Portunalia

Today, August 17, is the Portunalia, a Roman festival dedicated to Portunus, the Roman god of keys, door and gates, ports and harbors. Portunus helps ships find safe harbor, and also watches over warehouses, especially those storing food for retail markets. This date in history marks the anniversary of the dedication of his temple near the Forum Boarium, which is still standing. His symbols are keys and an anchor, and his Greek counterpart is Palaemon.

This is a good day to bless your keys. The ancient Romans did this by solemnly tossing them into a fire, but I wouldn’t recommend that particular method. Their keys were iron, heat would have made them difficult to retrieve, and possibly melted them out of alignment…and many modern keys have plastic parts and microchips. Passing them through smoke wafting from incense with a prayer to Portunus seems like a much better idea.

Image:  Lighthouse, two ships and a dolphin. Mosaic from Ostia Antica: Regio II – Insula VII – Piazzale delle Corporazioni (Square of the Corporations), Station (Commercial office) 46. Image source: ostia-antica.org

Ostia Antica, the harbor city of ancient Rome, was located at the mouth of the Tiber on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

 

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