Solestício de Inverno - Ilhas Míticas

Uploaded by memoriamedia on 07.11.2011

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Winter Solstice
The celebration of Solstices had a profound impact
on Indo-European civilizations, and such celebrations reappear in
these cultures as manifestations of more ancient solar worships.
Evidence of this can be found in the North of Europe
where the disappearance of the Sun during part of winter
was perceived as a threat to the survival of the population.
The same happened in the South,
along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea,
where it eventually influenced some Iater religions,
such as Christianity.
On the Solar Cult, Mircea Eliade wrote
... it ensues from this deification of the Sun that,
without knowing death (in contrast to what happened, for instance,
to the Moon), the Sun crosses the Empire of death every night and
reappears the next day, itself eternal, eternally equal to itself.
The ''sunset'' is not perceived as ''death'' (unlike that which happens
to the Moon during its three days of obscurity), rather as a descent
of this celestial body to the inferior regions,
to the kingdom of the dead.
Unlike the Moon, the Sun enioys the privilege of crossing Hell
without su_ering a kind of death.
This ambivalence could be restated as follows:
although immortal, the Sun goes down to the kingdom of the dead
every night; the Sun can take along men and, when setting,
it can bring them death,
but on the other hand, it can at the same time
guide those souls across the infernal regions
and bring them to the light the following day.''
Throughout time, the connection made by the population between
the Sun and death brought the two cults closer together:
the cult of the Dead and the cult of the Sun, both brought to life
by the construction of giant megalithic monuments.
lt is in these monuments that common rituals are performed,
as happens for instance in New Grange, in Ireland.
Há aspectos muito interessantes
acerca destes túmulos de passagem.
Um deles é o facto de nao serem originalmente irlandeses.
É muito provável que a sua procedencia seja de terras
muito mais a sul, terras ao longo da costa atlântica da Europa,
chegando mesmo a costa de Portugal, ou, até mais longe,
a costa sul de Espanha.
Por conseguinte, vou considerar
estes povos dos túmulos de passagem como Ibéricos.
Eles foram um povo muito sofisticado,
o primeiro povo realmente sofisticado na Irlanda
do ponto de vista da arte, da arquitectura
e de coisas semelhantes, e, tal como os seus predecessores,
também cultivaram as terras férteis do vale do Boyne,
mas fizeram mais do que isso,
construíram túmulos extraordinariamente grandes.
lsso surgiu como resposta as necessidades rituais do povo.
Ora, estes povos dos túmulos de passagem prestavam uma
atençao muito considerável a actividade ritual.
The Cult of the Dead, once organised,
became the first European religion.
ln Portugal, we can find importante evidences,
more specifically in Citânia de Briteiros.
To the Celts, the dead did not actually die.
They iust started living separately,
keeping in touch with the living through the ''Tunnels of Passage''.
This contact could be established during sleep whenever invoked,
or on special dates such as the first of November
or the Winter Solstice - Christmas.
The dead could advise the living and bless the fields
thus protecting the seeds until germination.
ln the South, Mundus Cereris was a structure
built in an eminent place inside all major towns of Ancient Times;
it was the official point of connection with the dead.
This contact was established under the auspices of the
goddess Ceres (Demeter to the Greeks) protector of seeds.
_ ___ _ _ ___ _ _ _R cM _
which is an infernal cult,
in the sense that the divinity lives inside the earth,
and it also implies to look for the earth's fertility.
So, what is important is that there are quasi magical religious forces
inside the earth that allow the surface of the Earth to live.
But mundus cereris is like a covered well
that is uncovered three times a year.
One time on August 24,
another time on October 5 and yet another on November 8.
These days are religiosi, religious days,
having in mind the special meaning of the word in Latin, i.e.
they are somewhat suspicious days, they can even be harmful,
and because of that no public business is made,
no activity is done.
They are days of expiation because the spirits of the dead
come out of the well and fill the town .
ln private houses, the pater familias does a purification ;
it is a moment of presence, the presence of the ancestors
or of those who are again among the living.
The number of religious practices involving the Dead was very high.
People used to live in close proximity to them,
whether out of fear of vengeance or expectation of their support.
