I often get asked the question do you worship 'x'-deity within the pantheon. The answer is always one out of three possibilities: I either actively worship them, I worship them when the situation calls for His or Her involvement, or I don't worship them, meaning I have never given Them active homage. Sometimes this leads people to believe I don't honour these Gods either, or that I am 'cherry-picking' my religion. Because of these events, I would like to write this post today, on the difference between 'honouring' and 'worshipping'.

In the ancient Hellenic society, there was very little--if any--difference between honouring and worshipping; this was also why mortals (especially kings) were sometimes revered as Gods. That said, looking at the difference in meaning of the ancient Greek words for both practices, we can identify a difference.

'Honouring' is best covered by the ancient Greek word 'timaó (τιμάω), meaning to value, to honour, to have in honour, to revere, or to venerate. 'Worship', however, is best covered by the word 'proskuneō' (προσκυνέω), meaning to prostrate oneself in homage, to do reverence to, to adore, or simply to worship. 'Proskuneō' is also used to describe the actual act of worshipping. For the ancient Persian people, for example, we know that the word was used to describe the act of falling upon the knees and touching the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence. Of course, there are many other words that mean something along the same lines, but for today's post, I'm going to go with these.

In essence, one of these terms has to do with admiration and esteeming and the other has to do with acknowledging one as superior and service to them, be they human or God. One naturally follows the other--is an extension of the other--but they do not mean exactly the same. That said, within the Hellenic pantheon, you can be sure I honour every single God or Goddess; They are all my Gods, but some have a larger impact on my life and daily worship than others.

The God I was asked if I worship this time was Aristeos (more often spelled 'Aristaios' (Αρισταιος). He is the rustic God of shepherds and cheese-making, bee-keeping, honey, honey-mead, olive growing, medicinal herbs and the Etesian winds which eased the scorching heat of midsummer. His name was derived from the Greek word 'aristos', meaning 'most excellent' or 'most useful'.

Now, Aristaios is a God, a beautiful God who has quite a bit of ancient writing to His person. The ancient Hellenes obviously honoured and worshipped Him often. I, however, am not in the business of cheese-making or bee-keeping. I do not regularly grow or use medicinal herbs, and while I enjoy honey, I dislike olives. the Etesian winds have very little influence in my life, and I am definitely not a shepherd. Aristaios' direct influence in my life is therefor very limited--in essence, our paths don't cross much. As such, he is not a part of my daily worship and the only reason I would have to actively worship Him is for a festival or some such, because as much as I honour Him, His domains don't influence me directly. In short: I honour Aristaios, but I don't worship Him.

The Hellenic religion knows hundreds of Gods, many of Them with specialized domains like Aristaios. Worshipping all of them on a daily or even weekly or monthly basis is impossible, and it would also be quite useless. Looking at kharis--a cornerstone of the Hellenic faith--it's prudent to have at least neutral standing with all the Gods, but to foster only a great amount of it with the gods who directly impact your life and person. This religious reciprocity is achieved by active worship--so by performing sacrifices to Them--but simply reading Their mythology, speaking well of Them, and thinking of Them whenever you come in contact with one of their domains--bee-keeping, for example, for Aristaios--goes a long way to establishing this relationship.

Which of the Gods you establish the greatest amount of kharis with--and thus actively worship--depends on your person and your life; a farmer will worship different deities than a soldier or lawyer, the old may worship other Gods than the young, etc. That is the way it should be; what matters is that we all honour all the Gods, that we speak well of Them and are aware of Their influence on our lives. For the ancient Hellenes, both acts were noble and logical, and it should be for us as well.