Michael (eumelosdrizzle) wrote in romano_celtic,

Festivals, Ceremonies, and Rituals

Just to see how things lined up, I compiled this list of all the festivals both Roman and "Celtic" that I could find.  I got the Roman ones from Wikipedia so I think time would have to be spent on double checking the reliability of the list; it could be missing some or things could be a little out of place/order.  I also compiled a list of deities or 'spirits' that are associated with each month through these events.  Some of them are tentative sort of guesses in which case I put a (?) to indicate that this is not necessarily established.


January – Agonalia (for Janus), Carmentalia, Paganalia
February – Imbolc, Parentalia, Lupercalia, Quirinalia,
March – Matronalia, Feriae Marti, “sacred fire for Vesta is renewed”, Equirria, Bacchanalia, Agonalia (for Mars), Quinquatria, Festival of Salus

April – Floralia, Veneralia, Megalesia, Ludi Cereales, Fordicia, Parilia, Robigalia
May – Beltaine, Festival for Bona Dea, Lemuria, Mercuralia, Agonalia (for Vediovis),
June – Festival for Bellona, Vestalia, Quinquatrus minusculae, Festival for Summanus,
July – Poplifugia, Ludi Apollinares, Nonae Caprotinae Juno, Sacerdotes Publici, Caprotinia, Neptunalia
August – Lughnasadh, Opalia, Vertumnalia, Nemoralia, Portunalia, Vinalia Rustica, Consualia, Vulcanalia, Opiconsivia, Volturnalia

September – Ludi Roman
October – Samhain, Fast of Ceres, Meditrinalia, Festival for Fontus, Equirria, Armilustrium
November – Pomonia, Epulum Jovis, Festival for Feronia, Brumalia (starts)
December – Saturnalia, Rites for Bona Dea (women only), Faunalia, Agonalia (for Sol Indiges), Consualia, Eponalia, Opalia, Divalia, Larentalia, Dies Natalis Invicti Solis


January – Janus, Carmenta
February – Brighid, Pan/Faunus/Lupercus , Ancestors (helpful dead), Quirinalia
March – Juno, Mars, Vesta, Bacchus, Minerva, Salus
April – Flora (goes in to May), Venus, Cybele, Ceres, Terra, Pales, Rogibus
May – Belenus(?), Aengus(?), Lemures (harmful dead), Bona Dea, Mercury, Veiovis
June – Bellona, Vesta, Minerva, Summanus
July – Jupiter, Apollo, Juno, Neptune, Consus
August – Lugh, Donn, Tailtu, Ops, Vertumnus, Diana, Portunes, Venus, Consus, Vulcan, Volturnus
September – Jupiter
October – Ancestors (both kinds), Aengus(?), Dagda(?), Boann(?), Mars, Ceres, Meditrina, Fontus,
November – Pomona, Jupiter, Feronia, Dionysus/Bacchus
December – Sol Invictus, Sol Indiges, Larenta, Ops, Faunus, Bacchus, Bona Dea, Epona, Saturn, Angerona, Consus

So this is a fairly large list.

[info]ursus_of_unrv mentioned in reply to comments in his earlier post that some of these Roman festivals would have been optional, in that you would choose to honour an event specifically, if it happened to be a deity to which you were particularly attached.  I’ve done my best to cut out generic non-deity/religion specific holidays, because we have our own modern civic holidays.  It looks like every month is particularly rich with choices except for September.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to go through them and try to parse out what they were intended for one by one (this could be cross posted to the [info]religioromana list too). 

The Ford article suggests moving some Roman festivals to coincide with Celtic festivals (or vice versa).  I don’t really do that personally, because I don’t see a strong need for it.  I find that, at least the holidays I’ve celebrated, line up broadly in theme in some smaller ways at least (i.e. Imbolc in February in honour of Brighid, and the ritual relighting of the Vestal flame in March both have fire/hearth focus) with the holidays around them.   Ford moves Parentalia and Lemuria to Samhain, but I find that the Lemuria actually fits better in around Beltane; so I suppose one could move the Parentalia to Samhaim if you wanted some kind of counterpoint to Lemuria being held in around Beltane… 

From the huge list above, these are the ones I have been part of or led in the past (some on my own, others as part of an open or closed gathering):  Celtic Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh; Roman Saturnalia (and the festivals in and around it), Parentalia, Lupercalia, Matronalia, Floralia, and Lemuria.  I also honour the Lares and Penates, Genius and Juno of our household three times a month on the Kalends, Nones, and Ides.  This includes offerings of incense, wine, and food (usually spelt cookies, which contain ginger, honey, milk, and spelt flower – all organic).  I honour Brighid and either Janus, Juno, or Jupiter respectively on these occasions; the Kalends for Janus, the Nones for Juno, and the Ides for Jupiter.  Obviously I'm still working things out here; it is hard to be sure what festivals and ceremonies are most 'important' to celebrate and what exactly to include in personal rites.  What kinds of festivals/ceremonies have you participated in or led?  If you honour familial deities, how do you choose to do it?  I’m curious because what I have chosen to do is relatively ‘new’, but based on my understanding of how things probably would have been done in the Ancient world.  I don’t do a ritual like that daily, but I think there was precedent in Antiquity for doing such a thing on the Kalends, Nones, and Ides at any rate.

