Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ante Diem XI Kalendas Februarias

Modern Date : January 22nd

Ante Diem XI Kalendas Februarias
Eleventh Day to the Kalends of February

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

Columella says of this day, "The Lyre sets in the evening: it is a rainy day."

This is the birthday of Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1526).

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.

Day of Apollo
In the ancient Greek and Roman calendars, this is the feast day of Apollo, god of the Sun, and also of light, intellect, classical beauty, prophecy and the lyre. Thousands of years ago, before the day of the Sun's entry into Aquarius moved to where it is now, on Jan. 19, this day marked the Sun's transition from the darkness and heaviness of Capricorn to the light and activity of Aquarius, the month in which the annual mid-winter festival of early February celebrated the passing of the Great Cold and the approach of the new Spring.

Apollo's day was later Christianized as the feast of St. Vincent, a shadowy figure who may not have lived, but who was likely invented, as his name means Wine in the Romance languages. St. Vincent is the patron of vintners and of those who just like to drink wine. The placement of his day is perfect, as it falls right at the top of the month when the Sun is in Aquarius, the sign which rules the 11th house of Friendship, and thereby favors all happy activities in which friends engage. St. Vincent's Day is also a major weather marker in Europe, for it was, and still is, said that fair weather on this day heralds an abundant grape harvest and a good vintage:

"Take care on St. Vincent's Day,
For if on this day you see
That the sun is bright and clear,
We'll have more wine than water."

Finally, on this day Mercury enters Aquarius, where he is said to be "exalted," and all Mercury-related activities are favored until 2/9, when Mercury is "in detriment" in Pisces. The implications are clear enough: schedule the master mind meetings, talk up whatever needs to get pitched, and write it up now, when the words flow like champagne.

St. Vincent
St. Vincent is a one of a number of Christianized forms of Apollo. St. Vincent’s day is important to the wine industry as he is considered the Patron Saint of wine growers. According to grape lore, if the weather is good on this day, the crops will be good this year.

It is said, "If the weather is fine, you'll enjoy the wine!" and...

“If that the sun his beams display,
Be sure to mark his transient beam,
Which through the window sheds a gleam;
For 'tis a token bright and clear,
Of prosperous weather all the year.”

Sacrifice to the Kitchen God
A week before Chinese New Year, the head of the household makes a sacrifice to TsaoWang, the kitchen god. Only men participate in this ritual which is sometimes called Little New Year. In ancient times, an antelope was sacrificed, but by 1900, people were offering candies and sugar cakes for the god and pure water, grass and beans for his horse. The sweet foods encouraged him to say sweet things about the family (or, made his mouth so sticky he could not open it).

Now the usual practice is to smear honey on the picture of the kitchen god which hangs in the kitchen. Then the picture is taken down and burned, along with paper spirit money. On New Year's Eve, a new picture will be put up. Sometimes fireworks are set off and thus this day is sometimes called "Little New Year."

On this same day, people paste up little good wish poems called "spring couplets" on gates and doors. These are similar to the peach charms of the past (boards of peach wood painted with pictures of gate gods or charms and put on the sides of doors). The spring couplets are written by professional calligraphers, usually on red paper, and say things like "May there be a single universal peace, with true wealth and honor. May the spring colors of the Nine Heaves appear in profuse elegance."

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.