By our modern calendar, January first is the beginning of the New Year. It is a time filled with new possibilities. The Latin name of this month, Ianuarius, is derived from ianua, door, a word derived from the patron of January, the god Janus. The Roman god Janus is the divinity of endings and beginnings, looking backwards and forwards with his two faces. He is the male equivalent of one among a host of versions of Juno. As the twin-faced Antevorta and Postvorta, she also looks frontward and back. Modern tradition would have us look forward only and forget the past year like a bad memory. I would advise those who follow this tradition to remember... That which is forgotten is soon repeated.
In Scottish lore, the eleven days lost in 1752 were taken from January. A magician by the name of Michael Scott (the court astrologer and magician of emperor Frederick II) was supposed to have recovered them, Taking a halter, he waved it in the air three times, and black horse appeared. Mounting the horse, he galloped through the air, across the straights of Dover, to land in a town in France. There he inquired after the days of the townsfolk, but they knew nothing. Not satisfied with their answer, he destroyed the town with the aid of his magic horse. He then went on to another town where he again demanded of the townsfolk that the days be restored. They also refused to which he replied, "One neigh and a kick of a horse I have got will send your town to destruction." The people laughed for they could not see the horse, and Michael waved the halter again as he had done in Scotland and the horse appeared, breathing fire. Whereupon the people gave up the days and ever since Scotland has possessed "full time."
It is anvier in French, enero in Spanish, Janeiro in Portuguese, gennaio in Italian, Januar in Germany and Switzerland, Janner in Austria, and Ionawr in Welsh. To the Irish, January is Eanair or am Faoilteach, the "wolf month," in Scots Gaelic. Other names on record for January include am Mios Marbh (the dead month) and Deireadh-Geamhraidh (the end of winter). The full moons of February and December are also sometimes referred to as Wolf Moon. The first Full Moon between Yule and the 25th of January is most often called Disting, and it shares the name Cold Moon with December. It may also be referred to as the Quiet or Chaste Moon, the Old Moon, the Moon after Yule, or the Moon of Little Winter. Some tribes called this the Full Snow Moon, though most applied that name to the next moon.
Capricorn and Aquarius are the signs for January, Aquarius gaining power on or around January 20th. The flower for January is the white carnation. Garnet is the favored stone of this month, though Jacinth appears on some lists. Garnet/ruby is also the birthstone for Capricorn, while Aquarius lays claim to aquamarine. Other stones associated with Capricorn are amber, amethyst, carnelian, fire agate, green tourmaline, labradorite, peridot, and sapphire. Aquarius also holds sway over chrysoprase, garnet, labradorite, lapis lazuli, and opal.
Lunar Holy Days
The most popular Vietnamese holiday begins on the first day of the first full moon. This is the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year, called Tet Nguyen-Dan, "Fete of the First Day," or Tet Tam Nguyen, "Fete of the Three Firsts" in Vietnam. It last three days. Artifacts associated with this celebration have been dated to an origin sometime around 500 BCE.
Above all else, it is a family celebration. Ancestor and household spirits are honored such as the god of the kitchen, the Craft Creator, and the spirits of the land. Mam Ngu Qua, the five-fruit-tray, is placed on the ancestral altar as a symbol of the admiration and gratitude of the Vietnamese to Heaven and Earth and their ancestors. According to one theory, the five fruits are symbolic of the five basic elements of oriental philosophy: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Others state that the five fruits are symbols of the five fingers of a man's hand. The simplest explanation is that the five fruits represent the blessings of Heaven and Earth. This is one of the general perceptions of life of the Vietnamese: "When taking fruit, you should think of the grower." Today, the tray may contain five or more fruits, traditionally in the form of a pyramid or some other shape. Peach, Apricot, and kumquat flowers are used for decoration as well as branches of mandarin oranges.
Long ago, humanity and devils cohabitated the earth, but the devils invaded the lands of humanity. Buddha said he would hang his robes on the top of a bamboo and wherever the shadow fell, that land would be given to men. The devils agreed, but were tricked. After planting the bamboo, Buddha flung his robe to the top and made the bamboo higher by means of magic. The whole land was overshadowed, and the devils were chased to the East Sea. They prayed to Buddha for permission to return to the mainland for a three day visit to their ancestors' tombs on the occasion of Tet Tam Nguyen, and for this reason, Neu is often planted at this time. It is a bamboo pole with green leaves, with an eight sign amulet and earthen bells hung from its top. Lime powder is scattered round its base to allow the painting of cross-bows and arrows to chase away the devils or keep them at bay.
