On Hecate’s Deipna and Noumenia

 

Monthly banquet and rituals at the end of the month: the New Moon night is also considered as a purification. Plutarch, in his Life of Solon, says that: “having noticed the irregularity of the month, and that the movement of the Moon does not always coincide with the rising and setting of the Sun, but often surpasses and exceeds the Sun on the same day, (Solon) ordered that day was to be called the Old and New (hene kai nea), assigning the part of it before the conjunction (of the Sun and the Moon) to the month that was ending, and the remaining part to the month that was starting. So he was the first to understand the verse of Homer which speaks of a day when ‘a month is going down, and the new is starting.’ Solon defined the next day as the first of the month. ” From Marinus, we know that Proclus always fasted during Hene kai nea; Hene kai nea has also been defined as a day to devote to personal introspection (tei heauton episkepsei), but also to take rest from normal activities, and more particularly to be devoted to the analysis of the works carried out during the month and the preparation of those to be completed in the next.

Another custom of the end of the month is well attested by paroemiologists and scholia, and can be summarized with this saying: “the thirtieth we celebrate in Hades because of Hecate” (timatai he triakàs en Haidou dià ten Hekaten) – ie , the thirtieth day of the month (if present, otherwise the 29) is honored Hecate as it is the last day of the month and at the same time, we also honor the dead (in fact, in its calendar, Pletho dedicated the twenty-ninth day to Pluto). Diogenianus confirms the report: “The image of Hecate is erected and consecrated at the crossroads, and rites in honor of the dead have been made on the thirtieth day.” Even more clear is the explanation of the feast called Hekataia “sacrifices to Hecate, which are offered to the dead”, to be celebrated precisely at the turn of the last day of the month and Noumenia.

“The rich send a meal, in the evening, at the triodoi and sacrifice to Hecate. The poor, driven by hunger, eat them and say it is Hecate who prepared them.”

The elements of the banquet:
breads and cakes;
garlic;
cakes (could be the psamita);
cheese;
(eggs?)
fish (mullet, a kind of sardine, or the small fried fishes);
magides (“pieces of bread with which you clean your hands at the end of the meal”)

 

 

 

Plutarch (Mor. 828A) states that Noumenia, the first day of the month, is “the most sacred of days”, and the Athenians have always preserved the sanctit

y of this day with great care: apart from the fact that no other feast falls on this day, none of the meetings scheduled for legislative assemblies (Boule and Ecclesia) or tribal organizations fell on the first day of the month (the only exception is a financial transaction that took place on the Boedromion of 408/7, IG II2304, lines 52 – 54). Hesiod specifies that you do not have to undertake agricultural work on this day.
Noumenia is also a ‘relaxing’ day, which includes private banquets (cf. Lysias against Kinesias, ‘Noumeniastai’); Aristophanes associated it with the pleasures of the gym, banquets and love (Ach. 999). If we then refer to Theophrastus (Char. 4.12) we find the expression “share / participate at the Noumenia” as an equivalent of attending at a banquet: it must have something similar to the komos, especially considering the particular expression used by Pindar in the fourth Nemea: “My heart is transported as by the magical delight of Noumenia ..”
About the rituals for the Noumenia, we can say that “putting the incense” is an act particularly associated with Noumenia: Aristophanes portrays Philokleon and his desire for the people’s courts. In an early scene, Santia says “not even as

if he were sacrificing incense at the Noumenia” (Vespe94), the scholia to this verse specifies where the incense was placed “kata noumenian gar ethos eichon libanoton epitithenai tois agalmasin.” In addition to incense and statues, the third detail is provided by the comic poet Theopompus (framm. 47 Kock): daphnei. The reference to the laurel reminds us that the first day of the month is sacred also to Apollo already since Homer (Odyssey, XIV, 162; XIX, 306), Apollo is connected with Noumenia (Noumeniastai and private colleges could also be honoring Apollo Noumenios). A perfect parallel of these private acts of worship is found in Porphyry (De abst.2.16), when he describes the religious piety of Clearchus’ s the Arcade: it is said that Clearchus was very scrupulous in the observance of religious duties and that he carried them on a regular basis. For example, each Noumenia, he never failed to put garlands and clean the statues of Hecate, Hermes and other Gods, which had been handed down to him by his ancestors, not missing also to offer incense (libanotois) and round cakes of barley flour.

The public aspect of the celebrations of Noumenia is suggested by Demosthenes (25.99), which refers to people who climb the Acropolis during the Noumenia. Now, there is an important detail: Herodotus (8.41) describes the monthly offers presented by the Athenians to the sacred Serpent on the Acropolis “ta d’epimenia melitoessa estin”; the lexicographers provide more informations: Hesychius, for example, recalls that the sacrifice called Epimenia fell during the day of Noumenia…

 

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