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Festivals in January

 
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:13 pm    Post subject: Festivals in January Reply with quote

January

Twelfth Night lore: When the evil King of Labora punished his people by decreeing all work and no pleasure, he banished one of the people?s favorite holiday?s. Therefore, he also forbade celebration of Twelfth Night. The holiday was in fact a 12 day festival.

On Twelfth Night, the ceremonies cannot begin until a contest determines who will be King and Queen of the Bean. Luck rather than skill decides the winners. The answers are hidden in the Twelfth Cake. Most other foods and games, dances and entertainments also are ritual battles. Revelers called Mummers perform short contest plays. A strong and good St. George must fight a powerful, evil knight. In churches, plays from the Bible depict battles between good and bad. Three kings, following a marvelous star must outsmart a wicked King Herod. These star led noblemen are the Three Magi, who bring gifts to the child whose birth signifies the true meaning of this holiday. Their visit gives Twelfth Night its other name, Epiphany Eve.

King of Labora?s banishment certainly was a cruel punishment. Twelfth Night costumes, disguises, stamping dances, hobby horses, tugs of war, festival flames, games and feasts made Twelfth Night one of the most magnificent of winter holidays. For Twelfth Night, costumes are required, including eye masks. At least six people wear hats topped with large antlers or horns, and small bells around the ankles of their boots. One guest is dressed as the warrior knight, St. George. Another looks like a hobby horse, complete with mane and tail. One reveler is costumed in orange from hat to toe with a large letter ?O? sewn to the front of the tunic. Another guest is dressed in bright yellow wearing an ornamental ?L? for lemon. These are the team leaders of the contest games.

The High Table is empty for this night of revelry until the King and Queen of the Bean are chosen. Usually there are two cakes. Baked within one is a single, large, dried bean. In the Imperial Court, it is a golden bean. The cake is carefully cut and each of the male feasters is served a small piece. The finder of the bean is the King of the Bean, and master of the Twelfth Night Revelries.

Inside the second is a large dried pea, in the Imperial Court, it is usually a jewel. The woman finding it is the Queen of the Bean. Once they are selected, the Surveyor seats the new master and mistress of Twelfth Night at the high table. They remove their masks, and each receives a small crown and scepter.

After the first round of food is served, the guests must wassail the trees. They leave the warmth of the hall to go into the orchard or forest. There among the fruit trees they perform a wassail ceremony around the largest, oldest tree, or the one bearing the most fruit during the year.

They surround the tree and carry large glasses or tankards half filled with apple cider, three small pieces of toasted caraway seed cake floating on the surface. They walk around the tree chanting, ?Hail to thee, old apple tree! From every bough give us apples enow?, hatsful, capsful, bushel, bushel, sacksful, and our arms full too.? They lift their glasses to the tree, they toast it, and shout Wassail. They take a few sips of the cider. Then each one eats one piece of the seed cake, and places the other two on the branches of the tree. A second time they slowly march around the tree, repeating the rhyme. At this circling, the tree drinks. Each wassailer pours the remaining cider into the tub surrounding the tree?s roots. A third chanting procession around the tree ends with wild shouts of ?Hurrah!?

The purpose of this amusing, noisy ritual is to ensure plenty of good cider to fill the cups next year. Wassailing fruit trees is a folk charm for a bountiful harvest. It encourages the trees to bear many a plum and many a pear. The cakes and cider are food gifts for the trees? guardian spirits. The noise and stamping are for startling slumbering tree spirits who might be forgetful of the need to awaken at the coming of spring.

At the outdoor celebrations, Twelfth Night fires are lit in open fields, sown with twelve rows of wheat, twelve very small straw fires are built, plus one large fire. Around thise the revelers gather. Indoors, candles are substitutes for fires. In a darkened hall, twelve candles or sets of candles in sturdy holders are lit, one by one. The guests shout wassail at the lighting of each. Three candles are evenly spaced in each of the four corners of the room. A very large candle or candelabrum with several candles makes the largest fire. This thirteenth fire is sometimes called Old Meg. It serves as the centerpiece for cheerful drinks and songs.

The Oxhorn Cake and Dance follow several feast courses later. The six disguised as ?oxen? wearing horned head dresses and belled boots circle around the wassail tree while musicians play a march, they stamp vigorously in procession. The Surveyor asks the King and Queen of the Bean to select the finest Ox, the ?Best Beast?. One firm, round cake is placed on the chosen one?s horns. The cake is made of oats, caraway seeds and currants. The ox must dance to throw off the cake. The other five imitate the Best Beast. Bets are taken silently on which direction the cake will fall. If it falls in front of the animal, it?s called the Boosey. If it falls behind, it is called the Istress.

Every guest is served a miniature ox horn cake.

Suddenly a loud neighing of a horse is heard in the hall. The musicians imitate horse ?neighs? and then the ?horse? trots in. It canters up to the King and Queen of the Bean at the high table. It bows in fancy patterns, it gallops, walks, proudly slings its tail and then it speaks! ?With gallant St. George I always ride. Weather now is so cold, we must come inside. Give us this room ot act our play. England?s own King will clear the way!?

This begins the play for the evening, but the Twelfth Night merry making is not over yet. The Oranges and Lemons must have their time. At midnight there is a more serious play, but the ritual games lead by the Orange and Lemon leaders ensure.