Tags: ceremonies, festivals, gods, personal practice, rituals
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Several things:

1) I'd put Samain in November, not October; the pattern with all of your other dates has been to put the Irish (and N.B., they are Irish, not Celtic/pan-Celtic; there is evidence for Samain in Gaul, and for Beltaine in Wales, and the possible Lugus festival around the beginning of August in Gaul as well, but nothing for Imbolc outside of Gaelic cultures) dates on presumably the first of their respective months, especially in the cases of Beltaine, Lugnasad, and (properly) Samain, since the months of May, August, and November are named for those.

2) why Oengus in May? Why Donn in August? (He might be more appropriate to May, I'd think, because the Milesian invasion was supposed to have happened on Beltaine, and Donn was shuffled off to the house of his name not long after.) Why Oengus, Dagda and Boand in October? The thing of Dagda and Morrigan having sex near Samain (in Cath Maige Tuired) would possibly be in October, but again, much too much has been read into that particular incident.

3) Forgive my ignorance, but this is the second time you've referred to this Ford article. Can you give me a full reference on that? I don't agree with the ideas there at all, because February was the LAST month of the year for the Romans (and March was the first), when one had very few days available for doing normal business, and thus all of the festivals of the dead are located then. (And that would allow the one festival that was most certainly shared and of a common origin between the two cultures to line up on the calendar, i.e. Imbolc/Lupercalia; Imbolc would have used to have been more toward the middle of February, incidentally. The Parilia and Beltaine are also very similar, down to the livestock being lead between bonfires.) You might consider shifting your calendrical order as a result of this; or it might be good to have two different calendars in parallel, with the Celtic one starting in November, and the Roman one starting in March.

4) I'd strongly advocate having December 18 as the Festival of Epona, just as it was in ancient Rome.
I'll answer in order because thats just easier:

1. Thats actually thats why I put Celtic in quotation marks, because I was using the Irish festivals; but I slipped up on Samhain accidentally. I did this really quickly while at work and then had a series of busy days. The order in which I put things should are not definitive; I made that one mistake and Wikipedia might have others. It is merely a quick attempt at putting things together for discussion purposes. In the end, we could perhaps come up with an updated and more accurate version staring with whatever month makes the most sense for concordance purposes too.

2. To be honest, with all of those it is just local experiences in different rituals and what not at those times of year. Aengus in May mostly for thematic reasons having to do with some possible associations with the time of year and the deity, and at Samhain along with Dagda and Boann mostly because of the fact that he was conceived at Samhain (or at least that is my impression of it - and those are his parents). I also believe it is at Samhain that Caer transformed back and forth between swan and human form. Donn in August mostly through an association with Crom and the cthonic overtones associated with the harvest. This is not set in stone, so I cautiously put that stuff out there with question marks. There are definitely other possibilities, and there doesn't have to be a specific deity for each of these festivals either.

3. Sorry if I didn't make things clearing viz. the article. It was written by a local Pagan in the US, not a scholar as far as I know. I posted a link to it in my introductory post to this group - click on the article's name On being a Roman in the 29th Century. I'll provide it here too just to make sure it works: http://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/traditions/29thcentury.html.

I should apologise as well, because after having reread it, I seem to have mixed up what he actually said:

"Certain traditional festivals, like those of the dead, formerly held in February and May, we have moved to 31 October and Remembrance Sunday, in accordance with local custom. We do not believe that a British Roman would have acted any differently."

I like the overall tone of his writing and I find it interesting to speculate on the possibility of moving holidays where that might make sense for whatever reason (but only if there is good reason). I'm kind of torn on some of those issues so its great to see discussion of pro's and con's.

I agree that there seem to be thematic links with Lupercalia and Imbolc as well, which I just love (!); I just thought I'd mention Vesta in that context because it was one that I wasn't aware of happening March (not far from Imbolc really). You've brought out some other things that I hadn't really thought of here viz. the similarity between Parilia and Beltaine. I wasn't proposing any particular order for a calendar, but instead just used standard modern convention to put things to the list.

