On the day of the Hene kai Nea, 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 Pyanepsion:
  • 6 Pyanepsion - 24 September - Proerosia - agricultural festival for Demeter held at Eleusis
  • 7 Pyanepsion - 25 September - Pyanepsia - festival in honor of Apollon and Theseus
  • 8 Pyanepsion - 26 September - Oskhophoria - festival of the vintage (grapes)
  • 8 Pyanepsion - 26 September - Theseia - festival in honor of Theseus
  • 9 Pyanepsion - 27 September - Stenia - women's festival in honor of Demeter and Persephone
  • 11-13 Pyanepsion - 29 September - 1 October - Thesmophoria - festival in honor of Demeter
  • 14 Pyanepsion - 2 October - Sacrifice to The Heroines at Erkhia
  • 16 Pyanepsion - 4 October - Apatouria - paternity festival. The first day (Dorpia) was celebrated with a communal feast within the brotherhood, the second day ('Anarrhusis') sacrifice were made to Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria, and the third day ('Koureotis') young boys admitted to their father's brotherhood.
  • 30 Pyanepsion - 17 October - The Khalkeia - festival in honor of Athena and Hephaestus.

Anything else?
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 The ancient Hellenes did not have a consensus on the Dodekatheon, or "The Twelve," or even "The Counsel of Twelve." What mattered was that there was a council of twelve, the Dodekatheon, at all. Who resided on the golden thrones atop Snowy Olympos was subject to debate and varied per location.

The most canonical version of the Dodekatheon is represented in a relief currently located at the Walters Art Museum. The relief dates back to the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD and depicts the Twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession: from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hēphaistos (staff), Hera (scepter), Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt and staff), Artemis (bow and quiver), and Apollon (cithara). No mention of Dionysos.

There is a story floating about the internet and even some modern texts on Hellenic mythology, that Hestia gave up Her throne to Dionysos. Apparently, this is an ancient myth, and the ancient Hellenes would have believed this as well. It's a story so frequently told, one that is so common-knowledge, that very few people bother to check the source. Well, the source is Robert Graves' 'The Greek Myths', written in 1955. From that book (27.12):

"Finally, having established his worship throughout the world, Dionysus ascended into Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of Zeus as one of the Twelve Great Gods. The self-effacing goddess Hestia resigned her seat at the high table in his favour; glad of any excuse to escape the jealous wranglings of her family, and knowing that she could always count on a quiet welcome in any Greek city which it might please her to visit."

Graves provides two sources for this story: Apollodoros’ Bibliotheka 3.5.3, and and Pausanias’ Hellados Periegesis 2.31.2. As you can read for yourself, there is no mention what so ever of Hestia giving up Her throne. In fact, the sources only address the part of Graves' text that follows afterwards, about Dionysos bringing His mother Semele up to Olympos as well.

So, did Graves lie? Well, yes and no. Graves is a storyteller; he spun stories based on facts he could find. If he could not find a fact, he made it up to fit the story. Because of this, his books are a great read but they are not reliable as far as ancient mythology goes.

Obviously, Theoi who were held in high regard in a certain city-state would have held the thrones, according to the people who lived in that city-state. This means that it's quite likely there were people in ancient Hellas who firmly believed that Dionysos occupied one of the thrones of the Dodekatheon. Most likely, there were also people who believed Hestia did not occupy one of the thrones. It's entirely possible that some people--perhaps even the same people who believed Dionysos was part of the Dodekatheon, but not Hestia--believed that Hestia gave up Her seat to Dionysos. The problem is that there are no ancient sources to support this, and there was most certainly not a wide-spread myth to this effect that held sway in ancient Hellas.

In my personal practice, who hold the thrones of the Dodekatheon is nearly irrelevant. I follow the festival calendar and have my daily ritual practice. through that, all 'major' Theoi are honoured and many of the 'lesser' as well. The pantheon, after all, is much larger than just the children of Kronos and Rhea.

