The Ides of March refers to mid March or March 15 on the old Roman calendar. This calendar marked lunar events and the appearance of the full moon. March was the first month of the year on the old Roman calendar and the date was celebrated with religious observances.
However the Ides of March took on a whole new meaning in 44 BC when Rome's Dictator, Julius Caesar, was assassinated. Since that fateful day, March 15 has become associated with doom and prone to events with disastrous effects. The Ides of March is a good subject to begin exploring the role of superstition around the world, since superstition is pervasive in all cultures.
Here are some ideas on how to conduct a discussion on the subject. You may add and expand upon these discussion ideas.
Superstitions began centuries ago when people sought to explain mysterious events and circumstances with the little education they had.
In modern times, despite scientific insight and education most people still believe in superstitions. Even people who do not regard themselves as superstitious will often say things like "keeping my fingers crossed" or "touch wood".
Superstition is not based on reason or science. In fact the definition of superstition is:
"A widely held irrational belief in supernatural influences, such as leading to good and/or bad luck".
Superstitions are widespread and every culture have their own.
Ideas on how to conduct a 'Superstition Bash' discussion are listed below.
Amuse participants with the roots of some superstitions. Ask them if they know any to share.
IT'S BAD LUCK TO WALK UNDER A LEANING LADDER'
It is said this superstition originated 5,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. A ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle, and Egyptians regarded the triangle as a sacred shape, which is why the pyramids were triangular.
A BLACK CAT CROSSING YOUR PATH BRINGS YOU LUCK OR MISFORTUNE
The belief that cats bring you luck began with the Egyptians who revered all cats black and otherwise. However in the early seventeenth century in England, King Charles I changed this. The King had a black cat as a pet and upon his death he lamented that his luck was gone. Lo and behold, this was reinforced the very next day when he was arrested and charged with treason.
THE NUMBER 13 IS BAD LUCK!
This saying has its origin in Norse (Scandinavian) mythology. A well known tale tells the story of 12 gods who were invited to dine at the Valhalla, a magnificent Banquet Hall in Asgard, the city of the gods. Loki, the god of strife and evil, crashed the party, raising the number of attendees to 13. The other gods tried to oust Loki in vain, and in the struggle Balder, the favourite god among them was killed. Scandinavian dislike of the number 13 spread south to the rest of Europe and then the rest of the world. This story was reinforced in the Christian era by the story of the Last Supper, at which Judas, the 13th disciple betrayed Jesus. In modern days the superstition remains strong; high rise buildings rarely have a 13th floor; the next floor after the 12th floor is commonly the 14th floor.
Explain to participants that the phrase 'Beware the Ides of March' refers to the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.The play recounts the assassination of the Roman Dictator.
This is my own abridged version of the story:
In January of 49 BC, Julius Caesar, a general in the Roman army led his troops across Northern Italy plunging the Roman Republic into civil war. He pursued his rival, Pompey, to Greece but on arrival found that Pompey had fled to Egypt. Caesar's army gave chase and on arrival, comprehensively defeated his enemies. He then conquered North Africa and returned to Rome with his authority firmly established.
Despite Caesar's achievements he was seen by some people as arrogant and corrupt. His continued drive for power turned many influential people against him. Among those were the sixty members of the Senate; a political institution whose members were noblemen.
When in February 44 BC Caesar accepted the office of 'dictator for life' he sealed his fate in the minds of his enemies. Many influential people resented that the long established Roman republican government was being dismantled.
The dissident senators were led by Marcus Junius Brutus; a protege and ally of Caesar. The consensus in the senate was that Caesar should be ousted for the "greater good of the Roman Republic".
The "Liberators"; as the conspirators called themselves didn't have much time because Caesar was leaving Rome for a military campaign in Parthia (today's Iraq).The plot was to be carried out two days before Caesar was to leave Rome; at the 'Gladiator Games'. The advantage was that on this day there would be no suspicion aroused by people carrying weapons.
According to written reports a few weeks before the fateful day Caesar was warned by a Seer (a person with supernatural insight capable of seeing the future!): "Beware the Ides of March", he said. It meant that harm would come to Caesar no later than the Ides of March. Caesar was amused and didn't show concern for the Seer's warnings.
On the fateful day, March 15, Caesar was on his way to the Senate for a meeting, when he passed the Seer and said to him with a smile: "The Ides of March have come," meaning that the prophecy had not been fulfilled, and the Seer replied: "Aye, Caesar, they are come but not gone."
Caesar was ambushed as he arrived at the Senate and directed to a room where he was attacked with a dagger and killed. Before falling Caesar saw Brutus among the attackers and said: "Et tu Brutus" meaning "You too, my son?".
After the assassination Brutus and his companions marched through the streets saying: "People of Rome, we are once again free". They were met with total silence; Caesar was popular with the Roman lower classes and soon the masses turned against the conspirators.
To the people of Rome, Caesar was a hero; he had brought power, wealth, and prestige to the eternal city and they loved him. The death of Caesar marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire. Caesars heir was his great-nephew Gaius Octavian also know as Augustus, the first Roman Emperor.
Share these verses and ask participants if they know others.
One is for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl
And four for a boy; five for silver, six for gold,
Seven is a secret never to be told, eight is a wish,
Nine a kiss and ten is the bird you must not miss
Burp on Monday, burp for danger
Burp on Tuesday, burp at a stranger
Burp on Wednesday while you're in the shower
Burp on Thursday, ten times an hour
Burp on Friday, burp for sorrow
Still burping Sunday?
See the doctor tomorrow.
Would you marry in black instead of white?
Cut your nails on a Friday night?
Give a witch a lock of your hair?
Break a mirror and not even care?
Jump up out of the wrong side of bed?
Never sing, but whistle instead?
Walk under ladders but care not a jot
Point at rainbows while shouting, 'So what?'
Is your favourite number 666?
Do you enjoy taking all these risks?
Do you lap up dragon's blood and still feel glad?
Yes? Then you are certainly brave!
I crossed my fingers
Crossed my toes
Crossed my eyebrows
Over my nose
I crossed my legs
And then my eyes
I crossed my heart
And hoped to die
But I crossed TOO MUCH
And now I'm stuck
Seems too much crossing
Brings bad luck.