Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Mysterious Moon

The ancient calendar of Athens was lunisolar- it was based on both sun and moon. We know that their new year started on the first new moon after the summer solstice. We also know that the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries were celebrated from this full moon until the new moon. Tonight begins the Descent of the Goddess.

I've wanted to talk about this and to not talk about this. I feel like this mystery cult was stolen from Sicily and somehow resent it. I'll get over it and come to a greater appreciation and understanding, but that's how I feel at the moment.

In rereading the papers on and history of Lake Enna and Pergusa in Sicily, I realized something: This is the time of year the Lake would turn red:

Situated in the province of Enna in a vast grain-growing region of Sicily, Lake Pergusa is one of very few natural lakes that remain on an island famed in antiquity for its wetlands. Pergusa's basin was formed eons ago because of the sudden sinking of the earth's rock layers and is fed only by rainwater and underground tricklings, which are slightly salinated and sulfurous. Italian scientist Sergio Angeletti has noted, "This lake represents a marvelous example in microcosm ... of the formation of the ocean four to five million years ago."

The lake periodically undergoes a remarkable reddening phenomenon because of the presence of a red, sulfur-oxidizing bacterium (Thiocapsa roseopersicina) in its waters. During summer months of years in which the sulfur content reaches a critical level, the bacteria proliferate to such an extent that the lake's waters turn either partially or entirely a deep red color, and the environs smell of sulfur for miles around. Over a period of several weeks, the bacteria reduce the sulfur level; they, in turn, are eaten by a tiny, transparent crustacean; and the lake returns to its normal color. The phenomenon, which has been documented only since the twentieth century, was studied in 1932 by Italian scientist Achille Forti, who dubbed Pergusa "the lake of blood."

If you haven't read Margurite Rigoglioso's research on this, you simply must. The above quote was taken from her well researched paper. I've posted it on the blog before, but it deserves to be posted again. Tonight is a quickie because I need to go prepare for tonight's full moon festivities! Tomorrow I hope to post about what's going on in the rest of Italy at this time of year, especially Rome's Ludi Romani.

I was going to leave off tonight with a quote from this paper, but I can't pick just one! If you haven't yet read Persephone's sacred lake and the ancient female mystery religion in the womb of sicily. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion | September 22, 2005 | Rigoglioso, Marguerite, please do. There will be a quiz later. With prizes. The prize is knowledge of a fascinating place and perspective! 

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