Exactly 2,500 years after it first happened, the epic marathon swim by Hydna and her father Scyllis, in 480 BC, was replicated recently by three members of the Underwater Survey Team, representing the School of Rural and Surveying Engineering at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Kaitlyn Waters, who was one of the participants, along with Dr. Kimon Papadimitriou, Dimitris Giouzepas, retraced the route taken by the ancient Greek father and daughter on the eve of the Battle of Artemisium, which was fought between Greek and Persian naval forces ten years after the Battle of Marathon, during the same year of the Battle of Thermopylae.

The original 16-kilometer swim between the Pelion peninsula and the island of Evia, first recorded by the Greek geographer Pausanias, who wrote his accounts during the 2nd century AD, occurred on the eve of the Persian leader Xerxes’ naval campaign.

On that dark day, a menacing fleet of 1,207 of his ships was moored off the Pelion peninsula, facing the island of Evia, ready to take part in his renewed attacks in the effort to take over Greece — and thereby gain an important foothold on the European mainland.

The Greek forces were represented by a much smaller group of only 271 ships, according to the historian Herodotus.

At the same time, a man named Scyllis and his daughter Hydna had become so proficient at deep-sea diving that their services had been requisitioned by Xerxes as a means to plunder the many shipwrecks that were already under the waves at that time.

Unbeknownst to him, the daring Greek father and daughter duo had other plans. Taking advantage of a huge storm that blew up as the ships from both sides sat at their moorings the day before the battle, the anchors of the Persian fleet’s vessels were dragged away by Hydna and Scyllis, causing many of them to be destroyed in the maelstrom. As Pausanias wrote, in his work entitled Description of Greece, 

“When the fleet of Xerxes was attacked by a violent storm off Mount Pelion, father and daughter completed its destruction by dragging away under the sea the anchors and any other security the triremes had.”

As Kaitlyn Waters, one of the participants, writes of her experience in the epic swim, “Having used knives to cut the ropes of the anchors to destroy the ships and also being able to do so undetected by the multitude of soldiers from every corner is an impressive feat in and of itself.

“What Hydna and Scyllis did next — swimming, side by side, 10 miles to Evia Island to reunite with the Greeks and inform them of the Persian’s battle plans- was able to give the Greek forces a huge advantage in the battle.”

In a fascinating twist to the story, Waters related that the father and daughter became so famous for their feat that statues of them were even erected at Delphi, the beautiful religious sanctuary on the Greek mainland.

Tragically, however, the statues have been lost to time, Waters writes, as the Roman emperor Nero was known to have taken at least 500 statues from Delphi back to Rome. Pausanias noted at the time that one of these statues was indeed of Scyllis’ heroic daughter, Hydna.

On September 4 though 6, swimmers from Japan, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Bulgaria and Greece took to the waters of Pefki, Evia for the inaugural Authentic Marathon Swim commemorating this seminal event in history.

Covering a range of lengths to accommodate all swimmers regardless of age, the event, which saw the participants swimming over the wrecks at Artemisium, was a great success. The winner of the 10 km race was won by Bulgarian Olympic champion Peter Stoychev. Women’s Open Water swimming world champion Vicky Kouveli won first place in the female division.

There was also an 800-meter swimming race for children so that they could also take part in this important commemoration of the great Battle of Artemisium. If you would like to follow the Authentic Marathon Swim’s events in the future, please see the organization’s Facebook page, here.

Significant progress has been made in the restoration of the Archaic temple and the refectory of the Apollo Sanctuary on Despotikon, which are nearing their completion, with the monument having now regained a significant part of its original height and dominating the area. As early as November 2019, the scaffolding had been removed from the refectory’s colonnade after being completely restored. This year, work was done on the temple’s north and west walls, with an addition of new and ancient structures, on the wall of the doors of the temple chambers and the thresholds, on the temple and refectory pilasters and the temple and refectory column drums. Lastly, an important step was achieved by placing and adapting to the temple cornice five ancient triglyphs, two ancient and two new metopes.

Despite the difficult conditions, owing to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic,the systematic excavation of  the Apollo sanctuary on Despotikon and Tsimintiri was conducted again this year by the Cyclades Ephorate under Dr Yiannos Kouragios (Cyclades Ephorates), in collaboration with archaeologists Ilias Daifas and Alexandra Alexandridou (assistant professor at the University of Ioannina), and the participation of a small number of students from Ioannina University. The work lasted four weeks (June 22-July 17, 2020), while for one month (June 5-July 4, 2020) restoration works were also conducted in the temple and refectory of the Apollo Sanctuary.

