As I am preparing to celebrate Poseideia this afternoon before work (I was going to do it last night after work but caught up doing so much other stuff that I was exhausted by the time I was finished..so we are having it this afternoon) it got me thinking of what Poseideia means and how it is relevant at this time of the year. It doesn’t hurt that I saw a great explanation prepared briefly by Lesley Madytinos about the association of Poseidon with liquid in general and the relevancy of liquid during the winter. And it certainly makes sense as to why Poseidon is greeted with such a major festival in the middle of the winter (not a time of the year to be out on the boat from what I understand) rather than it taking place in the summer when all manner of fish and sealife are pulled from the sea. And while I do not doubt that summer festivals occurred in his honor with this intention the most well known festival celebrated is in winter!
Now it is time to take a minute to reflect on what winter is because different geographic areas have their own idea of what winter means in the northern hemisphere (and the southern hemisphere at the reverse times of the year) and this may cause bias and confusion as to what winter is. But in a nutshell what it is is a gathering and accumulation of liquid in order to fertilize and sustain life through the growing seasons (whenever said growing season is to occur. In more tropical locations this can be instanteously. I was quite startled for instance when I went to Morocco in January, and while there was a bite to the air, it was green with life and delicate little flowers. Not the heavily perfumed hibiscus and blossoms of the summer that I am accustomed to, but delicate little flowers that I would have associated with spring…in the middle of winter. But according to my husband it was winter, not spring. So even then I found myself in a position where I had to reevaluate what I was familiar with in the seasons and not transpose them on another geographic location. Because while I may have associated it with spring, it was not spring and spring in that area brought its own variety and its own flora and fauna…and weather… distinct from winter.
I grew up in Alaska. Now any Alaskan will tell you there are three seasons in Alaska: Summer, Winter and Breakup. We bypass autumn usually (though less anymore from what I understand as winter has been coming later the last decade than it had been during my childhood and young adulthood..but since I am talking of personal experience I will just stick with what I know from when I was there)…it is more of a blink and the trees are bare. And then it snowed from late September until breakup started usually in the beginning of April. Breakup is just that…the snow and ice are breaking and melting in alarming speed. Winter itself though is white and gray, it is wet and cold. Unlike warmer places there are no winter flowers, there isn’t even grass visible except maybe some impressively tall marshgrass poking out from the snow, and the trees are all in deep slumber. Yet even while they are in this deep slumber they are slowly developing (and very slowly..you hardly notice it happening) little tight hard brown buds as they sleep to prepare for spring life. All the while the snow is accumulating and doing two important things. As was pointed out to me, as snow layers, important nitrogen is getting down into the soil which is essential for the fertility of plants and for seeds to grow in the spring. The second is that we were very dependent on meltoff from winter snow. A lacking in snow could cause all kinds of problems. The first problem is that drought will occur which causes wildfires (I recall a rather bad fire around Big Lake when I was in highschool), and the second is related to the first is that drought occurs, drying everything up. Another problem with lack of snow in the winter is dangers of permafrost which causes damage to the ground and delays the growing season until well into the summer. Therefore Alaska is depedent on liquid accumulation (though presented in a frozen form) in the winter.
Now here in North Carolina it is different. There are geese here moving through here in December, delicate flowers, buds on trees, and soft green grass. It is not quite as *green* or flowery as Morocco, but this is also not sitting beside or on the mediteranean sea with the warmer waters, but it is still different that where I grew up at home. Now my first winter in North Carolina was atypical for North Carolina, but now I am seeing a usual North Carolina winter it has caused me to put more thoughts in it. I had some exposure to this when I lived in Arkansas, but Arkansas wasn’t green at all in the winter. Just yellow and muddy (and with all the clay in the mud it was quite a red mess). However small shoots of spring flowers could be seen as early as the end of December. My hyacinth had tiny green spikes poking up from the ground, even though there were few if any discernable flowers. Of course I was aware from a friend’s say so (who had spent all of her life in New Orleans) that in that part of the world where she lived she wouldshake the old leaves from her trees in her yard in the fall and there would be new buds of new leaves growing under the old leaves. But in all cases there is rain, and rain and more rain. Torrentual downpours really in some cases. Flooding can occur, there is a musty smell in the air from wet soil, and this was often occupanied by chilly weather.
So in connecting the commonalities we see one major feature. Water..a liquid welling into the earth. Poseidon’s realm and domain, and place where he overlaps with that of Zeus. And while other creatures and life is sleeping, beneath the frozen rivers of the north the fish are still going on. Sea (and water ingeneral) life is always continuing throughout the year, never sleeping. It may migrate a bit but it is always there. Which is part of what has made them a valuable source of food to people for centuries. Not to mention the fact that it dries and stores easily for winter resources as onhand food. The water and the earth are working continuously with each other to promote fertility for the year, and to give prosperity to us all.
So hail Poseidon, and happy Poseideia to all!