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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Nona Sabbata

Nona Sabbata is my Latin jargon for "The Ninth Sabbat."

For over five years now our Coven has been providing open public [Wiccan] community rituals a minimum of twice a month. In all that time, of all of those rituals, we only cancel one of them each year. Because we're at PantheaCon. And by "we're" I mean over eight of us. We all load up one very large van, and pile into one very nice hotel suite. It's like a non-stop four day slumber party with your best friends, at your favorite intergalactic spiritual space station. Which no one seems surprised to find located in California's Silicon Valley.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
On top of the Acropolis, the oxen are released from the temple of Zeus Polieus. Outside, put out in sacrifice to the mighty Protector of the City, lie cakes on a table, and the oxen sniff them readily as they are herded past them. Nearby, two women with bowls of water in their hands stand by a man who is sharpening an axe and knife, using the water sporadically to cool and clean the blades. They watch as the third oxen in line reaches for one of the cakes with eager lips, devouring the sweet product merrily. One of the nearby men shouts at the ox, and--enraged at the cow's desecration--rushes to the man who is sharpening his weapons. He grabs the double-bladed axe and with one big swing, ends the life of the ox. As the ox falls dead on the ground, the Ox-Slayer realizes what he has done, and drops the axe in mortification. As fast as his legs can carry him, he flees the scene. 
Those who have witnessed the events rush to butcher the slain animal and sacrifice it properly to Zeus Polieus. All who witnessed the slaying, eat the flesh of the murdered ox. The hide of the ox is stuffed with hay and sewn closed. The filled skin is put in front of a yoke, out in the field. Afterwards, a hunt begins for the murderer of Zeus' sacred ox. He is found, eventually, and brought to trial. The man says it was not his fault he slew the animal; the man who had been sharpening the axe should not have been there. If he had not been there, he would never have been able to slay the ox. And so, the sharpener is heard. He, also, pleads innocence: if the women with the water had not been there, he could not have sharpened the axe, and he would not have been there. The women are called to explain themselves. They, too, claim the death of the ox is not their fault: they would not have been there if the axe had not needed sharpening. And so, the axe is heard, as well as the knife used to cut up the animal, but the objects remain silent. Because they will not defend themselves, they are found guilty of the murder of the ox, and as punishment, are tossed off of a cliff, into the sea below.

Every year on the fourteenth day of Skirophorion, from the time of Erechtheus (1397 - 1347 BC) to--at least--the second century AD, this odd ritual was reenacted. It was called the 'Bouphónia' (βουφόνια), and was part of another festival; the 'Dipolieia' (τὰ Διπολίεια), a feast in honor of Zeus Polieus (Zeus of the City).

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  • B. T. Newberg
    B. T. Newberg says #
    Hi Elani. I was wondering if you might help me with a project. I'm writing a history of possible forms of Naturalistic Paganism

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

At dusk on January 8th, the Haloa (῾Αλῶα) festival starts. This ancient Hellenic festival was held in honor of Demeter, Dionysus and a little bit in honor of Persephone. Like all festivals of Demeter and Persephone's 'Kore' persona, women were the only ones who were allowed to handle the religious and sacrificial side of it.

The Haloa is part of the Mysteries, and thus linked to the festivals of Proirosia (5 Pyanepsion), Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), Thargelia (6-7 Thargelion), Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), Skirophoria (12 Skirophorion) and the Eleusinian Mysteries themselves, which were held 15-17/19-21 Boedromion. It was a rural festival, meaning it wasn't state-organized and widely spread, so most details are incredibly fuzzy. He're what we do know about it:

The Haloa is assumed to be a celebration of the pruning of the vines and the tasting of the wine after its first fermentation, or it may be to encourage the growth of corn from the seed. It is named after the hálōs (ἅλως), which means both threshing floor and garden. Since the first sense of the word would be inapplicable to a festival celebrated in January, scholars--including Nilsson in his 'Greek Popular Religion'--insist it must have been a gardening festival--with lots of wine and adult content.

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One of the most important and confusing of the many Hellenic festivals is the three-day transition from month to month. Although unlinked, the Deipnon, the Noumenia and Agathós Daímōn are held on consecutive days, around the new moon. Especially the placement of the days is hard to get right; at least, it was for me.

The Deipnon (Hene kai Nea)--or Hekate's Deipnon--is celebrated any time before the first sliver of the new moon is visible. In practice, this is the day after the new moon. The Noumenia is held the day after that, when the moon has become visible again, and Agathós Daímōn the day after that. It is important to note that the ancient Hellens started a new day at sundown the day before. Instead of starting a new day at midnight--or in the morning--like we do today, they started it at sundown of the previous day. This means that--when applied to modern practice--the Deipnon starts on the day of the suspected new moon, and the rest follows after, to the total of four days. Confused yet? How about a schematic.

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In the spirit of sharing more about the Hellenic festivals, I'm combining two of the coming ones in this post; three if you count a reference to a past one I hadn't talked about yet. Like I said on Sunday, I really only pay special attention to the festivals that resonate with me. This is not picking-and-choosing--because I try to at least offer libations to the stars of every single festival--but simply a matter of practicality.

