Images of Prostateria

Photos from my Prostateria ritual depicting the offerings at the shrines of Apollon and the preliminary offerings at the shrine of Dionysos as lord of the fermenting alchemy of winter that the divine generation of spring comes as Apollon Prostaterios, the lord of the doors flings wide the doors of spring with the birth of the young of beasts of the herds. Apollon’s small metal image has been perfumed with the sandalwood oil, he has been fed the blessed honey of his divine nurses the Thyraia, he has been nursed as the sweet milk, and given the sacred waters of the two rivers (symbolically through the water offered to him). Khaire Apollon! Hail Apollon Prostaterios!

*the small painting before his main cult statue is a palm sized icon I made of the babe Apollon with a lamb amid spring flowers, as the gentle winds of Zephyrus begin to blow.

Blessed Prostateria

Given that regionally I am much more connected to the herding and pastoral environment than I am to a grain-providing environment, it is perhaps of little surprise that, while I celebrate both birthdays of Apollon (the Ionic and the Boeotian), that the Boeotian birthday of Apollon has a lot more personal significance to me. I can well imagine in this environment where at this time of the year the waters are just starting to break up with the slow melt of ice and snow the significance of the holy rushing rivers of spring between which Apollon was born on the naturally made island by Thebes, and the drop of new life as in Hellas this would be the lambing season, the first sign of spring as new life is brought forth. The emergence of new animal life is always more apparent here in this far northern latitude than the return of life through greening of the earth. Whereas early spring flowers are blooming there, here it is frigid with ice and snow, but there is that promise of the turning of spring, especially as buds start forming on trees and the gradual appearance of pale fuzz of pussy willows. The tie to the opening and tasting of the casks of winter fermenting wine during the Anthesteria that follows fits in with this idea during this time of the year of emergence of new life after the alchemy of winter time. So the Boeotian birth of Apollon fits so well in this, Apollon the tender herder nursed by the bee nymphs of Mt Parnassos. In this context, in contrast to the Ionic timing in which the killing heat of summer was well on its way that destroys tender flowers, we can well see the significance of flowers blooming over the barren ground in reference to the early spring blossoms associated best with this time of the year. For that reason specifically, even though we don’t have any blooming flowers here right now, I plan on buying some lovely spring flowers to adorn his shrine with to symbolically represent that return of new life at the time of his birth, for he who gathers up the lambs and calves into his kindly arms and protects them from that which prematurely kill them and hungry winter predators, his own creatures.

So on this evening which with the setting sun dawns the day of Prostateria, I will drape sweet flowers on his altar, present him with the sweetest milk and honey offerings to delight the lord. I think my task for today too will be to create a tiny canvas image of the god as a golden babe amid lambs and spring flowers to gift him with on his shrine illuminated by the light of his lamp. While Dionysos is tied to this alchemy of winter that produces the return of new life, and we rejoice in him that renews all things from the remains of Apollon’s destructive force in the autumn, even as the Thyiads of Delphi had in the autumn rended the bull and eaten the ivy, consuming and tearing apart Dionysos and Dionysos was cut down to bring vitality to the harvested vine…..he is the transformation that brings about new existance.It thus appropriate that the finished product is represented in the opening and tasting of the wine casks at Anthesteria is in line with the birth of Apollon as a birth. It further makes sense that Dionysos would later in the spring be honored as the guest of honor at the feast of Apollon at Delphi celebrating the official return of the god just before the city Dionysia. With this frame of mind with the celebration of the birth of Apollon at Prostateria, I also give a small offering to Dionysos even as I do later in the year for the Doric Karneia at the onset of autumn. It is all part of this specific cycle dealing with the relationship of Apollon and Dionysos. Perhaps it is indeed a good omen that today is blue skies and beautiful weather leading into the holy day of Prostateria.

