Ritual Craziness and Anthesteria (did you catch that?)

Friday was the scheduled Adoration of Aphrodite public ritual. It was a modern ritual that I wrote it because it was so close to Valentine’s Day. As much as I love Anthesteria, trying to pack it all into one evening would be a horrible injustice. It’s just to complex and varied to do so.

Well for various reasons, no one who was going to come could make it. It was understandable stuff, just some of the life crap that invariably pops up. I went head and conducted the ritual on my own. This was something I decided long ago, I set this time aside as my spiritual time, and if it can’t be in community, for whatever reason, it’ll be alone. Some of my best spiritual experiences have been alone, just me and the Gods. Besides, I promised Aphrodite a ritual, and She got it!

But I understand now why nobody could make it. I found out that a friend of an acquaintance really needed some serious healing work. I spent the rest of the evening doing an intensive healing ritual for him. Do you have any idea how hard it is to chant “Apollo, Asklepios, Paian” over and over for as long as it takes a stick of incense to burn down? I kept slipping up in my pronouncation because I was being lulled into a trance. I’m not sure how long I was at it.

So yesterday my friend Carol picked me up and we drove to Niles to see Bill Evans, a fantastic reader and intuitive who I’ve known for maybe 8 years. He was doing readings at Moonbeads, one of the local Pagan stores, and its always nice to see him.

I also did my first run of the weekly devotion to Athena. I think it went pretty well, I sensed She was pleased. I am hoping that as I repeat the same ritual every week I’ll get to the point where I memorize it, instead of just reading off the sheet of paper.

Today the first thing I did when I woke up was to shroud the altars. It’s such an eerie feeling, seeing them covered up when I’m so used to seeing them every day. Definitely adds to the feel of the festival. I remember the first time I did it, three years ago. I had to work that day, but Anthesteria was still on my mind all day. It really gets into your consciousness. It’s amazing how such a small act can be so very, very powerful.

A friend of mine was conducting the service at the UU church today, otherwise I might have skipped it today. I’m so busy and sometimes my medical issues make me tire out quickly. But I went, and I’m glad I did. It was about food sovereignty, which is an amazing synchronicity, because I have been trying to get the Demeter chapter for Journey to Olympos finished up.

I teach my class today, at 4 o’clock. This week the bulk of the class is devoted to Antinous, but we are also studying Ammon and Ra (I intend to share some of my discoveries later this week).I will be giving a run-down of Anthesteria as well. I’m also very much looking forward to next week’s class, as we will be getting into Anubis, Wepwawet, and possibly Hermanubis. Hermes gets synchronized with so many other Gods, He’s gonna need a class all to himself.

My personal celebration will be later tonight. This will probably be my last post till Wednesday, except for some information I already had written for each day of Anthesteria, the first of which is below.

I love Ansthesteria, it has got to be one of my favorite all-time festivals. Anthesteria is a three-day festival beginning on the 11th of the lunar month. It usually falls at the beginning or in the middle of February. Eliade informs us that “Thucydides (2.15. 4)regarded the Anthesteria as the earliest festival of Dionysos”, and that it was common to all the Ionians. Older even then the Greater Dionysia, it was important enough to have the month of Anthesterion named for it.

Anthesteria is a complicated festival, with many complex threads woven into a single pattern. Each day has its own flavor. It was a Dionysian celebration where the wine made the year before was opened. The name comes from the Greek word anthes, meaning “flowering”. It is the Festival of Flowers, celebrating the oncoming spring, a time of rebirth and new beginnings. It is also a gloomy festival for the dead, where the spirits of the deceased roam free for the duration of the festival. Because of the presence of these spirits, the three days of Anthesteria were considered polluted, and all the temples were closed. Every year I find more threads, more nuances to incredibly powerful festival.

With tomorrow being Valentine’s Day as well (appropriately on the day the Queen was married to Dionysos), I expect to be pretty busy. I was hoping to get some work done on Journey to Olympos, but realistically I don’t think that’ll happen. I’m also editing a few chapters from a friend’s book on the worship of Apollo. Yike my life is crazy busy for someone who doesn’t have a (conventional) job!


Day One – Pithoigia, ‘Casks’

the Opening of the Jars

On the first day of Anthesteria, the earthenware jars containing last year’s wine were opened. Worshipers proceeded to an area near the temple, pouring libations to Dionysos of the Marshes, and drinking the rest. This was the day the children would be given their first taste of mild, sweet wine.

Since all the temples were closed during the Anthesteria, the first thing I do is cover up all my altars and shrines around the house with either a dark-colored cloth, black or gray, to prevent them from being polluted. I also cover up the mirrors, to prevent any visiting spirits from becoming trapped in them. It may seem like a small thing to do, but it really contributes to the odd and eerie feel of this festival. The first time I celebrated the Anthesteria, several years ago, I was surprised at what an effect this had on my psyche. Even when I am not actively celebrating the festival, when I am preparing to go to work or just going about my daily activities, the shrouded shrines make an impression on your subconscious, and remind you of what day it is. Covering the altars is one of the most effective ways to get your subconscious focused on this festival. Do this, and you will be thinking about Anthesteria all day at work and anticipating getting home to do your ritual, I guarantee it!

I set up a temporary festival shrine to Dionysos on this day as well, to be up for the duration of the festival and taken down afterward. I use a TV tray or an end table, but not one that I would regularly use as a shrine for some other God. After the Anthesteria it will have to be cleansed with khernips, lustral water. The altar cloth can be any color you like, but I prefer the darker colors for this festival, such as black or a dark mossy green. You will not want to re-use any candles you burned during the Anthesteria, so I prefer to use tea lights or small votives for these days.

I like to symbolize Dionysos with a marti grai mask for the Anthesteria, as the masked Dionysos is especially appropriate for this festival. The one I use is made of black feathers on one side and white on the other, with gold sequins lining the eyeholes. I felt that the black and white aptly symbolized the dual nature of this festival, life and death, spring and winter, darkness and light. It would not be hard to find something similar at a dollar store for a reasonable price. Depending on the size of your Dionysos statue, you could actually put the mask on it, covering the whole face. Draping it with silk ivy or plastic grapes from a craft store would also work, as this is a festival of vegetation and the beginning of spring.

Carefully choosing everything to go on the festival altar will be a devotional act itself, so I will not say anything more and leave it up to you, except that you will need a bottle of wine, preferably a fresh one you have not opened yet. Red wine, the color of blood, is the most appropriate for Dionysian ritual. However, I hate the taste red wine, so I only use it for libations. I prefer a fresh rose wine or a white wine. Since some of this offering will be drunk by you, make sure its a kind you can stomach, and preferably one that you will enjoy. What’s the use of a Dionysian festival that you aren’t really enjoying?

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1 Response to Ritual Craziness and Anthesteria (did you catch that?)

  1. Pingback: Anthesteria around the Hellenic blogosphere « The House of Vines

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