Laissez les bon temp roulet!! It is Mardi Gras Season or Carnival Time here in Louisiana. I live in South Louisiana, about 3 hours from New Orleans. And yes, other places in Louisiana have Mardi Gras celebrations as well :). I have to admit that it has been a long time since I have celebrated this occasion actually on the date of Mardi Gras. My family usually prefer to do a small town Mardi Gras, they can be just as fun and much more personal as most people know each other anyway.
Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. This is the time that precedes the Lenten season for Catholics. I was raised Catholic but of course found the goddess later in life and now she is my reason for being :). For most people this is a time of partying and having a good time: great food and music and bringing community together. Our ancestors used this time as a way to go through all meat, dairy and other food items that were "outlawed" during lent. I am a Cajun, and my Acadian ancestors did not believe in wasting anything. Once lent began (with Ash Wednesday) there was no more partying. People were expected to sacrifice and spend the next 40 days (until Easter Sunday) in repentance and reflection.
Mardi Gras season here starts on Epiphany or 12th Night (January 6th). The season is celebrated by many balls and parades. In Lafayette there approximately 36-40 Mardi Gras Krewes. A krewe is a group of people who get together for the purpose of celebrating the season. Some krewes consist of members of both men and women while others are restricted to either just men, just women or children only.
This is a list of some of the krewes here:
Krewe of Phoenix
Krewe of Titon
Mystick Krewe of Apollo
Royal Order of the Unicorns
Krewe of Atlantis
Krewe of Xanadu
Krewe of Celts
Krewe of Olympus
Krewe of Wideload
Krewe of Camelot
Krewe of Oberon
Krewe des Chiens-yes we even have a krewe that celebrates our canine brother and sisters!
See anything familiar in these names? LOL. Maybe a little pagan oriented. Not all the krewes have names like this, but I thought it was interesting that a lot of the krewes are named after pagan themes (or names).
Just a few facts about Mardi Gras in my area:
The most popular food is the King Cake. It is said this cake origins began in 12th Century France where the cake would be baked on the eve of Epiphany. A small token of a baby is hidden in the cake. Whoever gets the baby is said to have good luck. Later it meant that you had to buy the next king cake to share :)
1869-1st formal Mardi Gras ball and parade
1897-King Attakapas (1st Mardi Gras King) was crowned
1934- Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association was formed. King Gabriel and Queen Evangeline were "born".
The traditional colors for Mardi Gras are purple symbolizing justice, gold symbolizing power and green symbolizing faith.
Even though Mardi Gras is a prelude to a Catholic rite (the season of lent), we as pagans can still enjoy this season and celebrate it. Below is a list of correspondences I use to help me celebrate my pagan roots in Mardi Gras.
Symbols- beads, crowns, parades, masks, doubloons (coins thrown at parades)
Colors- (the colors can be given new meanings) purple for divinity, gold for happiness and success and green for fertility and prosperity
Food- King Cake or anything Cajun such as gumbo or jambalaya (anything that can feed a crowd as this is a time of community building as well)
Magical workings- simply honoring the ancient ones, fertility magic, purification rites (Mardi Gras leads into lent, which is a time of repentance and sacrifice), time to build on community relations, and just having a good old party-enjoying life.
Some deities that may work for this season are: Bacchus/Dionysus- gods of the vine; Bast- party goddess herself; Hathor- godess of music and dance; Asar/Osiris-god of agriculture (wine-beer); Renenutet- goddess of the harvest, especially grapes.
This year I unfortunately have to work on the actual day of Mardi Gras. I was able to celebrate earlier in the season by attending the Krewe of Apollo Ball and the Carencro Mardi Gras parade. Tonight when I get off of work I plan to honor the ancient ones with a toast to a great new year.
Happy Mardi Gras!!