Fellow Hellenes will not need an explanation of the festival, but for the non-Hellenes, I will begin with a description of the holiday.
In short, this is another festival for Dionysos. The new wine was ready. When the new jars were opened, the smell of the wine (which had not yet been diluted as is their normal practice) would attract the Ghosts of the dead, and they would come and drink. At sundown, the wine was watered down 1:4 with water, and in the morning a day of drinking begins. I mean, everyone drinks. They have important figures involved in drinking competitions to see who can drain their mug first. Similar to the Winter festivals of Dionysos (The Country Dionysia), there are drinking games among the common folk as well. They even had bands of drunken men in the back of carts who would go around shouting obscenities and insults at people and singing lewd songs.
During these three days the Greeks gave offerings and tolerated the presence of the ghosts of the dead, but on the end of the third day, they carry jugs of wine to the edges of the city and kick out the spirits. Kinda like, "Hey, we did our part and gave you stuff, now get out."
Then the wife of the King becomes Ariadne and sleeps with some guy who represents Dionysos.
The coolest part is the Tree of Life. They had a tall pole that "grew" out of an omphalos-shaped base wound with ivy . "The Tree of Life Grows from the Navel of the World." hehe...I found the Hellenic World Tree.
The main reason I wanted to visit this festival is because of the focus and variation on the relationship between us and the Ancestors. I understand the importance of honoring the Ancestors, but there is a lot of baggage in my Ancestor's box. The Greeks thought of the dead more like we think of the Outdwellers, and Anthesteria was about honoring/recognizing the roaming spirits (Kheres) for one day and then kicking them out. This more than describes how I feel about my ancestors sometimes. I am moving past this point of view, but some days, I want to yell: "Out, Kheres! It is no longer Anthesteria!"
This year, I am going to let go of the past. I am going to embrace for one day all the hurts that have been inflicted upon me that I just can't get rid of. I will allow them to flow through me and then I will look at how much I have changed and rid myself of the hurt and sorrow and anger that I have been holding for far too long. Due to an inspired blog written by dubhlainn I am also going to be relieving the Oath I took in baptism as a Christian to Isu. I definitely forged a bond with my god as a Christian, just like the bonds I have with my current patrons. I think it is safe to say that I have evolved past and moved on from those promises I made (and I made a lot of promises). I am working through my guilt about being a Oath-breaker, and I think that formally recognizing the contributions that Jesus, The Holy Spirit and Father God made in my life and acknowledging that I am moving forward because of the foundation built at that time will aid me in letting go of a lot of other things. I also know that I cannot make my Dedicant Oath in March until I do this. This is one of the most important Oaths I am ever going to make, and I want to come into it pure of heart and mind with as much of my past clearly put behind me as possible.
I'll let you know how it goes. I know how much this is going to hurt, but sometimes the worst of jobs can also be the most rewarding...