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December


Decima, the middle Fate in charge of the present, presides over December, but the month may have received its name as the tenth month of the Roman calendar. Vesta, patroness of fire also laid claim to the month of December.

Called Aerra Geola, "the month before Yule," or Wintermonat, "winter month," by the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks called it Heilagmanoth, " holy month," and Wolfmoon is the Asatru name. Mii na Nollag or an Dubhlachd is December in Ireland, the dark season.

The first Full Moon is the Moon before Yule or the Long Nights Moon. It is the Oak Moon, Big Winter Moon, or the Moon of Popping Trees. The name, Wolf Moon, is shared with January and February, and the Cold Moon may also be found in January. The lunar month of Poseideon began with the December moon and ended in January.

Sagittarius passes into Capricorn around December 22nd. The paper white is the birth flower for those born in December, and the birthstone is ruby, turquoise, chrysoprase, bloodstone, or lapis lazuli. Ruby or garnet is also the birthstone for Capricorns, while Sagittarius claims lapis lazuli. Amethyst, azurite, labradorite, pink tourmaline, ruby, sodalite, and topaz are also linked to Sagittarius, and other stones associated with Capricorn are amber, amethyst, carnelian, fire agate, green tourmaline, labradorite, peridot, and sapphire.


1ST

Poseidon, god of the sea and rebirth, was honored today. Originally, this holy day was based on a lunar calendar and began on the eighth day after the month of Poseideon began, eight being a sacred number to him.

2ND

Buddhists pay homage to the world's oldest documented tree. Planted in 288 BC, it is an offshoot of the tree Buddha gained enlightenment beneath.

This is the feast day of Shiva in the Hindu religion.

Gwyl o Rhiannon, the Feast of Rhiannon, begins at sundown.

3RD

Bona Dea, the Good Goddess, was honored today. Vestal Virgins in Rome conducted secret ceremonies from which males were barred. She is also worshipped as Cybele, Rhea, or the Mother goddess.

The 18th day of Tybi commemorates the going forth of the Netjeru of Abydos.

4TH

St. Barbara, identified with Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and the arts, was honored today. She is also patroness of California.

5TH

On the Eve of St. Nicholas, children put out carrots and hay for his horse. Their good deeds were rewarded with presents.

Aleister Crowley died today in 1947.

Bast Goes Forth from Bubastis on the 20th day of Tybi.

6TH

The Nicolaites, Gnostic followers of St. Nicholas, taught that the way to salvation was through frequent sexual intercourse. Nicholas was a fourth century Bishop in Turkey who reportedly saved three young girls from being sold into slavery by their destitute father. Three bags of gold allowed them to marry honorably. He was also said to have resurrected three dead school boys and so is considered the patron of youth. In Northern Europe, St. Nicholas absorbed the pagan qualities of Odin, riding through the sky with reindeer and forty-two supernatural huntsmen. Later he was merged with Father Christmas of Yuletide, creating the modern Santa Claus who was also influenced by elements of Thor.

Birthday of Dion Fortune in 1890.

On the 21st day of Tybi, offerings were made by the Shemsu (followers) of Ra. Bast guards the Two Lands.

8TH

This day was sacred to Astraea, goddess of justice.

Japanese Shintos celebrate the birth of their sun goddess, Amaterasu, today. She and her brother the moon god sit with their backs to each other creating the illusion of night and day. The Hari no Kuyo festival of Japan gives women power over the household.

The 23rd day of Tybi was a Feast of Neith.

10TH

Lux Mundi, Light of the World, honors the goddess Liberty in France.

The Inuit celebrate the Bladder festival today. To propitiate the souls of the animals they have killed during the year, they undergo a five day purification ritual in a special building called a kashim with the inflated bladders of all the animals they had killed that year. Under the full moon at the end of the five days, the men cut holes in the sea ice about a quarter mile from the shore to dispose of the inflated bladders. After leaping through the flames of a bonfire awaiting them in the village upon their return, they return to the kashim for a final sweat bath and contests of strength.

11TH

This is the Day of Bruma in the Roman tradition. (Dec 14th?)

12TH

The Iranian Sada is a Zoroastrian winter festival of lights. A huge bonfire is built near water as the sun sets, representing the victory of light over dark and good over evil.

