When I did the Dedicant Path the first time around, I wrote mostly about modern traditions here. Part of the reason for that is there just isn’t a good Hellenic equivalent of what we as neo-pagans consider to be the essential components of the season.
In a modern context, many folks following a Greek path or pantheon would honor Hades & Persephone, particularly her descent into the Underworld. However, that actually more closely matches the festival of Thesmophoria, which is one of the big agricultural festival in Ancient Greece that honors Demeter. Part of that festival involved acknowledging her sorrow at the loss of Persephone. So, I’m far more likely to mark the story of Demeter, Persephone, and Hades at the Autumn Equinox, rather than the Autumn Crossquarter.
The Hellenic festival that best matches the modern essential components of the season is likely Genesia, which is a celebration to honor your beloved dead, specifically deceased parents. It was a time to share stories about the dead and visit grave sites. However, it is celebrated in late August or early September, not the beginning of November where we mark the Autumn Crossquarter now.
So, what are the modern essential components? Typically modern neo-pagans focus on honoring the Ancestors or Deities of the Underworld during this holiday. It is pretty common for stories to be told of our Beloved Dead and to honor them with a feast of some sort. This feast ties into the knowledge that this is the last of the three harvest festivals (the blood harvest, when many animals were culled for the winter). With it marking the last harvest and the start of the cold season I personally note the holiday (using the natural cues and signs) on the night of our first frost.
This is also probably the neo-pagan holiday that has the fuzziest line between it and modern culture, with Halloween. On Halloween kids typically go trick-or-treating, which has a nice tie-in with giving hospitality to strangers. This year, due to the pandemic, my family is forgoing trick-or-treating, and is instead carving pumpkins, doing a scavenger hunt, doing messy science experiments, and making potions. It is definitely leaning more “witchy” than I typically am, but they’ll have fun with it. We may also make an effort as a family to spend some time at the altar with the Grove Ancestor Box.
- Thesmophoria – http://www.hellenion.org/festivals/thesmophoria/ and http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.com/2012/09/stenia-skiraphoria-and-thesmophoria.html
- Genesia – http://www.hellenion.org/festivals/genesios/ and http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-festivals-of-early-boedromion.html
- Modern ADF Samhain – https://www.adf.org/system/files/public/training/the_hearth_keepers_way.pdf (pg 55)