On Oschophoria

After a circuitous journey through the underworld (and overcoming numerous adversaries, obstacles and tests) the thirsty soul of a Thuriian initiate finally reaches the Lake of Memory and its Sentries. They ask the soul, “Where have you come from?” and “Who are you?” to which the soul replies, “I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven. My name is Starry.”

Ονομα Αστεριος, in Greek. 

In other words, the soul is reminding the Sentries – and itself – that it has completed the ordeals of initiation during which it became identified with the Bull of Minos, the suffering but joyous Lord of the Labyrinth:

But angry at Minos for not sacrificing the bull, Poseidon made the animal savage, and contrived that Pasiphaë should conceive a passion for it. In her love for the bull she found an accomplice in Daidalos, an architect, who had been banished from Athens for murder. He constructed a wooden cow on wheels, took it, hollowed it out in the inside, sewed it up in the hide of a cow which he had skinned, and set it in the meadow in which the bull used to graze. Then he introduced Pasiphaë into it; and the bull came and coupled with it, as if it were a real cow. And she gave birth to Asterios, who was called the Minotaur. He had the face of a bull, but the rest of him was human; and Minos, in compliance with certain oracles, shut him up and guarded him in the Labyrinth. Now the Labyrinth which Daidalos constructed was a chamber “that with its tangled windings perplexed the outward way.” (Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 3.1.4)

And for us Asterios is a form of the God Dionysos, which is why ours is the Starry Bull tradition of Bacchic Orphism. Consequently we approach Oschophoria a little bit differently than others in the Hellenic polytheist and neopagan communities, especially those with an Attic overlay to their practices. 

But before we get into some of the ways that our observance differs, let us consider the founder of this ancient festival, Theseus the Unifier, Defender and King of Athens. (To some the protagonist, to others the villain of the day.) 

Like most heroic souls, he entered the world in an unconventional manner:

While Pandion was at Megara, he had sons born to him, to wit, Aegeus, Pallas, Nisos, and Lykos. But some say that Aegeus was a son of Skyrios, but was passed off by Pandion as his own. After the death of Pandion his sons marched against Athens, expelled the Metionids, and divided the government in four; but Aegeus had the whole power. As no child was born to him, he feared his brothers, and went to the oracle and consulted the Pythia concerning the begetting of children. The God answered him: The bulging mouth of the wineskin, O best of men, loose not until thou hast reached the height of Athens. Not knowing what to make of the oracle, he set out on his return to Athens. And journeying by way of Troezen, he lodged with Pittheus, son of Pelops, who, understanding the oracle, made him drunk and caused him to lie with his daughter Aethra. But in the same night Poseidon also had connexion with her. Now Aegeus charged Aethra that, if she gave birth to a male child, she should rear it, without telling whose it was; and he left a sword and sandals under a certain rock, saying that when the boy could roll away the rock and take them up, she was then to send him away with them. […] Aethra bore to Aegeus a son Theseus, and when he was grown up, he pushed away the rock and took up the sandals and the sword, and hastened on foot to Athens. And he cleared the road, which had been beset by evildoers. For first in Epidauros he slew Periphetes, son of Hephaistos and Antiklia, who was surnamed the Clubman from the club which he carried. For being crazy on his legs he carried an iron club, with which he despatched the passers-by. That club Theseus wrested from him and continued to carry about. And he slew many others along the way. (Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 3.15.5-7)

Already we glimpse the shadow of Dionysos at Theseus’ conception in the oracle’s winesack metaphor and drunken sex with the king’s daughter. There are other interesting points in this myth – such as Theseus’ uncle being named Lykos or “the Wolf” as well as the fact that Dionysos first arrives in Athens during the reign of Theseus’ grandfather Pandion – but the really interesting bit comes next:

And the son of Minos himself visited Athens and celebrated the games of the Panathenaia, in which Androgeus vanquished all comers. Him Aegeus sent against the Marathonian bull, by which he was destroyed. But some say that as he journeyed to Thebes to take part in the games in honor of Laius, Androgeus was waylaid and murdered by the jealous competitors. But when the tidings of his death were brought to Minos, as he was sacrificing to the Graces in Paros, he threw away the garland from his head and stopped the music of the flute, but nevertheless completed the sacrifice; hence down to this day they sacrifice to the Graces in Paros without flutes and garlands. (ibid 3.15.7)

Androgeus, the son of Minos, is sent to slay the paramour of Pasiphaë who was ravaging Attica, especially the area around Marathon; he is instead gored by the bull or along the way is slain by brigands (the same brigands Theseus will later massacre in his attempt to settle and pacify his father’s kingdom) which provokes the following response from Minos:

But not long afterwards, being master of the sea, Minos attacked Athens with a fleet and captured Megara, then ruled by king Nisos, son of Pandion, and he slew Megareus, son of Hippomenes, who had come from Onchestos to the help of Nisos. […] When the war lingered on and he could not take Athens, Minos prayed to Zeus that he might be avenged on the Athenians. And the city being visited with a famine and a pestilence, the Athenians at first, in obedience to an ancient oracle, slaughtered the daughters of Hyacinth, to wit, Antheis, Aegleis, Lytaia, and Orthaia, on the grave of Geraistos, the Cyclops; now Hyacinth, the father of the damsels, had come from Lakedaimon and dwelt in Athens. But when this was of no avail, they inquired of the oracle how they could be delivered; and the God answered them that they should give Minos whatever satisfaction he might choose. So they sent to Minos and left it to him to claim satisfaction. And Minos ordered them to send seven youths and the same number of damsels without weapons to be fodder for the Minotaur. (ibid 3.15.8)

These daughters of Hyakinthos bear a strong mythic resemblance to the Aletides, and also point to similar maiden-choruses and festivals in Sparta: 

The wife of Dion, king of Laconia, was Iphitea, daughter of Prognaus, who had kindly received Apollo. In return Apollo rewarded her by conferring upon her three daughters (Orphe, Lyco, and Carya) the gift of prophecy on condition, however, that they should not betray the gods nor search after forbidden things. Afterwards Bacchus also came to the house of Dion; he was not only well received, like Apollo, but won the love of Carya, and therefore soon paid Dion a second visit, under the pretext of consecrating a temple, which the king had erected to him. Orphe and Lyco, however, guarded their sister, and when Bacchus had reminded them, in vain, of the command of Apollo, they were seized with raging madness, and having gone to the heights of Taygetus, they were metamorphosed into rocks. Carya, the beloved of Bacchus, was changed into a walnut tree, and the Lacedaemonians, on being informed of it by Artemis, dedicated a temple to Artemis Caryatis. (Maurus Servius Honoratus, Commentary on the Eclogues of Vergil 8.29)

Unfortunately their untimely deaths do not placate the divine wrath of Zeus’ son Minos and a different sacrifice is imposed, which Theseus ultimately puts an end to. However, before the tauromachy Theseus engages the king in a contest:

It is said that when Theseus came to Crete along with the seven maidens and six youths, Minos, inflamed by the beauty of one of the maidens, Eriboea by name, wished to lie with her. Theseus, as was fitting for a son of Neptune, and one able to strive against a tyrant for a girl’s safety, refused to allow this. Soon the dispute became not about the girl but rather the parentage of Theseus, and whether he was the son of Neptune or not. Minos is said to have drawn a gold ring from his finger and cast it into the sea. He bade Theseus bring it back, if he wanted him to believe he was a son of Neptune; as for himself, he could easily show he was a son of Jove. So, invoking his father, he asked for some sign to prove he was his son, and straightway thunder and lightning gave token of assent. For a similar reason, Theseus, without any invoking of his father or obligation of an oath, cast himself into the sea. And at once a great swarm of dolphins, tumbling forward over the sea, led him through gently swelling waves to the Nereids. From them he brought back the ring of Minos and a crown, bright with many gems, from Thetis, which she had received at her wedding as a gift from Venus. (Hyginus, Astronomica 2.5)

