Solstício de Verão - Ilhas Miticas

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Summer Solstice
Many ancient civilizations understood the importance of the Sun,
but besides those who formed the Indo-European culture,
there were few who made the Sun the main divinity of their pantheon.
The Summer Solstice celebrations are now the remnants of the ancient cult to the Sun God
___________ __
and have become one of the distinctive marks of European identity.
ln Portugal and on the islands of the Azores,
which the Portuguese settled from the 15th century onwards,
the popular festivities around the Summer Solstice can still be seen as traces of the Sun cult.
Although they may differfrom whatthey originally Wefe,
these manifestations can still be seen notwithstanding the different geographical space
and the difference of more than 5,OOO years in time.
There are four main cults, _attered across the routes of cultural diffusion,
that can be considered as having originally preceded this cult in Europe,
and that still have their influence in particular configurations:
- the Egyptian cult of the Sun God Ra, later Amun- Ra, also Atum, and of course Horus;
- the Assyrian-Babylonian tradition connected to the God Shamash;
- the Phoenician cult of the God El; and - the Greek cult of the God Helios.
All these cults have two common characteristics:
- The solar divinity is always the first among their respective pantheons;
- We can detect a representation aspect common to all:
the God appears in a chariot pulled by horses, bulls or other animals,
or in a boat, as a way to represent its movement towards the firmament.
The cultural manifestations arising from this theme in the European continent
show that the cult of the Sun incorporates some of these perceptions, but is divided into its variations,
like the cult of the Tree, the cult of Vegetation (cereals) or the cult of the Moon.
This amalgamation of senses ensues not only from the theme itself
a paradox by nature because the Sun can simultaneously be seen as a symbol of fertility
and death, but mainly from its archetypical nature.
Ambivalent and complex like all archetypes,
it manifests itself as much in the gromh of vegetation as in its withering and eminction.
The task of characterising the Solar Cult can be a difficult one.
But it can even be more difficult if we take into consideration the rationalization process
and the spreading of Christianity that followed the cult's initial stages.
For instance, let us consider St. John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus and an ascetic hermit,
whose personality and way of life
seem to have some connection to the ambivalences of the Solar Cult.
We can easily see that the saint represents the stereotype of the Solar Cult's developments,
identifying him as a ''Solar Hero'' connected to Vegetation,
but also accepting him in the midst of the daytime aspect of this Star,
as being intellectual and rational:
the Sun sees everything, knows everything, is fair and impartial.
On the other hand, tradition says the Sun and the Moon are two siblings_weethearts
that never meet.
___________ _____a_cOa_
Many of the aspects related to the Cult of the Moon
end up emphasised in popular manifestations transversal to Christian principles.
Some examples are divinations (belonging to the attributes of the Sun)
and the magical powers of Selene, the Moon,
sister of the Sun and its follower in outer space.
This episode will therefore focus on a set of ritual practices that still take place in the Azores
nowadays from May 1st to July 31st.
_________ ____
Supposedly, both derive from the shapes assumed by the representations of the Sun
in the Indo-European contem, namely wheels and solar chariots.
___MQ______ __
ln fact it is shaped like a boat.
lt was almost imperative do give it that shape due to the length of the cart.
There was no other way to make the structure... it had to be like that.
But my father used to say that before my time they made a boat-cart, just like a real boat,
and that the oxen that pulled this boat-cart had their ears covered because of the noise.
lt was something like waves on a very violent sea, and people inside shouting;
like terrible weather, and like waves crashing against the shore with that terrible noise...
but that was before my time.
The symbol is always the Holy Spirit's, whoever is familiar with it knows it well
but people who come to visit and who see it on television don't know
because there is no in_ription on it.
But those carts were made precisely to embellish the festivities of the Holy Spirit...
always for that purpose.
Although the more important manifestations of the Solar Cult can be found in the Mediterranean area,
namely Egypt and Greece, for they are the most direct heirs of eastern beliefs,
we can also find evidence of it in Northern Europe, thus proving the cult's reach.
Among this evidence we have the Sun Chariot of Trundholm
found on a Danish island and dating back to the second millennium B.C.
_____Q___ _ ____
found all over Europe and eastwards.
