The 12th of Hekatombion marks the start of the ancient Hellenic Kronia festival. The Kronia honours Kronos, Zeus' father, not to be confused with Khronos; creator of the Gods and Lord of Time. Will you be joining us for the celebration on July 25th, at the usual 10 am EDT?

In Athens, Kronos and Rhea--His wife and sister--shared a temple. They represented an age before the Theoi took to rule; a time when societal rules did not exist yet, and there was no hierarchy. As such, on the day Kronos was worshipped, the fixed order of society was suspended, and slaves joined--and even ruled over--a banquet given by their masters; they ran through the streets screaming and hollering. On Krete, they could whip their masters. As much fun as this was, the day served as a reminder that for a society to function, societal rules were necessary, and as such, it was also necessary for Zeus to overthrow His father and assume the throne.

Besides a banquette, the Kronia must have been celebrated with an official sacrifice as well, in the temple to Him and Rhea, as the Kronia was a harvest festival of sorts. Unlike many rites to Demeter, the Kronia focused on the harvest--most likely of cereals--that was completed around this time. It was the end of a hectic period where slaves were worked hard, and their masters as well. A communal meal and a little bit of payback on the side of the serfs was most likely at the root of this festival, along with gratitude for the successful harvest; the Hellenic summers were too hot to grow much of anything, so the food eaten in this barren season ahead needed to be taken in and thrashed (where needed) prior to the swell of summer heat. The Kronia was a good mark for this.

There is a little bit of evidence that human sacrifice--in the form of 'scapegoat' rituals was performed on or around the date of the Kronia in the very distant past, but by the time Hellas--and especially Athens--became civilized in the way we speak of today, this practice was long outdated. It seems that a criminal condemned to death was taken outside of the city gates for a reason now lost to us, possibly fed copious amounts of wine, and then killed in honor (or placation) of Kronos. Needless to say, there is no reason to bring this practice back.

You can find the ritual here and the community page here.
"...but most of all I love Icarus, who knew the wax would melt but still flew towards the sun."
 -- 'Ik hou van Icarus' - Tjitske Jansen (translated from Dutch)

One of my all-time favorite Hellenic myths is about Íkaros; Daidalos' son who escaped the labyrinth on the island of Krete with wings made of feathers and wax. He was warned not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax, or too low because wet feathers wouldn't carry him, yet Íkaros got too caught up with the marvel of flying, and did fly too high or too low. As a result, he drowned somewhere between the Island and the main land.

Daidalos (Δαίδαλος) was an inventor, a craftsman, who had murdered a gifted student of his--his nephew--in a fit of jealousy. This caused him to flee his home town (most often referred to as Athens, although there are some timeline problems if this was the case) and find refuge on Krete. King Minos saw in Daidalos a gifted man, and asked him to draw and constructed the labyrinth of the Minotaur, son of King Minos. Because he knew the secrets of the labyrinth, and the deformations of the Minotaur, he was never permitted to leave the Island.

As often, many details of this myth come from the Roman poet Ovid. In earlier versions of the tale, the labyrinth is an actual labyrinth: it has one pathway that leads inexorably from the entrance to the goal, albeit by the most complex and winding of routes. In Ovid's version--and other like him--the labyrinth is not a labyrinth at all, but a maze: a design with choices in pathways, aimed to confuse the seeker. In fact, Ovid's version of the 'labyrinth' is so complex that Daidalos himself almost gets lost in it:

"Great Daedalus of Athens was the man
That made the draught, and form'd the wondrous plan;
Where rooms within themselves encircled lye,
With various windings, to deceive the eye.
As soft Maeander's wanton current plays,
When thro' the Phrygian fields it loosely strays;
Backward and forward rouls the dimpl'd tide,
Seeming, at once, two different ways to glide:
While circling streams their former banks survey,
And waters past succeeding waters see:
Now floating to the sea with downward course,
Now pointing upward to its ancient source,
Such was the work, so intricate the place,
That scarce the workman all its turns cou'd trace;
And Daedalus was puzzled how to find
The secret ways of what himself design'd."
(The Labyrinth)

