It seems I have confused you, my kind readers. Time to try to clear some things up. I got the following ask a little while ago and it's time to talk about milk.

"So I'm kinda confused. I've read that milk was a traditional offering to the Theoi. But the Greeks thought drinking milk was barbaric. I don't get why they'd offer something that they thought was barbaric."

I first wrote about milk in this post about food in ancient Hellas, in which I stated that the ancient Hellenes considered drinking milk was barbaric. I've come back to that statement later, in an answer to someone who asked why it was considered barbaric.

Mostly, the ancient Hellenes considered anything their non-Greek speaking neigbours did 'barbaric'--and their neighboors drank milk. Peasants drank milk--because hey, precious food--but most likely they used most of the milk they got from their sheep, cows, and goats to make cheese. It's an old custom to link milk to barbarism, by the way. It's already in Hómēros' 'Odysseia' in which the cyclops that tried to eat Odysseus and his crew drank milk:

"He curdled half the milk and set it aside in wicker strainers, but the other half he poured into bowls that he might drink it for his supper." [IX]

This observation follows after it's minutely detailed how the crew ate only cheese and sacrificed only cheese as well. Speaking of sacrifice: milk was also an oft-given gift to the dead. We, generally speaking, avoid eating things we associate with the dead to avoid miasma. So cheese is fine, yoghurt is fine, but milk is not.

The question above is obviously a follow-up to that question, and a logical one. Truthfully, I think that not drinking milk was tied to a multitude of factors and came to be tradition throughout the years. Let's list a few:

- The ancient Hellenes feared the wild and valued developed society. Part of developed society was the ability to take a raw product and turn it into another. Milk to cheese, barley to bread, grapes to wine, etc. This was most likely a large part of why drinking milk was considered 'barbaric'--barbaric meant underdeveloped, close to nature, close to the wild nature that the ancient Hellenes feared in themselves.
- Cheese was more expensive that milk, so those who had milk, tended to make cheese out of it to sell. Especially for small farmers and herders, the extra income would be appreciated and drinking the raw product would cut into profit quite a bit.
- Milk is a substance fed to a newborn by a mother. Even in animals, anything connected to birth and death is somewhat tainted; miasmic. This connection is also, partially, Kthonic.
- In the same line: milk was an oft-given gift to the dead, another reason to shy away from it as living human beings.
- As said before: their 'barbaric' neighbors drank milk, so the Hellenes, obviously, did not.

The Nymphs and other nature and Khthonic divinities are connected to the wilds, to the rustic landscapes and the purity of the land. Milk is a truly fitting sacrifice to Them as that is exactly what the ancient Hellenes associated it with as well. On top of that, milk is a base product, just like all agricultural products. The two are intrinsically linked. As such, it is not odd that Demeter--the very Goddess connected with these base products, was honoured with milk. Preferred it, even.

Milk was never--if very rarely--sacrificed to the Ouranic Gods, but the Khthonic Gods received it often. These were linked to nature and death, to the basics of human life. The ancient Hellenes sought to evolve themselves and the Ouranic Gods oversaw those processes. Milk was not a part of that. but when the ancient Hellenes honoured the world around them and the deities and spirits that oversaw it, milk was a huge part of the practice.
Many people--myself included--sometimes forget how extensive the ancient Hellenic empire was. It wasn't just what is now modern Greece. It extended all the way down to, for example, Italy. Today: Cuma, or what the ancient Hellenes would have called Kumai.

[Temple of Zeus, was converted into a paleochristian basilica.
The baptismal font can still be seen in the back of the building.]

The ancient Hellenes had quiete a few names for it: Κύμη (Kumē) or Κύμαι (Kumai) or Κύμα (Kuma). It was an ancient city of Magna Graecia--the name of the coastal areas of Southern Italy on the Tarentine Gulf that were extensively populated by Greek settlers--on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. the city was founded by settlers from Euboea in the 8th century BC and Kumai was the first Hellenic colony on the mainland of Italy. Its ruins lie near the modern village of Cuma, a frazione of the comune Bacoli in the Province of Naples, Campania, Italy.

The settlement is believed to have been founded in the 8th century BC by Euboean Hellenes, originally from the cities of Eretria and Chalcis in Euboea, which was accounted its mother-city by agreement among the first settlers. They were led by  Megasthenes of Chalcis and Hippocles of Cyme, according to legend.

