Festivals: A List of Greek Festivals and Holy Days
The following is an alphabetical list of Greek festivals and holy days. It is incomplete, and it is a work in progress. Most of the festivals on the list are Attic, but others are from other regions, and I will continue to add them as I learn more about them. Similarly, most of the dates given are based on the Attic calendar and I try to specify when that is not the case.
Holy Days and Festivals
The Adonia was a women’s festival held in late summer in honor of Adonis, a consort of Aphrodite who died tragically. The festival, observed privately by women of all classes, rather than by the greater community, took place in private homes rather than in a public temple or other site. During the Adonia, the women wept and mourned the death of Adonis, planting small, shallow roof gardens of quick-sprouting plants (such as lettuce or herbs) in broken pots and leaving them in the sun to wither and die, thus remembering the short life of beautiful Adonis. (Larson, Cults 124) The dead plants were then taken and thrown into the sea or other body of water. (Goff, Citizen 58) Another practice associated with the Adonia was the making of small Adonis images or dolls to be laid out for a mock burial. (Larson, Cults 125)
The Amarysia was a festival of Artemis Amarysia, whose worship originated in Amarythus in Euboia, (Wycherley “Minor” 286) Artemis Amarysia, a major divinity in Eretria, had, in addition to her Olympian aspect, a strong chthonic character not often seen in this goddess (Walker Eretria 33) and may have derived from the earlier title of Potnia Theron or “Mistress of the Animals” (32)
The Anthaia was a festival of Demeter, one of several associated with a particular stage of crop growth; the Anthaia was held to commemorate the flowering of the grain, perhaps during the month of Mounichion (April-May). It is known to have been held in two demes: Thorikos and Paiania. (Parker,Polytheism 457)
The Anthesteria was a three-day festival of Dionysos held on 11-13 Anthesterion (February 19-21), at the time of the new wine. Each day of the Anthesteria had its own specific practices and events, making for a varied and complex festival.
The first day, Pithoigia (Opening of Jars) was when the new wine was opened, offered to Dionysos, and tasted for the first time. The Pithoigia was not a time for heavy drinking and celebrants were expected to use moderation, mixing their wine with water. (Parker, Polytheism 290)
The second day, Khoes (Cups) was a day devoted to drinking. Drinking competitions were held, and silly games were played by the drinkers. (Parker, Polytheism 294). On a civic level, the Khoes was also the day of a ritual marriage between the wife of the basileus (an Athenian official selected by lot and in charge of the city’s religious activity) and the god Dionysos; little is known of this rite.
The third and final day, Khytroi (Pots) involved an offering of panspermia (a traditional dish of grains and legumes) to chthonic Hermes and the dead, a more somber occasion with a focus on the presence of the potentially-dangerous dead. Precautionary measures were taken, such as the chewing of buckthorn and the painting of doors with pitch. (Parker, Polytheism 295)
Apatouria, held in Athens on 19-21 Pyanepsion (October 31-November 1), was a festival of the phratries of the city rather than of the city as a whole. Each phratry observed the Apatouria together, so the date would have varied somewhat. (Parke 90) A phratry was a familial, tribal group related through the male line; each family in Athens was a part of a phratry. (Mikalson, Ancient Greek Religion Loc. 3456) The first day was dedicated to feasting and drinking, the second to honoring Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria; on the third day male children would be introduced by their fathers to the other members of their phratry. (Loc 3459)
In Athens, the Aphrodisia honored Aphrodite Pandemos and Peitho (Persuasion) for their role in the uniting of the demes of Attica or synoicism. Not a great deal is known of this festival, but procession was held for Aphrodite Pandemos, and the statues in her sanctuary were washed at this time; her shrine and altar were purified with the blood of a dove. The likely date for this festival was 4 Hekatombaion (July 19). (The festival known as the Synoika, also marking the union of Attica but held in honor of Athena, was held during Hekatombaion as well.) (Rosenzweig 16)
The Apollonia, a festival of which only the name is now known, was celebrated in northeast Attica (Parker, Athenian Religion 330) during the Thessalian month of Apollonios (corresponding either to October/November or December/January).
The Areia was a festival honoring Ares held in the Attic deme of Acharnae; it appears to have been a fairly simple festival and little is known of it (Parker, Polytheism 398).
Two festivals of Ariadne were held on Naxos, a joyful one for Ariadne the goddess and bride of Dionysos, and a rite of mourning for the death of Ariadne the heroine. (Hero-cults to Ariadne also existed in Argos and Amathous.) (Burkert Greek Religion 164)
The Arrephoria, a festival of Athena, was held in Athens on 3 Skirophorion (June 7). During this festival, two young girls known as arrephoroi, who had served for a year in the goddess’ temple, were given a basket containing unidentified sacred objects to carry; the girls were forbidden to look inside the basket.
