Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ante Diem VIII Idus Januarias

Modern Date : January 6th

Ante Diem VIII Idus Januarias
Eighth Day to the Ides of January

This is one of the dies fasti on which legal actions are permitted.

The ancient Christians celebrated this day, and the previous evening, as the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth, known as the Great Teacher prior to his deification in the 1st century. Later Christians prevaricated his day of birth, among other things.

Feast of Kore
The Egyptian celebration of the Feast of Kore, the Goddess of Fertility and, by that nature, of cereal grains and agriculture, continued today. Kore was also known as Cora, Core, Catherine, Persephone, and Proserpina. Persephone was a goddess associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries and was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter (Ceres). Her name means the Maid. Such was their happiness that Persephone was inseparable from her mother. Zeus, without Demeter's knowledge, gave her in marriage to Hades who opened the earth and snatched her while she was gathering flowers. In sadness at this loss and unable to get Hades to relinquish her daughter, Demeter let the crops wither. Zeus then arranged a compromise in which Persephone would spend part the year with Demeter and then four months with the grim lord. And so we have the winter when the plants will not grow.

An early Church father, St Epiphanius complained that in Alexandria in the temple of Kore-Persephone, a hideous mockery was enacted on Epiphany. "And if anyone asks them what manner of mysteries these might be, they reply saying" Today at this hour, Kore, that is the virgin, has given birth to Aeon." Part of the ritual involved bringing the naked statue of the Kore up from underground, adorning Her with jewels and parading Her around the temple seven times for protection.

Despite Epiphanius's scorn, the myth of Kore giving birth to Aeon, the year-god, is much older than the story of Mary giving birth to Jesus which he thought it mocked. Until the fourth century, Christ's birth was celebrated on January 6th rather than December 25th.

This month is sacred to Janus, the god of Beginnings. Janus is the porter of heaven and considered the guardian deity of gates and doors. He is often shown as two-headed since doors face both ways.

Old Christmas day
This is Old Christmas day according to the Julian Calendar. It marks the end of the Yule festivities according to old Teutonic Pagan traditions which honor the Mother goddess. On the night before, the Twelfth-cake was prepared to select the Rulers of Twelfth Night. This is a large cake, usually frosted and otherwise ornamented. A bean (king) or pea (queen) or coin is placed in the batter to determine the 'king' and 'queen' of the feast. The twelfth-cake is divided among the children, and the children who find the prizes are crowned, placed on a throne, and paraded in state. If a girl finds the male token, she must name her sovereign, and if a male finds the female token, he chooses his consort. Twelfth Night in actuality was the old style Christmas Eve.

According to Frazer(The Golden Brough), the time between Christmas and Epiphany is a witching time. On the Lake of Lucerne at Brunnen, two female wood spirits, Strudeli and Stratteli appear on Twelfth Night according to Swiss Lore. La Befana, the good fairy of Italian children, fills their stockings on Twelfth Night. She is Italy’s “Santa Claus.” Flying on her broomstick, she enters through the chimney, bringing gifts for children.

In the Faroe islands, this day features prominently in legends about silkies, seals that take human form, especially as women, in order to love human males or gain revenge for human crimes against seal families. Jan. 6 is said to be one day on which it is especially common for silkies to appear as humans.

Epiphany / The Three Kings
The Epiphany (which means apparition or manifestation) honors the arrival of the Magi and the first public presentation of the Baby Jesus. In Belgium, children dress up as the Three Kings and go from door to door singing a begging song. In Spain, the Magi leave gifts in the shoes children have set out on balconies or by the front door the previous evening, filled with straw and grain for the camels. Children who awaken to find a charcoal mark on their face are said to have been kissed by Balthazar. Since the twelve nights of Christmas are a liminal time, when evil spirits, like the Greek kalikatzari, can roam the earth, people protect their houses by chalking the Three King’s initials C (or K), B and M (for Caspar, Balthazar and Melchoir) on their doors.

Because this is the day the Three Kings brought gifts to the Baby Jesus, this holiday is usually celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries, where the tradition has remained strong, by giving gifts to children. Pedro Rossellio, the governor of Puerto Rico between 1992 and 2000, in his attempt to revive the island's cultural past, made Epiphany a national holiday and gave away gifts to all children who made the journey to the capital.

In Bulgaria, housewives rise early and carry the family crucifix, icons and plough to the village fountain. There they wash them with salt and water saying, "May the wheat be as white as the plough, as wholesome as the salt." The clergy also bless homes with holy water. If the water freezes on the priest's boxwood whisk, the year will be good and the crops fruitful.

In Danube port towns, they bless the waters. In Philippopolis, the most important town of southern Bulgaria, the priest throws the cross from the bridge into the Maritza River. The man who recovers it is allowed to take it around from house to house and receive money gifts, then returns it to the priest who bestows his blessing.

A similar blessing happens in Hungary only the priest uses salt and water and blesses houses and puts the initials of the three kings (G, M and B for Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior) on the doorstep.

Italians believe that animals can talk on the night of Epiphany so owners feed them well. Fountains and rivers in Calabria run with olive oil and wine and everything turns briefly into something to eat: the walls into ricotta, the bedposts into sausages, and the sheets into lasagna.

This is also the wonder night of the year in Syria where it is said that trees bow at midnight in honor of the Christ child, and miracles of increase occur.

This was the original date when the birth of Christ was celebrated and even now the Armenians celebrate both the Nativity and the Baptism of Christ on this day by eating fried fish, lettuce and boiled spinach, supposedly the foods the Virgin Mary ate on the night before she gave birth.

In Japan, today is Dezomeshiki. The fire brigade goes back into formation after the holiday celebration. Firemen in costumes from the Middle Ages give acrobatic performances atop ladders, and demonstrations are staged at the Palace plaza.

Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc was born today in 1412 and died May 30, 1431. It was around 1424, when she was 12, that Joan said she began to have visions of Saints Catherine and Margaret and St. Michael the Archangel. Michael had been chosen in 1422 as one of the patron saints of the French Royal army, and had long been the patron of the fortified island of Mont-St-Michel, which had been holding out against repeated English assaults.