The Hellenes built upon an earlier setting of indigenous, Iron Age peoples; a memory of them was preserved as cave-dwellers named Cimmerians, among whom there was already an oracular tradition. Its name refers to the peninsula of Cyme in Euboea. The colony thrived. By the 8th century it was strong enough to settle other territiories: Zancle in Sicily, and Triteia in Achaea, amongst others. It spread its influence throughout the area over the 7th and 6th centuries BC, gaining sway over Puteoli and Misenum and, thereafter, founding Neapolis in 470 BC. All these facts were recalled long afterwards; Kumai's first brief contemporary mention in written history is in Thucydides and it is also mentioned in Pausanias.

The growing power of the Cumaean Greeks led many indigenous tribes of the region to organize against them, notably the Dauni and Aurunci with the leadership of the Capuan Etruscans. This coalition was defeated by the Cumaeans in 524 BC under the direction of Aristodemus, called Malacus, a successful man of the people who overthrew the aristocratic faction, became a tyrant himself, and was assassinated.

The Hellenic period at Kumai came to an end in 421 BC, when the Oscans broke down the walls and took the city, ravaging the countryside. Some survivors fled to Neapolis and Kumai came under Roman rule.

Kumai is still the location of many finds and historic facts. The colony was the entry point in the Italian peninsula for the Euboean alphabet, the local variant of the Hellenic alphabet used by its colonists, a variant of which was adapted and modified by the Etruscans and then by the Romans and became the Latin alphabet still used worldwide today.

Kumai had an Acropolis with a temple of Apollon and one of Zeus. It is also the location of the Cave of the Sibilla, the oracular cave of the Kumaian Sibyl--prophetess. All can be visited to this day.
At the foot of the Mycenaean Acropolis of Thorikos, dominating the natural harbor of Lavrio, in Greece, a French team of mining archaeologists has just discovered an inextricable network of galleries, shafts and chambers. About 5 kilometers of the subterranean conduits dug in the marble and the limeschists of Attica have been explored and surveyed. These lead to labyrinths of complex mining works the height of which often does not exceed 30 cm. This reports Heritage Daily.

The mine that has been discovered in Thorikos is exceptional in its lay-out and extension. Up to now mining archaeologists working in the Laurion area did not explore such a complex network of galleries and mining infrastructure. The finds constitute at present the widest underground network explored in this part of the Aegean world. The scientists also employed a drone to locate above-ground installations connected to the mining. These subterranean investigations are part of a larger archaeological research program on the site of Thorikos directed by Prof. Roald Docter of Ghent University under the auspices of the Belgian School at Athens, the University of Utrecht and the Ephorate of Eastern Attica.

Already exploited since the 4th / 3rd millennium BC, by the 5th and 4th centuries BC these silver mines constituted the most important mining district of Greece, laying at the basis of Athens’ domination of the Aegean world. The 2015 underground survey campaign brought new information on the mining techniques developed since the first metal ages in this strategic zone of the eastern Mediterranean.

The Classical phase is by far the most perceptible; omnipresent, it is remarkable by the regularity of the sections of divided galleries that cover the whole space. Fragments of pottery and oil lamps, and even a Greek inscription engraved on a wall, testify to the activities in this period. Conduits cut with pointed tools, of quadrangular shape, cutting of the rock in successive stages, such are the characteristics of these particularly well organized mining works. This resumption of the works at the end of Classical period (4th century BC) is dated by the tool marks in the galleries and the ceramic remains.

Shafts discovered inside this network connect two main levels of mineralization’s, and hence of extraction. Of perfect geometrical architecture, executed to the millimeter, their technique of construction is still investigated by the archaeologists. They show the physical capacities and skills of the ancient miners to exploit these complex ore deposits and to assure ore dressing activities outside the mine from the Prehistory on. It testifies to a deliberate strategy and to perfect technological and spatial control over the process: an exceptional concentration of means to extract silver and a sophisticated technical system that in its scale is unique within the ancient world.

The ongoing research not only aims to survey these subterranean remains, but it will also allow to understand the mining technologies of these early periods, the management of mineral resources, their extraction and processing as well as the circulation of the end product.
On Thursday 11 February, at 10 am EST, Elaion is organising a PAT ritual to Dionysos in compliance with the Erkhian calanedar, who celebrated one such sacrifice on 2 Anthesterion. Will you join us?

