Farming and Husbandry
Thargelia (Greek Θαργήλια) was one of the chief Athenian festivals in honour of the Delian Apollo and Artemis, held on their birthdays, the 6th and 7th of the month Thargelion (about May 24 and May 25).
Essentially an agricultural festival, the Thargelia included a purifying and expiatory ceremony. While the people offered the first-fruits of the earth to the god in token of thankfulness, it was at the same time necessary to propitiate him, lest he might ruin the harvest by excessive heat, possibly accompanied by pestilence. The purificatory preceded the thanksgiving service.
The most important ritual was the following. Two men, the ugliest that could be found (the Pharmakoi) were chosen to die, one for the men, the other (according to some, a woman) for the women. Acting as scapegoats for community guilt, they were draped in figs and led through the city. before being cast out.
Hipponax of Kolophon claims that on the day of the sacrifice they were led round with strings of figs on their necks, and whipped on the genitals with rods of figwood and squills. When they reached the place of sacrifice on the shore, they were stoned to death, their bodies burnt, and the ashes thrown into the sea (or over the land, to act as a fertilizing influence). However, it is unclear how accurate Hipponax’s sixth-century, poetical account of the ceremony is, and there is much scholarly debate as to its reliability.
On the first day of the festival, a sheep was sacrificed to Demeter Chloe on the Acropolis, and perhaps a swine to the Fates, but it is generally agreed that an actual human sacrifice took place on this occasion, replaced in later times by a milder form of expiation. Thus at Leucas a criminal was annually thrown from a rock into the sea as a scapegoat: but his fall was checked by live birds and feathers attached to his person, and men watched below in small boats, who caught him and escorted him beyond the boundary of the city. Similarly, at Massilia, on the occasion of some heavy calamity (plague or famine), one of the poorest inhabitants volunteered as a scapegoat. For a year he was fed up at the public expense, then clothed in sacred garments, led through the city amidst execrations, and cast out beyond the boundaries.
After having rid the city of any ill influences on the first day of the festival, the second day begins with a joyous attitude. It follows the basic structure of any other Hellenic festival. First, there was a procession, which included children who carried the eiresione, an olive branch decorated with woolen fillets, bread, fruits, small flasks of honey, and some with oil. The children would sing the following while carrying this:
“The Eiresione brings figs and fat bread,
honey in pots, and oil to rub down,
a cup of strong wine so you go drunk to bed.”
As they moved through the city, they would collect offerings along the way. Once arriving at the temple, the offering of the first fruits of the grain harvest would begin. From the surviving texts we learn that the offering was of two types: a boiled stew of grains and seasonal vegetables, or the loaf of grain bread called the thargelos. It is from the name of the loaf that the festival takes its name. This loaf was also called eueteria, meaning “good year.”
There would also be libations, hymns, much feasting and other activities during the celebration. Singing competitions were especially popular, in which 50 men from the 10 tribes of Athens participated. All of these were done in honor of Apollo, god of purification.
For a more modern approach, we have this idea:
- Themes: Cleansing; Offering; Forgiveness; Magic
- Symbols: Ritual Tools
- Presiding Goddess: As the Greek goddess who created all sacred rituals and ceremonies, Hosia oversees this rite and directs your magical energy toward successful manifestation.
To do Today:
Follow Greek tradition and leave Hosia an offering of fruit, bread, or wheat to encourage her assistance. Next consider creating a personal ritual for cleansing or forgiveness. Hosia will guide your hand in choosing words and actions suited to the working. Alternatively, take out your ritual tools and ask for hosia’s blessing on them saying:
Hosia, these are the tools of my hand, heart, and spirit.
They symbolize the elements and the corners of creation.
Today I ask that you empower them for working magic,
and regulate their use for the greatest good.
May they always direct my energy in perfect love and trust.
So be it.
In ancient Greece, a scapegoat (often a criminal) was often identified to bear the sins for an entire community, then either sacrificed or banished into the wilderness. A way to adapt this practice is by designing an image of something you need to banish, then “driving it away” by putting it in the car and leaving it in a remote spot. As you turn away, ask the goddess Hosia to witness the rite and to empower your efforts for positive change.
From ancient times people marked the time of the return of the sun, the shortest and longest night. In olden times it was called the Feast of the Dews- Rasos. When Christianity was established in Lithuania, the name was changed to Feast of St. John, according to agrarian folk calendar, the start of haying.
The rituals of the longest day were closely related to agrarian ideas and notions. The main aim was to protect the harvest from natural calamities, evil souls, witches and mid summer visitors like drought, hail, downpours of rain and thunder.
In the 15th century, visitors to Lithuania wrote that in Vilnius, the celebrations took place in the eastern section of the city, the place of the present day “Rasos” cemetery. Fires were lit on hills and in dales. People danced, sang, ate and drank. On the Feast of St John a special role was granted to the sun. The sun is constantly mentioned in songs sung on the longest day of the year.
