For my Sisters, and the benefit of any who were perhaps wanting to celebrate with us, I present one of my Pythaea rituals. This modern funerary celebration of the power of Apollon as Pythios, the Rotting God, may be held in a variety of ways, however, I have decided to share the most traditionally inspired ritual I can stand. I think this one is the most widely accessible version I’ve ever done, and so the most worthy of being shared.
Pythaea occurs on the twentieth day of Treasury Month Pytheion (V), which we are currently in, falling upon the Julian date of May 8, 2015.
A modern, though traditionally inspired, ritual to exalt Apollon Pythios, He who rules over Death, the Enlightener, who strips away the pretense of the flesh, revealing the untarnished truth, and sending souls forward on their evolutionary paths.
You may find Him in the cemetery, or the mortuary. You may find Him standing over the roadkill you saw on your morning commute. Pythios is the Rotting God who commanded the corpse of Python to fall into oblivion, and He is the God whose Temple lies before us, after death.
This is a funerary rite, in which we acknowledge the power of Death, and contemplate Apollon’s role in its implementation. Death is not an end, but a first step on a journey we can not yet know, just as we may not yet know our enlightenment until we have received it. But by this rite, may we shed a little of what holds us back.
This ritual is but one example of what might be done for the Pythaea. Feel free to alter or fix the ritual to suit yourself, and your needs.
Be washed and dressed in clean, comfortable, perhaps mournful clothing. Then begin by transferring flame from the sacred hearth/candle to a another candle which can be carried to the altar, while saying: “Hestia, who guards the holy fires of the Lord in Pytho, who holds the sacred task of keeping the ever-burning hearth, we/I ask that You bless this rite and consecrate all that is affected herein.”
Alternatively, if you do not keep a sacred flame burning all, most or some of the time, you may instead light and dedicate the flame to Hestia for this ritual specifically, by saying: “Blessed Hestia, keeper of the universal hearth, She who is the nurturer of all flame, everywhere, we/I ask that You bless this rite and consecrate all that is affected herein.”
Here is the procession toward the altar, where all participants gather before walking together, led by you (the facilitator), who carries the sacred flame. The burning candle should be placed on the altar at this time.
Now, you will take a large bay leaf (or a bundle of other preferred herbs) and light it with the newly consecrated flame. Quickly plunge the flame into the previously prepared bowl of water, saying: “This water is purified in the essence of Hestia, Virgin Most Holy.” Khernips are now prepared.
Next, you will asperge (sprinkle with khernips) first the altar and all implements thereon, moving to each participant in turn, yourself included, while circling the altar. All should hold a prayerful mindset throughout the purification. A prayer to Apollon the Purifier may also be spoken aloud at this time, if you like. Example: “Apollon, our Lord called Daphneios, hear the prayer of Your people. Our Lord called Katharsios, cast out the impurities herein.” The space is now ritually pure, and the leftover water should be placed outside of the ritual area, to be poured onto the ground later.
At this time, participants should place their offerings upon the altar, each saying a personal greeting to the Lord Apollon as they approach, or they may do so silently. Offerings for this rite should include a few previously prepared “bodies for cremation” in the sacred fire, in Apollon’s name. These bodies need not be any more complex than paper cut-outs in vaguely human shapes. Upon these bodies should be written labels of undesirable traits that are relevant to the person(s) present.
Now, you may call to Apollon in earnest, saying (something to the effect of): “Apollon Pythios, our Lord, and commander of the decaying flesh, we/I do call to You, Releaser of the spirit from physical bonds! Dread Apollon, Most Equitable Pythios, hear us/me and arrive!” Calls may continue until you feel the Lord’s presence.
Next comes the explanation of the ritual, the reason(s) why you have come and your intent, spoken thus, or similarly: “Apollon Pythios, Lord called Destroyer, He who waits at the brink of death, who rules the transition at the sacred cemetery, we/I have come here to know You, to exalt You, and to be released from our/my bonds, just as You release the pure souls of those lain to rest before Your holy feet.”
You will now hold each of the “bodies” out toward the image of Apollon upon the altar in turn, saying aloud the labels each were given. Participants will at this time call out any other undesirable traits that they wish to have stripped away by the Rotting God. After all are finished, you will hold the “bodies”, one by one, over the sacred flame until they are consumed. Any leftovers should be collected in a small bowl for burial later. During this process, participants, including yourself, should pray intensely and silently to the Lord Apollon. They may also choose to meditate upon Him in this aspect of Pythios, and the lessons which may be learned from Him.
Afterward, you and participants may light incense from the sacred flame to be placed on the altar in offering and thanks to Apollon Pythios for His presence and purification. Thanks may be verbalized at this time. Example: “Apollon Pythios, Lord of the rot who wields the all-cleansing light, we/I thank You for Your presence at this rite, and in our/my lives/life. Thank You for the enlightenment You bring, and for the gift of death’s release. If we/I have ever pleased You, and if You have ever seen fit to assist us/me in our/my turbulent lives/life, then remember us/me as we/I remember You.”
Next, comes the final offering, in the form of libations poured into a separate bowl. I have determined that the most appropriate libations for this rite are water and wine, though you may use your own discretion in choosing for yourself. As each libation is poured into the bowl, say something like: “May You receive this sustenance in exchange for Your presence and attention. Blessed Apollon, we/I thank You.”
At this time, all participants should follow you outside to pour the libations onto the Earth, as well as to bury any leftovers from the “cremated bodies”, and to pour out the used khernips. Thank Lord Apollon and Lady Hestia one last time to conclude the ritual. Example: “Lord and Lady of Purest Flame, we/I thank You for the kindness You have shown us/me, and we/I humbly seek to remain worthy of Your Divine intervention. If it pleases You, stay; if it pleases You go, and be welcome with us/me, always.”
Hail Apollon! Hail Hestia! Hail the Blessed, Deathless Gods!