Saturday, April 25, 2015

PAT ritual announcement: the Delphinia

Yesterday at dusk, the Athenian festival of the Delphinia (Δελφίνια) started. What is known about this festival is that virgin girls walked to the Delphinion (Δελφίνιον) atop the Acropolis in procession, carrying olive branches bound with wool (known as 'iketiria') and baked cakes known as Popana, made of soft cheese and flower. There is overwhelming evidence that the festival was held on the sixth of the month of Mounukhion, most notably from Plutarch, but the seventh of same month is also considered a possible date, quite possibly because the festivities could have taken place in the daylight hours of the sixth day, which is the same day as the start of the seventh of the month, as dusk rained in a new day. To celebrate this festival, Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual at 10 a.m. EDT today. Will you be joining us?

The Delphinia is a festival to ask for the protection of all ships and sailors, to ask for guidance for young boys and girls transitioning into adulthood and--as a festival of purification--the Delphinia can be interpreted to be open to all who are going through a time of transition and/or struggle.

Plutarch connects the sixth of the month Mounukhion to Apollon and Theseus--most importantly to Theseus' quest for the Minotaur--in his 'Life of Theseus'. Theseus vows to look over those the lots choose to be offered to the Minotaur in the maze on Krete. Roughly in the month of Mounukhion, the seafaring season started. It's therefor not odd that lots would have been cast about this time, for the youths--and everyone else with business across the sea--would set sail as soon as the weather allowed. The rising of the Pleiades, located in the constellation of Taurus, around late April, the beginning of May, was a signal for the boldest of sea-goers that the treacherous sea was at least moderately accessible. Still, it would be at least several months before the favoured seafaring season started, so anyone braving the sea, could probably use some protection. Somewhere shortly after the Delphinia would have been Theseus' first opportunity to sail to Krete, but it would place his return almost five months later; quite some time for a three day journey (one way) in favourable conditions.

During the Delphinia, young maidens presented Apollon Delphinion, and perhaps Artemis Delphinia, with the iketiria Theseus had presented them with as well, in the hopes of receiving for the Athenians the same guidance and protection at sea as the Kretan colonists, as well as Theseus and the youths, had gotten.

A connection can also be made with Theseus visiting the shrine of Apollon Delphinios as an opportunity for purification before his great quest, as the young supplicants who prepared for their personal collective journeys into adulthood would desire purification of their own, and Apollon in many of his epithets is a purifier. Also, in a little less than a month, the Thargelia took place in Delos, an event where the births of Artemis, and especially Apollon were celebrated. The rites at the Delphinia might have been part of the purification processes for those who were to go to Delos (with thanks to Daphne Lykeia for this interpretation).

As a festival of purification, the Delphinia can be interpreted to be open to all who are going through a time of transition and/or struggle. A divine purification of miasma might allow you to focus better on these issues, and receive guidance from the Theoi more easily--like Theseus, who purified himself at the Delphinion and prayed for the guidance of Aphrodite directly thereafter. Aphrodite made Ariadne fall for him, saving his life and those of the young men and women in the process.

One can celebrate this day by offering both Apollon and Artemis hymns, libations, and Popana cakes, and presenting Artemis with an iketiria, an olive branch wrapped with white wool, if you are a young female looking for aid. An iketiria was primarily used in rites of supplication.

The popana (or popanon) should be a flat cake with a single 'knob' in the center. We don't have a surviving recipe, but Cato's recipes for 'libum' seems to hold many of the same ingredients. It goes as follows:

"'Make libum by this method. Break up two pounds of cheese well in a mortar. When they will have been well broken up, put in a pound of wheat flour or, if you wish it to be more delicate, half a pound of fine flour and mix it well together with the cheese. Add one egg ...and mix together well. Then make into bread, places leaves beneath, and cook slowly on a hot hearth under an earthen pot."

That's a lot of Popana. make this if you're with a large group, else the recipe would look something like this for something the size of a good loaf of bread or its equivalent in smaller portions:

- 14 ounces good ricotta or any fresh cheese, preferably unpasteurized (ricotta should always be drained overnight in a colander)
- 4 ounces (approx) flour, preferably farro
- 1 large egg
- a pinch of salt
- several bay leaves, preferably fresh
- olive oil, for the pan

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

You can either make large cakes or small ones. If you're making large ones, line a baking pan or sheet with bay leaves and brush them lightly with olive oil. If you don't have enough leaves to cover the surface, distribute the leaves as best you can. If you are going to make smaller cakes, brush one leaf with oil for each cake you are going to make.

