Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, the mysteries at Eleusis are assumed to be of great importance to a large portion of the ancient Hellenes. The cult itself likely has 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 (Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) had festivals throughout the year, which were tied to agriculture through Demeter's refusal to perform her duties as an agricultural Theia 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. The Mysteries were mysteries for a reason and revealing information of these involved rituals carried the punishment of death (or at least, that is what the ancient sources say). We still have been able to piece together quite a bit of information however, and I would like to create a masterpost of sorts.

Mythological connections and sources of the Mysteries:
The Eleusinian Mysteries 
A short introduction to the Mysteries, which includes the mythological reason for the festival and the rewards for being initiated.
On Persephone and Spring 
A writer's perspective on the myth of Persephone's abduction. 
The personification of the ritual cry of joy called ‘iakhe’ of the procession of the initiates. 
On 'Kore' versus 'Persephone' 
...and why They are not always the same.

Eleusinian festivals:
A summary of the festivals included in the cycle of the Mysteries. It also includes a description of the way the days of the Mysteries would have been spent--as well as we can gather about a mystery tradition, of course. The cycle consists of: the Greater Mysteries (13-23 Boedromion), Proerosia (6 Pyanepsion), Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), Haloa (26 Poseideon), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), and the Skiraphoria (12 Skirophorion). These are placed in sequence of the Athenian year. Also linked to the Mysteries because they fall during either the Lesser of Greater Mysteries: the Diasia and the Epidauria.

Periferal points of interest connected to the Mysteries:
On attending women-only festivals as a male
Some of the eleusinian rites are women-only. Can you attend as a male?
On attending women-only festivals as non-binary
Some of the eleusinian rites are women-only. Can you attend if you identify as non-binary?
On maidens, the Stenia and the Thesmophoria 
On attending women-only festivals as an unmarried woman.
On the binding of hair 
As part of Eleusinian ritual.
Dadoukhoi: torch bearers 
On the importance of torches and torch bearers in the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The ancient tradition of Martes 
Martes were pieces of string, worn around the wrist. The innitiates of the Mysteries recieved yellow ones on the way to Eleusis.
On ending the Mysteries
On why the ending rites of the Mysteries matters.
On fasting for the Eleusinian Mysteries
Fasting is a part of the Greater Mysteries as well as the Thesmophoria. Here is how to do it safely.
On the forbidden foods of the Eleusinian Mysteries 
Some things not to eat during these days.
On the 'hiera' of the Eleusinian Mysteries
The heira are the 'sacred objects'.
On kykeon 
A barley beverage sacred to Demeter and used to break a sacred fast within the Eleusinian Mysteries as well as in preparatory rites for some of the most sacred--and secret--rites within Eleusis. 
Pelanoi, the cakes of the Athenians 
Athenian sacrifical cakes that were often used in the Lesser mysteries.
Snakes, the ancient Hellenes and the Eleusinian Mysteries 
Snakes were used in the Lesser Mystery rites. Why?

For the sixth year, Elaion 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 acknowledge 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 Mysteries take place form 4 - 10 March.

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--assumable 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 it at best. For those who wish to join us, the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries will be a seven day event, starting on March 4th and ending on the 10th. Many of the days will be study days with meditations of smaller rituals in order to understand the mythology and reasoning behind the Mysteries. In this regard, the Lesser Mysteries differ from the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries.

To make things easier, we have laid out a time table:

  • March 4: Opening rite (daytime)
  • March 5: Study day: Demeter (daytime)
  • March 6: Purification rite (daytime)
  • March 7: Study day: the Underworld (nighttime)
  • March 8: Study Day: Iakkhos (daytime)
  • March 9: Initiatory rite (nighttime)
  • March 10: 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.

    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.

    "Khaire Elani! I am a follower of your blog/youtube videos and just wanted to make my presence known. I was just going to ask you a quick question if you don't mind, will you be uploading any more videos on youtube? They've helped me so much as a Hellenic polytheist and I feel like you might have some more stuff to share with us newbies...it could be anything from ''how to decorate your altar'' to a quick basic ritual indoors (just a few tips) I hope you're doing just fine because you're my only media-like source on the internet about Hellenismos! :-)"

    Thank you for your kind words. One of these days I will make new videos. I just need to find the right topics. I am of the opinion that a video needs to add something to the story, else I'd rather just write a blog post. Feel free to share more ideas and I will see what I can do and when. this goes for all readers, by the way, because I get comments like this fairly regularly.

    "Do modern Hellenist sacrifice animals?"

    Most don't. I know some who do, but these are mostly people who have a farm and would butcher the animal regardless. They use the opportunity to honour the Gods. There are a lot of ethical and legal issues interwoven with animal sacrifice now, and for many, it's simply not a possibility. On top of that, many would prefer not to kill an animal, even for religious reasons.

