Giving Gifts

According to one calendar, the ancient Greeks celebrated the ‘Feast of the Stolen Fire’ on or around November 7. I was unable to find any other mention of it, but I like the idea, so I’m adding it here. I think November is as good a time as any to celebrate the gift of fire.

Alternatively this could be celebrated on the 8th day after the November dark moon. The date will vary from year to year, but since the 8th lunar day is a day for fire, it seems appropriate.

This feast day is held in honor of the old Titan god, Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and presented it to mortals, thus saving the human race. Many lamps were lit in his honor.

About Prometheus

Prometheus was the Titan god of forethought and crafty counsel who was given the task of molding mankind out of clay. His attempts to better the lives of his creation brought him into conflict with Zeus.

First he tricked the gods out of the best portion of the sacrificial feast, acquiring the meat for the feasting of man. Then, when Zeus withheld fire, he stole it from heaven and delivered it to mortal kind hidden inside a fennel-stalk.

As punishment for these rebellious acts, Zeus ordered the creation of Pandora (the first woman) as a means to deliver misfortune into the house of man, or as a way to cheat mankind of the company of the good spirits.

Prometheus meanwhile, was arrested and bound to a stake on Mount Kaukasos (Caucasus) where an eagle was set to feed upon his ever-regenerating liver (or, some say, heart). Generations later the great hero Herakles (Heracles) came along and released the old Titan from his torture.

For the Greeks and many who followed, Prometheus was revered as a champion of humanity, as well as a bringer of wisdom, reason, and knowledge. In Athens, the center of his ritual observance, Prometheus was credited not only as the bringer of fire, but of metallurgy as well. Alongside Athena and Hephaestus, Prometheus was celebrated by the city as a wellspring of technology, craft, and the civilized arts.

Prometheus is the archetypal figure of revolutionary defiance, chained to a rock with an eagle eating his liver, which regenerates only to be eaten again the next day. The story of Prometheus has mesmerized the imagination of philosophers, painters and poets ever since.

Despite his prominent role in their mythology, Prometheus was seldom worshipped by the ancient Greeks. His cult was limited to Athens, where, alongside Hephaestus and Athena, he served as part of an unofficial triumvirate of deities associated with technology and culture. Artisans, in particular, paid homage to Prometheus, who gave them the gifts of fire and metallurgy.

The Athenians erected an altar to Prometheus in the grove outside the Academy, a key learning center founded by Plato in the fourth century BCE. This altar served as the starting point for a torch race held during the Panathenaic festival, an Athenian civic festival held every four years.

A Ritual In Honor of Prometheus

  • Colors: Blue and red
  • Element: Air
  • Altar: Upon cloth of blue place a great torch, a large and ugly stone with a chain laid over it, and a great curved blade laid against it.
  • Offering: Stand up for something that you believe in, even if it will do you harm.

Invocation to Prometheus

Long ago, wars tore the land
And the great and powerful laid waste
To all things, and some won,
and some lost, but the true losers
Were those unfortunate humans
Who were beneath the notice of either side.
One Titan took pity on them,
And tricked the gods who would have
Robbed them of even their food,
And taught them to keep the best part
Of their sacrifices for themselves.
And then, to help them further
In the face of the wrath of the powerful,
He stole fire from the sacred forge
And gave it to weak humanity.
And for this he was punished,
As he knew he would be punished,
Chained to a stone and torn by a vulture.
And yet the knowledge of that punishment
Did not deter him from his goal,
For when there is something that must be done,
And it is right to do it,
Then harm to body and mind
Does not stop right action.
For this we hail Prometheus,
Lord of Forethought,
He who sacrifices for the good of all,
He who knows what it is to be right,
And what will be the consequences.

All stand before the altar and salute the torch, and speak of their own convictions.

A Fire Meditation

This is a day for transformation and purification.

  • Purification with fire.

If possible, sit by a woodfire in the evening. Prepare yourself for complete interaction with the fire, concentrating on the flames and slipping into its energy field. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the center of the fire. Feel how it burns out all your negative emotions and clears your energy channels.

