I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"Hey! I'd really like to do short, easy rituals before I study (30 seconds or less) in dedication to Athena/Apollo (or maybe others depending on the situation) and was wondering if you had any ideas? I would mostly like to do something in terms of miniature sacrifice/self cleansing (or something similar) if possible, words never really work so well for me. Thank you so much!!"

Let me first say one thing I think is very important: Hellenismos is a religion that works on kharis--religious reciprocity. Otherwise put: you get out of it what you put in. So I am not against mini rituals atop of festival celebrations and perhaps daily rituals, but solely mini rituals...? I'm not a big fan. As for not using words: in the ancient Hellenic religion, it was important to raise one's voice when hymns were sung, and especially so when prayers were made.

That having been said, I suppose it's possible to condense the ritual down to its very bare bones:
- Set out a bowl of water
- Light a candle to Hestia with a match
- Drop the match into the bowl of water and use it as khernips or make a weekly batch on Sunday if you really want to.
- Wash your hands and face and flick the access water off over your shrine to cleanse it.
-  Say a few words to Hestia. Stick the Homeric Hymn 24 to Hestia on your wall and recite it:
"Blessed Goddess Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind with Zeus the all-wise—draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song."
- Pour some wine out to Hestia (straight out of the bottle into the khernips bowl if you have to. This will dilute it, as it is supposed to be sacrificed).
- Recite a hymn to Athena/Apollon. You can pick a short one if you'd like and stick it up to your wall next to the hymn to Hestia.
- Pour some wine out to Athena/Apollon (straight out of the bottle into the khernips bowl if you have to. This will dilute it, as it is supposed to be sacrificed).
- Say your prayers.
- Blow out the candle and clean up.
I just tried it and it took me one minute and twenty-one seconds. Since thirty seconds is... not enough for pretty much anything, I'd say that is a fairly short ritual. Again, I am not a fan, but it will work.
"Hey so I was thinking about the offering the coin to Charon thing. And I how it isn't wholly the monetary value, but the act of it. And what do you think about a tattoo of a coin? Like just a small little thing so you always have the offering with you and ready to give at a moments notice?"
The ancient Hellenes believed that the moment a person died, their psyche--spirit--left the body in a puff or like a breath of wind. Proper burial was incredibly important to the ancient Hellenes, and to not give a loved one a fully ritualized funeral was unthinkable. It was, however, used as punishment of dead enemies, but only rarely. Funerary rites were performed solely to get the deceased into the afterlife, and everyone who passed away was prepared for burial according to time-honoured rituals. As part of thse rituals, a coin could be presented to the dead, and laid under or below the tongue, or even on the eyes, as payment to Kharon.
This ritual was widespread in literature, but archareological evidence tells us it didn't always happen. In fact, only a small percentage (only about 5 to 10 percent) of known ancient Hellenic burials contain coins. Among these there are widespread examples of a single coin positioned in the mouth of a skull or with cremation remains.
The coin for Kharon is conventionally referred to in Hellenic literature as an obolos (ὀβολός), one of the basic denominations of ancient Hellenic coinage, worth one-sixth of a drachma, or other relatively small-denomination gold, silver, bronze or copper coin in local use. You are, thus, right that it wasn't solely abou the monetary value, but it was definitey something that had to have monetary value. It was also something that you could 'physically' give to Kharon. It as payment, after all: 'I give you this coin and you don't leave me stranded on the banks of the river Akheron to wander around as a shade for all eternity'.
So, the coin was not standard practice, but if you would like to have one, tell your family or have it registered. I'm not sure how it is in other countries, but here in the Netherlands, we have insurance to pay for our funeral when we go. As part of that, we get to fill in our wishes for the funeral itself. Get it recorded that you want to be buried with a coin you buy off the internet, or a low value coin of your local currency, in your mouth. Personally, I don't think a coin tattoo will work, not even if you have it tattooed on your tongue.
"Do you think it's possible to practice witchcraft and Hellenic polytheism respectfully?"
I... think that depends on your goal. If you mean a Recon approach to Hellenismos coupled with the modern practice of Witchcraft, based on the work of Crowley and Gardner, then no, I do not think that is possible. the two are entirely incompatible. If you want to practice a version of Reformed Hellenic Polytheism combined with modern witchcraft then.... it does not have my personal preference but it could work. If you want to practice Traditional Hellenismos with ancient Hellenic witchcraft then... yeah, I think that could be done respectfully.
Something I often hear about the ancient Hellenic religion, and prescribed about its modern equivalent, is that there was no magic in ancient Hellas. This is true. It's also a lie. It all depends on your definition of magic, and for the purpose of this reply, we are going to see magic as a form of prayer and ritual, conducted outside of the usual ritual steps. The Theoi were always invoked, but for magic, the sacrifices were usually to the khthonic, or Underworld Gods.
The ancient Hellenes were a competitive people, and struggled with many of the issues we do today: the urge to perform well, the desire for justice to be served, and a need for love. Prayers for these things were made often, usually in their normal ritualized form at the house altar. If these requests were made against, or at the expense of another person, however, they were generally taken out of the realm of regular worship and kharis, and into the realm of the khthonic. The preferred form were katadesmoi.

Katadesmoi are relatively small tablets, inscribed with a desire asked of the Theoi to fulfil. The Katadesmoi that have survived were generally made out of very thin sheets of lead, which were then rolled, folded or pierced with nails. Wax, papyrus, stone, precious metals, and precious minerals would also have been used as a medium. Some katadesmoi were accompanied by a small doll representing the intended victim or even a lock of their hair, especially in the case of love spells. Katadesmoi were usually deposited where they would be closest to the Underworld: in chasms, pools of water, wells, caves, temples to the deity in question, buried underground, or placed in graves. In general, the katadesmoi always included the name of the intended victim and the name(s) of the appropriated Gods--most often Hades, Kharon, Hekate, and Persephone. Exceptions have been found, of course.

In general, katadesmoi were used out of desperation: regular channels had been exhausted, human courts would never convict the perpetrator of a crime, or the murderer could no be found. Pleading with the Gods--who knew more, saw more, had a much farther reach--was considered the only alternative to get justice. This was even the case in many love spells. Katadesmoi were not made willy-nilly: there needed to be a strong incentive to make one.
So I think you can practice witchcraft and Hellenismos, but no, I don't believe modern witchcraft and Hellenismos are compatible and I have exlained why before.


"I do oracle readings to communicate to aphro/apollo but I fear that most of my readings can get invaded is there a secret password I can use to tell if it's them and how can I do this?"

Yeah... sadly, you can't. I'm curious, though: who or what do you think might 'invade' your readings?
Divination played a fairly large role in Hellenic every day life, even though divination of any kind was rarely turned to to predict the future. To desire knowledge of the future was considered hubris. Instead, oracles and seers were petitioned to help answer questions about the present or to advice on a decision which had to be made in the very near future. 'Shall I go to war?', ' Shall I put my sheep out on the high pasture?'. Most often, oracular questions were posed in a way which made it easy for the God(dess)--and the seer--to answer; they did not ask 'Shall I go to war?', they asked 'Don't you think I ought to go to war?'. Most likely, the answer of seers (and perhaps even oracles) depended on the offertory; if it was large enough, the answer was 'yes', if the offertory was dissatisfactory, the answer would be 'no'.

Oracles given directly, like at Delphi, were rare and called chesmomancy. All other forms of divination practiced in ancient Hellas were performed by seers, not oracles. Seer staples were divination through the spotting of birds (ornithomancy and augury), dream interpretation (oneiromancy) and animal sacrifice (hieromancy, haruspicy, empyromancy and extispicy) but other forms of divination were definitely used, including cledonomancy (listening to words spoken by a crowd), oneiromancy (divination through the reading of birthmarks) and Phyllorhodomancy, the reading of the sound rose petals make when slapping them together with your hands. The biggest difference between oracles and seers was that oracles gave long answers which usually needed some for of interpretation while seers usually answered yes-or-no questions.