    "Being polytheists, If one wanted to give worship to both the Olympians and the Aesir, albeit in their OWN distinct and separate ways so as to maintain a cultural integrity, is that possible. IE, though I would worship ODIN, I would never worship ZEUS with ODIN in the same rite. Vice versa for Hellenismos. What do you think of that kind of thing?"

    On principle, I am not against syncretic worship. If you can stick with it and do both practices and all Gods justice, go right ahead. I know, though, that I would never be able to do it. Getting into a religion requires the adoption of a specific mindset; you have to live your life a certain way, practice religion a certain way, become a specific kind of person based on the ethics held in high regard in that religion. A lot of times, these ethics overlap, but in general, there will always be contradictions, forcing you to choose. On top of that, I barely have time to keep up with one religious practice, let alone two. If you can, though, more power to you!

    "I had a question about your daily practice. When you strew the barley groats, is that a purification, an offering, or a mixture of both? Is the modern practice based upon the historical sprinkling of barley groats upon sacrificial animals, or was it more widespread in antiquity (i.e. performed before libations and offerings of incense) as well?"

    How exactly household worship was handled in ancient Hellas is hard to say. The descriptions we have generally surround a specific event or festival. Still, almost all of the basic actions and the sequence in which they are handled match up throughout the accounts. I want to share a bit of the Odysseia with you, to show how the structure linked above was applied to household worship:

    "Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Nestor left his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and polished marble that stood in front of his house. Here aforetime sat Neleus, peer of gods in counsel, but he was now dead, and had gone to the house of Hades; so Nestor sat in his seat, sceptre in hand, as guardian of the public weal. His sons as they left their rooms gathered round him, Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, and Thrasymedes; the sixth son was Pisistratus, and when Telemachus joined them they made him sit with them. Nestor then addressed them.

    "My sons," said he, "make haste to do as I shall bid you. I wish first and foremost to propitiate the great goddess Minerva, who manifested herself visibly to me during yesterday's festivities. Go, then, one or other of you to the plain, tell the stockman to look me out a heifer, and come on here with it at once. Another must go to Telemachus's ship, and invite all the crew, leaving two men only in charge of the vessel. Some one else will run and fetch Laerceus the goldsmith to gild the horns of the heifer. The rest, stay all of you where you are; tell the maids in the house to prepare an excellent dinner, and to fetch seats, and logs of wood for a burnt offering. Tell them also to bring me some clear spring water."

    On this they hurried off on their several errands. The heifer was brought in from the plain, and Telemachus's crew came from the ship; the goldsmith brought the anvil, hammer, and tongs, with which he worked his gold, and Minerva herself came to the sacrifice. Nestor gave out the gold, and the smith gilded the horns of the heifer that the goddess might have pleasure in their beauty. Then Stratius and Echephron brought her in by the horns; Aretus fetched water from the house in a ewer that had a flower pattern on it, and in his other hand he held a basket of barley meal; sturdy Thrasymedes stood by with a sharp axe, ready to strike the heifer, while Perseus held a bucket. Then Nestor began with washing his hands and sprinkling the barley meal, and he offered many a prayer to Minerva as he threw a lock from the heifer's head upon the fire.

    When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley meal Thrasymedes dealt his blow, and brought the heifer down with a stroke that cut through the tendons at the base of her neck, whereon the daughters and daughters-in-law of Nestor, and his venerable wife Eurydice (she was eldest daughter to Clymenus) screamed with delight. Then they lifted the heifer's head from off the ground, and Pisistratus cut her throat. When she had done bleeding and was quite dead, they cut her up. They cut out the thigh bones all in due course, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, and set some pieces of raw meat on the top of them; then Nestor laid them upon the wood fire and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thighs were burned and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest of the meat up small, put the pieces on the spits and toasted them over the fire."

    In this piece, the barley has been written down/translated as 'meal', in other sources they call for groats. In Hómēros, Nestor started the sacrifice with the lustral water (called 'khernips') and the barley. In classical times barley seems to be employed somewhat parallel to the lustral water, as the barley was sprinkled or thrown on the altar and the victim during the prayer. In fact, the barley groats (or cakes, depending on translation) had become so prominent, that Herodotus noted their absence in Persian sacrifice.

    "To these gods the Persians offer sacrifice in the following manner: they raise no altar, light no fire, pour no libations; there is no sound of the flute, no putting on of chaplets, no consecrated barley-cake; but the man who wishes to sacrifice brings his victim to a spot of ground which is pure from pollution, and there calls upon the name of the god to whom he intends to offer." [1.132]

    Despite their prominence, though, the meaning of barley groats at rituals still remains obscure. We don't see them  described during libations at symposia, though, so they must have a purifying character for the animal sacrifice. As far as I can tell, every time the ancient Hellenes performed a full, sacrificial ritual, they strew barley. As such, I incorporate it as well. I hope this helps.

