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July Holidays Asterisks appear next to saintsí names - see Celebrating Saints

July 16 Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Virgin of All Remedies/Ezili Danto
A celebration in honor of Our Lady whose first shrine was built at Mount Carmel. She is also known as the Virgin of All Remedies. People come to her shrine to ask for healing and leave replicas of the parts of their bodies which are afflicted. In other parts of the world, her holiday is celebrated with fireworks, parades and olive branches (see Salacia (July 25)).

Perhaps a good day to visit the sick, pray for healing or dialogue with a part of your body which is afflicted.

In the Voudon tradition, the image of Our Lady of Mt Carmel is used to represent Ezili Danto, a single mother who is independent, hard-working and has a fierce temper. "When you see Danto pass by, you say it is a thunderstorm."

Brown, Karen McCarthy, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn, University of California Press 1991

July 17 St Alexis
Because this fifth century Roman youth left his aristocratic parents and rich wife and went off to live as a poor hermit, he is the patron of beggars. Make a contribution to charity or give alms to a street person.

July 18 St Camillus of Lellis
A soldier, gambler and eventually a laborer, he was converted while working on a building belonging to the Capuchin monks. He went to Rome and entered a hospital to cure an ulcer on his leg. Eventually he became an administrator and spent the rest of his life ministering to the sick and dying, thus he is the patron of hospitals.

July 18 Synoikia
On the 16th day of Hecatombion, and two days after the full moon, the Athenians honored Eirene or peace.

July 19 Adonia
The fixed date for the Greek festival celebrating Adonis, as determined by Franz Cumont. Undoubtedly, like most other festivals, it was once a moving feast, celebrated by a lunar calendar.

Detienne, Marcel, The Gardens of Adonis, translated by Janet Lloyd, The Harvester Press 1977

Our Lady of Mt CarmelMaypole DanceOur Lady of Mt Carmel

July 20 St Margaret
Famous in the medieval ages as a saint for women (she was one of the voices speaking to Joan of Arc), she has faded off the church calendar, probably because of lack of evidence for her existence. She is called Marina in the East. There's also a Saint Pelagia, whose nickname is Maragarito.

Both Marina and Pelagia mean sea. The name Margaret itself derives from the Greek word, maragarites, meaning pearl. These names link Margaret to the great Sea-Mother known under many names including Mary, Marina and Miriam. Pelagia is one of the names of Aphrodite in her aspect as the goddess of the sea. And July is the month of a Greek festival celebrating the wedding of Adonis and Aphrodite.

Margaret's story is similar to that of many virgin martyrs. She's said to be the daughter of a pagan priest at Antioch who rejected the advances of a prefect who then denounced her as a Christian. She suffered many ordeals, including being swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon, but she caused his belly to burst and stepped forth unharmed. She was invoked by pregnant women for protection from the dangers of childbirth and for those who were dying for escape from the Devil.

Margaret is often represented standing over a dragon, like other saints, including Martha (whose feast day falls on the nearby July 28th). The Dragon Project researchers believe the image of slaying the dragon, which is always accomplished with an iron pole, has something to do with earthing energy which is floating about loose and might hurt the crops or the animals.

The Chinese say that the dragon is thunder (and this is the time of thunderstorms), a creature of the waters who rests in pools in the winter and rises up as the rain in the spring. The dragon is a symbol of the force operating beneath the surface of the earth which emerges at the proper time. Given the association of Margaret with water and the time of the year at which she is honored (the height of summer), it is possible that the dragon is really a sea-serpent. Perhaps when Margaret strikes the ground with her iron staff, she brings forth a life-giving spring or calls forth the flood waters of the Nile.

The wheatfield poppy supposedly sprang from the blood of the dragon she slew. Long before, it was dedicated to Diana and Demeter as the source of healing sleep and death. St Margaret's flower is the Virginian dragon's head.

Her feast day was sometimes seen as the start of the dog days, as in this mnemonic: Margaret is the dog’s mouth, Laurence (Aug 10) brings his tail.

