An Ancient Tradition Under a Modern Guise Celebrated at Ancient Eleusis

FILE - In this June 20, 2016 file photo, the full moon rises near the ancient marble Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, southeast of Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, file)

ATHENS- A tradition rooted in the worship of ancient Greek agriculture and harvest goddess Demeter, the “polysporia”, revived again this year in the area of ancient Eleusis, on the eve of the Virgin Mary’s Presentation (Nov. 21), on Wednesday.

According to the Folklore Association of Elefsina “Adrachti” (Spindle), which is responsible for the annual event and spoke to Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA), residents of the area gather at the local folklore museum with boiled legumes and wheat, based on a tradition of offering the type of crop each family cultivated.

They bring them to the museum, where they are again boiled together, with the addition of grape molasses, pomegranate and raisins. The final product, called “polysporia”, is then distributed in small plastic cups after the evening liturgy, or around 5:00 p.m. to worshippers at the Church of Panagia Mesosporitissa, which crowns a hill in the ancient cult center of Demeter.

Linking ancient to modern, the church was built over the ancient Telesterion, where Demeter would have been worshipped, and over an even earlier version of the church.

The theme of the tradition can be traced to antiquity of several civilizations, and was meant to celebrate and offer prayers for the fertility of the earth, guaranteeing good crops.

According to Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, Greece is promoting the tradition for inclusion in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. As Mendoni said at a recent press conference, “this is a wonderful tradition which in reality is a revival of a corresponding tradition of antiquity.”

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