The 15th day of the first moon is the 'Chunga Choepa' or the Tibetan Butter Lamp Festival, the climax of their New Year celebrations. Huge 'Tormas' are sculpted from butter in the form of various auspicious symbols and lamps. This was once the highlight of 'Monlam' in Lhasa, the Prayer Festival held from the 4th to the 11th day of the 1st lunar month. The Dalai Lamas would come to the Jokhang Temple and perform the great Buddhist service. The question and answer test for the highest-ranking monk of 'Lharampa Geshe' was held before the Dalai Lama during this festival. These events are now carried out in Dharamsala however where the Dalai Lama's government is in exile.
Thingyan, the Buddhist festival of throwing water, is celebrated over a period of four to five days culminating in the new year. The dates of the Thingyan festival are calculated according to the traditional Burmese lunisolar calendar and have no fixed Roman calendar equivalent, though it often coincides with Easter. Derived from a Sanskrit word, "Thin ka ran" which means change, Thingyan connotes change from the old season to the new, a change from the month of Tabaoung which is the twelfth month of Myanmar calendar to the month of Tagu, the first month of the following year, or movement of the sun from the South to North or the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer. The movement of the sun causes the seasons and its return to the North marks the beginning of Myanmar's three-season year.
According to legend, Thagyar Min or Indra and Athi Brahma disagreed over the solution to a mathematical problem. Referring the matter to the sage Kavalamine, they agreed his verdict would be accepted as final and that the winner should cut off the loser's head. The sage judged that Indra's solution was the right one and Indra cut off Athi Brahma's head. Athi Brahma was so omnipotent a god however, that if his head were thrown down to the Earth, the Earth would burn to ashes and if it were thrown into the oceans, all the water would dry up. So the seven goddesses of the days were made to hold his head in turn. The time when the head changed hands corresponds to Thingyan. So that Athi Brahma's body should not remain headless, Indra cut off the head of Mahapingala Elephant and joined it on the Brahma's body and Brahma became Ganesha.
One of the traditional festivals of the Myanmars, it was celebrated at the Court where royalty and nobility participated in the water pouring. King Narathihapate (1254-87 AD), the last ruler of the Pagan (Bagan) Dynasty, reportedly built enclosed corridors running from his palace to the bank of the Ayeyawaddy River. Inside this corridor, he and his courtiers reveled in water throwing. On the first day of Thingyan, a water pot was observed in symbolic ritual. It is believed that on the first day of Thingyan, Indra descends from his Celestial Kingdom to Earth to record in his golden parabeik the merits and demerits of all humans so that he may pass impartial judgment. The first day of Thingyan is known as Akya, day of descent. On this day, at the precise time of the descent, the water pouring riteis performed.
The Norse Midvintersblot, Midwinter's Offering, or the Old English Tiugunde Day ceremony is held twenty days after Yule (or on the 13th of January) to honor Tiu, the god of the New Year.
The First Monday of January is called Handsel Monday in Scotland. At one time it was more popular than New Year's Day itself. Handsel means "a small gift given as an omen of prosperity" either from Old English handselen "giving into the hands (of another)" or from Old Norse handsal "an agreement sealed with a handshake." Over time, the meaning changed from "lucky omen" or "auspicious gift" to "initial payment" or "first taste or experience." Eventually, it came to embody the first taste of Monday each year. Small gifts are exchanged at this time. If debts were paid on this day however, many more would be incurred through the rest of the year.
The first Monday after 12th Night is called Plough Monday. Field workers traditionally returned to work at this time and received their pay, definitely an incentive. Farm laborers performed sword dances around the plough. Ploughs were blessed and decorated and dragged around the parish by plough-boys, known as Plough Bullocks or Plough Stots, who demanded food, drink and money. Children would handsel for money and treats from the neighbors while villagers performed Mummers' plays, enacting ritual combat and symbolic death and revival.
The last Tuesday in January is Up Shally A' or Up Helly Aa. This is a Lerwick, Shetland fire festival. A full-sized Viking longboat, complete with shields and oars, is towed to the beach by a torch-bearing procession dressed as Viking warriors. Three cheers are given for the builders of the longship, and after a bugle call, the galley is set alight by 800 blazing torches.
