In India a ritual was held when the the cotton boles (pods) ripen and burst. When this change in the plant occurs, it was the custom to select the largest plant in the field and having sprinkled it with buttermilk and rice water, to bind it all over with pieces of cotton taken from other plants in the field.
The selected plant is called “Mother Cotton” and after salutations are made to it, prayers are offered that the other plants may resemble it in the richness of their produce.
In other areas of India, when the cotton pods begin to burst, women go round the field, and as a kind of lustration, throw salt into it, with similar supplications that the produce may be abundant. The practice appears to be observed in somewhat similar fashion to the Ambravalia of the Romans and the Field-Litanies of the English Church.
Cotton is a kharif crop which requires 6 to 8 months to mature. Dates for this ritual vary from year to year, region to region because its time of sowing and harvesting differs in different parts of the country depending upon the climatic conditions. In Punjab and Haryana it is sown in April-May and is harvested in December-January that is before the winter frost can damage the crop.
August 25th is the Opconsivia, (or Opeconsiva or Opalia) the harvest festival of Ops, the Roman goddess of agricultural resources and wealth, also known as Opis. The festival marked the end of harvest, with a mirror festival on December 19 concerned with the storage of the grain.
- Themes: Opportunity; Wealth; Fertility; Growth
- Symbols: Bread; Seeds; Soil
About Ops: This Italian goddess of fertile earth provides us with numerous “op-portunities” to make every day more productive. In stories, Ops motivates fruit bearing, not just in plants but also in our spirits. She also controls the wealth of the gods, making her a goddess of opulence! Works of art depict Ops with a loaf of bread in one hand, and the other outstretched, offering aid.
To Do Today:
On this day, Ops was evoked by sitting on the earth itself, where she lives in body and spirit. So, weather permitting, take yourself on a picnic lunch today. Sit with Ops and enjoy any sesame or poppy breadstuff (bagel, roll, etc.) – both types of seeds are magically aligned with Ops’s money-bringing power. If possible, keep a few of the seeds from the bread in your pocket or shoe so that after lunch, Ops’s opportunities for financial improvements or personal growth can be with you no matter where you go. And don’t forget to leave a few crumbs for the birds so they can take your magical wishes to the four corners of creation.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, invoke Ops by getting as close to the earth as you can (sit on your floor, go into the cellar). Alternatively, eat earthy foods like potatoes, root crops, or any fruit that comes from Ops’s abundant storehouse.
More About This Festival:
The Latin word consivia (or consiva) derives from conserere (“to sow”). Opis was deemed an underworld goddess who made the vegetation grow. Since her abode was inside the earth, Ops was invoked by her worshipers while sitting, with their hands touching the ground.
Although Ops is a consort of Saturn, she was also closely associated with Consus, the protector of grains and subterranean storage bins (silos). The festival of Consus, the Consualia, was celebrated twice a year, each time preceding that of Ops: once on August 21, after the harvest, and once on December 15, after the sowing of crops was finished.
The Opiconsivia festival was superintended by the Vestals and the Flamines of Quirinus, an early Sabine god said to be the deified Romulus. The main priestess at the regia wore a white veil, characteristic of the vestal virgins. A chariot race was performed in the Circus Maximus. Horses and mules, their heads crowned with chaplets made of flowers, also took part in the celebration.
From ancient times people marked the time of the return of the sun, the shortest and longest night. In olden times it was called the Feast of the Dews- Rasos. When Christianity was established in Lithuania, the name was changed to Feast of St. John, according to agrarian folk calendar, the start of haying.
The rituals of the longest day were closely related to agrarian ideas and notions. The main aim was to protect the harvest from natural calamities, evil souls, witches and mid summer visitors like drought, hail, downpours of rain and thunder.
In the 15th century, visitors to Lithuania wrote that in Vilnius, the celebrations took place in the eastern section of the city, the place of the present day “Rasos” cemetery. Fires were lit on hills and in dales. People danced, sang, ate and drank. On the Feast of St John a special role was granted to the sun. The sun is constantly mentioned in songs sung on the longest day of the year.
On this ritual day, farmers paid special attention to water’s special powers in reviving soil and making it productive. Witching on this day were carried out near and with water, people washed themselves and their animals. Special attention was paid to the dew because it revives plants at night. At sunrise farmers made their way around the fields, pulling a branch which brushed the dew to fall into the soil and cause a good harvest.
