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Why do we make offerings to Gods?

Libations are offerings to Gods, usually in formal ritual. Before we can discuss libations, we need to have an idea of why we would want to make any kind of offering to Gods at all.

In Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, the progressed soul is attracted to the great beauty and goodness of the Gods. This attraction is called Ǽrohs (Eros; Gr. Ἔρως). Our Ǽrohs immediately gains the attention of the Gods, who have been awaiting our invitation. Why do the Gods await our invitation? It is because there is a great law that the Gods do not violate our freedom and our conscience; they do not impose themselves on us. But when the Gods feel our Ǽrohs, this is an invitation to enter into our life, and there is an immediate flow of Ǽrohs back from the Gods to us. When we make offerings to Gods, the offering actually represents the Ǽrohs flowing back and forth between Gods and men. We make the offering because we desire to honor them express our love and appreciation for them. And this is also the reason why we drink some of the libation or eat some of the food offerings, to represent the Ǽrohs
 which we receive from the Gods
. Without 
, our offerings are meaningless, the smoke from our incense blows about and wine falls to the ground and never is savored by the Gods. Pl
átohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) identifies Ǽrohs as a special Daimohn (Daemon; Gr. Δαίμων)

"He (ed. Ǽrohs) interprets between Gods and men, conveying and taking across to the Gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the Gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and Mysteries and charms, and all prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love all the intercourse and converse of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on." [1]

Generalities concerning libations 

Perhaps the most common offering to the Gods is the venerable libation, the 


(Sponde; Gr. Σπονδή). The libation 


a measure of some liquid offered, usually during ritual, such as wine, milk and honey, even fine oil, poured out ceremoniously on the ground, or to a receptacle on the altar, or cautiously into a fire.  

There are differing opinions about how to make libations. Some people pour out most of the libation, and then drink the remaining, similar to an animal sacrifice (the meat being consumed by the participants while the fat and bones are given to the Gods). But other people disagree and pour out the entire libation to the Gods. Although there are exceptions (libations to the dead), this author was taught that generally, we dedicate the libation, make the libation saving some, and finally drink the remaining. This seems to be confirmed by Iámvlikhos (Iamblichus; Gr. 



"Perform libations to the Gods from the handle of the cup, to make the omen auspicious and to avoid drinking from the same part." 


As outlined in the introduction to this essay, offerings of any kind symbolize the radiation of Ǽrohs between Gods and the mortals who love them. They represent a type of communion with the Gods.

Libations are made in the offering section of ritual. If possible, the participant should be standing up, out-of-doors and the libation poured to the ground. Alternately, it can be made indoors into a receptacle. The general procedure is to pick up the libation bowl with the right (receptive) hand. Next we address and pray while holding up the cup with both hands, dedicating it to the God or Gods you are addressing, saying something like this:

To Phívos Apóllohn and Æléfthærefs Diónysos [3] and to all the Blessed Gods we dedicate this libation!

Next, transfer the bowl in your left (active) hand and gracefully pour out the liquid to the ground, leaving some in the bowl. The libation has been dedicated to the Gods ... it is now their property ... and some of this offering remains in your cup. And we now partake of what belongs to them, a type of communion. You may then recite this prayer:

We drink the blood of Diónysos! May the Aithír of Zefs intoxicate our souls and transform us!

Finally, drink the remaining liquid. In this, as in other types of offerings, we emulate the Titánæs (Titans; Gr. Τιτᾶνες) who partook of some of the flesh of Zagréfs (Zagreus; Gr. Ζαγρεύς) after sacrificing him, as can be seen in the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony (See The Sixth King). We drink the Ikhóhr (Ichor; Gr. Ιχώρ), the divine blood of Diónysos (Dionysus; Gr. Διόνυσος), who is the fulfillment of the compassion and providence of his father Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς).

The libations made at a meal or 


A very traditional group of libations are those made at a meal or sympósion (symposium; Gr. 


, where the libation is made

first to Æstía (

Hestia; Gr. 


), next to the Agathós Daimon (Gr. 

