Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Kalends of August - Lughnasadh

Modern Date : August 1st

The Kalends of August

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

This day was sacred to the lares compitales, the lords of the crossroads. On this day temples were dedicated to Spes, the Victories and to Mars Ultor. Spes was the abstract deification of Hope.

The emperor Claudius was born at Lugdunum (Lyons) in 10 BCE.

The emperor Pertinax was born at Alba Pompeia in Liguria in 126 AD.

The 7th and 8th Roman aqueducts were dedicated by Claudius on this day in 50 AD and named Claudia and New Anio.

August was originally called Sextilis, or the sixth month (after March). It was renamed in honor of Augustus Caesar, the most revered of the Roman emperors. Demeter or Ceres is the tutelary goddess of August. August is one of the Western calendar's two months which are named for persons of power. The month of August, originally called October ("eighth month"), has borne the name of Augustus ever since the year 14, when the Roman Senate voted to honor the late princeps after a reign of 41 years as the first and arguably the greatest of the Roman emperors. The seventh month of July was named in honor of his mentor and adoptive father, Julius Caesar.

The Anglo-Saxon name for this month was Weodmonath, "vegetation month." Aranmanoth, "corn ears month," was the Frankish name. The Asatru call it Harvest. The Irish name this month Lunasa or an Lunasdal. It comes from the early Irish Lughnassadh, the festival of Lugh.

The first Full Moon is called the Sturgeon or Corn or Barley Moon, names it shares with September. August's moon is also referred to as the Dispute Moon and the Moon When Cherries Turn Black. It shares the name Thunder Moon with July.

Leo gives way to Virgo around August 23rd as the sun passes from the constellation of Leo. Gladiolas are the flowers for people born in this month. August's stone is carnelian, sardonyx, moonstone, topaz, alexandrite, or peridot. The birthstones of Leo are onyx, ruby, and smoky quartz, while Virgo claims the sapphire. Other stones associated with Leo are amber, carnelian, chrysocolla, citrine, fire agate, garnet, pink tourmaline, ruby, and topaz. Virgo is connected to amazonite, amber, carnelian, chrysocolla, and citrine.

Universal Midsummer Festival
Universal Midsummer Festival, one of the four great Midseason Festivals in the solar year and the life cycle of Mother Earth. The early days of August are the time of countless festivals of love, abundance and magic, and communications with Nature, especially animals. This is the time of Lammas, the Norse Lughnassadh and the Celtic Teltane, the Festival of New Bread, which begins the early harvest season that runs for three months until Samhain (Oct. 31 - Nov. 3).

This is traditionally the phase of the year in which the power of the god wanes as the goddess waxes. This transition is symbolized in the zodiac by the fading solar energy of Leo yielding to the fertility of Virgo, bearer of grain, grapes and the harvest of the future. At this time the first fruits of the grain harvest are celebrated throughout the Northern hemisphere in the baking and offering of ritual bread and cakes. In Aztec time reckoning, this is the Festival of Xiuhtecuhtli, god of the calendar.

Lunar Holy Days
The second Friday of August is the celebration of the Burryman in the town of Queensferry, Scotland. The Burryman is matted head to toe with burrs with a hat made from 70 roses and one dahlia. He walks around the edge of town slowly, speaking to no one. The respectful townspeople offer donations. Some theories consider him a forgotten fertility god of fishing. Other theories state he may represent a scapegoat figure, carrying off the town's guilt in his burrs.

Lughnasadh, Lughnas, or Lughnasa is held in honor of Lug of the Long Hand, god of light and the declining sun. It may mean "Lugh's Wedding," but is more often considered to have originated in funeral games held honor of Lug's foster-mother Tailltiu. Tailte or Tailltiu was a chieftainess of the Fir Bolg. The Tailtenean games were held every year at Talten or Teltown, a mountain in Meath, for fifteen days before, and fifteen days after, the first of August. In addition to the sports played at this event, there were marriage contracts made in the "Marriage Hollow."

This is the first festival marking the transformation of the goddess into her Earth Mother aspect. This is also a harvest celebration of wild foods and the first harvest of the year. During medieval times, a maiden dressed in white would sit atop a hill while villagers placed offerings of blackberries, acorns, and crab apples in her lap. A dance and procession home followed. Under Christian dominance, this holy day became "loaf-mass" or Lammas. Into the 1900s, Scottish farmers ceremonially cut handfuls of grain to twirl around their heads in honor of the harvest god. Sickles were thrown to divine who would marry, grow ill, or die before the next Lammas. The first grain was cut and baked into a loaf to be offered to the goddess in thanksgiving.

