Many ancient Hellenic religious traditions--and especialy Mystery Traditions--have 'hiera' (ἱερὰ), sacred objects. These objects are usually tucked away in a basket or box and only taken out (if at all) at very specific, very special occasion. The Eleusinian Mysteries had their own hiera, and they were a large part of the rites.

On the first day of the Myteries, the 14th of Boedromion, the priestesses of Demeter and Persephone took the basket of the hiera of Demeter from Her temple in Eleusis to Athens, and carried it on their heads along the Sacred Way (Ἱερὰ Ὁδός, 'Hieros Hodos') that initiates themselves would walk in a few days. The procession along the twelve miles of the Sacred Way, accompanied by an honor guard from Athens and villagers, would have arrived at Athens at the end of the day, no doubt being welcomed by celebrants already in the city. A priest of Demeter climbed up to the Akropolis to announce the arrival of Demeter’s sacred objects and her entourage, to the priestess of Athena. In this way, the relationship of these two Goddesses and of their two, once independent regions, were accorded mutual respect. It's interesting to note that Athena had Her own hiera, which featured heavily in the Arrephoria festival. That night, the procession of priestesses, priests, initiates, and other celebrants would have paraded through the Agora up to the sacred precinct of Demeter in Athens, called the Eleusinion, between the Agora and the north slope of the Akropolis. There, the hiera would have been taken into her temple, with singing and dancing.

On day five, many thousands of celebrants joined the pompe--procession--from Athens to Eleusis, led by the priestesses of Demeter and Persephone carrying the basket of hiera. Celebrants left early in the morning from Athens’ sacred gate at the northeast corner of the Agora) and proceeded along the Hieros Hodos to Eleusis.

On 20th and 21st of Boedromion, the initiates entered a great hall called Telesterion; in the center stood the Anaktoron ('palace'), which only the hierophants could enter, where sacred objects were stored. Before mystai could enter the Telesterion, they would recite a line that shows the hiera have made another appearance before this time. From Clement of Alexandrias 'Exhortation to the Greeks':

"And the formula of the Eleusinian mysteries is as follows: 'I fasted; I drank the draught; I took from the chest; having done my task, I placed in the basket, and from the basket into the chest.'"

We do not know what the hiera were. The content of the kiste, a sacred chest, and the kalathos, a lidded basket was a well-guarded secret. It would have been shown to initiates during the initiation, but they were sworn to secrecy. Thomas Taylor, in his 'Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries' says the hiera were 'a golden mystical serpent, an egg, a phallus, and possibly also seeds sacred to Demeter'. There is no further source listed.

For our rites for the Mysteries, the hiera do not make an appearacne. We do not know what they are, and so we cannot recreate even the idea of them. The hiera will most likely always remain an intriguing mystery about the Mysteries, one I would love to find out more about.
Two new exhibitions have recently started and I'd like to share them for those who are anywhere near Athens and/or Cambridge. They are 'Following Hercules' in Cambridge, England and 'Cycladica in Crete' in Athens, Greece.


'Following Hercules: The story of classical art' at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Hēraklēs is one of the best loved heroes from ancient Hellas. Known in antiquity for completing twelve labours that confirmed his status as a God, Hēraklēs is today tasked with one more-to show visitors to the Fitzwilliam Museum how sculptures made in the Mediterranean millennia ago came to define western art, thus reports the Archaeological News Network.

Hēraklēs inhabits each of the forty objects on display, which range from exquisite miniatures and Renaissance prints, drawings and paintings, to Wedgwood cameos and a giant polystyrene statue. The result is an arresting visual experience of differing scales, styles and material, which gives ongoing meaning to the ‘classical’.

The Museum of Classical Archaeology’s cast of the Farnese Hercules is central to the exhibition’s story and awaits your visit on the Sidgwick Site. Hercules is one of the oldest casts on the site and one of several to have come, via the Fitzwilliam, from the same early nineteenth-century collection in Battersea. Come and meet him, discover more about his story, and more about the cast of characters that accompanied him to Cambridge. In the process you will see why casts of Hellenic and Roman art remain awesome and relevant.

The exhibition opened Friday 25th September, in the Fitzwilliam Museum and The Museum of Classical Archaeology, Cambridge, and runs through Sunday 6th December, 2015.

'Cycladica in Crete' at the Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens
The International Symposium 'Cycladica in Crete: Cycladic and Cycladicizing figurines within their archaeological context' is organized by the Museum of Cycladic Art under the auspices of the University of Crete, with the participation and collaboration of the National Centre for Scientific Research 'Demokritos' and the Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs, and with the support of National Geographic and the Cycladic Art Foundation. The Symposium will take place on Thursday 1st and Friday 2nd October 2015 at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. This reports the Archaeological News Network.

The purpose of the Symposium on the Cycladic and Cycladic-type figurines from Crete is to illuminate the sort of relations between the Cyclades and Crete during the 3rd millennium BC in light of modern research through the discussion of all the relevant finds that have from time to time been made in Crete. There are 23 papers on the topic to be given in the Symposium by well-known scholars from Greece, Britain, Germany, Belgium and the United States of America.

The Cycladic culture, one of the most important cultures of the prehistoric Aegean, flourished in the 3rd millennium BC. During that period the islands of the Cyclades had a leading role in the transit trade in the Aegean, thus acting as intermediaries in the movement of raw materials, ideas and products of technology originating from areas both within and beyond the Aegean (such as inland Asia Minor and the Black Sea) from one end of the archipelago to the other.

In the period of the floruit of the Cycladic culture, around the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, the influence exerted by the Cyclades on other Aegean areas is intense. Cycladic products, including both raw materials and finished objects of Cycladic provenance or inspiration, are widely circulated in the Aegean. The reverberations of marble Cycladic figurines, in particular, were so great that they are not only imported but also appear to be copied in areas beyond the Cyclades, particularly in Crete, which has produced the largest number of Cycladic and Cycladic-type figurines from all the other areas of the Aegean: about 90 such figurines have been found so far in excavations in Crete, sometimes in contexts providing information about the “archaeology” of ancient times. This taken together with the fact that these figurines are often found smashed in the way they are in the Cycladic islands suggests that they were not simply imported or copied as objects of prestige and social differentiation but also conveyed the symbolic meaning they had been assigned in the Cyclades.
Because I hope some of you are partaking in the Eleusinian Mysteries with us these coming days, at least a portion of this week's posts will be about the Mysteries, mostly about the little details. Today: food.

Initiates of the Eleusinian Mysteries were instructed to fast each day from dawn until sunset, following the example of Demeter who would neither eat nor drink while searching for her lost daughter. Fasting, as we know, is a means of cleansing the body, a time when the body’s cells and tissues dispel impurities. More than that, it is a mental exercise of willpower and awareness. In the evenings initiates could eat and drink, except for the traditionally 'forbidden foods'. What these forbidden foods were, however, is cause for much debate.

Porphyrios, in his 'Abstinia' claims that meat, fowl, red mullet fish, red wine, apples, pomegranates, and beans were off the menu for the initiates of the Mysteries, as he says:

"In the Eleusian mysteries, likewise, the initiated are ordered to abstain from domestic birds, from fishes and beans, pomegranates and apples; which fruits are as equally defiling to the touch, as a woman recently delivered, and a dead body."

It also seems that at the entrance to the temple of Demeter at Eleusis, tablets were placed containing a list of forbidden foods. The list included several kinds of fish--the whistle-fish, gurnet, crab, and mullet. In all probabihty the whistle-fish is that known as Scicena aquila, a Mediterranean fish that makes a noise under the water which has been compared to bellowing, buzzing, purring, or whistling, the air bladder being the sound-producing organ. The whistle-fish and crab were held to be impure, the first because it laid its eggs through the mouth, and the second because it ate filth which other fish rejected. The gurnet was rejected because of its fecundity as witnessed in its annual triple laying of eggs, but, according to some riters, it was rejected because it ate a fish which was poisonous to mankind. It may well be that other fish were interdicted, but archeologists and historians agree Porphyry was probably exaggerating when he said that all fish were forbidden.

Birds bred at home, such as chickens and pigeons, were also on the banned list, as were beans and certain vegetables which were forbidden for a mystical reason which Pausanias said he dare not reveal save to the initiated. The probable reason was that they were connected in some way with the wanderings of Demeter. Pomegranates were, of course, forbidden, from the incident of the eating of the pomegranate seeds by Persephone, causing her annual return to the Underworld.

