Purification of the Tribe and

Apollon's Birthday!


Part One: Before the Dromena Proper

The Rite of the Pharmakos


This rite is celebrated before the festival proper. If possible, it should be conducted at the seashore, or on the banks of running water that will carry away the ashes, ultimately to the sea. Otherwise, the burning of the Pharmakos should occur in such as way that the ashes can be gathered and transported to the seashore or a great river.

It must not take place in a temenos, as it involves all the impurities of which we wish to dispose.

In ancient times, in Athens the Pharmakos was a real human being, or sometimes two: a man and a woman. It is suggested that they were criminals already condemned to death and chosen for their ugliness. In other places there is evidence that a simalacrum of some sort was used. There is evidence for a straw figure used in similar rites, and so we have chosen that option. Ideally, we have two Pharmakoi, a male and female, but in difficult years we make use of one, a Unisex Pharmakos.

Our Pharmakos is a combustible straw figure with a necklace of figs: white figs for the male, black figs for the female. If there is only one Pharmakos, then both kinds of figs should be strung into the necklace.

In Ancient times the Pharmakos was led all the way around the City. As we have no City of our own, we have simulated the reality of the city by having the People stand in a circle, facing outward. The Pharmakos is carried around the outside of the circle, clockwise, and each person 'puts upon' the Pharmakos all those things which he or she considers bad and which she or he wants out of his or her life, and out of the life of the Tribe. This 'putting upon' may occur in many ways. The thing to be disposed of may be written down, and the paper shoved into the body of the Pharmakos, or it may be addressed in words to the Pharmakos, either silently or out loud.

This is a rite in which the emotions of anger or hatred are perfectly appropriate, because this is the time for being rid of them. Rage directed at the Pharmakos, as personification of all the bad things in life, is rage to be exorcised. Hitting the Pharmakos is perfectly correct. Spitting on the damned thing is fine too. This is where all the bad stuff goes!

When the Pharmakos has been led around and abused it is then strangled and burned.

If this seems a primitive and barbaric rite: it probably is. But keep in mind that its purpose is to rid the People of the primitive and barbaric realities of their lives, and to prevent those things from doing damage during the rest of the year. When a society provides no real and personal release of the pressures which it puts upon its constituents, there will be explosions, and the toll will be terrible.

We repeat: this is where the bad stuff goes. --On to the Pharmakos, where it is destroyed, burnt to ashes, then strewn upon the ultimately purifying waters.

If the Pharmakos is burnt away from the waters, then the next day the ashes should be taken to the waters for dispersal.

At the end of this rite it is appropriate for their to be a special khernips, or handwashing, before any other thing is set to be done. Having touched an impure thing, the Pharmakos, one would not wish to handle any sacred thing until purified.



Interval for Relaxation and Preparation




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, and the Food. Also a Book or Scroll, if necessary.

It is time for flower garlands to be worn upon the head by Men and Women, and for fillets of ribbons to be worn on the heads of girls and boys.


The Pompe, or Procession


The Incense is lit, then, in the order dictated by the order of the Sacra, as listed above, the People are lead by the Priest to the Temenos, or Sacred Precinct, containing the altar of sacrifice. At the entrance to the Temenos, each person performs the khernips, or hand-washing, then moves in a counterclockwise direction to form a circle around the bomos, or altar.


After the khernips, everyone remains silent until 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 near bye.


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 forehead 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 Apollon in the order set by Athanassakis, Homeric Hymn #21.


The Second Libation


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


"Hear, Oh Phoibos Apollon, Delian, Far Shooter, Son of Zeus of the councils, Son of Leto of the olden tresses, Twin Brother of arrow pouring Artemis, rich in gold, rich in music, Pythian, infallible in prophesy, Who Alone knows the Mind of Zeus; God of Beauty, God of excellence in Athletics: we call upon You with whatever name it pleases You to be called; for You can bring us wealth and riches, health and prosperity, wisdom in the best way to conduct our lives. If ever we have made offering to You, or honored You in word or deed, grant us that Arete which is the goal of mortal life."


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 or Priestess 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 or Priestess 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


Here should be recited or sung the Delphic Hymn to Apollon.


Or it may be that the God will make some reply of His Own.


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.


Music and Dancing, immediately following the ritual response, are most appropriate. So are Sacred Games. This is also the place where one might question the Pythoness, perform a Healing, perform a Marriage, conduct a funeral, or any number of other activities. Making the Eirisione, enacting a mystery; any number of 'exercises or contests' are here appropriate.


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, in koinonia by the sharing of the Sacral Feast.


Everybody eats.


The Libation of Thanks


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


"Apollon, Kharin ekhomen 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 forehead in offering, and saying:


"Apollon, Hilathi!"

(Apollon Be Propitious!)


"Apollon, Sponde!"

or simply

"Apollon, 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.






23 April 1999.

Thiasos Olympikos 9

Revised Very Slightly

May 15, 2002



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