This festival has a strong connection with the myth of the daughters of King Cecrops. In this tale, Athena gives the girls a basket containing the infant Erichthonius to carry, directing them not to look inside the basket. In the myth, Cecrops’ daughters cannot resist the temptation. In the ritual, the arrephoroi are meant to succeed where the mythic girls failed. (Parker, Polytheism 221)
The Artemiria, a festival of Artemis Amarysia, was held in Etreria in the month of Anthesterion (February-March). At this time new citizens were welcomed into the city, various contests were held, young men danced in armor, and two sacrifices were made: one to Artemis Amarysia (a chthonic aspect of the goddess) and to Amarynthus, and a second to Artemis Olympia (Walker Eretria 33)
Artemis Agrotera, Festival of (aka Kharesteria)
On 6 Boedromion (September 18) Artemis Agrotera, the Huntress, was honored just outside of Athens, at her temple at Agrai near the Ilissos River (Parke 54) This festival was also known as Kharisteria or “thanksgiving,” in gratitude for the goddess’ help in achieving victory at Marathon (Simon 82). In addition to the association with Marathon, mythically, the sanctuary was considered the place where Artemis first went hunting (Parke 55). This day may also have included an offering to Enyalios (Parker,Polytheism 461) who shared the sanctuary with the goddess (Simon 82).
Asklepeia (see also Epidauria)
The Asklepeia was held on 8 Elaphebolion (March 16), at the same time as another Athenian festival, the City Dionysia. (Parke 65) Asklepios’ two Athenian festivals were held six months apart, a pattern and degree of organization that reflect his relatively late arrival in the city.
Athena Pallenis, Festival of
The festival of Athena Pallenis was held by a group of several Attic demes (including Pallene); the festival was later adopted by Athens. The festival involved an annual feast attended by the city’s archons (rulers), who then invited their own guests, known as parasitoi (parasites) to the banquet. (Larson Cults 47)
The Bendidea was held in the Piraeus near Athens on 19 Bendidea (May 25) to honor the goddess Bendis, a Thracian goddess whose worship was brought to Athens by Thracian immigrants. It was unique in that it was a joint Athenian-Thracian festival (Parker Polytheism 170) and included a torchlit horse race (463).
While the month of Boedromion likely took its name from a festival of Apollo Boedromios known as the Boedromia; little is known of this festival. It may have taken place on the 7th of the month (September 20) Apollo’s holy day (Parker, Polytheism 463). Although there were possible mythic explanations for this festival in Athens (Parker, Polytheism 380), Boedromia was not strictly an Athenian holiday and those tales would not be relevant outside of Attica. The epithet Boedromios refers to aid given after a shout for help, appropriate if the festival honored the god for either specific or general assistance (Parke 53).
The Boreasmia may have been instituted in Athens after the Persian war, when Xerxes’ fleet was destroyed by a strong north wind. The festival was in honor of this assistance granted to the city by Boreas, god of the north wind.
The Brauronia was held every four years in Brauron near Athens in honor of Artemis Brauronia. Much like the Mounichia, the Brauronia featured young girls who played the role of “bears” as a part of their service to the goddess at her temple. (Parke 140)
Artemis Brauronia was particularly dear to women, who prayed to her for help in childbirth and left offerings of clothing. (Larson, Cults 107)
The Chalkeia was held in Athens on the last day of Pyanepsion (November 11); it was a festival of smiths and artisans honoring Hephaistos and Athena. The festival appears to have included a procession, and offerings made to the gods of the day, but nothing more specific is known about the proceedings. The Chalkeia was also the occasion for setting up the loom on which the peplos was woven that would be presented to Athena on the Panathenaia. (Parke 93)
The Charitesia was a festival for the Charites or Graces held in Orchemonos in Boetia, where the goddesses were much honored, receiving offerings of produce. There they were represented by a group of three stones which were believed to have fallen from the sky; they were also associated in Orchemonos with bodies of water, the river Kephisos and the spring Akidalia. The festival featured musical and artistic competitions. (Larson, Cults 162)
The Chloaia (Greening) was a festival for Demeter held in the early spring, around 20 Anthesterion (February 28) when the first green shoots pierce the soil. (Larson Cults 72)
The Daedala was a Boetian festival of Hera held in Plataia. The Small Daedala was organized by the Plataians every four or six years, while the Great Daedala was sponsored by the Boetians as a whole every sixty years. (Parker On Greek Religion Loc 6899).
