Today is Ash Wednesday. In the Christian religions today is day one of the forty Jesus spent wandering in the wilderness. Lent in other words.
There will be more that enough looking at the religious and theological aspect of this period of the year. For myself I like looking into why this has lasted so long in the tradition. For instance, why do the Jews have so many dietary prohibitions. What the heck is the issue with pork. And why on earth has this carried over into the Islāmic area so seamlessly. Well, it’s unbelievably simple. Pork looks like human flesh. In general people today pull back from this conclusion, they disbelieve that human flesh was eaten in such a general way that the dietary prohibition by the Jews was unusual with the people’s at the far end of the Mediterranean. In the Greek area – we cannot say Greece, for the area stretched from Marseilles to the other side of the Black Sea – in the period beyond the 1st millennium pollution derived from consuming flesh was reserved to eating your own children. And that was it. But this was so much part of psyche in Europe that eating Belgian babies and raping nuns by the Hun was all over propaganda during WWI. (I’ve never been that sure of the whys of the distinction between nuns and the general women/girls of an area)
Another one might be called the Athos prohibition. Athos is an island off the coast of northern Greece. It has a long history. But the earliest we can call it would be the invasion of Xerxes when before the attack he caused a cut made at the base of the then peninsula. Personally I suspect this to be pure bullshit and that seismic action cause the split. But this has been put to use in an odd way. Nowadays Athos is the CORE of the Orthodox Christian Church. The place is festooned with monasteries. And not a female on the entire place. None. Nary a one. Now when I say no female. No cows. No hens. No nanny goats. No sheep of the female variety. Dega Island has precisely the same prohibition, as had where my people are planted and also the Skelligs, Iona and Lindisfarne. But why on earth do it at all. Again it’s based on a simple reason. When a woman is ovulating there is a pheromone in the air that cause the men naturally enough to shift focus from their devotions. And by the same token when a man is in his full strength he causes a similar reaction on the woman. It sorta the prime directive as it were, to replicate.
Lent on the face of it doesn’t have physical or sociological reason beyond a preparation for the miracle of Easter. But if you switch it a bit. Or rather think why you have Mask Balls for Carnival. Why the giving up of eggs. Why the abstinence. And why 40 days. It would seem that this time of year was thin for produce. But the thinness was from lack of variety. The earlier couple of months was in fact thinner. I can remember a time when variety was only for the rich.
The Easter calculation uses equinox and moon. As wiki puts it “The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) after the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.” So the very earliest you can have Easter March 22nd and therefore Lent starts the 11th of Feb. While the latest is the 25th of April with Lent there starting 16th of March. Most denominations extend the period.
I could go into this far deeper but it wouldn’t add anything to my argument Which isn’t about Lent or the connection to Easter but why it has made eminent sense to continue with it when other things like Holy Days dropped unceremoniously. I believe it works for abstaining in the quest for a purity at Easter meant no nookie. You put your wife or husband down for Lent. Creating a huge window of baby free-ness out the other end of the year. At a time of the year, but for a day, a virtual famine existed. 40 days, add the extra, and you’ve got two cycles of fertility knocked on its head. And with a bit of luck, three. You also have the advantage of the gestation during the period of plenty.