Dream Gates

Dream Gates

Honor the Gatekeeper at the New Year

Janus Ponte Fabricio.jpgAre you ready for January 1? Maybe you want to spare a thought for what the ancients who named the first month, and made January 1 New Years Day, believed is going on at this time – and for who needs to be celebrated or propitiated at the turning of the year.

The Romans gave us the month of January – Januarius – and in that word we find the name of Janus, a mysterious god whose nature and energy are poorly understood, but may be highly relevant to our condition and our fortunes today. The best-known image of Janus is of a two-faced male. One face is turned towards the future, the other towards the past. 
Janus is above all a Gatekeeper. He is the god of doors and gates in every sense – of the doors we find open or closed on our life roads, of the gates of time, of the portals between worlds. His name literally means “doorway” and may be derived from the older Etruscan word for door, jauna

Janus was the first of the gods to be honored in the ceremonies of ancient Rome, just as elephant-headed Ganesh, the Gatekeeper of India, is honored first in Hindu rituals today. Highly appropriate, in both cases, since it is the Gatekeeper, by whatever name, who opens or closes the doors and the roads in our undertakings. The Gatekeeper is the god of beginnings.
The central importance of Janus in Roman religion is indicated by the pracrice at his temple in the Forum Romanum. In time of war, its gates – facing sunrise and sunset – were open. In time of peace, these gates were closed, For most of Roman history, the gates were open, signifying near-constant war.
Janus is also central to personal religion, the daily practice of families and individuals. His image was placed at the threshold of private homes, as guardian, marking the boundary between what happens within and without.
Janus is the patron and (by legend) the founder of Roman divination. He sees into both  past and future and if we wish to see clearly, we invoke his blessing. The Romans did this with wine and honeycakes,with incense and respect. Ovid wrote in the Fasti: 
“Why, Janus, when I placate other gods, do I bring incense and wine to you first?” 
    “So that you may gain entry to whatsoever gods you wish,” he replied, “through me, who guard the threshold.”
On the Ponte Fabricio in Rome is a weathered statue of Janus with no fewer than four heads. On the bridge – always a potent metaphor for the crossings of life – travelers would pause to touch the stone column for good luck. In this form, the simple image of Janus resembles the hermai, the votive pillars of Hermes (another form of the Gatekeeper) in ancient Greece.
So, in the midst of the New Years Eve festivities, spare a thought for the Gatekeeper, the lord of doors and thresholds and beginnings. He has many names in the world’s cultures. I salute him, in my own life and in the circles I lead, without personal names, content to ask:
May my doors and gates and paths be open
and the doors and gates and paths of those I love
and the doors and gates and paths between the worlds.
And may the doors and gates and paths 
of any who wish  to do me, or those I love, any harm
            be closed.

Four-headed Janus on the Ponte Fabricio from Italian Notebook
  • Justin Patrick Moore

    Thank you for sharing your circle opening again. I may say it at our gathering out by the fire tonight as a toast on the New Year! This post reminded me also of a dream I had where I want to a Temple/Art Studio and found a coin with the double head of Janus on it. At this turning of the years, I will want to find that dream in my journal and take a closer look at it again. Happy New Year to Dreamers everywhere and everywhen.

  • Kate

    I had a dream about an irish girl with a “janus face” years and years ago and have since seen it is indeed a universal symbol from ancient ireland [the larger janus head in boa island] to ancient africa [ancient katsina and nok terracotta janus heads] and indeed worldwide.

  • Sal

    Janella is how you say window in Portuguese. I believe Portuguese more closely resembles the closest living language of how Latin was spoken and phonetically arranged–but not pronounced–than most Romance derivatives.

  • Robert Moss

    Kate – Thank you for reminding us of the enigmatic double-headed figure from Boa island, which seems to be male on one side, female on the other, and for encouraging us to track the manifestations of similar “two-faced” figures worldwide. I’m interested in your dream. I have often dreamed of threefold figures, and figures (often sculptural) with three heads, which is an even stronger theme for the Celts. Boa Island is thought to have been special to Badb, a battle goddess who (as I understand it) is part of the threefold Morrigan, and may show herself as twin ravens.

  • Robert Moss

    Sal – You may be right, but don’t say this to a Romanian. They think that the Romanian language is the closest to ancient of Latin, and of course have the distinction of having had one of the greatest of Latin poets – Ovid – in their territory after his exile from Rome.

  • Robert Moss

    Happy New Year, Justin, and may your doors be open.

  • Nina

    When you are talking about Janus, I would like to mention that two-faced men have their place also in Christianity, at least one picture comes to my mind (there are certainly far more examples). It´s Madonna with Angels and Saints (Maesta)by the Sienese master Ambrogio Lorenzetti from 1335. Madonna is sitting on the throne with three steps and on the white foundation base with the golden inscription FIDES is placed the allegorical figure of Faith/Fides. She is depicted as an angel, wrapped in the white robe and holding the mirror in her right hand, looking at two-faced man. It is said that two heads symbolize The Old and The New Testament, which could be one explanation, and in some way it´s again the variation of the past and future topic. There is probably more space for other interpretations since Lorenzetti is known for not sticking to any strict canon of symbols. The attribute of mirror is certainly not typical for Faith; Prudentia is usually equipped with this symbol for reflection, wisdom and foresight. So maybe Lorenzetti also wanted to suggest that the divine wisdom appears when one reflects on the past and future together and so he is able to get the whole picture or the mirror:-)
    For me personally, the images of more-headed men always evoke the importance of being more alert and aware of what is happening on sides and mainly behind our back. So, when I draw one Tarot card for a day I automatically check the last card in the deck to see what I don´t see properly.
    Thank you for all your infinite and eye- and heart-opening posts.
    Happy New Year and lots of friendly, welcoming Gatekeepers to all.

  • Annana

    Happy New Year Robert. I enjoyed reading this. Also thank you for how you kept us dreamers focused on dreaming into this New Year. I do think of you as a master of “NOW”.

  • Kate

    Robert – I shared the dream with my friend just before ths post because in the dream he had married “the irish girl with the janus face” and he had met an irish girl in real life.
    I did’nt have any explanation for him of why she had a janus face other than it being symbolic of some internal androgyny? because she was also wearing a suit in the dream on the day of the wedding.Nor why the girl was Irish. I recall trying to tell her I was also Irish in the dream [i’m part irish].
    It was interesting to see when i did look up the janus motif that in ireland it was connected with badb – I came on badb simultaneously from looking up crow symbolism as I’d had a deep dream of having to attend a class of only men and being offered the highest and only chair they had left which I declined and didn’t want,so I went to look for another.By the end of it I was left with a crow that turned into a crow mask?

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