I've always been a little intrigued with the two-time creation of humanity in Hellenic mythology. While Christianity's end of humanity by way of deluge is much more well-known, and everyone knows about Noah and his ark, humanity in Hellenic mythology also ended and was revived. Story time:


After the Titanomachy--the war in which the Olympic Gods took control from the elder generation of Gods, the Titans--ended, Zeus claimed His throne as rightful King to the Deathless Ones. Humanity did not yet exist. While most Titans were locked away in Tartarus by Zeus, the Titans Prometheus and Epimetheus--who were brothers--had been either neutral or on the side of Zeus during the Titan War and were therefor given a task. Prometheus was given the task of creating man and Epimetheus was ordered to give good qualities to all creatures of earth. So did Prometheus and Epimetheus. Prometheus shaped man out of clay and Athena breathed life into him. Epimetheus spread swiftness, cunning, fur and wings but ran out of gifts when he came to man. Prometheus remedied the situation by allowing men to walk upright and gave them fire.

It soon became apparent that Prometheus loved man more than the Olympians. When Zeus decreed that man must give sacrifice to the Deathless Ones, Prometheus stood ready to aid humanity. He butchered an animal and divided it into piles; the bones and fat formed one of them, the good meat wrapped in the hide of the animal, the other. Zeus vowed that he would abide by the choice of sacrifice He made now, and picked the tasty looking pile of bones. Zeus was angered but could not take back his vow: from that point on, the Gods would get the fat and the bones from a sacrificed animal. The humans were entitled to the meat and the hide. What He could take back was the gift of fire, and this He did.

Mankind suffered greatly without fire and Prometheus traveled either to the sun or Olympus to reclaim fire for his beloved mankind. This, of course, angered Zeus even further and so He devised a plan. First, He imprisoned Prometheus. He ordered Hermes to tie Prometheus to a mountain and had a giant eagle come every day to eat his liver. As an immortal, Prometheus' liver grew back over night so his torment was endless. Before Prometheus had been taken prisoner, however, he had told his brother Epimetheus never to accept a gift from Zeus, as Zeus' wrath would undoubtedly also extend to the mortal race He had created.

And Zeus, indeed, was not done with His punishment. After imprisoning Prometheus, Zeus assembled the Theoi. He told Hēphaistos to fashion a woman out of water and clay. Hēphaistos did and brought the statue before Zeus. Zeus then asked Aphrodite to bless the woman with a beauteous face and feminine whiles. He asked Athena to dress her modestly and give her the ability to weave and craft, Demeter taught her to tend the garden. From Apollon, she received the ability to make music and sing. All Gods gave her treacherous gifts, including Hera, who made her curious, and Hermes, who made her cunning and quick of the tongue. Then, Zeus named her Pandôra (Πανδωρα), All-Giving, and breathed life into her. He then bade Hermes to deliver her to Epimetheus, along with a vase (pithos) Pandôra was never allowed to open.

Epimetheus had been warned by Prometheus never to open or accept a gift from Zeus, but he laid eyes on Pandôra's beauty and fell in love too deeply to reject her. He took her into his home amongst men and wedded her right away. Pandôra loved Epimetheus, because he was a good man and good husband. She worked tirelessly to please him and helped him keep the home. Yet, she found herself drawn to the pithos she was told never to open. Her eyes would wander to it constantly and Hera's gift eventually prevented her from holding to her promise.

On a day when Epimetheus was away from the home, Pandôra decided to risk a sneak peak at the contents she had fantasized about so often. She pulled the lid off of the pithos and out flew dark spirits of disease, death and the destruction of humanity. Pandôra hastened to seal the jar but managed to trap only Hope (Elpis)--by Zeus' decree or by mere accident.

Mankind was now plagued with illness, with failing crops, with all that makes life hard. But they had Hope and soon, Pyrrha (Fire) was born to Epimetheus and Pandôra. Prometheus had a son, Deukalion, with Pronoia, an Okeanid nymph of Mount Parnassos in Phokis. They lived in the time of the Bronze Race of Man, a corrupt age in which the Gods were rarely worshipped. Zeus was angered by their hubris and decided to end this race of man. He sent a great deluge, killing everyone but Deukalion and Pyrrha, who were warned of the flood by Prometheus. They did not build a boat, but clung to a chest, eventually sailing to the mountain peaks of Parnassos. 