July 20 St Wilgefortis or St Uncumber
Like St Distaff, whose feast day follows the Twelve Days of Christmas, she is a fictitious saint. Legend says that Wilgefortis was a daughter of the King of Portugal who did not wish to marry. When her father tried to press marriage upon her she prayed for help and sprouted a copious beard, which drove all prospective suitors away. Her name Wilgefortis may be derived from Virgo Fortis (Mighty Maiden). She is also known as Liberata, Livrade, Kummeris and Uncumber (in England) and invoked by women who wish to rid themselves of troublesome husbands or importunate suitors. Rago says you can achieve the same thing by picking parsley at dawn and wishing aloud for release.

Her story and feast day may derive from the stories of the Corinthian Aphrodite who grew a beard and impregnated women.

Rago, Linda Ours, The Herbal Almanack, Washington DC: Starweed Publishing 1992
You can order it from:
www.fulcrum-books.com/productdetails.cfm?sku=799-6

July 20 Feast of the Redeemer
On the third Sunday in July, Venetians celebrate their escape from a plague. After Mass in the Church of San Redentore, people picnic on the water and watch fireworks in the evening. Some folks stay up all night to watch the sun rise the next morning. This holiday seems to be a reprise of summer solstice customs.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 20 National Ice Cream Day
The third Sunday in July is National Ice Cream Day, so proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with "appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

July 21 Ocean Day (Umi No Hi)
A reader let me know about her favorite holiday in July, which comes from Japan. In 1876, the third Monday in July was declared a national holiday to celebrate the ocean. For more information, go to:
www.sof.or.jp/ocean/newsletter_e/023/index.php

July 21 Marie au Ble
The third Monday in July was celebrated up until 1823 in Valenciennes with a parade. The street porters chose a girl, who dressed in white, led them on a dancing procession through the streets, proceeded by a boy carrying a tin plate covered with a white napkin on which were displayed the first grains of the year. These festivities went on for eight days. MacNeill believes this holiday was related to the first fruits festival of Lammas.

MacNeill, Maire, The Festival of Lughnasa, Oxford University Press 1962 

July 22 Sun enters Leo
Just after its blaze of glory at Midsummer, the sun enters the fiery, sunny sign of Leo, the Lion.

St Margaret
St. Margaret

July 22 St Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene is the fallen woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears and dried them with her hair; thus she is the patron saint of prostitutes. Because of her long hair she is the patron of hairdressers, and because her emblem is the ointment jar, she is the patron of apothecaries. She was also invoked for help with fasting. The red rose is her plant. For a new treatment of her story, see Clytie Kinstler's The Moon Under Her Feet.

She may have been a devotee of Astarte. There is some connection between the seven demons which afflicted her, and the seven initiations Inanna undergoes in her descent to the Underworld and the seven veils which Salome wears in her famous dance. The village of Migdala (from whence her name) is the Village of Doves, which connects her with Anahit, the Persian goddess honored with a sacrifice of doves and roses at her midsummer festival (see Vartavar, July 28).

She has long been associated with dance and music. In Normandy, in the thirteenth century, nuns danced on her feast-day.

If it rains today, the English say that Mary Magdalen is washing her handkerchief to go to her cousin St James's Fair in three days time. But heavy rain now can be disastrous for the harvest and the Cumbrians say:

A Magdalen flood
Never did good.

July 23 Ice Cream Day
As far as I know, this holiday doesn't have any ancient roots, but it seems like a particularly summer festival and a good excuse for going and getting some ice cream.

July 23 Neptunalia
In ancient Rome, this holiday was usually celebrated with alfresco revelries. However Horace (Odes 3.28) preferred to stay home with a girlfriend and superior wine.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 25 Furrinalia
A festival honoring Furrinalia, an ancient Italic goddess. Some scholars associate her with the Furies but this may just be a confusion because of the similar sounding names. She was more likely the nymph of a spring.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

St Mary Magdalene
St Mary Magdalene

July 25 Salacia
A Roman festival honoring the wife of Neptune. Olive boughs were made into arbors to encourage an abundance of water during this dry time of the year. Salacia's seashell emblem was later adopted by St James.