Generally observed on January 1st, the Gamelia commemorates the Hieros Gamos (Sacred Marriage) of Jupiter/Janus and Juno (Greek Zeus and Hera). The name comes from a surname of Juno, as Gamelius was of Jupiter, for their dominion over marriages. It is a festival privately observed at three different times in addition to the public holiday. The first is the celebration of a marriage, the second is in commemoration of a birthday, and the third is an anniversary of the death. Marriages on January 1st are a good omen and the month of January was Gamelion among the Athenians. Presents (Strenae) may be exchanged as a token of friendship. The word comes from a Sabine tutelary goddess, Strenia, corresponding to the Roman Salus. The traditional Strenae consisted of branches of bay and palm cut from the sacred grove of the goddess Strenia and sweets made of honey, figs, or dates, symbolizing, and causing by their nature, a year of joy and happiness to come. On the first day of the year, consecrated branches were carried up to the Capitoline in Rome from Strenia's precinct beside the Via Sacra. The custom of strenae continues in the Etrennes, French new-year's gifts, and the English handsels and in Scotland hondeselle. In some areas, if New Year's fell on Thursday, which it does this year, it was felt none could prosper in the new year unless they went out and begged a handsel from their neighbors. A special temple was built in honor of Fortuna as the all-pervading power of the world. At this temple, an annual offering was made to her. Dedication of temples on the Insula Tiberina to the Roman god Vediovis and the Greek god Asclepius (Latin Aesculapius) were introduced following a prolonged plague in 291 BC.
It is said, whatever you do on New Year's Day, you'll do often in the coming year. Displaying a new calendar before this day is considered very unlucky.
Pray don't 'ee wash on New Year's Day, or you'll wash one of the family away. Cast Holy Water all about, and have a care no fire goes out. -Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
It was also said that anyone sweeping the floors should sweep from the door to the hearth and not the other way around for to sweep the dust and dirt out the door was to send family's prosperity out with it.
The last glass of wine from the last bottle on New Years was called the "lucky glass." It brings good fortune to whoever drinks it and is said to bring marriage to one who is unwed.
In Scotland, Christmas is not nearly so important a celebration as New Years Day. In many countries, there is a custom called first-footing, in Scotland, first-fit. A tall dark (haired) man comes silently into a home with whisky, coal, and a black bun for the household. He must enter by the back door and leave by the front. (It is thought in some areas, where red hair is most likely rare, that if a red haired man visits on New Years, there will be a death in the family within the year.) In turn, food and drink of the family is shared with him. In Greece, the New Year's wish offered by the master of the house or the "lucky boy," meaning one who's parents are both alive, is "old age, beauty, and great prosperity." This tradition of a lucky child goes all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome where such children played a prominent role in the celebrations. In Albany, the first footer must put a log on the fire.
Drawing the first water from the well in the Highlands was considered almost a holy mission. On New Year's Eve, some careful person was sent to the "dead and living ford," where he would draw a pitcher of water in absolute silence. This water, called Usque-Cashrichd, would be used on New Year's day to protect against infernal spirits, witchcraft, the evil eye, and other malign influences. The water would be taken through the house and sprinkled on the still sleeping occupents in the beds.
On the first day of the year, the Chorti Indians of Southern Guatemala drink water from five sacred coconuts, pouring out libations on the ground. During the previous night, the women of the tribe guarded the coconuts, dedicating them to the goddess.
This is the beginning of the Shogatsu Sanganichi or 'three days' of New Year in Japan. Preparations for the New Year include cleaning the house, inside and out. Called Susuharai, or soot-sweeping, this is done to purify the home for the new year. A pine decoration, known as Kadomatsu, is set up on both sides of the front entrance. Some homes add bamboo, plum branches, and oranges to this decoration. The display welcomes good luck into the home. The two weeks during which the kadomatsu decorates the doors is called Matsunouchi, or inside the pine. A recent tendency in Tokyo is to remove the trees on Jan. 7th. Another important decoration is the Shimenawa, a sacred rope made of straw on which zigzag strips of paper have been hung. This is placed above the front entrance in order to prevent evil spirits from entering the house.
Omochi, steamed rice pounded and formed into cakes, is grilled on a brazier or eaten in a stew called Ozoni. Vegetable dishes are also popular during the New Year. Presents are given called o-toshidama.
On New Year's Eve, the Takarabune, (Treasure Ship), sails into port carrying the Seven Gods of Luck and the takaramono (treasures). The takaramono include the hat of invisibility, the lucky raincoat, the sacred key, the inexhaustible purse, the precious jewel, the clove, the weight, and a flat object apparently representing a coin. Pictures of the Takarabune are sold on the streets, and during the night of January second, every person who puts one into the little drawer of his wooden pillow is supposed to ensure a lucky dream.
