Summer Solstice Ritual: Plunteria (The Washing of Athena)
June 23, 2002
Notes: This is a “Hellenic for Wiccans” style of ritual. While still very Hellenic, we did not have the luxury of a three-hour class in which to teach every detail of Hellenic liturgy, meanings of the Greek invocations, etc. We designed this to be an experience that non-Hellene Pagans could relate to and enjoy, without needing a lot of study. It was very well received, and prompted many folks to go out and learn a bit more about Hellenism. It was also a good way to introduce folks to the major parts of Hellenic ritual in a fast, friendly, experiential manner, while not detracting from the spiritual work of the ritual. These folks will have no problem following along with a full-scale Hellenic ritual later, and will have a mental image to relate to in the “Intro to Hellenism” class.
Altar is placed opposite the entrance to the ritual area. On the altar, there is a fire-safe bowl prepared for lighting, and several pitchers or bowls of water. Hidden underneath the altar is a basket of water pistols, water balloons, and other wet toys. Two cups, a basket of grains, a bowl or basket of fig cookies, a bottle of olive oil, a new robe for Athena, various shakers and noisemakers, the sacrificial knife, and floral incense are in the gathering area for folks to carry to the altar during the procession.
Greta (as Athena) stands behind the altar, looking impassive as a statue, wearing a scruffy-looking peplos, no make-up, mussed hair, etc., and holding a spear and helmet.
At the entrance to the ritual space, there are two tables flanking the entrance, each bearing a wide bowl filled with water.
Introduction and Welcome – Kimberly
(outside the circle)
“Welcome to Gaia Community, an Earth-Based Unitarian Universalist congregation. Today is our Summer Solstice ritual, which will be presented in the tradition of the Hellenes, practitioners of ancient Greek Paganism. Today we are all Athenians, and today is the day that the young priestesses take Athena to the river to be washed and dressed in new clothes. Today’s ritual will be led by Carey, Nicole, and myself, Kimberly, with the assistance of Greta and the children of the community.”
Kimberly gives brief directions for the procession, hand-washing purification, and the signal for the congregation to echo what is being said by the priestesses. The children were given an explanation of their duties previously.
Procession – Priestesses pass out the various altar items and instruments and start up a chant, and everyone processes to the ritual space with great noise and merriment.
Purification – Nicole and Carey – as the celebrants prepare to enter the circle, they will be invited to dip their hands in bowls of rosemary-scented water set to the side of the entranceway. Celebrants continue with the processional, entering the ritual space, led by Kimberly and walk in a line around the ritual area (allowing folks with altar items to drop off their things) until the head of the line reaches the entrance again, at which point everyone will stop and take hands.
Carey: “Hekas, o hekas, este bebeloi!”
Nicole and Kimberly: Let all that is profane be far from here!
Congregation: Let all that is profane be far from here!
Hallowing the Altar –
Carey: “Paresmen time, sonta tas theas kai tous theous.”
Nicole and Kimberly: We are here to honor the Gods and Goddesses!
Kimberly: They are in our breath and our voices!
Nicole: They are in the sacred fires!
Congregation: echoes. (Nicole lights fire)
Carey: They are in the Waters of Life!
Congregation echoes. (Carey holds up the water container from the altar)
Nicole: They are in the grains of the Earth!
Congregation echoes. (Priestesses take grains from basket and scatter them upon the altar)
Priestesses (all): They are among us!
Invocations to Deity –
(Kimberly holds up the water)
Kimberly: In the Hellenic traditions, the ritual cup is always offered first to Hestia, the goddess of the hearth and the home. Hestia, thine is always the first, and the last! (pours a portion of water out on the ground.) Having honored Hestia, the cup would then be passed to the people – as the cup comes to you, you may take a sip of the waters, you may dip your fingers in and anoint your forehead with the waters, or you may offer your own libations to the gods by dripping a bit of the waters onto the earth. (Pours from the pitcher into two? cups and hands them to Nicole and Carey to be passed around the circle).
(after cups have gone around)
Kimberly: Today we are gathered to honor the goddess Athena. (lights incense)
INVOCATIONS (All priestesses invoke Athena – epithets and praises below for your reference are taken from the Orphic and Homeric Hymns to Athena)
- Pallas Athena, you only-begotten One, born of mighty Zeus, awesome you are, and divine
- Goddess so blessed, lifting high the turmoil of the fray
- Mighty One unspeakable yet so well spoken of!
- Great-named One at home in a vault of stone, Caught up in haughty hills and wandering the shaded mountain’s ridge
- You who put a dance in the heart and glory in embattlements
- You can put the sting of mania into a mortal soul!
- Athletic Maiden with a heart sublime
- Slayer of the Gorgon
- fugitive of the bridal bed
- Mother of Art in all your abundance
- catalyst of progress
- You who bring folly to the corrupt and a sense of purpose to the pure!
- Male and female in one
- Patron of war and wisdom,
- You are fluid of form, a dragon, infused with the inspiration of the Gods!
- Rightly honored One, who brought Phlegran giants down to defeat,
- You driver of steeds, Tritogeneia, save us from evil, bearing Victory in your arms!
