The Thesmophoria was another harvest festival tied to the Eleusinian Mysteries and the mythology surrounding Demeter and Persephone. This is another female only festival. Will you join us for it from 12-14 October, all at 10 am EDT?

Two days after the Stenia, the three day festival of Thesmophoria took place. There was a male and female encampment at the Thesmophorian and the division was clearly set; no men were allowed in the female encampment, and no women in the male encampment. Sex was not allowed. From what I have been able to gather, the three days in the female encampment followed a strict regime.

On the first day, called Anodos ('ascent') and Kathodos ('descent'), the women sacrificed the rotting piglets to Demeter and Persephone. The remains were mixed with seeds and would be ploughed into the earth after the festival to assure a good harvest. The piglets were fertility symbols, but also related to the myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hades, because it is said that, when Hades opened a chasm to swallow up Persephone, a swineherd called Eubouleus was grazing his pigs and they were swallowed up in the chasm as well. The women ate on this day, but only food which would not upset Demeter. Pomegranate fruits were off the menu.

The second day was called Nēsteia ('feast of lamentation'). On this day, the women did not eat. They recreated the time before Demeter taught humankind to cultivate the fields. It was a dark time, a time of hunger and pain. At the same time, this day was also used to remember the time when Demeter sought her daughter and neglected her duties as a harvest Goddess. This had also been a time of great hunger.

The third day, Kalligeneia ('she who is of beautiful birth'), was a happy one. The women prayed to Demeter and Persephone for fertility for themselves, their loved ones and the earth. They celebrated the magic of new life, fertility and the kindness of the Gods.

Needless to say, this festival was huge. All free women, except for maidens, were allowed to participate. While we can never be entirely sure why this is, I dare to wager an educated guess. The Stenia and Thesmophoria were festivals in honour of Demeter Thesmophoros, the law-giver. She was seen as the foundation of law and society: agriculture allowed settlements to thrive, allowed societies to be built, and humanity to evolve into what it was now. In short, Demeter was at the root of modern life. A huge part of that modern life was the institution of marriage, which was far more important then as it was now.

Demeter is, perhaps, ancient Hellas' most famous mother, and marriage allowed for the continuation of the family line. Children born out of wedlock were frowned upon, and as such, maidens were excluded from a festival intended to raise fertility in the ground and the women who took part in it. As women married young, maidens were often teens, and they would represent Persephone more than Demeter--and since the Stenia and Thesmophoria commemorated Demeter's separation from her daughter, the inclusion of maidens was most likely discouraged because of that fact.

The Stenia and especially the Thesmophoria were festivals intended for mothers, for those who sought to bear children. They acknowledge the powerful position of women in a patriarchal society. It was because of that that women could say no to their husbands when it came to sex, and why they all left their marital homes. Many women rarely left their homes, and never overnight. To do so for not one but two nights was huge. These were powerful festivals for women because they celebrated their fertility: the one thing they were always respected and honoured for by the men in their lives.

We don't know what happened for the men on these days (sorry), so this is another female only festival. You can find the ritual here and the Facebook page here.