Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ante Diem VII Idus October

Modern Date : October 9th Market Day

Ante Diem VII Idus October
The Festival of Felicitas

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

This day was set aside to pay homage to Felicitas, the goddess who personified joy or felicity. Felicitas Was the Roman personification of success. Her temples were closely associated with the person of the emperor and one was located on the Forum Romanum.

On this day in 28 BCE, the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine hill at Rome was dedicated.

October was the eighth month of the old Roman calendar and was sacred to the goddess Astraea, daughter of Zeus and Themis. The name October comes from Octo, meaning eight (March used to be the first month).

The Greeks celebrated this and the next two days as the Thesmophoria. On the 11-13 of Pyanopsion, Greek matrons took a break from their usually homebound lives. They participated in the autumn sowing (Sporetos) festival known as Thesmophoria. Although the practices are a mystery, the matrons appear to have symbolically relived the anguish of Demeter when her daughter Kore/Persephone was abducted by Hades and to have asked for her help in obtaining a bountiful harvest. This was a festival for the masses and while it relates to the Eleusinian Mysteries the two rites were separate. Demeter (the Greek Ceres) was the goddess of grain who refused to eat or feed the world until the other gods arranged a satisfactory resolution to her conflict with Hades over Persephone. After her reunion with her daughter, Demeter gave the gift of agriculture to mankind.

Before the festival itself, there was a preparatory nighttime festival, the Stenia, in which women engaged in Aiskhrologia, insulting each other and using foul language, to commemorate Iambe's successful attempts to make the grieving mother laugh.

"A long time she sat upon the stool without speaking because of her sorrow, and greeted no one by word or by sign, but rested, never smiling, and tasting neither food nor drink, because she pined with longing for her deep-bosomed daughter, until careful Iambe -- who pleased her moods in aftertime also -- moved the holy lady with many a quip and jest to smile and laugh and cheer her heart."
Homeric Hymn to Demeter

At this time the women may also have placed the fertility objects, molded bread, pine cones and piglets, in the snake-filled chamber called a megaron. After the uneaten pig remains had begun to rot, the women retrieved them and the other objects during the Thesmophoria proper. Two days may not have been enough time for decomposition, so some people think the fertility objects were thrown down during the Skira, a midsummer fertility festival. However, four months may have been too long for there to have been any remains.

The first day of the Thesmophoria itself was Anodos, the ascent. With all the supplies they would need for two nights and three days, the women ascended the hill, set up camp on the Thesmophorion (the hillside sanctuary of Demeter Thesmophoros). They then slept on the ground probably in two-person (Aristophanes* refers to sleeping partners) leafy huts.

The second day of the Thesmophoria was the Nesteia (Fast) when women fasted and mocked each other, again using the foul language that may have been a deliberate imitation of Iambe and Demeter. They may also have whipped each other with bark scourges.

The third day of the Thesmophoria was the Kalligeneia (Fair Offspring). Commemorating Demeter's torchlight search for her daughter Persephone, there was a night-time torch light ceremony. The Antletriai (Bailers), ritually purified, descended to the megaron to remove the decayed matter thrown down earlier: pigs, pine cones, and dough formed in the shape of men's genitals. They clapped to scare the snakes away and brought back the material to place on the altars for later use as especially potent fertilizer in the sowing of seed.

Oschophoria, Festival of Grape Boughs
The 7th day of the Greek lunar month of Pyanepsion was also the date for this festival, during which well-bred young men dressed as women, processed, carrying grape boughs, followed by a choir singing special songs. They went from a shrine of Cionysos to one of Athena Skira. Skira was a transplanted Attic goddess who once ruled the local grape harvest, perhaps like Venus or Ariadne.

This was also a festival honoring Dionysos and Ariadne. They met and married on the island of Naxos, where Theseus abandoned her on his way back to Greece. Yet the legend says that he established this feast along with the Pyanepsia upon his return.

St Dennis
This is the feastday of Denys or Dionysius, the Bishop of Paris who died around 250. He is the patron saint of France and also archers. Because an angel supposedly carried his head from Montmartre to the abbey of Saint-Denis which was built over his tomb, he is also invoked against headaches.

In Denmark, this was the start of the herring-season. On symbolic calendars, it is marked with a fish, a flag or a crosier.

The Passion of Osiris
In the Egyptian Calendar, the concluding events of the great legend cycle of the Passion of Osiris are enacted. At this time the dispute between Set, brother and murderer of Osiris, and Horus, the falcon-headed solar hero, son of Osiris and Isis, is submitted for judgment by Ra, Neter of the Sun, after a long and inconclusive combat that has scorched and damaged the body of the Earth. Horus' case is argued by Thoth, Neter of letters and learning; while Set becomes the first personage in history to act as his own advocate, and have a fool for a client. Ra and the other Neters deliberate and announce their decision in three days. The other events:

10/12 Ra awards the Black Land by the Nile to Horus, and the desert Red Land to Set, thereby establishing a dynamic balance between forces of creation and destruction, light and darkness.

10/14 Festival of the coronation of Horus as Egypt's spiritual king, who from now on will manifest in the physical kingdom of Egypt in the person of the pharaoh.