The dolphins and descent into the sea should remind one of the Etruscan eschatology as well as Dionysos being chased into the waves and the bosom of Thetis by the wolfish king Lykourgos:

When he was pursued by Lykourgos and took refuge in the sea, Thetis gave him a kindly welcome and Dionysos in turn gifted her with a golden urn, Hephaistos’ handiwork. She gave it to her son Achilles, so that when he died his bones might be put in it. (Stesichoros, fragment 234)

It is also reminiscent of the aitia of another Athenian festival:

The Athenians had a war on against the Boiotians over Kelainai, which was a place in their borderlands. Xanthios, a Boiotian, challenged the Athenian king, Thymoites to a fight. When he did not accept, Melanthos, an expatriate Messenian from the stock of Periklymenos the son of Neleus, stood up to fight for the kingdom. While they were engaged in single combat, someone wearing a black goat-skin cape appeared to Melanthos from behind Xanthios. So Melanthos said that it was not right to come two against one. Xanthios turned round and Melanthos smote and killed him. And from this was generated both the festival Apatouria and ‘of the Black Aigis’ as an epithet of Dionysos. (Suidas s.v. Apatouria)

This initial contest with Minos is significant, for it represents a kind of ritual combat between the Bull-King (Minos) and the Wolf-King (Theseus) which foreshadows what will transpire later in the Labyrinth. That Theseus indeed performs such a role is eloquently expressed by Bakchylides in his 18th  Dithyramb, when he has Aegeus give an account of the newly-arrived stranger:

About his gleaming shoulders
hangs a sword . . . ,
and in his hands two polished spears,
a well-made dog-skin cap from
Sparta on his head and tawny mane,
a shirt of purple around his chest,

and a sheep-skin Thessalian jacket. 

His eyes reflect volcanic Etna,
blood-red flame. He’s said to be a boy
of tender years; the toys of Ares
own his thoughts, and war and
crashing brass and battle.
He’s said to seek the love of splendor, Athens!

This description portrays Theseus as a double of Apollo Soranus, Lord of fire and wolves and the underworld (note the explicit reference to Etna) who has a complicated (and at times adversarial) relationship with Dionysos in the Starry Bull tradition. 

Having defeated Minos and demonstrated that he is indeed a true son of Poseidon, Theseus then goes on to slay the embodiment of Poseidon’s wrath (ποινη), Asterios the Bull of Minos, with the monster’s sister as his accomplice, as Ovid has Ariadne lament in his 10th Heroides:

O, that Androgeus were still alive, and that thou, O Cecropian land, hadst not been made to atone for thy impious deeds with the doom of thy children! And would that thy upraised right hand, O Theseus, had not slain with knotty club him that was man in part, and in part bull; and I had not given thee the thread to show the way of thy return–thread oft caught up again and passed through the hands led on by it. I marvel not–ah, no!–if victory was thine, and the monster smote with his length the Cretan earth. His horn could not have pierced that iron heart of thine.

After slaying the Minotaur and leading the captives out of the maze that would have been their tomb, Ariadne and Theseus torch the docks and Minos’ prized naval fleet to delay pursuit and then set sail for Athens. 

And when Theseus had done these things, he sailed out in the middle of the night. And when he anchored at the island of Dia, he disembarked to sleep on the shore. And Athena stood beside him and ordered that he abandon Ariadne and come to Athens. He did this and departed immediately. But when Ariadne bewailed her lot, Aphrodite appeared and advised her to be strong, for she would be Dionysos’ wife and become famous. Whence the God appeared and mated with her, and gave her a golden crown that moreover the Gods placed among the stars by the grace of Dionysos. And they say that she suffered death at the hands of Artemis for throwing away her virginity. The story is in Pherekydes. (Scholiast on Homer’s Odyssey 11.322)

Some, however, said that Ariadne provoked retribution from Artemis through the violation of her marriage vows, for:

