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Romans, though you’re guiltless, you’ll still expiate
your fathers’ sins, till you’ve restored the temples,
and the tumbling shrines of all the gods,
and their images, soiled with black smoke.
~Horace, Odes, III, 6; A. S. Kline trans.

Monday, December 27, 2010

January Calendar

January is named for Janus, god of doorways, endings and beginnings.

The first day of the month is the Kalends, sacred to Juno and the first of this month is also sacred to Janus. The Nones falls on the 5th and the Ides, sacred to Jupiter, falls on the 13th. The 2nd, 6th and 14th are unlucky (ater).

Invocation and hymn to the new year.

From Ovid's Fasti in the A. S. Cline translation

Sacra Publica
Varies: Compitalia
9th: Agonalia
11th: Carmentalia
15th: Carmentalia
24~26th: Sementivae / Paganalia
Two-headed Janus, source of the silently gliding year,
The only god who is able to see behind him,
Be favourable to the leaders, whose labours win
Peace for the fertile earth, peace for the seas:
Be favourable to the senate and Roman people,
And with a nod unbar the shining temples.
A prosperous day dawns: favour our thoughts and speech!
Let auspicious words be said on this auspicious day.
Let our ears be free of lawsuits then, and banish
Mad disputes now: you, malicious tongues, cease wagging!
See how the air shines with fragrant fire,
And Cilician grains crackle on lit hearths!
The flame beats brightly on the temple’s gold,
And spreads a flickering light on the shrine’s roof.
Spotless garments make their way to Tarpeian Heights,
And the crowd wear the colours of the festival:
Now the new rods and axes lead, new purple glows,
And the distinctive ivory chair feels fresh weight.

Compitalia: (or Ludi Compitalicii) honors the Lares Compitales, household deities of the crossroads (Latin compitum, an intersection), to whom sacrifices are offered at the places where two or more roads cross. (M. Terrentius Varro, Lingua Latina 6.25) A custom, (according to Festus), was that on the eve of Compitalia woollen balls were hung up for each slave in an household and wooden dolls for each free person, recognizing slaves alongside free citizens as neighbors, but still maintaining a distinction between these social classes. As at other festivals for the Lares, proper offerings would include water for travelers to wash, milk as a libation, olive oil, honey, bread, red flowers, incense, and perhaps fruit and nuts. These offering are properly placed on pottery shards or broken vessels or otherwise on crudely woven platters of reeds, rather than on fine cups.

Agonalia: There are several festivals called "Agonalia" throughout the year. This one is dedicated to Janus. Romans themselves were unclear about the purpose of the Agonalia. Ovid wrote, "Though the meaning is uncertain, Rex Sacrorum, Must appease the Gods with the mate of a woolly ewe." In any event, it was probably involved with the well-being of the state, and so it forms part of the Sacra Publica.

Carmentalia: The Carmentalia was an ancient festival in honour of the nymph Carmenta (or Carmentis), celebrated annually on January 11th and again on the 15th. Little is known except that Carmentis was invoked in it as Postvorta and Antevorta, epithets which had reference to her power of looking back into the past and forward into the future. The festival was chiefly observed by women.

According to legend, Carmenta's cultus predated Rome itself. In some accounts, she was known as Nicostrate, the mother of Evander, who was fathered by Mercurius. The fasti Praeneste suggests that the second date was added by a victorious Roman general who had left the City by the Porta Carmentalis for his campaign against Fidenae. The gate received its name from its proximity to the sacred grove of Carmentis. The fact is that we don't know today why the month of January has two separate festivals for Carmentis.

In a later period the Temple of the Bona Dea would become associated with the use of abortive herbs, and Carmentis associated with the use of the same herbs in birthing. In actuality both Carmentis and the Bona Dea were associated with birthing or prevention of pregnancy.

Sementivae and Paganalia: The exact date of the Sementivae, a Roman festival of sowing, was set each year by the magistrates or priests. It is a two part festival held in honor of Tellus (Mother Earth) and Ceres (one week later, starting February 2). The purpose is praying for a good crop. The Paganalia were observed in the country.

Ideas for celebrations in January

Clean your lararium on new year's eve, so that it is ready for the new year. Decorate it with flowers. Make offerings to your Lares and to Juno, but first to Janus.

On New Year's Day, make a token start of business. Students take up a book and read for a few moments. Carpenters tap a nail. Guard your words, offer well wishes and prosperity to all. Give gifts of sweet dried fruits and honey, or other similar sweets, such as honey dipped cookies.

In climates too cold to sow seeds, honor the Sementiavae and Paganalia by planning your garden and ordering your seeds. A particularly good idea is to contribute to biodiversity by growing some heritage varieties.

Property owners can re-establish the Compitalia by setting up stones as simple shrines at the corners of their property.

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