Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ante Diem VIII Idus March

Modern Date : March 8th

Ante Diem VIII Idus March
Eighth Day to the Ides of March

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

This is the eighth day of the Festival of Mars. The daily spectacle of the priests of Mars leaping and dancing through the streets of Rome would continue this day.

Today is considered Mother Earth's birthday in China.

The month of March belongs to the warlike Mars, the deity who personifies the protection of the state and the productivity of the community.

The Greeks honored the Earth Mother on the 10th day of the lunar month, Elaphabolion. Gaia, known as Earth or Mother Earth (the Greek common noun for "land" is ge or ga). She was an early earth goddess and it is written that Gaia was born from Chaos, the great void of emptiness within the universe, and with her came Eros. She gave birth to Pontus (the Sea) and Uranus (the Sky). This was achieved parthenogenetically (without male intervention). Other versions say that Gaia had as siblings Tartarus (the lowest part of the earth, below Hades itself) and Eros, and without a mate, gave birth to Uranus (Sky), Ourea (Mountains) and Pontus (Sea).

Gaia took as her husband Uranus, who was also her son, and their offspring included the Titans, six sons and six daughters. She gave birth to the Cyclopes and to three monsters that became known as the "Hecatonchires". The spirits of punishment known as the Erinyes were also offspring of Gaia and Uranus. The Gigantes, finally, were conceived after Uranus had been castrated by his son Cronus, and his blood fell to earth from the open wound.

To protect her children from her husband, (the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires, as he was fearful of their great strength), Gaia hid them all within herself. One version says that Uranus was aghast at the sight of his offspring so he hid them away in Tartarus, which are the bowels of the earth. Gaia herself found her offspring uncomfortable and at times painful, when the discomfort became to much to bear she asked her youngest son Cronus to help her. She asked him to castrate Uranus, thus severing the union between the Earth and Sky, and also to prevent more monstrous offspring. To help Cronus achieve his goal Gaia produced an adamantine sickle to serve as the weapon. Cronus hid until Uranus came to lay with Gaia and as Uranus drew near, Cronus struck with the sickle, cutting the genitalia from Uranus. Blood fell from the severed genitals and came in contact with the earth and from that union was born the Erinyes (Furies), the Giants and the Meliae (Nymphs of the manna ash trees).

After the separation of the Earth from the Sky, Gaia gave birth to other offspring, these being fathered by Pontus. Their names were the sea-god Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto and Eurybia. In other versions Gaia had offspring to her brother Tartarus; they were Echidna and Typhon, the later being an enemy of Zeus. Apollo killed Typhon when he took control of the oracle at Delphi, which Gaia originally provided, and then the "Sibyl" sang the oracle in Gaia's shrine.

It was Gaia who saved Zeus from being swallowed by Cronus, after Zeus had been born, Gaia helped Rhea to wrap a stone in swaddling clothes, this was to trick Cronus in to thinking it was Zeus, because Cronus had been informed that one of his children would depose him, and so to get rid of his children he had swallowed them, Gaia's trick worked and Zeus was then taken to Crete.

Gaia being the primordial element from which all the gods originated was worshiped throughout Greece, but later she went into decline and was supplanted by other gods. In Roman mythology she was known as Tellus or Terra.

Forty Saints Eve
In Rumania before World War II, farm families asked the Forty Saints for good weather for the next 40 days by genuflecting 40 times before going to bed on the evening of March 8. The following day, barns were cleaned and farm tools organized. Clearly these are New Year customs.

On this Slavic holiday, people make minages, clay images of larks, smear their heads with honey and then apply tinsel. They carry around the minages singing vesnjnaki (invocations to the gods and goddesses of spring). Birds are thought to bring the Spring with them upon their return.

Children are given pastries in the shape of birds and they toss them into the air outside saying “the rooks have come.” The pastries ensure the return of the birds, who are seen as messengers of love and comfort and companionship.