The Plataian temple of Hera held two statues, one of Hera Nympheuomene (Bride) and one of Hera Teleia, the latter carved roughly in oak for every festival. At the Great Daedala, one of the oak statues was dressed as a bride and taken to the top of Mount Kithairon, where it was burned along with other offerings.
The Daedala was associated with a myth in which Hera argued with Zeus and left him. In order to convince her to return, Zeus let it be known that he was marrying another woman. When Hera came to stop the wedding, she discovered that the “bride” was only a wooden statue. The two reconciled, and Hera burnt her “rival.” (Larson Cults 39)
The Daphnephoria (Carrying of the Laurel) was a Theban festival celebrating the arrival of Apollo Daphnephoros. (Larson Cults 98) The procession for the festival was led by a boy with two living parents, playing the role of the god, while his closest male relative carried an olive-wood staff adorned with bay laurel branches, flowers and purple ribbons. (Burkert Greek Religion 100)
The Delphinia was held on 6 Mounikhion (April 13) in honor of Artemis, likely asking for protection for young women. It involved a procession of unmarried girls carrying olive branches wrapped with white wool. (Parke 137)
The goddess Democratia (Democracy) was honored in Athens on 12 Boedromion (September 25) (Mikalson “Heorte” 213) beginning in the 4th century BCE; the goddess received sacrifices, was honored with feasts and processions, was served by a priest and commemorated with a statue. (Stafford “Personifications” 82).
In a modern context, Democratia could be honored during an appropriate existing civic and/or patriotic holiday such as Independence Day (the 4th of July) in the United States. It would also be appropriate to honor her on or near Election Day.
The Diasia was held on 23 Anthesterion (March 2) to honor Zeus Meilichios or “Kindly Zeus,” who received bloodless propitiatory offerings of cakes in the shape of animals. Few details survive about the Diasia but it seems to have been a festival with both solemn (in that the god is to be propitiated and appeased) and joyful aspects, and it was widely celebrated throughout the community. (Mikalson “Heorte” 222)
The Diisoteria was a festival of Zeus the Saviour (Zeus Soter) held in Athens at the end of Skirophorion (late June-early July). It involved a procession of young men (ephebes) (Parker Polytheism 466) with a young woman carrying a basket (Parke 168); the young men honored the god with trireme races in the harbor.
The City Dionysia (also known as the Great Dionysia) was a seven-day festival which began on 10 Elaphebolion (March 18). Like the Rural Dionysia, the City Dionysia featured a procession with a strong phallic element; this procession welcomed the statue of the god (which had been removed from its temple earlier) back into the city. The procession was one of the greatest in the city, second perhaps only to that of the Panathenaia. Masks were worn and drinking parties were held. (Parke 127) The City Dionysia had also a strong dramatic focus and it was traditional to attend a variety of dramatic performances.
The Rural Dionysia (also known as the Rustic or Country Dionysia) was observed during the month of Poseideon (December-January). It was a localized festival, taking place in the demes of the surrounding countryside rather than in Athens proper (Parker, Polytheism 100). Like the City Dionysia, the Rural Dionysia often included dramatic competitions. Also featured were a phallic procession (Parker,Polytheism 382) and traditional games—notably, one in which competitors stood on one leg on an inflated goatskin. (Parke 102)
The Dipoleia is a very old and very unusual Athenian festival of Zeus Polieus held on Skirophorion 14 (18 June) at the Athenian Acropolis. It featured a ritual called the Bouphonia, which proceeded as follows: grain is set, as if it were an offering, upon the altar, which is left unguarded; an ox is brought up and let to wander; unsurprisingly, the ox goes to eat the grain, “stealing” the offering from the altar; a priest kills the ox with an ax, leaves the ax and flees the scene; the ox is butchered and eaten like any other sacrificial beast;; and finally a trial is held in which the ax itself is found guilty of murder. (Parke 163) The meaning and purpose of the festival are uncertain.
Sacrifice to Eirene (Peace)
Beginning in the 4th century BCE, in Athens a sacrifice was offered to the goddess Eirene, or Peace, on 16 Hekatombaion (July 31). (Parke 33). (In the goddess’ sanctuary she was depicted holding the child Ploutos or Wealth, a broadly symbolic reminder of the material blessings brought by Peace. (Stafford 82)
This athletic competition was held at Eleusis during 15-18 Metageitnion (August 30-September 3), honoring Demeter and Kore (Persephone). Winners received a portion of the grain harvest. (ParkerPolytheism 201)
The Eleusinian Mysteries, an initiatory celebration about which very little is known for certain, took place at Eleusis during 15-21 Boedromion (September 28-October 4). The festival honored Demeter and Kore (Persephone) (Parker, Polytheism 476) As a mystery rite, participants were forbidden from revealing the details to those who had not undergone the initiation, and for the most part they kept those secrets.
