Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ante Diem X Kalendas September

Modern Date : August 25th Market Day

Ante Diem X Kalendas September
The Opiconsivia

This day (NP), is for special religious observance.

The Opiconsivia
This day is sacred to Ops Consivia, or the earth-goddess, is associated with the god Consus, but is considered to be the wife of Saturn. The shrine to Ops Consivia was located in the Regia and on this day the Vestal Virgins would have opened the room of sacred objects and performed rites unknown. The purpose of the rites was to ensure the fertility of the earth.

The Vandal Stilicho, who controlled the forces of the Western Roman empire was murdered this day in 408 AD.

The sack of Rome by the Visigoths continued for a third day today in 410 AD. When the rape and pillage was over a baggage train of spoils and enslaved Romans 10 miles long left Rome and headed north.

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

The Council of Nicea
The Council of Nicea, in Greece, met this day in 325 and decided which books would form the Gospels and the New Testament, and which gospels and books would be excluded or destroyed. Among the losers were the Gospel of Thomas(twin in Greek) and the mystic revelation of John. The Gospel of Thomas, although containing the complete spoken words of Jesus and predating the other four gospels, made no mention of any miracles -- as if they had never happened. The Christians needed miracles to prove their claim that Jesus was actually the son of God, and so the Gospel of Thomas was discredited and destroyed. Two partial copies survived and were found buried in the Israeli desert in the 1940s. In spite of many objections, the council of Nicea voted to add the Torah and several selected books of the Old Testament to the newly named Bible, so as to give it the appearance of authenticity. Thomas to some biblical scholars is known as the birth-twin of Jesus and who battle with Peter for control over Jesus's legacy. See for complete translation.

On this, the last day of Odin's Ordeal, he discovered the runes....

The World Tree
The world tree Yggdrasil is central to the Heathen cosmos, encompassing the nine worlds of gods, men, giants and all the other beings who exist. Exactly which are the nine worlds depends on who you listen to, but nine is a magical number and should not be taken literally. Those most often advanced as the nine worlds are Asgard, Vanaheim, Alfheim (or Ljóssalfheim), Midgard, Jotunheim, Svartaflheim, Niflheim, Muspellheim and Hel (or Helheim). In Gylfaginning, in the Prose Edda, Yggdrasil is described like this:

Then spoke Gangleri: `Where is the chief centre or holy place of the gods?'

High replied: `It is at the ash Yggdrasil. There the gods must hold their courts each day.'

Then spoke Gangleri: `What is there to tell about that place?'

Then said Just-as-high: `The ash is of all trees the biggest and best. Its branches spread out over all the world and extend across the sky. Three of the tree's roots support it and extend very, very far. One is among the Æsir, the second among the frost-giants, where Ginnungagap once was. The third extends over Niflheim, and under that root is Hvergelmir, and Nidhogg gnaws the bottom of the root. But under the root that reaches towards the frost-giants, there is where Mimir's well is, which has wisdom and intelligence contained in it, and the master of the well is called Mimir. He is full of learning because he drinks of the well from the horn Giallarhorn....

`The third root of the ash extends to heaven, and beneath that root is a well which is very holy, called Weird's well. There the gods have their court. Every day the Æsir ride there up over Bifrost. It is also called As-bridge....'

High said: `…There stands there one beautiful hall under the ash by the well, and out of this hall come three maidens whose names are Weird, Verdandi, Skuld. These maidens shape men's lives. We call them norns.…

`…There is an eagle sits in the branches of the ash, and it has knowledge of many things, and between its eyes sits a hawk called Verdfolnir. A squirrel called Ratatosk runs up and down through the ash and carries malicious messages between the eagle and Nidhogg. Four stags run in the branches of the ash and feed on the foliage. Their names are: Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, Durathor. And there are so many snakes in Hvergelmir with Nidhogg that no tongue can enumerate them. As it says here:

The ash Yggdrasil suffers hardships more than people realise. Stag bites above, and at the sides it rots, Nidhogg eats away at it below.

`It is also said that the norns that dwell by Weird's well take water from the well each day and with it the mud that lies round the well and pour it up over the ash so that its branches may not rot or decay. And this water is so holy that all things that come into that well go as white as the membrane … that lies round the inside of an egg.…

`The dew that falls from it on to the earth, this is what people call honeydew, and from it bees feed. Two birds feed in Weird's well. They are called swans, and from these birds has come that species of bird that has that name.'

`Yggr' means `Terrible One', that is, Odin:

Odin I am called now, Terrible One I was called before,
I was Thund before that...

The word `Yggdrasil', then, means `Steed of the Terrible One'. On Yggdrasil Odin sacrificed himself to himself, hanging wounded from the great tree in his search for knowledge:

I know that I hung on a windy tree nine long nights,
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin, myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows from where its roots run

No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
downwards I peered; I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.

