September 8 Marks A Rebirth

September 8 is considered the birthday of the Blessed Mother by the Catholic Church. As a result, throughout Sicily this week, there are festivals to celebrate the Madonna. It’s not clear why this date was officially chosen as such; however, let’s consider the cycle for cultivating grain — an essential crop for sustaining life in the Mediterranean basin. August 15, a national holiday in Italy, marked the Christian Feast of the Assumption, the day that the Virgin Mother ascended body and soul into Heaven. The Assumption is also known as Ferragosto, a name that has roots in the Latin “Feriae Augustin,” or Emperor Augustus’ holidays, which marked a time of rest and celebration at the conclusion of the arduous growing and harvest seasons of wheat. In pre-Christian times, it celebrated the bounty provided by Mother Earth (aka Demeter, Cybele, Ceres). In Christian times, it celebrates the Virgin Mother’s life.

Now that the Ferragosto vacation period has ended, we arrive at September 8, the day the Christian calendar recognizes the Madonna’s birthday. When considering the wheat cycle again, it marks a return to the fields, when they are burned, turned over, and prepared for the new year’s planting. Rains return to Sicily, and a new cycle begins – – a rebirth of the mother.

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