Galina posted about the Feast of Three Kings or Epiphany, which she feels should be paganized. In it she mentioned my having relevant sources. Here they are, especially the Pausanias and Pliny.
Julius Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum 6.6
There was also another Liber in Thebes, a tyrant famed for his magical powers. Gaining control of the women’s wits by certain potions and charms, thereafter at his own sweet will he bade the frenzied creatures commit atrocious deeds, so that he might have crazed women of noble rank as accomplices of his lusts and crimes. Liber was caught by Lycurgus and hurled into the sea over a nearby cliff which formed an immense precipice with impassable rocks. And this severe punishment was designed to let the mangled corpse, long tossed by the waves of the sea, restore the errant wits of the populace to sanity and sobriety.
Homer, Iliad 6. 135 ff
Lykourgos once drove the fosterers of rapturous Dionysos headlong down the sacred Nyseion hill, and all of them shed and scattered their wands on the ground stricken with an ox-goad by murderous Lykourgos, while Dionysos in terror dived into the salt surf, and Thetis took him to her bosom, frightened, with the strong shivers upon him at the man’s blustering.
Scholiast on this passage: When he was pursued by Lykourgos and took refuge in the sea, Thetis gave Dionysos a kindly welcome, and he gave her the amphora, Hephaistos’ handiwork. She gave it to her son Achilles, so that when he died his bones might be put in it. The story is told by Stesichoros.
Pausanias, Description of Greece 6.26.1-2
Between the market-place and the Menios in the city of Elis is an old theater and a shrine of Dionysos. The image is the work of Praxiteles. Of the Gods the Eleans worship Dionysos with the greatest reverence, and they assert that the God attends their festival, the Thyia. The place where they hold the festival they name the Thyia is about eight stades from the city. Three pots are brought into the building by the priests and set down empty in the presence of the citizens and of any strangers who may chance to be in the country. The doors of the building are sealed by the priests themselves and by any others who may be so inclined. On the morrow they are allowed to examine the seals, and on going into the building they find the pots filled with wine. I did not myself arrive at the time of the festival, but the most respected Elean citizens, and with them strangers also, swore that what I have said is the truth.
Photios, Lexicon s.v. Hyês
‘Rain-bringer’. An epithet of Dionysos, as Kleidemos (says). Since [he says] we perform sacrifices to him during the time when the God makes it rain; but Pherekydes (3 F 90) says that Semele is called ‘rain-bringer’ and that the children of Dionysos are the Hyades . Aristophanes (587, 878 Kock) lists Hyês with foreign Gods.
Pliny, Natural History 2.106; 31.16
It is accredited by the Mucianus who was three times consul that the water flowing from a spring in the temple of Liber Pater on the island of Andros always has the flavor of wine on January 5th: the day is called the God’s Gift Day … If the jars are carried out of sight of the temple the taste turns back to that of water.
Plutarch, Quaestiones Graecae 36
Why is it that the women of the Eleans, when they sing hymns to Dionysos, call upon him to come to them ‘with the foot of a bull’? The hymn runs as follows:
Come, O hero Dionysos,
to thy holy temple in Elis.
Come, with the Graces,
to thy temple by the sea,
with thy bull’s foot rushing.
Then they chant twice the refrain : ‘O worthy bull.’
Is it because some address the God as ‘kine-born’ or as ‘bull’? Or by ‘ox-foot’ do they mean ‘with thy mighty foot’ even as the Poet used ‘ox-eyed’ to signify ‘large-eyed,’ and ‘bully’ for ‘loudmouthed’?
Or is it rather because the foot of the bull is harmless, but the part that bears horns is harmful, and thus they call upon the God to come in a gentle and painless manner?
Wikipedia s.v. Epiphany
In England, the celebration of the Night before Epiphany, Epiphany Eve, is known as Twelfth Night (The first night of Christmas is December 25–26, and Twelfth Night is January 5–6), and was a traditional time for mumming and the wassail. The yule log was left burning until this day, and the charcoal left was kept until the next Christmas to kindle next year’s yule log, as well as to protect the house from fire and lightning. In the past, Epiphany was also a day for playing practical jokes, similar to April Fool’s Day. Today in England, Twelfth Night is still as popular a day for plays as when Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was first performed in 1601, and annual celebrations involving the Holly Man are held in London. A traditional dish for Epiphany was Twelfth Cake, a rich, dense, typically English fruitcake. As in Europe, whoever found the baked-in bean was king for a day, but unique to English tradition other items were sometimes included in the cake. Whoever found the clove was the villain, the twig, the fool, and the rag, the tart. Anything spicy or hot, like ginger snaps and spiced ale, was considered proper Twelfth Night fare, recalling the costly spices brought by the Wise Men. Another English Epiphany dessert was the jam tart, but made into a six-point star for the occasion to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and thus called Epiphany tart. The discerning English cook sometimes tried to use thirteen different colored jams on the tart on this day for luck, creating a dessert with the appearance of stained glass.
