AGALMA - ΑΓΑΛΜΑ

ÁGALMA - ΑΓΑΛΜΑ

SACRED STATUES IN ÆLLINISMÓS

HellenicGods.org

"There are ancient customs about the Gods which are universal, and they are of two kinds: some of the Gods we see with our eyes and we honour them, of others we honour the images, raising statues of them which we adore; and though they are lifeless, yet we imagine that the living Gods have a good will and gratitude to us on this account." [1]

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The Cult Image or Cult Statue

In Ællinismόs (Hellenismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, we use statues to represent Gods. The word for such a statue is ágalma (άγαλμα). Plural of ágalma is agálmata (αγάλματα). Being that the statue is meant to bring to mind divinity, it is treated with great homage, as though it were the God it represents. We have immense love and respect for our Gods, therefore, we treat such statues with great devotion and reverence; they are holy objects. The ágalma can also be seen as a votive offering dedicated to the God represented by the statue, as such, anything offered or dedicated to a God is sacred.

Historically, because we are not shy in our veneration of the Gods, there has been criticism from outside the religion, that we practice idolatry, the worship of images. Nonetheless, we are quite clear in our understanding: the statue represents the God, it is an analogue of the God. The God is not, somehow, "inside" the image, the statue is not itself a God. The Greek word for idolatry, eidohlolatría (εἰδωλολατρία), is a creation of ancient Christian writers [2]. We do not use the word, because it has no meaning in regards to our practices. But it must be understood that these very same writers, who espouse an exclusivistic religion, also believe that our Gods are not true divinities, which, of course is highly offensive to us who love the Gods.

Agálmata and Orphismós

The rituals of Orphismós call for particular effigies. One can do ritual without even one Ágalma, but ideally you would have a bare minimum of statuary. In particular, agálmata of all the Twelve Olympian Gods are used for the altar (usually not all at once, of course). Also, it is useful to have a small statue of the Naxian Sphinx, which represents the deified soul. Much more rarely, we use agálmata of the philosophers, Pythagóras (Πυθαγόρας), Sôkrátis (Sôcrates, Σωκράτης), and Plátôn (Plato, Πλάτων) in particular. Beyond this, any image of a God who might be dear to you is appropriate.

What to do if you do not have statues

There many statues needed for Orphic ritual. Consequently, it can be a considerable expense to obtain them all. Do so with delight and care, one by one. You do not need them immediately; we make do with what we have. If you cannot afford the statues, do not let this stop you from doing ritual. This author has participated in many rituals with no statues whatsoever, even while at Dælphí (Delphi, Δελφοί) with Athenian teachers. We improvise.

You could, potentially, use symbols to represent the Gods, such as a representation of a thunderbolt for Zefs (Ζεύς), of a drawing of a flame for Æstia (Hestia, Ἑστία). If you have artistic talent, this is an obvious employment your imagination, which, I'm sure, would be a great pleasure for the Gods we love.

If you cannot afford the statues that you need to do ritual, you can download this little page. There are images of all twelve Olympian Gods as well as an image of Diónysos (Dionysus, Διόνυσος). Each image is 2" tall and the file prints out on one sheet of paper. Paste the entire page to a sheet of poster-board and wait for the glue to dry. If you are able, spray the pasted images several times with a translucent varnish such as Krylon Acrylic Crystal Clear. Now that you have the images all pasted and varnished, wait until they are completely dry and carefully cut them out. You would treat these tiny images as though they are regular agálmata, keeping them in a respectful place; since they will be used for ritual, they are sacred. When you can afford to, you can one-by-one replace these with statues:

DOWNLOAD IMAGES TO USE AS AGÁLMATA

Matching Statues

There are several small sets of statues of the Olympians available online for purchase. If you want larger statues, it is difficult to find a complete set of the Olympians, all of which match. Nonetheless, you can visually create the illusion of a matching set by mounting smaller statues on marble bases, to raise the height to a medium level. Here is an excellent source of all kinds of bases: Bases 4 All Inc. : Genuine Marble Base, Wood & Glass Bases For Sculture, Glass Art & Rcongnition Industry.

The following procedure must be performed with care because certain mistakes can ruin the project. Nonetheless, this author has successfully mounted many statues; it is not so very difficult.

The procedure:

Purchase a small can of acetone and a 2-part resin epoxy.

One or more holes are drilled in the bottom of the statue, with matching holes in the top of the marble, being careful not to break through the opposite side of the base. A length of brass rod is carefully cut to place in the matching holes. Epoxy is applied inside all the holes, easing the brass in place, releasing any captive air, and joining the statue to the base with the brass rod inside. If this procedure is done carefully, a fully professional mounting can be accomplished. Excess epoxy can be removed with acetone before the epoxy has set (being extremely careful; acetone is highly flammable).

The Care of Agálmata

Because the statues represent divinity, to own them is not casual, but is a responsibility. They are very beautiful, but they should not be used as mere decoration for our homes, except by serendipity. Ideally, agálmata may be venerated in a shrine, a place of honor, until they are needed for the altar. If possible, this place of honor should be kept away from the eyes of visitors who do not understand our religion. Consider actually storing the statues, wrapped up in a drawer or closet, until they are required for use; by doing this, you will not only reserve the agálmata for the eyes of practitioners, but it will be much easier to keep the statues clean.