July 25 Santiago or St James

Until St James Day be come and gone
You may have hops or you may have none.

This popular saint is always portrayed riding on a white horse. St James was one of the Twelve Apostles. His principal shrine, at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, was a magnet for pilgrims from all over the world, thus he is the patron of pilgrims, who often wore his badge, the Compostela scallop shell. However this symbol may derive from the earlier Roman festival of Salacia.

St James' wort (senecio Jacobaea) is named after him, either because it was used to treat diseases of horses or because it blooms for his festival. The same name was also applied to shepherd's purse and ragweed.

In the poor districts of London, children used to construct, at the edge of sidewalks, small grottoes of sand and earth, decorated with oyster shells, broekn glass, stones, flowers and moss. They would stand besides these grottoes and ask for contribution: “Penny for the grotter” or “Please sir, remember the grotter.” This went on at least through 1957, the year in which The Times described them as a “nuisance.”

The Pennsylvania Dutch say that cumulus clouds on this day mean deep snow in the winter.

Opie, Peter and Iona, Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, Oxford University Press, 1969, pp 266-7.
Yoder, Don,
Groundhog's Day, Stackpole Press

Scallop Shell

July 25 St Christopher
This saint, portrayed in the Eastern church as a man with the head of a dog, was supposedly descended from a legendary race of giants with human bodies and canine heads. When he converted to Christianity, he was given the name Christ-bearer to show he carried the divinity within. This became the source of the story of how he carried the Christ Child across a raging river in a storm, thus he is the patron of travellers, who often wear St Christopher medals for protection.

A French scholar, Saintyves, whose work is cited by McNeill, thought Christopher was a successor of Anubis, Hermes and Hercules. He notes that he has two festivals on May 9th (in the Eastern church) and July 25th (in the Western church) and that these dates correspond to the setting and rising of Sirius, the Dog Star.

At Guadalajara in Mexico, porters solicit the help of St Christopher with this prayer:

Dichoso Cristobalazo Fortunate Great Christopher,
Santazo de cuerpo entero mighty saint with sturdy body
Y no como otros santitos and not like other saints
Que ni se ven en el cielo Who aren’t even noticed in heaven.

Herucleo Cristobalazo Herculean Great Christopher
Forzudo como un Sanson brawny as a Samson
Con tu enorme cabezon with your huge great head
Y tu nervoso pescuezo and your sinewy neck

Hazme grueso y vigoroso make me stout and strong
Hombrazo de cuerpo entero a real man with sturdy body,
Y no come estos tipitos and not like those feeble fellows
Que casi besan el suelo who all but kiss the ground

In France, on this day the first fruits were brought to the church to be blessed. Usually these were apples, but in Lillers, the fruits included a sheaf of wheat and oats, along with a pear and apple.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
MacNeill, Maire,
The Festival of Lughnasa, Oxford University Press 1962

July 25 Horse God
On the 23rd day of the 6th lunar month, the Chinese honor the Horse-god (Mawang).

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 26 St Anne
The mother of Mary, and thus the matron of housewives. She is one of the oldest saints and her image is probably derived from the great mother goddesses, like Anu. Her flower is the camomile.

July 26 Thunder God
On the 24th day of the 6th lunar month, the Chinese celebrate the Thunder-god (Leigong) or God of War by setting off fireworks. This is also the Birthday of the Lotus.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 27 St Pantaleon
I had to include this holiday out of affection for the daimon, Panteleon, in the wonderful trilogy by Phillip Pullman, which begins with The Golden Compass. St Panteleon (whose name means all-compassionate) was supposedly the personal physician of the emperor Maximiam. He is a patron of doctors and midwives.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 27 Seven Sleepers
According to myth, seven Christian youths of Ephesus hid in a cave to avoid the Decian persecution (250), were walled up by the emperor, fell asleep and woke up nearly 200 years later whereupon they testified to the resurrection of the dead and fell back asleep. Whenever they turn over, bad luck follows. I’ve never seen any details about how to celebrate this holiday but the title is suggestive. Sleep all day?