 

 

The Marriage of Hera Teleia print

Given that I had to delete a couple of prints that didn’t come out nicely, it did give me the opportunity to upload a new print. This is an acrylic painting of Hera Teleia done in honor of the Theogamia.

This print would likely be an ideal gift for a new bride, or for the establishment of a new household by two committed partners in general as Hera blesses the household with integrity and longevity.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-marriage-of-hera-teleia-samantha-sanders.html

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When Family “Matriarch” Goddess is Different from Your Personal Goddess

This may not be an issue that comes up for everyone, or even that many people…but it is an observation that I have had over the years. Those who are familiar with Hellenic religion certainly known that regions had certain paternal or maternal ties to specific deities that they are said to be descended from. With gods this usually manifests in the title Patroos which we see for Apollon and Zeus particularly. However I don’t find it the least bit strange for a family to develop a spiritual relationship of descendant that is connected to a particular deity or deities. For instance, as the new first generation founding of my familial cultus, Apollon has taken a position in the household divine hierarchy that relates to my children and family members of my household as Patroos. Aphrodite has seemed to have a longer matriarch claim in the family dynamic, likely passed down in attachment to my Italian paternal line (Romans, recall believed themselves to be descended from Venus), which may be a relationship that transferred to the familial relationship with Aphrodite given the Hellenic focus of the household. I have stated on this blog many times that I never chose to worship Aphrodite, and was never in any fashion called to or attracted to the worship of Aphrodite….she was just always there.

It is perhaps of little surprise that a baby polytheist who is feeling out what deities that they want to give cultus to would easily overlook an influential deity already present in the familial atmosphere and household for deities that they admire or feel a particular calling to worship. This is normal for any kind of personal relationship that is developed between the worshiper and gods, but when you have a principle deity (or deities) that don’t include the already present familial deity one can imagine how that would cause friction. For years I considered the problem to be rooted in the fact that I was a young devotee of Artemis who actively spurned Aphrodite whom I considered soft and ineffectual compared to such a strong and independent goddess as Artemis (which I won’t lie probably added fuel to the problem). However it is dawned on me that the actual root of the problem initially with Aphrodite, had more to do with the fact that while I honored and followed Artemis on an individual and personal level, that I did not give honor due to her to Aphrodite over Artemis on a household level. I have narrated before how this led to years of hostility towards the goddess, as well as significant relationship problems and short-liveliness of said relationships. I also had problems maintaining emotional attachments long term (what I would consider in love with the idea of being in love without experiencing lasting love), and regular disenchantment towards the social world. Despite being a fervent devotee of Artemis and having a good relationship with the spirits of the natural world in the local woods near m home, the sea on the island I was born on and spent my summers, and so on……I was positively misanthropic and disdained the social dependent networks. So there wasn’t just the inability to relate to romantic relationships long term, but a general inability to relate to the social world which I found vain and utterly fake with all of its charms. After my first divorce it occurred to me that Aphrodite was toying with me and in an effort to get her to leave me alone I erected a small shrine in my household. A shrine that I did not maintain well long term (figuring having it there in general was good enough) and therefore still not giving proper respect although having a tentative start to a relationship with the goddess. When I had a second failed marriage in my early 30s I was admittedly angry with the goddess who I felt was instrumental in spinning a match that did not suit. I couldn’t understand what more I could possibly do, even though even after years I still had not invested anything really into her shrine or worship space.

Yet after facing my hostility towards Aphrodite regarding two failed marriage and alot of false starts with relationships, I finally, in the summer of 2013 I believe, held my first Aphrodisia in my home, with plenitude of sweets and gifts to Aphrodite….as well as for the first time in years, actually actively building on her shrine, her seat of worship in the house. Thankfully that same summer…a month later… I met the man I am now married to and have been in the longest committed relationship with. I admit all of these can easily be a coincidence but I do think that coincidence also lines up with the relationship one has with spirits and deities that surround one as well as being part of your own making.  And a foul relationship with a deity can cause an unnoticed psychological removal of the self from everything that deity represents or is involved in. Since I have been worshiping the gods since I was 14 years old it would make sense that a fouled relationship with Aphrodite and the obvious rejection of the prominent role she seemed to try to move into would affect my developing adult relationship with those things which are connected to her.