Ἀγαθὸς Δαίμων)

, and a third libation (called "the lucky one") to Zefs 

Sohtír (Soter or Savior; Gr. Σωτήρ)


To Queen Æstía!  (pour a small libation)

To the Agathós Daimohn!  (pour another small libation)

And to Zefs Sohtír I make these libations!  (pour another small libation and drink some)

Eat the meal and at its conclusion, the final libation is made to Æstía.

Libations to the dead or the khthonic deities

Yet another type of libation is the Khoí (Choe; Gr. Χοή, Χοἁς, Χοαί), a libation made to the dead or to khthonic (chthonic; from the Greek χθών) deities, usually milk and honey, or sweet, dark-red wine. The libation to the dead is never consumed by those who make the offering.

"Libations to the dead were generally threefold, and usually consisted of honey, oil, and wine; or honey and milk or water, oil, and wine; but whatever the constituents of the threefold libation were, honey was always one of them. The inscription on a golden plaque, found in southern Italy, runs: 'The dead is thrice offered a drink; a mixture [honey-mixture], milk and water.' " [4]

"The choe involves the complete tipping and emptying of a larger vessel which may be held or may stand on the ground." [5]  

This can be compared to the Spondí where the libation is made in a controlled fashion, slowly pouring to the ground from a bowl or jug

"Choai were usually poured at the grave, either on to the steps supporting the stêlê or possibly over the shaft. The liquid could be in either mixed or unmixed form, but whichever the case the ingredients were always the same: honey, milk, water, wine and oil. ........ Before pouring out the choai, the celebrant commended both himself and his gift to the dead, thereby issuing the latter with an invitation to attend the rite being enacted in his honour. Assistance was sought in contacting the ghost of the deceased through the mediation of Hermes, Gaia and the other Gods and Daimones. There followed a prayer to the dead which took the form of a general request that they be kindly disposed (preumeneis) towards their family and dispatch bounty (esthla or agatha) to the world above in requital for the offering being made." [6]


Wine in general is symbolic of the divine Aithír (Aether; Gr. Αἰθήρ), which is the influence of Zefs(Zeus: Gr. Ζεύς) on our soul. The wine represents Zefs and Water-Fire-Aithír, the Synækhís Ousía (Synechis Ousia; Gr. Συνεχής Οὐσία), the continuous kozmogonic substance.

Dark red wine is symbolic of the blood, the Ikhóhr (Ichor; Gr. Ιχώρ) of Zagréfs (Zagreus; Gr. Ζαγρεὐς) or Diónysos; it represents the Jovian Aithír. We drink some of the blood of the God, a communion reflecting the mythology of Zagréfs (Zagreus; Gr. Ζαγρεύς) being sacrificed by the Titánæs and partaking of his flesh. Thus, as Zagréfs undergoes a metamorphosis and becomes Diónysos, we too will be transformed. See the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony (The Sixth King).

The mythology according to the poet Nónnos (Gr. Νόννος) relates the story of Ámbælos (Ampelos; Gr. Ἄμπελος, grapevine) a beautiful Thrakian Sátyros (Satyr; Gr. Σάτυρος) beloved of Diónysos (See chapter twelve of the Διονυσιακά). But the God's treasured companion was killed by a bull. Diónysos grieved terribly over the boy and, at last, revived him in the form of the grapevine, giving forth the wine, the Ikhóhr or blood of the God's own body.

In ancient times, wine was mixed with water to reduce the alcohol content. There appeared to be conventions concerning how the wine was mixed. This author only mixes wine if one of the participants in ritual is a teetotaler, adding some honey to make it palatable.

Please see also: The Wine of Diónysos.

Honey is golden, the color associated with all the Gods, because this color is like the sun which shines on the solar system just as the enlightenment of the Gods illuminates the entire Kózmos (Cosmos; Gr. Κόσμος). Further, you can preserve things in honey and, therefore, it is symbolic of the immortality of the Gods. Honey is produced by bees, symbolic of the Nýmphai (Nymphs; Gr. Νύμφαι). A drink-offering of honey is called Mælísponda (Melisponda; Gr. Μελίσπονδα).

Milk represents Queen Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα), as explained in the following mythology. While Íra was asleep, Zefs (or Ærmís [Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς] in another version of the myth) conspired to have the infant Iraklís (Herakles; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς) suckle her breast, but she awoke, and suddenly beholding the infant, she was startled and flung milk throughout the universe, forming the galaxy, the Kozmic forces. [7] Milk represents Íra and Earth, the Mæristí Ousía (Gr. Μεριστἠ Οὐσίἁ), the divisible kozmogonic substance.

