Italian artist Alessandro Tomasi has reconstructed the faces of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and statesmen using as reference statues and busts kept in various museums around the world.

Tomasi, who is based in Florence, has gained thousands of followers on social media around the globe for his painstaking work of bringing the past back to life.

The Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, has announced the completion of an archaeological and geophysical survey in the area of Pera Oreinis in October 2020 under the direction of Dr. Matthias Recke (University of Frankfurt) and field Director Dr. Philipp Kobusch (University of Kiel). The aim of the fieldwork was to locate the Sanctuary of Apollon at Fragkissa.

The sanctuary of Apollon at Frangkissa, in the vicinity of ancient Tamassos, can be considered one of the most important sanctuaries discovered in Cyprus to date, due to the rich finds of sculptures. It was subject to a rescue excavation in 1885 by the German archaeologist Max Ohnefalsch-Richter. However, the exact location was subsequently forgotten and has been sought in vain by various archaeologists.

Recently, archival studies succeeded in restricting the location of the sanctuary to a distinct valley south of Pera Oreinis. Through an intensive survey of this valley, it has now been possible to locate the exact place of the sanctuary with certainty. The survey revealed a high concentration of sherds, but also fragments of ancient sculptures and terracotta figurines in a relatively narrowly defined area. A geophysical survey by GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) carried out in cooperation with the University of Cyprus under the direction of Apostolos Sarris confirmed these findings. According to this, deep structures in the ground can only be found in the part of the valley that was also prominent in the archaeological survey.

A preliminary analysis of the finds showed that the area had been occupied since the Iron Age and was used throughout the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods. The numerically smaller finds from the Roman and Byzantine era are considerably more eroded and probably originate from a settlement of this period further downstream, which is already known. The finds from earlier periods, however, which can be ascribed to the use of the sanctuary of Apollon, are relatively well-preserved. They probably originate from the debris of the 1885 excavations and were overlooked at that time. 

In particular, the numerous fragments of limestone figures and large-size terracotta statues prove that these are the remains of an ancient sanctuary, as corresponding finds in settlements and necropoleis are uncommon. In fact, the types of figurative finds correspond exactly to the material excavated in 1885 which is now in museums in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland and possibly even Russia. Only a small part of the finds from 1885 have remained in Cyprus and are now in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia, including the famous “Colossus of Tamassos”. 

The characteristic finds are small chariots, riders and warrior figures in terracotta and large hollow terracotta statues of up to life size depicting the donators. This is shown here with a fragment of a shoe in original size compared to a find from the earlier excavation of 1885 in the Cyprus Museum. Many draped figures of votaries were also made of limestone. Besids these human figures, many fragments especially of horses (or riders on horses) have been found.

Confirmation that the site of the important sanctuary of Apollon has been identified in this area was also provided by the location of an almost 15-metre long trial trench, which can be traced back to the activities of 1885 and which is also mentioned in the old excavation reports. The trench, which was exactly 2 feet wide, had the purpose of exploring the adjacent area in order to determine the exact extent of the sanctuary. In fact, remains of ancient double-shell masonry can be seen here, which must have been part of the architecture of the sanctuary. A detailed investigation of the area as part of an archaeological excavation is planned for spring 2021.

The deme of Erkhia has many sacrifices, and Elaion has pretty much adopted them all. One of these sacrifices--or actually two of them--are on Poseideon β 16. Both are to Zeus. The first to Zeus without epithet, the other to Zeus Horios: 'of the boundary stones'. Will you join us for this combined sacrifice on December 31th at 10 am, EST?

Zeus Horios is responsible for the preservation of boundary stones. In order to mark their territories (especially between public and private), the ancient Hellenes relied on boundary markers, called 'horoi'. A horos (χορός) was usually a stele of marble or limestone, no larger than a meter high, rectangular and roughly hewn except for the upper front face, which was dressed smooth for inscribed letters. It was usually inscribed, sometimes with just the word 'horos', or sometimes specifying the territory (e.g., 'horos of the sanctuary'), or even the name of a deity. Some horoi were inscribed in the first person; a famous horos stone found by the ancient Athenia agora reads 'I am the horos of the Agora'. Specificity and clarity were crucial; passersby needed to know what sort of land they were entering because a boundary marker's message was enforced with a legal enforceable meaning.

The Arkhian calendar describes the sacrifices as such:

"[...] on the sixteenth [of Poseideon], for Zeus, on the rock or rocky place at Erkhia, a sheep, no taking away. For Zeus Horios, at Erkhia, a piglet, no taking away."

'No taking away' in this case means to consume the sacrifice on the spot. No part of it can be carried away from the site. So the skins and bones, as well as some of the meat are to be burned and the rest of the meat eaten, not sold or stored. Some scientists and archaeologists have come to call this type of sacrifice 'Ou phora', after Scott Scullion's definition.

