Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ante Diem VI Idus December

Modern Date : December 8th

Ante Diem VI Idus December
Sixth Day to the Ides of December

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

The Tiberinalia
This day is also known as the day of Tiberinus and of Gaia. Rites were performed this day in honor of the river god and the earth goddess.

This was the final day of the Faunalia. This festival was more popularly celebrated in rustic areas, being a celebration of nature and animals. The people celebrated this festival with a dance done in triple measure, the same dance done by the priests of Salii, the priests of Mars. Faunus was the grandson of Cronus (Saturn). He was worshipped as the god of fields and sheperds, and as a prophetic god.

This is also the day of Astraea, the Greek goddess of justice and of the dawn. Astraea was the daughter of Zeus and Themis.

This was the birthday of the Roman poet Horace, who was born in 68 BCE.

Decima, the middle Fate in charge of the present, presides over December, but the month may have received its name as the tenth month of the Roman calendar. Vesta, patroness of fire also laid claim to the month of December.

Festival of Neith
In Egypt, this day was celebrated as the Festival of Neith. Neith was a beautiful but fierce goddess whose temple was at Sais on the Nile. She was considered by the Greeks to be Athena. The virgin priestesses of the Temple of Neith engaged in armed combat each year for the postion of High Priestess. Ancient tradition held that the city of Sais was founded by the Greeks before the flood, and Greeks were kindly treated when in this city.

Japanese Shintos celebrate the birth of their sun goddess, Amaterasu, today. She and her brother the moon god sit with their backs to each other creating the illusion of night and day. The Hari no Kuyo festival of Japan gives women power over the household.

Immaculate Conception
Although the feast of the Immaculate Conception has been around since the seventh century (this date was chosen because it is nine months before Mary's birthday), the idea that Mary was born free from original sin took a while to catch on and did not become official dogma until 1854. Marina Warner lovingly details all of the theological implications of the doctrine in her book Alone of All Her Sex.

In this aspect, Mary is usually portrayed standing on the moon, crushing the serpent under her foot, with the sun behind her. Sometimes her head is circled with the twelve stars of the Apocalypse. Sometimes she contemplates herself in a mirror. A famous Murillo painting shows her supported by cherubs, one holding lilies, another an olive branch and another a corn sheaf, as symbols of her purity, her wisdom and her fruitfulness.

On this day in Madeira, women begin baking the bolo de mel cake which is served at Christmas. This honey cake (now usually sweetened with molasses) is dense with walnuts, almonds and candied peel. It is traditional to leaven the cake with a piece of dough from bread-baking. Also any honey cakes left from the previous year must be eaten up on this day.

In Sicily, the cookie associated with this holiday is called pietrafendola, which means rocksplitter. It is a cylindrical cookie so hard it threatens the teeth.