Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Our Lady of the Grapes and Grain
Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, in which the Christian goddess, Mary, assumes the role earlier played by Hecate and Artemis (who were honored on the full moon of August) as the protectress of plants, particularly grapes (it's almost time for the wine harvest) and grain.
Naogeorgus, a Protestant sceptic who wrote many scathing poems about Popish rituals, had this to say about the Assumption:
The blessed virgin Mary's feast, hath here his place and time
Wherein departing from the earth, she did the heavens climb:
Great bundles then of herbs to Church, the people fast do bear,
The which against all hurtful things, the Priest doth hallow there.
Thus kindle they and nourish still, the peoples' wickedness
And vainly make them to believe, whatever they express:
For sundry witchcrafts, by these herbs are wrought and diverse charms.
And cast into the fire, are thought to drive away all harms,
And ever painful grief from man, or beast for to expel
Far otherwise than nature, or the word of God does tell.
In central Europe, this was called Our Lady's Herb Day. Gertrud Mueller Nelson tells about how her mother kept the holiday alive by taking her daughters on walks, gathering wild grasses, a custom I've adopted in Seattle. It's amazing how many kinds of wild grass grow on my city block.
For more, see Pip Wilson's description of the holiday at his Book of Days:
which includes quotes from my article on the day at the calendar at my web site:
Nelson, Gertrud Mueller, To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration, Paulist Press 1986