A Festival in Honor of Dionysos & Hermes

And the Dead


The Anthesteria is possibly the oldest festival which we celebrate. Some scholars suggest that it comes down to us from, at the very least, Mycenaean times. It is certainly the most sacred and mysterious of our rituals.

Historically the festival took place over three days: but with the small size of our Tribe and the exigencies of present times, we are forced to hold our three day celebration in one day; it is therefore divided into three parts:

Pithoigia, (Jars;)

Khoes, (Jugs;), and

Khytroi (Pots,)

each following immediately upon the previous.







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.

This year there is no pompe for our celebration of this ritual: the gathering should take place in what is designated as the Temple of Dionysos, where the Pithoigia will be waiting. The people enter, peform the khernips, or hand-washing, then circle counter-closckwise around the wine jars, which are themselves the altar for this part of the festival.

The Priest cries out:

"Hekas, o hekas, este bebeloi!"

The People Reply:

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


The Scattering

The Barley is passed counterclockwise and each person takes some and tosses it upon the altar (in this case, the wine jars). The remaining barley is placed nearbye.



The Opening of the Pithoi


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 opens the Pithoi containing the New Wine.

The Priest Says:

"The Grapes are plucked, even as our lives are in due time harvested. They are crushed, and the juice runs free of the flesh, even as the blood of the warrior runs from his crushed body in defense of his home. The wine is stored away, even as our bodies are embraced in the end by Gaea, the Earth. Now the Pithoi are opened, and what before seemed corrupted comes forth transformed. Dionysos returns from the Land of the Dead. Together, as a Tribe, we embrace Him."


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 Earth, then the cup is passed around counterclockwise, each person taking a sip in offering to Hestia, and repeating the above formula of offering to Hestia. The Priest takes a last sip, and the remaining part is poured out on the Earth.

NOTE: In this ceremony all must at least taste the wine, as a communal act of faith. In ancient times it might be that the wine was bad: in which case all of the tribe shared the same fate. This is the meeting ground of the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead.



The Hymn


Here should be done a dance around the Pithoi: a simple Syrtos is adequate, until such time as we may master a dythyrambos.



The Second Libation


The Libation Bearers again mix water and wine. The Priest offers up the cup and says:


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


The Priest pours some of the mixture on the Earth, 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 Earth.


The Sacrifice.


The Sacred Victims (To Hierion) are brought forward. In the case of this ritual, an effigy of a goat should be brought forward; but there are no additional Hierioni, as we offer ourselves in this rite to the God. The Priest touches the goat, and then each person, with the sacrificial knife.


As he or she is touched, each one may say, as it is done:

"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.



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 on the God!"



"Son of Semele, Dionysos en limnais, Fair-flowering, Dithyrambos, Reveler and Stormer!"


At this point the sealed cauldon containing the cooked goat is brought in and placed on the actual altar.


The Priest cries out:

"Let All Entry Be Sealed!"


Everyone rushes to close and lock all doors and windows, take telephones off the hook, turn off pagers, etc.. From this point until the end no one may either enter or leave the Temple. When all have once again assembled around the Pithoi, Silence ensues.





The Priest cries out:

"Koimeson stoma!" 

The People Reply:

"We will stop up our mouthes!" 

(The People then maintain silence through the Drinking Contest, and remain solemn into the litany.)



The Agon


The Drinking Contest.


In complete silence each person is given an equal measure of mixed wine and water. This measure would traditionally be a khoes, a particular kind of oinokhoes (wine jug) which was used as a measure. To the best our research ability, this amount consisted of about three cups (24 ounces). From this the wine would be poured into a kantharos for drinking, the kantharos being the shape of drinking cup sacred to Dionysos. Each person would have his or her own khoes and kantharos for this festival. Children, when admitted to the festival (about age four) would be given a mineature khoes of their own. The children are thus given a much smaller measure and their wine is mixed with four parts water to one part wine.

At a signal, everyone drinks in silence. The first person to finish turns his or her kantheros upside down as a signal that he or she is done.

The Priest awards the Prize Cake to the first to finish the drinking. Then everyone takes off his or her garland and hangs it on his or her khoes or kantheros.