Now here is where the narrative changes from my previous narratives of my relationship with Aphrodite, I have recently been observing that while Hera has a very honored position in the household as queen of the gods, that Aphrodite herself presides at her shrine like a matriarch of the household overseeing the affairs of the household with a certain flare of authority. As her shrine is now one of the better developed of the household (with the exception of Apollon’s) even now surpassing that of Artemis since Artemis shrine had until recently been plagued with misfortune after misfortune that diminished it from the first time I lost my entire shrine in Hurricane Katrina with the exception of one small statuette that I still have.  Of all the goddesses Aphrodite’s shrine sits in a manner that almost seems dominating. Whereas Artemis’ shrine spot by the door slowly develops in my personal devotion to the goddess, I take care not to neglect the shrine of Aphrodite or to slight it in favor that of Artemis. Aphrodite thus basks at her place within the household and keeps the affairs of the family harmonic, something that I cam grateful for that my husband and I do not succumb to the kind of arguing and fighting that we have both experienced in past relationships.

As such I have finally figured out the formula for dealing with the situation regarding Artemis and Aphrodite, that there is a certain honor and prestige that needs to be given Aphrodite to recognize her place of authority in my family as matriarch goddess and that she is intimately involved in the welfare of the family that must be taken care of even as I take care of my devotional relationship with Artemis and other deities.  I do not have to have a devotional relationship with Aphrodite to give her the accorded proper respect, and this was something that was missing from the way I related to her and gave her worship. I treated her as an after thought, as if anything was good enough with the proper dignity and respect afforded to her place among the gods of my household.  It is different from a devotional relationship but one that is still highly important for the well being of the household, and the relationship the household has with the various gods attached to it. This is the importance and significance of paternal and maternal household deities, the patriarchs and matriarchs of a home regardless if one has one or the other or both) that must take a value of worth and esteem in the familial spiritual practice regardless of what sort of personal relationship you feel towards the deity.

An observation from my experience. Of course it goes without saying that the same can be applied to Patroos deity of the household and one’s personal devotions to another god. It certainly isn’t restricted just to goddesses.

Mixing calendars and When your Deity has Two Birthdays

Most folks who worship Hellenic gods are rather used to the concept of a day being sacred as the symbolic day of the birth of a given deity (such as the fourth day being sacred to Hermes for being born on the 4th, and the 7th of everything for Apollon for his birth on the 7th).  Yet a number of Hellenic polytheists have a tendency to strictly follow one Hellenic calendar, that is to say usually following the Athenian calendar and so rarely have to deal with conflicts in date with major festive occurances. Yet when you are more interested in the overall worship of a deity throughout Hellas rather than how a deity was worshiped in a given polis, it can lead to some interesting “problems” that may potentially crop up…..namely when you have the festival of the birth of the god occurring in different calendars with a huge separation in months between them.

This is definitely the case of Apollon, as I have mentioned before, when it came to two prominent interpretations regarding the birth of the god. The most commonly accepted one among worshipers is the Ionian/Athenian one in which the god is born on the Ionian island Delos in the late spring, at the very time that the green ears of wheat are present on the stocks during the month of Thargelion. This is also accompanied by the Delian myth of the birth of Apollon. Thargelia is so well known and supported by Hellenic polytheists at large that the Boeotian tradition (which Plutarch records as being agreed by Delphi and Sparta particularly (and of course Sparta would agree with Boeotia regarding such an important god rather than the Athenians with whom they were more often than not in some matter of strife with). Like the strong farming characteristic of the Thargelia with its focus on grains given the season events going on, the Prostateria of the month Prostateria (or Bysios in Delphi, which seems to have been Eleusinios in Sparta due to the occurrance of the Lesser Mysteries in the same month which Athenians call Anthesterion) occurred during lambing season in the early spring.