Eggs are a controversial matter. They are attested as banned foods in the Orphic Tradition, appear in lists attested to Pythagoras, and those of several other wise men. While there is no direct relation to the Eleusinian mysteries, Most--if not all--of the other foods listed as banned within the Eleusinian Mystery Tradition also appear on the lists of these other (Mystery) Traditions. As such, for me personally, I abstain from eggs as well. It makes sense seeing as they came to be through the process of a birth--something attested to being miasmic.

We do not encourage our members to go on a ten day fast, eating only ad night. What we do encourage is a one day fast, in the daylight hours of October 2, the day of the actual initiatory rite. Now, a few words of warning and wisdom: fasting is a practice that's reserved for healthy adults and non-pregnant women. It's not suitable for children, the elderly, pregnant women or anyone with medical or psychological conditions which may be triggered by a lack of food. If you're struggling with eating disorders or anything else that may be triggered by a fast, pick something that does not involve food or drink, like electronic devices. Go through the day without using a cell phone, your computer, the radio or the T.V.. Especially in a religious setting, it's the 'going without' part that matters most.
I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.


"Is Khaos considered a deity?"

The ancient Hellenic philosophers and mythographers were in agreement that the Gods created the universe--or are the universe itself. There are many variations of the divine family tree, and in the ancient writings, there are also creation stories that range beyond this basic framework. When Hesiod wrote his Theogony, he was adament about the sequence the Gods appeared from Khaos. Within the nothingness, Khaos appeared, then Gaia as the earth Herself, the Tartaros and Eros. The Gods and Godesses who rule over the cycle of night and day followed after and then, slowly, the earth itself took shape. The pre-Olypic and Olympic deities came into being. the universe as we know it was born.

Roughly divided, all our Gods and heroes (who were often raised up to become Gods in their own right) fit into five generational categories. These are the:
  • Protogenoi
  • Uranides
  • Titanes
  • Olympic Gods
  • Heroes/deified mortals
The Protogenoi are the Gods from which the universe is made. They are Gods like Khaos, Gaia, Ouranos, and Nyx. In general, these Theoi are more abstract and less defined than, say, the Olympians. They are cruder, more powerful Gods who, together, form the tapistry of earth and life. We simply could not live without Them as They are the air we breath, the earth we walk on, the water we drink and the death that eventually lays us to rest. And yet, neither we, nor the ancient Hellenes revered them often. They are distant and have very little to do with the individual’s lifecycle. But they are Gods and They deserve due honours.

---

"I am trying to understamd Nyx's family a bit more. Could you help? And was she worshipped in Greece?"

Nyx (Νυξ) is the deep Night, born from Khaos (Χαος) and the sister-wife of Aither (Αιθηρ, 'Light'). In Hellenic mythology, Nyx draws a veil of darkness between the shining atmosphere of the aither and the lower air of earth (aer) at set times in the day, bringing night to man. In the morning, Her daughter Hêmera (Ἡμερα, 'Day') removes this veil, and exposes the Earth once more to Light.

Nyx and Hêmera continually work to both create and dissolve darkness on Earth; Selene (the Goddess of the Moon) moves with Nyx, and Helios (God of the Sun) with Hêmera, as heralded by Eos. In this recap, it is quite obvious we are yet missing a speciffic time of the day: dusk, or the evening. This was in the domain of the Nymphs, in this case the Hesperides (Ἑσπεριδες), who--depending of source--are either the daughters of Nyx or Atlas.

In ancient Hellas, Nyx was only rarely the focus of cult worship. Pausanias mentions She had an oracle on the acropolis at Megara, but that is about it. More often, Nyx was worshipped in other major cults, alongside the main deity: there was a statue called 'Nyx' in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Spartans had a cult of Sleep and Death, conceived of as twins, with Nyx being worshipped as Their mother, etc.

---

"Hi I'm a Hellenic Polytheism ... my family just know that I don't like to go to the church and (I do it anyway - I'm a teenager and live with them) they are Catholics. I'm the only one in the whooole family that don't share that faith. They say to me things about sin, the hell and stuff ... they scares me, ok, although I believe in the Theoi and I feel my soul is relatively safe (nobody knows what would happen after dead). But ... idk, the fear that maybe I'm doing something "wrong" is there."

You know, I am a hard polytheist; I believe all Gods exist. That includes the Christian God. It's the bible I don't really put much stock into, but I have a healthy dose of respect for the Christian God.

I believe religion is a choice. If all Gods are real, and mythology tells you what They are like, theology is basically marketing for Gods. Eventually, something evokes an emotional response and whatever resonates most with you, you end up sticking with. Without going all philosophical on you, I thus believe that what it says in the brocure is what you get in the end of the day. For us, that means we go to Haides and wander the Meadow. If we did really well, we get a version of paradise on the Isle. If you choose the christian brosure, you get either heaven or hell, depending on the tally against you.

If you believe you are doing something 'wrong', I think you haven't made your final choice yet. You might feel drawn to Hellenismos, but you are still tied to Christianity. Some of us, we can let go of whatever religion we were raised in or wandered into on our own easily. Others take a bit of time. But I truly believe that once you get more comfortable in Hellenismos as a religion and lifestyle, the feeling of 'wrongness' will go away.

What I usually suggest to those breaking away from an existing religous bond in favour of a new one is to conciously say goodbye. Go to church and thank the Lord of Christianity for all He has done for you in the years you were under His protection. And then ask him to kindly let you go so you may present yourself to the Theoi. Then do that, present yourself to the Theoi and ask to be placed under Their protection instead. This way, proper respect is show for all involved and it should be easier for you to fully emerce yourself in Hellenismos.
This was an announcement long in the making: for the first time in the history of Elaion, we will be hosting the celebration of the Eleusinian Greater Mysteries. As a basic viewpoint, Elaion believes that the Mysteries need not be pursued; they are not a spiritual ‘formula’ that experimentation will eventually rediscover. That said, we also acknowedge that it's a festival many have been drawn to--both then and now--and we want to give our members a chance to celebrate it in a way that is as Recon as possible once you accept that we know far too little about it to ever accurately be so. Since the proceedings of the Eleusinian Mysteries were kept secret in fear of the punishment of death, we will never be able to restore these rites. But we do know a few basics and we have formulated our celebration accordingly. Please read through all information as well as the rituals before deciding to join.

The Eleusinian Mysteries (Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) had festivals throughout the year, which were tied to agriculture through Demeter's refusal to perform her duties as an agricultural Goddess while her daughter Persephone is with Hades, and to the afterlife and Underworld through Persephone's return to the surface of the earth after Her mandatory stay with Hades has ended. Initiation ceremonies were held every year at Eleusis. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, the mysteries at Eleusis were assumed to be of great importance to a large portion of the ancient Hellenes. The cult itself likely had origins dating back to the Mycenean period of around 1600 to 1100 BC, and it is believed that the cult of Demeter Herself was established in 1500 BC.

The Eleusinian Mysteries consist mostly of two festivals, but the worship of Demeter and Persephone consist of a cycle of seven festivals: the Greater Mysteries (13-23 Boedromion), the Proerosia (6 Pyanepsion), the Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), the Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), the Haloa (26 Poseideon), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), and the Skiraphoria (12 Skirophorion). These are placed in sequence of the Athenian year.

Mythologically, the foundations of the Eleusinian Mysteries can be found in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Within the hymn, Demeter travels the globe in her grief over losing Her daughter. She eventually settles at the home of Keleus. Demeter plans to make one of his sons immortal in return for his hospitality but She is interrupted. Instead, she tells Keleus to build Her a temple and altar so she can teach human beings the knowledge they need to have a good life.

The Mysteries were obviously celebrated to honor Demeter--Demeter Eleusinia, specifically. Through the honoring of Demeter, the ancient Hellenes prayed for a good harvest, and through the worship of Persephone--Kore--those who were initiated in the Mysteries assured they would be looked upon favorably in the Afterlife.