Many divinatory practices remain today but most modern Hellenics divine differently than the Hellens of old. Tarot has become a staple in divination, for example. On very, very, very, rare occasions I do divinatory readings for myself or others, though mostly for others. These readings are done with my Olympus Tarot or through ornithomancy, something I am still developing but which I am slowly getting better at. Reading is morally complicated for me. It is hard to balance the line between helpful and hubris. I'm not an oracle, I'm not even a seer. At most I am someone with good meditative abilities and a pack of tarot cards I can read instinctively. I have very clear ideas on the interpretation of signs and they always play through my mind before I start. Once I start reciting hymns, though, and giving sacrifice, my doubts fade. There is no room for them.

At the end of the day, you present your reading and you hope it's truthful. That whoever gave it decided to give you the (full) truth and that you interpreted things correctly. There is a reason I think divination of any type is not something to be messed with and taken as advice at best: you never truly know how much truth is in it. 
For the first time in the history of Elaion, we will be hosting the celebration of the Lesser Eleusinian Greater Mysteries. As a basic viewpoint, Elaion believes that the Mysteries need not be pursued; they are not a spiritual ‘formula’ that experimentation will eventually rediscover. That said, we also acknowedge that it's a festival many have been drawn to--both then and now--and we want to give our members a chance to celebrate it in a way that is as Recon as possible once you accept that we know far too little about it to ever accurately be so. Since the proceedings of the Eleusinian Mysteries were kept secret in fear of the punishment of death, we will never be able to restore these rites. But we do know a few basics and we have formulated our celebration accordingly. Please read through all information as well as the rituals before deciding to join.

The Eleusinian Mysteries (Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) had festivals throughout the year, which were tied to agriculture through Demeter's refusal to perform her duties as an agricultural Goddess while her daughter Persephone is with Hades, and to the afterlife and Underworld through Persephone's return to the surface of the earth after Her mandatory stay with Hades has ended. Initiation ceremonies were held every year at Eleusis. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, the mysteries at Eleusis were assumed to be of great importance to a large portion of the ancient Hellenes. The cult itself likely had origins dating back to the Mycenean period of around 1600 to 1100 BC, and it is believed that the cult of Demeter Herself was established in 1500 BC.

The Eleusinian Mysteries consist mostly of two festivals, but the worship of Demeter and Persephone consist of a cycle of seven festivals: the Greater Mysteries (13-23 Boedromion), the Proerosia (6 Pyanepsion), the Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), the Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), the Haloa (26 Poseideon), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), and the Skiraphoria (12 Skirophorion). These are placed in sequence of the Athenian year.

Mythologically, the foundations of the Eleusinian Mysteries can be found in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Within the hymn, Demeter travels the globe in her grief over losing Her daughter. She eventually settles at the home of Keleus. Demeter plans to make one of his sons immortal in return for his hospitality but She is interrupted. Instead, she tells Keleus to build Her a temple and altar so she can teach human beings the knowledge they need to have a good life.

The Mysteries were obviously celebrated to honor Demeter--Demeter Eleusinia, specifically. Through the honoring of Demeter, the ancient Hellenes prayed for a good harvest, and through the worship of Persephone--Kore--those who were initiated in the Mysteries assured they would be looked upon favorably in the Afterlife.

The Lesser Mysteries were not always a part of the mysteries; around the middle of the fifth century BC, Eleusinian officials decreed that the Lesser Mysteries could serve as a necessary prerequisite to the Greater Mysteries. From that point on, they took place at a shrine located near the Ilissos river, from 20 to 26 Anthesterion, while they had most likely taken place at a special building at Eleusis, the Telesterion, before that. The river is located between Athens and Eleusis, and served as a meeting point when Athenian and Eleusinian worshippers came together. The location is also important for another reason: it was said to be the place where the first Lesser Mysteries were held; the place where Hēraklēs underwent purification before his initiation, so he could travel to the Underworld and not forget who he was, and through that, make sure he could get back to the surface world.

Hēraklēs, son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene (Ἀλκμήνη)--who was a bane in Hera's life, simply for being born--was stricken mad by the Queen of the Gods and killed his five sons by his wife Megara (Μεγάρα), oldest daughter of Kreōn (Κρέων) of Thebes. When he was released from his madness by a hellebore potion--provided by Antikyreus--and realized what he had done, he cried out in anguish, and went on a long journey to cleanse himself of the miasma caused by these killings.

First, he visited the oracle at Delphi, who, unbeknownst to him, was whispered to by Hera. The Oracle told Hēraklēs to serve the king of Tiryns (Τίρυνς), Eurystheus (Εὐρυσθεύς), for ten years and do everything Eurystheus told him to do. Eurystheus gladly provided Hēraklēs with these labors--ten of them, one for each year--and eventually ended up adding two more, resulting in the Twelve Labors of Hēraklēs. Hēraklēs was told to: slay the Nemean Lion, slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra, capture the Golden Hind of Artemis, capture the Erymanthian Boar, clean the Augean stables in a single day, slay the Stymphalian Birds, capture the Cretan Bull, steal the Mares of Diomedes, obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon, steal the apples of the Hesperides, and to capture and bring back Kerberos.

This twelfth labor caused a problem for Hēraklēs, because he had to enter the Underworld to capture Kerbaros, and come back up, something that the Underworld was not intended for. Yesterday I explained how the river Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, runs through the Underworld, and all who come to the afterworld are eventually forced to drink from it in order to forget their old lives. Those who were initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries, however, could drink from the fountain (or well) of Mnemosyne (memory) and were allowed to remember. Hēraklēs had to go through the mysteries, but initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries excluded those who were guilty of murder, and of course Hēraklēs was quite guilty of that. He was tainted not only with the miasma of killing his family, but also for killing the kentaur Nessus (Νέσσος), the kentaur who carried Hēraklēs' third wife Deïaneira (Δῃάνειρα) over the river Evinos (Εύηνος), and was killed by Hēraklēs for attempting to abduct and rape her.

Hēraklēs traveled to Eleusis in search for a way into the mysteries. Eventually, the officials of the mysteries decided that, in order for Hēraklēs to take part, he would have to be cleansed of the blood of his crimes first. As such, he was put through a rite, most likely at the shrine at the Ilissos river. Hēraklēs was cleansed, and eventually, he was initiated into the mysteries. He traveled to the Underworld--aided by a lot of Theoi--and eventually, he returned successful in his quest. For the ancient regular mortal, returning from the Underworld was not the goal. They did, however, want to be initiated. In order to qualify for initiation, participants would sacrifice a piglet to Demeter and Persephone.

In ancient texts, the rituals of the Lesser Mysteries were often referred to as 'myesis', as opposed to the rites of the Greater, which were referred to as 'epopteia'. The word myesis means 'to teach', as well as 'to initiate', while epopteia has a similar meaning, but with an important difference; it means 'to witness', as well as 'to be initiated'. This difference equates the major difference between the two rites: in the Lesser Mysteries, candidates underwent a teaching course. They were educated on the gifts of Demeter, on the mythology surrounding Her and Her daughter, and on the mysteries. They went through a rite of purification--possibly in the river. Upon completion of the Lesser Mysteries, participants were deemed mystai ('initiates') worthy of witnessing the Greater Mysteries.

While what exactly happens on which day, is completely unknown due to the vow of silence--which was most likely placed upon the seekers the first day. What we do know from artwork is that a pig was sacrificed on a eschára, a low-lying altar to the khthonic deities--most likely Persephone. Also sacrificed by the seeker was a stack of flat cakes called 'pelanoi', although the actual sacrifice is not depicted. A priest gave a libation, and may also have burned poppies, a plant linked to both Demeter and Persephone, as Demeter might have used it to relief the burden of Her grief over losing Her daughter. Other options for offerings include pomegranates, the seeds of the pomegranate, cakes, or cheese.

The seeker was--assumably after this sacrifice--told of Demeter and Persephone, and he or she might have been seated on a chair, coated by a ram's fleece, while these stories were told to them. Again, we know this from artwork, but we do not know why they were seated as such, save that Demeter also sat on a chair with a ram's fleece on it as she grieves over Persephone's abduction. A ram appears to have been a favored sacrificial animal for Persephone, so it might be that the ram--minus its fleece--was sacrificed as well.

Next--and I use this term loosely, because we have no idea about the order of things--the seeker was blindfolded and led on a journey--either physically, or as a meditative exercise. As a journey into the Underworld is also a journey into the darkness, one can assume this was the main goal of the exercise; for the seeker to feel he or she was being led deeper into the mysteries of the Underworld, deeper into a sense of sacredness and trust in the Theoi and priests who overlooked the mysteries, and deeper into him or herself, possibly to face their own crimes and impure actions. Anyone who has ever walked to an initiation in a blindfold knows the power of the act. It brings a finality, a true sense of entering a new world, and a leaving behind of the old. It may be that especially the latter was the goal of this exercise; a continuation of the purification that started with sacrifices.

