Epiphany, the Coming of the God

This Christian festival took its name from the ancient Greek mysteries of Kore and Demeter. Epiphania meant ‘divine appearance’, in the sense of the appearance of a god. Christianity also incorporated other customs of the Pagan Epiphany. In Christian lore it marks the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus. The earliest reference to Epiphany as a Christian feast was in 361 CE.  St. Epiphanius wrote that that January 6th was Christ’s Birthday, his Epiphany, and added that the miracle of Cana and the turning of water into wine happened on the same day (both previously attributed to Dionysus).

It was the day of birth for the Greek god Dionysus, a god of vegetation, especially the grape vine.  Pliny the Elder reported that the people of the island of Andros believed that wine flowed from a spring in his temple every nonen of January, and the day was called ‘God’s gift’. Later Jesus was said to have similarly changed water into wine on the same day. Church father Clement of Alexandria commented “The birth of God happened with a lot of Dionysian wonders, such as the changing of water into wine”.

St. Epiphanius (fourth century CE) recorded that in Alexandria the birth of Aion was celebrated on the night prior to 6 January with a festival before the image of Kore. Aion was the head of the divine hierarchy in Mithraism, the Alexandrian god of Eternity or deified time (like Chronos) and he regulated the revolutions of the stars. [1] According to Epiphanius the feast took place at the Koreion in Alexandria, a temple in the sacred to Kore (Persephone), the daughter of Demeter. Throughout the whole night the people keep themselves awake here by singing hymns and by flute-playing before the image of the god. At cockcrow they descended, carrying torches, into an underground chapel and thence they carried up a wooden image of Aion lying naked upon a bier. This image had a golden cross on its forehead a cross on each hand. This was carried seven times around the inner sanctuary of Kore’s temple. At the height of the ceremony the announcement was made “Today at this hour the virgin Kore has given birth to Aion.”  Epiphanius added that such ceremonies also occurred in Petra, with the hymns sung in Arabic tongue and in praise of a virgin called Chaamu and her son Dusares, whose name means ‘Only Son of the Ruler of All’.

© Anna Franklin, extract from Yule, History, Lore and Celebration, Lear Books, 2010

[1] http://hermeticmagick.com/content/deities/aion.html


Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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