In Sullivan's definition of 'Olympian' and 'Khthonian', 'Khthonian' was extended to include not only sacrifices in which the victim was destroyed, but also all sacrifices from which the meat could not be carried away and had to be consumed on the spot. He connects ou phora sacrifices to Khthonian deities or heroes, but this theory has been widely debated because it simply does not seem to resonate with other knowledge we have of these divinities and Their cults.

Poseideon was ruled by Poseidon, Zeus and Dionysos. Poseideon is the first true winter month; the first harvest was over, seafaring had ceased and thus war had come to an end. The focus was on the home and preparation for true, deep winter: the weather turned and the crops needed protecting. Because of this, it was also a month of threat; if the crops failed, if the seas became too rough when a daring fisherman was out on it, or if a river went out of bounds and flooded a well populated area there would be death. Zeus Horios watches over the boundaries of the home and was thus vital in this divine protection.

In current times we might not have most of these fears, but we still want trespassers to stay off our property (burglars, anyone?), and we want our personal, emotional, boundaries to be observed as well by the people we meet. Zeus Horios still influences our lives. So will you join us in honoring Zeus and Zeus Horios come December 31th at 10 am, EST?

The community for the event can be found here and the ritual for the event can be found here.

I really love Aeschylus' Eumenides play, and I also greatly enjoy the fact that it has prayers and parts you can use for prayers in it that one can use for their own household worship. Today, I will post some of the possible prayers in Eumenides. Enjoy!

"First, in this prayer of mine, I give the place of highest honor among the gods to the first prophet, Earth; and after her to Themis, for she was the second to take this oracular seat of her mother, as legend tells. And in the third allotment, with Themis' consent and not by force, another Titan, child of Earth, Phoebe, took her seat here. She gave it as a birthday gift to Phoebus, who has his name from Phoebe. Leaving the lake1 and ridge of Delos, he landed on Pallas' ship-frequented shores, and came to this region and the dwelling places on Parnassus. The children of Hephaistos,2 road-builders taming the wildness of the untamed land, escorted him with mighty reverence. And at his arrival, the people and Delphus, helmsman and lord of this land, made a great celebration for him. Zeus inspired his heart with prophetic skill and established him as the fourth prophet on this throne; but Loxias is the spokesman of Zeus, his father.

These are the gods I place in the beginning of my prayer. And Pallas who stands before the temple3 is honored in my words; and I worship the Nymphs where the Corycian4 rock is hollow, the delight of birds and haunt of gods. Bromius has held the region—I do not forget him—ever since he, as a god, led the Bacchantes in war, and contrived for Pentheus death as of a hunted hare. I call on the streams of Pleistus and the strength of Poseidon, and highest Zeus, the Fulfiller; and then I take my seat as prophetess upon my throne. And may they allow me now to have the best fortune, far better than on my previous entrances. And if there are any from among the Hellenes here, let them enter, in turn, by lot, as is the custom. For I prophesy as the god leads." [Pythia in the temple of Apollon at Delphi - 1]

"Lord Apollo, you know how to do no wrong; and, since you know this, learn not to be neglectful also. For your power to do good is assured." [Orestes to Apollon - 85]
"So now with a pure mouth I piously invoke Athena, lady of this land, to come to my aid. Without the spear, she will win me and my land and the Argive people as faithful and true allies for all time. But whether in some region of the Libyan land, near the waters of Triton, her native stream, she is in action or at rest, aiding those whom she loves, or whether, like a bold marshal, she is surveying the Phlegraean plain, oh, let her come—as a goddess, she hears even from far away—to be my deliverer from distress!" [Orestes to Athena - 287]

"I will accept a home with Pallas, and I will not dishonor a city which she, with Zeus the omnipotent and Ares, holds as a fortress of the gods, the bright ornament that guards the altars of the gods of Hellas. I pray for the city, with favorable prophecy, that the bright gleam of the sun may cause blessings  that give happiness to life to spring from the earth, in plenty." [Chorus of Eumenides - 916]
"Gracious and favorable to the land, come here, venerable goddesses, with flame-fed torch, rejoicing as you go—cry aloud now in echo to our song! Peace endures for all time between Pallas' citizens and these new dwellers here. Zeus who sees all and Fate have come down to lend aid—cry aloud now in echo to our song!" [Chorus of the processional escort to the Eumenides - 1032]

The Hellenic Museum, Melbourne’s iconic hub of Greek culture and history, both ancient and modern, will be hosting a fascinating course called “City, town and country in ancient Greece” in January via Zoom.

The educational program will allow learners to delve into the ancient Greek world to better understand the massive influence of ancient Greek culture, religion, philosophy, architecture, and myth on today’s world and throughout history.

Through the perspective of the city, town, and state throughout Greek history, the course, divided into five one-hour sessions, will take learners on a virtual tour throughout Greek history, from the Bronze Age to the Byzantine Era, and the country’s most significant cities.

