France

Knut the Reaper is possibly the original Grim Reaper, complete with the appearance of a skeleton clad in dark flowing robes wielding a scythe. In Norse mythology he enjoys commemoration on July 10 with the goddesses (Hel or Hela, Holda and Skadi) of the shades and underworlds Helheim and Niflheim.


Day of Knut the Reaper (July 10) is a centuries-old festival in which Wickerwork giants are paraded through the city streets of Douai, France to drive away evil spirits.

Traditional processions of huge effigies of giants, animals or dragons encompass an original ensemble of festive popular manifestations and ritual representations. These effigies first appeared in urban religious processions at the end of the fourteenth century in many European towns and continue to serve as emblems of identity for certain Belgian (Ath, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen and Mons) and French towns (Cassel, Douai, Pézenas and Tarascon), where they remain living traditions.

The giants and dragons are large-scale models measuring up to nine metres in height and weighing as much as 350 kilos. They represent mythical heroes or animals, contemporary local figures, historical, biblical or legendary characters or trades. St. George fighting the dragon is staged in Mons; Bayard, the horse from the Charlemagne legend, parades in Dendermonde; and Reuze Papa and Reuze Maman, popular family characters, parade at Cassel.

The performances, often mixing secular procession and religious ceremony, vary from town to town, but always follow a precise ritual in which the giants relate to the history, legend or life of the town.

The  Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, held annually on June 24, is the feast day of St John the Baptist, a Jewish preacher who according to the Christian tradition, baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. It is a day of celebration in Quebec and other areas of French Canada. The feast day of Saint John the Baptist or Midsummer was a very popular event in the Ancien Régime of France, and it is still celebrated as a religious feast day in several countries, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Spain, Latvia and Lithuania.

Other names for this holiday include the following:

  • Saint Jean Baptiste Day
  • La Saint-Jean
  • St John the Baptist Day
  • Fête nationale du Québec
  • Quebec’s National Holiday

This is a historical, cultural, national and religious holiday. It is observed by Quebecers, French Canadians, French Americans. Celebrations include parades, bonfires, fireworks, feasting, drinking, musical concerts, flag waving, patriotic speeches, and contests.

Symbols

The flag of Quebec and the fleurs-de-lis are widespread symbols of Saint Jean Baptiste Day. Many people choose to wear blue or white clothing to the celebrations. The fleurs-de-lis represents the flower of an iris or a lily. The fleurs-de-lis is also associated with the Virgin Mary and her purity. It was a symbol of French speaking people and their kings after King Clovis I converted to Christianity in the year 493. It was taken from the papal seal or coat-of-arms when the king converted, to symbolize the strength and significance of the French nation in its union with the Papal state. Quebec’s flag is one-and-a half times as wide as it is high and has a blue background. The background is divided into four rectangles by a cross and each of the four rectangles contains a single white fleurs-de-lis.

What Do People Do?

Various events are organized on Saint Jean Baptiste Day. These range from large scale public celebrations, such as rock and jazz concerts, sports tournaments, parades and firework displays, to small family or neighborhood happenings, such as yard sales, picnics, barbecues, bonfires and children’s entertainment. Many church bells ring in celebration and public dances and fun fairs are held. Some events may be held on the evening of June 23 and many are broadcast live on television, radio or on the Internet. The celebrations are coordinated by the Mouvement national des Québécoises et des Québécois.

Public Life

Saint Jean Baptiste Day is a public holiday in the Canadian province of Quebec. Post offices and many stores are closed. Public transport services run to a reduced schedule in some places or may not run at all in other areas, such as the province’s rural regions. If June 24 falls on a Sunday, the same day is a paid day off for those who work on Sunday. June 25 becomes a paid day off for workers who do not ordinarily work on Sunday.

Background

In ancient times, the summer solstice was honored around June 21. Midsummer festivals, such as those linked with the June solstice, were held in Europe for thousands of years. In the fifth century, Christianity spread through France. When people converted to Christianity, elements of these festivals were combined with feast days for Christian saints. June 24 – the feast day of St John was substituted for the pagan Midsummer celebrations. Traditionally, bonfires would be lit on the eve of June 24 in order to honor the saint.

In France, the celebrations around the feast day of Saint John the Baptist were widely enjoyed and French colonists introduced these traditions to North America.

