Qadash Kinahnu, A Canaanite Phoenician Temple

A Canaanite-Phoenician Sacred Year

Part Two: A Reconstructed Sacred Calendar
of Lunar and Solar Festivals

Links to Major Festivals

Spring Equinox - Barley Festival
Summer Solstice - Dry Season Ancestral Feast
Autumn Equinox - Grape and Harvest Festival
Winter Solstice - Dark Season Ancestral Feast

First Month

Nisan (Hebrew) Nisannu (Babylonian) (late March-early April) (beginning of Spring)

NEW MOON - New Year Festival - Two-week long festival
The actual beginning of the year, on the New Moon near Spring Equinox. The magic of the Feast of Ashtartu worked! The rains stopped! Celebrated the first two weeks of the month, from New Moon to Full Moon, in Babylon. The officials of the temples bring all the deity sculptures into one room, present religious dramas about the deities, and then parade the statues, either carried on litters or in carts, along their sacred routes.

Spring Equinox - March 19, 20, 21, or 22

FULL MOON - Combined Nomadic Pastoralist Animal Sacrifice and Sedentary Agriculturalist Harvest Festival (Week long festival with food restrictions)

This very ancient sacrificial holiday of nomadic shepherds is conducted by the head of the family, standing on the sacred bomah, the High Place, facing West. A sacred, limping, mourning dance is performed around the sacrificial animal. The sacrifice takes place at dusk. When it is done, all present kiss each other first over right shoulder or on the right cheek, then on left. Each head of household daubs their tent posts with the animal's blood. The animal is roasted whole after dark. It is forbidden to break any of its bones or to leave any part of it uneaten or unburned by sunrise. After several hours of fire-stoking and spit-turning to cook the whole animal, the meal takes place late in the night. All inedible or uneaten parts are burned in a separate firepit. It takes about 5 people to eat a whole lamb, so one would be sacrificed per household. While waiting for the lamb to roast, people kept each other awake telling stories, singing and dancing.

Before the festival, the people clean the home of all sour dough leavening, potential leavening, and leavened foods, which foods are prohibited for 7 days to prevent cursing the harvest and to give time to start a fresh batch of leavening. Then the first barley sheaf/omer is offered to the temple and the gods. A joyful procession dressed in white bears the omer to bomah. The priest waves omer over altar, chanting prayers and blessings to safeguard against crop failure. At home families eat bitter herbs, fresh greens dipped in salted water, unleavened barley flat bread, salad of fruits with nuts and spices, and drink four cups of wine. Because it is a full moon, they sing holy songs, dance sacred dances. A piece of broken matzoh is hidden at the beginning of the ritual, which the children to find at the end; Moroccan Jews save a piece to protect them during voyages over water; as a charm against disaster while travelling; drill a hole in it and hang it as a protective charm in the home.

From the Sacrifice of the Lamb of Spring to the Feast of the Wheat Harvest is a 49 day Harvest Season (7 weeks of 7 days = 7 X 7). During this time, all are supposed to maintain an attitude of seriousness, with no cutting hair, playing music, or weddings, so as not to curse harvest.

Second Month

Iyar (Hebrew) Ayyaru (Babylonian) (late April-early May)

FULL MOON - A Festival of Kinship with the Forest
Carry bows into woods and hold archery contests and have picnics. It is also the beginning of the animal breeding season.

Third Month

Sivan (Hebrew) Simanu (Babylonian) (late May-early June)

FEAST OF WHEAT HARVEST OFFERING OF LOAVES: end of the 7 weeks/ 49 days (7x7, very magical number) after beginning barley harvest.
The final grain harvest is in! Temple activities include the desacralization of the grain, to release it from its direct association with super-human forces and make it safe for human use. A symbolic portion was winnowed, beaten and parched.

From a portion of this newly harvested grain, every family makes 2 loaves of new wheat bread to offer the temples and the deities. The family decks the house with fragrant plants. Then they share a vegetarian meal featuring dairy products (blintzes, although not Canaanite, are good); the family also eats wheat, barley, wine, honey, pomegranates, figs, olives. After eating, everyone goes out promenading in their fine clothes and pours water on each other, especially in late afternoon, as group magic for summer dew.

