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What is the Meaning of Prayer in the Hellenic Polytheistic Tradition?


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Proséfkhomai - (Proceuchomai; Gr. προσεύχομαι, ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΟΜΑΙ. Etym. πρός "to" + εὔχομαι "pray"Proséfkhomai is to pray.

Praying to Gods
is a revered act in Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion; it is sacred and intimate. Prayer is communication with Gods, whether it be thanksgiving, praise, or simple conversation. We can express our love and awe of the God, or we can beseech, asking for assistance in our lives, for whatever we feel we need. One can pray whenever and however one wishes; it is an act of freedom. On the other hand, in formal Orphic ritual, prayers are made in the offering section before the final hymns to Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα) and Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς). Thæouryía (Theurgy; Gr. Θεουργία)
[1] , a much misunderstood word that simply means ritual, is also communication with Gods; it incorporates prayer, but ritual is formalized. Prayer may be performed in this ceremonial manner...it is a great expression of our tradition... but prayer can also occur outside of ritual. We can recite beautiful prayers written either by ourselves or others, or prayer may emerge spontaneously, from the depths of our soul. In prayer we reach for the divine, to the Gods, those intellects and souls who are far greater than we, and who have much greater capacity than we, and who have the ability to advance us towards a more elevated state...if we allow them to...for we are free and must be willing. The Gods are endowed with enormous facility to affect our lives both in the physical world of matter but more especially supernally, inspiring us to more lofty ambitions than we may presently be capable, this latter objective vastly superior to the former. They answer prayers in ways which at times may be obscure, but always as the best possible solution to our difficulties, although we may not perceive it that way.

Reciprocity, Prayer, and Hellenismos

There is a common belief in the modern Hellenic community, that in our religion, Gods and mortals are in a reciprocal relationship, in other words, that a God will not bestow a benefit without an appropriate gift. This idea is entirely incorrect and (rather innocently) offensive, as it should be obvious, for the Gods are not trivial; if they were petty they could not be Gods, because, by definition, Gods are beings of surpassing majesty and power and enlightenment. Nonetheless, there is some truth to the idea; there is indeed a reciprocal relationship between Gods and men, but this interchange is of a much higher nature. The reciprocity of the Gods is based on Ǽrohs (Eros; Gr. Ἔρως). When we move closer towards the Gods...by our attraction to their beauty and goodness...they move closer to us...greatly closer. There then ensues a glorious interaction in which Ǽrohs flows back and forth between Gods and mortals, and this exchange is based on love, not barter. This is one reason, if not the primary reason we have such maxims as...

"Follow God" [2] 


"Worship the Gods" [3]  

...not in order to obtain presents from the Gods, but rather because we love them. In ancient literature you will often find phrases about various personages who were said to "love the Gods." Thus, our prayers are first and foremost an expression of our love of the Gods; it is because of our love for them that we approach them, as we would approach our dearest friend, and even more so, for the Gods are our greatest confidants and advisersWithout Ǽrohs towards the Gods, prayers are meaningless and ineffectual.

Prayer and the Natural Laws

In nature there are both personal and impersonal deities; the personal Gods can hear and respond to one's prayers. The impersonal deities are fundamental forces, sacred by nature, but difficult to approach because such deity does not have consciousness. These impersonal deities are powerful principals and powers inherent in our lives, such as Justice (Díki; Gr. Δίκη) or Equity (Dikaiosýni; Gr. Δικαιοσύνη), or they can be phenomena of the Kózmos (Cosmos; Gr. Κόσμος) such as the Natural Laws. On one level, when we pray to an Olympian deity, we are praying to the Natural Law over which this God has sovereignty. These laws are deities in themselves, but impersonal. The Olympian Gods, however, are personal deities who can hear our prayers and respond, as they have dominion over the Natural Laws. From this perspective, for example, when we pray to Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων), we pray to Freedom; when we pray to Aphrodíti (Gr. Ἀφροδίτη), we pray to Harmony; and so forth. Of course one can pray to any God for whatever reason you wish, and the fields of their interest, which tradition tells us they love, do not limit their ability to assist mortals in other areas. The myriad hosts of other deities are the sons and daughters of the Olympians and they also hear our prayers. But since our discussion is at present of the Natural Laws, it should be noted that a prayer request that violates these laws presents a dilemma, for while the Olympian Gods, and their many minions, have dominion over the Natural Laws, they never violate them, and miracles, as something that would be beyond the Laws of Nature, are not a logical expectation. There is a type of miracle, but such a miracle is always within the laws of nature. One of the Delphic Maxims demonstrates this: 

