Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ante Diem IV Kalendas October

Modern Date : September 28th

Ante Diem IV Kalendas October
Fourth Day to the Kalends of October

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

The sixth day of the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries was called Iacchos, from Iacchus who accompanied his mother in search of Proserpine with a torch in his hand. From that circumstance his statue had a torch in its hand, and was carried in solemn procession to Eleusis. They danced and sang as they passed through Hiera Hodos, the sacred way, the resting place hiera syke, named for the fig tree that grew in the area. It is not known what sacred objects were brought from Eleusis to Athens five days before but only that, after crossing the Athenian border, those in charge of them stopped by the hiera syke. The objects were kept for a time in the Eleusinion of Athens and then brought back to Eleusis in the procession. The priestesses carried them on their heads in baskets. There were myrtle boughs in the hair and in the hands of the mystai. The white garments of the mystai were held in high esteem. Dedicated to the goddesses or kept as swaddling clothes for a new generation, they were the simplest sort of dress such as might be worn by beggars or travelers.

They stopped on a bridge over the Cephisus, where a hetaira engaged in gephyrismoi, or "bridge jests" with those that passed. She was playing the role of Baubo, who with jokes and lewd gestures eased Demeter mourning with laughter. This was the moment for the women to drink of the kykeon that they had brought along on their heads. The salty Rheitoi watercourse was also crossed by bridge. Here the mystai probably identified themselves with the words that have come down to us as their password and sign of recognition. They are a summary of everything the initiated had to do before being admitted to the epopteia.

"I have fasted, drunk the kykeon, taken sacred things from the kiste (chest) and, after the rites, put them in the kalathos (small basket), whence I put them back in the kiste (cista mystica)."

These sacred things include sesame cakes, "pyramid and spherical cakes, cakes with many navels," pomegranates, poppies, fig branches, fennel stalks, ivy leaves, salt, and a serpent figurine. There are other holy items as well. Ineffable symbols of the goddess, marjoram, a lamp, a sword, and Ceres Comb, a euphemism used in the mysteries for a woman's secret parts. After this they entered Eleusis by a place called mystike eisodos, the mystical entrance to the Telesterion, "the temple of initiation." The roof of the temple was peaked and could be opened to serve as a kind of chimney to the fires which were part of the Mysteries.

The entire procession did not enter the Telesterion. It consisted of the mystai of the Lesser Mysteries and possibly of epoptai, who had already 'seen' Eleusis. Until they reached the Anaktoron, "palace," they were not initiated. This was a small edifice with in the main campus of the temple.

Plutarch said of the Eleusinian Mysteries, "When a man dies he is like those who are being initiated into the mysteries...Our whole life is but a succession of wanderings and painful courses...but as soon as we exit, places of purity receive us, with songs and dance and the solemnities of holy words and sacred visions."

On this day in 490 BCE, the Athenians defeated the Persians at Marathon and halted their invasion. The eager Spartans arrived too late for the battle but inspected the battlefield, complimented the Athenians on their good work and returned home.

Pompey celebrated his triumph at Rome this day in 61 BCE. The announcement was as follows, "After having rescued the sea coast from pirates and restored to the Roman People the command of the sea, he celebrated a triumph over Asia, Pontus, Armenia, Paphlagonia, Cappadocia, Cicilia, Syria, the Scythians, Jews and Albanians , Iberia, the Island of Crete, the basternae, and, in addition to these, over King Mithradates and Tigranes."

This day was Phaophi 1 (Macedonian Apellaeus 1), or the first day of the Egyptian month Phaophi.

September is the 'magical' seventh month (after March).

Confucius is believed to have been born on this day in 551 BC. In the modern Chinese solar Calendar, this is the birthday of Confucius, creator of one of the world's most profound and enduring ethical systems, based on relationships of love and respect in families, communities and the realm as a whole, and on the rare, enlightened principle of answering wrongs with kindness and forgiveness. He understood the principles of the Aquarian Age that has just begun.

"The Master said, Moral force never dwells in solitude; it will always bring neighbours."

(Analects IV.25, tr. Arthur Waley)

Uroica, Breton goddess of heather and heather wine, is honored with the making of alcohol for festivals and sacred purposes with the Fête de la Bruyère: Feast of Brewing on September 28th. She is the symbol of Breiz, Brittany and her name is Gaulish. Other areas in Europe that refer to her are: Luneberger Heide, the Heather Moon Mountains, in Germany; and La Virgen del Brezo, the Virgin of the Heather, a mountain in Spain that people climb up by moonlight with lanterns.

Festival of Hapi, The Creation of the Nile
In the Egyptian Calendar, this was the day of Osiris' going forth to his main temple at Abydos. This was also the feast day of the Nile Neter Hapi, on whose day the river crested each year; and the feast of the Purification of the Hearts of the Neters.

Gathering St Michael's Carrots
In the Hebrides, on the afternoon of the Sunday preceding Michaelmas, women and girls gather St. Michael's wild carrots in a ritual manner. They dig triangular holes (signifying Michael's shield), with a three-pronged mattock (to represent Michael's trident), and tie them into bunches with a triple red thread. These are given to visitors on Michaelmas Day. Forked roots are considered especially lucky.

In the 19th century, Alexander Carmichael collected many folk customs and prayers (that are more like spells) from the Scottish highlands and islands. Here is a charm that was recited during the gathering of St. Michael's carrots:

Cleft, fruitful, fruitful, fruitful
Joy of carrots surpassing upon me
Michael the brave endowing me
Bride the fair be aiding me

Michaelmas Eve, Crack Nut Day
In the Scottish highlands and islands, an unblemished ram lamb called the Michael Lamb is killed for tomorrow's feast. Women make special cakes called struan Michael or Michaelmas cakes, from equal parts of all types of grain grown on the farm, kneaded with butter, eggs and sheep's milk, marked with a cross and cooked on a stone heated by a fire of sacred oak, rowan and bramble wood. A piece of the cake is thrown into the fire as a tithe to St. Michael's opponent, the Devil. Other cakes are made for special people, for the family and for the community. Cranberries, bilberries, brambleberries, caraway seeds and wild honey are baked into the cakes. Clearly part of the purpose of this charm is to take the bounty of the farm's harvest and use it to fashion an offering of thanks.

It is OK to steal horses on the eve of Michaelmas so the men sit up and watch their horses.

In Surrey, this day is known as Crack Nut Day and nuts are cracked and eaten in churches. In Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, people build bonfires on the Eve of Michaelmas and scatter grain for the wild birds to bring luck to the farm.