A legendary bronze age object is discovered in Portugal:
a kind of vehicle with motion, a ''Solar Chariot'' or ''Votive Chariot''
that nowadays belongs to the Museum Martins Sarmento in Guimarães.
lt dates back to the 4th century B.C., is made of bronze in a rustic fashion
and is another evidence of the complexity of the solar cult.
There is great variety among the solar chariots found.
Several have animals fastened to them at both ends.
The purpose of some of these chariots was to transport the divinity, the Sun,
while others carried a caldron with sacred libation
or animal to be sacrificed in honour of the solar divinity.
A subdivision of the Cult linked it with death,
evident in the fact that miniature chariots were found in tombs,
which seems to indicate that building these objects was meant to give
Similarly, we see solar wheels reappear today with identical functions,
apparently trying to preserve some of their original symbolic language.
This place and some symbolic places, among them the baths at Casa do Concelho,
and possibly other places that have not yet been discovered.
The decorations we find on the rocks, which are architectonic elements,
are in fact decorations that maintain and emend the art of cave paintings regarding astrological symbols,
regarding astrological symbols, symbols connected to the sun...
the spiral, also a symbol of life...
and therefore there is in fact a long duration of those kind of phenomena.
As far as the emphasis placed on carrying the sacred libation goes,
we can see chariots especially decorated for this purpose
at the Festivities of the Holy Spirit in the Azores.
Carrying the wine to be distributed in the banquets called bodos
obeys a ritual which suggests remini_ence of this drink as being considered sacred.
Some animals are connected to the Cult of the Sun not in their sacrificial role,
but as representatives of the divinity.
lt is the case of the bull and of the horse,
The emphasis put on the horse in the Sun Chariot of Trundholm,
in which the horse itself is carried and is carrying the sun,
is just one of the many examples in which this animal has a superior role.
On the island of S. Miguel, Azores, on St. Peter's day,
which is celebrated close to the Summer Solstice, the ritual named ''Cavalhadas''
although having suffered several changes throughout the years,
still seems to convey that mythological connection of horse and Sun.
Richly bridled horses and richly clothed horsemen gather for the celebration.
The solar gold decorates the garments of the horsemen.
From here they will pay tribute to their patron.
The temple was decorated the day before and abundance is the main word.
Flowers and fruit were placed on top of ''alampas'' and they set the tone of the festivity decorations.
Music sounds throughout the evening, but the night does not end without fireworks,
a reminder of the solar nature of this event.
ln this mythology, the bull is symbolically more complicated
for it has represented the divinity in several creeds, besides Sun itself.
Zeus takes the shape of a bull to abduct Europa.
ln the Indo-European context, Mithra should kill the bull in order for the Earth to become fertile.
ln the mythological context of the rural cults,
the bull turns into the representative of the Spirit of Cereals or Vegetation.
When represented in human form,
it was seen as Diana/Apollo, DionysusGilvanus, Ceres, and other deities,
that in turn personified the awaited protection for cereals, trees that bore fruit, and other plants.
Other symbols, like horns, appear as evidence of that hybrid process,
and are placed on the head of men -- Dionysus, Osiris, Moses, etc
as well as on the head of women -- Isis.
The combination of these elements with something connected to vegetation
was also a constant in the two types of sacrificial rites: the oblation and the bloody sacrifice.
the oblation and the bloody sacrifice.
ln all these cases, the animal personifies the incarnation of the Spirit of Vegetation
and plays the main role in the rituals,
serving the purpose of channelling towards the earth the blessings of the Spirit,
and afterwards being killed and eaten.
Some parts of its body were buried in special places
for they were thought to improve fertilization within a vast area.
ln the Azores, especially on the island of Terceira, during the entire period of the Summer Solstice
during the entire period of the Summer Solstice there is an intense activity connected to bulls
and which is characterised by ''games'' played with the bull.
Part of the popular festivities of the island are the so-called ''touradas _ corda''
a kind of bullfight in which the bull is tied to a rope.
The main purpose is not fighting the bull in order to subdue it,
the main purpose is playing with the bull, apparently to get as close as possible to it.
This behaviour seems to indicate the preservation of a feeling towards the animal
close to the feeling that existed in the original cult.
This kind of bullfight begins on May 1st and end abruptly on October 31st.
They are carried out throughout the entire period of the Summer Solstice
until the end of its time limit or until the coming of a new cosmic phase.
