Saturday, July 30, 2005

Pridie Kalendas August - Lughnasah

Pridie Kalendas August - Lughnasah

Modern Date : July 31st
Pridie Kalendas August
Day Before the Kalends of August

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

On this day in 398, Gildo, who led a revolt in Africa against the empire, was defeated at Tabraca by Stilicho, a Vandal, and one of Theodosius' generals.

July was named in honor of Julius Caesar, and was formerly called Quinctilis, or the fifth month (after March).

The Irish sacrificial god, Domhnach Chrom Dubh, is connected with the festival of Lammas as John Barleycorn, a personification of grain. Although Lugh is prominently thought of at Lughnasah, the god most associated with the ancient festival is “Crom Dubh,” the “dark bent one.” Crom Dubh is stooped from carrying sheaves of wheat to mankind from the Otherworld and dark from his time spent in the underworld sidhe of Aine. He emerges from the Otherworld on about August 1, the beginning of the harvest. In recent years there has been a small movement in Ireland to shift the national Irish holiday of St. Patrick’s day in March to a celebration of the principal god of the land, Crom Dubh, in August.

Hence, the last Sunday in July in Ireland is known as Crom Dubh’s Sunday and is marked with the annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, where Patrick allegedly fasted for 40 days and battled demons. Until then the mountain was sacred to a pagan deity, Crom Cruach (Crom of the Reek). Pilgrims often climb the mountain barefoot.

Celebrating Lughnasah
The year is 1100. The date is August 1. The monks in the abbey at Gloucester are celebrating the holy-day of St. Peter in Chains. One of the monks wakes from a strange dream in which God promises to strike down the wicked King who has abused the Holy Church. His superior, Abbot Serlo, on hearing of the dreams sends a warning to the King, William the Red, who has oppressed all of England with taxes and disgusted many with his licentiousness and blasphemy. Red, as he is called, receives the message the following day while preparing to indulge in one of his favorite sports, hunting, in the New Forest. Although there are no longer any people dwelling in the New Forest — they were all cleared out by Red's father, William the Conqueror — there are rumors that it's a hotbed of pagan activity. And August 2 is an important pagan holy-day. The Saxons call it Lammas, the Loaf-Mass. William the Red laughs at the warning from the monks and goes out hunting. A short time later, he is dead, struck in the chest by a stray arrow, and his brother, Henry, who was in the hunting party is riding hot-foot for Winchester and the crown. Now some people say that William the Red was a Lammas sacrifice, that having made a wasteland of his kingdom, he was killed by the people (or the Gods) as a sacrifice to bring new life to the land. And some people say his brother Henry has him assassinated. And some people say that both versions are true.

The Celts celebrate this festival from sunset August 1 until sunset August 2 and call it Lughnasad after the God Lugh. It is the wake of Lugh, the Sun-King, whose light begins to dwindle after the summer solstice. The Saxon holiday of Lammas celebrates the harvesting of the grain. The first sheaf of wheat is ceremonially reaped, threshed, milled and baked into a loaf. The grain dies so that the people might live. Eating this bread, the bread of the Gods, gives us life. If all this sounds vaguely Christian, it is. In the sacrament of Communion, bread is blessed, becomes the body of God and is eaten to nourish the faithful. This Christian Mystery echoes the pagan Mystery of the Grain God. Grain has always been associated with Gods who are killed and dismembered and then resurrected from the Underworld by the Goddess-Gods like Tammuz, Osiris and Adonis. The story of Demeter and Persephone is a story about the cycle of death and rebirth associated with grain. Demeter, the fertility Goddess, will not allow anything to grow until she finds her daughter who has been carried off to the Underworld. The Eleusinian Mysteries, celebrated around the Autumn Equinox, culminated in the revelation of a single ear of corn, a symbol to the initiate of the cyclical nature of life, for the corn is both seed and fruit, promise and fulfillment. You can adapt the themes of Lughnasad and Lammas to create your own ceremony for honoring the passing of the light and the reaping of the grain.

Honoring the Grain God or Goddess
Bake a loaf of bread on Lammas. If you've never made bread before, this is a good time to start. Honor the source of the flour as you work with it: remember it was once a plant growing on the mother Earth. If you have a garden, add something you've harvested--herbs or onion or corn--to your bread. If you don't feel up to making wheat bread, make corn bread. Or gingerbread people. Or popcorn. What's most important is intention. All that is necessary to enter sacred time is an awareness of the meaning of your actions. Shape the dough in the figure of a man or a woman and give your grain-person a name. If he's a man, you could call him Lugh, the Sun-King, or John Barleycorn, or the Pillsbury Dough Boy, or Adonis or Osiris or Tammuz. Pauline Campanelli in The Wheel of the Year suggests names for female figures: She of the Corn, She of the Threshing Floor, She of the Seed, She of the Great Loaf (these come from the Cyclades where they are the names of fertility figures), Freya (the Anglo-Saxon and Norse fertility Goddess who is, also called the Lady and the Giver of the Loaf), the Bride (Celtic) and Ziva or Siva (the Grain Goddess of, the Ukraine, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia).