It takes many years for Daidalos to get restless on the Island, but when he does, he goes to King Minos and asks to be set free. Minos refuses him every time, and eventually, Daidalos is forced to think of another plan. Being a master craftsman, he constructs wings of feathers, wax, and string, and creates one for his young son, Íkaros (Ἴκαρος) as well. Apollodorus describes the tale in a very compact manner in his Epitome:

"On being apprized of the flight of Theseus and his company, Minos shut up the guilty Daedalus in the labyrinth, along with his son Icarus, who had been borne to Daedalus by Naucrate, a female slave of Minos. But Daedalus constructed wings for himself and his son, and enjoined his son, when he took to flight, neither to fly high, lest the glue should melt in the sun and the wings should drop off, nor to fly near the sea, lest the pinions should be detached by the damp.
 But the infatuated Icarus, disregarding his father's injunctions, soared ever higher, till, the glue melting, he fell into the sea called after him Icarian, and perished.15 But Daedalus made his way safely to Camicus in Sicily. [E.1.12 / E.1.13]

It's important to note that not all historians and writers in ancient Hellas quite agreed with the story of Íkaros and his wings. Pausanias mentions that it were not wings at all that carried Daidalos and Íkaros, but boats, crafted especially well by Daidalos:

"Here [at Thebes] is a sanctuary of Herakles. The image, of white marble, is called Promakhos (Champion), and the Thebans Xenokritos and Eubios were the artists. But the ancient wooden image is thought by the Thebans to be by Daidalos, and the same opinion occurred to me. It was dedicated, they say, by Daidalos himself, as a thank-offering for a benefit. For when he was fleeing from Krete in small vessels which he had made for himself and his son Ikaros, he devised for the ships sails, an invention as yet unknown to the men of those times, so as to take advantage of a favorable wind and outsail the oared fleet of Minos. Daidalos himself was saved, but the ship of Ikaros is said to have overturned, as he was a clumsy helmsman. The drowned man was carried ashore by the current to the island, then without a name, that lies off Samos. Herakles came across the body and recognized it, giving it burial where even to-day a small mound still stands to Ikaros on a promontory jutting out into the Aegean. After this Ikaros are named both the island and the sea around it." (Description of Greece 9.11.1.)

Daidalos makes it to the main land. The island Íkaros' body washed upon, was called 'Ikaria' (Ικαρία) from that point on. It still carries that name, and is located ten nautical miles (nineteen kilometer) southwest of Samos. Minos was of no mind to let Daidalos go, however, and so he went from court to court, knowing that a mind as sharp as Daidalos' would be noticed wherever he went. King Minos posed a riddle to every king, as described by Apollodorus:

"And Minos pursued Daedalus, and in every country that he searched he carried a spiral shell and promised to give a great reward to him who should pass a thread through the shell, believing that by that means he should discover Daedalus. And having come to Camicus in Sicily, to the court of Cocalus, with whom Daedalus was concealed, he showed the spiral shell. Cocalus took it, and promised to thread it, and gave it to Daedalus;
And Daedalus fastened a thread to an ant, and, having bored a hole in the spiral shell, allowed the ant to pass through it. But when Minos found the thread passed through the shell, he perceived that Daedalus was with Cocalus, and at once demanded his surrender. Cocalus promised to surrender him, and made an entertainment for Minos; but after his bath Minos was undone by the daughters of Cocalus; some say, however, that he died through being drenched with boiling water." [E.1.14 / E.1.15]

And this was the end of King Minos' hunt and his life. Depending on the source, it might have been Daidalos himself who poured boiling water over King Minos, leading to his death. What happens to Daidalos afterwards is unclear. I hope he found a place to remember his son, and build more of his wonderful inventions.

This myth encourages people to look at the consequences of their actions, even those--or especially those--with good intentions. Daidalos' genius cost him his son. On the other hand, whenever I read this myth, Íkaros reminds me that, although great risk comes with a leap of faith, it might just be worth it sometimes. Íkaros chose the dangerous path, and while it led to his death, it also led to one of the most beautiful moments of his life. I'm a cautious person, a tempered person, and remembering Íkaros is a great help in my life sometimes. It reminds me to hunt for happiness, even though the quest requires me to let go of the familiar. I live my life looking for small flights of Íkaros, and I wish the same for you.
Philicus, or Philikos, of Corcyra was a poet and tragedian, as well as a priest of Dionysos at Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC). Sadly, nothing survives of the 24 tragedies attributed to him. Philicus, however, did write a Hymn to Demeter in choriambic hexameters which has been partially preserved on a stone slab. Unlike Horeric and Orphic hymns, this was not a cult song. It was an exercise in poetry.