The patriotic tone of the Saint Jean Baptiste Day celebrations began in 1834. In that year Ludger Duvernay, an influential journalist, visited the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Montreal, and was inspired to create a similar event for French Canadians. In 1843, he established the Saint Jean Baptiste Society to promote the celebration of Saint Jean Baptiste Day. This organization was supported by the Catholic Church, which saw it as a way to promote social and moral progress. In 1908 St John the Baptist was designated as the patron Saint of Quebec, re-enforcing the connection between Saint Jean Baptiste Day and French-Canadian patriotism.

The celebrations were supported by the Catholic Church and were primarily religious around that time. The lighting of bonfires, a traditional custom on the Nativity of Saint John which ultimately reached back to pre-Christian Midsummer celebrations were still lit at night. In addition, the first Saint-Jean-Baptiste parades were organized. They became an important tradition over time. The procession of allegorical floats was introduced in 1874.

During and after World War I, Saint Jean Baptiste Day was barely celebrated, but in 1925 Saint Jean Baptiste Day became a provincial holiday in Quebec. After a period in the 1960s, when the structure of society in Quebec changed greatly, this holiday became very political. During the Quiet Revolution, the event took a political turn, with many riots and protests taking place.

However, in 1977 Saint Jean Baptiste Day was recognized as the ‘national’ holiday of Quebec and the mood of the celebrations gradually moved towards that of the secular celebrations in modern times.

By making it a statutory holiday, the day became a holiday for all Quebecers rather than only those of French-Canadian or Catholic origins. Celebrations were gradually secularized. While the religious significance of the civic celebration is gone, the day remains popularly called la St-Jean-Baptiste or simply la St-Jean and is still observed in churches.

Collected from various sources

prayer-to-saint-anne-the-mother-of-maryJuly 26, is the Feast of St. Anne, Mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus.

Shellfish and lobster are served in France for their Saint Anne’s Day, July 26th. The most celebrated sight of St. Anne feast day is the annual ten day Saint Ann’s Solemn Novena made at Saint Ann’s Monastery Church at the Shrine of St. Ann de Beaupre in Quebec, Canada. The ten day novena begins on July 16 ends on July 26th, the feast of St Ann.

Patron Anne intervenes against poverty and for cabinetmakers; carpenters; childless couples; equestrians; grandmothers; grandparents; homemakers; housewives; miners; mothers; pregnancy; pregnant women; and women in labor.

If you fall into the above categories, this might be a good day to say some prayers to Saint Anne. The series of prayers for the novena can be found here.

Related Links:

Commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which started the French Revolution, on July 14th, 1789. Bastille Day is also celebrated by many of France’s former and current colonies.

For A Magickal Bastille Day

  • Theme: It’s time for a revolution!
  • Colors: Blue, white, and red
  • Symbols: The Eiffel Tower and the French national flag
  • Presiding Goddess: Lady Liberty

About Lady Liberty:

Although, Lady Liberty is not a goddess in the true sense of the word, she is a potent symbol of freedom. The statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from the people of France. The statue is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue is an icon of freedom. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral was turned into a “Cult of Reason” and for a time “Lady Liberty” replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars.

To do today:

Time to take stock of your life and circumstances. Is it time for a revolution in your life? Is it time to break down barriers, make new rules, give yourself permission to be free of oppressive situations and/or relationships? Is it time to draw up your own Declaration of Independence, or as the French termed it, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen?

Here is a spell for personal freedom:

This spell taps directly into the energy and power of Bastille Day, and can be performed any time it is needed. You will need a length of blue, white, and red ribbon or yarn. It should be as long as you are tall. You can use three ribbons, each a solid color, or one ribbon that is a combination of the three colors. You will also need an envelope, and a handful of dandelion fluff, or feathers, a small candle, and a knife or pair of scissors.

Light the candle, and then place the dandelion fluff into the envelope, and seal it shut. Those little bits of fluff or feathers represent your spirit. The envelope represents the walls you have created to protect yourself. Carefully fold or roll the envelope up so that will fit comfortably in your hand. You control your own destiny. It lies in your hands now.

Sit down, holding the envelope, and think about what restricts your freedom, what circumstances and situations starve your spirit, and steal your joy, what binds you, what constricts you, what holds you back. Begin to tie the ribbon around the envelope. There is no wrong way to bind up the envelope with the ribbon. Tie as many knots as you’d like. While you are binding the envelope, be thinking about the restrictions that bind your spirit. When you are complete, drip candle wax onto the bundle to seal it, and then snuff the candle.