All are welcome to take part in the engaging course, which covers the transformation of Greek cities over 3,000 years of history as well as the daily life of an ancient Greek in different periods and regions. No prior knowledge is required, and the class will be relaxed but extremely informative.

The course will be offered from January 4 to 8, lasting from 11:00 AM to 12 PM each day.

Dr. Christopher Gribbin, historian with a focus in ancient Greece and Rome, will teach the class. He has taught at Melbourne, Monash, and La Trobe Universities, and is dedicated to bringing history to the community, making it accessible and interesting to the broader public.

The fee for participation in the full course is $150. A full catalogue of the course can be found at the Hellenic Museum’s website, and those interested in enrolling in it can purchase tickets here.

 I don't write enough about Hellenic tragedies (or comedies, for that matter). In fact, in nearly two hundred posts, I don't think I've gone in depth on any of the plays, besides a cursory retelling of Euripides' adaption of Mēdeia's myth. I think the reason for this is that tragedies are, firstly, an extension of the ancient rites performed in honor of Dionysos... and while I worship Dionysos as a member of the Hellenic pantheon, I am not drawn to His Mysteries and cults at all. Before I begin this post, I therefor need to give the basics of tragic, Hellenic, theater before I get get to the point of this Pagan Blog Post, namely the Year-Daímōn, or Eniautos-Daímōn.

How tragic theater came to be is unknown. It's an old practice, dating back to the earliest foundations of Hellas. What we do know is that the tradition became intrinsically linked to the the Greater Dionysia, which was celebrated in the month of Elaphebolion; around March. Tragedies were plays--usually sung in their entirety by the chorus, but later also partly spoken--which were often pitted against each other in a contest, with the price for the winner being a goat. The word 'tragus día (τραγῳδία) has its roots in the ancient Hellenic words for 'goat' (tragos, τράγος) and 'sing' (á(i)dô, ᾄδω), which, combined, would be 'song for the goat'.

The name may also stem from 'bleating like a goat' or 'bleating like a child', and indicate that the name was given to the practice to indicate that the actors threw their voice to perform the parts. There are many other explanations, and the inclusion of the goat may simply refer to a goat being sacrificed at the festivals that included the performance of tragedies, or refer to satyr-like behavior as identified with Dionysos and His following.

This satyr-like behavior was most often seen in satyr plays, which are a third form of Hellenic theater, next to comedies and tragedies. Satyr plays were based on Hellenic mythology, and were chock full of mock drunkenness, sexuality, phallic props, pranks, and general merriment. After three days of tragedies, the fourth day of the Greater Dionysia was celebrated with satyr plays.

Like satyr plays, tragedies always focussed on mythology. Favorites were the myths surrounding Demeter, Persephone, and Hades; the 'death' and 'rebirth' of Dionysos; heroes like Herakles, Ajax, and Philoktētēs; and women like Mēdeia, Helèktra, Iphigeneia, and Antigone.

Tragedies often revolved around a central theme: dark versus light, good versus evil, or other variations of the duality. They were always about making ethical decisions. They also had a central structure: Contest (agon), Tearing-asunder/death/defeat (pathos), Messenger (angelos), Lamentation (threnos), Discovery (anagnorisis), Recognition (theophany), and Resurrection (apotheosis). Not all parts had to be included, although the plays were rated higher if they were.

An example: Euripides' Mēdeia starts after Iásōn tells her he will marry Kreousa, daughter of king Kreon of Korinth instead of her. There is a heated discussion, and Mēdeia flees to Athens, vowing to get her revenge (agon). She sends her children to Iásōn and Kreousa with an enchanted dress that kills both Kreousa and her father (pathos). A messenger runs to tell her of this event (angelos), and Iásōn grieves over the woman he has lost and his situation (threnos). Mēdeia returns to kill her two sons, and is discovered by Iásōn. Mēdeia explains her actions to the audience and Iásōn (theophany) and rises above the situation in Helios' chariot, which carries her off (a form of apotheosis). Mēdeia's play is straight-forward, without anagnorisis, something usually interpreted as a plot twist. In this case, Mēdeia knew the children were hers when she killed them. If she hadn't know, the play would have been completely different, and would probably have garnered Euripides more than third place.

With this introduction done, we can move on to the core of this post: the Year-Daímōn and its sacrifice. The Year-Daímōn is a title given to any Theos or hero, whose death and rebirth are tied to the turning of the seasons. These scapegoats 'die' with the old year and are 'reborn' with the new year, setting in motion a cycle of renewal for the plant life that forms the basis of the Hellenic food supply. Dionysos is the prime Eniautos-daímōn, but Theseus, Herakles, Apollon, Odysseus, and Orpheus qualify as well, as They are--in some way--linked closely to death and rebirth, either from visiting the Underworld and leaving it, or experiencing a 'second birth' of sorts.

