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 was wondering if you could speak about how Hellenic Reconstructionists handle ancestor worship. I've heard that one should have a shrine to the ancestors were prayers and offerings should be made daily and there are others who say you should never give offerings to the dead in the home. Most of the sources I've read just vaguely say the Hellens just "honored the dead". Thank you so much for sharing your path!"

Ancestor worship was performed in Khthonic state festivals and as hero worship when at home. That is a generalization, of course, but it seems to mostly hold true.

Archeological evidence suggests that hero worship was closer to khthonic sacrifice in execution than ouranic ones the further back in time you go; especially in the archaic period, it seems that hero worship consisted of destructive sacrifices--sometimes in the form of a holókaustos where the entire animal was burned, sometimes in a sacrifice where only a part (most often 'a ninth' of the animal) was burned and the rest remained on the altar for the heroes to eat from until gone. The sacrifices were generally burned in an offering pit known as a bothros. The food offered to heroes consisted of meat, blood, and 'food eaten by men' like grains, fruits and other every-day dishes. These were usually offered to the heroes on a table--known as a trapeza--and the heroes were sometimes offered chairs or a bench to sit on. As time went on, the living began to eat part of the meal laid out for the heroes, joining them in celebration.

There were regular state festivals organized for the dead (nekysia) and for the forefathers (genesia). On such days, graves were adorned, offerings of barley broth, milk, honey, unmixed wine, oil, water and the blood of animal sacrifices were given in the form of khoai--fully poured out libations. Graves often had bottomless amphorae placed on it on hollow columns. The libation was poured into this and seeped down into the dirt to 'feed the dead'.

The Genesia seems to have been a festival of the dead--especially of dead parents. It was celebrated on the fifth of the month of Boudromion in Athens, but that is all we know for sure. There is reason to believe that the Genesia was panhellenic--although we do not know if all city-states performed the rites on the same day. We are also unsure if the Genesia was a set day for all children to visit their parents' grave and perform sacrifices there, or if there was a public commemoration of all parents. The day is also sacred to Gaea, who housed the remains of the dead, and brought fertility and wealth to the living.

These rites were to commemorate specific people. It was also possible to honor the family line and it was actually a part of the celbration of Agathós Daímōn, the third day of the month. The goal was not to honor the people in the family line but to express pride in your blood and bring about good fortune as stemming from the family line. This type of worship was closer to hero worship and was performed at a separate shrine or at an offering pit outside. These sacrifices were generally wholly given as well and could either be an animal or, more commonly, unmixed wine.


"I started practicing Hellenism just a few days ago, but there's one problem: I've got to keep my worship a secret, which means that I can't pray to the Gods loudly. Will I catch Their attention even if the tone of my voice is softer during prayer?"

Hellenic prayer and hymn-singing is not a private thing; unlike the Christian type of praying we are used to today--a praying that is intimate, calm, and very much private--the Hellenic form of praying did and does everything it can to draw attention to itself as a public display. It is a form of heightened expression which claims the attention of a God. Hymns are a means to get a divine spotlight upon you, because without it, your prayer will fall upon deaf ears. This is why hymns and prayers always go together in the typical structure of (ancient) Hellenic ritual: one is useless without the other.

Ancient Hellenic prayers were made standing up, with arms raised. If you were the one pouring libations, the arms needn't be raised as high, but the libation-bowl was poised. For the Ouranic deities, the palms faced upward, to the sky. For the Khthonic deities, the palms faced downward, to the earth. To both, the voice is raised, so as to draw as much attention as possible.

Of course, modern times call for modern measures sometimes. Perhaps you can work around it by doing rituals when no one is home, or else you'll just have to whisper and pray for the best. Now there aren't whole city's populations shouting for attention, perhaps the Gods listen more carefully, you know? and I do truly feel that once the Gods know who to keep an ear out for, They'll find them even when they whisper Their names.


"I'm a vegetarian. Even though I wouldn't perform animal sacrifice myself, I would attend an animal sacrifice done by a temple priest. Do you think, in this hypothetical situation, it would be disrespectful NOT to eat my part?

I’ll give you my personal opinion, as there isn’t ancient precedence. Personally, yes, I think it would be disrespectful, not to the Gods (I feel you would just be missing out on that connection to Them, but that is your “problem”, not Theirs) but to the animal. That animal just gave its life to improve your relationship with the Gods, and then you go on to spurn its sacrifice.

The animals the ancient Hellenes sacrificed were raised for that purpose. They were well-fed, socialized with large groups of people, they were taught not to fear fire, they learned to walk calmly on a rope and to stand still. In short, lots of time was spend on these animals, and lots of money was spend on them as well. Ancient Hellenic people had deep respect for the animals they sacrificed, and part of that respect was eating their flesh once their sacrifice was completed.

Now, there were vegetarians in ancient Hellas! Many of the philosophers especially thought eating meat was bad for the body and soul. Maybe they attended animal sacrifice, maybe not. We do know that they usually made their own sacrifice of animal shaped cakes. I think there is a distinct difference between then an now, though: very little meat was eaten back then that was not sacrificed or dedicated to the Gods in some way. Now, (almost) all of our meat is eaten without dedicating it to the Gods. If one goes through the ordeal of animal sacrifice--if one takes a life even through proxy--I strongly feel that sacrifice has to be honored. Of course, that is my opinion and I never claim my opinion to be truth. You will have to make up your own mind if this hypothetical situation ever becomes reality.


"What do you think about the name Theiadora for a girl? I'm thinking about naming my future daughter Theiadora, so as to mean "gift of Goddess" as opposed to the traditional Theadora as a feminine version of Theodore, both of which are said to mean "gift of God." Thanks in advance!"

I think that's a lovely name and a lovely idea! Theia (Θεία) is a Titaness. She is the brother and consort of Hyperion, God of the sun, and together they are the parents of Helios, Selene, and Eos, other Gods and Goddesses of the sky. The name Theia alone means simply "Goddess" or "divine"; Theodore comes from the Greek "Theodoros" (Θεοδωρος), which in turn comes from "Theos" (θεος, God) and "doron" (δωρον, gift). So, yes, I think it makes sense linguistically!


"I'm very new to Hellenismos and I understand that the main aspect of the religion revolves around worshiping the main twelve, but are there rule for how to include lesser god/desses in your worship? Because I feel a very strong connection to Eileithyia as a midwife/doula but I can't seem to find much about her or how to worship her and I was wondering if you could give me some advice. "

I describe the pantheon of Hellenic Gods like a tapestry. The major displays woven into it are undoubtedly of Zeus and Hera, of Their brothers and sisters, of Their parents and well-known children like Apollon and Artemis. But the fringes of the tapestry are just as colorful as the main display. They hold the "minor" Gods and Goddesses who rule over our emotions, the weather, the stars, rivers and other bodies of water, and literally everything else in your environment. Without these minor Gods and Goddess, the tapestry would not only be plain, it would be threadbare. It's my firm belief that it's impossible to practice Hellenismos and only worship one or a handful of Gods. One must invest in at least the pursuit of knowledge about every single God or Goddess in our pantheon to fully grasp the parts you thought you already understood. Without the details of the tapestry, its full beauty can't be appreciated, after all.

That having been said, it's impossible to honor all of these divinities. There are probably thousands, after all. There aren't rules on how to honor the divinities with little mythology to Their name but thankfully, in Hellenismos, that isn't an issue. All worship was conducted in the exact same way: we start with a procession (no matter how short) toward the altar, where we purify ourselves and the space around us with khernips (lustral water made by dropping something smoldering in water). We also sow barley groats. This is not only a form of purification, it was the start of the process of kharis (ritual reciprocity) where the strewing of barley groats on and around the altar of the Theoi is like a spiritual sowing to reap the benefits of later (asked for through prayer later on in the rite). As such, the barley that we use is whole form, just like it is for actual sowing of the crop.

Once purification is performed, a hymn is sung or proclaimed. Hymns are sung to please, to bring forth. It is a way to celebrate the deity in question, but also to make Him or Her more inclined to grant the request to follow. Hymns were accompanied with music and dancing; they were true celebrations in that regard. They are performed to proclaim existing kharis and built upon it by showing respect and knowledge of the lives of the Gods. Today, they are mostly proclaimed, but the words are heartfelt and proclaimed clearly and (if at all possible) loudly.

Prayers are next on the agenda. Prayers are attempts by men and women to communicate with Gods by means of the voice. A prayer is carefully formulated to convey a message as persuasively as possible to the God, and was thus often spoken. The idea is not to please, but to request. They make use of the established and just now strengthened kharis to petition the Gods for aid. Where the hymn is an offering to go along with material sacrifice, the prayer is not an offering at all. To soften the request, prayers are often accompanied by the sacrifice--the main event of the rite.

A sacrifice to the Gods is a way of bonding, of kharis. It's a way of showing our devotion to the Gods and bringing Them, actively, into our homes and lives. It's a way of acknowledging Their greatness and recognizing our loyalty to Them. Practically, this means that whatever the sacrifice, it should be given with love, dedication and with respect to the bond between immortal and mortal. This outlay is the same for all Gods, be They major or minor. You can worship Gods with very little to none mythology to Their name exactly the same as those with extensive stories to be told and proclaimed. If you don't have a hymn for Them, then make your own by way of what you know and why you are called to Them. There are no specific hymns for  Eileithyia, for example, but we can make them from bits and pieces of ancient material and our own inspiration.

"Khaire Eiliethyia of women's child-pains. She Who Comes To Aid, hear the praise I sing of you! You who brought forth the birth of bright Artemis and Apollon, twin champions of arrows and protectors of children, you whom Galanthis tricked to allow the birth of the great hero Herakles, drawn near to my humble altar and lean down to lend me Your ear and accept the sacrifice I make in Your honor, for without you Goddess of childbirth, Eileithyia, maid to the throne of the deep-thinking Moirai, child of all-powerful Hera, hear my song. For without you should we see neither the light of day, nor know the kindly dark, nor win the gift of Hebe, thy sister, the glorious limbs of youth."