Ides of March

Ides Martias in anno 2764 AUC

Salvete viatores omnes

What a good date, a fortuitous date, to begin my first post. Today, the Ides of March, celebrates the festival of Anna Perenna to mark a new year. In ancient times the people of Rome would leave the City on this day to enter the Campus Martius by the banks of the River Tiber. They would spend the day camped outdoors enjoying wine and love-making. Their prayers to Jupiter were for as many new years as cups of wine they’d drink.

Courtesy Giovanni Dall'Orto

Why is the New Year celebrated on the 15th rather than on the first of the month, and why in March rather than January? March was originally the first month of the Roman calendar, which is why September through December are so named with their Latin names signifying that they were once the seventh, eight, nineth, and tenth months. March itself is named for the God Mars, who fathered Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. Mars is regarded as the Father of all Romans, just as Venus Genetrix is regarded the Mother of all Latins. April is devoted to Her. The Romans later adopted 1 Jan. to begin the civil year for administrative reasons, which is why the civil year of the common calendar used today begins the New Year on that date in modern times. However the sacral year of the religio Romana begins in March in honor of Mars. The entire month of February is devoted to purification of the family and home, in preparation of the New Year. Then from the new moon on the Kalends of March though 23 March, the Salii (known as the leaping priests of Mars for the dance they performed) called upon Mars to rid the City of disease and other impurities. By the full moon, which fell on the Ides, most of the religious duties have been performed and we share our joys with the Gods, especially with Jupiter, in a drinking festival for our health and that of our families.

Why does the purification of the City by the Salii last only until 23 March and not to the end of the month? For two reasons. The last quarter of the moon, arriving about 22 March, signals the beginning of the period , as in each month, which is devoted to private rights for our ancestors. Public festivals and sacrifices conducted by public sacerdotes generally did not occur during the last phase of the month. Secondly, in ancient times the vernal equinox arrived between 23-25 March, and thus it was the beginning of another sort of New Year.

So for today, a toast of wine for Jupiter, and some more preparation for the equinox, to coincide the beginning of my sacral year with my gardening. As my posts shall come to show, the two are intertwined just as my domestic cultus Deorum revolves around the familia.

Vadete in pace Deorum

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