Epidauria (see also Asklepeia)
The Epidauria, a festival honoring Asklepios and marking, mythically, his arrival at Athens and initiation into the Mysteries at Eleusis, was celebrated on 17 Boedromion (September 30). (Parker, Polytheism381) Asklepios was originally a healer from Epidaurus, and his worship was established in Athens in BCE 420 or 419 (Parke 65).
The Epikleidia was an Athenian festival of Demeter about which almost nothing is known.(Parker,Polytheism 469)
The Epitaphia was an Athenian festival honoring the battle-slain with races and processions by the young men of the city. In the Hellenistic era it was associated more specifically with the Battle of Marathon. (Parker Polytheism 470)
The Epizephyra was a festival of the deme of Skambonidai about which almost nothing is known (ParkerPolytheism 470). It included a sacrifice made at the temple of Apollo Pythios (Osborne 120).
Eros, Festival of
A festival of Eros was held in Athens during the month of Mounikhion (April-May). Nothing is known of this festival apart from the name. (Parker Polytheism 470)
The Erosouria was a festival to Athena of the deme of Erchia about which almost nothing is known. (Parker Polytheism 156)
The Galaxia, a festival for the Mother of the Gods, was held in the spring, during the month of Elaphabolia (March-April). (Parker Polytheism 470). It took its name from galaxia, a dish made from barley boiled in milk. (Parke 173)
The Genesia was held as a public festival honoring the dead on 5 Boedromion (September 18) in Athens. It is uncertain how the Genesia related to private or family rites honoring individual ancestors (held on the anniversary of the individual’s death), or to the somewhat larger-scale rites honoring the Tritopatores in Erchia and elsewhere (Parke 54) Offering was made to the Earth as well at this time (Parker, Polytheism 28).
The Haloa, held during winter on 26 Poseideon (January 6) at Eleusis, was a festival honoring Dionysos and Demeter. (Parker Polytheism 167) The word Haloa means “threshing floor,” the place for an unusal women’s ritual wherein the women enjoyed a feast prepared for them by the magistrates of the town, ate cakes in the shape of genitalia, made bawdy conversation and told dirty jokes (Parke 99).
The existence of a month named “Hekatombaion” in Attica is thought by many to presuppose a festival of this name associated with Apollo, although no actual record exists of such a festival. (Parke 29) If this is so, it seems likely that it would have been observed on the 7th of the month (July 22), as that is Apollo’s holy day.
The Hephaisteia was an Athenian festival of Hephaistos and Athena ; surviving details are sparse, but the festival did include a torch race, not inappropriate for a god so closely associated with fire. (ParkerPolytheism 471) There may have been a mythic connection between the festival and Hephaistos’ role as “father” of Athenian city-founder Erichthonius. (381)
The Heraia was a festival of Hera held in her city of Argos; among the other typical festival events, it included the presentation of a new peplos to the goddess. (Burkert Homo Necans 163)
Heracles was honored in several regions in the Herakleia. The date varied; in Kynosarges this festival took place on 7 Metageitnion (August 21), in Diomeia it was held on 27 Skirophorion (July 1) , and in Marathon the date is unknown. The Herakleia was a festival of athletes, was generally held at the gymnasium, and included a hearty feast and drinking party in honor of the appetites of Heracles himself. (Parke 51).