Once Zeus caused the water to recede, Deukalion and Pyrrha travelled to the oracle of Delphi and begged to learn how they could bring back mankind. They were told that they needed to cast the bones of their mother over their shoulders, and they understood that they needed to pick up stoned and toss them, because Gaia, the earth, is everyone's mother. Where the pebbles landed, humans rose from the earth. Deukalion created the men and Pyrrha the women, and from their efforts, humankind once more arose to populate the earth.

There are more flood myths in Hellenic mythology--Philemon and Baucis, for example--but none as all-consuming as this one, sent by Zeus. This severe example acts as a warning to mankind: the ultimate display of destructive power by the Gods should mankind disobey Them. In this case, human kind was unethical, did not give to the Gods, and overstepped their bounds. Autochthonous births (αὐτός χθών, 'earth-born') are also well-known in Hellenic mythology. Many ancient Hellenic kings traced their line back to Gaia in this way. These two themes give us an ethical standard to live up to, explain our place in the universe, and connect us to the divine in a beautiful and enlightening way. These are the major reasons why I enjoy this myth so much.

The Greek Herald has put together a list of five facts you need to know about music in Ancient Hellas, so I thought I'd share! 


1. Music as a gift of the Gods:

In Ancient Hellas, music was seen as a gift of the Gods and they considered that music could have a valuable effect on both body and mind of the listener.

The invention of musical instruments was attributed to specific deities including the lyre to Hermes, the flute to Athena and the panpipes to Pan.


2. Music and Education:

According to historical evidence, Hellenes started studying the theory of music from the 6th century BC. The earliest surviving text on music is the Harmonic Elements of Aristoxenos, which was written in the 4th century BC.

Music developed into an important element in the studies of philosophy by the followers of Pythagoras, the Hellenic philosopher and mathematician, who supposed that music was a mathematical expression.


3. The first school of musical education:

According to Plato, the first school of musical education was founded from the people of Crete followed by the music schools of Athens, where students were taught to sing and play the lyre. In Ancient Hellas, they believed that music taught order and discipline while allowing the educated to appreciate better the musical performance.


4. Music and Religion:

Music was associated with religious occasions in Hellenic cities including the Panathenaia and the Dionysia festivals in Athens.

Music contests in athletic competitions had a religious nature in honour of the Gods and the earliest such competitions were held in Argos, Paros and Sparta.


5. Musicians and Social Class:

The musicians of Hellas, also known as the makers of songs or melopoioi, were often regarded as composers and lyricists of the music they performed.

In Ancient Hellas, musicians had an elevated society status, indicated from robes and their presence on the lists of the royal household.

It's been a while since the last constellation! The constellation Leo is one of the most recognizable in the sky, and is obviously one of the constellations tied to the zodiac. Not surprisingly, it is therefor also tied to Hēraklēs.

The lion was considered the King of Beasts by the ancient Hellenic writers. For this reason, Hyginus--our primary source of ancient information on constellations--describes the constellation almost entirely as such, mentioning Hēraklēs in passing only:

"He is said to have been put among the stars because he is considered the king of beasts. Some writers add that Hercules’ first Labor was with him and that he killed him, unarmed. Pisandrus and many others have written about this. " [II.24]

The firs labour of Hēraklēs is, of course, to slay the Nemean lion. You can read about the start of Hēraklēs' life here, but for this constellation, all you need to know is that he was stricken mad by Hera, and killed his wife and children while he was out. As a result, he went on a long journey to cleanse himself of the miasma caused by these killings. First, he visited the oracle at Delphi, who, unbeknownst to him, was whispered to by Hera. The Oracle told Hēraklēs to serve the king of Tiryns, Eurystheus, for ten years and do everything Eurystheus told him to do. Eurystheus gladly provided Hēraklēs with these labors--ten of them, one for each year--and eventually ended up adding two more, resulting in the Twelve Labors of Hēraklēs.

