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 can't use fire for sacrifices where I am, is it ok to not use fire?"

I always find it difficult to answer that. According to ancient Hellenic orthopraxy, it's not okay to give sacrifice without fire; it's the fire that raises the fumes of the sacrifice up to the Gods, after all. But we don't live in ancient Hellas anymore. As much as I would like to, modern times make it impossible (and sometimes undesirable) to practice Hellenismos as the ancient Hellenes did. I practice as Traditional as I can but in some cases, that is just not possible. Is that okay? I don't know. We do what we can. I you can' tpractice with a fire, then you can't practice with a fire. It is what it is. The goal should--in my Traditional opinion--always be to practice with a fire but if you can't manage that, whatever you can do will have to be enough.


"Is there a way to honour the Theoi for my birthday?"

You can do whatever you want for your birthday! (And happy birthday, of course!) The ancient Hellenes did not celebrate their birthdays. Families celebrated the birth of a child, a coming-of-age feast, and feasts after death held on the anniversary of the day of birth (or death, depending on the scholar), but otherwise there were no annual birthday ceremonials. The birthdays of many of the Theoi were ritually acknowledged once a month, but the individual did not celebrate theirs. Herodotos notes this in his Histories, when he describes the birthday practices of the Persians.

"Of all the days in the year, the one which they celebrate most is their birthday. It is customary to have the board furnished on that day with an ampler supply than common. The richer Persians cause an ox, a horse, a camel, and an ass to be baked whole and so served up to them: the poorer classes use instead the smaller kinds of cattle. They eat little solid food but abundance of dessert, which is set on table a few dishes at a time; this it is which makes them say that "the Greeks, when they eat, leave off hungry, having nothing worth mention served up to them after the meats; whereas, if they had more put before them, they would not stop eating." They are very fond of wine, and drink it in large quantities. To vomit or obey natural calls in the presence of another is forbidden among them. Such are their customs in these matters." [133]

This, of course, changed with the Romans--especially the Emperors--but the ancient Hellenes found the birthdays of the Gods much more important.


"Can you tell me how you keep your fire going for offerings. Even with high proof alcohol, the mixed wine puts the fire out before I've offered to all the Theoi I've intended on offering too. It's quite annoying and I find it distracting. I was using 70% alcohol. Maybe I need 95%? I don't dilute my wine more than one part wine to 2 or 3 parts water."

The ancient Hellenes had it much 'easier', I fear--they always had someone assigned to guarding the fire. That said, they did always have to build up a fire--a time consuming practice.

The best advice I can give you is small volume offerings; give only a few drops with each outpour. That, so far, has been the only way that I have found to keep the fire going while you libate. I use bio-ethanol and as long as I don't flood it, the fire stays lit quite well. It even evaporates all the moisture if I do it well. And yes, don't mix the wine with too much water. Practice makes perfect!


"Do you cleanse yourself of miasma with khernips when interacting with Khthonic Theoi?"

Khernips are the traditional way to cleanse yourself from miasma–religious impurity. It is created by dropping smoldering incense or herb leaves into water. When throwing in the lit item, one can utter ‘xerniptosai’ (pronounced ‘zer-nip-TOS-aye-ee’) which translates as ‘be purified’. Both hands are washed with khernips and you can wash the face as well.

Artwork has taught us that khernips was often applied just outside the temenos, with hands being washed in a bowl or water poured out of a jug while the supplicant washed their hands. The water was collected from a moving source of water, which could be a natural spring, a river, or even the sea. Moving water was considered sacred, and often viewed as an extension of the body of a stream/river/sea God(dess). For my video tutorial on how to prepare and apply khernips, go here.

Khernips are applied whenever one engages in ritual that includes the Theoi. That goes for both the ouranic Gods and the khthonic ones. The distinction in deciding if khernips are a requirement is not between 'classes’ of Gods (ouranic vs. khthonic) but 'divine vs human’. If the Theoi are involved in any way, khernips is a requirement.