The Hermaia was a festival of Hermes known in a number of different regions. The Thessalian month of Hermaios (corresponding to either November/December or January/February) places it in mid-winter. (Graninger Regional 48) Many if not most of the Hermaia festivals were athletic in nature (Johnston “Hermes” 117)
Sacrifice to the Heroines
In the deme of Erchia on 14 Pyanepsion (October 26), a sacrifice was made to “the Heroines,” but these heroines were not named. Athens, too, had its own unspecified heroines (Gawlinkski, “Agora” 51); these would have been localized entities. Heroines, like heroes, usually received chthonic offerings. (Scullion, “Heroic” 167)
In Thessaly, Poseidon Hippodromios was honored during the Thessalian month of Hippodromios (corresponding either to April/May or June/July). The Hippodromia included horse races, appropriate given Poseidon’s role as creator of horses. (Graninger Regional 53)
In Thessaly, Zeus Homoloios was honored during the month of Homoloios (corresponding either to March/April or May/June). (Graninger Regional 43)
Hyakinthos was a Spartan festival named for the youth loved and accidentally slain by Apollo with a discus. The festival honored both Hyacinthos and Apollo; while Hyacinthos may have been honored as a god in earlier times, by the Archaic era he was considered a hero and was worshipped as such at his tomb. The first day of the festival was one of mourning, followed by a celebration during which Apollo received a new chiton (much as Athena received a new peplos during Athens’ Panathenaia), including a procession and the singing of Apollo’s own hymn, the paian. (Larson, Cults 91)
The Hybristika, “Outrageous Acts” (Parker On Greek Religion Loc 6658) or “Festival of Impudence” (Pirenne-Delforge Aphrodite 164), was held in Argos; the festival included cross-dressing and vulgarity, It is uncertain which deity was honored in this festival; various scholars suggest that it was a festival of Ares (Parker On Greek Religion Loc 6658) or Enyalios (Pirenne-Delforge Aphrodite 160)
The Iobaccheia was a small women’s festival of Dionysos in Athens about which little is known. (ParkerPolytheism 208)
The Aphrodiseia Isolympia was an athletic festival of Aphrodite held in Aphrodisias in Caria (Brody “Caria” 105).
The Itonia was a festival of Athena Itonia held in Thessaly during the Thessalian month of Itonios (corresponding to either June/July or August/September); it was observed both nationally and locally. (Graninger Regional 44)
The Kalamaia (Straw Festival), a threshing festival, was held before the harvest, probably during Skirophorion (June-July), for the protection of the grain. (Cole “Demeter” 137)
Kallynteria and Plynteria
The Kallynteria (“Sweeping Out”) and the Plynteria (“Washing”) were festivals of Athena held in Athens on, respectively, 24 and 25 Thargelion (approximately 30 and 31 May). During the Kallynteria the shrine of Athena Polias was cleaned; during the Plynteria the statue of Athena was removed and taken to be washed in the sea by women. (Haland “Athena” 259)
The Karneia was a festival of Apollo celebrated by the Dorians during their month of Karneios, which corresponds roughly to the late summer Athenian month of Metageitnion (August-September). (Karneios was a month during which no war could be waged and was the cause of the Spartans’ failure to support Leonidas at the battle of Marathon.) The date varied; in Cyrene it was held on the 7th, in Thera on the 20th, and in Sparta on the full moon. Customs varied as well by region and over time but included such things as the dancing of young men and women, a several-day musical competition, and a foot race in which participants called “grape runners” pursue a single runner in order to capure not only the man but good fortune for the city. (Burkert, Greek Religion 234)
see Artemis Agrotera, Festival of
Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, Artemis and Hekate
In the deme of Erchia, an offering was made to the goddesses Kourotrophos, Artemis and Hekate on 16 Metageitnion (August 30). (Dow, “Erchia” 201) While the Erchian calendar provides little information on any event beyond date and honorand, Kourotrophos, Artemis and Hekate do have in common a concern with the well-being of children.
The Kronia was held in Athens on 12 Hekatombaion (July 27), and was celebrated as well in Rhodes and Thebes. The origins of this festival are uncertain but point to the long-ago worship of Kronos, father of Zeus, as an agricultural benefactor. (Parker, Polytheism 203) It was seen also as a celebration and remembrance of the mythical “Golden Age” of Kronos, when life was easier for all and there was no social divide between master and servant; the main custom associated with the Kronia was for slaves to be given a holiday, and to dine together with their masters. (Parke 30) It was celebrated primarily within private homes among family and servants. (Parker, Polytheism 475)
The Kybernesia or “Steering” festival, honoring Theseus’ helmsmen (Garland, Introducing 91) took place in Athens on 8 Boedromia (September 21). (Parker, Polytheism 410). Poseidon Hippodromios may also have been honored at this time, and may in fact have been the initial focus of the day (Parker, Athenian Religion 315).
