Activities for the Brumal Days

While I like the idea of having a festive meal on one of the 24 days of Brumalia, I felt more should be available especially for those who don’t have family or a large circle of friends to celebrate with. And so I came up with a set of practices to help explore the deeper meaning of each day’s letter. 

These consist of:

  • A Dionysian epithet representing different aspects of the God. One may say prayers or make special offerings to him under this name, research everything one can find about it, meditate on the myths and symbols associated with it, contemplate the affinities and antipathies it may have with other forms, derive omens from it and so forth. 
  • An Orphic hymn to be recited and reflected upon. 
  • A ritual prescription to observe. 
  • A prognosis of the day based on words beginning with the same letter from the Starry Bull Alphabet oracle. 

How you stitch these diverse elements together is up to you. Likewise you can keep all of them over the span of the festival, just the ones that resonate with you or divine ahead of time using the Alphabet oracle to see which are most pressing. 

These were not determined randomly; there is a lot of symbolism enmeshed in this praxis, so have fun teasing out the threads.    

Day 1: Α α – alpha, άλφα

Αἰγοβόλος (Aigibolos) = Goatslayer 

Orphic Hymn ̓́Αστρων (7. to the Stars)

Get up (άνεγείρω) at dawn, go to the highest place (άνίημι) you can and hang (άρταω) a star. Then count the number (άριθμός) of times you see stars throughout the day; if it is odd, your luck will shine (αἵγλη) through the Kalends. If even, then make a batch of goat-shaped (αἴξ) cookies and offer them to the Winds (Ἄνεμοι) that they may snatch away (άρπάζω) your misfortune. 

The Nature of the Day
Aeiro (άείρω) to lift, raise up, rise above. 
Aigle (αἵγλη) radiance, glory, splendor.
Aparchê (άπαρχή) dues, first-fruits, preliminary offerings. 
Aphiemi (άφίημι) discharge, loose, set free.
Aoton (ἅωτον) the flower of its kind, prime, fairest. 

Day 2: Β β – beta, βήτα

Βρομιος (Bromios) = Boisterous

Orphic Hymn Σιληνοῦ Σατύρου Βακχῶν (54. to Silenos, Satyros and the Bakchia)

Adopt a different way of life (βίωσις) for the day, the way of Bakchos’ companions; allow a different personality to bubble up (βρύσις) to the surface, wander about (βαγεύει) taking a different way home, eat (βιβώσκω) strange dishes you’ve never tried, see things (βλέψις) you’ve never imagined before, make lots of smoke (βλάσκει), shout (βοάω) random things to people you don’t know and dance enthusiastically (βαβάξαι).  

The Nature of the Day
Baino (βαίνω) walk, dance, advance. 
Bakaion (βακάϊον) measure, evaluate, rule.
Biaios (βίαιος) full of life, strength, force.
Brephos (βρέφος) babe in the womb, potential, outflow.
Bromeo (βρομέω) buzz, roar, boil.

Day 3: Γ γ – gamma, γάμμα

Γυννισ (Gynnis) = Womanly

Orphic Hymn Μίσης (42. to Mise)

Dress up as an old woman (γραῖα) and sing (γηρύω) incantations for the earthborn ancestors (γέγειος), then offer milky (γλᾰγάω) and sweet (γλευκη) libations. Write out charms (γράμματα) on pieces of paper to attract luxury (γαγγᾰλισμός), serenity (γᾰλήνη) and laughter (γέλως) into your home. 

The Nature of the Day
Gamos (γάμος) wedding, union, connections.
Gaster (γαστήρ) belly, womb, wide part of a bottle.
Gelao (γελάω) joy, laughter, silliness. 
Genea (γενεά) race, family, offspring.
Geitneo (γειτνέω) to share the earth, neighbor, community. 

Day 4: Δ δ – delta, δέλτα

Δασυλλιος (Dasyllios) = Shaggy, of the Wildwood 

Orphic Hymn ∆αίμονος (73. to the Daimon)

Make a poppet (δᾱγύς) that bears a likeness (δαλμᾶναι) to yourself or someone you care for. Provide it with a belt made of red string. Tie three knots into the string, and with each one bind (δέω) into it a gift (δωρεά) or power (δύνᾰμις) you wish to pursue (διώκω) in the coming year. Once all of the portions (δάσμα) have been completed, throw a celebratory feast (δαίνῡμι) and set the poppet on fire like a torch (δᾱλός) in offering to Dionysos. 

