These are the gods and goddesses of the house; the spirits to be found in our dwelling. Some we inherited from our ancestors; others are native to the site on which we live.
A few years ago I read Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin. She is a beautiful writer who connects world and soul. The novel is set in Bronze Age Latium, now the Italian region of Lazio where my father was born. The novel recreates the last six books of Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid and embodies the heroic characteristics of stoicism and responsibility. The main character, Lavinia, moves from her family home to her husband’s home. She brings with her the penates and laertes of her ancestors and they join with those of her husband’s family.
After reading the book, I thought about what gods might inhabit our home which is also our office and studio, and sometimes rehearsal space and meeting place.
There are the kitchen gods, which include the gods of recycling and composting; and the hearth gods and pantry gods, who keep us in food and warmth.
The bathroom gods are made of water and light and include the goddess of soap.
The bedroom gods are those of fire and love, clean sheets and slumber.
In the studio live the gods of literature, creativity and productivity, and the nymphs of meditation and reflection, who play with the gods of the common areas and household nooks.
In the air we breath are the spirits of grace and redemption, which do battle when needed with the evil things that sometimes ooze out of corners. You know: anger and envy, greediness and spite.
The animal gods that surround us mostly take the form of currawongs; flocks of them, lined up in choirs, singing at the sunset. They sing thanks for the day just done and warble offerings for safe passage through the night-hours ahead.
Then there are the gods of the garden. Our one bedroom flat doesn’t have a garden but Roger, our Red Setter neighbour, does. And his garden hosts the herb and flower gods that heal the mind and spirit with their colour and scent, as well as the soaring red iron barks that stand watch over the art deco flats and giant houses that cling to this steep and lucky hillside.
And then there are the indigenous spirits. Sometimes when I walk the loopy accesses of the harbour I wonder what acts of blood have been enacted in this place. And as the king tides wash away the sand and uncover the shell middens, will the gods of our conscience also be loosened?
These are the gods that we carry with us no matter where we live, demanding special place amongst the penates and laertes of our home.