When you feel it’s enough, imagine yourself stepping out of the fire and deeply breathe in the clear fresh air. Your channels are now filled with pure new energy, your aura is light and transparent. Realize that your aura and body have just experienced some new chemical reactions, which renewed your life.

Give thanks to the fire for your purification. If making wood-fire is impossible, practice the same meditation with candles.

Making Fire

The following is an article about starting a fire from scratch when you are camping out in the woods. I thought it would be a fun and interesting way to celebrate Prometheus and his gift of fire. Enjoy!

Hopefully, you’ll never be in the position where you won’t have any matches or lighters to start a fire with when you need one. However, no matter how cautious you are about taking fire-making instruments with you, it’s good to know more than one way to start a fire when you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors.

For example, if you’re caught in an unexpected thunderstorm, your matches might get wet, despite your best efforts to keep them in a waterproof container. Since anything can happen, be prepared for anything. Here are six ways you can start a fire without a match.

  • 1. Always carry tinder. 

Starting a fire from scratch is difficult enough even with matches. Without matches, it’s even harder. To give yourself a head-start on starting a fire, bring a tinder kit with you.

A tinder kit should consist of material that is dry and easy to use in the creation of a fire. You can tease apart rope fiber into soft, thin threads; cotton balls soaked in Vaseline work especially well; and you can always buy tinder kits.

If you’re caught without any tinder material on you, or if what you have has gotten wet, look for cedar trees or birch trees. The bark of these trees can be shredded to create some quick tinder. Cattails also work as natural tinder material.

  • 2. Using Flint and Steel

One of the easiest match-free ways to start a fire is to use flint and steel. Flint and steel kits can be purchased relatively inexpensively and are easy to start a fire with if you have a tinder kit, especially if your tinder kit includes charcloth.

Making a fire with flint and steel has three essential steps: First, you need to create a spark. Second, you need to catch that spark. Third, you need to turn the spark into a flame.

To complete the first two steps, take a small bit of charcloth and lay it flat against the flint. Next, strike the flint with the metal striker. You should see sparks immediately if you strike the flint at the right angle.

One of these sparks should eventually land on the charcloth, giving it a tiny orange glow. That tiny glow is enough to start a fire with; you should transfer the charcloth to the tinder nest when the glow appears, gently wrapping the charcloth into the tinder nest and then blowing on it.

The tinder nest should smoke and produce a flame almost right away. You can feed the flame with small kindling, such as dried grass, pine-straw, or twigs, and then use the more stable flame to light your logs on fire.

  • 3. Using a glass lens.

Some of us discovered this method quite on accident as children when we melted toys with a magnifying glass or accidentally caught bugs on fire. Hopefully, you won’t be using your magnifying glass to torture bugs when you’re on your next hiking trip, but if you have an unobstructed view of the sun, you can easily use the magnifying glass method to start a fire.

A magnifying glass that rotates in and out of a vinyl case, as opposed to a magnifying glass with a handle, is ideal for traveling with.

This method is very simple. Put your tinder nest on the ground or with your kindling, then aim the beam of the sun at the tinder nest until it begins to smoke. When it starts smoking, gently blow on the tinder nest until you produce a flame.

Using a magnifying glass to start a fire is easy, but it depends upon having a decent amount of sunlight. Since you can’t always depend on the sun being out, it’s good to have more methods on-hand than just the magnifying glass.

  • 4. Capture the rays of the sun.

Besides using a glass lens to capture the rays of the sun and produce a fire, you can also use a water-filled balloon or a mirror to achieve the same effect. When using water inside a balloon, try to make the shape into a sphere. The more spherical the container is, the more effective it will be at focusing the rays of the sun.

If you don’t have a mirror on hand, you can polish the bottom of a soda/beer can with toothpaste or chocolate and turn it into a mirror. By the way, if you use this last method, don’t eat the chocolate after you’ve polished your aluminum can with it; the chocolate may contain toxic residue.

  • 5. Use friction.

One of the most famous ways to start a fire without a match is also one of the most difficult: using friction. To use this method, make a v-shaped notch in a board or log, and choose a spindle that will create the friction.

