Winter solstice celebrations often include two activities related to the failing sun:
- producing light and
- enjoying the cover the darkness provides....
In Greek mythology, the sea god Poseidon is one of the most lascivious of the gods, producing more offspring than other noteworthily randy gods. Greek calendars varied from polis to polis, but in some Greek calendars, a month around the time of the winter solstice is named for Poseidon.
The following information on Greek solstice celebrations honoring Poseidon comes from "Poseidon's Festival at the Winter Solstice," by Noel Robertson, The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 34, No. 1 (1984), 1-16.
Winter Solstice Celebrations for Poseidon
In Athens and other parts of ancient Greece, there is a month that corresponds to roughly December/January that is named Poseideon for the sea-god Poseidon. At Athens there was a festival named Posidea after the god. Since Poseidon is a sea god it is curious that his festival would be held during the time the Greeks were least likely to set sail.
At Eleusis there was a festival called Haloea on the 26th of the month Poseideon. The Haloea, a festival for Demeter and Dionysus, included a procession for Poseidon. The Haloea is thought to have been a time for merriment. There is mention of a women's rite in connection with this holiday: Women are provided with wine and food, including cakes in the shapes of sexual organs. They withdraw to themselves and "exchange scurrilous banter, and are teased with suggestions of promiscuity whispered in their ears by 'the priestesses'." [p.5] The women are thought to have stayed secluded throughout the night and then to have joined the men the next day. While the women were off eating, drinking, and sounding much like the women of Lysistrata, the men are thought to have created a big pyre or a bunch of little bonfires.
Poseidonia of Aegina
The Poseidonia of Aegina may have taken place in the same month. There were 16 days of feasting with rites of Aphrodite concluding the festival. Like the Roman festival of Saturnalia, the Poseidonia became so popular it was extended so that Athenaeus makes it 2 months long.
"In sum, the celebrants feast to satiety, then turn to lascivious teasing. What is the ritual purpose of such conduct? It obviously suits Poseidon's mythical reputation as the most lustful of gods, who far surpasses Apollo and Zeus in the number of his liaisons and his offspring. Poseidon the seducer is god of springs and rivers...."