As the author of the Cretica says, at the time when Liber came to Minos with the hope of lying with Ariadne he gave her this crown as a present. Delighted with it, she did not refuse the terms. It is said, too, to have been made of gold and Indian gems, and by its aid Theseus is thought to have come from the gloom of the Labyrinth to the day, for the gold and gems made a glow of light in the darkness. (Hyginus, Astronomica 2.5)

Stopping off at Delos, Theseus makes a propitiatory offering to Aphrodite that all memory of the strange, wicked girl from the Labyrinth may vanish from his mind like the wisps of a dream:

At Delos, too, there is a small wooden image of Aphrodite, its right hand defaced by time, and with a square base instead of feet. I am of opinion that Ariadne got this image from Daidalos, and when she followed Theseus, took it with her from home. Bereft of Ariadne, say the Delians, Theseus dedicated the wooden image of the Goddess to the Delian Apollo, lest by taking it home he should be dragged into remembering Ariadne, and so find the grief for his love ever renewed. I know of no other works of Daidalos still in existence. For the images dedicated by the Argives in the Heraeum and those brought from Omphake to Gela in Sicily have disappeared in course of time. (Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.40.3-4)

Though he is also said to establish sacred dances:

On his voyage from Crete Theseus put in at Delos, and having sacrificed to the God and dedicated in his temple the image of Aphrodite which he had received from Ariadne, he danced with his youths a dance which they say is still performed by the Delians, being an imitation of the circling passages in the labyrinth, and consisting of certain rhythmic involutions and evolutions. This kind of dance, as Dikaiarchos tells us, is called by the Delians The Crane, and Theseus danced it round the altar called Keraton, which is constructed of horns taken entirely from the left side of the head. (Plutarch, Life of Theseus 21.1-2)

And numerous festivals honoring her at other locales:

There are many other stories about these matters, and also about Ariadne, but they do not agree at all. Some say that she hung herself because she was abandoned by Theseus; others that she was conveyed to Naxos by sailors and there lived with Oinaros the priest of Dionysos, and that she was abandoned by Theseus because he loved another woman. […] A very peculiar account of these matters is published by Paion the Amathusian. He says that Theseus, driven out of his course by a storm to Kypros, and having with him Ariadne, who was big with child and in sore sickness and distress from the tossing of the sea, set her on shore alone, but that he himself, while trying to succour the ship, was borne out to sea again. The women of the island, accordingly, took Ariadne into their care, and tried to comfort her in the discouragement caused by her loneliness, brought her forged letters purporting to have been written to her by Theseus, ministered to her aid during the pangs of travail, and gave her burial when she died before her child was born. Paion says further that Theseus came back, and was greatly afflicted, and left a sum of money with the people of the island, enjoining them to sacrifice to Ariadne, and caused two little statuettes to be set up in her honor, one of silver, and one of bronze. He says also that at the sacrifice in her honor on the second day of the month Gorpiaeus, one of their young men lies down and imitates the cries and gestures of women in travail; and that they call the grove in which they show her tomb, the grove of Ariadne Aphrodite. Some of the Naxians also have a story of their own, that there were two Minoses and two Ariadnes, one of whom, they say, was married to Dionysos in Naxos and bore him Staphylos and his brother, and the other, of a later time, having been carried off by Theseus and then abandoned by him, came to Naxos, accompanied by a nurse named Korkyne, whose tomb they show; and that this Ariadne also died there, and has honors paid her unlike those of the former, for the festival of the first Ariadne is celebrated with mirth and revels, but the sacrifices performed in honor of the second are attended with sorrow and mourning. (ibid 20.1-5)

In his own precious Athens he institutes the Oschophoria:

