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.

The Destroyer with a Kindly Face

For a god whose domain is largely focused on the natural forces which demolish life and form, it may seem odd that he is often portrayed looking beautiful and often kindly faced. I saw a lovely photo shared of the remains of an archaic statue of Apollon from Delphi (the same one which is the banner of my blog that I myself photographed, but at a different angle and by a different photographer) in which the person who originally shared it commented on how sweet his expression is. A person who is familiar with the sweeter and kinder images of Apollon may find it more appropriate for Apollon as known as a god of civilization and the arts than what they would think to associate with a god of destructive natural forces. Yet if we understand Apollon who is a god of civilization and the arts by his compassion and love to hold back and protect civilization from his harsher forces that it may flourish we can see very well how the god of nature’s destructive forces could have come as a being of beauty and infinite kindness and compassion.

This is more poignant when we understand Apollon as a god who has twice been exiled (once by his own means and once again into slavery by his father) and of the gods knows well concepts of suffering and tears, especially given spending a term in human existence which few gods have experienced in myth outside of Dionysos.  Thus the myth brings revelation of Apollon as a god in contact with human experience. And yet unlike Dionysos, he is not a dying god. In fact he never matures beyond the transitional point between youth and manhood, eternally young and beautiful like a serpent with which he is intimately associated and form he has often taken that sheds its skin that it ever appears to be youthful and unchanged in the height of its beauty.

The most important thing that has been highlighted in myth regarding Apollon as a god for nature’s destructive forces is that while he can be violent and appear to be cruel in some instances if myth were taken literally, it rather highlights the distinction between organic and natural death/destruction by way of nature and that of murder. Apollon is represented in both instances at once. When he is exiled he is a murderer and thus he often penalizes murderers who come to him for purification in cases of accidental death especially and sentences them to travel afar in exile to form new colonies in penitence. He understands murder as one who has committed murder in the company of the gods, and as such he represents the understood distinction between murder and organic death/destruction. Apollon is presented in literature I believe as undergoing murder because this distinction of understanding is essential for his role in nature. For a distinction between natural death and murder myth is used to illustrate the differentiation as being fully formed in the domain of the god. Although Apollon has murdered and understands murder in myth, he himself abhors murderers and sends them abroad for their purification to remove the stain of their presence. Euripedes in his play Aclestis emphasizes this understood distinction in the domain of Apollon by his confrontation with impartial Thanatos (a distinction between the god which turns time into maturity and to the appropriate time of their death for when they are ripe for it as a god of the forces of nature that include time but also storms and ravages that consequently may take human life due to their fury, and the god who is death itself and is impartial fulfilling his duty to cut down life whenever he is sent to do so regardless of the means of the death). Here Apollon laments against the cruelty of life taken before its time is ripe. In some ways we can see Apollon as a god preserving civilization as an kindness to give humanity the fullest of time to age and die of the most natural causes rather than quickly slain by hostile environments within nature and predators.

Given this his role thus is with organic natural destruction that is a product of nature only it is reasonable that he would not bear a fearsome form as say Typhon does (it is a curiosity too, one that has been remarked by at least one academic at the closeness of the names of Typhon and Python/Pythios but usually with the regard that the myth of Zeus and Typhon was meant to parallel that of Apollon and Python. Nevermind that the whirling wind of Typhon bears links to Apollons similar role as a god of wind storms. The biggest difference however is that Typhon is entirely represented as a malevolent being of fearsome visage (despite being the offspring of Hera). It may be a distinction between Apollon as a god of organic and natural destruction and Typhon as being of wholesale destruction without compassion or pity? I have remarked in the comments of my previous posts that there are some strange mythic things occurring with Typhon and his relationship with Delphyne in myth (who resembles Echidnae in many instances in her form) and the odd line up with Delphic myth and the Homeric Hymn to the Pythian Apollon. If Apollon slew her when he was days old and yet he is said to have fled with Typhon emerging as a power with the other gods, to what purpose would Delphyne have been one to hide the sinews of Zeus and why would Hermes have retrieved them with Cadmus when it would be more logical that as a local daemon following Apollon’s rule at Delphi that Apollon would have had potential authority to retrieve them but is not present. It makes some odd things going on in the literary body regarding Delphyne and Apollon, and what possible relationship he may or may not have had with Typhon, especially with Apollon’s later alignment with the sun and it being mentioned to me that Typhon was too associated with the sun. Yet all the same the distinction that appears to be present between Apollon and Typhon as destructive beings is one that is controlled by the confines of nature and one that is absolutely uncontrolled devastation.