For those who wish to join us, the Eleusinian Mysteries will be a ten day event, starting on September 27th with a rite meant to emulate the walk to Eleusis from Athens that all initiates eventually undertook. The procession would have started from the shine of Iakkhos, and Iakkhos was invited to come along to Eleusis by those in the procession. The mystai would sacrifice at all shrines along the way. The mystai would arrive in darkness, or at least guided by torchlight, as Demeter searched for Her daughter with a torch in hand. Upon arrival, sacrifices were made to Demeter. After undertaking this rite, we encourage everyone articipating to put on a króki. Króki were pieces of string (wool), worn around the wrist. The initiates of the Mysteries recieved yellow ones on the way to Eleusis.

For the continuation of the days, you can make daily sacrifices to Demeter and Persephone, as laid out in the rituals provided. All have a different character and different steps to undertake so reading through them ahead of time is quite important. While not mandatory, we also encourage those who join to potentially limit or cut out their intake of pomegranates, apples, eggs, fowls, and fish as the ancient Hellenes would have done for the duration of the Mysteries.

Then, we have prepared a rite for the Epidauria. The Epidauria was a festival of Asklepios placed smack in the middle of the Mysteries--exactly six months after the other major festival of Asklepios in Athens: the one during the Greater Dionysia. The day was named after Asklepios healing centre to the south at Epidauros. It was said that on this day, the cult of Asklepios and Hygeia joined the Eleusinian Mysteries rites in Athens.

What, exactly, happened during the Epidauria is unclear as discussing the rites that took place at Eleusis carried a death sentence, but I think we can safely say that the rites at Eleusis involving Asklepios were most likely similar to the rites to Asklepios that took place at other places--including Epidauros. What we do know is that the rites of sacrifices were held at Demeter’s Eleusinion temple in Athens to honour Asklepios, His daughter Hygeia, and Demeter and Persephone, who also were revered as healing deities.

Asklepios' worship almost always included a 'night watch'; a night time period of meditation and contemplation at a temple to Asklepios; the Asklepion. the initiates would most likely sit, contemplate, and cleanse themselves of ailments, distress, and anything that might distract them form the proceedings to follow. The temple of Asklepios was built near the enclosure of a sacred spring in a small cave and it included an abaton, a sleeping hall sacred to Asklepios where initiates could sleep while watched over by priests of Asklepios who prayed to Asklepios to visit these initiates in their sleep and give them messages intended to heal and cleanse. The following morning, initiates would tell their dream to a priest of Asklepios or Hygeia, called 'therapeutes'. The initiate would then be encouraged to put the advice he or she had gotten into practice. We ask you to take part in this night time practice and follow it up with sacrifices to Asklepios and His daughter the day after.

The day after the epidauria was the day the initiates would have traveled to Eleusis. We moved this to the start as a way to introduce you to the Mysteries themselves, but for the ancient Hellenes, this was a walk that ended in darkness, with a torch lit procession to the shrine of Demeter and an offering that was not burned but buried. In the case of the ancient Hellenes, this was most likely a pig but we leave it to you what you want to offer to the Goddess.

We can say with a relative degree of certainty, that the day before the actual initiation was a day on which the initiates fasted in preparation of the main initiatory rite that took place in the nighttime hours of the next day. If you wish to join us for that fast, we would encourage you to stop eating at dusk on 1 October and consume nothing but water (or juice, if you need to!) until after the main rite that takes place in after dusk on 2 October, once it's completely dark out.

While the Eleusinian Mysteries were held largely out of gratitude for the agricultural knowledge provided to us by Demeter, the ancient Hellenes became initiates for an entirely different reason: to be looked more favourably upon by the Theoi in death. Through the worship of Demeter and Persephone, participants hoped that Persephone would talk to Her Husband and the Judges of the dead. It is this focus that all rituals have: the rites of being initiated into the Mysteries in order to be well taken care of after death.

After the main initiatory right, the festival winded down. It's quite possible the initiated didn't sleep throughout the night of their initiation and the attested sacrifice to Demeter and Persephone the next day, we feel, was most likely done at dusk. Feel free to hold it at the standard PAT ritual time of 10 AM EDT, though. the focus of this sacrifice was the complete tipping out of two jugs of water onto the eath by the initiated, one to Demeter and one to Persephone, most likely in gratitude of the experience and knowledge gleamed the previous night.

The following day, we are unsure of what happened, exactly, but we take it to be a resting day and have prepared a simple rite to the Theoi for it. Day nine is another, general, rite, but we encourage you--as the initiated were--to add prayers and hymns to the Theoi you feel closest to to it with the goal of reestablishing the connection with Them after being so immersed in rites with a Kthonic character.

On the final day, we have prepared a closing rite which thanks the Theoi for guiding you on this journey and has you take off the króki you tied around your wrist on the first day. This will signal the end of the Mysteries.

To make things easier, we have laid out a time table:
  • September 27: starting ritual 
  • September 28: purification rite
  • September 29: sacrifices to Demeter and Persephone / Prayers to Asklepios for prophetic dreams and healing (nighttime)
  • September 30: Epidauria ritual
  • October 1: sacrifices to Demeter (nighttime)
  • October 2: initiation rite (nighttime) (fasting day)
  • October 3: tipping out of water jugs to Demeter and Persephone
  • October 4: sacrifices to Demeter and Persephone
  • October 5: sacrifices to Demeter and Persephone + personal sacrifices
  • October 6: closing rite

  • We truly hope you will join us for this event. You can share your experience with the community here and all rituals can be found here. Note, these are ALL rituals, eleven of them in total. One for every day, plus one extra. Read the explanation above and see the schedule for clarification. It is highly encouraged you read through them before the Mysteries start! We are very excited about the opportunity of offering this experience to you and we hope you will find a glimmer of what the ancient Hellenes might have experienced during the most anticipated days of the year.
    Ambrosia. in Hellenic mythology it's the food of the Gods, but it is also so much more. Today I would like to spend a little time getting some source material together on it. It's been on my mind due to some off-handed comment about fruit (I love fruit and, to a friend, I remarked that it's 'ambrosia from the Gods' to me) and so that means it's now on your mind as well!

    Ambrosia (ἀμβροσία) literally translates as 'immortality'. Ambrosia is very closely related to the Gods' other form of sustenance, nectar (νέκταρ', 'death overcoming', where ambrosia is usually the food and nectar the drink of the Theoi.

    The two terms may not have originally been distinguished. In Hómēros', this holds true, but in Alcman, nectar is the food, and in Sappho and Anaxandrides, ambrosia is the drink. Among later writers, ambrosia has been so often used with generic meanings of 'delightful liquid' that such late writers as Athenaeus, Paulus and Dioscurides employ it as a technical terms in contexts of cookery, medicine, and botany. Both are said to smell divine (pun intended), and both are brought to Olympos by doves.

    In general, both ambrosia and nectar were the standard food of those with Ichor in their veins. In Hellenic mythology, ichor (ἰχώρ) is the ethereal fluid that is the blood of the Gods and other immortals. It is sometimes said to retain the qualities of the immortal's food and drink, ambrosia or nectar. It was considered to be golden in color, as well as lethally toxic to mortals. Because They have ichor in Their veins, not blood, They are immortal, or--perhaps better said--only immortal beings have ichor coursing through their veins; mortal beings have blood.From the Iliad:

    "The point tore through the ambrosial robe which the Graces had woven for her [Aphrodite], and pierced the skin between her wrist and the palm of her hand, so that the immortal blood, or ichor, that flows in the veins of the blessed gods, came pouring from the wound; for the gods do not eat bread nor drink wine, hence they have no blood such as ours, and are immortal." [BK. V]

    When brought into contact with mortals, both ambrosia and nectar act as near-miracle substances. Ascribed to them when consumed or even rubbed onto the skin are:
    • Provide apotheosis; make mortals mmortal, and thus provide immortality to mortals (in the case of Hēraklēs, for example, and Demophon at the hands of Demeter)
    • Act as a magical anti-aging cream--mostly for women (as with Penelope)
    • Act as an anguent, a soothing preparation spread on wounds, burns, rashes, abrasions or other topical injuries in order to heal them
    • Act as a balming agent to preserve the corpses of fallen mortals.
    Both ambrosia and nectar appear in many ancient writings and they play an important role--both positivelty as negatively--in mythology. Ambrosia gets stolen and mortals punished, Gods get interrupted while applying it anfd thus mortals can't become immortal, etc. As with anything to do with the Theoi in mythology, messing with ambrosia and nectar is often more trouble than the consequences are worth. Unless, of course, it turns you into a God. Then it's worth the very steep price that always has to be paid for it through the completion of various, gueling, quests.
    Everyone knows and loves the Twelve Olympians. Heck, everyone knows and loves all Olympians. there are many Theoi, however, that often get overlooked. Today I wanted to introduce a few of the lesser known Theoi to you, if you haven't heard of Them already. I am a firm believer that all the Theoi deserve praise and knowledge of them is the first step towards that goal.


