Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beware the Ides of the New Year????

O.K., I know this should be a post about the Ides of March, since it is, well, the Ides of March.  However, Today is another Roman holiday.  It is the day to honor Anna Perenna, the Roman goddess of the New Year.  Never heard of her?  Well shame on you!  There is a lot of stuff out there about her.  The following information comes from OGOD - The Obscure Goddess Online Dictionary - a very powerful reference that we here at Bubo's Blog have voted as the best compilation of obscure female deities anywhere.  Check it out for the full story!

Anna Perenna is the Roman Goddess of long life and renewal, health and plenty. Her two names both make reference to the year: anna means "to live through a year", while perenna means "last many years" (still seen in the English words annual and perennial). She seems to be concerned with cycles of renewal, and connecting the past to the present; She Herself is described in some legends as old, and in others as young. Sacrifices were made to Her with the intent "that the circle of the year may be completed happily".

 In one legend, Anna Perenna is an old woman who brought the plebeians cakes and kept them fed. For these reasons She was always popular with the common people, and after Her death She was considered a Goddess.

In a later legend Anna is a young woman, the sister of Dido, Queen of Carthage. After the death of her sister, Anna fled to Rome, where the hero Aeneas had settled. Here she ran afoul of his wife Lavinia, and in despair she killed herself by drowning in the River Numicius. Afterwards she was said to have been given the surname Perenna, and worshipped as the nymph of the river.

In yet another tale, She is again an old woman. The God of War, Mars, was in love with Minerva, the Goddess of War and the Arts and a sworn virgin. He asked Anna Perenna to intercide on His behalf; instead She dressed Herself up as Minerva, and, veiled, came to Mars. When He tried to kiss Her She laughed and laughed at Him in scorn. Minerva's main Roman festival, the Quinquatrus, was held just 4 days after Anna Perenna's and this is usually the explanation given for why they are linked in this legend.

The Festival of Anna Perenna on the 15th of March was beloved by the common people, though it was also an officially recognized holiday. On the evening of the 15th, people would gather at the 1st milestone on the Via Flaminia in Her sacred grove of fruit trees (in bloom at that time of year) by the banks of the Tiber, and camp out, some bringing tents, others making little shelters from leafy tree branches. There they picnicked merrily into the night, feasting, dancing, singing, and celebrating with much wine, toasting to health and long life. It was believed that one would live as many years as the cups of wine one could drink, and so it was of course traditional therefore to get very, very drunk.

Well, sounds like a winner holiday to me!  Thanks again to OGOD.  Happy celebrating!