Day Three of Anthesteria

Day Three – Khutroi

the Day of Pots

The Day of Pots was devoted to appeasing the dead. Vegetables, beans, and seeds were cooked together in one pot and left outside the house for any spirits wandering the night. Offering were also given to Hermes Khthonios, the Pyskhopomp, who guides souls to the Underworld. Presumably it is His job to round up the spirits and return them to Haides after the festival is finished. Because the spirits involved could be either friendly or maleficent, people took precautions. Doors were smeared with pitch, ropes tied around the temples, and hawthorn chewed like gum.

The recipe I use to cook the food for the dead includes copious amounts of olive oil and honey, which fills the house with an odd smell, alluring and almost sickly sweet, exotic and eerie. My recipe changes slightly each year, as I tend to throw in bits of whatever veggies I happen to have lying around the house. What is absolutely essential, however, is rice, olive oil, honey, and some type of beans, preferably more then one kind. I always use black beans, the small kind used often in Mexican food. When boiled they secrete a substance that turns the rest of the food into a oozing purplish-black, a most noticeable effect on the white rice, especially. Seeds were also traditional as well. I like to use shelled sunflower seeds, as this plant is sacred to Helios, and His power is increasing with spring.

You can add slices of whatever vegetables you have, but remember: no wine. Offering wine to the deceased is an insult. And no matter how tempting, DON’T take a bite! This is food for the dead. None of the living may taste of it, lest they follow the spirits back to the Underworld.


To the Spirits, on the third day of Anthesteria


Spirits and souls, ghosts of old

Wandering the earth this night of Khutroi

Shadowy denizens of Haides

Loosened two days ago,

On wine-soaked Pithoigia

The first day of Anthesteria

I offer this sustenance

To those who have no substance

That you might eat, and enjoy

And leave my home in peace, when the time comes

This early morn, for Hermes Khthonios

To lead to you back home

Back underground

I feed you

That you may feed

The crops and vegetative growth

That feeds me.

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4 Responses to Day Three of Anthesteria

  1. but remember: no wine. Offering wine to the deceased is an insult.

    Where you getting that from? Pretty much every source that discusses offerings to the deceased includes libations of wine. In fact the specific vessel for libations for the dead and underworld spirits are khoes, which is where the name of the second day of Anthesteria comes from.

    • Really? Werid. You know, I read that somewhere, I have no idea where, when I was first starting in Hellenic Paganism 8 years ago. Something about wine symbolizing the fullness of life, and so it was an insult to remind the dead of what they could no longer be a part of.
      Can’t believe I’ve been wrong all this time!

      • I wonder if your source wasn’t confused or extrapolating that from the myth of Demeter. While she’s searching for her daughter the goddess refuses to drink wine and instead quenches her thirst with a potion made from barley which is the prototype of the kykeon drunk by initiates at Eleusis. Though it’s not explicitly stated why she abstains, it’s often surmised that it’s because wine symbolized joy and life, things she wanted no part of during her time of mourning. (That or it’s taken as proof that Haides and Dionysos are the same, Haides having abducted Kore while she searched for flowers at Nysa.)

        But there’s definitely no prohibition about offering wine to the dead. Homer, as an example, has Odysseus recount his offerings to the dead as follows:

        “I drew my sharp sword from beside my thigh, and dug a pit of a cubit’s length this way and that, and around it poured a libation to all the dead, first with milk and honey, thereafter with sweet wine, and in the third place with water, and I sprinkled thereon white barley meal” (Odyssey 11.1ff)

        This actually reminds me of the trope that was going around in the early years of the online Hellenic community, namely that one should never, ever offer wine to the nymphai. Somebody had found a single source that mentioned this prohibition and assumed that it applied to all nymphai and everyone else just accepted it without question. Then a few people actually dug a bit further into the lore and found all these sources talking about wine libations for the nymphai. Despite that you still hear people pass on the bad information from time to time, which is why I think it’s always a good idea to go back to the sources, especially primary sources as opposed to word of mouth or even scholarly commentary.

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

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