Tonight, the 12th of Hekatombion marks the start of the ancient Hellenic Kronia festival. I have written about this festival last year, but didn't go into detail about how the festival was celebrated in ancient Hellas. To recap last year's post: the Kronia honors Kronos, Zeus' father, not to be confused with Khronos; creator of the Gods and Lord of Time. For more on His mythology, see last year's post.

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but by the time Hellas--and especially Athens--became civilized in the way we speak of today, this practice was long outdated.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.

What one can bring back is a sacrifice to Kronos and a communal meal. We don't have serfs any more, but a family meal is always a good Hellenistic tradition. What kind of offering Kronos received is lost to us, but I suspect it was an animal sacrifice. Of course there are many alternatives today, and libations of wine, offerings of 'first fruits' in the form of grains, or cakes come to mind. here is an Orphic hymn to Kronos, which one can recite with fumigations of Storax:

"Etherial father, mighty Titan, hear, great fire of Gods and men, whom all revere: Endu'd with various council, pure and strong, to whom perfection and decrease belong. Consum'd by thee all forms that hourly die, by thee restor'd, their former place supply; The world immense in everlasting chains, strong and ineffable thy pow'r contains. Father of vast eternity, divine, O mighty Saturn [Kronos], various speech is thine: Blossom of earth and of the starry skies, husband of Rhea, and Prometheus wife. Obstetric Nature, venerable root, from which the various forms of being shoot; No parts peculiar can thy pow'r enclose, diffus'd thro' all, from which the world arose, O, best of beings, of a subtle mind, propitious hear to holy pray'rs inclin'd; The sacred rites benevolent attend, and grant a blameless life, a blessed end." [XII]

Image source: Kronos