Monday, January 09, 2006

Ante Diem V Idus Januarias

Modern Date : January 9th

Ante Diem V Idus Januarias
Fifth Day to the Ides of January

This day is for special religious observance. On this day the rex sacrorum would offer sacrifrice to the gods of an animal untamed by the yoke.

This month is sacred to Janus, the god of Beginnings.

The Agonalia
On this day, Romans honored Janus, the two-faced god of the year, at his citadel on the Janiculum Hill. Its double gate was closed when the land was at peace but remained open in times of war. He was supposedly an old king of Latium whose worship was introduced by Romulus. Farias says that he along with his female counterpart Jana (aka Dianus and Diana) were probably the highest (sun and moon) gods of the pre-Italian peoples, until replaced by Jupiter and Juno.

Janus opens the gates of heaven at dawn and closes them at dusk. Like Elegba in the Voodun tradition, he was invoked before any other deity. He is the god of all doors, gates and entrances. Sometimes pictured as a porter or doorkeeper with a staff in one hand and a key in the other, sometimes pictured with an XXX (300) in one hand and LXV (65) in the other. At the time of Hadrian, his image was four-faced. And his temple had four sides with three windows each, four sides for the seasons and 12 windows for the months.

Although sanction and luck came from Jupiter, every action, occupation and undertaking depended for its beginning on Janus. As Consivius he presided over the beginning of human life, a role in which he was connected with Juno, with whom he was worshipped at the Calends.

Janus was offered grains of farro (a primitive kind of wheat) mixed with salt and iannual, a focaccia made with cheese, flour, eggs and oil, for his help in providing good harvests. The ancient Romans ate enormous focaccia, great disks of bread as round as the sun, on this day in his honor.

Plough Monday
The first Monday after the twelve days of Christmas. Farmers resume their work after the winter holiday. Before the reformation, medieval peasants had their ploughs blessed and censed by the parish priest and pooled their money to keep a plough light burning before their parish saint to ensure good fortune. This custom has been revived since World War II and in the north has always been accompanied by sword dancing and mumming. In the fenlands, the plough witches performed with a straw bear.

Like the Japanese custom of cleaning and honoring tools on New Year's day, these English customs seem to reflect a tradition of honoring the all-important tool of the farmer.