Grown children, who have moved away, return to their parents' homes to spend the evening together. Others visit shrines and temples where they pray for good luck by the light of bonfires and make resolutions for the coming year. Local shrines give out special charms to protect the happiness of worshipers in the coming year. The nation waits up to hear the Joya-no-Kane, the midnight tolling of the Tsuri-Gane, the temple bells. The Joya-no-Kane consists of 108 solemn tolls on the temple bells. According to Buddhist traditions, this represents the 108 sins of man, and the sound of the tolls will relieve all of them.
The Nativity Eve of Inanna is a Sumerian holy day. A white candle is lit at sunset to burn throughout the night. It is extinguished at dawn on Nativity morning.
Sir James Frazer, author of the Golden Bough, was born today.
According to the 17th day of Mechir in the Egyptian calendar, this is the Day of keeping the things of Osiris in the hands of Anubis.
A well-known Japanese proverb says: "New Year's is the key to unlock the year." During the three-day holiday period of the O-shogatsu, everyone but those who run amusement enterprises or are responsible for essential services like transportation enjoys a vacation. For many people, the holiday actually begins around December 29 when all public offices begin their vacations. Others end their work either on the 30th or early on the 31st.
Family members traditionally spend New Year's morning briefly worshiping at home at miniature Buddhist or Shinto altars. Offerings are made to the household gods on a small table, usually consisting of Omochi, dried persimmons, dried chestnuts, pine seeds, black peas, sardines, herring roe, a crayfish, a sea-bream, some dried cuttlefish, Mochibana (flowers made of rice and straw), mandarin oranges, and many other items which vary from district to district.
The custom of Nenshi, paying calls on friends and relatives to greet them on the New Year, is very popular. Holiday greetings are exchanged, and children are presented with Otoshi-Dama, New Year's gifts, usually in the form of money placed in special little envelopes. Otoso, a thick, sweet rice wine, is often served during these visits. New Year's postcards, Nengajo, are also a very popular custom especially for distant friends and acquaintances. Kaizome, the ceremony of the first calligraphic writing drawn with a brush, occurs on January 2nd, as does the tradition of Hatsu-Yume, or first dream.
Children enjoy Tako-age, or kite flying, and girls play Hane-tsuki, known in the West as battledore and shuttlecock. Karuta, a kind of card game, is also popular. The players spread out cards on which pictures and poems, or characters and proverbs, or flowers and months, are illustrated. The object of the game is to pick the correct cards first. In one game, a reader reads the first part of poem while the players search for the card on which the last part is written.
The second day of Thingyan is called Akyat, which means middle day, during which Indra is busy with his golden parabeik.
The Nativity of Our Lady is one of the greatest Sumerian feasts of the year. The birth of Inanna, the princess of heaven and the queen of earth, is commemorated. Both she and Isis were honored today as goddesses of love. They are equivalent to Aphrodite, Astarte, Ishtar, or Cybele.
The Advent of Isis from Phoenicia honors Isis' discovery of that the Ark of Osiris and her return to Egypt. She discovered the Ark by the Mediterranean in the region of Phoenicia.
The Second New Year is a South African Carnival.
On the third and last day of the Japanese New Year, the Imperial Court holds an ancient ritual known as Genshisai. The rare dance and music art form, known as Gagaku, is also performed. Though the Japanese New Year lasts only three days, some rituals continue for several days longer.
The third day of Thingyan is known as Atet Ney, meaning the Day of Ascent. Indra returns to his Heavenly Kingdom.
In ancient Rome, January third through the fifth was Compitalia, though the magistrates my hold it anywhere between December 17th and January 5th. Like Saturnalia, Compitalia was initially a day celebrated by slaves and the free together, but by Cicero's time, it was a holy day for the slave alone who would sacrifice a honey-cake to the cross-roads gods (Lares Compitales) on behalf of the household. A woolen effigy was hung up for every free person and a ball of wool for every slave.
Edgar Cayce died today in 1945.
Folklore wisdom says, "Those who know where they are going today are not going any where."
The Quadrantids meteor shower is at its peak on or around this date. It begins on the first and ends some time around the fifth. The meteors originate near the tail of the Great Bear (the Plough) in the constellation of Bootes.