Milk and Honey
The offering of milk and honey is called Mælíkraton (Melikraton; Gr. Μελίκρατον). While milk and honey is an appropriate offering for Gods in general, it is also a traditional offering to the dead and, when used in that way, should not be consumed by those making such a libation. The milk and honey is libated in hopes of giving immortality to those who have passed. It is also offered to the Gods in funerary offerings. Honey is called the food of the Gods: 

"... some persons have thought that the nectar and ambrosia, which the poet pours into the nostrils of the dead, for the purpose of preventing putrefaction, is honey; since honey is the food of the Gods. On this account also, the same poet somewhere calls nectar golden; for such is the colour of honey (viz., it is a deep yellow)." [8] 

Honey preserves, hence represents immortality. In the Odýsseia (Odyssey; Gr. Ὀδύσσεια) of Ómiros (Homer; Gr. Ὅμηρος), the Mælíkraton is one of a number of substances used to revive the dead: 

"Thither, prince, do thou draw nigh, as I bid thee, and dig a pit of a cubit's length this way and that, and around it pour a libation to all the dead, first with milk and honey (μελικρήτῳ), thereafter with sweet wine, and in the third place with water, and sprinkle thereon white barley meal." [9]

What should we do with the libations after ritual is over? Please visit this page:

Proper Care of Offerings in Hellenismos

(For a list of abbreviations: GLOSSARY HOME PAGE)

Æpiliví - (Epiloivi; Gr. Ἐπιλοιβή, ΕΠΙΛΟΙΒΗ) An Æpiliví is drink-offering, Epic.Alex.Adesp.9 vi 26 (pl.), Orph.A. 547,603 (both pl.).  (L&S p. 644, left column)

Ikhóhr - (Ichor; Gr. Ιχώρ, ΙΧΩΡ) Ikhóhr is the golden fluid flowing through the veins of Gods. Libation, in particular the libation of wine, is symbolic of the blood of the Gods, especially of Diónysos. Nónnos refers to wine as Ikhóhr:

"But the poets have another and older legend, how once upon a time fruitful Olympian ichor fell down from heaven and produced the potion of Bacchic wine..." (Νόννος Διονυσιακά 12.292, trans. W.H.D. Rouse, 1940. We are using the 1962 edition entitled Nonnos Dionysiaca published by Harvard Univ. Press [Cambridge, MA] and William Heinemann [London], where this quotation may be found on p. 419.)

"...the pine swayed by Boreas brought her branches near the bunches of grapes, and shook her fragrant leafage soaked in the blood." (Ibid. Rouse, 12.316, p. 421.)

Khoí - (Choe; Gr. Χοή, ΧΟΗ. Also Χοἁς, Χοαί.Khoí are libations made to the khthonic deities or to the dead.  
- Lexicon entry (edited for simplicity)pouring out of liquid, drink-offering, esp. made to the dead or over their graves (opp. λοιβή, σπονδή made to the Gods), χοὴν χεῖσθαι νεκύεσσιν (where it is mixed with milk), of honey, wine, and water, poured out in succession, Od.10.518. 2. rarely of libations in general. II. generally, stream—Mostly poet. (L&S p. 1996, left column)

Liveion - (Loibeion; Gr. Λοιβεῖον, ΛΟΙΒΕΙΟΝ) The Liveion is a cup for pouring libations(L&S p. 1060, left column, within the entries beginning with λοιβ-αῖος)

Liví - (Loibi; Gr. Λοιβή, ΛΟΙΒΗ) The Liví is a religious pouring, a drink offering or libation(L&S p. 1060, left column, within the entries beginning with λοιβ-αῖος)

Mælíkraton - (Melikraton; Gr. Μελίκρατον, ΜΕΛΙΚΡΑΤΟΝ) The Mælíkraton is a libation of milk and honey made to the khthonic deities or to the dead.  
- Lexicon entry (edited for simplicity)drink of honey and milk offered as a libation to the powers of the nether world; also, a mixture of honey and  water(L&S p. 1097, right column)

