Opening Night (aka Juni does genealogy stuff)

Opening Night (aka Juni does genealogy stuff)

Yesterday, aside from being Féile Brighid, was also Laura’s Night. I spent most of the first half of the day weaving- shockingly I am done, until we take it off the loom- and then made cookies and cleaned. Laura’s Night, and Justine’s Night, always put me in a certain off mood. I know why- they were my schoolmates and my friends, though we weren’t the closest of friends; they died too young, and I never had the chance to mourn them properly. I wasn’t allowed to go to Laura’s funeral, and I didn’t find out about Justine’s until after it happened. I don’t know where they’re buried. It eats at me, sometimes.

At any rate, I distracted myself by thinking about Opening Night, which is Tuesday. I found my notes- my Aunt Senta was in the Tilly Losch ballet, at least for the 1931 performance of “The Gang’s All Here” at the Imperial Theatre in NYC. (One of these days I will go and get some pictures, and walk by where the Hotel Plymouth used to stand, as that was where she lived for a time.) Ballet was very important to her. She identified herself as a dancer on her naturalization papers, and I strongly suspect the reason her birth year on said papers is three years off was to extend her dancing career as long as she could. I didn’t know her very well- my mother and I visited her a few times in the nursing home in the years before her death, but my mother has never been strong on family ties. She told me she was from Alsace-Lorraine and was French, and that she had been a ballerina, and that she’d been in silent films. (The last fact I believe, but have never been able to authenticate, alas.) I wish I had known her better.

In digging up my notes on Opening Night, I started digging at her and her sister’s genealogy stuff again. (I am very thankful for, let me tell you.) Senta and her younger sister Margot came to the US in 1914, but exactly where from is harder to pin down. The passenger list identifies them both as German, having been born in Saarbrücken, departing from Rotterdam, “Holland”, and having most recently lived in Diepenbeek, Belgium. She had identified to me, though, as being French, and I’m told that Grandmother Margot spoke very rarely, because she was embarrassed by her English, and mostly spoke in French. The passenger list also notes a relative: “The name and complete address of nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came.”


I’ve got “aunt: Mrs. ? Stephany, Diedenhofen Elsass-Lothringen”. Which, as it happens, is the German name for Thionville, Alsace-Lorraine, when it was part of Germany from 1871-1919. I can’t grok that first name, though- it looks like Notar, but what the hell kind of given name is that? It’s not an f or an l, based on comparison with letters elsewhere on the document. It’s just weird.

At any rate- in her 1925 Petition for Citizenship, Aunt Senta once again states Saarbrücken, Germany as her birthplace, but now she lists her “race” as French, her last foreign residence as Paris, France, and having emigrated by way of Cherbourg, France. (Amusingly, according to wikipedia, the SS Potsdam, after a succession of new names, was used to block the Cherbourg harbor by the Germans in 44.) In a census record, Grandmother Margot lists her birthplace as Alsace-Lorraine, France, and identifies herself as French. Of course, it was also the 40s- love for the Germans wasn’t exactly high, and given that they spoke French, and Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France at the end of WWI, it’s not unreasonable to believe that they adjusted their identities as their surroundings necessitated. It’s still making tracking things down a bitch and a half, though.

The other tidbit of useful information in Margot’s census is that both her parents were born in Alsace-Lorraine. I’m not sure where we have their names from- my Aunt A might have acquired them directly from Aunt Senta in her family tree compiling years- but it’s certainly not on any of the documents I can find. But Hermann and Charlotte have been difficult to find. In fact, the only record that’s come up so far has been one that may or may not be the right man. It’s a WWI Personnel Roster entry for Hermann Flesch, apparently living in Bayern, Germany in 1914, and having been born in Saarbrücken in 1869- a realistic birth date for someone with daughters born in 1897 and 1899. Unfortunately, given that the records are German, they’re in German, and I am not good with cursive script when it’s in English. So I have to look at a graphic of the German alphabet (I’ve been using this one to so I can stick them into Google Translate and see if this is even the right person.)