    Nereus
    Nereus (Νηρευς) is the old man of the sea, and the God of the sea's rich bounty of fish. He dwells in the depths of the Aegean with his wife Doris and his fifty Nereid daughters. Like many of the other sea-Gods Nereus is a master shapeshifter, and speaks with prophetic voice. He is considered a very wise and very old God and the ancient Hellenes depicted him as an old man with a wooden staff accompanied by a host of his Nereid daughters. Sometimes he was depicted with a coiling fish tail in place of legs.

    Khionê
    Khionê (χιών) is one of the nymphs, a daughter of Boreas, God of the north-wind, and Oreithyia, the lady of mountain gales. Khione is the Goddess of snow. Her name bears a direct link with the ancient Hellenic word for snow: khiôn.

    The Astra Planeti
    The Astra Planeti (Αστηρ Πλανητων) are the Gods of the five wandering stars or planets. They are named Phainon (the planet of Kronos), Phaethon (the planet of Zeus), Pyroeis (the planet of Ares), Eosphoros (the planet of Aphrodite), and Stilbon (the planet of Hermes). In Hellenic vase painting they were depicted as youths diving into the river Okeanos with the rising of Helios.

    Hebe
    Hebe (Ἡβη) is the Goddess of youth and the cupbearer of the Gods who served ambrosia at the heavenly feasts. She is also the patron Goddess of the young bride and an attendant of Aphrodite. Her father is Zeus and her mother is Hera. Her husband is the hero Hēraklēs.

    Aniketos and Alexiares
    Aniketos (Ανικητος) and Alexiares (Αλεξιαρης) are the sons of Hebe and Hēraklēs. Together, They guard the Gates of Olympos and presided over the defence of fortified towns and citadels. Their names mean respectively 'the unconquerable one' and ' he who wards off war'.

    Phobos and Deimos
    Phobos (Φοβος) is the God of fear, dread and terror, and his twin-brother Deimos (Δειμος) the god of panic fear, flight and battlefield rout. They are sons of Ares and Aphrodite and often accompany their father into battle, driving His chariot and spreading fear in Their wake. As sons of Aphrodite the twins also represented the fear of loss. In classical art the two were usually represented as youths. Phobos was sometimes depicted with a lion or lion-like head.

    Iapetos
    Iapetos (Ιαπετος) is one of the Titan Gods, sons of Ouranos and Gaia. He is one of four brothers who hold heaven and earth apart. Iapetos Himself was no doubt the pillar of the west, a position which was later and more obviously held by His son Atlas. He may have been regarded as the Titan God of the mortal life-span and His sons Prometheus and Epimetheus were represented as the creators of mankind and other mortal creatures.

    Harmonia
    Harmonia (Ἁρμονια) is the Goddess of harmony and concord. As a daughter of Aphrodite, she presides over marital harmony, soothing strife and discord; as a daughter of Ares, she represented harmonious action in war. Late Hellenic and Roman writers ascribe cosmic harmony to Her. Her counterpart is Eris.
    I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.


    "How can I learn to do divination through the Limyran Oracle?"
                                           
    The Limyran Oracle, or ‘Alphabet Oracle’, is marketed as an authentic ancient Hellenic alphabet oracle, which was taken from an inscription in Olympos, a city in ancient Lycia. I haven’t been able to find much on it save a few websites, but the University of Tennessee Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science website has a version of it up for inspection. Please turn to that link for the full explanation, but let me give you the start:

    The oracle works as follows: each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding oracle, and the first word of the oracle (in Greek) begins with that letter. There are at least three methods of consulting the alphabet oracle, according tot he article.

    The first uses a set of twenty-four stones or potsherds, each inscribed or painted with a letter of the alphabet. When you want to consult the oracle, pick a stone without looking. According tot he article, one ancient method was to shake the stones in a bowl or frame drum until one jumped out. Stones used in this way would be called psêphoi in Ancient Greek.

    A second method is to use, five knuckle bones, called astragaloi. Cast all five at once or one five times. Knucklebones have four ‘sides’, traditionally given the values 1 (Monas), 3 (Trias), 4 (Tetras), and 6 (Hexas), according tot he article. There are 24 possible total values from five knucklebones: 5 to 30, excepting 6 and 29, which are impossible. The highest cast would be associated with Alpha and the lowest with Omega (so Alpha = 30, Beta = 28, Gamma = 27, …, Psi = 7, Omega = 5). Say you throw 3, 6, 6, 4, and 1, your number is 20, which links to the letter 'K’, Kappa.

    In the third way, five dice (cuboi, tesserae) are cast. Like with the knuckle bones, there are twenty-six possible total values, 5 through 30, which are associated in decreasing order with the Greek letters, including the archaic Digamma (Wau) and Qoppa. There are no oracles for Digamma and Qoppa, however, and so these need to be recast. The sum is the same as with the knuckle bones as well, add the results of all dice together and you will get the corresponding letter.

    The website goes on to list a chart with the number, the numerical value by knuckle bones or dice, and the oracular message that corresponds with the letter, as taken from an inscription allegedly in Olympos. They read anywhere from 'Gaia will give you the ripe fruit of your labors’, to 'You will have a parting from the {Tôn} companions now around you’, and 'You will have a difficult {Ômos} harvest season, not a useful one’.
     
    ---
     
    "hi! i love your blog and appreciate you answering questions and writing really enlightening posts, so thank you for all that! :) i have two questions that i hope you can answer. i'm agender and was wondering whether agender people (or non-binary people in general) "existed" in ancient greece? like, were they talked about, accepted, not accepted? also, which gods do you think could be associated with something like being agender?"
     
    Gender was pretty important in ancient Hellas, and no matter how they might have identified, it seems pretty much everyone was forced to assume the role of the gender they were born in. So no, I do not know of any examples of clear agender characters in ancient Hellenis mythology, nor of any real-life examples. You were trained from birth how to behave as a boy or a girl and that path was continued down through the years. There are, however, a few instances of gender switching and other diviations from the traditional binary.

    I must, of course, start with Hermaphroditos (Ἑρμαφρόδιτος), who is the child of Aphrodite and Hermes. He became a minor deity of bisexuality and effeminacy, and was portrayed as a female figure with male genitals. In the myth told by the Roman poet Ovid, Hermaphroditos was born fully male. As a young man, he wandered the lands and encountered a nymph, Salmacis (Σαλμακίς), in her pool. Salmacis fell for the boy right away, tried to seduce him. Hermaphroditos rebuked her, but she still jumped him when undressed for a bath in her pool. As he tried to fight her off, Salmacis cried out for the Theoi to let them stay forever merged–upon which the Theoi agreed: the two fused together, becoming the first hermaphrodite. 

    I’ve mentioned before that Ovid’s myths aren’t reflective of ancient Hellenic mythology–and in Hellenic myth, Hermaphroditos was either born with both male and female part, or he was simply very feminine in that he had pale skin and was very delicate, while still possessing the strength of a male. Especially in the latter case, there is a beautiful gender duality in Hermaphroditos that I much appreciate.

    Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is the source for a few other Hellenic-inspired Roman myth: the myth about the immensely strong warrior Kaineus (Καινεύς), for example, who was born as a woman named Kainis, and asked to be transformed into a male after being raped by Poseidon (or Hermes). Poseidon agrees, and makes Kaineus impervious to mortal weapons to boot, making him a capable warrior. Kaineus is mentioned in ancient classics like the Illiad, but without the gender-shift. In the Illiad, he is one of the earlies heroic, and extraordinary, warriors.

    Another of Ovid’s metamorphoses happens to Teiresias (Τειρεσίας), the blind prophet from Thebes. There is more Hellenic support for this myth, however. As the story goes, Teiresias was out one day, and came upon a pair of snakes, who were mating in the bush. He swiftly hit them over the head with a stick and killed both of them. Hera witnessed his actions and was not pleased: she transformed Teiresias into a woman. After recovering from the shock, Teiresias accepted her fate and married. She also became a priestess of Hera to make up for her crime. Eventually, Teiresias had children and a decent life. Yet, when he came upon another pair of mating snakes seven years later, he either clubbed them to death again, or left them alone. Either action let to another change of sex: Teiresias was male again. How his husband dealt with this is unclear. In a later myth, Hera blinds the prophet when he is asked to settle a dispute between her and Zeus: who enjoys sex more, male or female. Teiresias, who has experienced both, must side with Zeus: women most definitely enjoy sex more.