Rub the spindle between your hands as fast as you can, moving your hands up and down the spindle rapidly. When the board or log begins to smoke, use your tinder nest to catch the glowing spark you’ve produced.

You can also create a bow drill instead. The bow drill is easier than the primitive method described above, but it requires you to make a proper bow first, which is harder.

  • 6. When it’s wet outside.

What if you’re in a worst-case scenario type of situation? Your matches and your lighter have both gotten wet and won’t work. You have a tinder kit, along with some flint and steel, but your tinder kit has gotten wet, too. The downpour has also made the forest around you wet, so there is virtually no dry kindling or logs anywhere to be found.

Are you stuck at this point? No. If you’re resourceful, you can still start a fire.

Start by finding some dry tinder. The aforementioned birch or cedar bark works well in this scenario, but you’ll have to peel a few layers of bark off to get to the dry bark.

As for finding dry wood, look for a standing dead tree. Unlike a dead tree that’s lying on the forest floor, a standing dead tree will usually be dry inside. Peel away the rotted, wet, outer section of the tree to get to the dry wood on the inside.

You can use this dry wood as your kindling. Once you have a decent blaze going, you can use even damp limbs and twigs in your fire, because the heat of the fire will be strong enough to catch damp wood at that point.

Stealing Fire

Fire is a very powerful symbol, human progress did not begin until we established fire. The gift of fire opened the door to so many things such as cooking our food, melting metals, and providing warmth in the winter. It represents the start of civilization, consciousness, new ideas, and symbolizes man’s development of art and technology with its promise to better our lives, but not without respect for it and the gods.

Most cultures with a story to tell about fire’s origin see it as a theft. Fire is stolen, from someone who does not want to share it. Sometimes by a bird or animal blazoned with red because the fire left a scar.

Why have people always felt that fire was stolen? There’s a simple material explanation: earth, water and air, the other traditional elements of the world, are around us all the time but fire must be coaxed out of wood and stone, unless it comes down as lightning, as divine fire. Fire also needs special knowledge. You have to learn to kindle and nurture it, so it won’t go out. This knowledge must be guarded so the secret won’t be lost.

The theft of fire for the benefit of humanity is a theme that recurs in many world mythologies:

  • Africa

The San peoples, the indigenous Southern African hunter-gatherers, tell how Kaggen, in the form of a mantis, brought the first fire to the people by stealing it from the ostrich, who kept the fire beneath its wings.

  • Native America

Among various Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest and First Nations, fire was stolen and given to humans by Coyote, Beaver or Dog. In Algonquin myth, Rabbit stole fire from an old man and his two daughters.

In Cherokee myth, after Possum and Buzzard had failed to steal fire, Grandmother Spider used her web to sneak into the land of light. She stole fire, hiding it in a clay pot.

According to a Mazatec legend, the opossum spread fire to humanity. Fire fell from a star and an old woman kept it for herself. The opossum took fire from the old woman and carried the flame on its tail, resulting in its hairlessness

According to the Muscogees/Creeks, Rabbit stole fire from the Weasels. In Ojibwa myth, Nanabozho the hare stole fire and gave it to humans. According to some Yukon First Nations people, Crow stole fire from a volcano in the middle of the water.

  • Eurasia

According to the Rigveda, the hero Mātariśvan recovered fire, which had been hidden from humanity.

In one of the versions of Georgian myth, Amirani stole fire from metalsmiths, who refused to share it – and knowledge of creating it – with other humans.

The Vainakh hero Pkharmat brought fire to mankind and was chained to Mount Kazbek as punishment.

  • Oceania

In Polynesian myth, Māui stole fire from the Mudhens. In the mythology of the Wurundjeri people of Australia, it was the Crow who stole the secret of fire from the Karatgurk women.

Sources:

St. Basil’s Day, January 1st, commemorates the day in which (it’s believed) Basil of Caesarea died. The Festival of Saint Basil is the Greek New Year.

