Karneia, as many readers may know, is one of the most important festivals of Apollon to me. There are several of course, that fall along a calendar, and many of them tend to fall within the same time frame and deal with similar motifs from different regions that I tend to combine elements of those, though usually only going with one name. So from this festival there are:
Karneia (in Attica there was Metageitnia around this time)–Spartan/Doric ritual
Departure of Apollon–Delian and Delphic
Festival of Lights—modern mid-winter ritual
Theoxenia (return of Apollon)–Delphic and Delian (name in Delian calendar is unknown)
Daphnephoria (occuring around the time of Delphinia in Attica)—Theban
Thargelia–Attic, Delian and Ionian (also called Delia and Artemisia)
There may be a couple of festivals I am forgetting offhand but that is pretty much an overall summary. Typically I do these festivals alone since I don’t have a local Hellenic worship community, the exception this time was for Karneia. For sake of time constraints for the rental of the park there was some things that I couldn’t do in the public ritual that I had wanted to, such as the reading from Euripedes Aclestis. But overall the ritual went off well, despite some mild clumsiness that comes with a first public ritual, both for myself and for some of the others who were helping out who weren’t particularly used to a Hellenic ritual arrangement. The highlight of the ritual was a musician among us who sang Jim Kollen’s hymn to Apollon during the ritual. It was truly magnificient. And the races of the children, mens and womens divisions were great fun. Everyone really gave it their go 🙂
Even the weather cooperated. Clouds that had been pouring rain down on us all weekend, and really much of the summer, let up long enough for us to have our ritual. It wasn’t more than a half hour after the conclusion of the ritual and feast, when everyone was heading home, that the sky opened up and the rain poured down. It was as if Apollon Telchinus was smiling benevolently holding back the storm until our ritual and potluck was concluded.
In our ritual we included hailing Dionysos as appropriate, as the Karneia has an element of the grape harvest even as the ram is sacrificed to Apollon Karneios. A lovely pot from Tarantum, Italy ( a Spartan colony) depicts this quite vividly with scenes of Karneia festivities and Karneios on one side, and Dionysos reclined on the other side. Karneia more so than any other festival shows the distinct inter-relationship of Apollon and Dionysos. Apollon nurturing the vine to its maturity, even as he was the first of the gods to greet Dionysos and impart to him his journey, and as the lord of the law of death (as he is referred to essentially in Euripedes Alcestis) implimenting the sacrifice of life as god of the boundary. So his rams are sacrificed to him, he who is the ram-horned god, and the sacrifice of Dionysos is foreshadowed with the harvest of the immature vines used to make the sweet dessert wine (something which is particular in the ancient Doric Thira, now called Santorini). The necessary harvest beneath the light, prior to the rains coming during the planting season of late autumn and winter. And the pinecone in his hand being, as I have been told, a natural barometer for rain. Apollon’s light directs growth and by his light he comes too as the destroyer. As the autumnal grape harvest continues the bull-god Dionysos is sacrificed, his vitality exchanged for the spirit of the wine. Karneia though is the gateway to this, it marks the end of the season of growth in one sense, for the planting and sowing that are to follow.
It is in this spirit we honor Apollon Karneios and Dionysos.