Thursday, 4 February 2016

Janus - Gateway God

18th century herm of Janus. Source: hadrian6.tumblr.com
Janus is the God of the doorway and the gateway. He is the holder of the keys to auspicious beginnings and provides access to the divine. He is invariably depicted as the perceptive two-headed God, looking backwards and forwards, both into and outside the home, both eastwards and westwards, and from a state of lawless savagery towards peaceful civilisation. He is a God strongly associated with social order and harmony; he “is said to have lifted human life out of its bestial and savage state. For this reason he is represented with two faces, implying that he brought men's lives out of one sort of condition into another” (Plutarch). He is thus a God of transitions and a God of high importance in the Roman tradition; a fact well demonstrated by the custom of making the first ritual offering to Janus. Cicero cites the reason as follows:
“In all matters, beginnings and ends are the vital features. This is why they cite Janus first in sacrifices, for his name is derived from the verb ire, to go; hence the word iani for archways, and ianuae for the gates of secular buildings [Cicero, The Nature of the Gods at 71].”