Modern pagans, whether or not we live where food is produced, do recognize the importance of agriculture and growth in sustaining our lives. Even when the process itself isn’t something we see on a daily basis, we know we rely on it.
In ancient Greece, the process was closer to home, and there were a number of agricultural estivals, often devoted to Demeter and Persephone, associated with the growing season; the harvest festivals we now see most often would have been the last of these. The specific festivals celebrated would vary with the community, and of course since they were so closely tied to the agricultural year, climate and custom would also influence the time of year when they occurred.
Here I’ve chosen four different agricultural festivals held at different points during the agricultural season; they do not mirror the recorded practice of any one specific city or region, but rather reflect the growing season itself:
- The Proerosia was held at the beginning of the agricultural season, before the fields were plowed or planted; it was held in several demes, but the Athenians attended it at nearby Eleusis. At the Proerosia, Demeter’s blessings are sought for the growing season to come.
- The Chloeia is a festival honoring Demeter Chloe, Demeter of the first green shoots to pierce the soil in spring.
- The Antheia is known from Thorikos and Paiania and is believed to have celebrated the flowering of the wheat.
- The Kalamaia was a harvest-time festival; the kalamos is a stalk of wheat and the Kalamaia may have sought to protect the newly-ripened crops.
Now, unless you are a gardener or farmer, you may not feel a need to do more than simply honor and acknowledge the role of agriculture in our lives. If, on the other hand, you are someone who spends some time digging in the dirt, you may want to mark more than one aspect of the season at more than just one point.
In this post I’m including ritual scripts for both options. First, a general stand-alone Proerosia (in which the seed is mostly metaphorical); and second, a series of four festivals–the Proerosia, the Chloeia, the Antheia and the Kalamaia–intended to be celebrated by folks who keep a garden or otherwise maintain a direct personal connection with the cycle of growth, at specific points in your own growing season. The Greek festivals focused on the growth cycle of the wheat crop, but could also follow the growth of a household garden; when it comes to festival dates, let your garden be your guide.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I do not currently keep a garden so have not in fact personally done the four-part series of festivals. I have, however, done a fair amount of gardening in my life and can attest to the fact that the four points during the season in which the four festivals occur–preparation for planting, appearance of the first green shoots, flowering of the plants, and of course the harvest itself–are significant and notable.)
The ritual scripts are in PDF format; you’ll need Adobe or another PDF reader in order to read them.
Proerosia for urban folks and non-gardeners