2022 Anthesteria Plans

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.

Pithoigia

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.


Khoes

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?

Khytroi

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. 💐

10 thoughts on “2022 Anthesteria Plans

  1. Thanks for sharing all of this! I have lots of food for thought here, but for the moment there’s one piece in particular where I’d welcome some further elaboration, to help clarify my own vague and muddled thoughts, if you’re willing.

    How is it—in what way(s)—that periodic covering/leaving fallow of the shrines is apotropaic? What evils/harms are being warded off or prevented by doing so?

    I’m not at all meaning to challenge the basic claim (that this practice is, or at least can be, apotropaic), but I’d like to develop a more robust sense of exactly how that is: a sense that would let me (and perhaps others) engage this practice more carefully and deliberately, and so (hopefully) more effectively.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Part of this comes from Sallust’s On the Gods and the World Chapter 18: “Nor can the whole world participate in a similar manner of the providence of the gods; but some of its parts enjoy this eternally and others according to time; some possess this primarily and others in a secondary degree: just as the head perceives from all the senses, but the whole body from one alone. And on this account, as it appears to me, those who instituted festive days, appointed also such as are inauspicious; during which some particulars belonging to sacred rites are omitted, and other are shut up; but such things as expiate the imbecillity of our nature deprive certain particulars of their peculiar ornament.”

      I got to thinking about it, as I said, in a fictional worldbuilding context — without thinking of Sallust at all — when I was trying to do something technical and theological with the worldbuilding in a way that seeded the plot (breaking a prohibition against looking upon oracles during an inauspicious season because someone was impatient and disrespectful). I re-read Sallust shortly after outlining that, and the passage struck me.

      To think Platonically, it would be odd if fallow/inauspicious days were actually days of immense, inauspicious danger, as nothing bad comes from the Gods, and nothing evil actually exists — it’s all just that space-time interference pattern. I think these inauspicious days must symbolically function to call attention to and augment the sense of sacredness on auspicious and ordinary days. Of course, we also have days like this at the end of each lunar month, and I’m trying to integrate that a bit better by doing ancestor and underworld-focused prayers at that time. It’s a 2022 goal.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My take on miasma and veiling the shrines is somewhat heretical, but I don’t see it as apotropaic so much as a grace period. When ill or in mourning, I’m given some time off from functioning as a priestess. I’m not shut off from my Gods, just given some time to NOT be a shrine tender, or particularly pious, even to be angry with Them.
      In the Anthesteria particularly this doesn’t really apply. I do it to protect the shrines from the pollution of Orestes, but I didn’t do it this year.

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  2. I get the feeling everyone is getting a bare bones vibe this year. I’m mostly doing libations for Dionysos, Ariadne, and the dead with maybe a doll hung for Erigone if I can find a good one

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That sounds lovely and very fitting! There must be something in the air, and also … I just realized that there were more than two holidays happening at the same time because many people were celebrating a superb owl 🦉 on Sunday.

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  3. I have to scale mine way back this year, but a friend helped me set up a really beautiful altar. I’ll just do a single element of the festival on each day of it. But the wine will be poured and the prayers said!

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