The Lampteria or “Feast of Lights” was an Achaian festival of Dionysos held in Pellene that included the carrying of torches to the temple at night and the placing of vats of wine around the city. (PausaniasCentral 304)
The Laphria was a festival of Artemis held in Patrai during which wild animals were driven into a great fire to be burned alive. (Burkert Greek Religion 62)
The Lenaia, a three-day festival in honor of Dionysos, was held in the deme of Limnai beginning on 12 Gamelion (January 21). It included many of the usual festival activities such as processions and feasts; the Lenaia procession was unusual in that it seems to have featured insults and abusive language on the part of participants. The Lenaia was also a dramatic festival like the Country and City Dionysia, featuring contests. It may also have been a maenadic festival, with music and dancing for women, who carried the thyrsus and played the castanets (Parke 106) An image of the god may have been created with a mask and clothing draped on a pole or column (Parker, On Greek Religion Loc. 6223)
The Lesser Mysteries originally existed on their own but were eventually associated with the Greater or Eleusinian Mysteries, becoming a precursor to the latter rites. They were held at Agrai and took place over a week, beginning on 20 Anthesterion (February 28). As with the Eleusinian Mysteries, we know little about the Lesser Mysteries because they were secret rites, but they were surely held in honor of the two goddesses, Demeter and Persephone. (Parke 123)
The festival of Maimakteria is very obscure and, but surely took place in the month of Maimakterion, and likely honored Zeus Maimaktes or “blustering Zeus” (Nilsson, Popular Loc. 422) Given the name of the month and the wintry weather, it is possible that at this time people prayed to Zeus for good weather—or, at the least, fewer storms. The date is unknown. (Parke 96)
Not much is known of this festival honoring Apollo Metageitnios, but the existence of a month named Metageitnion attests to its importance. The derivation of the word as “changing neighbors” (Parke 51) and an attachment to a mythical move from Melite to Diomeia (Parker, Polytheism 381)–or, more specifically, to a mythical move by Theseus of his people to Athens itself (481)—do little to further explain the original reasons behind the festival. Since the 7th of each month was Apollo’s day, possibly the festival was held on 7 Metageitnion (August 21).
Mounichia, a festival named for an epithet of Artemis which which gave its name to the Attic month of Mounichion, was celebrated in Athens on 16 Mounichion (April 23) at the goddess’ temple at Phaleron on a hill also known as Mounichia (Parker, Polytheism 475). Customs associated with the Mounichia include the carrying in procession of cakes surrounded by small torches.
In the coastal city of Rhamnus, on 19 Hekatombaion (July 3), the goddess Nemesis was honored with a festival and athletic competition (Parker, Polytheism 476)
The Niketeria was held on 2 Boedromion (September 15) in honor of the goddess Nike. It may have celebrated the victory of Athena over Poseidon in becoming the city’s goddess. However, since according to Plutarch that day was not included in the Athenian calendar (likely for fear of offending Poseidon), it may well have been celebrated on the next day—3 Boedromion—instead. (Parker,Polytheism 476)
The Noumenia and other monthly devotions
The Noumenia was the first day of each month, which began with the new moon; it was considered a holy day, on which no public business was done or other religious observances scheduled. (Mikalson, “Noumenia” 291). Traditional offerings were relatively small, of frankincense, honey, garlands or cakes; it is uncertain which deities received these offerings but it is likely that they varied from place to place, and perhaps among individuals as well (293). Some modern Hellenic polytheists honor Selene at this time.
The second day of each month was holy to Agathos Daimon; the third to Athena; the fourth to Aphrodite, Hermes and Herakles; the sixth to Artemis; the seventh to Apollo; and the eighth to Poseidon and Theseus his son. (Roberts, Sokrates Loc. 2511) In keeping with this, a number of festivals to these gods take place on these days; for example, the festival of Artemis Agrotera takes place on the sixth day of Boedromion (Parke 55), while the sixth of Elaphebolion is the date of the Elaphebolia honoring Artemis Elaphebolios (Deer-shooter) (125)
Hekate’s deipnon or meal took place on the eve of the new moon, the last day of the month; at this time those who had the means would bring an offering of food to the crossroads for the goddess. (Parker, Miasma 30)
The Olympieia, held on 19 Mounichion (April 26), honored Olympian Zeus, and was not associated with the Olympian Games. The festival featured a cavalry procession. (Parke 144)
The Oskhophoria, a festival of the grape honoring Dionysos and Athena Skira was held in Athens on 7 Pyanepsion (October 19), the same day the Athenians honored Apollo in the Pyanepsia. The procession route was from an unknown temple of Dionysos to the temple of Athena Skiras (Parke 77), and the festival took its name from the oskhoi, vine-branches with the grape clusters still attached, that were carried during that procession (Parker, Polytheism 206); also notable was the inclusion of two oskophoroi, young men dressed in women’s clothing. Mythically the festival was associated with Theseus’ journey to and return from Crete, but it is likely that the Oskhophoria existed before it was assigned that narrative, as cross-dressing is by no means unknown in rites to Dionysos. (215)