The first of the twelve labours was to slay the Nemean lion. As the lion was terrorizing the area surrounding the mountain, Eurystheus must have seen in the lion a worthy opponent of Hēraklēs, whose tales of bravery and brute strength has proceeded him. He ordered the hero to return with its skin. And so, Hēraklēs went to the cave of the lion after picking up a bow and quiver of arrows, because he was unaware he would not be able to harm the creature with mortal weapons. After a long fight, Hēraklēs eventually chokes the lion, and hails victorious.

The Latin writer Seneca had a beautiful description of the constellation Leo, in the words of our great hero:

"See where the lion, my first toil, glows in no small part of heaven, is all hot with rage, and makes ready his fangs. Forthwith he will seize some star; threatening he stands with gaping jaws, and breathes forth fires, and shakes the mane upon his flaming neck; whatever stars sickly autumn and cold winter with its frozen tracts bring back, with one bound will he o’erleap, and attack and crush the neck of the vernal Bull." [II.942]

I want to add one more thing to he description of this constellation: Hyginus tells another tale about the constellation Leo: the story of Berenikē (Βερενίκη). The name translates to 'bearer of victory', and this version of the story refers to Berenikē II, who lived from about 267 - 221 BC. She was the daughter of Magas of Cyrene and Queen Apama II, and the wife of Ptolemy III, the third ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt. Prior to her marriage to Ptolemy III, she was married to Demetrius the Fair, a Macedonian prince, whom she had killed after he chose to become the lover of her mother Apama. Berenikē was quite the woman, and participated in the Nemean Games even the ancient Olympics. Her own son, Ptolemy IV eventually had her killed, but she was deified and to be honored from that moment on. The following story concerns her, her husband Ptolemy III, and Aphrodite.

"Above his likeness in the sky nearest the Virgin are seven other stars near his tail, arranged in a triangle, which Conon, the mathematician, and Callimachus call the Lock of Berenice. When Ptolemy had married his sister Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy and Arsinoe, and after a few days had set out to attack Asia, Berenice vowed that if Ptolemy returned as victor she would clip off her hair. She placed the lock, consecrated by this vow, in the temple of Venus Arsinoe Zephyritis, but on the following day it couldn’t be seen there. When the king was distressed by this, Conon the mathematician, whom we mentioned above, desiring to win the favor of the king, said that he had seen the lock among the constellations, and pointed out seven stars without definite configuration which he imagined were the lock.

Some authors along with Callimachus have said that this Berenice raised horses, and used to send them to Olympia. Others add that once Ptolemy, Berenice’s father, in panic at the number of the enemy, had sought safety in flight, but his daughter, an accomplished horse woman, leaped on a horse, organized the remaining troops, killed many of the enemy, and put the rest to flight. For this even Callimachus calls her high-souled. Eratosthenes says that she ordered returned to the girls of Lesbos the dowry left to them by their parents, which on one had released, and she established among them right to bring action of recovery."

The constellation Leo is visible at latitudes between +90° and −65°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of April.

An Athenian "neo-muralist" is blending Greek mythology and Byzantine iconography with graffiti and street art to depict how the coronavirus pandemic has forced people the world over to put down roots.

From Bangkok to Rabat to Zurich, Fikos has painted the walls of many cities, but he is now adding a splash of colour to the sun-beaten facades of the Cypriot capital Nicosia.

"Here in Cyprus, there are not many murals yet," he says. "It's the beginning phase of the street art scene in Cyprus, so they are impressed and kind of awed when they see this happening."

The 33-year-old spends time wandering the narrow back alleys of Nicosia's Old City in search of walls to use as a canvas. The one he chose for his latest project is the cracked veneer of a crumbling mud-brick house in an abandoned, dusty lot near the United Nations-patrolled buffer zone, which divides the city's Greek and Turkish-speaking halves.

The Greek artist, who describes himself as a "neo-muralist", says he has been living on the Mediterranean island for the past year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a theme reflected in his latest piece.