The sudden interruption at the end of October is due to the fact that
on November 1st the celebrations in honour of the dead begin.
The bull, as solar divinity,
is sent away from the mythical arena due to the arrival of a new cosmic era.
The time dedicated to the celebration of the Sun, promoting this relationship with the bull,
t3______U3___ _____
The meaning attributed to the bull coincided with the kind of relationship that is established.
The status of the bull and of the horse,
as some of the animals that drive the Sun into outer space, is still prominent.
ln its daily journey, the Sun spreads life throughout the earth.
Being con_ious of this blessing
has always been a part of the Indo-European culture since its origin,
having numerous artistic and figurative representations of this feeling.
they are usually manifesting this archetype which is expressed by the two elements:
the circle and the tree.
The European mythology connected to the tree
came from an environmental situation that allowed it to appear.
The vast majority of the European territory was covered by great forests.
The tribes and other human groups that inhabited them,
to whom fire was essential to prepare food and make instruments,
developed the belief that the sun lived inside the trees
b_ause you had only to rub two pieces of wood together in order to make a flame appear.
The explanation for this fact (present in several Iegends) was that the Sun,
understood as ''fire'', was on Earth (which was originally a ball of fire).
When cooled down, the Earth hid it inside its core;
the Sun however would come to the su_ace through the roots of the trees.
_________ ____ Mg__
Among the German tribes there was a law that severely punished
those who would wound the bark of a tree:
their skin would be peeled off and stuck to the wounded tree.
Forests were considered sacred places.
Places where trees guarded the spirit of the Sun god, fertilizer of the Earth.
Thunder was the voice of the god travelling in a lightning in order to communicate
with its earthly part hidden inside the trees.
The lightning would choose some particular trees, which, after being burned or charred,
were considered sacred obj_ts and could not be used as fuel.
Some trees, like oak, could even gather greater respect
for it was believed they were able to attract lightning in a special way.
lf a tree was isolated and very tall it was also highly regarded.
Forests and woods were inhabited by the Spirit of Vegetation.
The belief that the spirits of the trees, or of vegetation,
were responsible for the fertility of the flocks,
for the abundance of harvests and for the increase of humans,
led to their celebration and those celebrations happened on special days (equinoxes and
solstices) related to the alteration of the Earth's position in regard to the Sun.
The Summer Solstice is the main date of these celebrations in which vegetation
(or its representatives) play mythical _enes.
The enormous wheels of the Angra solstice festivities, dating back to the 16th century,
and now called ''Sanjoaninas'', seem to prove the uncon_ious memory of this symbolism.
The arches, masts, wheels, festive marches and dances of today,
as well as the great plant adornments of the streets,
were meant to show adherence to two fundamental principles:
the belief that humans had the ability to participate in the revitalization of nature
(mainly through the practice of sympathising magic),
and the belief that the Spirit of Vegetation would tran_er itself from the forest
to the town, bringing with him all its parade of blessings.
The Queen (Goddess of Vegetation) representing ''Diana''
would show up in a chariot which in meaning is close to the solar chariot,
and was followed by a parade of carriages and the respective ladies
on the night of the Summer Solstice.
The symbolism of vegetation is almost always connected to women,
having Diana as a role model.
Girls that represent her, playing the role of ''Queen'' in the ''Sanjoaninas'',
feel the weight of this character.
The festivities start with a big and solemn parade, the ''Queen's Parade''
followed by several others with decorations that change every year.
Although accepted by all as a ''natural'' ceremony, the explanation for the Parade,
as well as for the importance attributed to the Queen
(received in the City Hall by its head representative),
cannot be found in current times.
Apart from this occasion, the Queen is always present in the inauguration of exhibitions,
_________ _
- Let the party begin.
l was called when l was attending a philosophy class...
l was called outside and that person asked me some questions...
l didn't know who it was...
and then after some time l was called again,
but this time all the commission came to see me,
and on the days pr_eding Christmas
they came to my house and presented the invitation.
l think that nowadays the criteria are beauty
and also the values that guide each person, and also personality.
