Worship & Practice

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  • Hellenic Pagan worship consists primarily of Sacrifice, Contest and Prayer, along with a pious life. Divination also plays a large role in Hellenic worship, and while not emphasized as much as in some other Pagan religions, magic does have its place for many Hellenes as well.

    Sacrifice consists of giving something to the gods in exchange for their blessing. Just as one gives time and does favors for a good friend, one should give to the gods. The gods do not truly "need" anything we offer them, but when the offerings are made out of love they are enjoyed nonetheless, and help to ensure a good relationship of mutual gift-giving with them. While animal sacrifice was popular in ancient times, today it is generally considered to be culturally obsolete and many modern practitioners find it morally reprehensible (as did many ancient practitioners, particular those belonging to the Pythagorean and Orphic mystery traditions). Animal sacrifice was essentially a communal meal; people raised their own animals and when they offered them to the gods they were roasted and eaten with the rest of the community. This not only brought the community together, but ensured (in a time before refrigeration and preservation) that the meat did not go to waste. Today most of us purchase our meats and other foods. Bloodless offerings, thusly, are the most common offerings today. As in ancient times, these consist of incense, fruits and grains, parts of things we have earned, as well as libations of olive oil, wine, milk and honey. Donations of time or effort to worthy causes may also be considered an appropriate sacrifice in some conditions.

    Sacred contests were very important to ancient worship. People gathered to compete in sporting events as well as in public debate, poetry, song and drama. By offering up their best efforts, people honored the gifts and talents that were bestowed to them by the gods. Due to the small size of Hellenism today, large contests are difficult to hold, but smaller contests, private efforts, and even participation in contests and "secular" personal improvement pursuits (education, lessons or contests in a particular art or skill, etc) are often substituted. By standing up and exercising our higher functions, we allow the divine potential within us to grow.

    Prayer, chant and meditation, as in many religious traditions, have always been central to Hellenism. Among the classic prayers, chants and songs recited to the gods are the Homeric and Orphic Hymns. Modern or personal prayers and hymns are often used as well. Reading classic myth (generally interpreted symbolically) and important Hellenic works such as The Odyssey & Illiad, Works & Days and Theogony are also important. While none of these texts are seen as "the word of the gods," they are often seen as inspired or at least the work of very wise people and thus, while often debated, are not taken lightly. Along these lines philosophy is also central to Hellenism, as an exercise of the mind (one of the most precious and often misused gifts bestowed upon humanity).

    Divination is another practice that has remained important in Hellenism, ahtough not as central as Sacrifice and Prayer. Divination is essentially a variety of techniques used to attain divine revelation. Like prayer, it is a way to communicate with the gods, particularly to learn their will, the role of fate in our lives, or to connect us with our own higher selves. Ancient Hellenic methods of divination are of course the most appropriate and these include Astrology, The Limyran Oracle, Haruspicy and scrying/gazing. Modern and non-Hellenic methods of divination, such as Tarot and Geomancy, are appropriate modern additions. Other forms of magic are not as emphasized in Hellenism, though are often practiced by Hellenes. Modern and non-hellenic spiritual practices are often used by Hellenes as well, though they are of course recognized as personal and modern additions.

    A Suggested Daily Worship & Practice Routine

  • Sacrifice and pray to your personal and household deities, as well as any deities who are due special homage on that day.
  • Meditate for at least 15 minutes, this clears and focuses the mind and helps you to remain in a spiritual mode, more connected to the gods, throughout the day.
  • Try to spend some free time, or at least a few minutes before bed, reading sacred writings (such as mythology or philosophical works) or practicing an art such as Astrology or Tarot.
  • If you achieve or receive something especially good (this includes your meals!), share it with the deity you feel bestowed it upon you and give thanks, if you fail in something or misfortune occurs, seek guidance (and perhaps rectify your relationship with) the deity whom you feel is most connected to that area of life.
  • Reflect on whether or not you are pleased with the actions you have taken that day, if you are not pleased then think of active ways to create positive change.

    Your Temple

    While sacred activities can occur in any space, having a special place where you regularly worship and practice can help you to remain focussed; sharing your space can become a holy act in and of itself as well. Few of us have the ability to erect or visit large dedicated temples, but your house is your temple and you can set up shrines to your personal deities at home.

    Depending on the space you have available, you might set aside an entire room, a small table or a few corners in a couple of rooms. Having an altar or shrine to multiple deities is perfectly acceptable, although if you have the space, dedicated altars can be nice. Each altar should house a symbol or image related to the deitie/s being honored there (this can be a statue, picture or a symbolic object), a plate or bowl for offerings, a candle or oil lamp and an incense burner--add any other items you feel are appropriate. Garden sanctuaries can be nice as well if you have the available space outdoors, and if you are seriously lacking in space you can even set sacred items on a shelf.

    You can spend as little as nothing, or as much as you like. You are effectively making your home your temple. When the need arises, you will be able to worship at the appropriate altars and as you go about your daily activities, you will be constantly reminded of the gods' presence. Having a bowl of khernips (Greek holy water) near the front entrance can be a nice touch to help you and your friends clear themselves of miasma and negative energy before entering.