Sunday, February 26, 2012

Carnevale Morto!

Sorry I missed posting for Carnevale last week, but I was actually off celebrating it!

One branch of my Family is from Montemarano, where Carnevale still lives, or in this case, where it also dies. When "lent" comes around and Catholics are pledging to do without, those in Montemarano keep to the old ways. The Sunday after Ash Wednesday (which we've already discussed as an ancient pre-christian ritual), we find the people of Montemarano still partying! Drinking! Obscenities! Drinking! Tawdry jokes! Drinking! Commedia! Drinking! Dancing! Drinking!

The effigy of the King of Carnevale is given a funeral. Men dressed as butchers read the King's Last will and testament where different parts, such as the brain, the heart, the guts, etc, are given to different people in the community. There's local and political satire involved as well. This isn't a kids show ;)

The effigy is processed through the streets in a coffin (with his huge phallus sticking up high above the box). Following the coffin are men in drag playing the parts of the King's wife, mother, sisters, mother in-law, aunts, and so on. They comically mourn, weep, lament and wail (with lots of profanity thrown in). There are two versions, one for the kids, one for the adults.

The effigy is set on fire, symbolizing the sacrificed King returning to the land. Everyone then eats, drinks and parties! And dances!

Oh, the dancing! Lead by Pulcinella, we follow the King, through ecstatic dancing, on his journey down into the underworld and back up again.

So what's been happening since the last big festival?

Saturnalia, dark of winter, Parentalia, Carnevale, Ash Wednesday, then... March!

The ashes not only remind us of mortality, they also connect us to the earth which is about to be worked. Mars, for whom March was named, is a God of Fertility, a son born of Virgin Goddess, Hera. The period known as "lent" is when we're cleaning up the land from the Winter and preparing for the planting season. Mars will soon be petitioned by his priests, the Salii via dance after the seed has been sewn. Before that, however, we have the old season which must be cleared up and extinguished. As we begin to work the thawing land, we have the Winter King descend, to later rise up as the Solar King in the plant to be sacrificed when reaped and consumed, then reborn again... and so on.

That's what we do today. Farewell, Carnevale! Time to get to work!

Monday, February 13, 2012


I posted about this holiday last year and I thought I'd pretty much summed it up nicely, so here is a recap with more below:

This is a festival for honoring one's dead parents. Families gathered among the tombs of loved ones and made offerings or sacrifices of grain and wine to their souls. The Parentalia was the first of three festivals in February for appeasing the dead which started on the Ides and lasted until the 22nd. It typically fell on February 13 or 15, and was followed by the Feralia and Caristia. During this time all temples were closed, marriages were forbidden, and public officials suspended business for the duration of the festivals.

There were a few things mentioned in there, all of them having to do with Family. Parentalia: Honoring of Parents who have crossed over. Feralia: Honor spirits of the dead in general, including the restless dead who need to be driven out of a home or tricked out. The Caristia was a time to honor your family, like a family reunion. So there it is: Departed parents, all souls, living family.

Notice that the time to honor and gather with family comes right around the time the weather is once again good enough to travel. This was likely the first time extended family got together since the winter holidays.

Lupercalia has nothing really to do with this, it happens to fall during this time. In the original post, I spoke of retconing it, but it's less of a retcon and more Rome-specific whereas the Parentalia was celebrated by the Etruscans and predates Rome.

More from Nova Roma:
The Parentalia is the Roman festival for honoring one's dead parents. Families gathered amongst the tombs of loved ones and made offerings or sacrifices of grain and wine to their souls. Although the Parentalia always began with the performance of ceremonies in honor of dead parents by a Vestal Virgin, Romans basically celebrated the Parentalia at the family level. Families walked outside the city to visit the family tombs and performed private sacrifices in honor of dead kin (especially parents). The sacrifices were simple, a little wine, a little corn or bread, perhaps some votive garlands. It was a quiet, personal, reflective day, followed by a quiet reflective week or so to think about loved ones and the importance of the family.
The long name for this festival is the Parentalia Novindalia. the nine days feast. It went from the 13th through the 21st. Nine days, as I've said before, is important. Nine is the number of Mars and action. During this week I will be working a novena in memory of my family. 

It's time to clean (or start!) your ancestor altar. It's time to visit the graves of loved ones in person, if possible, in thought otherwise. Whatever offerings you would bring to the grave, bring to a crossroad if you can't go to the site. And have some fun with your loved ones this week!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You call it Imbolc. We call it Februarius.

There are so many feasts and festivals upcoming and ongoing depending on the region, especially from pre-Roman times. Today we celebrate the return of Proserpine, or Kore to Her Mother and the upper world. To this day Catholics celebrate by lighting candles to the Queen of Heaven and blessing the candles. Celts celebrate Brigid/Imbolc. The Norse celebrate Freya.

Return of Persephone, with Hades, Hermes & Hecate | Greek vase, Apulian red figure krater
The Return of Persephone
February is named for Februus, a possible Etruscan deity of purification and of the underworld. Perhaps an epithet of or akin to Pluto? I've seen the names Februa and Februatio in my studies as possible Sabine deities. Are they a Sabine divine pair who jointly ascend? The picture above shows Proserpine being returned to the upper world b Pluto and flanked by Hermes and Hecate.

This is the month of purification, of spring cleaning in preparation for the new year. Soon I'll be posting about the Parentalia (the origin of many hallow's eve traditions), Lupercalia and the origins of love day (my annual whip my Roman Sex Gods re-post with additional info!), Februalia, and the Feralia, celebrating the underworld deities (see what I mean about Februa and Februato?).

Whatever name you call this turn of the wheel, I hope you have a happy one!