Tuesday, 21 January 2014

ST AGNES & THE VIRGIN OF ALTAGRACIA

“Drunkenness is simply voluntary insanity.” - Seneca
 
January 21st is Altagracia Day in the Dominican Republic. This is a day commemorating “Our Lady of Altagracia”, patronal image and protector of the people of the Dominican Republic. It is a Feast Day and annual public holiday. “Our Lady of Altagracia” is a devotional image of the Virgin Mary painted in the 16th century, to depict the patron saint of the Dominican Republic. The portrait is kept in The Basilica of Our Lady of Altagracia in the city of Salvaleón de Higüey. The festival was originally held on August 15, but was moved to January 21 to celebrate victory over the French in 1690.
 
Today is the anniversary of the birth of:
John Batman, Melbourne City founder (1801);
John Charles Fremont, explorer (1813);
Stonewall Jackson
, Confederate general (1824);
Oscar II, Swedish/Norwegian king (1829);
Henri Duparc, composer/painter/writer (1848);
R. Irwin, talking books pioneer (1892);
Cristóbal Balenciaga, fashion designer (1895);
Christian Dior, fashion designer (1905);
Igor Moiseyev, ballet master (1906);
Paul Scofield, actor (1922);
Benny Hill, comedian (1925);
Telly (Aristotle) Savalas, actor (1925);
Steve Reeves, actor (1926);
Jack (William) Nicklaus, golfer (1940);
Placido Domingo, tenor (1941);
Martin Shaw, actor (1945);
Geena Davis, actress (1957).
 
The birthday plant for this day is Artemisia abrotanum, southernwood.  It is also known as lad’s love, maiden’s ruin and old man’s tree.  The herb is named after Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon and the hunt.  The plant was credited with aphrodisiac properties, hence the alternative common names.  In order to “provoke men to multiplying of their kind”, the plant was placed under their pillows.  Southernwood was a strewing herb and also was included in posies, both due to the aromatic smell of the plant.  The herb symbolises jest and bantering. Astrologically, it is under the dominion of Mercury.
 
Today is also the Feast Day of St Agnes, who is the patron saint of young virgins and her name in Greek means “pure”.  The Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, is dedicated to St Agnes. She was martyred at the age of thirteen in third century Rome for refusing to renounce Christianity. Young girls in England made cakes on this day to commemorate her martyrdom. In some villages, once the cakes were made, the young women took one and climbing the stairs backwards, prayed to St Agnes then eating the cake. This ritual was meant to reveal in a dream the man the young woman was to marry.
 
Died on this day in 1118, Paschal II (Rainerius), Pope of Rome. On this day in 1793, Louis XVI, king of France was guillotined after having been found guilty of treason. His wife, Marie Antoinette would suffer the same fate on the 16th of October 1793. Also dying on this day: Lenin, the famous Russian revolutionary in 1924; George Orwell, the English novelist of Animal Farm fame, in 1950; Cecil B(lount) de Mille, film-maker, in 1959.

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