The Festival of Haloa January 10th (or December 26th)

January 10, 2009

I love researching Greek festivals. *snerk* First off we have the issue of when the event actually took place since our contemporary calendar does not line up well with their calendar. Figuring out when something should happen now is interesting. Then there is the process of deciphering what actually happened at the festival in the past and therefore what we might want to do for our reenactment of the festival in the present. For some festivals and rituals we have great records. We know the event happened, when, where, and even why, but not what was done during the event. Sometimes, like with the Eleusinian Mysteries this is because no one outside of the ritual staff and attendees was allowed to know, so no written records have been found and published to date. In other cases records have been lost, and in still others it may have been a case of people thinking it was so obvious that it no one thought to write about what they were doing.

Case in point, the Festival of Haloa. There seem to be two competing ideas about what the Haloa was about. On the one hand it appears to relate to grain and agriculture since the word Haloa is related to halōs meaning “threshing floor”. On the other hand the festival has sexual overtones and a few notations from writers about it being a women’s only ritual at which lewd and lascivious behavior and speech was encouraged. And on the third hand it may have something to do with the verdant growth going on all around the land at this time of year in Greece, much like in California, and by extension pruning of the vines and a connection to Dionysos.

“Starting from the beginning of the year, we find a festival celebrated at Athens about the commencement of January. Our information about it and even its name seem to be contradictory. The name, Haloa, 11 is derived from halos, which means both threshing floor and garden. Since the first sense of the word would be inapplicable to a festival celebrated in January, it must have been a gardening festival. It is said to have comprised Mysteries of Demeter, Kore, and Dionysus and to have been celebrated by the women on the occasion of the pruning of the vines and the tasting of the wine. It bore a certain resemblance to the Thesmophoria, and sexual symbols were conspicuous in it. If we think of the labors in the vineyards of modern Greece, this account is intelligible though not quite correct. In December the soil is hoed around the vines, and their roots are cut. At the same time the first fermentation of the wine is ended, and the wine can be drunk, although it is not very good. Thus, the description of the Haloa fits in with what we know about the labors in the vine-yards. On the other hand, the Haloa is also said to have been a festival of Demeter, and this, too, is possible. The crops grow and thrive during the winter, and, as we have seen, sacrifices were brought to Demeter Chloe at this time.”

– Greek Popular Religion by Martin P. Nilsson p 32-33

As a solitary practitioner honoring Demeter in her rounds, I am going to stick with the simplest ways to celebrate this festival. Since my altar to Demeter has been rather neglected so far this winter I will spend some time today cleaning and righting the altar, changing out the decorations and lighting her candles. In honor of the vines and new growth I will be getting some grapes and fresh greenery, and in honor of the grain I will get a nice wheaty loaf of bread to share with Demeter and some friends who are coming over today. And since I have friends coming over today I suspect there will be lewd talk at some point, there being only ladies present today, and perhaps we will indulge in a silly and lascivious movie or two at some point. All in all that should take care of all the bits of honor and respect for this fest day and my level of energy this year.

Happy Haloa!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: