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Festival Calendar

March 2007

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It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before,
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Various dates in March — Zeqwala
Oromo tribes of Ethiopia
Twice a year (March & October) Ethiopians make a pilgrimage around a beautiful volcanic crater lake at the top of Mount Zeqwala. Two separate pilgrimages occur simultaneously on different sides of the lake. The Amhara gather on the northern side of the lake near the Christian church, while adherents of the traditional Oromo religion attend a ceremony by a large stone called a sida located in the forest to the south-east of the lake. The site is sacred to both ethnic groups. Even during the most violent inter-ethnic wars, harmony exists between them on the venerated mountain.

The Oromo ceremony takes place overnight and involves a ritual called delega. As the Oromo pilgrims enter the clearing, they pick a bunch of grass and place it on the large stone. Incense is burnt, offerings of butter are smeared on the stone, and coffee is poured over it after each boiling. Many separate groups form, dancing their own dances, and singing their own songs around separate fires. During the course of the night, the intensity of the ritual increases culminating in Zar or spirit possession ceremonies presided over by a ritual leader. Women who have suffered infertility are often possessed. One or two at a time, they enter the middle of a circle. As the drum beat slowly gains momentum, they begin to vigorously circle their heads and shoulders, entering a trance state. The dance of possession results in convulsions until they finally collapse. Climax around one campfire then moves to another and another, continuing into the early hours of the morning. The celebrations die down briefly only to resume again at dawn.

St. DavidMarch 1 — St. Dafydd's Day
During the sixth century Dewi Sant rose from the position of lowly monk to abbot, then to Bishop, and finally to Arch Bishop of Wales. He is remembered best for his work in converting the pagan tribes of Wales to Christianity. Our present day information of him comes from two sources, both written some 500 years after his death, and so considered iffy as history.

Dewi was born at Capel Non, Henfynw, Cardigan into a South Wales family of some stature, his father being a prince, and his mother the daughter of a local chieftain. In some legends, his lineage is even linked to Arthwr, king of the original Britons. Dewi was educated at a local monastery by Paulinus, a blind monk, who taught him to live and eat frugally on only water, bread, and herbs. Dewi established a number of churches in Wales and traveled through South West England and Cornwall, onto Brittany and Ireland. He founded a monastery of very hard regime at Glyn Rhosyn, the site of the present cathedral city of St. David. He is said to have miraculously brought a child back to life through prayer, and caused the earth under his feet to rise creating a sufficiently high pulpit so that he could be seen and heard by a large congregation. His oratory skills were so powerful that he converted the pagan king Boia to Christianity. Boia's clever wife sent naked virgins in a failed attempt to lure the converts away from the austere Christian life. Pope Callactus II canonized Dewi Sant in 1120 A.D., and St. Dafydd's death on the first of March was celebrated as a holy day until the reformation.

Modern religious aspects of the St. Dafydd's Day are largely ignored, but the day is celebrated by Welsh people worldwide. In North Wales one eats a bowl of cawl (leek soup) for strength and luck, and several areas hold a competition of singing, dancing and poetry recitation called an eisteddfod. Many Welsh people wear a daffodil or leek on their clothing as both are symbols of their country. Indeed, St. Dafydd's smelly symbol is said to have protected him in combat, and was worn by his countrymen to distinguish them from their Saxon enemies during battle. Under the custom of Cymortha anyone too ill to plough on St. Dafydd's Day is visited by someone with a plough, ox and leeks. They are cooked and fed a leek stew that will give them strength if consumed in March. So here's to St. Dafydd who died on this day in 589 A.D. at the ripe old age of over 100 years.

Whuppity Scoorie raceMarch 1 — Whuppity Scoorie
This festival in Lanark, Scotland marks the approach of spring. At the sound of an evening bell, children race around St Nicholas' Church making as much noise as possible and trying to hit each other with paper balls tied to the ends of strings. Pennies, once supplied from the Common Good Fund, are thrown and the children scramble to pick them up. The origins of this festival are obscure. One tradition claims that the children's shouting chased away evil spirits; another claims that Whuppity Scoorie reflects curfew changes when the dark winter nights give over to lighter spring evenings; while a third claims that it dates from a time when miscreants were whipped round the town cross then 'scoored' (scoured or cleansed) in the nearby River Clyde. Nowadays, local schoolchildren still keep the custom alive, though it is no longer the race it once was. At the end the children still scramble for coins, but now they are tossed out by members of the Royal Burgh of Lanark Community Council.

Doll shrineMarch 3 — Hina Matsuri
the Doll Festival
celebrates "Girls Day"
On this day families pray for the joy and prosperity of their girls and to help ensure that they grow up healthy and beautiful. Celebrations take place both inside the home and at the seashore, and are meant to ward off evil spirits. In connection with celebration, it has become popular for parents and grandparents to purchase a gift display of dolls showing the characteristics and happiness they hope for their little girls. A typical display can have as many as seven tiers of dolls, and can cost as little as $100 or as much as $10,000!
More Information

March 3 — Total Eclipse of the Full Moon
The last full moon of winter, the Worm Moon marks the time when the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear; with the return of the worms we hear the chirping of the birds who will feed on the worms. Northern native tribes called this the Crow Moon, with the caws of the returning crows heralding of the end of winter. This full moon is also known as the Sap Moon, marking the time when the maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins. And still others call it the Crust Moon, speaking of the crust of snow that forms when the snow melts during the day and refreezes each night.

This full moon marks one of two total eclipses of the moon scheduled in 2007. The last occurred November 24th, 2004, and the next will happen August 28, 2007. This night's eclipse will start at 4:30 pm. The darkest phase will be from 5:44 pm to 6:58 pm, with the moon appearing reddish at 6:21 pm. The eclipse ends at 9:24 pm, and barring cloudy weather will be visible by some people on all continents.

March 3 — Chotrul Duchen
The Excellent Time of Miracles

Corresponding to the 15th day of the 1st lunar month
Dzogchen students are kindly requested to make special prayers on each of the four special holy days of the lunar calendar. The remaining holy days include:

  • Thursday, May 31, 2007 — Saga Dawa Duchen
    The Excellent Time of the Buddha's Enlightenment and Parinirvana
    Corresponding to the 15th day of the 4th lunar month
  • Wednesday, July 18, 2007 — Chokhor Duchen
    The Excellent Time of the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma
    Corresponding to the 4th day of the 6th lunar month
  • Thursday, November 1, 2007 — Lha Bab Duchen
    The Excellent Time of Descent From the Realm of the Gods
    Corresponding to the 22nd day of the 9th lunar month

Krishna, Radha and the GopisMarch 3 — Holi Festival
The joyful new beginning of spring is celebrated on the March full moon day at the most colorful festival of India. The night before the full moon, crowds of people gather in open spaces and light huge bonfires to burn the last dried leaves and twigs of winter. Ears of corn, new vegetables, coconuts, butter, sweets, flowers and vermillion are offered to the fire-god Hutashani. The Holi bonfire symbolizes the Puranic legend in which the demoness Holika was burnt to death ensuring victory of good over evil. The next morning the dhuli or the sacred dust of the bonfire is venerated. Colored water and powders (gulal and kurnkum) are thrown over revelers to celebrate the coming of spring. The game of phag (the throwing of colored powders) is played in honor of the release of Krishna and the gopis. Metaphorically, Krishna is called the artist who dyes this world in the hues of bliss and joy. His devotees pray to be included in Krishna's divine grace and benevolence. Holi festivals can last for a fortnight. It is considered a good time to repair the home or celebrate a wedding.

March 3 — Total Lunar Eclipse
As the full Moon rises at sunset, the eclipse is already under way. The eclipse is visible throughout the continental United States and Canada, except in the westernmost regions.

March 15 — The Ides of March
Long considered an ill-fated day, the Latin word ides means "to divide." Ancient Romans considered the ides of any month unfavorable. The concept of unlucky days survived the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar, who was assassinated on March 15, 44 B.C. William Shakespeare made the phrase "Beware the Ides of March" a popular saying in his play about the unfortunate Roman ruler.