To stay with Dionysos; for those unaware, there are about a bazillion stories on His birth, but two are of importance to this post. In one, he is born from Semele and Zeus, and while Semele is pregnant with Him, Hera plants seeds of doubt in her mind about the father of the child truly being Zeus. Semele asks Zeus to reveal Himself to her in his true form, and when he is left with no other option, He does so, killing her in the process. Zeus takes pity on His child, and takes Him into either His thigh or testicle, where He is eventually born from.

In the other version of the myth, stemming from Crete, Dionysos is the child of Zeus and Persephone (or Demeter). In this version, Dionysos is born, but ripped to pieces by Titans, under orders of a jealous Hera. Zeus smites the Titans, but is too late to save anything of Dionysos but His heart, which He gets implanted into His thigh like the first myth, or implants in Semele.

In both versions of the myth, Dionysos is twice-born, hence his epithet 'Dimêtôr' (Διμητωρ). Dionysos was considered a fertility God, but also closely related to nature's eternal cycle of birth and death. The ancient Hellens considered the moment a plant--especially the grape--began to grow for the first time after being planted its first birth, and counted its second birth when it became laden with ripened fruit. As Dionysos is so closely related to to the grape vine, it was Dionysos Himself that was considered being born once from the earth and again from the vine.

Dionysos' cult focussed heavily on this part of His mythology, and during the Dionysia, this thought pattern returned heavily, especially within the context of tragedies. From Harrison's pre-Olympic themed 'Themis: a Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion' comes the following reflection on a procession exhibited by Ptolemy Philadelphos in honour of Dionysos:

"The procession was headed by Silenoi clad, some in purple, some in scarlet, to keep off the multitude; next followed twenty Satyrs bearing lamps; next figures of Nike with golden wings; then Satyrs again, forty of them, ivy-crowned, their bodies painted some purple, some vermilion. So far it is clear we have only the ministrants, the heralds of the god to come. After these heralds comes the first real personage of the procession, escorted by two attendants. His figure will not now surprise us.

"After the Satyrs come two Sileni, the one with petasos and caduceus as herald, the other with trumpet to make proclamation. And between them walked a man great of stature, four cubits tall in the dress and mask of a tragic actor and carrying the gold horn of Amaltheia. His name was Eniautos. A woman followed him, of great beauty and stature, decked out with much and goodly gold; in one of her hands she held a wreath of peach-blossom, in the other a palm-staff, and she was called Penteteris. She was followed by four Horai dressed in character and each carrying her own fruits."

Of note are two things: the reference to Eniautos as linked to Dionysos, and the inclusion of the Horai (the Goddesses of the Seasons). Eniautos, here, is the personification of something we now identify as 'a year' but which in ancient Hellas would have been linked to any pre-defined period of time. In this case--as can be seen with the link to the Horai--the persona identified with the cycle of the seasons we deal with on earth. This procession did not take place during the (Greater) Dionysia, but it does--once more--show the link between Dionysos and Eniautos, and affirm His worship as a Year-Daímōn.

And so, the Year-Daímōn is the personification of the yearly cycle, and is superimposed on existing mythology. To stay with Dionysos--because to include the mythology of the other Theoi and heroes who were considered linked with the Year-Daímōn would make this post even longer than it already is--Dionysos' mystery cult (which eventually grew into (or branched off into) Orphism) saw Dionysos as an Immortal Theos, who took on a Khthonic form--Dionysos Khthonios (Διονυσος Χθονιος)--during the winter months. Dionysos Khthonios took on an oracular role at Delphi while Apollon was 'visiting the Hyperboreans'. Wether this was a result of, or a reason for, His link to the Year-Daímōn is unclear. So he was not 'dead' as we may understand the term, but like the ground on which nothing grew, so Dionysos lay dormant as well. From Murray:

"The ordinary Year-Daimon arrived, grew great and was slain by his successor, who was exactly similar to him. But Dionysos did not die. He seemed to die, but really it was his enemy, in his dress and likeness, it was Pentheus or Lycurgus who died while Dionysos lived on in secret. When the world seemed to be dead and deprived of him, he was there in the ivy and pine and other evergreens; he was the secret life or fire in wine, or other intoxicants. By this train of ideas Dionysos comes to be regarded not as a mere vegetation-spirit, or Year-Daimon, but as representing some secret or mysterious life, persisting through death or after death."

King Lycurgus of Thrance, to clarify, was a mythical figure, who bitterly opposed Dionysos' new religion. After a first encounter, Dionysos retreated into the sea, only to come back and imprison Lycurgus in a rocky cave. Dionysos planned to let him reflect and learn from his mistakes, but Zeus did not care to have the Gods insulted, and blinded, then killed Lycurgus.

More telling; Pentheus was the king of Thebes, and cousin to Dionysos. Pentheus did not believe Dionysos was a new Theos, and ordered His drunken and loud following imprisoned. Dionysos freed them and He tried to explain His worship to His cousin. Yet, Pentheus would not listen, so Dionysos left him to his anger. He took His followers--including many local women, including Pentheus' mother and sister--to the hills. When Pentheus pursued Him, He drove the women mad. To them Pentheus appeared to be a moutain lion. In a berserk rage, they attacked him, and his mother--who was first to reach him--ripped his head off, while the others tore off his limbs.

