The Two-Faced God – Storytelling for Everyone

In ancient Roman mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. The Romans dedicated the month of January to Janus, his most apparent remnant in modern culture, his namesake, the month of January.

Janus was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, and of one universe to another. Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of the harvest and planting times, as well as marriages, births and other beginnings. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood.

According to some, he was the custodian of the universe but, to all Romans, he was the god of the beginnings and the ends, presiding over every entrance and departure, and because every door and passageway looks in two directions, Janus was seen as two-faced or Janus bifrons—the god who looked both ways. He was the gatekeeper; his symbols were a porter’s staff or virga and a set of keys. To illustrate his importance, his name was even mentioned before Jupiter in prayers.

He protected the start of all activities. He inaugurated the seasons. The first day of each month was considered sacred to him, and the first month of the year. Early Romans coins featured his image, showing him as two-faced, one bearded and one clean-shaven. Later, during the Renaissance, this image of two faces would represent not only the past and future but also wisdom.

The images of Janus are strange and evocative; they seem to combine time and place with an uncomfortable intimacy. We tend to think of the present moment as the most real experience: the past and the future are unknowable or distant.

Yet, if we think about the hinges of our own actions in the moment, we do move in a constant cause and effect motion—past experiences influencing the present, then a future outcome. The more aware we can link the opposites, the more we can find our way with conscious results.

Notice the way that the combined hair of the old and young Janus in the image is braided, woven. Yet each individual face seems oblivious of the other. How do we become the weaver, the one who sees the patterns of change?

As the new year begins in the month of January, what is your Janus story?

What door are you opening, and how does it hinge on the past?

What is an experienced truth that the older Janus could share with the younger OR the younger Janus with the elder?

Explore the experiences and the truths you’ve learned and the goals that lie ahead, as we all transition to this new year and decade.

Author adminPosted on January 23, 2020Categories Myth, Personal Story, SeasonsTags Janus, Personal story, Roman

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