The Nature of the Day
Daizo (δαΐζω) rend, cleave, divide.
Deire (δειρή) throat, gully, a flow-through channel.
Diacheo (διαχέω) scatter, disperse, spread.
Doke (δοκή) vision, opinion, expectation.
Doleros (δολερός) ruse, deceit, entrapment.

Day 5: Ε ε – epsilon, έψιλον

Ειραφιωτης (Eiraphiôtes) = the Inswen

Orphic Hymn ̓Ερινύων (69. to the Erinyes)

If you would have a genuine (έτεός) encounter with the Spirits rather than the mere image (εικών) that suffices for most, get up before sunrise (ἕλα) and venture forth (ἕξοδος) from your home until you find a suitable place for sitting (ἕδος), preferably on the earth itself. Pray fervently until you feel your body shaking (έλελίζω), a lightness (ἕλαφρός) of soul and something divine moving within (ἕνθεος) – then chant aloud the holy seven (έβδομάς) vowels. Open your eyes and the first thing you see will be significant.

The Nature of the Day
Eao (έάω) leave alone, be done with, quit. 
Ezomai (ἕζομαι) seat oneself, sink to the earth, collapse.
Eimi (είμί) exist, essence, reality.
Eleutheria (έλευθερία) autonomy, liberality, freedom. 
Elpis (έλπίς) hope, expectation, desire. 

Day 6: Ζ ζ – zeta, ζήτα

Ζαγρευς (Zagreus) = the Great Hunter

Orphic Hymn Κορύβαντος (39. to Korybas)

When it is dusky (ζόφεος) make offerings to the Tritopatores (the Fathers going three generations back) pouring into a trench you’ve cut with a sickle (ζάγκλον) honey rich-in-gold (ζάχρῡσος), the hair of a living creature (ζῷον), unseasonable grapes (ζεῖρος) and a spark to kindle flame (ζωπῠρον). In return the dead will yoke (ζῠγόν) blessings and increase the flow of life (ζωογονέω) for you and your kin in the year to come.

The Nature of the Day
Zelos (ζήλος) zeal, fervor, spirit.
Zemia (ζημία) loss, damage, penalty.
Zeteuo (ζητεύω) seek, search, inquire.
Zeo (ζέω) boil, seethe, ferment.
Zopureo (ζωπῠρέω) quickening of life, kindle into flame, blazing up.

Day 7: Η η – eta, ήτα

Ἥβον (Hebon) = Youthful

Orphic Hymn Εἰς  ̔́Ηλιον (8. to the Sun)

Go about all day dressed and acting like a half-Persian (ήμιπέρσης), drunk and in bloom (ἡβυλλιάω), letting your heart (ἦτορ) guide you where (ἧχι) it will, ever in pursuit of new pleasure (ήδονή) that must be immediately gratified (ἥδη), always on the edge (ήκή) of losing it, even when you don’t know what it is, or care. 

The Nature of the Day
Egeomai (ήγέομαι) guide, command, lead the way.
Ethos (ἦθος) custom, character, way of life. 
Epios (ἥπῐος) gentle, rich, soothing
Etrion (ἥτριον) warp, stretch, extend.
Eothen (ήῶθεν) beginning, dawn, eastern.

Day 8: Θ θ – theta, θήτα

Θυωνιος (Thyonios) = Son of the Inflamed One

Orphic Hymn Θανάτου (87. to Death)

If you would receive something wonderful (θαυμάσιος) from the Gods (θεόθεν) then spend the day in a storm (θύελλα) of worship (θρησκεία).

The Nature of the Day
Theiasmos (θειασμός) divine possession, an inspired utterance, given over to the Gods. 
Thera (θήρα): hunting of wild beasts, the chase, a game.
Theoreo (θεωρέω) behold, observe, perceive.
Thura (θύρα) door, the other side, entrance.
Thuo (θύω) sacrificial offerings, consumed by fire, burning with divine longing. 

Day 9: Ι ι – iota, ιώτα

Ιοβακχος (Iobakchos) = He who leads those who cry ecstatically 

Orphic Hymn ̓Ασκληπιοῦ (67. to Asklepios)

If you would like a remedy (ϊᾱμα) against illness and pain, then on this day carry holy offerings (ίερᾱγέω) to a stream or lake and sing a joyful (ίδών) song to the Nymphs; take some of the water (ίκμάς) and mix it with incense ash (ϊκνυς) from past sacrifices. Take a jasper (ίασπῐς) and cover it completely with the slime (ίλύω), then wrap it in a linen cloth and braid (ϊλλω) a leather thong (ίμάς) or red thread around it three times securely. Carry this on you all day and through the night, and it will draw up (ίμάω) the sickness and replace it with health for the year to come (ϊκω).