This myth reach back to  much older--possibly pre-Hellenic--'primitive' tribes which worshipped Dionysos or a God similar to Him with animal and human sacrifices which were torn apart, either before they were killed, or as a means to kill them. The God worshipped this way was also a God of life and death, and these sacrifices were conducted to ensure a good harvest in the coming year. This is the very same culture mentioned in the second paragraph as having founded the basics of tragic plays. This may also explain one of the retellings of the birth of Dionysos where He was torn apart by Titans.

How involved the worship of the Eniautos-Daímōn was, or how far-spread it was, is unclear. Sacrifices for a good harvest were very common, and it's not odd to imagine that the 'first birth' would have fallen somewhere around the Greater Dionysia (as it was celebrated roughly around the Spring Equinox). If all sacrifices to the Year-Daímōn were linked to Dionysos is also unclear, although He did play a huge role in the formation of the ritual style, which often included ecstatic rites brought on by wine, dancing and other aids.

For (Neo-)Pagans reading this, the Year-Daímōn seems to be a reflection of the Horned God's yearly cycle, and there are definitely similarities. The cycle of non-death and rebirth can be found in many Gods throughout the pantheons. Immediately to mind comes Osiris, but also Shiva. The two may, indeed, be linked and as an Eclectic-turned-Recon, it would be easy for me to superimpose the mythology of the Horned God onto Dionysos (and for non-Recons to do it the other way around). But the differences are glaring--as I hope I have explained with this post--and as easy as it would be to link Christmas to the Lesser Dionysia, or the Greater Dionysia to a fertility festival like Ostara, at their base, neither is true.

The Year-Daímōn is a spirit of growth, or renewal, and of life's continuation. Different but the same, every year--year in, year out. The Eniautos-Daímōn formed the basis of life for a civilization which relied heavily on  agriculture for survival, and to see homage and sacrifice in his name during major festivals is hardly surprising.  If the cycle stopped, so did life. And so, the Year-Daímōn's worship continued on and the Hellens were rewarded. Just one more thing to think about now the Lesser Dionysia is nearly upon us and the Greater Dionysia's is coming only a few months away.

I'm not much of a Christmas gal (but happy Christmas!), and never have been. The level of consumerism always makes me a little uneasy, but enough of that soapbox. I'm here to help you view Christmas in a bit of a Hellenic light--because that's bound to raise anyone's cheer!

Now, inherently, Christmas is Roman, not Hellenic. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period courts were closed, and no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people.

The festival began when Roman authorities chose 'an enemy of the Roman people' to represent the 'Lord of Misrule'. Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week.  At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

The ancient Hellenic writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time:  human sacrifice, intoxication, going from house to house while singing naked, rape and other sexual license, and consuming human-shaped biscuits.

In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.

Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.

The Saturnalia has its roots in the Rural Dionysia, and overall in the worship of Dionysos. The Rural, or lesser, Dionysia was a vintage festival. It was celebrated in the various demes of Attica in the month of Poseideon. It was celebrated with a large procession in which men carried a phallus and cakes. Revelers and singers were also a part of the procession. A representation of the God was included to represent His coming (not birth!). The festival also included stage comedies and the playing of lighthearted games. Generally, it was a joyful festival, shared by all, even the slaves.

Some other 'modern' Christmas customs: carol singing. The tradition of door-to-door carol-singing also dates back to ancient Hellas, when children would go from house to house holding effigies made of olive or laurel branches that symbolized health. They sang carols only in the homes of the rich. In return they received food. They would then go home and hang their effigies on their front door to bring their families prosperity.

The Christmas tree appeared for the first time in Germany at the end of the 16th century. It became globally known in the 19th century. In Christianity, the Christmas tree symbolizes the rejoicing of the birth of Jesus Christ. The tree was adorned first with fruits and later with clothes and other household objects. Ancient Greeks used to decorate the ancient temples with trees, symbolizing the divine gift offering. In fact, due to it's distinct shape, tree worship was widespread in ancient Hellas as part of the cult of Dionysos.

Santa Claus, who travels around the world on Christmas Eve delivering gifts in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, may have Dionysian roots as well. Dionysus drove around on a flying chariot pulled by exotic animals. He may not have given out gifts, but it was part of the celebration of the return of the light--perhaps the greatest gift of all.

Now, did you know that a little before the clock strikes twelve it is customary for family members to step out of the house and re-enter using their right foot. The person who enters immediately after the first footer smashes the pomegranate with force onto the door. The number of seeds that get scattered are proportional to amount of good luck the family will be blessed with over the coming year. Since ancient times, pomegranates are considered to be symbols of fertility and rebirth, after all. Now this is a custom I would love to revive!

