O&O: February 2014

O&O: February 2014

31 January: I missed this last time around, but the 31st was the first eve of Group Keeping with the TC Cill. I wrote yesterday’s very brief TCBP post, and did some cleaning and crocheting.

1 February: Imbolc, and the second eve of Group Keeping. I picked up the craft supplies for the fire part of my Paganicon fire-in-water costume, which I think is thoroughly appropriate. I’ve also written a little (just over 200 words, but I’ll hopefully be getting back to that after this post and a bit of homework is done) and I’ve done some crocheting, though I think I’m going to frog it because I don’t like the length.

2 February: My cill shift. I’ll be spending a good chunk of the day in my new weaving class, and then I intend to write and clean.

11-13 Anthesterion: (11-13 February. There was a lot of weird aligning of calendars this year.) Anthesteria. I will open a bottle of wine, make offerings to Dionysos, Hermes, and the Dead. I will probably spend some time working on one of the masks that needs making- either my fire mask, for Paganicon, or Djehuty’s mask. Neither of which are particularly Dionysos’, excepting that all masks are. I could also do some more reading up on Anthesteria so I have better plans for next year, and work on my plans for Carnival.

14 February: Valentine’s is not technically on my observance calendar for the year, but I am strongly considering making it a holyday for Hetharu, so there may be some offerings. We’ll see.

15 February: Féile Brighid; for fairly obvious reasons, February is Brighid’s month. I’ll be making my monthly Kiva donation, and then writing, crocheting and/or weaving, cleaning, and hopefully baking. I should make bread. It’s also Laura’s Night. Comfort food will probably be cookies or something similar. I’ll also start Brighid’s online shrine here, which I’ll have to figure out a name for.

16 February: Absent’s Night. I have utterly no idea what kind of comfort food would be appropriate, but I’ll figure out something.

18 February: Opening Night, a special day outside of my normal Beloved Dead offering days. It was a stage debut for my Great-Aunt Senta, though I have misplaced (and forgotten) the notes with the specifics. I know it was ballet, but I haven’t a clue what year, or what show. I will be working on my writing.

19 Peret 3: (19 February. I mentioned the weird alignment?) Offering to Djehuty. As I had a lovely case of plague for most of last month, I did not start Djehuty’s mask or get any reading done, so I would like to rectify that. I’ll also update my online shrine, which is sorely in need of a better name.

22 February: My cill shift: again with the writing, fiber work, cleaning. Hopefully some healing work, too.

For the shortest month of the year, I’ve got plenty to do!

As for January: my plague rather intensified on the 2nd, and I wasn’t able to get in to a doctor until the 21st, so I had significantly less energy than I would have liked. For how awful I felt, though, I am pretty pleased that I was mindful of each day (and not just at the end as an ‘oh, fuck’ sort of way) and made as much effort as I could manage. The round-up: I never got around to the divination on the 1st. I did make biscuits & gravy on the 2nd, but forgot that I have no fire-safe bowl for burning letters, so that didn’t happen at all. I kept on the 3rd, and made Sage’s cross; I baked and offered cupcakes on the 12th. Kept again on the 13th and made Aiwelin’s cross. Got the online shrine for Djehuty set up on the 15th, and made my Kiva donation a few days later when money was properly situated- I funded a group of women in Mali who sell traditional medicines. I missed Grandma’s birthday on the 18th, as I ran out of cupcake supplies and had no energy for the store, and didn’t do anything I’d planned for Djehuty on the 19th. Overall: not a great month, but I attribute that more to my really awful cold than my motivation.

Here’s hoping February will be better!

My Calendar System

My Calendar System

Calendars, and their making and maintenance, has been a subject of discussion among my friends and I on more than one occasion, and since it’s been on my mind of late I thought I would sit down and detail my system. I welcome comments and constructive criticism, and if anyone else would like to share their methodology I’d love to link it here. My calendar has two halves: the fixed dates and the movable dates. I use two programs- Evernote and Google Calendar- as well a regular notebook. I start with the fixed half of the calendar- it’s pretty simple and straightforward.

I start with a file in Evernote named “Base Calendar (Fixed)” in my calendar notebook. I have each of the twelve Gregorian calendar months listed in bold, underneath which I list any holidays that fall within that month. I color code holidays for visual simplicity- purple for the gods, green for the spirits, blue for the dead, and orange for any others. (The colors were chosen at random/what wasn’t eye searing and still distinct.) So December looks like this:

DECEMBER
15: Eortì Hekate

23: Seven Suppers
24: Seven Suppers
25: Seven Suppers
26: Seven Suppers
27: Seven Suppers
28: Seven Suppers
29: Seven Suppers

31: the Last Night

I input each of these dates into my Google Calendar- I have a set of private calendars using the same color coding scheme- and schedule them to recur annually. Initially, I also set up email reminders, but given the volume of minor days (Beloved Dead birth and death days, mostly, which I mark briefly) my inbox got a bit overwhelming.

In January of each year- usually on or just before Djehuty’s Feast- I create a new file in my calendar notebook for the year. The fixed base calendar is then copied and pasted in.

Because the fixed portion of the calendar deals with the modern Gregorian calendar, it only lends itself to certain kinds of holidays. It is overwhelmingly blue: Beloved Dead birth and death days, Christian saints’ feasts, and significant dates associated with the Heroines and the Patrons (two groups of Dead I work with.) There’s a solitary purple holiday per month- deity holidays of my own invention- and only three green spirit holidays (the first and last days of the year, and the leap day, all of which belong to the Moirae.) There are a handful of community holidays- the ‘founding days’ of my birthplace and childhood hometown, and the four major Celtic festivals, on their fixed Neo-Pagan/Wiccish dates. (Said Celtic festivals could technically exist on the movable portion of the calendar- perhaps even should, if we’re getting recon about it- but they’re as much about the community as the time of year, and I would rather celebrate them with the community.)

The movable portion of the calendar is not nearly as straightforward. It draws from several sources: the Kemetic calendar, the Hellenic calendar, and the American calendar; while the latter just requires checking the year’s Gregorian calendar and placing accordingly, the Kemetic and Hellenic calendars are old and are based off of astrological phenomena. So I keep track of both ancient calendars, to place ancient holidays accordingly.

The Hellenic calendar, if I’m being specific, is actually the Attic calendar, used in Athens. It’s technically based on lunar phases, with an intercalary month periodically to keep the months aligned with the seasons. The ancients, however, were not exactly known for their precision, and added extra days to months when it suited them (usually political stuff.) I consider this license for wiggle room, personally (though I don’t really need license, as I’m not a recon.) I place the first of Hekatombaion- the first month of the Attic calendar- on the first new moon after the summer solstice (which is possibly how the ancient Athenians reckoned it, but we’re not totally positive.) Instead of stuffing my intercalary month partway through the year (traditionally it was Poseideon 2, directly after Poseideon, which was roughly November/Decemberish) I just add my intercalary days to the end of the year like a sensible person. Much less maths, that way.

Because the Hellenic calendar relies on moon phases, there’s no set number of days per month. I rely on a lunar calendar to figure out when the phases are, because I am not a celestially oriented person- I use the lunar phase calendar in Google Calendar. There’s also the bit where the ancient Hellenic day started at sunset (much like the Jewish calendar) but it feels unnatural to me, so I shift everything a day forward. This means that I’m partially off from HMEPA but it’s still close enough that I can use it to double-check my calculations when need be.

As for the Kemetic calendar. Anyone who’s worked with them will tell you, it’s a mess and a headache. Like the ancient Greeks, the ancient Egyptians had different festival calendars in different places; they also had a ‘wandering’ lunisolar calendar that relied on moon phases and a civil calendar with a set number of days per month- the problem is that they used the same names for the months in both calendars. The whole thing is enough to drive a person mad. As I am not a recon, I gave myself license to simplify. I determine the new year, Wep Renpet, by the local rising of Sirius, which becomes 1 Akhet 1 on the calendar. The twelve months each have 30 days, and then the Days Upon the Year handles the intercalary days, however many they happen to be. I place holidays on the civil dates, unless they specifically mention being tied to a lunar phase (such as the Jubilee of Nut.)

So, to use the movable calendar, first I have to find out the date of the June solstice, find the next new moon, and start placing the months. I do this for the full Hellenic year, which means that when I’m calculating in January, the upcoming months are already done, and my new set of calculations will carry me over through next January. As I place the year’s months in my Google Calendar, I mark them down in the year’s calendar note as well.

I then calculate the rising of Sirius based on my latitude/longitude with this handy link and place the first of each month every thirty days, also noting it in the year’s calendar note as I go. At this point, my year calendar will have all the fixed Gregorian date holidays, and the first day of every Hellenic and Kemetic month.