    If you come here regularly, you know I am always excited when researchers use new, modern techniques to further our knoledge and understanding of history. Scientists using a new technique have uncovered the colourful and once-hidden scenes in paintings of the ancient Etruscans, a group of people who flourished on the Italian peninsula around 2,500 years ago at a time before Rome became powerful. 

    For instance, they found new details in a painting from the "Tomb of the Monkey" and scenes of an underworld in another work of art.

    The Etruscans created detailed paintings, but the passage of time has meant that many of them are now only partly visible and that much of their colour has been lost. Gloria Adinolfi, a researcher at Pegaso Srl Archeologia Arte Archeometria (a research institute), said in a presentation given Jan. 8 at the virtual joint annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and the Society for Classical Studies:

    "A major issue is the significant loss of information on the polychromy of the preserved paintings, with special regard to some specific colors owing to their physical chemical composition." 

    The fact that some colours survive the passage of time better than others can give a distorted view of what ancient paintings looked like at the time they were painted, Adinolfi said. For example, some shades of green tend not to survive well, whereas red often does, she said. 

    "Red oaks usually seem to be more resistant so that sometimes reds are dominant and alter the correct perception of the original polychromy of the pictorial decoration." 

    To reveal the paintings, the scientists used a technique called multi-illumination hyperspectral extraction (MHX), which involves taking dozens of images in the visible, infrared and ultraviolet bands of light and processing them using statistical algorithms developed at the National Research Council of Italy in Pisa, said team member Vincenzo Palleschi, a senior researcher at the research council. 

    The technique can detect Egyptian blue, a color developed in ancient Egypt that "has a very specific response in a single spectral band," Palleschi said. The team also analyzed the residual remains of other remaining colours to help determine what colors were in the painting. 

    By combining the MHX and color analyses, the team revealed vanished scenes from ancient Etruscan paintings. The researchers unveiled several examples during the presentation, including details of paintings depicting the Etruscan underworld showing rocks, trees and water. 

    In the Tomb of the Monkey, so named because a painting in the tomb shows a monkey on a tree, the researchers uncovered details of a painting depicting a person. To the naked eye, the painting looks like a red blur, but after the MHX and colour analyses were complete, the painting clearly showed a person carrying an object and details of their hair and face. The tomb was discovered in the 19th century but now, with the new technology, the painting has become much more visible. 

    The team's research is ongoing, and more paintings may be revealed in the future. 

    In the modern world of today we are privileged to take for granted that the ingredients in our cosmetics are safe. However, it is only recently that cosmetic manufacturers have taken on the responsibility to ensure that they will do no harm. In the ancient world, lead was one of the most widely-used substances in makeup. Known today to cause severe developmental delays, infertility and dementia, it was used in a paste form, much like today’s foundation, to whiten the complexion and make a woman look more youthful.

    It is believed that the Greeks were the first to use such ingredients in their makeup, despite a general distaste for the use of cosmetics (at least according to the writers of the time, who of course were exclusively male). Some Greeks of the day moralized that makeup was only used as a trick, by lower-class women or prostitutes, in order to lure men.

    However, in reality, it is thought that women of all classes, both single and married, actually used cosmetics of all kinds, both to brighten the skin and to highlight their features.

    The Greek word “kosmetika” is of course the root of the English word ‘cosmetics.’ However, in its ancient form, the word meant any preparations which protected the hair, face, and teeth. The term for beautifying make-up was “to kommotikon.”

    Ancient Romans, who adopted so much from Greece, took up the practice of using both white and red lead in facial makeup, and, with few exceptions, the extraordinarily pale look this imparted continued to be popular even into the eighteenth century.

    However, using these lead-based pigments actually ended up causing disfigurement — along with the other, much more serious maladies which surely occurred in those days as well, although they were never linked to lead in those times.

    Kevin Jones, from New York City’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum, explained in the NBC News report that “It would eat the skin away, causing all sorts of scarring. And the way they covered that up was to apply thicker amounts of the makeup, which would then exacerbate the situation.”

    Perhaps in the most disturbing visual of all, it was recorded in ancient times that lizard excrement, of all things, was used to combat wrinkles.

    However, as much as we may scoff at ancient wisdom such as that, the modern cosmetic industry is still making use of time-honored medicaments such as snail mucin, or the excrement that they trail behind them as they move, which has made an appearance in recent years as a popular skin care ingredient.

    The publication Women’s Health raved about its “hydrating properties,” saying that skin can be “softer, more moisturized and glowing with consistent use of snail mucin.”

    Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile, who was the last descendant in the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty, was known not only for her power as the ruler of Egypt but for her alluring powers over men as well — and she amazingly even authored her own book on cosmetics.

    As evidenced by myriad representations of other women in Egyptian art, she undoubtedly used kohl, a combination of oils and powdered metals — usually lead, antimony, manganese or copper — as an eyeliner, along with an array of other cosmetics, including eyeshadow and blush.

    Swan-shaped makeup container, made from a hippopotamus tusk. Egypt, Bronze Age. Hechy Museum, Haifa, Israel. Credit: Golf Bravo /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

    However, we know now, according to dermatologist Dr. Joel Schlessinger, that using these substances around the eyes leads to “irritability, insomnia and mental decrease,” according to a recent NBC News report.

    Greek women also used more natural ingredients, such as red ochre from the earth, and dye extracted from lichen, for rouge, and ashes and soot for eyebrow color. Saffron, derived from the pistils of the crocus flower, was used as a rouge to give color to the cheeks.

    The most widely-used eyeliner in ancient times, however, was derived from the element antimony, which according to the journal Nature is “poisonous by inhalation and ingestion,” and is carcinogenic as well.

    Ocher, the naturally-occurring pigment from the earth, which occurs all around the globe, can be seen on portraits of Queen Nefertari, who lived in 1255 BC, which decorate the walls of her tomb. Cosmetics used by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians were not only for beautifying the face, but were used for their more practical value as well.

    Since very ancient times, skin moisturizers have been made from animal fats, including lanolin from sheep’s wool, and plant oils. Wood ash has been combined with fats to make soap in a process which continues almost unchanged to this day, when lye, which is derived from wood ash, is combined with olive or other fats and oils to make our modern soaps.

    Historians have noted that Greeks were known to have made perfume as far back as the Middle Bronze Age, from the 14th to the 13th century BC. Such toiletries were first mentioned in Homer’s works the Iliad and the Odyssey, which were written in the 8th century BC.

    To make perfumes, plants, flowers, spices, and fragrant woods, including myrrh, rose, and cinnamon, would be infused in oils. Since oil was used as the base, most perfumes were in the form of a thick paste. This necessitated the use of a special spoon-like tool to extract it from its containers.

    Amazingly, such implements have even been excavated in England, as part of a Roman settlement there. A bar brooch found there featured several miniaturized bronze tools hanging from it — one of them shaped like a tiny spoon, which was most likely used with solid perfume.

    In ancient times, perfumes were used for the pure pleasure they gave, as well as to seduce; due to their labor-intensive manufacture, they were also a status symbol and were used in rituals (especially in burials).

    Egyptian priests were known to anoint statues of gods with scented oils — and even applied make-up to them as part of their religious rituals.

    Just as in Egypt, ancient Greeks often left their best cosmetics and perfumes in tombs to accompany their dead. Lekythoi, the graceful vessels used for storing fine oils and perfumes, were often decorated with themes related to burial and traveling onto the next life, when they were used for this purpose.

    Pyxes, or decorated boxes, would also be left with bodies in their resting places, along with vessels called alabastrons, used for creams and ointment in Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations.

    Intriguingly, in the 1970’s Italian chemist Giuseppe Donato recreated some fragrances from ancient texts; some have even been produced commercially, including Donato and Seefried’s “Cleopatra” perfume, based on one worn by the Egyptian queen.

    Much as in sausages, where it is usually best not to know how they are made, hair dye in ancient times was full of stomach-wrenching ingredients. Dyes, which are thought to have been used by both sexes, could be used to either make hair darker or lighter. The dye to darken hair was made by leaving leeches to rot in wine for forty days. The other, perhaps marginally less disgusting, consisted of a mixture of beechwood ash and goat fat to make hair lighter. It is also recorded that in order to achieve gleaming white teeth, ancient Greeks would use ashes to clean them.

    Perhaps all these things were worthwhile, perhaps not — but it just goes to show how far human beings would go — and still do — in order to improve their looks.

    Today, I'm picking up the fourth of the constellations in the zodiac: Capricornus. Capricornus is often referred to as 'Capricorn', the latin word for 'horned goat' or 'goat horn', and in ancient Hellas--and even in most modern interpretations--the hybrid is not between human and goat, as one might expect from a culture with satyrs in its mythology, but goat and fish.

    Obviously, Capricornus is a recognized constellation to this day. In fact, Capricornus is one of the oldest recognized constellations which have survived intact to this day; the association of the fish-goat hybrid even dates back to the Middle Bronze Age. The ancient Hellenes called it 'Aigokeros' (Αιγόκερως), literally 'goat-horned'. 