During the blindfold exercise, a winnowing fan, a 'liknon', which was used to separate wheat from the chaff was held over the head of the seeker. It's a common symbol of Dionysos, and withing the mysteries, it may have signified the separation of the soul from the body--a start of the preparation for the demise of the seeker at the end of life, and the control they would have not to drink from Lethe.

After this ritual, the seeker was purified, and 'brought before Demeter'. This was most likely a priestess representing the Theia for the rite. She was seated on the kiste--a basket which held the ritual items used in the Greater Mysteries--and on her lap (or somewhere close) would be a snake. The seeker had to reach out and touch the snake, to show they had no fear of death, nor dying. It appears this was the final step in completing the Lesser Mysteries, and becoming a mystes, but there may have been be a dozen more rites the seeker would have had to go through that were lost in time.

Because so much is lost of the mysteries, celebrating the Lesser Mysteries as a modern Hellenist is virtually impossible. We'll give it a try, though, while being fully aware that it's a mere shadow of itat best. For those who wish to join us, the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries will be a seven day event, starting on February 29th and ending on March 6th. Many of the days will be study days with meditations of smaller rituals in order to understand the mythology and reasoning behind the Mystries. In this regard, the Lesser Mysteries differ from the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries.

To make things easier, we have laid out a time table:
  • February 29: Opening rite (daytime)
  • March 1: Study day: Demeter (daytime)
  • March 2: Purification rite (daytime)
  • March 3: Study day: the Underworld (nighttime)
  • March 4: Study Day: Iakkhos (daytime)
  • March 5: Initiatory rite (nighttime)
  • March 6: Closing rite (daytime)

  • We truly hope you will join us for this event. You can share your experience with the community here and the rituals can be found here. Note, these are ALL rituals, seven of them in total, one for every day. It is highly encouraged you read through them before the Mysteries start.

    We are very excited about the opportunity of offering this experience to you and we hope you will find a glimmer of what the ancient Hellenes might have experienced during the some of the most anticipated days of the year.
    Elaion will be hosting a multiple day event for the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries this year, like we did for the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries last year. We'll be announcing that festival and releasing those rites soon, but in the middle of the Lesser Mysteries is another festival, one that seems very minor, but which was very widespread in ancient Hellas. From Athens, to Erchia, to Agria, the night of the twenty-third of the month of Anthesterion was reserved for the Diasia, an ancient festival--even back then--dedicated to Zeus Meilichios. The Diasia was a hugely important festival, because it was a festival full of rites of placation and purification. In the daylight hours of 3 March, 10 AM EST, Elaion will host a PAT rite for the Diasia, and we encourage everyone to take part.

    The Diasia is a complicated and very old festival. It has a mixture of Ouranic and Khthonic elements because it's related to purification; its intended purpose was to remove miasma and to bring prosperity. Ouranic influences are in the raised altar that was improvised, and in the fact that it was held during the daylight hours. Khthonic influences can be found in the fact that the sacrifice was given in a holókaustos and khoe, and that the actual festival took place outside of the city walls so as to carry miasma out of it (this is a practice more commonly seen during Hekate's Deipnon where a sacrifice was taken out of the house so the household would be purified).

    Like with Hekate's Deipnon, the members of the household would touch a sacrificial animal during the Diasia before it was sacrificed, believing the miasma they carried would be transferred into it and then burned away. Old practices for Hekate's Deipnon included the same to be done with a dog. It was a grim festival, not a joyous one and it could have been quite scary for kids. As such, the festival was wrapped up with a communal meal that was usually lavish and kids were sometimes presented with a new toy. The day was ended on a happy not, because the family was now purified and Zeus Meilichios would watch over it and the crops. You can read more about the Diasia here and I highly encourage that you do so. The Diasia is special and because of its Khthonic character it was seen as somewhat dangerous if you messed it up. Understanding this festival is essential to any who participate in it.

    The ritual for the Diasia can be found here. Please note that libations to Zeus Meilichios are khernips (water) libations and that all sacrifices are to be wholly burnt; they are given as a holókaustos. You are not to share in any liquid or foodstuff that you sacrifice to Zeus Meilichios. The Diasia calls for a sacrifice of an animal, or a cake version of it (namely a sheep or pig). Here is a recipe for ancient Hellenic honey cakes which you can use to make these. Please join the community page here to share your experience with others.
    I am very happy to share with you Labrys' ritual for the Anthesteria. The Labrys Religious Community aims to preserve, promote and practice the Hellenic polytheistic religious tradition through public rituals, lectures, publications, theatrical and musical events, and other forms of action. Their vision is to restore the Hellenic religious tradition and by extension the Hellenic Kosmotheasis and lifestyle to its rightful place, as a respected, acknowledged and fully functional spiritual path.

    The Anthesteria was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. It is an ancestral festival, the oldest of the festivals for Dionysos in Athens, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season to come, a time to celebrate with the spirits of the departed the indefatigable resurgence of life. The festival centered around the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. Please click on the image below to get taken to the video. Enjoy!

    Those who visit this blog on a regular basis know that I'm a fan of Solon and his reformations of the political landscape of Athens in the sixth century BC. Solon (Σόλων) was an Athenian statesman and lawmaker who lived from 638 BC to 558 BC. He spent most of his adult life trying to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in archaic Athens. His ideologies are often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy. Solon's reforms created a system where the power was in the hands of the people, because instead of leaving justice to be administered by the aristocracy. He was also a poet and some of his work has miraculously survived. Today, I would like to share these two poems.

    The Man Whose Riches Satisfy His Greed
    The man whose riches satisfy his greed
    Is not more rich for all those heaps and hoards
    Than some poor man who has enough to feed
    And clothe his corpse with such as God affords.
    I have no use for men who steal and cheat;
    The fruit of evil poisons those who eat.
    Some wicked men are rich, some good men poor,
    But I would rather trust in what's secure;
    Our virtue sticks with us and makes us strong,
    But money changes owners all day long.

    Good government makes everything well ordered and fit,
    And at the same time it throws shackles on the unjust.
    It levels out the rough, stops insolence, and weakens arrogance.
    It causes the growing blossoms of blindness to wither.
    It straightens crooked judgments and it levels out over-reaching deeds.
    It stops the acts of civil conflict and
    It stops the anger of grievous strife and because of it
    Everything among men is wisely and appropriately done.
    I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

    "What do you think of offering beer to the Theoi?"

    Beer has been around for a very long time, at least six thousand years, although the art of beer-making could date back as far as fifteen thousand years ago. The ancient Hellenes certainly were not the ones who invented it. Most likely, it travelled to them by way of the Egypt, but the Egyptians could probably trace the art back to Mesopotamia. A four thousand year old seal to the Goddess Ninkasi--the Goddess of beer--has been found, which is as well a hymn to Her as a recipe for beer.

    The beer that was drunk by the ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks--or anyone else, really--had very little to do with the beer we pick up at the grocery store today. They share the same base component--fermented barley--but that's about it. Ancient records ascribed to the following method of creating beer, which is somewhat similar to modern day practices, but vary greatly in execution:

    According to Athenaeus Naucratis, a Hellenic rhetorician and grammarian, a grain, typically barley but also millet, rye and wheat, was malted. The grain was dampened with water and allowed to germinate. Nature took its course to converted some of the starches into fermentable sugars and the resulting malt was heated to dry it. The dried malt was often shaped into loafs which were then backed for a small amount of time. These loaves were crumbled, mixed with cereals, and then soaked overnight. To add flavor, spices, honey, dates or other types of sweeteners were used. After the mash had fermented, the liquid contained roughly six to twelve percent alcohol and was sucked out of large bowls with straws, because the gruel-like mash was left in.