In this respect Apollon, unlike Typhon, does not appear in a form that is fearful and monstrous. He would be the exact opposite of such a form, and as such his kindness could be seen as the kindness that death brings to end suffering, and that decay brings to release souls into the next world as well as make fertile grounds for new life, and the harvest of flesh that humans slaughter even as they take too the harvest of grains. He cuts down all things at their ripeness. Yet it is to natural and benevolent purpose, rather than unkindness or any concept of evil. That is not to say that he was not understood as harsh. Organic destruction is harsh, and cannot be bargained with or changed. You cannot stop a storm from breaking, or water from breaking down stone and thus releasing important minerals even as it corrodes the land. Myth reveals this by speaking of the one time he tried to halt death for his favorite, king Cadmus which called of heroic means and thereafter divination of Aclestis by her part in bravery and Herakles for bringing her back from the gates of the underworld. Yet otherwise we do not see Apollon acting against the means of his own natural law, and one particular translation of Aclestis I had even had Thanatos translated (perhaps erroneously but still an interesting translation for these purposes) of Apollon violating his law. Regardless, the grievance of Thanatos for the interference of Apollon tells us a lot about what is expected of Apollon functioning within his domain. Same could be said in regards to the hostility of the Erinyes against Apollon in the Oresteia as a god who does not condone murder and yet directed murder and protected the murderer. Even though in myth these serve very important illustrations for other spiritual things going on that often involves apotheosis, it also highlights by example of what is abnormal by remarking upon it in the most extreme terms of hostility and grievance of that which was not considered part of Apollon’s function or nature.

In this case I cannot see Apollon as being represented with any other visage than expression of kindness or thoughtfulness. Even with his bow flexed he is often with a relaxed countenance and pleasant expression rather than appearing to be in any way moved by anger or aggression. His entire being is of benevolence, as is appropriate for a god of the passage of time in the harmonic movement of all celestial bodies and god of organic natural destruction. For he does not destroy life out of hatred or anger, or even in opposition to life for which he safeguards himself by withholding his destructive forces. In this respect I do not think he can be represented any other way except with expressions of serenity and kindness without moving off target. This is not to say that Apollon doesn’t anger and can’t be violent against transgression of natural/divine law. He is as much a protector of these laws as he rules a domain within it. Even in the instance of the murder of Clytemnestra we do not find him openly dispute that murder of kin is against nature and as such in punishable, rather arguing where the line has be drawn for accurate punishment as he also demonstrates that murder of mated/wedded pairs is also against nature.   As a protector of these laws and as a protector god in general can be very fierce, but it is not what I would consider his primary state of being when it comes to destruction as it is not foremost an act of punishment but rather nature.

Happy Karneia!

I have been really amiss this year with blogging about festivals…usually because I forget to write something before hand or directly after and after a few days I decide not to bother with it. But as Karneia is one of my favorite festivals of the year I have been watching the fullmoon approach with a sense of excitement, especially as the weather has been cooling down and autumn starting to turn its way round into the pattern of the year’s dance. Today was perhaps the first really autumn day weather-wise. The sky was crystal blue and the sun shining down, and yet there was a definite nip in the air, and a smell in the air of plant life ripening and breaking down into decay. Autumn always has a rich smell to it, and so the beginning of this wonderful smell always delight my nose.

Even though Karneia was celebrated over several consecutive days, as it culminated on the fullmoon that is when I celebrate it as a solitary worshipper. So for those who are planning on celebrating, it is coming tomorrow after sun down! This actual is great timing for my household since we will be spending the afternoon at the state fair, where there will be goats, and sheep, and cattle, as well as giant Alaskan cabbages and pumpkins (not to mention the funnel cakes, cotton candy and other tasty fair foods to gorge oneself with). It takes a feast of the beginning of autumn to an entirely different level this year, one that exemplifies the beginning of the season for my household just as the Karneia, with its harvest of immature grapes and special-raised rams, marked the beginning of its own particular harvest. And while I will be honoring the plentitude of gifts that Apollon brings by staying the foul weather and in a year that spends so much time encased in ice and snow, recedes the temperamental weather just long enough to bring new life to the landscape however briefly, I will also be honoring Dionysos of this festival time, who laughs and dances with the Satyrs among the whirling Doric maidens, and Apollon is honored with the Shepherd’s cloak as flowers are poured into his boat in offering.