Modern day Christmas is a conglomeration of ancient Hellenic, Roman and Norse customs, adapted by Christianity and then marketing to get where we are now. At it's roots, it was always a time of cheer and good omens, a time to spend with family, to give gifts, and to get a little tipsy. So enjoy the festivities and raise a glass to Dionysos! 

The Διονύσια κατ᾽ ἀγρούς, or μικρά, the rural or lesser Dionysia, a vintage festival, was celebrated in the various demes of Attica in the month of Poseideon. It was celebrated with a large procession in which men carried a phallus and cakes. Revelers and singers were also a part of the procession. A representation of the God was included to represent His coming. The festival also included stage comedies and the playing of lighthearted games. Generally, it was a joyful festival, shared by all, even the serfs. Will you join us for it on December 25th at 10 am EST?

The Dionysia was originally a rural festival in Eleutherae, Attica, probably celebrating the cultivation of vines. It was probably a very ancient festival, perhaps not originally associated with Dionysus. This 'rural Dionysia' was held during the winter, in the month of Poseideon. The central event was the pompe (πομπή), the procession, in which phalloi (φαλλοί) were carried by phallophoroi (φαλλοφόροι). Also participating in the pompe were kanephoroi (κανηφόροι – young girls carrying baskets), obeliaphoroi (ὀβελιαφόροι – who carried long loaves of bread), skaphephoroi (σκαφηφόροι – who carried other offerings), hydriaphoroi (ὑδριαφόροι – who carried jars of water), and askophoroi (ἀσκοφόροι – who carried jars of wine).

After the pompe procession was completed, there were contests of dancing and singing, and choruses (led by a choregos) would perform dithyrambs. Some festivals may have included dramatic performances, possibly of the tragedies and comedies that had been produced at the City Dionysia the previous year. This was more common in the larger towns, such as Piraeus and Eleusis.

Because the various towns in Attica held their festivals on different days, it was possible for spectators to visit more than one festival per season. It was also an opportunity for Athenian citizens to travel outside the city if they did not have the opportunity to do so during the rest of the year. This also allowed travelling companies of actors to perform in more than one town during the period of the festival.

The community for the event can be found here and the ritual here.

The redesigned lighting for all the major Athenian monuments is now complete, with the new lighting for the temple of Hephaestus and the monument to Philopappos shown for the first time on Tuesday evening in the Greek capital.

The lighting for these treasured historical sites, designed by by Eleftheria Deko, signals the completion of the lighting redesign for the Acropolis and all the monuments associated with the greatest historical sites in the city.

The Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports announced the conclusion of the lighting redesign, which was made possible by the Onassis Foundation and completed under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

According to the Ministry, the two monuments are now illuminated using the same philosophy and technology that was earlier implemented on the Acropolis, so that there is a “common vocabulary” between the buildings as seen from every part of the city.

It was not only a new aesthetic that was part of the plan, however; there was also an upgrade to the monuments’ existing technical infrastructure, including a new wiring and automation system for the lights. This will ensure energy savings, keep maintenance costs at a minimum and avoid light pollution into the skies above the Greek capital.

High-color performance LED floodlights were used throughout, just as in the lighting of the Acropolis monuments, and all lights are adjustable at all levels. According to the Ministry, this offers “considerable flexibility in creating different lighting scenarios and achieving the appropriate lighting depending on the location and point of interest (dome, columns, metope, and pediment).”

The temple of Hephaestus, dedicated to the god Hephaestus and Athena Ergani and commonly referred to as “Thissio,” is located on the hill of Agoraios Kolonos, on the west side of the Ancient Agora in Athens. The monument of Philopappos, which was named after Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, is located on the Hill of the Muses, southwest of the Acropolis.

On December 23th or the night of the 22th, Elaion will organize a PAT ritual for the Poseidea. During this festival, Poseidon as savior of ships, protector of those who voyage in ships, and God of the lapping waters both salt and fresh important for agriculture, is thanked for the many gifts that came from faraway places that were likely given at that time. Will you join us at 10 am EST on the 23th or your evening on the 22th?

The most complete account of the festival is Noel Robertson's article Poseidon's Festival at the Winter Solstice, The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 34, No. 1. (1984), pp. 1-16:

"The record shows that Poseidon was once worshipped in every part of Greece as a god of deneral importance to the community. [...] The festival falls near the winter solstice, and the ritual business marked by jollity and license, belongs to the general type of solstice festival known the world over.  At Poseidon’s festival, however, the sportive conduct has a definite purpose; this purpose arises from the fundamental agrarian background if Mediterranean society, and may bring us close to the origin of solstice festivals.

It has scarcely been noticed that festivals of Poseidon, more than those of any other Greek deity, fall at just this time of year; yet the evidence is extensive. [...] The festival Poseidea and some of the rites in question are often claimed for Poseidon the sea-god, but at this season sailing is furthest from one’s mind, and fishing on the shore is by no means an overriding concern.  Such details as we have point elsewhere, to Poseidon as the god of fresh water who fructifies Demeter’s fields."

