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Janus was a pagan deity, particularly of the ancient Romans. He was esteemed the wisest sovereign of his time, and because he was supposed to know what was past, and what was to come, they feigned that he had two faces, whence the Latins gave him the epithets of Biceps, Bifrons, and Biformis.
It is certain that Janus early obtained divine honors among the Romans. Numa ordained that his temple should be shut in time of peace, and opened in time of war, from which ceremony Janus was called Clusius and Patulcius.
The peculiar offerings to Janus were cakes of new meal and salt, with new wine and frankincense. In the feasts instituted by Numa, the sacrifice was a ram, and the solemnities were performed by men, in the manner of exercises and combats. Then all artificers and tradesmen began their works, and the Roman consuls for the new year solemnly entered on their office: all quarrels were laid aside, mutual presents were made, and the day concluded with joy and festivity. Janus was seated in the centre of twelve altars, in allusion to the twelve months of the year, and had on his hands fingers to the amount of the days in the year. Sometimes his image had four faces, either in regard to the four seasons of the year, or to the four quarters of the world: he held in one hand a key, and in the other a sceptre; the former may denote his opening, as it were, and shutting the world, by the admission and exclusion of light; and the latter his dominion over it.
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January is named for #Janus, the #RomanGod of Gates and Doors. His name comes from the Latin word #ianua, which means door. Gates and doors divide two places. Going through them, you leave one space and enter another. That makes it fitting that Janus presides over #NewYearsDay, when we close the door on one year and open the door to another.
The god Saturn bestowed upon Janus the ability to see into the future as well as the past, thus it is appropriate that he is depicted as having two faces – one looking behind looking at what has happened and one looking forward to see what will happen in the future. While the term “two-faced” is meant to be derogatory, there is great wisdom in being able to see both directions simultaneously.
Originally, one of Janus’ faces was bearded and the other was clean-shaven, perhaps to indicate youth and maturity, but as time passed, he was most often depicted with a beard on each face. The faces are not always identical. Sometimes he holds a key in his right hand.
He is the guardian of entrances and exits, and as such, the Romans considered him the God of Beginnings. Originally, he was honored on the first day of every month, in addition to being worshipped at the beginning of the planting season, and again at the beginning of the harvest season. Respect was also paid to him at times of birth and marriage. As the god, too, of bridges and passageways, which also symbolize beginnings and ends, Janus represents transition, such as the time between youth and adulthood. Romans prayed to him for advice, especially in respect to new enterprises. He can also be turned to when choices need to be made. One source mentioned his role as the porter of heaven.
While there were no temples built in his name, there was an arched passageway with massive gates that could be closed (but rarely were, because the Romans were always engaged in war, and it was believed Janus left through the gates with the army to preside over its welfare). All the gates of cities were dedicated to him.