Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ante Diem IV Idus November

Modern Date : November 10th

Ante Diem IV Idus November
Fourth Day to the Ides of November

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

On this day the constellation Cassiopeia culminates, or reaches its highest point in the sky. This was one of the most widely known constellations in the ancient world and one that tells a story. Cepheus and Cassiopeia were king and queen of Ethiopia. Their daughter Andromeda was so beautiful that the jealousy of the Nereids caused her to be chained to a rock by her father for Cetus, the sea monster (a carnivorous whale). The hero Perseus, passing by on his way to Africa and saw the beautiful black princess pleading for his help with outstretched arms. Perseus slew the monster, freed Andromeda, and then slew Cepheus for chaining her up. He married Andromeda and took her East where he became the namesake of the Persians. On this evening, if the sky is clear, Andromeda can still be seen stretching her arms out towards Perseus, with Cetus below and her parents looking on from above.

November is the ninth month (after March) and is a lucky month which is almost free of religious obligation.

St Martin's Eve
St. Martin, like St. Nicholas, brings gifts to children, entering homes via the chimney. In Belgium, children are told to stand with their faces to the wall and the saint throws apples and nuts into the room. In Bruges, and other places, children march carrying lighted paper lanterns, singing St. Martin songs and asking for gifts of nuts and apples. In the Netherlands, children build bonfires in his honor. After singing and dancing around them, they go from house to house, carrying lighted Chinese lanterns and candles stuck inside turnips, singing about how St. Martin needs wood for a fire because he's cold. They use the pennies they receive to buy treats. In Estonia, children wear masks and costumes as they go from door to door, chanting, "Please let us in because Mardi's fingers and toes are cold." If invited in, they are rewarded with apples, nuts, cookies and raising bread.

In Dusseldorf, on the eve of his feast, St. Martin leads a procession of children, some carrying lighted pumpkins, through the streets at night, rites which probably originated as "an early Thanksgiving feast in honor of Freya," says Spicer (The Book of Festivals). St. Martin rides a white horse like Frey and Odin.

In Poland, people say that snowflakes signal the arrival of St. Martin on his white horse. Little horseshoe-shaped cookies are eaten in his honor. In Germany children are given special breads (Martinsmannchen) shaped like a man holding a clay pipe. Italians eat a buttery cookie shaped like the saint on horseback. These traditions suggest an ancient merging in folk consciousness with Odin and before him the Horned God who rules the winter months, the season of death and the hunt.

In Ireland, it was considered unlucky to travel on St. Martin's Eve or St. Martin's Day. Women were also not allowed to spin on this day, a taboo on wheels turning reminiscent of the bans observed on other winter holidays. This seems to have been an ominous time in Ireland, perhaps acquiring the qualities of Halloween (November 11 is Old Style Halloween). The blood of newly-killed cocks was applied to door posts. Cloth dipped in the blood was stored in the rafter and used to control bleeding if someone was wounded during the year. In some places, blood was sprinkled in the corners of all the rooms.

In Germany, Martinmas fires were lit, in areas along the Rhine and the Moselle. By dancing around these fires, you could rid yourself of character defects and atone for mistakes.

Martin Luther
Today is the birthday of Martin Luther (1483), whose action of dispute against the Church of Rome in 1517 launched the Protestant Reformation. He was a typical Scorpio character in many respects, from the generic black Scorpio garb, to the avid, eager sexuality and the decisiveness to the point of finality. The last of these is naturally associated with the 8th house of the astral wheel, home of Pluto, lord of Scorpio. This is the house of death and transformation, most comfortable for those who aim to sweep away the old and bring the new.

Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus
Born on the same day, in 1463, was another authentic genius of the 16th century. Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus (born Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) was physician, alchemist, and tireless champion of a new medicine that would be based on practical experiment, not blind acceptance of traditional authorities. His name means "beyond Celsus," the ancient Roman physician. Paracelsus' public burning of Galen's works in Basel was as revolutionary as, and likely much more theatrical than, Luther's 95 theses at Wittenberg.