Mælísponda (Melisponda; Gr. Μελίσπονδα, ΜΕΛΙΣΠΟΝΔΑ) - The Mælísponda is a libation of honey.
- Lexicon entry: μελίσπονδα, drink offerings of honey, μ. θύειν Plu.2.464c, 672b, cf. Porph. Abst.2.20. (L&S p. 1097, right column)

Phiáli Mæsómphalos - (

Phiale Mesomphalos; 


Φιάλη Μεσόμφαλος, ΦΙΑΛΗ ΜΕΣΟΜΦΑΛΟΣ) libation bowl.  It has a central area which is raised so that the fingers fit underneath to hold better.

Prokátargma - (Gr. προκάταργμα, ΠΡΟΚΑΤΑΡΓΜΑ) Prokátargma is libation before sacrifice. (L&S p. 1484, right column, edited for simplicity.)

Spondeion - (Gr. 

Σπονδεῖον, ΣΠΟΝΔΕΙΟΝ) 

The Spondeion is the cup from which the 

Spondí (the libation) is poured(L&S p. 1629, left column)

Spondí (sponde or spondi; Gr. 


πονδή, ΣΠΟΝΔΗ

) - The 


 is the general name used for a libation.  

Lexicon entry:

σπονδἠ, ἡ, (σπένδω) drink-offering, of wine poured out to the Gods before drinking; a drink-offering to a God. 2. pl., σπονδαί a solemn treaty or truce (because solemn drink-offerings were made on concluding them. b) esp. the Truce of God during the Olympic games; during the Eleusinian Mysteries. (L&S p. 1629, right column)

Spóndix - (Gr. Σπόνδιξ, ΣΠΟΝΔΙΞ) The Spóndix is one who offers a Spondí (libation). (L&S p. 1629, right column, within the entries beginning σπονδ-ή) Cf. Spondophóros and Spondopiós.

Spondokhóï  - (Gr. Σπονδοχόη, ΣΠΟΝΔΟΧΟΗ) The Spondokhóï is a vessel used for making libations. [16]

Spondophóros - (Spondophorus; Gr. Σπονδοφόρος, ΣΠΟΝΔΟΦΟΡΟΣ) - The Spondophóros is one who offers libation. (L&S p. 1629, right column, within the entries beginning with σπονδο-ποιέομαι) Cf. Spóndix and Spondopiós.

Spondopiós - (Spondopios; Gr. Σπονδοποιός, ΣΠΟΝΔΟΠΟΙΟΣ) The Spondopiós is one who offers libation. (L&S p. 1629, right column, within the entries beginning with σπονδο-ποιέομαι) Cf. Spóndix and Spondophóros.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


[1] Platóhn Sympósiun (Symposium; Gr. Συμπόσιον) 202-203, translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892; found in the 1937 Random House edition of The Dialogues of Plato, Vol. I, p. 328.


Iámvlikhos (Iamblichus; Gr. 


 from The Life of Pythagoras, translated in 1818 by Thomas Taylor, edited for readability by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, 1988 Phanes Press, p. 78.

[3] These two Gods, 

Apóllohn and Diónysos, are, respectively, the voice and the action of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) on earth.


The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore by Hilda M. Ransome, Dover, 2004, p. 120.

[5] Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, 1985, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., p. 70.

[6] The Greek Way of Death by Robert Garland, 1985, Cornell University Press, p. 115

[7] Hyginus Astronimica II:43.

[8] Porphýrios (Porphyry; Gr. Πορφύριος) The Cave of the Nymphs7, trans. Thomas Taylor, Thomas Rodd Publ., London England, 1823, pp. 181-182.

[9] Ómiros (Homer; Gr. Ὅμηρος) Odýsseia (Odyssey; Gr. Ὀδύσσεια) Book 10.519 (10.571 Fagles numbering), trans. A.T. Murray 1919, found here in the 1976 Harvard (Cambridge, MA) and Heinemann (London, England) edition entitled Homer: The Odyssey, Vol. I, LCL 104, on pp. 381-383.

The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The 
Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). 

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this HellenicGods.org, you will find fascinating stories. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally; a literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is often concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING: HellenicGods.org uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages: 

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