    A myth of which only fragments have survived is the story of Siproites of Krete, who saw Artemis bathing in the woods one day, and was changed by her into a woman. Why this exact punishment was placed upon Siproites is unclear.

    The last myth I’ll retell is the one about Leucippus (Λεύκιππος), who was born female to Lamprus and Galatea. Lamprus had warned Galatea that he would only accept a male child, so when Leucippus turned out to be female, Galatea hid the gender of the child from her husband and raised Leucippus as male. Of course, once Leucippus reached adolescence, her gender became hard to hide. In some versions of the myth, Leucippus fell for the girl next door, making it even more prudent that Leucippus became the male she wanted to be. And so, Galatea went to the temple of Leto and prayed to turn her daughter into the son she had promised her husband. Leto, moved by the mother’s plea, did as she was asked. The people of Phaistos, there the myth took place, honored Leto by her epithet 'Phytia’ (to grow, φύω), in reference to Leucippus’ newly grown penis. The people of Phaistos also founded a feast called the 'Ekdysia’ (undressing, ἑκδύω), because Leucippus was no longer forced to wear women’s clothes. It also became custom for the women of Phaestus to lie next to the statue of Leucippus before their wedding.

    I hope this helps some :)
    ---
     
    "i once called myself a hellenic reconstructionist, but it doesn't fit me anymore because i right now don't have the time or energy to be as recon as it takes to call myself that (if that makes sense...). so i'm starting to call myself a revivalist hellenic polytheist ("hellenic revivalist"?). i guess my question is if i can still say i belong in hellenismos? because i like that the religion has a name, but now that i'm less recon i'm not sure if i'm "allowed" to say hellenismos is my religion..?"
     
    Hellenism is a sort of catch-all for anyone who worships the Hellenic Gods exclusively. The degree of Recon doesn't really change that. Feel free to use the term, as far as I am concerned :) The only terms that I do care about are the level of Recon you would ascribe yourself as it influences practice, viewpoints, and more of those things that would influence the conversation. But one thing is for certain: we all worship the Theoi and to me, that is all that is needed to call yourself a Hellenist!
    Tsk, tsk, tsk, two news items in a row. I know, I know, sorry! But I am invested in this story and I wanted to share it right away. The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has approved the proposal concerning the in situ preservation of the antiquities, for reasons of public interest, i.e. the preservation and protection of the authenticity of this unique monumental complex. Another reason mentioned is that the monument is facing serious risks because a lot of time has past since its excavation.


    A crash course on the project for those who are new to the blog. In March of 2013, I blogged about an excavation conducted at the Venizelos metro station which brought to light a very well preserved 70-meter section of a marble-paved road, the remains of buildings dating back to the sixth to ninth centuries AD, as well as big public buildings of the 7th century; a rarity for the Byzantine world. Trouble was (and is) that the site of the find is part of a new subway tunnel and platform which are being built to transport 250,000 passengers daily, and thus decrease traffic congestion and air pollution in the city. The entire subway project has a price-tag of 3.5 billion euros (4.6 billion dollars), and was co-financed by the European Union. To keep the road, the entire subway project would have to be abandoned. To save the subway project, the road would need to be moved, or destroyed--the same thing, according to archaeologists.

    By April it looked like Thessaloniki's government and archaeological institutions had found a solution to the problem: they were going to temporarily remove the finds during the station's construction and then restore about 85 percent to 95 percent after the station was completed. The solution proposed had a low cost--0,6 percent to 0.8 percent of the budget--with zero or only a few months delay to the works’ completion. Only a 45 square meter space (out of the area’s 1.600 square meters) would not be restored, due to the placement of vents and escalators.

    By February of last year, word got out that the removal of the antiquities from the construction site was suspended in July of last year following a decision reached by the Council of State. In the beginning of April I blogged about the estimation that it will take at least another three years and some 40 million euros for the excavation of ancient ruins to be completed. Well, it seems that that was a careful estimate: the new numbers weren't pretty. the new completion date was somehwere in 2020 and it might cost another 42 million euros in funding for the archaeological work it has lined up to complete the digs, on top of 92 million already spent.

    Now, a new decision issued by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) favors the in situ preservation of the antiquities found two years ago at the heart of Thessaloniki, during construction works of the “Venizelos” subway station. The issue has since then caused a lot of controversy not only within KAS, but also in the local and academic community. The Municipality of Thessaloniki has recently referred back to the Council submitting a proposal about a) the in situ preservation of the antiquities, and b) their enhancement in what the city’s mayor called an 'archaeological plaza'. The in situ preservation was approved, however, KAS has rejected the proposal about the enhancement of the monument on the ground of lacking documentation and asked the Municipality to conduct a complete architectural proposal in collaboration with the relevant services of the Cultural Ministry and the Attiko Metro.

    Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who was present at the meeting, explained the concept of the proposal, which, as he said, will allow the creation of an archaeological “plaza”, which will enhance the antiquities of the city in the heart of the citizens’ everyday life. According to the proposal, presented by professor Alexandra Alexopoulou (School of Architecture – Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), the archaeological site which comprises significant monuments, like the Byzantine Mese Odos, will be “open” to the public, and at the same time underground, beneath the Egnatia street. It will be easily accessible by the openings of the Kapnergati and Alkazar squares, which will descend gradually three metres underneath the road and will be connected by a bridge, built three metres above the antiquities. Furthermore, a big perimeter corridor will give visitors the opportunity to have a full view of the monuments, while from the same spot they will be able to descend and have a closer look at the antiquities.

    According to Mr. Boutaris, the proposal does not prevent a future construction of the subway station, as the necessary shafts will be built regardless. “The freeing of the place and the construction of an archaeological plaza do not affect the metro at all. That is why it must be disconnected from it and not be a part of it any longer. We do not object to the construction of the station, although the two stations – Venizelos and Aghia Sofia – are only 370m from one another, which is less than a bus station” he stressed.

    Another point underlined at the meeting was that the antiquities must be protected, as they remain at the mercy of humidity and rainfalls, due to the delays, while until now no proposal of detaching the antiquities from the Attiko Metro has been submitted – as asked for by the former Ministerial Decision.

    It should be reminded that according to the previous opinion of the Central Archaeological Council of December 2014, the antiquities were to be preserved in situ, as these are unique finds and examples of a Byzantine city planning, not to be found anywhere else in the world.
    The National Archaeological Museum in Athens has a new, temporary, exposition. It's called 'A dream among splendid ruins... Strolling through the Athens of travelers, 17th-19th century' and was  was designed to provide an imaginary stroll through monumental Athens between the 17th and 19th centuries. The announcement states that 'our companions on this stroll are the European travelers who undertook the Grand Tour to the capital city of Hellenism and who, inspired by the movement of Classicism, recorded the splendid ruins of its historical past'.



    The exhibition was organised with the cooperation of the Hellenic Parliament Library. Into the total of 76 exhibits are included works of sculpture and archive records from the National Archaeological Museum, along with etchings, paintings and illustrated editions from the Collection of Artworks and the Library of the Hellenic Parliament. Works of art on loan from the Museum of the City of Athens and the General State Archives of Greece also feature among the exhibits.

    The exposition consists of twenty-two illustrated travel publications and twenty-four original works of art--oil paintings, watercolors, and engravings from the Library collections of the Hellenic Parliament. Together, they offer an overview of the landscapes, images, monuments, and specific moments by travelers visiting Athens between the 17th and 19th century. Thirty-five marble sculptures from the National Archaeological Museum, many of them presented here for the first time, converse with the travelers’ works, complementing their charming narrative of the city’s monumental topography, or so the Archaeological News Network reports. The museum experience is supplemented by music from the travelers’ homelands as well as by Greek music such as that recorded by the French composer and music theorist L.A. Bourgault-Ducoudray during his visit to Athens in 1874-1875.