Knead all the ingredients (except the bay leaves) until well blended. Add flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Shape the dough into a single, or several smaller cakes. Place either the large cake on top of the bay leaves, or put each little one on top of one. Then put it in a baking pan and into the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes for a large cake, or (much) less long for smaller cakes. Just watch them until they are firm and light golden brown. Don't forget to enjoy it yourself!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Constellation Triangulum: the triangle

Did you know there was a constellation called 'the triangle'? And that the ancient Hellenes were aware of it, too? Triangulum is a small constellation in the northern sky. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the second century astronomer Ptolemy, and so named for its three brightest stars, which form a long and narrow triangle. The Ancient Hellenes called Triangulum 'Deltoton' (Δελτωτόν), after the upper-case letter delta (Δ). Hellenic astronomers such as Hipparchos and Ptolemy called it Trigonon (Τρίγωνον).

There is not a lot of mythology connected to this tiny constellation, but the lore that it has is quite important. Hyginus, in his 'Astronomica' explains the options:

"This constellation, which has three angles like the Greek letter Delta, is so named for that reason.
Mercury [Hermes] is thought to have placed it above the head of Aries, so that the dimness of Aries might be marked by its brightness, wherever it should be, and that it should form the first letter in the name of Jove [Zeus] (in Greek, Dis).
Some have said that it pictures the position of Egypt; others, that of Aethiopa and Egypt where the Nile marks their boundaries. Still others think that Sicily is pictured there.
Others, say that three angles were put there because the gods divided the universe into three parts." [II.19]

The latter is the only one that might need some explaining. Zeus, the greatest of the Olympian Gods, and the father of Gods and men, was a son of Kronos and Rhea, a brother of Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter, Hera. When Zeus and His brothers drew lots for the rule of the world, Poseidon obtained the sea, Hades the lower world, and Zeus the heavens and the upper regions, but the earth belonged to them all. To quote the 'Iliad' by Hómēros:

"Poseidon was very angry and said, "Great heavens! strong as Zeus may be, he has said more than he can do if he has threatened violence against me, who am of like honour with himself. We were three brothers whom Rhea bore to Kronos--Zeus, myself, and Hades who rules the world below. Heaven and earth were divided into three parts, and each of us was to have an equal share. When we cast lots, it fell to me to have my dwelling in the sea for evermore; Hades took the darkness of the realms under the earth, while air and sky and clouds were the portion that fell to Zeus; but earth and great Olympus are the common property of all." [XV.187]

The constellation Triangulum is visible at latitudes between +90° and −60°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of December.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Marble naturally illuminated the statue of Zeus at Olympia

In a study published in the journal Applied Optics, Rosa Weigand, professor of the department of optics of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM), and a team of researchers have attempted to reproduce the lighting conditions that occurred in this ancient Greek temple more than 2,000 years ago, using samples of the two types of marble that were used in the roof, thus reports the Archaeological News Network.

With a height of twelve metres and built from ivory and gold overlaid on a wooden frame, the statue of Zeus was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Located in the interior of a temple at Olympia in ancient Greece, it was crafted in the year 432 BC by the sculptor Pheidias.

Despite its large size, and the darkness of the temple, which had neither windows nor a door of great size, various classical sources describe the eyes and the hair of the god in detail, which would indicate some type of lighting by natural means. This natural lighting was sufficient for the statue to be perceived by any person when entering the temple, once their eyesight had become accustomed to the darkness.
According to Paul A. Garcia, co-author of the study and project collaborator from the Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Mediterranean and the Middle East (CSIC), whose doctoral dissertation is the basis of the research, the best light is transmitted by the Pentelic marble rather than the marble from Paros. This property of the marble could be one of the reasons that led the Greeks to replace the original material of the temple, brought from the island of Paros, with plates of Pentelic marble, although, as the authors say, this could also have been due to economic or commercial issues.
Jose Jacobo Storch of Grace, Professor of the Faculty of Geography and History of the UCM and director of the study says the researchers first became interested in the phenomenon because of the frequent descriptions of the hair and eyes:
"The reason that made us consider the lighting from the roof is that ancient sources place great emphasis on the eyes and hair when describing the Zeus of Olympia. The results [of our tests] reveal a high transmission area in the yellow-red end of the spectrum, which is suitable for illuminating an object made of ivory and gold."
In order to reach these conclusions, the researchers--among which are also experts from the Institute of optics of the CSIC--used a light meter, which estimated the transmittance (amount of light that passes through a body) of the samples, and a spectrophotometer, to measure the resulting spectrum and see what wavelengths are more efficient.
Unfortunately nothing remains of the sculpture today, except for representations on ancient coins and paintings on ceramics, in addition to detailed literary descriptions. Following the destruction of the temple in Olympia after several earthquakes, the statue moved to Constantinople (now Istanbul) where it was destroyed by fire in the year 475 A.D.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

