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

June 1 Juno Moneta
The Roman festival of Juno Moneta, the "Warner." In this aspect she warned people of danger, and women of bad marriages. Her temple contained the original mint, so Moneta became the source of the word “money.”

On this day the Romans also honored Mars, the Storms and the goddess Carna (see below).

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Monaghan, Patricia,
The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Llewellyn 1981

June 1 Carna/Beans Kalends
On this day, Romans ate hot bacon and beans mixed with emmer-wheat in honor of the goddess Carna, possibly a goddess of flesh. Sometimes seen as the goddess of food assimilation, Monaghan believes she was really a personification of carnal reality, the physical processes necessary for survival.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Monaghan, Patricia,
The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Llewellyn 1981

June 1 Clothes Changing Day
In Japan, this is the day for putting away winter clothes and putting on summer ones, including colorful cotton dresses, short sleeve shirts and sandals. Japanese school children switch to their summer uniforms, as do the employees of companies that wear uniforms. The change in the city landscape is visual and obvious.

This is also a time when the fragility of the body (newly exposed in its light summer clothing) is noticed. People often go to the local shrine to ask for protection. An old legend from central Honshu says that June 1st is the day the snakes shed their skins. So people are warned to stay out of the field today. Seeing a snake shedding its skin can cause blindness.

Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

Maypole Dance
June 2 St. Elmo*

St Elmo (aka St Erasmus) is one of those spurious saints whose gruesome end sets the tone for his patronage. He was supposedly martyred by having his intestines pulled out of his body by being wound on a capstan or windlass. Thus he became the patron of sailors, turners and people suffering from stomach pains, including children with colic and women in labor. His symbol is the windlass. More likely, as with other spurious saints (like St Lucy or St Martha), the story of his death was made up to explain his depiction standing in front of a capstan, preaching during a thunderstorm.

He was probably once a god associated with the sea, like Dionysus (see Jun 22). St Elmo's fire is the name for the electrical discharges which flicker around ships during storms and are said to be an indication of his protective presence.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

June 3 Enoch Soames Day
After reading the entry in the Oxford Companion to the Year about Enoch Soames, I decided to add this decidedly secular holiday to the calendar because I can relate to the terror inspired by the disappointment of a writer's dreams of glory.

Enoch Soames was the main character of a Beerbohm short story (written in 1912) in which Soames, a struggling writer whose essays and poems are abstruse and unknown, sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for a trip to the future (June 3, 1997) to look up his name in the catalogue of the Reading Room of the British Museum. He finds to his dismay that he's mentioned as an imaginary character created by Beerbohm and as the Devil comes to claim him, begs Beerbohm: "Try, try to make them know that I did exist."

In 1997, this holiday was celebrated in Great Britain with a dramatization of the story by the BBC, a visit by an actor impersonating Soames to the British Library and the creation of an Enoch Soames Society.

What dreams of future glory do you cherish? How would your life be different if you knew you would vanish without a trace?

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 3 New Moon in Gemini
The start of the Jewish month of Sivan and the Greek month of Skirophorion.

June 3 Dragon Moon
The fifth Chinese moon is called the Dragon Moon and is the start of a dangerous month, especially for boys who have red threads tied around their wrists for protection.

This belief in the danger of the fifth moon shows up in a memoir about the Moso people, a matrilineal ethnic group living on the border of China. They believe that certain people go out during the fifth month to collect horrid creatures like snakes, centipedes, spiders, toads, and sometimes bats during the fifth month. The mother who is warning the daughter says: “They take these animals home and put them in a jar. Then they close the lid and all the poisonous things fight and eat each other until, at the end, only one is left. That one is the Gu, and it’s the most poisonous thing in the world.”

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Yang Erche Namu, with Christine Mathieu, Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World, Little Brown 2003

June 5 Birds Stop Singing
In some early medieval calendars, this is listed as the date the birds stop singing.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 6 Arrephoria
On the third day of the Greek lunar month of Skirophorion, about the time the crescent moon would have been first visible, Athenian women celebrated a mysterious ritual. Parke comments "the ritual linked Athena and her servants on the Acropolis with Aphrodite whose sanctuary lay immediately below the cliffs."

