Saturnalia

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Saturnalia

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Thu Dec 01, 2005 8:46 pm

Salvete comreligiones et alii

"How well lived folk in olden days when Saturnus was king, before the earth was opened out for distant travel. Not as yet had the pine tree learned to scorn the blue sea wave or offered the spreading sail to belly before the wind; nor, seeking gain in unknown lands, had the vagrant seaman loaded his bark with foreign wares. That was a time when the sturdy bull had not bent his neck to the yoke, nor the tamed horse chomped on a bit. No house had doors; no stone was planted on the land to set fixed boundaries to men's estates. The very oaks gave honey; and with milky udders came the ewes unbidden to meet the carefree swain. Then were no marshalled hosts, no lust of blood, no battles; no swords had been forged by the cruel armorer's ruthless skill." (Tibullus 1.3.35-48)

"Saturnus, Great King of ancient starry skies and earth primeval, under Your peaceful reign never was anyone’s tranquility disturbed by labor. No cause for thunderbolt to punish men for wickedness, as the earth kept her gold within. Come, Saturn, to Your own joyous feast, which Priscus gives to greet his dear child. For You, gentle one, have made him come safely, in this sixth winter from Numa’s home. See the lavish honors paid to You, how the feast spreads like a Roman market, with plenty of cheer and tokens on the board that shall afford a goodly share of gifts, and now to give such worth a greater price a careful father offers You a sacrifice. May You then grant, on this Your bright December, such days we ever will remember." (Martial 12.62.1)
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Thu Dec 15, 2005 11:50 am

* IO SATURNALIA * * IO SATURNALIA * * IO SATURNALIA *

Salvete Sodales omnes

It is the Full Moon tonight, marking this as the Ides, and four nights from now Saturn will be in conjunction with the Moon. Time is creeping up on me, Beethovan's Birthday is tomorrow! Most of my baking is completed, decorations up, the feast planned out, just need more wine, presents wrapped, CARDS! I always have trouble trying to find appropriate cards to send and never enough time to make up my own. Anyway, before I forget...

May you all have a satisfying Saturnalia filled with peace and joy.
Di Deaeque vos semper ament


* IO SATURNALIA * * IO SATURNALIA * * IO SATURNALIA *
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Mon Dec 19, 2005 4:11 pm

*Io SATRUNALIA**Io SATRUNALIA**Io SATURNALIA*

"Saturnus, Great King of ancient starry skies and earth primeval, under Your peaceful reign never was anyone’s tranquility disturbed by labor. No cause for thunderbolt to punish men for wickedness, as the earth kept her gold within. Come, Saturn, to Your own joyous feast, which Priscus gives to greet his deer child. For You, gentle one, have made him come safely, in this sixth winter from Numa’s home. See the lavish honors paid to You, how the feast spreads like a Roman market, with plenty of cheer and tokens on the board that shall afford a goodly share of gifts, and now to give such worth a greater price a careful father offers You a sacrifice. May You then grant, on this Your bright December, such days we ever will remember."

~ Marcus Valerius Martialis (43-102 CE) "Epigrammata" 12.62.1 ff

*Io SATRUNALIA**Io SATRUNALIA**Io SATURNALIA*
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Sun Dec 17, 2006 3:31 pm

On the Roman Army Talk forum one guy posted this good history of the Saturnalia - at least I think it is quite good - therefore I would like to share it with you:

Saturnalia

By the beginning of December, writes Columella, the farmer should have finished his autumn planting. Now, at the time of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing, was honored with a festival. The Saturnalia officially was celebrated on December 17 (a.d. XVI Kal. Ian.) and, in Cicero's time, lasted seven days, from December 17-23. Augustus limited the holiday to three days, so the civil courts would not have to be closed any longer than necessary, and Caligula extended it to five (Suetonius, XVII; Cassius Dio, LIX.6), which Claudius restored after it had been abolished (Dio, LX.25). Still, everyone seems to have continued to celebrate for a full week, extended, says Macrobius (I.10.24), by celebration of the Sigillaria, so named for the small earthenware figurines that were sold then.

Macrobius, in his Saturnalia, creates an imaginary symposium among pagan intellectuals that takes place then. There, he offers an explanation for the varying length of the holiday. Originally, it was celebrated on only one day, the fourteenth before the Kalends of January (December 19). With the Julian reform of the calendar, however, two days were added to December, and the Saturnalia was celebrated sixteen days before the Kalends (December 17), "with the result that, since the exact day was not commonly known--some observing the addition which Caesar had made to the calendar and others following the old usage--the festival came to be regarded as lasting for more days than one" (I.10.2). The original day now was given over to the Opalia, honoring Ops, who personified abundance and the fruits of the earth, and was the consort of Saturn. As the two deities represented the produce of the fields and orchards, so they also were thought to represent heaven and earth. It was for this reason, says Macrobius (I.10.20), that the two festivals were celebrated at the same time, the worshippers of Ops always sitting in prayer so that they touched the earth, mother of all.

