On the sixth of the month of Elaphebolion, the people of Athens and Phocis (Φωκίδα), and perhaps other cities and city-states, held a modest ritual that gave its name to the month: the Elaphebolia (Έλαφηβόλια). It appears that the festival was a major festival in honor of Artemis Elaphêbolos (Αρτεμις Ελαφηβολος) down to the time of Plutarch. It was mainly observed at Hyampolis, to commemorate a Phocian victory over the Thessalians. Afterwards, it seems to have lost its grander, most likely in the face of the Greater Dionysia which was held only a few days later, starting on the tenth of the month, and the Asklepia, held on the eighth.

Artemis Elaphêbolos is the stag-killer, the shooter of deer, the huntress who relishes the chase. She's the slayer of prey, both animal and human, and in ancient Hellas, she guarded Hyampolis and the surrounding cities from the horrors of war.

The festival was most likely quite grand right after the war, but slowly became a festival which consisted almost entirely of a single offering. In the early days, the offering was always a stag, one per family, most likely. As the years went on, however, and the expansion of cities drove the stag far into the Athenian hills, only the city's elite was able to offer a stag to the Theia. Everyone else made due with cakes in the shape of stags. It seems these stag cakes--called 'elaphos' (ἔλαφος)--were made out of the basic dough mixture with honey, and sesame seeds.

The Elaphebolia was an important festival of Artemis. The 2016 festival day starts at dusk on the 14th of March, and will continue until dusk the day after. As Artemis Elaphêbolos is Ouranic, the sacrifice should be made during the daylight hours, so Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual for the Elapebolia on the 15th of March, at the usual 10 AM EDT. You can find the ritual here, and we really hope you will join us again.