I actually rather wish  I had some basket making stuff this year. I have woven a basket in years but I would love to make a special Karneia basket with a wide bottom that can be worn on the head in festive dancing for the gods before Apollon Karneios and in the company of Dionysos as those afore-mentioned dancing maidens….filled with those sweet things of autumn harvest. Whereas it is likely that these baskets, if they contained anything, would have held the tender grapes of the harvest, as we don’t have grapes this far north and it represents the initial harvests in general it would be more appropriate to have an assortment of things of that nature to have up here….that and the horn of a ram I think (considering that Zeus comes before Dionysos in this particular role and is himself the ram, and so was perhaps similarly honored, and Apollon honored as the shepherd). Maybe next year if I think about it far enough ahead of time rather than last minute…..especially since I would have to order basket making supplies.

Still I am looking forward to the high celebration that Karneia will present this year as it is occurring late enough in the year this time to coincide with local festivities. It is certain to make the occasion a grand time and one which can be happily followed by offerings to Apollon Karneios and to Dionysos. So to all who are celebrating….a very happy and blessed Karneia to you!

Further Dialogue on Cassandra

In my previous post “Set Aside for the Gods” I briefly touched on the figure of Cassandra. After some consideration I decided that I needed to address more time to the discussion of Cassandra as she is such a unique figure in Apollon’s mythology, and one around whom there have circulated some anti-Apollon feeling in regards to her punishment and some cheering of Cassandra as a feminist self ascertaining figure. In other words, many who strongly dislike Apollon for his rape myths (please see my above linked post for further discussion on that if you haven’t read it because I won’t be reiterating in this  post) I have already showed previously some argument against how the “rape myth” of Cassandra is really a feminist issue, and is actually a political issue about personalized illicit relationship in myth (recalling if you will that any case of a relationship that wasn’t sanctioned by the family would have fallen into the rape camp, regardless of consent. I am reiterating that here since I did not in my previous post) versus sanctioned appointed attachment to a god as a priestess/official bride of a god.

The first thing that is notable about Cassandra is that her myth is comparatively late. In fact we see no mention of her in the Iliad, although a daughter of Priam is discussed but as engaged to a hero. I have yet to find any mention of the myth of Cassandra that pre-dates the work of Aeschylus in his first play of the Oresteia triology, “Agamemnon”. Here is where we actually get our full introduction to Cassandra (although she also makes an appearance in the later tragedy of the Trojan Women by Euripedes) and that her story unfolds in the framework of another story, her curse by Apollon. However in the context of this play I think a certain frame of mind must be kept when reading through it. One is that Aeschylus had a tendency to introduce mystic elements into his writing (being a member of a Eleusinian priestly family, wherein the idea of certain associations by benefit of lineage would have been strong asserted while he was growing up, as well as the experiential personal versus the official) and also that in the context of the Oresteia we are not only dealing with matters of lineage, or rather the curse of lineage that has been handed down to Orestes as one that has plagued the house of Atreus), but also a conversation on what is lawful.

It is only within the context of these matters that the whole scene of Cassandra’s appearance makes any sense at all, as a maiden who rebuked her expected obligations, her social contract, and instead of being a priestess/bride of the god was reduced to having no house at all (not a coincidence that she would have been designated the daughter of fallen house in this context) and the benefit of family or lineage, or even social status. Her existence was a lover or concubine of the god, who was regular seized by him by what she allotted for herself. The rages she has towards the god is really of no different character than those rages we see the lovers of the gods hurling. Certainly we see Creousa rage at Apollon at Delphi for her lot. I would consider these commentary of the social helplessness. Without protection of family or one of few social privileges that an unmarried woman of good breeding could acquire as serving as a temple priestess, a woman was without anything. Euripedes plays often address to this sort of helpless of women which we see in Ion, and the unfairness of their lot in society.