    Depending on the country or region of origin, the ancient Hellenes knew a wide variety of beers, all mixed slightly differently. Zythos (ζῦθος) came from Egypt. The beer or barley-wine of Crete was known as 'korma' (κόρμα) or 'kourmi' (κοῦρμι). A similar beverage was known in the north of Hellas and in Asia Minor under the name of 'βρῦτον', which simply means 'fermented' or 'something brewed', being made of barley by the Phrygians and Paeonians, of barley or of roots by the Thracians, while the Paeonians also made another mixture which they called 'παραβίας' or 'παραβίη' from millet and fleabane for which I have no translation.

    The Roman Plinius reported of the popularity of beer in the Mediterranean area before wine took hold, but the Hellenes were much bigger fans of the fermented grape than fermented barley. Still, the ancient Hellenes associated beer with the Theoi. Dionysos was lauded for the drink, but the prime Theos of beer was (and is) Seilenos (Σειληνός), foster-father of Dionysos and son of Hermes. Please note that the preferred drink of Demeter, Kykeon, which is also made with barley, was not fermented and does not contain alcohol.

    Within modern Hellenistic practice, beer is most likely not a suitable offering for the Theoi, and should not replace wine offerings. Even in ancient Hellas, beer was viewed as inferior and barbaric. Peasants drank it, as it was a lot cheaper than wine, but that's about it. On principle, I'm against offering anything sub-par to the Theoi, even if the modern process has made the drink a lot more palatable. Still, it's good to know the ancient Hellenes had options, although getting drunk was frowned upon even if you drank beer.


    "Read on your blog that your Hellenistic has, in a way, freed you from certain aspects of witchcraft. I’m intrigued, can you explain? Of course its personal to you and wont apply to all, but I feel like you probably have interesting points to raise."

    In my seventeen years of practice, I have progressed at least four times; from Neo-Wicca to Technopaganism, from Technopaganism to Hedgewitchery, from Hedgewitchery to Eclectic Religious Witchcraft and from Eclectic Religious Witchcraft on to Hellenismos. Some were easy, some a good lot harder to reconcile with my heart and mind.
    Progression is never easy as you do step away from a practice you have spent many years building. It takes a lot of guts to finally admit your current practice is not for you anymore. It’s a process. It’s generally not a sudden thing that happens (although for some, it might be).

    All the times I’ve progressed, it has been a relief. I took all I had learned with me into my next step of religious evolution. I never looked for a new home, but every time I progressed, it was a new homecoming.

    Religion is the process of finding personal truth. For me, it’s also a way to reconcile my many thoughts about Divinity with the experiences I have had with it. Which practices I use gives me a framework to do what I feel that needs to be done. I can still do Neo-Wiccan and Eclectic ritual; I have the tools, the knowledge and the faith in the God and Goddess but the Theoi are the Gods that bring me closer to myself and the world around me. That particular framework gives me everything I have ever wished my pervious practices were–and that is why it was natural for me to progress into it.

    I practiced Eclectic Religious Witchcraft for about seven years, longer than anything else in my life. I was initiated into a coven and initiated others. I was a priestess with a specialization in the ancient Hellenic pantheon. I summoned the Theoi into circles, bastardized Their festivals to suite the Pagan way of practice and circle of the year, and did a lot of research. I have always liked research.

    The last year or so of my practice, I behun to feel uneasy as I summoned the Theoi. I had begun to understand the ways of the ancient Hellenes and realized that I was not worhipping the Theoi, I was abusing them. This became my personal truth. I felt it down to my bones. Then I had a UPG experience–two actually. Both shook me to my very foundation. One was during a ritual to Dionysos, and He tapped me upside the head so hard that I was out of sorts for days. Dionysos takes no shit from anyone, and most certainly not a snot nosed kid like me who tried to summon Him into a circle. Then, two days after, I had a UPG experience with Hecate, during the new moon. I’m not going to go into details but let me suffice by saying she was kinder about it and gave me a mission: to build a temple. I thought she meant an actual temple, now, years later, I know she meant my personal practice in combination with the blog and the work I do for Elaion.

    Progressing into Hellenismos at break-neck speed (I started Baring the Aegis about tow or three days before actually progressing) has been the wildest ride of my life. The break with Eclectic Religious Witchcraft was painful. It meant leaving so much of myself behind. And yet, I am better for it, because the more I learned, the more I came to realize that Hellenismos was what I had been searching for my entire life. A religion with a set fromawerk that was not a modern invention but founded upon religious truths that carried across most ancient religion; an intricate web of trust and love between mortal and the divine.

    Has progression freed me from anything? Yes, I suppose. My guilt and shame over the way I treated the Theoi, for one. It has given me a religious home and through it, I have met so many beautiful people, amongst which my best friend and spiritual and religious partner Robert Clark, co-founder of Elaion. I have been fortunate enough to fulfill much of the mission Hekate has put me on five years ago and I am proud and happy about that. But mostly… mostly progressing into Hellenismos was inevitable. It’s where I belong. It’s my home, and I doubt that will ever change.
    Many people--myself included--sometimes forget how extensive the ancient Hellenic empire was. It wasn't just what is now modern Greece. It extended all the way down to, for example, Russia. Today: Kepoi.

    Kepoi (Κῆποι) was an ancient Hellenic colony situated on the Taman peninsula, three kilometres to the east of Phanagoria, in the present-day Krasnodar Krai of Russia. The colony was established by the Milesians in the 6th century BC. The Milesians were the inhabitants of Miletus, a city in the Anatolia province of modern-day Turkey, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and at the mouth of the Meander River. Settlers from Krete moved to Miletus sometime in 16th century BC. By the 6th century BC, Miletus had become a maritime empire, and the Milesians spread out across Anatolia and even as far as the Crimea, Olbia, Ukraine founding new colonies.

    In the Hellenistic period, Kepoi was controlled by the kings of the Cimmerian Bosporus, the present-day Strait of Kerch. According to Hellenic historian Diodorus Siculus, the region was governed between 480 and 438 BC by a line of kings called the Archaeanactidae, probably a ruling family, usurped by a tyrant called Spartocus (438 – 431 BC), who was a Thracian.

    At first the city, of mixed population, subsisted on farming and trade with Asian Hellenes and local tribes, paying taxes to the Bosporan kings. The inhabitants prospered from the wheat trade between the 4th century BC and the 1st century AD. The city was originally 20-25 hectares. It covered a small hill and extended down the slopes to the seashore.

    The archaeological finds of the city are numerous. Soviet excavations, started in 1957, yielded rich finds. They include not only Klazomenai wares, Classical and archaic Attic bowls, terracotta figurines of local manufacture (4th century BC), imported Syrian glassware and Egyptian scarabs but also the remains of a house of the mid 6th century BC, and numerous graves from several necropoleis which can be dated to the same period. Other architectural remains date to the first century AD or later.

    Stemming from the 1st century are ruins of a temple in antis dedicated to Aphrodite; the terracotta ex-votos found nearby represent the Goddess and was aptly names 'Aphrodite of Taman'. The statue is about half a meter high and dates to the first half of the second century AD. It's pictured above. Also found was a head of Aphrodite from a workshop near the Pergamon school, dating to the second century BC.

    The remains of houses from this century reflect the high standard of living. The foundations are of stone, the walls of brick, often imported from Sinope as were the roof tiles; there are traces of water pipes. There are also remains of baths from the first century AD and two wine-making establishments dating to the first to third century AD.

    The city of Kepoi reached its peak in the 1st centuries AD, but the Huns and Goths put an end to its prosperity in the 4th century. Since the 1960's, much of Kepoi has been explored and uncovered. The rest of the site has been submerged by the Sea of Azov and is out of reach for now.
    The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, is a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803. Since then, there has been great controvercy surrounding the legitimacy of this permit and the validity of the UK's claim to keep the Marbles instead of sending them home to Greece. I have been following this saga on my blog and recently there was a new development: the 'Athenians’ Association' has launched a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights against the United Kingdom for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

    According to the Association, the initiative to launch the lawsuit came when the board of directors was informed that the United Kingdom responded negatively to participating in mediation a procedure, as part of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Goods in the Country of Origin.

    Not only did the plea not get rejected, but it was lodged, bringing back to life the issue of the return of the Marbles in Greece. According to Stratis Stratigis, member of the association’s board during a press conference in Plaka:

    "[...] the Athenians’ Association has been following the issue closely for years and when it realized in March 2015 that Britain had rejected even its participation in the mediation procedure, it decided there was an opportunity to appeal before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg as a private association, independently from the State."

