Vacation time tends to turn my brain into mush when it comes to which day of the week it is. I had no idea yesterday was Friday and it was time for another Pagan Blog Project post. So, here we are, a day late. Sorry!

As a woman, I tend to pay extra special attention to things that were 'female only' in ancient Hellas. It makes me feel closer to the Theoi somehow to apply the gender roles They were so familiar with to my daily life and my worship. As the gender balance was very clear in ancient Hellas and not so much today, and mostly because I live in a two-women household, there is not that much gender role tradition I can incorporate into my daily practice. Although I am the kurios for our household--a traditionally male role--I try to at least be very female in appearance when I come to the Theoi, and for that purpose, try to wear skirts. I also wear my hair up as a sign of devotion, and as a sign that I am married by the Gods (although my legal statues does not reflect this yet. Only the woman I love gets to see my hair undone, and although she is not a Hellenist and thinks all the 'restrictions' I place on myself are silly, she does appreciate the gesture of loyalty and devotion to her.

I am straying from the point of this post, however. Today I wanted to take some time to talk about the ololygē (ὀλολῡγή); the ritual scream women made, usually when an animal was sacrificed, but also at other sacred times. Of course, this is something I will not be needed in the regard of animal sacrifice, but it is interesting to come to the roots of this practice to see if it can be salvaged for modern use.

 Within animal sacrifice, the cry would have been uttered after the animal's throat was slit and the sacrifice accepted; I pose that this cry was thus delayed until some of the blood was poured into the fire and it crackled, popped, and most likely leaped up as a divine sign. At this point, the women cried out in the ololygē. The ololygē was thus a sign of the sacred, a cry of joy, not--as earlier scholars posed--cry of distress and relief of tension that was released the moment the blade cut into the neck of the animal. In fact, later scholarship finds very little excitement--either positive or negative--about the actual death of the animal; it is the Gods' acceptance that counts.

The view that the ololygē was a sacred cry of joy is reflected further by the fact that the same word was often used in plays. Here, the cry was sometimes shared between men and those who played women, and occurred when something especially divine took place. It also comes back in poetry, especially that which was performed as a kind of play, like in the Dithyrambs by Bacchylides (Βακχυλίδης), a 5th century BC lyrical poet:

"Theseus appeared beside the ship with its slender stern. Oh, from what thoughts did he stop the war-lord of Knossos, when he emerged unwetted from the sea, a marvel to all, and the gifts of the gods shone on his body. The splendid-throned maidens cried out with new-founded joy, and the sea resounded."

It seems that the ololygē was a way to mark a moment of divine presence; a way to put emphasis on the sacred. In this light, the ololygē is not outdated at all, but it is, however, vague. What follows is completely inferred by yours truly as a likely scenario after reading the precious little information about this cry. I pose that the women uttering this cry had their hands raised to the Theoi--as was customary when addressing and acknowledging the Theoi in any way. I think that the cry itself was not so much the horror-filled scream we're used to seeing in movies, but more a loiud utterance of praise on behalf of the Theoi. In fact, I think it might have been fairly close in feel to the praise gospel choirs give to their God: the exuberant exclamation of 'Halleluiah, praise the Lord!' that the ancient Hellene would have felt for the Theoi as well. I also doubt all women screamed out the same thing; it might have been quite the cacophony. Of course, this is speculation of the highest degree, and if you have any further information, I would love to hear it. As a note, I think wailing for the dead was done in much the same way, but with the hands cast down towards the earth, and utterances of praise to the deceased, as well as prayers to the Khthonic Gods.

Especially in group ritual, women could fulfill the ololygē easily; at home, I, for example, already give praise to the Theoi in a similar manner. Especially in group ritual, the ololygē would give female participants an extra way to feel included, an strengthen kharis with the Theoi in question. It would also look and sound quite captivating, I would think. Do you have experience with the ololygē? I would love to hear about it!

 Image source: here.