But it was also believed the dead envied the living
and often tried to avenge their own condition.
The place where they were buried
became known as the ''Holy Field''.
Surviving winter was something to be celebrated;
it was a fight against death.
Birthdays were counted in ''winters''.
Virgil's Aeneid recreates the Greek belief
that the souls of the dead went to Heaven - Elysium - or to Hell.
Both these places were located in the depths of the Earth
or of the Sea, or even amongst the stars, on the Moon,
on the Sun or on other celestial bodies.
[The Portuguese poet] Camoes wrote in his epic work Lusíadas:
But after the stars have called them.. .''
lt was believed that souls who had not found rest
could torment the living, and, on the contrary,
those who were good-natured could protect them.
Contact was still established, although from other dimensions,
and it was remembered on this side
by means of funereal monuments.
According to Mircea Eliade, funereal stones were,
meant to ''fixate'' the soul of the dead and prepare a temporary
abode that would keep it close to the living and that would allow it
to influence the fertility of the fields using the forces spiritual nature
confers upon it, and thus making it impossible for the soul
to become lost or dangerous.
ln this way the funereal stone
becomes an instrument protecting life against death.
The soul ''inhabits'' the stone, as in other cultures it inhabits the grave,
which for similar reasons is considered
a kind of ''house of the dead''.
The funereal megalith protects the living
from possible harmful actions of the dead.
Fixed'' in a stone, the soul is forced to act exclusively
in a positive way, for instance by fertilizing crops.
That is why stones, in many rural areas, are supposedly inhabited
by ''ancestors'' and are instruments of fertilization,
both of fields and women.
The Catholic Church reacted to these beliefs since very early on.
The written records of the Council of Braga
are an example of these reactions.
Damned be those who believe the souls and the bodies of men
are fatally subiect to the influx of the stars.. .
those who... return to the diabolic cult,
light candles near cli_s or trees, fountains or junctions,
believe in divinations and omens, keep the days of the idols,
celebrate Vulcanalias and Calends, adorn tables.. .''
The dark night is filled with spots of light
in the freguesia of Candelária, in the Azorean island of S. Miguel.
People are celebrating Our Lady of the Lanterns.
Despite the commotion of urban life, all spare time during the last
weeks has been taken up by manually making white candles.
This festivity is done for quite some time now.
ln the old days it was di_erent, people say it was held around the
church, only men were allowed to go around the church holding
the candles and after that the Eucharist was celebrated.
More recently, it started being held around this tree you see in front
of the church, and since l've been here the procession starts at the
philharmonic, because Our Lady of the Candles is also its patron,
and we do it this way in order to congregate the community,
_ _ _ _UU g__ __ _ _ _ _ _ _fl
and also the fact that in this procession we can see people
who come from distant places, from abroad even,
some are not even religious people,
and they come searching for the candle because it has a special
and traditional meaning, a meaning of light and protection.
lt is curious that those people
who still have ancient ovens to bake bread, sometimes,
___ fl_ _ ___ ___ _ __
they still place the candle inside the OVen .
Others light it normally...
they sometimes take several of them home,
to have them in the house or when they are preying
or to be near the religious images they have.
You're the biggest star of all And have a resplendent glow
You can gather around you All these people today
You're the star that shines, Here at all times
And even sharing with all The love there in the firmament
We have the festivity of the Candles.. .
which were blessed, as you could See.. .
and then they were distributed by all people
and were used in di_erent situations:
for instance if an animal was sick,
people had the custom of lighting a candle inside the stables;
if there were storms,
people had the habit of placing three drops of wax from the
blessed candle in the thresholds in honour of the Holy Trinity;
and to protect the houses from bad weather;
also place three drops of wax on a paper and throw it to the wind
in nights of fierce gales;
and when someone passed away, the light of the candle was a
strong presence because it was a simple way by which people
understood that it lighted the way of the soul through the channel
that conducted to light itself, to the existence of God.
- During winter, when the sun went down,
death would take the lives of the weakest.
lt was a threat we had to fight with whatever we had.
Death was so close that it turned into a cult, into a religion.