4. Yes, I see no reason to move Epona's festival in December. The only possible argument in favour of doing that would be because there is so much in December already - but hey, that time of year is rich with lots of stuff anyone for many cultures (one of the reasons why it really is my favorite time of year). Can you elaborate on what you mean here about how to align the calender - I think I understand, but want to make sure.
I'll have a look at that article; but to be honest, I find the quotation you've given from it very problematic. A "British Roman," meaning a Roman stationed in Britain, would have followed the Roman customs; whereas a Roman Briton (someone locally born, with genetic heritage that was local but likely with a culture and predominate linguistic usage being Latin) might be more free to mix and match and follow both sets of customs.

What are the associations of Oengus and May? This is utterly new to me...I accept the Samain association of Oengus and Caer certainly, but the birth of Oengus was not a Samain tale (and since it was nine months in a day, there is a time distortion present there which sort of puts the whole birth entirely outside any mortal scale of time).

As far as the calendrical alignment question, I was thinking that you might have a two-, or even three-column calendar, with our ordering of months in the middle, and the Roman and the Celtic/Irish on each side of it, showing where each of their respective years begin, and the festivals and such appropriate to each in their respective columns. Then, the "choice" of what to do, and any further holidays which might be engineered by modern folks, can be written into the middle column that is aligned to our ordering of the months. It might seem overly cumbersome, but it would allow one to take a step back for a moment and see how each system has an integrity and a "narrative" and structure of its own. Just a thought.
I took it to mean the later, since you are definitely right that a soldier newly posted would probably not have integrated to quite that level with the locals; perhaps if it was a native soldier, but even that seems a bit of a stretch (I could see him doing both). The only time I'd think there might be an argument for moving holidays would be where it makes sense thematically and rhythmically to do so (i.e. moving harvest, or harvest related things to sync with local custom surrounding the actual harvest).

A lot of the Oengus at May stuff comes from some UPG associations with him and with Beltane (fertility, spring, the sun, that kind of stuff). I don't think I have a particularly strong argument one way or the other - it is just something that I have experienced locally in rituals at Samhain and Beltane and took for granted as a result. Its much the same for Oengus at Samhain to be perfectly honest, but I had thought that the Birth of Oengus was a Samhain tale. Perhaps others can speak to this stuff in greater detail than I can.

I think having a more complex means of displaying both calenders in alignment with each other relative to our modern makes a lot of sense actually - I wonder if there is any way to do that here on LJ. I don't know how to make tables and such. It would be really neat to see where things already do match up - this is what I was trying to do by putting everything on our modern calender, but I think it would be easier to see in a 3 column format as you suggest.
Wow, I should really point out that Nick Ford is not in the US, he is in the UK. That needed to be said.
RE #1
I agree w Alfrecht, and would assoiciate Samhain w November, Imbolc w February, Bealtaine w May, and Lughnasadh w August.
RE #2
Oengus's literal Samhain associations include his hooking-up with Caer, his winning the Sidhe from Dagda (A&B Rees. p91), and the death of Diarmait. While I can't find a source that states his birth is Samhain, the magic that Dagda does is well suited to the mutable, chaotic, primordial nature of the space between one year and the next. Besides, he makes an adorable 'baby new year' and his 'unique power' of being a combination of Fire (Dagda) and Water (Boann) is especially suited to Samhain, or Bealtaine, both of which have strong Fire in the Water symbolism. Further there is a physical connection between New Grange and Solstice, but isn't there a theory that much of what may have been solstice related slid to Samhain over time?

Oengus's connection with Bealtaine is more thematic that textual, starting with the fire and water symbolism mentioned above. But it does not end there, he can be profitably compared to Mabon/Maponos, who has May 1st connections through their avatar/protégés like Predyri, born on May 1, and Culhwch, whose courtship of the flowermaiden, Olwen, daughter of the Hawthorn/Maythorn Giant is a fairly transparent myth of spring. Culhwch's story also has Mabon being freed, which could be seen as May-ish, but then goes to a Boar hunt which is Samhain-ish (and reminiscent of Diarmait).

Aine and Manannan have midsummer association - she is celebrated in Munster with flaming wheels rolled down hills, and him on Man with hilltop offerings.

Donn/Crom's connection with the period of late July and early August are abundantly attested in MacNeil's 'Festival of Lughnasa' - cf Crom Dubh's Sunday.