When I first considered plans for introducing an oracle card for Apollon with the image of Cassandra I wanted to play strongly on this hidden away, internally burning, segregated image of Cassandra. Not as hubric villainess, but rather I see clearer now a lover of the god, like so many mythic, who  are segregated and cast off from the norm of society and peanlized for their illicit affair with the god by society. The curse of Apollon that none would believe her prophecies becomes more of a statement that none would hold any authority in her due to her chosen situation that she chose the illicit ecstatic relationship with the god rather than the pure  rote existence of a priestess. Euripedes really fleshes out this ecstatic relationship in Trojn Women where we hear of Cassandra running about wildly, engaged in things that she could see and experience alone. She is uncontrolled by system or regulated official bondage which would offer social protections and a highly controlled and ritualized life. She traded one boon for the other. But of course she would curse the god for her choice, as men often do, for the ills that have fallen to her even as she opens herself and embraces the presence of Apollon, her sole comfort against the horror she sees unfolding before her.

In many ways Aeschylus could have been demanding attention from the crowd regarding the nature of the mysteries that lies outside of social norm and regulations, and justice which lay outside of what is recognized as right and lawful, to which ultimately heritage and family mean little outside of legal-societal nicities. Speaking of the validity of something that could have been seen as potentially chaotic despite the highly ritualized proceedings of the mystery program performed before the initiates. The mysteries thrive and grow off of the personal contact with the gods, the way is but shown by the priests. The foreshadowing of Cassandra’s presence and speech serves a very profound role as brief as it is, and one that will capture the imagination of poets to come.

In many ways Cassandra is the voice of godspouses, and those who embrace the love of their gods, as she is the one who looses all that she has known before, is ridiculed as mad, thrown aside, and is without apparent value within her social-religious network as she is not there in her existence for service to others. Yet she still spreads what gifts she may. Cassandra is her own kind of heroine, but not in the way anti-Apollon dialogue would have us think.

The Breath of Boreas

It is getting colder (but hey this IS Alaska after all), noticeably so. The breath of winter is draping everything in a hard frost, which makes that six am puppy walk a bit biting. Thank goodness that the breed of puppy I have is half Akita so she has that thick double coat to keep her warm. They sing songs about Jack Frost nipping at your nose, if that is so then Jack Frost has to be adopted, or unofficially claimed, son of Boreas. Or just Boreas reimagined. For the kingdom of Boreas is one of ice and snow and cold blowing winds (he is after all a wind). He is the very substance of the winter air rather than the season of winter. He flies down, winged, from his high snow-encrusted mountains, his breath all around us in the air, biting at whatever skin is exposed to him. The dew in the air is crystalized by him for which the frost paints patterns on all things and by his breath the rain falling from the sky turns to snow that coats the earth of the northern regions in a thick insulated blanket to protect it from his bitter cold breath. And the trees stand as silent headstones, sleeping throughout the winter.

Apollon is said to venture far beyond the kingdom of Boreas. But why Boreas in particular? Apollon has a noticeable connection to the winds, not only as a god of winds himself, harnessing them for destructive and beneficial ends, but also personal mythic relationships with two of the winds. One is Zephyr in the spring in the myth of Hyakinthos, and in the myth of Hyperboreia we have Boreas. The connections with Zephyr seem more obvious because Zephyr is highly active in Apollon’s season, with the blessing of verdant growth during the mild first half that nourishes young plants. Even in the tale of Hyperboreia we can come back to Zephyr because Apollon’s garden seems to be described as one continually blessed by Zephyr with the mildness of his weather as an eternal spring. And yet to approach this place you have to go beyond the  kingdom of Boreas. Of course Pindar reminds us that it would be in vain to seek out this land, for it does not exist here where we may find it. It is exists beyond the gates of winter, the gates guarded by the griffins. A few days ago I approached this subject in my post on the Purifications and Expiations of Winter, but I wanted to continue more here in my thoughts on Boreas and his relationship with Apollon in particular.