    Because of its age, mythology surrounding the constellation has been muddled quite a bit. Because of that, this post will mostly be an exercise in debunking or expanding upon the stories that surround it. The first Hellenic myth that is associated with the constellation is that of Zeus' wet nurse Amaltheia (Ἀμάλθεια). She was either a goat, a nymph or a Goddess in her own right, most likely a nurturing Goddess imported from Krete, where Rhea delivered Her child (see below). The versions of the myth where She is a goat is the reason She is often linked to Capricornus.

    After Zeus' birth, his father Kronos threatened to swallow Him whole, just like He had done with all of Zeus' brothers and sisters. Rhea, Zeus' mother, had gone off to Krete to give birth to Zeus unhindered. Amaltheia helped with the delivery, and when Rhea returned to Kronos with a baby-shaped boulder in a blanket, She left Zeus in Her care.

    Amaltheia was, indeed, placed amongst the stars as a reward for Her services, but it wasn't as the Constellation Capricornus, but as the constellation Capra, the group of stars surrounding Capella on the arm  of Auriga, the charioteer. Here, She became tied to a myth that is a lot more gruesome: the myth that Her skin was used to create the sacred Aegis, the shield thus being placed on the arm of the charioteer for protection.

    Amaltheia aside, Capricornus is mostly accurately linked to another myth connected to the Titomanchy; the Olympians were in for a rough fight when Zeus led them against the Titans. One of their toughest fights was against the storm-giant Typhôeus (Τυφωευς), a fight so tough, in fact, that the Olympians had to flee from battle. The young Theoi were so scared of the storm-giant, They fled to Egypt, crossing the river Nile in such a hurry that one amongst Them didn't even allow Himself the time to fully change shape so he could cross the river faster. He crossed in the shape of a half-goat, half-fish.

    In most modern retellings of the myth, this Theos is identified as Pan, the Arkadian Theos of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music. The ancient Hellenes, however, distinguished between several Panes (Πανες), daimones, guardian spirits, who are often conflated into Pan in modern times. Besides Pan, the ancient Hellenes at least distinguished between Agreus (Αγρευς), a Pan-daimon of hunting and rustic prophecy; Nomios (Νομιος), a Pan-daimon of shepherds and pastures; Phorbas (Φορβας), a Pan-daimon of grazing; the Paneidês (Πανειδης), the twelve sons of the Theos Pan; two Italian-born Pan-daimon--Pan Sybarios (Παν Συβαριος) and Phaunos (Φαυνος)--and Aigipan (Αιγιπαν), the Pan-daimon who helped Zeus in his battles with the storm-giant Typhôeus. It was Aigipan who was placed into the sky as the constellation Capricornus.

    There are many versions of this myth, about Aigipan's birth, his connection to Zeus and the acts for which he was eventually placed amongst the stars. All are of relatively late design, but the basics are as follows: Aigipan was either a child of Zeus by a variety of mothers, a child of Almatheia--and thus fed alongside Zeus--or the father of Pan. In all versions of the myth, he stood alongside Zeus during the Titan war. Some versions of the myth say that Aigipan put panic (panikos) in the hearts of the Titans during the fight and thus gave Zeus such an edge, He won the war.

    Other myths say that after the Titans were defeated, the Theoi thought They had won. Yet, there was one who sought revenge for the defeat of his father: Typhôeus, the most-feared son of Tartaros and Gaea. He came for Zeus, when all Theoi had gathered in Egypt, and the Theoi fled. Impressed by Aigipan's shrewdness in escaping over the river Nile as a sea-goat, Zeus rewarded him by placing him in the sky. In other versions, Typhôeus got a hold of Zeus and in the battle that followed, he ripped Zeus apart limb for limb. He hid the sinews of Zeus's arm or entire body away, but Aigipan got them back for Him, alongside Hermes.

    In the last version of the myth, Zeus preemptively goes after Typhôeus, who is hiding in a cave by the sea. He commands Aigipan to lure him out, which Aigipan does in the form of the sea goat. Zeus then brings down a thunderbolt so powerful, it vanquishes Typhôeus and allows Zeus to lock him into Tartaros.

    Whatever the case, Aigipan is most likely the Hellenic mythological source of the shape Capricornus has gotten, although Capricornus is also rumored to be an entrance into the Underworld. To find out for yourself, you might have to wait a while. This dim constellation is visible at latitudes between +60° and −90°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of September.

    The casts of three antique marbles reliefs returned to the archeological museum of Thasos a few days ago. They were displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris since they were found during excavations in the so-called Passage of Theories in the second half of 19th century.

    Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Kavala-Thasos, Stavroula Dadaki, pointed out, “the three reliefs were found fallen in the corridor, in 1864, by the archaeologist Emmanuel Miller, in the first substantial excavation attempted in Thasos. Inscribed stones bearing the names of lords of the island were found along, hence the name theory he gave.

