Io Saturnalia! A ritual

Yesterday was the first day of the Roman festival of Saturnalia, the holiday from which most Christmas traditions are taken. It was the most popular Roman holiday, and all business was suspended for the week. It was a time of celebration and joy, and also an upturning of the social order. More information is available here, here, here and here.

Below is a ritual I’ve written for the occasion. It is written for groups. There should be one priest or priestess, and a worshiper to be crowned the Mock King. Traditionally this person would be male, but at this time of role inversion, why not name a female King? If you crown a woman, don’t call her a Queen, but the King.

The Ritual

After closing your eyes for a moment and centering yourself, step forward to the altar.

Barley Offering

Sprinkle barley on the altar, SAYING:

To the givers of life, Life.”

Purify the Circle

walk around the ritual space with the khernips bowl, sprinkling the water around the perimeter. Say:

You are pure! You are pure! By this holy water, this ground is made pure. In the name of Jupiter, Saturn, and Roma, this space is now a holy sanctuary


Walk in another circle, taking the bowl to each of the worshipers, so they can wash their face and hands. As they are doing so, say:

By this holy water, you are made pure. In the name of Jupiter, Saturn, and Roma, you are holy and fit to enter the Temple.


We come before the Temple today to celebrate the joyous rites of Saturnalia, the completion of the sun’s yearly course, and the commencement of a new cycle. The earth is cold, and the farmer’s crops are safely hidden in his storehouse, sustenance for the long nights ahead.

The Temple doors are opened tonight, and will remain so for 7 days. For 7 days and nights we will celebrate the Saturnalia, at the Temple, at home, in the streets. Wherever we will be, there our hearts will be open in festive song.

ALL: Io (say it: e-o), Saturnalia

Light Candles

We light these sacred flames to remember Dies Natalis Sol Invictus, the Birth of the Invincible Sun, the light at end of our feasting, on the last day of Saturnalia.

ALL: Hail Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun.

Hymn to Saturn and Ops

Hail Great Saturnus, First King of the World, Father of Mighty Jupiter,

Under Saturn’s rule it was a Golden Age. There was no war, no weapons, no need to lock your house at night, no need for laws or governance. The earth yielded Her bounty of Her own accord, and people shared in goodwill with no greed or avarice.

When Jupiter conquered, the Silver Age began, and the Earth began to withhold Her gifts. Exiled Saturn, overthrown, Who came to Italia in secret, hiding from His Son.

He Who Ruled Romans before there was a Rome. It was Saturn Who taught the native Latins the way of the plough, Who established the cycles of planting, nurturing, reaping, and planting again. Jovial Saturn gave His knowledge freely, making life easier for mortalkind.

The time of Saturnalia is the best of days, a short re-living of the Golden Age

When goodwill and abundance floods the hearts of man.


And we must not forget Ops, Saturn’s bountiful bride

The first day of Saturnalia belongs to Her, the Opalia

Plentiful Goddess, Lady of all grains, She Who Feeds the World

We honor You also, for although Saturn taught us the techniques of agriculture,

Without You there would be nothing TO grow.

ALL:Hail Saturn! Hail Ops!

Offering of Bread to Saturn and Ops

cut the bread, butter it, and place it on the offering plate.

Saturn and Ops, we offer unto You the fruit of our labor, and return the knowledge You shared with our kind so many centuries ago.

May you delight in it, as we delight in you.

Prayer to Bacchus (offer wine if possible)

Joyous Saturnalia honors many Gods, not least of which is Bacchus, Whose festival at this time predates Saturn’s coming. O Pater Liber, Bull of Two Mothers, Your gift of sweet wine is a balm to mankind, a divine elixir to calm the fiery temper and comfort the grieving heart. O Mighty Bacchus, we offer You a glass of Your own wine in gratitude, and ask that we be always able to partake of the pleasures of life, to forget our cares and enjoy the moment, and most of all to have have a healthy sense of humor and to be able to poke fun at our selves.

ALL:Hail Bacchus!

Prayer to Janus (offerings of salt and frankincense)

We sing a song to Janus as we rapidly approach His threshold

Ancient Janus, guardian of the door

Two-formed, all-seeing, Who gazes in both directions

To whom the future, as the past, is made clear

Order and Chaos, Beginning and End, what are they to You?

Great Janus, Who sees and comprehends all,

As we approach the end of one year and the beginning of another,

We pray for your protection and guidance as we cross that threshold,

The sacred cycle that you protect,

And invite you share in these offerings we have gathered.


Crowning of the Mock King

Have the Mock King kneel before you. Pick up the garland-crown, and say:

All the rules are upturned today, and the old order is no more. Saturnalia is beyond all bonds, outside all restrictions! So we must make for ourselves a King fitting for the revels, for this week only, __(name)__ you are the Lord of Misrule!

the Mock King speaks:

I declare that for the next seven days, the social order is upturned. The Master waits on the slave and the child rules the household. All people, of every class, wear the pileus, the symbol of the freedman. even the Senators are dressed as ex-slaves. This is the command of the Lord of Misrule!

Saturnalia is a time outside of time. All stores must be closed, and no business, legal or personal, is permitted. This is a time to lose oneself in feasting and dance, in revels of love and passion and drink! A time to delight in the warmth of fireplace and candlelight, and in the presence of family and fond companions. So, now we feast and be merry!

ALL: Io (say it: e-o), Saturnalia!



Leave an offering on the altar of the household Gods

When the revel is over:

We will not close the ritual here, for the joy of Saturnalia cannot be packed into one hour nor one day. When you leave the Temple tonight, take your candles with you. Continue in the spirit of Saturnalia for seven days, and when it time, you may close out the festival in whatever way best suits your nature or your traditions.


ALL: Io (say it: e-o), Saturnalia!


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2 Responses to Io Saturnalia! A ritual

  1. Arianrhod says:

    A wonderful ritual that can be offered by a small group of people. This ritual keeps the heart of the Saturnalia, by the words and pratices performed during it.
    Thank you for shinning the true light of this important event, from the ancient world into our time.
    blessings of the seasons,

  2. Reblogged this on Temple of Athena the Savior and commented:

    Sharing my Saturnalia ritual that I wrote years ago, but I still use the basic framework of this ritual when I have the opportunity to celebrate in groups. The ritual requires at least 3 participants, but can easily be adapted to accommodate more.

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