The Genshi-Sai, First Beginning, is celebrated in Japan. On this day, most people return to work after the Shogatsu Sanganichi. Though this is the end of the New Year's celebrations, many ceremonies will continue until Setsubun in early February.
This is the 20th day of Mechir in the Egyptian calendar, the Day of Nut and Raet proceeding southward. The Egyptians believed that the world had been created by a divine act of sex between the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut.
During the Alexandrian Koreion, a drama mystikon (mystical play) is performed in several acts on different levels, below the earth and upon it. The nocturnal rites of Kore/Persephone are celebrated in preparation for her return and the return of Spring to the world. During the Epiphanios (epiphany), people spend the night in the temple, singing to the accompaniment of flutes. A troop of torchbearers enters an underground chamber, sekos hypogaios. From this chamber, a naked, wooden statue is retrieved. On its forehead, hands, and knees are golden cruciform seals. This is placed in a litter and carried seven times round the inner temple.
This is Wassail Eve in Europe. Wassail was a salutation offered on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day over the spiced-ale cup, hence called the 'wassail bowl.' It comes from the Anglo-Saxon, Waes hael, be whole, be well.
Jeanne Dixon (1918-1997), the psychic and astrologer, was never correct in any prediction of any consequence, but she achieved a reputation as a very good psychic when the mass media perpetuated the myth that she had predicted President Kennedy's assassination. In fact, she had predicted he would never attain office.
This is Twelfth Night and Old Christmas day according to the Julian Calendar. It marks the end of the Yule festivities according to old Teutonic Pagan traditions which honor the Mother goddess. On this night, the Twelfth-cake is prepared to select the Rulers of Twelfth Night. This is a large cake, usually frosted and otherwise ornamented. A bean (king) or pea (queen) or coin is placed in the batter to determine the 'king' and 'queen' of the feast. The twelfth-cake is divided among the children, and the children who find the prizes are crowned, placed on a throne, and paraded in state. If a girl finds the male token, she must name her sovereign, and if a male finds the female token, he chooses his consort.
According to Frazer, the time between Christmas and Epiphany is a witching time. On the Lake of Lucerne at Brunnen, two female wood spirits, Strudeli and Stratteli appear on Twelfth Night according to Swiss Lore. La Befana, the good fairy of Italian children, fills their stockings on Twelfth Night. She is Italy's "Santa Claus." Flying on her broomstick, she enters through the chimney, bringing gifts for children.
In Japan, this is Dezomeshiki. The fire brigade goes back into formation after the holiday celebration. Firemen in costumes from the Middle Ages give acrobatic performances atop ladders, and demonstrations are staged at the Palace plaza.
Joan of Arc was born in 1412 and died May 30, 1431. It was around 1424, when she was 12, that Joan said she began to have visions of Saints Catherine and Margaret and St. Michael the Archangel. Michael had been chosen in 1422 as one of the patron saints of the French Royal army, and had long been the patron of the fortified island of Mont-St-Michel, which had been holding out against repeated English assaults.
Apple trees are Wassailed and given libations today.
This is the 22nd of Mechir in the Egyptian calendar, the Feast of Ptah and Horus.
This is the 23rd day of Mechir, a feast of Sekhmet and of Isis, ancient Egypt's New Year's Day. The decrees of Sokhit (Sekhmet) were put forth by the goddess at the end of the reign of Ra.
The feast of Morrigan honors the Irish triple goddess of death and destruction. Remember, death is only a door through which we all must walk.
Izanagi no-Mikoto and Izanami no-Mikoto are worshiped through offerings of flowers. The goddess is also worshiped with drums, flutes, flags, singing and dancing. During the Uzue-matsuri, each participant offers a plum branch (peach was formerly used) on which he or she has attached a slip of paper with his or her name and age (or date of birth). After the ceremony, every person retrieves his or her offering for protection throughout the year.
St. Distaff's Day was so called because on the day following Twelfth Night, women returned to their distaffs or daily occupations. It is also called Rock-Day, a distaff being referred to as a rock.
The Nana-kusa, Festival of the Seven Grasses, is held in Japan. In early times, the Court and people went out to gather parsley and six other edible herbs. These are traditionally powdered into stew called the nanakusa-gayu, which is eaten as part of the New Year's rituals. It is a type of rice-gruel or congee flavored with greens.
Justitia, the Roman goddess of Justice, is often portrayed evenly balancing both scales and a sword while wearing a blindfold, but she was originally depicted holding a cornucopia and scales. She was also sometimes portrayed holding the fasces (a bundle of rods around an ax symbolizing judicial authority) in one hand and a flame in the other (symbolizing truth).
