The Grace of Festivity and Cheer, Euphrosyne now leads our journey of a year and a day to Graceland. Pronounced “you FRAHS uh nee,” She welcomes us as we honor the turning of the Wheel of the Year, and will reveal to us the rich diversity with which cultures throughout the world now begin a season of harvest and ancestor festivals.
For example, on this day, in Akita, Japan, the Akita Kanto Matsuri is being observed. This is an ancient celebration in which the people pray for an abundant harvest of the five essential foods – wheat, rice, beans, foxtail millet and Chinese millet. It originates from a combination of harvest celebrations, rites of cleansing and ridding the body of impurities and evil spirits, and banishing the Sandman, the devilish spirit that brings about hot summer’s drowsy heaviness.
Young men parade through the town, carrying kanto, which is an array of candle-lit lanterns hung on a bamboo frame. These lanterns are designed to look like glowing ears of rice. Some three thousand performers carry the kanto, many supporting them only on their foreheads, hips and shoulders, not with their hands. Some of the larger kanto suspend 46 lanterns, with a combined weight of over 100 lbs. and soaring forty feet into the air. Accompanied by flutes and drums, the parade has more than 200 kantos, with the number of individual lanterns reaching about 10,000.
In ancient times on this day, the Romans made a sacrifice to the Goddess Salus. Although Her main feast day is in March, they gathered now at Her hilltop shrine on the Quirinal. Salus (from which we get “salvation”) is the Roman Goddess of health and prosperity, both of the individual and the state. She was called Salus Publica Populi Romani and was often shown on coins feeding Her sacred snake. Later she also became of a protector of personal health, like Her Greek counterpart Hygieia.
And for the ancient Egyptians, depending on how you interpret ancient and modern calendar reckoning, today would have been the festival of the birth of Nut (pronounced “noot”), Goddess of heaven and sky.