It was Theseus who instituted also the Athenian festival of the Oschophoria. For it is said that he did not take away with him all the maidens on whom the lot fell at that time, but picked out two young men of his acquaintance who had fresh and girlish faces, but eager and manly spirits, and changed their outward appearance almost entirely by giving them warn baths and keeping them out of the sun, by arranging their hair, and by smoothing their skin and beautifying their complexions with unguents; he also taught them to imitate maidens as closely as possible in their speech, their dress, and their gait, and to leave no difference that could be observed, and then enrolled them among the maidens who were going to Crete, and was undiscovered by any. And when he was come back, he himself and these two young men headed a procession, arrayed as those are now arrayed who carry the vine-branches. They carry these in honor of Dionysos and Ariadne, and because of their part in the story; or rather, because they came back home at the time of the vintage. And the women called deipnophoroi or supper-carriers take part in the procession and share in the sacrifice, in imitation of the mothers of the young men and maidens on whom the lot fell, for these kept coming with bread and meat for their children. And tales are told at this festival, because these mothers, for the sake of comforting and encouraging their children, spun out tales for them. At any rate, these details are to be found in the history of Damon. (23.2)

Regarding this festival, William Smith in his Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities writes:

Its name is derived from ὦσχος, ὄσχος, or ὄσχη, a branch of vines with grapes, for it was a vintage festival, and on the day of its celebration two youths, called ὀσχοφόροι, whose parents were alive, and who were elected from among the noblest and wealthiest citizens (Schol. ad Nicand. Alexiph. 109), carried, in the disguise of women, branches of vines with fresh grapes from the temple of Dionysus in Athens, to the ancient temple of Athena Sciras in Phalerus. These youths were followed by a procession of persons who likewise carried vine-branches, and a chorus sang hymns called ὠσχοφορικὰ μέλη, which were accompanied by dances (Athen. XIV p681). In the sacrifice which was offered on this occasion, women also took part; they were called δειπνοφόροι, for they represented the mothers of the youths, carried the provisions (ὄψα καὶ σιτία) for them, and related stories to them. During the sacrifice the staff of the herald was adorned with garlands, and when the libation was performed the spectators cried out ἐλελεῦ, ἰοὺ, ἰού (Plut. Thes. 22). The ephebi taken from all the tribes had on this day a contest in racing from the city to the temple of Athena Sciras, during which they also carried the ὄσχη, and the victor received a cup filled with five different things (πεντάπλοος, πενταπλόα, πενταπλῆ), viz. wine, honey, cheese, flour, and a little oil (Athen. XI 495). According to other accounts the victor only drank from this cup. The story which was symbolically represented in the rites and ceremonies of this festival, and which was said to have given rise to it, is related by Plutarch.

Teasing out some of these threads, Oliver Pilz in The Performative Aspect of Greek Ritual: The Case of the Athenian Oschophoria writes:

The earliest trace of the Oschophoria is that Pindar composed an “oschophoric song” for an unknown Athenian. As Robert Parker rightly noted, Pindar’s oschophorikon was probably not a victory ode in the strict sense, because a song performed during a festival, unless improvised, could hardly refer to a victory in the footrace at the very same occasion. Moreover, Proclus treats the oschophoric songs in connection with other processional songs such as daphnephorika and tripodephorika. It is therefore more likely that the oschophorika were performed during the procession. […] Both Proclus and Plutarch agree that the procession was led by two youths who were dressed as girls and held vine branches with bunches of grapes (ὄσχοι). The two oschophoroi were chosen by the already known herald, a priestess (of Athena Skiras?), and an archon, who was appointed by lot alternately from both factions of the Salaminioi. Independently, we learn that the two boys came from wealthy and noble families. According to Plutarch, the oschophoroi carried vine branches in honour of Dionysos and Ariadne or because Theseus returned from Crete during the vintage season. Immediately afterwards, however, Plutarch refers to a second tradition which apparently linked the procession to Theseus’ departure from Athens. As Waldner has convincingly shown, here Plutarch unsuccessfully tried to reconcile different versions of the atthidographic tradition. According to Proclus, the oschophoroi were followed by a chorus chanting oschophoric songs. What remains unclear is whether this chorus was male, female or mixed. There is no obvious reason to postulate, as is generally done, that it was a male chorus. Given the close aetiological connection with Theseus’ Cretan adventure, it might in fact be more reasonable to assume that it was a mixed chorus made up of both boys and girls. An exclusively male or female chorus would not have fit the myth, which clearly speaks of seven youths and seven maidens accompanying the hero to Crete. Supposedly, already in the course of the procession, women called δειπνοφόροι (“dinner-carriers”) acted as the mothers of the twice seven chosen to accompany Theseus to Crete. Interestingly, the verb ἀπομιμέομαι is again used to emphasize the staged aspect of the performance. To comfort and encourage their “children”, the deipnophoroi not only offered them food, but also told them stories (μῦθοι). Unfortunately, it is not entirely clear exactly where and when in the course o the various estivalevents that this ritual meal and storytelling took place. According to the aetiological tradition, the seven youths and seven maidens were held in seclusion during the days before their departure for Crete, but their mothers continued to bring them food. In connection with the fact that Hesychios mentions a place called the oschophorion situated near the temple of Athena Skiras at Phaleron, scholars generally believe that the meal was consumed there.

