Agency for women in ancient Greece was severely limited by the customs of the time. However, in times of lamentation women were given more freedom to express dissent. Leaning into this opportunity women came together for the Adonia. This women-only annual festival masqueraded as a lamentation ritual over the death of the Goddess Aphrodite’s mortal lover—Adonis. Women of all stations in life channeled their inner Aphrodite, unbound their breasts, let down their hair, and climbed ladders to their roofs to drink, sing, dance, and shout their grievances from the rooftops. In the 411BCE Greek comedy, Lysistrata, the Adonia is portrayed as a war protest that combined women’s lamentations with a sex strike to bring about a cease-fire.
This multi-day festival was organized around sexual and reproductive issues and was not state-sanctioned or aligned with any temple or cult. Women’s importance to daily life was accentuated by their absence from it. The Adonia rituals are captured in the archaeological record featuring women climbing a ladder and distributing Myrrh incense. The ladder symbolically aligned women with Aphrodite’s ascension to her home in heaven while Adonis was of the earth and born from a Myrrh tree. Women created temporary rooftop “Gardens of Adonis”- planting seeds in pottery shards, encouraging them to sprout, letting them die, and then carrying them down to the street for mock funeral processions that garnered the attention of their whole community.
While we all need to write our legislators, protest, and vote, here are some grassroot ideas to create your own table and leverage your community for the long term:
- Galvanize the Men in Your Life: Women’s rights are human rights and we need to normalize men’s engagement with women’s issues. Let your brothers, fathers, sons, and significant others know that you need them to break the silence on the subject.
- Anger to Action: Book clubs fueled the suffragette movement resulting in women’s right to vote. Work to get like-minded men and women engaged in productive discussions through launching a book club with group activities that can influence local and state politics.
- Amplify your Voice: Music has been harnessed for resistance for hundreds of years. Join or start a chapter of the Resistance Revival Chorus or the Justice Choir. Here is a link to a playlist of protest songs of the Women’s Movement to get you started.