Hellenismos: FAQ

What is Deipnon?  How is Deipnon determined?
How Is Deipnon Determined? by Melia
Deipnon by Melia
Get Hellenic Calendar Notifications maintained by Melia
Deipnon, Noumenia, and Agathos Daimon: Monthly Festivals by Elani Temperence
Hekate’s Deipnon according to Hellenion

What is a reconstructionist?  Is it different from a revivalist?Reconstruction or Revival? by Melia
The Beginner’s Guide to Hellensmos: Introduction by Elani Temperence
Living Hellenic Reconstructionism by Dave of Neokoroi
What Does Hellenic Revivalist Mean? by Lizzie Heffner

Do Hellenic Polytheists converse with gods?
Do Hellenic Polytheists converse with gods? by Melia
Prayer in Hellenismos by Kallimakos
Prayer Format anonymous (as far as I can tell)
The Power of Prayer/Reciprocity by Ruadhán J McElroy
My Practice and Worship of Lord Ares by an anonymous (as far as I can tell) devotee

Is it acceptable to offer a song to the gods and goddesses?
Music for the Gods by Melia
The Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos: Ritual and Sacrifice in Hellenismos by Elani Temperence
Ancient Hellenic Musical Instruments by Elani Temperence
Music in Rites. Some Thoughts about the Function of Music in Ancient Greek Cults by Jana Kubatzki

What is miasma?
What is miasma?  by Melia
The Basics of Miasma and Purification by TJ Alexander
What is and is not miasmic?  by Elani Temperence
Miasma, Katharmos, and Preparing for the Gods by Elani Temperence
A Little Rant on Miasma by Dver

Disclaimer: On the whole, Elani does a very good job explaining miasma.  However, menstruation (actively menstruating, anyway) does not cause miasma.  Contact with someone else’s menstrual blood or with spilled menstrual blood, however, does.

Is there a specific structure to follow when making offerings or devotions? Are there recommended rituals?
Honoring Artemis by Melia
A Hellenic-Style Ritual by Jason Mankey
The Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos: Ritual and Sacrifice in Hellenismos by Elani Temperence
Theogamia Rite by Hearthstone
My Practice and Worship of Lord Ares by Anonymous (as far as I can tell)

In ancient Greece, they placed a coin, called an obol, in a person’s mouth when they died as a way to pay for the ferry.  What coin should be used in this day and age?
Charon’s Obol by Melia
Charon’s Obol and Other Coins in Ancient Funerary Practice by Susan T. Stevens
Charon’s Myth in Relation to Classical Athenian Funeral Practice by MH
The Final Journey: Crossing the Styx by Renee O’Brien
Old Funeral Customs: Placing Coins on the Eyes of the Dead by Stillinger Family Funeral Home (presumably a place where they might be more willing to help you organize a Hellenic funeral)

How should one dispose of offerings?
How Should One Dispose of Offerings?  by Melia
Proper Care of Offerings to the Gods by Kallimakhos
How to Offer to the Gods by Bekah Evie Bel
Untitled by Artistic-Annhilation
Offerings  by Adana

How many gods are there?  How many can I worship?
How Many Gods?  by Melia
7 Degrees of Kevin… Apollon and the Titans by Melia

Is Hellenism about personal glory? It is about using gods and magic for your own ends and becoming more powerful?
Why Hellenismos? by Melia
Kleos: Death and Glory by Van Bryan
Kharis (Χάρις): Our Relationship with the Gods by Elani Temperence
Pillars of Hellenismos by Jay Alexander (I’m not actually certain that this is his blog, but those are the pillars that he identified, so…)
Practical Xenia by Elani Temperence

Is there a list of holidays or days that each god is celebrated?
The Calendar by Melia
Noumenia Thesmophorios by Melia
Upcoming Festivals by Melia
2019 Hellenion Calendar by Hellenion
Hellenic Festival Year by Elani Temperence


Why Hellenismos?

I was a polytheist before I became a Hellenic polytheist, and I had been varying flavors of pagan before I really came to understand and embrace polytheism. For me, the reason for Hellenismos is Apollon. When He came into my life, I underwent a paradigm shift from fairly eclectic (but mainly Welsh and Scandinavian based) polytheism to a distinctly Hellenic practice.

It seems to be a fairly common story to hear that many Hellenists were led into the religion by a particular deity who then introduced them (literally and metaphorically) to the rest of the pantheon. The Greeks don’t seem to work alone.

I shifted my practice from the eclectic mishmash that it had been to a Hellenic paradigm out of respect for Apollon. This led to growth and learning on my part as I learned how and what to do to please Him and the other gods that became a part of my life in the years that followed. That is the purpose of this religion – to form and maintain relationships with the divine that are both personally fulfilling and pleasing to the gods.

We do not pray or make offerings for personal power or glory, nor do we do what we do so that the gods will give us things or make things easier for us. There is nothing wrong with striving for personal glory, but you do this by bettering yourself, working hard, and sacrificing for others and for the common good. This is not something that is given by the gods. If anything, they will only give you challenges to overcome, but whether you can overcome those challenges and rise to glory all depends on your personal strength – often of mind, body, and character. Sometimes they do give us things and make things easier for us, but sometimes they don’t. It’s not something that we should ever expect. What they do is on their time and with their own purposes in mind.

When their hands are clearly at work in something in our lives, that is a beautiful surprise that we should be thankful for, one that reinforces the idea that our relationships are two-sided, and that we have not been forgotten. It is both our duty and our honor to do our part to maintain these relationships without thought for what one might get in return.

Kharis and xenia are two of the cornerstones of Hellenimsos, and these relate both to the way we treat the gods and the way we treat other people. Xenia is easier to define – it means hospitality. When we make offerings to the gods, we are not only building kharis, but we are also demonstrating or offering xenia. Kharis is sometimes defined as the relationship itself, or religious reciprocity, but it is really many things, perhaps the very definition of a good relationship – it’s beauty and gratitude, kindness and grace, good will and attraction, and so much more. You can spend a lifetime building, maintaining, and exploring kharis.

How Many Gods?

There are hundreds if not thousands of gods (including titans and nymphs) in the Hellenic pantheon alone, and there are more distinct and individual gods outside of this pantheon. While it is simply not possible to worship every god, you can worship as many as you wish, and you ought to at least show respect for the gods that you don’t actively worship.

While some people limit their worship to just one god that they feel closest to and simply show respect for the others, this is by no means necessary, encouraged, or required. The only limit to the number of gods you can worship is your time and energy, and the gods that you worship might change over time. That is ok. Gods, just like people, come in and out of our lives. Only a special few stick around long term, for the rest of our lives if we’re really lucky.

In general, there is no pair of gods where worship is mutually exclusive. Any stories of conflict in mythology do not have an impact on your ability to worship the gods on both sides of a conflict. There are some people who may have personal taboos imposed upon them which would require them to limit their worship of a particular god, but this is not the norm.

The idea that there are twelve Olympian gods and who those gods are has no impact on who you should worship. There is no requirement to worship all 12-13 Olympians, nor must you limit yourself to 12-13 Olympians. You can worship any god you like for any reason that you have.

How Should One Dispose of Offerings?

I generally wait at least 24 hours before disposing of any offerings. This, of course, depends on your lifestyle. When I am traveling, I dispose of any offerings before I check out of my hotel in the morning, for example, even if I only made the offering the night before. Some people prefer to be rather ceremonial in their disposal, but I do not believe that this is necessary. The offering itself is what was important, and by the time you are ready to dispose of it, the gods have already taken from it whatever it was that they wanted. It is now just an empty shell of what it once was, or in other words, it’s just garbage.

Traditionally, offerings were disposed of once a month rather than after 24 hours. However, most people cannot stand to wait until Hekate’s Deipnon to clean something that may have completely desiccated or started growing mold. The 24 hour window is PCPG, but it’s not the outside limit. I will often leave offerings on the shrine until I need to use the offering bowl for a new offering unless there is something problematic, like mold. 24 hours is the minimum safe window of time to give the gods rather than risk taking away an offering before they have finished with it.

When you give a perishable offering to the gods (food, libation, or flowers), and the offering is not burnt, it will eventually rot if left on your shrine. Disposal is necessary. However, imagine it this way. You have invited a god to dinner, and now they have left. Whatever is left on the plate or in the cup is what they did not consume, did not want. It is perfectly acceptable to throw this refuse into the garbage or into the garbage disposal. There is no special treatment necessary. The gods have already taken whatever part of what you offered it was that they wanted. Now, you just need to clean up after them.

When we are able to burn offerings, this is not an issue. Votive offerings and perishable offerings alike may be burned, but once you put the fire out, you do not need to worry about the ashes. They become part of whatever fire pit you used. The detritus is not sacred.

Charon’s Obol

In antiquity, it was a practice (though not a particularly common one) to place an obol (a low denomination of regularly used currency) with the body (either in the mouth or over the eyes) to pay Charon to ferry the soul across the river Styx upon arrival to the underworld. This practice is commonly referred to in mythology, but it has far less archaeological evidence than one might expect.

For those dealing with the death of a loved one or planning for their own futures, how to continue this practice today is a frequently brought up topic of discussion. While the practice doesn’t seem to be actually required (based on archaeological evidence, there would be a whole lot of souls that never made it across the river if it were), some people either like the practice or would prefer to be safe rather than sorry.

Since the obol was not actually worth very much, many people use low value coins of the currency used where they live. Others with larger disposable incomes choose to purchase ancient coins from reputable dealers. One thing I would not recommend choosing, however, would be a museum replica of an ancient coin. In my opinion, that would be like offering counterfeit money. What you offer should be something that has or at least at one point had value as legal tender.

Another option for people who fear that their loved ones may not honor a request of this nature would be to perform an offering ritual to Charon in advance. If you plan to be buried and you buy your plot in advance, you could bury a coin next to where you body will be buried (but not close enough that it will be dug up when they go to bury your body) and pray to Charon to let him know that this coin is intended to pay your passage. If your body will be disposed of in another way, you could still do much the same thing just burying your coin in a different place where it is unlikely to be disturbed. Perhaps at the grave of an ancestor?

This, the soul’s journey after death and the gods and practices involved, is a very intriguing topic, and Apollon has his connections to this process as well. If you are interested in exploring this further for the devotional, I have an epithet to suggest. Chresterios is an epithet of Apollon used mainly in Phrygia, and under this epithet he is the god who protects the deceased and brings his wrath upon those who violate tombs.

Whatever your view of Charon’s obol, there are no hard and fast rules. What you do is your personal decision, and it is between you and the gods.

What is miasma?

Miasma is spiritual pollution. It is ritual impurity. It is that which inhibits your connection to the gods.

Miasma is a normal and natural part of living life, of being mortal. Everyone accumulates miasma as they go about living their life – there is no moral judgement connected to miasma.

Miasma is caused by any association or contact with both birth and death as well as illness, physical pain, bodily fluids (like blood, sweat, and even tears), and anything that just makes you feel dirty. What specifically leads to miasma is a hotly debated topic, and there are a lot of things that are widely agreed upon and a few that are continually contested (like menstrual blood). It is my belief that someone who is actively menstruating is not a source of miasma, but touching that blood, like any blood, is a source of miasma. So, as long as the blood is contained within whatever receptacle is used for collecting it, there is no miasma. However, washing or changing this receptacle, cleaning any spills, and coming into contact with someone else’s blood all do cause miasma. In my opinion, someone who suffers from chronic illness (both physical or mental), is not in a chronic state of miasma. This person still has a “baseline normal” – illness beyond that baseline would attract miasma. When in doubt, purify.

Cause is used very loosely here. We could also consider words like produce and attract. Miasma exists. It is a force within nature that sticks to people. There are normal and natural things that we do that make us stickier, if that makes sense. When we cleanse ourselves, when we purify ourselves, when we perform katharmos rituals, we are removing the miasma that has stuck to us and cleaning away what made us stickier than usual. Being human makes us sticky, and we can never not be sticky at all.

Miasma is the reason that purification and cleansing practices are so important. Not only do you want to be clean every day, but you also want to be both physically and spiritually clean before you pray and make offerings to the gods. Cleansing can be as simple as washing your hands and face with running water. Khernips is lustral water that is used for cleansing, and there are a variety of ways to make it. Sprinkling this around your shrine, and using it to wash your hands and face will also relieve you of miasma for the time being.

Music for the Gods

I like to pray with song. I have been working on writing songs for the gods that I worship regularly, but it can be a painfully slow process sometimes. The muses do not work on our schedules. Some of my songs have been published, and while I am not a fantastic singer, and not a soloist by any stretch of the imagination, I am willing to make some recordings in order to help those of you that would like to sing my songs yourself. In some cases, I have written the lyrics and music myself, in some cases I have collaborated with others, and in other cases I have set new words to existing music.

For Hestia, I set the Homeric Hymn to Hestia (trans. Shelmerdine) to Rachmaninov’s Bogoro Ditse Devo. This was published in First and Last, a devotional anthology edited by Terrence P. Ward. It is a choral piece in four parts. The alto line contains the entire hymn, but when I first began singing this, I was singing soprano, so I tend to sing the soprano part when I pray. (Please forgive me – I’m singing from memory and recording on my laptop.) You can listen to it here.

