Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Commentary of the Pyanepsia

Dusk tonight marks the start of the Pyanepsia festival. The Pyanepsia (Πυανέψια) is one of the many harvest festivals of the season, but instead of focussing on the actual harvest like well know Pagan harvest festivals like Mabon, the Pyanepsia focusses almost completely on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. It celebrates his return from Minos, and represents both his homecoming and his victory. Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual tomorrow to celebrate, but today, I would like to share some words written by my dear friend and Elaion co-founder Robert Clark. Enjoy his words of well-researched and practical wisdom.

Commentary on the Pyanepsia
Robert A. Clark

The Pyanepsia festival derives its name from a stew of boiled beans (pyanon epsein = to boil beans). A 'pyanion' is a mixture of various kinds of pulse boiled in a pot (khytros) and offered to Phoebos Apollon and shared by the celebrants. It is not a typical Greek panspermia (all-seeds) as this dish is of legumes only. According to legend this was the votive offering Theseus and his crew made to Apollo when they returned to Athens from Crete on this day after rescuing the young men and maidens from the Labyrinth at Knossos, for it was all that was left of their provisions. It is a thank offering for the bounty of the season and prayers for bountiful year to come.

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 beaker, 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.

In trying to discover what legumes (pulses) were grown in Europe before New Worlds beans arrived, I found another article that said the broad bean or fava bean (Vicia faba) was the only bean (actually a member of the pea family) in Europe until Columbus brought beans from the New World. It has been found in Neolithic sites throughout Europe. I found articles that mentioned the Egyptians growing them.  The Greeks had fava beans, lentils, chick peas (garbanzo beans), and peas. This means that the mixture of pulses that the crew of Theseus' ship mixed together for the first Pyanepsia was comprised of fava beans, lentils, chick peas (garbanzo beans) and peas. I suspect they would have added onion and salt and pepper and olive oil.

The Mediterranean chick pea is different from what we usually find here in North America. Here is a link to Purcell Mountain Farms showing the Mediterranean variety. Also, the fava bean has an enzyme that some people are allergic to.  It is thought that Pythagoras had this allergy and hence the prohibition on beans (the one bean available-the fava bean). The gene responsible has beneficial qualities in resisting malaria. Here are some Indo-European lentil varieties that the ancient Greeks likely had: Petite golden lentils,  Ivory lentils (Urad Dal)

Basic Bean Cooking Instructions for fava beans:
Pick over beans (legumes of the pea family) and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Place cleaned beans in a bowl of fresh cold water, cover and soak for 3 to 8 hours or overnight at room temperature; drain and rinse well.  Or place beans in a saucepan with water of cover, bring to a boil, remove from the heat , and soak for 1 1/2 hours, drain and rinse well. Cook beans by covering with 2" of water, simmering 1 to 2 hours or until tender depending on size of the bean.
Cook the fava beans and garbanzo beans together. Bring to boil and add:
  • bay leaves
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 3 chopped onions sautéed in olive oil until golden
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
Boil for at least one hour until tender and add the lentils and dried peas for the last half hour.
This recipe is modified from a traditional Greek recipe and reflects the ingredients available in ancient times. Here is a link to ancient Greek foods which says the ancient Greeks did not have lemons and oranges.
Such a recipe may give us a taste resembling what the first offering may have tasted like and is fun to try, but is it traditional? It is well known form the many excavations that the ancients were very practical and used what they had available. Whether the rites are in memory of the Heracleidae or of the offering Theseus and his crew made to Apollon, the more compelling tradition would be for people to use a mixture of all the pulses they had in their homes just as the crew of Theseus' ship did. Thus, in a modern home with a much greater variety of pulses, an offering of a mixture of all the pulses one has would be a traditional approach in the spirit of the Pyanepsia.
This approach applies in other areas as well. People in ancient homes used the utensils and agalma (statues of the Gods) they had just as the offerings were part of the food they had. They gave of something that was likely more precious to them than our huge variety of food is to us.  It is the intent of giving of making whatever you give as special as you can that is important to keep in mind as it is a gift filled with kharis (grace – giving with delight) and all the love and delight that goes with it. The utensils they used in prayer and libations, perhaps only an olive oil lamp and phiale, were what they had. We seek reproductions for their beauty, but simply using what one has, whether it is a candle and a shallow bowl and container for barley groats or whatever else we can assemble from our homes to enable us to give with kharis is in true keeping with tradition.
The recipe I provided may taste wonderful, but whatever recipe you use, make it as special as you can and offer it with kharis.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Italy returns ancient coins, Yugoslavia raises the ire of Greece's Foreign Ministry

Two 'current events'-posts in a row, I know, but whenever I hear of news like this, I feel the strong need to share.

