As a child I spent an inordinate amount of time entrenched
in the world of Greek Mythology and my friends and I had elaborate
rituals that provided the parameters for our play. This page honours
the child whose play was filled with ritual and ceremony.
The task is to restore a ritual tradition, to restore
Rituals may be separated into two categories: Life-cycle
rituals- baptisms, weddings, etc. Calendric rituals Calendric rituals
are celebrated as festivals. They are occasions of community-wide
participation and are characterized by merriment and a sense of
social renewal In pre-industrial societies, festivals often marked
the transitions in annual agricultural and pastoral cycles. They
celebrated the human relationship with nature in terms of the bounty
that nature, transformed by culture, provides.
The Pythian Games were a Calendric festival
Ever since we crawled out of the primordial swamp
we have spent a lot of time praising some deity we constructed and
the rest of that time living in fear of Him. The Sumerians, Chinese,
Indus Valley, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Incaís and Aztecs centred their
entire social and cultural interactions to the benefits of the Rulers
who were considered to be either Gods, descendants of, or their
Anthropologists have traced back the practice to Cro-Magnon
man some 20,000 years B.C.E? You donít have to look to far a field
to see we havenít evolved much since. Ritual isnít what most people
think it is. It can be seen as formal (ceremonies) or informal (conditioned
A considerable amount of documented or formal ritual
pertains to such religious actions. However there are daily rituals
that people are unaware of. Getting out of bed the same time every
morning, brushing your teeth, going to your place of work, eating
you dinner in front of the 6 oíclock news are just some of the mundane
routines that the general population engage in. Indeed, it is extraordinary
how ritualized our daily lives have become Ė have always been.
What is ritual? Ritual is elaborate and meaningful
practices which goes beyond the explicit function of its action.
It is anything that follows a pattern of action, a sequence. It
can be driving your car to work at the same time every workday,
always following the same route. Rituals as full-blown, symbolically-charged
events can be the means by which attitudes and values are reinforced
or, importantly, changed on the most fundamental, experiential level.
It is the intent of most ritual ceremonies to make you feel like
The word music itself is derived from the Muses, the
legendary goddesses of Delphi. Greek mythology is rich in stories
related to music. One of the most well known myths concerns Orpheus,
the son of the Thracian King, Oeagrus and Calliope, one of the nine
Mythology tells us that Apollo presented him with
a lyre and the Muses taught him to use it so that he not only enchanted
wild beast, but made trees and rocks move from their places to follow
the sound of his music. At Zone in Thrace a number of ancient mountain
oaks are still standing in the pattern of one of his dances, just
as he left them.
After a visit to Egypt, Orpheus joined the Argonauts,
with whom he sailed to Colchis, his music helping them to overcome
many difficulties. There are many accounts of how he died. One says
that Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt for divulging divine secrets.
Whatever, the Muses tearfully gathered his remains and buried them
at the foot of Mount Olympus where the nightingales now sing sweeter
than any where else in the world.
The Muses delighted in feasts and the pleasure of
song. At one such contest the daughters of Pierus defied the Muses
in a contest of song and, having been defeated, were turned into
magpies, greenfinches, ducks and other birds. Likewise, the Sirens,
who were daughters of one of the Muses competed with them and lost.
The Muses proceeded to pluck out their feathers and made crowns
out of them for themselves.
The Muses discovered letters and the combination of
these we call poetry. These letters were used to celebrate victory.
Polymnia is so named because by her great praises she brings distinction
to writer's whose works have won for them immortal fame. Perhaps
it was Polymnia who crowned the Poet Laureate at the Pythian Games
which took place at Delphi every four years.
The festival not only involved athletic contests but
included musical competitions and drama. Unlike our society which
had turned sports figures into icons, in ancient Greece there was
no divorce between intellect and muscle. Each was viewed to be a
necessary quality of the perfect man.
Pindar, a Boeotian poet made it his professional business
to celebrate the athletic contests in music and song. When a city
was victorious it rejoiced in poem and song. Thus these games furnished
poets, musicians and authors the best opportunities to present their
productions to the public, and the fame of the victors was diffused
far and wide.
Homer was clearly present at a number of games and
his reports provide us with the most accurate account of what happened
during this time. There was a contest in which the fight between
the god and the monster was represented; the prize a garland of
laurel, which was Apollo's tree. The story goes that Apollo had
fallen passionately in love with Daphne, the mountain nymph, a priestess
of Mother Earth, the daughter of the river Peneius in Thessaly.
He pursued her all over the countryside but just as he was about
to overtake her Daphne cried out to Mother Earth who, in the nick
of time spirited her away to Crete, where she became known as Pasiphae.
Mother Earth left a laurel-tree in her place, and from its leaves
Apollo made a wreath to console himself. It is this wreath that
is placed on the heads of the victorious.
After defeating the Python Apollo took over from Themis
the neighbouring oracle of Delphi, which was in historical times
the most famous oracle in the Greek world. It was after this that
Apollo instituted the Pythian games, which took place at Delphi
and involved a reenactment of the slaying of the Python.
The Pythian games fire my imagination because they
permit me to participate. As someone who has neither the coordination
or the body to engage in physical exercises I have never been able
to conceive of a time when I might be able to enter myself in any
sporting events. I am prepared to move mountains to do whatever
is required for me to enter the writing events. The Greeks insisted
that poetry was a form of craft, of practiced skill. To prepare
for the Pythian games we need to practice our skill and become deft
wordsmiths. Let the training begin: Use the Pythian Games forum
to participate and contribute your entry.
the Pythian Games Forum
Add your entries here.
Earn a Laurel
Drink from the Castalian
Create an invocation
of spiritual dimension.
Commit to training on a daily basis.
Make a sacrifice to the Muse.
Write about giving up something or giving something away.