St. PatrickMarch 17 — St. Patrick's Day
Commemorating the death of the patron saint of Ireland on March 17, 460 A.D., Maewyn Sucat ("warlike"). The location of his birth some time between 385 and 390 A.D is disputed as having been in Northamptonshire, England or Kilpatrick, Scotland. Captured by raiders and sold into slavery in Ireland at the age of 16, he was sent to the mountains to work as a shepherd for a Druid priest named Milchu. He received a revelation from god and converted to Christianity following an accident which saw him nearly crushed to death by a rock. Six years later, he received a message in a dream telling him to return to England. Escaping his captors, he made his way to France where he studied at a number of monasteries before being commanded by Pope Celastine to return and evangelize Ireland. Patrick established the first Irish Christian church in Saul. Within 40 years, he had taken his message throughout the country, converting many from Paganism and Druidism. Patrick died in Saul where final mystery surrounds his final resting place. The body was claimed by some to have been taken to Glastonbury in England. Others say that the body (minus the jawbone which had been encased in silver) is buried in the churchyard of Downpatrick. There are also those who claim the body was embalmed and sent to either Russia or Jerusalem.

In the years that followed his death, the church built the mythology that still surrounds Saint Patrick. The best known of these created legends holds that Patrick's god banished the snakes from Ireland. Truth be told, it is doubtful that there were ever snakes in Ireland at that time. The reptile, with ability to shed its own skin and regenerate, was revered by some pagans as a symbol of wisdom and power. Patrick's banishment became a useful piece of Christian propaganda proving the power of Christ over Pagan deities. Other aspects of Pagan religion were also adapted by the Christian followers of Patrick. The pagan symbol of the sun was incorporated into the symbol of the cross, creating the "Celtic Cross". Patrick is also purported to have enraged pagan kings by lighting his own hilltop bonfire, thereby stealing the solstice's thunder. Patrick converted many of the pagan fire rituals into "holy days" to commemorate saints. Clever fellow, Patrick. Today, however, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated worldwide by the consumption of vast quantities of green beer, and the patronage of fairie leprechauns.

Melangell of the HaresMarch 21 — Eostre - The Vernal Equinox
The pagan celebration of spring was noted by the Venerable Bede (c. 672 - 735), who wrote in chapter 15 of his De Tempore Ratione ("On the Reckoning of Time") that the word 'Easter' derives from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, to whom the month of Eosturmonath (April) was dedicated:

The English Months
In olden time the English people — for it did not seem fitting to me that I should speak of other nations' observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation's — calculated their months according to the course of the moon. Hence after the manner of the Greeks and the Romans, [the months] take their name from the moon, for the moon is called mona and the month monath.

The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giuli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April, Eosturmonath; May Thrimilchi;..."

Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

The same Jacob Grimm who with his brother assembled books of fairy tales, published a scholarly collection of German oral histories and myths in 1835. In Deutsche Mythologie ("German Mythology") Grimm wrote extensive about Ostara traditions in Germanic lands, showing how various place names in the German Confederation derived from worship of the goddess Ostara. He noted the etymological connection between those various traditions and the celebration of 'Eostre' and 'Ostara'. From this veneration we have the Ostern Hare, Ostara eggs, the Ostara sword, and pagan hilltop ceremonies at dawn. According to Grimm, the name Ostara was a plural reference to the multiple days of the festival. He proposed that it was also the name of a goddess, and cited the parallels between the names 'Eostre' and 'Ostara', months 'Eosturmonath' and 'Ostaramonath', and holidays 'Easter' and 'Ostern' implied a common origin. "This Ostarâ, like the AS. Eástre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries." (Deutsche Mythologie).

There are also those, like Professor Ronald Hutton (Stations of the Sun) who believe that "the Anglo-Saxon Estor-monath meant simply 'the month of opening' or 'the month of beginnings'." Modern pagans continue the old ways, gifting each other with colored eggs, extolling the fertility of the hare, and exchanging cakes decorated with the equal-armed solar cross, precursor of the hot crossed bun now given at Easter.

[Image: "Mellangell of the Hares" © Jen Delyth of Keltic Designs and used with permission]