Greek Popular Religion, by Martin P. Nilsson, , at sacred-texts.com
I have emphasized strongly the fact that except for a few industrial and commercial centers ancient Greece was a country of peasants and herdsmen and that according to modern notions many of its so-called cities were but large villages. Certain provinces such as Boeotia, Phocis, and Thessaly, not to speak of Messenia, were always agricultural. In other ways also some of them were still very simple and backward in the classical age. Examples are Arcadia, Aetolia, and Acarnania. Except for those cities to which the leading role in Greek history fell, Greece depended on agriculture and on cattle and sheep raising. In early times, before the industrial and commercial development began, this was true of the whole of Greece, and it was then that the foundations of the Greek cults were laid.
I want to stress this fact and certain of its implications once more. Corn, wheat, or barley was always the staple food of the Greeks. The daily portion of food of soldiers, laborers, and slaves was always reckoned as a certain number of pecks of corn. With the bread, some olives, some figs, or a little goat-milk cheese was eaten and a little wine was drunk. The diet of the Greek peasant is the same even today. Meat was not daily or common food. One might slaughter an animal in order to entertain a guest, as Eumaeus did when Odysseus came to his hut, but this was considered as a sacrifice also. Generally
speaking, the common people ate meat only at the sacrifices which accompanied the great festivals. One is re-minded of the great feasting on mutton at Easter in modern Greece, where the peasants seldom eat meat. It will be well to keep this background of Greek life in mind when we try to expound the rural customs of ancient Greece.
The significance of agriculture in the popular festivals occurred even to the ancients. Aristotle says that in early times sacrifices and assemblies took place especially after the harvest had been gathered because people had most leisure at this time. 1 A late author, Maximus of Tyre, writes on this topic at greater length. 2 Only the peasants seem, he says, to have instituted festivals and initiations; they are the first who instituted dancing choruses for Dionysus at the wine press and initiations for Demeter on the threshing floor. A survey of the Greek festivals with rites which are really important from a religious point of view shows that an astonishing number of them are agricultural. The importance of agriculture in the life of the people in ancient times is reflected even in the religious rites.
The significance of agriculture in the festivals founded on religious rites goes still further. The Greek calendar is a calendar of festivals promulgated under the protection of Apollo at Delphi in order that the rites due to the gods might be celebrated at the right times. But long before Apollo had appropriated the Delphic oracle for himself, agriculture had created a natural calendar. Agricultural tasks succeed each other in due order because they are bound up with the seasons, and so also do the rites and ceremonies which are connected with these tasks of sowing, reaping, threshing, gardening, and fruit gathering. For all of them divine protection is required
and is afforded by certain rites which belong, generally speaking, to an old religious stratum and which have a magical character. Such customs, very similar to those of the Greeks, have been preserved by the European peasantry down to our own day.
The Greek goddess of agriculture was Demeter, together with her daughter Kore, the Maiden. The meaning of -meter is "mother." In regard to the first syllable, de-, philologists are at variance as to whether it means "earth" or "corn." The cult proves that Demeter is the Corn Mother and her daughter the Corn Maiden. Demeter is not a goddess of vegetation in general but of the cultivation of cereals specifically. The Homeric knights did not care much for this goddess of the peasants. The references to her in Homer are few, but they are sufficient to show that she was the corn goddess who presided at the winnowing of the corn. Hesiod, who was himself a peasant and composed a poem for peasants, mentions her often. For instance, he prescribes a prayer to Demeter and Zeus in the earth that the fruit of Demeter may be full and heavy when the handle of the plow is grasped in order to begin the sowing, and he calls sowing, plowing, harvesting, and the other agricultural labors the works of Demeter.
Agricultural labors were accompanied by rites and festivals, most of which were devoted to Demeter. At the autumn sowing the Thesmophoria was celebrated; in the winter, during which the crops grow and thrive in Greece, sacrifices were brought to Demeter Chloe (the verdure); and when the corn was threshed the Thalysia was celebrated. Best known is the festival of the autumn sowing, the Thesmophoria. There is no other festival for which we have so many testimonies from various places. Demeter herself was called thesmophoros, and she and her daughter were the two thesmophoroi. The epithet has been translated legifera. In this interpretation thesmos is
taken in the sense of "law" or "ordinance" and reference is made to the conception of agriculture as the foundation of a civilized life and of obedience to the laws. This idea comes to the fore in the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were originally a festival of the autumn sowing like the Thesmophoria to which they were closely akin. 3 It is said that the gift of Demeter is the reason why men do not live like wild beasts, and Athens is praised as the cradle of agriculture and of civilization.
