Every once in a while, I run into 'Reconstructionist problems'. In general, these are issues that would not have been an issue in ancient Hellas, but are one now because of societal, practical, or economical reasons. Animal sacrifice is a big one, but last night, I ran into another: the placement of this month's Deipnon, Noumenia and Agathós Daímōn.

A little background: Hekate's Deipnon is a religious celebration that takes place on Hene kai Nea. Hene kai Nea basically mean 'old and new', and takes place any time before the first sliver of the new moon is visible. In practice, this is the day after the new moon. The Noumenia is held the day after that, when the moon has become visible again, and Agathós Daímōn the day after that. It is important to note that the ancient Hellens started a new day at sundown the day before. Instead of starting a new day at midnight--or in the morning--like we do today, they started it at sundown of the previous day. This means that--when applied to modern practice--the Deipnon starts on the day of the suspected new moon, and the rest follows after, to the total of four days. For more information on this, please see here. For those of you who have issues reading the Hellenic calendar at all, please see here.

In general, the placement of Hene kai Nea is easy: check the date and time of the dark moon, and at sundown afterwards, the Deipnon starts. This month, however, the dark moon is on 00:23 on December third, which means that we have a complication: if we hold the Deipnon at the time of the dark moon, we are a little too early, if we hold it the night after, we are a little too late. There is an added complication: many of us follow the HMEPA calendar as a basis for our practice, and as a concensus, the HMEPA calendar is divided equally in 29 day months and 30 day months, while this was much less applicable in ancient Hellas (especially Athens), where days were dropped or added where needed to accommodate festivals, wars, public events, and anything else. If the ancient Hellenes needed a little time before the fourth of the month, they just repeated the third day.

Because we all work off of the same calendar, we can't just drop or add days in our practice, or at least if we do, we need to reallign ourselves somewhere, preferably right away. Where the ancient Hellenes would have pushed the entire month back ifthey needed an other day and taken off a day at the end, we would like to celebrate festivals together in a way, so if we remain out of tune, we will end up with three possible dates for a single festival; one on the actual date, one a day earlier because of a dropped day, and one a day later for an added day.

HMEPA decided to hold the Hene kai Nea early, on 02/03, but makes Noumenia two days (03/05) where the second Noumenia day overlaps with Agathós Daímōn. This is a less than ideal situation, in my opinion, but they realized that if you hold Hene kai Nea late (so on 03/04), you need to cut a day in the beginning of the month to fit the month into the 29 day/30 day cycle we stick to in modern times. The third day of the month needs to be on 05/06 to make a 30 day month fit, so if you want three full days like usual, you need to put the Hene kai Nea early.

Where you stand on this is up to you, and wether you held the Deipnon on Monday night or Tuesday night is completely up to you. There isn't really a wrong answer. I held it yesterday, meaning I will be celebrating both Noumenia and Agathós Daímōn starting at sundown today (04/05). After that, everything will be alligned again with the HMEPA calendar. The perfect example of Reconstructionist problems, isn't it?