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

October 1 St Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus
This young French woman who became a Carmelite nun and died at the young age of 24, was an inspiration for many with the story of her devotion to Jesus, including Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She is the patron of missionaries (because of her unfulfilled desire to be one), of florists and flower-growers (because of her promise to "let fall a shower of roses" to those who sought her intercession) and of France.

A good excuse, if you need one, for buying flowers and partaking of French food.

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

October 2 Guardian Angels
A church feast since 1670 when the guardian angels were given their own feast (they used to share Sep 29 with St Michael). The concept of a personal guardian is much older. In Rome every man had his genius, every woman her Iuno. In the New Age we have spirit guides and totem animals.

A day to honor your own personal angel. Or daimon. Choose a totem animal from the deck by Jamie Sams and David Carson. Read The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman, a delightful fantasy story about a world in which everyone has a daimon, a sort of animal familiar.

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

Maypole DanceSt Therese of Lisieux
St Therese of Lisieux

October 4 St Francis of Assisi/Blessing of the Animals
As a young man he led a carefree and frivolous life until one day in the Church of San Damiano he heard the statue of Christ say to him, "Francis, repair my falling house," whereupon he went and sold a bale of fabric from his father's warehouse to pay for the repair of the church. His father was not amused and disowned him whereupon Francis left home, to become a roving preacher of poverty and simplicity. Although he's not, he should be the patron of the Voluntary Simplicity movement. He was also a friend to animals and known for respecting the life force in everything, referring to "Brother Sun" and "Sister Moon." In many places around the world, animals are brought to church on this day to be blessed. Officially he is the patron of Italy, merchants (an association he would probably have abhorred) and ecologists (thanks to Pope John Paul II).

A good day to lighten your possessions or bless your animals; see everything in your life as a fellow creature. Read Patricia Hampl's wonderful book, Virgin Time, on her quest for the contemplative life, during which she spends some time following in the footsteps of St. Francis.

For a beautiful visual interpretation of St. Francis, see this illuminated scroll created by Patricia Banker of Saints Preserved:

October 4 Fast of Ceres
This Roman holiday was propitatory, begun in 191 BCE after a series of disasters. Originally held every four years, by the reign of Augustus it was celebrated annually. Besides fasting, celebrants wore garlands in the Greek fashion. This holiday has certain similarities to the Greek holiday of Thesmophoria which also honored the grain goddess.

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

October 4 Proerosia
This Greek festival for Demeter was held at Eleusis on the 5th day of the Greek month of Pyanepsion. The name means "Preliminary to the Ploughing," and it was probably a grain sowing rite.

October 4 Pyanepsia
This Greek festival held on the seventh day of the Greek lunar month of Pyanepsion, means “Boiled Beans.” The ritual meal featured panspermia (all seeds), a mixture of various beans cooked together in one port, perhaps to encourage the goddess to renew these crops. This was also the occasion for the carrying of the Eiresone, an olive branch wrapped in wool, hung with pastry ornaments. Children went from house to house with it, singing begging songs and bestowing blessings. Eventually it was hung over the door of a home.

Parke, H.W., Festivals of the Athenians, Cornell University Press 1977

October 5 Mikkelin Paiva (Michael's Day)
The festival honoring St. Michael is held on the first Sunday in October in Finland (rather than on September 29 as in England). Prayers are said in churches for the safe gathering of the harvest. Often the harvesters spend the previous night dancing by candlelight to celebrate the end of the harvest.

This church-sanctioned festival replaces an older pagan celebration called Kekri which was held at the end of the harvest, when the crops were gathered. Each farmer would set up a feast for the spirits of the dead, to thank them for their efforts in growing the crops and to ask for protection for the horses and cattle.

Schibsby, Marian & Hanny Cohrsen, Foreign Festival Customs, NY: American Council for Nationalities Service, 1974, pp. 57-8.

October 5 Fiesta de Aqua
In Peru, the first Sunday of October is the day when the gates of the river Carhuayumac are opened. In the weeks before the festival, the irrigation ditches are cleaned out and restored. On the day of the festival, a procession of horsemen approaches the Cave near the river gate where the Water God, Pariapunko resides. The Mayor enteres the cave and leaves offerings for the God. Then the river gate is opened and a rocket is set up as the water is released. The horsemen ride parallel to the water as it gushes into the newly cleansed ditches, helping to lift it up and singing walinas.

