Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ante Diem XII Kalendas Februarias

Modern Date : January 21st

Ante Diem XII Kalendas Februarias
Tweleth Day to the Kalends of February

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

Nero's wife Poppaea gave birth to his daughter Claudia this day in 63 AD. Neither survived very long.

This is the 1st day of the 2nd month of the 13 month Druidic calendar. The sequent letter is L for the tree Rowan (Luis).

This month is sacred to Janus, the god of Beginnings. The Romans had numerous temples to Janus. Whenever war was declared, the chief magistrate would lead a ceremony in which the doors of the main temple of Janus were opened. In time of peace they were normally shut.

St. Agnes
In the Roman Catholic calendar, feast of St. Agnes, one of the most admired of all virgin martyrs, who gave her life during the last great campaign of Christian persecutions by Diocletian in the early 4th century. She is always depicted with a lamb and a branch of hyssop, symbolizing respectively her innocence and her purity.

St Agnes was a 13-year-old Roman girl who was martyred during the reign of Diocletian in the fourth century BCE. Like many saints of this time period (Lucy is another good example), the story of her life is spurious, perhaps based on nothing more than her name (which means "chaste"). One legend says that she refused the suit of a Roman noble. Her father, a prefect, condemned her to be exposed in a public place but her long hair grew miraculously longer and covered her entirely.

Another legend says she was the daughter of a virgin and a man who had renounced sexual love (this seems to imply she was a miraculous child like St David, Merlin or Christ). She was killed for refusing to marry a Roman officer, saying she already had a spouse who could not be seen with mortal eyes. She is thus the patroness of young girls and chastity. Accused of being a Christian by her rejected suitor, she was placed in a brothel where she inspired such awe in the male patrons that none dared approach her except for one foolish fellow who was struck blind for his impudence. Eventually she was condemned to death for refusing to renounce her faith. “She went to the place of execution more cheerfully than others go to a wedding,” wrote Ambrose, himself a saint.

Agnes is usually pictured with a lamb and lilies. Her name comes from the Greek word agnos (chaste) but it was confused early on with the Latin agnus (which means lamb).

In Rome, two lambs are brought into the church of Sant Agnese on her feast day, where they are presented at the altar and blessed. The wool shorn from these sheep is used to weave the pope’s pallium for the year.

Keats in his poem, “The Eve of St Agnes,” refers to the holy loom used by the secret sisterhood to weave St Agnes’ wool. Other saints with feast days around this time are also associated with sheep and lambs (St Brigid—February 2 and St Blaise—February 3). This is the start of the lambing season in England. Perhaps St Agnes carries the qualities of a goddess who protected lambs. Walker says she is a Roman-Jewish version of the Holy Ewe Lamb (Agna), virgin incarnation of the Ewe-Goddess Rachel, but I’m not sure I believe this any more than I believe the brothel story.

Sweeping the Ground
On the 20th day of the last month of the Chinese lunar year, people do a thorough house-cleaning in preparation for Chinese New Year.


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