But this interpretation of the word is late and erroneous. It arose only after men had begun to reflect and had recognized that agriculture is the foundation of a civilized life. Thesmos signifies simply "something that has been laid down," and in compound names of festivals ending in -phoria the first part of the compound refers to something carried in the festival. Oschophoria, for example, means the carrying of branches. The thesmoi, consequently, were things carried in the rites of the Thesmophoria, and we know what these things were. At a certain time of the year, perhaps at another festival of Demeter and Kore, the Skirophoria, which was celebrated at the time of threshing, pigs were thrown into subterranean caves together with other fertility charms. At the Thesmophoria the putrefied remains were brought, mixed with the seed corn, and laid on the altars. This is a very simple and old-fashioned fertility magic known from Athens as well as from other places in Greece. The swine was the holy animal of Demeter.
The Thesmophoria and some other festivals of Demeter were celebrated by women alone; men were excluded. Some scholars have thought that the reason for this was that the Thesmophoria had come down from very ancient times when the cultivation of plants was in the hands of the women. This can hardly be so, for the cultivation of cereals with the help
of the plow drawn by oxen has always been the concern of men. The Thesmophoria was a fertility festival in which the women prayed for fertility not only for the fields but also for themselves. The parallelism of sowing and begetting is constant in the Greek language. The reason why this festival was celebrated by women alone may simply be that the women seemed especially fit for performing fertility magic.
While the festival of the autumn sowing is very often mentioned, references to the corresponding festival of the harvest, the Thalysia, are curiously few. It is, however, the only festival mentioned in Homer, who says that sacrifices were offered on the threshing floor. Theocritus describes it in his lovely seventh idyl, in the last lines of which he mentions the altar of Demeter of the threshing floor and prays that he may once again thrust his winnowing shovel into her corn heap and that she may stand there smiling with sheaves and poppies in both hands. In modern Europe the harvest home is a very popular rustic festival. The contrast between the popularity of the modern harvest home and the few references to the ancient harvest festival of the Thalysia is probably only seeming. The rites of the autumn sowing, having become a state festival, were celebrated on certain days of the calendar, while the harvest home was in Greece a private festival celebrated on every farm when the threshing was ended and its date was not fixed. It may be added that the harvest is conducted differently in Greece than in northern Europe. The sheaves are not stored in a barn but are brought immediately to the threshing floor and threshed. The harvest in the coast districts falls in May and the threshing at the beginning of June in the dry season when rain is not to be expected. Another harvest festival was probably the Kalamaia, which was not uncommon, though very little is known about it. Its name, derived from
kalamos (stalk of wheat), its time--June--and its connection with Demeter seem to prove its harvest character.
As becomes a harvest festival, first fruits were offered at the Thalysia. A loaf baked of the new corn was called thalysion arton. These loaves are also mentioned in other connections, and Demeter herself received the name of the "goddess with the great loaves." In Attica such a loaf was called thargelos, and it gave its name to another well-known festival, the Thargelia. This festival, however, belongs to Apollo, not to Demeter. Its characteristic rite is quite peculiar, and its meaning is much discussed. A man, generally a criminal, was led around through the streets, fed, flogged with green branches, and finally expelled or killed. He was called pharmakos, which is the masculine form of pharmakon (medicine). Some scholars regard the pharmakos as a scapegoat on whom the sins and the impurity of the people were loaded and who was then expelled or destroyed. They are certainly right. Others have thought that he was a vegetation spirit which was expelled in order to be replaced by a new one. This opinion, too, is not quite unfounded, for fertility magic is conspicuous in the rites. A crossing of various rites has taken place, as happens not infrequently. 4
The purificatory character of the central rite of the Thargelia explains why the festival was dedicated to Apollo, who is the god of purifications. Purificatory rites are needed and often performed when the crops are ripening in order to protect them against evil influences, and this was probably the original purpose of leading around the pharmakos. References to similar magical rites abound in the writings about agriculture by later authors and are found elsewhere as well. Theoretically,
two different kinds of rites can be distinguished, though they are often mixed up. One consists in walking about with some magical object in order that its influence may be spread over the area. The other is encirclement. 5 Conducting the pharmakos through the streets of the town belongs to the former class. So does a kind of magic prescribed for destroying vermin, which required that a nude virgin or a menstruating woman should walk about in the fields or gardens. In the other case, a magic circle is drawn which excludes the evil. It is related of Methana that when winds threatened to destroy the vines, two men cut a cock into two pieces and, each taking a bleeding piece, ran around the vineyard in opposite directions until they met. Thus the magic circle was closed. Magic of a corresponding kind is still practiced in modern times. The leading around of the pharmakos is probably an old agrarian rite which was introduced into the towns and extended to the expelling of all kinds of evil.
Thus, a connection can be established between the chief rite of the Thargelia and the agrarian character of the festival, which is proved by the derivation of its name from thargelos, the loaf offered as first fruit. This presents a certain difficulty, because the Thargelia was celebrated on the seventh day of the month Thargelion, a date which commonly falls a little before harvest time. But it is not without precedent to use unripe ears for the first fruits. The vestal virgins at Rome did so in preparing the mola salsa at the commencement of May.
First fruits are commonly considered as a thank offering to the gods, and many people may have brought them with this intention. But like most of the rites and customs discussed here, the offering of first fruits is pre-deistic and older than
the cult of the gods. Its origin is to be found in magic. Among many primitive peoples certain plants and small animals are tabooed during a particular time, and the lifting of the taboo so that they can be used for food is effected by elaborate ceremonies, which are also intended to bring about an increase of these plants and animals. Some scholars are of the opinion that among the Greeks, too, the offering of first fruits and the ceremonial drinking of new wine, of which I shall speak later, represented the breaking of the taboo imposed upon the unripe cereals and wine. 6 Perhaps they are right in regard to the ancient times, about which we have no direct information. The information which has come down to us from the Greeks proves that they themselves thought that the aim of the offering of first fruits was the promotion of fertility. The loaf called thargelos was also called eueteria (a good year). It is said, furthermore, that thargela were fruits of all kinds which were cooked in a pot and carried around as offerings of first fruits to the gods. The loaf and the mixture of fruit cooked together belong to two different forms of the same custom, to which many parallels are found among modern European peoples, especially in the harvest customs of eating ceremonially some part of the harvest. We have found this custom in the harvest festival of the Thalysia and in the Thargelia, which was celebrated a little before the harvest. It also occurs in the Pyanopsia, which received its name from the cooking of beans in a pot. The Pyanopsia was celebrated in the month of Pyanopsion in late autumn and was a festival of fruit gathering. The eiresione (the May bough), about which we shall have something to say later, was also carried
around at this festival. The Pyanopsia, as the festival of the fruit harvest, corresponds to the Thalysia, the festival of the cereal harvest.
The meaning of such offerings appears very clearly in an ancient Sicilian custom, which was recorded by ancient students of literature because they believed that they had found in it the origin of bucolic poetry. 7 The so-called bucoliasts went around to people's doors. The goddess with whom the custom came to be associated was Artemis, but the practices which characterize it prove that it belongs among those which we are describing. The bucoliasts wore hartshorns on their heads and carried loaves stamped with figures of animals (this was a concession to the goddess with whom the custom was associated), a sack of fruit of all kinds, and a skin of wine. They strewed the fruit on the thresholds of the houses, offered a drink of wine to the inhabitants, and sang a simple song: "Take the good luck, take the health-bread which we bring from the goddess." What they carried may, in fact, be called a panspermia, and the partaking of it conferred luck on the inhabitants of the houses. Similar customs were fairly common. A newly acquired slave and the bridegroom at a wedding were strewn with fruit (katachysmata). 8 The custom of strewing the bridegroom with fruit still persists, but its original sense of conferring fertility is forgotten.