"Pray for things possible." [4]

Prayer and Effort

The Gods will help you; they support you; they have an interest in your well-being and in your progress. Our tradition is a little different in its approach to prayer: if we are willing to exert effort and try, and if we are pious and ask for their help, the Gods will work by our side and assist us. The famous fable of Aisohpos (Aesop; Gr. Αἴσωπος)Herakles and the Wagoner (see below for the complete fable), illustrates this point. The story speaks of a man whose cart was stuck in the mud. He prayed to Iraklís (Herakles or Hercules; Gr.  Ἡρακλῆς) to help him. The God appeared and said, "Get up, man, and put your shoulder to the wheel." In other words, the approach in Ællinismόs is not passive: we do not simply receive, but our action is a major constituent in the the fruition of a prayer. Perhaps we are unwilling to take the action required to improve our situation. In such a case, the assistance of the Gods is limited by our own inertia, making one's progress much slower than desired. This fable is also told with Athiná [Athena; Gr. Ἀθηνᾶ] as the deity, hence the proverb known to everyone in Greece:

Συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει.
Together with the help of Athiná, move your own hand.

The Superficial View of Prayer

The cursory view of prayer is a major source of atheism, no doubt, and an expression of childishness and superstition. The idea that you can pray to a God and therefore receive a present is actually viewing prayer as magic; in other words, we say an incantation (the prayer), make an offering, and force a God to act. In reality, this view is offensive, but in our naïveté, we do not realize it. The Gods live in freedom and our prayers cannot coerce them to act, even if we "bribe" them with an offering. Expecting a gift or a favor in return for prayers and offerings violates a God’s freedom because such a transaction would create an obligation which need not be honored by any God. Such a transaction would be a sort of contract in which both parties would need agree to terms; but such an agreement is generally not available to mortals. When prayers are not answered to our specifications, we question whether the Gods actually exist. This is, in truth, the attitude of a child. The Gods desire to help us, to truly help us, but they are not simply vending machines. Of course, we can petition the Gods for help with genuine piety, but this is very different from demanding presents in return for our offerings.

Traditionally, it is said that the Gods are "a million times wiser" than us. What this really means is that their understanding and ability is vastly superior to ours and, because of that fact, their actions are beyond our full comprehension; we cannot fathom the minds of the Gods. Our view of a solution to a problem may be incorrect or incomplete. The Gods are concerned about our well-being, our development of virtue, our progress. This ascending evolution occurs over many, many lifetimes. When we pray for favors of a mundane nature, it is like a child asking for candy. But even if the thing we request in prayer is of a higher nature, it is naïve to think that we could be certain of the solution to problems of the progress of our soul. It may appear to us that we are not receiving help from the Gods, but that is because we are too close to our problems to clearly understand the solution to them.

It is this authors opinion that truly heartfelt and pious prayers are always heard by the Gods and that such prayers are always answered; they are answered at the most opportune moment and in the most efficient manner. Some prayers may not be answered for years, but the Gods do not ignore the pious and good-hearted. Nonetheless, it may be difficult for us to understand this.

Prayer and Destiny

An issue that is not often considered in respect to prayer is that of Destiny. According to tradition, our birth, length of life, and death are measured out before we are born, as well as our basic situation in life. This is called Destiny or Fate. It is under the dominion of mighty Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) and his minions, the Mírai (Moirai or Moerae; Gr. Μοῖραι), who are called the Fates. It is said that other Gods confer as well. We are presented with a life which is, in part, the result of pæprohmǽno (pepromeno; Gr. πεπρωμένο), things which have already occurred in the past and in previous lives which have bearing on our present life, something like the Eastern idea of karma. The manner in which we lead our life, eimarmǽni (imarmene; Gr. ἐιμαρμένη), can effect our fate in a positive or negative way, now and in the future, so we are not completely at the mercy of destiny. But when we consider all this, if a prayer-request goes contrary to the destiny which we have been given, if it goes contrary to the result of our actions in the past, we are actually asking a God to intervene on our behalf to Zefs himself to alter our fate, which is, of course, extraordinary. Zefs has the ability to do so, but he would have to have a compelling reason to want to, and who of us knows the minds of a God, especially such a God as Zefs.



Given the various warnings concerning what may be inappropriate concerning prayer, we should not be afraid to supplicate the Gods for things we feel we need. Just as a child asks for things of his parents, we should ask the Gods to assist us in our difficulties and for our health, adequate wealth, and the well-being of our country, family, and friends. Nonetheless, we must be realistic in our expectations. But it is a pious thing to pray.