Llanos, Oliverio and George P Osterling, "Ritual de la Fiesta del Agua en San Pedro de Casta Peru," Journal of Latin American Lore 8 (1) (1982), 115-150, 133, 136-7

October 5 Blessing of the Animals
The first and second Sundays of October are the traditional days for bringing animals to church to be blessed, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4) who was such a lover of animals.

St Francis

October 6 St Faith
Worshipped throughout England and France in the Middle Ages, but little is known about her. Kightly says she was executed by being grilled over a fire, therefore cakes are made in her honor. In northern England, young girls used these cakes to divine their future husbands. On the eve of her feast, three girls should make a cake of flour, salt, sugar and spring water and turn it nine times as it bakes, each girl turning it three times. Then it is cut into three and each girl's share is divided again into nine slivers and each sliver is passed thrice through the wedding ring of a woman married seven years at least (I assume no one ever succeeded in getting this far in the ritual). The slivers are then eaten while repeating this prayer:

O good St Faith, be kind tonight
And bring to me my heart's delight
Let me my future husband view
And be my vision chaste and true.
Halliwell, 216 (1849)

Then the ring is hung from the bed-head on a cord and the girls go straight to bed to await their oracular dreams.

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

October 6 Oschophoria, Festival of Grape Boughs
The 7th day of the Greek lunar month of Pyanepsion was also the date for this festival, during which well-bred young men dressed as women, processed, carrying grape boughs, followed by a choir singing special songs. They went from a shrine of Cionysos to one of Athena Skira. Skira was a transplanted Attic goddess who once ruled the local grape harvest, perhaps like Venus or Ariadne.

This was also a festival honoring Dionysos and Ariadne. They met and married on the island of Naxos, where Theseus abandoned her on his way back to Greece. Yet the legend says that he established this feast along with the Pyanepsia upon his return

Parke, H.W., Festivals of the Athenians, Cornell University Press 1977

October 7 Jupiter Thunderbolt
In ancient Rome, this was the dedication day for an open shrine to Jupiter Fulgur (Jupiter Thunderbolt) who was responsible for lightning that appeared in the day.

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

October 7 Theseia
The 8th day of the Greek month of Pyanepsion, was called the Feast of Theseus, when a milk porridge called athara was prepared. In Erkhia, people made offerings to the Amazons on this day.

Parke, H.W., Festivals of the Athenians, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 1977

St Faith

October 7 The Most Holy Rosary of Mary
Dominic came up with the idea of the rosary during his 13th century campaign against the Albigenisians. Despite this unsavory beginning (the Dominicans went on to become Grand Inquisitors), the rosary is simply the Catholic version of an ancient spiritual practice. Certain prayers are recited as the worshipper's fingers move along beads of different sizes and shapes strung in a circle. Other spiritual traditions use prayer beads or prayer wheels. The repetition of the physical action and words creates a trance-like effect.

Originally it was the Lord's Prayer ("Our Father…") that was recited, hence the name "paternosters" for chains of beads. Hail Marys were added in the twelfth century when Mary worship was at its height.

In a recent issue of Goddess Regenerated, Jude Morton writes about her devotion to the rosary and the Black Madonna. After walking the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral, she bought a rosary and replaced the crucifix with an image of Our Lady of Sorrows. Based on ideas from Weber's book on the rosary, she meditates on the fifteen mysteries as she prays: The Joyful Mysteries (The Call to the Divine, The Mother, Birth, Release, Love's Presence), the Sorrowful Mysteries (Fear, Emptiness, Despair, Unknowing and Death) and the Glorious Mysteries (The Open Heart, Universal Connection, Spirit in Everything, The Mother's Return, and The Mother's Divine Love). She also adapted the Hail Mary so that it better suited her spiritual beliefs.

Eventually Morton bought a one-decade rosary, a rosary with ten beads, also called a pocket rosary, which she wears around her wrist so she can pray anywhere: at bus stops, on airplanes. She writes that it has helped make waiting bearable and notes that "repetitive prayer works like drumming and other rituals to induce a light trance. This trance can also be the trance of focus: it is a rite of grounding…"

The Zinacantecos of Mexico have chosen this day to honor the sacred salt well in the village of Zinacantan. The image of the Virgen del Rosario is brought from the village of Salinas. Two special censers filled with copal incense are lowered into the salt well which is then covered with reed mats. The Mayordomos and their wives are then required to spend three days and nights dancing without stopping except to eat and drink rum to pay homage to the Virgen and the well.

Create your own version of the rosary, a ritual device that helps you pray. Or perform a ceremony to honor salt.

Lunaea Weatherstone makes and sells beautiful bracelet rosaries at her website.

Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Morton, Jude, "The Dark Circle: Prayers to the Black Madonna,"
Goddess Regenerated, Issue #14, 2001
Vogt, Evan Z,,
The Zinacantecos of Mexico: A Modern Maya Way of Life, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970, p. 90
Weber, Christin Lore,
Circle of Mysteries: The Women's Rosary Book, St Paul, MN: Yes International Publishers, 1995, 1997

October 7 Ss Sergius and Bacchus
Reading between the lines, these spurious martyrs might be patron saints for gay men and transvestites. Roman army officers, they were also close friends "on the classical Greek model" and apparently closet Christians as well. When they refused to enter the temple of Jupiter, the emperor Maximian had them stripped of their uniforms and forced to walk the streets in women's clothes.

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

Rose & Rosary

October 8 San Ernesto Guevara
The Bolivian peasants of La Higuera, uninterested in the political messages preached by the revolutionary Ernesto (better known as Che) Guevara, turned him over to the Bolivian army in 1966. But nowadays they honor him on this day as San Ernesto and, generously, he never fails to answer their prayers for rain.

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

October 8 Stenia
On the 9th day of the Greek lunar month of Pyanepsion, Athenian women celebrated the two goddesses Demeter and Persephone. Little is known about this festival, like most of the women-only festivals, except that it began a run of five days of female rites, four in Athens and one held at Halimus on the sea where the leading ladies of Athens went to offer sacrifices and dance.

October 9 St Dennis
This is the feastday of Denys or Dionysius, the Bishop of Paris who died around 250. He is the patron saint of France and also archers. Because an angel supposedly carried his head from Montmartre to the abbey of Saint-Denis which was built over his tomb, he is also invoked against headaches.

In Denmark, this was the start of the herring-season. On symbolic calendars, it is marked with a fish, a flag or a crosier.

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

San Ernesto Guevara

October 9 Chrysanthemum Day
One of the five sacred festivals of ancient Japan, celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month (or the ninth day of the ninth month). People drink chrysanthemum wine (warm sake sweetened and flavored with chrysanthemum petals), eat chrysanthemum cakes and admire chrysanthemum flowers. Often the chrysanthemum viewing goes on throughout the ninth month.

According to Ha, chrysanthemum cakes are dumplings made from mixing yellow chrysanthemum petals with rice flour. Ha also mentions a beverage made of honey water with mandarin oranges, pears, pomegranates and pine-nuts floating in it. You can also make chrysanthemum wine by placing a petal in a cup of sake. You should also place a cup of sake with a complete flower in it on your altar.

Erskine records a custom called "cotton nursing of the chrysanthemum" which he observed in 1933. On the eve of the festival, people put cotton wool on the chrysanthemum flowers. The next morning they collected the damp cotton and used it to wipe their bodies. He comments that this shows a desire both to protect the flowers from frost and to use the dew for healing.

In many parts of Japan, people made puppets and scenes entirely out of chrysanthemums. The puppets were slightly larger than life-size, with heads, hands and feet made of wax or paste, but clothes of chrysanthemum petals, grown inside a framework and trained to cover the surface with a velvety coat of petals. Since these figures were expensive to make, often an entrance fee was charged to enter the parks where they were displayed.

Casal, U.Q., The Five Sacred Festivals of Ancient Japan: Their Symbolism and Historical Development: Tokyo: Sophia University, pp. 95-105
Erskine, William Hugh, Japanese Festival and Calendar Lore, Tokyo: Kyo Bun Kwan 1933, pp. 109-110
Ha, Tae Hung, Folk Customs and Family Life, Seoul, Korea: Yonsei 1958, p. 37

October 9 Yom Kippur
The 10th day of the Jewish lunar month of Tishri, is the Day of Atonement. During the ancient ritual, described in Leviticus 16, the high priest sacrificed a bull and a goat to purify the shrine, and sent away a second (scape)goat to cleanse the sins of the community. During the time of the Second Temple, the high priest appeared before the people three times and recited a formula of confession: the first an account of his own sins and those of his household, the second on account of the priestly tribe of Levi and the third on account of the whole people. The ceremony involved a triple entry into the Holy of Holies, a triple recitation of God's Most Holy Name and a triple prostration by the people. After these most solemn ceremonies, the young men and women danced in the fields and chose spouses for themselves.

Nowadays, the shofar sounds the end of the Day of Atonement and people perform the blessing of the moon in the courtyard and exchange wishes for the new year. In Yemen, a quince is the fruit eaten to break the fast in Yemen. In Tunis, the fast is broken with bulu, a pastry of flour, eggs and raisins.

