Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ante Diem X Kalendas January

Modern Date : December 23rd

Ante Diem X Kalendas January
Tenth Day to the Kalends of January

This day is for special religious observance.

The Larentalia
Acca Larentia was the goddess honored this day, who was also called Lupa on account of her loose morals. The celebrations today would have allowed mortals the same liberties. She was originally the chief deity of Larentum, which was absorbed by the Romans, culture and all. Acca Larentia, the Etruscan goddess whose name means Lady Mother. Several tales are told about her. Some say she was the foster-mother or Romus and Remulus, the founders of Rome, or that she was the wolf that suckled them. Some say she was a lover of Heracles. Another tale relates that after spending a night in the temple of Heracles, she was told to give herself to the first man she met. He happened to be a rich man who married her. After his death, she inherited his fortune, which she gave to Rome, a generosity which the Romans celebrated with a rowdy feast. Blackburn and Holford-Strevens point out that these legends might derive from the same source as lupa means both "she-wolf" and "prostitute." Obviously, in all of her manifestations, she represents mothering and abundance.

This is also the seventh, and last, day of the Saturnalia. The Saturnalia is one of the most festive and uninhibited that the ancient Romans celebrated. It went on for seven days and encompassed the Winter Solstice, a time of religious observance for cultures the world over. Feasts were provided by the temples and was open to the public, the poor and the homeless. Servants and masters were met on equal terms. Unable to prevent the people's natural festive inclinations at this time of year, the early Christian leaders moved Christmas to December and claimed the celebration for their own. During the Saturnalia, rules were set aside, schools were closed, and slaves could meet their masters on equal terms. Human kindness was the theme and war and the punishment of criminals was halted. The exchange of gifts was universally practiced. Strenae, which were boughs to which were attached cakes or sweetmeats, were exchanged by visitors and guests. Other common gifts included wax candles (cerei) and sigillaria, which were doll-like clay figures, a particular favorite of children.

On this day in the year 363 AD the Emperor Julian died in battle with the Persians. Julian, a Greek Stoic, had tried to make the newly powerful Christians accept the traditional Roman policy of Universal Toleration. The Christians, however, remained aggressively intolerant. The result was two centuries of riots, temple desecrations and legalized confiscations of property, the destruction of priceless art, books, and sculpture, persecutions and public murders of those branded with the epithet "pagan", and the ultimate outlawing of the Religion of Nature.

In the old Roman calendar, this day was called the Brumalia, the shortest day of the year. Festivities took place at the foot of the Palatine between the Circus Maximus and the Tiber.

Marcus Aurelius and Commodus celebrated their Triumph over the Germans in 176 AD.

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.

Gwyl Nadolig
Alban Arthuan, Winter Solstice. The Ogham Calendar is based upon the Coligny Tablet, a Gaelic-Celtic bronze tablet found in France in 1895 and dating to about 2000 years ago. The calendar started on the last quarter moon, the first after the autumn equinox, Samhain. Both this festival and the winter solstice were used to start lunar calendars in pre-Roman Europe and the Greek/Celtic orientated British Isles. Gwyl Nadolig, the Yuletide Tree Festival and Elder Festival, begins at sundown.

The Kalesh tribe of the Hindu Kush, celebrate Chaomos in their finest clothes. Lasting a week, it honors the demi-god Balomain, who counts the Kalesh every year and carries their prayers back to Tsiam, their mythical ancestral home. Chaomos, an ancient fire festival of Pakistan pre-dates Islamic and Christian religions.

During the winter solstice, an ancient demigod Balomain returns to collect prayers and deliver them to Dezao, the supreme being. During these celebrations women and girls are purified by taking ritual baths. The men pour water over their heads while they hold up bread. Then the men and boys are purified with water and must not sit on chairs until evening when goat's blood is sprinkled on their faces. Following this purification, a great festival begins, with singing, dancing, bonfires, and feasting on goat tripe and other delicacies. Yummy!

Secret of the Unhewn Stone
In some Celtic calendars, this intercalary day between the Winter Solstice and 12/25 is called the Secret of the Unhewn Stone, the only day in the year not ruled by a tree or ogham symbol. Like Mother Night (12/20), the Unhewn Stone was thus a symbol of the unshaped, emerging potential of all things. The unhewn stone has significance outside the Celtic neopagan tradition. The Freemasons refer in their secret rites to the unhewn stone, the stone that has not been cut by iron.

A famous unhewn stone from the British Isles is the Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, and the Coronation Stone. It is a block of sandstone historically kept at the now-ruined abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland. It is also known as Jacob's Pillow and as the Tanist Stone. In Irish Celtic mythology, the Lia Fail was a magical stone brought to Ireland by the Tuatha de Danaan. When the rightful King of Ireland put his feet on it, the stone was said to roar in joy. This is believed to be the origin of the Stone of Destiny.