While discussing the calendar before Christianity came to England, the Venerable Bede wrote in the 725 ce:
” Et ipsam noctem nunc nobis sacrosanctam, tunc gentili vocabulo Modranicht, id est, matrum noctem appellabant: ob causam et suspicamur ceremoniarum, quas in ea pervigiles agebant.” De temporum ratione The Reckoning of Time.
“That same night, which we so sacred, they used to call the term Pagan Modranecht, namely, “the night of the mothers”, because (we suspect) the ceremonies were named after him.”
Pope Gregory suggested that the missionaries to England should hold Christian feasts on the dates and in the same places (reconsecrated as Churches) where the heathen had been accustomed to have their pagan feast, and in this way to use their habits to bring them over to Christianity.
Mothernight, as with so many other heathen customs, are pieced together from the very few bits and pieces that survive, and we know very little about what was really practiced. Those who recorded the history were more interested in having those customs forgotten than preserving them. It is generally thought that the Mothers to whom Bede referred are similar to the Idisi, Norse Disir, or Germanic Matres and Matronae (associated by some with the Norns, or by others to female ancestors). The date is suspected to be the Winter Solstice, (or as I heard it the eve of the Solstice). They may be also be associated with the night-flying “Good Ladies” who visited homes accepting offerings and giving blessings or the troops lead by Mother Perchta, or Diana, who was mentioned by Bishops in the 9th century as being a fallacy to which women still clung.
The long and short of it is that modern heathens must create whatever ceremonies and rites that seem good to them to reflect the relationship that exists between them and their gods.
Io, Saturnalia! (it means Hail Saturnalia, and it made my day when I read that it was pronounced Yo.)
Saturnalia was the big celebratory holiday in the Roman Calendar where there were a LOT of holidays. Saturnalia started as a feast of Saturn on December 17th, but was then extended to three days, then to seven. (Sound familiar?)
It was similar to the Greek Kronia, and all work was suspended, slaves were given greater license, and morality was loosened. I think it would remind us of Mardi Gras.
Christmas in early Rome was probably celebrated during this season so that Christians could participate in the general joy and festive spirit. Gifts were not a general part of Saturnalia- they were given at New Years, when the house would be decorated with greenery. However at the end of Saturnalia gifts of candles, wax figurines, wax fruit etc. were given.
Advent, the period leading up to Christmas, dates back to 567 CE when monks were ordered to fast during December. The Advent Fast, similar to Lent, sometimes started November 15th, and sometimes started the fourth Sunday before Christmas which might be as early as November 27th or as late as December 3rd.
The days of Advent are fast period during which Christians may abstain from meat and dairy, or even fish, oil, and wine. During this period people make the Christmas treats and decorations that will be consumed and used during the 12 Days of Christmas. Advent is a time of prayer and doing good works to ready oneself for the holy day.
There is a lovely story of a 19th century theologian Johann Hinrich Wichern inventing the advent wreath. He had opened a home for poor children, and noticed that they had a hard time with the idea of how long it was until the Big Day. So he made a ring of candles- Big red ones for Sunday, with a small white one between for the days of the week, and lighted one each day. This give the children a visual way to see how long it was until Christmas.
Each Sunday has a theme, although there are different traditions for what theme each represents: Hope, Peace, Love, Rejoice (or Faith, Hope, Charity, Love) or the Prophets, the Bible, Mary, and John the Baptist. The Mary candle is often Pink. Sometimes the wreathes are suspended- often in Churches, but also good in homes with small children and cats!
I know the Change CTCW is over, but I just tripped over this great quote from Ovid.
It’s quoted in a book I’m reading Houseof Darkness, House of Light, by Andrea Perron, a memoir of the ten years her family lived in a haunted house. At one point her mother quoted this to her:
“All things are always changing,
But nothing dies. The spirit comes and goes,
Is housed wherever it wills, shifts residence
From beasts to men, from men to beasts, but always
It keeps on living. As the pliant wax
Is stamped with new designs, and is no longer
What once it was, but changes form, and still
Is pliant wax, so do I teach that spirit
Is evermore the same, though passing always
To ever-changing bodies.”
A web search revealed this is from his Metamorphasis (book 15, lines 59-477) The Teachings of Pythagoras.
It speaks to me of how the changes we see may confuse us into thinking that what changed is different than what we think changed. Ovid (or Pythagoras) warns not to kill someone because we don’t know why his soul is in this state at present. Of course, in the book they are talking about ghosts and dealing with them. The book is so much slower paced than movies made about the incident, which makes sense since in a haunting you have sporadic incidents over a long time, and in a movie, they take the most dramatic and stuff them into a hundred minutes. If you are interested and willing to read through the development of family dynamics while living with a difficult haunting, not looking for the easy answers and jump scares, I can recommend this book. At very least, it begins and ends each chapter with wonderful quotes.
The version I found an image for is rather different,but also good.
The Best is Yet to Be – with Catherine Kane
In this culture, youth’s valued and aging feared. It doesn’t have to be that way. Join Catherine Kane at 60 for a rollicking tour of getting older. We’ll look at alternative health options, quality of life issues, coping with the challenges of aging, as well as the advantages of getting older and how to make the most of them. Grow old with me- the best is yet to be!