Ἐνάτη Μεσοῦντος/ Ἐνάτη ἐπὶ δέκα / Ἐννεακαιδεκάτη, XIX day
From today’s sunset: nineteenth day of Boedromion.
Iakchos- day of the procession’ (from the nineteenth to the twentieth day of Boedromion)
The initiates, each one along with his/her mystagogos, meet at the Kerameikos, between the Dipylon and the Sacred Gate- where the Hiera Odos begins- where there is the Pompaion. The Eleusinian priests carry the Hierà from the Eleusinion to the Sacred Gate where the meeting is; the armed epheboi, organized by their kosmetes, escort back the procession.
“According to the same rules, the 19th of the month of Boedromion it has to be ordained to the cosmete of the epheboi to lead them again to Eleusis, to act as escort to the sacred objects in the same form; the cosmete in office during the year has to ensure that these rules are never overlooked and that there is never negligence in the acts of piety dedicated to the Two Goddesses; all the youths, wearing full armor, crowned with a wreath of myrtle, have to escort advancing in formation; since it has been given to the youths the order to travel this long road, it’s righteous that they take part in the sacrifices, and the libations and the choral songs that take place during the journey, so that the transport of the sacred objects is carried out with an effective supervision and with a very long procession , and the youths, following the practices of worship devoted to the deity by the City, become more pious men … “
The great procession to Eleusis, bearing the God Iakchos in front, begins- wearing festive garments and garlands of myrtle on their heads, carrying bunches of myrtle twigs and bundles of provisions attached to the end of sticks, the mystai start the journey toward Eleusis in a joyous mood. “The initiates used a myrtle-crown, and not of ivy…because Demeter liked the myrtle and because it was consecrated to the Chthonian Gods.”
Much can be learned of this celebration from the chorus’s imitation of them in Aristophanes’ comedy, The Frogs…
“He declared that after the army of Xerxes had, in the absence of the Athenians, wasted Attica, he chanced to be with Demaratus the Lacedaemonian in the Thriasian plain, and that while there, he saw a cloud of dust advancing from Eleusis, such as a host of thirty thousand men might raise. As he and his companion were wondering who the men, from whom the dust arose, could possibly be, a sound of voices reached his ear, and he thought that he recognised the mystic hymn to Bacchus. Now Demaratus was unacquainted with the rites of Eleusis, and so he inquired of Dicaeus what the voices were saying. Dicaeus made answer- “O Demaratus! beyond a doubt some mighty calamity is about to befall the king’s army! For it is manifest, inasmuch as Attica is deserted by its inhabitants, that the sound which we have heard is an unearthly one, and is now upon its way from Eleusis to aid the Athenians and their confederates.”
(Er. VIII 65)
“At this stage of the struggle they say that a great light flamed out from Eleusis, and an echoing cry filled the Thriasian plain down to the sea, as of multitudes of men together conducting the mystic Iacchus in procession. Then out of the shouting throng a cloud seemed to lift itself slowly from the earth, pass out seawards, and settle down upon the triremes. Others fancied they saw apparitions and shapes of armed men coming from Aegina with their hands stretched out to protect the Hellenic triremes. These, they conjectured, were the Aeacidae, who had been prayerfully invoked before the battle to come to their aid.”
(Plut. - Them. 15)
Many shrines to be visited and many sacrifices to be made during the journey along the Sacred Way - as for example…
- Sanctuary of Apollo
- Temple of Aphrodite
- Rheitoi (apotropaic rites of the Krokonidai: they put on each initiate a wool band of the color of the crocus, on the right hand and left feet- to avert the evil-eye). “The mystai bind their right hand and the left foot with a piece of cloth and this is called ‘to crown with saffron’.” (Anecd. graec. P. 273, 25)
- Eleusinian Kephisos- Gephyrismoi - “Gephyristai: mockers, because at Eleusis, sitting on the parapet of the bridge, they mocked the passers-by.” “.. Gephyris.. a hooded man who, by sitting there in the course of the Mysteries of Eleusis, directed coarse jokes towards the illustrious citizens, indicating them by name.”
- Arrival to the Sanctuary by night (already Boedromion 20):
Welcome to Iakchos, dances around the Kallichoron well and kernophories.
(cfr. IG II2 1078; Arist. Ranae 324ff; Plut. Phoc. 28, Cam. 19; Esych. s.v. Gephyris, gephyristés; Tzetzes ad Arist. Ran. 330a; Eur. Ion 1076; Dione Cris. Or. 12, 33)
(Iakchos, detail from the Ninnion tablet from Eleusis; ca. 370 BC)