I hold the slightest hope that this is the correct man, given that section 7 includes “Zahl der Kinder” which Google Translate tells me is “number of children”, and Hermann’s entry says 2. I’m hoping that the scrawl above that- “[something] und Familiennamen der Ehegattin” or “[something] and family name of wife”- says Stephany or some variation on said spelling, given that’s Charlotte’s maiden name. I’ve only just now realized that the facing page is a continuation of the first page’s entries and not a new set, so I have even more awful handwriting to work through. I’m starting with section 7, though, so hopefully I won’t waste too much time if it’s not him.

The reason I’m doing all of this is because the dead are important to me. My dead are important to me. I will recite the names of anyone, whether I knew them, whether I know anything about them- but a list of names on a page is so rote, so hollow. I would rather know them as much as I can. I recently learned my Grandfather Clement- Margot’s husband- fought in World War I. He was only 17. If this Hermann is the right one, Margot married a man who in his youth fought on the opposite side of her own father. It’s fascinating and it’s important and it makes them so much more than a list. And- if I ever figure out whether my head is actually of the broke-open variety- if I ever reach out, it’ll help me know who reaches back. Which, y’know, useful.

Tuesday I will write. I will read. They, together, are my oldest passions, and the things that have defined me for most of my life- and I think that’s something Aunt Senta would like to see.

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!

Observances & Offerings: January 2014

Observances & Offerings: January 2014

Upcoming Observances/Offerings:

31 December: The Last Night- I’ll be doing some purification of myself and my living space, as well as execrating some shit I don’t want to carry with me into the New Year. I may begin the purification a day early, actually, just because there’s so much gunk to get through.

1 January: The First Day- there will be divination for the coming year, and some sigil/spellwork to help me stay on the right track and encourage certain things in my life. It is also Justine’s Day, so I will make cookies or cupcakes and ‘send’ her a birthday card. There will also be bread.

2 January: Richard’s Night. Appropriate comfort food would be biscuits & gravy. I’ll send him a note, too. I don’t have anywhere on my temporary BD shrine for flowers yet, unfortunately.

3 January: The TC Cill’s 7th birthday, so I’ll be Keeping. I expect I’ll start working on my cross for the exchange.

12 January: Richard’s Day & Jeanne’s Day. More birthday cake and cards.

13 January: My regular cill shift- I’ll work on finishing my cross (and last year’s cross) if I haven’t already. Other shift work will involve cleaning and/or writing.

15 January: Heb Djehuty- January is Djehuty’s month, being the beginning of the modern calendar. Aside from my monthly Kiva donation, I’ll be working on Djehuty’s mask, and I’m not sure what else. I feel like I should cook something, but I’m not sure what, just yet. Maybe that fig bar recipe I still haven’t tried.

18 January: Dorothy’s Day- birthday cake and a card.

19 Peret 2: (20 January) Offering to Djehuty; for the billionth time, I am attempting to create a regular offering cycle for each of the Twelve. Brighid’s is, of course, my cill shift, but the others have been a little harder to pin down. I think my last attempt was to stick to the 20-day cill cycle and put all twelve in those twenty days, which of course was an utterly ridiculous idea. Burn out central. Starting in his month, I’ll be making a small offering to Djehuty on the 19th of every (Kemetic) month. (I don’t think I’ve said it here since I decided, but I’ve thrown in the towel on placing the Kemetic calendar based on my own sighting of Sirius; I’m using Kiya’s Fixed Calendar to preserve my own sanity, and because community.) Said offering will likely be reading and note-taking on one of my many half- or unread Kemetic books, because it’s hard to figure out the Work if your foundational reading is shoddy and full of holes. (This is going to be a year of READ ALL THE THINGS, I suspect.)

So! That’s what my month looks like. I suppose I’ll pop in again around the 16th and outline the first two weeks of February and comment on how the first two weeks of January went. Yay for public accountability, or something?

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:

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:

(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 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.