Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Calendar Entry #16: Ipip Festival and Dipolieia

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays.

Ipip Festival
Tawaret also known as Ipet
Months, in ancient Egypt, were named for feasts that were celebrated during or at the beginning of the next month.  The month of Ipip (Ipt-hmt) is the third month in Shomu and is named after the Ipip festival. The fourth month of Shomu (the summer season) is Mesore and has just begun.  With Ipip occurring at the beginning of Mesore, it's name was taken for the the name of the preceding month.

The Ipip Festival has been mentioned in many sources, from an account by a jeweller in Saqqara to documents pertaining to Deir el-Medina, to papyri dating to the third year of Ramesses X.  During the late New Kingdom the festival was celebrated in the temple of Karnak and the oracle text of Nesamun from the late 20th Dynasty said that Amon of Karnak appeared during the feast's procession.  However, aside from this mention, and despite the festival being referred to in many different ancient sources, the actual rituals and other details about the Ipip festival are largely unknown.

Ipip was another name for the hippopotamus goddess Ipet.  She was a fertility goddess from Thebes and at times equated to the goddess Mut.  She may have been a focus, but again there are no actual references to her that have survived.

Dipolieia  (and Bouphonia)

Buphonia, bulls circling an altar. 
Attic black-figure oenochoe (wine jug)
by a Gela painter 510-480 BC
Dipolieia is a religious festival held in ancient Greece in honour of Zeus.  (Di - Zeus, Polieus - of the city).  One of the main features of this festival, as observed by the Greek traveller Pausanias, is the Bouphonia (which at times has also been another name for Dipolieia).

The Bouphonia (ox murdering) is a ritual that involves the slaying of an ox, that had desecrated the altar of Zeus. Porphyry of Tyre, a Neoplatonic philosopher, described it as a bronze table rather than what would traditionally be an altar.  This suggests that the ritual may have had roots in Mycenaean culture because Mycenaean altars were usually tables of offerings; tables are common in representations of bull offerings in Mycenaean and Minoan art. There is a theory that at some time in the ancient past an unfortunate ox happened upon such a Mycenaean table and started munching on the grains that had been set there as an offering.  An incensed bystander or perhaps a priest, slayed the ox for its sacrilege.

For the Bouphonia, the altar/offering table was set with 'sacred grains' or cakes or both.  A group of oxen were ushered into the Acropolis, near the altar.  (Excavations have found a small temple with an open air precinct, for the oxen to be coaxed into, that has a small central structure where the Dipolieia sacrifice most probably took place).   The first unfortunate ox to eat from the altar was slain with a double axe (a bronze relic much like the table) by a cult official from the Thaulonidae clan called the bouphonos.  The bouphonos (ox murderer) would drop the axe and flee.  The ox was then butchered and eaten in a sacrificial feast.

After feasting comes the second part of Dipolieia, the ritual trial for the murder of the ox as the slaughter of a labouring ox was forbidden.  A judicial assembly was held in the Prytaneum and all who had taken part, in some form, in the slaying of the ox were summoned to appear.   Each laid the blame for the murder upon another.  The water-bearers, who purified the axe were accused.  They passed the guilt to the sharpener of the axe, who cast it upon the person who felled the ox.  That person passed blame to the axe itself.  The axe, unable to speak in it's own defence, was found guilty and thrown into the sea.

Afterwards the hide of the slain beast was stuffed with straw and set to give the appearance of still being alive.

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