After Yom Kippur, Jews begin building sukkahs, temporary dwellings, for the full moon celebration of Sukkot (September 21). The sukkah should be built in the open, not under a tree. It can't be more than 10 years high, it must have at least 3 walls, and is decorated with fruits, vegetables, drawing and other hand-made decorations.

Hacohen, Debora and Menachem, One People: The Story of the Eastern Jews, Sabra 1969, p. 143
Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays, Beacon 1982

October 11 Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
A day to honor mothering.

October 11 Medetrinalia
The day on which Romans sampled both old wine and the new wine, wine that was not yet fully fermented. This ritual sampling cured disease, according to this verse which was recited:

Novum vetus vinum bibo,
Novo veteri morbo medeor.
I drink new and old wine,
I cure new and old disease.

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

October 12 Blessing of the Animals
The first and second Sundays of October are the traditional days for bringing animals to church to be blessed, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4) who was such a lover of animals.

October 23 Thesmophoria begins
A Greek lunar festival celebrated by married women only during the three days from the 11th day of Pyanepsion to the 13th day (approaching the full moon). The name has been variously explained as referring to the Thesmoi (Holy Things) or to the Law, meaning the natural law of the Goddess. The first day was called The Road Up or Kathodos (Downgoing and Uprising). Priestesses went down into the cleft of the earth near the shrine of Demeter, carrying phallic symbols and piglets, her sacred animal, and collected the remains of the previous year's offering. See Oct 2 and Oct 3 for descriptions of the next two days.

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

The Pig:

According to Buffie Johnson, the pig was worshipped everywhere that women were in charge of agriculture. It is an animal associated with great fecundity. In northern India, the Rajput clan worships the Corn Mother (Gauri) in the form of the wild pig. It is also associated with death, perhaps because of the image of the sow eating her piglets. During the Thesmophoria, the pig represented both abundance and life, the seed that is buried in the earth to sprout again, like the corn puppet representing Kore which was thrown into the earth during the winter rituals to be brought back up again in spring when it was sprouting.

Johnson, Buffie, Lady of the Beasts, Harper SanFrancisco 1988

October 13 Nesteia
The second day of the Thesmophoria, dedicated to Demeter as law giver. The names of those who offended community morality were read in front of the temple. Everyone fasted. The things which were drawn up on the first day (see Oct 1) were displayed on altars. Prisoners were pardoned, courts closed, amnesties granted. Demeter "smileless" received worshippers sitting on the ground rather than on her throne.


October 13 Fontanalia
A Roman festival honoring the freshwater goddesses, the Camenae, oracular water-nymphs. Probably at one time this was a full moon festival (because of the date which would fall on the full moon if the months started as they once did with a new moon on the 1st). Wells and springs were garlanded.

Decorate your water sources. Use water as a means of divination, by scrying, gazing into a bowl of water looking for images.

Scrying is a form of divination where you focus on an object. In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk suggest focusing on a crystal ball, a bowl of ink, a dark bowl filled with water or a mirror with a black-painted surface. For best results, dim the lights in the room or light a candle. Burning incense may also help to create the appropriate atmosphere.

I've never had much success with scrying but Starhawk says it takes several sessions before anything happens and I've only tried it once or twice. I know it requires a certain attitude of letting go, of seeing without looking, an indirect attention. After all you don't really see the images with your physical vision but with your psychic vision.

According to Starhawk, after a time the crystal ball (or surface of the water) clouds over. For some people the clouds clear and images appear. Others close their eyes and see images with the inner eye. To end, let the clouds return, then disperse.
As with all forms of trance (and other magical techniques that involve traveling between the worlds) cast a circle before you begin and be sure that you are in a safe place where you will not be disturbed.

Luisah Teish in her book Jambalaya describes her method for scrying. She recommends a clear glass chalice or bowl, washed in salt water and allowed to drip dry. You charge the water with you breath by inhaling while holding the edges of the bowl, then exhaling and pushing the breath through your palms and into the water. Light a white candle and place it to one side of the bowl. Sit in a relaxed position and look into the glass through the sides and top. At the start, do this for five minutes, then stretch the time to fifteen minutes.

Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, Harper San Francisco, 1979 (revised and reprinted 1989)
Teish, Luisah,
Jambalaya, Harper San Francisco 1984

October 13 Canadian Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October in Canada.