The hymn is focussed on the cult of Demeter, which was very popular at the time. It narrates some part of Demeter’s search for Persephone, and told how the earth was rendered unfruitful. It also tells the story of how bashful Iambe made the Goddess laugh and lifted her grief off of her.

It seems that the first part of the hymn was a speech by a fellow Goddess. Whom this is, is unclear. It could be Peitho (Persuasion), who consoles Demeter, forecasts the institution of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and offers her assistance in recovering Persephone from the underworld. But more likely it's the oracular Titan Dione. She is sister of Rhea, Zeus’ mother. Her inclusion would fit the mythology and various lines. There is, however, no evidence for a close connexion of Dione with Demeter, and therefore no reason why she should intercede in this poem on Demeter’s behalf.

I am very intrigued by poetry fragments or obscure pieces like this and greatly enjoy reading them. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Philicus' hymn to Demeter

this of the daughter
mother child not
chariot of writhing [snakes
and where (she?) has gone away to
clo?hes predator
torches wood
like a tunic her wrap
to him the girl
fortune nor marriage
to speak
wandering to a run
words such as these
feet; did you not see
... ...
to me ...
was thrown without order
and the hot beam was burning upon
and the goddess, beginning to speak first,
I judged in an omen of victory
listen to prayers that are from a sister from the same mother
]in the same womb I nurtured Cypris
I was desirable when I gave my milk to you, and I, of the same stock as your mother
us(?) mighty ladies a common father begat
and she gave birth to mighty-boasting violence
a destined possession; and for me to persuade
to have share in this, and not from me alone my
not failing to hearken to these words, and the goddesses will reward(?) you
for we, I alone, with the Graces, have been announced as to give honour
have been apportioned, but you should accept other honours from us
and greater ones in return for what is a small one--these I shall tell you in detail.
for to none will a friend accord more than to you, and I shall love more and more
in the season(?) to Eleusis with the mystic coursings of the Iacchoi
large [] welcoming the faster by the waves in large numbers
they will swell out for you, nurturing one, perfumed branches
a single fountain water marked out for each
by this two-throned precinct with your tears you will send up a spring
will be called the royal fountain
than these words we shall accord in honour more powerful deeds
do not prematurely take them as untrustworthy before testing
the branches of supplication they bear now
these again will pour forth
to be performed as a ritual at your festival
zealous ... overcome
taking up the sceptre bring Persephone up to where there are stars
with me leading you shall not go wrong at all.
but pick up the torches, relax your heavy brow."
She ceased, and the nymphs and Graces joined in just Persuasion,
and whole swarms of women in a circle about her caressed the ground with their foreheads
and gathered the only living growth from the cropless earth to cast as foliage upon the goddess
But Halimous dispatched the old woman, who had lost her way in the mountain haunts, but arrived at a good time
as a result of some chance: for solemn occasions can an amusing tale be unprofitable?
For she stood and uttered at once in a bold, loud voice: “Do not throw goat-fodder:
it is not this that is a remedy for a starving god, but ambrosia is the support for such a delicate stomach.
But you, divine one, should give ear to Attic Iambe's little benefit;
I am one who has poured out unschooled words, as well as might a chattering living in a distant deme: these goddesses
her [  ] for you cups and garlands and water drawn in a fresh stream;
and from the women, look!, there is grass as a gift, a timorous deer's diet.
None of these things do I have for my gift: but if you loosen up your grieving, then I shall release…”

New Year's message and prayer from Elaion core member Robert Clark

"The first year of the 699th Olympiad has ended. Before and throughout this tumultuous year, we have seen unspeakable atrocities inflicted by people against people, by the powerful against the innocent, by the privileged against disenfranchised. We live in a time of fear, hatred, and bigotry fanned by those who would exploit it for personal gain or to satisfy their misguided egos.