At this point, I turn to my note “Base Calendar (Movable)”. Here I have five subheadings: Dec/Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr/May, Jun/Jul/Aug, Sep/Oct/Nov, and Other. (Other covers recurring holidays based on celestial observation, like the Jubilee of Nut or Hekate’s Deipnon.) Holidays are listed in rough order (due to the movable nature of the calendars, they can fluctuate sometimes) by the observation/phenomenon or the ancient calendar date. So Jun/Jul/Aug looks like:

JUN/JUL/AUG
(June Solstice) Eortì Auxo
(1 Hekatombaion 27, 3 days) Panathenaea
(days preceding heliacal rising of Sirius, 5 days) Heb Netjeru/Wep Renpet
(1 Akhet 18) Heb Wagy

Once my months are in place, I can go down the list of movable holidays and plug them onto their date for the coming year; I place them in my Google Calendar as a non-recurring date, and list them in the year’s calendar. While it’s a time consuming effort, after the first time it’s not a difficult one.

Both the ancient calendars are skewed heavily towards the gods; because they cover a massive period of time, they are also stuffed full of festivals and observances, that were probably more prominent in different locations and time periods. My list of movable holidays to consider adding to my calendar is much longer than the base calendar at the moment; having a date and title doesn’t necessarily help one put together an actual observation, after all. And, since I’m still getting my feet wet in proper research skills, it’s largely a work in progress.

All of this helps me map out my year, but my Google Calendar can be a bit overwhelming with other things I need to remember (doctor’s appointments, birthdays, trash day, whatever) so I like to break it down into smaller chunks in my notebook. On the left page, I write down the week: Monday through Sunday, with the Gregorian, Hellenic, and Kemetic month and day in a column and the holidays in a second column alongside. On the right page I make a list of anything I need to keep in mind during the week- upcoming holiday prep work I need to do, work-in-progress projects I don’t want to lose track of, looming deadlines, etcetera. I write out the left hand pages for about two months at a time; the right hand pages get updated week-to-week, though I do make notes in advance if I want to start thinking about something at a certain time (like advance warning for birthday gift shopping, etca.)

So, that’s my system! I’d love to hear how others manage their religious calendars!

September already?

September already?

The time flies.

My August observances went decently well. I didn’t get much done in the way of offerings through Heb Netjeru, but I did settle on designs for the mask project for each of the four. The honey-wheat bread I made on Wep Renpet was almost perfect. I managed to make mead and bread on Féile Lugh; I was not particularly impressed with the bread, and likely won’t make it again. The mead I just strained and bottled today, and… well, the alcohol fumes made me a little dizzy. We’ll see in two months whether I have mulberry colored rubbing alcohol or actual blackberry-raspberry mead. I also signed up for Babbel to practice my French. For Wagy… I offered water and a candle. I didn’t do anything for Djehutet or the Procession of Nit.

A good amount of my plans involved cleaning and reorganizing shrines, but unfortunately I haven’t had the spoons to get my room cleaned, which is a bit of a prerequisite for getting my makeshift shrines updated. Hopefully I will do better in September.

My schedule for the upcoming month: there’s the Jubilee of Nut on the 2nd, and I don’t have a damned clue what I’m going to do. Hopefully I will have located my copy of “My Heart My Mother” by then.

Eortì Athene on the 15th is Athene’s general holiday. I will make bread, probably the red wine and rosemary bread recipe that I’ve been meaning to try for a while. I’m considering focusing on Athene Polais, and might give to a school or something through Kiva.org. I’ll have to take a closer look. Catch up on my crocheting, since I don’t weave.

Eortì Karpo, aka the autumnal equinox… fucked if I know? Well, no, that’s not true. There will be music and dancing- she is one of the Horae, after all- and maybe… apple crumb pie? Something with apple and cinnamon, for the proper autumnal feel.

The 28th, 29th, and 30th are the first three days of Opet (which will continue into October until the 9th.) This will involve spiritual vows with my gods and donating to charity- a bunch of us on TC are emboatening the boatless together via Kiva, but I also hope to donate canned goods or some such locally.

I’ve also got three days for my Beloved Dead, on the 16th, 24th, and 30th, that will involve prayers and libations and food. (I’m still unsure about deathday foods. Birthdays get cake, obviously; Veggie suggested comfort foods on deathdays, but I don’t really know/remember a lot of their eating preferences. I suppose I could go with food that comforts me but that seems a bit selfish? I don’t know.)

So, another relatively manageable month, provided I can maintain current spoon levels and get my damned room clean.

Carnival & Anthesteria Notes (part 1)

Carnival & Anthesteria Notes (part 1)

(Why yes, I am “celebrating” the second day of Heb Djehuty and Imbolc Eve by working on Dionysian holidays. … It makes sense, I swear.)