October 13 Columbus Day/Native American Day/Dia de la Raza
This is one of those contentious political holidays with many layers of meaning. Originally a celebration by Italian-Americans in California of their heritage, it became an American holiday in 1937. However, as we became more sensitive to the true impact of that discovery on the indigenous peoples of the Americas, it became more difficult to justify this day as a celebration. In South Dakota, this day is known as Native American Day. In many Latin American countries, it is known as La Dia de La Raza. In 1992, the National Council of Churches, called on Christians to refrain from celebrating the Columbus quincentennial, saying, "What represented newness of freedom, hope, and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression, degradation and genocide for others."

October 14 Winter Night
In Norway, this was considered the first day of winter, and the weather on this day foreshadowed the season ahead. In some areas, new servants were hired on this day.

October 14 Herb Day
I don’t usually feature secular holidays but, thanks to my newfound interest in plants, I thought I’d feature this holiday. The web site lists stores and organizations that are celebrating Herb Day:

October 14 Full Moon in Aries

October 14 Sukkot
God set forth the outline for this feast in a talk with Moses recorded in Leviticus 23:39-43:

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations; you shall keep it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days; all that are native in Israel shall dwell in booths, that you generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.

The Jewish full moon festival of Sukkoth, celebrated on the full moon of Tishri, is a joyous occasion after the solemnity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Six months after the festival of Pesach, linked to the Spring Equinox, Sukkoth celebrates the harvest, the time of fulfillment, the festival of Ingathering.

The Torah commands Jews to celebrate by dwelling in huts, which are traditionally made of branches, left open to the light of the moon and stars, and decorated with emblems of the harvest. In Bukhara, Jews cecorate the booths with paper garlands, hang the walls with tapestries and cover the ground with thick carpets. A special chair, decorated with silks and heaped with sacred books, called Elijah's chair, is set out for the Patriarchs, who visit in spirit. In Israel, the sekhakh is usually made of carob tree and palm branches and oleander. The walls are often decorated with rugs and special paintings. Many families go on camping trips during the seven days of Sukkot so they can truly live outside. In Yemen, durra, corn stalks and green cacti leaves are used to form the walls and bowls of myrtle leaves are hung in the corners. In Ethiopia, the Falasha, who live in huts throughout the year, spread palm and willow leaves over the floors of houses and synagogues. In Persia, shoes are removed before entering the sukkah (a gesture that acknowledges its existence as sacred space) and all meals are eaten in the sukkah.

Another ritual of Sukkoth from the time of the Second Temple was the waving of the lulav. This consisted of holding an etrog or citron in the left hand and three branches of palm, myrtle and willow in the right, and waving these in each of the first directions, plus up and down. Another Sukkoth ritual is the pouring of water and wine from two vessels, the water poured out to the west, the wine to the east, to remind God to bring rain in the right season. Arthur Waskow describes the celebration of Sukkoth at the time of the
Second Temple:

Sukkot was a time of intense, ecstatic celebration. Dancing, torches, juggling, flutes, the burning of the priests' old underclothes--all contributed to the ecstasy. The description is climaxed with the report that earlier all this was part of a sun-worshipping ceremony.

Waskow comments that this is one of the few times that the pagan past is explicitly linked with Jewish ceremony. Later the sexual rites, which were intended to provoke the land's fertility by imitation, were eliminated (although still suggested by the bowers of greenery for sleeping under the stars--sleeping in the sukkah is recommended for women who want to become pregnant).

After the service on the first day of Sukkoth, the people go out to the sukkah to share wine and food. Rabbi Isaac Luria, one of the mystics of Safed, said that one of the seven great Biblical shepherds should be invited to sit in the sukkah each day, as each one represented seven of the Sephirot, the aspects of God: Chesed or Loving-Kindness, Gevurah or Severity, Tiferet or Beauty, Netzach or Victory, Hod or Glory, Yesod or Intimacy and Malchut or Majesty.

Drucker, Malka, Sukkot: A Time to Rejoice, NY: Holiday House 1982, p. 51
Hacohen, Debora & Menachem, One People: The Story of the Eastern Jews, Sabra 1969, p.144
Leslau, Wolf, Falasha Anthology: The Black Jews of Ethiopia, NY: Schocken, 1951, p. xxxii
Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy, Beacon Press 1982

October 14 God of Wealth
On the 15th day of the 9th Chinese lunar month, the temple of the God of Wealth was opened for three days.

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

October 14 Kalligeneia
The third and final day of the Thesmophoria, when all of the drawn up things were returned to the earth. Only women with no deaths in their family could perform the sacred ritual of Kalligeneia, which means born fair or born beautiful. Afterwards, the women feasted, sang and danced.

Parke, H.W., Festivals of the Athenians, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 1977

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