$65,- raised for Naoto Matsumura

Members of Pandora's Kharis have come together to raise $65,- for Naoto Matsumura. He is known as the ‘guardian of Fukushima’s animals’ because of the work he does to feed the animals left behind by people in their rush to evacuate the government’s 12.5-mile exclusion zone. He is aware of the radiation he is subject to on a daily basis, but says that he “refuses to worry about it.” With our donation, Matsumura will be able to continue his good work and save many animals in need.

Because the donation needs to be made through bank transfer, it will take a while to transfer the funds, but you will be updated accordingly. 

From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community.

On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving. Thank you for your generosity!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Elaphebolion updates

A while ago, I decided that on the day of the Hene kai Nea, I'd post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog. Well, that did not happen this time, and then there was the new recap for Atlantis so... you're getting it a few days later. Same with the Pandora's Kharis donation. Sorry about that!

Changes to the blog:


Anything else?
Pandora's Kharis, a charity circle for and by Hellenistic Polytheists has selected Naoto Matsumura as its cause for Elaphebolion 2015. If you want to donate, you have until tomorrow! Join us on Facebook if you would like to pitch a cause for next month!

If you're you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

That is it for the last month's updates, as far as I can remember. Have a blessed month!

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Atlantis" recap (2.08): The Madness of Hercules

So, last week our heroes got into quite the jam: the Oracle was killed by Medusa in exchange for the return her regular hairdo, the Oracle's helper/priest of Poseidon, Melas, has been on Pasiphaê's side all the time, and he managed to get Jason convicted for the murder of the Oracle. I guess that means the wedding is off for now.

Hercules is heading to Medusa and the cottage he told her to go to. She's there, sobbing in a corner. She feels guilty, and so very scared: she killed the Oracle and now she has cursed herself forever. Back in Atlantis, someone else is feeling the het: Jason will be killed by the Bronze Bull in two days time. He'll be killed as a traitor to Atlantis.

It seems Melas didn't work for Pasiphaê out of his own free will: they have the new Oracle of Poseidon, Cassandra, who is like a daughter to him, and his responsibility. Pasiphaê and Medea know very well that Melas will do everything in his power to keep Cassandra safe. Melas does, however, try to save Jason's life by pleading with Pasiphaê to spare the boy. Pasiphaê says she can't and won't spare him. He'll eventually be a threat and she can't risk his future interference, even if he is her son. Cassandra will be released to Melas when Pasiphaê is on the throne, and for that to happen, Jason needs to die. It's as simple as that.

Hercules returns to the oikos and finds Pythagoras up and awake. Pythagoras wonders where he's been and Hercules lies. They should get some sleep, Pythagoras says. Tomorrow they will be seeing Ariadne: she has finally granted their request for an audience.

Speaking of which, Ariadne is playing to Poseidon, and Melas watches her pray. She is there to ask for clemency for Jason, but Melas knows he can't. He turns her request down, but it pains him. He tells Ariadne that he isn't her enemy and that they can't question the will of the Gods. Problem is: Ariadne knows that Jason's death is not the will of the Gods but the will of men. She just can't prove it.

In the morning, Pythagoras and Hercules petition Ariadne for clemency for Jason... which she can't give. Without Medusa's testimony that she killed the Oracle, there is nothing Ariadne can do. She turns them down. The boys are shocked--and rightfully so Everyone is trapped in their roles.

