As I have been accepted as a sacerdos of Bacchus within Roman Republic, I've decided to start my journey with something I feel will both begin to clarify His cult as well as more properly delineate the differences between Bacchus and Liber in a practical way. I've decided to try and establish reasonably appropriate festival observances for the Bacchanalia which are separate from Liberalia.
Since much of the information on early celebrations of Bacchanalia are uncertain, outside of the historical assertions of the practice being either several times a year in earlier versions and several times a month in later times, I think it is most prudent to take a look at the earlier Ancient Greek observances that helped form the Bacchanalia.
In Ancient Greece, there were four notable festivals to Dionysos:
1. The Lesser or Rural Dionysia
In the middle of the lunar month of Poseideon (?) between the Roman month of December and January
On the 12th to the 15th of the lunar month of Gamelion
Which fell between January and February in the Roman year
On the 11th to the 13th of the lunar month of Anthesterion
Which fell between February and March in the Roman year
4. The Greater or City Dionysia
On the 10th to the 17th of the lunar month of Elaphebolion
Which fell between March and April in the Roman year
The most important Dionysian festivals were at the beginning and ending of the His cycle, beginning with the more informal and relaxed Lesser Dionysia in the winter and ending with the more formal and energetic observance of the Greater Dionysia in spring.
With this in mind, I can definitely see why it was so easy for later Roman society to associate the cult of Bacchus with Liberalia, since his most important festival occured around the same time of the year. But when you look at The Greater Dionysia in the lunisolar Athenian calendar, and compare it to the Roman year, you realize that it can fall between early-mid March to early-mid April.
Since I would like to make the most respectful approximation of the Bacchanalia within the Roman calendar, as well as position the most relevant spring Bacchanalia a respectful distance away from Liberalia, I think that late March as a median approximated dating of the festival would be the most prudent, with a late December dating for a winter parallel Bacchanalia at the end of the year. As well, I would prefer that the dating of the festival days of either Bacchanalia to not conflict with existing festival obserances. In late March there is the Tubilustrium and Quando Rex Comitavit Fas on the 23rd and 24th, and in December there is Larentalia and Dies Natalis Solis Invicti on the 23rd and 25th.
With that in mind, and distinguishing names for the spring and winter Bacchanalia, I would like to present these two names and dates for festivals to be included in our calendar:
Bacchanalia Vernalia (Spring Festival to Bacchus)
From March 26th to March 31st
Bacchanalia Hibernalia (Winter Festival to Bacchus)
From December 26th to December 31st
I think that these dates work really well - not only because they give a 9 day space from Liberalia in March as well as a 9 day space in December from Saturnalia, but also because they are positioned in excellent times for revelry and celebration (after the winter solstice and spring equinox respectively).
This concept is of course just the start of the development of group practices for our organization, but I wanted to make this post to discuss your thoughts on the idea. We have a wonderful group with a lot of intelligent and dedicated people, and I think something like this is an example of some of the many things we will be able to foster in the future.
Let me know what you think of a spring and winter Bacchanalia in late March and late December for our calendar.