving a special reverence, worship, or  devotion to a deity and to work towards maintaining the Peace of the Gods; that amicable give-and-take relationship between humanity and the Gods which if thrown out of balance can result in such things as the Sack of Rome. Every act of cultus given to the Gods goes towards maintaining the Pax Deorum like bricks and mortar to a wall.

I've never especially seen it used outside its specific context in the Religio Romana; and only very rarely in Hellenismos. Really though, I think that it could freely be applied to other traditions as well because the concept itself isn't that specific.

 
Thanks, Castus! Can I ask a follow-up?

This might be a somewhat stupid question, but can you expand on what you mean by giving reverence or devotion? Does this mostly involve physical offerings (like libations, incense, etc.), or does it include more symbolic actions or intentions, too?

Castus

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Re: Cultus - How do you define it?
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2013, 06:58:27 pm »
Quote from: AlisonLeighLilly;93546
Thanks, Castus! Can I ask a follow-up?

This might be a somewhat stupid question, but can you expand on what you mean by giving reverence or devotion? Does this mostly involve physical offerings (like libations, incense, etc.), or does it include more symbolic actions or intentions, too?

Mostly physical offerings; as the Religio is an incredibly orthopraxic religion to the point of neurosis. Symbolic actions such as prayer and the like are important, but the Religio isn't really based on personal interaction with the Gods; keeping the gods happy and the Roman state safe from spontaneous meteors was the big thing.

As Cicero says in On the Nature of the Gods:

"I am quite certain that Romulus by instituting auspices, and Numa ritual, laid the foundations of our state, which would never have been able to be so great had not the immortal gods been placated to the utmost extent."

The emphasis being on 'placated to the utmost extent'. Its not like the Gods are heartless beings who don't listen to your prayers -and in fact, a Roman author whose name stubbornly refuses to come to mind maintained that ritual without prayer would be ignored as worthless-  but they're just really, really powerful beings who can be quick to anger and can destroy civilisations with a flick of the wrist; so it's best to keep 'em happy.
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AlisonLeighLilly

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Re: Cultus - How do you define it?
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2013, 08:55:58 pm »
Quote from: Castus;93555
Mostly physical offerings; as the Religio is an incredibly orthopraxic religion to the point of neurosis. Symbolic actions such as prayer and the like are important, but the Religio isn't really based on personal interaction with the Gods; keeping the gods happy and the Roman state safe from spontaneous meteors was the big thing.

...

The emphasis being on 'placated to the utmost extent'. Its not like the Gods are heartless beings who don't listen to your prayers -and in fact, a Roman author whose name stubbornly refuses to come to mind maintained that ritual without prayer would be ignored as worthless-  but they're just really, really powerful beings who can be quick to anger and can destroy civilisations with a flick of the wrist; so it's best to keep 'em happy.

 
Ahhh.. okay, cool.

So, it sounds a little bit like the idea of "cultus" (at least in this context) is tied to a certain view of deity. Like, if a person doesn't believe that the gods are prone to be destructive, or if they think that gods are not all that interested in physical offerings, then for them cultus might not be as important?

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Re: Cultus - How do you define it?
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2013, 12:20:15 am »
Quote from: Castus;93525
I've never especially seen it used outside its specific context in the Religio Romana; and only very rarely in Hellenismos.

 
Nor have I.

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Gilbride

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Re: Cultus - How do you define it?
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2013, 09:10:52 am »
Quote from: AlisonLeighLilly;93513
I've also seen the word "cultus" used by Pagans to describe a religious community or tradition, especially if that community is centered on one particular deity or group of deities


"Cult" has been used in this sense to refer to saints for centuries. So the "cult of St Brighid" would be the tradition of venerating St Brighid.

A Disgruntled Scotsman

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Re: Cultus - How do you define it?
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2013, 12:12:49 pm »
Quote from: AlisonLeighLilly;93513
I wonder if you guys could help me out? I was thinking about writing about "cultus" for the Pagan Blog Project next week -- but before I jump in, I wanted to make sure I had a general idea of how people tend to use the word....

Recently, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus shared an essay over on the Patheos Pagan Portal in which he made a brief mention of the idea of "cultus." It's a term I've seen used here and there among other Pagans and polytheists, but only ever in passing. Lupus gave a brief definition in his essay, saying:



I wondered what a more general definition of the word might be (beyond Lupus' "present purpose" for that particular essay)... So I did some googling, but wasn't able to come up with much. I did find the Cultus Deorum website, which has a brief paragraph on what the phrase "cultus deorum" itself means:



I've also seen the word "cultus" used by Pagans to describe a religious community or tradition, especially if that community is centered on one particular deity or group of deities (like the "cultus of Dionysus" or a "hero cultus"), which seems like just another way of saying "cult" while avoiding the modern-day negative connotations.

So.... how do you use the word? Have you seen it used very much? Is it an especially Greek/Roman polytheist thing, or does it have broader applications? Is this topic even interesting, or should I just write about something else? ;)

Thanks so much for your help!

--Ali

 
I think cultus, from which the term 'cult' is derived refers to the focussed worship or veneration of one deity in particular; either on one's own or as a group - be it family, workmates or other group.

That's what I've always assumed 'cult' and by extension 'cultus' meant.
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Re: Cultus - How do you define it?
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2013, 12:51:09 pm »
Quote from: AlisonLeighLilly;93513

I've also seen the word "cultus" used by Pagans to describe a religious community or tradition, especially if that community is centered on one particular deity or group of deities (like the "cultus of Dionysus" or a "hero cultus"), which seems like just another way of saying "cult" while avoiding the modern-day negative connotations.

So.... how do you use the word? Have you seen it used very much? Is it an especially Greek/Roman polytheist thing, or does it have broader applications? Is this topic even interesting, or should I just write about something else? ;)

 
Berkert uses cult as a collective noun for the sets of practices associated with the worship of a specific god or set of gods.  It is, in essence, synonymous with Religion.  I don't recall him using 'cultus.'

As I've seen cultus used, it's fairly similar to reverence and the noun form of worship, with overtones of the actions done as conveyance.  It's very much an orthopraxic word.  I haven't seen it used much.  Possibly because of Paganism's tendency to avoid scaring Christians, because 'cult' tends to yield a knee jerk reaction.  The etymology of the word might also contribute to it no being used outside of Roman and some Hellenic circles.

As an example all put together, keeping a Cill shift is often part of the cultus of the cult of Brighid.
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