“Happy Assumption!” I said to my Eastern Orthodox employee as she sat down at her desk. Today is the Feast of the Assumption, after all, marking the date that the Virgin Mary ascended into Heaven from her house in Ephesus, Turkey. Which, according to legend, is where she moved after she retired, Ephesus being the Florida of the first-century Jewish world.
E.O. looked confused for a second, but then her brow cleared. “Oh, you mean the Dormition! Thanks! Happy Dormition to you, too!”
“Dormition?” It was my turn to look confused.
“We call it the Dormition instead of the Assumption.” she explained. “Catholics believe that Mary was bodily assumed, and we believe that she… well, you know, died. But she definitely went to Heaven after that.”
Yeah, not quite as romantic as the Catholic version. What I (wisely) decided not to mention is that the early Church fathers scheduled the Assumption/Dormition/Whatever on August 15 in order to replace the Nemoralia, the ancient Roman Festival of Torches held annually in honor of Diana, Great Goddess of the Moon.
Eight Sabbats and thirteen Esbats aside, the Nemoralia is my favorite holiday. I’ve got a little altar set up in my bedroom, featuring a framed print of Erté’s Queen of the Night and a couple of Virgin Mary votive candles (La Virgen de Guadalupe y La Virgen de San Juan respectively, both easy to find when you live in South Texas), and every August 15, I rededicate it as a shrine to Diana. It’s a ritual that’s become a personal touchtone, and I get unreasonably giddy about it.
Granted, me huddled over a small chest of drawers in the corner of an urban apartment doesn’t have the same visual impact as, say, hundreds of devotees wreathed in flowers, carrying torches, led by garlanded hounds and waiting with baited breath to be ferried across the smooth, dark waters of Lake Nemi under the bathing rays of the Full Moon. But I’ll light some jasmine incense and say a few prayers, and pour an offering of willow water. And for a fleeting, lovely moment, time, space and my ugly tan carpet will be rendered irrelevant.
Buon Nemoralia, Loyal Strifemongers. Happy Assumption, Merry Dormition, and to all a good night.