A Hellenic Valentine's Day by Starlite
As a Hellenic witch and hopeless romantic, Gamelion or (Jan-Feb) is one of my favourite months as it centres around the celebration of love, relationships, marriage and social stability. The festival Theogamia, Gamelia or Hieros Gamos (the sacred marriage) is celebrated on the 27th of the month and in 2018 the 27th Gamelion falls on 14th February according to the reconstructed Attic calendar published by Hellenion.
Theogamia/Gamelia celebrates the anniversary of the marriage (gamos) of Zeus Teleios (of marriage rites or authority, head of the family) and Hera Teleia, as the patron Theoi of marriage, making Gamelion the ideal time to marry, perhaps because spring and new beginnings is just around the corner. (Parke 104).
I get caught up in my modern construct of what marriage is, in ancient Hellas it was no doubt a means to an end, you got married to have children and strengthen community and family connections. If love did blossom, I’d like to think that this festival is the day to celebrate it.
There’s not a great deal of information surviving about the festival itself, what we do know is it was likely a domestic festival, and feasting was likely involved. I would think sexual intercourse was expected. It’s thought that unmarried men were free of religious obligations on this day and were most likely found “out on the town”.
We know Hera Teleia (Goddess of new beginnings and marriage rites) is the primary deity honoured, closely followed by her husband. Some believe the marriage of Zeus and Hera was enacted by participants, the Iliad has an epic account of how a divine union might have been imagined:
“With that the son of Cronus caught his wife in his arms
and under them now the holy earth burst with fresh green grass,
crocus and hyacinth, clover soaked with dew, so thick and soft
it lifted their bodies off the hard, packed ground…
Folded deep in that bed they lay and round them wrapped
a marvellous cloud of gold, and glistening showers of dew
rained down around them both. And so, deep in peace,
the Father slept on Gargaron peak, conquered by Sleep
And strong assaults of Love, his wife locked in his arms.”
—Iliad, 14.413-421, translated by Robert Fagles
I believe despite the commercial onslaught that comes with Valentine’s Day, that this is a time to honour our relationships. You could talk about the last year, reflecting on your relationship, the good, bad and ugly. Make this a time to clear the air and the slate, we all argue, we all have annoyances and worries about our relationships future, so how about talking about your dreams again, setting some goals to work toward as a team.
This is a reminder to give some time to your spouse, leave work early, get a baby sitter, have that dinner together, cultivate some romance, and dare I say it… have an evening of blissful, all-consuming love making!
Fagles, Robert, translator, The Iliad, 1990, Penguin, New York
Parke, H.W., Festivals of the Athenians, 1977, Cornell University Press, London