Happy Mardi Gras

“The Roman religious calendar reflected Rome’s hospitality to the cults and deities of conquered territories–including the Greeks. Originally Roman religious festivals were few in number. Some of the oldest survived to the very end of the pagan empire, preserving the memory of the fertility and propitiatory rites of a primitive agricultural people. New festivals were introduced, however, to mark the naturalization of new gods. So many festivals were adopted eventually that the work days on the calendar were outnumbered. The Lupercalia and Equiria were two important Roman religious festivals celebrated in February and March.

The Lupercalia was an ancient festival originally honoring Lupercus, a pastoral god of the Italians. The festival was celebrated on February 15 at the cave of the Lupercal on the Palatine Hill, where the legendary founders of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus, were supposed to have been nursed by a wolf. Among the Roman legends connected with them is that of Faustulus, a shepherd who was supposed to have discovered the twins in the wolf’s den and to have taken them to his home, in which they were brought up by his wife, Acca Larentia.

The Equiria is a festival in honor of Mars, was celebrated on February 27 and March 14, traditionally the time of year when new military campaigns were prepared. Horse races in the Campus Martius notably marked the celebration.

In Greek and Roman mythology, Bacchus is the god of wine, identified with Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, and Liber, the Roman god of wine. The son of Zeus (Jupiter), Bacchus is usually characterized in two ways. The first is that of the god of vegetation, specifically of the fruit of the trees, who is often represented on Attic vases with a drinking horn and vine branches. As Bacchus came to be the popular national Greek god of wine and cheer, wine miracles were reputedly performed at his festivals. The second characterization of the god, that of a deity whose mysteries inspired ecstatic, orgiastic devotion, is exemplified by the Maenads, or Bacchantes. This group of female devotees left their homes to roam the wilderness in ecstatic devotion to the god. They wore fawn skins and were believed to possess occult powers.

The name Bacchus came into use in ancient Greece during the 5th century B.C. It refers to the loud cries with which he was worshiped at the Bacchanalia, frenetic celebrations in his honor. These events, which supposedly originated in spring nature festivals, became occasions for licentiousness and intoxication, at which the celebrants danced, drank, and generally debauched themselves. The Bacchanalia became more and more extreme and were prohibited by the Roman Senate in 186 B.C. In the first century A.D., however, the Dionysiac mysteries were still popular, as evidenced by representations of them found on Greek sarcophagi.” via Mardi Gras pagan origins – Google Search.

Happy Birthday, Jane Hirshfield

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Jane Hirshfield was born in New York City in 1953. After receiving her B.A. from Princeton University in their first graduating class to include women, she went on to study at the San Francisco Zen Center. Her books of poetry include After HarperCollins, 2006; Given Sugar, Given Salt 2001, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Lives of the Heart 1997, The October Palace 1994, Of Gravity & Angels 1988, and Alaya 1982.

She is the author of Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry 1997 and has also edited and translated The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan 1990 with Mariko Aratani and Women in Praise of the Sacred: Forty-Three Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women 1994.

Poem Holding Its Heart In One Fist

Each pebble in this world keeps
its own counsel.

Certain words–these, for instance–
may be keeping a pronoun hidden.
Perhaps the lover’s you
or the solipsist’s I.
Perhaps the philosopher’s willowy it.

The concealment plainly delights.

Even a desk will gather
its clutch of secret, half-crumpled papers,
eased slowly, over years,
behind the backs of drawers.

Olives adrift in the altering brine-bath
etch onto their innermost pits
a few furrowed salts that will never be found by the tongue.

Yet even with so much withheld,
so much unspoken,
potatoes are cooked with butter and parsley,
and buttons affixed to their sweater.
Invited guests arrive, then dutifully leave.

And this poem, afterward, washes its breasts
with soap and trembling hands, disguising nothing.

Poem With Two Endings

Say “death” and the whole room freezes–
even the couches stop moving,
even the lamps.
Like a squirrel suddenly aware it is being looked at.

Say the word continuously,
and things begin to go forward.
Your life takes on
the jerky texture of an old film strip.

Continue saying it, hold it moment after moment inside the mouth,
it becomes another syllable.
A shopping mall swirls around the corpse of a beetle.

Death is voracious, it swallows all the living.
Life is voracious, it swallows all the dead.
neither is ever satisfied, neither is ever filled,
each swallows and swallows the world.

The grip of life is as strong as the grip of death.

(but the vanished, the vanished beloved, o where?)