The Pamboeotia was a large Boeotian festival honoring Athena Itonia during the Boeotian month of Pamboeotios (September-October). The festival featured chariot races and musical and athletic contests. (Larson Ancient Greek Cults 50)
Pan, Festival of
An Athenian festival of Pan was a response to the story of Pan’s message to the Athenians by way of Philippides; subsequent to this, an annual festival to Pan was established in the city, featuring a torch race. (Parke 172)
One of Athens’ greatest festivals was the Panathenaia, held between 23-30 Hekatombaion (August 7-14). At this time the city’s patron goddess, Athena, was honored with all the trappings of a major festival—procession, sacrifice, feast, athletic and musical competitions, and the all-night pannychia. At this time the goddess was gifted with the woven peplos begun at the Khalkaia festival. (Parker,Polytheism 256) Mythically the festival was tied to Athena’s victory over the giants or Gigantes; there is no ancient support for the notion that it celebrated the goddess’ birthday (Shear 23). The festival was held on a very large scale every four years, and held otherwise as a smaller, more local annual celebration. (Shear 72)
The Pandia was a festival of Zeus held in the deme of Plotheia on 17 Elaphebolion (March 25). Almost nothing is known about it. (Parke 136)
The Panionia was a major Ionian festival honoring Poseidon Helikonios. (Larson Cults 58)
The Peloria was a festival of Zeus Pelorius held in Thessaly, commemorating a feast subsequent to the creation of the Thessalian Plain. (Parker On Greek Religion Loc. 6230)
See Kallynteria and Plynteria
The Pompaia, held during the month of Maimaikterion (November-December), honored Zeus Meilichios. Like the Thargelia, the Pompaia had a theme of purification (Parker, Polytheism 211); the festival featured the fleece of a ram which was sacrificed to Zeus Meilichios and carried out of the city, acting as a scapegoat and taking evil and impurity away with it. (Parker, Miasma 29)
Although only one festival of this name is attested and that in the region of Marathon (Parker,Polytheism 479), it does seem likely, given the existence of a month called Poseidion, that at one time a major festival of that name existed in Attica. Since the 8th of each month is dedicated to Poseidon, the best guess is that such a festival would have been held on 8 Poseidion (December 19).
Little is known of the festival Procharisteria or “thanks in advance”; the recipient of honors is uncertain—some say Athena, others presume Persephone, and it is not unreasonable to include it in the agricultural cycle of festivals devoted to Demeter and her daughter. (Parker, Polytheism 197) It was held before the grain has ripened. The difference between this stage of the cycle and the “green shoots” of the Chloaia seems a subtle one but would certainly have been clear to those who worked the land year after year.
The Proerosia or pre-ploughing is a part of the agricultural festival cycle; it is the first such festival of the agricultural year and takes place before the fields are ploughed. It is celebrated in a number of regions including Eleusis, and most often honors Demeter although in at least one area Zeus is honored at this time. (Parker, Polytheism 479) In Eleusis it was held on 6 Pyanepsion (October 18), and would have been held elsewhere at the proper time for ploughing, whenever that was.
The Prometheia was an Athenian festival honoring Prometheus; it featured a torch race, appropriate for the god who gifted fire to humanity. (Parke 171)
On 7 Pyanepsion (October 19) in Attica, Apollo was honored at the Pyanepsia, a festival that takes its name from a dish of beans and grains traditionally offered and eaten on this occasion. (Parker,Polytheism 185) Other customs associated with the Pyanepsia include the making and display of the eireisione, an olive branch decorated with wool and hung with other items, possibly including fruit, bread, honey, oil and wine (204), which was offered at Apollo’s temple as well as being hung at private homes after being carried through the streets by troupes of boys (480). Several myths were attached to the Pyanepsia, including the tale of Theseus’ return from Crete, when he and his men offered the last of their stores to the god—a porridge of beans and grains (382). Another Athenian festival observed on this day was the Oskhophoria, honoring Dionysos.
Procession to the Cave of the Semnai
The Semnai Theai (also known as Eumenides, Erinyes or Furies) were honored annually in Athens with a procession to their underground temple. According to myth, this was instituted following the trial of Orestes, when the Semnai were granted honors in the city (Parker Polytheism 406); the only public aspect of the occasion was the procession itself (162).
The Skira or Skiraphoria, a women’s festival for Demeter and Persephone, was held in Athens on 12 Skirophorion (June 16). Little is known for certain about the Skira, but it was almost certainly associated with the agricultural year, as were many of Demeter’s festivals. Sexual intercourse was forbidden during the Skira. It may have been the occasion when the women threw the piglets into the pit, to be removed later during the Thesmophoria. (Parke 160)
Sacrifice to the Sphragitic Nymphs
The Sphragitic nymphs were honored in their cave on Mount Kithairon following a directive of the Delphic oracle concerning offerings made before the battle of Plataia (Larson, Greek Nymphs 19); the date of the offering is unknown but may have taken place on the 3rd or 4th of Boedromion (September 16 or 17), the date of the battle. (Parker, Polytheism 480).
