Friday, February 6, 2009

Anthesteria

Tonight is the first night of Anthesteria. This will be my second year celebrating it, although it'll be fairly quiet. Everyone's still sick here, getting over the remnants of the Creeping Crud, and partying is the last thing on our minds. So... before bed, I'll take a swig of wine as a symbol of the opening of the wine casks that would happen in other circumstances (and with luck will happen for real next year at this time!). I'll drink to Dionysos, in quiet joy.

My Zeus and Hera altar is covered, because Anthesteria is also a time when the dead are said to roam, and it was considered a time for the temples to close down. So for the three days of the Anthesteria festival (today, tomorrow and Sunday), I've veiled the altar. It's almost kind of sad, really, looking at it all covered up. But I understand that it is not the time for that kind of worship.

Pithoegia is the first day of Anthesterai, a day for opening the wine jars in honor of Dionysos. Pithoegia means "opening of the casks" or jars. The previous year's wine was placed in sealed casks and buried, and on Pithoegia it was dug up, and first tastes were shared around. Drinking contests were popular.

Khoes is the second day, and it means "of the beakers," named after the kind of containers used to hold the new wine after it is mixed. It was also a day of merrymaking, but of a more private nature. Doors were smeared with oils, and people wore protective amulets. It was a day when Hecate opened wide the gates of the Underworld and ancestors were allowed to roam for a few hours among the living. It wasn't considered a positive thing... no one wanted a disgruntled ancestor coming by to cause problems. Both Pithoegia and Khoes were considered "unlucky" days, or days of miasma, and so the temples were closed, and household shrines to the Olympians were covered or put away.

The third day of Anthesteria is Khutroi, meaning "feast of pots." It is a day that was marked by young women swinging in trees, in honor of Erigone, who hung herself in grief over her father's death on this day. She hung herself in a tree, and was discovered there. To help calm Erigone's spirit, young women and children would swing in her honor. It was also the day when the Basilinna led many of the city's women in a secret ceremony of marriage to Dionysos.

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Tomorrow I have house preparations for guests arriving on Sunday afternoon, but I will have a bit of time to be alone. I'll spend the day thinking of my ancestors, and at night I'll probably take a few minutes to speak to each of them and wish them well. Sunday our guests will be here, but a traditional breakfast for the last day of Anthesteria is to have oatmeal (or some other grain) with honey and fruit... which I happen to have for this weekend. :) So even if no one else does, that's what I'll be having.

Simple, yes. I am low on energy and not feeling overly spiritual at the moment. But I am happy again, after a long emotional drought, and I want to do something for the celebration.

I leave you with a poem I wrote last year for Anthesteria.

The Joyous Anthesteria

Dionysus, Lord of the Grape and Vine
You twine into my very soul
We taste the Anthesteria wine
And moderate madness is my goal.
Madness, your gift, it makes us whole.
The first day, we drink and make cheer
But second day brings death's toll
And those who once were loved, we fear.
The veil is rent, dead ones are near.
By day three, we hang from trees
For Erigone, the Lord's love dear
Ribbons, cups, dolls swing in the breeze.
Serious, yes, Dionysus can be
Yet understanding he brings, for we.

(c) Anthesteria, 2008

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