Hellenic Summer Solstice? by Starlit
A lot of folk ask me if there are festivals on the Hellenic path that match up with the Wheel of the Year. The quick answer for most is "no... we're Hellenic... we tend to celebrate Hellenic festivals." With a slightly exasperated sigh.
For me, well, I quite liked celebrating some of the festivals on the Wheel, even if what is actually going on outside of the window isn't quite what it reckons should be going on, naturally speaking. I fell off of it because I didn't gel with those that are honoured. But I still felt a deep connection too are the Equinoxes and Solstices.
Now, if you don't have a huge understanding of the Hellenic Pagan path, that's absolutely fine, but what I will say is, festivals and rituals are our thing. We love to celebrate, so much so, if you really wanted to you could have a ritual or something similar every single day and a celebration/festival at least once a week some months. Actually the former is absolutely encouraged. We're a living, breathing, walking the path kind of Paganism.
So back to celebrations, we're very quickly heading toward the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and of course there are some Attic Calendar (that's what remains of the Athenian Calendar we use) rituals already being planned for at Starlit's Magical Corner (that's where I do my thing) but none of them really scream Solstice to me.
As you know, Summer Solstice is when the day is as its longest, the sun reigns supreme. Sunset and Night time are also used to celebrate, including nodding toward to the fae and those past, who reside in the Underworld. I associate strength, mystery, abundance and virility with this time of year.
I've found three slightly obscure festivals celebrated in the Hellenic world which I combine and make the most of, these are Kildonas from the island of Crete and Lampteria from Achaia and the Prometheia.
The Prometheia is held in honour of Prometheus bringing mankind fire, torch races, games, competitions, feasts and festivities were held.
Kildonas is a fortune telling, bonfire jumping feast still observed in Crete around 24th June. "Kildi" means key and some say symbolises unlocking prophecies.
This appears to be a two day festival - during the first day just before sunset, unmarried girls drink what is known as “silent water” from the village well, taking on a vow of silence they take the pot of water home, where they drop a personal luck charm in to it and leave it outside, I believe to soak up the liminal energy between day and night.
As the sun goes down and stars fill the sky they use the water to bathe in. During the night, the girls are said to dream of the man they will marry.
The next day, each lucky charm is taken out of the pot while prophecies are sung and played on traditional musical instruments.
On the following night, bonfires are lit around the country and people jump over the burning logs three times as an act of purification. At the end of the night a human effigy made of hay is thrown into the fire as a sacrificial scape goat so that evil can be expelled. Feasts follow with music, dance, and of course, plenty of food.
The Lampteria was held in honour of Dionysos Lamptêr (torch bearing) or Dionysos Lamptêros (of the torches). Pausanias writes that Lampteria involved carrying torches to the temple of Dionysos at night, and leaving vases of wine throughout the city. There's very little else in terms of how...
I connect Lampteria to Dionysos’ khthonic aspects and to stranded souls of the departed. I have a lot of personal associations with torches as beacons, the idea of using Dionysos’ torches as a beacon for the dead who have been stranded for lack of payment to Charon really resonates with me and others. I strongly believe in this version, Dionysos would lead the souls to the crossroads, where Hekate can help guide them back to Charon if their wait is over.
To combine all of this...
Before sunset on solstice eve, I place some filtered water into a pot and drop a personal good luck charm (a water friendly crystal with luck associations) into it.
At sunset I will pour some of the water into my bath, along with any cleansing and/or healing herbs. Instead of going to sleep to dream of a potential man (I'm already married) I will keep candles burning for the souls and create a fire in my cauldron (I live in an apartment). Throughout the night I will meditate, drum, sing, and dance, hoping to enter an altered state and commune with my ancestors. I give offerings to Dionysos, Prometheus and the souls, especially wine, coins, incense, round sun like honey cakes, bright summer blooms, and, incense.
At sunrise I will remove the charm from the pot and throw my Astragali (knuckle bones) to receive a prophecy, welcome Helios with dancing and drumming. The day that follows will include a feast, music, dancing, games, and getting outside to give my offerings to nature.
Happy Summer Solstice my Stars