In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence 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 is his namesake, the month of January.
Though he was usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions (Janus Geminus (twin Janus) or Bifrons), in some places he was Janus Quadrifrons (the four-faced). The Romans associated Janus with the Etruscan deity Ani.
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. Hence, Janus was worshiped 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.
Amoretti and Epithalamion Sonnet IV.
New year, forth looking out of Janus’ gate
NEW year, forth looking out of Janus’ gate,
Doth seem to promise hope of new delight:
And, bidding th’ old Adieu, his passed date
Bids all old thoughts to die in dumpish spright;
And, calling forth out of sad winter’s night
Fresh Love, that long hath slept in cheerless
bower, Wills him awake, and soon about him
dight His wanton wings and darts of deadly
power. For lusty Spring now in his timely hour
Is ready to come forth, him to receive;
And warns the earth with divers-coloured flower
To deck herself, and her fair mantle weave.
Then you, fair flower! in whom fresh youth doth
reign, Prepare yourself new love to entertain.
Edmund Spenser (1552–1599)
Cory Ian Shafer