Jason is shattered. He wonders if it was all a lie, if Ariadne ever did love him if she can send him to his death as easily as this. When Pythagoras and Hercules are alone, Hercules confesses he knows where Medusa is, but he refuses to offer her up in exchange for Jason's life. He needs there to be another way--but Pythagoras says there isn't one. And so Hercules goes to fetch Medusa... who is still faithfully waiting at the cabin.

Medusa says she will earn Hercules love again--which he says she already has. She will do better, make amends. Hercules brought flowers and a guilty conscience. She says she's the luckiest woman alive for having found Hercules and Hercules can't make himself take her to Atlantis. Instead, he watches her sleep peacefully while time runs out.

Jason tried to get an audience with Ariadne through Delmos, who reluctantly agrees to ask her. Melas and Ariadne are busy, however--preparing the Bull for the sacrifice. Cilix says she is doing the right thing, and she agrees--but it's obviously killing her. She refuses Jason's request for an audience when Delmos asks her. She bows to the will of the Gods.

In the morning, Hercules flat out lies to Medusa about the people's views of her--he tells her that they blame Pasiphaê for the Oracle's death--and leaves to either go on a foolish rescue attempt of his friend, or his execution. Or, you know, a bar. He gets shit drunk and then gets himself (and Critias, the guy who cheated him at gambling ages ago) locked up in jail.

It seems Critias is in on it--whatever 'it' is. They break out of their jail cell, grab the guard's sword, and Hercules sends Critias off to save him. Then, Hercules sets the prison on fire and takes out the guards in the fog. He frees Jason--who grabs a sword and follows Hercules through the castle. they run into a few guards, and then a few more, and then the entire platoon.

Delmos summons Pythagoras to tell him that now both Jason and Hercules will be sacrificed through the Bronze Bull, and Pythagoras can't say goodbye to either of them because they are being purified. Pythagoras walks out and eyes the Bull as he goes. He's shell-shocked.

In the cell, Hercules says it's all his fault and Jason forgives him. He's been a good, loyal friend. When they walk to the temple of Poseidon to make peace with him, Ariadne watches them. For a moment it looks like Jason will act out, but he submits to Melas and the will of the Gods. Ariadne is barely keeping it together but she is doing as she must: be a good queen and servant of Poseidon. She does, however, leave. Instead, she stares at the Bull, knowing what will happen soon.

Another person who is barely keeping it together is Pythagoras, who all but thrashes the oikos in his sorrow. When there is a knock on the door, he opens it to find a note. He rushes out and to the cells, where he finds a few guards unconscious. He enters. Meanwhile, Delmos frees Hercules and Jason--because sometimes even the Gods need some help--and sends them on their way with clothes and provisions. Another guard helps them descend down the wall. Pythagoras is there with swords and they run. They'll meet up at the sacred grove of Artemis, because Pythagoras has to lead the guards onto a wild goose chase through the city.

Ariadne was in on the plan, by the way. Delmos informs her the plan worked. Ariadne is ecstatic, but they both know it's far from over. The guards are going to sweep the street and they are appearing to do all they can to apprehend the fugitives. Cilix, meanwhile, brings Pasiphaê up to speed, and she is not fooled for a minute by this 'escape'. She knows Ariadne orchestrated it, and she is going to use it to dethrone her. Medea is worried but Pasiphaê isn't concerned. She has a plan now.

Cilix summons Melas for a walk. He all but orders Melas to tell the people of Atlantis that Poseidon is angry with the escape. That way there will be panic and Ariadne's position will weaken. Melas is shocked, but with Cassandra in their hold...

Out in the forest, Jason wakes Hercules. There are men in the forest--Delmos' men. Hercules questions Pythagoras loyalty but Jason refuses to budge: Pythagoras told them to wait, and so they will wait.

Melas has meanwhile received a 'negative' oracle from the Gods--and Ariadne knows that he's betrayed them. Ariadne and Delmos strategize, but they have very little wiggle room. Cilix is talking to the Counsel, who believe his story about angry Gods and runaway blasphemers. Delmos tries to lessen Cilix's story, but well... all mortals are afraid of Poseidon. And when Cilix says the people think Ariadne helped Jason and Hercules escape, the counsel is hesitant. Cilix is a smart man: he tries to get her to re-swear her oath to Poseidon on the Golden Bull, but she refuses. She tips her hand and gives Cilix exactly what he needs. with Melas in his back pocket, he can arrest Ariadne for blasphemy.