This kind of offering is commonly called panspermia, although the Greeks also called it pankarpia. Both words signify a mixture of all kinds of fruit. Such offerings were also brought to the dead at the ancient Greek equivalent of All
[paragraph continues] Souls' Day, the Chytroi, on the third day of the Anthesteria. It is very interesting that this usage seems to have persisted probably from prehistoric down to modern times. We are told of a vessel, called kernos, with many small cups which were filled with fruit of various kinds and with fluids such as wine and oil. In the middle was a lamp. The women carried the kernos on their heads in the Eleusinian Mysteries. Very similar is the liknon or winnowing basket filled with fruit, among which a phallus was fixed. It appears in the representations of the Dionysiac Mysteries and is only another way of presenting offerings of the same kind. Vessels of the same shape as the kernos have been found in Minoan Crete and elsewhere, and the conclusion seems to be justified that offerings of this kind were made in the prehistoric age (Fig. 11) . The custom has been taken over by the Greek Church. The panspermia is offered to the dead on the modern Greek All Souls' Day, the Psychosabbaton, which is celebrated in the churchyards before Lent or before Whitsunday. It is offered as first fruits on various occasions, but especially at the harvest and at the gathering of the fruit. It is brought to the church, blessed by the priest, and eaten in part, at least, by the celebrants. This modern panspermia varies according to the seasons and consists of grapes, loaves, corn, wine, and oil. Candles are fixed in the loaves, and there are candlesticks with cups for corn, wine, and oil, which have been compared to the ancient kernos. 9 The usual modern name of these offerings is kollyba, which signified in late antiquity as well as in modern times an offering of cooked wheat and fruit. The word appears also in descriptions of ecclesiastical usages from the Middle Ages. 10 Very seldom can the continuity of a cult usage be followed
through the ages as this one can. These popular customs, which belong to the oldest and, as some may say, the lowest stratum of religion, are the most long-lived of all.
Up to this point we have dealt chiefly with customs and usages connected with the cultivation of cereals, although in the later paragraphs we have mentioned also some customs pertaining to fruit gathering. As I have remarked, fruit was an important part of the daily food of the Greeks, although we must keep in mind that certain kinds familiar to us, such as oranges, were introduced in recent times. Of wine I need not speak. The cultivation of the olive was very important. Olives were not only eaten as a condiment with bread but also provided the fat which man needs. The oil served for illumination and as a cosmetic. But no special customs referring to the cultivation of the olive are recorded. We know only that at Athens it was protected by Zeus and Athena and that there were sacred olive trees from which came the oil distributed as prizes at the Panathenaean games.
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.
In February the vines are pruned, and the second fermentation of the wine comes to an end. The wine is now ripe for drinking. One of the most popular and most complex of the festivals at Athens, the Anthesteria, fell in this season, when spring had come with plenty of flowers. The name means "festival of flowers." We hear of festivals celebrated in other parts of Greece at the season when the vines were pruned. The Aiora, or swinging festival, of the Attic countryside seems to have been of this nature. It was connected with the myth of Icarius, who taught the culture of the vine, and with the Anthesteria. It was a rustic merrymaking. Youths leaped on skin sacks filled with wine, and the girls were swung in swings, a custom which is common in rustic festivals and may perhaps be interpreted as a fertility charm 12 (Fig. 12).
In the city of Athens the most prominent part of the Anthesteria was the blessing and ceremonial drinking of the new wine. The first day, called Pithoigia, had its name from the opening of the wine jars. In Boeotia a similar custom was observed at about the same time, but it was devoted to Agathos Daimon, the god to whom the libation after every meal was made. At Athens the wine was brought to the sanctuary of Dionysus in the Marshes, mixed by the priestesses, and blessed before the god. Everyone took his portion in a small jug, and
hence this day is called "the Festival of the Jugs" (Choes). Even the small children got their share and received small gifts, particularly little painted jugs. The schools had a vacation, and the teachers received their meager fee. The admission to this festival at the age of about four years was a token that a child was no longer a mere baby. Another rite pertaining to the Anthesteria was the ceremonial wedding between Dionysus and the wife of the highest sacral official of Athens, the king archon. This is an instance of a widespread rite intended to promote fertility. Examples abound in the folklore of other countries. In Greece they are mostly mythical. At Athens the god was driven into the city in a ship set on wheels (Fig. 13). He was the god of spring coming from the sea.