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Fourth Month

Tammuz (Hebrew) Du'uzu (Babylonian) (late June-early July) (begin dry season)

FULL MOON - Feast of the Gracious Gods
A celebration of Shaharu and Shalemu, 'El's twin sons, Venus at dawn and at dusk, which is especially prominent during this time, when the Sun is in the sign of Gemini. They are the patrons of viticulture, and during this time the grape vines are pruned and pampered. An actual ritual text for this survives.

Summer Solstice: June 19, 20, 21, or 22

Fast Day - THE DEATH OF BA'AL - 17th day of month, during waning moon
Begin 3 weeks of intense mourning in the peak of summer heat, drought time, fallow time, when there is no active agriculture, " the heart of the summer: hot as a furnace, dry as a tomb. The earth is panting in exhaustion" Baal has been devoured by Mot.

Fifth Month

Av (Hebrew) Abu (Babylonian) (late July-early August)

9th day of month - Fast Day - Last Day of the Festival of the Dead - end of 3 weeks of mourning
The last day of the funereal time includes a daylight fast, and people are enjoined to wear no leather. Modern Jews include mourning for refugees, victims of the holocaust, nuclear warfare, etc.

After sundown, the start of a new day signals the end the mourning period. There is a special blessing of the waxing moon to bring good fortune and summer dew. Jews read from the Song of Songs: "The voice of my beloved! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills! My beloved is like a gazelle, like a young deer. Here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice."

Around this time, animal husbanders decide which animals they will offer to the temples. Not all will be killed as the temples maintain flocks. It is also the last time in the year to harvest wood to bring to the temples for use in sacrifices before the rainy season begins. Also the time of the last planting of the year.

FULL MOON - Grape Harvest Festival
Beginning of the grape harvest, light bonfires and dance in vineyards at night, women ask men to dance and to marry them.

Sixth Month

Elul (Hebrew) Ululu (Babylonian) (late August-early September)

FULL MOON - Marriage of Ba'al and 'Anat
This important event was probably originally feted with orgiastic rites. In more modern times, the people celebrate weddings which were proposed during the 5th month grape festival.

Shortly After the Full Moon
Prepare Adon's Garden: Originally, weave baskets of palm leaves, and fill them with earth in which they plant beans or peas 15 to 22 days (2-3 weeks) before the next month begins.
Sacrifice Adon's Garden: On day before New Year, take Adon's Garden to running water, pass over the head 7 times, then the basket throw into water. Modern Jews perform Tashlich: on the first day of 7th month, they go to a body of moving water (Mayim Chaiyim = Living Waters) and empty their pockets, symbolically discarding one's sins, i.e., drop crumbs in to appease unpleasant spirits, called "giving the devil a gift."

Seventh Month

Tishri (Hebrew) Tashritum (Babylonian) (late September-early October) (end dry season)

New Moon - New Half-Year - in the magical seventh month
On this New Year's Day, eat something sweet (honey) first and avoid sour foods, to magically bring sweetness in coming year.

Autumnal Equinox: September 19, 20, 21, 22

Intercalary Purification Fast Day - 10th day after New Moon
At this time people at home light no fires and perform acts of expiation and purification. In ancient times there was a Bull sacrifice in temple; a Goat sacrifice in temple, and a Scape-goat was sent to Azazel into wilderness to transfer any evil from humans to animal. In Modern Europe: Kiparot: on day before before Yom Kippur (= Day of Awe), Orthodox Jewish men are lightly flogged at their synagogue, a hold-over from the actions of mourning or ecstacy performed by celebrants in ancient days. At home, to purify and chase away evil, swing a white rooster around one's head, then sacrifice it, or drive it away, or throw into running water, or give the bird to the poor to eat.

