Thursday, October 4, 2012

Shanatu Qadishtu: The Natib Qadish Sacred Year


The holiday calendar for qadishuma (people who practice Natib Qadish, Canaanite religion) is based primarily on Bronze Age cuneiform texts found at the city of Ugarit. These texts date to around 1200 BCE (about 3212 years ago). We also take into consideration the Gezer Calendar, a writing in early Hebrew found in Gezer, and written in 925 BCE (about 2937 years ago). Our sacred calendar is called the Shanatu Qadishtu, which means "holy year" in the Ugaritic language.

Unlike the temperate European climate where there are four seasons (spring-summer-autumn-winter) there are basically two seasons in Canaan (wet and dry) with a little transition between the two. The wet season corresponds to a temperate climate's seasons of autumn and winter; and the dry season includes some of a temperate climate's spring and summer. There are two harvests: one around the transition of the dry season to the wet season for fruit (sometime around August-September on the secular calendar); and a grain harvest as the wet season transitions to the dry season (somewhere around March-April-May on the secular calendar).
Although we take into consideration the seasons of ancient Canaan, we appreciate nature but are not "nature-based" or "earth-based." We are centered on the deities first, community second, and nature third. The ancient holiday calendar of the Canaanite city of Ugarit was based on civil and dynastic (kingly) concerns as well as seasonal themes. Many of our holidays occur near solar or lunar events such as equinoxes, solstices, full moons, and new moons: secular months given below are approximate.


Shanatu Qadishtu: The Natib Qadish Sacred Year 

What follows is a summation of our holidays, beginning with our first holiday of year.

‘Ashuru Mothbati, Festival of Dwellings

New Moon of the month of Autumnal Equinox. Around September. Autumnal Equinox is usually around September 21, and the new moon--when this holiday is celebrated--can occur anywhere from the day of the autumnal equinox to 27 days before, on some day between August 25-September 21. During this holiday we build makeshift dwellings outside to house the deity images and to hold feast, or build smaller table top sized dwellings to house the deity statues inside.

Marzichu

Full Moon of the next lunar month, the annual gathering of a social drinking club often to commemorate the ancestors and life changes. Around November. (Sometimes celebrated in the summer instead.) Ilu is the usual patron of marzichu, and is known to enjoy himself at these events.

‘Ashuru ‘Ari: Festival of Light

Around December 21st.‘Athtartu of the Fields or Steppeland (‘Athtartu-Shaddi) is honored. We invite the goddess 'Athtartu into our town or our home at this time. As part of a modern celebration, some choose to honor Shapshu and light oil lamps or candles for her return.

‘Ashuru Shamni

Festival of Oil, Seven days after the coming New Moon after Winter Solstice. Around January or February.A ritual offering of prayer and an Oil of Wellbeing is offered to the storm god Baʻlu Haddu (Ba'al Hadad) for protection of the city. In modern celebration, new Shamnu Mori (myrrh oil) and new Shamnu Raqachi (spiced oil) is made, and we pray for protection of our communities, homes, and families.

‘Ashuru Ganni: Festival of the Garden

Around March 21st, spring equinox. It is said this celebration involves being in a garden and eating fish soup. A surviving text about this celebration involves the removal of foodstuffs, but no indication is given as to what the “foodstuffs” are: some speculate this is leavened bread, but we cannot be certain. In honor of this “removal of foodstuffs” some choose to fast from a particular kind of food, or a engage in a full fast, leading up to this holiday. Modern celebrations include making and consuming fish soup.

‘Ashuru Liyati: Festival of Garlands

Skip the next month and go to the next Full Moon. Around May. A text called the Gezer calendar from circa 925 BCE notes “harvest and feasting” in this month. This time would have symbolized the end of the grain harvest. In modern celebration, I make garlands and decorate them with tulle bags of dried fruit and candied nuts to symbolize the coming fruit harvest. Modern celebrations might also include baking bread.

‘Ashuru Zabri (Festival of Pruning) or 'Ashuru Qazhu (Summer Festival)

Festival of Pruning for grapevines. Around June 21st.There is an ancient text speaks of pruning Motu like a grapevine. An effigy of Motu can be created from vines or vegetation and left to the elements or burned. "Zabru" means pruning, and "qazhu" means summer. Modern celebrations include making and disposing of an effigy of Death: I often make mine of a grape vine and burn it on the grill prior to grilling the meats for the feast.

Ra’shu Yeni: Festival of New Wine

Skip the next month, go to Full Moon on the month after. Festival of the New Wine. Around August. Lasts for seven days of merriment, then it’s back to the beginning of the year once more. In modern celebration, I enjoy visiting a vineyard and feasting at this time.

Lunar Cycles

Smaller offerings made during the New Moon (Chudthu) and larger at the Full Moon (Malatu).Chudthu/New Moon marks the beginning of the month and is celebrated sometimes with the sounding of a ram's horn. The Ugaritic word for month is "yarkhu" which relates directly to the moon god's name Yarikhu.

Shab'atu (Yomu Shab'ati), the Day-of-Rest

Many of us qadishuma mark a seventh day-of-rest per week, starting on Friday evenings and ending on Saturday evenings. This is a modern observance based on Jewish observance. During this day-of-rest, we make offerings to the deities, feast with our friends and families, and spend time in restive activities such as walks, meditation, study, and engaging in creative hobbies. I conclude that the days-of-rest in the ancient Canaanite calendar included holidays as well as new and full moons because of their sacred timings and the indication in primary documents of ritual offering and sacred activities. Instead of taking a day of rest on Friday night through Saturday night, some take days of rest on new moons and full moons.


Dates for our holidays can be found here.


Today is:

18 Niqalu (month), Shanatu 85 (year)

This date reflects a date in the Canaanite calendar according to Ugaritic texts from 1200 BCE. It is the 18th day from the previous new moon, and eleven days until the next chudthu (new moon). The Canaanites made greater offerings to the deities during each chudthu (new moon) and malatu (full moon). Chudthu (new moon) marks the beginning of the next lunar month.


Image Credits:


Date palm tree with fruit at an orchard in Medina. Photo taken by Kerina Yin, released into public domain and used under Creative Commons License. It can be accessed at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Date_palm_with_fruits.jpg

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