I have to accept that I am a solitary Hellenic, which is a bit of an oxymoron. Like being a solitary Wiccan, being a solitary Hellenic is really not possible. Hellenismos is a community religion, like most of the Recon Traditions. Yes, you can focus solely on household worship, but in my view of the religion, you're practicing only half of it if you do that. The festivals made up a huge part of ancient Hellenic worship. With around ten festivals that took place outside of the home every month, it's hard to ignore that they mattered very much.

I feel it's very important to honor the festivals in my own small way, and I have come to realize that the festivals really make me long for a Hellenic community of my own. For a lot of the festivals, the entire city or town--especially in Athens--celebrated. Men, women, children, slaves, free men, everyone. There were special festivals for nearly all of them. Two women-only festivals were the Stenia and the Thesmophoria.

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  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers says #
    Hallo landgenoot! Ik wist niet dat er Hellinisten waren in onze koude kikkerlandje, en die dan ook nog eens een blog hebben op Wit
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Hallo Janneke, leuk om een landgenoot te spreken! Ja, er is inderdaad in ieder geval één Helleniste in Nederland. Als Helleniste v

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Hi everyone, and welcome to my inaugural blog post for Witches and Pagans. I'm happy to be here, and I hope you'll enjoy reading along with my monthly meanderings. This blog—Celebrate!—is about exactly that: the ways we Pagan-types mark cyclic and special times, events, and celebrations in our everyday lives. Expect the path to be winding…. We'll probably talk about the traditional eight Sabbats from time to time, also known as the quarter and cross-quarter dates. We may explore the fire festivals associated with the ancient Celts. We might drift into purely agricultural season markers or gaze heavenward for a lesson in seasonal astronomy and reading the night sky. You might join me as we ramble off-trail, touching on wildcrafting or phenology or biodynamic gardening as a way to shape an observance. Or, we might gather in the kitchen for a bit of hearth magick. We could even pull a couple of comparative mythology books off the shelf, considering religious or cultural approaches to celebration and commemoration or following Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. And we're almost sure to read some folklore and practice some magick along the way…. I want this blog to be interesting, entertaining, and, I hope, thought-provoking, and I'm looking forward to your feedback to help me fine-tune the process.

A technical note: I live in Oregon, in the northwestern corner of the United States and very close to the 45th parallel. When I talk about time, I'll be using my own Pacific time zone, and all references to the seasons and the heavens will be north-hemisphere centric. For my readers "down under," please adjust as needed. ? Also, I'll be using the US system of weights, measures, and temperatures.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Theresa, forgive me for the slow reply-- it's lovely to meet you! Rebecca, at this point, anything's possible. And thank you for
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Welcome to PaganSquare! Will you by any chance be writing about modern festivals created by co temporary Pagans? For instance, He
  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer says #
    Idunn and Pomona have been very generous this year! We can't keep up with the apple yield from the one Gravenstein in our backyard
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thank you so much, Angela! It's good to know at least one person will be reading my blog. I liked reading your comments, too. Pe
  • Angela Kurkiewicz
    Angela Kurkiewicz says #
    I am so looking forward to following your blog! Wintering In for me is a bit of a Catch 22. It is my favourite time of year, when

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's the festival season and I just spent the weekend at Castlefest. Castlefest is not, exactly, a Pagan festival but it was--and probably still is, although they're fading to the background--the festival Pagans flocked to. There is a Pagan corner of the festival terrain, a wicker burning of which the Pagan gang is in charge and many Pagan supplies can be bought there. Incense, clothing, tools, you name it. Even statues of some Pagan Gods. It sounds like Pagan heaven and in a way it is. Yet, I don't feel at home there.

I wrote yesterday that the biggest difference between me and any other Pagan there, seems to be in our views about Deity and how to approach Them. As I said then, any Recon tradition forces you to actually believe in the Gods, not as just handy tools to get your own needs fulfilled. Cara Schulz, in the very post I went off on before, but explained why later, recognizes that very problem:

"I live in a catch-22. I love going to Pagan festivals and gatherings as I love the people there and greatly enjoy the general vibe. I highly recommend them and I have a great time when ever I attend a community event or Pagan festival or Con. Yet when I attend these types of gatherings, that is when I feel the least like part of the Pagan community. I attend the workshops, the rituals, and listen to the conversations and I have almost nothing in common with any of it. I can’t relate. Casting a circle has as much in common with my religion as walking the Stations of the Cross. We have no common connection. The lovely maiden Hekate I worship that grants our family prosperity little resembles the Crone Hekate that many neo-Pagans work with for magic. The very things that should draw me closer to the Pagan community are the very things that tell me I may not belong."
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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks for this. I walk in a couple of worlds, one of which is interfaith. I am always surprised (and, to be honest, disdainful)
  • Tess Dawson
    Tess Dawson says #
    I enjoyed this post, Elani. Although I have never been to a "Pagan festival" I have been to numerous Pagan events, open circles, P
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    You are articulating the experience of many Pagans, I believe; I count myself as one of them. I recognize that festival culture is

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