This Northern European tradition, still enacted in Sweden, for example,
where the day May 1st is celebrated along with the fair ''Masts of May'' connected to the
festivities of the Summer Solstice, was taken to the United States of America,
especially to places where there were plenty of emigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries
and where these celebrations would be re-enacted.
the Festivities of the Holy Spirit bring together the representation of the Queen
with that of the Dove, in an archaic symbolism, Iately redi_overed.
l'm going to be the Trinity Queen nem year, and l came to be queen
because when l was born my mother gave my name and now l'm going to be queen.
l'm going to do a good thing, because l want to be an important person,
like people in the past... like Isaac Nemon, like George Washington, people like that...
people that made a diflerence in the world.
On other islands of the Azores, besides the island of Terceira, it is also possible
to find diflerent solar representations, from which the Fire one stands out.
Being one of the most significant symbolisms of the Sun, fire is represented not only
by profuse lighting, but also by the fireworks that close the Sanjoaninas
and by the magical bonfires lit on all islands on the Solstice night,
the night of St. John (the shortest night of the year).
On the island of Faial, there is a ritual that expresses this cult significantly.
On the eve of the Solstice, people usually go into the ''woods'' in a kind of procession
in order to spend the day and part of the night there, lighting bonfires.
There are numerous beliefs associated with the remnants of the solar cult.
ln the Solar Theory of Wilhelm Mannhardt the most predominant element
is the belief European primitive peoples had about trees.
Trees were beings connected to the Sun and to the Spirit of Vegetation.
This connection translated into the belief that the Sun weakened during the times
when its ''course changed'', that is to say, during Solstices.
Therefore, with the intention of regaining lost energies,
people used to light monumental bonfires that supposedly gave back the fire to the Sun
by being released from the wood.
This theory assumes that the Sun has a creative power,
stimulating the gromh of plants and animals, which man can build up through rituals,
like lighting a bonfire and casting its fire as high as possible.
The Purification Theory of Edvard Westermarck, appearing after the Solar Theory,
sees the Sun as having a destructive power in the sense that it burns the harmful elements
that threaten the life of animals and plants,
but that at the same time can be advantageous for it has a purifying eff_t.
This eflect is used to expel demons and evil spirits.
The line of thought regarding burning down the ''tree of May'' fits this dimension.
ln the district of Braga, young people used to break ofl little pieces of bark
from the public ''tree of May'' and place them in their rooms behind sacred images,
where they would stay until May 1st of the following year, at which time they were burned.
The same happened to the blessed vegetation during Palm Sunday.
People used to burn bones (sometimes animals, like squirrels and mice),
green branches and several other substances in bonfires with the intention of
making thick smoke appear in order to ward ofl dragons that were, with the heat during that time of year,
with the heat during that time of year, believed to copulate in the air
and drop their seeds in wells and rivers thereby poisoning them.
People back then believed that the fields that could be reached by the light of the bonfire
would be fertile and that the houses around it would be free from war and disease.
ln Wolkmarsen and other places in Hesse, people used to identify the direction in which the wind
blew the flames in order to sew the linen seeds in that direction, sure that they would grow well.
The blazing embers taken from the bonfires would preserve houses from being struck by lightning.
The ashes increased the fertility of the fields, protecting them from rats; and, when mixed with the cattle water
I and, when mixed with the cattle water
they would make it grow and would protect it against any disease.
When the flames diminished, young and old would jump over the bonfire,
and sometimes used to make cattle go through the embers.
ln Norway and Denmark people used to say that the lighting and the fireworks had,
notwithstanding other senses, the power to ward off evil spirits and diseases,
or even to keep away witches,
which were said to fly in all directions on that night towards Blocksberg,
where the great witches (Valpurggis) live.
ln Germany, Switzerland and Austria,
it was believed that demons (trolls) could be exorcised using magic done with fire.
____g_____ ___M_
There is still another way through which the Solar Cult, or the Sun God,
manifests itself, a more mysterious and enigmatic way, divination.
ln the hermeneutic divinatory tradition of Mesopotamia,
a Babylonian prayer to the Sun God, owner of the divinatory mystery, says
''You read the little tablet rapped around its cover (without opening it) and write the signs in the belly of the Ram''.
and write the signs in the belly of the Ram''.
The divinatory power of the Sun manifests itself by its nocturnal aspect,
connected to this period of concealment.
Most of the celebrations of the solstice are held at night, using the Moon and the waters,
or the early morning dew, which cannot however see the light of the Sun.