    The reliefs occupied a central position in the Passage of Theories, an important and expensively constructed structure (walls of marble orthostates) at the northeast corner of the Agora. It takes its name from the list of Theoroi inscribed on the wall, but in addition to its function as a passageway it was apparently an important place of cult.

    The reliefs were transferred to Paris and had been on display at the Louvre Museum since then. “The plaster casts,” said Dadaki, “were made in the Réuniondes Musée Nationaux of the Association of National Museums of France and were kept in the warehouses of the Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities department of the Louvre Museum. cultural and private monuments of the Louvre “.

    The Passage of the Theories was a corridor of two parallel  marble walls, 11m long, formed in the NE corner of the ancient market of Thasos, Agora, and connected the latter with the slopes of the citadel, where the ancient sanctuaries, Artemisio, Dionysio and Poseidonion

    In the middle of one wall was a marble slab with relief figures depicting Apollo with a guitar in his hand to be crowned by a female figure on one side and three Nymphs on the other side of a rectangular recess. The second plaque depicted Mercury and a female figure and the third the Three Graces. They are date between 480 BC -465 BC and are important evidence of the sculptural art that flourished on the island since archaic times.

    The actions for the enrichment of the permanent exhibition of the Archaeological Museum of Thasos with the casts of these sculptures, started in 2011 at the request by the then mayor of Thasos Costas Hadjiemmanuil and on the occasion of the celebration for the completion of 100 years of excavations at the French Arch island of Thasos.

    Moves in the direction to return them to the island continued in the following years both by the administrations of the municipality of Thasos, the directorates of the Ephorate of Antiquities and in cooperation of the French Archaeological School.

    With funding from the French School of Archeology in Athens and a marble company based on the island, the slabs were transported and handed over to the Archaeological Museum for inclusion in its permanent exhibition, following approval.

    The French Archaeological School and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Kavala-Thasos, are planning a series of event to honor the return, scheduled for summer, if the pandemic conditions allow.

    Found with a metal detector in his hand, a 68-year old man was arrested on Sunday for illegally excavating in the archaeological site of Amphipolis.

    The area in Serres is known to hold a wealth of archaeological treasures and several objects were found on his person by the authorities. The man also had digging tools with him when he was caught red-handed by the Hellenic Police. An investigation had been underway by officers belonging to the Department of Cultural Heritage and Antiquities in Thessaloniki. After arresting the man, police searched his car and two houses — one in Thessaloniki and one in Serres — for objects which may have been stolen from the area.

    Items were found that fall under the protective provisions of laws drawn up for the protection of antiquities and ancient culture in Greece. An archaeologist from the Ephorate of Antiquities of Serres stated to the press that a bronze coin from Hellenistic times, a lead slingshot projectile with lettering, a lead pillar, eight lead spherical missiles, five other lead objects, two bronze objects, nine other bronze coins, and a lead pyramidal-shaped agnita were discovered in the searches.

    Two metal detectors, digging tools and headphones believed to have been used in the unearthing of the objects were also collected at the sites searched by authorities. The man has been charged with violating the laws regarding the protection of antiquities and cultural heritage. His case will be put before the public prosecutor’s office in Serres.

    The site, which contains the renowned Kasta Hill Tomb, was an ancient Greek city in Macedonia. Located on the Strymon (Strimón) River, it is about three miles away from the Aegean Sea. From antiquity a strategic transportation center, Amphipolis controlled the bridge over the Strymon and the route from northern Greece to the Hellespont, including the western approach to the timber, gold, and silver of Mount Pangaeum in Thrace.

    Originally a Thracian town called Ennea Hodoi, or “Nine Roads”), it was colonized by Athens in 437–436 BC but it actually remained independent, despite Athenian attempts to regain control in 416 and 368–365. Philip II of Macedonia occupied Amphipolis in 357 BC, and it remained under Macedonian control until 168, when Rome made it a free city and the headquarters of the Roman governor of Macedonia.

    Archaeologists have made a number of important discoveries on the site since excavations began there in earnest in August 2014. Experts say that the Tomb bears the handprint of Dinocrates of Rhodes, the chief architect of Alexander the Great. Some of the findings made there have already been moved to the Archaeological Museum of Amphipolis.

    So far, archaeologists have found the following treasures:

    Two marble sphinxes approximately 2 meters (7 feet) tall, guarding the main entrance to the tomb and a fresco, with paint still visible, that mimics an Ionian peristyle, on top of which the sphinxes sit.

    Two 2.27 meter (7.4 foot) high female statues in the Caryatid style were found in the antechamber, which support the entrance to the second compartment of the tomb. 

    A mosaic measuring 3 meters (9.8 feet) wide and 4.5 meters (15 feet) long was found in the second chamber, which appears to depict Persephone being abducted by the god Pluto (Greek: Πλούτων, Ploutōn).