The Nature of the Day
Iaino (ίαίνω) cheer, heal, save.
Ierizo (ίερίζω) purify, consecrate, make holy.
Ithus (ίθύς) straight, upright, just. 
Iketeia (ίκετεία) supplication, entreat, beg. 
Iluo (ίλύω) to conceal, cover with clay, dirty. 

Day 10: Κ κ – kappa, κάππα

Κρης (Krês) = Cretan

Orphic Hymn Κουρήτων (31. to the Kouretes)

On this day set up a shrine which consists of the skin (κάς) of a ram (κρῑός) placed in a crib (κάπη) piled with fruit (καρπός) from the depths of the earth (κεῦθος) and you shall hold sway (κρᾰτέω) among all others.

The Nature of the Day
Katharsios (κᾰθάρσιος) cleansing, purging, release of the unnecessary and harmful.
Kairos (καιρός) vital part, in season, the exact or critical time.
Kentro (κεντρο) core, center, point.
Krasis (κρᾶσις) mixing, blending, tempering.
Krima (κρίμα) decision, judgment, decree.

Day 11: Λ λ – lambda, λάμδα

Λυαιος (Lyaios) = He who frees

Orphic Hymn Λυσίου Ληναίου (50. to Lysios-Lenaios)

Before you leave (λείπω) in the morning make this charm of dissolution (λύη) against the impudence (λαιδρος) and evil you shall encounter during your day. Take garden herbs (λάχᾰνον) and tear them up (λᾰκίζω) with your hands, say, “Just so will it be for you, every wicked thing.” Then put them in a mortar and using a pestle (λάκτις) grind them, singing, “Io, a great Bull trampled the ravening Wolf under its hooves and gored the beast with his lethal horns. Io evohe!” Put the powder in a satchel and carry it on you for the rest of the next seven days.  

The Nature of the Day
Lekithos (λέκῐθος) the yoke of an egg.
Lethargeo (ληθαργέω) drowsiness, forgetting, sinking down.
Lousis (λοῦσις) washing, bathing, cleansing.

Lumeo (λῦμέω) to grieve, distress, or cause pain.
Luo (λύω) unbind, dissolve, release.

Day 12: Μ μ – mu, μυ

Μαινόμενος (Mainômenos) = He who is mad and makes mad

Orphic Hymn Μηλινόης (71. to Melinoe)

When the Moon is upon the border between (μεθόριος) Night and Day get a jar of red wine and another of clear water and an empty bowl. Pour some wine from the larger vessel into the smaller (μεταγγίζω) and then do the same with the water. Stick a pine-branch into the bowl and stir until the water and wine are thoroughly mixed (μικτός) together. Then carry it outside until you can see the Moon (μήνη) reflected upon its surface. Stare into the bowl until you begin to perform divination (μαντεία). If possible, have an assistant record what you see.

The Nature of the Day
Mauroo (μαυρόω) darken, blind, make obscure.
Medeon (μεδέων) guardian, protector, ruler.
Meli (μελί) gentle, sweet, honey. 
Memneo (μέμνεο) to remind, put in mind, call to mind.
Moira (μοῖρα) portion, faction, destiny.

Day 13: Ν ν – nu, νυ

Νυκτελιος (Nyktelios) = of the Night

Orphic Hymn Νυκτός (3. to Night)

At night (νύξ) go to a woodland vale (νάπη) if you would see victory (νίκη) in your affairs, and sluggish (νώθεια) Fortune roused. Spin (νέω) around until you are woozy, and then grasp the nearest tree for support. Make offerings of spinal vertebrae (νωτιαῖος) and spikenard (νάρδος) to the Spirit within the tree (Νύμφᾱ) and when it nods (νεύω) its branches you will know your sacrifice has been accepted. Then ask the Spirit to chant the laws (νομῳδός) that you must observe, and keep them scrupulously.

The Nature of the Day
Nama (νᾶμα) flowing, rushing, bursting forth. 
Neeo (νηέω) build, heap, pile up.
Neikos (νεῖκος) quarrel, strife, feud.
Noeros (νοερός) think, perceive, reflect.
Nusso (νύσσω) stab, pierce, nudge.