It is impossible to enter here into a discussion of the very complex rites comprised in the Anthesteria. 13 It should be re-marked, however, that the third day, or, more correctly, the evening before it, was gloomy. It was the Athenian All Souls' Day. Offerings of vegetables were brought to the dead, and libations of water were poured out to them. The Anthesteria has a curious resemblance to the popular celebration of Christmas in the Scandinavian countries. Many of the customs observed there at Christmas evidently refer to fertility. People eat and drink heartily and there is much merrymaking. But there is also a gloomy side to the celebration. The dead visit their old houses, where beds and food are prepared for them. There is of course no connection between this festival and the Anthesteria, but only a curious similarity. The popular customs of all countries and of all ages are related.
Vintage festivals are rare in classical Greece. There was one at Athens, the Oschophoria, which got its name from the
vine branches laden with grapes which were carried by two youths from the sanctuary of Dionysus to the temple of Athena Skiras. A race followed, and the victor received for a prize a drink made up of five ingredients. At Sparta there was a race of youths, called staphylodromoi (grape-runners), at the great festival of the Carnea, which was celebrated about the beginning of September. The name proves that the custom had something to do with the vintage. One of the youths put fillets on his head and ran on before the others, pronouncing blessings upon the town. It was a good omen if he was overtaken by the others and a bad omen if he was not. Many speculations concerning this custom have been advanced, but we cannot with certainty say more than that it seems to have been an old vintage custom. The race reminds one of the race at the Oschophoria.
The association of Dionysus with festivals of viticulture is not nearly so constant as that of Demeter with the cultivation of cereals. The reason is not hard to find. Dionysus came to Greece at a fairly late date--a little before the beginning of the historical age. Viticulture is much older in Greece than he, and the rustic customs which have been described here are very ancient, pre-deistic, magical rites which were not associated with a god until a later time, when it seemed that every festival should be dedicated to a god. The connection was not indissoluble. The gods have vanished, but the customs still persist in part. It is the general belief that Dionysus was above all the god of wine (Fig. 14). Already in Hesiod and Homer wine was his gift. He was not the god of wine alone, however, but of vegetation and fertility in general, though not of cereals. The fig also was a gift from him. 14 In the festival of flowers, the Anthesteria, he appeared as the god of spring.
This explains why the phallus was his symbol. The phallus was used in other fertility cults, especially in the festivals of Demeter, but it was nowhere so conspicuous as in the cult of Dionysus. It was carried in all Dionysiac processions. The colonies of Athens were required to send phalli to the Great Dionysia. The procession at this festival, during which the great works of the tragic and comic poets were performed, would make a grotesque impression upon us if we were able to see it with its many indecent symbols. Another Dionysiac festival with a phallus procession was the Rustic Dionysia, which is described by Aristophanes. Rural customs of this sort are mentioned also by Plutarch, who complains that these simple and merry festivals have been ousted by the luxurious life of his times. Comedy had its origin in the jokes and funny songs of the carriers of the phalli. Tragedy also originated in the cult of Dionysus--the cult of Dionysus of Eleutherai, a village in the Boeotian borderland. This cult was brought to Athens by Pisistratus. We ought to keep in mind that in this cult Dionysus was called Melanaigis (he with the black goat-skin) and that there was a myth which proves that a combat between "the Light One" and "the Black One" was enacted. Whether this was the same combat between winter and summer which is found in later European folklore, as some scholars think, I dare not say. 15 But it may not be useless to observe that two of the highest achievements of the Greek spirit, the drama and bucolic poetry, had their origin in simple rural customs.
