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.

 

Sex and the Gods

I know I have talked of this before but it seems that this issue like to rear its head every now and then, and when it does it makes me want to reiterrate these points. In fact I am going to be more blunt in this post than I have been in the past, just because I am tired of hearing the argument.

There seems to be a mistaken belief that is floating around that the Hellenic gods champion, patron or are linked to specific sexual identities. Therefore you end up having some members of the LGBT community celebrating certain gods as homosexual deities (examples of this would be Dionysos, Apollon—especially in regards to the Hyakinthos myths, and Artemis, among others), and then you have some heterosexual screaming their heads off that such and such a god isn’t homosexual, and at times even aggressively ignoring the myths (and associated festivals) in which a god appears to be having a homosexual (or in reverse for the other side of the fence…heterosexual) relationship when this was never an issue for the ancient Hellenes. It really is a sign of the modern culture in which we can be so obsessed with sex-identity that we feel a need to *claim* gods as being a part of our own sexual identities.

Yet when it comes right down to it, it doesn’t make sense on either sides of the fence. The gods don’t possesses biological bodies, they don’t possesses chemical hormones, they don’t literally have forms in the way that we think of it….therefore claiming any specific sexual orientation is rather ridiculous. The gods love, they experience attraction through Eros, and the love and union is going to be carried out on a spiritual level. The soul can’t be said to be strictly female or male, for which I think hermaphroditic images is more closely related to our spiritual existance. Truly though when you get right down it to the souls are aligned, in relationship to the gods, with having a receptive nature (therefore being symbolically feminine as we see in the myth of Psykhe) because we desire to receive the union with the gods. Otherwise I must say that we have no spiritual sexual orientation, and we possess many lives in which we may experience life as male or female, and probably a variety of sexual orientations over the course of our lifetimes.

As such to ignore male or female loves of the gods (depending on your stance) is just a matter of cutting off the nose to spite the face. Those of Kyrene, who celebrate the nupitals between the nymph Kyrene and Apollon were known to celebrate in the Hyakinthia. It is a testimony that the gods were not divided upon lines of sexual preference, and I really don’t see why it should be such an issue today that people feel the need to do so. The myths in which the gods love mortals (regardless of the biological gender of said mortal in myths) are those which worshipers should take in delight and reverence because they serve as messages to our own souls. The gods love humanity.

on honoring mothers and lovers

This was a post that I really had a hard time decided what to call it to best convey what I wanted to talk about, and that is namely the relevancy of honoring the mothers and lovers (not necessarily romantic lovers in the case of some gods but those who loved the god in question and was deified for it) to the worship of that god one particularly *follows*. As one who follows Apollon I have invested a great deal of personal time into learning more, about and intigrating into my worship practices, such figures related to Apollon. I may not extend the same level of importance to all of Apollon’s loves (and I really don’t have the energy because if we look at myths there were *alot* and usually this varied from location to location where there was something legendary individual who was loved by the god) but there are key figures that pop out to me as being of high importance, perhaps because I tend to personally lean more towards the Doric-Spartan culture and their colonies. Therefore it is quite reasonable that I honor Kyrene and Hyacinthus who are two notable figures, the former of which gave her name to an important colony in Kyrene, Libya. And Kyrene recognized its relationship to Sparta (via their colonization at Thera) by annual participation in the Hyacinthia. Typically though I only specifically honor Hyacinthos and Kyrene in an annual sense, though I have images about my house and speak fondly to them at random occassions. This means that I hold Hyacinthia every year at the end of spring as summers dawns, and every August during the Karneia I pay respect additionally to Kyrene who is likewise depicted ram-horned like her spouse Apollon Karneios.

These two mythical beings are particularly relevant to me (among others such as Daphne etc) because of my own position as a follower of Apollon. They represent the work of eros between the soul and the god which is a lovely guide and model for the follower of said deity. This is not uncommon, after all many followers of Aphrodite, for instance, pay particular reverence to Adonis. But it seems to be more stressed among some gods (particularly Aphrodite), and less stressed among others. However, because they represent the union and loving relationship between the mortal soul and the divine they can have potential positive influence upon us, and therefore securing their relevance. Especially for those of us who do not come from any specific hellenic kin-group to which we could attach cultural importance. I do believe that there is a small difference between honoring Hyakinthos as a cultural hero, and honoring Hyakinthos as a personal hero so to speak. On one hand it isabout one’s heritage and the heros of one’s culture and the bound between the culture and a god important to your culture (and therefore all participated in the Hyakinthia anciently in a cultural sense regardless of their personal feeling of attraction towards Apollon. However as individual, especially one not of the culture, we can find relevance and importance in the loves of our gods on a personal level that is beneficial while different than original cultural celebration. This goes the same for nearly every localized relaitonship between a hero/heroine/nymph/prince/princess and a god which similarly celebrated such relationships between their communities and their gods. Therefore anyone who follows a particularly god is bound to find a number of such figures that can enrich their worship and their lives in following said god or goddess.

Now when it comes to the mothers, I really think that she be given, but it does surprise me how little there is out there celebrating the mothers of the gods we follow. I am speaking specifically of the mothers here because typically it seems that honor is extended to the fathers (which is most of the time Zeus, and in the case of the Olympians it is Zeus with the exception of his siblings). These are the orignating source of the gods we adore, and the womb that issued them. Though the exception does seem to be that many who particular love Dionysos do place an importance on Semele. But this should not be disregarded at all among the Olympians either. Especially considering that half of said Olympians have the great mother Rhea as their mother, and how much prodding does one need to give honor and worship to Rhea!? But nearly each Olympian also has a mother (with the exception of Athena whose mother, Metis, was swallowed by Zeus after conception in the myth of Athena’s birth, but even Metis can so be honored). Therefore followers of Hermes’ can give tribute and respect to Maia, those of Artemis and Apollo to Leto,  those of Aphrodite to Dione, Ares and Hephaistos to Hera (again not a difficult one lol).

