Ysterday was a sad day. Yesterday a very dear friend of mine lost a family member to illness. they had known it was coming and he'd asked a few days ago if I would perform rites once it did. I agreed, of course. He contacted me last night that it had just happened and I went straight to work.

The ancient Hellenes believed that the moment a person died, their psyche--spirit--left the body in a puff or like a breath of wind. Proper burial was incredibly important to the ancient Hellenes, and to not give a loved one a fully ritualized funeral was unthinkable. Funerary rites were performed solely to get the deceased into the afterlife, and everyone who passed away was prepared for burial according to time-honoured rituals.

During the actual funeral, a related mourner first dedicated a lock of hair, then provided the deceased with offerings of honey, milk, water, wine, perfumes, and oils mixed in varying amounts. Any libation was a khoe; a libation given in its entirety to the deceased. None was had by the mourners. A prayer to the Theoi--most likely Hermes Khthonios--then followed these libations. It was important to speak the name of the deceased and their family line. Their character and greatest deeds were also recited, telling the Gods and anyone gathered how special and good the deceased had been. The goal  was to never be forgotten; if the dead was remembered always, and fed with libations and other offerings, their spirit would stay 'alive' forever.

I am not a priestess. I firmly believe there is no such thing anymore in our religion. But I can perform ritual for others when they can't or do not know how to themselves. I've done it before and I will likely do so again in the future. While i was preparing for the ritual, I realized others might want a format to have their own rites of passage into the underworld for when a loved one leaves the world of the living. I decided to put one together for you--a kind of base to adapt and personalize. This is it. you can download a .doc file of it here (so you can edit it easily).

Rite of passage into the Underworld

¨       Perform this rite outside if possible, over a dug hole, else dispose of the offerings outside in a hole afterward

¨       Ritual washing
¨       Ritual washing with invocation to Okeanos

Okeanos whose nature ever flows, from whom at first both Gods and men arose; sire incorruptible, whose waves surround, and earth’s all-terminating circle bound: hence every river, hence the spreading sea, and earth’s pure bubbling fountains spring from thee. Hear, mighty sire, for boundless bliss is thine, greatest cathartic of the powers divine: earth’s friendly limit, fountain of the pole, whose waves wide spreading and circumfluent roll. Approach benevolent, with placid mind, and be forever to thy mystics kind.

¨       Purification – khernips (holy water) sprinkled from a bay branch – Be gone all corruption and evil” (three times).

“Blessed Okeanos, may your bright waters purify this space, and prepare both me, and it, for the rites that are about to unfold.”

¨       Strewing of barley groats around the altar (circling clockwise three times)
¨       To Gaia

First of all, in my prayers, before all other Gods, I call upon the foremost prophetess Gaia. 

Aeschylus – Eumenides (opening lines)

¨       Invocation to Gaia: Gaia, to you who nurtures us into being, who nurtures us through life, and who accepts us once again unto Thee, blessed Kourotrophos, I honor you with khernips . . . . 
¨       Offering of khernips poured out
¨       Orphic Hymn 26 To Earth

[Gaia Thea/], mother of men and of the blessed Gods,
you nourish all, you give all, you bring all to fruition, and you destroy all. 
When the season is fair you are heavy with fruit and growing blossoms;
and, O multiform maiden, you are the seat of the immortal cosmos,
and in the pains of labor you bring forth fruit of all kinds.  
Eternal, reverend, deep-bosomed, and blessed,
you delight in the sweet breath of grass, O Goddess bedecked with flowers. 
Yours is the joy of the rain, and round you the intricate realm of the stars
revolves in endless and awesome flow. 
But, O blessed Goddess, may you multiply the gladsome fruits
and, together with the beautiful seasons, grant me favor.

Translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis

¨       Invocations and prayers to Themis: To you who sits leaning against Zeus, who consults closely with Zeus, and who are the just order of all things . . . .
¨       Libation of honey sweet wine

Leap for goodly Themis

From the Hymn of the Kouretes

¨       Strike the ground three times with the flat of your hands

“Gods of the Earth, hear me!”

¨       Incense: storax
¨       Invocation to Hermes: Khaire Hermes, who swiftly carries the dead to the river…
¨       Offerings of honey sweet wine to Hermes Khthonios
¨       Orphic Hymn 57 To Khthonic Hermes

To Khthonic Hermes

You dwell on the road all must take, the road of no return, by the Kokytos,
you guide the souls of mortals to the nether gloom.
Hermes, off-spring of Dionysos who revels in dance,
and of Aphrodite, the Paphian maiden of the fluttering eyelids,
you haunt the sacred house of Persephone, as guide throughout the earth of ill-fated souls,
the souls you bring to their destined harbor when their time has come;
you charm them with your sacred wand, you give them sleep
from which you rouse them again. It is to you indeed
that Persephone gave the high office throughout broad Tartaros
to lead the way for the everlasting souls of men.
O blessed one, grant a good end for the labors of the initiates.

Translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis (revised edition)

¨       Prayers

“Blessed Hermes, who guides the souls of the dead into the Afterlife. You who is our final companion. Another comes to You, stripped of all. Take mercy upon who was in life known as [name] of [birth town] and who will always be remembered by that name. Do not strand the [daughter/son] of [name of parents] on the banks of the river but carry [him/her] swift and true to the realm of Haides.”

“Blessed is he who hath seen these things before he goes beneath the hollow earth; for he understands the end of mortal life, and the beginning of a new life given of God.”

Pindar, Dirges Fragment 137

¨       Invocation to Persephone: Khaire Persephone, maiden Goddess of spring’s bounty…
¨       Libation of pure water
¨       Orphic Hymn 29 Hymn To Persephone

Hymn to Persephone

Persephone, blessed daughter of great Zeus, sole offspring
of Demeter, come and accept this gracious sacrifice.
Much honored spouse of Plouton, discreet and life-giving,
you command the gates of Hades in the bowels of the earth,
lovely-tressed Praxidike, pure bloom of Deo,
mother of the Erinyes, queen of the nether world,
secretly sired by Zeus in clandestine union.
Mother of loud-roaring, many-shaped Eobouleus,
radiant and luminous playmate of the Seasons,
revered and almighty, maiden rich in fruits,
brilliant and horned, only-beloved of mortals,
in spring you take your joy in the meadow of breezes,
you show your holy figure in branches teeming with grass-green fruits,
in autumn you were made a kidnapper’s bride.
You alone are life and death to toiling mortals,
O Persephone, you nourish all, always, and kill them, too.
Hearken, O blessed Goddess, send forth the fruits of the earth
as you blossom in peace, and in gentle-handed health
bring a blessed life and a splendid old age to him who is sailing
to your realm, O queen, and to mighty Plouton’s kingdom.

Translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis (revised edition)

¨       Prayers

“Blessed Persephone, much-honored spouse of Plouton, life-giving, who journeys to and from the underworld where we shall all depart to once it is our time. As you depart, so we suffer and as you rise, so we thrive. You who rules over our lives and whose Mother provides us with all means for our survival. When [name] comes to You and [he/she] is judged, whisper kindly in their ears. Speak of [his/her virtues]. Speak of [his/her best characteristics]. Speak of [his/her strengths or accomplishments]. Lay your hand upon [him/her] once [he/she] arrives and accept [him/her] unto you."

¨       Invocation to Plouton: Khaire Plouton who are the wealth of earth and accepts all to rest
¨       Libation of honey sweet wine to Plouton
¨       Orphic Hymn 18 To Plouton

To Plouton
You dwell below the earth, O strong-spirited one,
a meadow in Tartaros, thick-shaded and dark.
Sceptered Chthonic Zeus, please accept this sacrifice,
O Plouton, holder of the keys to the whole earth.
To mankind you give the wealth of the year's fruits,
yours is the third portion, earth, queen of all,
seat of the gods, mighty lap of mortals.
Your throne rests on a dark realm,
the realm of distant, of untiring, of windless, and of impassive Hades;
it does not rest on gloomy Acheron, the river who girds the roots of the earth.
All-receiver, master of death, master of mortals, host of many,
Euboulos, you once took as your bride pure Demeter's daughter:
you took her away from the meadow, and through the sea
you carried her to an Attic cave upon your steeds –
it was the district of Eleusis, where the gates to Hades are.
You alone were born to judge deeds obscure and conspicuous.
Holiest and illustrious ruler of all, frenzied god,
You delight in the respect and in the reverence of your worshipers.
I summon you, come with favor, come with joy to the initiates.

Translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis (revised edition)

¨       Prayers

“They say that the entire bulk and substance of the earth is dedicated to father Dis, because all things fall back into the earth and also arise from the earth. So as we all fall and arise, may You look upon us kindly. May you bestow upon [name] blessings and kindness. Accept [him/her], please, with open arms.”

¨       Sacrifices of water, milk, wine, fruits or eggs and possibly a lock of hair
¨       Prayers to the deceased

“Blessed [name], may your name be forever spoken. May you forever be remembered. May your stories be forever told by those who knew you in life and who will see you again after death. Accept these sacrifices to strengthen you on your journey.”

¨      Presentation of a coin to Kharon

“May this coin pay your way safely down the rivers and through the gates of Haides. May it guide you safely to the Blessed Isles.”

¨      Extinguishing of the lamp
¨      Either close the hole or take the offerings and coin outside and bury all