In Greek tradition, Basil brings gifts to children every January 1. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace in hopes that St. Basil will fill them with gifts. A large feast is prepared, the larger the luckier the year will be. Pork is usually the main dish.  It is customary on his feast day to visit the homes of friends and relatives, to sing New Year’s carols, and to set an extra place at the table for Saint Basil.

Traditionally Vasilopita or Vaselopita, a special bread or cake, is baked on St. Basil’s Day Eve, and served at midnight. The cake is handed out in a particular order. The first piece is for the remembrance of St. Basil and the second is for the household. Those pieces are taken to the church to be blessed, then given to the poor. The rest of the slices are distributed from the eldest member of the household to the youngest.

A coin or trinket is hidden inside the cake, and the person who gets the piece with the hidden treasure will have luck in the coming year.

Vasilopita | St. Basil’s Bread

Make sure everyone knows a quarter is hidden in the cake so they search for it and do not choke on it.

  • 1 cup butter, unsalted
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • a clean quarter

Preheat oven to 350F. Generously grease a 10-inch round cake pan. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until mealy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, baking soda, milk, lemon juice, and zests. Mix into the batter, then pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts and sugar. Bake 40-45 minutes. Gently push a quarter into the cake. Cool 10 minutes. Invert cake onto platter. Serve warm.

A Feast Day Prayer to Saint Basil

Saint Basil, O great follower of God, help all as well as me. Defender of orthodoxy, defend us too. Great follower of God, pray to him for all your people, as well as for unworthy me. Strong knight and leader of Ostrog, save us from the seen and unseen. Raised by Serbian soil to be the light in front of God, be our light and light up our road, and make the darkness disappear.

With prayer and tears you have warmed the cold cliffs of Ostrog, please warm our hearts with God’s spirit, so we can be saved. From all corners of the world to your grave come the weak and the ill, and you helped them, got rid of their demons as well as the devil, and healed their souls and bodies.

Please continue to help, the baptized and the nonbaptized, everybody and me as well. You brought peace to fighting brothers, please continue to bring peace, help the divided, make the sad happy, calm the stubborn, heal the sick. Saint Basil, O miracle worker, father of our spirit, listen and hear your children’s spirits in the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

About Saint Basil

Basil, being born into a wealthy family, gave away all his possessions to the poor, the underprivileged, those in need, and children. For Greeks and others in the Orthodox tradition, Basil is the saint associated with Santa Claus as opposed to the western tradition of St Nicholas

St. Basil, also called Saint Basil the Great, is one of the most distinguished Doctors of the Church and a forefather of the Greek Orthodox Church. St. Basil was born in the year 329 or 330 and died in the year 379.  He is the Patron of Russia, Cappadocia, hospital administrators, reformers, monks, education, exorcism, and liturgists.

Basil’s life changed radically after he encountered Eustathius of Sebaste, a charismatic bishop and ascetic. Abandoning his legal and teaching career, Basil devoted his life to God. In a letter he described his spiritual awakening:

I had wasted much time on follies and spent nearly all of my youth in vain labors, and devotion to the teachings of a wisdom that God had made foolish. Suddenly, I awoke as out of a deep sleep. I beheld the wonderful light of the Gospel truth, and I recognized the nothingness of the wisdom of the princes of this world. 

Hot-blooded and somewhat imperious, Basil was also generous and sympathetic. He personally organized a soup kitchen and distributed food to the poor during a famine following a drought. He gave away his personal family inheritance to benefit the poor of his diocese.

His letters show that he actively worked to reform thieves and prostitutes. They also show him encouraging his clergy not to be tempted by wealth or the comparatively easy life of a priest, and that he personally took care in selecting worthy candidates for holy orders. He also had the courage to criticize public officials who failed in their duty of administering justice. At the same time, he preached every morning and evening in his own church to large congregations.

In addition to all the above, he built a large complex just outside Caesarea, called the Basiliad,  which included a poorhouse, hospice, and hospital, and was compared by Gregory of Nazianzus to the wonders of the world.

His three hundred letters reveal a rich and observant nature, which, despite the troubles of ill-health and ecclesiastical unrest, remained optimistic, tender and even playful. His principal efforts as a reformer were directed towards the improvement of the liturgy, and the reformation of the monastic institutions of the East.

