Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kala Thargelia

Happy Thargelia!

There has been a lot of talking lately in quite a few number of Hellenic groups about this festival dedicated to Artemis and Apollon. This year the Thargelia starts today (22nd of May) at sunset and ends when the sun sets two days later, Thursday, May 24. I thought of gather a small list of "all things Thargelia", so here it goes:

  • Pharmakos, the very famous space goat. In ancient times the pharmakos would be a real person, or more than one, whom would either be stoned to death, wiped with onion, kicked out of town or other forms of pain purification or of riddance of miasma from the community. This is the purpose of the pharmakos, though nowadays it can also be used as a way to purify oneself. Also, in modern times the pharmakos is a symbolic representation which is usually ritually charged with all one wishes to change in one self and then disposed in a ritualistic manner (mostly burning), and there are even people who don't use it at all and have some other less violent form of purification instead. And, on a side note, the pharmakos ritual does not involve Apollon or Artemis in particular;

  • Thargelos: the thargelos is either a stew of all kinds of grain you can find, a bread of all kinds of grain you can find or both. Either way, it is an offering made to Apollon in a kind of first fruit offering, so the God might give plentiful harvests. This is that kind of offering witch you give to the god but don't eat yourself, unlike the feast that follows, which, many suggest, should be vegetarian;

  • Birthday: this festival celebrates the birthday of Artemis (6th Thargelion, the first day) and of Apollon (7th Thargelion, the second day) according to some sources, although this would vary from city to city and even inside one city. Anyway, this could be an appropriate time to offer significant gifts to the Gods, such as jewelery, statues, clothing and such. It could also be celebrated in a modern frame by singing happy birthday and offering a birthday cake (although I suspect the Thargelos can be kind of a birthday cake)

  • Artemis: ok, it should be obvious that Artemis is celebrated in this ritual as well as Apollon. However, many find it difficult to understand why, or in what way, because of how the Thargelos is given to Apollon only and the all purification theme. However, it should be noted that not only is this Artemis' birthday (as well as Apollon's) but the celebration was originally Artemisian and only later shifted to being primarily Apollonian. Also, Artemis is often associated with purification by pain, most famously in Sparta;

  • Brutality: the Thargelia is a brutal and abhorrent ritual, it is about the dark side of everything and it is an obscure ritual in the first day (read the hymn just below), and a bright ritual in the second. In my opinion, one should not dismiss the dark part of the ritual just because we don't feel comfortable with it, darkness is a very common attribute of both Artemis and Apollon, the slayers of Niobe's children;

  • Purification: Thargelia is about purification with the pharmakos, which can be wiped with onion, stoned and burned. It has also been suggested that one would purify oneself in a more literal way, by wiping oneself with onion, maybe throwing some stones or do something painful. Tradition says that the all society and community should be purified, but nowadays it is common to purify just the the community celebrating the festival;

  • Eiresione: the eiresione is a branch of olive tree with fruit and oil hanging from it that is made either in the Pyanepsia or the Thargelia and is hang in the door for the year, until another one is made. Either it is made in the Pyanepsia or the Thargelia, on the second day of the Thargelia it is carried around in the procession by the boys;

I will be posting the ritual and a small page about the festival in Ancient and Modern times in my page (http://portuskale.org/) which, unfortunately, is in Portuguese, probably tomorrow. However, at my online Temple of Apollon and Asklepios (http://portuskale.org/temple/) I will probably also post something about this and maybe a recipie for the Thargelos either tomorrow or Thursday.

1 comment:

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