I wind up this month with libations to Hekate and my ancestors, making a Deipnon feast as I have now for several years at the dark of the moon. The cycle has come ’round again, and the suns sets tonight upon the first of the lilies blooming in my yard. Indeed, it is nearly time again for me to celebrate the festival of the lilies. And again this year, I can’t help but wonder how this festival is related to Anthesteria.
The easy answer is nothing. Anthesteria is a Dionysian festival of life, death, and a bit of craziness. Dionysos has recently had an impact on me (I no longer make my libations with grape juice because of him, in fact), but we’re not tight. In the two years I’ve done so, I have used this festival to honor all of the gods, not just the one or those close to him. This might be a better time of year to celebrate Anthesteria in my region, though, since it shows up in the miserable part of February, long before those grape vines are a’bloomin. And that old Athenian festival has a strong kthonic component, which my celebration doesn’t.
Well, maybe more about death than I think. Since I’ve been pondering ancestor questions, I can’t help but notice the collection of events which occur in my life in the weeks leading up to the lilies blooming. Memorial Day, my father’s birthday and death day, marking the loss of my cat, anniversaries of other known ancestors. It’s no wonder I feel close to my ancestors now, and it’s curious that it comes just before the blooming of the lilies.
Since I haven’t fixed the date of this festival, I am going to set aside the fifth of this Hellenic month for it. That will be this coming Thursday. By then I hope to have some insight: is this just a leading towards more honoring of my ancestors, or a specific link between this festival and those ancestors? Are there gods or spirits which I should, or should not, be honoring at this time? Should I be hitting the grape juice again, or otherwise preparing special offerings? Is this actually Anthesteria in a form which is regionally and culturally appropriate to my experience? Or maybe some kind of Almostheria which inevitably ties the fleeting beauty of a flower with the fleeting essence of life itself? Or does the timing of the blooms signal a rebirth after a period of honoring the blessed dead? That suggests Persephone’s ascent to me, or the journey of a psychopompos.
These answers will come from knowledge of the past, awareness of myself, and discernment of the will of the gods. Whether I unpack the nature of this festival in the next week or allow it to unfold over the next decade, the beauty will be as delicate as that of a tiger lily, which like other flowers can be appreciated up close or from afar, but is most beautiful when it is regarded in both ways at the same time.
It seems that the more I know, the more questions there are to ask — which is not a bad thing.