FOTO: Zefs with Amátheia & Faun by Pietro Bernini. Creative Commons 2.5, 2.0, 1.0. Attribution: I, Peter80



The Orphic Hymns are central to the rituals of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion. After the title of almost every hymn, the text calls for a particular incense-offering. One of these offerings is called mánna (μάννα, ΜΑΝΝΑ). Occasionally another word is found: livanománna, lívanos (frankincense; Gr. λίβᾰνος) + mánna. But what is mánna? There is considerable confusion regarding this word.

1) Mánna is defined as powder or granules. Livanománna (libanomanna; Gr. λῐβᾰνομάννα) is translated as powdered frankincense. [1]

2) Mánna sometimes refers to the manna of the Hebrews from Exodus. See note [1], def. ii.

3) Mánna is the sweet sap of Fraxinus ornus, the Flowering Ash or Ash Manna tree. [2] The Nymphs of this tree are called Mælíai (Meliae; Gr. Μελίαι); they are called ash-nymphs [3] because mælía (melia; Gr. μελία) is the word for the ash tree. [4] The name Mælíai (and the word mælía) is derived from mǽli (meli; Gr. μέλῐ), which is honey [5]. A number of sources define mǽli as: manna, sweet gum collected from various trees such as the Ash Manna. [6] The ash tree (and its sap) is sacred to Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) because the Mælíai, the ash-nymphs, were given the task of raising him when he was an infant.

"But thee, O Zeus, the companions of the Cyrbantes took to their arms, even the Dictaean Meliae, and Adrasteia laid thee to rest in a cradle of gold, and thou didst suck the rich teat of the she-goat Amaltheia, and thereto eat the sweet honey-comb." [7]

4) Sometimes the word mǽli (meli; Gr. μέλι) is used to refer to mánna. [8] Mǽli is honey.

What Should Be Used When Mánna is Called For?

Since it is unclear exactly what mánna was, the choice is left to the discretion of the worshiper. In any case, the various offerings mentioned in the Orphic Hymns are actually suggestions rather than rules. Many people assume that mánna is frankincense, so, for them frankincense is satisfactory. If not for you, it seems that there is a connection between mánna and sweet things, so something perceived as sweet could be substituted. And there are some, as mentioned, who believe that mánna is a resin from the Ash tree. There is a therapeutic creme which has recently come to market which claims as its main ingredient ash-mánna and there is talk online that mánna is used in some Middle Eastern cuisines and that it is produced in Sicily for the pharmaceutical industry. There are some delicacies in Europe which include mánna, but this author cannot find a source. If someone is aware of a source for mánna, it would be greatly appreciated if the information was shared; perhaps a quantity could be obtained and made available: inquire.hellenicgods@gmail.com.

Mánna and the Orphic Hymns

Mánna is called for in the Orphic Hymns fourteen times, sometimes alone and sometimes together with frankincense (lívanon; Gr. λίβανον) and once with storax. The following hymns call for mánna:

69. Ærinýæs [The Furies; Gr. Ἐρινύες] (mánna + storax)

34. Apóllohn [Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων]

36. Ártæmis [Artemis or Diana; Gr. Ἄρτεμις]

67. Asklipiós [Asclepius or Esculapius; Gr. Ἀσκληπιός]

8. Ílios [Helios or the Sun; Gr. Ἥλιος] (livanománna)

78. Ióhs [Ios or Aurora or Dawn; Gr. Ἠώς]

66. Íphaistos [Hephaestus or Vulcan; Gr. Ἥφαιστος] (livanománna)

46. Liknítis [Liknitus Bacchus; Gr. Λικνίτης]

33. Níki [Nike or Victory; Gr. Νίκη]

54. Seilinós, Sátyros, Vákhai [Silenus, Satyrus, and the Priestesses of Bacchus; Gr. Σειληνός, Σάτυρος, Βάκχαι]

22. Thálassa [The Sea; Gr. Θάλασσα] (livanománna)

87. Thánatos [Death; Gr. Θάνατος]

68. Yyeia [Hygeia or Health; Gr. Ὑγεία]

20. Zefs Astrapaios [Zeus, Author of Lightning; Gr. Διὸς Ἀστραπαίος] (livanománna)

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.


A list of abbreviations used in the glossary can be found on this page: GLOSSARY HOME PAGE.

[1] μάννᾰ, ἡ, μάννα λιβάνου frankincense powder or granules, Dsc.1.68.6; but μ. λιβανωτοῦ gum of λίβανος, Aen.Tact.35; μ. alone, of the powder, Hp.Art.36, Epid.2.2.18, Antyll. ap.Orib.7.21.8, Gal.12.722; = λιβάνου τὸ λεπτόν, AB108. II. μάννα, τό, = Hebr. mān, manna, LXX Ex.16.35 (v.l. μάν), Nu.11.6, al., cf. J.AJ3.1.6. (L&S p. 1079, right column)

[2] "a sweetish exudation from a species of ash, Fraxinus ornus, of southern Europe, used as a mild laxative; also, a similar product obtained from other plants." (The New Century Dictionary Vol. Two, Collier, 1944, p. 1014) This definition of the word manna can be found in numerous sources. Here is the entire entry, from the beginning:

man-na (man' ä), n. [L. ,Gr. μάννα, <Heb. mān.] The food miraculously supplied the children of Israel in the wilderness (see Ex. xvi. 14-36); hence, divine or spiritual food; also, anything likened to the manna of the Israelites, as mental sustenance (as, "To some coffee-house I stray For news, the manna of a day": M. Green's "The Spleen"); in phar., a sweetish exudation from a species of ash, Fraxinus ornus, of southern Europe, used as a mild laxative; also, a similar product obtained from other plants.

[3] Μελίαι, αἱ, a race of nymphs said to have sprung from the spot of earth on which fell the blood of Uranus, Hes. Th.187, Call. Jov.47, etc. (The name implies ash-nymphs.) (L&S p. 1097, left column)

[4] μελία, Ep. μελίη, ἡ, manna ash, Fraxinus Ornus, Il.13.178, 16.767, Musae. Fr.5 D., S. Fr.759, Thphr. HP3.11.3, etc.; τρίτον ἄλλο γένος . . ἐκ μελιᾶν Hes. Op.145. II. ashen spear, Il.19.390, 22.225, etc. (L&S p. 1097, left column)

[5] μέλῐ, τό, gen. ῐτος, etc.; dat. μέλι; gen. pl. μελίτων:—honey. 2. in comparisons, of anything sweet, esp. of eloquence. II. sweet gum collected from certain trees. (Cf. Goth. milip, Lat. mel.) (L&S p. 1097, left column, edited for simplicity)

[6] See definition II. in Note 5.

[7] Kallímakhos (Callimachus; Gr. Καλλίμαχος) Hymn I: To Zefs 45, trans. A.W. Mair, 1921, in the publication entitled Callimachus and Lycophron, Loeb Classical Library, London: William Heinemann/New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, pp. 41-43.

[8] μέλῐ, τό, gen. ῐτος:—honey; said to be made from the palm (φοῖνιξ). 2. in comparisons, of anything sweet, esp. of eloquence. II. sweet gum collected from certain trees, manna. (L&S p. 1097, left column, edited for simplicity)

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.

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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