Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ante Diem VII Kalendas December

Modern Date : November 25th

Ante Diem VII Kalendas December
Seventh Day to the Kalends of December

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

This day was the Festival of Persephone, also known as Proserpina, Kore, Cora, and Catherine. Persephone was a goddess associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries and was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter (Ceres). Her name means the Maid. Such was their happiness that Persephone was inseparable from her mother. Zeus, without Demeter's knowledge, gave her in marriage to Hades who opened the earth and snatched her while she was gathering flowers. In sadness at this loss and unable to get Hades to relinquish her daughter, Demeter let the crops wither. Zeus then arranged a compromise in which Persephone would spend part the year with Demeter and then four months with the grim lord. And so we have the winter when the plants will not grow. This day has been celebrated from long ago as Women's Merrymaking Day, a time for festivity and rituals of female spirituality.

The future emperor Clodius Albinus was born this day. His father, Ceionius Postumus, wrote "A son was born to me on the seventh day before the kalends of December," in a letter to Aelius Bassianus, then proconsul of Africa.

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

Elder Month Begins
This is the 1st day of the 13th month in the 13 month Druidic calendar. The sequent letter is R, symbolic of the Elder or Myrtle tree. This Druidic calendar is a modern invention loosly based on the only Celtic calendar ever found, the "Coligny" found in France and dated to the first century CE.

Among the Yoruba and Santeria peoples, this day is one of the year's holiest and most solemn festivals, honoring Oya, Orisha of death and rebirth. Oya is a goddess of the Yoruba in western Africa. Her name means "tearer," for her tornadoes and floods tear up the calm surface of the Niger River. Dressed in blood red and using lightning as a sword, Oya is a terrifying figure. A warrior goddess, she is also a patron of female leadership.

In one story, Oya does not allow herself to be excluded by an all-male ancestral cult. She storms in and demands to be placed at the top of the great god Chango's staff so that she may go everywhere he goes. And he permits it, recognizing that he must appease her to retain his own power.

Legends describe Oya as a beautiful, violent, and utterly fearless warrior and say she is a daughter of Yemoja, goddess of the sea

St Catherine
St. Catherine was a virgin princess who refused to marry a pagan Emperor and was condemned to be broken on a spiked wheel, hence the Catherine wheel. Her name means purity. Because of her great erudition (she demolished the arguments of 50 philosophers), she's the patron of philosophers and jurists.

Matron of all who use the wheel, including wheelwrights, haberdashers, carters and spinners, she is also the matron of unmarried women (spinsters). She was also held dear by lacemakers, perhaps out of confusion with Queen Catherine of Aragon who, according to legend, burned all her lace and ordered new when times were hard. It is said that the rhyme "Kit be nimble, Kit be quick, Kit jump o'er the candlestick," derived from this occasion.

Helen Farias(The Beltane Papers) considers her an avatar of the Indo-European fire deities like Feronia whose feast (November 13) ushered in the period called Yule. She is possibly modeled after Kali who has a fiery wheel as an emblem. Certainly these images (found in the word Yule, the Advent candle wreath and St. Lucy's crown of candles) are ubiquitous at this time of year; as are folk customs forbidding women to spin (use a wheel). Durdin-Robertson(The Year of the Goddess: A Perpetual Calendar of Festivals) says St. Catherine is a Christian version of Nemesis, the Goddess of the Wheel of Fortune (and thus perhaps with Mary in her aspect as Mother of Divine Providence (November 19)). Spicer(Yearbook of English Festivals) notes that her English chapels are located on high hilltops at Abbotsbury and Milton Abbas, supposedly because the angels buried the original St. Catherine on the top of Mount Sinai. In earlier times, unmarried girls made pilgrimages to these high chapels to ask the saint to find them husbands.

In London and Paris, children went "caterning" for apples and beer, using their Catherine bowl. In England, women went about during the day, often dressed in men's clothes, singing working songs and visiting their neighbors who offered them wiggs and a drink made of warm beer, beaten eggs and rum. After dark, they set off fireworks, particularly Catherine wheels.

Spicer says the traditional foods for St Catherine's Day are wigs and Cattern cakes, the holiday fare of lace-makers. Kattern cakes are round cakes made from bread dough, caraway seeds, sugar and eggs, usually cut into wedges. Wiggs are made of flour, butter and sour milk, flavored with ginger and other spices. They are poured into muffin pans and the dough curls over the sides when cooking which makes it look like a wig. In French Canada, a seventeenth-century teacher, Marguerite Bourgeoys, let her students pull toffee on St. Catherine's day and this custom is still observed in Toronto where the day is called La Tire (toffee) Sainte-Catherine.

In Northampton, child laborers who worked at spinning took a day off to parade, placing their tallest girl at the front, dressed in white, as Queen. In France, twenty-five year old women are supposed to give her statue a new bonnet on this day. Thus they are called catherinettes, a name applied especially to milliners. According to Robson, this holiday was still observed in Parisian fashion houses and dress-making firms in 1930.

In France, women over 25 marched wearing little white paper caps in St Catherine's honor and choose a queen who they escort through the streets. "To wear St. Catherine's coif" was an expression that suggested the girl would become an old maid. An old English euphemism refers to menopause as "turning St. Catherine's corner." Perhaps she should also be acknowledged as the matron of menopause.

On her day in France, women have the right to ask men to marry them. She is also called upon for help in finding a husband, with rhymes like these:

St Catherine, St Catherine, O lend me thine aid
And grant that I never may die an old maid.

A husband, St Catherine,
A good one, St Catherine;
But arn-a-one better than
Narn-a-one, St Catherine.

Sweet St Catherine,
A husband, St Catherine,
Handsome, St Catherine,
Rich, St Catherine,
Soon, St Catherine.

In the Vodou tradition, she's associated with Oya, Queen of Change and Transformation.


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