There are numerous relics of Basil throughout the world. One of the most important is his head, which is preserved to this day at the monastery of the Great Lavra on Mount Athos in Greece. The mythical sword Durandal is said to contain some of Basil’s blood.

Some Great St Basil Quotes

I really love some of these quotes. They are surprisingly applicable to modern life. Enjoy!

Alternative St Basil Feast Days

According to some sources, Basil died on January 1, and the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates his feast day together with that of the Feast of the Circumcision on that day. This was also the day on which the General Roman Calendar celebrated it at first; but in the 13th-century it was moved to June 14, a date believed to be that of his ordination as bishop, and it remained on that date until the 1969 revision of the calendar, which moved it to January 2 (rather than January 1) because the latter date is occupied by the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

On January 2 Saint Basil is celebrated together with Saint Gregory Nazianzen. Some traditionalist Catholics continue to observe pre-1970 calendars.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod commemorates Basil, along with Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa on January 10.

The Church of England celebrates Saint Basil’s feast on January 2, but the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada celebrate it on June 14.

In the Byzantine Rite, January 30 is the Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs, in honor of Saint Basil, Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom.

The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria celebrates the feast day of Saint Basil on the 6th of Tobi (6th of Terr on the Ethiopian calendar of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church). At present, this corresponds to January 14, January 15 during leap year.

Sources:

There is not a lot of information about this particular feast day and the dates given for it vary widely. Our calendar lists it as January 30 – 31, but some calendars assign it to January 17 – 18, others say April 18 – 19, May 26, July 9 – 10, or October 13. None of these calendars have any information other than that it is called “Feast of Charities” for the Greek goddesses known as the Graces. I don’t think anyone really knows much about it.

I did find a Feast of the Charities Ritual at Llewellyn. Here it is:

  • Color of the day: Orange
  • Incense of the day: Sage

Today is the Feast of the Charities. These old Greek goddesses of beneficence were known to the Romans as the Gratiae, or “Graces.” They are Aglaea, whose name means “splendor,” Euphrosyne, or “joy,” and Thalia, or “mirth.” The Charities bestow charm, beauty, and creativity on their worshipers. In this regard they serve a similar purpose to the nine Muses. Generosity and festive activities please these goddesses.

  • Get some friends together and dress up.
  • Arrange each other’s hair.
  • Dance and sing, or perform some sacred theater.
  • Visit an art gallery or walk through a street fair.

Alternatively, do something nice for the less fortunate. Bundle up old clothes you never wear anymore to recycle for the less fortunate, or hold a food drive and donate the results to a local charity. (Yes, the term comes from the name of these goddess, “Charities.”) You could also donate your money or time. Give of yourself, and you shall receive “grace” from the Charities in return. Be kind and giving, and your creativity will overflow!

Thousands of working class Bolivians crowd the streets of La Paz every year to buy miniature cars, houses and wads of fake dollar bills representing their dreams of wealth.

Alasitas is a 3-week long fair that, in La Paz, takes place beginning on the 24th of January and in Santa Cruz takes place in September. “Alasitas” is an Aymaran word that means “buy me”, and is the name of the annual fair where people buy miniature items that represent things they hope to attain within the year.

Alasitas is often referred to as the festival of miniatures, as the capital city of La Paz turns into a large market of small things that may become big if you know who to ask. Locals come and buy anything from tiny mobile phones, laptops, cars, and houses, to non-material things like love in the form of a male or female doll, or even matrimony in a form of a marriage certificate.

The festival is held in honor of the indigenous “god of bounty” or “abundance” called Ekeko (sometimes spelled Ekkekko, or Ekkeko). He is often rendered as a short, pudgy, mustached man who wears traditional Andean clothes and carries baskets of grains. Tiny items, from kitchen appliances to college diplomas, are taken home and placed around Ekeko, who the Aymara people believe will bless them with better lives in the coming year.