Maidens tried to get up before sunrise, collect the dew and wash their faces with it to make them bright and beautiful. They would also get up at night, go outside to wet their faces in the dew and returned to bed without wiping their faces dry. If that night they dreamt of a young man bringing them a towel, they hoped that he would be the one they would marry.
Flourishing plants were worshiped because it was believed that plants collected on the eve of the Feast of St. John posses magic powers to heal, bring luck and foretell the future. This is an ancient ritual practiced mainly by women. Roses, common daisies, especially the herb St. John’s worth and numerous grasses were some of the main plants collected at this time.
A festival pole, decorated with flowers and greenery was called “Kupolė”. Folklore shows that “Kupolė” was the Goddess of plants, living in aromatic plants, blossoms or in buds in summer and in snowdrifts in winter.
In Lithuania Minor, even in winter before the Feast of St. John, women made haste to collect medicinal herbs, with the belief that after June 24th all herbs lose their healing powers.
Girls returned to the village after picking flowers and singing, wreathed the festival post, “Kupolė”, and added colorful fluttering ribbons to it. This festival post was set at the far end of the village, near the grain fields. It had to be defended during two days and nights from young men who tried to steal it.
After saving the post, the girls removed the decorative herbs and grasses and divided them amongst themselves because these herbs had special protective powers against evil spirits and illnesses.
In some regions bunches containing nine plants were gathered by women on the eve of the Feast of St. John. Some of the plants were fed to animals before midnight, so they would be protected from evil eyes. Bunches of St. John’s worth were placed behind pictures of saints. If this bunch did not wilt fast, it was believed that it will be a lucky year.
It was believed that wreaths concentrate perpetual life’s forces and are symbols of immortality and life. There were many rites and witching’s associated with wreaths during this longest summer’s night.
Walk around three fields and gather bunches of nine flowers, twine a wreath and place it under your pillow. You will marry the man, who in your dream comes to take away the wreath. At midnight, twelve wreaths were dropped into a river and observed if they were pairing off. If no pairing off occurred, there was to be no marriage that year.
Near the river Nemunas, wreaths were dropped in the water, only when the river was calm and observed to which direction they drifted. Matchmakers would come from that direction. Releasing the wreath with the current, it will be caught by a young man, the maiden will be his. Should the wreath float away without being caught, the maiden will keep that wreath all year in her dowry chest, as a symbol of luck and health.
In the seacoast region, all during the night, young men and women twined wreaths from ferns, placed candles and set them in streams. Should both their wreaths swim together, they believed that they would marry that year.
In some regions wreaths twined during the night of the Feast of St. John were placed at crossroads with the belief that ones future will be seen in a dream.
The rites of this day continued till sunrise around bonfires. The site selected for ritual bonfires was always in the most beautiful area, on hills, on river shores and near lakes. In some regions bonfires were lit on future grain fields and under linden trees.
Those who are not fond of socializing on the eve, hurry and gather along lake shores, light bonfires, place burning poles, covered with tar into trees, so that there would be light all night long until sunrise. Special decorated wheels were lit and were rolled down hillsides, this symbolized the sun’s moving away from the earth and at the same time a request for her return.
In ancient times, the ritual fires were lit by senior priests, “vaidilos”. That fire was started with sparks coming from rubbing dried roots of medicinal herbs or from flying sparks when striking flint stones. Such fires would protect from epidemics, illnesses, poor harvests, hail and lightning.
Eggs were thrown into the fires and animals sacrificed. Later straw dolls were sacrificed in place of animals.
The ritual fires were built up to throw their light over a large area of fields, to assure a big autumn harvest. On the eve of this feast day, home fires were put out and new fires were lit using glowing coals from the ritual fires of that day.
It was believed that these ritual fires had special powers, which would protect from misfortunes, bring health and harmony to the family. It was important for newlyweds to light the fire in their hearth with the coals of the miraculous ritual fire. Such a family would be blessed, live well and in total harmony.
Jumping over fires or around it had magic meaning. Ritual bonfires cleansed both physically and psychologically. Sick adults and children were brought to the ritual fires and were pulled through the fire, with the belief that they would be healed. Jumping over the fire was carried out with the belief of making better health, increasing body strength for hard summer labors and assuring better growth of grain and flax.
