The Great Festivals of Athens
Our first festival is the Eleusinia, the festival of the Eleusinian mysteries. It is September, the "19th of Boëdromiön," the Athenians will say. Four days have been spent by the "initiates" and the "candidates" in symbolic sacrifices and purifications. On one of these days the arch priest, the "Hierophant," has preached a manner of sermon at the Painted Porch in the Agora setting forth the awfulness and spiritual efficacy of these Mysteries, sacred to Demeter the Earth Mother, to her daughter Persephone, and also to the young Iacchus, one of the many incarnations of Dionysus, and who is always associated at Eleusis with the divine "Mother and Daughter." The great cry has gone forth to the Initiates—"To the Sea, ye Mystæ!" and the whole vast multitude has gone down to bathe in the purifying brine.
Now on this fifth day comes the sacred procession from Athens across the mountain pass to Eleusis. The participates, by thousands, of both sexes and of all ages, are drawn up in the Agora ere starting. The Hierophant, the "Torchbearer," the "Sacred Herald," and the other priests wear long flowing raiment and high mitres like Orientals. They also, as well as the company, wear myrtle and ivy chaplets and bear ears of corn and reapers' sickles. The holy image of Iacchus is borne in a car, the high priests marching beside it; and forth with pealing shout and chant they go,—down the Ceramicus, through the Dipylon gate, and over the hill to Eleusis, twelve miles away.
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