Friday, August 12, 2005

Pridie Idus August

Modern Date : August 12th

Pridie Idus August
The Festival of Hercules

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

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.

The Festival of Hercules
This day was sacred to Hercules, the Greek Heracles. Called the Son of God by virtue of his having Jupiter as father and an earthly mother, his image was beloved by the common people. He was viewed as a savior to the oppressed, and his people, the Heracleidae, were persecuted after his death. Legend held that he had raised two people from the dead, had descended into hades for three days, suffered an excruciating death, and returned after his death to show his closest friends that he was still alive, before ascending bodily into heaven. Such a story is completely improbable, of course, but the face and story of Hercules spawned deep admiration among the people, a fact not ignored by early Christian leaders and writers.

The historical Greek Heracles lived about 1300 BC or earlier, before the Trojan War, was contemporary to a young Theseus, and reportedly won military victories both far to the East (India) and the West (Spain). Although biographies existed of this military leader (i.e. Plutarch), they seem to have been singled out and systematically destroyed, with only the myths remaining. Historian and archeologist John Romer argues convincingly that the face of Hercules still exists in the familiar face of Jesus portrayed as a white European with straight hair, having replaced the original image of Jesus as a dark-skinned Palestinian with an afro, who had "a swarthy complexion and hair like wool" common to 1st century Jews. The Gospel John (18:3-9) explains that he could not be distinguished from his apostles. There is, in fact, one surviving image of an apostle, Thomas, and it remains on an inner wall of an ancient church of the St. Thomas Christians in India. He is distinctively portrayed as a 1st century Jew with dark skin and black curly hair.

On this day the Romans sacrificed oxen to Hercules and held a public feast. Women were excluded from sharing the sacrificial meat. On this day were consecrated temples to Venus Victrix (Venus of Victory), Hermes Invictrix (Mercury Invincible), Honos (Honor), Virtus (Virtue), and Felicitas (Felicity or Happiness).

Festival of Lights
The Lychnapsia or Lignapsia, “Festival of Lights,” or “The Lights of Isis” is part of the Osirian mysteriers, celebrating Isis’ quest for her spouse in the darkness by torchlight. This became a Christian holy day dedicated to St. Clare, considered the first person to practice the total poverty of St. Francis of Assisi. This is also the Day of Sekhmet's repulsion of Set.

This is a major Egyptian festival cycle, enacting the climactic event in the legends of Isis and Osiris: the final combat between Set, brother and murderer of Osiris; and Horus, son of Isis and Osiris, the young solar hero who would be embodied in every living pharaoh.

The events of the cycle (Month of Thuthi [Thoth], days 25 - 30):

8/12 Feast of the Lights of Isis, one of the main mystical events of the Osirian mysteries, celebrating the lamp of wisdom and service, and, perhaps, the growth of the light body. This day became the feast of the eponymous St. Claire ("clear, splendid") in Christian calendars.

8/13 Ritual battle between Horus and Set. While the actual combat was said to have lasted 80 years, with predictable strain on the environment of Egypt, this day enacts the main events: loss and restoration of Horus' eye and Set's testicle, and other harrowing episodes.

8/14 Day of reconciliation between Horus and Set, marking the decision of the Neters in council that Horus and Set will have to live in peace, thus symbolically balancing order and chaos, life and death, light and darkness, earth and sky. This becomes one of the most influential duality paradigms of the ancient world.

8/17 Climactic rituals celebrating orderly balance among the male principles of the Sun (Ra), the Sky (Horus) and the Earth (Set).