Hermes Psychopompos by the Kind of Tymbos painter. White figure lekythos, Attica, Greece, 470 BC. Archaeological Collection of Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany. Image link: X (Photo: Dennis Graen) License: CC BY-NC-SA

The lekythos was used to hold olive oil and precious perfume. Lekythoi were frequently left on graves as funerary offerings. On this vessel, Hermes holds his staff and his wand, and stands next to a large burial pithos. Winged souls of the dead hover near the mouth of the jar – perhaps they are being released to follow Hermes to the Underworld, or the god could be shepherding them back to the grave, so as not to trouble humanity.

Today is Chytroi, the final day of the festival of Anthesteria. Chytroi were utilitarian cooking pots, and on this day a special porridge was cooked and offered to the spirits of the dead, who had been participants with the living in the festival. Libations were poured at the graves of family and other esteemed and beloved dead, and offerings were made to Hermes Chthonios. The last act of the Anthesteria festival was to proclaim to the spirits of the deceased who had joined the celebration of the festival, “‘Out! Out! Anthesteria is over.”

Twiggie, 2017