The ancient Greeks had a lunar based calendar as did much of the world. The official ritual calendar varied from city state to city. What we know the most about comes from the Athenian Festival Calendar. Though they have different festivals that come around each year what seemed the most important of all were the monthly festival cycles that started at the beginning of each month.
The first thing to look at is that the New Year started with the first new moon after the summer solstice. Second is that that Greek day began with the setting of the sun, not with the rising of it. Each new moon was then celebrated and termed Noumenia, new moon Day. In some cases this was not the first day of the festival cycle for the new moon. Some of the city states used the four days preceding the new moon to honor the Chthonic Deities and land spirits, this was done for three days, then the last day of the old month to was for giving offering to Hekate, which were usually done in private.
Each day thereafter for eight days had specific deities or entities associated with its celebration with the acceptation of the 5th day where there seems to have been a day of rest. Then the cycle would begin again with the changing of the moon.
In ADF we adapt many of the ancient customs to our modern ways of worship. The Hellenic culture is very near and dear to my heart so I wanted to bring some of the deeper aspects of their customs into my spiritual path. I have taken the previous understanding of the Athenian Calendar and Lunar Festival cycle modify it, creating my own personal set ritual schedules to work into my monthly devotion cycle.
I begin just after sun set. As was the custom I start all my rituals in this cycle giving offerings first to Hestia, the Hearth Goddess, for first offerings in the home go to her. From there I perform the rituals I have written in standard ADF ritual format. As it was standard practice to honor Zeus before all gods I have written the rituals so that he is the first Kindred of Occasion in all these rituals.
The Libation Hymn in the ritual was heavily influenced by Aeschylus’ Queen Mother, Atossa, in Persians (vv.607-99), she using an invocation and hymn to call forth her dead son, much of which is very beautiful. When I read through her call to her son there just seemed to be very ‘right’ about it. It also was very Greek in its offering to the dead and would be fitting for the gods as well. Here is the Libation Hymn I wrote that was so inspired by Queen Atossa:
Great Ones, Shining Gods and Goddesses,
I come to you as in times of old, bringing libations, gifts to honor and soothe:
To you all that have come, to all that heard my call I give you these gifts;
White milk, sweet to drink from the animal sacred Hermes, the cow;
Golden honey, the distillation of the bees that work on sweet Persephone’s blossoms;
Holy water brought from the source a pure spring domain of the Nymphs;
This refreshing, unmixed drink from the ancient vine, its mother Demeter the Goddess of all growing things, the gift to human kind from Beloved Dionysus;
And the fragrant fruit of the pale green olive that lives its abundant life among the leaves and light of Helios, the gift of Athena to her people;
These gifts I give to you in love and in respect, in friendship and kinship.
Might Ones accept my offerings!
The following is the schedule I use for the version of an ADF Athenian Noumenia. If you are interested in seeing the rituals themselves you can visit our Protogroves site. They will be listed under RESOURCES/GENERAL RITUALS.
4 Days before Noumenia (New Moon Festival)
Chthonic Day 1: Chthonic Land Deities, Nymph’s and Nature Spirits
Chthonic Day 2: Chthonic Sea Deities, Nymph’s and Nature Spirits
Chthonic Day 3: Chthonic Sky Deities, Nymph’s and Nature Spirits
Hekate’s Deipnon (Last Day Before the New Moon): Celebration for Hekate
Noumenia (New Moon Festival of New Moon): Celebration for Selene, Apollon Noumenios, and the Ancestors
Agathos Daimon (2nd Day of New Moon): Celebration for the Good Spirits
Birthday of Athena & the Graces (3nd Day after Noumenia):
Aphrodite, Hermes, Herakles & Eros (4rd Day after Noumenia):
5th Day is taken off
Birthday of Artemis (6th Day after Noumenia):
Birthday of Apollon (7th Day after Noumenia):
Poseidon (8th Day after Noumenia):
The Sacred and Civil Calendar of the Athenian Year, by Jon D. Mikalson,
Press 1975 Princeton
Classical Dictionary, ed. By S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth,
Press 1996 Oxforth University
Arcana Mundi, by Georg Luck, Johns