There are a number of observances that I hold for Poseidon (neither ‘ritual’ nor ‘festival’ work as a descriptor and I’m not sure what to call them other than observances. Rarely is anything scripted with separate stages, and the ones which are — which include a meal and offerings given in a formal sort of way — are never very festive. (The Vigil for the Bulls is a somber, somber affair.) In any event, of the lot, the observance for Poseidon Phytalmios ever stands a chance of being scripted or formal or even overly ritualistic — it is that day, that moment when the beginning of spring truly hits. It’s the moment here when the scraggly, half-hearted growth that takes place all winter but expects to wither at a random frost (almost typed hard freeze there — ha!!) and so doesn’t really count.
Once, not that long ago, Anthesteria was part of my religious calendar. Of the Hellenic holy days, aside from Gamelion, it’s one that still speaks to my heart . . . but it’s always felt a bit off. I began incorporating Poseidon into that festival in an attempt to make it fit better. There are parts that speak to me — between Gamelion, Anthesteria, and my wedding anniversary, there’s a nice triad of Sacred Marriages to honor. With the visitation from the dead, there’s a nice psycho-pomp aspect to consider — but as Hunt season becomes less of a season and more of a ‘where we always live’ for us in our tradition, that’s becoming less of a thing. Anthesteria, with the first flowers connection, is a lovely holy day, and I’m not sure where it’s going to fit in my religious landscape. But, I digress.
Poseidon did not fit well in that celebration. It was off. So, I decided to honor Phytalmios on His own, and being a good little devotee of Poseidon, the last few years I’ve placed this observance on the 8th of whatever month I was aiming for.
The first year it was March, because even though I’ve been out of Massachusetts for over a decade, my automatic setting is New England. (Which is funny, because in Massachusetts? March is about as wintery as December is. Ask the Heathens in New England about Ostara as a celebration of the beginning of spring. Standing in five inches of snow. On frozen ground. Go ask. I’ll wait.)
Since then, I fiddled with the dates. And they kept not working out for one reason or another. And finally, last year I realized — this is one of those holy days. The ones that move. The ones that depend on what things are like where you are, what your climate is doing, what your weather is doing, etc. This is one of those ones that, like the Return of the Rain-Makers, gives very little warning. It’s not time, and it’s not time, and it’s not time, and suddenly it’s upon you.
Today it’s upon me.
At some point I decided that this day was going to be less about the first growth in the garden and more about that moment when growth picks up again for growth’s own sake. In the story that gives us this name for Poseidon, He is wroth with people who have not been honoring Him properly, and as punishment, He coats their crops with brine. Only once they’ve appeased Him does their grain begin to grow again. Thus, it could easily make sense as a ‘yeah growth in the garden’ type of observance. And maybe, when I can get my back and my leg back into some stage of health that gardening on the ground can happen again it will be. Maybe. Except, that’s very human-focused, and Poseidon and I? Well, humans factor in, from time to time, but my experience with Him brings me to appreciating things for others’ sake, or for their own sake, and not so much for my sake, or my species sake. It’s the grass coming up, but greener, more vibrant somehow. It’s the first signs of the daffodils to come, and the smaller flowers, the currents on the trees, the near glowing green of the moss, the change of light, the birds, the air. I am moved to honor this turning of the seasons with Him, in this way, for these reasons, for right now.
It’s a living, breathing tradition. It changes as we go. The point, in this, is Him and honoring Him–and part of that is going as my Lord desires. Which is what I strive to do.
Hail to Thee, Lord of Growth,
Hail to the One who nourishes the roots
keeper of the moist earth,
Giver of fresh water that quenches thirst
Hail, Poseidon Phytalmios!
Where once Your hand was moved in anger
Now, You hold safe, You nurture, You protect.
You give, and life continues.
Hail, hail, my beautiful God.