One of Poseidon’s epithets is prosklystios, 'of the lapping water'. He is also invoked as Poseidon phytalmios which implies natural fertility and human procreation. There are also implications in the legends that imply bonfires at the winter solstice.

Noel Robertson concludes:

"…the celebrants feast to satiety, then turn to lascivious teasing. What is the ritual purpose of such conduct?  It obviously suits Poseidon’s mythical reputation as the most lustful of gods, who far surpasses Apollo and Zeus in the number of his liaisons and his offspring. Poseidon the seducer is the god of springs and rivers; his women typically succumb while bathing or drawing water; the type of the river god is a rampant bull. But the ritual likewise treats Poseidon as a procreant force; witness the epithets phytalmios, genesios, pater, etc. as interpreted above. The myths and the ritual reflect the same belief. The rushing waters are a proponent male power, just as the fields which they fertilize are a prolific female.  Both water and the fields, both Poseidon and Demeter, can be made to operate by sympathetic magic.  The rites of our winter festival rouse Poseidon and bring the rushing waters."

It is interesting that that Theophrastus tells us that the silver fir was important in ship building, especially for masts. The ‘tannenbaum’ is a silver fir. It is also interesting to compare with the Roman Saturnalia which may very well have borrowed from the Poseidea.

Celebrating Poseidon's Festival seems to be lost in modern practice. It likely entailed bonfires, feasting, cutting of trees (probably decorated), and very likely gift giving. As God of begetting, that aspect was not forgotten. We'll bring at least the ritual for Poseidon back on December 23, at 10 am EST, or your evening on the 22th. You can find the community page here and the ritual here.

Greece’s first underwater archeological museum at the site of an ancient shipwreck off the uninhabited islet of Peristera, near Alonissos island, has won a prestigious European honour. More specifically, it won first prize in “Innovation & Digitalization in Sustainable Cultural Tourism/Smart Destinations,” part of the Destination of Sustainable Cultural Tourism Awards, which are sponsored by the European Cultural Tourism Network (ECTN). It was awarded for its unique offerings and the sustainable way in which they are explored.

The ECTN has members in 19 countries, including 13 EU member-states and six associated countries.

The underwater museum is located very close to the shores of the uninhabited island of Peristera and a stone’s throw from the east coast of Alonissos.Visitors will be able to dive down and admire the exhibits that are on the famous 5th-century BC shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. The dives are open to amateur divers or those accompanied by professional divers from diving centers.

The famous shipwreck, which is considered one of the most important in classical antiquity due to the large number of intact finds, was discovered in 1985 by a fisherman from Alonissos, near the western rocky coastline of Peristera, at a depth of 28 meters.

It was a large merchant ship of that time, probably an Athenian vessel, which is estimated to have run into very stormy weather and sank there around 425 BC. The ship seems to have been loaded with thousands of wine amphorae from Peparithos (today’s Skopelos) and Mendi (the ancient city of Halkidiki), two areas well known in antiquity for their excellent wine.

Visitors are also able to stay on land and access the wonderful and mysterious world of the seabed, through a virtual ‘diving’ tour using XR technologies.

After the quiet month off, Poseideon II brings with it a slew of festivals. We'll start today, on December 20th with the Plerosia. Will you be joining us at 10 AM EST? If you are a woman that is; it seems the Plerosia was a women-only festival.

The Plerosia is a non-Athenian festival. As such, the details of the celebration are somewhat vague. So we extrapolate from the placement of the festival and the little information we have. What we know for sure is that Zeus was worshipped, and that it's often linked to the Proerosia. As such, we can assume Demeter was also honored, and that it was a harvest festival of sorts--the name translates roughly to 'festival of completion'. This is where the assumptions begin, but we get an extra hint of the intended purpose of the festival because of Zeus' inclusion and the name of the festival.

Poseideon marks the end of the harvesting season, as well as the trading season. The majority of the work is done. Now it's time to return home, take stock, and stay warm. It's a time to thank the Theoi for all that has been received and all that will get us through the winter. The word ‘plerosis’ means fulfillment, satiated, filled, and implies banqueting and celebration of the bounty of the season that is ending. This is also the spirit we have tried to capture in the ritual.

As a separate--and very important--note: the Plerosia seems to have been a women-only festival, like the Skira(phoria) and the Thesmophoria. We're not sure this is correct, but we'll go with it anyway. Once reason I could think of is that now the winter is upon us, we turn to the domain of the women: the house(hold). As such, it is her prerogative to thank the Gods for the food she can feed her family with.

The ritual for this sacrifice can be found here and you can join our community page here. We hope you will join us in celebrating this joyous event.

