Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ante Diem V Kalendas September

Modern Date : August 28th

Ante Diem V Kalendas September
Fifth Day to the Kalends of September

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

St. Augustine died on this day in 490. The author of the impossible Christian wet dream "The City of God" spent his days in North Africa attending gladiatorial games, where he was admittedly addicted to the sight of death in the arena. More on him below.

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.

In Egypt, this day was the Nativity of Nephthys. Nephthys was the daughter of the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, and the sister of Isis. She was the goddess of the dead.

Nephthys is one of the Egyptian goddesses who seems to have been ignored or pushed into the background. She didn't become a major cult figure, like her sister Isis, but one must remember that Nephthys, too, was a sibling of the most famous gods of ancient Egypt - Isis and Osiris. She was also the sister-wife of the god Set, the god of storms and the desert... and aunt to the god Horus.

Her Egyptian name Nebt-het (Neb-hut, Neb-hwt, Nebt-hut, Nebthet) means "Mistress of the House"...

...but by the word "house" we must understand that portion of the sky which was supposed to form the abode of the Sun-god Horus; in fact "het" in the name of Nebt-het is used in exactly the same sense as "het" in the name "Het-Hert," or Hathor, i.e., the "House of Horus."

-- Nephthys, TourEygpt

Despite being the wife of Set, she was seen as a loyal sister to her other siblings, helping Isis to gather Osiris' scattered limbs (after Set cut him into pieces), and helped her revive the dead god. She thus became associated with the dead, becoming a friend of the deceased. She offered guidance to the newly dead, and comfort to the family of the one who died. Along with Hapy - the baboon headed Son of Horus - she guarded the lungs in their canopic jar on the north cardinal point.

Nephthys saith unto the Osiris Ani, whose word is truth:- I go round about thee to protect thee, O brother Osiris. I have come to be a protector unto thee. [My strength shall be near thee, my strength shall be near thee, for ever. Ra hath heard thy cry, and the gods have made thy word to be truth. Thou art raised up. Thy word is truth in respect of what hath been done unto thee. Ptah hath overthrown thy foes, and thou art Horus, the son of Hathor.]

-- Speech of Nephthys, The Book of the Dead

She was depicted as a woman with the hieroglyph of her name (a basket and a house on top of each other) on her head, though she was also sometimes given wings or the form of a bird (the kite), making her a solar deity, as well as a deity of the dead. In the later period, she became the mother of Anubis (the god of the dead) through Osiris.

As comforter, she stood at the birth-bed to offer comfort and help with the birth of new born children - Isis was seen as the midwife. The two sisters were often together, only being able to be told apart by the hieroglyph on their heads. Also, like her sister, she was thought to have great magical powers - she was the Mighty One of Words of Power.

Yet, originally, where Isis was visible, birth, growth, development and vigour, Nephthys was invisible, death, decay, diminution and immobility. She was the darkness to Isis' light. Isis was the day, her twin sister the night.

The goddesses were personified by two priestesses who were virgins and who were ceremonially pure; the hair of their limbs was to be shaved off, they were to wear ram's wool garlands upon their heads, and to hold tambourines in their hands; on the arm of one of them was to be a fillet inscribed "To Isis," and on the arm of the other was to be a fillet inscribed "To Nephthys." On five days during the month of December these women took their places in the temple of Abtu (Abydos) and, assisted by the Kher Heb, or precentor, they sang a series of groups of verses to the god.

Here is an except from the 'Songs of Isis and Nephthys', sung to Osiris by the two priestesses:

Hail, thou lord of the underworld, thou Bull of those who are therein, thou Image of Ra-Harmachis, thou Babe of beautiful appearance, come thou to us in peace. Thou didst repel thy disasters, thou didst drive away evil hap; Lord, come to us in peace.

O Un-nefer, lord of food, thou chief, thou who art of terrible majesty, thou God, president of the gods, when thou dost inundate the land [all] things are engendered. Thou art gentler than the gods. The emanation of thy body make the dead and the living to live, O thou lord of food, thou prince of green herbs, thou mighty lord, thou staff of life, thou giver of offerings to the gods, and of sepulchral meals to the blessed dead. Thy souls flieth after Ra, thou shinest at dawn, thou settest at twilight, thou riseth every day; thou shalt rise on the left hand of Atmu for ever and ever. Thou art the glorious one, the vicar of Ra; the company of the gods cometh to thee invoking thy face, the flame whereof reacheth unto thine enemies. We rejoice when thou gatherest together thy bones, and when thou hast made whole thy body daily. Anubis cometh to thee, and the two sisters (i.e., Isis and Nephthys) come to thee. They have obtained beautiful things for thee, and they gather together thy limbs for thee, and they seek to put together the mutilated members of thy body. Wipe thou the impurities which are on them upon our hair and come thou to us having no recollection of that which hath caused thee sorrow.

Come thou in thy attribute of "Prince of the Earth," lay aside thy trepidation and be at peace with us, O Lord. Thou shalt be proclaimed heir of the world, and the One god, and the fulfiller of the designs of the gods. All the gods invoke thee, come therefore to thy temple and be not afraid. O Ra (i.e., Osiris), thou art beloved of Isis and Nephthys; rest thou in thy habitation for ever.