To the Egyptian, the sun was the right eye of the great celestial falcon,
while the moon was his left eye: two sides of the same reality.
During the Summer Solstice there is a breach in what is common (it's the shortest night of the year),
which gives rise to an eruption of the sacred, or of the tran_endent.
Fortune-telling and divination are still present in the Azorean traditions and folklore for that night,
and the young women use it to ''find out'' what is in store for them in the future, like the name
of the bo_riend they're going to marry, his status and profession, among other things.
They still shield themselves through this belief.
But the connection between the solar cult and divination has always been a constant in the
Middle East, from where it spread into Europe and where it has remained until today.
From the solar heroes celebrated at this time, but also connected to night and to vegetation, three stand out
three stand out -- Adonis /Tammuz /St. John the Baptist --
all with their festive traditions.
lt is common knowledge that implementation of Catholicism among pagan peoples
occurred gradually by means of adoption or tran_ormation of the most important pagan gods
and cults, identifying them with Judaic-Christian theology.
Adonis was known to the Hebrews as Tammuz, which in the Assyrian-Babylonian mythology
I meant the son of the ''lord of the woods and of life''
and in turn was the son of Ninazu ''lord of divination through water''.
The myths of Adonis and Tammuz are very similar,
and tell us how they are castrated by a whim of the fertility goddess Ishtar.
The cult of Adonis spread through southern Europe,
the side of the cult connected to vegetation being most predominant.
The Israeli built an altar in honour of Adonis in Jerusalem
right in the Temple of the Lord (which in Hebrew is ''Adonai'').
We know that during the Roman Empire the Emperor Julian ordered the organization
of festivities in honour of Adonis, between 361 and 363 in Antioch (Syria).
ln the year 412 the festivity in honour of Adonis was still held in Alexandria, the great hub of Christian dissemination.
the great hub of Christian dissemination.
ln Sardinia, people today still have some ritual practices related to this myth.
Among other, one called the ''Gardens of Adonis''.
Both Adonis and St. John are conn_ted to vegetation.
The herbs of St. John, like Hypericum, etc.
are sought during this magical time to ward off evil during all year if spread by night-time.
Rosemary and herb-of-grace are easily found...
they should even be planted in backyards, it's something good...
but if they're dried we can put them on the mattress, we can put them...
- What for?
- To ward ofl...
there are those who believe that and those who do not...
l believe it so much that l even get goose bumps when people press me.
ln Ireland it is common to gently hit the head of the people we come across
with the stem of a plant called hocusfian not only to ward off evil
but also because it is believed that whoever is hit with it will not die or be harmed all year.
The same belief exists in Porto with a ritual called ''Alho-porro''.
There is one last symbolism connected to the Summer Solstice that is represented
in the great Summer Festivities, and that is the attribute of fertility coming from the Sun.
One of its main characteristics is that of excessive feeding outdoors in a festive environment.
Herodotus describes the festivities of Bubastis, in Egypt,
in honour of the goddess Hathor, sister of the Sun:
''From all over the country, hundreds of thousands of the devout would come.
Thejourney was made by water, listening to the sound of the flutes and other musical instruments;
the pilgrims and the women exchanged witty words
and, from the shore, watched the boats go by...
everything was used as a pretem to play...
On the assigned day a splendid procession would go through the town and the festivities were held
one a_er the other during which people drank more wine than they had drunk all year.''
The Queen's pair was choosen based on strengh, physic ability and health,
At ''Sanjoaninas'' this tradition is still present in some sport competitions.
Other celebrations around this theme, when they were turned Christian,
adopted St. Anthony as a ''match-maker'', being celebrated on June 13th.
ln Lisbon, the City Hall holds annually an event of this kind.
As an incentive to celebrate this date, also known as Pairs or Sweethearts Festivities,
many fake weddings were pe_ormed.
Joining together the meanings of fertility characteristics of this myth in an apparently somewhat licentious fashion,
somewhat licentious fashion, these weddings were staged during the Summer Solstice
in many regions of the south of Europe.
This custom was still alive at the beginning of the 19th century.
Notwithstanding the evolution of the Solar Cult into a more rational and a_etic form,
its fundamental archetype will always be paradoxically connected to fertility and vital renovation.
to fertility and vital renovation.