I celebrated Karneia much in the same fashion I do every year. Not enough folks to participate in the Spartan race, but still very meaningful. I used the small image of the dolphin and boat that I had made during Delphinia to correspond with the use of Apollon’s image in the ship that was filled with flowers and carried as part of the Karneia festival. Apollon the traveler, the god who goes about everywhere. It rather corresponds with the image of Dionysos in the ship but bears a different meaning as we see the Dionysos in the boat as a being which is literally traveling by the boat…he is the god which is accompanies the journey of the soul. Alternatively Apollon is within the boat much in the way that the dolphin leapt into the boat and steered forth the Cretans to Delphi. He inhabits there in the purpose of directing us. This is as much a part of Karneia wherein the god directs the movement of people for which was jointly celebrated in the spirit of the Karneia…the migration of the Doric people. So it seemed appropriate to use this same image I had made for Delphinia here in this case. And this was set before the bust of Apollon and between them was the warmer into which the oil and water was poured as offering. Later in the body of the ritual we offered our grapes to Apollon. It confuses some folks as to why there is a connection between grapes and Apollon in this festival..for we see it in the offering as well as the race which was conducted holding grapes. Apollon is the cultivator essentially, and this imagery of the god associated with the cultivated grape as well as the wheat ears is not unheard of. Images of the god with wheatears has often been celebrated as a representation of the god who brings prosperity..usually among colonies. So the cultivated grape is much of the same in the symbol of the cultivation of the self. And this imagery is seen in the doric colony at Rhodes where an image of a winged Apollon depicted him with grape clusters hanging from his wings. More on this can be read on my website Apollon’s Lyre. In any case the grapes are a necessary part of the ritual. I only wish I had been able to get him a shepherd’s cloak as an offering, or something the nature along those lines, but I did add to the ritual my own poems that I had written for Apollon Karneios for the Karneia. And for this festival I played upon the recorder as well as upon the lyre.
In preperation for Karneia I was thinking of the significance of the first harvest and what that may mean to us on a spiritual level. It is seen also in the celtic celebration of Lughnasadh ( I apologize for butchering the spelling there) as well as in Hellenismos with the festival of Karneia–the so-called shepherd’s festival during which Apollon was offered grapes even as Lugh’s festival has a deep association with the harvest of another fruit–the apple. That there are multi-cultural festivals that tie into an idea of a first, or initial harvest prior to the main harvest season of autumn it does make for some interesting contempulation.
We know that the second harvest..the wheat harvest of autumn is directly tied to the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Persephone. A divine being who returns the world below (which really makes her closer to us as the mortal world has been noted by Plato as being below that of the isles of the blessed as we are living beneath the sea to make a general paraphrase) then to return again among the divine. This coincides then with the passage of the seasons. After the first harvest though it is not the end of a growing period during the year, really we get at least one more month afterward of steady growth. Even in Alaska where I grew up there was the plentitude of growing things in September until near the end of the month when the hard frosts finally arrived, though the winds between mid-August and in autumn were strong and cool. Therefore in comparison to the great autumnal harvest, the first harvest of summer seems rather small and of little worth. And it is the autumnal harvest that gets all the attention for the transition of the soul…but this idea often seems to be carried out incorrectly because it is drawn on the idea of the soul following Persephone from life to death, yet this ignores that Persephone is a goddess, the daughter of two great Olympians, so whereas her cyclic journey can be interpretted in some ways in connection with the journey of the soul…she is divine returning to the earth from the blessed abodes of the gods. She is the harvested wheat that is both replanted to return in the spring but also is made into bread to sustain the living. She is the comfort to all, both living and dead really, and she provides this comfort by her journey from the divine abodes, even as life perishes and people are sustained by the harvest that they have cut.
So then having established that the second harvest, the autumn harvest, is the harvest of the divine daughter, what can we say then about the first harvest. The fruit harvest. I think a significant clue can be inferred by the offering of grapes during the Karneia, the grape which is the symbol of Dionysos and likewise also a symbol of the unperishing soul of mortals that is transforming (for the grape is made into the wine is it not?). Therefore we can say that the first harvest is more about mortal death (and thus also linked with the sacrifice of the ram by shepherds) and the progression of the mortal soul. We are the lamb that has been nursed and reared into adulthood, we are the cultivated blossom that has been fertilized and born the fruit. So whereas the second harvest is based on the transition of the Kore, the first harvest is based on evolution of the human soul under the domain of Apollon and is thus overseen by Apollon in his festival Karneia, Apollon the shepherd who has cared for us, guided us along the mountainous paths and into the valleys, and the shepherd who slays us.