The way that I honor Leto is by placing her as part of my main shrine to Apollon and Artemis. I have thought many times of giving her her own shrine but I found more often than not that I was including addresses to her in my regular prayers at their shrine, and so I moved her to their shrine. Since there are no traditional statues of Leto to be had, I selected a figure to represent Leto, named it as Leto and set it with a stork’s feather (the stork being the bird representative of her according to Aristophanes). She is also a major part of a major rituals to Apollon. In the Theoxenia at Delphi which celebrated the return of Apollon from Hyperborea she is represented as pregnant and is again honored at the birth of Apollon during the Thargelia. And I give her honor during the time that Apollon is in Hyperborea, the homeland of Leto.

In closing, we can find something valuable to add to our regular worship practices of the god/dess that we follow when we include the loves and mothers of the god/dess. It also developes our own understand of our relationship that we enjoy. It altogether enriches our spiritual lives in my way of thinking.

Hyakinthia and Helioguennia

So today I celebrate the second day of Hyakinthia. This is the first day of the real festivities. Yesterday was fairly solemn with an offering into an improvised “tomb” for Hyakinthos (will post pictures later when the festival is finished tommorow). Traditionally this is a nine day festival with the first three days reserved for Hyakinthos, though some sources say that it was only nine days with the first day for Hyakinthos. I gravitate towards the former being more accurate, but the dilemma comes in that doing a really involved nine day festival all by lonesome with a child accompanying is rather difficult. So for the sake of necessity I do the festival in three days. The first day is the mourning for Hyakinthos. This is not the extreme mourning that was done by women for Adonis. It is simply very solmen. There is no festivities. A quiet meal is eaten, no bread, and offerings are presented into the tomb of the hero.

On this the second day it is the celebration of the “resurrection” of the hero, or rather the deification of the hero to a god. Thus the tomb of Hyakinthos is also one together with the throne of Apollon. The soul is freed from its mortal bonds. Now here is how it fits beautifully with Helioguennia. In my book I put approx June 21 for the festival, but that is meaning that this is the midpoint of the festival rather than the beginning. In any case it is at this point that the festival is actually directed towards Apollon whereas the first day is all about the hero.

As we know from myth, Apollon with his disc (ie the sun) accidentally struck Hyakinthos, and the paian was believed to have been part of his attempts to bring back the youth and save him from mortal death. For this reason the paian is particularly important during this festival, most especially on this day as far as I see it. Heliguennia on the other hand marks the longest day of the year, when the light of the sun is utterly victorious over the night. Thus we celebrate Helios Eleutherios, Helios the god who is freeing, for the sun it at the very pinnacle of its strength today. It is also the first day of summer and marks in and of itself an important seasonal transition. Soon the flowers of late spring shall wither away beneath the hot blasts of the sun. So we say goodbye the innocent season of youth, and greet the royal summer. Therefore at the same time we are saying goodbye to the mortal youth, who was so loved by the wind of spring, and is now in the adulthood of divinity. Heliogennia merely marked the beginning of this beautiful day as I celebrated with a ritual at sunrise.

Khaire Apollon! Khaire Helios! Khaire Hyakinthos the risen!

Hyacinthia coming up!

I am really looking forward to celebrating Hyakinthia next week. I had probably delved more into what this ritual means to me when I was writing my book. Not only that, but I also feel I became more informed in a general sense as I did my research 🙂 So I am celebrating the end of spring and beginning of summer with this beautiful festival in which the youth, loved by both Apollon and the gentle wind of the spring, dies by the god’s “disc”.

Unfortunately I still don’t have most of my ritual things since I haven’ tbeen able to arrange shipping yet from MD (this last year has been a very difficult one financially) so I will be making a new “throne/tomb” for Apollon and Hyakinthos 🙂 It won’ tbe fancy since, once again I said…financial difficulties abound, but it will be meaningful to me regardless. I really wish I had a loom and a bit more practice with weaving so I could make a beautiful cloth for Apollon. But I suppose I will just have to settle for the store-bought variety. At least until things get more financially stable around here!

So in this ritual I will read hymns to Apollon, Artemis (who has an epithet related to Hyakinthos, Aphrodite, Zephyr, Helios, Eros, as well as some poems for Hyakinthos and the nymph Kyrene and Aristaios (whose myths correlates with the Hyakinthos myth which I discuss at length in my book).

From all indications the altar is supposed to be full of flowers particularly to spring (or rather to late spring before the heat of summer kills them off. Sadly we have had a record breaking May and Early June in this part of the country so I don’t think many of the spring flowers are still around. Certainly not the honeysuckle I used during Thargelia! But I will see what I can find.

My laurel is still not big enough to harvest from (since I had just got the cutting and it looks like it is finally starting to spring back) but I do have plenty of rosemary which I tend to use as a substitute. Smith, in his dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquity makes a close relation between the two plants via their names. So the fragrant-sweet rosemary will likely be utilized to a great degree! The myrtle is in the same condition as the laurel. Maybe by next year I will have strong plants that can lend leaves to these great occassions!

For those who are not aware of what is involved with the Hyakinthia ritual. It was a celebration lasting several days. Some authorities say 3 days, others say nine days. The first of the days was reserved for Hyakinthos. The first day celebrates his mourning, but it is followed with a day of festivity for the “resurrection” of Hyakinthos. The last days were in celebration of Apollon which included a presentation of a chiton to the god, paians sung, and great festivities of races and games. This was an occassion much celebrated by both the males and females of Sparta. For more of this festival and the myths of Hyakinthos and Kyrene see my book 🙂