On 9 Pyanepsion (October 21), two days before the better-known Athenian women’s festival, Thesmophoria, the Stenia was observed. Little is known about the Stenia, apart from an exchange of insults similar to that of the Thesmophoria. Both festivals were dedicated to Demeter and Persephone. (Parke 88)
The Synoikia took place in Athens on the 15th and 16th of Hekatombaion (July 30-31). It was a patriotic festival said to commemorate the synoicism (unification of the Attic demes) and honored the city’s goddess Athena. (Parke 31) Little is known of any associated customs. (Parker Polytheism 480)
The Tauropolia was a festival of Artemis Tauropolos held in Halai. It may have included a simulated human sacrifice in memory of Iphigeneia. (Parker Polytheism 320)
The Thalysia was a festival of Demeter held in the autumn in Cos; it was a harvest festival and was likely held on a smaller scale than most state festivals, perhaps in private homes and farms. First fruit offerings may have been given. (Nilsson)
The Thargelia, a festival of Apollo, was held on 6 Thargelion (May 12) in Athens. It is probably best known for the custom of the pharmakos; the festival included a purification ritual in which two people were designated as scapegoats, honored, feasted and treated well, then ritually driven out of the city, taking with them the city’s accumulated impurities or miasma. (Parker, Polytheism 382).
Hera Teleia and Zeus Teleius were honored in Athens on 27 Gamelion (February 5) at a festival known as Theogamia, Gamelia or simply Hieros Gamos or “Sacred Marriage”; the ritual not only marked the marriage of god and goddess but celebrated the institution of marriage itself. Theogamia was widely celebrated publically in numerous Attic demes, as well as privately as a family rite within many homes. (Parker, Polytheism 74)
The Theoinia, like the Iobaccheia, was a women’s festival of Dionysos about which almost nothing is known. (Parker Polytheism 208)
Starting in 475 BCE, the Theseia was held in Athens on 8 Pyanepsia (October 20), appropriately since Theseus was the son of Poseidon, whose holy day was the eighth. In that year the Athenians, directed by the Delphic oracle, brought what they believed to be the bones of Theseus from Scyros to Athens in order to establish a hero-cult to him there. Little is known of the particulars of the Theseia, although it did feature the eating of a milk-based gruel known as athara. (Parke 81) The hero-cult in Greece tended to be a localized phenomenon in that the hero’s power—unlike that of the gods—was focused on the place where his bones were buried. Thus the Theseia was a uniquely Athenian festival. (Mikalson,Ancient Greek Religion Loc. 1278) In addition to the establishment of the Theseia—Theseus’ own festival—the fifth century BCE very likely saw the association of Theseus’ myths with a number of existing festivals, including the Oskhophoria and the Synoikia. (Parker, Polytheism 375)
The Thesmophoria, a women’s festival honoring Demeter and Persephone, was held in Athens on 11-13 Pyanepsion (October 23-25). Each of the three days of the festival had its own name: “Going Up,” “Fasting,” and “Fair Birth.” The first, “Going Up,” referred to the women’s journey to the temple of Demeter Thesmophoros (Parker, Polytheism 272); on the second, “Fasting,” they sat on the ground and fasted (274); the last day, Kalligeneia or “Fair Offspring,” may have involved giving thanks for fertility, either their own or of the earth. The details of the rites were kept secret. (Parke 88), but the festival was said to have involved insults and obscenities among women, and the eating of cakes in the shapes of phalluses and vulvas. (Stallsmith 3) The Thesmophoria was also the occasion of gathering decaying or decomposed materials previously deposited into the earth—pine shoots, cakes and the bodies of piglets—to be used in the fertilizing of crops. (Stallsmith 6)
Sacrifice to the Tritopatores
In the deme of Erchia, an offering was made to the Tritopatores on 21 Mounichion (April. 28). Although the exact nature of the Tritopatores is uncertain it seems most likely that they are ancestral spirits, and as such they were often asked for favor on family matters such as marriage and fecundity. (Parker,Polytheism 31) As the Tritopatores are of the world of the dead their rituals are chthonic. (In the city of Selinous, however, the Tritopatores were offered to in a more complex manner including both chthonic and non-chthonic forms (Jameson et al, “Lex Sacra” 72) but for the purposes of my ritual I did not consider that model.)
The Zosteria was a festival of Apollo Zoster held in Halai Aixonides. (Parker, Polytheism 72)
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