Today at dusk, we enter a day sacred to Artemis Elaphêbolos (Αρτεμις Ελαφηβολος), a day which used to have the public sacrifice of a deer attached to it, but which by the fourth century BC had turned mostly into a household sacrifice of a deer-shaped cake. I have written about the Elaphebolia (Έλαφηβόλια) before. It was a festival celebated mostly in Athens and Phocis 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.

There are signs that the cult of Artemis Elaphêbolos far pre-dates the war, and that annual sacrifices of a stag were part of the religious practices. Back in those days, deer were most likely easier to find than they were during the Classical era, and it's likely that even the cult soon had to transition to honey cakes for their sacrifices.

Last year, I cut out my own elaphoi ('stag') out of very non-traditional store-bought cake. Although I'm quite aware how to make the proper cakes now--with the standard honeyed dough and sesame seeds--I'm not going to, I think, because of my food intollerances. I'm making my own bread-substitute and using a part of that to cut out a sacrifice; at least in that way, I get to eat part of the sacrifice, as is customary for sacrifices to Ouranic deities.

The Elaphebolia is a minor festival--and most likely it always was--celebrated with a state-funded sacrifice of a deer or a large cake by the cult of Artemis Elaphêbolos and household sacrifices with cakes by anyone who cared enoug to participate during the preparations for the Dionysia. Any Hellenist today can perform this modest sacrifice themselves, adding hymns to Artemis and asking for blessings of prosperity.