Now, take the wrapped up envelope outside, along with the knife or scissors outside. Take a few moments to breathe in the outside air, listen to the sounds around you, notice the wind and the sky. You can be free. You can claim your freedom. Allow yourself to think about how it will feel to be free. When you are ready, begin to cut the strands of ribbon away from the envelope. As you do, say the following:

Bondage has no hold on me.
Beautiful Lady set me free.

When the ribbon is completely cut, very gently open the envelope and take out the dandelion fluff or feathers. Holding them in your hand, gently breathe into them and then hold them high and toss them free. Don’t worry if they simply fall to the ground. Any feathers or fluff that fails to fly free can be picked up and gently placed in an open spot where they will catch the breeze.

Burn or bury the remains of the envelope and the ribbon. When you go back inside, re-light your candle. You are now ready to let your own light shine. Allow the candle to burn completely.

About Bastille Day:

What follows is an excerpt from a Paris newspaper account of the fall of the Bastille, on July 14, 1789:.

It was a terrible scene. . . . The fighting grew steadily more intense; the citizens had become hardened to the fire; from all directions they clambered onto the roofs or broke into the rooms; as soon as an enemy appeared among the turrets on the tower, he was fixed in the sights of a hundred guns and mown down in an instant;

meanwhile cannon fire was hurriedly directed against the second drawbridge, which it pierced, breaking the chains; in vain did the cannon on the tower reply, for most people were sheltered from it; the fury was at its height; people bravely faced death and every danger; women, in their eagerness, helped us to the utmost; even the children, after the discharge of fire from the fortress, ran her and there picking up the bullets and shot;

…and so the Bastille fell and the governor, De Launey, was captured … Serene and blessed liberty, for the first time, has at last been introduced into this abode of horrors, this frightful refuge of monstrous despotism and its crimes.

Interestingly, although the name of the Bastille evokes dark images of despotism and unjust imprisonment, in reality it was a great deal pleasanter than most ordinary prisons. A central part of the myth, and an indication of its potency, was the story of a prisoner supposedly forced to wear an iron mask to conceal his identity even from his guards – the sufferings of this Man in the Iron Mask were given wide publicity by Voltaire. Archives of the title reveal that there was indeed a masked prisoner from 1698 until 1703, when he died. The mask was made of velvet, and he was well treated.

It was originally built in the 14th century to guard one of main entrances to Paris, but by the 18th century the Bastille served only as a prison – mainly for political, aristocratic prisoners who could not be thrust into the crowded gaols with common criminals – and occasionally as a store for arms.The fortress also accommodated printers, booksellers and authors who produced works that the authorities considered seditious. Voltaire was imprisoned there twice: first in 1717 when he was suspected of writing verses accusing the Régent of incest, and then again in 1726. Throughout the 18th century there were never more than 40 inmates, most of them serving short sentences.

On the morning of 14 July 1789, the Bastille was nearly empty of prisoners, housing only seven old men annoyed by all the disturbance: four forgers, two “lunatics” and one “deviant” aristocrat, the Comte de Solages (the Marquis de Sade had been transferred out ten days earlier). The cost of maintaining a medieval fortress and garrison for so limited a purpose had led to a decision being taken to close it, shortly before the disturbances began. It was, however, a symbol of royal tyranny.

Upon learning that the Bastille had been taken, King Louis XVI, who was residing at Versailles, was reported to have asked an informer: “Is this a revolt?” and La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt said, “No, Sire, it is a revolution.” Little did Louis know that the mob’s next plan was to march to Versailles, and take him away with them as well.

Note: This post was put together by Shirley Twofeathers you may repost and share it only if you give me credit and a link back to this website. Blessed be.

The Mothers of Arles is a French festival that runs from May 24 through May 28. This unique festival celebrating the triple goddess is still alive and well in France, celebrated mostly by gypsies. The “Three Maries of the Sea” recall the ancient goddess of life, death, and beauty. The gypsies gather from all over Europe and carry on their annual celebrations of the triple goddess. Three women dressed up as Mare, Tavobe, and Mary impersonate the goddesses, reaching the shore in boats.

In modern times, Sarah and Salome are the companions of Mary in this trinity. Fancy processions, gypsy weddings, trading of all sorts, fortune-telling, the leaping of cows (a survival from the ancient practice of bull leaping), dancing gypsy style, and candles give these days and nights their wild beauty.

From: The Grandmother of Time

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