In yesterday’s post, I felt rather unsatisfied with my musings about the ways that solar cycles affect the magics of the pagan priests of the nascent campaign world that is emerging from my study of the Epistleof Mathetes to Diognetus. As a consequence, I did a bit of research about the religious cults of Rome prior to Christianity and found some very interesting tidbits.
The patron god of Rome was Mars, who was originally an agricultural deity. It wasn’t until Rome began to expand its territory by force that Mars morphed into a god of war. By the time of Christ, however, Mars had largely been supplanted by the Emperor Cult. This reinforces my instinct to use the anti-cleric as one of the pagan priest classes. Since war is a central theme within the Mars/Emperor Cult, it seems appropriate that their priests should be able to fight. The anti-cleric fits this profile nicely and also backs up the idea of an undead slave economy where priests of the Emperor Cult are called on to be the main controllers of the undead slave population.
One of the oldest cults imported by the Romans from other cultures was that of Cybele. Originally a goddess from Asia Minor, Cybele became popular during the Second Punic War when Rome narrowly defeated Carthage. While Cybele was an earth-mother goddess, she was also seen as a protector in times of war. Of interest to my current project, priests of the Cybelean Cult were eunuchs. Thus, my instinct for having low born magic-users be both male and castrated was more spot on than I thought.
This is further reinforced by the demographics of one of the most popular mystery cults in Rome, Mithraism. Cultists were exclusively male and almost universally low born. What really interests me about Mithraism, however, has to do with yesterday’s post.
In its art. the cult almost always depicted Mithras sacrificing a bull surrounded by various creatures. These were most often a dog, a scorpion and a serpent. All of these animals correspond to constellations. We don’t know a lot about the practices of the mystery cults, but there is some interesting scholarly work that hypothesizes that the emphasis on animals corresponding to constellations indicates that the cult paid attention to how the position of the sun related to each of these constellations through the course of the year.
In other words, the bonus spell available to pagan priests could be determined by which of the constellations is currently closest to the sun. I also plan to include a period of the year in which the sun is roughly equidistant from these constellations and, therefore, no bonus spells are available.
18 hours ago