Irigoni the Drifter

I come from the depths of ages

I bear my wounds and your sins

My story changes over time

My story remains the same

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A BOOKLET
ON IRIGONI

Connecting to hammocks, wine and spring.

Greek mythology binds the myth of Irigoni and hammocks with a wonderful story, supported by a poem written by Panagiotis Papadopoulos and the connected constellations. Order now and learn more about it.

The myth of Irigoni

The myth of ‘Erigone the drifter’ or ‘Erigone as old as wine’ tells the story of the Athenian Icarius. According to the legend, when Dionysus visited Athens Icarius hosted him at his house. During his stay, the god fell in love with Erigone and had a child with her, Staphylus. When Dionysus left, he gave Icarius a vineyard as a gift and taught him the secrets of wine, instructing him to spread the art of viticulture to the rest of the Athenians.  

Once Icarius had made his first wine, he went out to share it with the local shepherds (in the present-day  Marathon area) as the god had advised him. But after the shepherds drank the delicious wine they became intoxicated and, having never experienced this before,  they believed that Icarius was trying to poison them. In their hazy state, they killed him and hid his body. When her father did not return, Erigone went out to look for him and wandered for days (hence the epithet ‘drifter’) until her father’s loyal dog, Maera (‘Fate’), led her to the spot where the shepherds had hidden his dead body.  Erigone attended to her father’s body and, after performing the necessary rites, she buried him under a tree and then hung herself in despair on one of its branches. 

Dionysus was enraged by this heinous crime and cursed the Athenians by condemning their daughters to the same fate as Erigone. The next day the young women of Athens were overcome by mania and, one after another, they began to hang themselves. The devastated Athenians, according to Apollodorus, turned to Apollo and the Oracle of Delphi for help. The way to atone and to put an end to the wrath of Dionysus was to find and punish Icarius’s murderers and to establish the festival of the hammock in memory of Erigone and her father.

According to some versions of the legend, Dionysus begged his father Zeus to immortalise Erigone, Ikarius and Maera by transforming them into constellations. They were turned, respectively, into the constellations that are now known as Virgo, Boötes and Canis Minor. A second reading reveals the myth’s allegorical connection to wine, viticulture and indeed worship of Dionysus. Erigone, the daughter of spring, symbolizes the vineyard and its cultivation. 

The constellation of Virgo appears in the night sky at the beginning of spring, the period in which new buds develop in the vineyards. The appearance of Virgo marks the start of preparations for agricultural work in the vineyards, while Canis Minor culminates during the period in which the grapes are ready for harvest. The myth also contains warnings about misuse of wine, which when drunk in large quantity can bring great misfortune. Historically, the hammock celebration took place on the second day of the three-day Dionysia festival held in ancient Athens from the 11th to the 13th of the month of Anthesterion (the eighth month in the Attic calendar). 

During the celebration, young girls hung wax dolls from the tree branches in memory of the hanged girls. They also put up hammocks on which maidens rocked back and forth, singing the song ‘Drifter’, which narrated Erigone’s tribulations during her wandering. Swings are ritually associated with purification through air and the tax office. 

Despite its Dionysian origins, the hammock celebration was preserved over the years and incorporated into local Christian traditions. So every year on Easter Sunday, in many areas of Greece – including Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace and many other parts of mainland Greece, as well as on many islands – the Aiora festival is celebrated.

Constellations

Three constellations complement the myth.
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Virgo

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Boötes

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Canis Minor