Italy’s religious demographics are heavily in favour of Catholicism. More than 87% of Italians are professed Catholics, compared to the almost 6% who are atheist, the almost 3% who are Muslim, and the almost 4% who belong to other faiths, one of them being a revival of ancient Roman religion.
The reconstruction of the ancient religion in Italy is being driven by groups such as Movimento Tradizionale Romano (MTR), Associazione Romània Quirites, Societas Romana Pro Aris et Focis, and Societas Hesperiana Pro Culto Deorum. The worship of Jupiter, Minerva, and other gods and goddesses is not limited to the country.
Groups of adherents can be found in several European countries, such as Hungary and Ukraine, as well as in Canada and the USA. The group in Ukraine has even gone as far as purchasing land and constructing a temple to Jupiter.
For some believers, such as those who are part of MTR, ancient Roman religion was never an entirely personal matter. There was a strong civic and societal element to it. The people would gather at temples to worship the gods and offer sacrifice for the good of Rome and Romans. They believed that, if they collectively honoured the gods, the gods would in turn give honour and glory to the Empire.
Perhaps instead of asking for the good of an empire that no longer exists, followers of the reconstructed Roman religion ask for other things? Some might offer incense and say a prayer to Fortuna before they play games at online NZ casino sites.
Religion was controlled by the state, and so only approved gods and goddesses could be worshipped. When foreign deities such as Bacchus and Cybele were given the stamp of approval, their cults sometimes caused consternation among more traditional Romans.
At home, people worshipped lares, penates, and other household spirits, as well as their ancestors. That said, anyone who wants to know what the modern followers of the ancient gods actually believe may find it difficult to find a single, satisfying answer.
According to MTR, ancient Roman religion did not give much attention to the myth that the populace all needed to adopt the same dogmatic theology. Instead, the ancients as well as some of the reconstructionist groups emphasised the proper performance of various rites and rituals.
History has shown that among ancient Romans, animal sacrifice was a common practise, and it was from those sacrifices that diviner-priests read signs and omens to predict the future. Curiously, however, the sacrificing of animals seems to be one rite that modern adherents seem quite happy to ignore.
Instead of cattle, sheep, and pigs, modern followers are happy to offer incense, perfumes, flowers, and wine at their altars. Their daily rites are simple, but they also have a calendar filled with festivals and feast days. The summer and winter solstices, as well as old holydays such as Floralia, Saturnalia, Lemuralia, and Lupercalia are once again being observed.
The Roman religion reconstruction movement may be growing slowly, but it is unlikely to replace the Catholic church in the hearts and minds of the majority of Italians.