Nine mighty spells I learnt from the famous son
of Bolthor, Bestla's father,
and I got a drink of the precious mead,
poured from Odrerir.

Then I began to quicken and be wise…

According to Kevin Crossley-Holland, The image of Odin `riding' the ash is appropriate, for Old Norse poets often spoke of a gallows tree as a horse. Odin's sacrifice wins him the knowledge of the runes, eighteen of them (as detailed in the following stanzas of the Hávamál) which give him great power; he learns from his maternal uncle — a very close relationship in ancient Germanic societies — nine mighty spells, and he obtains (the story is told more fully in the Skáldskaparmál) a drink of the mead of poetry.

The Norse seem to have visualised the cosmos as being in three levels, sometimes this is visualised something like those old-fashioned cake stands in which three plates are held one above another with space between to hold cakes. This is simplistic, though, and ignores uncomfortable facts (such as the river boundary between Jotunheim and Asgard). According to Gylfaginning, quoting the Völuspá, it is stated that at the beginning there was nothing but the great gap (Ginnungagap). There was no sand or sea, no earth or sky, and nothing grew. The first world, according to Third in Gylfaginning, was Muspell:

But first there was the world in the southern region called Muspell. It is bright and hot. That area is flaming and burning and it is impassible for those that are foreigners there and are not native to it. There is one called Surt that is stationed there at the frontier to defend the land. He has a flaming sword and at the end of the world he will go and wage war and defeat all the gods and burn the whole world with fire.

The interraction between the fire of Muspellheim and the icy cold of Niflheim in the north sets the creation process going, they meet in the Ginnungagap and from their meeting comes life: the frost-giant Ymir and the primeval cow, Audhumla. The cow licks a man from the ice, and this man's grandsons were the brothers Odin, Vili and Ve. The brothers kill Ymir and from the body of the slain giant they create the nine worlds; his blood formed the seas encircling the earth.

On the top level are Asgard, Vanaheim and Alfheim. Asgard is the realm of the Æsir, the gods; here is where Valhalla, where the Einherjar fight each day and feast each evening as they await Ragnarok. Vanaheim is the land of the Vanir, another tribe of gods with whom the Æsir have a war; but the Vanir seem to be undefeatable so peace terms are made and hostages exchanged: the fertility deities Niord and his children Freyr and Freyja go to live with the Æsir, and Hænir and Mimir go to live with the Vanir (but Ynglinga saga relates how Hænir, because he always refuses to answer any difficult question in a Thing when Mimir is not present, but instead calls for others to give their advice, raises suspicions that the Æsir had deceived the Vanir in the exchange and so Mimir's head gets sent back to the Æsir).

Alfheim is the home of the light-elves:

There live the folk called light-elves, but dark-elves live down in the ground, and they are unlike them in appearance, and even more unlike them in nature. Light-elves are fairer than the sun to look at, but dark elves are blacker than pitch.

The second level, the middle level, is Midgard, the world inhabited by humans. It was seen as being surrounded by a sea so vast that it would seem impossible to cross. The world-serpent Jormungand lay in this great ocean, encircling Midgard and biting his own tail. On this level was also Jotunheim, the giants' realm; this was either in mountains at the eastern edge of Midgard or across the ocean. In the north of Midgard lay the home of the dwarfs, Nidavellir, where they lived in caves and potholes; beneath somewhere was Svartaflheim, the land of the dark-elves. Although Jotunheim is on the middle level and Asgard on the top, the river Iving, which never ices over, forms a boundary between them, and there are tales of gods and giants travelling overland between Asgard and Jotunheim without passing through Midgard. The Heathen cosmos is not one which can simply be mapped. Linking Asgard and Midgard is the flaming rainbow bridge Bifrost, described in Gylfaginning as being very strong.

The bottom level is where Niflheim, the world of the dead, lies nine days' ride north and down from Midgard. Niflheim is bitterly cold, a land of unending night. Here lies the citadel of Hel, a female monster, half black and half white. Evil men end up in Niflheim when dead. Down here, near the spring Hvergelmir, Nidhogg gnaws on Yggdrasil's roots.

At the centre of all the worlds is Yggdrasil, which seems to have no origin and exist timelessly (and will survive Ragnarok). Ragnarok sustains and suffers from, as we've seen already, the animals living in and on it; and the Norns Urð (Wyrd — what has gone before), Verðandi (what now is) and Skuld (what should be) in turn sustain it. As `Odin's Horse' it carries the All-Father on his quest for knowledge. All the worlds are encompassed by Yggdrasil, it holds and protects them all.