Ritual fires’ ashes, smoldering coals had special powers to increase the harvest and protect it from natural calamities. The coals were dug under in fields; ashes were sprinkled on crops to assure good crop yields. To keep weeds from growing in grain fields, ritual fires’ wood splinter remains were tied to the plough share when ploughing the fields.
The feast of St. John is connected with summer weddings and their rituals which were bound to affect family living and population increases. Should a pair become friends this night, there will definitely be a wedding.
The night of June 24th is the shortest night of the year, filled with bird sounds and luxuriant vegetation. Darkness substitutes light unnoticeably, night is full of miracles due to fire reflections and shadows. It was believed that activity during this night of supernatural creatures or female witches was ill disposed towards men, animals and plants. To keep animals from their malevolent actions, animals were put in barns before sunset and were fed bread with salt for protection. Mountain ash branches and wheat sprays were hung on door posts for protection against evil spirits
In some regions clogs were placed in front of a mirror. Witches would step into the clogs and run away upset by their frightful image in the mirror.
“Šatrija” was the most famous witches’ hill, where during the night of the Feast of St. John, witches party and rage all night and invent all kinds of enchanting. This is why one could not do without “witches’ burnings”. Young people tied a barrel filled with tar and sawdust to a high pole, sprinkled it with salt so that the witches would crackle. The barrel was set on fire while the young people sang and danced merrily. Next morning the cow herd was driven through the remaining ashes, with the belief that witching’s will no longer be harmful.
During the night of the Feast of St. John, the miraculous fern bursts into bloom. It is difficult to catch sight of this bloom; however this difficulty can be overcome by going to the forest the day before, cutting down a mountain ash, pruning the branches and cutting off the top. Then pulling the tree backwards, walk about one hundred steps without looking back, toward the side to which the cut tree fell.
Look back after the hundred steps and then you will see the devil sitting stuck in the ash tree. The devil will ask for your help to get off the tree and for your help will tell you where to find the blooming fern. When you locate the blooming fern, ghosts will attack with butting horns whirlwinds will howl and cats will cry. Then take a cane made of mountain ash, draw a circle around you with it, spread a linen cloth and stop being afraid. The fern blossom will fall on the cloth. Some say that the fern bloom is like birch dust, others describe it as round and white like carp’s scale.
Prepared by: http://ausis.gf.vu.lt/eka/
Photos by: Gintaras Jaronis, Vytautas Darasevičius, Leonardas Šidlauskas and A. Kiričenko.
On December 13, the anniversary of the Temple of Tellus was celebrated along with a lectisternium (banquet) for Ceres, who embodied “growing power” and the productivity of the earth. This day was known as The Sementivaem, and was the second of two yearly festivals of Tellus Mater, the Roman earth goddess.
Very little is known about how it was celebrated. More is known about the first yearly Festival of Tellus. This festival was celebrated in honour of Tellus on the 15th of April, which was called Fordicidia or Hordicalia. You can read about it here: Fordicia – The Festival of Tellus.
In private life sacrifices were offered to Tellus at the time of sowing and at harvest-time, especially when a member of the family had died without due honors having been paid to him, for it was Tellus that had to receive the departed into her bosom. At the festival of Tellus, and when sacrifices were offered to her, the priests also prayed to a male divinity of the earth, called Tellumo.
When an oath was taken by Tellus, or the gods of the nether world, people stretched their hands downward, just as they turned them upwards in swearing by Jupiter.
About the Temple:
The Temple of Tellus was the most prominent landmark of the Carinae, a fashionable neighborhood on the Oppian Hill. It was near homes belonging to Pompey and to the Cicero family.
The temple was the result of a votum made in 268 BC by Publius Sempronius Sophus when an earthquake struck during a battle with the Picenes. Others say it was built by the Roman people. It occupied the former site of a house belonging to Spurius Cassius, which had been torn down when he was executed in 485 BC for attempting to make himself king. The anniversary (dies natalis) of its dedication was December 13.
A mysterious object called the magmentarium was stored in the temple, which was also known for a representation of Italy on the wall, either a map or an allegory.
A statue of Quintus Cicero, set up by his brother Marcus, was among those that stood on the temple grounds. Cicero claims that the proximity of his property caused some Romans to assume he had a responsibility to help maintain the temple.