Cleaning AgálmataAgálmata should be kept free of dust and clean, within reason. One method is to wash the statue of each Olympian as their zodiacal month commences, or more frequently, if possible. The area around shrines should also be kept clean. Pour water or khǽrnips (chernips, χέρνιψ. Consecrated water) over the agálmata and carefully wipe dry. Q-Tips are helpful for the crevices found in some of the more intricate statues. If your statues are exposed to much smoke from resin incense, you will have difficulty removing the deposit which can settle on them. Soap and water will not remove most gums and resins; they are not water-soluble, or only partially so. Carefully try things like alcohol or orange-rind cleaners. Acetone will melt some statues.

There is a extremely powerful cleaner on the market which I highly recommend for images constructed of the most common resin-castings. This cleaner is so powerful, however, that I recommend trying it only on a small hidden section of the statue before attempting to clean the entire sculpture. It has the potential of removing paint from a statue. You should be extremely careful using this cleaner on anything made of bronze or copper; it has a strong reaction to some bronzes, deteriorating the surface and almost instantly make it turn a greenish blue (you can "antique" some types of bronze with this cleaner). The cleaner is called Challenger PC-737. The ingredients are proprietary but it is a strong alkaline detergent that includes potassium hydroxide. Place the statue in a sink and spray the PC-737 all over it. Let it rest about a minute and rinse with hot water. Amazingly, all the resin will simply wash away, usually with just one application.

For statues that you are afraid to use Challenger PC-737, try various other cleaners. Some of the polishes for marble will also remove resin build-up. One such polish is Renaissance Micro-Crystalline Wax Polish, typically used for statues made of marble, soapstone, alabaster, and others. The polish will remove most of the resin and will also give a beautiful luster to the ágalma.

ANCIENT QUOTATIONS ON THE USE OF IMAGES

Porphýrios (Porphyry, Πορφύριος) defended the use of images:

"As the deity is of the nature of light, and dwells in an atmosphere of ethereal fire, and is invisible to sense that is busy about mortal life, He through translucent matter, as crystal or Parian marble or even ivory, led men on to the conception of his light, and through material gold to the discernment of the fire, and to his undefiled purity, because gold cannot be defiled.

On the other hand, black marble was used by many to show his invisibility; and they moulded their Gods in human form because the deity is rational, and made these beautiful, because in those is pure and perfect beauty;and in varieties of shape and age, of sitting and standing, and drapery; and some of them male, and some female, virgins, and youths, or married, to represent their diversity. Hence they assigned everything white to the Gods of heaven, ... " [3]

"But they have made the representation of Zeus in human form, because mind was that according to which he wrought, and by generative laws brought all things to completion; and he is seated, as indicating the steadfastness of his power: and his upper parts are bare, because he is manifested in the intellectual and the heavenly parts of the world; but his feet are clothed, because he is invisible in the things that lie hidden below. And he holds his sceptre in his left hand, because most close to that side of the body dwells the heart, the most commanding and intelligent organ: for the creative mind is the sovereign of the world. And in his right hand he holds forth either an eagle, because he is master of the Gods who traverse the air, as the eagle is master of the birds that fly aloft - or a victory, because he is himself victorious over all things." [4]

SOURCES OF ÁGALMA:

There are few sources of statues that cater specifically to those who practice Ællinismόs. Consequently, the typical sources are Neo-Pagan or Wiccan stores that sell such statues, but there are many others who sell statues, particularly on Ebay.

GLOSSARY

Ágalma (Gr. άγαλμα, ΑΓΑΛΜΑ) Ágalma is a cult-image or sacred statue; an ágalma can be seen as a votive offering dedicated to the God represented by the statue.

Agálmata - (Gr. αγάλματα, ΑΓΑΛΜΑΤΑ) Agálmata is the plural of ágalma.

Anáthima - (anathema; Gr. ἀνάθημα, ΑΝΑΘΗΜΑ. Noun.) Anáthima is the Greek word for a votive offering, a dedicatory gift set up, usually in a temple, in gratitude to a God. This gift is the fulfillment of a vow made to this God after a prayer-request has been answered. The anáthima can also be given ahead of time in hopes of the fulfillment of a prayer-request. The word anáthima was twisted by the Christians to mean a gift offered to evil, because the Christians vilified our Gods. Later, the word was used in the church to designate someone who had been condemned to eternal damnation. In truth, the anáthima is a beautiful thing, a gift of love for a God who had compassion for you.

Andriás – (Gr. ἀνδριάς, ΑΝΔΡΙΑΣ) image or statue of a man, as opposed to ἀγάλματα of the Gods.

Bretas - See Vrétas.

Household gods - Usually in ancient literature, the terminology household gods, is not actually referring to deities but to the agálmata, i.e. the statues of the Gods.

Xóanon - (Gr. ξόανον, ΞΟΑΝΟΝ. Noun.) wooden image; or more generally, image, statue.

Vrétas - (Bretas; Gr. βρέτας, ΒΡΕΤΑΣ. Noun.) wooden image of a God or of a man.

Zóhdion - (zôdion; Gr. ζῴδιον, ΖῼΔΙΟΝ. Plural ζῴδια) statuette. II. Astron., sign of the Zodiac. (Liddell & Scott)

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.

NOTES:

[1] Νόμοι Πλάτωνος 11.930e-931a, trans. Benjamin Jowett, 1892.

[2] The Liddell & Scott entry for ειδωλολατρία can be found amongst the definitions of εἰδωλόθυσία, where it will be noticed that the citations are all Biblical.

[3] Περὶ ἀγαλμάτων Πορφυρίου, ἀπόσπασμα 2, excerpt, translated by Edwin Hamilton Gifford.

[4] Ibid. Gifford, ἀπόσπασμα 3.

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, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) 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, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, 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.

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:

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

Transliteration of Ancient Greek

Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

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