    The ruler of the underworld is depicted wearing a laurel wreath and driving a chariot drawn by horses led by the god Hermes, the conductor of souls to the afterlife. The depiction of the abduction of Persephone in the mosaic floor implies links with the cluster of royal tombs in Vergina (Aigai), as a mural representing the same scene decorates one of the tombs where King Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father, is buried.

    The skeletal remains of five individuals were also found in the tomb, including a woman over 60 years of age; two adult men, between 35 and 45 years of age; a newborn infant; and fragments of a cremated adult.

    The renowned giant statue known as the Lion of Amphipolis (Greek: Λέων της Αμφίπολης) is a 4th-century BC tomb sculpture. According to Oscar Broneer and archaeologist Dimitris Lazaridis, the first person excavating in the area in the 1960s, it was created in honor of Laomedon of Mytilene, who was an important general under Alexander the Great, the king of Macedon.

    The discovery of the monument has extraordinary meaning for the Greek people since it is also is connected to the modern history of Macedonia. The first sections of the Lion were discovered initially by Greek soldiers who had camped in the area during 1912-13 during the First Balkan War.

    British soldiers in the area a few years later in 1916 then discovered other large pieces of the monument. The British tried to steal the pieces, but a Bulgarian attack fortunately prevented those plans from bearing fruit.

    Yet more sections of the Lion were discovered in the early 1930s, during works for draining part of nearby Lake Kerkini. After uncovering the remains of an ancient bridge,  large pieces of the marble lion were also found in the mud of the lake. In 1937, thanks to Lincoln MacVeagh, the US ambassador to Greece, there was a private initiative, along with support and funds from the Greek government, to restore the Lion. Although in a seated position, the lion is larger and bulkier than the one erected at Chaeronea and has a height of more than 4 meters (13 feet). With its monumental base, the Lion towers more than 8 meters (26 feet) into the sky. According to experts, its craftsmanship shows that it was sculpted in the 5th or first half of the 4th century B.C. Unfortunately, there is no mention of the Lion in ancient sources. Some have speculated that the lion was once on top of the Kasta Tomb, but this theory has now been discounted.

    The Kasta Tomb is still undergoing excavation work by a team of archaeologists. Asked when the monument could open for the general public in December of 2019, Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said that there is much that needs to be done and pointed out that it had taken 20 years for the tomb of Philip in Vergina to open to the public. However, she added, modern means can make it possible that the same type of work can be carried out in less time at the Amphipolis site.

    “I live for the day the Lion of Amphipolis will be transferred to the Kasta tomb,” the regional governor told Mendoni at the time she visited the site in 2019.

    “That will happen too,” she answered.

    Architect Michalis Lefantzis, who guided the minister and the regional governor around the site, noted that 330 large slabs of marble that were structural elements of the enclosure around Kasta Hill Tomb had been transferred back there from the site of the Lion of Amphipolis, where they had been stacked in order to facilitate the Tomb’s excavation.

    The slabs have now been placed next to each other like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, waiting for their precise position in the original structure of the enclosure to be determined.

    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 every day from 23 to 25  February 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 if you covered them in the first place.

    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 us and you will get through these festivals just fine. You can find the rituals here and join the community here. Enjoy!

     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 kind of incense can I offer to Aphrodite? Thank you! :-)"

    The Orphic incenses prescribe a hymn to Aphrodite, so as far as the go-to guide for incenses goes, the Orphic hymns aren't helpful. That said, there were a few staples. Frankincense (λίβανον) is one of them. Frankincense is tapped from the Boswellia sacra tree. The bark is stripped off, and the tree 'bleeds' tears of frankincense, which are allowed to harden before being cut off. There is great variety in quality--colour, purity, aroma, age, and shape--and, thus, in price. Another staple is Myrrh (σμύρναν). Myrrh is harvested in the same way frankincense is, and is commonly harvested from the species Commiphora myrrha. Myrrh gum is waxy, and coagulates quickly. It becomes rock hard very fast, and becomes glossy. The gum is yellowish, and may be either clear or opaque. It darkens deeply as it ages, and white streaks emerge.