Dionysos is one of my Twelve; as a woman with control issues and a familial history of dependency (numerous smokers and more than a few alcoholics) I don’t think it’s all that surprising that I struggle with this relationship. (I’m struggling with all my relationships right now, but that’s another story.) They do say ‘a chaste maiden will come to no harm in the rites of Dionysos’, though. At any rate- in my calendar, his month is March, chosen largely for my strong association with the term “March Madness”, the madness of the March Hare, the drunken debauchery mid-month with only the vaguest veneer of St. Paddy’s Day, and the general uncomfortable transitional feel of the month, weather-wise. Though it contains the vernal equinox it never feels much like spring; when I think of March in New England I think of mud, slush, grey skies, and a desperate desire for winter to just be over already. Within the public school year cycle, March was a squirmy time where we looked anxiously ahead to the end of the year, with no more significant breaks or holidays left to tide us over. March for me is an almost desperate readiness for change, which seems fairly appropriate for Dionysos, I think.

Dionysos has a holiday in March- Eortì Dionysos- but that’s a creation entirely of my own; in my calendar, I want to include ancient holidays, as well as modern secular/civic celebrations, aligned by purpose with an appropriate entity. Which brings me right now to Anthesteria and Carnival.

Anthesteria is a very old holiday on the Attic calendar, celebrated on the 11th-13th of Anthesterion (which in my Hellenic calendar is noted as ‘2 Kheimon’ because numbering the months by season is much easier for me to remember) which this year falls from the 21st-23rd of February. Though Hermes plays a role, it is a largely Dionysian holiday, centering on new wine, new growth, and the dead.

Carnival is an old holiday as well; however, it is Christian in origin (though may have roots in non-Christian practices). It can refer to a significant period of time- it appears to have begun the day following Epiphany in some areas, and in others as early as November 11th- but always comes to an end on Fat/Shrove Tuesday; the following day, Ash Wednesday, is the beginning of the Lenten season. This year, Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras, the final two days of the Carnival season, fall on February 11th and 12th. Motivated largely by the restrictions of Lent, Carnival is a time of food (eggs, sugar, milk, and meats) and general merry-making.

I have gotten the specific impression, reinforced by divination, that I am supposed to make Carnival a Dionysian holiday for MistSeeking. I have some misgivings, I admit- I feel like I’m appropriating Christian practice- but people I trust have reassured me that Carnival is making the same move towards secularization that Xmas and Easter have, if it hasn’t already; likewise, I trust my gods. So a Carnival adaptation it is. Because of the parallels between Carnival and the Rural Dionysia (at least surface-wise) I’ll be using the Rural Dionysia as an additional source of tradition and inspiration. The stuff I’ll be dumping below and musing on is what I’ve dug up so far; it’s certainly not the end of my research, and as always I appreciate constructive commentary, as well as books or websites I should look deeper into.

To begin with, I am fascinated by the parallel between the winter months being associated with Dionysos- at least in Delphi, as Dionysos inhabited the temple at Delphi between mid-November and mid-February when Apollon went to Hyperborea- and the length of the longer Carnival season. Though Carinval in America is more strongly associated with New Orleans, it’s been celebrated much longer in Mobile, Alabama, and in that area the festivities begin in mid November with parties and masquerades thrown by the mystic/secret societies. I know that the middle of November is about the time that the ‘holiday’ season is essentially inescapable in the US, with Thanksgiving only weeks away and Grinchmas and New Years close on its heels- and for me, at least, that holiday season has always felt a bit ‘out of time’ to me, slightly dissociated from the rhythms of the rest of the year. Given Dionysos’ relationships with boundaries and norms, I think this is entirely appropriate. I think, though, if I’m going to actively associate a period of time with a particular entity I should probably include some sort of additional activity, or abstinence from a typical activity, to mark the time as different. (On that note, I really ought to do something like that for the months in general.) I know myself- I can’t do daily formal ritual, so it’ll have to be something else. Most likely it will involve food, because let’s be honest, this is me.

So, to keep a running summary of Shit That’s Been Decided: from sometime mid-November (specific date to-be-determined) through Carnival- that is, Mardi Gras- will be marked by eating a food I don’t eat the rest of the year, or not eating a food I do eat the rest of the year, that has a direct connection/significance to Dionysos. Similarly, in each month of the year, I will find an action to add or subtract from my routine that is directly connected to the deity in question, something done or not done in the rest of the year.

On that note, I’m creeping up on 1k for this post, and I think that’s probably a good cut-off point. (I should have kept a better eye on length in my last post.) Part 2 (and potentially beyond) will resume tomorrow after I’ve slept!