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Ash Odin's-day

A 10th-Century C.E. Innovation

"There can be no doubt that the custom of distributing the ashes [of palms from the previous year] to all the faithful arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. But this devotional usage… is of earlier date than was formerly supposed. It is mentioned as of general observance for both clerics and faithful in the Synod of Beneventum, 1091 (Mansi, XX, 739), but nearly a hundred years earlier than this the Anglo-Saxon homilist Aelfric assumes that it applies to all classes of men." (Catholic Encyclopedia)

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there is no evidence of a fixed period of fasting—i.e. Lent, Ash Odin's-day, etc. — before the 5th century C.E. The tradition did not originate in Judaic practice. Clearly, therefore, the variety of fasting periods derived from customs associated with the pre-Christian festival of Ashtoret (Easter).

It wasn't until the adoption of "Ash" Odin's-day in the 10th-Century C.E. that a 40-day period of fasting preceding the festival of Ashtoret (Easter)—Lent — was fixed.

"Do not do like the practice of the land… in which you dwelled, and do not do like the practice of the land… to which I bring you, and do not walk in their traditions. Do My mi•shәpât•im′  and watchguard My khuq•im′  to walk in them." (wa-Yi•qәr•â′  18.3).

© 2004 Yirmәyahu Ben-David

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