A large rectangular building (8.65 x 8.50 m) was located on Despotikon, a short distance west of a sheepfold, in the southernmost part of the site explored to date. It had been severely damaged and the  walls on its interior had collapsed.

However, based on the surviving architectural remains, at least two architectural phases can be distinguished. In the earlier phase it had an almost square plan and was formed by four walls founded on natural rock. In the second phase, a Π shaped addition in portico style was constructed on the north side.

The strong construction of its walls with foundations as deep as 1.85 m, the discovery of mortar and a small amount of finds inside it are strong indications of this building being a cistern , which when abandoned was gradually “filled up” with stones, soil and other transportable materials.

Although the construction of the walls proves that the building was erected in Archaic times, the discovery of ceramics from different eras points to its use over a long period of time , perhaps as far back as Late Antiquity. Lastly, a strong wall was located in the eastern part of the site,11 m long, 0.60 m wide and 0.65 m high, which was not excavated due to lack of time. At a distance of 2.5 m, the marble base of a votive column was unearthed.

Most of the 2020 excavation period was centered on researching the islet of Tsimintiri, which in antiquity was joined to Despotikon by an isthmus and was part of the  extensive satellite installation for the cult of the Apollo Sanctuary. At the end of this year’s 2 weeks research, eight buildings had been located that take up the island’s south and east side and face the sheltered harbour and the sanctuary opposite.

The Building Ατ is the westernmost of all those located. It is elongated, built on a steep slope with a North-South orientation and comprises three spaces. A short distance from it, two more buildings were located but not excavated; Ht which comprises at least two spaces and Building Θτ.

Building Βτ is the largest ever to have been found and the first to be encountered when approaching the island from the south. It consists of at least five spaces, in one of which a large number of ceramic utensils and fragments of jars with relief decoration were discovered. The findings from the building, among which many fragments of archaic jars with engraved and embossed decoration, give a time horizon of its use from the 7th to the early 5th century.

Further north is the elongated Building Γτ divided into at least four spaces. A short distance to the west is the almost square Building Δτ. Next to this is the Building Ετ with a rectangular floor plan divided into three spaces.Research is being continued West of the Building Ετ as well as the cleaning of the Building Ζτ which has a circular floor plan with a 16.90 m diameter.

All the buildings on Tsimintiri have very large dimensions and are strongly constructed, while they all seem to be structurally related to each other, creating a high density of  buildings on the south side of the islet that in ancient times would have been the northeastern side of the sheltered harbour. These were probably public buildings related to the harbour’s operation.Moreover, Tsimintiri was essentially the isthmus that joined Antiparos with Despotikon, thus making access to the Sanctuary also possible via Antiparos.

For many more images, go here.

 We all know the Orphic Hymns; a collection of eighty-seven short religious poems composed in either the late Hellenistic or early Roman (first or second century AD) era. They are based on the beliefs of Orphism, a mystery cult or religious philosophy which claimed descent from the teachings of the mythical hero Orpheus. The Mysteries were mostly connected to Demeter, Persephone, life after death and reincarnation. From the Orphic Hymns also comes a list of which incenses to offer to which deity. For all Orphic Hymns, go here

Beyond the Orphic Hymns, there are the Orphic Fragments, poems and lines connected to the Orphic school of thought. Many of these are a true treasure-trove of information and religious material. As I'm taking the day off from everything computer related today, I am leaving you with one of these poems on queue.

"Zeus is the first. Zeus the thunderer, is the last.
Zeus is the head. Zeus is the middle, and by Zeus all things were fabricated.
Zeus is male, Immortal Zeus is female.
Zeus is the foundation of the earth and of the starry heaven.
Zeus is the breath of all things. Zeus is the rushing of indefatigable fire.
Zeus is the root of the sea: He is the Sun and Moon.
Zeus is the king; He is the author of universal life;
One Power, one Dæmon, the mighty prince of all things:
One kingly frame, in which this universe revolves,
Fire and water, earth and ether, night and day,
And Metis (Counsel) the primeval father, and all-delightful Eros (Love).
All these things are United in the vast body of Zeus.
Would you behold his head and his fair face,
It is the resplendent heaven, round which his golden locks
Of glittering stars are beautifully exalted in the air.
On each side are the two golden taurine horns,
The risings and settings, the tracks of the celestial gods;
His eyes the sun and the Opposing moon;
His unfallacious Mind the royal incorruptible Ether."