Some Hellenic polytheists may choose to just select one and go with it, but given the different foci of these two birthdays I am motivated to celebrate them both as expressions of births of the god related to the two very important cycles that he is associated with. I have spoken of these before in what I call the Dionysian cycle for the celebration of the major Dionysian festival of Anthesteria and the culmination of the festival for Apollon as herding deity with Dionysos during the Karneia at the end of summer, and the Demetrian Cycle for the obvious grain based association in which Apollon is a protector of the crops. Also given that this is a god, and the “birth” of a god operates as a symbolic devise usually related to something very specific going on as I have illustrated above, it does not need to follow a literalist interpretation of a singular one given birth of the god considering the gods are not flesh and blood people. As such I have no problem celebrating both birthday of Apollon with different emphasis and focus. As such with Prostateria where I honor the season with goats milk, I make the grain thargelos for Thargelia even though I will readily admit that in my region, with as little as grain grows here, that there is perhaps a deeper significant to me on a personal level with the festivities that I undertake during the Prostateria as the doorway to spring (as Prostaterios is associated with Apollon as a doorway god).

This just goes to show that apparent conflicts can end up being complimentary and work together rather than being an either or situation.

Theogamia, Prostateria/Theophania, and Anthesteria

I have a pretty crowded collection of festivals coming up, and honestly I love it this time of the year for that purpose. With much of the winter being pretty slow for me festival-wise, this sudden pickup is like a change in the winds and the beginning of the slow shift of seasons.

First is Theogamia, or Gamelia as I also tend to call it after the month Gamelion. I have a considerably stronger relationship with Hera than I do directly with Zeus. Much of that, as I have noted before in my previous post about worshiping goddesses, developed specifically as a grown woman developing a firm relationship with Hera Teleia with all the maturity and responsibility that comes with being fully grown and comfortable in one’s own power and authority after having departed the naivete and wildness of one’s youth.  So, for me, Theogamia is very much focused on Hera primarily and Zeus secondarily. Hera is the beautiful divine bride receiving the bridal gifts of worshipers on this very special day even as it is a day of mutual love and adoration between bride and groom. This is perhaps *the* day of the year that I really go all out (or try to anyway) for Hera and Zeus. I usually splurge on lovely flowers and sweets, as well as bride gifts for the goddess. The presence of honoring Kourotroph during this festival as noted in Erkhia likely is directly associated with the offerings to the goddess given by groom and bride as they officially leave behind youth. Kourotroph being a title applied in many deities this can refer to Gaea, Hekate or Artemis. I typically honor Artemis myself as Kourotroph, even though I recognize in the case of the marital rites of Hera it most likely addresses Gaea. Like usual I am uncertain how exactly the gifts will form to Hera, and probably won’t have a clear idea until the day before or so….although considering it is this weekend the clock is winding down fast on that! I do have some ideas brewing at least to make the day particularly special way to start wrapping up my vacation from work and my close personal time I am having the advantage of spending with my own husband.