This song for Apollon was the first choral piece I ever wrote and the first time I ever wrote my own sheet music. A friend did have to help me fix it after (he’s fixed or helped to arrange most of my sheet music), but this felt like something entirely new for me to be doing. It was written in 2011. The sheet music was published in With Lyre and Bow, a devotional anthology edited by Jennifer Lawrence. What I’ve uploaded for you is the version that I sing by myself, not the choral version that you can see in the book.

This song that I wrote for Hermes is perhaps my favorite one of them all. It doesn’t have sheet music because the timing is too complex for anyone I know to write. I wrote it over a few weeks at the end of 2013 and into 2014.

For Artemis, I had a dream one night (in maybe 2005) and woke up and immediately sent an e-mail to my choirmaster (Raven Kaldera – Asphodel Pagan Choir). The email was mostly full of nonsense about how the song in my head sounded like the pounding of horses’ hooves but that I couldn’t make anything even remotely like what I heard in my head come out of my mouth. It also had a bunch of epithets, some verses from Seneca and other classical writers, and a few random verses. Raven was kind enough to take my middle of the night brain blather and turn it into an actual song. He continues to give me credit for writing this song, but I do believe it is more his creation than mine. I will give you a link to a (bad) recording, but it is meant to be sung by a group (though it is a unison piece), and I actually have no idea of the correct pronunciation for some of the epithets and am fairly sure that I have been pronouncing them wrong for years. Sadly, I do have a recording of the choir singing this (with guitar accompaniment), but I don’t have permission to post it on the Internet, so I’ll do my best on my own. I can share the sheet music in pdf form if you’re interested. Just drop me an email (pythioumelissa at gmail). Free for all contributors to the devotional… kidding!) The recording is here.

A friend adapted a prayer that I wrote to be a song for Leto, but we were still working on it when he moved away, and alas, I don’t have permission to share what we did end up with. A song for Leto is definitely still on my to-do list. Have you written one? Soundcloud has been pretty easy to use even if it is daunting to think that you’ll all hear me singing… I’d love it if any of you who have written songs for the gods would share your work in the comments.

For Aphrodite, I reworded Randall Thompson’s Alleluia. As his music is still under copyright, I cannot share it with you here, but if you have the sheet music (which can be purchased fairly easily), it is easy enough to substitute. A-lle-lu-ia becomes A-phro-di-te.

The song that I put together for the muses was done at about the same time as the one for Hestia, and it really is a companion piece. I had just graduated from university in 2004, and while at university, I had been introduced to two Rachmaninov pieces that the choir director then deemed too difficult but that I loved. I set Shelmerdine’s translation of Homer’s Hymn to Apollo and the Muses to Rachmaninov’s Slava. The pagan choir that I had joined also deemed this song too difficult, and we never performed it, but I remain hopeful even if I now live on the other side of the world. The song is in four parts, but it does split into nine (maybe it was 11) part harmony at some point. The alto line has the entire hymn, and I will do my best to sing that for you. It is my most used prayer to the muses. I do have the sheet music for this – just e-mail me if you’d like to have it.

For Juno, I wrote a wedding song. It was published in Queen of Olympos, a devotional anthology edited by Lykeia. This was written in three parts, and I’ll do my best to sing one of them from memory, so it’s probably a little off from the sheet music, but if you can’t read sheet music… have you figured out that I’m not a real musician yet? Again, I collaborated with Raven Kaldera on this, and I’m pretty sure that at times I’m singing some of my original music and not what was published, so apologies for that. This is the folk process, right? Here is the recording.

I wrote a choral piece for Nanna (in 2013), but this one needs to be sung by a choir, and there is no way that I can even attempt to sing it by myself. I will upload a midi file, and you can drop me an email if you are interested in a pdf of the sheet music. It has never been performed, and I wrote this song in thanks to her, so if you have a choir that would be willing to sing it, please do. If you do, I’d love to see a video or hear a rough recording.

I wrote this song for Skaði in 2007 over the course of several nights driving to graduate school. There is no sheet music, but the lyrics were published in a devotional. However, I don’t even know the title of the book. If you have seen this before, please leave me a note in the comments telling me the name of the book – I would love to see the rest of the devotional.

So, now that I’ve truly bared my soul (and my voice) to you, I hope this was helpful. I also hope more of us will write music for the gods and share it with each other. Writing music is both an offering and a service, both to the gods and to our community.