October 02, 2006

Suus cuique mos, suus cuique ritus est

In English: To each person his own custom, to each person his own religious observance.

This saying comes from the writings of Quintus Aurelius Symmachus, who lived in the late fourth century C.E. Symmachus was a pagan and in writings like this he articulated a principle of religious tolerance that stands in sharp contrast to the entrenchment of religious orthodoxy, arguing for the protection of traditional cult practices which were being suppressed by the Christian authorities. If you are interested in learning more about the tension between the triumphant Christian orthodoxy and fourth-century pagans like the emperor Julian (the "Apostate") and Symmachus, I can recommend a very user-friendly book by Jonathan Kirsch, God Against The Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism. It provides a compelling overview of the tension between the polytheistic traditions of paganism and the monotheism of Judaism and Christianity.

I chose this saying today in honor of the coincidence of the Jewish and Muslim calendars today. Apparently every thirty years or so, the festivals of Yom Kippur and Ramadan coincide, and that is the case this year (you can listen to an NPR report about this, with some reflections on past years in which the festivals coincided).

Also on the religious calendar right now is the Hindu festival of Navartri (nine-nights), the celebration of the goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. I feel very lucky to live in a world where it is indeed possible for so many peoples to practice their own customs and their own rites.

So here is today's proverb read out loud:

932. Suus cuique mos, suus cuique ritus est.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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