Dear Tropaion Readers,
As you are aware there is a broad range of people who read the Tropaion blogg - mostly academics but certainly a few with an interest in the Ancient Olympic religion. I thought therefore that I would share one of Robeert Clark's concise and informative pieces written each month to explain (as far as we can) the monthly religious practice of the ancients.
This month is the Attic Month of Boedromion andf Pyanepsia and Robert writes as follows:
Hekate's Deipnon & the Noumenia
This month's Hekate's Deipnon is on the 29th of the ancient Attic month of Boedromion which begins at sundown on Friday the 18th of September 2009. May the blessings of the Goddess be with all children, their mothers, and families in need.
Hekate is literally "She who works her will." The Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon further defines 'Ekate phosphoros as Hekate bringer or giver of light. The ta phosphoreia is "a festival at which there was a torch-procession or which was sacred to one of the 'phosphoroi theoi'." 'Ekates deipnon is Hekate's dinner which was a meal set out by persons who could afford to do so at the foot of Her statue en triodois on the last day of the month. This meal was eaten by those in need." The donation of this symbolic meal on the last day of each ancient Attic month is made in honor of Hekate to Valuing Our Children. The contributions are first consecrated to Hekate fulfilling the intent of 'Ekates Deipnon. It is an example of right action which along with individual and collective responsibility is a basic tenet of the religion of ancient Greece along with kharis which includes grace, kindness, and goodwill for or towards others. Honoring Hekate on the last day of the month is a time of purification and seeking Hekate's protection against corruption and evil and a fitting way to prepare for the Noumenia.
Hekate is a powerful Goddess and protector of women and children. She also protects travelers, hence her statues at crossroads, and She is a nurse of children. Her Deipnon not only honors Her role as protector from corruption and evil but is a time to purify and cleanse the oikos (household) in preparation for the Noumenia and the new month.
Hesiod's family came from Aeolian Cumae. He seems to have been especially devoted to Hekate as evidenced by the Theogony which indicates She holds "privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. "Great honor comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favorably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power is surely with her."
As in previous rituals, the offerings of food along with a check will be dedicated to Hekate and are being donated in Her name to charity. The offerings will be placed on the altar. After ritual washing and purification, an olive oil lamp will be lit with an invocation to Hestia, frankincense burned in the incense burner, Gaia and Themis invoked, and Hekate invoked. This will be followed by a reading of the portion of Hesiod's Theogony referring to Hekate. Prayers will be offered for Hekate's blessings and protection for our families and for Her protection of travelers, women, and children and help for those in need. A flower arrangement of three stems of white chrysanthemums with statice will be offered to Hekate with three symbolizing Her triple form and white representing Hekate as bringer of light. An offering of a plate of leek and garlic will also be made.
The following day, beginning at sundown on Saturday the 19th of September, is the Noumenia in honor of Selene, Apollon Noumenios, and the household Gods - the first crescent moon which begins the next month Pyanepsion which is the fourth month of the first year of the 697th Olympiad. Each Olympiad lasts four years. For every month, on the second day (the day following the Noumenia) the Agathos Daimon (spirit of abundant goodness, usually Zeus as the bringer of abundant goodness) is honored. On the third day, Athena is honored, and on the forth day, Aphrodite, Herakles, Hermes, and Eros are honored. On the sixth day, Artemis is honored and the Proerosia celebrated and, on the seventh day, Apollon is honored and the Pyanepsia celebrated. On the eighth day, Poseidon and Theseus are honored and the Theseia celebrated.
In ancient Attica, on the sixth of Pyanepsion (sundown on the 24th-25th September), the Proerosia was held with great pomp in honor of Demeter. The Proerosia, though technically about the things to be done "before plowing", was actually a harvest festival, in which the main offering was from the "first fruits of the cereals". According to H. W. Parke in his Festivals of the Athenians, 1977, p.74, the offerings to Demeter were made to invoke her blessing on the plowing and seeding to come. (From "The Athenian Festivals of Demeter" by Melissa Gold, 2006.)
Beginning on the seventh of Pyanepsion (sundown on the 25th-26th September), the Pyanepsia was celebrated in honor of Apollon. Theseus paid his vows to Apollo on the seventh day of Pyanepsion after rescuing the youths from the Minotaur, for on that day they had come back to the city in safety. The Pyanipsia festival derives its name from a stew of boiled beans (pyanon epsein = to boil beans) and other leguminous vegetables. Pyanepsia refers to the mixture of beans boiled together by the crew of the ship and the youths who were brought back safely by Theseus. They put the mixture of beans, which was all they had left of their provisions, into a common pot (khytros) and after making an offering of them to Apollon feasted upon the rest.