We are the tender fruit of the first harvest, and Persephone is the golden grain of autumn which too shall be reaped under the great eye of Apollon.
Though I celebrate these as two distinct festivals they share some root commonalities that can of tie the passage of one into the next for me. This commonality is based on the idea of migration-emigration-immigration, and keeping in mind that traditionally Karneia was celebrated for nine days so typically during the time of Metageitnia Karneia was also already underway. However, since I don’t have access to a large worship community to carry out nine days of worship I celebrate Metageitnia and do prep work and focus for the days leading up to the Karneia. Metageitnia perhaps is overlooked by some because it deals directly with Athens, however I think the underlying principle in which the people are being brought together to form a singular great democratic state is something that is not unfamiliar by far. So I celebrate in the spirit of Metageitnia. This honors where I have come from (my ancestrial connections) and where I am today. I have been planning a painting of Columbia (the divine personification of our country more or less) and it is a shame that there is no chance it will be done by Saturday to be part of the ritual…but maybe a sketch can be done of her to represent my homeland along with “flags” made of paper from my homestate and current resident state (so Alaska where I was born and raised and have a deep emotional connection and North Carolina that I call home at this point in time) with the flag of Hellas as a spiritual home. I will be posting more abou tthe ritual on my website over the next day or two so that folks will be able to see how exactly I lay this ritual out.
Karneia likewise is said by scholars to have some connections with the migrations of the Doric people. But emigration to form social-political unity as with the Metageitnia, and the process of colonization–immigration of people to encourage prosperity for the people who need to relocate can be aligned with a higher ideal…spiritual evolution and the higher idea of the transmigration of the soul. August is the time of the first autumn harvests, the bringing of the crops which are ready to be sheared..crops of fruit largely, therefore it is logical that we begin celebrating this spiritual harvest here in this month. So the shepherds reared the most beautiful ram to be sacrificed to Apollon Karneios, a symbol perhaps of the self that they offered in a “sacrifice” not unlike the idea of the offering of the goat to Artemis in place of a maiden. We are the ram that has been raised to beauty and we are saying that we have matured and are ready to go into the next phase of spiritual evolution and we praise Apollon who is the god presiding over this boundary.
So all between the Metageitnia through to the Karneia this idea of harvest for the hope of a greater spiritual rebirth. Unfortunately the way the calendar falls means that I won’t be celebrating Nemoralia this year, the only Roman festival that I have carried on in my personal worship practices. the Roman calendar when it was adjusted into a solar calendar fixed the dates that the fullmoon was represented by the ides of August (the 13th of August). So the festival of torches for Diana Lucifera changed from the literal fullmoon to a symbolic midmonth. However since the fullmoon (the day for celebrating Karneia) falls exactly on the 13th this year it means that I will bypass Nemoralia, though I will be celebrating the festival on the 15th for Artemis with Hekate as divine nurses. Nemoralia does intrigue me though because it comes in close parallel with my thoughts of Karneia. Karneia which as I said above initiates the ideas of harvest and rebirth, and the migration of the peoples (therefore also a political aspect), the Nemoralia (which was celebrated in honor ofthe goddess of the Latin League not unlike the status of Apollon over the Doric peoples) was on one hand a festival of common unity and therefore quite important to the people, but was also a symbolism for birth. This was played out more literally by the women who attended thanking the goddess in procession for the births that they had been placed with, and those women who are seeking children, it was more about the role of the goddess in this festival as the goddess who presided over THE FIRST OF LIGHT OF BIRTH, Artemis of the portal so to speak in Hellenic terms. This was so much the thing that while one scholar spoke of the statue of Apollon Karneios set within a boat during celebration, in Nemoralia boats were floating on the lake of Nemi. So we have the boat, significantly tied to images of the traveling Dionysos….the voyage of the soul, the harvest and the rebirth. Therefore, though Karneios I will be celebrating Artemis shall not be far off at all, and the honoring of the goddess as the nurse of the soul seems appropriate in connection here following after Karneia and Nemoralia 🙂