Anthesteria’s third and final day: Khutroi, Day of Pots, Festival of Keres
There is still some remaining celebration of the Aiora rites of swinging on Khutroi. Girls hanging ribbons and masks from trees, adults drunkenly or at least merrily playing on swings, small rites of purification by air and light-hearted play. Mostly, these rites have already been done on Khoes, the second day, which is set aside largely for them and is called the Day of Swinging. But if there are any celebrating Anthesteria who have not yet celebrated the Aiora, then Khutroi is the last day for it. Likewise, if the Heiros Gamos was not celebrated on Khoes, then it must be done on Khutroi.
But aside from those remnants of swinging and sacred union, the final day of Anthesteria is mostly devoted to the cult of the public dead, those faceless civic ghosts known as Keres — who rose from the Underworld with Dionysus and the pithoi jars as Anthesteria began, and who were honored yesterday on Khoes, the second day. Until now, the Keres were given the run of the city for Anthesteria; they were stepped aside for, given space, respected, welcomed. But now is the time to regain our homes, our streets, the places of the living. While still respecting the ghosts of the public dead, now is the time to resurrect our world from death into life.
And so the final act of honoring the Keres is to set out pots with offerings prepared just for them — vegetables, beans, grains, and seeds, foods that can on this day tempt the city’s dead and draw them out of the homes they wander through. Homes they once occupied or visited during their lives, places that were once theirs but now belong to the living. Then with the dead thus drawn and appeased on the doorstep, the homes are warded against the Keres with talismans and small rites. Celebrants shout, “Out the doors, you Keres! It is no longer Anthesteria!” And with the banishment of the ghosts, Hermes and Hekate come to guide the Keres back to the Underworld, and the rooms and homes and parks are renewed to the living, refreshed from the dust of dead memories and times past.
Many celebrants feast after this, eating sweet foods made with honey and wine, foods that are not allowed for the dead, foods made separately from the offerings in the Khutroi pots. The dithyrambs of Dionysus are sung, and songs to Hermes and Hekate as well. The newly-opened wine is drunk again, still, though perhaps not with as much abandon as the nights before. The buds are still on the trees, ready to flower. The ribbons flow in the night breezes. The vines are being pruned a second time by the Maenads and Bacchantes, continuing the cycle of life and death and change. The winter is passing, the shadow passing from our hearts, the cold leaving our bones. We are ready for what comes next.