I dreamt of great irritation because someone had stepped on and broken my sunglasses. As I was picking up the pieces I realised my actual glasses were lying there broken too. The ones I need to see with. I started getting desperate because I don’t have a second pair and how would I drive home? How would I pay for new ones?
Then it occurred to me that I could actually see. I don’t wear contact lenses anymore but someone must have slipped a pair on – or in – without my noticing. Or maybe I didn’t need the glasses anymore? Perhaps, indeed, the god of eyes had been kind to me and restored perfect sight.

OK, the part about the god didn’t really occur to me in the dream, but the rest did and it was all pretty confusing and comforting at the same time. Been thinking about the Romans and their gods though (as one would, after watching 8 hours of Rome in one day…). I remember being fascinated by how mundane Greek and Roman “religion” seemed when I was studying Classics as an an undergraduate. Gods for doorways, gods for hearths.

Mundane in a good way. In a functional way, and of course the gods then had the function that shrinks and happy-pills have these days: somewhere to turn when things go pearshaped. And who knows, they may have been more effective. When Caesar dumps his mistress Servilia she invokes some deities (I only recognised Nemesis, goddess of divine retribution; the others are presumably equally useful) and curses her lover:

“By the spirits of my ancestors, I curse Gaius Julius Caesar. Let his penis wither; let his bones crack; let him see his legions drown in their own blood. Gods of the inferno I offer to you his limbs, his head, his mouth, his breath, his speech, his hands, his liver, his heart, his stomach. Gods of the inferno, let me see him suffer deeply, and I will rejoice and sacrifice to you.”

It’s a brilliant scene, full of hate and spite as she spits the words out while stabbing and scraping a thin sheet of lead. The curse is now carved into the lead, which is rolled up and, in the dark of night, deposited in a crack in the wall of Caesar’s palace.

After that, things are in the hands of the gods, and Servilia can get on with her life. Forget about three years of psychotherapy.

It turns out that there are plenty of eye gods: in China, Ming Shang, Chu Ying and Yanguang Pusa (healing and eyes); the Greek Ophthamitis; the Roman Oculata (good name, also healing and eyes) and Lucina (light and eyesight). The latter is closer to home than I would have thought. Apparently she was converted to St. Lucy, the candle-bearer, by the Catholics and is to this day celebrated in the Swedish Lucia festival (13 December) where girls dress in white and wear crowns of candles.

Confession: I have been a Lucia girl.