PAT ritual announcement(s) for the Dionysia (and the Pandia)

PAT ritual announcement(s) for the Dionysia (and the Pandia)

The festival season is starting up again, and Elaion is on a mission to host PAT festivals for all of them, so instead of spamming you with posts for upcoming rituals, you are getting just one–with two of them, the Dionysia and the Pandia.

The Dionysia

The (Greater) City Dionysia was and is a true theatric festival of Dionysos. It was and is held on the 10th to 17th days of Elaphebolion and is thought to have been founded, or at least revived, by the tyrant Pisistratus (around 530 BC). It was most famously held in Athens, when the city was once again full of visitors after the winter. The festival honours Dionysos Eleuthereus (Διονυσος Ελευθερευς), who was said to have been introduced into Athens from the village of Eleuterae (Ελευθέραι). The festival focuses on the performance of tragedies, but has included the performing of comedies since 487 BC. It was the second-most important festival after the Panathenaia.

 Dionysos was a métoikos in a city of Athens, a resident alien, and on the first two days of the festival, the métoikoi of the city got to wear brightly colored festival clothes–mostly purple–and carried trays of offerings in the processions, something métoikoi never got to do otherwise. The Athenian citizens, on the other hand, wore their day-to-day clothes and carried wine and bread with them, or herded the bulls which would be sacrificed. Labrys, a Hellenic Polytheistic group located in Greece, recently performed the Phallephoria, the carrying of a phallus in procession in honor of Dionysus through the streets of Athens, for the first time after almost two thousand years.

At the end of the processions, the statue of Dionysos was placed in His temple in the theater district, and sacrifices were made to Him. Flute players and poets held contests, and were eager to outdo each other. After all of this, the festival most likely became very Dionysian, indeed.

Singing and dancing had always been a big part of the City Dionysia, but after a while, the structure of the seven day festival became more apparent. Instead of random singing and dancing, from the third day onward, everyone flogged to the theaters to view the plays, whose names and creators had been announced the day prior. The next three days of the festival were devoted to the tragic plays. The three chosen playwrights performed three tragedies and one satyr play each, one set of plays per day. Famous playwrights include Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles. They were judged by judges (agonothetai) chosen on the second day.

On the sixth day of the festival, five comedies by famous playwrights like Philemon, Chionides, and Aristophanes were performed. Comedies were of secondary importance at the Dionysia–the Lenaia was far more important for those–but winning the comedic prize at the Dionysia was still regarded a great honor. It seems that, from the fifth century BC onwards, plays could be recycled, and the audience seemed to have appreciated it. These plays were fan favorites, and were not rushed to completion.

Another procession and celebration was held on the final day, and the winners of the competitions were declared. The winning playwrights won a wreath of ivy, or a goat, although, when old plays were performed, the producer was awarded the prize rather than the long-dead playwright.

To celebrate the Dionysia, Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual on April 6, at the standard 10 AM EDT. You can find the ritual here, and we hope you will join us. We’ve chosen to host the ritual on the final day simply because it was a day reserved for sacrifices and rites, and we’ve already had quite the influx of rituals the weekend before (the other option was at the start, which would be Monday March 30).

The Pandia

The Pandia was an ancient state festival attested as having been held annually at Athens as early as the time of Demosthenes–namely the 4th century BC. Very little is known about this festival, but seeing as we know it was wedged in between a meeting to evaluate the misconduct during the Dionysia on the eitheenth of Elaphebolion and the Dionysia itself, we can at least say with relative accuracy that it was held on the 17th of the month, although the 14th is also mentioned for its connection to the full moon (see below).

What the Pandia celebrate or commemorated is unclear; it’s origin story is lost to us and the only records we have of the festival taking place date from much later than its foundation. To the ancient Hellenes who attested to the festival, it was merely a fossilized event that had remained from times past, and they celebrated it in the same way every year–a way obviously not interesting enough to write down. It seems that even they weren’t exactly sure about what the festival celebrated.

Pandia (πάνδια), or Pandeia (Πανδεια), was said to have been a Goddess of the moon, either as an epithet of Selene or as a Goddess onto herself–the daughter of Zeus and Selene. As such, there may have been a connection to the moon for the festival, and either to Pandia, Selene, or Zeus. Another explanation would be that the festival is derived from the Attic king Pandion I (Πανδίων Α’), who was said to have lived from 1437 – 1397 BC. Like his father Erichthonius, Pandion married a naiad, Zeuxippe, and they had five children, Erechtheus, Butes, Procne, Philomela, and Cecrops II. According to Pseudo-Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca, it was during Pandion I’s reign that Demeter and Dionysos came to the city-state of Athens. Before his death, he gave the rule of Athens to Erechtheus, but the priesthoods of Poseidon and Athena to Butes.

A third possibility is that the festival is connected to the Attic tribe Dias, so that the Pandia would have been in the same relation to this tribe as the Panathenaea to Athens. A fourth is that the name of the festival is linked to the tribe, but also the name of Zeus–Dias, Διός–which would make it a festival of Zeus Himself.

Elaion won’t hold an official PAT ritual for the Pandia because there is so much unclear about it and the festival itself so archaic, but I enjoy celebrating it, so I’ve made a ritual outline, regardless, and will perform it on April 7 to honour Zeus, Selene, and Pandia. You are very welcome to join me!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *