From Venus’s Grace to April’s Fools
You may want to click on the player button to enjoy the score while you read… (It’s Samsons and Delilah – Bacchanale, a classical piece by Saint-Saëns)
For me April is a month of love, and I am not alone in believing this.
According to ancient Romans, mensis Aprilis is under the protection of the love goddess Venus, the and the name of the month vouches for that. It is supposedly derived from Aphrodite; Venus’s Greek counterpart (via a conjectured Etruscan form, Aprodita), though some linguists claim that the name for the month originates from aperire (to open) since April is the time when fruits, flowers, animals, seas and lands open.
In Roman times Venus Verticordia* was celebrated on the calends of April (calends being the first day of every month in the Roman calendar and the word from which the English word calendar is derived) when persons of both genders would ask Venus for help in the matters of the heart.
At the Veneralia**, all the women, married and unmarried, went to the men’s baths and offered incense to Fortuna Virilis (Venus’s bold companion) and prayed that the men would not see any blemishes they might have. They made a libation and drank the potion Venus drank on her wedding night: pounded poppy with milk and honey. Crowned with myrtle wreaths the women would then bathe and pray that Venus would bring them harmony and beauty.
Today, the first of April is no longer marked by honouring Venus; instead it is known as the April Fool’s day which is observed throughout the Western world. It implies playing pranks, sending someone on a “fool’s errand”, or trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.
In France the day is called Poisson d’Avril (April Fish), and sometimes French children tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, crying “Poisson d’Avril” when the prank is discovered.
The origin of this tradition is uncertain. Some attribute it to the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull decreeing a new standard calendar for Christian Europe that would take his name and centuries later become the international standard.
This reform did not go smoothly. Many opponents continued to celebrate the new year according to Julian calendar between March 25 and April 1. April fools were those who still celebrated the holiday in spring and were the subjects of pranks and ridicule by those who observed the new year months before.
Perhaps this time of year when winter turns to spring lends itself to lighthearted festivities. Examples are found in many different cultures that celebrate days of foolishness around the start of April. The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25, rejoicing in the resurrection of Attis, ancient Phrygo-Roman god who was born of a virgin mother, killed and resurrected three days later (sounds familiar?). The Hindu calendar has Holi, a festival of colour and love sharing when people chase one another and throw colours on each other. The Jewish calendar marks a holiday known as Purim that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was planning to kill all the Jews. The festival is marked with a public celebration, drinking wine, wearing masks and costumes and eating a festive meal.
Regardless of the origin of spring festivities they give rise to good humoured celebrations and joyous gatherings and thus it should not come as a surprise that in 1976 Larry Wilde, an American humourist, motivational speaker and best-selling author proclaimed April to be the “National Humor Month” insisting that humour is fundamental to good health.
Whichever aspect of the month you find more appealing (whether you are a prankster or a romantic), I hope that you are honouring the bountiful nature of April in your own way.
Prankster and a romantic that I am, I altered the famous painting by Gustav Klimt “Kiss”.
Can you tell the difference?
(a double click on the image will reveal more details)
This is my entry for Cardinal Guzman’s changing seasons challenge.
P.S. this time the skill of photo manipulation was not my doing. I used photofunia services 😀 as I did once before.
*Venus Verticordia – Venus, changer of hearts as in the one that is capable of changing from lust to chastity
**Veneralia was an ancien Roman festival celebrated April 1