The Roman Genius

The Genius of the Roman Religion is a guardian spirit that guides, shapes and governs the life of an individual from his birth until death; the etimology of the Latin word “genius” means “guardian deity, spirit, incarnation, inborn nature, talent” and it shares with the Latin word “gens” (“tribe, people”) the root *gene- (“give birth, beget”).

Ancient depiction of a Genius:
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Analyzing these elements in the light of the European initiatory ritual of reincarnation within the ancestry we can note that the figure of the Genius takes shape directly from that ritual and belief, because it symbolizes the ancestor. The festivity dedicated to the Genius coincided with the birthday of the person under its tutelage, the latter being nothing but its reincarnation, and in Rome the thalamus, the bridal bed, was called “lectus genialis” (“bed of the genius”) because it’s thanks to the sexual intercourse that the Genius, i.e. the ancestor, is reborn, through the conception of a new member of the ancestry. The part of the body related with the Genius is the forehead, i.e. the head, since prehistory the part of the body symbolizing the mind, memory and spirit of the individual: the Genius is consecrated to the forehead to symbolize how the descendant has inherited the mind, memory and spirit of the ancestor reborn (rebirth and reincarnation are synonymous in this context) in him. Moreover the Genius was usually depicted in the form of a serpent, which refers to the various serpents or dragons that the heroes of the myths must fight during their initiations: the serpent or dragon symbolizes the umbilical cord that connects the descendant to his ancestors.

The Genius depicted as a serpent:
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The Genius is equivalent to the Daimon of the Greeks and the Guardian Angel of the Christians (…); the Latin word “daemon” and the Greek word “daimon” mean “spirit, divinity, divine power, guiding spirit, tutelary divinity, spirit of the dead, fortune”, and their common PIE root means “divider, supplier (of fortune and destiny): it is no coincidence that with the advent of Christianism the concept of “demon” has become synonymous of evil entity. Other equivalent figures are the Fylgja (literally “someone that accompanies”, sometimes designated as “aettarfylgja”, “fylgja of the ancestry”) and the Hamingja (that in Icelandic means mainly “fortune”) of the Nordics, both being a supernatural form of life connected with the fortune and destiny of a person: the word “fylgja” has the same root of the English word “follow” (from Ancient English “fylgian, fylgan”, with the meaning of “accompany” [referred to a disciple], “move in the same direction”) and the word “hamingja” is composed by “hamr” (“shape”) and “gangr” (“to walk”), with the meaning of “he who walks in the shape” (i.e. the physical shape of the body), in reference to the memory of what there was of noble and honourable in our ancestors, the noble and honourable part that lives on in the ancestry, handed down from body to body, through memory. In addition to the examples described above there are the Fravashi of the Persians and the Ka of the Egyptians. The Fravashi consists in the double of an individual and in his transcendent guardian, often identified with the spirit of an ancestor: the word “fravashi” is commonly reconstructed as *fravarti, from the root -var (“to choose”), with the meaning of “one who has been chosen”, indeed only the child that was chosen or selected to be reborn through the initiation would have obtained the Fravashi of one of his honourable ancestors, i.e. himself in a previous life. The Ka too is the double of an individual: it was often represented in Egyptian iconography as a second image of the king and it was passed down from father to son symbolizing the life force and spirit of an individual. Lastly we can remember that our shadow is the manifestation of the metaphysical reality of the “double”: hence the belief in the dead intended as shadows or intangible ghosts.

We should keep into consideration also the concepts of “fate”, in the sense of a purpose that predetermines the essential course of the individual existence, and “fame”, words that have the same PIE root *bha- (“to speak, tell”) in reference to the honourable fame and reputation attributed to someone, fame and reputation that spread by means of legends, tales and songs. The concepts of “fate” and “fame” are therefore strongly connected to the spiritual heritage obtained by a descendant after his rebirth as one of his ancestors, the one chosen after identifying with him by hearing the tales that concern him, tales handed down from his family and from the members of his tribe.

Note: in this context the personal objects with which the deceased was buried were of fundamental importance, because their primary function was that of awaken, in the descendant, the memories of his previous lives; the Norse mythology provides us with some excellent examples in this regard: the sword Aettartangi [“hilt of the ancestry” or “sword of the generations”], endowed with “heill” [the “fortune of the ancestry”], the armor Finnzleiff and the sword Dáinsleif [“inheritance of Dáinn”, a dwarf whose name means “dead”], whose suffix “-leif” means “inheritance”.

Also the word “fairy” (the Italian equivalent is “fata”) has the same PIE root *bha-, and it is evident the semantic connection between “fairy” and “fate”; the Parcae, the Roman equivalent of the Moirai of the Greeks and the Norns of the Nordics, were also called Fatae by the Romans, from Latin “fatum”(“destiny”), since the Parcae are the entities who preside over destiny: in Rome they were represented inside the Forum by three statues commonly called “Tria Fata” (“the three destinies”).

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Also the concept of “fortune” falls within the same category of entities, having originally the same meaning of “destiny”, and in this context we can remember the Roman goddess Fortuna and the Greek goddesses Ananke (“necessity”) and Tyche (“fortune”), personifications of the concepts of fortune, destiny and fate intended as a necessity. “Fortunate” is therefore he who possesses a metaphysical destiny in a higher sense, he who possesses a Spirit, Genius, Daimon, Fylgja, Hamingja, Fravashi or Ka. “Unfortunate” is instead he who doesn’t possess a destiny and is excluded from the eternal cycles of deaths and rebirths within the ancestry. Indeed the PIE root of the word “fortune” is *bher- (“to carry”), with the meaning of “what is carried on”: what we carry inside us, the honour of a noble ancestry that we embody, that we have inside and guides us, the ancestors that we have brought back to life in ourselves. Fortune, Destiny, Fate, Genius, Daimon, Fylgja, Hamingja, Fravashi, Ka and many other similar entities are all equivalent symbols, their meaning and primordial origin lies in the vision of life of our forebears!

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