 Welcome to part three of the constellation series. I think I forgot to mention that I'm basing this series off of the works of ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy. He set out forty-eight constellations, based in Greek myth, of which some are still recognized to this day, and others got broken up or otherwise rearranged or added in the years that followed. The next is Ara: the altar. It's still a recognized constellation.

The constellation represents a very important item in Hellenic mythology: the altar used by the Olympic Gods to swear a vow of allegiance before they went to war against the Titans. The nearby Milky Way represents the smoke rising from the offerings on the altar. I have described the Titanomachy (Τιτανομαχία) or War of the Titans, which would last ten years and end with the victory of the Olympians and the incarceration of Kronos--and all who supported him--in Tartaros, before. The moment all of it began, was forever immortalized in the constellation Ara.

In another Greek myth, Ara represents the altar of King Lycaon of Arcadia, on which he sacrificed Arcas, son of Zeus and his own daughter Callisto. He then serves his grand child to Zeus as a meal, to test Him, and is turned into a wolf for his hubris. Zeus' anger then causes the death of fifty of Lycaon's sons, as they are struck down by lightning bolts. The tale isn't pretty and I prefer the first explanation.

Ancient Hellenic navigators believed that, if the Ara constellation was the only one visible in a cloudy sky, this was a sign of storm at sea.

Ara was visible in the skies of the ancient Hellenes, but due to the precession of the equinoxes the constellation was progressively displaced towards the south, becoming an austral and invisible circumpolar constellation for the zone of the Mediterranean cultures. The altar is visible at latitudes between +25° and −90°. It is best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of July.

EuroNews recently did a nice piece on grottos in Greece, many of which have mythological roots, so I thought I'd share those with you today.

The Cave of Alistrati at Serres

Let's take it from the top, of Greece, that is. That's where you'll find the Cave of Alistrati, near the town of Serres in the Macedonia region.

One of the largest caves in Europe, it has stalactites and stalagmites in different colours soaring to heights of 18 metres as well as rare formations called heccendrites, helictites and cave pearls, all adding up to an experience best described as otherworldly.

Greek myth holds that the Sphinx made an appearance nearby and also that Hades absconded with Persephone here to bring her to the Underworld.

Cave of Penteli

Also called Davelis Cave, the Cave of Penteli is located just north of Athens on the slopes of Mount Pentelicus. According to lore it was discovered by the builders of the Parthenon, who extracted marble for the temple from mountainside quarries here.

The small church at the entrance dates back to the Middle Ages, but in antiquity followers of Pan gathered to worship at the mouth of the cave.

Cave of Euripedes, Salamina

You know that thing where writers have to "go into their cave" to concentrate and write? Well that figure of speech may have started on the Greek island of Salamina, close to Athens, in the Cave of Euripedes.

The narrow hillside cave is where ancient Greek playwright Euripedes retreated to pen his famous tragedies. The cave is about 47 metres deep with ten modestly sized chambers, in one of which a late fifth-century BC black-glaze skyphos, or two-handled wine cup was found. The cup bore letters that spelled out the name Euripedes.

The cave is located near the settlement of Aianteio - to find it follow the footpath that extends 350 meters north of the end of Euripedes Street.

Melissani Cave, Kefalonia

Of the numerous caves in Greece, few will light up your Instagram feed like Melissani Cave on the eastern side of the island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea, outside Sami.

Surrounded by forest, it was a Cave of the Nymphs in Greek mythology, but what makes it truly epic is the lake inside. Thanks to the roof of one of the cave's chambers having literally caved in centuries ago, it is open to the sky.

When the sunlight hits the still crystalline water around noon the sunken lake shimmers with a spectacular blue light.

Caves of Zeus, Crete

According to Greek mythology Zeus was born in a cave on Crete, the biggest of the Greek islands.

Some sources put the exact spot of the thunderbolt-hurling deity down to the Psychro Cave, also called the Diktaean Cave. This one is located above the village of Psychro in the Lasithi plateau region of eastern Crete (as a sacred "peak sanctuary" it was also venerated by the Minoans).

But other accounts of Zeus' origins identify his birthplace as the Idaean Cave, found on the slopes of Mount Ida, which at 2,456 meters is the tallest mountain on Crete.

 On the day of the Hene kai Nea, or sometimes two days later because the calendar wasn't done yet, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals. 

PAT rituals for Poseideon II:
  • 5 Poseideon II - 20 December 2020 - Plerosia festival at Attic deme of Myrrhinus
  • 8 Poseideon II - 22n or 23d December 2020 - Poseidea - festival in honor of Poseidon
  • 10 Poseideon II - 25 December 2020 - Rustic or Lesser Dionysia in honor of Dionysos
  • 16 Poseideon II - 31 December 2021 - Sacrifice to Zeus Horios at Erkhia
  • 26 Poseideon II - 10 January 2021 - Haloa - fertility festival in honor of Dionysos and Demeter

Anything else?
Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

Would you like to support me? Buy me a coffee.