Day 14: Ξ ξ – xi, ξι

Ξένος (Xénos) = the Stranger

Orphic Hymn ̓Ερμοῦ Χθονίου (57. to Chthonic Hermes)

Shave your head with a razor (ξῠρόν), put on yellow (ξανθός) facepaint, carry an image of Dionysos of unhewn wood (ξοᾰνον) upon a cord around your neck, and wear a sword (ξίθος) or knife (ξῠράφιον) at your side. Go about in the company of other men-at-arms (ξενᾱγία), pay for rounds for your drinking-buddies (ξύνηβος) and show hospitality (ξενία) towards all you meet. 

The Nature of the Day
Xanthias (Ξανθίας) yellow, foreign, servile.
Xeraino (ξηραίνω) parch, wither, dry up.
Xenos (ξενος) guest, stranger, wanderer.
Xunos (ξῦνός) common, public, general.
Xuston (ξυστόν) scraped, trimmed, cropped.

Day 15: Ο ο – omicron, όμικρον

Οινοψ (Oinops) = Winefaced

Orphic Hymn Τριετηρικοῦ (52. to the God of the Triennial Feast)

With things found around the home (οἷκος) make yourself into a creature of great bulk (ὃγκος), with egg-shaped bulges (όειδής) and a face made of sheep-skin (ὃες). Also make yourself a tyrant-destroying (όλεσσῐτύραννος) staff – basically a stick strung with testicles (ὅρχεα). Sing bawdy songs, and yell random things at people. Once you’re overfull of wine (οΐνος) find a secret culvert, expose your rump (ὅρρος) to the chilly winter air and let loose a city-destroying (ολεσίπολις) piss (ούρέω) while cursing those in power. (Yes, women can urinate in public too!)

The Nature of the Day
Ozos (ὅζος) offspring, offshoot, branch.
Olbos (ὅλβος) happiness, prosperity, fulfilment. 
Opora (όπώρα) fruitful, ripe, summer-swollen.
Ormos (ὅρμος) harbor-giver, chain, connection. 
Opheltreuo (όφελτρεύω) sweep, change, turn.

Day 16: Π π – pi, πι

Πατρωιος (Patrôios) = Ancestral

Orphic Hymn Παλαίμονος (75. to Palaimon)

In a jar (πίθος) collect all (πᾶς) of your pocket change through the year; on this day carry it to a gateway (πυλών) and heap the coins up in a pile (πῡρᾰμίς) to bring an end (πέρᾰς) to the vagrant grandfather’s (πάππος) hunger or to pay the ferry-driver (πορεύς) on behalf of those for whom the gift comes too late.

The Nature of the Day
Palai (πάλαι) aged, venerable, of long ago. 
Peitho (πείθω) persuade, seduce, make obedient. 
Perao (περάω) pass through, traverse, penetrate.
Pistis (πίστις) trust, faith, confidence.
Pompos (πομρός) conductor, escort, guide.

Day 17: Ρ ρ – rho, ρώ

Ροδοστεφης (Rhodostephês) = Rosecrowned 

Orphic Hymn ̓Ωρῶν (43. to the Horai)

Just spend the day flowing (ῤέος). 

The Nature of the Day
Rabasso (ῤᾰβάσσω) to make a noise by dancing or beating time with the feet.
Radis (ῤάδις) cyclical, whirling, rotation. 
Riza (ῤίζα) root, element, outflow. 
Rimma (ῤιμμα) throw, cast, swing.
Roomai (ῤώομαι) to move with speed or violence, to rush on, forceful.

Day 18: Σ σ/ς – sigma, σίγμα

Σαωτης (Saôtês) = Savior

Orphic Hymn ̓Αμφιετοῦς (53. to the God of the Annual Feast)

Observe if there are shadows (σκῐοθηρέω) upon the face of the Moon (Σελήνη); if there are it means the dead are hungry. Offer them the flesh of a pig (σύειος) and seed (σπέρμα) cast with the left (σκαιός) hand in a spiral (σπεῖρα) pattern while making a hissing sound (σιγμός). If the moon gives a sign (σημαίνω) that is august (σεμνός) and clear, you have nothing to worry about.

The Nature of the Day
Sebas (σεβας) reverential awe, worship, terror.
Skambos (σκαμβός) crooked, bent, twisted.
Semeion (σημεῖον) a sign from the Gods, an omen, an indication of what is or is to be.
Schazo (σχάζω) open up, escape, let go.
Sophrosune (σωφροσύνη) prudence, sanity, moderation.