Parke, Festivals of the Athenians

May Day Labor parade
St Elmo

June 7 Start of Vestalia
In ancient Rome, the penus or storehouse in the temple of Vesta was opened once a year on this date. Only women were allowed in this temple which was shaped like the huts of early Rome.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 8 Weather rhyme/St Medard

If on the eighth of June it rain
That foretells a wet harvest, men sayen

As the English do with St Swithin's day (in June), the French use the weather on this day (the feast day of St Medard) to forecast the coming weeks. If it rains, the rain will continue for four or five weeks, or recur at haying time. In Norway, they say that rain today will last for forty days.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

June 8 Mens
The ancient Romans honored the goddess Mens ("Mind") on this day, to fulfill a vow undertaken by Hannibal after a defeat in 217 BC.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 8 Mugwort Day
On the fifth day of the fifth Chinese month, dolls made of mugwort, a symbol of felicity, are hung over doors. Mugwort, the silvery artemisia vulgaris, is sacred in the Western tradition to Artemis whose temples were often centers of healing.

The Japanese also honor the iris on this day. Its leaf-sword is considered a spiritual weapon, with power to defeat the goblins of darkness. Its pungent leaves dispel evil. They are dried and stuffed into pillows to protect sleepers and hung in bunches from the eaves. And because of its plentiful sap, iris can protect from fire so iris flowers and leaves are sprinkled over roofs during the fifth month.

On the fifth day of the fifth month, steep iris leaves in your bath water to ward off illness during the summer. Iris petals are macerated in sake, which is equally good for health and also assures longevity. This drink is served to boys, their parents and visitors.

Casal, U.A., The Five Sacred Festivals of Ancient Japan, Tuttle 1955 pp. 66-68
Simonds, Nina, Chinese Seasons, Houghton Mifflin 1986

June 8 Dragon Boat Festival
The fifth day of the fifth Chinese month is also known as the Feast of the Summer Solstice or Upright Sun. People flock to the banks of rivers and lakes to watch brightly-colored dragon boat races. It was believed that this would encourage the dragons in the heavens to fight, thus bringing rain at a time when it is needed for the crops (although now this is often the end of the rainy season).

The traditional food is triangular rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves. In ancient China, they were stuffed with cherries, mulberries, peaches, apricots, and other seasonal fruits.

Some people tie bunches of the dumplings together with thread and hang them from their children's backs to ward off demons. Another way to protect children is to paint their foreheads, noses and ears with realgar mixed with wine and dried in the sun. Realgar is a reddish mineral that when burned emits a yellow smoke and a foul odor (like sulphur.

In some places, people eat and exchange cakes imprinted with images of the Five Poisonous Creatures (centipede, scorpion, snake, lizard and toad) as these will protect the eater from bites. In other parts of China, old women cut red paper into the shapes of these posionous creatures and put them, along with a cut-paper tiger, into a gourd, to prevent them from harming human beings. Latsch mentions buying cloth tigers filled with fragrant herbs (probably mugwort) during this festival.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Latsch, Marie-Luise, Chinese Traditional Festivals, Beijing: New World Press, 1984, pp. 60-68
Simonds, Nina, Chinese Seasons, Houghton Mifflin 1986

June 9 Fornax
The Romans celebrated the festival of Fornax, goddess of ovens, by hanging garlands of flowers on ovens and wreaths on the necks of the mules who turned the mills.

Field, Carol, The Italian Baker

June 9 Vestalia
In ancient Rome, this was the day set aside for a public festival for the hearth goddess Vesta. Women walked barefoot around her round temple with offerings. The Vestal Virgins prepared the ritual food: mola salsa, a cake of salt and the first grain. The water came from vessels that could not be set down without spilling and the salt was pounded in a mortar, baked and sawn. It became a holiday for millers and bakers.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Monaghan, Patricia,
The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Llewellyn 1981

Vestalia
Vestalia

June 9 St Columba*
Day of Colum Cille the beloved
Day to put the loom to use
Day to put sheep to pasture
Day to put coracle on the seas
Day to bear, day to die
Day to make prayer efficacious
Day of my beloved, the Thursday.

