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?

 

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