Tonight at dusk, the Asklepieia festival kicks off, even though celebration of it is a daytime affair. I have written about it before and will quote from that post for this reminder. There were two incarnations of the festival: the regular Asklepieia, and the Asklepieia Megala (Μεγάλα Ασκληπιεία). The Asklepieia Megala, or 'greater Asklepieia', was a huge event, and part of the pan-Hellenic games. In 242 BC, during the Mercenary War, the sanctuary at Epidaurus was granted immunity from war, and the Asklepieia Megala was established as a festival of athletic and musical competitions, held every four years, for a nine day period. Theater performances were also a huge part of the festival, and the famous theater of Epidaurus still stands today, one of the seven wonders of ancient Hellas. Today, we only celebrate the one day event, but you can still get inspiration from the nine day cycle to fill your one day.

Homeric Hymn to Asklēpiós

The first of the festival days was spent preparing for the actual festival. The second day, religious exercises were undertaken. All temples and shrines were richly decorated and sacrifices were made to Apollon, Asklēpiós, Artemis, and Leto. Perhaps and the children of Asklēpiós--Hygieia (health, cleanliness, and sanitation), Iaso (recuperation from illness), Aceso (the healing process), Aglaea (beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment), and Panakea (universal remedy)--also received sacrifice. Apollon received the first offering along with Asklēpiós: a cock, the fowl associated with Asklēpiós. They also received barley meal, wheat, and wine. Asklēpiós was then gifted a bull, a second bull was sacrificed to His male associates, and a cow to His female associates.

On the eve of the third day, a statue of Asklēpiós was driven through the precinct, and followed by torch-bearers and priests, who sung hymns to Him. The priests sang and spoke the praise of the Theos. There were vigils throughout the night, and during the daylight hours of the third day, there were feasts. The succeeding days were given up to athletic contests in the stadium, races, wrestling contests, singing contests and theater performances.

The Asklepieia Megala was only held at Epidaurus; all other asklepieia--as well as at Epidausus the other three years--held only a small ceremony for the Theos. The festival did not include athletic games outside of the Asklepieia Megala, but there might have been a focus on singing, and there might have been large banquets, held after sacrifices were made to the Theos.

Today, we should be reminded that doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, even if it was edited, and that all doctors are the hands of Asklēpiós. If you were putting off a doctor's or dentist's appointment, this is the day to plan them on. It is, of course, encouraged to give sacrifice to Asklēpiós and seek His guidance for all doctors and those in the medical profession, as well as our own health, and that of those around us. If you are struggling with your health, sacrifice to Asklēpiós and ask for Him to come to you in your dreams on this night. Note down your dreams in the morning (and of subsequent mornings, if you did not receive an oracular dream), and see if you can gleam a solution to your problems from them. This day is also a good day to fast, or to eat very healthy. Perhaps you can make a promise to yourself to eat healthier, or go to the gym more often. Think of your health and how you can stimulate it.