- Grey-eyed one
- Inventor of Art
- Mighty Queen
- Protectress of the City
As the invocation ends, the ritual cup is passed to Greta, who takes it and drinks.
Greta sets down cup on the altar and looks out upon the congregation. She then stretches her arms, or does some other sort of “waking-up” movement.
Kimberly : This is the washing-day, the festival of Athena’s renewal. As it was in the ancient days, let our young priestesses and priests take Athena and cleanse her, honor her and dress her in new robes, that she may return to us renewed and restored.
Children take Greta’s hands and lead her to the front of the altar. They are also given the basket of fig cookies, the new clothes, and various noise-makers as necessary. They process with joyful noise out of the circle and away.
Kimberly: Although this washing-day was an important ritual for the ancient Athenians, it was also a day that inspired some fear and trepidation – this was, after all, the one day of the year when the Goddess was not in her rightful place, when they did not feel her eyes upon them. Without her presence and protection, any number of things might go wrong – even the sun stood still above the city, hesitant, lest any derivation on his part lead to chaos without the grace and blessing of She who ruled here. The people also made sacrifices, in honor and in awe of the gods. Let us now offer our sacrifices.
Priestesses pass the offering baskets and a basket for food collection. (Gaia Community has a traditional song for the offering that we sing). Once the sacrifice comes up to the altar, a priestess “stabs” the offering plate, etc. as a bloodless sacrifice.
Nicole: Now, let us go back, that we may understand the meaning of this day. Please get comfortable, while we think back, to what it must have been like… notice your breath, notice the sun and the trees and the grass… and think back… and join us…
Optionally, have someone softly drum a bit here…
Carey begins to lead guided meditation of some sort on the discomfort, dissonance, unease, etc. of the Athenians left alone…
“They say that in the beginning, all was CHAOS, and then the Titans came, and brought form to the world. … And then the Gods triumphed, and Order was brought to the world. … Poseidon brought order to the seas. Hades brought order to the Underworld. And Zeus rules over all, like a great father watching over his children. … One of his children in particular, the goddess Athena, born of his intellect, is the Wise One, protector and ruler of the greatest of cities. … She brings wisdom to governments. She brings peace to citizens. She guides generals to make wise decisions in times of war. She keeps cities from reverting to chaos once again. … But Athena has left us today. … Is our government making wise decisions? … How will we deal with our neighbors now? … What about the justice system? How are they faring without her aid? … Is it safe to walk the streets? … What will we do without her? … What can we do without her that we couldn’t do before? … What do we do when the Goddess turns away? … What do we do when we’re left alone? … What do we do now?…”
Nicole and Kimberly, meanwhile, have stealthily removed the water guns and toys from under the altar and begin handing them out to the meditating congregation, whispering “she’s not looking, right?”…
This should disintegrate into wild rumpus without any further provocation, but Priestesses should be prepared to shoot first in the interest of moving the ritual along. After a bit of unrestrained and sacred water-fighting, and perhaps some theorizing about what ELSE we could cut loose with with the Goddess away, Greta and the kids will return from their cleansing ritual and interrupt the proceedings. Greta is stunning, having been re-dressed by the kids in a gorgeous gold-and-blue peplos and stole, with jewelry, makeup, flowing golden hair, and a freshly-polished helm and spear. She is beautiful, godly, and she is pissed.
Greta : gives statement from the goddess – talking points should include:
– What the Hades are you people doing?!?!
– Clean that up! Be responsible for yourself.
– Did you think that just because I wasn’t here in this form, that there was no divine presence? Just because you don’t see me, it doesn’t imply that I am not there.
– Also, just because everything seems to be falling to pieces, you don’t need to join in – the part of you which is divine requires that you behave divinely – Greta, feel free to relate this to the political situation as you see fit. Ask the people to take care of their own home, to be their own “Protectress of the City”
– And any other divinely-inspired wisdom you need to share… It’s all you and the gods at this point, Greta.
Greta and the kids now lead people in the picking up of water balloons and whatnot, which are collected back into their container and placed back under the altar. As this winds up, the Priestesses sheepishly escort Athena to the front of the altar, where she remains.
Ideally, the feast would be in the same space as the ritual, but that was not an option for us this day.
Kimberly: We go now from ritual space to the sacred feasting, but know that all we do this day is in your honor, Athena.
Carey: Charin echomen soi. (Pours libation of oil onto the ground in front of Athena)
Nicole and Kimberly: We thank you.
Kimberly: We thank also the air, the sacred fire, the waters of life, and the bounty of the earth.
Carey: Charin echomen humin.
Nicole and Kimberly: We thank you all.
Congregation echoes. (This step is not terribly Hellenic, thanking the “elements” that hallowed the ritual space. This was primarily put in to reassure the Wiccans that we weren’t “forgetting” anything, but notice that there is no libation.)
Kimberly: And we close with an offering to Hestia – Hestia, thine is always the first, and the last. (Pours oil onto the flame)
Carey: Houtos Heskoi!
Nicole and Kimberly: So be it!
Congregation: So be it!
The rite is ended.