I have mentioned the eiresione, the May bough, which was carried in the festival of the fruit gathering, the Pyanopsia. It is described in a fragment of a popular song as a branch with leaves hung with figs, loaves, and cups of honey, wine,
and oil. 16 So far it is reminiscent of the panspermia, and it is an appropriate symbol for a festival of fruit gathering. It was carried by a boy whose father and mother were both alive, and it was set up before the temple of Apollo or before the doors of private houses. There it remained until it was dry and likely to take fire. We may guess that it was perhaps exchanged for a new one the following year, just as the modern bouquet de moisson, a sheaf decorated with flowers and ribbons, is nailed above the door of the barn at harvest time and remains there until it is exchanged for a new one at the next harvest. The eiresione was also carried at the late spring festival of the Thargelia, mentioned above, and on the island of Samos boys went around carrying the eiresione and asking for alms. The biography of Homer falsely attributed to Herodotus has preserved many precious bits of popular poetry, and among them is the song which the boys sang when they carried the eiresione about. "We come," they sang, "to the house of a rich man. Let the doors be opened, for Wealth enters, and with him Joy and Peace. Let the jars always be filled and let a high cap rise in the kneading trough. Let the son of the house marry and the daughter weave a precious web." The procession and song strikingly resemble modern rural customs in which youths go around asking for alms. To adduce only one example out of many, in southern Sweden they carry green branches, which they fasten to the houses, and sing a song like the ancient Greek one containing wishes for good luck and fertility. This is done on the morning of the first of May. We have already met a similar procession, that of the bucoliasts in Sicily, who carried around and distributed a panspermia, wished good luck, and asked for alms. On the Cyclades the women went around singing a hymn to the Hyperborean
virgins and collecting alms for them. 17 It may be supposed that this custom had something to do with the myth of these virgins and the sheaves which were brought from the Hyperboreans to Delos.
On the island of Rhodes the boys carried a swallow around at the commencement of spring. They began by singing: "The swallow has come bringing the good season and good years." They then asked for loaves, wine, cheese, and wheat porridge. If they were not given anything, they ended with threats. Such threats are often a feature in modern customs also. 18 The poet Phoenix of Colophon, who lived in the third century B.C., composed a similar song for boys who carried a crow. 19 Not only has this custom many parallels in modern times, but it can be demonstrated that it has survived in Greece since antiquity. On the first of March the boys make a wooden image of a swallow, which revolves on a pivot and is adorned with flowers. The boys then go from house to house singing a song, of which many variants have been written down, and receiving various gifts in return. 20 The same custom is recorded for the Middle Ages. It does not seem very much like a religious practice, although it has its roots in religious or magical beliefs, but it shows a greater tenacity than any of the lofty religious ideas.
We return to the May bough which is often carried in such processions. The green branch with its newly developed leaves is the symbol of life and of the renewal of life, and there is no doubt that formerly the purpose of bringing in green branches and setting them up was to confer life and good luck.
[paragraph continues] The custom persists, but its old significance has long been forgotten. The May bough is only a lovely decoration. Nowadays we find it at all rural festivals and at family festivals. The same custom prevailed in ancient Greece, though the name of the May bough varied. We have found it in several festivals, sometimes hung with fruits, flowers, and fillets like the modern Maypole. Sometimes the ancient May bough was as elaborately decorated as our Maypole. There is a graphic description of such a Maypole which was carried around the city of Thebes. 21 It was a laurel pole decorated with one large and many small balls of copper, purple fillets, and a saffron-colored garb. This Maypole was carried around at a festival of Apollo, with whom also the May bough is connected. I think it likely that the laurel became his holy tree because it was often used for May boughs.
Sometimes the May bough is simply called by the same name as the loaves which bring luck, hygieia (health, health-bringer), a name which proves that it was supposed to confer good fortune. In the Mysteries it was called bacchos, a name evidently connected with the role of Dionysus as a god of vegetation. Hence, it is customary to call by this name the bundles of branches tied together by fillets which appear in representations of Eleusinian scenes. In my opinion, the thyrsus which was carried by the maenads, a stick with a pine cone on its top and wound round with ivy and fillets, was just a May bough. We also find pine branches and stalks of the narthex plant in the hands of the maenads. In Sparta there was a cult of Artemis Korythalia, in whose honor lascivious dances were performed and to whose temple sucklings were carried. Her epithet is derived from another name of the May bough, korythale. It is said to have been the same as the eiresione. It was a laurel branch which was erected before a house when
the boys arrived at the age of ephebes and when the girls married, just as in modern times the May bough is erected before a house for a wedding.
