Honouring “Jupiter’s day” in the 6th century AD

From Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 13, chapter 5:[1]

(5) Now, I believe that the unfortunate practices which have remained from the profane customs of the pagans have under God’s inspiration been removed from these places because of your reproaches.

However, if you still know some people who practice that most sordid and disgraceful act of masquerading as old hags and stags,[2] rebuke them so harshly that they will repent of having committed the wicked deed.

If, when the moon is darkened, you know that some people still shout, admonish them, telling them what a grave sin they are committing, for in wicked boldness they are confident that by their shouts and sorcery they can protect the moon which is darkened at certain times by the Lord’s bidding.

Moreover, if you still see men fulfilling vows to fountains or trees, and, as was already said, consulting sorcerers, seers, or charmers, hanging devilish phylacteries, magic signs, herbs, or charms on themselves or their family, rebuke them harshly, telling them that one who docs this evil loses the sacrament of baptism.

Since we have heard that some men and women are so much deceived by the Devil that they do no work or weaving on Thursday, we assert before God and His angels that anyone who wants to do this will be condemned to the place where the Devil will burn him, unless he corrects his grave sin by prolonged hard penance. I do not doubt that those most unfortunate and miserable people who refuse to work on Thursday in Jove’s honor neither fear nor blush to do so on Sunday. Therefore, rebuke most harshly those whom you know do this. If they refuse to amend their life, do not allow them to have conversation with you or to come to your banquet. Moreover, if it is your affair, even whip them so that they may at least fear physical blows, if they do not think about the salvation of their soul.

As we think of our danger, dearly beloved, on our part we advise you with paternal solicitude. If you willingly hear us, you will both give us joy and arrive happily yourselves at the kingdom. May He deign to grant this, who, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns world without end. Amen.

I am told that, in Sermon 193,[3] “Caesarius had cited the sinfulness of the gods as a reason for not calling the days of the week after them.”  Curiously the Patrologia Latina only seems to print around 20 sermons.  The Latin text referenced is that of G. Morin in the Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, issued by Brepols in the 1950’s and so inaccessible to me.

  1. [1]Caesarius of Arles, Sermons, volume 1 (1-80),Fathers of the Church 31 (1956) p.78.  Preview here.  I have broken up the chapter into paragraphs for readability, but in the original it is given as a single block of text.
  2. [2]As done in some pagan celebrations on New Year’s Day. (Translator note)
  3. [3]See footnote 65 here.

5 thoughts on “Honouring “Jupiter’s day” in the 6th century AD

  1. Technically, in Gaul it may not have been Jupiter so much as Teutatis or Sucellus. I don’t recall that there was any taboo in Rome against working on Thursdays, and pretty much every day in the ancient Greco-Roman world was weaving day.

    I like the translator going with hags and stags. 🙂

  2. That said, there were a fair number of 5th and 6th century rural French saints who apparently ended up preaching against actual paganism in their districts, small working temples of Belenus, etc.

    And of course not all of of the Franks, Visigoths, etc. who came into the lands were Arian or Catholic; some of them still followed all their tribes’ old ways, or as many of them as they felt like. So that kept the monks quite busy.

  3. In Gaul of that period, overrun with Germanic barbarians, it may have been an ancient version of Thor, rather than any deity known to classical antiquity. Although Toutatis did remind me of Asterix!

    Do you, by any chance, have a reference or suggestion for temples of Belenus still operating?

  4. Didn’t we talk about Belenus here, a few months back, with the snakes and dragons in Southern France saints? Or was that somewhere else?

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