Proerosia

by Melissa edited by various authors

(6 Pyanepsion) The Proerosia, is about the things to be done “before plowing”.  The first fruits festival was in May, when the “first fruits of the cereals” were harvested.  According to H. W. Parke (74), the offerings to Demeter were made to invoke her blessing on the plowing and seeding to come.  It is Demeter, after all, “the greatest help and cause of joy to the undying Gods and mortal men” (Homeric Hymn 2, to Demeter, lines 268-269), who according to the author of the Hymn “made fruit spring up from the rich lands, so that the whole wide earth was laden with leaves and flowers” (lines 471-473).

Proerosia “First Fruits” offering of a loaf of bread made from locally grown grain and bowl containing rainwater and a rose placed on a potting bench that is used as an outdoor shrine for Demeter, Helios, and the Horai.

The festival took place at Eleusis, site of the Great Mysteries and setting of much of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.  The explanation for the rite was that a plague had afflicted the whole of Greece, and the Delphic Oracle said that Apollo ordered a tithe to Demeter of the first harvest on behalf of all Greeks.  Thereafter, except for disruptions during the Peloponnesian War, offerings arrived annually from all over the Greek world for the Goddesses’ blessings before plowing and seeding, although apparently the residents of Attica did not participate to a great degree (Parke 73).  On the other hand, a special and very popular festival of Apollo (Pyanepsia) took place a day or two after the Proerosia and, among other things, it featured an offering of a mixture of boiled beans—arguably a harvest portion, though it has a myth of origin outside of the Hymn to Demeter. At Eleusis on this day, sacrifice was made to Pythian Apollo, which is construed by modern scholars as a show of gratitude to the Delphic oracle for the foundation of the Proerosia.

Helene P. Foley, in her background article on the Eleusinian Mysteries in her edition of The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, states that “all important rites of Demeter in Attica seem to have been linked (at least loosely) to stages of the agricultural year (71).  Moreover, these festivals seem to have a connection with some part of the Homeric Hymn, especially since Eleusis, which was incorporated into Attica, was the site of much of the narrative of the Hymn. Thus Proerosia is part of the sacred festival cycle of grain in ancient Greece, along with the Thesmophoria (also Oct), Haloa (Dec), the Lesser Mysteries (Feb), Thargelia (May), Skirophoria (June) and the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Proerosia today: This day marks the beginning of the Greek agricultural year.  For some North Americans and Europeans, this is not the season for plowing grain crops.  For others in areas like California (mild winters with few hard freezes) crops like winter wheat are planted.  For colder climates consider Elliot Coleman’s books like The Winter Harvest Handbook for organic bounty in MAINE. ).  No matter what your fallow season is, it is appropriate to recognize the ancient tradition and calendar and to honor Demeter and Kore and the Horai (Seasons) for bringing grain and fruits to mankind in your appropriate season.

Proerosia sample ritual script can be found here:
http://www.hellenion.org/proerosia-ritual/

Sources:
Foley, Helene P., ed., introduction, Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Princeton, 1994
Parke, H.W., Festivals of the Athenians, London, 1977
White, Hugh G. Evelyn, translator, Homeric Hymns, Loeb, 1914, Edinburgh, 2002