People even said it was the first religion in Europe.
Back then, people believed the dead were not really dead,
they simply began to live somewhere else always in contact
with the living, advising them while they were sleeping,
protecting the seeds on the ground until germination.
- But it was also believed that the dead watched the living
and tried to take vengeance of their condition.
People defended themselves with magic rituals,
prayers to the supreme divinities.
Look, l have here some amulets that we still use...
look... against the evil eye,
against misfortune, against blight, against envy.
- Yes... they must be similar to the ones we used back in our days...
there was one against the evil eye... You know,
l had a neighbour who sometimes was said
to be possessed by the devil...
she even talked in a di_erent voice,
so much so we would get wide- eyed...
You know, we were afraid of her.
At night, we used to put salt at the door so she wouldn't get in.
l'll even tell you a story...
of what my grandmother used to say
was the way to stop the evil eye someone had cast upon her...
she would go to the back yard to get a bit of herb-of-grace
and then would stand in front of the mirror,
she would make the sign of the cross, say her prayers, and just
stay there yawning or other times with her stomach swollen,
but afterwards everyth ing would go away.
And she said that later she used to work hard,
but that alone wasn't enough...
To stop the evil eye she had inside her house...
do you know what she used to do?...
she used to put incense inside those recipients
and would go around all the fOOmS.. .
and she went about like that with a saucer or a little pan,
blessing the rooms to ward o_ evil.
Sometimes it was necessary to smoke the houses.
l remember we had to burn incense, myrrh...
we had to burn rosemary,
sometimes we had to sprinkle holy water on the corners of the house,
all four corners... this is also highly related to something else,
it was not our relatives that acted like that... this is highly related to
bad things, to werewolves, to little devils, to all sort of things that
used to get into the corners of the houses, and people thought
they were hidden because people saw or felt them when they closed
the door of a room
and felt something had stirred behind it or fallen.
And so people used to smoke the houses in order to get those souls,
those bad souls, to stop pestering U S.
To the Celts, one of the people who invaded Lusitania
three thousand years ago,
the night of October 31 st (the end of Summer),
also called the ''Night of the Souls'' or ''Halloween Night'',
indicated the end of the year, which was divided into two parts.
The first part began on May 1 st, and the second on November 1 st
(or in the first Full Moon of November).
The latter marked the beginning of the time of the dead.
The morning mists symbolised the veil separating both worlds,
and on that magical day the veil was extremely thin:
- the World of the Living, which ended on October 31 st;
- and the World of the Dead,
that from that night forth was filled with ghosts and lost souls.
A multitude of spirits would then go through the misty veil, anxious
to once again see the places they once inhabited and their relatives.
Whilst contradicted by Catholicism which considered it demonic,
this belief endured; and winter, time of darkness, became known
as the time of demons, entwining both meanings.
Whenever a child was born, whenever people would go visit
someone , it was customary to always o_er something,
and the first time the child would go inside a house
it was also tradition to give some money, a coin... it was tradition.
lt wasn't good for the child if people wouldn't give her a coin...
and when people would visit someone they would always
o_er something, and often people would o_er gold.. .
gold was popular then, it wasn't so expensive as it is today,
and so people used to o_er a chain for a bracelet or an amulet
in the shape of a closed fist...
this amulet is very important to children, because of the evil eye.
A child that has this closed-fist amulet is always protected.. .
but the adult also needs it, not only closed-fist amulets,
but also needs to have a clove of garlic inside the pocket,
it is very important to have a clove of garlic inside the right pocket.
Magical protection was commonly sought after and had many forms.
Lucky charms conveyed some sense of safety.
These are pieces of the National Archeologic Museum,
with two thousand years old.
The funereal stones had engraved inscriptions addressed to the
gods, which could be vegetation deities, frequently represented
by animals such as the pig, the boar, the bear and the bull, or
other deities, expressed by means of sculptures or engravings.
The Cult of the Dead is still present in contemporary rites
despite the exchange of dates,
from November 1 st to November 2nd, in an attempt by the Catholic
Church to erase the more active memory of these beliefs.
They used to leave the church and go along the way on foot
and ended by the door of the cemetery.
