Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ante Diem XV Kalendas November





Modern Date : October 18th

Ante Diem XV Kalendas November
Fifteenth Day to the Kalends of November

This is one of the dies comitiales when committees of citizens could vote on political or criminal matters.

In 31 AD on this day the highly popular commander of the Praetorian Guard, Lucius Aelius Sejanus, was executed for his treasonous plot against Tiberius. Some 20,000 Romans were put to death in the bloody purge that followed.

On this day in 33 AD, Agrippina, grieving widow of the murdered Germanicus, died of self-inflicted starvation.

October was the eighth month of the old Roman calendar and was sacred to the goddess Astraea, daughter of Zeus and Themis. The name October comes from Octo, meaning eight (March used to be the first month).


The Horn Fair of Charlton
It is widely thought that Carnival first came to London when the Notting Hill Carnival was started back in the 1960's. However, there is evidence that Carnival in London has much older roots going back to the days when the Celtic population of London and the surrounding areas in pre-Saxon London (circa. 5th century AD), worshipped the Horned God or Green Man - the Pagan fertility God closely connected with Greenwich (the Green Village) and the legends of the Isle of Dogs.

The Legend of Herne

There is an old tale goes that Herne the Hunter,
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg'd horns;
And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle,
And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner.

You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Receiv'd, and did deliver to our age,
This tale of Herne the Hunter for a truth.

"The Merry Wives of Windsor", Act 4, Scene 4, William Shakespeare

The Horn Fair was held for three days annually from St Luke's Day and was named after the custom of carrying horns and wearing them. A foreign traveller in 1598 wrote that there was at Ratcliffe, nearby, a long pole with ram's horns upon it, representing “wilful and contented cuckolds”. The horned man, or Green Man, was a representation of the ancient horned god Herne (who derived from the Celtic horned god Cernunnos), and it is interesting to note that the fair, now held at Hornfair Park, was formerly held at Cuckold’s Point, East London.

At the fair there was a procession, which went three times around the church, of people wearing horns. There were many wild practices, such as whipping females with sprigs of furze, giving rise to the expression “all is fair at Horn Fair”. Men would often wear women's clothes.

Toys made of horns were sold; even the gingerbread on sale had horns. There used to be a sermon preached on the day at Charlton Church, but it had been discontinued by Victorian times. "The practice was created by a bequest of twenty shillings a year to the minister of the parish for preaching it." In 1973, the Horn Fair was revived, but the new Horn Fair is a pale shadow of the once great fair of Charlton.


St. Luke the Evangelist
In the Roman Catholic and some other Christian calendars, the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.

On Saint Luke's day
The oxen have leave to play.

Patron of painters, apparently because of the beautiful illustrations in the Gospel of St Luke, St Luke was actually a physician. Thus he is also a patron of physicians, surgeons and notaries. Because he is pictured with an ox, he also is a patron of butchers, and, due to the association with horns, of cuckolds despite his lack of wife or children. St. Luke's special flower is the Marygold and his symbol is a horned ox.

In Charlton, England, St Luke's Day is the Day of the "Horn Fair." Every booth is ornamented with a pair of horns and even the gingerbread is adorned with gilt horns.

This is a lucky day to choose a husband. To dream of your future mate, before going to bed on this night, anoint your stomach, breast and lips with a powder of dried marigold flowers, marjoram, thyme and wormwood, simmered in virgin honey and white vinegar. Then repeat three times

St Luke, St Luke, be kind to me
In dreams let me my true love see.

Watch carefully the visage of your true love. If he smiles, he will be a loving partner but beware if he's rude or uncivil.
[Maud Grieve: A Modern Herbal—quoted in Rodale]

Fine weather called St Luke's little summer often occurs in southern England. In Venice, they say San Luca, El ton va te la zuca ("Pumpkins go stale on St Luke's").


Whip-dog day
In York, England this is Whip-dog day, when boys whip dogs through the streets. There are many explanations for this custom, some claiming it is derived from ancient Rome, others that it began when a dog snapped up a consecrate Host dropped by a priest during Mass, which occasioned an animosity towards dogs.


Sukkot
God set forth the outline for this feast in a talk with Moses recorded in Leviticus 23:39-43:

"On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations; you shall keep it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days; all that are native in Israel shall dwell in booths, that you generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt."

The Jewish full moon festival of Sukkoth, celebrated on the full moon of Tishri, is a joyous occasion after the solemnity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Six months after the festival of Pesach, linked to the Spring Equinox, Sukkoth celebrates the harvest, the time of fulfillment, the festival of Ingathering.

The Torah commands Jews to celebrate by dwelling in huts, which are traditionally made of branches, left open to the light of the moon and stars, and decorated with emblems of the harvest. In Bukhara, Jews decorate the booths with paper garlands, hang the walls with tapestries and cover the ground with thick carpets. A special chair, decorated with silks and heaped with sacred books, called Elijah's chair, is set out for the Patriarchs, who visit in spirit. In Israel, the sekhakh is usually made of carob tree and palm branches and oleander. The walls are often decorated with rugs and special paintings. Many families go on camping trips during the seven days of Sukkot so they can truly live outside. In Yemen, durra, corn stalks and green cacti leaves are used to form the walls and bowls of myrtle leaves are hung in the corners. In Ethiopia, the Falasha, who live in huts throughout the year, spread palm and willow leaves over the floors of houses and synagogues. In Persia, shoes are removed before entering the sukkah (a gesture that acknowledges its existence as sacred space) and all meals are eaten in the sukkah.

Another ritual of Sukkoth from the time of the Second Temple was the waving of the lulav. This consisted of holding an etrog or citron in the left hand and three branches of palm, myrtle and willow in the right, and waving these in each of the first directions, plus up and down. Another Sukkoth ritual is the pouring of water and wine from two vessels, the water poured out to the west, the wine to the east, to remind God to bring rain in the right season. Arthur Waskow (Seasons of Our Joy) describes the celebration of Sukkoth at the time of the Second Temple:

"Sukkot was a time of intense, ecstatic celebration. Dancing, torches, juggling, flutes, the burning of the priests' old underclothes--all contributed to the ecstasy. The description is climaxed with the report that earlier all this was part of a sun-worshipping ceremony."

Waskow comments that this is one of the few times that the pagan past is explicitly linked with Jewish ceremony. Later the sexual rites, which were intended to provoke the land's fertility by imitation, were eliminated (although still suggested by the bowers of greenery for sleeping under the stars--sleeping in the sukkah is recommended for women who want to become pregnant).

After the service on the first day of Sukkoth, the people go out to the sukkah to share wine and food. Rabbi Isaac Luria, one of the mystics of Safed, said that one of the seven great Biblical shepherds should be invited to sit in the sukkah each day, as each one represented seven of the Sephirot, the aspects of God: Chesed or Loving-Kindness, Gevurah or Severity, Tiferet or Beauty, Netzach or Victory, Hod or Glory, Yesod or Intimacy and Malchut or Majesty.

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