The Lenaea


A Comedic Festival of Dionysos




The Gathering


The People should gather with the Sacra necessary for the ritual. The Barley, the Knife, the Fire, the Cup, the Water, the Wine, the Incense, the Thyrsis, and the Food. Also a Book or Scroll, if necessary. And the Stephanoi to be awarded in the Dramatic Competition. For this ritual the people should wear masks and dress with gayety; wreathes of ivy are appropriate, and if the procession makes it possible, torches. It is appropriate to display phalloi in this procession as well.

What are traditionally called 'rude songs and jests' are very much appropriate. It may be an all-night ritual. There is some historical evidence for a maenad drinking party at the end, i.e., a very wild and uninhibited women-only drinking party to last the night, after the ritual. 

The Sacral Feast may, for this ritual, include goat. Raisons are also appropriate, dried figs, and barley bread.


The Pompe, or Procession


In the order dictated by the order of the Sacra, as listed above, the People are lead by the Priest to the Temenos or place where will be found the altar of sacrifice. At the entrance to the Temenos, each person peforms the khernips or hand-washing, then moves in a counterclockwise direction to form a circle around the bomos, or altar.


The Priest cries out:


"Hekas, o hekas, este bebeloi!"


The People Reply:


"Let All That Is Profane Be Far From Here!" 



The Lighting


The Priest cries out:


"Paresmen time, sonta tas theas kai tous theous."


The People Reply:


"We Are Here To Honor the Gods and Goddesses."


The Priest then lights the fire on the altar, which should have been laid out beforehand. Most properly this would be done with a pure flame brought from the altar of Hestia, but this may not always be practical; and there are specific rituals in which the fire should be lit otherwise. 


The Scattering


The Barley is passed counterclockwise and each person takes some and tosses it upon the altar. The remaining barley is placed nearbye.  



The Mixing


The Libation bearers move to either side of the Priest and the Wine and Water is mixed.


The Priest says:


"Theasthe ta hudata biou."


The People Reply:


"Behold the Waters of Life!" 



The First Libation


The Priest says:


"Hestia, Thine is always the first and the last."


Some of the mixture in the cup is poured out on the altar, then the cup is passed around counterclockwise, each person taking a sip in offering to Hestia, or touching a drop to his or her forhead in offering, and repeating the above formula of offering to Hestia. The Priest takes a last sip, and the remaining part is poured out on the altar. 




The Priest cries out:

"Koimeson stoma!" 

The People Reply:

"We will stop up our mouthes!" 

(The People then maintain silence through the Hymnodia)

Here should be recited or sung the Second Homeric Hymn to Dionysos.



The Second Libation


The Libation Bearers again mix water and wine. The Priest offersu p the cup and says:


"Dionysos, this Libation is for You, in the hope that You will join us here today."


The Priest pours some of the mixture on the altar, then passes the cup counterclockwise. When the libation returns to the Priest he takes a last sip, and the remaining part is poured out on the altar. 


The Sacrifice.


The Sacred Victims (To Hierion) are brought forward. The Priest touches each thing to be offered with the sacrificial knife. Each one who is making an offering may say, as it is offered:


"Lambane kai heydou anathema mou,"


or simply:


"Accept and Delight in my Offering."


Each one may also add any particulars he or she feels necessary, such as requests or thanksgivings. When all offerings have been made, the Priest says:


"Lambane kai heydou anathemata heymown."




"Accept and Delight in Our Offerings."


In Ancient Times we are told that at "The Blow," that is, when the sacrificial knife stuck the victim, the women ululated. It is appropriate in our own times for the women to do so after this last response, this having the effect of a kind of cheer. 

As many more these days follow the vegetarian Way of Pythagoras, it may be noted that The Blow can be delivered by plunging the sacrifical knife into a loaf of bread as readily as it can be used to take the life of an animal. In this case, the ululation comes at the same point, the act itself. One may readily offer seasonal foods from the vegetable kingdom to a God with as much expectation that they will be accepted as the tradtional animal. In other words, if it was good enough for Pythagoras, it is likely good enough for any Vegetarian.

 Carnivores, on the other hand, should do their best to provide flesh for the fire.

 It is always a question of giving back a portion of what you have.



The Ritual Reply


For this ritual it is appropriate to have an appointed Torchbearer, but if a torch is not possible, then the Priest may take this role and substitute the Thyrsis for the Torch. Whichever Official, he then cries out to the people:


"Call of the God!"




"Son of Semele, Iakkhos, Giver of Wealth!"




The Agon


This is the part of the ritual where the most variables occur. In Ancient Times this would be the place for the Sacrificial Dances, such dances filling the time while the priests cut up the sacrificial bull and put the appropriate choice parts upon the sacrificial fire; the Blow itself was the sacral moment.


In our Lenaea, the Agon is the Dramatic Competition; which is understood to be heavy of Comedy, but which may include serious presentations as well. Scenes from plays, poems, musical presentations, juggling, acrobatics, dance: all are welcome; and from any period. It should be remembered, however, that this ritual is in honor of the God Dionysos; so the one thing that would not be appropriate in this context is a piece dedicated to another deity: such should be saved for the Theoxenia in late summer.


And this is a stephanitic competition! Prizes of Stephanoi (victory wreathes for the head) will be awarded. For this ritual it has often proved practical to begin the Sacral Feast during the Agon. But this practice should be dictated by circumstance rather than rote. If the ritual is done indoors, and there is no cooking to be done, a buffet from which to eat during the presentations may be appropriate. People should, however, observe the manners of a good audience and pay attention to the presentations. Rude jesting may be appropriate, but ignoring the performers is not! 

The casual feasting appropriate to the Lenaea is in marked contrast to the formal banqueting of the Theoxenia. 


The Sacral Feast


There was a time when Men and Gods supped together. In making Sacrifice and in the exercises of the Agon we have called upon the Deity to join us. When the Agon is done, the Sacral Feast is set and everyone eats. This can be something as simple as bread and wine, or as elaborate as a many course banquet. The important thing to remember is that this is a communion not only between mortal and Deity but between the mortals who share the feast as well. We are all joined in communion, in community, by the sharing of the Sacral Feast.  

Everybody eats! 


The Libation of Thanks


The Libation Bearers mix wine and water again. The Priest leads the people in giving thanks to the God, letting individuals speak at will. Then the Priest offers up the cup, saying:


"Dionysos Kharin echomen soi."


Some of the mixture in the cup is poured out on the altar, then the cup is passed around counterclockwise, each person taking a sip in offering to Dionysos, or touching a drop to his or her forhead in offering, and saying:

"Dionysos, Hilathi!"

(Dionysos Be Propitious!)


"Dionysos, Sponde!"

(Dionysos, a Libation!)

or simply  

"Dionysos, we thank You."


The Priest takes a last sip, and the remaining part is poured out on the altar. 


The Final Libation


The Libation Bearers mix wine and water one final time.


The Final Libation is offered to Hestia, with the words:


"Hestia, Thine is always the first and the last."


It is offered in the same manner as the first, but when the Priest pours out the last of it upon the altar, he cries out:


"Houtos heksoi!"


The Response is:


"Houtos heksoi,"


or simply:


"So Be It!"




This is the End of the Ritual.




12 February 1998


Th.O.C. 8

Revised Very Slightly

8 Januuary 2002

Thiasos Olympikos 12



   Back to the Thiasos Olympikos Table of Contents