    This is the first time that this case was led in front of a judicial authority that could decide based on justice, whereas, according to jurist Vasileio Sotiropoulo, the plea was made 'to the only foreign court that an association can resort to'. The historic 'Athenians’ Association' has been operating for 120 years, since 1895.
    Pelion (Πήλιον) is a mountain at the southeastern part of Thessaly in central Greece. It forms a hook-like peninsula between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea. Its highest summit, Pourianos Stavros, is 1,610 metres (5,280 ft) above sea level. It remains beautiful all year round with its pristine and diverse beaches, lush forests with miles of hiking trails, skiing in the winter, and picturesque villages. Every year it's visited by thousands of tourists and locals enchanted by the beauty of the region. Amongst them was Canadian director Christopher Dormoy who decided to make a video to highlight its outstanding landscape.

    So, why should you be interested in this video? Well, you don't have to do anything, but Mount Pelion is a much featured location in Hellenic mythology and it might be nice to have an image in your head to go with it, right?

    According to mythology, two giants piled Mount Pelion on Ossa (Kíssavos or Óssa), another mountain in Thessaly, in order to scale Olympos, but Apollon killed the giants before they could make the attempt. On the high peaks and the dense vegetation of Pelion, the Centaurs found their shelter.

    On the peak of the same mountain, in the foliage, the ancient cave of Zeus Ombrios was hidden, visited by the residents of the area, carying animal skins, during the hottest and driest day of the year, in mid July, in order to ask Zeus to rain. Iason was raised in Pelion and was a student of Kheiron the Centaur. When he turned twenty, he left Pelion and went to claim the throne from his uncle Pelias. The ship Argo of the Argonauts allegedly was built of wood from the mountain’s trees.

    Pelion is one of those locations that has a story around every curve and tree, and seeing it portrayed with this kind of beautiful cinematography brings them to life with ease. Enjoy!
    Plutarch (Ploútarkhos, Πλούταρχος) was a Greek historian, biographer, and essayist, who later in his life became a Roman citizen. As such, he was extraordinarily qualified to write two standard works: the 'Quaestiones Graecae' (Αἴτια Ἑλληνικά, or Greek Questions), and the 'Quaestiones Romanae' (Αἴτια Ῥωμαϊκά, or 'Roman Questions'). These essays are part of the book series 'Moralia' (Ἠθικά, loosely translatable as 'Matters relating to customs and mores'), and can be found in book IV of the series. The Greek Questions contain fifty-nine questions, the Roman version hundred-thirteen, and all pertain to matters concerned with their respective culture. Many of the answers are names, or customs, and the Greek Questions are thus valuable for research on ancient Hellenic life.

    The questions have a wide range of usefulness, but many of the answers give insight into the lives of the ancient Hellenes and their views on the Theoi. As today is the first day of the Anthesteria, I wanted to do something that connects to Dionysos in some way. So, I would like to share a beautiful little hymn that was passed down through the 'Quaestiones Graecae' in question thirty-six: 'Why is it that the women of the Eleans, when they sing hymns to Dionysus, call upon him to come to them 'with the foot of a bull'?' The hymn runs as follows:

    Come, O hero Dionysus,
    To thy Elean holy
    Temple, with the Graces,
    To thy temple
    With thy bull's foot hasting.

    He is describing, alluding to, an actual rite or dromenon in which a Bull is summoned and driven to come in spring. It was not connected to the Anthesteria but rather a separate one at the start of the growing season. Jane Harrison, in 'Ancient Art and Ritual', notes the following about the hymn and its occasion, which I think says it all:

    "It is a strange primitive picture--the holy women standing in springtime in front of the temple, summoning the Bull; and the Bull, garlanded and filleted, rushing to-wards them, driven by the Graces, probably three real women, three Queens of the May, wreathed and flower-bedecked. But what does it mean?

    Plutarch tries to answer his own question, and half, in a dim, confused fashion, succeeds. 'Is it,' he suggests, 'that some entitle the god as 'Born of a Bull' and as a 'Bull' himself? ... or is it that many hold the god is the beginner of sowing and ploughing?'

    We have seen how a kind of daimon, or spirit, of Winter or Summer arose from an actual tree or maid or man disguised year by year as a tree. Did the god Dionysos take his rise in like fashion from the driving and summoning year by year of some holy Bull?

    First, we must notice that it was not only at Elis that a holy Bull appears at the Spring Festival. Plutarch asks another instructive Question: 1 'Who among the Delphians is the Sanctifier?' And we find to our amazement that the sanctifier is a Bull. A Bull who not only is holy himself, but is so holy that he has power to make others holy, he is the Sanctifier; and, most important for us, he sanctifies by his death in the month Bysios, the month that fell, Plutarch tells us, "at the beginning of spring, the time of the blossoming of many plants."

    We do not hear that the 'Sanctifier' at Delphi was 'driven,' but in all probability he was led from house to house, that every one might partake in the sanctity that simply exuded from him. At Magnesia, a city of Asia Minor, we have more particulars. There, at the annual fair year by year the stewards of the city bought a Bull, 'the finest that could be got,' and at the new moon of the month at the beginning of seedtime they dedicated it, for the city's welfare.

    The Bull's sanctified life began with the opening of the agricultural year, whether with the spring or the autumn ploughing we do not know. The dedication of the Bull was a high solemnity. He was led in procession, at the head of which went the chief priest and priestess of the city. With them went a herald and the sacrificer, and two bands of youths and maidens. So holy was the Bull that nothing unlucky might come near him; the youths and maidens must have both their parents alive, they must not have been under the taboo, the infection, of death. The herald pronounced aloud a prayer for 'the safety of the city and the land, and the citizens, and the women and children, for peace and wealth, and for the bringing forth of grain and of all the other fruits, and of cattle.' All this longing for fertility, for food and children, focuses round the holy Bull, whose holiness is his strength and fruitfulness.

    The Bull thus solemnly set apart, charged as it were with the luck of the whole people, is fed at the public cost. The official charged with his keep has to drive him into the market-place, and "it is good for those corn-merchants who give the Bull grain as a gift," good for them because they are feeding, nurturing, the luck of the State, which is their own luck. So through autumn and winter the Bull lives on, but early in April the end comes. Again a great procession is led forth, the senate and the priests walk in it, and with them come representatives of each class of the State--children and young boys, and youths just come to manhood, epheboi, as the Greeks called them. The Bull is sacrificed, and why? Why must a thing so holy die? Why not live out the term of his life? He dies because he is so holy, that he may give his holiness, his strength, his life, just at the moment it is holiest, to his people.
    'When they shall have sacrificed the Bull, let them divide it up among those who took part in the procession.'

    The mandate is clear. The procession included representatives of the whole State. The holy flesh is not offered to a god, it is eaten--to every man his portion--by each and every citizen, that he may get his share of the strength of the Bull, of the luck of the State.

    Now at Magnesia, after the holy civic communion, the meal shared, we hear no more. Next year a fresh Bull will be chosen, and the cycle begin again. But at Athens at the annual "Ox-murder," the Bouphonia, as it was called, the scene did not so close. The ox was slain with all solemnity, and all those present partook of the flesh, and then--the hide was stuffed with straw and sewed up, and next the stuffed animal was set on its feet and yoked to a plough as though it were ploughing. The Death is followed by a Resurrection. Now this is all-important. We are so accustomed to think of sacrifice as the death, the giving up, the renouncing of something. But sacrifice does not mean "death" at all. It means making holy, sanctifying; and holiness was to primitive man just special strength and life.

    What they wanted from the Bull was just that special life and strength which all the year long they had put into him, and nourished and fostered. That life was in his blood. They could not eat that flesh nor drink that blood unless they killed him. So he must die. But it was not to give him up to the gods that they killed him, not to "'sacrifice' him in our sense, but to have him, keep him, eat him, live by him and through him, by his grace.

    And so this killing of the sacred beast was always a terrible thing, a thing they fain would have shirked. They fled away after the deed, not looking backwards; they publicly tried and condemned the axe that struck the blow. But their best hope, their strongest desire, was that he had not, could not, really have died. So this intense desire uttered itself in the dromenon of his resurrection. If he did not rise again, how could they plough and sow again next year? He must live again, he should, he did."
    Digitizing or digitization is the representation of an object, image, sound, document or signal (usually an analog signal) by generating a series of numbers that describe a discrete set of its points or samples. The result is called 'digital representation' or, more specifically, a digital image, for the object, and digital form, for the signal. Strictly speaking, digitizing means the conversion of analog source material into a numerical format. Can this process save the ancient monuments?

