We had our first snow yesterday, a light dusting that never the less insulated the house and brought on cravings of cosy fires and hot chocolate. I'm not the greatest fan of snow (I am a bit of a spaz and tend to fall flat on my face when it snows), but I do really enjoy the sight.
Not many people would relate snow with ancient Hellas, but it did snow there, just as it does in the area today. Sparta, being in the south, would have seen very little snow, but in northern Hellas, it most likely snowed several times a year. It seems that eating snow with honey and fruits was a delicacy around the fifth century B.C., and Hippocrates instructed his patients to consume ice. Mount Olympus, home of the Theoi, located on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, is described as 'snow-topped' by Hómēros in the Iliad:
"And when the lame god had wrought the armour, he took it and set it down in front of Thetis. Then she swooped like a falcon, from snow-topped Olympus, bearing Hephaestus’ gleaming gift."
The ancient Hellens even worshipped a Theia of snow: the lovely Khionê (χιών), daughter of Boréas (Βορέας), the Northern wind, and Ōreithuia (Ὠρείθυια), daughter of King Erechtheus (Ἐρεχθεύς) of Athens and his wife, Praxithea (Πραξιθέα). Khionê is a nymph and her name bears a direct link with the ancient Hellenic word for snow: khiôn.
Following my own little tradition, I offered sacrifice to Khionê yesterday, welcoming her to my part of the world and thanking her for the insulating layer over the ground that will offer protection to the younglings growing under it. She may have been a little late for Christmas, but who can blame her? It isn't as if Christmas was a holiday the ancient Hellenes celebrated. Thankfully I won't have to go out today so I can enjoy Khionê's presence from the comfort of my couch, safe and sound, and surrounded by Her beauty.