Delmos immediately sends a messenger to Pythagoras with the news and the request to tell Jason. The only way to save Ariadne from going into the Bronze Bull is to turn themselves in. Pasiphaê played her game well: Ariadne is Jason's weakness, just like he is hers. they would die for one another, and with a little bit of 'luck', they will now die together.

Pythagoras makes it out of the city with great difficulty. He catches up to the boys and tells them what has happened. As predicted, Jason wants to go back, but Pythagoras knows there is another way: Medusa. She can save them all--except herself.

Delmos, meanwhile, has been tortured and beaten, and thrown in jail with Ariadne. He's still loyal and he would till do anything to protect his queen. I really, really like that man. Cilix is now in control of the army.

Hercules tells Medusa what has happened, and she immediately wants to return to Atlantis and make this right. Hercules wonders how the Gods can let this happen, but Medusa knows that as soon as she opened the box that gave her her snake hair, her fate was sealed. She's brave for the both of them and I can't say I am not a little pissed off at the world for letting it come down to this.

Atlantis is deserted--no, not deserted, under martial law. Everyone is in their houses, the only ones in the street are guards. Jason, Hercules, Pythagoras, and Medusa make their way to the palace just in time to catch a shocking sight. Standing on the steps to address the soldiers is not Cilix--it's Pasiphaê. She has reclaimed the throne, and all the guards follow her. She's won.

Next on Atlantis: Daidalos is back, Medusa has a plan to save Ariadne--if the boys will trust her--and Pandora's Box is a big part of that plan. Next week on BBC One, recap on Monday.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Results on research into the mystery of incuse coins (sort of)

Remember when I told you about the mystery of incuse coins? It goes as follows: how did the ancient Hellenes mint coins which shows the same image on the front and back, but with the image on the back sunk into the metal so that it appears as a negative or incuse version of the front? Researchers at Macquarie University's Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies (ACANS) have joined forces with scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), on a joint research program to solve a twenty-five century-old mystery behind the technology, and there are results to report.

The Metapontum Coinage Project jointly undertaken by the Australian Centre
for Ancient Numismatic Studies and ANSTO [Credit: Chris Stacey]

The Numismatic Centre provided scientists at ANSTO with 34 Ancient Greek coins, consisting of 30 incuse coins from four different cities (Metapontum, Kroton, Taras and Caulonia) and four non-incuse coins dated from the 6th to the 4th century BC for investigation. In addition four other non-incuse silver coins were studied that are dated from medieval times and are originated from different regions of the non-Greek world.

The selected coins were studied by using three different neutron analysis techniques. All the coins were studied by crystallographic texture analysis using the Kowari instrument; twelve coins were imaged with neutron tomography using the Dingo instrument, and two coins compared by neutron powder diffraction using the Echidna instrument, thus reports the Archaeology News Network.

The wide range of coins studied enabled a qualitative comparison of the incuse coins against similar incuse silver coins of the same period from different cities, silver non-incuse coins of the same period and silver non-incuse coins of later periods. The incuse coins or non-incuse coins (e.g. a medieval silver penny) can reveal similarities or differences in texture pattern suggesting similarities or differences in the mechanical processes used to produce them.

The KOWARI data demonstrated that all incuse coins of the same kind were very similar in their texture characteristics and depicted a distinct pattern (symmetry and parameters of distribution) that is characteristic of a forging process. Temperature is an important parameter of any metal deformation processes because it can cause the grain atomic lattices to realign themselves differently.

A graphical representation of the orientation distribution of the crystallites is known as a pole figure and it can be measured in the texture experiment. When metals are worked by forging or hammering, these actions cause the atomic lattices of the metal grains to realign themselves, producing a characteristic pattern of grain orientations that we call texture, which can be experimentally studied. The physical conditions of the coinage process, temperature, amount of plastic deformation and heat treatment can be forensically reconstructed since the texture patterns are preserved in the metal.

The pole figure for a silver Greek coin from the 4th century BC showed a texture pattern with weaker features that is characteristic of deformation caused by high temperature. Coins from Naxos, which were minted at the same time, demonstrated a very different texture that indicated far less forging but rather casting or metalworking at a temperature close to the melting point of silver.