Like all holidays, Lammas calls for a feast. When your dough figure is baked and ready to eat, tear him or her apart with your fingers. The next part of the ceremony is best done with others. Feed each other hunks of bread (or gingerbread people or popcorn), putting the food in the other person's mouth with words like "May you never go hungry," "May you always be nourished," "Eat of the bread of life" or "May you live forever." Offer each other drinks of water or wine with similar words. As if you were at a wake, make toasts to the passing summer, recalling the best moments of the year so far.

Bilberry Sunday
The Sundays before and after Lammas were the usual times for celebrating a feast that was essentially communal. People climbed to the top of high mountains, picking bilberries as they went, thus giving rise to the popular name of Bilberry Sunday. Bilberries (also known as whortle-berries and blaeberries) are the small, dark-blue berries of the vaccinium myrtillus a hardy shrub that grow on heaths and sunny moors in Great Britain and Northern Europe. They are one of the first berries to ripen (in Seattle, I go out picking blackberries on this day). In some places, boys thread the berries on grass stalks and make bracelets of them for the girls of their choice. In Cashel Plantin' in County Armagh, these strung berries were brought home as presents and kept around the house for luck. Often people left offerings of flowers and grains at the top of the mountains. Many scholars believe this was because Lugh was a sun-god. But some of the Irish folks surveyed by MacNeill said the offerings were left for the fairies, who would be extraordinarily active on quarter days. MacNeill believes the practice of standing on a peak overlooking the landscape, keeps alive a passion for the land and its history.

St. Joseph of Arimathea
In the Roman Catholic calendar, feast of St. Joseph of Arimathea, guardian of the Holy Grail. Early Welsh Genealogies show us that most of the Early British Monarchies claimed descent in one way or another from Beli Mawr (the Great) who can be identified with the Celtic God, Belenos. However, in his mortal form, Beli was said to have been the husband of Anna, the daughter of St. Joseph of Arimathea.

At first sight, this claim may seem quite extraordinary. St. Joseph was the man who had taken Christ's body down from the cross and given up his own tomb for Christ's last resting-place, a conveniet place to safeguard a king. Calvary hill where the crucifixion took place was also owned by Joseph. It has been theorized that Jesus was taken down from the cross while still alive, hence his resurrection. It is known that Jesus staged his own capture, sending Judas to alert the Roman guard as to his where abouts. Apocryphal legend tells us that Joseph of Arimathea was the Virgin Mary's paternal uncle. Joseph of Arimathea was a highly respected Jewish councillor, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Judaic community under the
Romans. He was a secret disciple of Jesus who took no part in Jesus condemnation. Joseph seems to have done his utmost to persuade Pilate to speed the release of the body of Jesus. One source seems to suggest that a large bribe was paid by the wealthy Joseph to expedite matters. This is quite possible. The Bishop of Antioch writing in 180 AD quoted from the Apocryphal 'Gospel of Peter' that Joseph of Arimathea was a close friend of Pontius Pilate.

"Now there stood there Joseph, the friend of Pilate and of the Lord, and knowing that they were about to crucify him he came to Pilate and begged the body of the Lord for Burial. And Pilate sent to Herod and begged his body. And Herod said, 'Brother Pilate, even if no one had begged him, we should bury him, since the Sabbath is drawing on. For it stands written in the law: the sun should not set on one that hasbeen put to death." - Gospel of Peter 2:2-5a

After the resurrection, he left Palestine with Saints Philip, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, and her child (The Grail or the bloodline of Christ), and sailed through the Mediterranean to Southern France. Lazarus & Mary stayed in Marseilles. Lazarus may have been Jesus in disguise, given that as a disposed king who was hunted by the Roman Empire, he and his conspirators would have been imediately killed. Joseph with the others in the party travelled north. At the English Channel, St.Philip sent Joseph, with twelve disciples, to establish Christianity in the most far-flung corner of the Roman Empire.

Joseph had been chosen for such a task, because he knew Britain well already. He was a merchant by trade and had conducted business with the Dumnonian tin-miners and Durotrigian lead-miners of Britain many times before. Some even say that he sometimes brought his nephew, Jesus, with him on these trading missions. Hence the words of Blake's famous hymn, Jerusalem:

And did those feet, in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green?

West Country legend has it that Joseph sailed around Land's End and headed for what was to eventually become Glastonbury in Somerset. Here his boat ran ashore and, together with his followers, he climbed a nearby hill to survey the surrounding land. Having brought with him a staff grown from Christ's Holy Crown of Thorns, he thrust it into the ground and announced that he and his twelve companions were "Weary All". The thorn staff immediately took miraculous root, and it can be seen there still on Wearyall Hill.

