Saturn Rules – It’s Party Time!

1178
Rush Holt (NJ-7)

Out of the Broomcloset.

Once again we move into the darkest part of the year, bustling here and there while the sunlight holds, only to hunker down when the last rays fade. It’s not quite hibernation, but it’s rare to encounter an individual  who feels revitalized as the world seemingly winds down. Is it any wonder, then, that Saturn is considered to hold sway over this time? 

For many, Saturn is synonymous with heaviness, melancholy frustration, impediments, and certainly the go-to Deity when considering the more baneful forms of magical activity. This is, however true, a one-sided interpretation of Saturn potentiality.

The more optimistic definitions of the same potentialities are, time to examine, time to analyze, time to recall. While some might be frightened by being told to slow down and pay attention, sort out what has meaning and what is ephemeral, they are hopefully a minority.

In fact, it’s the most wonderful time of the year; what with the Saturnalia being followed by the Opalia; then just before you know it it’s time for the festival of Sol Invictus (yay)! Pull on your pileus (a soft, red wool cap), and hit the market stalls for last minute gifts.

Yes, the Puritans, Jehovah’s Witnesses and such are quite correct that the whole complex of behaviors surrounding Christmastide is decidedly not Christian (this fact should really fall into the category of common knowledge). Better to just enjoy these trappings as another gift from ancient Rome, alongside such boons as concrete and indoor plumbing.

Saturn and Ops are the Roman equivalents of Kronos and Rhea, Kronos being the father of Zeus and ruler before being overthrown by his son. Latin legend had it that he came to early Rome, where he ruled as a wise king, bestowing the benefits of civilization and agriculture upon the unwashed masses (thus the sickle being part of his imagery). Despite his reign being looked on as a golden age, his images were generally kept in restraints, as to not overturn the present existence under the rule of Zeus/Jupiter. And so, our mythological interlude ends.

Starting on December 17 in the old Roman calendar (which for us falls on December 22nd, the Winter Solstice), the doors to Saturn’s temple were opened, the legs of his cult image were unbound, and the citizenry threw aside day to day constraints. The rules promulgated under the reign of Zeus were laid aside. Work stopped, the courts and other organs of government were closed, and the citizenry, having thrown off their togas for less formal attire (including the red mob cap generally worn by freed slaves) participated in a round of public and private parties, in rooms decorated with garlands, or out on the streets in raucous processions, carrying wax tapers to honor the return of the light.

Both public and private festivities were overseen by an individual appointed as a “Lord of Misrule”. Under their auspices the social distinctions between citizens, freedmen and slaves were set aside; the master of the house could be seen bustling back and forth catering to every whim of the house slaves, senators gambling with stable boys (not that we would find this surprising in the slightest).

On the old December 19th, Ops joined the festivities with her own special day, celebrating the bounty from Mother Earth; more feasting, more carousing, more gift giving were the order of the day.

Just to round things off, our New Year’s Eve coincides with the old December 25th the birthdate of the divine solar child. While this was originally only for the worshipers of Mithras, by the third century B.C.E. it joined the Latin schedule of festivities. By this time, Saturn was bound once more, his allowing a return to the good old days (or at least the commemoration of them) brought to an end.

So, an old man with a sickle and a baby walk into a party, the old man says….. you write the punch line, I just set them up.

 

Out of the Broomcloset.

Once again we move into the darkest part of the year, bustling here and there while the sunlight holds, only to hunker down when the last rays fade. It’s not quite hibernation, but it’s rare to encounter an individual  who feels revitalized as the world seemingly winds down. Is it any wonder, then, that Saturn is considered to hold sway over this time?