THEOPHANIA

THÆOPHANIA – ΘΕΟΦΑΝΙΑ

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The sanctuary at Dælphí (Δελφοί) is thought of as belonging to Apóllôn (Ἀπόλλων), but actually Apóllôn holds the throne spring, summer and fall, after which he ascends north to the land of the Ypærvóræi (Ὑπερβόρεοι, the Hyperboreans). In the course of the three winter months, Diónysos (Διόνυσος) reigns at Dælphí, and it is during this period that we celebrate the Vakkhic festivals. When spring returns at the vernal equinox, Apóllôn comes back from the north and again takes the throne at Dælphí; his arrival is marked by a festival called theThæophánia (Θεοφάνια). The name of the festival means “appearance of a God” or “epiphany,” but in this case, while it does refer to the appearance of Apóllôn back at Dælphí, it seems to have particularly referred to the displaying of his statue during the festivities.

If you do research for this holiday you will find some confusing information regarding when it is celebrated. The article for the Thæophánia in William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) says,

“A. Mommsen, with tolerable certainty, identifies the festival on the 7th of the Delphic month Bysios (= approximately February)... The deity manifested at Delphi is clearly Apollo, and the time of the year agrees with its being a festival for the opening of spring, symbolised by the return or the new birth of the god of light. Further it is to be noticed that Plutarch (de εἰ ap. Delph. 9) assigns the three winter months in the Delphic year to Dionysus, and the remaining nine to Apollo: hence it appears that the 7th of Bysios marks the beginning of the Apollinean year and the end of the Bacchic.”

Average temperatures at Dælphí in February range from 33⁰ to 48⁰ fahrenheit and is not exactly spring. There is an interesting paper online entitled Delphi and Cosmovision: Apollo's Absence At the Land of the Hyperboreans and the Time for Consulting the Oracle by Ioannis Liritzis and Belén Castro (2013) which explains the particulars of when the festival is celebrated and the conclusion of its authors is:

“We propose that he returned to the Temple around the time of the vernal equinox, when Lyra and Cygnus for the first time reached the zenith at sunrise.”

This seems far more logical than celebrating the festival in February.

The same article for the Thæophánia from William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) says that the festivities would likely have included a procession with branches of laurel. It also mentions that a great silver bowl was used on this occasion as explained in the Histories of Iródotos (Ἡρόδοτος, Herodotus). King Krísos (Κροῖσος, Croesus) gave this bowl, and many other costly gifts, to the sanctuary in an attempt to gain the favor of Apóllôn:

“When these offerings were ready, Croesus sent them to Delphi, with other gifts besides: namely, two very large bowls, one of gold and one of silver. The golden bowl stood to the right, the silver to the left of the temple entrance. These too were removed about the time of the temple's burning, and now the golden bowl, which weighs eight and a half talents and twelve minae, is in the treasury of the Clazomenians, and the silver bowl at the corner of the forecourt of the temple. This bowl holds six hundred nine-gallon measures: for the Delphians use it for a mixing-bowl at the feast of the Divine Appearance (Θεοφάνια).” (Ἱστορίαι Ἡροδότου 1.51, trans. A. D. Godley, 1920)

The importance of the festival

You might say, “Why is this celebration important to us now? ...the sanctuary at Dælphí is in ruins, so isn’t it just an interesting historic site?” This author would disagree. Dælphí is said to be the center of the world, and, therefore, in ancient times, it was understood to be the center of the religion, because, also, it represents the voice and action of Zefs (Ζεύς), the king and father of Gods and men. In modern Greece, practitioners of the religion still see it that way. When my teacher was confronted by problems she could not resolve, when she was deeply troubled and needed advice, she would go to Dælphí, and it is the same for other worshippers of the Gods in Greece. When you visit Dælphí, you will understand, for it is the most beautiful place in the world; Dælphí is ineffably peaceful. You can feel the presence of the Gods at Dælphí. You can feel the presence of Apóllôn and Diónysos at Dælphí.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

What are the Orphic Fragments? The Orphic Fragments of Otto Kern.

This logo is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllôn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING: HellenicGods.org uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages:

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

Transliteration of Ancient Greek

Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

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