Tag Archive: pagan rites

Templum, my new time travel, is up on Kindle and Nook! (Print edition coming soon.) Check it out:

Cover for TemplumAfter losing her job, her boyfriend and her best friend, Brit Colladay thinks she’s hit rock bottom. Then while touring Roman ruins, she’s accidentally transported to the first century. Living as a slave near Pompeii, she fakes a gift of prophecy, but when she predicts Vesuvius will erupt, her owner doesn’t believe her.

Nicomachus, a Roman priest renowned for the “miracles” he engineers, knows a fraud when he sees one, but Brit’s brains and beauty intrigue him, and he’d rather join forces than expose her. In exchange for sharing her tricks, she wants help escaping the upcoming eruption, but helping a slave run away could get him executed.

As time runs out, they try to forge a plan. Is the answer fleeing, traveling through time, or even changing history? And can they stay together, or will survival mean living apart?

Links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble below the cover pic on left. (How do you like the cover? 🙂 )

To find on Amazon, go here.
For the Nookbook, click here.
For the UK Amazon page, use this link;
Amazon Australia, click here;
Amazon Canada, here.

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In my archaeological mystery/romance The Five-Day-Dig, the team excavates an ancient Roman temple complex — but temples weren’t the only place where the ancients worshiped the gods. The household shine or lararium was a central feature in a Roman home, usually located in the atrium or near the kitchen hearth, which was convenient, since offerings of food and drink would be burnt at the shrine.

We don’t know a lot about the symbolism behind the images on these shrines, but vesuvioweb.com, an Italian website, has compiled a gallery of lararium photos from PompeiiInPictures.com, and it’s fascinating to try to decipher them. The most common image is a snake, which represents some sort of deity presiding over the individual house or, according to some sources, the fertility of the land surrounding it. The snake is often shown under the floor level of several figures who are making a sacrifice to it. The underground location reminds me of the idea of a household deity dwelling under the threshold, which, apparently, is why brides are carried into to their new homes. It also makes me think that the snake is an “infernal” deity, related to the dead, rather than the greater gods of the sky. Maybe it somehow represents the family ancestors.

The word lararium is derived from the Lares, twin deities with obscure origins, whose statues are usually displayed in the household shine. Although they look like they’re dancing and joyful, the Lares also seem to have a connection with the dead. According to the poet Ovid, their mother was Lara, a nymph whose tongue was cut out as punishment for revealing Jupiter’s secrets. Mercury escorted her to the underworld, but along the way, he impregnated her, resulting in the birth of the Lares. Roman minds may also have linked the Lares to Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome — reinforcing the connection to ancestors.

The website vroma.org notes that in the scene above from a Pompeian lararium, a pig is about to be sacrificed — the proper offering for the Lares — and that the snakes are approaching an altar with eggs on it. Am I the only one who thinks this could be why we have a tradition of having ham and decorated eggs on Easter?

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At one point in my archaeological mystery/romance, The Five-Day-Dig, Chaz speculates that the building he and Winnie are excavating is an ancient purgatorium, like the one (shown below) that visitors to Pompeii can see on the grounds of the Temple of Isis. A purgatorium isn’t as scary as it first may sound. The name has the same root as the word purge, and this type of building was used for ritual cleansing with water from the Nile — sort of a pre-Christian baptism.

Though Isis is an Egyptian goddess, her worship spread to ancient Greece after Alexander conquered Egypt in the fourth century BCE. From there, the goddess reached the Roman Empire. At the time of Vesuvius’ big eruption in the year 79, she was a popular deity, and her temple in Pompeii is the best-preserved one in town. An inscription records that it had been rebuilt after an earthquake about a decade before the eruption.

What made Isis so popular in the Greco-Roman world? Well, she is often pictured with baby Horus — a mother-and-child image that many people are instinctively drawn to. Her mythology as the reassembler of her murdered husband’s body parts also paints her as a devoted wife and connects her to the idea of resurrection and eternal life. She was also a patron deity of sailors, an important occupation in the ancient economy.

The original paintings and sculpture from her temple in Pompeii are now a half-hour away by train in Naples at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Wouldn’t you know that Hubby and I missed them while we were there? But that gives us a reason to go back. 🙂

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The first time you visit Pompeii, it’s easy to miss the Villa of the Mysteries unless you know to look for it (and you should). One of the best preserved houses in the ancient town, it’s a little outside the city walls, beyond the Herculaneum gate. (When it looks like you’ve left the ruins, keep going — you’re almost there.)

What gives the villa its intriguing name is a series of frescoes showing an initiation ritual. No one knows what type of initiation is shown, but a depiction of Bacchus/Dionysus in the center suggests it had to do with his cult.

The story, which unfolds kind of like a comic strip, follows a young woman through a reading of text, an offering of sacrificial cakes, a scary encounter with mythological beings, and the verge of unveiling some covered object that we never get to see (after all, it’s a mystery cult). After the ordeal, the initiate is shown pulling herself back together, combing her hair. She has made it through the night.

Besides the cult room, the villa features other beautifully painted rooms and corridors. Curiously, one room is adorned with Egyptian symbols. Other cool things to see are plaster casts of window shutters and doors, still in place — you can even spot some of the original 2,000-year-old hinges and wood. The house also has an enormous kitchen. And near the back of the property are a few plaster cast of victims of the volcano eruption on display — sad.

On the beautiful spring day that Hubby and I visited, accompanied by chirping birds and shy little lizards, it was easy to envision the house in happier times. You can do the same with the help of computer-enhanced photos on this website. For speculation of what the rites might have been like, check out the reenactment scene in Chapter 15 (Quindici) of my book, The Five-Day-Dig).

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You may be familiar with speculation that Mary Magdalene was a temple prostitute before she shook off her seven demons. In our culture, the idea of sacred prostitution seems so strange that it piqued my curiosity. After reading and ruminating about what the lives of such women might have been like, the seeds for my new novella sprouted. For a couple years, I wasn’t sure where the story was going — if anywhere. Then a second idea, inspired by myth, germinated into sort of a subplot for the first. Suddenly, the book erupted into being.

Seventh Sanctuary, new on Kindle and Nook (print edition soon), is about 20,000 words or a 150-page book. Here’s the blurb:


A widow in ancient Ur is haunted by feverish dreams of her late husband — much to the detriment of her health and her new marriage. When her current spouse visits the temple to pray for her recovery, he is enthralled by a temple priestess/prostitute. The priestess, in turn, is tempted to forsake her sacred vows to be with this man who already has a wife and family.

All three of them look to the goddess Inanna for guidance: Will the great and terrible deity bestow her grace on them — or is it her will to destroy them?

To read sample chapters, click through to the Seventh Sanctuary page and scroll down to the Webreader.

In other news, tomorrow the ebook edition of The Five-Day Dig emerges from exclusivity on Kindle and will be available again on Nook. Happy reading!

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