This is the luckiest day of the year when it falls on Thursday. St Columba was one of the most beloved of Celtic saints. The magical herb, St John's Wort, which flowers around summer solstice, was said to be his favorite herb. He wore it underneath his armpit to ward off all kinds of evil. If find some accidentally and you say this charm when you pick it, you can use it the same way:

Arm-pit package of Columba the kindly
Unsought by me, unlooked for
I shall not be carried away in my sleep
Neither shall I be pierced with iron
Better the reward of its virtues
Than a herd of white cattle.

In Norway, this is considered the day the salmon start leaping.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Carmichael, Alexander,
Carmina Gadelica, Lindisfarne Press

June 9 Shavuot
This Jewish holiday celebrated 50 days after Passover (and thus the Jewish equivalent of Beltane) is also known as the Festival of Weeks, the Festival of Revelation and the Festival of Harvest. Two kinds of offerings were made at the Temple: two loaves of bread made from the first harvest of the wheat and seven kinds of first fruits: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Later this date was identified as the day God gave the Jews the Torah. Weddings which have been delayed during the Counting of the Omer can be celebrated.

The afternoon before the festival is the time for a ritual bath of total immersion. The 16th century Kabbalists stayed awake all night reading the Torah. They considered this to be the ceremony of bedecking the Bride on the night before the Great Wedding of Sinai.

The synagogue is decorated with branches of green leaves and in some places roses are placed on the Torah scroll. Lithuanian Jews created a special art form in connection with Shavuot: papercuts called shavuoslech (little Shavuots) or raizelech (little roses). Arthur Waskow speculates that they were developed to replace the branches and flowers used in pagan (May Day) and Christian (Pentecost) customs.

It is customary to eat dairy foods (such as cheese blintzes, kugel) on this day.

Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy, Beacon Press 1982

June 11 Matralia/Fortuna
Roman women celebrated Mater Matuta, the goddess of dawn on this day. They asked for her blessings on their children or their sister's children. As part of the ritual, the women drove from the temple a slavewoman who represented night, thus symbolically enacting the arrival of Dawn. The temple of Mater Matuta was alongside one of Fortuna who was also worshipped on this day.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Monaghan, Patricia,
The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Llewellyn 1981

June 11 Tin Hau
On the 8th day of the fifth lunar month, the Chinese honor the Mother of the Sea Dragon, the goddess of the sea who prevents disasters to children and calamities at sea. She rides across the sky on clouds, consulting the winds, who are her servants, to learn of sailors in trouble so she can rescue them.

In one myth, she is the deeply psychic sister of four fishermen. One day, she falls into a deep trance and becomes angry when her parents wake her. Shortly afterwards, three of her brothers return home and tell about how she appeared to them and saved them from drowning. She was just about to rescue the fourth brother when she disappeared. Another myth relates that she was a poor young woman, begging for a passage on a boat to an island. Everyone turned her down except one poor fisherman. During their journey, a storm sprang up which destroyed all the boats but his.

Monaghan, Patricia, The Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Llewellyn 1990
Robbins, Trina, "The Goddesses of China,"
The Beltane Papers, Issue 25

Flag of Mexico
St Columba

June 11 St Barnaby’s Day*

Barnaby bright, Barnaby bright
Light all day and light all night.

The rhyme for this day shows that Barnaby is associated with the summer solstice. In the pre-Gregorian calendar, this holiday fell 11 days later and thus coincided with the solstice.

St Barnabas was invoked as a peacemaker. On his day, it was customary to deck churches and houses with Barnaby garlands of roses and sweet woodruff. Sometimes the garlands also included the pink ragged robin.

