Sunday, August 14, 2005

Ante Diem XIX Kalendas September

Modern Date : August 14th

Ante Diem XIX Kalendas September
Ninteenth Day to the Kalends of September

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

Liberius Severus, emperor of the western Roman empire, died this day in 465 AD, having been most certainly murdered by Ricimer.

Octavian celebrated the second of his triple triumphs on this day in 29 BC.

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.

Eve of the Assumption
According to the advice given by an elderly husband to his young wife in 1393, the eve of Assumption is a good time for planting parsley.

Tisha B'Av
On this the second day of Tisha B'Av, it's time to stress the emphasis on the heat of the summer, the feeling of dread, which links this with old superstitions about the dog days and their deleterious effects.

It was probably derived from a Babylonian festival, held on the ninth of Av, a day of dread and sorrow, the climax of a month-long celebration focused on torches and firewood. The Jews may have chosen this day to commemorate the burning of the Temple.

It is a day of deep mourning. Beginning at sundown, Jews don't eat or drink, wear leather, wash themselves, anoint their skin or hair with oils or perfume, or make love. The synagogue service is conducted like a funeral. The Ark of the Torah is draped in black, or left empty. There are no bright lights, just candles, and in some Sephardic and Eastern congregations, those are extinguished before the end of the service.

These proscriptions remind me of the customs associated with the Dog Days and the first three days of August in Greece (the Drimes). The Greeks also fast between August 1 and August 15th, which would (in the old lunar calendar) occur from the new to the full moon of Av.

The morning service the following day is also solemn, but in the afternoon the mood changes. In some communities, women put on perfume to welcome King Messiah. After sundown, the fast is broken, and Jews wash their faces and go outside to hallow the moon. It is said that in the days of the Messiah, the moon will be restored to equality with the sun.

Blessing of the Grapes
In Armenia, the blessing of the Grapes takes place on the Sunday closest to the Assumption (they coincide this year). No grapes are eaten until today when they are taken to church to be blessed, then distributed to the churchgoers when they leave. Women named Mary have parties in vineyards or their homes (because this is considered their name day--as in many cultures, the saint's day associated with your name is celebrated like a birthday).