Hekate is extremely important to me in my household worship. Like some of the early ancient Hellenes, I view Hekate as Hesiod's Hekate, the single-faced Titan, who rules in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea. She is a Theia of childbirth--to both animals and humans--and it is She who bestows wealth on mortals, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle. Yet, if mortals do not deserve Her gifts, she can withhold them from them just as easily. After the Titanomachy, Zeus bestowed upon Her the highest of honors. This is the Goddess I honor daily during my nighttime rites, but I do integrate some later practices and thoughts about Her; including Her role as protector of the house and 'crossroad Goddess'.

Personally, when I hear 'crossroad Goddess', I think Supernatural's crossroad's demon. I think it's exactly this modern view of supernatural forces at crossroads that makes it difficult to understand Hekate's role as a Goddess of crossroads. I therefor don't use the tem 'crossroad Goddess', because it is somewhat deceiving; Her imagery would have stood at crossroads, and offerings were left there for safe travel, but the crossroads Hekate was most valued for protecting was the crossroads leading from the street to he home; a 'T'-shaped crossroads where Hekate ever vigilantly watches over the threshold. 

In this incarnation, She is a Goddess of purification, expiation, and protection, associated with thresholds and gates, both reaching back to the Underworld association. This view of Her dates back to about the fifth century BC, where Hesiod's views date back to about the seventh century BC. I wrote about the development of views on Hekate in this blog post about Her, and She has been worshipped in many ways throughout the ages.

As Cara Schulz so eloquently puts it in her talk about Hekate, Hekate guards the home from forces outside of it--both from natural and supernatural forces. Ancient Hellenic (especially Athenian) homes were walled off to create a courtyard; the only entrance to the home was a single door, and a single threshold. This was where Hekate's influence was felt. As such, Her influence is stationary; where Apollon and Hermes' protection extends to journeying and travels. Her worship is more domestic, at least for me.

There were statues of Hekate placed at three-way crossroads not leading to homes; these served the same purpose as 'threshold statuary', though; protection and purification. Much later, Christian, sources, warn followers away from 'placing devilish charms at springs or trees or crossroads' to alleviate illness. 

In modern household worship, Hekate's role is generally considered as an averter of evil; a protector who keeps misfortune, illness, danger, and bad luck away from the oikos. This is why She often shares shrine space with Hermes and Apollon, near the entrance to the home, or at the crossroads from the street to the driveway; a crossroads, indeed, but very different than some might imagine.

An extremely expressive terra-cotta mask, thought to represent Dionysos, was recently unearthed during excavations of the ancient Hellenic city of Daskyleion in Western Turkey. The newly-discovered treasure, which appears to represent a rather tipsy god, was located in the city’s acropolis, and is thought to have served as a votive offering of gratitude to Dionysos, according to archaeologists.

The site of the ancient city of Daskyleion, which was first inhabited during the Bronze Age, was discovered in 1952. Since then, it has routinely produced important finds from many different historical periods. Located in the ancient region of Lydia, Daskyleion received its name around 750 BC from the king Daskylos, father of Gyges, a figure found in both history and myth.

Archaeologist Kaan İren of Mugla Sitki Kocman University said the mask was unearthed in the city’s acropolis. “This is possibly a votive mask,” he explained. “More information will become available over time with more research.” Earlier this year, Iren’s team excavated a 2,700-year-old kitchen cellar in the acropolis. The researchers are now looking for seeds and other organic matter in the soil for clues to the city's cuisine.

Widely known as the God of wine and revelry, Dionysos is also the God of theater and of ritual madness — the term “bacchanal” comes from his Latin name, “Bacchus” — and he served an important role in the development of ancient Greek theatre. In myth, Dionysus is known to free his followers from social and cultural restraints through wine or ritual, most notably in Euripides’ tragic play “The Bacchae.”