In this post of the Hearth of Hellenism, I want to introduce to you the “Greek Wheel of the Year” using the calendar that was established by Y.S.E.E. It varies from the typical “wheel of the year” that you may be familiar with.
When do we honor the gods? We honor the Gods all the time, but certain times more than others, that is when a religious calendar comes in. Calendars however are a problematic issue concerning contemporary paganism. The problem is that the Greeks had many holidays, and a variety of religious activities to do during the year. Which system do you follow, which holidays do you observe? Contemporary followers can participate on various levels with differing degrees ranging from simple to complex.
An important thing to keep in mind is that you do not have to reconstruct/ imitate the ancient ways that is out of sync of our times. We do not seek to replicate exactly everything from the past. Our lives differ so greatly from the lives of our ancestors. The polis and cultic religious practices are gone, vanishing and transformed when Christianity came in. Many traditional festivals continued under a Christian disguise along with folk practices from the ancient world. Nothing is ever completely lost, you just need to know where to look.
Bringing back a revived Hellenism requires an acceptance that we are in the 21st century. We honor the past, we seek to restore what we can, but also in a way that makes sense that bridges the ancient ways within the modern reality. This is the essence of a living tradition, it evolves without losing itself. The simple fact that we recognize that the Gods existence and we seek ways to honor them is enough. The added bonus of remaining information we have from the historic record and oral traditions helps us to pick up where we left off and gives us the bridge of continuity.
The calendar produced by Y.S.E.E joins contemporary man with the close contact that ancient man had with the cycles of nature.. Each month features a festival from antiquity, and is directly linked to a moral (virtues) exercise in the specific qualities associated with the honored Gods. The calendar presented here is a solar based, reflecting the cycle of the sun along with the cycle of nature.
Each month has a festival, a presiding deity, and virtues for contemplation. The twelve festivals are divided into two groups, “Solar” and “Olympian.” As the year progesses I will do my best to share with you each given month’s festivals and activities as I did in October of 2017.
The Greek Wheel of the Year
1. January, beginning of the sign of Aquarius, celebration of Theogamia (Sacred Marriage). Goddess Hera dominates during this month and the cultivated virtues are Boldness (Παρρησία) and Pride (Υπερηφάνεια).
2. February, beginning of the sign of Pisces, celebration of Anthesteria (honoring Dionysus, the God of vegetation). During this month God Poseidon dominates and the virtues cultivated are Piety (Ευσέβεια) and Integrity (Χρηστότης).
3. March, beginning of the sign of Aries, celebration of the Spring Equinox and Asklepeia (honoring God Asclepius). In this month Goddess Athena dominates and the virtues of Bravery (Ανδρεία) and Ingenuity (Αγχίνοια) are cultivated.
4. April, beginning of the sign of Taurus, celebration of Charesia – Aphrodisia (honoring Goddess Antheia Aphrodite, the Graces and “georgios” / “terrene” Sun -Helios of the spring). During this month Goddess Aphrodite dominates and the virtues of Love (Φιλότης) and Generosity (Γενναιοδωρία / Χαριστικότης) are cultivated.
5. May, beginning of the sign of Gemini, celebration of Thargelia (honoring the twin Gods Apollo and Artemis). During this month God Apollo dominates and the virtues of Harmony (Αρμονία) and Honesty / Straightforwardness (Ειλικρίνεια / Ευθύτης) are cultivated.
6. June, beginning of the sign of Cancer, celebration of the Summer Solstice. During this month God Hermes dominates and the virtues of Knowledge of good dealings (Ευσυναλλαξία) and Sociability (Ευκοινωνησία) are cultivated.
7. July, beginning of the sign of Leo celebration of Dioscuria and honoring the Dioscuri and the heroes of the battle of Thermopylae. During this month God Zeus dominates and the virtues of Justice (Δικαιοσύνη) and Orderliness (Ευταξία) are cultivated.
8. August, beginning of the sign of Virgo, celebration of Heraia in honor of the Goddess Hera. During this month, the Goddess Demeter dominates and the virtues of Endurance (Καρτερία) and Prudence (Σύνεσις) are cultivated.
