Elaphebolia: A Festival Honoring Artemis the Hunter of Deer
by Drew Campbell
Reposted with permission
Traditional Date: Elaphebolion 6
By classical times, this festival seems not to have been very prominent; undoubtedly the institution of the City Dionysia overshadowed it. The festival honors Artemis Elaphebolios, the Deer-Shooter, and offerings of stag-shaped cakes called elaphoi were made to the goddess. (Parke, Festivals of the Athenians, p. 125.)
Since we have such sparse historical information about this festival, today it may be celebrated with a simple devotional rite for Artemis in her role as hunter and protector of wildlife.
The group assembles and processes into the ritual area, bearing offerings of elaphoi for the goddess. Offerings are set to the side during the first portion of the ritual. The altar may be decorated with an image of Artemis and a stag. If it is possible to hold the ritual outdoors, it should be in a secluded natural setting. Offerings should then be placed on the ground, and the ritual fire dispensed with, for safety’s sake.
Priestess of Artemis: Hekas, o hekas, este bebeloi! Let all profane ones depart!
A bowl of holy water is passed and all participants wash and dry their hands. The priestess then sprinkles the altar and the ritual area with holy water.
Priestess of Artemis: Koimeson stoma! Quiet your mouth!
The priestess or another participant reads the Homeric Hymn to Artemis (#27) and/or Her Orphic Hymn.
Priestess of Artemis: Bring forward the offerings.
Participants cast handfuls of barley onto the fire, followed by incense. Participants place the elaphoi on the altar.
The priestess makes a libation into the bowl and drinks a sip of wine, then passes the cup to the others. She then says the following prayer, with hands stretched out toward the altar:
Priestess of Artemis: Megale Artemis, swift-running and far-shooting huntress, yours are the creatures of the wild and all their young. You aid those who tred your mountains with respect and honor you with dances. Keladeine, Hegemone, Agrotera, you are the mistress of animals, Potnia Theron. Help us to preserve your virgin forests, your solitary peaks, and your wild rivers. Let fly your arrows at those who cut down your sacred groves out of greed, leaving your wild children no homes. As we honor you today, may our children still find joy in your mountain haunts and bring you offerings as of old.
The contents of the bowl may be poured onto the earth either at this point (if outdoors) or later (if indoors).
[Conclusion and Feast]
Priestess of Artemis: Our rite is ended. Let us honor the Virgin Huntress with a feast!
All process away. A feast follows. Venison or other game is appropriate.
This material is excerpted from:
Campbell, Drew. Old Stones, New Temples: Ancient Greek Paganism Reborn. Xlibris, p. 276-278.
Copyright © 2000, by Andrew Campbell