The suitability of a prayer-request, as well as one's attitude to the God, are issues. "Apóllohn, help me in my difficulty," is an appropriate prayer, leaving the details to the God. One must be prepared to do everything in your ability to improve your situation, expecting nothing; that is...be humble in your expectations...and, it is a great thing to trust Gods. Of course, you can pray as you wish, however you wish, and whenever you desire to; it is a highly personal matter and we are free.  Nonetheless, if we assume that the Gods will answer our prayers to our exact specifications, we will be very disappointed and in reality we are acting with great ývris (hubris; Gr. ὕβρις). The Gods have far greater expertise than ourselves and do not simply give us everything we prayer for, just as parents, knowing what is best, always act on behalf of their child, regardless of the youth's demands. At times a toddler or even a teenager may fancy that his parents do not care for him at all, when, in reality, their refusal to grant a request is the expression of a deep and wise love, yielding benefits which may give fruit over a lifetime. The Gods would never make the mistake of the mother in this fable of Aisohpos (Aesop; Gr. Αἴσωπος):

THE THIEF AND HIS MOTHER: A BOY stole a lesson-book from one of his schoolfellows and took it home to his Mother. She not only abstained from beating him, but encouraged him. He next time stole a cloak and brought it to her, and she again commended him. The Youth, advanced to adulthood, proceeded to steal things of still greater value. At last he was caught in the very act, and having his hands bound behind him, was led away to the place of public execution. His Mother followed in the crowd and violently beat her breast in sorrow, whereupon the young man said, "I wish to say something to my Mother in her ear." She came close to him, and he quickly seized her ear with his teeth and bit it off. The Mother upbraided him as an unnatural child, whereon he replied, "Ah! if you had beaten me when I first stole and brought to you that lesson-book, I should not have come to this, nor have been thus led to a disgraceful death." [5]

The fable illustrates that what we desire is not necessarily in our best interest. The Gods do not give us everything we ask for; they never harm us as their nature is inclined to our benefit.

Praying for Others

It is most appropriate to put aside our own troubles for some time and consider the hardships of others. It is natural to first think of those people who are dear to us, our parents, extended family and friends. It is a pleasant thought to consider that the Gods may think kindly on people who possess a beauty great enough that someone would pray for them. And by praying for others we are forced to consider how our behavior may help or harm those we love and to, therefore, do a better job with ourselves as well.

Ancient Opinions Regarding Prayer  

Pythagóras (Gr. Πυθαγόρας) suggested not to pray for ourselves at all:

"He forbids men to pray for anything in particular for themselves, because they do not know what is good for them." [6]

Sohkrátis (Socrates; Gr. Σωκράτης) proposes that we be modest in our prayer-requests, leaving such wisdom to the Gods:

"And he (ed. Sohkrátis) used to pray to the Gods that they give him the simply good things, on the grounds that the Gods have the noblest knowledge about what sort of things are good. And he held that those who pray for gold or silver or tyranny or anything else of the sort pray no differently than if they should pray for a game of dice, a battle, or any of the other things as to which it is visibly unclear how they will turn out." [7]

Æpíctitos (Epictetus; Gr. Ἐπίκτητος), the Stoic philosopher (54-68 CE), in the beginning statements of the Ængkheirídion (Encheiridion; Gr. Ἐγχειρίδιον), lays the foundation for ease of mind, a foundation which gives us clues as to how to pray:

"Some things are under our control, while others are not under our control. Under our control are conception, choice, desire, aversion, and, in a word, everything that is our own doing; not under our control are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, everything that is not our own doing. Furthermore, the things under our control are by nature free, unhindered, and unimpeded; while the things not under our control are weak, servile, subject to hindrance, and not our own. Remember, therefore, that if what is naturally slavish you think to be free, and what is not your own to be your own, you will be hampered, will grieve, will be in turmoil, and will blame both Gods and men; while if you think only what is your own to be your own, and what is not your own to be, as it really is, not your own, then no one will ever be able to exert compulsion upon you, no one will hinder you, you will  blame no one, will find fault with no one, will do absolutely nothing against your will, you will have no personal enemy, no one will harm you, for neither is there any harm that can touch you." [8]

In the prayer of Æpíctitos, the philosopher prays only for the will of the Gods:

"Do with me what thou wilt: my will is thy will: I appeal not against thy judgments." [9]

At the end of the Ængkheirídion, Æpíctitos gives us another brief prayer:

"Lead thou me on, O Zeus (ed. Zefs), and Destiny,
To that goal long ago to me assigned.
I'll follow and not falter; if my will
Prove weak and craven, still I'll follow on." [10]

