Friday, March 17, 2006

It's St. Patrick's Day...or is it?

March 17th, festival day celebrating St. Patrick, right?

Yes and No.

In keeping with it’s tradition of overlaying Catholic values and celebration over existing “pagan” holidays, the Vatican in it’s wisdom usurped a Roman holiday in designating March 17th for St. Patrick: the Liberalia, one of the last vestiges of the Bacchanalic rites (not to be confused with the Cerealia, a celebration of Ceres (corn & wheat goddess) and Bacchus, which was April 17th, but mentioned in passing by Ovid on March 17th).

The Liberalia was one of the less ‘abusive’ of the orgiastic celebrations of the cult of Bacchus, and managed to be excluded from the senatorial decree that “no Bacchanalia shall be held in Rome or Italy” (the Senatus auctoritas de Bacchanalibus) in or around the year 186 B.C.
That resolution was in response to the discover that upwards of probably 10,000 or more Roman citizens (I don’t think they were ever really sure how many were involved) were ‘initiates’ into the secret side of Bacchanic cult. Even by Roman standards, the drunken activities were so debasing to humanity and such abandon of moral obligation that the Senate felt obligated to try 7,000 of the participants in courts of law, for lechery, debauchery, murder, etc.

The Liberalia by contrast was described as “priests and aged priestesses, adorned with garlands of ivy, carried through the city wine, honey, cakes, and sweet-meats, together with an altar with a handle, in the middle of which there was a small fire-pan, in which from time to time sacrifices were burnt.”
It is also recorded that on this day it was customary for all citizens to express themselves freely. Some record the date of the festival as March 16th rather than the 17th.
But enough of the Romans – onto the Irish!

For St. Patrick's Day, wine with Irish spirit (on MSNBC by Jon Bonné)…
Is a pretty good article discussing the association of the Irish with both Old and New World wineries, and the wine trade in general.
Most notable quote from the article:
Ireland was drinking more claret than England,” he says. “In fact, we were drinking more claret than the rest of the British Isles put together.”…”

Hmmm…that's admirable, but not something I’d be bragging about!
But it does point to the fact that maybe one can enjoy wine today without feeling pressured to have a Guinness stout, green tinted Harp lager, or an Irish whisky.



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