Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Winter Traditions and Holidays Part 3

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun) Imperial repoussé silver disc of Sol Invictus (3rd century)

  •   Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the later Roman Empire and a patron of soldiers. In 274 AD the Roman emperor Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults.
  •   Celebrated near-solstice
  •   After his victories in the East, the Emperor Aurelian reformed the Roman cult of Sol, elevating the sun-god to one of the premier divinities of the Empire.
  •   Constantine decreed (March 7, 321) dies Solis—day of the sun, "Sunday"—as the Roman day of rest (Codex Justinianus): On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.”
  • Constantine's triumphal arch was carefully positioned to align with the colossal statue of Sol by the Colosseum.
  • Celebration included religious rites and public business was suspended. Even slaves were supposed to be given some form of rest. Family and community celebrations were held.
  • Within the city of Rome, the priests were not allowed even to see work done.
  • Sol Invictus played a prominent role in the Mithraic mysteries, and was equated with Mithras.….what was Mithraism?

  • A mystery religion of the god Mithras practiced in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to the 4th century.
  • Mithras was born from a rock emerging already in his youth on December 25 (date contested by some)
  • Key imagery includes Mithra slaughtering a sacred bull while being watch by Sol who he then shares food with.
  • There are no written records of this religion, so all information has been interpreted by archeological evidence.
  • By some, Mithraism has sometimes been viewed as a rival of early Christianity with similarities such as liberator-saviour, hierarchy (bishops, deacons, presbyters), communal meal and a hard struggle of Good and Evil (bull-killing/crucifixion).
  • Mithraism declined with the rise to power of Christianity,
  • Early Christian apologists noted similarities between Mithraic and Christian rituals, but nonetheless took an extremely negative view interpreting Mithraic rituals as evil copies of Christian ones.

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