Joseph met with the local ruler and soon secured himself twelve hides of land at Glastonbury on which to build the first monastery in Britain. From here he became Britain's evangelist. So it is not surprising that the monarchies of that country wished to establish themselves as St. Joseph's descendants: especially considering the more pagan ancestors already claimed in their pedigrees. By marrying Joseph's daughter to a pre-Christian deity, the royal genealogists were able to show that Christianity had been victorious over the old pagan ways. But why specifically choose Beli Mawr as Anna's husband? Chronologically speaking, if Anna married a Briton after her father arrived in this country, then we must assume that she was nearer to Jesus' age than her cousin, Mary (ie. born c. 0). Beli is recorded in the Mabinogion and Welsh Genealogies as having been the father of Caswallon (or Cassivellaunus), the leader of the Celtic tribes who repelled Cæsar's invasions of 55 & 54 bc. He could, therefore, not possibly have married Anna of Arimathea. Moreover, the local ruler whom Joseph received his land gift from, is said to have been Arfyrag (or Arviragus), Beli & Anna's supposed great great grandson. In fact, here we have another case of pagan gods taking on the guise of Christian saints in order to smooth the path of conversion. For Celtic mythology tells us that Beli (or Belenos) did not marry a lady named Anna, but the great Celtic Goddess named Anu. Anu appears in the Celtic World under several names but they all stem from the same route: Anu, Danu, Dana, Don. She was a Mother-Goddess particularly associated with the founding and prosperity of Ireland. She was especially popular in Munster, though her most lasting memorial is a mountain in County Kerry called the "Breast of Anu" (Dá Chích Anann). St. Anne probably owes her popularity in Brittany to this goddess, as do the names of numerous St. Anne's Wells throughout Britain.

However, the claims of the British Kings cannot be quite so easily dismissed. The Celtic God-King, Bran Fendigaid (the Blessed), who may or may not have been an early King of Siluria, is also often accredited with being the man to have brought Christianity to the British Isles. Unfortunately, this is due to a confusion with the historical Cunobelin (Arfyrag's father) who, though he died prior to the Roman Invasion of AD 43, was thought to have been taken captive to Rome where he became converted to Christianity. He appears to be the same figure as the Ancestral Fisher-King of Arthurian legend, Bron or Brons, said, in late legend, to have been given the Holy Grail by St. Joseph of Arimathea. This was, in reality Bran's magic cauldron of Celtic myth. Brons was also thought to have been a relative of St. Joseph: the husband of his sister, Enygeus. The mythical Bran was Beli Mawr's grandson: just the right age to marry St. Joseph's daughter; and Enygeus is a Latin form of Anna. Could Bran have been her husband? Was he blessed by his father-in-law?

Feast of the Trickster
In the Norse calendar, feast of the trickster and fire god Loki andhis consort Sigyn. Loki is one of the major deities in the Norse pantheon. He is a son of the giant Farbauti ("cruel striker") and the giantess Laufey. He is regarded as one of Aesir, but is on occasion their enemy. He is connected with fire and magic, and can assume many different shapes (horse, falcon, fly). He is crafty and malicious, but is also heroic: in that aspect he can be compared with the trickster from North American myths. The ambivalent god grows progressively more unpleasent, and is directly responsible for the death of Balder, the god of light.

Loki's mistress is the giantess Angrboda, and with her he is the father of three monsters. His wife is Sigyn, who stayed loyal to him, even when the gods punished him for the death of Balder. He was chained to three large boulders; one under his shoulders, one under his loins and one under his knees. A poisonous snake was placed above his head. The dripping venom that lands on him is caught by Sigyn in a bowl. But every now and then, when the bowl is filled to the brim, she has to leave him to empty it. Then the poison that falls on Loki's face makes him twist in pain, causing earthquakes.

On the day of Ragnarok, Loki's chains will break and he will lead the giants into battle against the gods. Loki is often called the Sly One, the Trickster, the Shape Changer, and the Sky Traveler. According to Georges Dumézil, Loki shows a great resemblance withSyrdon, a demonic creature from Caucasian legends.

St Neot's Fair
St Neot was a monk of Glastonbury who became a hermit in what is now called St Neot in Cornwall. Supposedly he was a valued advisor of St Alfred. One legend about him says he harnessed stags to his plough. This story may derive from stories told about the mythical Irish King, Nuada Silver-Arm.

Uinal of Warriors
In Mayan calendar systems, this day begins the Uinal of Warriors, the fourth of the 20-day uinals in the cycle (9 Imix, Tzolkin 61). This uinal, symbolized by the Quail, represents the limiting principle of reaction after the three uinals of growth that begin the Tzolkin cycle.

On this day the planet Chiron moves back from Aquarius into Capricorn for the next four months, until Dec. 6.