OFFERINGS TO GODS IN HELLENISMOS
TRADITIONAL AND APPROPRIATE OFFERINGS IN
HELLENIC POLYTHEISTIC RITUAL
"...to make libations and to sacrifice and to offer first fruits according to the custom of our fathers, purely and not meanly, nor carelessly nor scantily, nor above our ability, is a thing which belongs to all to do." (from the Ængkheirídion of Æpíktitos [Gr. Ἐγχειρίδιον Επικτήτου] Chapter XXXI: Piety, as translated by George Long in 1888.)
Misunderstandings Regarding Offerings
When people envision the rituals of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the religion of ancient Greece  , they conjure images of animal sacrifice to propitiate Gods. There is at least one scholar who claims that in order to practice the ancient Greek religion with authenticity, one must sacrifice animals on the altar. These ideas have several grievous faults. For one, under ordinary circumstances, we do not propitiate or need to appease Gods, because the nature of the Gods is completely good and they are not petty despite the mythology that implies otherwise; they never desire to harm us and are already favorably inclined towards us.  Secondly, we do not sacrifice animals to the Gods. Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς) the great reformer and theologian whose tradition we follow, expressly forbid animal sacrifice, because we should help the less evolved souls. Pythagóras (Gr. Πυθαγόρας) and many others suggested offerings of frankincense and other nice things to the Gods. 
Why Do We Make Offerings to Gods?
In the beginning centuries of Christianity in Europe, the act of making offerings was discouraged. Even the animal sacrifice of the Jews began to diminish. So, if the Christians do not make offerings to their God, why do we make offerings to Gods? The Gods do not need or demand offerings. If this is true, what is the purpose of making offerings at all? What is the meaning of our offerings?
Mortals, Ǽrohs, and the Gods
In Ællinismόs, 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 demand our worship. But when we discover deity and find it beautiful and are attracted to it, this is an invitation; we are inviting the Gods into our life, and there is an immediate flow of Ǽrohs back from the Gods to us; the Gods feel our attraction and perceive that it is beautiful. Therefore, when we make offerings to Gods, the offering actually represents the Ǽrohs flowing back and forth between Gods and man. When we feel the great Ǽrohs surging toward us from the Gods, we desire to express our gratitude and love. We do this by offering the Ǽrohs back to the Gods. That is why we make the offering, whether it be a libation of wine, incense, or whatever one wishes. The offering represents the Ǽrohs or attraction to the beauty of the Gods, and it represents the Ǽrohs flowing from the Gods to us, that we receive from them and return to them in order to honor them and express our love and appreciation for them. This is the reason why we drink some of the libation or eat some of the food offerings; we are receiving the Ǽrohs as well as offering the Ǽrohs. Without Ǽrohs, our offerings are meaningless, the smoke from our incense blows about and is never savored by the Gods:
The Genuine Reciprocity of Hellenismos
There is an idea that is commonly held by both scholars and practitioners (both contemporary and ancient) concerning Ællinismόs, the idea that our religion is a religion of reciprocity, that we make offerings to Gods who in turn bestow benefits. This is a distortion, a perversion of the beautiful meaning of a genuine offering. Yes, Ællinismόs is a religion of reciprocity, but it is not that we are expecting gifts from the Gods. It is reciprocal because Ǽrohs flows freely back and forth from man to Gods to man to Gods, etc. It is action which is spontaneous, natural, and bountiful. The physical offering represents our Ǽrohs for the Gods. It is not a "bribe" or payment for an expected gift.
On this page we will outline some of the traditional offerings used in Ællinismόs to express our Ǽrohs for the Gods.
In general, anything pleasant may be offered to the Gods, but the most traditional offering for us is laurel leaves. They are sacred, particularly to Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) but also to all the Gods. Laurel is known to absorb much light in photosynthesis, symbolic of the brilliant light of the Gods, who are by nature all-enlightening. The laurel leaves are placed in the foreground of the altar. Try to use fresh laurel, not dried. If you cannot buy fresh laurel at the market, consider growing a laurel tree in a pot (if you do not live in a warm climate where you may be able to grow one out-of-doors). They are very easy to grow. (See this page: Sacred Plants and their Cultivation) Or course, if you cannot obtain fresh laurel, the dried leaves are satisfactory.
One leaf is a sufficient offering for one person. If you have a large enough group of people, the leaves are offered one by one from each participant, first one leaf on the left, then right, left, right, forming a wreath as in the picture below.
For more information regarding the mythology and use of laurel in Ællinismόs, please visit this page: BAY LAUREL - DÁPHNE - ΔΑΦΝΗ.
Bunches of flowers or even petals of flowers are appropriate offerings.
It is traditional to offer incense to the Gods. HellenicGods.org has several pages related to this offering: Incense
All kinds of food may be offered to the Gods. Anything pleasant and good: fruit, grain, milk, honey, cakes, cookies, etc. Obviously, food offerings are not "eaten" by the Gods; they are symbolic of our Ǽrohs (Eros; Gr. Ἔρως), our love, our attraction to them. If you have a ritual fire, some of the offerings can be offered up in the flames, but it is nice to have an excess of offerings such that after ritual, the remaining offerings should be shared amongst the participants. Also, it is good to leave food offerings outside for wild animals to eat; our aim is to benefit those souls who are less developed. It is not necessary to dig food offerings into sacred ground and it is unfortunate to waste the offerings to Gods.
We often read of animal sacrifice in the ancient world, but Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς), whose tradition we follow, prohibited the killing of animals. Traditionally, cakes were made into the shape of animals or other things, to be offered to a God. This can be accomplished by making cookies and using cookie-cutters, easily available on the Internet and at some cooking stores. Sugar-cookies are ideal for this, made with a bit more flour and then spread out with a rolling pin. The commercially available mixes are fine and you can decorate the offerings as you believe would please the God. These cookies are appropriate for major festivals such as the Twelve Days of Dionysos or the Sacred Autumn Equinox. Offer some of the cookies to the God; if you have an offering fire, the votive cookies can be placed directly in the fire. The rest can be eaten by the participants and some left for wild animals. Things can be added to the cookies, such as little pieces of bay-laurel for Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων), etc.Here follows a list of animals and other things associated with Gods, in particular the Twelve Olympian Gods and Diónysos. Many of these shapes are already available as cookie-cutters and others can be constructed oneself (see below for ideas on making your own cookie-cutters):
Æstía (Hestia): Swine; Flame or Fire, Kettle
Áris (Ares): Eagle Owl, Serpent, Vulture, Woodpecker; Spear, Warrior-Helmet
Ártæmis (Artemis): Bear, Deer, Dog, Guinea fowl, Quail, Wild boar, Guinea fowl; the Moon, Bow & Arrow
Íphaistos (Hephaestus): Crane, Donkey; Flame or Fire, Hammer, Anvil
Íra (Hera): Cow, Crane, Cuckoo, Lion, Peacock; Lotus-staff
Poseidóhn (Poseidon): Bull, Fish, Dolphin, Horse; Pine-tree, Trident
Athiná (Athena): Crow, Little Owl; Warrior-Helmut, Winged Boots, Winged Helmut
Aphrodíti (Aphrodite): Goose, Hare, Sparrow, Turtle dove; Apple, Rose-flower
Apóllohn (Apollo): Dolphin, Mouse, Raven, Swan, Wolf; the Sun; Laurel-wreath, Lyre, Bow & Arrow, Tripod
Ærmís (Hermes): Cattle, Hawk, Sheep, Tortoise; Kirýkeion (Caduceus; Gr. Κηρύκειον)
Zefs (Zeus) Bull, Golden eagle, Lion, Wolf; Oak Leaf, Lightning
Dimítir (Demeter): Beehive, Bees, Gecko, Serpent, Swine; Wheat-Ear/Sheaf, Torch-staff
Ílios (Helios): Rooster, White Horse
Asklipiós (Asclepius): Snake; Serpent-Staff
Diónysos: Bull, Donkey, Goat, Leopard, Lynx, Serpent, Tiger; Thýrsos (Pine-cone Staff; Gr. Θύρσος), Grapes, Ivy
Ǽrohs (Eros): Hare; Apple, Rose, Bow & Arrow, Wings
Ækáti (Hekate): Dog, Weasel; Twin-Torches
Iraklís (Hercules or Heracles; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς): Lion ; Knurled-Club, Lion-skin
Krónos (Cronus): Ox, Bees, Beehive
Rǽa (Rhea): Lion
Here are a couple sources of cookie-cutters:
You can also make your own cookie-cutters:
VOTIVE OFFERINGS: A dedicatory or votive offering is some kind of gift, usually an object of some kind (it can also be a promised act), offered to a God after a prayer request has been fulfilled, or sometimes the gift is offered before the attainment of one's wish, in hopes of its fulfillment. The Greek word for a votive offering is anáthima (Gr. ἀνάθημα). In antiquity, such offerings were usually set up in a temple. In current usage, the anáthima may be set up in a shrine near the home altar. The suppliant can offer small gifts, pottery or bronze, in the shape of an arm or leg or other part of the body in hope for healing; this was traditional in ancient times in the temples of Asklipiós (Asclepius; Gr. Ἀσκληπιός). A suppliant may offer a ceramic such as a kratír (krater; Gr. κρατήρ) etc. dedicated to a beloved God and placed in a place of honor. A statue of something dear to a beloved God may be given as a present, such as in the picture on the left, a bronze deer for Ártæmis (Artemis; Gr. Ἄρτεμις)
THE ÆRMÍS (HERMES) JAR: Some people have a practice of placing a sum of money in a jar whenever they have good luck, the proceeds to be distributed to those in need.
SONG, POETRY AND DANCE: Those who are inspired make songs, poetry, and dance to the Gods. These can be offered during the offering section of ritual.
OFFERINGS CAN BE MADE IN A SPECIAL VESSEL called the KERNOS: KǼRNOS-ΚΈΡΝΟΣ
AFTER RITUAL, WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH THE LIBATIONS, FOOD OFFERINGS, SPENT CHARCOAL, etc.?
Ideally, libations should be made out-of-doors at a protected area of your property. Traditionally, offerings were made in a type of ritual pit called a Vóthros (Bothros; Gr. βόθρος). In modern Greek, a vóthros is a cesspit for sewage, but in the ancient language, it could refer to any kind of trench; the term was also used for a ritual pit, in which case we capitalize the word: Vóthros. Sometimes the Vóthros was designed into a building with an outdoor drain, so that participants in ritual could easily make libations indoors, as in the Iærá Ikía (Gr. Ἱερὰ Οἰκία), the Sacred House outside the Sanctuary of Dimítir (Demeter; Gr. Δημήτηρ) at Ælefsís (Eleusis, modern Ælefsína; Gr. Ἐλευσίς).
Soil and libations: If you make offerings out-of-doors in soil, the wine, milk and honey, fruit juice, etc. will sour as they accumulate and this will attract insects as well. About once a week, wash a shovel or a pitch-fork, turn the soil and break it up, allowing air to enter. This will help considerably.