Day 19: Τ τ – tau, ταυ

Ταυροπον (Tauropon) = Bullfaced

Orphic Hymn ∆ιονύσου (30. to Dionysos)

Carrying a bow (τόξον) and an arrow that has been lit on fire, walk the perimeter of your property three (τρεῖς) times shouting in a disordered (τᾰρᾰχή) and turbulent (τύρβη) manner, “From here (τᾶδε) to there (τηνεῖ) my voice carries, O blind (τυφλός) one full of smoke (τύφω) and delusion (τῦφος); don’t set foot on this land or I’ll shoot you full of fiery arrows until you are distressed (τείρω) and quaking (τρόμος) and flee in fear (τρέω) before me!”

The Nature of the Day
Talanton (τάλαντον) weight, scale, balance.
Teichos (τεῖχος) wall, boundary, end.
Teleio (τελειόω) make perfect, complete, consummate.
Timao (τίμάω) honor, acclaim, what is due one.
Tonos (τόνος) cord, stretch, tension.

Day 20: Υ υ – upsilon, ύψιλον

Ὑετίς (Hyetis) = Rainbringer 

Orphic Hymn Νεφῶν (21. to the Clouds)

Wearing only one sandal (ύροδημι) carry a pot (ύδρία) in which rain water (ὕδωρ) has been collected and pour it in libation to the Hyades (Ύάδες); they will nurture and help you to create (ύφαίνω).

The Nature of the Day
Ugeios (ὕγειος) healthy, sound, unbroken.
Upenerthe (ύπένερθε) beneath, under the earth, in the netherworld.
Us (ὖς) maternal, receptive, female genitalia. 
Uphaino (ύφαίνω) create, contrive, weave.
Uo (ὕω) rain, flow, water.

Day 21: Φ φ – phi, φι

Φιλομμειδὴς (Philommeidês) = Laughterloving 

Orphic Hymn Φύσεως (10. to Physis)

Those who have understanding (φρονέω) know that if you want your plants (φῠτόν) to bring forth (φύω) a rich yield you must make visible (φαντός) the way for them; light a torch (φρυκτός) and keep it shining(φᾰείνω) through the night, even if evil specters (φαντᾰσμα) should come to steal your breath (φῦσα).

The Nature of the Day
Phantasma (φαντᾰσμα) apparition, phantom, mental image.
Phatizo (φᾰτίζω) tell of, express, promise.
Phiale (φῐάλη) offering dish, urn for funeral ashes, bowl for administering medicines.
Phobos (φόβος) dread, terror, fearful flight.
Phuo (φύω) bring forth, produce, formed by nature.

Day 22: Χ χ – chi, χι

Χθονιος (Chthonios) = Underground 

Orphic Hymn Εἰς Πλούτωνα (18. to Plouton)

Heap up a mound of earth (χόω) as a cenotaph for your unknown ancestors. Lay upon the ground (χᾰμαικοιτία) and let yourself drift half-way to sleep. If there are any debts you must pay (χρεός) to your ancestors, they will deliver an oracle (χρήζω) to you. (This can also be done indoors since it’s winter, but that tends to be a lot messier.)

The Nature of the Day
Chairo (χαίρω) rejoice, take pleasure in, celebration.
Chasko (χάσκω) yawn, gap, chasm.
Cheima (χεῖμα) cold, frost, winter.
Choikos (χοϊκός) of earth or clay, funeral libations, of an age to take part in the Choes festival.

Chreos (χρεός) debt, obligation, fate.

Day 23: Ψ ψ – psi, ψι

Ψιλαξ (Psilax) – Who gives wings

Orphic Hymn  ̓Ονείρου (86. to Dream)

When darkness (ψέφος) comes, strip bare (ψῑλόω) and walk the perimeter of your property, no matter how cold (ψῦχος) it is; none will be able to deceive (ψεύδω) you thereafter.

The Nature of the Day
Psammos (ψάμμος) crumbling, sandy, inconstant.
Psaros (ψᾱρός) speckled, dappled, discolored.
Psausis (ψαῦσις) brush, touch, graze.
Pseudo (ψεύδω) fake, lie, deceive. 
Psophos (ψόφος) sound, noise, especially by that which cannot be seen.

Day 24: Ω ω – omega, ωμέγα

Ωμεστὴς (Omestês) = Raweater

Orphic Hymn Τιτάνων (37. to the Titans)

Egg (ᾠόν) cleanse.

The Nature of the Day
Ode (ῴδή) dirge, joyful songs, songs of praise.
Ope (ώπή) sight, unobstructed vision, full view. 
Orai (ὦραι) timely, seasonal, fitting produce.
Osis (ὦσις) thrusting, pushing, to bring forth.
Opheleia (ώφέλεια) assistance, advantage, source of gain or profit.