11/30 Days of Deity devotion

Day Eleven: Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity

Every city that had an Asclepion celebrated an annual Asclepieia festival. The Athenian Asclepieia was held in the month of Elaphebolion, on the first day of the Greater Dionysia, and a lyric poetry contest was held in his honor.

The ancient Athenians also celebrated the Epidauria, an annual festival in the middle of the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries in the month of Boedromion, to commemorate the arrival of Asclepius to Athens around 420 BCE, and the initiation of the god into the Mysteries. It included a procession, offerings, and a feast. I suspect it also included a theatrical performance, since they were considered to be therapeutic.

The modern Epidauria began with a performance of Electra in 1938. Annual performances were halted by WWII and the Greek Civil War, but resumed in 1955. This festival, like the modern Olympic Games, is sectarian in nature. Press materials harken back to the ancient origin, but avoid the slightest reference to the god whom the festival originally honored.

Epidaurus was the host of pan-Hellenic Asclepian Games every four years, immediately following the Isthmian Games at Corinth. Beginning on the eighth day of the month of Elaphebolion, the games at Epidaurus included poetry and music contests in the theater, in addition to athletic competitions at the stadium.

In modern practice, the 19th of Elaphebolion and 19th of Boedromion are observed in honor of Asclepius. The Isthmian Games were held the year before the Olympics, so those wishing to observe the next Asclepian Games can start planning for 2019. 19 appears to be a propitious number for Asclepius!

Although there were some ancient healings by Asclepius documented as having occurred during the day, I believe that just before bedtime is the best time to offer prayer to him for healing, as this recalls the incubation that took place at night in his sanctuaries. Likewise, I think the best time to offer thanks to him for healing is upon awakening in the morning. Your mileage may vary.

Image: Ancient theatre at Epidaurus, GreecePhoto: EPA/Orestis Panagiotou

30 days of deity devotion meme 

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