Many of Elaion's PAT rituals--if not all--hold invocations to the Gods. I wanted to take a post to explain what this is and what its purpose is. An invocation in this case takes the form of a supplication or prayer. The term comes from the Latin verb invocare: 'to call on', 'invoke', 'to give'. During our PAT rituals, an invocation implies a call upon a God or Goddess. In fact, it is our initial call. If we take a standard offering to a deity, this is the basic formula we use:
  • Invocation
  • Libation
  • Hymn
  • Prayer
  • (Sacrifice)
In case of, say, Demeter, it might thus look like this:
  • Invocation to Demeter: Of Demeter, ruler of corn-rich Sikelia, and of the violet-garlanded Persephone sing...
  • Libation of a kykeon (barley meal, water, ground goat cheese, mint) to Demeter
  • (Part of) Homeric Hymn 2
                                                        To Demeter

         Golden-haired Demeter sat a Eleusis, apart from all the blessed Gods and
         stayed, wasting with yearning for her deep-bosomed daughter. Then she
         caused a most dreadful and cruel year for mankind over the all-nourishing
         earth: the ground would not make the seed sprout, for rich-crowned Demeter
         kept it hid. In the  fields the oxen drew many a curved plough in vain, and
         much white barley was cast upon the land without avail. So she would have
         destroyed the whole race of man with cruel famine and have robbed them
         who dwell on Olympos of their glorious right of gifts and sacrifices, had not
         Zeus perceived and marked this in his heart.
  • Sacrifice
  • Prayer
          “To you, golden-haired Demeter, libations of thanks. That after all
          darkness may come the light and that You may always guide me to it.”

When a person calls upon a God or Goddess to ask for something like protection, a favour, his/her spiritual presence in a ceremony, etc., or simply for worship, this can be done in a pre-established form or with the invoker's own words or actions, but we try to base out invocations on ancient texts where possible. In the example above, the line 'Of Demeter, ruler of corn-rich Sikelia, and of the violet-garlanded Persephone sing...' was taken from Bacchylides, Fragment 3.

Invocations are, basically, short introductury hymns. In general, a hymn is sung to the Theoi with the aim to please the God in question. They have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning contains two things: a note that the hymn is about to begin, and an announcement of whom the speaker/singer is addressing. While the announced hymn (in this case part of Homeric hymn 2 to Demeter) has these elements as well, we double up on it by using an invocation.

Hymns were sung to please, to bring forth. It was a way to celebrate the Deity in question, but also to make Him or Her more inclined to grant the following request. Hymns were accompanied with music and dancing; they were true celebrations in that regard. They were performed to establish existing kharis and built upon it.

As a note, a hymn differs from a prayer that follows after. A prayer was carefully formulated to convey a message as persuasively as possible to the God, and was thus often spoken. The idea was not to please, but to request. They made 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 a material sacrifice, the prayer is not an offering at all.

We enjoy adding invocation, sometimes even double ones. Like this one which has an invocation to Demeter by Ovid, from Metamorphosis 5:
  • Invocation to Demeter: Khaire Demeter, you who taught us to work the earth and provides for us so bountifully…
         Demeter first turned the earth with the curved plough; She first gave corn
         and crops to bless the land; She first gave laws; all things are Demeter's gift.
         Of Demeter I must sing. Oh that my song may hymn the Goddess' praise as
         She deserves, a Goddess who deserved high hymns of praise.

To us, adding invocations is another way of giving praise to the Theoi. It's also our way to honour and connect us to the ancient Hellenes who might have sang these words to the Gods. They focus the mind and remind us of the many way in which the Theoi influence our life and this world. They matter to worship, and we therefor hope you enjoy them and recite them with joy and pride.