Wednesday 30 November 2011

Festival: Mlatu Niqalu (and a new local spirit)

Coming home from school, I began to notice Shapash's descent growing shorter every afternoon.  During the month of Niqalu I began to incorporate worship of a new god or spirit into my personal path/cult.  My school is built in the city on the slopes of a bank by a road.  There is a small sloping mountain which can be seen clearly from the upstairs rooms of the school.  Several houses are built along the sides of the mountain, but there are none nearer to the top as the banks begin to become rather steep.  There are several trees growing along the side, including a few palm trees.  During my first year at the school, I began to grow rather attached to this mountain who towered above the houses below.  And during this month of the second year my spiritual connection continued. 

After school, late in the afternoon when the sun was beginning to set, I walked out of the school and got onto the bus.  Shapash would be in the sky, glowing a wonderful golden colour above the towering roof of the school building.  As the bus began to leave, driving downbank past the many narrow windows of the school, I prayed to Shapash for a safe journey home.  Coming back up the bank past the mountain, I would look up at its slopes and see Shapash beginning to set, coming down over it.  I realised that this great mountain provided a rest for the chariot of Shapash as it made for the horizon.

And so I began to worship this local mountain god, giving him offerings of fruit juice or water during breaks in the school.  I see him as a friend of Shapash and as hospitable and protecting.

All of this was around the time of the Mlatu (full moon festival) during the month of Niqalu.  Yarikh in the heavens began to reveal that Mlatu was on its way.  When it arrived, I celebrated the Feast of Harvest In-Gathering, which takes place on the full moon of Niqalu.  I prepared sacred space in the temple of Baal, then took a ritual bath and cleansing, putting on my ritual attire and priestly garments.  Now I had a rather large temple room prepared, with a huge altar where a large image was set of Baal in his smiting pose with a bolt of lighting in his hand.  I then began to procession into the temple, walking slowly as I went, with the sound of the lyre playing through my headphones.  I entered the squared archway, then turned left and passed the large wall along the side, coming silently and solemnly before the door to the temple (which I had shut to protect the privacy of the god).  I went as carefully as possible, for I was to come before Baal (who is Zebul the Prince of Heaven, king over the sons of El and over the earth, and the bringer of order and creator of civilization, as well as being a young chief and warrior god).  Baal must not be angered and I had to pay special attention to the order of the ritual. 

I began by eating and drinking within the temple, bowing seven times before the altar and the idol of the lord.  In the light of the full moon I prepared a jug of wine, giving it to Baal as an offering on the altar.  During this time it is normal for priests to lead a procession carrying palm leaves and olive or willow branches hanging with fruit, and for men to dance whirling torches.  Sadly, I couldn't be so elaborate this year (maybe next year, but time will tell), so I prepared the offering of wine and then said several prayers for rain during the coming wet season.  I then went out from the temple and took a cup of water from the sink, carrying it back to the temple and pouring it as a libation upon the altar.  I then walked in a magic circle around the temple room seven times (a magical practice to bring the rains and make the earth fertile).

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