If everything went according to plan, Italy returned 80 ancient Hellenic coins to Greece yesterday, according to Ekathimerini, and that makes me very happy. The handover of the silver and bronze coins would have taken place at the sidelines of a meeting of thr European Union culture ministers in Turin. The coins date to between the 5th and 2nd centuries B.C. and originate from Macedonia, specifically the peninsula Halkidiki.

In other news, the vice president of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s (FYROM) Parliament, Antonio Milososki, has published a picture of himself and members of a group of climbers from Greece’s neighbouring country holding a flag bearing the Vergina Sun after climbing Mount Olympus on Twitter.

FYROM used the Vergina Sun, a symbol discovered at the tomb of Philip II at the archaeological site of Aigai (modern day Vergina in northern Greece), on its national flag between 1991 and 1995 but agreed under the terms of the 1995 interim accord with Greece to stop doing so. The Vergina Star was designated a Greek national symbol by the country's Parliament in 1993. Milososki told FYROM newspaper Vest that the flag he displayed was a 'historic Macedonian symbol':

“I always carried the flag with the 16-pointed Macedonian sun with me. Another member of the climbing group had the state flag with them. So we raised both flags at the peak of Mount Olympus and we took photographs with great satisfaction.”

The Greek government was not happy by Milososki's actions, and describes them as a 'provocation'. Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras:

"We thank Mr Milososki for visiting our country so he could be photographed within Greece, with a Greek national symbol. We would not encourage him to do the same as this would result in yet another breach of the Interim Accord and the Memorandum on Practical Measures. Provocations may justify Greek positions against all forms of irredentism but they do not help anyone, certainly not FYROM and its people."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pergamon Museum to undergo €385 million restoration

Last year, I got a chance to visit the Pergamon Altar to Zeus and Athena, now in Berlin. It was a double experience for me; on the one hand, it is a striking marvel of architecture and seeing it made my heart swell with pride for the Theoi and the ancient Hellenes, on the other hand, seeing these stones so far from their original construction site was infuriating, and having to view them as a tourist attraction even more so. The Archaeological News Network now reports that the Pergamon Museum is losing its star attraction for five years. Yesterday was the last day to visit the ancient monument.

Berlin's Pergamon Altar to close for five year restorations
The Altar of Pergamon [Credit: DPA]
Pergamon (τὸ Πέργαμον) was a small settlement during the Archaic Period, located in Aeolis, today located 16 miles (26 km) from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus. The main sites of ancient Pergamon are to the north and west of the modern city of Bergama in Turkey.

The ancient city of Pergamon rose to greatness after receiving a huge sum of money as war expenditures, and became the most eminent centre of culture of the Hellenistic period for 150 years. One of its rulers, Eumenes II (197-159 BC), took the acropolis of Athens as an example and had the acropolis of Pergamon adorned with works of art, after which Pergamon became one of the most graceful cities of the world.

One of the most famous buildings that once stood on the property is the Altar of Zeus and Athena, which used to be located to the south of the theatre. Eumenes II constructed it as a memorial of the victory against the Galatians. The Altar has the shape of a horseshoe and its dimensions are 36.44 by 34.20 meters. The high reliefs on the outsides of the altar depict the Gigantomachy. At Pergamon, nothing remains of the altar but its foundations; the rest was removed from the site and shipped to Berlin.

Almost 1.5 million people visited the Pergamon last year, making it Berlin’s most popular museum. The altar was restored between 1994 and 2004 and is in reasonable condition, unlike the rest of the museum, Scholl said. Although some work will be carried out on the altar, the state of the museum building is the main reason for the five-year closure of the hall. The director of the museum’s antiquity collection, Andreas Scholl commented:

“Much of the building is in a horrible condition. Steel has rusted, glass is in a bad way, the electrics date back to 1929, so you can imagine what they’re like. There’s no climate control, all the water and power systems need to be redone.”