This title, the Seven Sleepers, has been playfully applied by wildlife biologists and nature writers to seven animals that either hibernate or go into deep sleep in the winter: the little brown bat, the bear, the chipmunk, the jumping mouse, the raccoon, the skunk, and the woodchuck (or ground hog). Here’s a link to an article on them:
www.washingtonnh.org/Conservation_012704.htm

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

July 27 Bilberry Sunday
The Sundays before and after Lammas were the usual times for celebrating a feast that was essentially communal. People climbed to the top of high mountains, picking bilberries as they went, thus giving rise to the popular name of Bilberry Sunday. Bilberries (also known as whortle-berries and blaeberries) are the small, dark-blue berries of the vaccinium myrtillus a hardy shrub that grow on heaths and sunny moors in Great Britain and Northern Europe. They are one of the first berries to ripen (in Seattle, I go out picking blackberries on this day). In some places, boys thread the berries on grass stalks and make bracelets of them for the girls of their choice. In Cashel Plantin' in County Armagh, these strung berries were brought home as presents and kept around the house for luck.

Often people left offerings of flowers and grains at the top of the mountains. Many scholars believe this was because Lugh was a sun-god. But some of the Irish folks surveyed by MacNeill said the offerings were left for the fairies, who would be extraordinarily active on quarter days. MacNeill believes the practice of standing on a peak overlooking the landscape, keeps alive a passion for the land and its history. 

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
MacNeill, Maire, The Festival of Lughnasa, Oxford University Press 1962
 

July 27 Black Crom’s Sunday
In Ireland, on the Sunday before Lammas, pilgrims climb mountains and high places, particularly Croah-patrick in County Mayo, where Patrick allegedly fasted for 40 days and battled demons. Until then the mountain was sacred to a pagan deity, Crom Cruach (Crom of the Reek). Pilgrims often climb the mountain barefoot.

July 27 Five Tiger Spirits
On the 25th day of the 6th lunar month, the Chinese honro the Five Tiger Spirits (Wuhushen), who are patrons of artillery.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

St Christopher
St Christopher

July 29 St Martha
Despite her reputation as a domestic saint, invoked for help cooking, running a household and maintaining the family peace, she's also a dragon-taming saint (or perhaps those aren't so contradictory). Along with her sister Mary and brother Lazarus, she later went to Marseilles, where she is honored on May 24 as one of the Three Maries. Her body was discovered at Tarascon in France where a magnificent church was erected in her honor. Both Tarascon and the herb tarragon are derived from the word for dragon. I especially like this charm from a novena to St Martha:

St Martha, I resort to thy aid and protection. As proof of my affection and faith, I offer thee this light, which I shall burn every Tuesday. Comfort me in all my difficulties and through the great favors thou didst enjoy when the Saviour was lodged in thy house. Intercede for my family, that we be provided for in our necessities. I ask of thee, St Martha, to overcome all difficulties as thou didst overcome the dragon which thou hadst at thy feet.

July 30 St Abdon
Patron of hygiene. In the Vosges Mountains of Europe, the ashes of ferns cut and burned on this feast keep away insects and unwanted guests.

Leach, Maria, editor of Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, Harper & Row 1972

July 31 St Neot's Fair
St Neot was a monk of Glastonbury who became a hermit in what is now called St Neot in Cornwall. Supposedly he was a valued advisor of St Alfred. One legend about him says he harnessed stags to his plough. This story may derive from stories told about the mythical Irish King, Nuada Silver-Arm.

July 31 Greater Panatheneae
This Athenian festival, the most important of the year, was celebrated every fifth year on the last day of the first month of the year, in the brilliant heat and light of summer. It was a time for excess and the display of the new peplos or veil, woven for Athena out of white wool and gold threads, which was so large it was used as a sail on one of the boats in her procession.

July 31 Lammas Eve

July 31 Lughnasad

St. Martha
St. Martha

Previous July Holidays


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