All this is accomplished in complete silence.


Then the Priest says:

'You will find to the left of the house of Hades a wellspring, and by the side of this standing a white cypress.

You must not even go close to this wellspring; but also you will find another spring that comes from the lake of Memory cold water running, and there are those who stand guard before it.

You shall say: "I am a child of earth and the starry heavens, but my generation is of the sky. You yourselves know this.

But I am dry with thirst and am dying. Give me then quickly the water that runs cold out of the lake of Memory."

And they themselves will give you to drink from the sacred water, and afterward you shall be lord among the rest of the heroes."


The Priest then uncovers the Cauldron and says:

"We Are the Eaters, and We Are the Eaten. Repeat now the words of the Speaker of Sacred Things."


The Heirophant then begins the following litany:

"Out of the pure I come, Pure Queen of Them below,"

(pause, for the repeat)

"Eukles and Eubouleus and the other Gods immortal."


"For I also avow me that I am of your blessed race."


"Whether Fate laid me low or the other Gods immortal,"


"Struck me down with a starflung thunderbolt."


"I have flown out of the sorrowful weary Wheel."


"I passed with eager feet to the Circle desired."


"I have entered into the bosom of Despoina,

Queen of the Underworld."


"I have passed with eager feet from the Circle desired..."



At this point some strange and eirie music should sound softly, to continue until the end of this part of the ritual.


Each person now approaches the altar. The Priest wraps a goatskin around the person's shoulders and whispers:

"Happy and Blessed One, thou shalt be God instead of mortal."


The person wrapped in the goatskin replies:

"I am a kid fallen into milk."


Then the person reaches into the cauldron, takes a piece of the eat, eats a little, then moves on counterclockwise, finishing the meat while the next person moves to the altar and the above process is repeated.

With children, or with people new to the ritual, the parasitos should coach in the action and the response. The parasitos and the priest are the last to perform this part of the ritual, so that their hands are free to accomplish the actions for everyone else. The circle of people, it will be seen, moves around during this part of the ritual, so that at the end everyone is back in place.

The common cup, preferably a kantheros, is now filled with goat's milk and passed counterclockwise. Everyone takes a sip in honor of Dionysos. It is followed immediately by a bowl of honey, into which everyone dips a finger, then sucks from the finger a taste of the honey; again in honor of Dionysos.

As the milk and honey begin the round, the Priest says:


"If any lips

Sought whiter draughts, with dipping finger tips

They pressed the sod, and gushing from the ground

Came springs of milk. And reed-wands ivy-crowned

Ran with sweet honey."



The Music Ends.





In years when the Tribe is large enough, and there are appropriate facilities, there would be enacted at this point the mystery of a hieros gamos of Dionysos and Ariadne. At the very least, the men and women would separate and return with effigies of the God and his Bride.

In this year, and with our limited facilities, we will honor this part of the ritual in memory only.




The Sacral Feast


The Third Libation


The Libation Bearers again mix water and wine. The Priest offers up the cup and says:

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


The Priest pours some of the mixture on the Earth, 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 Earth.

The people settle in to the Sacral Feast, with the cauldron of goat as the main dish.

Beginning with the Priest, and moving around counterclockwise, each individual speaks of those who have recently died, or who, for some other special reason, he or she may wish to remember at this festival.

It is understood that the Dead are here present.

When all this is accomplished, the Priest passes around the 'Pot,' containing the Panspermia, with the words:

"The Earth as fed you, and You shall feed the Earth."


Each person takes some, says the above Words of Committment while passing the Pot on, then eats the Panspermia.


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, Aridela, Hermes Psychopompos, Charin 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 Apollon, or touching a drop to his or her forhead in offering, and saying:

"We thank You."


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


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!"


Unlike other rituals, this is not quite the end. It is now up to everyone to run and unseal all the door and windows, and as each is unsealed, to throw out some beans and cry out:

"Go, you Keres, the Anthesteria is Ended!"



This is the End of the Ritual.


--Pyrocanthus, 23 January 1999.

Th.O.C. 9

Revised Very Slightly February 24th, 2002




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