In Icelandic homes, thirteen impish creatures called the Yuletide Lads visit, one each day until Christmas Eve. They are descendants of Gryla the Ogre, an Icelandic mythological monster. Though once considered cannibals, the Yuletide Lads are now gift givers though they retain their mischievous natures. Some of their names are Sausage Sniffer, Pot Scraper, and Window Peeper.

Bellisama Dydd, the Day of Bellisama, begins at sundown.

13TH

St. Lucy's day, also called Little Yule, is a festival of lights in Sweden. The eldest daughter of each family is dressed in white and crowned with pine twigs and candles. She brings coffee to her parents in bed and is later given the seat of honor at a brightly lit breakfast. The Celts call it Gwyl o Golau.

The Fates, the Benevolent Ones, the Eumenides, the Moerae, and the Parcae are honored today.

This day is called Kolo-hajime in Japan, 'the beginning of things,' because preparations for New Year begin today. These include housecleaning, decorating, and the pounding of rice for cakes (mochi). Presents of money are made to servants at this time of year.

The 28th of Tybi commemorates Thoth's taking the oath.

14TH

Nostradamus is honored today on his birthday. He was born in 1503.

The Hopi celebration of the return of life, Soyal, is a month long ceremony which begins with the new moon before the shortest day of the year. The major rights which occur approximately eight days before the solstice include a celebration of creation and rebirth dedicated to the Spider Woman and Hawk Maiden. A failed mock attack is made against the holder of the sun shield. This represents the sun's victory over winter's darkness.

The Romans celebrated the beginning of winter today, honoring its patron goddess, Bruma. (Dec 11th?)

The Geminids meteor shower occurs on or around this date. It is associated with Asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

On the 29th of Tybi, Thoth sent Bast and Sekhmet to guide Egypt.

15TH

The halcyon, or kingfisher, is associated in Greek myth with the winter solstice. Alcyone is the goddess of the Halcyone Days, which occur seven days before and seven days after the winter solstice. These were peaceful days when the sea calm enough for the female kingfisher to build a floating nest.

Fortuna Redux, goddess of happy journeys and prosperous returns, is honored today. (See under October 12th)

The 30th day of Tybi recalls the crossing before Nun in the Temple of Hapi

16TH

The goddess of wisdom, Sapienta or Sophia, was honored with a feast today before the beginning of Saturnalia.

This is the 1st day of Mechir, the Day Ptah lifted up his hands.

17TH

Today is the first day of Saturnalia. It was a celebration in honor of the Golden Age of Saturn and Ops. Ops, goddess of abundance, is an old Italian goddess of fertility. She is the wife of Saturn with whom she shared the temple on the Capitol. Offerings were made in the open space before the temple, and there was an outdoor banquet.

Unlike Christmas which seems to get longer every year (it's up to two months by my count, but I work in retail... I'm jaded), Saturnalia was a week long celebration. For seven days (from December 17th to 23rd), schools and courts were closed, no criminals were punished, all work was stopped, and war was postponed. People exchanged presents, especially wax tapers (cerei) and dolls (sigillaria) and played games. The cerei in particular represented the returning light of the Solstice.

Saturnalia may have evolved from Persian and Egyptian holidays however. The Egyptians celebrated a solstice festival for twelve days, reflecting the twelve divisions in the sun calendar. They decorated with greenery of the area - palms with twelve shoots- as a symbol of the completed year. Palms were especially appropriate because they were thought to put forth a new shoot each month. The annual renewal festival of the Babylonians was adopted by the Persians as Sacaea.

One of the themes of these festivals, and later of Saturnalia, was the temporary upset of order. As the old year died, rules were relaxed. Everyone was considered equal and good will was extended to all. Slaves were treated as free men and were the first to be entertained at the banquet. They were served by their masters in recollection that under the rule of Saturn there had been no differences in social ranks. Gambling was allowed in public. Instead of the toga, less formal dinner clothes (synthesis) were permitted, as was the pileus, a felt cap normally worn by the liberated slave that symbolized the freedom of the season. Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. In the eastern provinces, mock kings was elected with bean lots and issued silly orders.

This is the Santerian festival of Babaluaiye, honoring Babalu who punishes people with smallpox, leprosy and other viral afflictions. Babaluaiye means "father of the world." Babalu represents the results or diseases of overindulgence and excesses, demanding moderation and humility in all things. Babalu is the wrath of the earth and will punish those that disrespect it. He is associated with both with inoculation and immunization, providing the means to cure disease or cause it. His color is royal purple, and he is identified with people who have broken or missing limbs, derelicts, beggars, and with those who have been abandoned and forgotten by society.