Hundreds accompany the Bolivian deity statuette “illa of Ekeko” as it is driven to the Alasitas Fair. Andean religious leaders carry urns with burning incense in a procession of the Bolivian deity statuette “illa of Ekeko” as it is driven to the Fair. The pre-Columbian figurine that symbolizes abundance was recently returned to Bolivia by the National Museum of Berna in Switzerland, 156 years after being taken away from its native country.

Images of Ekeko and other items, such as imitation bank notes are blessed during the festivities. The Ekeko statuette is traditionally given a cigarette, sprinkled with alcohol and surrounded with all the miniature items bought at the Alasitas Fair “so our wishes come true that year.”

Many bring their diminished dreams to the statues of Ekkekko they store at home, light a cigarette for he is known as a great smoker, dedicate a few prayers, and then wait for the miraculous gifts which will come within the next year.

Ekeko is the household god and it is not unusual for Bolivians to have a representation of this short and chubby, happy-looking fellow with a mustache and dressed in Andean clothes in their home. To ensure good luck the statue should be received as a gift and not be personally bought. Ekeko brings wealth to the family and keeps misfortune at bay.

To obtain the favor of fortune, Bolivians like to present Ekeko with miniatures – mostly made of a sugary substance – of things they would like to own. This can be a house, a car, furniture, clothes, an airplane but also food. A miniature passport may be bought if one has the wish to travel, a university diploma in case one wants to study or when graduation is near.

Perfectly copied miniature dollar and euro notes are favored over local bolivianos when a devotee wants wealth. Ekeko loves smoking, his statue has a special hole in the mouth for a cigarette.

During Alasitas, the streets are crammed with people who need to buy their miniatures replicas in time – the blessings will take place around noon and they should be prepared by then.

Locals claim if you really believe in miracles, you will get what you want, and many testify it truly works.

Alasitas’ main divinity is Ekeko, but Catholic priests give their blessing to the newly acquired miniature goods as well, while simultaneously honoring the Virgin of La Paz. Whereas the Franciscans focus on the Virgin, the yatiris – the local wizards – focus on Ekeko; the average Bolivian cares about both.

There is not one conclusive theory about how and where the festival started. In the Aymará language, alasitas means ‘buy from me’ and in pre-colonial times Alasitas was always celebrated in September (Bolivian springtime), to ensure a good crop. It is said that the Spanish changed the date to January 24 in commemoration of an indigenous uprising in 1781 and the siege of La Paz by Tupac Katari.

During the colonization the Spanish tried to force Catholicism on the indigenous people. They partly succeeded and many Bolivians converted to Catholicism, however, in reality the Bolivian religion became a mix of Catholicism and traditional Andean beliefs and rituals, which is easily recognized during, for instance, Alasitas.

Sources:

January 1st is Apple Gifting Day. This unusual food holiday of unknown origin is a nice way to start the new year. Up until the 17th century, apple was a generic term for fruit other than berries. The apple symbolizes many things such as love, knowledge, bounty, good heath, beauty, and rebirth. One possible meaning behind giving an apple is to wish the recipient good health and a fruitful year. Give apples to friends and family. There are over 7,000 types of apples, so look for a new variety to give out each year.

From The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford, we have this:

The apple teaches the lesson of love and faith, generosity and gratitude. Love not just between man and woman but as the driving force behind our existence and the relationships that we share with others; faith both in ourselves and in others; and generosity and trust in the understanding that a heart that is open to give and receive is both the gateway to personal happiness and fulfillment and the key that unlocks the secrets of the Otherworld.

The generous apple satisfies body, mind, and spirit, and warns against miserliness, for like attracts like. What we give will be the measure of all we receive.

Sources:

In ancient Roman culture, felicitas is a condition of divinely inspired productivity, blessedness, or happiness. Felicitas could encompass both a woman’s fertility, and a general’s luck or good fortune.  The divine personification of Felicitas was cultivated as a goddess.

Although felicitas may be translated as “good luck,” and the goddess Felicitas shares some characteristics and attributes with Fortuna, the two were distinguished in Roman religion. Fortuna was unpredictable and her effects could be negative, as the existence of an altar to Mala Fortuna (“Bad Luck”) acknowledges. Felicitas, however, always had a positive significance.

