Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ante Diem IV Nonas November

Modern Date : November 2nd

Ante Diem IV Nonas November
Forth Day to the Nones of November

This is one of the dies fasti on which legal actions are permitted.

In Egypt, and many parts of the Roman Empire, this day was part of the three day Festival of Isis, the Egyptian mother goddess. Although a foreign deity, Isis was honored with a temple at Rome. Professional singers, musicians, and dancers, mostly female, would perform at the temple during this festival. The performance involved actors playing the parts of Isis and Nephthys in the mystery plays celebrating the death and resurrection of Osiris. These were perhaps the oldest mystery plays on earth, predating even those of Mesopotamia.

On this day in 472 AD, the emperor Olybrius died without a successor.

After the battle of the Colline gate on the previous day, the Samnite chieftain Telesinus was found dying. Sulla had his head cut off and fixed upon a spear, and carried it around the walls of the enemy city Praeneste.

An ancient Egyptian police report from 178 or 167 BCE makes mention of this day: "4th year, Hathur 6. To Osoroeris, royal scribe. On the 5th of the present month when patrolling the fields near the village I found an effusion of blood, but no body, and I learn from the villagers that Theodotus sone of Dositheus, having set out in that direction, has not yet returned. I make this report."

November is the ninth month (after March) and is a lucky month which is almost free of religious obligation.

New Moon conjunct Sun in Scorpio.
Nowhere in the zodiac does the Moon go through such a reversal of energy and power as she does while the Sun is in Scorpio. At the Scorpio Full Moon (11/15 - 16), the Moon is advantageously placed in the Venus-ruled sign of Taurus, but at the New Moon she is in Scorpio, where she is "in fall", her powers muted and weakened. This is one reason why our emphasis shifts off the emotional plane now to the simple practical business of storing the fuel, getting the harvest in, getting repairs made before the snows come.

In the Celtic/Druidic and Wiccan calendars, this November New Moon is called Dead Moon, as it falls in the Scorpio month of death and renewal, and is often close to the festivals of the dead in late October and early November.

The Southern Taurid meteor shower peaks in the evening of 11/2 Hawaii Time, in the morning of 11/3 UT. The Moon is still New, and viewing is excellent.

End of Samhain/Hecate Night
This is the last day of Samhain. Before being taken over by the Christian Church, All Souls' Day was a festival dedicated to Odin as god of the dead. The parade of the Hodening wild horse, mummers plays enacting the mysteries of life, death, and rebirth, and the consumption of ceremonial soulcakes were all part of the celebrations. In parts of England, children would go "souling" from house to house, asking for soul cakes which are traditionally left out for the dead. In Sicily, children would leave their shoes outside the windows in the hope that the souls of their ancestors would fill them with candy and toys. In the Wiccan calendar, sunset on this day begins Hecate Night, celebrating the most formidable aspect of the Triple Goddess.

Feast of Ghede
In Haiti, this day is the Feast of Ghede, Loa of the Dead. Days of the Dead and ancestor festivals are held in many other Native American traditions on this day.

Kali Puja
This year the blazing energy of Diwali reverses almost at once, rather than at the next New Moon, into the pitch darkness of Kali Puja, honoring the Great Goddess, the Maha Devi, in her severe, purifying form as the energy of death, even violent transformation, and renewal. Her four arms holds a trident, a bloody sword, a severed head and a bowl symbolizing the blessings she grants to those who are devoted to her. Her name literally means "Time," and is used to mark the great cycles of the cosmic wheel, including the current Kali Yuga, or Dark Time, which now comes to its climax before a new cycle begins.

Dia de los Muertos
In Mexico, where Nov. 2 is the old Aztec Day of the Dead, this is the Dia de los Muertos, celebrated with raucous festivities honoring the dead. Millions of people wear skull hats and skeleton suits, and gather to sing, dance and play the Comedy of the Dead.

Ancestors Festival
Among the Pueblo, Hopi and Zuni peoples of the American Southwest, this is the day of the Ancestors Festival, when food offerings in honor of the ancestors are placed in lakes, streams and rivers, with prayers of thanksgiving and petition to the waters that bring life and bear away the souls of the departed.

All Souls Day
In the Roman Catholic Calender today is All Souls Day.