    Phys.org has published an interesting article titled 'Cyber-archaeology, big data and the race to save threatened cultural heritage sites'. It opens with a reminder of the grim reality of our time: in January, it was confirmed that St. Elijah's Monastery, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, was completely destroyed by IS troops after standing for 1,400 years near the city of Mosul. Destroying the cultural and religious symbols of your enemies is not a new development, but it does bring with it the question of how we can preserve these monuments for the future. Thomas Levy, distinguished professor of anthropology at UC San Diego and director of the Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability at the Qualcomm Institute thinks the solution might be a digital one. He comments:

    "Cyber-archaeology is the marriage of archaeology with engineering, computer and natural sciences. [...] Digital technologies, such as laser scanning and structure-from-motion high-definition photography have the ability to create remarkably accurate 3-D representations of cultural heritage sites. It's the next best thing to the real thing," said Levy. "Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift and other emerging 3-D technologies make it possible to enter and explore ancient monuments as they were the day they were scanned."

    Levy is gearing up to tackle the next big hurdle for cyber-archaeology: once you capture digital information, how do you store, share, collaborate on and display the data to researchers and the public? This is no trivial challenge. Today's archaeologists are equipped with a suite of new and rapidly-evolving digital tools. The data files from these tools--including laser scans, high-definition photos and videos, aerial drone footage, and detailed climate measurements--are numerous and large, and, because of this, they're generally hidden from view. It's early days for cyber-archaeology and there is currently no unified way of dealing with metadata.

    Levy's current project, a collaboration with researchers at UC Berkeley, UC Merced and UCLA, aims to deal directly with the issue of managing big cultural heritage data. This effort recently got a big boost from a Research Catalyst Award of just over $1 million from UC President Janet Napolitano. As Levi states:

    "The award allows us to bring together four major archaeology projects, and will help pave the way for the handling of big cultural data in the 21st century. It will be the signature project for the newly created Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability over the next two years."

    The joint project pulls together complex data from satellite imagery, 3-D data capture, drones and other techniques from locations in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Greece and Cyprus covering over 10,000 years of cultural materials, architecture and landscapes.

    Because of the vast scope of the data, the researchers will leverage the recently announced Pacific Research Platform (PRP), a high-capacity data 'freeway system' that, when complete, will bring together most of the research universities on the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii, National Laboratories and national supercomputer centers, and a few more distant institutions, including the University of Amsterdam. The PRP project is led by Larry Smarr, director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), a joint UC San Diego and UC Irvine initiative.

    Levy envisions that the new platform will enable studies of the correlation of regional climate and demographic data with cultural and technological change on a scale that hasn't been possible before. The data platform will enable much more detailed studies of how human conflicts, climate change, pollution, natural disasters, and looting affect archaeological sites and help forecast future areas of preservation concern.

    For the full article and examples of Levi's work, please go here.
    Usually, Pandora's Kharis picks non-profit causes. Companies created to do good across the globe. And sometimes, we need to make an exception because we know the people involved or because the stories of a single individual can be so heartbreaking that we simply can't turn them away. This month, Pandora's Kharis' fundsraiser is one of the latter. This month we will raise funds for two causes, two people: Dominick Lawniczak Evans and Ashley Guillory.

    Dominick Lawniczak Evans
    Dominick's full story can be found here, but in short, Dominick has two huge problems that are creating impenetrable barriers to his independence. First, his hoyer lift (the lift that gets him from the bed to his wheelchair) is old and unsafe. This standard lift slides under his bed, lifts him, and puts him down in his chair. It also has a large bar near his feet and his feet often get stuck, causing him to bend and sometimes fracture his toes. The idea of this happening causes him such anxiety that Dominick hesitates getting out of bed, even when it's a necessity.

    The second problem is his wheelchair. A highly documented mess from day one, Dominick's wheelchair is about three years old and has been fixed well over 20 times and has had the base replaced at least once. He's had the Attorney General of the state where he got the wheelchair involved, and while efforts have been made to help him, the company that provided the wheelchair is absolutely unwilling to rectify the problem. Dominick is fighting with his insurance company to get a new wheelchair, but it's a slow going process and until he gets one, he spends most of his time in bed. Now with the addition of the lift problems, he spends all of his time in bed.

    From bed, Dominick does more work than you can imagine. He works as a freelance writer and runs his blog where he discusses life as a minority, and he sheds light on issues pertainent to the LGBT, disability, and film communities. He is an activist for the LGBT, disabled, and other minority communities, working on various political committies to improve the lives of people and to foster independence even when he's unable to enjoy his own.

    Dominick need two things to get out of bed and becomes independent: a new lift and a new wheelchair. The lift he needs costs over $7000,-. The wheelchair that Dominick needs costs over $25000.00 when you add in the additional options he needs like recline and tilt, which allow him to comfortably adjust his position and to take pressure off various parts of his body. If Dominick makes more than the cost of the lift, any additional funds received will go towards paying for the wheelchair or the special features that he needs that insurance will definitely not pay for!

    Anything you can do to help Dominick is appreciated whether it's $1 or $100. Anything you can give will lead him closer to his goal to becoming a more productive, healthier member of society.

    Dominick has so much to give, but the reality is that it's tough to make a difference in the world from bed. Thank you for considering helping him. Just the thought means more than you know.

    Ashley Guillory
    Ashley Guillory is 33 years old, married, and has a daughter and step-son. Ten years ago, she had a brain tumor removed and with a recent trip to Houston Ashley and her family found out she will need another brain surgery to remove a cyst in the middle of her brain. The neurologist found an area of concern in her cerebellum. Now, brain surgery is invasive and very expensive. The family is looking for help to cover these excessive costs and you can help with any and all amounts. Every little bit will help.

    We are not asking you to choose between these two very deserving people, we are asking you to donate. Half of your donation will go to Dominick and half to Ashley, hoping to bring both a touch closer to their goal. So band together in the spirit of the Gods and donate, please. Both people truly need your help. The deadline to donate is March 8, 2016. You can do so by using the PayPal option to the side of the Pandora's Kharis website or by donating directly to baring.the.aegis@gmail.com. Thank you in advance!
    One of Hellenismos' most important festivals is the Anthesteria. It is held in honour of Dionysos Limnaios, of wine, and the dead. Elaion will hold a PAT ritual for the festival on 20 February, 21 February and 22 February, 2016, at 10 am EST. Will you join us?

    The Anthesteria was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. It is an ancestral festival, the oldest of the festivals for Dionysos in Athens, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season to come, a time to celebrate with the spirits of the departed the indefatigable resurgence of life. The festival centered around the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia (after πίθοι 'storage jars'), Khoes (χοαί 'libations') and Khytroi (χύτροι 'pots').

    On the first day, the pithoi were brought to the city of Athens and opened in the temple of Dionysos. Everyone from age three and up wore garlands of new flowers, and many were present when the pithoi of new wine were opened, and a libations was offered to Dionysos before drinking of it. It was a truly celebratory day.

    On the second day, all temples were closed, except the temple of Dionysos. Social order broke down on this day--as slaves were permitted to celebrate alongside everyone else--and there was a drinking contest in the afternoon where three liters of wine were drunk in complete silence, from khoes. Whomever finished first, won. At the end of the day, the garlands that had been worn were wound around their khoes which they then took to the priestess in charge of the sanctuary at the Limnaios (the marsh) to be dedicated. The wife of the Archōn Basileus--the Archon in charge of religious and artistic festivals--the Basilinna might have taken part in a sacred marriage with Dionysos, either with her husband acting as a conduit for Dionysos, or one of His priests. Geriai, priestesses or followers of Dionysos, might have assisted in this ritual, or would have held their own cult rituals on this day. Young women swung in trees and decorated them to commemorate the death of Erigone, as chronicled below.

    On day three, everyone joined in a procession to the temple of Dionysos. It was a somber day consisting of the preparation of a mixture of a panspermia, grains and beans boiled together (a good recipe can be found here), along with honey which was offered to Hermes Khthonios on behalf of the spirits of the dead, especially those who died in Deukalion’s flood. The slaves, as well as the dead, were then told to go home, as 'the Anthesteria had ended'.

