In the middle of the Lesser Mysteries is another festival, one that seems very minor, but which was very widespread in ancient Hellas. From Athens, to Erchia, to Agria, the night of the twenty-third of the month of Anthesterion was reserved for the Diasia, an ancient festival--even back then--dedicated to Zeus Meilichios. I have written before that Zeus Meilichios (Ζεύς Μειλίχιος, the Kindly One) is a Khthonic epithet of Zeus, who receives only nighttime sacrifices, and only by way of a holókaustos. Zeus seems to have adopted the Meilichios epithet from an older Khthonic serpent daímōn or Theos. He is--like the Erinyes and Alastôr--an avenger of blood feuds between families. Yet, unlike the others, Zeus Meilichios is also a purifier. When someone avenged the murder of a family member by killing the killer--or even someone else from that family line--they could petition Zeus Meilichios with a holókaustos of sheep (ram, or another four-legged creature would also suffice) and be cleansed of miasma caused by this murder. The skin from the sacrifice may have been saved for purification rites in the Pompia.

The Diasia was as much a rural festival as it was a city festival: it was one of the few instances where those who lived outside of the city gates brought their own sacrifices, and the city's inhabitants left the city to celebrate a festival outside the walls where they would make impromptu stone altars to sacrifice on. Those who could not afford to--or did not want to--present Zeus Meilichios with an animal sacrifice offered incense or cakes shaped like animals, especially in later years.

The Diasia was a hugely important festival, because it was a festival full of rites of placation and purification. By sacrificing and praying to Zeus Meilichios at His sacred night, the sacrificer was able to have any curse placed upon him, as well as any lingering miasma, removed. Zeus Meilichios was one of the very few who was powerful enough to remove any kind of miasma. I would like to note here, that I do not think the dating of the Diasia to fall in the sacred days of the Lesser Mysteries was an accident. Mythically speaking, the Lesser Mysteries were instituted to cleanse Hēraklēs of the miasma incurred from killing his family in a fit of madness, as well as the death of the kentaur Nessus; who better to offer and pray to than Zeus Meilichios for its removal? We know that the Diasia was celebrated at Eleusis, although we do not know in what capacity--in fact, there is very little we do know of the Diasia besides the reason for the rites.

There are a few tidbits I have been able to dig up: the sacrifice was meant to take miasma off of those who sacrificed it. As such, especially when the sacrifice was still animal in nature, the worshippers were encouraged to place their left foot on the animal before it was burned. After the offerings were placed on the fire--whatever they were, they were left to 'local custom'--a libation was poured out into the fire as well. This was a wineless libation, an aoinoi, or nephalioi. Wineless libations were almost always given to Khthonic deities, or earth deities like the Nymphs, the Muses and the Erinyes, and always in a khoe--a complete outpour of the liquid(s). Like most offerings to the dead or Khthonic deities, the offering consisted of water, honey, and/or milk.

The Diasia was most likely also a harvest festival of some kind; due to the weather conditions in ancient Hellas the ancient Hellenes would have been close to harvest time around the Diasia, especially for grain, vine, fig and olive, yet the weather could still take a turn for the worst. To prevent this, the Diasia might have had a placating rite where Zeus Meilichios was asked to keep the bad weather at bay and allow for a good harvest to replenish the foodstores. It's entirely possible that this rite was held separate from the purification rites associated with the festival, although they were tied together, as we have been able to see with the Anthesteria.

So, how does a modern Hellenist celebrate the Diasia? The obvious answer would be with sacrifices of meat, cakes and/or incense, as well as libations of water, milk, and/or honey. The Diasia was a special festival in that a mostly Khthonic deity was worshipped during the daylight hours, and in a large kind of picnic. If you have been tainted by the death of a loved one near this festival, or you have committed a crime, say prayers to Zeus Meilichios and ask to be relieved of them. Think of the minor acts in life that lead to miasma, and consciously leave them behind. Prepare a feast for your family, and be grateful for the food you can provide for them, especially those who grow their own food can ask for a good harvest. The Diasia is a somber festival, but one which makes way for plenty of good--it's not for naught that Zeus Meilichios is often represented with a cornucopia. It's a day to be extra grateful for all that you have, and to articulate that gratitude to the Kindly One.