Weather Report, November 2
All Souls', blustery and chill. I hear them before I see them, six lines scribbling across the white sky. I look up at the tiny crosses beating above me. The pain is new each year, and I'm surprised, even though I expect it the sudden cold, the geese passing over.
From Dakota by Kathleen Norris

Kathleen Norris' simple but striking evocation sets the mood of November 2nd. The melancholy of the geese passing overhead, warns of the arrival of winter and resonates with the image of the Wild Hunt, the horde of wandering souls that flew through the winter night sky, sometimes disguised as swans or wild geese or the wind. In Scandinavia, they were led by Odin, in England by Herne the Hunter, but in earlier times, in the Mediterranean they were led by goddesses.

The Wild Horde itself was a complex phenomenon whose origins lose themselves partly in the prehistoric past. There was the assembly of ghosts under the leadership of a female divinity, Hecate or Artemis in ancient Greece, Diana or Herodias, the mother of Salome, in the Latin West. This gathering of feminine spirits which later swelled into the crowd of evil hags at the witch sabbath was well known to the theologians of the first millenium who in vain flung their anathema against it.

As usual the effort was in vain. For as late as 1484 the Austrian Sephanius Lanzkranna reports in his 'hymmelstrasse' about the exploits of the Demon Dyana, whom he identifies with the local demons Frawe Percht and Frawe Holt. Herodias herself rides to the present day with the Wild Horde in large parts of Italy and in the Eastern Alps. Ritual performances meant to embody ghosts of the defunct--a feature not mentioned by writers of the first millenium--have survived over a large part of the eastern Alps under the name of Perchta, a feminine demon in whom the spirit of the Carnival is incarnated. [Bernheimer, Wild Men of the Middle Ages: A Study in Art, Sentiment and Demonology]

Bernheimer points out that the masculine Wild Horde, led by Odin, Holler, Gwyn ap Nudd, etc. is a more or less Teutonic phenomenon while the feminine one seems to be of Mediterranean origin. It may be the northern male-led horde grew out of the Southern female-led one.

In his book, Ecstasies, in which he explores the imagery of the witches' sabbath, Carlos Ginzburg describes evidence for an early shamanic cult, centered around a goddess of abundance and the dead. She was known by many names: Herodiade, Diana, Habondia (Abundance), Richessa and the Good Goddess (Bona Dea whose festival the Romans celebrated on December 1st). Her devotees said they flew with her through the night sky, entering the houses of the rich to feast; Ginzburg suggest these journeys were undertaken in trance.

The Cathars, who developed a unique Christian religion which flourished in Southern France in the 11th and 12th centuries until wiped out as heresy by a Crusade in the 13th century, believed that this was the day when the souls of those who died during the year entered into a place of rest. Before this day, they wandered around the earth, from church to church. Angels chose from this flock those ready to be admitted to the place of rest. The living could influence the selection by saying Masses for the dead, paying off their debts and giving gifts to the poor.

This is similar to the English tradition of going from house to house, gathering ingredients for soul-cakes. Sometimes these were left out for the poor to eat, sometimes given to the priest to pay for Masses for the souls of the dead, sometimes they were given to those professionals who took on the sins of the dead, as in this passage quoted by Kightly (The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore):

In the County of Hereford was an old Custom at Funerals, to hire poor people, who were to take upon them all the Sins of the part deceased. One of them I remember (he was a long, lean, lamentable poor rascal). The manner was that when a Corpse was brought out of the house and laid on the Bier; a Loaf of bread was brought out and delivered to the Sin-eater over the corps, as also a Mazer-bowl full of beer, which he was to drink up, and sixpence in money, in consideration whereof he took upon him all the Sins of the Defunct, and freed him (or her) from Walking after they were dead.
John Aubrey, Remains of Gentilism 168

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church tried to replace the idea of ghosts wandering around the night sky with that of souls who went straight to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory upon death and thus could not be contacted by those spiritual practitioners whose role it was to pass along messages from one world to another.

With this development, the link was broken between people and their ancestors, who could no longer be prayed to or invited to return to provide advice. The dead saints replaced the ancestors as the subject of prayers and other-worldly assistance. The only dead still presumed to have contact with the living were evil spirits who still roamed the earth. They were not the sort you wanted to encounter on a dark night, thus the association of All Hallow's Eve with ghosts and terror.


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