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The festival of the Skira or Skirophoria in the calendar of ancient Athens, closely associated with the
Thesmophoria, marked the dissolution of the old year in May/June. [The festival is analysed by Walter Burkert, in "Homo Necans" (1972, tr. 1983:143-49), with bibliography p 143, note 33.] At Athens, the last month of the year was "Skirophorion", after the festival. Its most prominent feature was the procession that led out of Athensto a place called Skironnear Eleusis, in which the priestess of Athenaand the priest of Poseidontook part, under a ceremonial canopy called the "skiron", which was held up by the "Eteoboutadai". [L. Deubner, "Attische Feste" (Berlin 1932:49-50); their accompanier in late descriptions, the priest of Helios, Walter Burkert regards as a Hellenistic innovation rather than an archaic survival (Burkert 1983:)] Their joint temple on the Acropoliswas the Erechtheum, where Poseidon embodied as Erechtheusremained a numinouspresence. [See Poseidon#The foundation of Athens; the connection was an early one: in the "Odyssey" (vii.81), Athena was said to have "entered the house of Erechtheus" (noted by Burkert 1983:144).]
At Skiron there was a sanctuary dedicated to
Demeter/ Koreand one to Athena.
As a festival of dissolution, the Skira was a festival proverbial for license, in which men played
dicegames, but a time also of daytime fasting, and of the inversion of the social order, for the bonds of marriage were suspended, as women banded together and left the quarters where they were ordinarily confined, to eat garlictogether "according to ancestral custom", ["Inscriptiones Graeca", noted by Burkert 1983: 145, note 41; see also Jane Ellen Harrison, "Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion" (1903, 3rd ed. 1922:134f).] and to sacrifice and feast together, at the expense of the men. The Skira is the setting for Aristophanes' comedy " Lysistrata" (411 BCE), in which the women seize the opportunity afforded by the festival, to hatch their plot to overthrow male domination.
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