Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In the no...

There has been more attention than usual on Lupercalia this year. Honestly, it hasn't been that welcome. I can't really go back through the article from the other day to address each bit, nor do I wish to quote and counterpoint other articles, such as NPR or Wild Hunt. Instead, I'm going to talk in general about a few things, including the ancient vs modern calendar, and rituals of state vs rituals of the region vs household rituals.

The Wild Hunt mentions the fact that there are plenty of holidays and festivals to chose from this month to counter the idea that Lupercalia is the direct ancestor of valentine's day. What they neglect to point out is the difference in each of these festivals. Lupercalia is a distinctly Roman holiday. It's a combination of the celebration of the mother wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus plus an older fertility festival, likely of Etruscan or Sabine origin. One big clue: Augury was done along with the sacrifice and the Etruscans, and Sabines were known for their augury. While it was enjoyed by those who came out for it, Lupercalia was a state function, attended by the upper class. Kinda sounds like modern Memorial Day parades where military and political leaders march and speak, and those who come to line the streets and cheer them on are considered participants in the experience. If you don't show up, you don't participate, and there is no requirement to do so.

Quirinalia is another state holiday. Quirinus, possibly the Sabine God of war, was also the deified Romulus. The cult was part of the Roman State religion, and not a specific Mystery tradition such as that of Isis or Bacchus or Orpheus. Lack of popularity led this holiday to be one in name only, with only the flamen keeping up the tradition. There was no need or expectation of the people to participate.

Another holiday in this same week, Parentalia, was celebrated by each individual family, as mentioned in my other post. This can be considered a regional celebration since the dead were typically in the same area, regardless of family. After honoring your family at the burial site, it was easy enough to talk with neighbors and friends who were in the same area doing the same thing, to see and be seen, and to participate in the blessing and honoring of the burial place. There were no priests involved, it was entirely people-powered.

The Feralia, which comes at the end of the Parentalia week, is a household ritual. It was to pacify or scare away or trick away any spirits, ghosts, or otherworldly beings from the home. It is led by the man of the house. It's generally believed that there were common elements: fava beans, loud banging/crashing noise, sweeping from inside to outside... Many followed this custom of spiritual spring cleaning, but what each family did and how they did it was theirs alone. Who used a bell, who used a drum, or broom, or wood, who had a special tool or recipe passed down through the family, what song was sung, what
chant, who was invoked? It depends on who was doing it. It differed from house to house.

I'm going to pause here with the examples because I don't want to get repetitive.  If you want more examples, leave a comment ;)

Moving on, I'm going to talk a bit about the calendar and use the Matronalia to illustrate a problem in the translation from ancient calendar to modern. I posted about Mars and his role as a Fertility God. It made me remember the bible quote (and Don Henley song) about beating plowshares into swords and vice versa. Seems like two sides of the same Mars coin to me. And here we are, about to delve into his month, March. The Matronalia was held on the kalends of March, aka March 1st. Since the point of this isn't the holiday itself (which is pretty cool), here is a link to read up on this wonderful holiday and women's version of Saturnalia. Or, to summarize: Juno Lucina was celebrated as mother, wife, and midwife. Afterall, she impregnated herself with a flower and produced Mars.

The comparison between, and conversion from ancient to modern calendar is one huge clusterfuck. Some sources report that it was lunar, no it was solar... there were 304 days, no there were 355 days... the year could be changed depending on if the pontifex maximus wanted to extend the reign of a ruler or office... My head hurts when I get into this stuff. Now, to this pot of unequal years, add in moving holidays based on the harvest and planting days and now we're really fucking lost. Just ask me about intercalary months... I dare you, but only if you'd like a nice smack across the back of your head.

So are we two weeks ahead, or two weeks behind the ancient calendar? On pace? Did Lupercalia fall on the kalends, or the ides? Was it on the 15th? What happened when they'd stick an extra month between February and March and borrow a few days from each? They knew about the tropical calendar for at least a few hundred years before switching officially to the Julian calendar, so wtf? How did they keep time? Like the festivals above, there were the state, local and personal levels. 

So for the Matronalia, if the first few days of March were added to the intercalary month often put between Feb and March, when was the Matronalia celebrated? On that first part of borrowed days? On the official kalends of March? On the kalends of the intercalary month? Honestly, I have no idea. It's likely that the flamen of Juno's temple augured up something and based on their contact with deity, figured out the appropriate date for the state function. The locals? (aka outside of Rome) I'm sure whatever planting things were going on, Juno Lucina was part of it, likely with the first sowing of seed... her son petitioned for fertility and Lucina petitioned to bring the seed into the light once again.

When you're farming your land, do you really care what time it is 20 miles away in Rome? Probably not. Sunrise, sunset, full moon, dark moon. The basics. I don't think the ancients really sweated the small stuff, as a dear friend likes to say. I know my ancestors weren't watching the clock waiting for the exact cross-quarter or equinox time, like I do. Speaking of, that's a fun topic for another time: enhancing, or changing traditions and how and when to do it. But for tonight, I'll leave you with a few Italian sayings about time:

Il tempo รจ denaro: Time is money.
Il tempo guarisce tutti i mali: Time heals all wounds.
Il tempo viene per chi sa aspettare: All things come to those who wait.

And one appropriate for Lupercalia: in boca al lupo!

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