As winter in some areas would be concerned with the sowing of seeds for the next year’s grain and crops, even in more mild climes there is naught much more besides some hardy small flowers that bloom and delight. Many of them, such as pansies, are edible however. But as the rainy season (whether that be actual rain showers or snow showers of the northern regions) it tends to be the indoor season. It is a sleepy and restful season compared to other times of the year, and becomes so the further into winter you go. Winter in many ways been compared to death, not only for being the season in which Persephone reigns in the underworld, but also for the sparse barren nature of the season. Winter is intimately connected to death. So we find Boreas and his kingdom associated with the boundaries of death in a seasonal sense but perhaps also in a symbolic sense as a boundary to the Underworld. One that may be transversed by gods directly into the land of blessed, but not accessible to mortals. It is through this gate that Leto came, and it is through this gate that Apollon travels to his sacred garden. Perhaps it can be seen as his special VIP entrance directly to his private corner of the land of the Blessed where those cherished by him he has directly had crossed in their apotheosis. The garden which was his bridal chamber of Kyrene before it was imagined in Libya.

Even as Apollon himself is a gatekeeper god, Boreas would seem to act as such for Apollon, and the griffins too with which Apollon has been pictured, those gold loving creatures who likely find bliss in the pure gold radiance of Apollon as he comes near. Griffins which are  horse killers, that would seek to attack the soul chariots of mortals. These griffins would be nearly as fearsome as Cerebus himself but far less welcoming to any souls less they be driven in Apollon’s own swan chariot. And if these alone are not dissuasive then Boreas himself is, his bitter breath driving all away, to return to the comfort of hearths, or in the case of souls, to more welcome routes.

The sacredness of the north is also affirmed by the Etruscans who were widely respected in the ancient world for their augury. Etruscans placed the highest of the gods to dwell in the northern quadrant of the heavens. For any to seek to attain this kingdom would have been probably seen as hubric as Bellerophon’s attempt to climb Olympos on the back of winged Pegasus. And what happened to him? A hornet stung the stallion, throwing the rider to his death. Beware those who attempt the roads of the gods. This is no less true, by far, than with Apollon in his northern route. This distinguishes him from Persephone and Dionysos whose routes are clear markers for the way for human souls. Few, does Apollon take upon his sacred northern road. King Croesus being one example whom Apollon took up for his devotion according to Pindar. And Pindar too I would imagine, and all the great poets. Those whom he loves. So I greet the breath of Boreas as reminder of this holy route, for the part he plays.

Preparing for Adonia

I often forget to write about rituals that come up, but I haven’t forgotten this time to mention it!  So at the moment I am getting ready to celebrate Adonia,which I tend to celebrate on Easter. I know that others hold their celebrations for Adonia later in the year, closer to summer, but I know others who also celebrate on or around Easter, and the fact that I celebrate Hyakinthia at the end of spring makes it rather convenient for my calendar in any case 🙂 There of course seems to be a fair similarity to my mind between the myths of Adonis and that of Hyakinthos. You have competition between two gods (in the myth of Adonis you have him spending part of his year with Persephone, and the other part with Aphrodite, likewise you have Apollon and Zephyrus desiring Hyakinthos), and some seasonal correspondance. However, this does not mean that I feel it is appropriate to lump them together as being representative of the same kind of thing going on in the same time of the year. Rather, the details of the myths reveal certain things about when it may be best to celebrate it, or perhaps even when they were celebrated if one dares to stretch that far.

First, Adonis strikes me as being specifically about spring due to the gods which are involved. Particularly the time between the tail end of summer and in mid-spring, long before the coming of summer. In the myth this seems to highlighted by the fact that he is being torn between Persephone (with whom he spends time while she is in Hades’ court) and Aphrodite. It is suggested to me that when, or perhaps shortly before, Persephone returns to her mother Adonis would have been released to Aphrodite’s company. As such you have Adonis transitioning between winter and spring most specifically, and then destroyed in the flower of his youth by Ares or Apollon, one out of jealousy and the other for retribution, via a boar depending on which version you prefer. Pigs being an animal it seems that have some special connection with the spring and autumn seasons in which you have transitions into and out from winter. It seems that the Calydonian boar is a perfect example of the autumnal transition as the harvest is completed and the boar has been sent out to revenge Artemis upon the people. Turning this over now we have the boar which slays Adonis, which, if you have read my post on boars and pigs, has an especial connection with Artemis as per the location of where he was killed and how this same area once spawned the Calydonian boar too. Therefore Adonis’ boar is the spring equivalent which is also threshing life, though rather than mature life ready for harvest, this boar is destroying the flower that will never, thereafter, fruit. It, therefore, is not entirely logical either to place his festival at the end of spring or anywhere towards summer in which the maturation cycle takes place. Adonis is forever captured as a tender youth hunting in the woods. He is the very imagery of youth prior to taking up the mantle of manhood, and therefore a good reason why you have imagery of the company of Hippolytus hunting with Artemis as the occupation of boys.

