Hellenismos has this reputation of being an overly intellectual tradition where people mostly wave around books written by Burkert and quote Pausanias.
This is not an unfair characterization. That is what a lot of Greek Pagans do.
People, therefore, understandably assume that our rituals are “high church” and complicated to perform. This is actually not at all true.
Offerings go up to Sky Gods. Go down to Earth Gods. Go into the water for Water Gods. Gods like wine. Like meat. Like hospitality. Like when you wash hands before handling their food and drink.
That, in a nutshell, is basically everything you need to know to start up with the Greek pantheon. There are nuances to how to do ritual in better or more complex ways, but really, this is enough to start. Your prayer can be a traditional hymn, a spontaneous outpouring of your emotions toward the deity, or something as simple and uncomplicated as “Xaire, Hermes!”
Whether or not offerings are actually due to Hestia both first and last at every gathering is actually debatable. Whether purifications happen by khernips or beating people with leeks is a matter of opinion. There are a plethora of opinions about scattering of barley, too.
For the next however many posts, as I build devotional rituals for the Olympians (ever bearing in mind how consent culture should figure into our ceremonies), you will see a LOT of invocations posted on this blog. You will also see a lot of devotional rituals, simple, complex, traditional, and maybe not-so-traditional, as befits the personalities of the deities in question.
All of those rituals, however, will be built off of this very basic framework.
- Make khernips by putting salt into water, and extinguishing fire in it. Wash your hands and face.
- Do a procession — the ancient Greeks liked to make parades to get them in the mood for ritual.
- If indoors, sprinkle the ritual space to purify it
- Make an offering to Hestia
- Invite the deity
- Talk about the deity or share a myth
- Fill a bowl with some desirable beverage
- Libate to the deity (then drink some)
- Optionally, do some fun stuff, like eat food, have a foot race, or play a game.
- Thank deity
- Libate to deity
- Offering to Hestia
Around this framework, or in this framework, you can add circle castings, barley offerings, energy raising, animal sacrifices (if done correctly*), chanting, drumming, theurgic machinations, a wedding ceremony, or whatever you like.
*According to Burkert, the sprinkling of lustral water upon the head was believed to convey upon the sacrificial victim the ability to understand language. The Oracle of Delphi proclaimed: “That which willingly nods at the washing of hands I say you may justly sacrifice”
The motions of the animal would indicate whether or not the animal had consented to being a sacrifice. In certain cases, where humans ignored the animal’s “no” and sacrificed it anyway, there were negative repercussions for the mortals who made that decision. Even an animal may choose to serve or not serve, to give their life to the gods or not. In the eyes of the Greek deities, even animals have a certain right to bodily autonomy.
Fantastic post. Just fantastic. Thank you so much for writing this. -M.
Reblogged this on By Star and Sea and commented:
Reblogging to have for later reference.
Looking forward to these upcoming posts! Hellenismos is intimidating so thanks for breaking it down.