9. September, beginning of the sign of Libra, celebration of the Autumn Equinox and honors to the heroes of the battle of Marathon. During this month God Hephaestus dominates and the virtues of Creativity (Ευμηχανία) and Diligence (Φιλοπονία) are cultivated.
10. October, beginning of the sign of Scorpio (Taurus polarity), celebration of Herakleia (honoring God Hercules, the “demetrius” / “subterranean” Helios – Sun of the autumn). God Mars dominates this month and the virtues of Courage (Θαρραλεότης) and Steadfastness (Ευψυχία) are cultivated.
11. November, beginning of the sign of Sagittarius, celebration of Maimakteria (invocation to God Zeus Maimaktes for a mild winter). Goddess Artemis dominates this month and the virtues of Wisdom (Σωφροσύνη) and Self-Restraint (Εγκράτεια) are cultivated.
12. December, beginning of the sign of Capricorn, celebration of Triespron (birth of Triesperos Herakles) and of the Winter Solstice. During this month Goddess Hestia dominates and the virtues of Stability (Σταθερότης) and Decency (Κοσμιότης) are cultivated.
Since it is January (Gamelion | Γαμηλιών) let us begin with the Theogamia, the Sacred Marriage of Zeus and Hera. This festival honors the union of the King and Queen of Olympus. Their union produces Life, which is represented by Dionysus (the winter sun), who’s festival is celebrated in February.
A simple at home for the following festival that can be done at your altar/shrine. Burning of incense (styrax is recommended). You may wish to decorate, you can do so using the attributes of the gods. Peacock feathers and lilies for Hera, and eagle feathers and oak branches for Zeus.
“Hear us/me Gods of the Hellas, You we/I call upon, to come to us/me in good mind.
Hear us/me blessed ones and come to us/me from fire, from earth, from water, from air, and from Olympus.”
Wish to the Gods of the Hearth
“We/I invoke you Household God,
Overseer of the home
increaser of our possessions,
in every space, house or workshop
and always in charge.
We/I invoke your presence Goddess Hestia,
seated in the center, of every space, house or workshop
and always in charge
We/I invoke your presence Ephestian Gods
and divine ancestors,
pure sources of all generations
invisible just spirits
guides of your offspring.
Come to us/me in good spirits,
You who possess all the graces, come to this sacred ceremony
Heed our/my prayer with a favorable ear
Come to us/me and take away
troubles and illnesses,
Give us/me peace that brings happiness,
prosperity, well-being of the body
and increase the light of our minds”
“May it be!”
Invocation to Zeus and Hera
Hymn to Zeus
“O Zeus, much-honour’d, Zeus supremely great,
To thee our holy rites we consecrate,
Our pray’rs and expiations, king divine,
For all things to produce with ease thro’ mind is thine.
Hence mother Earth and mountains swelling high
Proceed from thee, the deep and all within the sky.
Saturnian king, descending from above,
Magnanimous, commanding, sceptred Jove;
All-parent, principle and end of all,
Whose pow’r almighty shakes this earthly ball;
Ev’n Nature trembles at thy mighty nod,
Loud-sounding, arm’d with light’ning, thund’ring God.
Source of abundance, purifying king,
O various-form’d, from whom all natures spring;
Propitious hear my pray’r, give blameless health,
With peace divine, and necessary wealth.”
Hymn to Hera
“O royal Hera, of majestic mien,
Aerial-form’d, divine, Zeus’ blessed queen,
Thron’d in the bosom of cerulean air,
The race of mortals is thy constant care.
The cooling gales thy pow’r alone inspires,
Which nourish life, which ev’ry life desires.
Mother of show’rs and winds, from thee alone,
Producing all things, mortal life is known;
All natures share thy temp’rament divine,
And universal sway alone is thine.
With sounding blasts of wind, the swelling sea
And rolling rivers roar when shook by thee.
Come, blessed Goddess, fam’d almighty queen,
With aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.”
Closing of the Ritual
“Farewell Blessed ones, farewell eternal Gods,
To the pious worshipers, increase the Divine Light,
Disease, pains and decay take away to the ends of the earth.
May it be.”