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The In-Between .
This week marks our transition from March to April. Liminality seems pervasive in our world as of late, but in that uncertainty, that “antistructure,” as anthropologist Victor Turner calls it, so may we also recognize our nascent virtual “communitas.”
March, having received its name from Roman Mars, traditionally ushered in the new year and was the first month of the old Roman calendar. April, thus, was 2nd and sacred to Venus. According to Ovid:
Some there are who grudge thee the honour of the month, and would snatch it from thee, Venus. For they say that April was named from the ‘open’ (apertum) season, because spring then ‘opens’ (aperit) all things, and the sharp frost-bound cold departs, and earth unlocks her teeming soil, though kindly Venus claims the month and lays her hand on it. She indeed sways, and well deserves to sway, the world entire; she owns a kingdom second to that of no god; she gives laws to heaven and earth and to her native sea, and by her inspiration she keeps every species in being. She created all the gods—’twere long to number them. (Fasti 4.85-95, trans. Frazer)
But the Romans this month also had room for another major Goddess. So too Magna Mater (Anatolian Cybele), Mother of the Gods, was said to have been celebrated, her cult received by Rome in 205 BCE. Paean—Apollo in his healing aspect—spoke of Her arrival thus: “Fetch the Mother of the Gods; she is to be found on Mount Ida” (Ovid, Fasti 4.262-264). The Megalesia was held from April 4 – 12th to honor Magna Mater.
Also this week, witness the Venus-Pleiades conjunction April 3rd . Live online observation at The Virtual Telescope Project. The Pleiades were clearly on the mind of Ovid this month as well: “The Pleiads will commence to lighten the burden that rests on their father’s shoulders ; seven are they usually called, but six they usually are” (Fasti 4.169-170).
So I came back to New York in 1929 and Booommm! . . . I wanted to write, I wanted to be an anthropologist – I didn’t know what! A new world was around. So I said, “To hell with it, Columbia!” I’m writing short stories. I discover American literature, Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, the whole bunch. Hemingway just knocks me over, those early things of his – In Our Time, Men Without Women, The Sun Also Rises. Like every callow young author, I wanted to write like him; meanwhile Joyce was interesting. Five years, no job! . . . Writing stories nobody would buy.