Dionysos is a very varied Theos. His domains range from fertility and exuberance, to death and dying. He is both an Ouranic Theos and a Khthonic one. He is a Year-Daímōn and the God of wine. He is associated with ecstatic rites, sex, and madness. He can bring on obsession and cure you of it. He does not shy away from either the light or dark and speaks to the side of us that will always be wild, that chafes against the restraints of polite and societal living.

Help us honour Dionysos in His many guises on Thursday 11 February, at 10 am EST. You can visit the community page here and download the ritual from here.
On the day of the Hene kai Nea, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.

Changes to the blog:
PAT rituals for Anthesterion:

Anything else?
Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.
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.

"Hey, since they didn't have the letter J in Ancient Greece what would it be replaced with? Would Jennifer just become Ennifer?"

The Greek alphabet shows that there is no letter J or sound. In fact, there was no letter ‘J’ in  any language prior to the 14th century in England. The letter did not become widely used until the 17th century. Any name which we now spell with the letter 'J' would have been spelled with the letter 'I' instead. The modern spelling for the Hellenic hero 'Jason', for example, was 'Iason' in ancient times. As such, 'Jennifer' would most likely become 'Ieniffer' instead. But I will leave that open to the (native) Greek speakers!


"Would proper etiquette require that I say a prayer to Hestia every time I wish to pray to another god, or does recognizing her role during more formal ritual settings cover this?"

There are records that at least in some parts of ancient Hellas, Hestia was always sacrificed to first and last in state festivals, and I have adopted that for my household worship as well; many modern Hellenists have. Do you have to? No, you don't. But Hestia is the Goddess of the hearth, of the household, and the sanctity and safety of the house and family. To me it makes sense to always include her, except for during Kthonic rites--rites to the Underworld Gods.

It is my personal opinion that Hestia was not honoured (first, last or at all) in Khthonic rites. In fact, I think as few as possible Gods were called in these rites, and all of them had a Khthonic character. I think this is tied to the practice of miasma--after all, contact with the Underworld (and thus the Khthonic Gods) was a major source of it.


"Hello Mrs. Elani, I have a question pertaining to the burning of offerings in Hellenismos. I've seen a video in which you use ethanol to burn barley and wine in a simple libation. You said that you burn all libations. On your blog, I remember reading that you also burn nearly all of your other offerings as well. I was wondering how you would burn offerings other than libations and barley when you are indoors. Any help would be wonderful, thank you! :)"
I burn everything, and because of space limitations, I burn everything indoors. That video can be found here, by the way. I have found that everything can be burned indoors without upsetting the firealarms as long as you stick to one simple rule: keep the offering small. Meat, honey, cakes, whatever--everything can be burned as long as you either feed it to the fire in small quantities or make a small symbolic offering of it. A six ounce steak is gonna kill the fire but a small cut of it will do the trick.
And remember: during most sacrifices the Theoi recieved only a small portion, the mēria (μηρια), consisting of both thigh bones in their fat, which was placed on the altar, sprinkled with a liquid libation and incense, and then burned. The scented smoke was said to sustain and please the Theoi, and the sacrificial smoke also carried the prayers of the worshippers to Them. The mēria is a very specific portion, and you can read how it came to be and how it related to actual sacrifice here.

"Hi - do you have any advice for libations for someone who doesn't drink alcohol? Would it be best to offer wine and not drink it or offer something else that I can drink? I know some people offer the things they drink regularly, such as tea or coffee, but I'm not sure if this would be appropriate. Thanks x"
Wine is the traditional libation liquid; as drinking water was often stagnant, wine was used to purify it, and mask the taste. All men, women and children drank water which had some wine added to it. Wine was believed to be a healer--and it is--so everyone drank it, sometimes more when they were sick. Now, that is the Traditional side of it; what you do as a modern Hellenist is allowed to differ due to the changed from the ancient to the current society. One part of that is finding substitutes if wine is not something you want to consume--or can't consume.
As wine pretty much was the ancient Hellenic equivalent of water, water is a good replacement. That said, it may feel a little to plain and personally I enjoy the fact that I libate wine because it has ties to the grape vine and Dionysos. So, as a replacement, I would suggest plain grape juice--as pure and sugarless as you can find it. It still has the same ties to the Gods, but without the alcohol.
Today I would like to share with you one of the prayers from the Papyri Graecae Magicae, also known as the 'Greek Magical Papyri'. They are a body of papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt, which each contain a number of magical spells, formulae, hymns and rituals. The materials in the papyri date from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. The manuscripts came to light through the antiquities trade, from the 18th century onwards.