On this ritual day, farmers paid special attention to water’s special powers in reviving soil and making it productive. Witching on this day were carried out near and with water, people washed themselves and their animals. Special attention was paid to the dew because it revives plants at night. At sunrise farmers made their way around the fields, pulling a branch which brushed the dew to fall into the soil and cause a good harvest.
Maidens tried to get up before sunrise, collect the dew and wash their faces with it to make them bright and beautiful. They would also get up at night, go outside to wet their faces in the dew and returned to bed without wiping their faces dry. If that night they dreamt of a young man bringing them a towel, they hoped that he would be the one they would marry.
Flourishing plants were worshiped because it was believed that plants collected on the eve of the Feast of St. John posses magic powers to heal, bring luck and foretell the future. This is an ancient ritual practiced mainly by women. Roses, common daisies, especially the herb St. John’s worth and numerous grasses were some of the main plants collected at this time.
A festival pole, decorated with flowers and greenery was called “Kupolė”. Folklore shows that “Kupolė” was the Goddess of plants, living in aromatic plants, blossoms or in buds in summer and in snowdrifts in winter.
In Lithuania Minor, even in winter before the Feast of St. John, women made haste to collect medicinal herbs, with the belief that after June 24th all herbs lose their healing powers.
Girls returned to the village after picking flowers and singing, wreathed the festival post, “Kupolė”, and added colorful fluttering ribbons to it. This festival post was set at the far end of the village, near the grain fields. It had to be defended during two days and nights from young men who tried to steal it.
After saving the post, the girls removed the decorative herbs and grasses and divided them amongst themselves because these herbs had special protective powers against evil spirits and illnesses.
In some regions bunches containing nine plants were gathered by women on the eve of the Feast of St. John. Some of the plants were fed to animals before midnight, so they would be protected from evil eyes. Bunches of St. John’s worth were placed behind pictures of saints. If this bunch did not wilt fast, it was believed that it will be a lucky year.
It was believed that wreaths concentrate perpetual life’s forces and are symbols of immortality and life. There were many rites and witching’s associated with wreaths during this longest summer’s night.
Walk around three fields and gather bunches of nine flowers, twine a wreath and place it under your pillow. You will marry the man, who in your dream comes to take away the wreath. At midnight, twelve wreaths were dropped into a river and observed if they were pairing off. If no pairing off occurred, there was to be no marriage that year.
Near the river Nemunas, wreaths were dropped in the water, only when the river was calm and observed to which direction they drifted. Matchmakers would come from that direction. Releasing the wreath with the current, it will be caught by a young man, the maiden will be his. Should the wreath float away without being caught, the maiden will keep that wreath all year in her dowry chest, as a symbol of luck and health.
In the seacoast region, all during the night, young men and women twined wreaths from ferns, placed candles and set them in streams. Should both their wreaths swim together, they believed that they would marry that year.
In some regions wreaths twined during the night of the Feast of St. John were placed at crossroads with the belief that ones future will be seen in a dream.
The rites of this day continued till sunrise around bonfires. The site selected for ritual bonfires was always in the most beautiful area, on hills, on river shores and near lakes. In some regions bonfires were lit on future grain fields and under linden trees.
Those who are not fond of socializing on the eve, hurry and gather along lake shores, light bonfires, place burning poles, covered with tar into trees, so that there would be light all night long until sunrise. Special decorated wheels were lit and were rolled down hillsides, this symbolized the sun’s moving away from the earth and at the same time a request for her return.
In ancient times, the ritual fires were lit by senior priests, “vaidilos”. That fire was started with sparks coming from rubbing dried roots of medicinal herbs or from flying sparks when striking flint stones. Such fires would protect from epidemics, illnesses, poor harvests, hail and lightning.
Eggs were thrown into the fires and animals sacrificed. Later straw dolls were sacrificed in place of animals.
The ritual fires were built up to throw their light over a large area of fields, to assure a big autumn harvest. On the eve of this feast day, home fires were put out and new fires were lit using glowing coals from the ritual fires of that day.
It was believed that these ritual fires had special powers, which would protect from misfortunes, bring health and harmony to the family. It was important for newlyweds to light the fire in their hearth with the coals of the miraculous ritual fire. Such a family would be blessed, live well and in total harmony.
Jumping over fires or around it had magic meaning. Ritual bonfires cleansed both physically and psychologically. Sick adults and children were brought to the ritual fires and were pulled through the fire, with the belief that they would be healed. Jumping over the fire was carried out with the belief of making better health, increasing body strength for hard summer labors and assuring better growth of grain and flax.
Ritual fires’ ashes, smoldering coals had special powers to increase the harvest and protect it from natural calamities. The coals were dug under in fields; ashes were sprinkled on crops to assure good crop yields. To keep weeds from growing in grain fields, ritual fires’ wood splinter remains were tied to the plough share when ploughing the fields.
The feast of St. John is connected with summer weddings and their rituals which were bound to affect family living and population increases. Should a pair become friends this night, there will definitely be a wedding.
