Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pridie Idus Februarias

Modern Date : February 12th

Pridie Idus Februarias
Day before the Ides of February

This is one of the dies nefasti a day on which no legal action or public voting could take place. The dies nefasti of February were days of religious ceremony honoring the dead and heralding the rebirth of the Spring and its associated fertility.

Gerald Gardner, founder of the Gardnerian Tradition, died in 1964 of heart failure.

February is a month sacred to the gods Mars (as Quirinus, or Romulus) and Juno, the wife of Jupiter. Juno (Hera) was the mother of Mars, called Ares by the Greeks, and sometimes Enyalius. Ares was often accompanied in his bloody campaigns by Enyo, the murderess goddess of war who was known as Bellona by the Romans. Ares paid no attention to which cause was right or wrong and was concerned only with where he could cause maximum carnage. The Romans held a milder, more honorable view of Mars, honoring him as the son of Zeus and the father of Romulus.

February is also a month in which particular reverence was shown to the spirits of deceased ancestors. This was a month devoted to fertility, both of men and women, and of the land.

Full Moon in Leo opposite Sun in Aquarius
As the two partners in this combination are not equally balanced now, while the Sun continues to be "in detriment" in Aquarius, the solar energies of control are weakened, with the result that inner conflicts -- between people, within the same person -- are likely to manifest now. As every Full Moon is a potential moment for culmination and completion, this one is an opportunity for clearing grudges, heavy secrets and other soul sludge. The cleansing moment is highly charged this time around, and is best played delicately, as Mars in Taurus is the middle leg of a T-cross with Sun and Moon, while Pluto in Sagittarius is trine (120° away from) the Moon and sextile (60° from) the Sun. This favors the resolution of power issues, at least among those who can speak softly.

In the Celtic/Druidic and Wiccan calendars, the February Full Moon is called Storm Moon. Also Quickening Moon and Wild Moon, in the “Great Winter” season close to Imbolc, 1/31 - 2/2. It is customary during this moon to wash clothes in clove and angelica, to purify them for the Spring.

Festival of Artemis
On this day the Greeks, and many Romans, would celebrate the Festival of Artemis, Goddess of the Moon. She had been known to the Romans as Luna from antiquity but came to be called Diana in her earthly manifestation as the Goddess of Hunting. Diana was often called Diana Lucifera, Diana the Bringer of Light. The Greeks knew her as Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo, and daughter of Zeus and Leto. She was born under Mount Cynthus in Delos and hence was also called Cynthia and Delia. She carried a bow and quiver like her brother, and was especially fond of music and dance. Diana was never conquered by love, and submitted to no man, hence she was the goddess of a "chaste" moon and, except for her family, tolerated only female companions. Her priestesses were all chaste and this festival was celebrated with daily music and dance until the kalends of June. The hunter Actaeon happened across her bathing one day and became the only man to ever see Diana naked. He paid with his life.

Iroquois Mid-Winter Festival
The Iroquois mid-winter festival, just after the midwinter New Moon when the Sun is in what the West calls Aquarius. This a time of purification and forgiveness is celebrated by burning the offenses and grudges of the old year in tobacco offerings. Newly born children receive their names now, and the year ahead is forecast in dream telling, celebrated in music and dance.

Tu B'Shevat
In the Jewish Calendar, Tu B'Shevat, important in ancient times as a marker day for reckoning the ripening cycles of grains and fruits. It is the counterpart of arbor day festivals everywhere, when trees are planted in midwinter to symbolize the growth of new life toward the promise of spring. In "Our Sages," Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov writes, "have designated the 15th of Shevat as the boundary, for trees, between one year and another."

"There is barely any change to see; there is barely any change to hear. But the turn of the year has come. The still and quiet months are over; the seed is quickening, life is reasserting itself. In this hushed moment we celebrate the new year of the trees, and the reawakening of the Tree of Life." [Waskow]

Tu B’Shavt is celebrated on the fifteenth (full moon) of the Jewish month of Shvat. This date was fixed as the year-end date for the fruit crop, so the tithe on fruit could be calculated and paid. At first there was some disagreement as to whether to celebrate this festival on the new moon or the full moon. Waskow(Seasons of Our Joy) suggests that the full moon was chosen to coincide with a pre-existing festival, perhaps something like the ancient Armenian spring festival in honor of Mihr.

In the sixteenth century, the mystics of Safed associated the tree of the fruit-year with the S’phirot or Kabalistic Tree of Life. Thus, Tu B’Shvat is the day the Tree of Life renews the flow of life to the universe. We can help this process, they said, by eating fruit in a holy way. Waskow describes two slightly different versions of the Tu B’Shvat seder developed by the Kabalists of Safed. Both are meals of three or four courses, primarily of different types of fruit, chosen to represent the aspects of the process of creation and accompanied by four glasses of wine, mixed in different proportions, representing the seasons.

In modern Jewish practice, the Birthday of the Trees has been taken more literally and many communities plant trees on this day or send money to support the planting of trees in Palestine At the same time it has taken on a new symbolic significance as “a day of celebration and reaffirmation of the necessity of protecting God’s world.” A number of new Hagaddot have been developed which focus on healing the wounded earth.

St Julian the Hospitaller
An apochryphal saint whose legend became very popular in the Middle Ages. The story goes that he was a nobleman who accidentally killed both of his parents. To expiate his crime he went to live by the ford of a river where he established a hospice for poor people and helped travellers. One day he and his wife gave aid to a man almost dead of cold who disappeared in a blaze of glory, announcing that Jesus Christ had accepted his penance. He became the patron of ferrymen, innkeepers and circus people; many hospitals and charitable institutions were named after him.

Lantern Festival
The culmination of the New Year's festivities occurs on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, during the full moon, with the Feast of the Lanterns. The Chinese hang lanterns of all shapes and sizes from doorways. Popular designs include lanterns shaped like red carp and goldfish and sheep (because the word for sheep is the same as the word for good auspices). Also popular are multifaceted good-luck lanterns, designed to resemble a water caltrop, a root vegetable whose name in Chinese sounds the same as the word for good luck.


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