Philóstratos (Philostratus; Gr. Φιλόστρατος), in his book about Apollóhnios of Tyanéfs (Apollonius of Tyana; Gr. Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Τυανεύς):

IX. "Now it is well that I should not pass over what happened in the Temple (ed. where Apollóhnios was living as a young man), while relating the life of a man who was held in esteem even by the Gods. For an Assyrian stripling came to Asclepius (ed. Asklipiós; Gr. Ἀσκληπιός, the great God of healing), and though he was sick, yet he lived the life of luxury, and being continually drunk, I will not say he lived, rather he was ever dying. He suffered then from dropsy, and finding his pleasure in drunkenness took no care to dry up his malady. On this account then Asclepius took no care of him, and did not visit him even in a dream. The youth grumbled at this, and thereupon the God, standing over him, said, 'If you were to consult Apollonius you would be easier.' He therefore went to Apollonius, and said: 'What is there in your wisdom that I can profit by? for Asclepius bids me consult you.' And he replied: 'I can advise you of what, under the circumstances, will be most valuable to you; for I suppose you want to get well.' 'Yes, by Zeus,' answered the other, 'I want the health which Asclepius promises, but never gives.' 'Hush,' said the other, 'for he gives to those who desire it, but you do things that irritate and aggravate your disease, for you give yourself up to luxury, and you accumulate delicate viands upon your water-logged and worn-out stomach, and as it were, choke water with a flood of mud.' This was a clearer response, in my opinion, than Heraclitus, in his wisdom gave. For he said when he was visited by this affection that what he needed was some one to substitute a drought for his rainy weather, a very unintelligible remark, it appears to me, and by no means clear; but the sage restore the youth to health by a clear interpretation of the wise saw.

X. "One day he saw a flood of blood upon the altar, and there were victims laid out upon it, Egyptian bulls that had been sacrificed and great hogs, and some of them were being flayed and others were being cut up; and two gold vases had been dedicated set with jewels, the rarest and most beautiful that India can provide. So he went up to the priest and said: 'What is all this; for some one is making a very handsome gift to the God?'  and the priest replied: 'You may rather be surprised at a man's offering all this without having first put up a prayer in our fane (ed. temple), and without having stayed with us as long as other people do, and without having gained his health from the God, and without obtaining all the things he came to ask for here. For he appears to have come only yesterday, and yet he is sacrificing on this lavish scale. And he declares that he will sacrifice more victims, and dedicate more gifts, if Asclepius will hearken to him. And he is one of the richest men in existence: at any rate he owns in Cilicia (ed. Gr. Κιλικία) an estate bigger than all the Cilicians together possess. And he is supplicating the God to restore to him one of his eyes that has fallen out.' But Apollonius fixed his eyes upon the ground, as he was accustomed to do in later life, and asked: 'What is his name?' And when he heard it, he said: 'It  seems to me, O Priest, that we ought not to welcome this fellow in the Temple: for he is some ruffian who has come here, and that he is afflicted in this way is due to some sinister reason: nay, his very conduct in sacrificing on such a magnificent scale before he has gained anything from the God is not that of a genuine votary, but rather of a man who is begging himself off from the penalty of some horrible and cruel deeds.' This was what Apollonius said: and Asclepius appeared to the priest by night, and said: 'Send away so and so at once with all his possessions, and let him keep them, for he deserves to lose the other eye as well.' The priest accordingly made inquiries about the Cilician and learned that his wife had by a former marriage borne a daughter, and he had fallen in love with the maiden and had seduced her, and was living with her in open sin. For the mother had surprised the two in bed, and had put out both her eyes and one of his by stabbing them with her brooch-pin.

XI. "Again he inculcated the wise rule, that in our sacrifices or dedications we should not go beyond the just mean, in the following way. On one occasion several people had flocked to the Temple, not long after the expulsion of the Cilician, and he took the occasion to ask the priest the following questions. 'Are then,' he said, 'the Gods just?' 'Why, of course, most just,' answered the priest. 'Well, and are they wise?' 'And what,' said the other, 'can be wiser than the Godhead?' 'But do they  know the affairs of men, or are they without experience of them?' 'Why,' said the other, 'this is just the point in which the Gods excel mankind, for the latter, because of their frailty, do not understand their own concerns, whereas the Gods have the privilege of understanding the affairs both of men and of themselves.' 'All your answers,' said Apollonius, 'are excellent, O Priest, and very true. Since then, they know everything, it appears to me that a person who comes to the house of God and has a good conscience, should put up the following prayer: "O ye Gods, grant unto me that which I deserve." 'For,' he went on, 'the holy, O Priest, surely deserve to receive blessings, and the wicked the contrary. Therefore the Gods, as they are beneficent, if they find anyone who is healthy and whole and unscarred by vice, will send him on his way, surely, after crowning him, not with golden crowns, but with all sorts of blessings; but if they find a man branded with sin and utterly corrupt, they will hand him over and leave him to justice, after inflicting their wrath upon him all the more, because he dared to invade their Temples without being pure.' And at the same moment he looked towards Asclepius, and said: 'O Asclepius, the philosophy you teach is secret and congenial to yourself, in that you suffer not the wicked to come hither, not even if they pour into your lap all the wealth of India and Sardis (ed. Gr. Σάρδεις). For it is not out of reverence for the divinity that they sacrifice these victims and suspend these offerings, but in order to purchase a verdict, which you will not concede to them in your perfect justice.' And much similar wisdom he delivered himself of in this Temple, while he was still a youth.

