Beginning at sundown on Wednesday the 28th of September 2011, we celebrate the month of Pyanepsion, which is the fourth month of the third year of
the 697th Olympiad. The month is named for the festival of Pyanepsia, which refers to the bean dish eaten on that occasion.
Pyanepsion (from sundown on the 3rd
October). The Proerosia was held with great pomp in honour of Demeter and was
held at Eleusis, site of the Great Mysteries. The Proerosia, though technically about the
things to be done “before ploughing”, was actually a harvest festival, in which
the main offering was from the “first fruits of the cereals”. The offerings to Demeter were made to invoke her blessing on the ploughing and seeding to come.
Pyanepsia – 7th Pyanepsion (from sundown on the 4th
of October), the Pyanepsia was celebrated in honour of Apollon. The Pyanepsia festival derives its name from a stew of boiled beans and other leguminous vegetables. Pyanepsia refers to the mixture of beans boiled together by the crew of the ship and the youths who were brought back safely by Theseus. They put the mixture of beans, which was all they had left of their provisions, into a common pot and after making an offering of them to Apollon feasted upon the rest. It is also an offering that is ritually sown with prayers that the next harvest may be bountiful. At this feast the ancients also carried the “eiresione,” which is a bough of olive wreathed with wool, such
as Theseus used at the time of his supplication, and laden with all sorts of fruit-offerings, to signify that scarcity was at an end.
Theseia – 8th Pyanepsion (from sundown on the 5th
of October). The Theseia on the day following Pyanepsia and Oskhophoria the return of the (alleged) bones of Theseus to Athens from their original burial place on the island of Skyros, as
ordained by the Delphic oracle. The Athenians created a temenos near the
agora (and likely near the temple of Hephaistos) to re-inter the remains and
instituted a festival in 475 BCE to honour the state hero. The observance
became a major festival with a procession, athletic games and consumption of
meat sacrifices. Another distinctive feature of this festival was the serving
of athara, a special "pudding" made with milk. The
eighth of the month is a day devoted to Poseidon, divine father of Theseus, and
often to Theseus himself, hence it lent itself to an observance of such an
important event as the return of the state hero’s remains.
Oschophoria - 8th Pyanepsion (from sundown on the 5th
of October. The Oskhophoria was a separate ceremony held on the same day
as the Pyanepsia honoured Dionysos and Athena Skira who protects the grape harvest.
The celebration consisted mainly of a procession from a now unknown temple
of Dionysos to the temple of Athena Skiras (at Phaleron). Two young males
dressed as women (relating again to the events from the legends of Theseus),
carried vine branches with bunches of grapes (oskhoi) still attached
(Plutarch, Theseus, XXIII, 2-3). The herald accompanying the
procession did not wear a garland, as is the custom, but attached it to his
herald’s staff, because of the precedent set in the legend of Theseus.
Stenia – 9th
Pyanepsion (from sundown on the 6th
of October). The Stenia was celebrated,
a women’s festival in honor of Demeter and Kore held at Eleusis and featuring a
night banquet characterized by the trading of insults. Sacrifice was also
made to Demeter and Kore by the members of the Prytaneion at their own expense
on behalf of the Demos.
Thesmophoria - 11-13th
Pyanepsion (from sundown on the 8th
through sundown on the 10th of October). The Thesmophoria,
a major women’s festival, was a pan-Hellenic festival that in Athens lasted up
to five days during the time of the fall planting. Scholars debate what the thesmoi were that were borne by the women leading the procession of all the women of Athens (except for maidens) up
to the Thesmophorion, a site probably on the hillside of the Pnyx, where they
encamped in huts and tents for three days apart from all men. Among other features of the festival, they celebrated without wearing wreaths and avoided foods that appear to relate to
Demeter, such as pomegranate seeds that had fallen on the ground, for these,
apparently, were deemed to be an offering to the Chthonic Deity.
Note that, as a proto-demos of Hellenion, we also include on our calendar a small libation to Poseidon
on Saturday, October 8.