Today, I will quote to you from the first book of spells and invocations. This prayer was noted down to Selene, Goddess of the moon, and served as an interlude to 'Any Spell'. It came with the instructions too:

'Offering for The Rite: For doing Good, offer Storax, Myrrh, Sage, Frankincense, a Fruit Pit. But for doing Harm, offer Magical Material of a Dog and a Dappled Goat (or in a similar way, of a Virgin Untimely Dead).

Protective Charm for The Rite: Take a Lodestone and on it have carved a Three-faced Hekate. And let the Middle Face be that of a Maiden wearing Horns, and the Left Face that of a Dog, and the One on the Right that of a Goat. After the Carving is done, clean with Natron and Water, and dip in the Blood of One who has died a Violent Death. Then make Food Offering to it and say the same Spell at the time of the Ritual.'

The prayer goes as follows:

"Come to me, O Beloved Mistress, Three-faced
Selene; kindly hear my Sacred Chants;
Night's Ornament, young, bringing Light to Mortals,
O Child of Morn who ride upon the Fierce Bulls,
O Queen who drive Your Car on Equal Course
With Helios, who with the Triple Forms
Of Triple Graces dance in Revel with
The Stars. You're Justice and the Moira's Threads:
Klotho and Lachesis and Atropos
Three-headed, You're Persephone, Megaira,
Allekto, Many-Formed, who arm Your Hands
With Dreaded, Murky Lamps, who shake Your Locks
Of fearful Serpents on Your Brow, who sound
The Roar of Bulls out from Your Mouths, whose Womb
Is decked out with the Scales of Creeping Things,
With Pois'nous Rows of Serpents down the Back,
Bound down Your Backs with Horrifying Chains
Night-Crier, Bull-faced, loving Solitude,
Bull-headed, You have Eyes of Bulls, the Voice
Of Dogs; You hide Your Forms in Shanks of Lions,
Your Ankle is Wolf-shaped, Fierce Dogs are dear
To You, wherefore they call You Hekate,
Many-named, Mene, cleaving Air just like
Dart-shooter Artemis, Persephone,
Shooter of Deer, night shining, triple-sounding,
Triple-headed, triple-voiced Selene
Triple-pointed, triple-faced, triple-necked,
And Goddess of the Triple Ways, who hold
Untiring Flaming Fire in Triple Baskets,
And You who oft frequent the Triple Way
And rule the Triple Decades, unto me
Who'm calling You be gracious and with Kindness
Give Heed, You who protect the Spacious World
At night, before whom Daimons quake in Fear
And Gods Immortal tremble, Goddess who
Exalt Men, You of Many Names, who bear
Fair Offspring, Bull-eyed, Horned, Mother of Gods
And Men, and Nature, Mother of All Things,
For You frequent Olympos, and the broad
And boundless Chasm You traverse. Beginning
And End are You, and You Alone rule All.
For All Things are from You, and in You do
All Things, Eternal One, come to their End.
As Everlasting Band around Your Temples
You wear Great Kronos' Chains, unbreakable
And unremovable, and You hold in
Your Hands a Golden Scepter. Letters 'round
Your Scepter Kronos wrote Himself and gave
To You to wear that All Things stay steadfast:
Subduer and subdued, Mankind's Subduer,
And Force-subduer; Chaos, too, You rule.
Hail, Goddess, and attend Your Epithets,
I burn for You this Spice, O Child of Zeus,
Dart-shooter, Heav'nly One, Goddess of Harbors,
Who roam the Mountains, Goddess of Crossroads,
O Nether and Nocturnal, and Infernal,
Goddess of Dark, Quiet and Frightful One,
O You who have Your Meal amid the Graves,
Night, Darkness, Broad Chaos: Necessity
Hard to escape are You; You're Moira and
Erinys, Torment, Justice and Destroyer,
And You keep Kerberos in Chains, with Scales
Of Serpents are You dark, O You with Hair
Of Serpents, Serpent-girded, who drink Blood,
Who bring Death and Destruction, and who feast
On Hearts, Flesh Eater, who devour Those Dead
Untimely, and You who make Grief resound
And spread Madness, come to my Sacrifices,
And now for me do You fulfill this Matter."
[VI. xxvii]