Dos and Don’ts

Here are some basic dos and don’ts to keep in mind before you pray, offer a sacrifice, or do a Hellenic ritual of any kind:

  1. Always wash your hands first. This is traditional, and has to do with standards of cleanliness in order to avoid any sort of miasma. This is also seen in Judaism and most likely other religions from ancient times as well. For rituals or festivals, I would take a shower or a bath first and put on clean clothes. I frequently do, and enjoy doing my daily devotionals in the morning right after my shower. Washing and putting on clean clothes was traditional before rituals (Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, p 55, 77).
  2. Prayers are typically done with the arms raised at the side, with the palms either facing the altar or image of worship, the sky if to the Olympians, or to the ground if a chthonic deity was being addressed. This is from both Guthrie’s The Greeks and their Gods (exact page forthcoming) and Walter Burkert’s Greek Religion on pg 75.
  3. If you pass by an altar to a god or a statue, you can greet the god with a “Xaire”. A short prayer may also be added (Greek for “hello” or “be well”) and/or blowing of a kiss by raising hands to one’s lips (Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, pg 75).
  4. Keep whatever area in which you’re doing worship clean. See #1.
  5. Don’t get discouraged by the piles of reading material that one typically has to go through in order to understand how to practice. Just look through this website for the basics and do your best and don’t worry about getting it right the first time around. Practice makes perfect, so practice often and pray even more often!
  6. In devotionals that are in the home, it is customary to offer Hestia the first of everything you offer as well as the last (Greek Folk Religion by Nilsson). This goes for meals that you cook as well. Meals were made sacred in ancient Hellenic practice. Consider offering parts of what you cook to Hestia before you eat it.
  7. Frankincense was the most common offering to a god back in the day (Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 62). If you buy granules in bulk from an online herbal store, that’s one of the best ways to go.

For those interested in discussing the theology of Hellenismos, particularly in relation to what it means for us in this day and age to be a Hellenist, I recommend VERY highly the Hellenismos_Theology emailing list.

Additional links of information:

Greek polytheism 101