Saying a prayer for their relatives, saying a set of prayers
called terço and other prayers in memory of the dead.
The month of November is in fact the month where
everybody thinks of the dead, because it's the month of.. .
it begins with day 1 and 2, days of the departed,
the month of the souls, people go to the cemetery,
decorate the cemeteries, people pray, and in that month.. .
it's really a month where people do nothing at all.
The island of Terceira, is the most festive island of the archipelago,
and after this month there are no more festivities...
precisely because of that... and it is at that time that
everything happens, that people manifest themselves the most,
because everyone is more open, everyone has less things to do,
and so they appear at that time... if we were at the festivities,
they do not want to appear, that is why they appear at this time,
it's their month, the month of the departed, it's the month of the
souls of the other world, it's the month of those who have gone,
and so when they need something they come here,
they come and ask us, and we have to give alms,
we have to do our things, we have to pray for them.
Without our intervention,
they do not go to the place God intended for them.
The ritual called ''Pao-por- Deus'' [Bread for God] still held
in the Azorean island of S. Miguel, and in other islands of the Azores,
is one of the rituals kept on the right date: November 1 st.
The set of ceremonies for this ritual includes something called
Pao das Almas'' [soul-cakes] in which people beg for alms.
They bake and give away these cakes
as a way of o_ering a sacrifice (for the Souls).
ln those days there was nothing of what we have today,
people wouldn't give candies, only small tropical fruits called araçais.. .
an Ofan9e.
Being children we were happy... it was a tradition.. .
children wouldn't go to satisfy their hunger.. .
it was a tradition... it's like children nowadays...
they go because of the tradition...
Currently there is no lack of candies,
but they go and ask anyway.
The underlying belief for making this delicacy was that the dead,
through the pleasure thereby aroused in the living,
would also benefit from it.
The ritual also includes other kinds of gifts.
ln certain places they used to give white alms,
other times they gave money or food...
To give white alms was a special situation.. .
people could only give white products, like white flour, milk, salt,
those who had aguardente [laughter] also included it,
and that is that... it could be money or any other item.
lt was quite usual to bake little breads and give them away...
sometimes it was a kind of ''bread for God''.
Children used to knock on doors and people gave them some corn
or something else they had in the house.
And if someone from our family had died,
we would give things for their soul,
we baked tiny little breads in the OVen ,
a brindeirinha, and we added a boiled egg.
We called it white alms, and that was what we o_ered for their soul
and we used to say, even if it was a child, we used to say:
''This is for the soul of my mother or of my aunt Francisca or Joaquina,
and so that child on returning home...
_ _ _ R __ U _ g _fl_fl fl __fl _ _ fl_M _ g _
we liked receiving that, it was something di_erent.
Monetary gifts, for instance, can be related to the belief that the dead
should take with them some coins in order to pay the ferryman
for their crossing to the other side of the ''river of life''.
lf they weren't able to get the necessary amount of money
they would be doomed not to cross
and thus never to obtain eternal rest.
__ __ ___ _ _ ___ _ MM
with coins in their pockets.
ln the Azores, the so-called caspiadas or escaldadas
are also part of the set of ritual gifts carried out at this time.
These cakes have a straight base and a rounded shape on top,
known in Europe as ''the top of a skull''
for it was their intention to imitate the skull of the dead.
They would be equivalent to what the Belgians call ''soul-cakes'',
something that is also common in Bragança, Portugal
(but under a di_erent name, ''Pau das Almas'').
ln Antwerp, one of the ingredients of these cakes is sa_ron,
which makes them more yellow and resembling old bones...
The tradition has its roots in the Buddhist ''tantric skull cap'',
a crucial item in the rituals of the dead,
which was later adopted by the Celts.
The ''tantric skull cap'' was a kind of bowl used to hold the ritual drink,
the bowl was obtained by cutting a skull transversally.
The cakes replicate this shape as they do the celestial arch,
seat of universal knowledge.
As you can see l cannot explain to you that tradition,
l only know the one about pao-de- Ieite or escaldadas or broas.
The large quantities in the recipe indicate quite clearly
the role played by this delicacy
the o_ering of ''Pao por Deus'' to visitors and children.