Some Fables of Aisohpos (Aesop; Gr. 

Αἴσωπος) regarding Prayer:

THE IMAGE OF MERCURY (Ærmís [Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς]AND THE CARPENTER: A VERY POOR MAN, a Carpenter by trade, had a wooden image of Mercury, before which he made offerings day by day, and begged the idol to make him rich, but in spite of his entreaties he became poorer and poorer. At last, being very angry, he took his image down from its pedestal and dashed it against the wall. When its head was knocked off, out came a stream of gold, which the Carpenter quickly picked up and said, "Well, I think thou art altogether contradictory and unreasonable; for when I paid you honor, I reaped no benefits: but now that I maltreat you I am loaded with an abundance of riches." [12]

HERCULES AND THE WAGONER: A CARTER was driving a wagon along a country lane, when the wheels sank down deep into a rut. The rustic driver, stupefied and aghast, stood looking at the wagon, and did nothing but utter loud cries to Hercules to come and help him. Hercules, it is said, appeared and thus addressed him: "Put your shoulders to the wheels, my man. Goad on your bullocks, and never more pray to me for help, until you have done your best to help yourself, or depend upon it you will henceforth pray in vain." [13]

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.

NOTE: A list of abbreviations can be found on this page: GLOSSARY HOME.

Æpefkhí - (epeuche; Gr. ἐπευχή, ΕΠΕΥΧΗ) Lexicon entry: ἐπευχήprayer, Pl.Lg.871c (pl.). 2. [ἐ] πευχά, = ἐπαρά. (L&S p. 619, left column, within the entries beginning ἐπευχάδιος, edited for simplicity.)

 - (epeuchomai; Gr. 
ἐπεύχομαι, ΕΠΕΥΧΟΜΑΙ. Verb.) Lexicon entry: ἐπεύχομαιpray or make a vow to a deity; but in S.OC1024, ἐ. θεοῖς give thanks to them: c. dat. et inf., pray to one that . ., ἐπεύχετο πᾶσι θεοῖσι νοστῆσαι Ὀδυσῆα Od.14.423. II. vow, c. fut. inf., ἐ. θήσειν τροπαῖα. III. imprecate upon: rarely in good sense. IV. exult over. 2. c. inf., boast that. (L&S p. 619, left column, within the entries beginning with ἐπευχάδιος, edited for simplicity.)

Állitos - (Gr. ἄλλιτος, ΑΛΛΙΤΟΣ) Lexicon entry: ἄλλῐτος, ον, = foreg., αἶσα Epic.Alex.Adesp.6.5; ἄλλιτα κωκύοντες shrieking unanswered prayers. (L&S p. 69, right column, edited for simplicity.)

Anéfkhomai - (aneuchomai; Gr. ἀνεύχομαι, ΑΝΕΥΧΟΜΑΙ.Verb.) Lexicon entry: ἀνεύχομαι, unsay a prayer, Pl.Alc.2.142d,148b. (L&S p. 136, left column)

Ánti - (Gr. ἄντη, ΑΝΤΗ. Noun.) Lexicon entry: ἄντη, ἡ, (ἄντομαι 11) prayer—a word preserved by Hsch. (ἄντῃσι (cod. ἀντήσει) · λιτανείαις, ἀντήσεσι), and restored by Herm. for λιταῖς (metri gr.) in S.El.139 (dub.). (L&S p. 152, right column)

Antivolía - (antibolia; Gr. ἀντιβολία, ΑΝΤΙΒΟΛΙΑ) Lexicon entry: ἀντιβολία, ἡ, an entreaty, prayer. (L&S p. 154, left column, within the entries beginning with ἀντιβολή, edited for simplicity.)

