Monday, 9 May 2011

Calendar Entry #3: Yom Ha'atzmaut & Thargelia

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays.  
Yom Ha'atzmaut 
Yom Ha'atzmaut is Israel's Independence Day and it celebrates the declaration of the state of Israel by The Jewish Leadership led by the then future Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, on 14 May 1948.   It occurs annually on or around the 5th of Iyar.  Iyar is the 8th month of the civil year and the 2nd month of the ecclesiastical year in the Hebrew calendar.   
Due to the custom of beginning celebrations at sundown on the previous day, it was decided in 2004 that if the 5th of Iyar is a Monday, then the holiday will move to the Tuesday.  Therefore, while Yom Ha'atzmaut should be set for Monday, it is actually observed and celebrated on Tuesday 10 May this year.


Thargelia is an Athenian festival to celebrate the birthdays of Artemis and Apollo, held on the 6th and 7th of Thargelion.  Now unfortunately my research has shown that the actual timing of this would put the dates later in May, around the 20th and 21st or the 24th and 25th depending on where you look.
The festival is mainly for Apollo, and is basically an agricultural festival where first fruits were offered to Apollo, but it was also a time when the city of Athens, or rather its inhabitants, underwent a cathartic rite of purification.

On the first day of the festival two men (there are some references that state a man and a woman) were chosen to represent the men and women of Athens.  They were usually criminals or outcasts or deemed the ugliest.  They took on the role of the pharmakos (scapegoat) and after being fed, dressed/decorated in figs and led through the city (there are some reports that say they were beaten with green sticks during this procession) they were then cast out or exiled.   It is said that during times of great strife (such as a plague or famine), the pharmakos were actually put to death.  Accounts vary, but they were either burnt on a funeral pyre with their ashes scattered at sea, stoned to death or thrown into the sea alive.  The sacrifice of the pharmakos (either in being expelled from the city or in death) was meant to purify the residents of Athens of their communal guilt.

The second day of the festival was a much more celebratory affair.  There were offerings of thanks to Apollo, a procession, and an agon or competition of sorts, where the winner was awarded a tripod that he had to dedicate in the temple of Apollo.  This was also the day that families would undertake the solemn registration of adopted children, where the children were officially given the genos and phratria of their adoptive parents.  From what I've read, although not extensively, it looks to be sort of like hapu and iwi, or clan and tribe of the family.  I'm not 100% on that so if you've studied Classics and can clarify the terms, then please do.  :)


  1. The hard thing about the Hellenic calendar though is that each month starts with the new moon. I don't think a lot of sources recognise that.

  2. I have to agree with you Debbie. Everything I have read about the Attic and Hellenic calendars does say that the months start on the new moon. Seeing as the new moon was on the 3rd, the 9th and 10th of May would be the right days for Thargelia. The only difference is that Thargelia is a spring festival, and Thargelion is the 11th month of the year, a year which starts on the first new moon after the Summer Solstice.

    Now if a person was actually going to be celebrating Thargelia, as a seasonal festival, the question they'd need to ask would be whether or not they would celebrate it today, or if they would do the Northern/Southern hemisphere switch. However, these two days (9th and 10th of May) would be when Thargelia would be celebrated in ancient Athens.

    Thanks for the clarification Debbie :)