Vol.6, No.1 | [Articles] Cultural Diversity in Greek Religion: From the Modern Anastenaria Festival to the Ancient World




The Anastenaria festival is celebrated in the village of Agia Elenē in Greek Macedonia in May. The main ritual during the festival is the ecstatic dance over red-hot coals by people who are possessed by their saint. Thus, the festival presents a ritual, which in many ways is in opposition to the official Orthodox religion. A particular theme in the festival, which has been compared with ancient sources, is the “Dionysian” element and the “holy dyade” related to the cult of the Great Mother and the personified Bull god, via several couples, such as Kybele and Attis, and the modern cult dedicated to Agia (i.e. Saint) Elenē and Agios (Saint) Kōnstantinos. But, the similarities between the ancient cult dedicated to Aphrodite and Adonis and the modern cult may also be of relevance. Accordingly, the article will present the modern Anastenaria festival. It will further make a comparison with an ancient parallel celebrated in connection with the same passage during the agricultural year, the unofficial Athenian festival dedicated to the vegetation god, Adonis, the Adōnia. A reason to this is that both festivals present ritual diversity within their respective societies, simultaneously as they belong to the same cosmologies within their respective communities.

Keywords : Festivals, Gender, Modern and Ancient Greece, Religion, Wedding