    The origins of the Anthesteria are based in myth. After the battle of Troy, King Agamemnon returns home to his wife Klytaemnestra (Κλυταιμνήστρα). When Agamemnon returns, playwright Aeschylus in his Oresteia, writes Klytaemnestra as not having been faithful to her husband. She has taken as her new lover and husband Aegisthos (Αἴγισθος), cousin of Agamemnon, and when Agamemnon and his young slave come home, Klytaemnestra kills them both. Orestes (Ὀρέστης), son of Agamemnon and Klytaemnestra ends up killing Aegisthos, as well as his mother for her crime, under orders of Apollon. Yet, the matricide is a terrible offense in the eyes of the Theoi, and the Erinyes--Khthonic deities of vengeance--are sent to kill Orestes. They chased him relentlessly and upon reaching Delphi he is told by Apollon that he should go to Athens to seek Athena's aid.

    Phanodemus (Athenaeus 10.437c-d) describes what happens to Orestes next, as it is this practice that was reenacted again and again, during the second day of the Anthesteria:

    “When Orestes arrived at Athens after killing his mother, Demophon [king of Athens] wanted to receive him, but was not willing to let him approach the sacred rites [to Dionysos] nor share the libations, since he had not yet been put on trial [and had not yet been cleansed of miasma]. So he ordered the sacred things to be locked up and a separate pitcher of wine to be set beside each person [instead of sharing a drinking vessel as usual], saying that a flat cake would be given as a prize to the one who drained his first. He also ordered them, when they had stopped drinking, not to put the wreathes with which they were crowned on the sacred objects, because they had been under the same roof with Orestes. Rather each one was to twine them around his own pitcher and take the wreathes to the priestess at the precinct in Limnai, and then to perform the rest of the sacrifices in the sanctuary.”

    As mentioned, Orestes arrives at Athens during an existing festival to Dionysos. It is posed that this festival was the Aiora, a festival instituted to commemorate the death of Erigone, her father, and their dog Maera. The story goes that Ikários (Ἰκάριος) was such a fine winemaker that he could produce wine so strong, those who drank it appeared to be poisoned. His skill turned out to be his undoing; Íkaros was killed by those who drank his wine, thinking the wine maker was out to kill them. His daughter Erigone was taken to his body by the family hound, Maera, whereupon both she and the dog committed suicide by hanging. It may have been that Dionysos was so angry over the murder and the following suicides, He punished Athens by making all of the city's maidens (or only the daughters of those who had killed Ikários) commit suicide in the same way. The citizens of Athens turned to the oracle of Delphi to stop these suicides, and the oracle told them to burry the three with honors, and appease their spirits. The Athenians buried the bodies with full honors, and a festival was founded where young Athenian women swung in swings, and hung ribbons, cups, and dolls in trees.

    The Anthesteria might sound like a confusing festival, and it was, in a way. The three days were almost completely separate events, but have a few things in common. It's a fertility festival, but birth is linked to death. All life is linked to death, after all, and both birth and death were miasmic events. After the rough winter, everything was dead: the soil, the remaining food stores, people... miasma tainted everything. So, as new life began from the ashes of the old, Dionysos was invoked and sacrificed to, to cleanse the old, to remove the miasma resting upon the earth and the people. It is not odd to find mythology connected to this festival which is so strongly linked to miasma, birth and death.

    How does a modern Hellenist celebrate the Anthesteria? The first day should focus upon the fertility aspects of the festival: the coming abundance of flowers, wine, and fruit now the spring is almost upon us. Day two began at night, and was filled with... well... sex. People were intoxicated, enthusiastic about the upcoming spring and the end of winter, and they tended to find each other in the dark of night. I would suggest starting there for day two, if you have the option.

    On this second day, I cover all other shrines I have in the house,but the one on which I will honor Dionysos, to prevent them from becoming tainted with miasma. This is optional, of course. Do think about Orestes, and what he was forced to do--fail either his father by not punishing his killer, or fail his mother by killing her, and dooming himself, regardless--and think about hard decisions you have had to make, and ask forgiveness for them. If you are of legal age and have the opportunity to do so, empty a glass of wine, and feel it swirl in your stomach, as restless as the spirits of the mythic dead who will come up from the Underworld tomorrow. Swing on a swing, as high as you can, and revel in the feeling. Decorate trees with knick-knacks. If you made yourself a garland, take it outside, preferably somewhere wet, and beg that Dionysos accept it and cleanse you of the pollution you carry within you. Again, this night is perfect for making love, especially in honor of Dionysos.
    Keep your shrines covered for the third day if you chose to do this, as miasma has not yet been lifted, and the dead roam the earth freely. Give honors to family members and others who were close to you, who have died. Speak with them and try to find closure. Make them a meal; a panspermia is best, but eggs, leeks and garlic also work well. There are different stories surrounding the eating of the panspermia yourself. Some say no one was to eat from it, but Walter Burkert in 'Greek Religion' notes:

    "On the 13th Anthesterion, the day of the Pots, grains of all kinds are boiled together in a pot along with honey. This is the most primitive cereal dish of the early farmers, older than the discovery of flour-milling and bread-baking; in funeral customs it has survived down to the present day. But the idea of food for the dead, conjoined to an abridged version of an ancient source, has lead to the mistaken view that the living were actually prohibited from eating from the Pots. According to the full text, it is only the priests who are barred from eating this food, in accordance with the fact that all sanctuaries are closed on the Choes day. The meal of pottage is linked to the myth of the flood: once the water had subsided, the survivors threw everything they could find into a pot and cooked it as their first meal after the cataclysm, an occasion for summoning up new courage and yet in memory of the dead. One sacrifices to the chthonic Hermes for the sake of the dead and eats from the Pots in the certainty of life regained. The day of defilement is over, the masks and the dead lose their rights: 'Out you Keres, the Anthesteria are over' became a proverbial saying."

    Yet, Harrison in 'Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion' has the following to say:
    "The panspermia has not, I think, been rightly understood. In commenting on it before, misled by the gift-theory of sacrifice, I took it to be merely a 'supper for the souls.' No doubt as such it was in later days regarded when primitive magical rites had to be explained on Olympian principles. But it was, to begin with, much more. The ghosts had other work to do than to eat their supper and go. They took that 'supper', that panspermia, with them down to the world below and brought it back in the autumn a pankarpia. The dead are Chthonioi, 'earth people', Demetreioi, 'Demeter's people,' and they do Demeter's work, her work and that of Kore the Maiden, with her Kathodos and Anodos."

    Where you stand, you must decide for yourself. Personally, I will not taste of the panspermia. Like with the Deipnon, however, setting outside the meal will lift the miasma from your person and the house, so afterwards, you can uncover your shrines again.

    The Anthesteria is a festival of deep, emotional, involvement, and it is best celebrated by emerging yourself as completely as you can. As with any rites to Dionysos, transformation within yourself is almost always a consequence. The Anthesteria is a heavy festival, but filled with joy, regardless, because you are working towards spring. Burdens will be lifted from you. Rejoice with with us and you will get through these festivals just fine. You can find the rituals here and join the community here. Enjoy!
    The ancient Hellenic writers were dedicated historians, but they often neglected to mention the achievements of ancient Hellenic women. Now it so happens that I am a woman and I quite like having a few female heroes to look up to, so I want to introduce you to them. Today: Aspasia of Athens

    Aspasia is perhaps the most famous woman ancient Athens produced. She was born in the Ionian colony of Miletus on the coast of Asia Minor and immigrated to Athens about 450 BC, where she resided as a métoikos or resident alien. She was an accomplished hetaira, educated and trained in the art of conversation and entertainment, and the companion of the great leader of democratic Athens, Pericles.

    It is not known under what circumstances she first traveled to Athens. In fact, very little is known about her life and her as a person. We do suspect that she ran a brothel and worked as a hetaira until her marriage to Pericles. As a hetaira, she would have recieved and offered a very extensive education in order to be able to provide conversation for the many men who attended the ancient Hellenic symposia. As such, she was a well known figure in the ancient Athenian culture and hosted many parties which many famous men attended. According to Plutarch, her house became an intellectual centre in Athens, attracting the most prominent writers and thinkers, including the philosopher Socrates. It has also been suggested that the teachings of Aspasia influenced Socrates. Aspasia was mentioned in the writing of philosophers Plato, Aristophanes, Xenophon, and other authors of the day.