The night of June 24th is the shortest night of the year, filled with bird sounds and luxuriant vegetation. Darkness substitutes light unnoticeably, night is full of miracles due to fire reflections and shadows. It was believed that activity during this night of supernatural creatures or female witches was ill disposed towards men, animals and plants. To keep animals from their malevolent actions, animals were put in barns before sunset and were fed bread with salt for protection. Mountain ash branches and wheat sprays were hung on door posts for protection against evil spirits
In some regions clogs were placed in front of a mirror. Witches would step into the clogs and run away upset by their frightful image in the mirror.
“Šatrija” was the most famous witches’ hill, where during the night of the Feast of St. John, witches party and rage all night and invent all kinds of enchanting. This is why one could not do without “witches’ burnings”. Young people tied a barrel filled with tar and sawdust to a high pole, sprinkled it with salt so that the witches would crackle. The barrel was set on fire while the young people sang and danced merrily. Next morning the cow herd was driven through the remaining ashes, with the belief that witching’s will no longer be harmful.
During the night of the Feast of St. John, the miraculous fern bursts into bloom. It is difficult to catch sight of this bloom; however this difficulty can be overcome by going to the forest the day before, cutting down a mountain ash, pruning the branches and cutting off the top. Then pulling the tree backwards, walk about one hundred steps without looking back, toward the side to which the cut tree fell.
Look back after the hundred steps and then you will see the devil sitting stuck in the ash tree. The devil will ask for your help to get off the tree and for your help will tell you where to find the blooming fern. When you locate the blooming fern, ghosts will attack with butting horns whirlwinds will howl and cats will cry. Then take a cane made of mountain ash, draw a circle around you with it, spread a linen cloth and stop being afraid. The fern blossom will fall on the cloth. Some say that the fern bloom is like birch dust, others describe it as round and white like carp’s scale.
Prepared by: http://ausis.gf.vu.lt/eka/
Photos by: Gintaras Jaronis, Vytautas Darasevičius, Leonardas Šidlauskas and A. Kiričenko.
May 29 is the date given for the Roman festival of Ambarvalia, or the Corn Mother Festival. The Goddess Ceres, the food giver, now has her corn festival, which was the cause of a great deal of festivity. At these festivals they sacrificed a bull, a sow, and a sheep, which, before the sacrifice, were led in procession thrice around the fields. It is from this practice that the name Ambarvalia comes Ambio meaning I go round and Arvum meaning field.
These feasts were of two kinds, public and private. The private were solemnized by the masters of families, accompanied by their children and servants, in the villages and farms out of Rome. Celebrants gathered to walk around the freshly plowed fields in joyous processions, wearing crowns of oak leaves and singing hymns to the Earth.The public festivals were celebrated in the boundaries of the city, and in which twelve fratres arvales walked at the head of a procession of the citizens, who had lands and vineyards at Rome. During the procession, prayers would be made to the goddess.
Gods of our fathers, we purify the fields, we purify the farming folk.
O gods, drive evil outside our boundaries.
Let the crop not mock the harvest with deceiving grasses
nor the swift wolves scare the slower lamb.
Today (March 26) marks the beginning of the plowing season in Slavic regions. Before this date the earth is regarded as pregnant. It is a crime against nature and Leshachikha to plow the soil with iron tools when it till bears a magical child (spring). Once earth has given birth, the fields can then accept new seed, which the birds will also appreciate!
From 365 Goddess, we have this way to celebrate the day:
- Themes: Earth; Nature; Harvest; Birth; Protection
- Symbols: Soil; a Leaf; Seeds
- Presiding Goddess: Leshachikha
About Leshachikha: A goddess who sometimes appears as a Slavic forest, a wild animal, or a leaf, Leshachikha is said to have died in October and revived around this time in spring. She fiercely protects her lands, not taking kindly to any who abuse them. In this manner she teaches us about reciprocity and nature’s fury. Additionally, Leshachikha’s watchful aspect can be applied to our figurative lands – for example, safeguarding our homes.
To Do Today:
Go to a nearby field or park today and scatter some seed to Leshachikha to greet her as she awakens.
Whenever you need a little extra protective energy, pick up a fallen leaf and put it in your pocket. This will keep Leshachikha’s guardian powers with you all day. To bring that protection into your home, wax the leaf to preserve it, symbolically sustaining the magical energy forever. Put the waxed leaf near your entryway or in the room where you spend the most time.
There are two feast days in the year which are dedicated to St Peter. January 16, and June 29 (which is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul). What follows is lore and superstition surrounding St Peter’s day:
- No building should ever be begun on St . Peter’s day. It will never prosper.
- The Wallachians say that on St. Peter’s day all roads are guarded by serpents, and whoever kills one on that day will be lucky all the year.
- If it rains on St. Peter and St. Paul, there will be plenty of mushrooms.
- If you set your hens to hatch on Peter’s and Paul’s day, they will become good layers.
- Make nests for the hens on St . Peter’s day, And many ‘s the egg that they will lay.
Collected from various sources