This is quite different in character from the Hyakinthia, wherein Hyakinthos is believed to have been portrayed as a deified being as a bearded male as his deification may very well been on the mark the period of transition from youth with which Apollon is particularly concerned. Even the contest over Hyakinthos has a different character from that of Adonis. You have Zephyrus, the spring wind, contending with Apollon over the youth’s affections. And then there is Apollon who accidentally slays the boy with his disc, which seems reasonable to represent the greatest disc of his: the sun. Unlike the transition of winter-spring that we particularly see in the case of Adonis, we are seeing spring-summer in the case of Hyakinthos. As such it is reasonable that Hyakinthia is celebrated at the end of spring, and likewise Adonia would have been celebrated prior after the first blush of spring had faded.

What do I mean by the first blush of spring? I, for one, never would have though in my youth that spring had stages that it went through. Alaska has a spring so short that you take a breath and you pretty much miss it. All the soft flare of spring is just barely a glimpse in the year. However when I spent time in warmer climates I saw first hand the blades of the spring flowers poking through the soil in the middle of winter. And when I went over seas to Morocco in January I was quite startled. A place I had visited previously thick with the heavy scent of big summer blossoms and rich colors, in the winter time was like some fairy paradise with feilds of soft green and the tiniest pale flowers dotting the landscape in the valleys as snow accumulated in the mountains. The weather was chilly, and damp, but it was full of a freshness and innocence that I didn’t realize would have been possible in that landscape. Yet the winter flowers of December and January are rapidly replaced with the spring flowers of February and March more or less. And I recall from my gardening lessons at my mothers knee that a good gardener has stuff planted together that will bloom alternating as the months pass so that there is never a flower free spot in the garden. Therefore the first half of spring is dwindling down getting ready to be replaced by the latter part of spring with its more luxuriant flowers than the small enchanting flowers of the first half, as the season progresses.

I have heard mentioned a practice, which many base their modern festivals from what I understand, in which in Egypt I believe, where greens were grown and left to perish under the sun. Now having read above what I have described I am pretty confident that in Egypt, as another North African country, such greenery would be very unlikely to be growing so near summer. In these climates the greenery goes to town during the rainy months of winter, and then the flowers start really showing up in the beginning of spring. Therefore it seems more likely to me that perhaps sometime in the end of winter, if this was indeed a practice, since I don’t recall if there was a citation for it so I won’t make any positive claims about it, it seems that these would have been growing largely in the latter part of winter and into the spring. Then as spring progressed and the days grew hotter, as the mediteranean heats up quickly, the tender plants would have died long before summer even began. This is my take from what I have seen in any case.

Now following this model specifically doesn’t work for my geographic location. If I had started plants in January or the end of December, if they hadn’t died from the cold they wouldn’t be getting ready to die as spring came around. Because of the particulars of this part of the world, they would be getting ready to really get going instead.  For this reason I prefer not to use this agricultural model in my observation of Adonia.However, that said, a northern equivlanet could arguably be made for the season in which mollasses is harvested from maple trees. It is a very brief part of the year in which you wouldn’t know that spring had started for all the snow everywhere, but the trees waking from their slumber let the sap rise and this is tapped by those who are hardy enough to weather the cold to get it. This is perhaps a good distinction in more nothernly places the differences between the first flow of spring compared to the latter part.

The way I celebrate Adonia then is in large part how many celebrate Easter. I cook a ham, perhaps an ironic device considering the boar that did him in, with its sweet glaze that I reserve only for this time of the year. A lot of it is about family, togetherness, and feasting together. Of course this is followed by the solomonities the night before in which sorrow is exhibited for the passing of Adonis. I can imagine some folks can really get into this. I am not so good at it to tell the truth. The Hyakinthia without its overt show of grief is more suited to me than the outpourings for Adonia, but I do my best.