Galileo Galilee died this day in 1642. During his life, he was condemned for speaking the truth, that the world was round and revolved around the sun and was not, as the Church asserted, the center of the universe.
Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers was born in 1854 and died 1918. As a prominent occult scholar, he was an author and a leader of the occult revival in the late 1880's. He had a life long fascination with magic, mysticism and Celtic symbolism that led him to hold high office in the S.R.I.A. (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia). He, together with Dr. William Wynn Westcott and Dr. William Woodman was a co-founder of the influential occult Order known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Born Violet Mary Firth, Dion Fortune, also a member of the Golden Dawn, died today in 1946.
This is the 24th day of Mechir in the Egyptian calendar. It is the date of a Festival of Isis and celebrates the Birth of Aion.
The Dirge of Isis and Nephthys to call on the soul of Osiris is commemorated today.
Securitas was commonly invoked by Romans when some imminent danger had been averted, but also annually on this day. She is depicted seated, relaxed, with a scepter in her right hand and a globe at her feet
This day honors Geraint, the 9th century Blue Bard of Wales.
On the 26th day of Mechir, Isis sees the face of Osiris, and Min Goes Forth to Coptos.
After Benin lifted a ban on the practice of Voodoo in the mid-1990s, it was declared an official religion in the former French colony, and January 10th is celebrated as National Voodoo Day, a public holiday ranking with Christmas and the Muslim Eid. Celebrations draw thousands of tourists each year to Benin, especially to the coastal city of Ouidah. Voodoo has a strong popular presence in Haiti and similar African-origin rituals are celebrated in Cuba under the name of Santeria and in Brazil as Candomble.
The Roman Carmentalia honors the Carmenae, prophetic nymphs identified with the nine muses. Their leader is Carmentis, a goddess of prophecy and protectress of women in childbirth. She is also honored with another Carmentalia on the 15th of January.
The 11th and 15th were among the most important festivals for Roman mothers. Roman matrons celebrated along with the flamen (a priest devoted to a particular god of the Roman pantheon) and pontifices (a council of nine, fifteen, or sixteen priests). Two Carmentes, called Porrima and Postverta were worshiped as her sisters and attendants. Near the Porta Carmentalis, which was named for her, was a Flamen Carmentalis. It was not lawful to defile her shrine with leather or any skin of slaughtered beasts.
Juturna, an old Italian goddess of fountains and prophetic waters, is honored with the Juturnalia on the anniversary of the day on which her temple was erected in the Campus Martius by Lutatius Cotulus. All aqueduct workmen and others in a similar field celebrate the Juturnalia.
As part of the New Year's celebrations in Japan, the kagami-mochi, a two-tiered rice cake which was placed in the alcove of the living room or kitchen, is cut up and eaten today. This custom, called kagami biraki, originated with the samurai class.
On the 27th day of Mechir, a Feast of Sokar occurs.
The Roman festival of Compitalia honors the Lares and Manes, household gods. The Compitalia and the Feralia are part of the Mania. Mania is the goddess referred to as the Mother or Grandmother of Ghosts. The Romans celebrate the Compitalia on the 12th of January and also the 6th of March. Loaves of bread are fashioned in the shape of men and called Maniae. Woolen effigies of men and women are dedicated to the goddess Mania and hung at the doors of all the houses in Rome in the hope that, in her rounds through the city, she will accept the effigies for the inmates of the house and so spare the living from death for another year.
Frigg is honored today by her followers, the Freefolk from Frigefolc or 'Frigg's People.'
In Austria, the final Witchcraft laws were repealed in 1787.
The Festival of the Helping Hand is based upon the African proverb, "Not to aid one in distress is to kill him or her in your heart."
The festival of Makar Sankranti is highly regarded by the Hindus from North to down South. Though the Hindu calendar is lunar, Makar Sankrati is an exception, marking the commencement of the sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere. It always takes place on the fourteenth on the first month of the year. Makara refers to Makara rashi, a sign of the zodiac corresponding to Capricorn. In the epic of Mahabharata, the hero Bhishma Pitamah lingered after being wounded in the war until this day. So it is believed by some people that dying at this time brings Moksha or salvation for the deceased (and therefore no rebirth).
