This particular adaptation of the holiday is what might be called the “back half” of it. The front half, or first night, is a little more low-key and involves whatever elements of purification and/or katharsos are appealing to you. For me, I make the panspermia, a terrible name for an excellent food, in which I cook some of the dry beans I’ve saved since last Thargelia and save some to plant after blessing them on the second day. This is a good time for spring cleaning and while my focus tends to be on my pantry, this is also a good time to think about other decluttering efforts. Others make poppets to replace the traditional sacrifice, which is another excellent way of going about it. The ancient celebration involved driving the ugliest man out of town with rocks and switches. Tempting though it may be, I don’t recommend that as a contemporary practice.
The first night is also a great time to honor both Leto and Artemis. We could think of this as sort of a Hellenic Mother’s Day, if that’s a metaphor that works for you. Since kharis is one of our foundational principles, a gift to charitable organizations that help mothers and women is as good a sacrifice as any. Charity Navigator compiled a list of highly rated charities that benefit women’s equality, rights, education, and social services, (retrieved 27 April, 2018) for Women’s History Month. If that kind of donation isn’t possible for you, remember that the Theoi are more interested in the content of your heart than the content of your wallet. Any kindness toward women and mothers, including yourself if that describes you, is appropriate if you take care to remember the Labor of Leto and Artemis’ clever midwifery.
In regards to seasonally-appropriate holiday food, I have always celebrated Thargelia as a feast of last fruits on the first day and a feast of first fruits on the second day. “First fruits,” which may neither be first, nor strictly fruits, will vary depending on where you live and what the weather has been. In Middle Tennessee, it’s strawberries and a number of green things such as kale and green onions, which makes for a light and fresh lunch.
This ritual is meant to be a guide, but there’s room for a great deal of adaptation, as best suits you and your needs.
Hestia, who tends the holy house of the Lord Apollon, the Far-Shooter of Pytho, welcome to this house. May this place be made holy, as were the temples of old, with our work and your love.
[host lights a candle for Hestia]
Blessed are the Gods of Olympos, Immortal Twelve, who have brought us to this moment. May our joy sustain us through the coming season.
[host lights a candle for the Immortal Twelve]
Blessed are You, Apollon, light of this world, born to queenly Leto.
[host lights a candle for Apollon]
Delos was very glad at the birth of the far-shooting lord. But Leto was racked nine days and nine nights with pangs beyond wont.
Because Eilithyia, goddess of sore travail, had not heard of Leto’s trouble.
As soon as She set foot on Delos, the pains of birth seized Leto, so she cast her arms about a palm tree and kneeled on the soft meadow while the earth laughed for joy beneath.
Then the child leaped forth to the light into hands of Artemis Midwife and all the attendant goddesses raised a cry. Straightaway, great Phoebos, the goddesses washed you purely and cleanly with sweet water and swathed you in a white garment of fine texture, new-woven, and fastened a golden band about you.
…and Leto was glad because she had borne a strong son and an archer.1
We offer the Eiresione (“ir-es-ee-on”), here a grapevine swathed in wool, and the first fruits to Phoebos Apollo, slayer of Python and ripener of fruits.
The Eiresione brings berries and bread,
honey and strong wine,
so you go drunk to bed!2
We now come to the blessing of the meal:
We give thanks to you, Immortal Gods for the bounty before us. May you bless our meal that from it we might gain strength, health, and long life.
We give thanks to Hestia for blessing our hearth
We give thanks to Zeus for bringing the rain
We give thanks to Apollo for healthy crops and herds
We give thanks to Dionysos for the gift of wine
We give thanks to Demeter for the fruits of the Earth
We give thanks to Athene for the gift of olives
We give thanks to Triptolemos, who taught us to farm
We give thanks to Aristaeos, who taught us to make cheese, keep bees, and tend animals
We give thanks to Kyamites, who taught us to grow beans.
“When you have put away craving for sweet food, come with me singing the hymn, Ie Paean!, until you come to the place where you shall keep my rich temple.” So said Apollo.1
…and so say we all
- Adapted from: Homeric Hymn 3 to Delian Apollo. Lines 90-129, 495-505
Anonymous. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.
- Adapted from:
Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Harvard University Press; Cambridge, 1985. p. 101