If there is one subject that is guaranteed to get some folks hot under the collar it has to be the trend of celebrating thoroughly modern and historically inaccurate festivals. It is a practise that until just a few years ago I disagreed with quite vehemently. Looking back now it is fair to say that in the early days of writing Temple of Hekate I felt that it was very important that people understood how the ancient Attic calendar really worked and wrote upon it at some length. Although those pages didn’t make the editorial cuts I felt strongly enough about it that at a later date I posted a blog entry so the details were available for all to see. This opinion hasn’t been a passing fad either, but as I stated when I discussed the Deipnon way back in 2009 and is worthy of repeating, I am not a reconstructionist, far from it. But I was and still am very heavily invested in debunking some of the more common “myths” that I had stumbled over myself in my early days of research and practise, so I tended to shy away from the modern, the unverified, and the inaccurate.
I’ve done some perspective changing since that time, quite surprisingly so. I think the first inkling of the change was when we realised that Her Sacred Fires was here to stay. Now hurtling towards its 7th anniversary and showing no signs of slowing down we appear to have created a thoroughly modern festival enjoyed by thousands. And this isn’t the only one. August the 13th is another, a modern date fixed as the result of a mis-understanding of how the Attic calendar worked, but it has grown and swollen and truly become a thing, a world-wide thing. A thing that people can get behind, work together with, create and share and laugh and love. How can this thing be bad?
Furthermore we have literally just celebrated Hekate’s Day on the 16th of November in The Sanctuary of Hekate Enodia. When Mima, my friend and CoH Torchbearer who co-runs the Sanctuary with me suggested we do something to mark the date I nearly fell off my chair. This festival doesn’t even have the dubious honour of being a festival that once existed and got dumped into a modern calendar. This festival has, as far as I am aware, no historical precedence whatsoever. In fact it is the epitome of everything I hate about modern practise, a new thing pretending to be something old. And then it hit me, it’s not the celebration that I hate, in fact I love a good excuse for our Sanctuary to come together and do work. It is the belief that it dates back to some long ago historical practise that fills me with dread.
So we put up some information regarding the provenance of the festival and ahead we went. And all I can say was that the connection between some of the group was quite startling. We were all working remotely but the imagery shared was so similar. So similar that I had to feel that we were getting nothing less than a resounding stamp of approval for our actions and the work and effort we have all been putting in recently. We certainly shall be celebrating this date again, along with Her Sacred Fires and August 13th (which traditionally is the Roman festival Nemoralia and the ill dated Festival of Kourotrophos, Artemis and Hekate – which should actually be celebrated on 16 Metageitnion but let’s not split hairs). At the end of the day the religion of the Greeks and Romans and many others was fluid, it grew and changed and was subject to regional variations. Somethings were adopted, others allowed to pass into memory only, some lost to the ages. If we fail to recognise that then we fall into dogma and fundamentalism. An ethos I decided I did not agree with a long long time ago.
So we shall celebrate these rites, knowing their true nature we shall perform them anyway. We shall lift our heads proudly and say, we created this in honour of the Goddess Hekate, we honour you just as our ancestors did but in times and climes appropriate to us.
En Erebos Phos!