The day is known by various names and a variety of traditions are witnessed as one explores the festival in different states. In Punjab, the eve of Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri. Bonfires are lit and people make merry. The following day is celebrated as Maghi. The Punjabi's dance the Bhangra until they are exhausted. In Uttar Pradesh, Sankranti is called Khichiri. People begin the day by cleansing themselves in water at various holy sites. This is to purify the self and bestow punya. A special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for a good harvest. The festival is known as Sukarat or Sakarat in Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh. People make merry and eat sweets. In Bengal, a fair is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga enters the sea.
There is a custom of giving gifts to relatives in Gujarat. The Pundits of Gujarati grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy at this time. Brightly colored kites are flown in celebration, and in the evening, kites with lit diyas attached to them are flown so that it seems as though the earthen lamps were flying on their own. The symbol of flying kites is to mark the end of the winter season and has become an internationally known event.
Pongal, which literally means "boiling over," stretches over four days and celebrates the bounteous crops in the fields. This festival is the biggest event of the year for the Tamils as well as for the people of Andhra Pradesh. The first day, Bhogi-Pongal is devoted to Bhogi or Indran, the rain god. The day is linked with the famous mythological tale about Krishna lifting Gobardhan parbat on his little finger. The day begins with an oil bath and in the evening there is a bonfire made of old cloths, files, mats and rugs. The festival is believed to be between 1000 and 2000 years old.
On Dondoyaki or Ombeyaki in Japan, New Year decorations are gathered up and taken to the nearest Shinto shrine. There, they are burned in a huge bonfire. Some people only stay long enough to throw their offerings on the fire, while others sing songs, roast rice cakes, and indulge in fortune telling.
An official admission of error was issued by the jurors of the Salem Witch Trial in 1696.
Sein-No-Hi, Adult's Day, is a Japanese festival to honor those who have turned twenty. A person is not considered an adult until they turn twenty.
This is also the Small New Year. Azuki-qayu (gruel cooked with red beans) is eaten to drive away evil spirits and illness for the coming year.
The Second Festival of Carmentalia was created after the Senate prohibited a practice to which mothers had become accustomed. At one time, old matrons drove in carriages (carpenta) during the festival on the 11th. After the honor was taken from them, every matron vowed not to produce any children for her ungrateful spouse. The Senate restored the rite and declared there would now be two festivals in the Mother's honor to promote the birth of boys and girls.
The second day, of Pongal is Surya-Pongal, dedicated to the Sun god, Surya. On this day, pongal (rice cooked in milk and jaggery) is boiled by women who offer it to the Sun.
Romans honor the goddess of all harmonious relations, Concordia (Greek Harmonia), with prayers for Peace. She is depicted in a bronze shrine dedicated to her in Rome in 304 BCE, and the Republican Romans built temples in her honor in the forum romanum and on the Capitoline Hill. Today was one of the dies comitiales, when committees of citizens could vote on political or criminal matters.
The 'Queen of the Universe' appeared in the clouds to all the inhabitants of the town of Arras, France.
Mattu-Pongal is the third day of Pongal, dedicated to the worship and veneration of cattle (mattu). The horns of the cattle are decorated with turmeric and kumkum, and small bells and flowers are hung around their neck. After the cattle have been paraded through the streets, the pongal that was been offered to the local deities is given to the cattle to eat.
Felicitas, the minor goddess of good luck, is honored.
The last day of Pongal is known as Kanyapongal. Coloured balls of the pongal are made and are offered to birds. A kind of bull-fight, called the 'Jallikattu' is held in Madhurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore in Tamil Nadu and several places in Andhra Pradesh. Bundles containing money are tied to the horns of ferocious bulls, and unarmed villagers try to wrest the bundles from them. A Bullock Cart race and cock-fight are also held. In Andhra Pradesh, every household displays its collection of dolls for three days. Community meals are held at night with freshly harvested ingredients.
In Japan, the annual Outakai-hajime, or poetry party, is held at Court. Poems on a given theme are selected from the entries submitted by the public and are read aloud.
Thorrablottar, Husband's Day, is sacred to the Norse God Thor. Men ceremoniously welcome him into their homes. Rising before anyone else, the head of a household is instructed to go outside clad only in his shirt and underwear and hop all the way around his home on one foot. Then he bids Thor welcome to his home. Wives are supposed to treat their mates especially well.
On the 5th day of Pamenot in the Egyptian calendar, the festival of Lights occurs as Neith Goes Forth from Sais.