Almost appropriately, the Theban natal festival of Apollon, the Prostateria ( which the Delphinians called Theophania, and was a day that was recognized by Plutarch as being the original day that the oracle was open during the whole of the year until it was opened subsequently every 7th day of the month) follows 10 days later. I have mentioned before that this festival likely was more directly associated with Apollon’s pastoral and herding functions given that it is during the lambing season (and Apollon has been directly associated with bestowing blessings of plenitude upon herds), whereas his later Ionian birthday during the month Thargelion is during the period in which the green ears of wheat are appearing following the ritual honoring Demeter Chloe (the green). It is a time to honor Apollon the herder with fillets or tufts of wool (if possible) and offerings of sweet goats milk and honey (keeping in mind that he was nursed by the Thraea (the bee nymphs) on the slopes of Parnassos following his birth. As with the Thargelia it is appropriate to give of offerings appropriate for natal celebrations, including dance and song if you like. I happen to use the method of the Delian maidens in celebrating the birth of the god (and likely his return too from Hyperborea) by the stomping of the feet which seems pertinent to an idea of waking of the earth to my mind which is why I particular do so during the ritual of his spring return from his exile in the following month. As such it is a time of celebration and hope in the return of new life to the earth and all the promises of Apollon’s ruling time of the year following the equinox upon his official return from exile where he rules, rather than Pan who rules the moist half of the year, over the season of the year which is dry, warm and full of abundance. This represents the first stirring towards that promise of fruitfulness that Apollon holds back his winds on which tends to ride forth the moisture rich clouds, so that warmth and sunshine can increase and ripen the fruits of Demeter and Dionysos. As one who lives in an area that doesn’t grow crops I will admit that this birth of Apollon has a bit more relevance for me on a personal level and given a great deal of love and focus over the Thargelia (although I do observe that too!)

Then just days later is the sacred festivities and mystery program of the Anthesteria as a time when spirits and the dead are honored, and a certain sacred marriage was undertaken with Dionysos for the welfare of the polis. In contrast to the nativity to Apollon, we really get a sense of Dionysos here as robust fertile god, a god who has arisen newly born from the other world, full of life and vigor to bless the new life of the land as the lambs drop and plant life bursts forth. Here is a true transitional period that we can all appreciate as we see winter’s firm grasp being shaken free as spirits are appeased and the dead given offerings and adoration by their living families.

Did I mention I love this time of the year?

 

Establishing a New Shrine to Apollon

Since it rarely occurs to me to detail the process of installing a new shrine, since I decided to put up an individual shrine to Apollon separate from his doorway presence (will likely still get the more regular love just because it is his official seat in the household). This shrine serves as a different kind of foci, more of a celebratory and personal honorific place of worship where the individual relationships can be expressed and nurtured. Also as I established it beside the hearth it is in keeping with certain concepts I have of him as a protector of the hearth even as he has been in one inscription from Lycia region praised as a protector of altars. In short whereas his doorway shrine is about his overall relationship with the household and his primary cosmic role as god of the gates and doors, this shrine focuses largely on particular titles and manifestations of the god which are pertinent to the family individually such as Lykeios and Karneios (hence the main statuary and the goats), With that established as to the why of establishing the new shrine as a principle god of the family rather than as a commonly used household shrine in most Hellenic households, here is how I did it.

First I placed the shrine table where I wanted it and thoroughly washed it off.  After which I cleansed myself.

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I then sprinkled the entire surface with lustral water and barley to purify the altar, whereupon I lit the flame and gave prayers and offerings of incense to Hestia. I decided to use sandalwood, that even while it is not an incense traditionally used in Hellenic religion it is one that I opt to frequently give to Apollon for its cool pure fragrance. I then waited until the incense had entirely burned down before sweeping remaining ash and barley from the shrine.

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Lastly I assembled the shrine and placed the water purified and oil annointed statue upon it, followed by offerings of incense to Leto (as mother of Apollon) and Zeus (his father), and offerings to Apollon himself. The white bowl on the second shelf of the shrine is designed to hold selected bits of offerings through the year to be burned yearly…I am thinking on his Theban birthday in the month Prostateria (Anthesteria to those who follow an Athenian calendar) which the Doric Spartans and Delphinians seemed to agree with. Likely there will be nothing started to be gathered until that festival this year since it is just now Gamelion and that will be his next major festival. the older statue is on the foot of the shrine, mostly for the benefit of being more on one on one level for my toddler (though that didn’t stop her from placing her hands raised together and staring up at the shrine. Also on the second shelf is the sacred box in which the most sacred items that have been offered to the god are kept.

 

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