In Ancient Rome

Felicitas had a temple in Rome as early as the mid-2nd century BC, and during the Republican era was honored at two official festivals of Roman state religion, on July 1 in conjunction with Juno and October 9 as Fausta Felicitas.

Felicitas continued to play an important role in Imperial cult, and was frequently portrayed on coins as a symbol of the wealth and prosperity of the Roman Empire. Her primary attributes are the caduceus and cornucopia. The English word “felicity” derives from felicitas.

On July 1 and October 9, Felicitas received a sacrifice in Capitolio, on the Capitoline Hill, on the latter date as Fausta Felicitas in conjunction with the Genius Publicus and Venus Victrix. These observances probably took place at an altar or small shrine, not a separate temple precinct.

The Acts of the Arval Brothers (1st century AD) prescribe a cow as the sacrifice for Felicitas. Pompey established a shrine for Felicitas at his new theater and temple complex, which used the steps to the Temple of Venus Victrix as seating. Felicitas was cultivated with Honor and Virtue, and she may have shared her shrine there with Victory, as she did in the Imperial era as Felicitas Caesaris (Caesar’s Felicitas) at Ameria.

Celebrating Felicitas Today:

“Felicitas’ themes are kindness, charity, love, romance, joy, success and luck. Her symbols are greetings (greeting cards). This Roman Goddess brings happiness, success, and good fortune whenever someone salutes another with good words or amiable deeds. She comes to us today to energize late fall and early winter with the transformational power of kindness.

Her festival day gives us an opportunity to shower anyone and everyone with cheerful trinkets, kind acts, and gentle words to lift people’s spirits. By looking for Felicitas for help, we can bring joy to people who might otherwise be feeling a case of autumn blues.

Here is an idea:

Look for, or make, some humorous greeting cards to send to folks you know would appreciate the thought. Lay your hands on them and invoke Felicitas’s blessings in any way that feels right.

To improve the effect further, anoint the cards with rejuvenating aromatic oils that match the recipient’s needs (such as pine for money, rose for love or peace, cinnamon for luck, sandalwood for health, and lavender to combat depression). This way, when they open that card, the magic and the aroma will be released together to bless, energize, and bear Felicitas’s greetings along with your heartfelt wishes!”

Sources: 365 Goddess, and Wikipedia

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Santa Claus may have gone back to the North Pole to rest, but it doesn’t mean the gift-giving (and receiving) is over — at least not for the thousands of children in Latin America and Spain anxiously awaiting“El Día de los Reyes” Celebration on Jan. 6th.

  • Children leave their shoes right outside their doors so the Three Kings will leave their gifts inside, the bigger presents are placed around them.
  • Many families leave a box of grass (or hay) and water for The Three King’s camels to eat. Similar to the tradition of leaving out cookies and milk for Santa Claus. Camels are known for being a bit sloppy and leaving a trail of hay behind that children can often follow to their gifts!
  • Hispanic families will usually celebrate Three Kings Day with a scrumptious dinner that is topped off with the King’s Bread (Rosca de Reyes) for dessert. Children also sometimes make crowns to wear at the table in honor of the kings.

For many Christians, the holiday season doesn’t officially end until the 12th day of Christmas known as the “Feast of the Epiphany” or “Three Kings’ Day”.

The holiday marks the biblical adoration of baby Jesus by the three Kings, also referred to as three Wise Men or Magi. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the men found the divine child by following a star across the desert for twelve days to Bethlehem. Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar — representing Europe, Arabia, and Africa respectively — traveled by horse, camel, and elephant in order to present baby Jesus with three symbolic gifts.

  1. Gold
  2. Frankincense
  3. Myrrh

The gold offered by one of the wise men is a symbolic acknowledgment of Jesus’ royal standing as “King of the Jews,” while the frankincense manifests the divine nature of the baby’s existence, since he is not an earthly king but the Son of God. And finally the myrrh, often used to embalm corpses, was gifted to the newborn as a symbol of Jesus’ mortality — foreshadowing his death as a means to cleanse humanity of its sins.

