The Anthesteria

topic posted Fri, March 10, 2006 - 6:03 PM by  Apollo
Dionysian Meditations:
The Anthesteria
also known as

The More Ancient Dionysia
(Ta Arkhaiotera Dionysia)
of Apollonius Sophistes


The Anthestêria is a Festival of Flowers (Anthê) for Dionysos Anthios (also Antheus and Euanthês - Fair-flowering), the Blooming God. For, as Ovid (Fasti 5.345) says, "Bacchus loves flowers," which herald His arrival by their appearance in the spring.
At this time (c. Feb. 25-27), when also the Lesser Mysteries are held at Agrai, the Divine Child was conceived; He grew in the womb of Semele (who is Persephone) for seven months, until the time of the Greater (Eleusinian) Mysteries and grape harvest, when Zeus blasted her with his bolt (c. Sept. 29 - Oct. 5) and sewed the Child into His thigh. After the wine fermented for 40 days (c. Nov 8), we called Dionysos in the Marshes. This is the beginning of winter, marked by the rising of the Pleiades, when Dionysos rules at Delphi. He came to term ten months after conception, when we first tasted the wine at the Rural Dionysia (early Jan.). We celebrated Dionysos' birth and also His emergence from the Underworld in the Lênaia (c. Feb. 2). Now we have come full circle and we celebrate the God's wedding. At Delphi He yields to Apollo, whose birthday was four days ago.

This is the time when the fermentation of the wine is complete and the new wine is ready to drink, and so we make a first-fruit offering, but it is also the time when the vines are pruned in preparation for the next season. Therefore the Anthestêria is also the most important Festival of the Dead, for we appreciate the beauty and fruits of the Earth, the delights of wine, and indeed all pleasures, the most when we salute the Dead. Indestructible Life (Zôê) necessitates the birth and death of Individual Lives (Bioi), and so our Mother Earth both brings forth fruits and welcomes the dead back to Her bosom.

We have held this festival since before the Greeks sailed to Troy [c. 1200 BCE]; its origin is beyond the limits of memory. The rites occur on the 11th, 12th and 13th - that is, during the full moon - of the month called Anthesterion. Nominally, this is the end of February, but more precisely the full moon following the full moon of the Lênaia, and two moons following the full moon nearest the winter solstice. This is the time when Zeus mated with Semele, who is also Persephone, and Dionysos was conceived. It is also the time when Dionysos took Ariadne to be His wife, and so we celebrate the marriage of the Basilinna (religious Queen {BASI/LINNA}) and the God. (The days are reckoned from sundown to sundown.)

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SF Bay Area

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