The more you o_ered the greater the benefit for the dead.
Today, l have here already baked 4 kilos of corn flour, 2 1 12 of wheat,
2 1 12 kilos of sugar, cinnamon to your liking,
1 1 12 kilos of pressed figs, 200 grams of raisins,
1 25 grams of cooking butter, 3 litres of milk to boil, corn baking powder,
and 3 little packets of baking powder.
Other mediation rituals would resort to animals
belonging to the universe of the sacred
I_ __ __ ___ _ _ _ _
Among others, representations of the pig and the boar
animals connected to death according to the Celts -
show up in tombstones and other funereal monuments.
The pig's keen sense of smell to find things underground
must have led to the belief that this animal was a specialised guide
to steer the dead in the Other World.
The boar and the pig represent the totemic Celt animal par excellence,
which is considered divine for its bravery and fertility
and a protector for its ability to escape death when being chased.
These images are from the main square of Murça,
a village in the Northern part of Portugal.
ln the Iberian Peninsula there are approximately seventeen animals
like these, one of them is big and is Iocated at the entrance of
Salamanca, another one is in Freixo de Espada A Cinta,
and there are several around here.
And all of them follow a route starting from the centre
of the Iberian Peninsula and going towards North to Asturias.
l think that may be one of the stories.. .
back then, during winter, it would serve as an indication to shepherds
that wanted to take their herds to the pastures up North.
And that is one of the more acceptable legends.
lt's a shame that we don't know for sure the stories of all these animals,
of all these statues that exist.. .it's a shame.. .
this one here in Murça is the most known,
maybe because it's the biggest,
maybe because it's the one most worshipped by the people of Murça.
ln other places, people don't pay so much attention to them.. .
in Salamanca they don't pay much attention to the female pig...
here in Murça it's in fact the symbol of the town.
Despite being forbidden, the architecture of the Catholic Church
is not without representations of animals.
This is the Church of S. Domingos in Guimaraes.
lnside the Mother Church in Praia da Vitória,
the decoration of a column
from one of the side chapels of the transept includes a pig.
The Celts believed that by eating pork
they could share the extraordinary skills of the animal.
To that end, a big communal meal took place in November,
in which people would eat the magical animal.
lt was believed that the Gods from the Other World
participated in the feast and protected whoever was taking part.
ln the Festival of Beltaine, after killing the pigs,
people handed the pigs' bladders to ''fools'' and children.
This tradition occurs in a wide area, from Ireland to Great Britain,
reaching as far as Hungary,
being quite common throughout most of Europe.
Sometimes it was connected to the tradition that took place
after November 1 1 th, known as ''the big killing'',
when dried and cured meat was prepared for wintertime.
ln the Azores, despite being prohibited by the relevant
authorities, these killings are still performed among breeders.
These are scenes from a killing recreated by
the Folkloric and Ethnographic Group of Ribeirinha.
Oh Lord, oh Lord, master of this house
Here's to... here's to your health
l didn't come late nor early
l came when... l came when l could
l've already seen the light of candles
Shinning at your... at your house
Oh Lord, if you'll excuse me l want to... l want to get inside.
Having arrived here l'm going to move my feet
So later l can greet The owners of this dwelling.
The Cult of the Dead also implicated another kind of ritual
based on the belief that erotic behaviour on the part of the living
could positively influence the energies needed by the dead
to be resuscitated or to maintain contact.
That is why sometimes we can see rituals of an erotic,
or merely sensual, nature connected to communal meals,
and coinciding with funerals.
The aspects of this kind of symbolism
become clearer on November 11th, St. Martin's Day.
St. Martin was also known as the exorcist saint,
one that repels demons.
However, the festivities celebrating St. Martin often merge with those of
Dionysus - known as Bacchus to the Romans - whose celebration
coincides at this time of year with the tasting of new wine.
The celebration of this date relates to Dionysus' nature,
for he is known as the god of resurrection.
Wine is a symbol of Dionysus because there are similarities
between the process of returning to life
after the grapes are squeezed and ''killed''
and this god's past,
for traditionally he is said to have risen from the dead,
to have been resuscitated.
