Today, I had a PTO day to get myself together for the Anthesteria — to finish up a work-adjacent-but-not-actually-part-of-my-job thing with a deadline early next week, buy wine, and dive into Proclus readings.
Once two of the three items were done (is one ever done reading Proclus?), I thought through how I feel about the Anthesteria and what I want to do this year. Anthesteria will forever be the holiday I remember for what happened on its second day in 2020 — the day I went home from work early with a 101-degree fever, which precipitated so many days out sick in bed with Influenza B (and Gods know what else if I was co-infected with something) that my boss at one point told me she’d assume I was still sick unless I emailed. I don’t want to decompress about it every year, but it’s the first thing I thought about when Anthesteria rolled around last year, and it’s the first thing I thought about after celebrating the new moon this month. The unpleasantness of the illness is a February — and Anthesteria — association for me now, be as it may.
This year, I’m doing an experimental recalibration. For the past few years, navigating the tension between knowing that these are auspicious Dionysian days and not wanting to do fanciful reenactment has been a bit awkward — especially since the elements I am calling “reenactment,” while I was active in recon spaces, always seemed to hang together disjointedly and with too-rough edges. (Perhaps I’m the kind of person who is obsessed with smoothness, unity, and harmony, given how much I iterate elements of my life when I don’t feel they are in sync, as if I am in a constant game of cat-and-mouse with chaos. May Apollon Smintheos guide me.) And what we are trying to do is bring the potentiality of these Dionysos-resonant days into actuality via rites appropriate to the substrata we find ourselves in.
The solution I’m exploring is to consider the holiday in a broader thematic way — its floral associations, the opening of new wine bottles, the connections to the dead — as a celebration of the Encosmic King and all that entails. I want to lean into what is said in Hermias about Dionysos and purification, as well as in Damascius about Dionysos, while thinking about the cycles of souls and the rich imagery of marsh and flower-filled meadow.
It is also important to me to leave shrines fallow for a few days each year, as a way of rest — but such a thing is apotropaic, especially for those of us who have a divination practice. It’s a way of refreshing and recharging the space to keep it sacred. This mindset came about in me when I was doing worldbuilding for some shrine concepts in the specfic I write. I started wrestling with how to theologically justify shrines’ fallow days — again, starting in the fictional context, but then I realized that the idea of apotropaic fallow periods could apply more broadly. It was suddenly very exciting. Adopt it if you like, and feel free to leave it if you don’t.
The bullet points below are not a ritual outline. They’re evening actions that I want to do, and they’ll be woven into the appropriate way to pray for the practice I have. Note that if you want to find your own sunset and sunrise times (as days begin at sunset in this lunar calendar), you will need to check Time and Date.
For 2022: Feb 11 – Feb 12
- Libation of wine to Dionysos (plus the fancy incense I bought several months ago to hit a free shipping threshold that actually has wine in it and is called Bacchus)
- Recitation of Orphic Hymn to Dionysos and that bit of the Bacchae at line 70-something
- New flowers for the home (not happening in 2022 because I was unsuccessful at timing and am competing with people celebrating Valentine’s Day — I’m going to be my own best friend next year and add a Google Keep reminder in mid-January 2023 to make sure I’m on top of this, especially since I’m thinking of dried or realistic paper bouquets for environmental reasons, and I’m going to order flowers for the Eumenideia now)
- Recitation of prayer beads for Dionysos — the ones I normally use for purification
Here, note the (1) celebration of Dionysos with wine and (2) the emphasis on purification and flowers. I’m 10000% sure that I could playfully discuss flowers in terms of the flower of the mind and soul just as much as I could talk about wildflowers and meadows. I will not do that, though, given my intention of getting back to basics this year.
For 2022: Feb 12 (sundown at 5:21) – Feb 13
- Covering of the shrines at sunset
- Offering of wine to ancestors
- Offering of wine (not at a shrine) to Dionysos, silent
I’m keeping this extremely simple. The silent offering to Dionysos is something I’ve done on Khoes for a few years, and it’s gone very well. I told myself when sundown was because this means I’ll start covering the shrines at 5 PM or so. It’s still up in the air (I’m going to check via divination) whether I should cover my ancestral practices shrine, but I’ll only be praying to the household Gods and divinities (defined narrowly) and ancestors at that shrine for these days anyway.
I do pray to Apollon every day, and I’ve committed this birth year to praying to Athene every day. I have a backup plan for impure days for how to do this, and the backup doesn’t involve tangible offerings. I might read this poem for Apollon?
For 2022: Feb 13 – Feb 14
- Libation to the Chthonic Gods
- Offering of wine, a hard-boiled egg, and crushed garlic to the ancestors and Chthonic Hermes
I am experimenting this year with offering Gods drinks and food items that I actually eat (and enjoy) because it feels like a more precious sacrifice to give it up. I made a concession with the wine because it’s Anthesteria, as, again, I don’t drink.
Feb 14 post-sundown (after 5:24 PM)
- Uncover shrines
- Do a purification (probably at 7:30 or so after I get back from spin and shower)
- Prayer beads? Is this overmuch?
My girlfriend and I are in a near-distance relationship, so we’ll be doing couples stuff over the weekend instead of on the 14th. She’s not particularly religious, so part of why I’m staying semi-minimal is that (a) I know these observations will be solo and (b) Anthesteria is temporally clashing with an American secular holiday, like two galaxies colliding without their stars even touching.
So, that’s everything that I’m thinking about for Anthesteria this year.
Wishing you all the joys of the season. 💐