    The exhibition is enriched with digital applications that enhance visitors’ sense of direction around the monumental landscape of the city, enable them to leaf through pictures of illustrated books on display, offer them the opportunity to glimpse into the everyday life of the city, as this comes alive with the aid of technology, and to reflect back, by way of images, photos and selected extracts from travelers’ texts as well as those of institutional representatives of the new Greek state, on the relationship people who lived then in Athens, permanently or temporarily, had with antiquities. The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue in Greek and in English published by the Archaeological Receipts Fund.

    The cultural environment in which European traveling flourished was directly linked to the intensification of the study of classical antiquity and systematization of archaeological research. Integrated into the same context is the formation of the first private archaeological collections and archaeological museums in Europe, as well as the dark side of traveling--the 'mania' for antiquities and their plundering--both of which increased the awareness of the newly-formed Greek state and led to the establishment of a national policy for the protection of antiquities and creation of archaeological museums.

    This temporary exhibition can be seen as the precursor of an important approaching anniversary. In 2016, the National Archaeological Museum will celebrate 150 years since its foundation. The new exhibition of the National Archaeological Museum brings out the incipient cultural environment to which the Museum owes its foundation, while the long chronicle of the museum’s founding, character, history, and activities, so closely bound with the modern history of Greece, will be unravelled in a series of upcoming events.

    The first one is now presented in a separate hall adjacent to the exhibition of the Travelers. It is a special visual installation the artistic curation of which was undertaken by Andonis Theocharis Kioukas. Enriched with music and film projections, the installation makes use of old showcases from the first years of the Museum’s operation, subtly making an effort to elucidate the secret thread that connects all those that the National Archaeological Museum carries in its entrails and transports through time functioning as an ark of concepts and universal values.

    Now, of course I am aware that most of us--myself included--won't be able to visit Athens for this exposition. The video above, however, shows off a good few of the most striking pieces of the exposition and I loved seeing it (even though I couldn't understand a word). For those of you able to go the exhibition will run until 8th October, 2016.
    You thought we were done, weren't you? Nope! But these will be the last two rituals until the Eleusinian Mysteries, which we will be organising a sort of ten day PAT festival for. The Kharisteria ritual will be held today. The Boedromia is for tomorrow. Both are at 10 AM EDT. Will you be joining us?



    The Kharisteria
    The Kharisteria takes place on the sixth of the month--a day sacred to Artemis. This festival is another commemoration of a battle, in this case, the battle of Marathon which took place in 490 BC. It was also a festival to pay off a debt to the Theoi. During the battle of Marathon, around 10,000 Hellenes stood their ground against a Persian force between 30.000 and 100.000 men. 192 Hellenes fell, opposite 6.400 Persians. That was quite a victory--especially if you consider that the Hellenes were the attacking side. The casualty numbers are known because the Hellenes set up a memorial for their fallen comrades. The Persian dead were counted for a very speciffic reason: the Hellenes had promised to the Theoi a sacrifice of one goat for ever Persian killed. In the end, they discovered they'd killed so many Persians that they couldn't find enough goats. A payment plan of sorts was divised, and over the course of thirteen years, roughly 500 goats per year were sacrificed, a practice that was still performed in Plutarch’s day. Plutarch also confirms that the sacrifice took place at Artemis Agrotera’s sanctuary at Agrai.

    You can join the community page for this event here and download the ritual from here. As a personal note, this would be a great day to break out your copy of 300 because that's definitely the spirit of the battle that took place! We hope you join us for the ritual on 20 September, at 10 AM EDT.



    The Boedromia
    The festival that gives its name to the month. It might have been sacred to Apollon, and was thus most likely held on His sacred day--the seventh of the month. The Boedromia might have been another war commemoration. The epithet of Apollon associated with this festival is 'Boedromios', the helper in distress. The origin of the epithet and festival are explained in different ways. According to Plutarch, the name was awarded to Him (and the festival created) because he had assisted the Athenians in the war with the Amazons, who were defeated on the seventh of Boedromion, the day on which the Boedromia were afterwards celebrated. According to others, the name was awarded after the war of Erechtheus and Ion against Eumolpus, because Apollon had advised the Athenians to rush upon the enemy with a war-shout (Boê), if they wanted to win--and they did.

    We have already commemorated many ancient wars but with this ritual, we would like to address the many wars currently taking place in our world. We want to plead the Theoi to bring them to a swift end and bring refuge to the many displaced. We ask that xenia--hospitality--prevail in a time where many would turn these refugees away.

    You can join the community page on Facebook here and the ritual can be found here. We hope you join us on 21 September, at 10 AM EDT.
    Two more PAT ritual announcements today--and again, they are for today! This time it's a sacrifice to the Erkhian hero Epops and an optional celebration of the dead: the Genesia. Join us for both (in that order) at 10 AM EDT on 19 September.



    Sacrifice to Epops at Erhia
    In the calendar from Erkhia, the hero Epops received two holókaustoi on the fifth of Boedromion. The victims of the two holókaustoi to Epops were piglets and the sacrifices were to be followed by wineless libations designated. Sacrifices to Epops are known only from the Erkhia calendar. The mythological context of Epops is not clear, but he was a hero, perhaps linked (by Kallimachos) to the conflict between the city-states Paiania and Erkhia.

    We hope you will join us for this sacrifice! the community page on Facebook can be found here and the ritual here.



    Genesia
    The Genesia seems to have been a festival of the dead--especially of dead parents. It was celebrated on the fifth of the month of Boudromion in Athens, but that is all we know for sure. There is reason to believe that the Genesia was panhellenic--although we do not know if all city-states performed the rites on the same day. We are also unsure if the Genesia was a set day for all children to visit their parents' grave and perform sacrifices there, or if there was a public commemoration of all the dead. It's most likely linked to honouring fallen warrior (for which there was a state festival) and it was a day to visit the tombs of deceased family members. The day is also sacred to Gaea, who housed the remains of the dead, and brought fertility and wealth to the living.

    If you have family members--especially parents--to commemorate, we invite you to take part in this ritual. For our community page, please go here. You can find the ritual here.
    I did warn you there would be more PAT rituals coming. Today are the first two--and they are for today! At 10 AM EDT, we will hold a PAT ritual for the Plataia, followed by a sacrifice to the heroine Basile. you can join us for both, pick one, or do neither, but we want to give you the opportunity, regardless.



    The Plataia
    The Plataia (or Plataea) seems to have been a commemorative festival, for the Hellenes fallen at the battle of Plataea. The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Hellas. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I. Some 38,700 Hellenes stood their ground against 300.000 Persians. The Hellenes marched out of the Peloponnesus and the Persians retreated to Boeotia and built a fortified camp near Plataea. The Hellenes surrounded the camp, but refused to enter the bare terrain surrounding the camp. They waited for eleven days, and then found their supplies driddled. They attempted to retreat, and Persian general Mardonius ordered his forces to pursue them. The Hellenes, however--particularly the Spartans, Tegeans and Athenians--stood their ground, and won a great victory over the Perians. The Persian infantry was slaughtered, and Mardonius killed. Plutarch gives the date for the battle to be the fourth of this month, but also attested that the Athenians commemorated the event on the third. In Boeotia (and especially in Plataea), the rememberance seems to have been held on the fourth.

    Herodotus, in his Histories (9. 52. 1), and Plutarch, in his 'Life of Arestides' both remark the following about what is most likely this battle:
    "The seer slew victim after victim, Pausanias turned his face [historical general of the Persian Wars], all tears, toward the Heraion, and with hands uplifted prayed Kithaironion Hera and the other gods of the Plataian land that, if it was not the lot of the Hellenes to be victorious, they might at least do great deeds before they fell."[Life of Aristides, 18. 1]

    As such we can assume that, besides the fallen, a sacrifice to Hera was also made. For this ritual, you can join us here. The ritual can be found here.



    Sacrifice to Basile in Erchia
    In the calendar from Erchia the heroine Basile was given a holókaustos on the 4th of the month of Boedromion. The sacrifice to Basile consisted of a white, female, lamb and was followed by a wineless libation. The colour of the animal is noteworthy, since holókaustoi have commonly been classified as khthonian sacrifices, and it is usually assumed that the victims used in such rituals were black. Basile was also worshipped elsewhere in Attica, but nothing is known of the kind of sacrifices she received at those locations. Basile seems to have been a local heroine. Nothing survives about her deeds, as far as we have been able to find, but she was important enough to warrant her own personal sacrifice--the Erchian calendar also makes note of collective sacrifices to 'the heroines'.
    For this ritual, you can join us here. The ritual can be found here.
    This month, there will be a LOT of PAT rituals, and I would like to take a post to discuss what and why. Boedromion was a month dominated by two things: war and death. Many famous battles were fought and/or commemmorated in this month and it was also the month of the Eleusinian Mysteries. We will come back to those in a bit but we will talk about war first.