Standing on a wobbly platform, he gets to work with a brushstroke along the brow of Amaracus, the perfume-maker of Aphrodite, whose fate he says befits life in the time of the pandemic. Bit by bit, a sketch evolves into a jade-green male figure with leaves sprouting from his head, branches protruding from his chest and roots extending from his legs.

"He got punished by the gods and got turned into a plant or flower," says Fikos, who explains that he used the story from Cypriot mythology as an analogy for the pandemic, during which people "have grown roots" by staying in one place for so long.

Fikos says Cypriots have taken to his artwork, unlike others who tend to attach to it the stigma of graffiti. His works now adorn five facades on the Greek-Cypriot side of Nicosia, which has been divided on ethnic lines since communal unrest erupted in 1963 to 1964.

Fikos says he draws from a varied palette of influences, from art in ancient Greece to Egypt to Japan. One such artwork is located near the Green Line that divides Nicosia. It shows King Onassagoras, who ruled the kingdom of Ledra around 672BC, next to three female figures - one of them Nicosia, depicted as a woman split in half.

"I've studied Byzantine painting since I was 13 years old in Athens, and I studied the art of the street in the streets. Street art has evolved from graffiti and it has different rules. You must leave your stamp. But my point of view is totally different. I'm always trying to adapt my sketch to the environment and get inspired from the colours of the neighbourhood. My approach is more like fine art."

Fikos says in the past he was unable to convince Athenians to let him paint over the garish graffiti that blankets the city, even for free. But now his appeal is growing both at home and abroad, and he gets paid for his work. He has been commissioned to paint murals in many countries, including France, Ireland, Mexico, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. They can cover entire facades of buildings as high as 17 storeys, like one in Kiev, yet they are not overbearing and do not look out of place.

"Most of the time, they have something in mind, they give me a theme," Fikos says of his commissions. "But I do my research on history, mythology or whatever I find appropriate, then I sketch and I start to paint."

Once the research is done, the process of painting the murals can take just two or three more days, he says.

"I'm mostly inspired by Greek mythology, because I trust that if these myths have survived, they must have something to say."

Ah, the Parthenon Marbles (or sculptures, or any of the other names they have). It's the topic that keeps on giving. In recent months, the Greek government has re-asserted its longstanding demand for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum. This demand was explicitly ruled out by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in March this year when he reiterated the government’s “firm longstanding position” that the sculptures “were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time.” This provocative statement caused outrage across Europe and the world, with many international committees coming together in one voice to renew their passionate support for the case of the return of the Sculptures.

Ultimately, these expressions of support became a crescendo of neo-Philhellenism and one of the strongest voices among the crescendo was David Hill, who is the Chairman of an Australian committee known as Australians for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Mr Hill, who is also the former chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, tells The Greek Herald exclusively that his passion for the Parthenon Sculptures and Greece began over 45 years ago when he first visited the country.

“I first went to Greece in 1973… and it was like a magnet, it was the beginning of a love affair. The relationship became deeper and richer over the years and I became absorbed in the history, spirit and culture of Greece. I visited the Acropolis on my first trip to Greece and after that… I went on to London and an old English friend took me to see the Elgin collection in the British Museum and I think I was struck by the injustice of the marbles being in London.”

Ever since then, Mr Hill has been working tirelessly to persuade the UK government to return the Parthenon Sculptures to their rightful place in Greece. For four years from 1999, Mr Hill was the Executive Director of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in London. Later, from 2006 to 2016, he was the President of the International Association which encompasses all the committees, and he is now in his current position.

“Over the years I’ve worked with the Chairman of the Board of the British Museum, various arts and culture ministers in the UK government, and I’ve worked with, I think, 11 Greek culture ministers and six Prime Ministers. I also give… my views to the Greek government on a regular basis. Most of my work is trying to persuade the British to give the sculptures back and trying to generate more public opinion and support for the return of the sculptures. You’ve got the situation now where, particularly over the last 20 years, most of the public opinion polls around the world strongly support the marbles going back… the problem is we haven’t changed the mind of the British.”

To do this, Mr Hill says, 

“...the Greek government ought to litigate or to sue” because the strategy that has been employed since Melina Mercouri has been “cultural diplomacy,” but it has produced “no results.” I think it’s a Greek cultural thing. In Australia, America, Britain, if you can’t agree on an important issue, seeking the decision of an independent court or tribunal… is considered a civilised thing to do. But there are a lot of people in Greece who think it is almost a declaration of war, they feel uncomfortable, they feel it’s an aggressive thing to do. So trying to persuade the Greeks they should explore their legal options is proving very difficult.”

One way Mr Hill desperately tried to persuade the Greeks to pursue litigation was in 2014 when he took three of the best international lawyers to Athens to advise then-Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, of the Greek government’s legal options. These three people were Geoffrey Robertson QC, fellow barrister, Amal Clooney, and the late Professor Norman Palmer.

Mr Hill says that at the time, Mrs Clooney had just married famous actor, George Clooney, and this star factor ensured the spotlight was firmly focused on the reunification of the sculptures.

“I’ve never seen anything like it… but what it did was it made the marbles the news story around the world.”

Of course, it must be mentioned though that to this day the UK government and British Museum are still no closer to returning the Sculptures, and Mr Hill says Philhellenes and the Greek diaspora need to keep pushing and building public support.

This could involve supporting Greece through organisations such as the Hellenic Initiative, or even attending events such as the upcoming Australian book launch of Geoffrey Robertson QC’s new book, ‘Who Owns History,’ at The Governors Centre in Moore Park on June 5.

“It’s not often in history that a great wrong can’t be righted. In this case, it can be. They can be returned where they belong – to Greece. At the end of the day, it’s wrong for the British to keep them there… and I’m confident… that eventually right will prevail.”

Coming of age ceremonies are prevalent in most cultures and are often linked to the religious views of the people performing it. Famous examples are the bar mitswa's and bat mitswa's of the Jewish. The ancient Hellenes had coming of age rituals as well, and like almost everything else in ancient Hellenic life, these rituals were tied into deity worship. Today, I'm going to talk about these coming of age ceremonies, but because the differences are so great between girls and boys, I'm going to describe their coming of age ceremonies separately.



Girl to woman
In ancient Hellas, a girl's coming of age ceremony was linked to her wedding day. As soon as she got married, she would move out, into her new husband's oikos, and commit to the task she was born to fulfill: gift her husband legitimate offspring--boys, preferably. It won't come as a surprise that in preparation for this entirely new role in life, a girl's coming of age ceremony was focussed almost entirely on ending her own childhood, and petitioning the Theoi for help in her life as an adult. As such, fertility and womanhood were big parts of the rituals.

Young girls rarely had a role to play in household worship. The family only had them with them for thirteen to fifteen years, on average, after that, she joined her rightful place at the oikos of her husband, where she carried more (religious) responsibility. There were religious roles young girls could fulfill outside of the home, however, most notably as 'Arrephoros' (Ἀρρήφορος)--year long handmaidens of Athena Polias (Πολιάς)--in Athens, and as 'Arktos' (αρκτος), bear, a service in the following of Artemis Brauronia (Βραυρωνια) at Brauron (Βραυρών).

During the Arkteia festival, celebrated every four or five years alongside--or as a part of--the Brauronia, named and in honor of the epithet of Artemis. Every Athenian girl, as well as many other girls from all over Attika, had to take part of the festival before they could marry. The girls were brought to Brauron, a temple of Artemis with a rich history in both myth and history. Some versions of the myth of Iphigeneia have her taken from the sacrifice and dropped in Brauronia, where she established a temple to the Theia in gratitude. Otherwise, an oracle might have told the ancient Hellenes to build a temple to the Theia at Brauron after a terrible plague or famine plagued the land following the killing of a bear by two hunters.

The symbolism of the bear might refer to the bear which was slain by the hunters, or the clothes Iphigeneia might have left at her 'sacrifice'. It's also possible that the bear reference refers to Kallisto, who was transformed into a bear by the Theia.

