A quick excerpt from my reading this week.

I knew a gentleman, who was so good a manager of his time, that he would not even lose that small portion of it, which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets, in those moments. He bought, for example, a common edition of Horace, of which he tore off gradually a couple of pages, carried them with him to that necessary place, read them first, and then sent them down as a sacrifice to Cloacina: this was so much time fairly gained; and I recommend you to follow his example. It is better than only doing what you cannot help doing at those moments; and it will made any book, which you shall read in that manner, very present in your mind. Books of science, and of a grave sort, must be read with continuity; but there are very many, and even very useful ones, which may be read with advantage by snatches, and unconnectedly; such are all the good Latin poets, except Virgil in his “AEneid”

– Lord Chesterfield “Letters To His Son”

So, this seems like a toilet joke, but what if it isn’t?  In Ars Magica, and in many other roleplaying games, gods exist, and they gain some sort of sustenance from sacrifices.  In Ars, gods are faeries and faeries love poetry. What happens if you continually send poetry to a goddess? What happens if you do it day by day, every day? That’s worship.

The goddess mentioned was the spirit of the Roman sewer system: perhaps a nymph that was transformed when her stream was enclosed to create it, or perhaps a Spirit of Artifice that sprang into existence as its cornerstone was laid. Her tiny shrine had two statues, and it is not clear what they represented: purity and filth, perhaps. I’d argue being on her good side is one of the ways of getting the, little used, Good Environment modifier, which means your character ages more slowly because of the healthy surroundings.

As a goddess of modest appeal: she’s going to pay a character sending her daily poems a lot more attention than, say, Lugh, who has a lot more going on in his life. A character with close ties to her could be a big fish in a small, however foul, pond. Has she a putrid Pope?  An impeccable Nurse? What powers might such dedicated servants have? What sacred places might she maintain, in her dual aspect, as keeper of the clean from the unclean? There is clearly the scope for a Mystery Cult here.

We know little of the historical Cloacina, but she seems to have the following features. She is the enemy to plagues, and is a spirit of fecundity, tied somehow to Venus. She has a power over lost treasures. The Queen of the Sable Rivers commands, and is perhaps embodied by, the dark tunnels beneath the major cities, and is kind to those forced to shelter there. She is, in some sense, the most approachable of the Cthonic deities, and the most forebearing. Chesterfield, above, claims that characters gain a study bonus by reading in the chamber of necessity, but not on sciences, and therefore magic Arts, but only on more frivolous things, like Lores.

Cloacina is likely an enemy of Baal-peor, the demon prince who is an open gullet and a ceaseless defecation. Baal-peor flees women, as noted in a short story by Niccollo Machiavelli, so at least some of the Goddess of Filth and Purity’s enforcers will be of that gender. As an aside, she’s a formidable supporting character in Terry Pratchett’s Dodger, which I recommend.


4 replies on “Sacrificing Horace to Cloacina

  1. I’ve just had an added thought:

    What if putting the Aenid down the loo is a Ward? Why would she hate that text so much? Is it that it mention the most powerful of the Cthonic Goddesses? I’m not familiar enough with the text to answer this right now…


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