Mike, you might also want to add Aine, Carman, and Nas to your August list, due to 'Aine's Friday' preceding Crom Dubh Sunday in some regions, and the other two having Lughnasadh connections (as important in their respective regions as Tailtiu was in hers).
In De Gabail in tSide, there is no mention of Samain at all in relation to Oengus' winning Bru na Boinne from An Dagda. Nor is there anything to suggest that Diarmait's death took place around Samain. As the medieval Irish writers were quite fond of making sure we knew when a particular tale happened at Samain, it seems a stretch to suggest these things (despite whatever associations there might be via boars and such...and I'm not sure we can take that as a given across the board).

I like your ideas of fire and water symbolism in Oengus himself, and in certain aspects of these holidays. If it were expressed in that way, I'd have no problem with it. However, the texts themselves do not state these things, and that does need to be acknowledged in an honest assessment of the material.

The Mabon and Culhwch, etc. thing is more a case of tangents than anything. Culhwch and Olwen play a marginal role in the tale named for them; the real seasonal battle takes place between Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwythyr on that day, eternally, and though it is mentioned in the text, I don't think it can be generalized to the context or meaning of the entire tale. Because time is never marked in it in any definite way (apart from the above "eternal" battle), I don't think we can put Mabon and Kalan Mai's association together; while Pryderi's birth is suggestive, again, it is not known how long a period elapsed between when he was born and his appearance on Kalan Mai at Teyrnon's stable.

The extension of time, distortion of time (as in the Dagda and Oengus things), and eternal battle aspects of many of these things is suggestive, but I don't think we can automatically conclude it is therefore Samain-related, unless we do so based on stated preference/individual interpretation/UPG.
I specifically provided a reference for that one, albeit secondary, because I didn't want you to think that I could not find one (esp. after the 'birth of oengus', which I'm still sure - but very frustrated - is to be found somewhere).

As for the rest, I can appreciate that you find it less compelling than I do, but guess we weight the limited evidence differently.

Also given that late medieval romance was not actually scripture, we should also acknowledge the fact that certain kinds of theological statement will never ever be found explicated on the page.
Right, I see where the confusion is now: in Tochmarc Etaine, Oengus is advised by An Dagda to go at Samain and trick Elcmar out of his possession of Brugh na Boinne, following his birth-tale at the very beginning of that narrative. It does not happen that way in De Gabail in tSide (therein, Oengus takes the Brugh from An Dagda, and Samain is never mentioned--I checked the text in the Book of Leinster to make sure), and Rees & Rees make that distinction on p. 88. So, there we go!

I certainly agree: this is not in any sense "scripture" (although the various versions are as different and sometimes contradictory as the four Gospels, for example!), and one can take the statements therein in a variety of ways. But where hints and snippets of text are interpreted to a particular theological conclusion without explicit statement in the text itself, I do think that it should be emphasized that "this is my interpretation" or "this is XYZ's interpretation," because people do take statements of theory or hypothesis as the "truth of the text" too often (and I'm not saying you do this, or ever have, but I would worry that someone reading might not have access to the texts and might not know that certain things are never stated therein). I hope that clarifies my position on this, and I certainly don't find myself in disagreement with you over methodology.
As a general comment, I suggest playing a little fast and loose with any proposed syncretic holidays. Let's look as the Big Picture first and worry about details later. Most of all, things have to be *relevant* for people in the modern era.

I do like Nick Ford's suggestion of combining the Roman festivals of the dead with the Celtic Samhain and having it on Halloween. It just makes a hell of a lot of sense on a practical level from the standpoint of a modern adherent, whether or not it is an exact match from from a historical standpoint.

I have a precious few "patron" deities whom I honor throughout the course of daily rites. I have not paid the most exacting attention to their historical festivals, to be honest, as the temples and their cult communities no longer exist. I do however try to honor Jupiter on the full moon, as was done on the Ides. It seems right and convenient somehow.

I figured it would be a good topic for discussion, and it raises some interesting thing (see above). I agree that things have to be made relevant to a modern era, which is specifically why I chose to ommit purely civic holidays for one.

It does make a certain amount of sense, but then there are problems. Why can't you have more than one day of the dead a year for example? The Romans had at least two, and there may well be something behind this worth preserving. So I guess the question is, can things like this be moved for sake of convenience or must there be other reasons to do it. In one of the earlier posts, I mentioned the possiblity of shifting things to align with the natural rythms of where the practioner lives. This is something that is either accepted or not in other religious traditions. Those with a strong "book" orientation (like Christianity and the like) usually tend not to do that; whereas I bet harvest rituals in particular were probably more fluid in other traditions, because one naturaly desires to honour the gods responsible for whatever stage of the harvest one is in currently. So if that changes for whatever reason, the dates for festivals might change accordingly.