Twelfth Night, like the Twelfth Day following, is the holiday of hope. After darkness comes light. After the dead of winter comes sunny spring. After sorrow there is joy.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:44 pm    Post subject: January 4 Ganeida Reply with quote

Ganeida, Myrddin's sister is the priestess-sibyl who continues his propetic work.

She creates his otherworldly retreat from which he watches the world.

She was conflated, in later medieval tradition with Nimue, a lady of the lake, who is said to purposely enclose Merlin, having gained his magical secrets.

But, Ganeida/Nimue is an echo of the ancient Celtic goddess of the doorway, who guards the gates of time and occurrence.

She appears as the Goddess Ariadne in Merlin's prophetic vision.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:49 pm    Post subject: January 6 Faery Lovers Reply with quote

Faery lovers of both sexes who come to mortal kind are common in Celtic story.

The Faery kind are not seen as diminutive sprights in Celtic tradition, but as the immortal and ancestral spirits who often have communion and conference with human kinds.

this oran sidhe or faery song describes the beauty of a feary woman...

I left in the doorway of the bower
My jewel, the dusky brown, white-skinned,
Her eye like a star, her lip like a berry,
Her voice like a stringed instrument.

I left yesterday in the meadow of the kind
The Brown-haired maid of sweetest kiss,
Her eye like a star, her cheek like a rose,
Her kiss has the taste of pears.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:51 pm    Post subject: January 10 E Reply with quote

In the Irish Tree alphabet, the letter E is represented by edhadh or the aspen.

Aspen wood was traditionally used to make the undertaker's measuring rod, and was viewed with aversion by Celtic peoples.

the tree was later associated witht the wood of the cross on which Christ was crucified.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:55 pm    Post subject: January 12 Arianrhod Reply with quote

Arianrhod is the Welsh goddess of Destiny and Initiation.

Her abode is the otherworldly Caer Sidi, or Spiral Tower, which is a compliment of her own name, Silver Wheel.

It is identified with the constellation of the Corona Borealis, the Crown of the North.

Taliesin speaks of her as a mistress of inspiration.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:57 pm    Post subject: January 15 Riuros Reply with quote

In the Gaulish calendrical tablet, the Coligny Calendar, the month of December-January was called Riuros, the Cold Time, when the ice bites deeply.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:02 pm    Post subject: January 18 Luideag Reply with quote

The Luideag or Washer at the ford was an apparition that most warriors never wished to meet, because if she was encountered on the eve of battle, she was seen washing out the bloody shirts of those to be slain the next day.

Although she was feared, her action was a kindly one. She is an aspect of the cailleach, and she washed the blood from one life into the river, making the garment of flesh white once again and ready to assume a new life.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:06 pm    Post subject: January 19 Tarbh-Feis Reply with quote

Tarbh-Feis or Bull Prophesy was performed when druids sought out the help of spirits.

A bull was slaughtered and its hide removed, the druid lay down on a bed of rowan wattles, wrapping around him the bulls hide, bloody side next to him.

Dreams and visions that were observed during his sleep or trance brought the prophetic knowledge that was sought.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:10 pm    Post subject: January 21 I Reply with quote

In the Irish tree alphabet, the letter I is represented by iodha or yew, the longest lived of all trees.

Recent research by Alan Meredith had proved that some churchyard yews especially those on the north side of churches are of Celtic antiquity; this is due to the early Church's practice of sitting foundations on old pagan ones.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:10 pm    Post subject: January 21 I Reply with quote

In the Irish tree alphabet, the letter I is represented by iodha or yew, the longest lived of all trees.

Recent research by Alan Meredith had proved that some churchyard yews especially those on the north side of churches are of Celtic antiquity; this is due to the early Church's practice of sitting foundations on old pagan ones.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:13 pm    Post subject: January 26 Cernunnos Reply with quote

The antler crowned God of the Wild is called Cernunnos. He was venerated throughout the Indo-European world.

A depiction of him upon the Gundestrup cauldron shows him cross legged holding a ram-headed serpent.

He is the Masterof the Animals and a threshold guardian for those seeking fertility, regeneration and initiation into the Celtic mysteries.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:17 pm    Post subject: January 28 Nodens Reply with quote

The British god Nodens is the Celtic God of Dreams and Visions.

He is cognate with Nudd, Lludd Llaw Erieint and the Irish Nuadu of the Silver Hand, and had a temple at Lydney on the banks of the Severn, which, on excavation, proved to have a series of abatons or dream incubatory chambers.

Seeking divination or knowledge through dreaming is common among many people who have a rich oral tradition such as the Celts.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:20 pm    Post subject: January 31 Eve of Imbolc Reply with quote

The Eve of Imbolc sees the Cailleach's farewell. This is part of the long poem attributed to the Cailleach Beare:

Ebbtide to me as of the sea!
Old age causes me reproach...
I am the Old Woman of Beare,
An ever-new smock I used to wear;
Today, such is my mean estate,
I wear not even a cast off smock...
O happy the isle of the great sea
which the flood reaches after the ebb!
As for me, I do not expect
flood after ebb to come to me.

The festival of Imbolc is now ready to begin and Brighid stands waiting to be welcomed in.
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