When Barnabas smiles both night and day
Poor Ragged Robin blooms in the hay

At St Barnabas, the scythe in the meadow.

St Barnaby also had a thistle named after him: St Barnabas' Thistle (centaurea solstialis), the second name of which confirms his association with the solstice. This plant is also known as the Yellow Starthistle: it has a radiant yellow flower and yellow spikes.

In Denmark, this was the end of the contract year and masters and servants were free to renegotiate their contracts or part ways. It was also called The Devil's Birthday.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles,
The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

June 12 St Onuphrius*
Greeks will not reap on this day because “Rufnis” will supposedly eat any fruits they harvest. His legend says he lived in a cave, dressed in a loincloth of leaves and subsisted entirely on dates.

In one of those surprising contradictions (like the connection of the virginal St Agnes with marriage prospects), Catalan girls ask St Onuphrius for help finding wealthy husbands with this prayer:

Glorios sant Onofre, Glorious St Onuphrios
Deu-me un casador Give me a husband
Amb un bon cofre With a chest full of money.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

Furry Dance poster
St. Barnaby

June 13 St. Anthony of Padua*
TheSt Anthony, a 13th century scholar and preacher, is now invoked to find lost property, as in this flippant rhyme:

Tony, Tony, look around
Something's lost that must be found

Like Saint Onuphrius (see June12), he also helps women find rich husbands, if they burn a candle on his day and say this prayer:

Sant Antoni beneit Blessed St Antony,
Feu-me trobar un marit Make me find a husband
Que sigui bon home i ric Who is a good man and rich,
I, si pot ser, de seguit And if possible right away.

Apparently he also helps men with potency problems, as Reginald Scot reports in his a chapter on Popish and magical cures the story of a woman who not being satisfied with her husband's readiness, make a wax likeness of his member and placed it on St Anthony's altar, asking that it be in be more courageous and of better disposition and ability.

He is also the patron of horses, Padua (where he resided for some time) and the poor.

In the Vodou tradition, he is associated with Ogun (Dragonslayer), the Wild Man of the Woods, Architect, Builder of Civilizations and God of Iron.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000
Teish, Luisah,
Jambalaya, Harper & Row 1985

June 13 Lesser Quinquatrus
In ancient Rome, this was the start of a three day festival during which the guild of pipers (who played for sacrifices, funerals and feasts) celebrated with drinking, roaming the streets, dressing in masks and women's clothes and singing. The festivities began at the Temple of Minerva who (as Athena) invented the pipes.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

St Anthony of Padua
St Anthony of Padua

June 15 End of Vestalia
In ancient Rome, this day marked the end of the week of festivities devoted to Vesta (see June 7). Her temple was cleaned, the refuse thrown into the Tiber, the penus (or inner storehouse) was closed up and the Vestals went back to their regular duties. This marked the first day (in over six weeks) considered propitious for marrying.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 15 St Vitus
St Vitus is one of those obscure fourth century martyrs. The story goes that his father, angry because his son had been converted to Christianity by his nurse and her husband, turned him over to the authorities. Angels danced for him while he was in prison, thus he is the patron of dancers, actors, mummers and those inflicted with fit-producing diseases like epilepsy and chorea (also known as "St Vitus' Dance). He is also the patron saint of Bohemia and he helps those who have difficulty rising early. His emblem is a cock or a dog.

If St Vitus' day be rainy weather
It will rain for thirty days together

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford University Press, 2000

June 15 Skira
On the 12th day of the Greek lunar month of Skrirophorion, right around the time of the full moon, Greek women carried out rituals honoring Skira, a transplanted Attic goddess who once ruled the local grape harvest, perhaps like Venus or Ariadne. They processed from the Acropolis under a white canopy to a field which was ploughed and then fertilized by the sacrifice of piglets. At this time, women withheld their sexuality, presumably to strengthen fertility, by eating lots of garlic to discourage male attention. The Greeks believed that it was on this day that Persephone was abducted.

More June Holidays


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