This naturally makes one think of the Doric Karneia festival:

Karneios, whom they surname Oiketes, had honors in Sparta even before the return of the Herakleidai, his seat being in the house of a seer, Krios the son of Theokles. The daughter of this Krios was met as she was filling her pitcher by spies of the Dorians, who entered into conversation with her, visited Krios and learned from him how to capture Sparta. The cult of Apollo Karneios has been established among all the Dorians ever since Karnos, an Akarnanian by birth, who was a seer of Apollon. When he was killed by Hippotes the son of Phylas, the wrath of Apollon fell upon the camp of the Dorians. Hippotes went into banishment because of the bloodguilt, and from this time the custom was established among the Dorians of propitiating the Akarnanian seer. But this Karnos is not the Lakedaimonian Karneios Oiketes, who was worshipped in the house of Krios the seer while the Achaians were still in possession of Sparta. The poetess Praxilla represents Karneios as the son of Europa, Apollon and Leto being his nurses. There is also another account of the name; in Trojan Ida there grew in a grove of Apollon cornel-trees, which the Greeks cut down to make the Wooden Horse. Learning that the God was wroth with them they propitiated him with sacrifices and named Apollon Karneios from the cornel-tree (kraneia), a custom prevalent in the olden time making them transpose the r and the a. (Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.13.4-5)

Pilz goes on to draw a comparison between Oschophoria and Karneia:

Pierre Vidal-Naquethas recognized close parallels between the race at the Oschophoria and the race of  the staphylodromoi (“grape cluster runners”) during the Spartan Karneia held in honour of Apollo Karneios. The Karneia, an annual festival of the phratriai, was celebrated in the summer month of Karneios. The ancient tradition emphasizes the military aspect of the festival, describing it as an imitation of soldier life. In each of the nine temporarily erected tent-like constructions (σκιάδες), nine men ate together. There is strong evidence that musical competitions took place at the Karneia, and choral dances by youths and maidens may have been performed during the festival. What seems to be the most important ritual during the festival was the race of the staphylodromoi. In this race, a man wrapped up in woollen fillets (στέμματα) was chased by youths (νέοι) called staphylodromoi. The staphylodromoi were chosen by lot among the karneatai, unmarried (ἄγαμοι) men who were in charge of the organization of the festival. To catch the fillet-draped runner meant good luck or the city. Interestingly, the sources do not explicitly mention that the staphylodromoi carried bunches of grapes as in the case of the oschophoroi, and perhaps the staphylodromoi were merely wreathed with grapevine.

Which should give one a lot to think about, especially if they are familiar with how Apollo Soranus came to be included in the Starry Bull pantheon. (If not, the story is related in Masks of Dionysos.)

