Elaion is proud to announce that on the sixth and seventh of Thargelion (so 13 and 14 May, 2016), we will be hosting another PAT ritual, this time for the Thargelia. PAT rituals, or Practicing Apart Together rituals, have become a staple for Elaion, where we, as an organisation, provide a date, time, and ritual for the festival at hand, and around the globe, as many of our members as possible perform the ritual at their homes. Some do it alone, some in groups, and we create an event to share experiences and photographs of the altar or the festivities on the Elaion Facebook page.
The Thargelia (Θαργήλια) was, as said, held over the course of two days. It was an agricultural festival as well as a kathartic one. The purpose was to purify the city in order to please the Theoi and ensure a succesful harvest come harvesting time. It also celebrates the birth of the divine twins Apollon and Artemis.
The first day, a sheep was sacrificed to Demeter Khloe on the Acropolis, and perhaps a swine to the Fates, but most telling about that first day was the following that took place:
In ancient times, two poor, ugly men (or a man and one woman) were chosen each year to be Pharmakoi. They were fed for a while at public expense and were then paraded around Athens as scapegoats for the people, one wearing a string of black figs to represent the men, the other white figs to represent the women. At the end of the procession, they were driven out of the city by flogging and beaten them with branches and squills (sea onions), and killed. The bodies were burned and the ashes thrown into the sea or land, to fertilize.
This sacrifice became symbolic as time wore on, first with banishment, then with play acting where they were beaten with branches of figs and pelted with squills instead of beaten with branches and stoned to death.What matters was that they were driven out and with them, so was the pollution of ever man and woman in the city.
The first day focussed on purification and appeasement but the second day was a lot less gruesome: a great pot of vegetables was prepared as an offering of the first fruits to Apollon. A panspermia was ritually sown into the earth. The Thargelia also featured choral contests among pairs of phratriai, and was recognized by phratriai as a day of festival and sacrifice. An eiresione (olive branch of supplication) with fillets of white wool and first fruits attached was carried in procession along with a winnowing basket full of fruit.
Sources tell us clearly that Apollon was linked to the festival as well as the sun, Helios, and the seasons, the Horai. With Apollon’s birth, so came the light that grew the vegetation, that ripened the corn and barley. And in line with Apollon is Helios who jouneys across the sky every day and the Horai who precide over the lengthening and shortening of the days, giving Apollon and Helios more or less time with us to ripen our crops.
At its core this festival is a festival of Apollon, but myth tells us Artemis helped bring Him into the world and thus She is honoured as well. And we bring Demeter offerings because She taught us how to grow crops and once Persephone leaves for the Underworld again, She will kill them all. Add to that the Horai and Helios and you have a very involved and intricate festival that was absolutely essential to ensure a good harvest. And so we shall celebrate it as well and honour to all these Theoi in appeasement.