In the part of the country where my home was built, it is common practice to remove the top-soil and sell it when constructing a new home. Unfortunately, it seems that this was the case with my property. This practice destroys the natural balance of soil, eliminating most of the organic matter. Consequently, the soil where I make libations was very bad, much clay and not very absorbent. If this is the case for you, consider improving the porosity of the earth with the addition of organic matter. This can be accomplished in many ways. The best is to simply replace the clay with good top-soil, but you will still need to periodically add organic matter to the soil. I found a company that sells shredded bay leaves at a very reasonable price (much lower than whole leaves): Bay leaf culinary and Bay Leaf Medicinal Information. Buy bulk Bay leaf. Shredded leaves are excellent for this purpose in any case. I add some leaves every time I turn the soil. It is not necessary to use bay laurel at all; I use laurel because it is sacred to the Gods, especially Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). Adding any organic material will improve porosity. The organic material, in addition to improving porosity, also contributes to the natural break-down of the foodstuffs in the offerings. In my case, the addition of organic material and turning the soil weekly has completely eliminated odor, if anything, the area now has a pleasant fragrance.
In the wintertime when the ground is frozen in Illinois; when you make a libation, the liquid lays on the frozen ground. I have seen possums come and drink the libations. You may find other animals do this as well. I would not prevent them from doing so. Consider the story from Iródotos (Herodotus; Gr. Ἡρόδοτος) of the boys who took sanctuary in a temple of Ártæmis (Artemis; Gr. Ἄρτεμις) to escape becoming eunuchs. The priestesses left offerings for Ártæmis, knowing that the boys would eat them and survive. 
Another way to offer libations is to pour them directly into a fire used for worship, of course, out-of-doors. Libations in general, wine, even non-alcoholic liquids such as milk and honey rarely extinguish the fire; they vaporize upon hitting the coals and billow up in offering to the Gods, leaving, seemingly, nothing behind. You must be aware when you make libations into a fire, particularly with wine, the flame can rise quite high. Even the steam from an offering of milk can scald your hand and arm. Therefore, you must be careful if you make libations into the fire or do not do so at all. In any case, most people cannot have a fire every day for their libations.
If you are in a situation whereby it is impractical to offer libations outside, have a bowl large enough for all the libations from everyone present. After the ritual, respectfully pour the bowl containing everyone's libations in the special spot outside.
If you have no place whatsoever to place libations outside, try to save them in jugs and give them to a friend who owns property, or go to a place in the woodland. Do not wait so long as to allow mold to form in the bottle. With serious thought, you should be able to find a way to properly offer the libation. Or course, for some individuals it may be impossible to offer the libations to the ground. If this is the case and if you have no choice but to pour the libations into a sink, find a way to do so respectfully, perhaps with the recitation of a short prayer or hymn. Another option would be to make incense offerings rather than libations.
Food offerings are shared with the participants after the ritual or left out-of-doors for the animals. They can also be burnt on a ritual fire.
The charcoal remaining after offering incense (or from burnt offerings) is similar: when the ritual is complete, when the coals are burnt through and cold, what do you do with the remainder? I suggest placing it on the ground at the same place where you make libations. The spent charcoal can also be dug into the libation soil and have a good effect, reducing the souring of the earth from the libations. You can very quickly turn a spent charcoal briquette into the libation soil in just a few seconds. If you turn the soil every week with a shovel and add the spent briquettes, this earth will begin to develop a nice fragrance.
Again, if you have no choice, you could wrap the spent charcoal nicely in a paper towel and respectfully dispose of it.
TERMS CONCERNING OFFERINGS (Under Construction)
Tælæstíria - (Telesteria; Gr.Τελεστήρια) A Tælæstíria is a thanks-offering for success. (L&S p. 1770, right column)
Telesteria - See Tælæstíria.
NOTES TO THE TEXT:
(ABBREVIATIONS can be found on this page: Glossary Home.)
 The word Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός) is used here, but in reality, there was no term in antiquity for the Greek religion until well into the Christian era (and this was the word then used). Further, the genuine Ællinismόs is not exactly a religion; it includes religion but is more than merely religion. Ællinismόs is philosophy...in the true sense...a way of life. The Greek word thriskeia
Ællinismόs, not its deeper meanings
(Gr. θρησκεία) means "religion;" it refers to the outward rituals and forms of
 "Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him." (Plátohn [Plato; Gr. Πλάτων] Politeia [The Republic; Gr. Πολιτεία], Book II, 379; DPI p. 643)
Also, please visit this page: The Goodness of the Gods.