FULL MOON - Feast of Harvest In-Gathering - Week Long Festival
This week long festival marks the end of the grape harvest and the final Harvest Home. The Canaanites ate, drank, and reveled, marking the end of agricultural year and the beginning of the rainy season. Dance processions wound their way through the fields under the full moon's light almost until dawn. Celebrants would carry palm leaves, and olive, myrtle and willow branches bound together and hanging with fruit. Major animal sacrifices were performed at the temple, but the poor could offer a jar of flour or oil or a jug of wine instead.

During the festival, prayers and magic are made for rain. Normally, after the burning of the daily sacrifice, libations of wine are poured on the altar. During Sukkot, a special libation of water is also poured. A priest with a golden ewer goes down from mount of the temple to a special sacred spring to draw water. He returns to temple through what is called the Water Gate, where other priests blow silver trumpets. Another group of priests gather long willow branches which are placed alongside the altar with their tips curving inward. The water priest pours the holy water over the altar in a magical practice to bring rain, after which libation all the priests march around altar carrying the willow withes in a magic circle. This activity is watched by men carrying bundles of leaves from the palm tree, sacred to the Athirat. At night, men dance in temple whirling torches until cock crow. At end, the priests circumabulate the altar seven times, then beat the earth with willow branches, a magical practice to make the earth fertile.

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Eighth Month

Chesvan (Hebrew) Arach Shamna (Babylonian) (late Oct.-early Nov.) (begin rainy season)

No festivals, last chance to appreciate roses, grapes, pomegranates. Month of the Deluge: Last month's magic worked, the rains came! Time to plant the grain for the spring harvest.

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Ninth Month

Kislev (Hebrew) Kislimu (Babylonian) (late Nov.-early Dec.)

FULL MOON - Fast Day - Marzeach, Funereal Society Gathering
Fast and prayers for the dead during day; Feast for the dead and the living after sundown.

The Feast of Returning Lighting - week long festival
This festival lasts one week, from the 25th day of the month through the 3rd or 4th day of the next month, i.e., from waning to waxing moon, so both Sun and Moon light are returning from dark to bright.

Tenth Month

Tevet (Hebrew) Tebetum (Babylonian) (late Dec.- early Jan.)

Festival of Light - which began last month ends on fourth day of the month

Fast Day - the 10th day of the 10th month
Usually before the Full Moon near the Winter Solstice, a liminal day of purification before the light returns.

Winter Solstice: December 20 or 21
The return of the light. It worked, the sun came back!

Eleventh Month

Shvat (Hebrew) Shabatu (Babylonian) (late Jan.- early Feb.)
last month of rainy season

FULL MOON - Festival of the Trees
This festival celebrates the Etz Chaiyim = Tree of Life, the Goddess Athirat. At this time people eat fruit of trees, especially carob (which takes 7x10 years to produce fruit) and honor sh'ked: The Watcher = the almond, whose blooming is first sign of Spring. People get together to celebrate by bringing vegetarian food; songs, stories, poems, etc. about trees; food donations for the poor; and a good time for monetary donations to environmental organizations.

Twelfth Month

Adar (Hebrew) Addaru (Babylonian) (late February- early March)

FULL MOON - The Feast of Athtartu/Astarte
To chase away old Ba'al Hammon's rains and welcome in the fertility of spring, a festive banishing of winter and the old year is celebrated much like Mardi Gras with two days of revelry, mischief-making, merriment, costuming, masking. In this the last month of winter, magic is performed to chase out rain/winter/evil spirits by making lots of noise, especially stamping feet every time Hammon's name is mentioned; then the people beat, hang, and burn Hammon in effigy. In ancient days this was another ecstatic orgiastic festival. People begin preparing days or even weeks ahead, especially making sweets. It is common to eat poppy seed cakes, make gifts of food to friends, and give charity to the poor. Jews celebrate it as Purim, which means The Casting of Lots, for Pagans a good time for divination and fortune telling as it is just before the New Year begins.

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Stone WallOnward: Basic Canaanite Ritual Needs
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updated 23 December 2007
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