    Her status as a foreigner freed Aspasia from the legal restraints that traditionally confined married women to their homes and allowed her to participate in the public life of Athens. Mistress of her own house and hostess to friends and supporters who visited, she was witty and educated.

     It is attested that Pericles met Aspasia at a symposium and fell for her. She came to live with him as his concubine after Pericles divorced his wife (c.445 BC, if not earlier) and bore him a child of the same name. She was not permitted to marry an Athenian citizen--ironically, because of legislation that Pericles, himself, had enacted shortly before Aspasia arrived--and would remain his concubine until Pericles died of the plague in 429 BC. He lived with her as her husband and treated her as an equal. In fact, it's said he always kissed her goodbye and hello whe he left and came home. This was unseemly for a respectable man, and for a man of Pericles' standing, unheard of. He was often criticized for his relationship with Aspasia, and for his obvious reliance on her help and judgment.

    Aspasia is said by the Suda, a tenth-century Byzantine encyclopedia, to have been 'clever with regards to words', a sophist, and to have taught rhetoric. Cicero, in De Inventione, quotes a lost dialogue by Aeschines to demonstrate her skill in counseling Xenophon and his wife. Neither will be happy, she says, as long as they desire an ideal spouse; rather, each must be the best spouse, if their partner's wish is to be fulfilled.

    "All argumentation, then, is to be carried on either by induction or by deduction. Induction is a form of argument which leads the person with whom one is arguing to give assent to certain undisputed facts; through this assent it wins his approval of a doubtful proposition because this resembles the facts to which he has assented. For instance, in a dialogue by Aeschines Socraticus Socrates reveals that Aspasia reasoned thus with Xenophon's wife and with Xenophon himself: "Please tell me, madam, if your neighbour had a better gold ornament than you have, would you prefer that one or your own?" "That one, " she replied. "Now, if she had dresses and other feminine finery more expensive than you have, would you prefer yours or hers?" "Hers, of course," she replied. "Well now, if she had a better husband than you have, would you prefer your husband or hers?" At this the woman blushed. But Aspasia then began to speak to Xenophon. "I wish you would tell me, Xenophon," she said, "if your neighbour had a better horse than yours, would you prefer your horse or his?" "His" was his answer. "And if he had a better farm than you have, which farm would your prefer to have?" The better farm, naturally," he said. "Now if he had a better wife than you have, would you prefer yours or his?" And at this Xenophon, too, himself was silent. Then Aspasia: "Since both of you have failed to tell me the only thing I wished to hear, I myself will tell you what you both are thinking. That is, you, madam, wish to have the best husband, and you, Xenophon, desire above all things to have the finest wife. Therefore, unless you can contrive that there be no better man or finer woman on earth you will certainly always be in dire want of what you consider best, namely, that you be the husband of the very best of wives, and that she be wedded to the very best of men." [I.31.51-52]

    In 430 BC, at the beginning of the second year of the Peloponnesian War, a disastrous plague broke out in Athens. It killed the two sons of Pericles by his first wife, and he asked for an exemption from the law to permit his son by Aspasia to be legitimated and made a citizen, which was granted. The next year, Pericles, himself, died from the plague, and Aspasia was left alone. She soon found another protector in Lysicles, who rose to prominence under her tutelage. Sadly, he died a year later. The time of her death that most historians give (c. 401 BC-400 BC) is based on the assessment that Aspasia died before the execution of Socrates in 399 BC, a chronology which is implied in the structure of Aeschines' Aspasia.
    An ancient shipwreck off the southern coast is yielding fascinating artefacts that provide a remarkable record of ancient sea trade between the Aegean Sea and Cyprus. It was discovered in 2007 and sits at a depth of 45 metres off the coast of Mazotos in Larnaca. Having sat undisturbed in its silent, watery grave since the 4th century BC the wreck has caused a buzz in the archaeological community. This reports Cyprus Mail.

    Director of the project is Dr. Stella Demesticha, associate professor at the University of Cyprus. Describing the Mazotos shipwreck and the details, she says that it is very revealing about maritime life in the region over 2,000 years ago. The ship sank at about the time the Romans built their first aqueduct and before the conquests of Alexander the Great shook the region. It set sail on its ill-fated voyage during the height of the Classical Greek civilisation, as philosophy, literature and architecture were spreading far and wide.

    "It’s like excavating a time-capsule. The Mazotos shipwreck is special for many reasons. First of all, it belongs to the rare class of ancient shipwrecks that can be characterised as coherent – meaning they preserve their internal stratigraphy. Such wrecks can provide unique insights into seafaring, seaborne trade and shipbuilding in antiquity. We study the ship itself, although very little has been exposed thus far: its size, its anchors as well as the methods and materials of construction. We focus on the wine amphorae of the cargo, which are thoroughly documented before and after recovery,”

    The wreck is considered to be of historic importance, and excavation is being conducted by the Archaeological Research Unit at the University of Cyprus along with the Department of Antiquities.
    The collaboration of these institutions marks a first in local underwater archaeology, as no foreign organisations are involved. What makes this discovery special is its incredible state of preservation, which classifies the site among the rare cases of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.

    Since being discovered, the wreck has yielded a rich trove of wine amphorae, thought to come from the Greek island of Chios. Around 500 visible amphorae are scattered over an area of almost flat seabed. Remarkably, four layers of the ceramic jugs are preserved in their original stowage position.
    Other artefacts include lead stocks, the remains of three anchors, a large number of olive pits and even the keel and structural timbers. Organic materials such as the remains of the crew, textiles and fittings have long since disintegrated. The team anticipates more discoveries and insights will be revealed from beneath the deep layers of silt and mud.

    The mystery of how or why the merchant ship foundered will never be known, but Demesticha argues that she probably sank after waves and sea spray filled the bilge.

    “The reason of a wreck in the open sea, like this one, which does not involve capsizing, most probably is the water in the ship because of a storm and high waves.”

    The job of conducting surface surveys and mapping the wreck is complex, says surveying engineer and diver Dr. Dimitrios Skarlatos, assistant professor at the Cyprus University of Technology who has been involved in the wreck documentation since 2010.

    “When we started there were several clear limitations with the underwater environment, and several challenges. It may sound trivial, but prior to any finding removal, the exact position of it should be recorded and documented. Therefore, the survey should be daily, detailed, robust, quick and accurate to the centimetre. Acquisition time had to be less than twenty minutes, which is the bottom time for the divers. The final result must be both accurate and very detailed, while the processing time is limited, from dusk till dawn of the next day.”

    According to Skarlatos the real challenge was to understand the peculiarities of the underwater environment in order to propose an accurate acquisition method. The team used computer vision techniques to fully automate the photogrammetric processing.

    “That way, within the given time we could process hundreds of photos and produce millions of points within an afternoon."

    Mazotos was the first reported shipwreck where the photogrammetry was merged with computer vision to produce dense colour point clouds, changing completely the way underwater documentation is being conducted worldwide.

    Conservation of the finds requires specialised personnel. The laboratory for the conservation of maritime antiquities was created by the Department of Antiquities and is supervised by the conservator Eleni Loizidou and is where all the excavated material is being kept and conserved. Once brought to the surface, the finds are desalinated through immersion and their surface is cleaned mechanically. As it stands there are no immediate plans to raise the vessel. According to Demesticha:

    “At this depth and without the proper conservation infrastructures on land, bringing up the vessel is not an option. While working with the Department of Antiquities towards that direction, we will continue with the recovery of the cargo.”

    However, the team is not ruling out that other wrecks are sitting on the seabed in this region waiting to be discovered. According to Skarlatos:

    “We can assume that there should be undiscovered wrecks in Cyprus. The archaeological significance of those may vary though. Using combination of aerial Lidar surveys and multi beam echo sounders to scan the sea bottom we will for sure discover more. We are currently working towards that direction.”

    The excavation has been made possible with the support of many sponsors; the Honor Frost Foundation, from the UK and CYTA from Cyprus are among the most important ones. Apart from funding, the project is in constant need of human resources with a significant number of volunteers coming from many different countries every year to join forces with the main team.For more images of the researchers and finds, go here.