Related to the Karneia was the other major Spartan Apollo-festival, the Hyakinthia: 

The festival was called after the youthful hero Hyacinthus, who evidently derived his name from the flower hyacinth (the emblem of death among the ancient Greeks), and whom Apollo accidentally struck dead with a quoit. The Hyacinthia lasted for three days, and began on the longest day of the Spartan month Hecatombeus, at the time when the tender flowers oppressed by the heat of the sun, drooped their languid heads. On the first and last day of the Hyacinthia sacrifices were offered to the dead, and the death of Hyacinthus was lamented. During these two days nobody wore any garlands at the repasts, nor took bread, and no paeans were sung in praise of Apollo. When the solemn repasts were over, every body went home in the greatest quiet and order. This serious and melancholy character was foreign to all the other festivals of Apollo. (William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities)

Also during this festival mystery-rites took place before the Amyklaian throne which contained the following scene, according to Pausanias:

I cannot say why Bathykles has represented the so-called Minotaur bound, and being led along alive by Theseus. There is also on the throne a band of Phaiakian dancers, and Demodokos singing. Perseus, too, is represented killing Medousa. Passing over the fight of Herakles with the giant Thourios and that of Tyndareus with Eurytos, we have next the rape of the daughters of Leukippos. Here are Dionysos, too, and Herakles; Hermes is bearing the infant Dionysos to heaven, and Athena is taking Herakles to dwell henceforth with the Gods. There is Peleus handing over Achilles to be reared by Cheiron, who is also said to have been his teacher. There is Kephalos, too, carried off by Hemera because of his beauty. The Gods are bringing gifts to the marriage of Harmonia. There is wrought also the single combat of Achilles and Memnon. Adrastos and Tydeus are staying the fight between Amphiaraos and Lykourgos the son of Pronax. Hera is gazing at Io, the daughter of Inachos, who is already a cow, and Athena is running away from Hephaistos, who chases her. Next to these have been wrought two of the exploits of Herakles – his slaying the Hydra, and his bringing up the Hound of Hell. There are sphinxes under the horses, and beasts running upwards, on the one side a leopard, by Polydeukes a lioness. On the very top of the throne has been wrought a band of dancers, the Magnesians who helped Bathykles to make the throne. Underneath the throne, the inner part away from the Tritones contains the hunting of the Kalydonian boar and Herakles killing the children of Aktor. Kalais and Zetes are driving the Harpies away from Phineus. Peirithous and Theseus have seized Helen, and Herakles is strangling the lion. Apollon and Artemis are shooting Tityos. There is represented the fight between Herakles and Oreios the Centaur, and also that between Theseus and the Bull of Minos. There are also represented the wrestling of Herakles with Achelous, the fabled binding of Hera by Hephaistos, the games Akastos held in honor of his father, and the story of Menelaus and the Egyptian Proteus from the Odyssey.

Equally notable is the Amyklaian God’s statue base, which:

… is fashioned into the shape of an altar and they say that Hyakinthos is buried in it, and at the Hyakinthia, before the sacrifice to Apollon, they devote offerings to Hyakinthos as to a hero into this altar through a bronze door, which is on the left of the altar. On the altar are wrought in relief, here an image of Biris, there Amphitrite and Poseidon. Zeus and Hermes are conversing; near stand Dionysos and Semele, with Ino by her side. On the altar are also Demeter, Kore, Plouton, next to them Moirai and Horai, and with them Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis. They are carrying to heaven Hyakinthos and Polyboia, the sister, they say, of Hyakinthos, who died a maid … Wrought on the altar is also Herakles; he too is being led to heaven by Athena and the other Gods. On the altar are also the daughters of Thestios, the Mousai and Horai. As for Zephryos, how Apollon unintentionally killed Hyakinthos, and the story of the flower, we must be content with the legends, although perhaps they are not true history. Amyklai was laid waste by the Dorians, and since that time has remained a village. The natives worship the Amyklaian God and Dionysos. (Both this and the above quote may be found in the Description of Greece 3.18.9-19.6)

Which ties together all the threads we’ve been tracing thus far. It is these Apollonian additions (rich in mythic and ritual significance) that primarily distinguishes our Starry Bull observance of the Oschophoria from those in other contemporary Hellenic polytheist and neopagan traditions.