Reyes festivities come in different shapes and sizes across the globe from community parades to three-day celebrations at Disneyland. In Mexico, thousands gather every year to taste a mile-long “Rosca de Reyes” (Kings’ Bread) while others simply make the holiday staple at home honoring the tradition to hide a baby Jesus figurine within the bread — the person whose slice has the figurine must prepare tamales for everyone on the Day of the Candles on Feb. 2!

Source: Huffington Post

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In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5) in a similar way to St Nicholas or Santa Claus.

In popular folklore Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good, or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad. In many poorer parts of Italy and in particular rural Sicily, a stick in a stocking was placed instead of coal. Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. To some the sweeping meant the sweeping away of the problems of the year. The child’s family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food, often regional or local, for the Befana.

Befana is invoked in many Italian spells, especially those for good fortune. She brings sweets for children but may be persuaded to bring the sweetness of life to adults as well.

  1. On Epiphany Eve, write her a note expressing your desires.
  2. Place it beneath a red witch-shaped candle and burn.
  3. Accompany with offerings.

She is usually portrayed as a hag riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children’s houses through the chimney. She is often smiling and carries a bag or hamper filled with candy, gifts, or both. Popular tradition tells that if one sees La Befana one will receive a thump from her broomstick, as she doesn’t wish to be seen. This aspect of the tradition may be designed to keep children in their beds.

She is also referred to as the Christmas Witch. Continue reading

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In Japan, January 1st is the Shichi Fukujin, the Celebration of the Seven Deities of Luck.

Shichi Fukujin is usually translated as “Seven Spirits of Good Fortune,” but literally means “Seven Happiness Beings.” Six are male and one is female (Benten). Each is an important, powerful spirit. They hail from different traditions. Unlike the comparable Seven African Powers, they do not all derive from the same spiritual base. Some are Shinto, some Buddhist; Hotei originally derives from Chinese Taoist traditions, but wherever they came from, all are now significant to Japanese folk religion.

Each of the Shichi Fukujin is venerated independently. Some are also venerated in smaller groupings. (Daikoku and Ebisu are frequently paired.) They are most frequently depicted all together sailing in their treasure ship, the Takarabune. The Seven Spirits provide blessings of health, h appiness, protection, and longevity and everything that is good and desirable in life. If invoked together they are able to provide all blessings.

The Shichi Fukujin are:

  1. Benton: goddess of love, music, eloquence, fine arts
  2. Bishamonten: god of happiness and long life
  3. Daikoku: god of prosperity
  4. Ebisu: patron of work
  5. Fukurokujo: god of happiness and long life
  6. Hotei Osho: god of good fortune
  7. Jurojin: god of longevity and happy old age

The seven sail into our realm during New Year’s festivities to distribute gifts to the worthy. Place an image of the treasure ship complete with all Shichi Fukujin under your pillow on New Year’s Eve to receive a lucky dream.

Their imagery is ubiquitous in Japan, extending even as far as on children’s undewear. Next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant, look around: it’s likely that you’ll find the Shichi Fukujin in residence. Envision yourself cruising along with them, and beseech their blessings.

Shichi Fukujin sushi is a beautiful roll containing seven smaller rolls.

Iconography: Many prints and sculptures depict the seven sailing on their treasure ship on the Sea of Good Fortune. Individual alter images are also available.

Sacred sites: A pilbramage route in Kamakura, Japan, involves visiting seven shrines, each associated with one of the Shichi Fukujin.

From: Encyclopedia of Spirits

boxing_day

This holiday, celebrated on Dec 26,  derives from the Old English custom of giving Christmas “boxes” to tradesmen, postmen, and servants. The original boxes were usually made of earthenware and contained money, which could be retrieved only by breaking the boxes open. These days, a gift of money is usually contained in a greeting card and given before the holiday. Where celebrated (Great Britain, Canada, and Australia), Boxing Day is welcomed as a quiet day of recuperation from the season’s hectic festivities. It is also the biggest day of the year for soccer playoffs.

Source: Almanac.com

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