We all need to do all we can to work toward acceptance, understanding, and caring. Where there is hate we need to love, where there is bigotry we need to befriend, and where there fear of strangers we need to welcome them. I share with you one of my daily prayers to Zeus:

May You be with innocent people everywhere who are enslaved and those who are deliberately harmed by the willful and violent acts of others. May those who have been killed have a special place with Thee and may those who suffer have hope that good people shall rise up and put a stop to it, that those who oppress, enslave, and harm them shall be held accountable for their heinous acts and pay for their crimes, and that people around the world shall recognize and respect the sanctity of human life and of all life. So let it be.

It isn’t wealth, position, or even recognition but acts of kindness that brings happiness.

ΟΥΛΕ (Be whole – be well)"

Robert A. Clark
Two thousand years ago the Mediterranean Sea was a haven for two species of whale which have since virtually disappeared from the North Atlantic, a new study analysing ancient bones suggests.

The discovery of the whale bones in the ruins of a Roman fish processing factory located at the strait of Gibraltar also hints at the possibility that the Romans may have hunted the whales. Prior to the study, by an international team of ecologists, archaeologists and geneticists, it was assumed that the Mediterranean Sea was outside of the historical range of the right and gray whale.

Academics from the Archaeology Department at the University of York used ancient DNA analysis and collagen fingerprinting to identify the bones as belonging to the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and the Atlantic gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus).

After centuries of whaling, the right whale currently occurs as a very threatened population off eastern North America and the gray whale has completely disappeared from the North Atlantic and is now restricted to the North Pacific. Co-author of the study Dr Camilla Speller, from the University of York, said:

"These new molecular methods are opening whole new windows into past ecosystems. Whales are often neglected in Archaeological studies, because their bones are frequently too fragmented to be identifiable by their shape. Our study shows that these two species were once part of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem and probably used the sheltered basin as a calving ground. The findings contribute to the debate on whether, alongside catching large fish such as tuna, the Romans had a form of whaling industry or if perhaps the bones are evidence of opportunistic scavenging from beached whales along the coast line."

Both species of whale are migratory, and their presence east of Gibraltar is a strong indication that they previously entered the Mediterranean Sea to give birth. The Gibraltar region was at the centre of a massive fish-processing industry during Roman times, with products exported across the entire Roman Empire. The ruins of hundreds of factories with large salting tanks can still be seen today in the region. Lead author of the study Dr Ana Rodrigues, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research, said:

"Romans did not have the necessary technology to capture the types of large whales currently found in the Mediterranean, which are high-seas species. But right and gray whales and their calves would have come very close to shore, making them tempting targets for local fishermen."

It is possible that both species could have been captured using small rowing boats and hand harpoons, methods used by medieval Basque whalers centuries later. The knowledge that coastal whales were once present in the Mediterranean also sheds new light on ancient historical sources. Anne Charpentier, lecturer at the University of Montpellier and co-author in the study, said:

"We can finally understand a 1st-Century description by the famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, of killer whales attacking whales and their new-born calves in the Cadiz bay. It doesn't match anything that can be seen there today, but it fits perfectly with the ecology if right and gray whales used to be present."

The study authors are now calling for historians and archaeologists to re-examine their material in the light of the knowledge that coastal whales where once part of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem. Dr Rodriguez added:

"It seems incredible that we could have lost and then forgotten two large whale species in a region as well-studied as the Mediterranean. It makes you wonder what else we have forgotten".

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.
On the day of the Hene kai Nea (or sometimes, like this month, the day after), I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

PAT rituals for Hekatombaion:
  • Hekatombaion 4 - July 17Aphrodisia - festival of Aphrodite and Peitho (Persuasion), where the temple was purified with dove's blood, the altars cleansed, and the two statues washed
  • Hekatombaion 12 - July 25Kronia - festival in honor of Kronos
  • Hekatombaion 15 / 16 - July 28 / 29 - Sunoikia - community festival in Athens. Sacred to Athena. Two-day celebration every other year.
  • Hekatombaion 21 - August 3 - Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, (Hekate &) Artemis at Erkhia
  • Hekatombaion 23n + 30 - August 8n + 12 - Panathanaia - main celebration on the twenty-eighth in honor of Athena. Greater held in the third year of each Olympiad, Lesser held annually for fewer days

Anything else?
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