The Netjers of Heaven received Ra on the 2nd day of Mechir.

18TH

This is the second day of Saturnalia in honor of the Golden Age of Saturn and Ops.

The Four Brothers Ziemassvetki are honored in Latvia as gift bearing heralds of the solstice god, Diev. Houses are beautifully decorated, and different foods are laid out for the feast lasting four days.

Seth went Forth on the 3rd day of Mechir.

19TH

The third day of Saturnalia, Opalia, was celebrated in honor of Ops, his wife and goddess of fertility and success.

20TH

This is the fourth day of Saturnalia in honor of the Golden Age of Saturn and Ops.

Mother Night is an Asatru festival honoring Odin, Ing, and Erda. Dreams tonight foretell the outcome of the New Year.

21ST

This is the fifth day of Saturnalia in honor of the Golden Age of Saturn and Ops. Angerona or Diva, a Roman goddess, was worshipped at the Angeronalia or Divalia. Angerona is connected with Silence.

The Winter Solstice, a celebration of the sun, called Yule (from Jol in honor of Jolnir, another name for Odin), Midwinter, and Alban Arthuan (Druidic) is celebrated today. This is the oldest of all sabbats, 12000 to 20000 years old. Many sun gods were honored today, Horus, Helios, Dionysus, and Mithras. Yule ends with 12th Night when all the decorations are cleared away. The poor were traditionally given money or presents during Yule. The needy could ask for money, a practice known as "mumping" or "thomasing" in honor of St. Thomas. Fresh food and drink was laid out as a feast for roaming Yuletide ghosts. Holy and ivy, traditional Yuletide decorative plants were adopted from Odin and Dionysus. The Christmas tree may have been adopted from Yggdrasil.

The 6th Mechir is the Winter Solstice and a Feast of Isis.

22ND

On the sixth day of Saturnalia, Acca Larentia was given offerings as mother of the Lares (ancestors). This was called the Day of the Parentalia of Larentine Acca or the Laurentalia. She was also given the name Larunda or Lara.

The birth of the divine child, whether he bears the name of Horus, Osiris, Helios, Dionysus, Pryderi or Aeon, is celebrated at this time. The Greeks celebrated the birth of Demeter/Ceres at the winter solstice.
During the solstice, a golden cow covered in a black veil was led around the temple of Helios seven times. The cow represents Isis and the ritual was called the seeking for Osiris. It commemorates the wanderings of Isis as she journeyed over the world mourning for his death and searching for the scattered body parts.

Running from the seventeenth to the twenty-sixth, the Ursids meteor shower peaks tonight. It is associated with Comet Tuttle.

23RD

This is the seventh day of Saturnalia in honor of the Golden Age of Saturn and Ops.

Alban Arthuan, Winter Solstice. The Ogham Calendar is based upon the Coligny Tablet, a Gaelic-Celtic bronze tablet found in France in 1895 and dating to about 2000 years ago. The calendar started on the last quarter moon, the first after the autumn equinox, Samhain. Both this festival and the winter solstice were used to start lunar calendars in pre-Roman Europe and the Greek/Celtic orientated British Isles. Gwyl Nadolig, the Yuletide Tree Festival and Elder Festival, begins at sundown.

The Feast of Potential or the Secret of the Unhewn Stone is a modern pagan holy day. It is the only day in the Celtic tree Calendar not ruled by a tree or a corresponding Ogham letter. It represents the hidden potential of all things.

The Kalesh tribe of the Hindu Kush, celebrate Chaomos in their finest clothes. Lasting a week, it honors the demi-god Balomain, who counts the Kalesh every year and carries their prayers back to Tsiam, their mythical ancestral home.

The 8th day of Mechir was the Festival of the Great Heat, and a Feast Day of Hathor.

24TH

The last day of Saturnalia corresponded with the Roman festival of Acca Larentis, a day sacred to the goddess Laurentina, mother of the lares and a mother goddess who watched over the dead and seed corn. Tonight is known as Modraniht, or Mother Night. Inscriptions from Roman times found in Germany, Holland and Britain honor groups of female beings generally referred to as 'the mothers.' These female deities are associated with fertility and protect hearth and home. The Juvenalia is a day for the young. This holiday was created by Caligula and added to Saturnalia.