St. Agnes' Eve is traditionally a night for dreaming deeply and truly. If a virgin dreams tonight of a man, she sees her future husband. In one version, she must fast all day and eat only a salt-filled egg or a salted herring at night. Another charm employed on St. Agnes Eve was the baking of the "dumb" cake, so called since it was made in silence. The cake made of flour, spring water, malt and sugar, could be made by a single girl, or sometimes by a small group. Other traditions said you must stick a load of pins in the sleeve of your nightdress before retiring.
On the 6th day of Pamenot, the Festival of Jubilation for Osiris in occurs in Busiris.
St. Agnes' Day is traditionally a time for divination by fire.
St. Vincent is a one of a number of Christianized forms of Apollo. St. Vincent's day is important to the wine industry as he is considered the Patron Saint of wine growers. According to grape lore, if the weather is good on this day, the crops will be good this year.
It is said, "If the weather is fine, you'll enjoy the wine!"
"If that the sun his beams display,
Be sure to mark his transient beam,
Which through the window sheds a gleam;
For 'tis a token bright and clear,
Of prosperous weather all the year."
This is the birthday of Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1526).
The Day of making way for Khnum occurs on the 8th day of Pamenot in the Egyptian calendar.
One Tooth Rhee Day is a Korean feast day honoring the mythical inventor of the odd custom of having bureaucrats wear four hats to give contradictory orders to workers.
Braciaca Dydd, the Day of Braciaca, begins at sundown and continues until January 24th.
The Theta-Centaurids meteor shower is a little known southern hemisphere shower, beginning on the twenty-third and ending March twelfth. The best viewing occurs on February first.
The Day of Hathor occurs on the 9th day of Pamenot.
The Cornish Tinner's and Seafarer's Day is an old Labor Day celebrating a new season of sailing and mining.
The 10th day of Pamenot is the Day of the Coming of Thoth.
The Fair of Alasitas, a Bolivian holiday, is held in honor of Ekeko, the Andean dwarf god of fecundity, joy, abundance and prosperity. It is depicted as a dumpy and smiling personage, loaded down with a variety of products. Bolivians buy little trinquets representing their desires for the coming year. A shaman often blesses the trinkets with incense, flower petals and rubbing alcohol, but natives will also visit Our Lady of La Paz for the blessings of the Roman Catholic priests as well.
The Alpha-Carinids meteor shower begins now and ends on February ninth. It is a little known southern hemisphere shower. The best viewing occurs on January thirty-first.
Old Disting is the feast of the Disir, the Norse guardian goddesses. A major festival was held to honor all the Aesir at the temple in Uppsala, Sweden.
"If it should thunder on St.Paul's Day, great winds follow." According to folk tradition, a nice day today meant nice weather all year. Snow or rain brought a bad year for crops. Clouds or mists meant a bad year for animals, and thunder was a forerunner of windy days.
The Sementivae Feria, feast of sowing, is a Roman holy day. Janus is called upon first, then sacrifices are made to Tellus, the earth, and Ceres, goddess of agriculture. All the minor deities who presided over the operations of farming are invoked: Vervactor, the god of breaking up fallow land; Reparator, of renewing its powers; Obarator, of ploughing; Occator, of harrowing; Imporcitor, of drawing furrows; Insitor, of grafting; Sarritor, of hoeing; Subruncinator, of weeding; Messor, of harvesting; Convector, of gathering in; Conditor, of storing up; Promitor, of bringing out for use. At the end, the farmers add to their prayers, sive deo, sive deoe "any unknown god, male or female."
The Altar of Peace, Ara Pacis, is a monument dedicated on January 9, 30 BCE by the Senate. This event is commemorated with the Festival of Peace, held in honor of the Roman goddess Pax. Pax and Irene, both meaning "Peace," became common names in the Roman world, and Pax was imprinted on coins.
In 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi.
Livia was born on the 30th of January 58 BCE. In 39 B.C.E., she married Octavian Augustus and was deified in the reign of Claudius Julia Augusta.
February Eve is the start of the festival of Imbolc or Brigantia. Brigit travels throughout the countryside on the Eve of her festival, bestowing her blessings upon humanity.
The Valkyries and the Norns are honored today. The Feast of Soldag is held to commemorate the appearance of the sun at the end of January in northern Climes.
This is a feast day of Hecate, lunar goddess of crossroads, witches, and the underworld. Statues of her were erected at crossroads where offerings were made to her at this time and during monthly Hecate's Suppers sacrificed on the Full Moon. These suppers consisted of dogs, eggs, honey, milk, and black ewes.