Poseideon is the sixth month of the Hellenic calendar and we are slowly moving towards it. Poseideon is a special month; it was the month that would have been repeated (in a minor way) should the ancient calendar not line up with the phases of the moon (whch it didn't, after a while). You can read more about that here as it is beyond the scope of this post. What I would like to talk to you about today is the divine triad that oversaw Poseideon (the quartet, actually, but we'll get to that) and its significance.

Poseideon was ruled by Poseidon (honoured during the Poseideia), Zeus (during the Plerosia and a seperate sacrifice to Zeus Horios) and Dionysos (during the Lesser Dionysia and secondarily during the Haloa). Poseideon is the first true winter month; the first harvest was over, seafaring had ceased and thus war had come to an end. The focus was on the home and preparation for true, deep winter: the weather turned and the crops needed protecting. Because of this, it was also a month of threat; if the crops failed, if the seas became too rough when a daring fisherman was out on it, or if a river went out of bounds and flooded a well populated area there would be death.

I get on my soapbox a lot on my blog. One of my main points is that everything is connected in the ancient Hellenic religion. That everything was constructed the way it was for a reason; the pantheon, the calendar, the festivals, the way festivals were celebrated--if you spend time to sort out the why, you will discover it's all part of an intricate web that formed an entire civilization. Nothing--absolutely nothing--in our religion and in the ancient civilization it was formed in ended up in it by accident. We have lost a lot of knowledge and understanding of this society but we can try to piece things together if we put in the effort. So today I will put in a little effort to explain why Poseideon was ruled by Poseidon, Zeus and Dionysos. And why it mattered that it were Them.

During the Poseideia, Poseidon as savior of ships, protector of those who voyage in ships, and God of the lapping waters both salt and fresh important for agriculture, is thanked for the many gifts that came from faraway places that were likely given at that time. The immense trade and distribution was nearly all through shipping, relatively little overland, whether it be perfume from Cyprus or pottery from Corinth. One of Poseidon’s epithets is prosklystios, 'of the lapping water'. He is also invoked as Poseidon phytalmios which implies natural fertility and human procreation.

The Plerosia is a harvest festival of sorts. It was held to honour Zeus but presumably als Demeter. Poseideon marks the time to return home, take stock, and stay warm. It's a time to thank the Theoi for all that has been recieved and all that will get us through the winter. The word ‘plerosis’ means fulfillment, satiated, filled. Important note: the Plerosia seems to have been a women-only festival, perhaps because now that winter is upon us, we turn to the domain of the women: the house(hold). As such, it is her prerogative to thank the Gods for the food she can feed her family with.

The lesser Dionysia, a vintage festival, was celebrated in the various demes of Attica in the month of Poseideon. It was probably a very ancient festival, perhaps not originally associated with Dionysos. The Dionysia was a time when classes came together in order to celebrate their shared origins in the natural world; it was a vintage festifal for all.

The Haloa was held in honor of Demeter, Dionysos and a little bit in honor of Persephone. Like all festivals of Demeter and Persephone's 'Kore' persona, women were the only ones who were allowed to handle the religious and sacrificial side of it. The Haloa is assumed to be a celebration of the pruning of the vines and the tasting of the wine after its first fermentation, or it may be to encourage the growth of corn from the seed.

A few links between Poseidon, Zeus and Dionysos are clear instantly from the descriptions of these festivals. Poseidon and Dionysos are linked through water--moisture, actually. Plutarch already noted that Dionysos was a God of moisture--in particular the moisture associated with life and vigour as can be seen in plants and trees and most telling in the wine produced from the fruits of the vine. Poseidon is all but the personification of water of all kinds. Furthermore, one of the epithets of Dionysos is Dendrites, ‘of the trees’, connects him to branching life. The tree was similarly a metaphor for rivers whose branching nature was morphologically similar. This links Dionysos to Poseidon even more.

And what of Poseidon and Zeus? Poseidon is the brother of Zeus and Hades, and together they form a triumvirate who represents the dominion of the sea, the sky and the underworld respectively. In Hellenic mythology, the underworld is seen as an exact mirror and equally valid version of the ‘celestial’ world. In other words: Zeus is Hades inverted and Poseidon is the synthesis of both. Dionysos therefore unifieds these god-themes and manifested them in the mundane world.

This brings us to Hades, the fourth member of this triad. He is worshipped too, just not directly--never directly. the ancient Hellenes very rarely honoured Hades, not even Plouton, His ouranic epithet. But Hades' influence was most definitely felt; he's the third of the triumvirate, He is prevalent in the threat of death that hangs over the month and He is appeased though a medium who is perhaps unlikely: Demeter.

Mythological and epithological links exist between Demeter and Hades. Hades was celebrated as an important divine figure in the Eleusinian Mysteries. The seasonal drama of nature was said to depend on her annual passage into the underworld in the depths of winter when fruitfulness and vegetation dies back. Through Kore (Persephone) Hades and Demeter rule over the harvest. Hades takes and Demeter gives--or more accurately: Hades causes Demeter to take instead of give. In praying for fruitfulness of the earth to Demeter, it is also Hades who is spoen to and appeased, which makes Him an unofficial member of the triad (this is likewise true for Demeter and even Kore/Persephone).

To compelete the circle, Dionysos and Demeter are worshipped together during the Haloa, which drives home the agricultural ties all these five deities have  and the way they link to the mundane issues of this time of year; Demeter and Hades (Plouton) through the fruitful earth (underworld), Zeus through mild weather (sky) and Poseidon and Dionysos through sweet water (the intermediate). Because of Their links and domains, it can be only these deities that govern Poseideon.