With the shutting of the Pergamon Hall, and the wing housing Greek antiquities already closed, just one section of Germany’s most famous museum will remain open--the wing housing the Babylon or Ishtar Gate (Ischtar-Tor) and the Market Gate of Miletus (Markttor). Scholl told The Local that the museum has braced for fewer visitors after Sunday, particularly as its capacity would be reduced.

A total of €385 million will be spent on the Pergamon under a master plan for the entire Unesco World Heritage Site area known as Museum Island. Under the master plan a fourth wing will also be built on the Pergamon. It will become the main entrance and house an Egyptian collection.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Modern hymns and the Hymnodia

Personally, I am not a huge fan of modern hymns written by practitioners of Hellenismos. I've tried to narrow down why that is--it's not for lack of quality for sure! Some of them definitely resonate with me and I love to read them, but I never use them in worship. I also don't write my own hymns, although I, of course, make my own prayers. I know, though, that many of you enjoy modern hymns and poetry inspired by the Theoi. Since that is something I will most likely never be able to provide you with, I would like to tell you about Hymnodia, if you haven't heard of it already.

The Hymnodia Project is an online compendium of hymns, prayers, and other devotional material by and for modern worshippers of the gods of ancient Hellas. The goal of this program is to encourage the worship of our gods by making contemporary hymns available to the worldwide Hellenic community via the Internet. The Hymnodia Project is an official program of Hellenion. It is currently on the move to a new home, but the hymns can be found here as well.

Hellenion, by the way, is a Hellenic organization from America and Hellenic organisation Elaion, with which I am affiliated, had its foundations in it. It's a wonderful organisation, which you can join for courses and study material.

The hymns range from the Olympians, to the titans, to heroes, and anything in-between. The hymns have been submitted by worshippers of the Hellenic pantheon, and if you want to submit yours, you can by e-mailing it to: All authors retain copyright to their work.

I wish you happy reading, and if you feel the creative and devotional juices flowing, feel free to submit your work to Hellenion. I am sure many will thank you for it!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

$171,- raised for the Maetreum of Cybele

Members of Pandora's Kharis have come together to raise $171,- for the Maetreum of Cybele. The Maetreum of Cybele, a Pagan temple and convent located in upstate New York, is a non-profit organisation which has been struggling against the city of Catskill in an ongoing tax-battle, and we have come together to at least help their cause a little.

From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community.

On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving. Thank you for your generosity!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Boedromion updates

A while ago, I decided that on the day of the Hene kai Nea, I'd post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog. I do have to say, the months go by very, very fast, and so do the days. One day late, my apologies.

Changes to the blog:
Anything else?
Pandora's Kharis, a charity circle for and by Hellenistic Polytheists is currently collecting for the Maetreum of Cybele. If you want to donate, you have until tomorrow! Join us on Facebook if you would like to pitch a cause for next month!

Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

That is it for the last month's updates, as far as I can remember. Have a blessed Deipnon!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

PAT ritual announcement for the Pyanepsia

The Pyanepsia (Πυανέψια) is one of the many harvest festivals of the season, but instead of focussing on the actual harvest like well know Pagan harvest festivals like Mabon, the Pyanepsia focusses almost completely on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. It celebrates his return from Minos, and represents both his homecoming and his victory.

One of the most well known practices of the Pyanepsia is the creation of an eiresiône (εἰρεσιώνη): a branch of olive or laurel bound with purple or white wool. It was decorated with fruits of the season, pastries, and small jars of honey, oil and wine. The eiresiône was also called a 'supplicant branch', as it was intended as a thank-offering for blessings received, and... at the same time as a prayer for similar blessings and protection against evil in future. Theseus walked through the streets of Athens with his eiresiône, to signal his victory and the end of scarcity.

Theseus also wished to thank Apollon for his safe journey and his victory over the Minotaur and thus, he ordered his men to gather all the foodstuffs that remained from the journey home. This was mostly beans and grains, and he ordered the food to be cooked up for a feast and a sacrifice--this panspermia is another staple of the Pyanepsia.

Come October 2nd, Elaion will host a PAT ritual in celebration of the Pyanepsia, and we welcome anyone who wants to, to join us in making an eiresiône and offering a panspermia to Apollon to ward off evil for the coming year, and to attract blessings. We welcome you to share your ideas freely on the event page. As always, a ritual is available for those who would like to have one. We hope you will join us!