This year I am looking forward to having a statue of Adonis for the occassion. A surprise gift among some other things I get to pick through, it is apparently a fairly valuable little statuette of bronze that is going to make the perfect image. For the first time I will have an image of Adonis for my Adonia! It is just a shame I won’t have my apartment for the occassion so that I can really get into the spirit of things. But, having the Adonia being celebrated around about Easter gives me the oppertunity to enjoy my family for the festival even if I don’t have the oppertunity to do all that I like this year. Therefore, though it will be on a small scale without all the ritual and ceremony that I enjoy, I am thinking it will be a lovely Adonia.

 

Gender-exclusive gods

This post from Aspis of Ares has inspired me into further thought about this topic. Though I have refrained from commenting on the activities of Pantheacon (largely because I was not there and have no relationship to Dianic Wicca), his post did make me think specifically about gender-exclusive worship practices and to what extent they had relevance in Hellenismos and the worship in the ancient world. As a disclaimer I would like to point out that in my youth I did read some on Dianics, and found it lacking on an assumption that there are historic cults which were gender-exclusive…in particular putting emphasis on one goddess from which the tradition takes its name: Diana, the Roman counterpart of the Hellene goddess Artemis. So it seems that the best place to start is in discussing the assumptions about Hellenic goddesses worshiped in this tradition. This should not be interpreted as an attack on Dianic Wiccans, they after all should feel free to practice as they like, but rather as introduction for addressing the problems with assumptions of male-exclusive gods in the worship of Hellas.

From my reading material on Dianics there are three particular Hellenic goddesses to which the femme-centricism is focused as goddesses associated with some kind of “feminine mysteries” which just doesn’t really exist in the way that seems to be assumed, nor holding any supremacy in relation to the masculine gods: Artemis, Demeter and Persephone. The relationship of Demeter and Persephone appears to be emphasized in Dianic Wicca as the sole purpose of the turn of the seasons, which is in contrast to forms of Wiccan in which the shift of seasons are attributed to the relationship of a masculine and feminine divinity. While there were a very small handful of festivals of Demeter and Persephone that were celebrated only by women, this really is more of an exception rather than the norm and took place during the autumn season. All other festivals were celebrated by initiates irregardless of gender or social status, which makes the cult of Demeter perhaps one of the most inclusive ones in Hellas, as the mysteries were equally available to all Hellenes and peoples who spoke the language. Additionally, unlike Dianic practices which move away from the participation of male gods in the mystery of Demeter such as Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes and Apollon to name a few who were honored at festivals of Demeter such as the Proerosia.

As for Artemis, I can almost understand the confusion about her. With the list of her nymph companions, her association with the legendary Amazons, and her abhorrence of Actaeon seeing her bathing after the hunt, could suggest that the goddess is of the kind which only appreciates the female company and excludes males. However, with the exception of the Brauronia, which was only celebrated by girls, all other coming of age rituals were celebrated for and attended by both boys and girls, and sometimes even exclusively by boys as in the case of the trial at the altar of Artemis Orthia during which the endurance of boys entering adulthood as a soldier was tested by whipping. Likewise Artemis was honored at the birth of girls, and honored by nurses of boys. Aside from the practical cult of Artemis, one also has to take the myth of Hippolytus into consideration: a hunting companion of Artemis who not only was honored via certain cult centers in Greece, but also in the myth of Diana at Nemi, a place to which the revived Hippolytus was believed to have departed and in the local cult was presided over by a priest. This doesn’t sound like a goddess who particularly excludes males and favors women. In fact aside from the process of childbirth, over which she would naturally preside as a goddess of the portal of birth, Artemis has very little to do specifically with women past the age of maturity, and even prior to maturity was equally concerned with the male.That Artemis also took on a slight masculine identity can also be seen in the case in which Artemis, like Aphrodite, has been portrayed as a bearded goddess.

This should be understood as many people like to set up Artemis and her twin Apollon into a dichotomy in which everything feminine is protected by Artemis, and everything masculine by Apollon. Yet with Apollon too we see many many instances in which females take part. The largest distinction seems to be made only shortly after an infants birth (7 days afterward, in which its birth was celebrated after surviving the first week of life) in which garlands of laurel were hung for a boy (or in some case the olive of Athena), and white fillets of wool for Artemis at the birth of a girl, and perhaps at the death of males and females in which we have examples of Apollon slaying males, and Artemis slaying females. But this seems more to be along the lines of gender distinction of the twins themselves, not necessarily of their worshipers, who are otherwise linked with each other, operating in most cases as a whole together, and reflecting each other and working cooperatively. In neither case can we say that either of these exclude the opposite gender, and each possessing very few celebrations or activities which are femme or masculine centric, and not necessarily among the same sex as Apollon had female only gigs like the weaving of his chiton by the women at Chiton for the Hyakinthia (which yes was celebrated by both men and women), and the previously mentioned whipping of boys for Artemis Orthia. Even festivals which seemed to focus on a specific gender weren’t necessarily as exclusive as we think…in which case the Gymnapaidaie of Apollon, while most references focus on the participation of male youths in vigor, athletics and dance, also included dancing girls and is called by theoi.com as a feast of women.

To a lesser degree there does seem to also be a femme-focus on Dionysos, due largely in part to the presence of the maenads. I have seen them in feminine mystery material compared as part of a feminine mystery that contrasts the Amazons. While it seems to be agreed upon that the first celebrants of Dionysos were female, and that the maenads (the first of which, and the actual original maenads) were his followers, it is also true that in the legendary history of Dionysos that males were not excluded either. For instance, in Euripedes Bacchae shows the king and the seer in full celebration of Bacchus, an activity of which returned their sense of youth, vigor, and general merriness. Likewise men took the part of the satyrs in the Bacchic processions in honor of Dionysos. And certainly the co-mingling of sexes during the Dionysia celebrated at Brauron (yes the same Brauron where the Brauronia was celebrated in honor of Artemis). In point of fact celebrating Dionysos doesn’t particularly work with just one sex in my opinion…it can be done certainly…but it seems to miss some of the features in which Dionysos, who often acts as a bridge between genders, not only as a fairly feminine male god but also in the act of his worship in a society, particularly among the Athenians, in which unmarried women and men spent a large part of their time segregated, is honored. In this manner his worship seems to fall in a similar line with that of Demeter in that it tends to be inclusive by its nature.

In general, I can’t think of a single god or goddess of Hellas whose worship is specifically exclusive. Even Ares, as Pete pointed out, cannot be considered a deity that excludes female worship, with the exception of very particular festivals. In this light I have a difficult time swallowing claims that any of the gods are by their nature gender exclusive…not among the most feminine of goddess nor the most masculine of gods. Therefore those who take up worship of these gods and attempt to modify them into male only or female only cults just isn’t personally agreeable to me, or do I find it particularly healthy. I have seen arguments in which women say that they need male-excluding worship in order to help them heal or to celebrate something particular to their biological function, but the downplay of the male gods (who do have close relationships with the goddesses) and exclusion of males regularly seems to inherently lacking as nature is not focused either way. So this goes the same in my consideration for female-excluding regular worship practices. Of course this is coming from someone who does not consider biological plumbing as something sacred or magical….neither male phalli or female uteri. Such is only sacred as it pertains to gods, and not always actively a part of the worship of every god or goddess either, especially when we consider that many of the Olympian goddess refrained from procreation altogether. In fact I see the honoring of the divine phallus having more to do with the penetration and fertilization of the mortal soul, and the fertilizing of the earth than any trumpeting of the male biological gender specifically. Women who reject “male energy” because of abuses carried out by certain men, as therefore associate the phallus with something negative and domineering, are missing out on something important. In fact there is nothing that can work to healing such abuses than accepting the love of males, especially male gods, that are introduced in a non-sexual manner. And before anyone gets huffy, this is coming from a person who experienced some really unpleasant stuff and found myself fulfilled by Apollon by accepting him during a period of vulnerability. This is perhaps why Dianic Wicca has never appealed to me, that even in my youth as a follower of Artemis.

That is not say that some few celebrations can’t be gender focused, typically set upon social situations of “gender” rather than celebrating biological functions, but the reality is that these were few and far between from what I understand, and not a regular mode of worship. Honoring the gods seems that it is best carried out in regular practice in the spirit of inclusiveness.