The mixture of boiled beans is a typical Greek panspermia (mixture of all seeds). According to legend, as mentioned by Plutarch, this was the votive offering Theseus and his crew made to Apollo when they returned to Greece on this day, for it was all that was left of their provisions. It is also an offering that is ritually sown praying that the next harvest may be bountiful.
The following is from Plutarch's Lives - Theseus, XXII.4&5:
"After burying his father, Theseus paid his vows to Apollo on the seventh day of the month Pyanepsion; for on that day they had come back to the city in safety. Now the custom of boiling all sorts of pulse on that day is said to have arisen from the fact that the youths who were brought safely back by Theseus put what was left of their provisions into one mess, boiled it in one common pot, feasted upon it, and ate it all up together. At that feast they also carry the so-called "eiresione," which is a bough of olive wreathed with wool, such as Theseus used at the time of his supplication, and laden with all sorts of fruit-offerings, to signify that scarcity was at an end, and as they go they sing:
"Eiresione for us brings figs and bread of the richest,
brings us honey in pots and oil to rub off from the body,
Strong wine too in a cup, that one may go to bed mellow."
"Some writers, however, say that these rites are in memory of the Heracleidae, who were maintained in this manner by the Athenians; but most put the matter as I have done."
Thus, on the 26th of September, we will celebrate the Pyanepsia with a burnt sacrifice to Apollon of a mixture of boiled beans with prayers of thanks for His blessing. We will dedicate an eiresione and place it on the door as a symbol of Apollon's blessings. Following the sacrifice will be a sowing of a bean panspermia with prayers for future bounty. This will be followed by a bean feast.
On the eighth of Pyanepsion (sundown on the 26th-27th September), the Theseia was celebrated in honor of Theseus.
On the ninth of Pyanepsion (sundown on the 27th-28th October), the Stenia, an all women's festival in honor of Demeter, was celebrated.
From the 11-13th Pyanepsion (sundown on the 29th of September through the 2nd of October), the Thesmophoria, a women's festival, was celebrated. The Thesmophoria was a pan-Hellenic festival that in Athens lasted up to five days during the time of the fall planting and included an important women-only component. Scholars debate what the thesmoi were that were borne by the women leading the procession of all the women of Athens (except for maidens) up to the Thesmophorion, a site probably on the hillside of the Pnyx, where they encamped in huts and tents for three days apart from all men. During the Thesmophoria, women ate considerable quantities of garlic in order to be undesirable to their husbands. They also fasted while sitting on the ground on branches and slept on twigs of the lygos or agnus castus as the plant was thought to promote infertility. In Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae, the heraldess askes for "euphemia" (words of good omen) saying "euphemia sto, euphia sto, eukhesthe tain Thesmophoroin" , let there be euphemia, let there be euphemia, pray to the Thesmophorian deities. Among other features of the festival in addition to shunning sexual relations, they celebrated without wearing wreaths and avoided foods that appear to relate to Demeter, such as pomegranate seeds that had fallen on the ground, for these, apparently, were deemed to be an offering to the Chthonic Deity (Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, 1985, p.244). Of these, the Hymn tells us, Hades "secretly gave [Persephone] sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter" [Homeric Hymn to Demeter 372-374].
Helene P. Foley in the, Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Princeton 1994 (p. 72), notes that they "imitated 'the ancient way of life' before the discovery of civilization, and mourned, probably in imitation of Demeter, for Persephone". Demeter had left the realm of the immortals and found her way to the world of mortals, who are familiar with the sorrow of losing loved ones to Hades, and "sat down and held her veil in her hands before her face. A long time she sat upon the stool without speaking because of her sorrow, and greeted no one by word or by sign, but rested, never smiling, and tasting neither food nor drink, because she pined for her deep-bosomed daughter" [Homeric Hymn to Demeter 197-201]. (From "The Athenian Festivals of Demeter" by Melissa Gold, 2006.)
On the 14th of Pyanepsion (sundown on the 2nd-3rd October), The Heroines were honored.
Dear Tropaion Readers,