Women and Ritual
November 6 2012
*no class next week
Picture: vestal virgin
Euripides - from the play ‘The Captive Malnippe’
- says that women play the most important role in holy services
Quite a contrast to the roles that we have seen women play thus far in the course.
But in religious ceremonies women actually had quite important roles
priestesses considered very important.
- share of sacrificial meat
- skins of sacrificial animal
- sometimes would date the year based on priestess - their reign
Why is it that women had an importance in ritual?
Because female dietys require female cult attendants
also analogy made between temple and a house > woman looks after house, therefore
woman look after temple - there is cleaning/cooking that needs to be done
- there were several options for women to get involved with religious roles:
Aristophones quote.. about the different religious roles women played during their lives:
Aletris - corn grinder for the goddess - deal w sacred bread
Kanephoros - would carry basket in sacrificial processions (carry grains etc.)
- would be a front of processions > quite diff than what we are used to when
looking at womens roles in antiquity
Athena Polias - athena and her role as gaurdian of the city - a priesthood in athens
(athenas city) - drawn from the eteoboutadai genos family grouping - why? - from story
- story says when pandion died erechthues got kingdom and boutes got the priesthood
> the eteoboutadai family claim to descend from Boutes, thus they have right to priest- hood. Pandion an early king of athens, those are his two sons. when dies, Boutes inher-
Pandion, Boutes, Erechtheus
Paths to priesthoods: inheritance, allotment, election/appointment, purchase
How would you become a Priestess? (in GREECE)
Democratic Priesthood -had to be free person, not for slaves etc. but not open to every-
- some priesthoods inherited
- some allotted (put everyones name and draw a name out - the god would choose who
would win). But in order to have your name in have to have welath, from good family etc.
not open to everyone
- election/ appointment - even if elected had to pay a fee (so you would need money)
- Purchasing of priesthood- obv need money.
* also have to be Healthy, of sound body, and free from physical defects (the god are
perfect, so you must be too)
Arrhephoria - athenian festival. phoria - to do with carrying / arrhe -secrets = Arrhepho-
ria means - ‘the carrying of secrets (or secret things)’
- Cecrops: daughters Herse, Aglaurus, Pandrosus
- girls of good athenian families live on acropolis for a year with priestess of athenia po-
lias - help to weave new robe for statue of athena in parthenon - weave a peplos.
- also, they would carry ‘something’ (the secret) - the girls didn't know what they where
carrying either! - had to carry it through underground corridor to the sanctuary of Eros
and Aphrodite - they would leave the basket there and pick up a new basket there (no
idea what is in this one either..) and carry it back to Acropolis
History behind the ritual:
- this ritual is connected to - Hephaestus tried to rape athena (virgin goddess) - he ejaculates on her thigh - she
wipes it off with wool and drops it on the ground, Erichthonius was born from this semen
on the ground
Cecrops (the snake dude in picture) had 3 daughters.
- athena gave them a basket and told them not to look inside
- but they did
- inside was the baby erichthonius with snakes...
- they were so scared of it they jumped of acropolis and died
‘Arrhephoria’ - connected to sexual initiation
- the snake like ‘cecrops’ - snake a phallic symbol
- also they bring basket to sanctuary of Aphrodite who is goddess of love and lust.
‘arktos’ - bear
- celbrates at Brauron in sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia> a festival for Artemis
- Artemis a virgin goddess who looked over female life transitions - from maidenhood to
- Brauron is place in Attica - the region close to Athens (20 km)
- the Arketia would happen every four yrs
- only daughters of athenian citizens could partake
- would make an procession from to Athens to Brauron(20km)
- when they got there they would dance (artemis associated with dancing) - wear saffron
colored robes, races
would wear bear masks ..
History behind ritual:
they were called bears b/c the myth is that Artemis had a bear - there was a little girl
playing with the bear and it scratched her.. people killed artemis’ bear in response - the
bear was sacred to Artemis, so she was obviously angry and sent a plague - said the
plague could only be removed if little girls pretended to be bears.