Ántisis - (Gr. ἄντησις, ΑΝΤΗΣΙΣ. Noun.) Lexicon entry: ἄντησις, εως, ἡ, entreaty, prayer, Hsch. (L&S p. 153, left column)

Ará - (Gr. ἀρά, ΑΡΑ. Noun.Ará is a prayer. Lexicon entry: ἀρά, Ion. ἀρή, ἡ, prayer. 2. vow. 3. curse, imprecation; freq. in Trag., mostly in pl. II. Ἀρά personified as the Goddess of destruction and revenge; but in A.Eu.417 the Erinyes say that Ἀραί is their own name γῆς ὑπαί. (L&S p. 233, left column, not to be confused with ἆρα and ἄρα which are entirely different words.)

Æxefmænízoh - (exeumenizo; Gr. ἐξευμενίζω, ΕΞΕΥΜΕΝΙΖΩ. Verb.) Lexicon entry: propitiate. (L&S p. p. 592, right column, edited for simplicity.)

Éfkhæsthai - (euchesthai; Gr. εύχεσθαι, ΕΥΧΕΣΘΑΙ. Verb.) Dictionary entry: Offer prayer (to Gods). (English-Greek Dictionary, S.C. Woodhouse, 1910; found in the 1987 Routledge & Kegan edition [London England] on p. 632 under the heading: Pray.) 

Efkholá - (euchola; Gr. εὐχωλά, ΕΥΧΩΛΑ) Efkholá means prayer. (Πίνδαρος frag. 122.20) 

Efkholí - (euchole; Gr. εὐχωλή, ΕΥΧΩΛΗ. Noun.) Lexicon entry: εὐχωλή, ἡ, (εὔχομαι) Ep. form of εὐχή, prayer, vow2. votive offering. II. boast, vaunt; shout of triumph. 2. object of boasting, glory. (L&S p. 739, right column, edited for simplicity.)

Éfkhomai - (euchomai; Gr. εὔχομαι, ΕΥΧΟΜΑΙ. Verb.) Lexicon entry: εὔχομαι, impf. εὐχόμην: —pray2. c. acc. et inf., pray that. 3. c. acc. obj., pray for, long or wish for. II. vow or promise to do. 2. c. acc. rei, vow a thing. 3. εὔ. κατά τινος of the thing vowed (as though on the altar). III. profess loudly, boast, vaunt; but also, 2. boast vainly, brag. 3. simply, profess or declare. IV. Pass., ἐμοὶ μετρίως ηὖκται I have prayed sufficiently. (L&S p. 739, left column, edited for simplicity.)

efkhí - (euché; Gr. εὐχή, ΕΥΧΗ. Noun.) Lexicon entry: prayer or vow. (L&S p. 739, left column, edited for simplicity.)
εὐχή: Prayer to the Gods(English-Greek Dictionary, S.C. Woodhouse, 1910; found in the 1987 Routledge & Kegan edition [London England] on p. 632 under the heading: Prayer.)

Ikæsía - (ikesia; Gr. ἱκεσία, ΙΚΕΣΙΑ) Lexicon entry: ἱκεσία, ἡ, (ἱκέτης) (replaced by ἱκετεία in Att.):— the prayer of a suppliant, supplication2. = ἱκέτευμα. (L&S p. 826, left column, edited for simplicity.)

Ikæteia - (iketeia; Gr. ἱκετεία, ΙΚΕΤΕΙΑ. Noun.) Ikæteia is supplication
- Lexicon entry: ἱκετεία [ῐ], , more Att. form of ἱκεσία (q.v.),
 (L&S p. 826, left column. edited for simplicity.)

Ikǽtis - (iketes; Gr. ἱκέτης, ΙΚΕΤΗΣ. Plural is Ἱκέτιδες. Noun.The ikǽtis is a suppliant, someone who supplicates, someone who asks humbly. When we pray, we are a type of ikǽtis.
- Lexicon entry: ἱκέτης, ου, ὁ, (ἱκνέομαι) one who comes to seek aid or protection, suppliant; freq. in Hom. of one who comes to seek for purification after homicide; of pilgrims to a healing shrine. (L&S p. 826, left column, within the entries beginning ἱκετεία, edited for simplicity.)

Iláskomai (ileskomai; Gr. ἱλάσκομαι, ΙΛΑΣΚΟΜΑΙ. Verb.) Lexicon entry: ἱλᾰσκομαι:—appease, in Hom. always of Gods; of the dead as heroized. 2. of men, conciliate. 3. expiate. II. Pass. with fut. ἱλάσομαι, also ἱλασθής ομαι:—to be merciful, gracious. (L&S p. 828, left column, within the entries beginning with ἱλασία, edited for simplicity.)