    Myrrh, especially, is connected to Aphrodite in legend. It's said that Myrrha (or Smyrna) was a young princess who refused to honour Aphrodite, and so She made her lust after her own father. Eventually, she was turned into the first Myrrh tree. Apollodorus, in his 'Bibliotheca':

    "And Adonis, while still a boy, was wounded and killed in hunting by a boar through the anger of Artemis. Hesiod, however, affirms that he was a son of Phoenix and Alphesiboea; and Panyasis says that he was a son of Thias, king of Assyria, who had a daughter Smyrna. In consequence of the wrath of Aphrodite, for she did not honor the goddess, this Smyrna conceived a passion for her father, and with the complicity of her nurse she shared her father's bed without his knowledge for twelve nights. But when he was aware of it, he drew his sword and pursued her, and being overtaken she prayed to the gods that she might be invisible; so the gods in compassion turned her into the tree which they call smyrna. Ten months afterwards the tree burst and Adonis, as he is called, was born, whom for the sake of his beauty, while he was still an infant, Aphrodite hid in a chest unknown to the gods and entrusted to Persephone. But when Persephone beheld him, she would not give him back. The case being tried before Zeus, the year was divided into three parts, and the god ordained that Adonis should stay by himself for one part of the year, with Persephone for one part, and with Aphrodite for the remainder. However Adonis made over to Aphrodite his own share in addition; but afterwards in hunting he was gored and killed by a boar." [3.14.4]

    "Hi, I watched your "making manna" video tutorial, and I couldn't really understand what you said was in the yellow glass bottle. What is it, and where can I get it?"

    I had to watch my own video again to remember a yellow bottle, but I think I know what you mean. The yellow bottle is used to store my bio-ethanol, the burning agent I use when building a fire indoors. This is a form of biofuel (fuel derived from biological sources), and a variation of denatured alcohol. It's a clear, flammable liquid which burns without smoke and without scent. As such, it works very well for indoor use. Make sure to use a cast-iron or at least solid container to burn in!

    "Is there a greek god of finding missing things?"

    Not as far as I know, but in general, Gods and Goddesses whom you have built kharis with will help you when you are truly in need. From a purely personal perspective, Hermes would most likely be able to find your items, seeing as he's been known to hide (and steal) items Himself ;-)

    The director of the British Museum has hit back in a row with former trustee Sir Antony Gormley. Writing in The Times, Hartwig Fischer said the London museum is progressing with plans to 'give a new and powerful presence to the museum's collections from all parts of the globe'.

    Sir Antony told the British Archaeology magazine the museum should be 'rebuilt' Africa at its core, drop its 'obsession with the classical world' and return the Elgin Marbles to Greece. He said objects from different regions and points in history should be displayed together to highlight connections between them.

    But Fischer has rejected calls to reduce the museum's European collection and insisted work is already underway to modernise exhibits with a strong presence from all areas of the world. Fischer said: 

    'Sir Antony Gormley is right to say that the British Museum should be modernised and the display of the connection renewed. This is precisely the plan that we have been developing since my appointment as director in 2016, and is one of the many reasons I do not accept his view that some of the museum's objects should be removed from the collection. Our work will give a new and powerful presence to the museum's collections from all parts of the globe, including the Pacific and the Americas, and give greater prominence to Africa. Changes at the museum will make it easier to understand the connections between different cultures, both ancient and modern, and restore the fabric of our wonderful historic building.'

    The work will 'take some years to complete' as it is a 'large and complex exercise', Fischer added.

    'The pandemic may have temporarily closed the museum to the public but we are continuing to make progress with the construction of our research and storage centre in Reading and with our plans for the redisplay of the galleries in Bloomsbury.'

    On the Elgin Marbles, which the museum says were acquired legitimately in the 19th century and Greece says were looted, he said: 

    'I would be happy to return [them] because I think the present galleries are not a particularly inspiring place.'

    Noted British sculptor and former Trustee of the British Museum Sir Antony Gormley came out for the return of the Parthenon Marbles on Wednesday, saying “I would be happy to return them,” according to greekreporter.com.

    In an interview with the magazine British Archaeology, the sculptor urged the British Museum to “take Africa out of the basement” and to stop what he described as its “obsession with the classical world.”Opining that the Museum “misrepresented” some areas of the world while under-representing others. In addition, he said, Africa should be the core of the Museum’s holdings.

    The Marbles, which were chipped away from the facade of the Parthenon during the time of Ottoman occupation of Greece, were spirited away from the country in the early 1800s by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Lord Elgin. After the “Mentor,” the ship taking them to England, was wrecked on the coast of Greece, they were painstakingly brought to the surface by sponge divers — and sent on their way once again.

    They are now in a dimly-lit area of the Museum, with gray concrete walls as their backdrop.Speaking to interviewers about the sculptures, which the Museum continues to maintain were acquired legitimately, Sir Antony said “I would be happy to return (them) because I think the present galleries are not a particularly inspiring place.”The eminent sculptor, whose works showing the human form are on display at Gateshead in the UK, in the Alps, and in other scenic locations, was especially scathing about the Museum’s display of African artifacts, which are housed in the basement of the building. He called this “an instance of post-colonial iniquity.”

    Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, has already taken notice of the rising movement to address colonialism, saying that he planned to make its displays from non-European cultures more visible in the future.

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