Spiritual Celebs: Janus—To Begin the Year at the Beginning of the Year


To get a good jump on my new series “Spiritual Celebs,” I thought we’d start with Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, entrances and exits. I’m a little late for his feast day, which was January 9th, but apparently the door is still open so I’m going to walk right in, sit right down, and tell you a little bit about how being two-faced can sometimes be divine.

Janus was usually depicted as beardless and having two faces looking in opposite directions. Sometimes he even had four faces as representative of a crossroads and maybe to make sure everyone observes the right-hand-goes-first rule.

In Rome, the calendrical and agricultural start of the year was named after him and is, you guessed it, the namesake of our January.

During religious ceremonies, he was invoked as the first of any gods, much like the ancient Greek goddess Hestia.

He is heavily associated with doorways and other entrances. There were several Jani, or ceremonial gateways, located in and around Rome. At one Jani in particular, there was a superstition that the doors should remain open when an army was off to war and closed in times of peace. Those doors were very rarely closed.

Some scholars believe Janus’ associations with doorways, gateways, and other entrances were secondary and that Janus’ primary association was always with beginnings.

Here are a couple of ways to work Janus and/or what he represents into your daily life:

  • When you are about to begin something new or take a new direction in life, think about the symbolism of Janus—two faces, one looking forward and the other looking back. Think about how your past has led you to this crossroads and how it will influence the path you choose to take. Think about the good things you will carry with you and the harmful things you will leave behind. Think about the blessings and enlightenment that await you in the future. Be bold. Take your first steps with the courage and confidence of the Roman army.
  • In a more concrete sense, as you leave and enter your home, try saying these lovely Religion Romana prayers written by Rev. Jenni Hunt, Ret.
    • Upon entering: “Greetings Janus, opener of doors. Thank you for watching over my home in my absence and keeping it safe from harm. (Kiss your hand, touch it to the door.) I give you thanks.”
    • Upon leaving: “Greetings always, Janus, closer of doors. I humbly beseech you to watch over my home in my absence and protect it from harm. (Kiss your hand and touch it to the door.) So be it.”

I wish you all the best of beginnings in all your endeavors.


About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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