It can be argued that there are many instances in ancient literature where Gods are propitiated through sacrifice. There are extreme actions which could arouse the anger of the Gods or cause them to withdraw assistance. But the examples given in mythology where individuals arouse petty retribution from Gods for actions which, in some instances, are not even done deliberately, are not to be taken literally. An example of this would be when Aktaiohn (Actaeon; Gr. Ἀκταίων) accidentally observes Ǽrtæmis (Artemis; Gr. Ἄρτεμις) bathing naked in the wood. As is typical in these types of myths, the "victim" who is killed or punished has qualities that are connected with the deity in question. Aktaiohn is a hunter, like Ǽrtæmis. He has his dogs. The dog is symbolic of the Agathós Daimohn (Agathos Daemon; Gr. Ἀγαθὸς Δαίμων) which Ǽrtæmis uses to hunt down the beautiful souls. And Aktaiohn is transformed into a stag, an animal connected with the Goddess, and is devoured by his own dogs. In mythology, when a God kills, the God deifies: always. But using common logic, it is completely impossible for a God or Goddess to be petty as they are beings of immense enlightenment. And it must also be understood that the ancient understanding of Gods and worship was not always correct with the common people, as has been pointed out by Plátohn in the Evthýphron (Euthyphro; Gr. Εὐθύφρων) and elsewhere. Nonetheless, there is plentiful evidence of historical personages who felt that they had aroused the anger of Gods for one reason or another, often for not having fulfilled a promise made in request for some favor. Perhaps a general would ask for a victory in a battle and promise in return to build a temple, later after the battle had been won, realizing that the temple had not been built in a reasonable time and that it appeared that the Gods had withdrew assistance, the temple would be built and a propitiating sacrifice be made. So there may be instances where the Gods can be angered or withdraw their help, but usually these cases are particular or extreme. It must be understood that Gods have enormous understanding of human psychology and, frankly, are rather capable of predicting our actions before we even make them. So the way they understand our actions is different from the way we perceive their understanding.
 ".... we hear of other human beings who did not even venture to taste the flesh of a cow and had no animal sacrifices, but only cakes and fruits dipped in honey, and similar pure offerings, but no flesh of animals; from these they abstained under the idea that they ought not to eat them, and might not stain the altars of the Gods with blood. For in those days men are said to have lived a sort of Orphic life, having the use of all lifeless things, but abstaining from all living things." (Plátohn [Plato; Gr. Πλάτων] Nómi [Laws; Gr. Νόμοι] VI, 782, from the translation of B. Jowett, 1892, found in the 1920 edition, Oxford University Press, p. 541.)
Also, please visit this page: Burnt Offerings.
 Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων) Sympósion (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.
 "It happened that Periander, son of Cypselus, had taken three hundred boys, children of the chief nobles among the Corcyræans, and sent them to Alyattes for eunuchs; the men who had them in charge touched at Samos on their way to Sardis; whereupon the Samians, having found out what was to become of the boys when they reached that city, first prompted them to take sanctuary at the temple of Artemis; and after this, when the Corinthians, as they were forbidden to tear the suppliants from the holy place, sought to cut off from them all supplies of food, invented a festival in their behoof, which they celebrate to this day with the self-same rites. Each evening, as night closed in, during the whole time that the boys continued there, choirs of youths and virgins were placed about the temple, carrying in their hands cakes made of sesame and honey, in order that the Corcyræan boys might snatch the cakes, and so get enough to live upon. And this went on for so long, that at last the Corinthians who had charge of the boys gave them up, and took their departure, upon which the Samians conveyed them back to Corcyra." (Iródotos [Herodotus; Gr. Ἡρόδοτος] Histories, Book III, Chapters 48-49, in the translation by George Rawlinson, 1910, as found in the 1997 edition on pp. 247-8)
(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 kosmogonic 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 website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. 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 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.
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