Worship and Ritual
in the Hellenic Polytheistic Tradition
"Then what life is agreeable to God, and becoming in his followers? One only, expressed once for all in the old saying that 'like agrees with like, with measure measure,' but things which have no measure agree neither with themselves nor with the things which have. Now God ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not man, as men commonly say: the words are far more true of Him. And he who would be dear to God must, as far as is possible, be like Him and such as He is. Wherefore the temperate man is the friend of God, for he is like Him; and the intemperate man is unlike Him, and different from Him, and unjust. And the same applies to other things; and this is the conclusion, which is also the noblest and truest of all sayings, --that for the good man to offer sacrifice to the Gods, and hold converse with them by means of prayers and offerings and every kind of service, is the noblest and best of all things, and also the most conducive to a happy life, and very fit and meet. But with the bad man, the opposite is true: for the bad man has an impure soul, whereas the good is pure; and from one who is polluted, neither a good man nor God can without impropriety receive gifts. Wherefore the unholy do only waste their much service upon the Gods, but when offered by any holy man, such service is most acceptable to them." The text goes on to describe the importance of honoring one's parents, honoring the dead, giving hospitality to ones friends and fellow citizens, and much more.
(Plato Laws IV, 716c-717a, translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892; found in the book entitled The Dialogues of Plato Vol.II, Random House edition, 1937, on pp. 488.)
Worship of the Gods:
How do we know there are Gods?
Who do we engage in ritual? The story of the origin of the Gods explains, mythologically, why we worship. This page is the most important page on the entire website:
Arætí - Arætí is defined as Virtue. What is virtue in our religion?
We are not alone in this world and our religion provides a model of how to behave towards other people and our fellow creatures:
What is the proper attitude in worship?
For those who practice Orphismós, our rituals are largely kept privy; why?
How do we worship the Gods? What is the meaning of our rituals?
What is the meaning of prayer in the Hellenic polytheistic tradition? Is it appropriate to pray? Do the Gods answer our prayers?
We love our Gods and to those we love we give gifts. What is an appropriate offering to a God?
Incense was offered to the Gods by Pythagoras instead of animal sacrifice. What do you know about this offering and other offerings to the Gods? This page contains links to essays on the use of incense in general, frankincense, gum ammoniac, storax, burnt offerings, etc.
Perhaps the most common offering to Gods, the libation can be used in any ritual. What is a libation?
It is traditional to have an outdoor altar with a fire and burn your offerings to the Gods. In ancient times, animals were burnt on the altar; why is this practice now discouraged in our community:
When we conduct ritual, we are in communion with the Blessed Gods and we should be in a state of purity, but how can we attempt to achieve this state?
AFTER RITUAL, what should we do with the libations, food offerings, spent charcoal, etc.? Please visit this page:
Offerings can be made using a special vessel that has been associated with the rituals of the Ælæfsinian (Eleusinian) Mysteries:
Statues are used in Hellenismos for ritual. What is their meaning and how are they used and cared for?
Ideas on how to make a shrine to Hestia in your home with a perpetually burning candle and how to incorporate this into your worship. Also, some ideas on candles in general as well as an article on oil lamps.
Ideas on how to grow plants loved by the Gods:
There is a customary protection for the home which is a decorated branch of olive or laurel or other tree:
Just before ritual a special musical instrument may be employed:
The Orphic Hymns are essential for ritual in our tradition. Visit this page for information about them and to download the hymns in English and in ancient Greek:
Orphic Hymn Index - Neither of the two available English translations of the Orphic hymns has a usable contents page or index, making it very difficult to find individual hymns. Here is the solution:
There are certain hymns which should be recited at every ritual. Amongst these is the hymn to Diónysos No. 30. Please visit this page to learn the meaning of the hymn from the Greek, word by word:
CONTEMPORARY HYMNS - Music is appropriate as an offering to Gods:
The Gods are celebrated, not only in ritual, but in their glorious festivals. There are many such holidays throughout the year. Follow this link to some of the major festivals we practice:
Scholars say that Hellenismos is only concerned with practices and not with beliefs. There are many people in our communities who take this observation and think that all that matters is how they perform rituals, but this is a mistake. For a discussion of this topic, visit this page:
Many individuals in the greater Hellenic community practice divination. In the tradition this author follows, no form of divination is permitted: all divination is strictly apórritos (ἀπόρρητος): forbidden. To discover some of the reasons why, visit this page:
Many individuals in the greater Hellenic community concentrate all their attention on one deity, or sometimes just a few deities. Is this practice correct? Visit this page for discussion on the topic:
There are those who like to take the practices of various religions and mix them with ours, but is this a good idea?
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.
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