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The Calendar and my Climate

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The Calendar and my Climate

Post  Artemisia Apollonia on Tue May 27, 2014 8:45 pm

Hello,
I've been looking into the Athenian calendar, and being that I live in New England, I've been finding that a lot of the festivals don't match very well to the seasons and agricultural cycles in my climate. I want celebrate the festivals when it makes sense for my climate, but I also like having a calendar to keep me organized, so I've been experimenting with ways to shift the Athenian New Year on the 1st of Hekatombaion to another time of the year so that the Athenian months and festivals would align to my climate, and sometimes it works alright, but not great. Has anyone tried to do anything like this or is it better that I not use the calendar at all?
Also I've been seeing bloggers who follow the Athenian calendar exactly even though it might not fit their climate, why is this?
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Re: The Calendar and my Climate

Post  Erodius on Tue May 27, 2014 10:17 pm

The Attic calendar, as I think I have discussed in other posts (although, I apologize, I cannot remember enough to direct you to any thread by name), would have been almost totally irrelevant, even in Antiquity, to anyone who did not live within the area of Athens. It was by no means a universal Greek calendar, and a large portion of the dates and religious festivals were specific to Athens, or even to specific sites or areas of Attica, and would not have been observed even elsewhere in Greece. There are a handful of festivals that were fairly universal to all of Greece and even beyond into other Hellenized areas, and which remain in observance in Greece today, but only maybe six or eight– far, far fewer than the almost 100 marked on the Attic calendar. The vast majority of these were on the level of importance of minor local saint days in the Catholic Church, and would have only been observed at, maybe, a single shrine or neighborhood in a single town. It is the same situation in contemporary India – there is some sort of a local religious festival going on someplace almost every day of the year, and the same is true of the Classical Graeco-Roman world.

Beginning with the Alexandrian era in the late 300s BCE, all of Greece (and all the vast conquests of Alexander) was shifted to using the Macedonian calendar, which remained the primary calendar used in Greek areas until the early Middle Ages. The Attic calendar, however, is simply the Greek calendar that is most often referenced when discussing Ancient Greek dating, because it is the best preserved, and attests dates for many events at Athens.

After the Roman annexation of Greece, the Julian calendar would also have been in official use at the government and city level, in addition to the Macedonian calendar, and the local calendar, which would have been used to calculate the dates for local religious and city events. Truthfully, the calendar system in the ancient world was a chaotic mess, trying to calculate years was even more disorienting.

Has anyone tried to do anything like this or is it better that I not use the calendar at all?

It is my advice to familiarize yourself with the more universal Hellenistic festivals, when they fall in the year, and when in relation to each other, and to what their observance is tied/what they observe or commemorate. There is no reason to fixate on the calendar of classical Athens if you do not live in classical Attica. Most Greeks didn't either, and don't today. I.e. be familiar with the calendrical festivals, but don't 'follow' the Attic calendar. I see it as a bit of an unnecessary and overly-complicating anachronism.

Orphics use a form of the standard Ptolemaic-system zodiacal calendar, which started to be the norm for private religious groups around the 100s CE/AD, and as far as I'm aware, that is the usual norm in modern Greece.

Also I've been seeing bloggers who follow the Athenian calendar exactly even though it might not fit their climate, why is this?

Truthfully, because many people, especially outside of Greece or those without ties to living practice in modern Greece, are ultimately more interested in a sort of religious version of historical reenactment, rather than genuine religion.

——
I've thrown a lot of information at you, I apologize. If you'd like to discuss any of this more specifically, feel free to ask here, or message me directly.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: The Calendar and my Climate

Post  Artemisia Apollonia on Wed May 28, 2014 11:40 pm

Thank you so much, this was helpful. I think what I will do is try to focus major seasonal based festivals like Anthesteria and Thesmophoria and observe them when it makes sense for my climate, and not focus on festivals like Panathenaia that are tied more to the history of Athens. Would it make more sense to just create my own calendar of observances rather than worry about ancient festivals?
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Re: The Calendar and my Climate

Post  Erodius on Thu May 29, 2014 12:20 am

Would it make more sense to just create my own calendar of observances rather than worry about ancient festivals?

Not quite, I'd say that is taking it a bit too far in the other direction.

Rather, let's use the Ἀνθεστήρια/Feralia/Spring Baccheia as an example, because it is one of the more cosmopolitan festivals, and one of those that is still observed by the extant lines in Greece. It is observed in the early spring, and so falls in the calendar year between late February and late March. When exactly it is observed within that time window is really not hugely important, particularly at just the level of individual, private observance. In Orphism, the festival is associated with the young form of Bacchus, who is strongly associated with Pallas, whose sacred month is Crius, beginning on the 21st of March, also the official first day of spring. Those factors combine lead me to usually place the observation of the festival around that time.

The major, purely religious, non-city-specific festivals, as reflected in what remained in observance over the centuries, are the Θεογάμια [Theogámia]– festival of divine marriage, Ἀνθεστήρια [Anthestḗria]– festival of the young Bacchus, of flowers, the springtime, and also of the dead, Ἀδωνιά [Adōniá]– the late-spring festival of the mourning of Adonis, tied to the wilting and death of the growth and flowers of springtime as summer begins, Θαργήλια [Thargḗlia]– the early-summer festival of the births of Ἄρτεμις and Ἀπόλλων, associated with several ceremonies meant to dispel sickness and invite health and prosperity, also the birthdays of Socrates and Plato for Platonists.  [Krónia]– a famous festival of Cronus and Rhea observed in various times in various places. In Italy, it was mid-December, in the Greek world, it was usually late July. Πυανέψια [Pyanépsia]- a mid-autumn festival primarily of Ἀπόλλων, however, it was also observed in Athens as a commemoration of the return of the hero Theseus from Crete, and occurred at almost the same time as the Προηρόσια [Proērósia] and Θεσμοφόρια [Thesmophória], both of which were agrarian festivals of Δημήτρα, and thus the three were largely merged together. Finally there are the winter Bacchiae, which amounted to several different, closely related festivals observed in different areas in December and early January, tied to the birth of Bacchus, as well as that of the Sun, with whom Bacchus was equated in the Roman era. This overlapped in Italy with the Saturnalia, the Italian form of the Κρόνια, and the combination of these three coinciding festivals has much to do with the dating and observance of Christmas in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: The Calendar and my Climate

Post  DavidMcCann on Thu May 29, 2014 7:35 pm

Erodius wrote:Truthfully, because many people, especially outside of Greece or those without ties to living practice in modern Greece, are ultimately more interested in a sort of religious version of historical reenactment, rather than genuine religion.
Perhaps a bit unkind, but I know what you mean. A certain neo-Egyptian group (which I generally admire) tells it's Australian adherents to celebrate the winter solstice festival in their summer! Celebrating the grape harvest in Canada is probably a bit odd too, although perhaps not in a few generations time.

One can get some idea of the variation in major festivals from month-names. Miletus has Artemision two months earlier than Delos. They both celebrated Poseidon in the same month, but Epidauros did it a month later.

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Re: The Calendar and my Climate

Post  Artemisia Apollonia on Thu May 29, 2014 11:12 pm

Erodius: Thank you again for the advice and information. :-)
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