In the German-speaking lands, groups of young people called Sternsinger (star singers) travel from door to door. They are dressed as the three Wise Men, plus the leader carrying a star, usually of painted wood attached to a broom handle. Often these groups are four girls, or two boys and two girls for the benefit of singing their songs in four-part harmony, not necessarily three wise men at all. German Lutherans often note in a lighthearted fashion that the Bible never specifies that the Weisen (Magi) were men, or that there were three. The star singers will be offered treats at the homes they visit, but they also solicit donations for worthy causes, such as efforts to end hunger in Africa, organized jointly by the Catholic and Evangelical-Lutheran churches. As a sign of gratitude, the young people then perform the traditional house blessing, by marking the year over the doorway with chalk. In Roman Catholic communities this may be a serious spiritual event with the priest present even today, but among Protestants it is more a tradition, and a part of the German notion of Gemütlichkeit. Usually on the Sunday following Epiphany, these donations are brought into churches. Here all of the children who have gone out as star singers, once again in their costumes, form a procession of sometimes dozens of wise men and stars. The German Chancellor and Parliament also receive a visit from the star singers at Epiphany
In Greece, Cyprus and the Greek diaspora throughout the world, the feast is called the Theophany, or colloquially called the Phōta (Greek: Φώτα, “Lights”) and customs revolve around the Great Blessing of the Waters. It marks the end of the traditional ban on sailing, as the tumultuous winter seas are cleansed of the mischief-prone kalikántzaroi, the goblins that try to torment God-fearing Christians through the festive season. At this ceremony, a cross is thrown into the water, and the men clamour to retrieve it for good luck. The Phota form the middle of another festive triduum, together with Epiphany Eve, January 6 (and eve of January 5), when children sing the Epiphany carols, and the great feast of St. John the Baptist on January 7 (and eve of January 6), when the numerous Johns and Joans celebrate their name-day.
The Feast of Epiphany includes many events which are perpetuating the ancient Greek customs. In the perception of the Greek people, Epiphany is “Great celebration Theotromi”. For some even regions of Macedonia (West) are the biggest festival of the year and each new garment “protoforoun the lights to illuminate.” But when dogmatic The Baptism of Christ symbolizes the rebirth of man having so great importance, which is why until the fourth century Christians celebrated New Year in Baptism of Christ on January 6.
Epiphany is the “water sanctification” the dive of the Cross in imitation of the Baptism of Christ. But in Greek ethimology, that Sanctification is the notion of expiation, purification of the people and the exemption from the influence of demons. The most recently this concept is certainly not strictly Christian, but has roots in ancient worship. In most parts of Greece sanctification for the first time (in those days) the eve of Epiphany called “small sanctification” or “Protagiasi” or “Enlightenment”. By protagiasi the priest turns all the houses and the Cross and one strand royal “sanctifies” or “brighten” (sprinkling) rooms of houses. The protagiasi is the effective means by which permitted in wild flight goblins except the lighting of a large outdoor fire. The Great Blessing however is the day of the Epiphany in the Churches in a special rig embellished upon which brought large pot full of water. Then, a dive of Cross Sea or nearby river or lake or the need to tank (as in Athens). Diving the Cross, according to popular belief gives the water cleansing and sanitizing capabilities. The inhabitants of many areas after diving run on sea beaches or along rivers or lakes and wash their agricultural tools and even icons. In common folk belief even the icons with the passage of time lose their original strength and value to the gain but again the holy water. It is this process not only exactly true survival of ancient beliefs. The ancient example Athenians had the ceremony (procedure) of known “Wash” as it was called at that carried “in procession” on the Faliro coast of the statue of Athena. There, they washed with salt water to cleanse from Fmoc and renewed the sacred powers of the statue. At Delphi the Theophania was an annual festival celebrating the return of Apollo from his winter quarters in Hyperborea.
Today, women in many parts repeating this ancient custom of washing the images but combined with other instruments of medieval and ancient magic. As the plate of Mytilene while the divers dive to catch the Cross women at the same time “getting a detaining (= pumpkin) water from 40 waves and then with cotton dipped it clean icons without talking to throughout this process (“dumb water”) and then the water is thrown out of the not pressed (in the crucible of the church).
The first Blessing of Epiphany, “the protagiasi or enlightenment” is the eve of the feast in the church. Then the priest takes one by one the houses with the Cross in his hand and sprinkles with one strand basil throughout the home. Old tradition of Crete, was the preparation of Fotokollyvon the eve of Epiphany. From Fotokollyva (boiled wheat with legumes) ate housewives but they gave and their animals for good health and good luck in their home.
The great sanctification is the day of the Epiphany on January 5. A large procession formed and takes the road leading to the sea or a river, maybe a tank. Confronting the cherubim behind the priests in their best vestments, after the authorities of the place and parapiso the crowd. In the cities the procession becomes richer with the music and the military faction. Once sanctification, the priest throws a cross in the water, thereby realizing the Blessing of the Waters.