But the guarantee of an eternal life is evoked in the properties of wine
to make it possible to evoke spirits
through altered states of consciousness,
considered crucial in this ritual.
lt was said that the level of intoxication of those who
participated in the ritual, according to the amount of wine ingested,
would reveal the attributes of Dionysus himself (Bacchus).
So, with this purpose in mind,
the participants would drink large quantities of wine on purpose.
There was even a contest to elect the king of drunks.
One of the most revellers of the freguesia, one of the drunkest,
would get incredibly drunk and couldn't stand on his feet...
they called each other brothers.. .
four of the brothers lay him down on a kind of sheet made of burlap
and each one held one of the COfnefS
and they would take him from house to house...
they kept on drinking for as long as they could...
and that was their St. Martin's Day.
The chemical and symbolical characteristics of alcohol,
essential to the festive rites of inversion,
enable not only the rehearsal but also the mastering of disruptive
and disorienting situations, such as death can be.
St. Martin's Day is mainly a masculine ritual, but in France
in Provence and in Languedoc - older women are allowed to drink,
thus taking part in a kind of sensual feast.
The chosen food was pork or duck.
Both animals were considered an incarnation of the god himself
or of the Spirit of Vegetation.
Chestnuts and other ritual food were also part of the menu.
The Cult of the Dead reaches its final stage after the winter solstice,
a time when hope regarding the rebirth of the Sun Child
starts to dissipate the shadows of darkness, symbol of Death.
The archaic man is precisely the man that still feels,
speaking symbolically of course,
the connection between heaven and earth ;
it is the man that lives the archetypes.
Etymologically, that is precisely what archaic means.
The word comes from the Greek word arche,
meaning the primordial source, the source of all origins.. .
and the word archetype is made up of arche, origins, and typos,
image... meaning the primordial image.
Thus, this archaic man lives cyclically between the profane time
and the sacred time, that is to say,
the sacred time is a breach in the profane time.
The profane time is in itself a cyclic time.
The archaic man could not conceive a linear time like we do,
that is to say, each year was a cycle.
And at the end of each year there were epagomenes days, i.e.,
days in which people would return to chaos, to the beginning of times,
and a new cycle would begin... there was a regeneration of time.
The Party of Lights, the main representation of the Sun's
reappearance and a celebration of the winter solstice,
marks symbolically the end of the Iong mortal night.
The winter solstice has always been a more esoteric
and intimate time, and also a moment in which the world of the
dead is very close to the world of the living.
We can say that there is a barrier there.. .
and what l'm saying falls into that mythical context...
there is a barrier that at that time is more transparent.
__ Rq _ g _ _fl_ fl_ _ ___fl
where the Sun in fact disappears for a few weeks.
ln Southern Europe, this date was celebrated by the Romans
with the Saturnalia festival, where they exchanged gifts
and honoured the old agricultural god Saturn.
Mircea Eliade refers that the solstice date is overshot by three
or four days in order to use the date of December 25th,
a date known as representing the Christmas festivities.
The birth of the Sun god, the Nativity, as it became known
among the Egyptians, Syrians and other Semite people
before passing to Greece, was represented by Astarte,
the Virgin Goddess who gave birth to the Sun child.
The ''Songs to the Stars'' that take place on the Azorean island of
S. Miguel can be construed as remnants of the established belief
that the dead went to the stars, to the Moon and also to the Sun.
This is part of a remote imaginary conception,
both temporal and geographical, which is a bit transversal to
Christian religious practice, but not considered pagan.
lt is one of the many Azorean traditions
with roots deeply set into an ambiguous past,
and that remains unknown for many di_erent reasons.
Among them, the one that stands out the most
is the existing conflict with the established religion.
Another legitimately perceived reason to keep this past undefined
relates to ''Our Lady of the Star'' herself, an invocation of the Virgin,
that has its own Church in Ribeira Grande on the island of S. Miguel.
The night-time singing spreads all across the island,
ending by the homes where, as a thank you, singers are given supper
in order to endure the long walk, and the long cold winter night.