The Nativity of Horus
In Egypt, this day was the Nativity of Horus. Horus was son of the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, and the brother and son of Isis. Horus is closey associated with that of Jesus as is his mother Isis, associated with Mary. The name "Horus" is a general catchall for multiple deities, the most famous of whom is Harseisis (Heru-sa-Aset) or Horus-son-of-Isis (sometimes called Horus the Younger) who was conceived after the death of his father, Osiris, and who later avenged him. In all the Horus deities the traits of kingship, sky and solar symbology, and victory reoccur. As the prototype of the earthly king, there were as many Horus gods as there were rulers of Egypt, if not more.

The oldest of the Horus gods is appropriately named Horus the Elder (Heru-ur), and was especially venerated in pre-Dynastic Upper Egypt along with Hathor. In this very ancient form, Horus is also a creator god, the falcon who flew up at the beginning of time. The pre-Pharaohnic rulers of Upper Egypt were considered "shemsu-Heru" or "followers of Horus", and the original Horus is himself considered in some myths to be the brother of Seth and Osiris, second-born of the five children of Geb and Nut (Osiris, Horus, Seth, Isis, Nephthys). Horus the Elder's city was Letopolis, and his eyes were thought to be the sun and moon. When these two heavenly bodies are invisible (as on the night of the new moon) he goes blind and takes the name Mekhenty-er-irty, "He who has no eyes". When he recovers them, he becomes Khenty-irty, "He who has eyes". A warrior-god armed with a sword, Horus could be especially dangerous to those around him in his vision-deprived state, and during one battle in particular he managed to not only knock off the heads of his enemies but of the other deities fighting alongside him, thus plunging the world into immediate confusion that was only relieved when his eyes returned.

Other notable Horus gods are the previously mentioned Harseisis, as well as Horus of Behdet (sometimes called simply Behdety) who was represented as a winged sun disk, Anhur (a form of Horus the Elder and Shu), Horakhety (Ra-Heru-akhety) who was a syncretism of Ra and Horus, and Harpokrates (Heru-pa-khered) or Horus the Child. In the form of Harpokrates, Horus is the danger-beset son of Isis with one finger to his lips, signifying his childish nature (also evident in his princely sidelock and naked status). Harpokrates represented not only the royal heir, but also the newborn sun.

Horus deities are frequently depicted as hawks or hawk-headed men, though some are represented as fully human. The pharaoh was considered to be the Living Horus, the temporal stand-in for Horus in the earthly domain. As the opponent of Seth (who, though initially an Upper Egyptian deity himself, later came to represent not only Lower Egypt but the desert surrounding Egypt), Horus is alternately a brother vying for the throne and unification of Egypt (Horus the Elder), or a royal heir come to reclaim his inheritance (Horus the Younger).

Horus can be seen at the top of the serekh of early kings, though in very rare cases his place was usurped by Set (Peribsen, Dynasty 2) or even shared with him (Khasekhemwy, Dynasty 2). Horus is also depicted on the famous Narmer palette along with Bat, an earlier form of Hathor.

A passage from the Coffin Texts (passage 148) sums up Horus in his own words:

"I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of 'Red Cloak'."

Paryushana Parva
Paryushana Parva is a Hindu holy day. It and Diwali are the two most important holy days for the Jains. It is an 8 day festival signifying human emergence into a new world of spiritual and moral refinement and is marked by recitations from Jain sacred writing and family exchange of cards and letters.

Its origin is related to the staying of the monks in one place for the rainy season. At this time the monks have settled in the town for a longer duration, and therefore it is time for the householders to have an annual renewal of the faith by listening to the statement of the Dharma and by meditation and vratas (self-control).

St. Louis
Feast day of St. Louis, also king Louis IX of France, celebrated as the ideal of Christian knighthood. While his record has become more controversial in modern times -- he unleashed, though he did not lead directly, the unspeakable horrors of the "Albigensian Crusade" against the Cathars of France; and the two crusades he did take to the Holy Land not only failed to win either soil or souls, but galvanized the Saracens to unite against the last of the Christian occupiers and expel them in 1291 -- Louis was known for such fairness and honesty that the other rulers of Europe, both ecclesiastical and secular, asked him to mediate their disputes.

St Genesius of Arles and St Genesius the Actor
According to his ancient acts, Genesius was a shorthand writer at Arles in Gaul who refused to take down an imperial edict against Christians because he was one. He is the patron saint of secretaries.

There is another St Genesius who is the patron of actors. Supposedly during an entertainment given for Diocletian, he played the part of a Christian being baptized and experienced a real conversion. When he revealed this, he was martyred. The same story is told of three other actor martyrs and is undoubtedly fictitious. It's interesting that the Greek festival of Genesia, a state festival in honor of the dead, often falls around this time (September 19 this year).