Katádæsis - (katadesis; Gr. κατάδεσις, ΚΑΤΑΔΕΣΙΣ. Noun.) = katádæsmos
- Lexicon entry: κατάδεσις, εως, ἡ, binding fast, Plu.2.771a. II. binding by magic knots: hence, spells, enchantments, in pl. (L&S p. 889, left column, edited for simplicity.) Cf. Katádæsmos.

Katádæsmos - (katadesmos; Gr. κατάδεσμος, ΚΑΤΑΔΕΣΜΟΣ. Noun.) The katádæsmos is a curse, usually inscribed on a sheet of lead. The katádæsmos is not really a prayer, not in the sense of religion, but sometimes deities will be invoked, often khthonic deities such as Ploutohn (Pluto; Gr. Πλούτων) or Pærsæphóni(Persephone; Gr. Περσεφόν), in the hopes that such deities will perform the malevolent work desired by its author. As such, the katádæsmos is not really so much a prayer as black magic, a form of false mayeia (magic; Gr. μᾰγεία) which is a sacrilege, for it implies that one could bind a God to do one's bidding. Furthermore, the malicious nature of a curse is contrary to the nature of the Gods. The word katádæsmos is included in this list because its meaning sheds light on problems inherent with common notions of prayer, that, even should one pray for a good result and not a curse, if one is thinking that a prayer can somehow cause a God to do one's bidding, this is actually not so much prayer as magic, and that to think that one can manipulate the Gods is not only impious but delusional.
- Lexicon entry: κατάδεσμ-ος, ὁ, tie, band. II. = κατάδεσις. (L&S p. 889, left column, within the entries beginning with καταδεσμεύω.)
- Cf. Katádæsis

Katefkhí - (cateuche; Gr. κατευχή, ΚΑΤΕΥΧΗ. Noun.) Lexicon entry: κατευχή, ἡ, prayer, vow. (L&S p. 926, left column, edited for simplicity.)

Litai (Gr. λιταί, ΛΙΤΑΙ. Noun.), personified, Prayers of sorrow and repentance. (L&S p. 1054, right column at the top of the page, def. II. of λῐτή from the left column, edited for simplicity.)

lití (litë; Gr. λῐτή, ΛΙΤΗ. Noun.) Lexicon entry: prayer, entreaty. II. Litai (Gr. Λιταί, ΛΙΤΑΙ), personified, Prayers of sorrow and repentance. (L&S p. 1054, left column, edited for simplicity.)

Polýllistos - (Gr. πολύλλιστος, ΠΟΛΥΛΛΙΣΤΟΣ) Lexicon entry: πολύλλιστος, ον, also η, ον Orph.H.32.14, al.: (λίσσομαι):—sought with many prayers, πολύλλιστον δέ σ' ἱκάνω Od.5.445; νηοὶ π. temples much frequented by suppliants. (L&S p. 1439, right column, within the many entries beginning with πολυκρατέω, edited for simplicity.)

Proséfkhi - (proceuchi; Gr. προσευχή, ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΗ. Noun.) Lexicon entry: προσευχή, ἡ, prayer, οἶκος προσευχῆς, of the Temple. II. place of prayer, sanctuary, chapel; esp. among the Jews, synagogue. (L&S p. 1511, right column, edited for simplicity.)

Proséfkhomai - (proceuchomai; Gr. προσεύχομαι, ΠΡΟΣΕΥΧΟΜΑΙ. Verb. Etym. πρός "to" + εὔχομαι "pray") Lexicon entry: προσεύχομαι, fut. -ξομαι:—offer prayers or vows. 2. c. acc., π. τὸν θεόν address him in prayer. 3. abs., offer prayers, worship. II. c. acc. rei, pray for a thing. (L&S p. 1511, right column, edited for simplicity.)

Prostrǽpoh - (prostrepo; Gr. προστρέπω, ΠΡΟΣΤΡΕΠΩ. Verb.) Lexicon entry: προστρέπωturn towards, esp. towards a God as a suppliant, approach with prayer, supplicate; reverence, celebrate. 2. approach (as an enemy), Ἰαωλκὸν πολεμίᾳ χερὶ προστραπών Pi.N.4.55codd. II. Med., make a matter of supplication, appeal to. (L&S p. 1528, left column, edited for simplicity.)