I don't have a whole spectrum of deities I'd call "patrons" myself either. There are a few that I honestly feel have been with me, nudging me and coaching me in my daily life. Brighid is one of them, as are I believe Mars and Minerva (Sulis-Minerva as well), and possibly even Jupiter. Apollo (of the Celtic Apollo type), the Dagda, Janus, Mercury (and Lugus-Mercury), the Morrigan, and Sulis are also on my religious "radar" from time to time. Others come and go all the time.

Most of these I honour spontaneously without a lot of pre-planning. The exception being of course Brighid, Janus, Juno, and Jupiter. I also honour Mars regularly now by being part of a new yahoo group called the Order of Ares (which is also devoted to Mars).

This is the kind of stuff I'd also like to discuss with people on the list - we can share personal experience just as well as book knowlege. Both have their place in any viable spiritual practice.
Well, my personal experiences run like this:

I try to keep a candle burning to Vesta when I am home in the evenings as an offering. If I want to do something more, I burn a bay leaf or two as well.

The Lares receives daily attention, though to be honest neither my ancestors nor the local spirits were Italian, so I've never felt really comfortable using Mediterranean rites for this level of domestic worship. My ancestors are Celtic/Germanic/Native American, and the local spirits are (to the best of my knowledge) Native American, so I'm thinking Roman/Greek rites really are not appropriate here. I have struggled with this for a while, which is why I am interested in more Celtic trappings like Samhain for ancestor worship.

I use "patron" in quotes because it sometimes carries connotations I don't share. I don't have involved conversations with my gods and constant revelations, as some people claim. But there is a set I honor regularly because I feel they have some personal or familial connection. Jupiter comes first, followed by Mercury. Minerva gets a lot of attention, too. And the Imperial genii of Casear and Augustus have received offerings. In addition to normal offerings, I honor Jupiter everytime it thunders and on the full moon (the historic Ides of the old lunar calendar), Mercury everytime I go on a business trip or receive some financial gain, and Minerva every time I start a new intellectual endeavor. The Imperial Genii come into play when I'm feeling ambitious and I want to advance through my local socio-economic scale; I ask for guidance and inspiration.

The easiest Roman holiday to follow in the modern world seems to be Saturnalia, and so I follow it in spirit. I once tried to keep up with historic festivals to my patron gods, but fell out of practice. Perhaps this group will inspire me to start again.

"I don't have involved conversations with my gods and constant revelations, as some people claim."

Neither do I even if at times I might sound like I do when posting, its hard to convey certain things in words (and especially in written word) so using a one on one X told me or showed me Y type of phrasing makes it easier to convey. I wonder if thats not how it is for a lot of people. I do know some people who sincerely mean just that when they say they speak with a deity and I take them at their word (you never know).

I have a few examples where I have asked a deity for help, or to show me an answer to something, and have actually gotten a non-verbal (but obvious to me) reply. I'll share one example openly, the other is too private for an open list:

I had been drinking too much and was wandering home to my dorm room when I ended up in a coffee place on the way. A rather bellicose drug addict sat down with me at my table and started calmly and quietly explaining to me how he enjoyed kicking in people's faces; he also had other other less coherent things to say, but obviously that is what stuck with me. I was reluctant to engage him or to leave the coffee shop (for fear that he might follow and attack me) and at a loss as to what to do. So, stream of consciousness, I asked Sulis-Minerva to help me out of this dangerous situation (her name just came to mind as appropriate). Just a few minutes after I'd asked for her help a security guard showed up and escorted the man away. This is one of the experiences that sort of led me down the path I'm on presently and one reason why, despite bouts of frustration, I stick with it. There is natural and supernatural explanation to any situation I've encountered, and I'm sure its like that for others, but for me this was a profound experience.

So I guess what I'm saying is don't be frustrated if you don't feel immediate results, sometimes these things are very subtle, and sometimes they are overwhelmingly clear. The Romans looked for signs as a means of communicating with the Gods - the Gods answer our prayers and queries through signs and portents and usually not by direct verbal communication.

"The easiest Roman holiday to follow in the modern world seems to be Saturnalia, and so I follow it in spirit. I once tried to keep up with historic festivals to my patron gods, but fell out of practice. Perhaps this group will inspire me to start again."

Its my favorite holiday too. That whole season is so rich with activity that I just love it. What kinds of things have you done for Saturnalia? I try to ensure to give gifts to friends and loved ones at the very least, and my family has traditionally had a party on the 23rd of December anyway so it felt very natural to me already once I started practicing Roman paganism.



May 12 2008, 18:18:42 UTC 8 years ago

Hey, my Social world teacher thinks that this is a wicked cool website. His last name is Mr. Tingle. I know its a funny name!!! But he's kinda cool-ish