Neptune is the Roman equivalent to the Greek god Poseidon. He is widely recognized as the god of the sea, standing strong and regal with his trident, heavily bearded and boldly postured, exerting great power over his underwater domain. His realm extends beyond the ocean floor, as well, since, as the ruler of water and climate, he is also the god of storms, wind and rain. He can provide safe passage to sea-faring vessels, or, just as quickly, he can bring them to their doom. He is also the provider of life-giving rainfall to agricultural endeavors, the filler of rivers and lakes with fish, and the one who causes underground springs to overflow with fresh drinking water.
Surely a deity of such breadth and reach deserves his own festival. And, as it happens, tomorrow, July 23, marks the ancient Roman festival of Neptunalia. Placed squarely in the heart of the dry season, this pleasant social event was slated as a time to celebrate the god Neptune and to implore him to bring more life-giving rain. Often, a bull would be sacrificed as a symbol of agricultural fertility, and then the people would celebrate with the traditional activities of having a feast in the shade of shelters built with tree branches, drinking spring water, and sharing a pleasant, joyful time with friends. During this festival, many of the standard social restrictions were lifted, giving people the opportunity to interact with others that they might not usually have the chance to meet. What better time to get together with friends, share a meal, and perhaps open yourself up to the possibility of meeting someone new?
Neptunalia is also a good time to reconsider our own relationship with water, both literally and symbolically. Many ancient religions place great importance on the metaphorical lessons that can be learned from water’s unique combination of fluidity, quiet patience, and immense power. “Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” (Lao Tzu) There is much that we can learn from observing water, such as how to adapt to our environment while staying true to our core selves, going with the flow instead of fighting it, and finding creative solutions to challenges.
So, in celebration of Neptunalia, I encourage you to get together with some friends, share a feast, raise a glass of water, and open your mind to the flow of the Universe. You might be pleasantly surprised where it takes you!