    Wars were very common in ancient Hellas. City-states like Athens, Sparta, Corinth and Thebes were locked in recurring wars over their borders. Often they would band together in leagues to fight as allies. Sometimes ancient Hellas was invaded, sometimes the ancient Hellenic city-states did the invading. In the ancient Hellenic world, warfare was seen as a necessary evil of the human condition: the vast rewards of war could outweigh the costs in material and lives.

    For many centuries, the ancient Hellenic campaigning season lasted only for the duration of the Summer months--which for the ancient Hellenes started around April on the Gregorian calendar, roughly late in Elaphebolion, early in Mounichion. Especially in the early years of the ancient Hellenic world, the campaigning sewason ended once the harvest season started: every able bodied man and woman was required to assure the family got through the winter ahead. As such, this time of year saw the end of many wars, the birth of many heroes, and the remembrances of the fallen. Of the eleven  festivals in Boedromion, seven are fairly directly linked to war and its victims:

  • Niketeria (17 September)
  • Plataia (18 September)
  • Sacrifice to Basile (18th September)
  • OPTIONAL: Genesia (19 September)
  • Sacrifice to Epops (19 September)
  • Kharisteria (20 September)
  • Boedromia (21 September)


  • Seeing as we will be holding PAT rituals for all of these and I will post the announcements on the blog, I won't get into them, but in short: the Niketeria is a festival in honor of Athena, Nike, and perhaps Poseidon to commemorate the contest between Poseidon and Athena for Athens. The Plataia (or Plataea) seems to have been a commemorative festival, for the Hellenes fallen at the battle of Plataea. The heroine Basile was most likely a war hero. The Genesia seems to have been a festival of the dead--especially of dead parents. Epops seems to have been another war hero. The Kharisteria is another commemoration of a battle, in this case, the battle of Marathon, and the Boedromia might have been another war commemoration as the epithet of Apollon associated with this festival is 'Boedromios', the helper in distress.

    Now, death. As war and death are intricately linked, the theme of death also applies to the previously mentioned festivals, but Boedromion was also the month in which the Eleunian Greater Mysteries were held. Mythologically, the foundations of the Eleusinian Mysteries can be found in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Within the hymn, Demeter travels the globe in her grief over losing Her daughter. She eventually settles at the home of Keleus. Demeter plans to make one of his sons immortal in return for his hospitality but She is interrupted. Instead, she tells Keleus to build Her a temple and altar so she can teach human beings the knowledge they need to have a good life.

    The Mysteries were obviously celebrated to honor Demeter--Demeter Eleusinia, specifically. Through the honoring of Demeter, the ancient Hellenes prayed for a good harvest, and through the worship of Persephone--Kore--those who were initiated in the Mysteries assured they would be looked upon favorably in the Afterlife.

    Since the proceedings of the eleusinian Mysteries were kept secret in fear of the punishment of death, we will never be able to restore these rites. As such, usually Elaion would not celebrate them. None of the Mysteries have a place in Traditional Hellenismos as participating was optional even back then. But this year, we wanted to give it a try. As such, we will celebrate the Mysteries over the course of ten days. We'll start it off with an opening rite, work in the Epidauria, and then host the main event. On the day of the Epidauria, we would like you to fast--if at all possible--until after the nighttime rite for Demeter and Persephone. The other days, you could chose to restruct your diet like the ancient Hellenes would have: no pomegranates, apples, eggs, fowls, and (some varieties of) fish. there will be a blog post about the Mysteries later on in the month, but for now, this is the basic time table:

  • Start (27 September)
  • Epidauria (fasting day) (2 Oktober)
  • Eleusinian Greater Mysteries (nighttime) (2 Oktober)


  • In conclusion: this time was a time where death and the afterlife were on the mind, and where the dead were honored--because the Mysteries most likely also included appeasement and remembrances of the dead. It's a time to remember our beloved dead, and think of those falling every day in modern wars. Elaion hopes you will celebrate these festivals with us.
    We are coming upon another festival celebrated in ancient Athens: the Niketeria. Surviving sources date the festival to the second of Boudromion, and it was in honor of one of the most important events in Athens' history: its naming and tutelage by Athena.


    Many of us know there was a contest between Poseidon and Athena over who would rule the growing city of Athens (in the name it had before being called 'Athens'), and it is clear who won that contest. The earliest reference to this event we still have access to is from the fourth century BC by Plato, but it does not quite have the poetic touch Ovid's account has. For that reason, I will give the account of Ovid, and build from there. From the Metamorphoses, (trans. Melville):

    "The rock of Mavors [Ares] in Cecrops' citadel is Pallas' [Athena's] picture [in her weaving contest with Arakhne] and that old dispute about he name of Athens. Twelve great gods, Jove [Zeus] in their midst, sit there on lofty thrones, grave and august, each pictured with his own familiar features: Jove [Zeus] in regal grace, the Sea-God [Poseidon] standing, striking the rough rock with his tall trident, and the wounded rock gushing sea-brine, his proof to clinch his claim. Herself she gives a shield, she gives a spear sharp-tipped, she gives a helmet for her head; the aegis guards her breast, and from the earth struck by her spear, she shows an olive tree, springing pale-green with berries on the boughs; the gods admire; and Victoria [Nike] ends the work." [6. 70]

    Ancient Hellenic Neoplatonist philosopher Proklos (Πρόκλος) in 'On the Timaeus of Plato' speaks of this event as well, and notes that there is still a festival held to commemorate this event in his time (between 412 and 485 AD)

     "Farther still, the victories of Minerva are celebrated by the Athenians, and there is a festival sacred to the Goddess, in consequence of her having vanquished Neptune, and from the genesiurgic being subdued by the intellectual order, and those that inhabit this region betaking themselves to a life according to intellect, after the procurement of necessaries. For Neptune presides over generation; but Minerva is the inspective guardian of an intellectual life." [p. 153]

    When this was celebrated, Proklos does not mention, but Plutarch does. One of these is in the Quaestiones Convivales, from the Moralia. Here, he answers the question: 'What is Signified by the Fable About the Defeat of Neptune? And Also, Why Do the Athenians Omit the Second Day of the Month Boedromion?'.

    "While all were making a disturbance, Menephylus, a Peripatetic philosopher, addressing Hylas: You see, he said, how this investigation is no foolery nor insolence. But leave now, my dear fellow, that obstinate Ajax, whose name is ill-omened, as Sophocles says, and side with Poseidon, whom you yourself are wont to tell has often been overcome, once by Athene here, in Delphi by Apollo, in Argos by Here, in Aegina by Zeus, in Naxos by Bacchus, yet in his misfortunes has always been mild and amiable. Here at least he shares a temple in common with Athene, in which there is an altar dedicated to Lethe. And Hylas, as if he had become better tempered: One thing has escaped you, Menephylus, that we have given up the second day of September [Boudromion], not on account of the moon, but because on that day the gods seemed to have contended for the country." [Book 9, question 5]

    Because of this, the official view of Elaion is that the festival of Niketeria--'Victory'--was celebrated not on the second of Boudromion, but on the third. The second day, after all, was no longer a part of the month. The question remains why the victory of one Goddess over one God was commemorated at all, and there is no adequate ancient explination. None of the surviving works mention why and how the festival was celebrated. All we know is that it was noted--it might not even have been a true festival at all. We believe that by omitting the second day, the defeat of Poseidon was omitted, so as not to anger Him. A day later--in a somewhat unrelated fashion to Poseidon's defeat--there was a (possibly somewhat subdued) celebration of the victory of Athena, with sacrifices to Athena, Niké, and perhaps even Poseidon for the many wonderful gifts They had provided--and would hopefully continue to provide--for the city of Athens.