The inscription of astral symbols
like the swastika and other solar circles, among them the spiral -
I_ __ ____ _ mM _M __
seem to point to a concern with man's cosmic fate.
This ancient belief was transported to the present by Christianity.
The Christian Christmas absorbed many of the previous meanings,
from which there are still traces:
- Lighting decorations were part of the cult of the dead and were meant
to indicate to them the way back to their respective houses,
as well as to their graves.
- The custom of keeping a vacant place at table meant for the ''souls''.
- To fill a plate with all the delicacies available and leave it at the door.
- The supper table was not cleared,
and it stayed set all night for the dead.
- People in the North of Portugal used to sleep on top of ''hay'' on
Christmas night, thus leaving their own beds free for the dead.
- The tree, symbol of life and a common element in both solstices.
All these habits reveal traces of the former Cult of the Dead,
a belief countered by the Catholic Church with the imposition
of a set of alternative celebrations featuring life.
Among these we find:
On November 21 st - Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple;
On December 8th - Conception;
On December 25th - Nativity;
On December 28th - Feast of the Innocents;
On December 29th - Feast of the Holy Family;
On January 1 st - Celebration of Lady Day.
The birth of Christ,
previously celebrated on January 6th and also on January 8th,
was definitely moved to December 25th in the 4th century.
But the period of twelve days, from December 25th until January 6th,
is considered full of perils,
for it was a period that did not belong to either world.
Once again there was an open door between the two dimensions,
thus enabling communication with the dead.
lt is usually said that Death looms over Christmas.
Regarding the winter solstice we have a big set of traditions
in the Northeastern region of Portugal.
ln that small area of our country we can find dozens of traditions
that mainly take place during the twelve-day period
from Advent to Epiphany, i.e., from Christmas day to January 6
(in Portugal it is called Day of the Kings).
lt so happens that, unlike all Western world, in which during
Advent, during Christmas, all families gather together in their
homes to experience in their midst Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ
-- or if you will, symbolically, the birth of a solar god,
as is the case of Mithra and Horus, for example --
I_ _ _ _ __ _
it is precisely at that time that people come outside.
The inhabitants of Trás-os-Montes celebrate Christmas by lighting
enormous bonfires in the street, drinking hot co_ee,
and it is precisely on that day, which may be and is considered
one of the holier days of the Christian calendar,
that the brotherhoods of boys do their ritual festivities.
These ritual festivities are closely connected to some symbols
and concepts of what l usually call the archaic man.
Bonfires, lighting decorations and fireworks
that now characterise the end-of- the-year celebrations
were previously meant to strengthen the ''Sun child'',
by conveying the energy contained in the fire to the cosmos.
lt was believed that the Sun would absorb it once again.
The lighting decorations, around a window or door, as a kind of
farewell to the dead, is already mixed with the great bonfires
of New Year's Eve, through which people wanted to influence the Sun,
trying to make it stay longer and Ionger above the horizon.
But Christmas is also a time of magic and wonder
plants bloom in the midst of winter, animals communicate
among themselves, and prophecies regarding the New Year are made.
Christmas is one of the celebrations with greater connections to the
past, not only in terms of festivities associated to the solstice
but also to Christian festivities.
The two subiect matters, historicl mythic aspects of the solstice
and JudaicIChristian theological aspects,
remain together side by side in an exemplary synchronism.
On New Year's Eve, celebrating St Silvester brings back
the agricultural tradition for, as the name indicates,
Silvester was a kind of Saturn god, patron of cattle in Tirol.
Legend says the saint healed the Emperor Constantine from leprosy
by baptising him, an act that would change the fate of Christianity.
We can still find references to the Cult of the Dead
throughout the months of January and February,
and extending as far as March 1 st, the beginning of a new year.
The agricultural subiect is revisited at the end of the year, or at the end
of winter, capturing the symbolism contained in the withering of plants
before their new blossoming,
and representing it by means of theatrical interpretations
of the break down of social rules and role play inversion,
as is portrayed in the festivities at the end of the year.
ln February several ritual practices
were performed to exorcise demons and bad spirits.
The special time for preparation and purification of the land
to receive the spring crops was at hand.