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'm wondering if the goddess Kybele plays a part in your worhsip/practice of Hellenismos. If so, can you point the way to any hymns or prayers? I'm having a very hard time finding anything. I found something from Pindar but only in Greek... which is Greek to me. Other than that option, are you familiar with any other epithets than mistress of the animals (of which she was one of many apparently) or mother of gods? I read that she was invoked in Athens as a protector of the city, but no hymns..."

Kybele is originally a primal nature Goddess worshipped in the mountains of central and western Anatolia. Ancient Hellenes who settled in those regions identified her most often with Rhea but also with Gaia, Demeter, Artemis and even Hekate. Her original cult was too barbaric for the ancient Hellenes to adopt whole. As such, I do not usually include Her in my worship; I honour Rhea, Demeter, Artemis and Hekate Themselves instead.

Perhaps there have been Hellenic hymns written especially for Kybele, but I don't know of any. The same goes for Her epithets. I am sure She had more local ones but in general, I assume many of those to Rhea, Gaia, Demeter, Artemis and Hekate apply or can at least be used to honour Kybele. I do know of Roman Emperor Julian's Oration to the Mother of Gods from which you might draw some inspiration? It can be found here.


"Hello! I was just wondering if you could explain the difference between a shrine and an altar. Thank you!"

An altar is one of the 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.


"Are there sins in Hellenic polytheism similar to Christian sins? I understand that hubris is condemned but is there some list of defined sins? Or is it more obscure and up to interpretation. Thank you."

Sin is defined as a 'transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate', often regarded as either 'deliberate disobedience to the known will of [the Abrahamic] God, or 'a condition of estrangement from [the Abrahamic] God resulting from such disobedience'.

Sin is a Christian issue, which is made clearest in the punishment of sin: once sinned, a devotee is barred from Heaven--the supreme goal--until he or she repents. Repenting is 'to feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do', and includes 'an admission of guilt for committing a wrong or for omission of doing the right thing; a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong or the omission where possible'.

The concept of sin has no place in Hellenismos. There are things you can 'do wrong' in Hellenism, but because of the way the concept of sin works, it can never be applied to the Hellenic religion: we are not working towards the goal of an afterlife. Mythologically speaking, we know that we will inevertably end up a shade in the realm of Hades. Only if you have done something incredibly inexcusable (kill, chop up and serve your son to the Theoi, for example, as Tantalos did), you might be punished in Tartaros. In general, we will walk the dreary Fields forever, while some of us--those who have done extraordinary deeds in life--will end up in Elysium, but that is a rare honor indeed.

Within Hellenismos, we try not to do wrong--or better, we always try to do right--by the Gods. They are the major influence over our lives and we live largely by Their will. As such, fear of the Gods is a cornerstone of the faith, but it is not meant in the Christian sense where any sin committed is seen by God and jeopardizes you place in heaven; here it is meant as a reminder of kharis: that the Gods look favorably upon those who honor Them properly. The implication here is, of course, that they do not look favorably upon those who do not honor Them properly, and this is correct. Yet, committing hubris does not automatically mean that you will be punished by the Theoi; it simply means a drop in kharis. A drop in kharis is restored by fostering more kharis.

Sin is an important concept but it is unrelated to Hellenismos. One should never feel guilt for doing wrong by the Gods--only, perhaps, sadness for not doing right. Sin and guilt have no place in our religion, although they have a place in many of us as our Western societies are often drenched with Christian values and morals. It's important to untangle yourself from these subconcious influences to live an authentic Hellenistic life, which is not better than an Abrahamic one, only different. And the differences count.


"I often follow the monthly calendar you have based off of HMEPA. Most often, that lines up in a lunar sense even though I'm on the other side of the ocean. However, the new moon on September 30th is before sundown for you and after sundown for me. I believe that would mean that I would celebrate the Deipnon one night after you if going by the moon. If I'm trying to be recon, would it be inappropriate to just go with your calendar instead of customizing,moving everything for the month a day off?"

Every once in a while, we run into ‘Reconstructionist problems’. In general, these are issues that would not have been an issue in ancient Hellas, but are one now because of societal, practical, or economical reasons.

A little background: Hekate’s Deipnon is a religious celebration that takes place on Hene kai Nea. Hene kai Nea basically mean 'old and new’, and takes place any time before the first sliver of the new moon is visible. In practice, this is the day after the new moon. The Noumenia is held the day after that, when the moon has become visible again, and Agathós Daímōn the day after that. It is important to note that the ancient Hellens started a new day at sundown the day before. Instead of starting a new day at midnight–or in the morning–like we do today, they started it at sundown of the previous day. This means that–when applied to modern practice–the Deipnon starts on the day of the suspected new moon, and the rest follows after, to the total of four days. For more information on this, please see here. For those of you who have issues reading the Hellenic calendar at all, please see here.

In general, the placement of Hene kai Nea is easy: check the date and time of the dark moon, and at sundown afterwards, the Deipnon starts. Every once in a while, though, there is a complication: because of the moon’s cycle we end up with a situation where,if we hold the Deipnon at the time of the dark moon, we are a little too early and if we hold it the night after, we are a little too late. There is an added complication: many of us follow the HMEPA calendar as a basis for our practice and as a concensus, the HMEPA calendar is divided equally in 29 day months and 30 day months. This was much less applicable in ancient Hellas (especially Athens) where days were dropped or added where needed to accommodate festivals, wars, public events, and anything else. If the ancient Hellenes needed a little time before the fourth of the month, they just repeated the third day.

Because we all work off of the same calendar, we can’t just drop or add days in our practice, or at least if we do, we need to reallign ourselves somewhere, preferably right away. Where the ancient Hellenes would have pushed the entire month back if they needed an other day and taken off a day at the end, we would like to celebrate festivals together in a way, so if we remain out of tune, we will end up with three possible dates for a single festival; one on the actual date, one a day earlier because of a dropped day, and one a day later for an added day.

So, let’s look at this practically. If you follow the HMEPA calendar, you’ll be a little early but you’ll automatically be aligned with the rest of the world. If you push the Hene kai Nea back, you need to cut a day in the beginning of the month to fit the month into the 29 day/30 day cycle we stick to in modern times. The third day of the month is set, so you would have to drop the Noumenia to make a 30 day month fit.

The choice, really, is yours. There is no right or wrong answer, there are only practical ones. If you want three full days like usual, you need to put the Hene kai Nea early. If you don’t mind being out of alignment with the rest of the word from now on, just push it back and don’t remove the Noumenia. If you want to push the Hene kai Nea back and you don’t want to be out of alignment, drop the Noumenia (or, alternatively, a day later in the month but you’ll be out of alignment until then, including festival days). The perfect example of a Reconstructionist problem, isn’t it?


"Is there a way to properly dispose of khernips? For some reason I decided my first batch ever should have essential oils in it and now the khernips' smell is extremely overwhelming. I have to dispose of it but I don't know how without disrespecting the gods."

Dispose of khernips--lustral water used in ritual to cleanse yourself with--in a pot or outdoor pit. Use the same spot every time. You can also use this spot to dispose of other offerings. Ancient temples had these pits as well (and they are now our main sources of information about the types of sacrifices that took place there).