Prostropí - (prostrope; Gr. προστροπή, ΠΡΟΣΤΡΟΠΗ. Noun.) - Lexicon entry: προστροπή, ἡ, turning of a suppliant (ἱκέτης) to a God or man to implore protection or purification, supplication; λιταὶ καὶ π. Plu.2.560e: hence, 2. any address to a God, solemn invocation. 3. π. γυναικῶν suppliant band of women. (L&S, p. 1528, right column, within the entries beginning from the left column starting with προστρόπαιος, edited for simplicity.)

Synæpéfkhomai - (synepeuchomai; Gr. συνεπεύχομαι, ΣΥΝΕΠΕΥΧΟΜΑΙ. Verb.) Lexicon entry: συνεπεύχομαι, join in prayer. (L&S p. 1709, right column, within the entries beginning with συνεπεμβαίνω, edited for simplicity.)


(A list of abbreviations can be found here: GLOSSARY HOME PAGE)

[1] Thæouryía (Theurgy; Gr. Θεουργία) is translated literally as divine work. It is associated by many modern reconstructionists with magical practices, in part due to the writings of Iámvlikhos (Iamblichus; Gr. Ἰάμβλιχος), the Neoplatonic philosopher. Because it is thought of as involving superstition and magic, its practice is discouraged by these groups. Nonetheless, according to the teacher of this author, Thæouryía is, simply, ritual. Therefore, whenever anyone does ritual, it is actually Thæouryía. The definition of Thæouryía is: communication with Gods through ritual.

[2] Delphic Maxim 1: Gr. Επου θεω.

[3] Delphic Maxim 3: Gr. Θεούς σέβου.

[4] Delphic Maxim 52: Εύχου δυνατά.

[5] Aesop's Fables, trans. George Fyler Townsend, 1871.

[6] Dioyǽnis Laǽrtios (Diogenes Laërtius; Gr. Διογένης Λαέρτιος) The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book VIII, Life of Pythagoras VI.; translated by C. D. Yonge, 1853, Henry G. Bohn (London England); p. 31.

[7] Memorabilia of Xænophóhn (Xenophon; Gr. Ξενοφῶν), Book I, Chapter 3.2, translated by Amy L. Bonnette, 1994, Cornell University Press (Ithaca and London), p. 18.

[8] Æpíctitos (Epictetus; Gr. Ἐπίκτητος) Ængkheirídion (Enchiridion; Gr. Ἐγχειρίδιον) 1-3; trans. W. A. Oldfather 1928, Epictetus: Discourses Books III-IV, The Encheiridion; Loeb 218, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge MA & London England), 2000 edition, p. 483.

[9] Epictetus by Schenkle, p. 158.

[10] Æpíctitos Ængkheirídion 53.1; Ibid. Oldfather.

[11] Philóstratos (Gr. Φιλόστρατος) Life of Apollonios of Tyana Book I:IX-XI, trans. F. C. Conybeare, 1912; found here in the 1948 Loeb edition of Philostratus: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana Vol. 1, Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge MA)-William Heinemann (London England), pp. 21-29

[12] Aesop's Fables, Fable No. 149, trans. George Fyler Townsend, 1871.

[13] Aesop's Fables, Fable No. 12, trans. George Fyler Townsend, 1871.

More Appropriate Quotations:

Prier Dieu c'est se flatter qu'avec des paroles on changera toute la nature. "To pray to God is to flatter oneself that with words one can alter nature." Voltaire

"Man, born to die, can no more be exempt from pain than from death.  To prevent an organized substance endowed with feeling from ever experiencing pain, it would be necessary that all the laws of nature should be changed; that matter should no longer be divisible; that it should neither have weight, action, nor force; that a rock might fall on an animal without crushing it; and that water should have no power to suffocate, or fire to burn it." Voltaire

"Such are the distributions of God.  He is on high; he sees us all and he knows what he does in the midst of his great stars." (The words of Jean Valjean to Cosette and Marius, as he was about to die.  From Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Jean Valjean, Book Ninth, Chapter 5, just before the very end of the book.  Translated by Charles E. Wilbour in 1862.  As can be found in the 1998 Everyman's Library edition, Alfred A. Knopf [New York USA, London England, Toronto Canada], on p.1431.)

"God knows better than we do what we need." (Victor Hugo Les Misérables, Ibid. p.1427.)

" 'Tis very certain the desire of life
   Prolongs it: this is obvious to physicians,
When patients, neither plagued with friends nor wife,
Survive through very desperate conditions,
Because they still can hope, nor shines the knife
   Nor shears of Atropos before their visions:
Despair of all recovery spoils longevity,
And makes men's miseries of alarming brevity."  (Lord Byron Don Juan, Canto the Second, LXIV)

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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