Today, August 15th, is the festival of the Assumption of Mary — the anniversary of her death and her assumption to heaven in bodily form. Other names for this day, one of the most special in the Catholic calendar, are The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; The Assumption of Mary Into Heaven; The Dormition of the Theotokos; The Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
[Reading those names reminded me of something that happened recently. We had some friends over for dinner who live locally and are true Dorset born and bred farming folk. The wife was talking to me about her mother’s sudden death, and said, “I looked at her and I thought, she’s gone on she has. And she had, she’d gone on.” “To go on” is the local dialect phrase for dying. How lovely is that!]
Mary’s festival is one of the earliest and most continuous of the Christian feast days, dating at least from the 4th century, and originating in the East as “The Dormition” (the Falling Asleep). Catholic lore holds that Mary died in Jerusalem or in Ephesus, where John was living, so it makes sense that it was in the Eastern ends of the religion that this festival originated.
Assumption Day is a public holiday in many Catholic countries. Where I used to live in SW France in the village of Soreze, there was always an outdoor service in the grounds of the original church that was burned by Protestants in the 16th century, the only service held here all year. A rather beautiful statue of the Virgin would be put on a pedestal and shown only on this day. All the local children came to the service and lined up in front of the statue to be blessed, along with some rather partisan words from the village priest about them being children of France and thus especially favoured.
Symbols associated with Mary are the colour blue, and the lily. Before Christianity, there was a traditional Goddess festival on this same day. Well, surprise, surprise. It was a harvest festival and associated with Isis. A goddess who also was associated with the colour blue — and with the lotus, especially the blue lotus, which is actually a water lily.
So today is an ancient day of worship for the Goddess, and a day to express our gratitude for the abundance given to us by our Great Mother, the Earth.