    We will hold a subdued PAT ritual in honour of the Niketeria at 10 AM EDT on Thursday 17 September. Will you be joining us? The ritual can be found here.
    The Archaeological News Network reports that important finds have come to light near the city of Arta (Komboti-Sykoula area) during construction works of the motorway Ionia Odos. The aim of the team of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Arta was to reveal all significant finds. It consisted of the Ephorate’s Director, archaeologist Varvara Papadopoulou, the archaeologist Sotiris Raptopoulos and the archaeologists Georgia Vasiliou, Andromachi Baladima and Giannis Kotsokostas.


    After locating visible remains during a field survey, a rescue excavation was conducted from November 2013 until May 2015. During this period eight buildings came to light on the south side of the Profitis Elias hill. The buildings formed four settlement complexes in an area with a length of 150 meter. They were small, built of local materials and preserved to foundation height. Some big storage pithoi and the identification of a wine press for the mustification of grapes suggest that the facilities had an agricultural and manufacturing character. A very interesting fact is that the buildings were found at a significant distance from each other, which means that they hadn’t been built as a complex but as autonomous units. Dr V. Papadopoulou and G. Kotsokostas explained:

    "The excavation shows a settlement consisting of workshop facilities and houses, the inhabitants of which were engaged in the cultivation of the nearby plains. The movable finds date to different periods of an extended time span, from the 5th c. BC to the 3rd c. AD. A rare ring-shaped aryballos put as a grave good in a pithos burial places the human presence at the site to the end of the Archaic period.
     
    The survey could not be completed due to the construction needs of the motorway, but there is enough evidence to establish the existence of a previously unknown settlement at a privileged spot, with its back side protected from the north winds by the slopes of the hill and the southeastern part of the Arachthos valley directly accessible. We also believe that there is a connection between the finds of this rescue excavation and the terracotta kiln of the Late Classical/Hellenistic period found at a distance of 500 meter to the southeast.

    An important parameter for the evaluation of finds are the natural contours of the ground, that determine the smoothest passage from the Arta area to Acarnania, and this over time, as both the existing National Road and the Ionia Odos which is still under construction, follow the same route. It is only reasonable to believe that this passage had been used since Antiquity and that a township was developed along its side in the area of Ambracia. It is quite possible that a big part of the settlement remains buried in the area."

    Please head over to the Archaeological News Network for far more pictures of the unearhed township. I, for one, am very interested to see what else will be found and concludedin relation to this archaeological site.
    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.

    Changes to the blog:
    • I have finally gone back to through the blog to label my Question Collections posts for easy reference. I've also added a link to it to the 'series' section to the left. Thanks for those who requested my doing this!
    Statistics:
    PAT rituals for Metageitnion:

    Anything else?
    Last month we did not have a Pandora's Kharis charity run due to the previous one running late, but starting tomorrow, we will be right on track! Join us on Facebook if you would like to pitch a cause for next month!
     
    Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.
    Very, very rarely do I mind or care when Hollywood messes with our Gods. 'Supernatural' has its heroes chop off Zeus' head? Sure, whatever, nothing is sacred on that show. 'Atlantis' and 'Olympus' get it pretty much all wrong? Sure! Entertainment! I dont care about people portraying the gods in movies or the silver screen. I could care less about bad movies with our Gods. I had truly thought I had become impervious to things like that--mostly because these portrayals are so far from the Gods I love and worship that I don;t even link the two. And then there is Geordie Shore.


    For those who do not know Geordie Shore, Geordie Shore is a British reality television series broadcast on MTV. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, it was first broadcast on 24 May 2011, and is the British spin-off of the American show Jersey Shore. 'Geordie' is the regional nickname and dialect given to the people of the Tyneside area of North East England, and is closely associated with the city of Newcastle and its environs where the show is set. However the show includes cast members from various parts of North East England.This all sounds pretty decent, but in short, Geordie Shore is a show about teenages drinking to sickness, partying until dawn, and having sex with everyone in sight--mostly while they are on vacation.

    Now, I do not watch Geordie Shore or any of its many replicas on TV. I really don't need that in my life. If you love it, go for it! Millions of people enjoy this show with you. But what I can't stomach is the Geordie Shore 'cast members' dressing up as the ancinet Hellenic Gods for the promo shoot for the eleventh season, which is currently being filmed in Zakynthos, Mykonos, Malia on Crete and Athens.

    I don't want to rant--and I wont, beyond what I have done already--but I am very, very, very against these young people dressing up as the Theoi. Their behavious is the exact opposite of the morals and values of the ancient Hellenes--let alone the Gods, and I find it very, very hard to swallow a photoshoot like this. To be clear: I don't judge them for their behaviour. They would probably not understand my life's choices either. I just don't want them associated with the Theoi!

    Okay, well, needless to say I will not be tuning in for this train wreck. Now excuse me while I go for a run to shake off this frustration and make Ares and Athena proud.
    I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.


    "Hi! Can you please help me? Do you know someone who Worships Circe/Kirke? Do you know any books that are not the Argonautics and Odyssey I can use? Thank you so much."

    I, personally, do not know of someone who is–as is the Pagan term–devoted to Kirkê, but I would hope all Hellenists worship Her! Please make yourself known if you feel especially drawn to Her, everyone!

    As for books… I am going to make a list including the ones you mentioned, just so others can enjoy them, too. There are more with short mentions, but these actually have stories about Her–most about the Argonauts or Odysseus, but they all have different details.
    --
     
    "Hi, I was just wondering, what's the difference between revivalism and reconstructionism?"
     
    In my opinion, reconstructionism is a scale. On the one end of the spectrum are the Traditional Reconstructionists who tend to rely first and foremost on historical or archaeological sources in shaping their religion, then, with that information in hand, approach the Gods in accordance with what they have learned. On the other end of the spectrum is the ‘working with, summon into a circle, all Gods are the same’-Neo-Pagans who tend to go with an ‘if it feels right, go for it, no matter if the ancient Hellenes would have recognised it as worship’-approach.

    Then there is everything inbetween.

    I would say a revivalist is somewhere in the middle, give or take a bit. They may approach the Gods in a somewhat traditional manner based on historic evidence but incorporate Neo-Pagan ideas to interpret the experience or the other way around. I don’t think there is a hard line, though, and at the end of the day it’s all a matter of semantics; words used to make it easier to explain our views to others.

    ---
     
    "Hey there! Would it be cultural appropriation if I were to start practicing Hellenismos as a religion even though I am not related to it in any way? I am interested in it as a genuine way of life, not just a whimsy, and I'm honestly conflicted."
     
    I’m not Greek. I do not speak Greek (sadly). I worshp the Hellenic Gods with every fiber of my being. Personally, I feel that what matters is your devotion to the Theoi, not your heritage.
     
    ---
     
    "Did the ancient greeks have anything they didn't eat? Like Muslims don't eat pork, should I (as a Hellenic recon) be cutting anything out of my meals?? they didn't drink unmixed wine, right? And during specific festivals they had some dietary restrictions, but in general was there anything they didn't eat? Thank you and I love your blog! :)"
     
    The main diet of the ancient Greeks consisted of bread, olives, olive oil, figs, cheeses, fish, squid, grapes, apples and other fruits, and honey. Meat was expensive and thus rarely eaten. Domesticated animals were only eaten after being sacrificed to the Gods. To not do so was barbaric and impure. Also considered barbaric was to drink wine which was not watered down and to drink milk. Breakfast and lunch consisted of bread dipped in wine, with olives, figs, cheese or dried fish added to the lunch menu. Dinner usually consisted of vegetables, fruit, fish, and possibly honey cakes.

    As you have said, the ancient Hellenes had dietary restrictions around specific festivals. Certain foods were forbidden to eat during the Greater Mysteries, for example, and perhaps also during the lesser mysteries–pomegranates, apples, eggs, fowls, and some varieties of fish.

    On that (diluted) wine–wine was rarely drunk during dinner, but only after. Drunkenness was frowned upon and all that was allowed for a grown man was less undiluted wine than a single standard wineglass of modern times, diluted. So why diluted wine? Rituals and sacrifices to the Ouranic deities and/or positive occasions were performed with diluted wine, while sacrifices to Khthonic deities and/or for negative occasions were performed with undiluted wine. To drink undiluted wine for any day-to-day happening was therefore not done and most likely carried some religious taboo or at least superstition.

    In short: no, no dietary restrictions unless a specific festival or wine was concerned, but I stay away from milk (all other dairy products are acceptable) because it was frowned upon to drink milk in ancient Hellas.