The Finns set out candles at graves to light the path of their ancestral spirits as they make their yearly visit home.

25TH

The birth of many dying solar savior-gods (Osiris, the Syrian Baal, Attis, Helios, Apollo, Dionysus, Balder, Frey) was celebrated on this day. Isis gave birth to Horus at this time, and this is also the nativity of Mithras honoring his mother, Spenta Armaiti. Myrrha was changed into a tree, and while in that state, she gave birth to her son Adonis. According to Roman tradition this was Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, "the day of the birth of the undefeated sun," a Mithraic cult. A festival was held in honor of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven. In Semitic lands she was a form of Astarte.

This is the feast of Frau Holle, a Germanic weather goddess.

Several of the ceremonies of the Saturnalia (see under December 17th) continue in our modern Yuletide celebrations. Temples were decorated with greenery. Holly was used by the early Roman Christians to decorate churches and dwellings at this time, but the tradition was derived from earlier practices. Pagan Romans would send their friends holly-sprigs with wishes for their health and well being. The evergreens for Yuletide decorations were holly, ivy, mistletoe, bay, rosemary, and green branches of the box tree".

Yule has many names in many lands. To the Druids and Celtic tribes, it was Nodlaig, An Nodlaig, La Nodlag, or Nodlaig Day. Yule. Jul or Jol is a Gothic word signifying a sumptuous treat, and the month of January was called Giuli (the Festival) by the Saxons. The festival of the Sun at the winter solstice ushered in the New Year's sun. To the Saxons, it was Gehul, 'the Sun-feast', for the Danes, Juul, the Swedes called it Oel, in Breton, it was Heol (the sun), and for the Welsh it was Hal. The word Yule is derived from an old Norse word Iul, meaning a wheel, and the symbol of a wheel is still used to mark Yuletide.
The ash is the wood of the world-tree, Yggdrasil, with its roots knotted in Hell and its boughs supporting Heaven. Beneath Yggdrasil sit the Norns or Nornir, Urth (past), Verdandi (present), and Skuld (future). Like the Greek and Roman Fates, they sit spinning the events of human life. Nearby is the spring of Urd from which the Norns draw water and clay every day. They sprinkle this on Yggdrasil to keep its branches from wither and decay.
The Yule log was chosen of green ash wood and cut before Yule. In Devon, a bundle of ash sticks were bound together with nine ash-bands. The us of nine, or thrice three, ash-bands may be an indirect reference to the Norns. Amidst much rejoicing, it was carried in on Yule Day or on Yule Eve. Sometimes it was sprinkled with corn or dragged in with a girl seated upon it. A new fire was made, and the log was kindled with the last fragments of the previous log, kept throughout the year for this purpose.
The mistletoe sprig has a long history of use, perhaps older than the Yuletime tree. The traditional Kissing Bough or the Kissing Bunch was hung from the ceiling with a ring of candles above and a ring of bright red apples below, perhaps hinting at fulfillment in the hour of promise. It was also said to represent the sun and the earth. On Yule Eve, the candles were lit in ceremony, and it became the center of the festival. It was lit again on Yule Day, and every evening thereafter till the Twelve Days were done. It hung from the middle of the ceiling, just high enough from the ground for a couple to stand or stoop and kiss beneath it.
One of the oldest Yule traditions comes from its origins in Saturnalia. During that time, it was customary for all creatures to be equal. Charitable acts were not the exception, but the rule. Master and servant were on equal terms and people even acted with charity toward the lesser animals. Extra food was given to livestock and pets, and food was laid out for the birds or other wild creatures.

The 10th day of Mechir recalls the birth of Horus, the child of Isis. It is also the Day of elevating the Great Netjret (goddess) in all her names and manifestations. On this day, Wadjet went forth singing in Heliopolis.

26TH

This is the first of the twelve days of Yule.

The Medieval Feast of Fools ran from today until the 28th. Wren hunting was once practiced on this day. And though it hardly provides a mouthful to a cat, it was protected at all other times during the year.

This is the traditional time in Italy of Columbine and Pantomime. Performances were enacted in mime by traveling companies. There represented ancient symbolic figures. Columbine was traditionally dressed in white with black pompoms and is believed to have symbolized the moon. Columbine or Columbina was the sweetheart of Harlequin, and, like him, supposed to be invisible to mortal eyes. Columbina is a pet-name for a lady-love in Italian, meaning 'little dove.'

