July 9, at 10 am EDT, we will hold a rite for Aphrodite Pandamos and Peitho, as on this day, the fourth of Hekatombaion, They were traditionally honoured during a festival of unification. Will you join us?
|Pandêmos (Πανδημος) occurs as an epithet of Aphrodite. It identifies her as the Goddess of low sensual pleasures, and the epithet is often translated as 'common to all the people'. She united all the inhabitants of a country into one social or political body. In this respect She was worshipped at Athens along with Peitho (persuasion), and Her worship was said to have been instituted by Theseus at the time when he united the scattered townships into one great body of citizens. |
According to some authorities, it was Solon who erected the sanctuary of Aphrodite Pandemos, either because her image stood in the agora, or because the hetaerae had to pay the costs of its erection. The worship of Aphrodite Pandemos also occurs at Megalopolis in Arcadia and at Thebes. 'Pandemos' also occurs as a surname of Eros.
Peithô is the personification of persuasion, seduction and charming speech. She was worshipped as a divinity at Sicyon, where she was honoured with a temple in the agora. Peitho also occurs as a surname of other divinities, such as Aphrodite, whose worship was said to have been introduced at Athens by Theseus, when he united the country communities into towns, and of Artemis.
At Athens the statues of Peitho and Aphrodite Pandemos stood closely together, and at Megara, too, the statue of Peitho stood in the temple of Aphrodite, so that the two divinities must he conceived as closely connected, or the one, perhaps, merely as an attribute of the other. For our rite, we will honour both divinities separately.
There is actually not much known about the Aphrodisia. It was most likely linked to the synoikismos, or unification, of the Attic demes into poleis, or city-states. In early Hellas, ancient society was split between the 'demos', country villages, and the 'asty', or 'polis', the seat of the aristocracy. The distinction between the 'polis' and the 'demos' was of great political importance in the ancient states. There was much antagonism between these two bodies, the country and city. In the city-states of ancient Hellas, synoecism occurred when the 'demos' combined with--usually by force--a polis to form one political union. The most notable synoikistes was the mythic or legendary Theseus, who liberated Attica from Kretan hegemony and gave independency back to Hellas under leadership of Athens. Like the Synoikia that was celebrated in a few days--which was a truly political festival and we will thus not celebrate it--the Aphrodisia seems to celebrate Theseus' efforts.
An inscription on a stele of Hymettian marble found near the Beulé Gate at the site of the aedicula on the south-west slope of the Acropolis may tell us something of the preparations for the Aphrodisia festival. Dated between 287 and 283 BC, the inscription records that at the time of the procession of Aphrodite Pandemos, Kallias, son of Lysimachos of the deme of Hermai, was to provide funds for the purification of the temple and the altar with the blood of a dove, for giving a coat of pitch to the roof, for the washing of the statues, and for a purple cloak for the amount of two drachmas.
From this and other ancient sources, we can conclude that the first ritual of the festival would be to purify the temple with the blood from a dove, which we know is the sacred bird of Aphrodite. Needless to say, we won't do this, but we do encourage you to give your altar a good scrub! Afterwards, worshippers would carry sacred images of Aphrodite and Peitho in a procession to the sea to be washed. In Cyprus, participants who were initiated into the Mysteries of Aphrodite were offered salt, a representation of Aphrodite's connection to the sea, and bread baked in the shape of a phallus (feel free to make some of those!). During the festival it was not permitted to make bloody sacrifices, since the altar could not be polluted with the blood of the sacrifice victims, which were usually white male goats. This of course excludes the blood of the sacred dove, made at the beginning of the ritual to purify the altar. In addition to live male goats, worshippers would offer flowers and incense.
As a celebration of the unfication of Attica, the Aphrodisia festival may seem redundant, since the Synoikia festival also took place in the month of Hekatombaion, between the Aphrodisia and the Panathenaia. Yet, without help of Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho, whose powers bring people together, unification would not have been possible. While the Synoikia celebrates a very specific event that is no longer current, the Aphrodisia celebrates not only Aphrodite (and Peitho) as divine, but also represents the beauty of community, solidarity, and the end of strive. In this day and age where it seems the entire world is at war, we offer sacrifice to Aphrodite and Peitho humbly in hopes that They will interfere and lay to rest this terrible animosity.
Will you be joining us on July 9? Join the community here, and download the ritual here.