The Sowing, Boedromia and the Fear

Things have been rather connecting for me. First as the Noumenia for the month Boedromia, we are looking at the wrapping up of the harvest season and the start of what is for many places the start of the sowing season. This was actually a topic of conversation with a friend of Facebook in regards to the Descent of Persephone and the debate of when Persephone descended into the next world to join Haides, for there are those who firmly support her period to line up with the summer harvest of grains in June, following the immature harvest of the Thargelia in honor of Apollon rather like the Karneia harvest of grapes proceeding to the grape harvest immediately following, and the fallow period of the grain fields to correspond to her descent. While this looks good from a logical angle of relating Persephone with the wheat ear, but for me it alienates a few important points.

Perhaps the most important is that it is completely out of alignment with the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries which occur in Boedromion, which would suggest that the mysteries of the descent of the goddess were not directly connected to the threshing floor and the cutting of the wheat ear, but rather by the sowing season that follows in which the grain of the wheat ear is directly planted within the ground. This would also make sense in the context of the Boedromia which seems to me to act as a purification ritual that is not uncommon prior to harvest and planting seasons cross culturally. I have written before on the Boedromia and the power of fear in the ritual but I had never really connected it to how it fit within the framework of Athenian festivals that focused on the sowing season from the honoring of Zeus Epoptes (the overseer as I interpret it, although usually understood more directly in association of the word in context of the mysteries as one who has seen/witnessed the mysteries, therefore one that can be interpreted as the first initiate as the god who schemed with Haides with the result of instigating the mystery program and the saving of the dead by them), and the Genesia on the same day as that of the sacrifice to Zeus Epoptes which honored the ancestral dead/parents, leading up to the Mystery Program.

Yet Boedromia, for which the month is named, should logically fall into relation with the greater events occurring within the month, instead what we have is a mythic origin of the festival in which Apollon urged the Athenian to invoke Fear and shout Boe at the invading Amazon troops to save their city. I have written on this subject before here at more length in particular regarding the role of fear and its important to this festival and general importance in the mysteries. But I think the connection to purification and vitality wasn’t really brought home until I read Dver’s new website (she links to it on her blog here) on mumming and the purpose behind this as one which uses fear in order to frighten away harmful spirits in order to purify the land and bring vitality to it. I would liken this perhaps to the more northern Lupercalia practices in February in which youths, Luperci would, as wild wolves, run through the streets, striking women to encourage fertility, and I would imagine the fierceness of their visage being one that was designed to purify the city as much as the sacrifice itself. I would imagine that the Boedromia serving such a purpose as it proceeds to the mystery program, that after honoring the dead, a kind of purification underway, under the mythic guise of honoring the driving out of the Amazons. Although we cannot know for sure to what lengths this festival proceeds, or whether or not there was an actual procession of shouters of “boe!” to frighten away any ill spirits in the same vein of intent, it certainly seems plausible in its calendric relationship to the Eleusinian Greater Mysteries.

As such I could see the fascinating mumming practices that Dver has undertaken and has put up a website about to be likely very relevant to modern practice of Boedromia, as Apollon, leader of the initiates (and even making sense in those myths which call him the father of Korybantes considering their own fearsome natures) and the known sacrifice of goats to Artemis prior (both twins being honored in terms of helpers or saviors), purifies the city and its citizens to receive the blessings of Demeter. Given the very powerful, and clearly frightening, persona of the Amazons there is certain alignment to the strength and power of Demeter that should not be missed.

Given Artemis’ own participation in leading forth Persephone to her kidnapping, and the presence of the tender narcissus flower, or asphodel which it is also called especially in relation to the mysteries–which would not be able to bloom in the killing the summer during which they were dormant, we find a more logical scenario in which the winter flowering plant in such climate would align with following the autumnal purifications and sacrifices. The relationship between the purification deities Apollon (who receives double sacrifices as Zeus does during the Eleusinia) and Artemis and the descent of Persephone, and Artemis subsequent leading of Persephone to the meadow of the scene of her kidnapping/marriage is all interlinked to each other as they proceed following the summer time Athenian New Year.

Therefore it makes sense to greet Boedromia as a time of reverence for ancestors/dead parents and as a time of purification perhaps not too unlike how many pagans celebrate the Samhain season….although with a slightly different purpose as Hellenes would have prepared for the planting of the wheat grains. For those of us who are not planting grain seeds (especially among those of us  in more northern climates) we can honor this time of the year with the planting of bulbs before the onset of winter. What in Hellas would be a chilly wet time of the year that proceeds the germination of the grains, those of us in the north can recognize as the very important wet period that is so necessary for the coming of spring as the blankets of snow keep the ground from freezing deep and providing water for the crops come spring.

In Alaska, and other northern climates we can best appreciate this time of the year with the sweet tastes and musks of autumn harvest concluded as the earth winds down in decay and the nights lengthen. It is a time before the slumber, a time of wild beasts and night terrors, a time to drive to spirits “boe! boe! boe!” to prepare for the coming life giving wet season whether one experiences it through rain or snows.


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