My guess would be that when putting 'torch' and 'ancient Hellas' in the same sentence, many people think about the Olympic Games, and they would be right--in a way. Torch-races were a big part of the Games; the now-famous torch-relay I take great joy in, was not practiced in Ancient Hellas. In fact, it was introduced in 1936 by Hitler in response to an idea by Carl Diem to further the reign of the Nazi's and, in their eyes, glorify the Aryan super race, the Spartans.

Torches, torch-races, and torch-lit processions were a big part of Hellenic worship; they lit the way to Eleusis, they accompanied Gods and Goddess, and they were the go-to bringers of light during any night-time activity. Sadly, very few people include torches in their modern practice, most often because our rituals are indoor affairs, and fire is dangerous. Today, I will provide a couple of options for those looking to fabricate their own torches for worship but remember: safety first!

Premade torch
Use: outdoors, usually
Materials: money
Picking up a pre-made torch is ease: many shops that sell odds and ends sell torches as well. Some of them are actual torches that you need to fill with oil and light the wick of, others are long, hollow, candles on sticks with an extra sturdy wick. These torches work very well and are wonderful for outdoor use. They also do no require any labor, and are relatively safe.

Standard torch
Use: outdoors
Materials: a stick, cotton cloth, and a flammable substance, also possibly a cup to soak the rags in.

The standard torch is traditionally a rod-shaped piece of wood with fabric wrapped around one end and soaked in pitch or some other flammable material. The ancient Hellenes might have used oak wood and the branches of olive trees. As for flammable substances, the ancient Hellenes had access to resins, sulfur and lime, as well as various oils.

To make a torch, take a stick, wrap cotton cloth (or even toilet paper) around one end, soak the head in your flammable substance and make sure everything is secure. You can add wiring to your head to secure it in place more safely. Now, you jut light it. This type of torch has bits coming off, and the flame is hard to control. Never use one of these inside!

Glass/stone bottle torch
Use: Outdoors and indoors
Materials: any type of glass bottle that you can close at the top to hold the wick (beer bottles, wine bottles, pretty bottles bought special for the purpose, as long as it has a narrow neck), cotton wick material (threads from a mob head work well), and oil.

These types of torches are definitely non-traditional, but they are effective, easy to make and relatively safe--safer than standard stick torches anyway. The ancient Hellenes had oil lamps, and that is basically what you are creating: a reservoir to hold oil, a wick to sustain the flame, and the flame itself. To create this type of vessel, take the bottle, add oil, make a cap for the bottle, make a hole in the cap, stick the wick through it, let soak and light. Note: if you want to use olive oil, you need to have a very shallow basin, as olive oil doesn't creep up the wick very well.

Vigil torch
Use: indoors, and outdoors with wind guard
Materials: candle, plastic cup, piece of cardboard or paper, scissors, and perhaps a holder for the candle

Candle-lit vigils are beautiful, serene, and often very emotional. There is something awe-inspiring about a group of people flooding the streets with little lights in their hands. They are often silent, and they follow in the wake of a terrible crime or accident. These vigils are often lit with candles that are simply held in the hand. The top can be covered by a plastic cup with a hole in the bottom to act as a wind guard, or if the weather is agreeable, a simple cardboard or paper circle above the hand can be used to protect the hand from dripping wax.

In the same way a candle is prepared for the vigil, it can also be prepared for a religious rite. If you want a longer torch, consider the non-traditional solution of bamboo torches. Take a bamboo stick of the desired length, and make sure it is as thick as you can find it. Take a small candle and fit at least 1/3 of the candle into the top of the bamboo stick. You can squeeze a hand or wind guard between the candle and the edge of the bamboo if desired. this way, you have an elongated torch that is cost effective and safe for indoor use. The picture to the left is my Panathenaia torch.

Making torches does not have to be hard, and with the proper precautions, it is also safe. If you do work with torches, make sure you have a place to stick the torch when you want your hands free again, and like all things that include fire, make sure to have an extinguisher on hand--water will not help you in the case of oily fires. Enjoy!

Image source: here.