Christmas plays were common at this time following in an ancient tradition handed down from the Greeks and Romans. In Greco-Roman times, Andromeda, Ariadne, Ceres, and the Nymphs were honored with plays. Orpheus was shown with the beasts. Perseus and Andromeda were depicted. Ceres was drawn by dragons, and Bacchus and Ariadne by panthers, and finally the education of Achilles was enacted. A ballet of the famous lovers of ancient times was performed, followed by a troop of Nymphs. During the Christian era, plays about the Greek and Roman gods gave way to morality plays adapted from the Bible.

The Egyptians used a palm branch containing twelve leaves or shoots to symbolize the completion of the year at the Winter Solstice. (See also under January 6th) This is the 11th of Mechir. Sobek was born today, and Sekhmet went forth to Letopolis.

27TH

The birth of Freya, Norse goddess of love, was celebrated today. She is usually depicted astride a large cat and presides over the warriors slain in battle.

Birthday of Gerina Dunwich.

28TH

The Halycon days end. (See under December 15th)

Gwyl o Gwin a Hyfrydwch, the Festival of Wine and Pleasure, begins at sundown and continues until December 31st.

This is considered the unluckiest day of the year when no new work should be started.

The Taoists celebrate Ta Chiu, a festival of peace and renewal by summoning all their gods and ghosts to the temple to accept offerings. The priests read off a list of all the people in the area at the end of the festival and attach it to a paper horse. When burned, the names are carried to heaven by the smoke.

31ST

Sekhmet is honored today.

This day is also holy to the Greco-Roman goddess Hecate (see also Jan 31st).

In Scotland, New Year's Eve is called Hogmanay, Hogmannay, Hogmarmay, Hogmena, Hagmena, or Hogg-night. It honors the solar god Hogmagog. As Gogmagog, he is the chalk figure carved into the earth at Wandlebury near Cambridge. Divided into two giants, Gog and Magog, he is the spiritual guardian of London. The original name of the Scottish New Year was Hagmenai, "Moon of the Hag." It honored the goddess of winter who mourned her lost mate.
Hogmanay is also called 'Cake-day' for the gift of an oatmeal cake, or its equivalent, which is expected by children on this day. It is still the custom in parts of Scotland to 'trick-or-treat' from door to door, asking in rude rhymes for cakes or money. In the lowlands or Scotland, these Yule-cakes are also called Nur-cakes. Nour means birth, and therefore, Nur-cakes are birthcakes heralding in the New Year. Also from this word, comes the word Norn, as the Norns were appointers of all destinies at birth, and Nor refers to a 'child.'
Bonfires are lit, blazing tar barrels are rolled down hills, and fiery torches are tossed about. Hogmanays, smoking sticks, are used to ward off evil spirits. Traditional treats are bannocks, oarsmen, shortbread, black buns, and ankersocks (gingerbread-rye cakes).
At the moment the New Year arrives, doors and windows are opened to let out the old year. In Wales, this is done to drive out the Cwn Annwn, the black dogs of the underworld who pass through at that time.
Divination of the future was common on New Year's Eve, especially, forecasting weather conditions for following year. Almost anything which occurred on New Year's Eve or Day might be indicative of the future, and the nearer to the midnight hour, the more significant was the event.

The Fair Folk are quite active at this time. All along the Pyrenean range, supernatural power is attributed to the fairies called Hados (Spanish) and Fees (French). Offerings are left of thick milk and white bread. If they are not satisfied, wolves will devour the flocks. According to Welsh mythology, the Spirit of the Van is a sort of fairy, haunting the Van Pools in the mountains of Carmarthen on New Year's Eve. She is dressed in white with a golden girdle. Her long hair is also golden, and she sits in a golden boat with a golden oar.

During the Hestiad in honor of Hestia or Vesta, the house is blessed. The Pentacle is made in the four corners of each room, and Ivy is hung on the outer doors to protect the house against evil through the coming year.

In Japan, straw clad young men called Namahage descend to the villages of the Oga Peninsula. They represent spirits attempting to drive out misfortune and ensure a good harvest. They storm from house to house seeking naughty children, single women, and lazy young brides. The householders appease them with sake and give them gifts off money and rice cakes.