In the Roman calendar, the Saturnalia was designated a holy day, or holiday, on which religious rites were performed. Saturn, himself, was identified with Kronos, and sacrificed to according to Greek ritual, with the head uncovered. The Temple of Saturn, the oldest temple recorded by the pontiffs, had been dedicated on the Saturnalia, and the woolen bonds which fettered the feet of the ivory cult statue within were loosened on that day to symbolize the liberation of the god.

It also was a festival day. After sacrifice at the temple, there was a public banquet, which Livy says was introduced in 217 BC (there also may have been a lectisternium, a banquet for the god in which its image is placed in attendance, as if a guest). Afterwards, according to Macrobius (I.10.18 ), the celebrants shouted "Io, Saturnalia!" at a riotous feast in the temple.

The Saturnalia was the most popular holiday of the Roman year. Catullus (XIV) describes it as "the best of days," and Seneca complains that the "whole mob has let itself go in pleasures" (Epistles, XVIII.3). Pliny the Younger writes that he retired to his room while the rest of the household celebrated (Epistles, II.17.24). It was an occasion for celebration, visits to friends, and the presentation of gifts, particularly wax candles (cerei), perhaps to signify the returning light after the solstice, and sigillaria. Martial wrote Xenia and Apophoreta for the Saturnalia. Both were published in December and intended to accompany the "guest gifts" which were given at that time of year. Aulus Gellius relates in his Attic Nights (XVIII.2) that he and his Roman compatriots would gather at the baths in Athens, where they were studying, and pose difficult questions to one another on the ancient poets, a crown of laurel being dedicated to Saturn if no-one could answer them.

During the holiday, restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Gambling was allowed in public. Slaves were permitted to use dice and did not have to work. Instead of the toga, less formal dinner clothes (synthesis) were permitted, as was the pileus, a felt cap normally worn by the manumitted slave that symbolized the freedom of the season. Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters' clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. In the Saturnalia, Lucian relates that "During My week the serious is barred; no business allowed. Drinking, noise and games and dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping of frenzied hands, an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water—such are the functions over which I preside."

This equality was temporary, of course; and Petronius speaks of an impudent slave being asked at some other time of the year whether it was December yet. Dio writes of Aulus Plautius, who was to lead the conquest of Britain, cajoling his troops. But they hesitated, "indignant at the thought of carrying on a campaign outside the limits of the known world." Only when they were entreated by a former slave dispatched by Claudius did they relent, shouting "Io, Saturnalia" (LX.19.3).

(If a time of merriment, the season also was an occasion for murder. The Catiline conspirators intended to fire the city and kill the senate on the Saturnalia, when many would be preoccupied with the festivities. Caracalla plotted to murder his brother then, and Commodus was strangled in his bath on New Year's eve.)

At the end of the first century AD, Statius still could proclaim: "For how many years shall this festival abide! Never shall age destroy so holy a day! While the hills of Latium remain and father Tiber, while thy Rome stands and the Capitol thou hast restored to the world, it shall continue" (Silvae, I.6.98ff). And the Saturnalia did continue to be celebrated as Brumalia (from bruma, winter solstice) down to the Christian era, when, by the middle of the fourth century AD, its rituals had become absorbed in the celebration of Christmas.


Celebration:

Saturnalia festivities began with ritual and sacrifices in the Temple of Saturn. The statue of the god was hollow and filled with olive oil, as a symbol of his agricultural functions. His feet were bound with woolen strips, that were unbound at Saturnalia.

After the rituals, the Senators (who had to be present) dismissed the crowd with the cry of "Io, Saturnalia!", a sign for the happy festivities of family parties and other private gatherings to begin. The traditional gifts were wax tapers and little dolls, although gifts of silver later became traditional.

Many of the decorations involved greenery - swathes, garlands, wreaths, etc - being hung over doorways and windows, and ornamenting stairs. Ornaments in the trees included sun symbols, stars, and faces of the God Janus. Trees were not brought indoors (the Germans started that tradition), but decorated where they grew.

Food was also a primary decoration - gilded cakes in a variety of shapes were quite popular, and children and birds vied for the privilege of denuding the trees of their treats. The commonest shapes were fertility symbols, suns and moons and stars, baby shapes, and herd animal shapes.

People were just as likely to be ornamented as the trees. Wearing greenery and jewelry of a sacred nature was apparently common, based on descriptions, drawings, and the like from the era. Although the emphasis was on Saturn, Sol Invictus in the solar celebration.

The biggest part of Saturnalia was attitude more than decoration. Feasting, drunkenness, merrymaking, hopefully the conception of more children (or at least enjoying those activities which led to conception!), pranks, gift giving, role reversals (not true ones, only symbolic ones - slaves weren't really free to make a freedman's decisions and anything they did or decreed would reverse at the end of Saturnalia, children weren't really adults and could not enter into any binding contracts or make business deals, etc.) and so forth.

The role reversals seemed to be more for minor privileges - slaves and children got to be waited on for meals, and to lead the rituals, and to participate in the revelry as if they were their parents/masters. The parents/masters jokingly played the part of slaves and children by waiting on them and making rude and bawdy jokes at their expense.
Cleopatra Aelia
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