The May bough was carried in numerous processions. I may recall the thallophoroi--dignified old men carrying branches--represented on the Parthenon frieze. The suppliant who sought protection carried a branch wound with fillets, the hiketeria. Evidently the idea was that this branch made the suppliant sacred and protected him from violence. Finally, the crown of flowers which the Greeks wore at all sacrifices, at banquets, and at symposia and which the citizen who rose to speak in the popular assembly put on his head is another form of the May bough, and like the May bough it confers good luck and divine protection.
It may perhaps seem that I have wandered far from religion and have chiefly discussed folklore. But the distinction which has been made between religion and folklore since Christianity vanquished the pagan religions did not exist in antiquity. Scholars have been very busy discovering survivals of old magical and religious ideas in our rustic customs and beliefs. In ancient Greece such customs and beliefs were part of religion. Greek religion had much higher aspects, but it had not forsaken the simple old forms. They not only persisted among the people of the countryside, but they also found a place in the festivals and in the cults of the great gods.
These beliefs and customs are time honored and belong to the substratum of religion. They have not much to do with the higher aspects of religion, and they are for the most part magical in significance. They seem quite nonreligious in character, and very often they have changed into popular secular customs. This was not difficult in Greece, for, as we shall see later, the sacred and the secular were intermingled in a manner which is sometimes astonishing to us. But however profane
these customs and beliefs may seem to be, their tenacity is extraordinary. Similar beliefs and customs occur everywhere in European folklore, and while the old gods and their cults were so completely ousted by a new religion that hardly a trace of them remains, the old rural customs and beliefs survived the change of religion through the Middle Ages to our own day.
23:1 Ethica Nicomachea, VIII, p. 1160a.
23:2 Dissertationes, 30.
25:3 See Chapter III.
27:4 A survey of the discussion is in my Griechische Feste von religiöser Bedeutung, mit Ausschluss der attischen (Leipzig, 1906), pp. 106 ff. See also L. Deubner, Attische Feste (Berlin, 1932), pp. 179 ff.
28:5 See my paper, "Die griechischen Prozessionstypen," Jahrbuch des Deutschen archäol. Instituts, XXXI (1916), 319 ff.
29:6 See E. Gjerstad, "Tod und Leben," Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, XXVI (1928), 182; for another opinion see J. E. Harrison, Themis; a Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, 2d ed., rev. (Cambridge, 1927), pp. 291 ff.
30:7 The passages in question are collected in the introduction to Scholia in Theocritum vetera, ed. C. Wendel (Leipzig, 1914), and discussed in my Griechische Feste, pp. 199 ff.
30:8 Exhaustively treated by E. Samter, Familienfeste der Griechen and Römer (Berlin, 1901), but with an interpretation of the custom with which I cannot agree.
31:9 S. Xanthoudides, "Cretan Kernoi," Annual of the British School at Athens, XII (1905-6), 9 ff.
31:10 Aristophanes, Plutus, vs. 678 and scholia. Cf. Hesychius: κόλλυβα, τρωγάλια.
32:11 Deubner, Attische Feste, pp. 60 ff.
33:12 See my paper, "Die Anthesterien and die Aiora," Eranos, XV (1916), 187 ff.
34:13 Deubner, Attische Feste, pp. 93 ff. Deubner erroneously denies that the mixing of the wine depicted on certain vases took place at this festival. See my paper, "Die griechischen Prozessionstypen," referred to in note 9 of this chapter.
35:14 He was called συκάτης in Laconia (Hesychius s.v. συκίτης ) and, for the same reason, μειλίχιος on Naxos (Athenaeus, III, p. 78c).
36:15 See my paper, "Der Ursprung der griechischen Tragödie," Neue Jahrbücher für klass. Altertum, XXVII (1911), 673 ff.
37:16 Plutarch, Theseus, 22.
38:17 Herodotus, IV, 35.
38:18 Athenaeus, VIII, p. 360b.
38:19 Athenaeus, VIII, p. 359e.
38:20 See G. F. Abbott, Macedonian Folklore (Cambridge, 1903), p. 18. The songs are collected in A. Passow, Popularia carmina Graeciae recentioris (Leipzig, 1860), Nos. 291 ff.
39:21 Photius, Bibliotheca, ed. Bekker (Berlin, 1824-25), p. 321b.