During the festival young girls, and it seems that on occasion young boys, would gather to celebrate Artemis Brauronia with races, and dances. They would don bear masks and dance a dance known as the 'Arkteia', which was made up of slow, solemn steps meant to imitate the movements of a bear and was performed to a tune from a diaulos (double flute). They might have carried baskets of figs. Up until as far back as the 5th century, the girls might have worn actual bear skins, but bears soon became scarce, so they wore yellow dresses called 'krokoton', which they 'shed' instead of the skins to signal their coming adulthood.

The actual reason for the 'bear' ritual has been lost. It's possible that the ritual served to exorcise 'the wildness' out of little girls, but it's more likely that it was simply a way to procure kharis for the young girls who would soon call on Artemis during childbirth. In the same spirit, young women on the threshold of marriage made an offering to Artemis of their childhood toys and other paraphernalia that represented childhood, as with an offering of one drachma (roughly $ 60,-) at the temple of Aphrodite. Most likely, the bride also honored Hera Teleia and Zeus Teleios in some way.

A young woman came of age during her wedding and the subsequent wedding night, but became a woman when she gave birth for the first time. Especially during the latter, they desperately needed the support of the Theia Artemis. Aphrodite and Hera Teleia would support her through her marriage, and help her make it a success. With the help of the Theoi, a girl could become a woman.

Boy to man
Young boys had a very different life to young girls when it came to life in ancient Hellas. Because it was very important for a man to have legitimate children, the child's paternity was attested to on multiple occasions. In Athens, this was done the first time shortly after being named, and the second time when he reached sixteen years of age. Both times, the child was presented at the 'phratria' (φ(ρ)ατρία)--brotherhood--of his father. The system of brotherhoods, four in total, was the system that preceded the system of tribes. The brotherhoods largely fades, except for the registration of male offspring, and the vetting of such with testimonials and tests. The brotherhoods were overseen by Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria, who were honored yearly in a three-day festival called the 'Apoutouria'.

During a son's presentation to the brotherhood, Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria during the Apoutouria, boys sacrificed a lock of their hair to the patron Theoi and Hēraklēs, their father an animal. If one of the phratria contested that the father was, indeed, the father of this child, he could take the animal from the father before they reached the altar, and drag it away. Doing so would have been a very serious thing to do, and very shocking for a young boy to witness, not to speak of the father. The claim would then be put to a vote. When the phratria ruled in favor of the father, the animal was sacrificed and the meat distributed to the members of the brotherhood. The son became a full member.

At sixteen, a boy was considered a young man, and he entered one or two years of public service, either to mature, or to show he had matured enough to take part. This was called his 'ephebeia', which literally means 'young man'. On completion of this public service, a young man could enter the military and became a voting member of the Ekklesia. He became a citizen. Although young man were now considered adults, he only truly became an adult at age thirty, when he could serve in the boule, and get married.

Young men swore an oath upon completion of their ephebia, which has largely been preserved. It read as follows:

"I will not bring shame upon these sacred weapons nor will I abandon my comrade-in-arms wherever I stand in the ranks. I will defend both the holy and profane things. I will not hand on the fatherland smaller than I received it, but larger and better, so far as it lies in my power with the assistance of all the other citizens. I will obey the officials who govern wisely and the laws, both those which are already established and those which are wisely established in the future. If anyone attempts to destroy them, I will not allow it, so far as it lies in my power with the assistance of all the other citizens. I will hold in honor the ancestral sanctuaries. The following gods are witnesses: Aglauros, Hestia, Enyo, Enyalios, Ares and Athena Areia, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone, Heracles, the territory of the fatherland, the wheat, barley, vines, olive trees, and fig trees."

With this oath, the world opened up for young men; they would now be held divinely accountable for any trespassing upon the law and common sense. Political life would become important for men, as well as military service. They had roughly ten years to dedicate to these before he took a wife, so young men tended to fulfill much of their obligation to the city in these ten years. After his marriage, he became the one who presented sons to the phratria, and he got to experience the entire proceedings from the spot his father once held. This--most likely--created strong familial ties that continued through family lines for centuries.