Anthesteria a spring festival celebrated on 3 days:
--> these are the names of the three days
- slaves could participate
- this festival about wine and drinking (associated with Dionysus - god of wine/celebra-
- 1st day: Pithoigia - ‘the opening of the jars’ > they would go to temple of Dionysus and
- 2nd day: Choes (chous) - ‘libations’ and the vessel used to make libations > a day of
pollution - people would gather at home and paint their doors black, eat in silence and
drink a lot - every person (incl. slaves) would ahve their own pitcher of wine (2.5 litres) -
mixed with water, but still a lot of alcohol
- children (when 3) would get their first pitcher of wine - but it was smaller.. That was
their initiation into the family
This ceremony has to do with sacrifice?
wine = blood = sacrifice
- the god dionysus ( who wastorn apart and eaten by titans) - wine could be blood of
- once everyones very drunk, they would put wreath on their jars of wine and make a
procession to temple of Dionysus
- 14 women appointed at temple of Dionysus- called the Gerarai ‘ the venerable ones’ -
would take an oath to bound themselves together (don’t know exactly what they did but
preformed some sacred function)
- in charge of them was the Basilinna, wife of Archon Basileus (important athenian
magistrate - ‘the king magistrate’). Basilinna would go through sacred marriage with
Dionysus - have sex with person dressed as Dionysus?
- 3rd day: Chytroi - means ‘pots’ > would cook up grains and make offering to Hermes
of the Dead - hermes associated with underworld
- this day about death
- on this day girls would swing happily on swings.. Why? because of stroy of Erigone,
daughter of Icarius - Icarius the first person to whom Dionysus gave wine - Icarius gave the wine to other guys, but thought they’d been poisoned (never been drunk before) -
killed Icarius - his daughter finds his body and hung herself.
- so girls in this festival swing on swings joyfully because there is an association be-
tween hanging yourself and swinging..
- a mortal lover of aphrodite..
- very goodlooking
- he was gored by boar
- he went out hunting (even though aphrodite told him not to) and he was gored by a
Hellenistic period Poem: from Bion
- Lament for Adonis’- Aphrodite talking about how sad she is about him dying
- in summer
- not officially organized by city - more informally organized among women (friend family
neighbours)- ONLY WOMEN
- would gather to lament for adonis - would lament on rooftops.. grow ‘gardens of ado-
nis’ - wail about his beauty and sadness that he died.
- would grow plants, and deliberately let them die.. once they were dead they would
throw them into the sea ( a mock funeral for)
- a somewhat liberating festival because women got to lament for this beautiful guy
‘thesmophoris’ - means law giver
lawgiver - this is DEMETER (CERES) - her daughter Persephone
Themophoria - a festival for Demeter and Persephone
helds in the fall right before crops were sown restricted to mature women, married women - not young girls .. (maybe because
demester is a mature goddess) - also older women had had children - proven their fertil-
ity and this festival about fertility
3 day festival:
1st day: Anodos - the first day - ‘ascent’ > going up
- women would come from all over Attica and climb up hill called Pnyx - assembly would
take place at top - bring food, animals etc
2nd day Nesteia - fasting and mourning
- just like demeter mourned persephone
- when she mourned persephone she fasted.. so in this stage of festival the women sit
around statue of demeter and fast
3rd day - Kalligeneia - means ‘well born’ or ‘good birth’
- day of celebrations, joking, play.
- connected to the connection between Demeter and Iambe - women who made Deme-
ter laugh while she was mourning for persephone (told crude dirty jokes etc)
- would take piglets and throw them into pits in the ground - they would have cakes
shaped like penises .. throw those in with piglets .. let the piglets rot... and then use
them as fertilizer for the crops..
- why pigs? supposedly when persephone was being dragged down to underworld there
was a herd of pigs nearby and they got dragged down to underworld too.
play by aristophones - ‘thesmophoriazusae’ - means: ‘the women who celebrate the
the plot: the playwright Euripides is afraid that women whoa re celbrating thesmophoria
are going to kill him because he is misogynist - has a friend infiltrate the festival
dressed as women and tell stroies about being terrible / how women are crazy like eu-
ripies... he is found out.. takes a women’s ba