USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘roman’
Customs
Earth cycle
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Martinmas Festival

Content:
Informant – “On November 11th, Waldorf schools around the world celebrate Martinmas. As the story goes, Saint Martin was a Roman soldier. He saw a beggar shivering in the cold, so Martin cut his own cloak in half and covered the beggar with half. The beggar was actually Christ. To commemorate his generosity, the 1st and 2nd graders create lanterns and walk through campus sharing the light with the school”

Context:
Informant – “This is a festival of light. As the light decreases on Earth, the light becomes more inward. We bring the light inwards so that we carry the light within. Martinmas is celebration of Saint Martin, but it is also a sharing of our own internal light with the everyone.”
The informant learned about this festival when she started teaching at Waldorf.

Analysis:
Despite the references to Saint Martin and Christ, the actual festival is more pagan than Christian. It’s interesting that only the youngest grades make the lanterns and carry them through the school. Not only are they are spreading light at a time of darkness, they are also spreading youth and life at a time of dying.

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Phallic Symbolism on Homes in Pompeii

The informant, a 66-year-old American woman (my grandmother), has frequently traveled to Italy for the past several decades. During a celebration for my mother’s birthday, I pulled my grandmother aside and asked her if any particular Italian traditions or beliefs have stood out to her over the course of her travels, and she laughed.

“Oh my, you’re in for a treat. In Pompeii, the buildings were preserved in ash. After they had been dug out, many of the doors had carvings over them that were perfectly preserved. On more than one house, large penises are carved on the door. This would signify that it was a fertile home and would help whoever lived there to continue to have children and ensure success for a family. I’ve also heard that it was a way of bragging. Hey, if I had a large penis to brag about I’d probably do the same thing.”

Since these carvings would have been made in a pre-Christian era, they preceded the more familiar carving of a fish over one’s door, which Christians would use as a symbol to signify that their home was a safe place of worship. It is interesting to consider that in the cultural context of Pompeii thousands of years ago, representations of basic human anatomy were appropriate for placement in the extremely intimate barrier to one’s home–at the liminal divide between public and private. In America today, it goes without saying that a homeowner’s association would be less than pleased at the sight of a penis carved on someone’s porch. Perhaps this change has arisen because in the contemporary United States we no longer view having a fertile home and being able to sustain a family as an extraordinary accomplishment worth bragging about, instead we see it as something rather ordinary, but thousands of years ago during the Roman period it may have been looked upon as much more of an accomplishment worth bragging about to be able to provide for one’s family and maintain a fertile home.

Festival
general
Holidays
Legends

San Emeterius and Celedonius

“This is the legend of the patron saints of Calahorra, Spain, my home town and also of the city of Santander, a coastal city on the Bay of Bisay. The Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius, that was also from Calahorra, said that two brothers, Emeterius and Celedonius, who served as soldiers of the seventh legion called, Gemina were martyred at Calagurris (now known as Calahorra). But the exact time and place are unknown. The legend says they were martyred around the year 300 AD at the banks of the Cidacos River, which still today bears the same name and flows by the town. This was during the prosecutions of Christians by Emperor Diocletian and Emperor Valerian. They were imprisoned and forced to decide between renouncing their Christian faith or leaving the army. The legend says, they chose their faith and as a result were tortured and finally decapitated on banks of the river outside the city walls. When the soldiers were decapitated, they were kneeling on the bank and their severed heads rolled down into the water. Their heads floated away in the river and made their way onto a raft made of stone that was miraculously floating. But instead of floating downstream, south towards the Mediteranean where the river eventually discharges, they floated upstream. Eventually finding their way to the city of Santander where the heads also received veneration. In Santander, Alfonso, the 2nd of Aragon, built an abbey in honor of these two saints. In Calahorra, on the spot where they were martyred, the Christian cathedral was built, in the 4th century, in the late 300’s. The cathedral that exists in the town today was built on top of this original cathedral. It has been a puzzle as to why the cathedral was built outside the city walls and on the river bank and the legend explains this because this was the exact location of their decapitation. The coat of arms of the city of Calahorra features the names of the saints, two crossing swords and two half moons that represent the beheaded necks with dripping blood. August 30th is the major city holiday of the year, celebrating the patron saints. Relics of the two saints are taken out from the cathedral on procession through the town streets on this day. Even the main street in Calahorra is called “Calle de los Martires” (Street of the Martyrs) and martyrdom is a common theme in all the cities memorabilia, seals, and collective culture. There are elementary schools, businesses, bakeries, pastry shops, that use the saints names and/or “martyr.” The “fiestas patronales” (town festivals) are in their honor. The city is often referred to, even today as “The City of the Martyrs” just as New York City is called “The Big Apple.”

 

 

This legend, it’s continuation and it being the basis for present-day businesses and festivals is exemplary of how the influence the Catholic church had on the country of Spain and continues to have. Although, many people no longer affiliate with the religion of Catholicism, most of Spain’s traditions are rooted in it and continue to be performed. Every town in Spain has its own patron saint(s) and the festivals of the town are based on those saints. One of the most well known examples of this is the festival of Sanfermines from the city of San Fermin. Their patron saint is Saint Fermin.

My father, the participant is from the town of Calahorra, Spain and I, myself have been there many times. I have partaken in the festivals (‘fiestas’) and been to the cathedral but never knew the story behind the patron saints of the town.

Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic
Signs

Roman High Five

For this joke, you make a peace sign with your fingers (V) and high-five someone with your fingers in said position while saying: “Roman five!”
The joke here is an erudite one since you have to have an understanding of Roman numerals to know that the roman five was written as ‘V’.  This joke was told to me by my mother who heard it from a friend in the O.C.

[geolocation]