In conclusion
There is much that remains to be said about coming of age ceremonies in ancient Hellas, more to be said about coming of age ceremonies in ancient Athens, even, but that is talk for another day. For now, I hope you have a basic idea of the youth and religious focal points of an Athenian child's life. Personally, I have a soft spot for coming of age rituals, and I strongly suggest creating or adapting ceremonies for the second (or even third) generation of Hellenists. What this would look like will be left for another post, but it would surely be beautiful.

I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.



"I have a question about miasma and ritual purification. I understand that many start with a shower and end with khernips. But what about modern conveniences? Is it okay to use scented soaps? Is it okay to put on deodorant after the shower? Can I style my hair? Or is it better to just go straight from drying off to khernips?"

By all means, make yourself pretty and good smelling! the ancient Hellenes sure did! This whole shower-as-part-of-katharmos is a modern invention. Katharmos, or the act of getting ritually clean, starts the second you walk into the area you have designated as sacred with the intent of performing ritual. Your shower happens way before, as does any primping. Then, you prepare your mind and start your procession into the area. this is when katharmos starts. You wash your hands with khernips–lustral water, which you prepare there and then, or you could possibly have stored–sprinkle the area with the water and strew barley groats as if sowing them. That’s your purification. As you can see, all of the things you worry about happen long before!

---

"I'm really new to Hellenismos so I have a lot of questions, but in particular I have one about khernips. Do I have to use them every time I pray, or could I limit it to rituals? I am lacking in resources but I don't want to offend the gods in any way. Thank you in advance!"

You use khernips every single time you perform a rite for the Gods. This includes (daily) sacrifice, festival celebrations, etc. The only exception for the ancient Hellenes would have been the drops of wine tipped on the ground during a symposium (a social gathering where wine was consumed and philosphical talk was indulged in) or before a meal. In general, though, if you plan of getting in contact to the Gods, get ritually clean with khernips. Praying, really, is not an act that befits Hellenismos if partaken in as a standalone activity: you pray during ritual. The two are synonymous. I hope this helps!

---

"Do you know any Gods that were associated with Ravens/Crows?"

The only one that comes to mind is Apollon. For a variety of reasons, Hermes is often associated with these birds as well, but there is no ancient evidence for this. Apollon, on the other hand, has a long history with the birds. It seems odd that a deity associated with light is also associated with an animal with an image as negative as the raven. Ravens are often associated with battlegrounds, cemeteries, and death, with the rotting of carcasses, and funerals. In Hellenic myth, they are also associated with vision beyond that which is present. With oracular visions, and with spotting that which can not, or should not, be spotted.

One myth that associates ravens with Apollon is the myth of Koronis (Κορωνίς). Koronis was Apollon's lover, and was pregnant with His son, when she fell for another man, a mortal man, Ischys (Ἰσχύς). A raven--then white--had been assigned by Apollon to watch over His lover, and when the raven returned to tell Apollon of Coronis' betrayal, Apollon was furious the raven had not pecked out the eyes of the mortal whom his lover fell in love with. In a fit of rage, Apollon turned its feathers black.

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"I've been reading your blog for a long time and you are one of my go-to sources. I have questions about statues which have left me stumped for months. My alter is far more "cluttered" than your own. Recently I've started to make it more deity neutral. Where would you suggest I place my statues? Would you mind sharing how you display your own? I've considered individual alters. Do you know any sources with images that might guide me? Thank you for all the amazing work you do and have a great day!"

I think there is an easy source of your confusion: there is a huge difference between an altar and a shrine. An altar is one of those basic necessities within Hellenismos, and it differs from a shrine. Where an altar is a ‘work space’, dedicated not so much to a specific deity, but used to do the bulk of the (daily) rituals, a shrine is a devotional area where an altar might be located. In ancient Hellas, the shrine was usually a temple, the altar an actual altar, standing outside of it. Household worship took place at a multitude of shrines. Labelling something a shrine does not mean you can’t sacrifice at these spots in your home. In general, you decorate a shrine but leave the altar rather bare.

As for your statues: I put them up on my shrines, not my altar. That’s why it’s bare-ish ;-)