One of the reasons, during the later period of Egyptian history, given as to why Set and Osiris hate each other was because of Nephthys, Set's sister-wife. She was barren (she represented the desert, as did Set), and she hit on the plan of disguising herself as Isis and seducing Osiris. Getting Osiris drunk, Nephthys took Osiris to her bed, and the two had drunken sex together. Osiris dropped his garland of melilot flowers in the act of passion. Set found the adulterous goddess and the flowers, and knowing who the flowers belonged to, he began to plan Osiris' death. The child of this union was thought to be Anubis, god of mummification. Now as the overflowings of the Nile are sometimes very great, and extend to the boundaries of the land, this gave rise to the story of the secret intercourse between Osiris and Nephthys, as the natural consequence of so great an inundation would be the springing up of plants in those parts of the country which were formerly barren.

Among her titles, Nephthys was known as the Lady of the Body (of the Gods), the Dweller within Senu, Lady of Heaven, Mistress of the Gods, the Great Goddess and Lady of Life. Her major centres of worships were Senu, Hebet, (Behbit), Per-mert, Re-nefert, Het-sekhem, Het-Khas, Ta-kehset, and Diospolites. Her principal sanctuary was at Iunu (On, Heliopolis).

She was the darkness to Isis' light, the bareness to contrast her sister's fertility. Friend to the dead, their protector, she was a beneficial deity who offered both guidance and comfort. Although linked with death and decay, she was also a bringer of life into the world, and rebirth into the land of the dead. Leaving her husband Set, she became a follower of Osiris and a supporter of her sister. In Egyptian art, the twin sisters were almost always shown together. Great of magic, Nephthys was seen as a good goddess who would give them rebirth in the land of the dead, just as she had helped Osiris to be reborn.

Saint Augustine
Saint Augustine was born in 354 in Tagaste, a provincial Roman city in North Africa. He was raised and educated in Carthage. His mother Monica (Saint Monica) was a devout Christian and his father Patricius a Pagan. As a youth Augustine followed the unpopular Manichaean religion, much to the horror of his mother. In Carthage, he developed a relationship with a young woman of low birth who would be his concubine for over a decade and produce a son. His education and early career was in philosophy and rhetoric, the art of persuasion and public speaking. He taught in Tagaste and Carthage, but soon aspired to compete with the best, in Rome. However, Augustine grew disappointed with the Roman schools, which he found apathetic. Manichean friends introduced him to the prefect of the City of Rome, Symmachus, who had been asked to provide a professor of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan.

The young provincial won the job and headed north to take up his position in late 384. At age thirty, Augustine had won the most visible academic chair in the Latin world, at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers. However, he felt the tensions of life at an imperial court, lamenting one day as he rode in his carriage to deliver a grand speech before the emperor, that a drunken beggar he passed on the street had a less careworn existence than he.

Although Monica pressed the claims of Christianity, it is the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, who had most influence over Augustine. Ambrose was a master of rhetoric like Augustine himself, but older and more experienced. Prompted by Ambrose's sermons, Augustine moved away from Manichaeism, but instead of becoming Catholic like Ambrose, he converted to pagan Neoplatonism. Augustine's mother followed him to Milan and he allowed her to arrange a society marriage, for which he abandoned his concubine (however he had to wait two years until his fiancée came of age - and promptly took up in the meantime with another woman.)

In the summer of 386, in a garden, Augustine underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage (much to the horror of his mother), and devote himself full time to religion, celibacy and the priesthood. Ambrose baptized Augustine on Easter day in 387, and soon thereafter in 388 he returned to Africa. On his way back to Africa his mother died, as did his son soon after, leaving him relatively alone.

Upon his return to north Africa he created a monastic foundation at Tagaste for himself and a group of friends. In 391 he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius, (now Annaba, in Algeria). He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean heresy.

In 396 he was made coadjutor bishop of Hippo (assistant with the right of succession on the death of the current bishop), and remained as bishop in Hippo until his death in 430. He left his monastery, but continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a Rule (Latin, Regula) for his monastery that has led him to be designated the "patron saint of Regular Clergy," that is, parish clergy who live by a monastic rule.

Augustine died on August 28, 430, during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals. He is said to have encouraged its citizens to resist the attacks, primarily on the grounds that the Vandals adhered to Arianism, which Augustine regarded as heretical.

Augustine invented the concept of Original Sin as we have it today. Original Sin, in Christian theology, the universal sinfulness of the human race, traditionally ascribed to the first sin committed by Adam. Theologians advocating original sin argue that the concept is strongly implied by the apostle Paul, the apostle John, and even by Jesus himself. Late Jewish apocalyptic writings attribute the world's corruption to a prehistoric fall of Satan, the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the resulting disorder, disobedience, and pain of human history.

Saint Augustine appealed to the Pauline-apocalyptic understanding of the forgiveness of sin, but he also included the notion that sin is transmitted from generation to generation by the act of procreation.

He took this idea from 2nd-century theologian Tertullian, who actually coined the phrase original sin. Medieval theologians retained the idea of original sin, and it was asserted by 16th-century Protestant reformers, primarily Martin Luther and John Calvin. Liberal Protestant theologians later developed an optimistic view of human nature incompatible with the idea of original sin.

Augustine also believed that due to original sin, women had no soul and must therefore atone by total obedience. These thoughts were probably a result of his upbringing and a Freudian love/hate relationship with his mother, and the loss of his true love due to the social stigma associated with her low status.