Fair of Carman
The people of Leinster at Carman or Wexford held the Fair of Carman, a provincial aenach, once every three years, beginning on Lughnasad and ending on the sixth. For holding the fair, they were promised various blessings, i.e. plenty and prosperity, corn, milk, and fruit in abundance, and freedom from subjection to any other province. Carman exhibits to a marked degree the concept of the magical powers of the female as opposed to the physical force employed by the male. Carman and her three sons"came from Athens to Wexford." Women played a conspicuous part in this fair; the women had aireachts of their own to discuss those subjects specially pertaining to women. There was also racing, poetic competition, satires, and history.

Emain Macha
The annual fair meeting at Emain - Emain Macha, near Ard Macha or Armagh- was established honor Queen Macha of the Golden Hair, who had founded the palace there. The three Machas are, Macha wife of Nemed, Macha wife of Crunnchu, and Macha the Red. The third Macha, Mongruadh, "of the Red (or Golden) Hair", reigned as Queen of Ireland. In some places, it was the custom to light a great bonfire an certain hills. A wheel, which was normally a heavy oaken wagon-wheel, was heated until it glowed red, and then it was bowled down the hillside. From its course, auguries were made on the coming season. The wheel symbolized the descent of the sun from its midsummer height. The festival of Lughnasadh was also associated with the myth of the marriage of Lugh to Bloddeuedd on the continent.

The Greeks honor the first three days of August as a transition point in the year. Proverbs such as "August has come--the first step of winter," and "Winter begins in August, summer in March," reflect the sense of change which occurs on this quarter-day.

August is a favorite month because of its abundance. On the isle of Lesbos, August is welcomed with the exclamation "August! Figs and walnuts!" said while jumping across bonfires built at crossroads. This is also a time for house-cleaning, all night parties in vineyards and making offerings to the spirits of the dead. According to the Greeks, the third day of August predicts the weather for the next three months.

The first three days of August, the Drimes, are especially significant. They are called the "sharp days." People avoid chopping wood, washing hair, swimming in the sea and (children especially) going out in the noonday sun. Washing clothes is also forbidden although if it must be done, putting a nail in the laundry will nail the sharp days. These proscriptions (like that on eating meat) recall the celebration of Tisha B'Av and the Hebrew month of Av usually overlaps with August.

August 1st is the start of a meat-free period which lasts until the Feast of the Assumption (August 15). Probably in earlier times, the fasting period extended from the new moon to the full moon of August and the feast of Artemis-Hecate. Urlin says Greek Christians, Copts and Armenians call this period of fasting "Assumption Lent."

For all of the trepidation of the Sharp Days, August is a favorite month of the Greeks, where old prints show fruits or sheaves of wheat with the traditional verse: "August, my lovely month, come twice a year." Storace writes:

"This is the month that gives the greatest feeling of security, overflowing abundance, of ease and earned pleasure, when the farmers have stored in their cellars grains and corn, hay and feed for their animals, wood for their fires. August is the month of the richest eating, with its seemingly endless fruits and vegetables, "so many you need shawls to gather them."
Storace, Patricia, Dinner with Persephone, Pantheon 1996

Greater Panatheneae
This Athenian festival, the most important of the year, was celebrated every fifth year on the last day of the first month of the year, in the brilliant heat and light of summer. It was a time for excess and the display of the new peplos or veil, woven for Athena out of white wool and gold threads, which was so large it was used as a sail on one of the boats in her procession.

Honey Day
In a custom similar to those involving horses at Lughnasa in Ireland, Russians used to bring their horses to the church to be blessed on the first of August. If there was a river in the village, the priest blessed that and the horses were driven into it.

St Faith
There are two Saint Faiths. This one is the spurious daughter of the spurious St. Sophia. Her sisters are Hope and Charity.

A good day for reviewing your beliefs. Or for pondering this selection from T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

St Peter's Chains
A feast commemorating the escape of St Peter from the prison into which he was thrust by Herod. In the middle of the night he was awakened by a bright light heralding the presence of an angel. His chains fell off, the angel walked him past all of his guards and the iron gate to the city opened before them. Then the angel disappeared.

Feast of the Progress of the Precious and Vivifying Cross
Macedonians light bonfires at dusk on this holy day, and boys jump over them saying, "Dig up! Bury!" They also feast on meat as this is the beginning of a two-week fast from meat, in preparation for the Feast of the Repose of the Virgin (Assumption).