Basic Hellenic Ritual Reconstruction
Ritual is important. Ritual brings us closer to the Gods by directing our complete focus towards the divine. Greek ritual is based on the concept of Kharis, reciprocation. We are welcome to ask our gods for guidance, protection, favors, and revenge. What we give in return is ritual gesture of contemplation and offerings that are appropriate to the various Theoi.
Tools you may need:
Besides being the basic Greek offering, barley was also considered to be a purifying force, along the lines of khernips. The knife used in sacrifice was stored in a basket of barley to be carried in the procession to the temple, and sprinkled on the altar before it began.
Washing your hands and face with khernips, or lustral water, is absolutely essential element to Hellenic ritual. Khernips is simple to create. Traditionally the water used came from a pure source such as a free-flowing river or stream. It is acceptable to use bottled spring water.
It was then consecrated by a priest by dipping a burning branch into it, or mixed with salt. You can extinguish a burning bay leaf or stick of incense in it, or pass the knife blade through the altar flame and then touch it to your khernips water.
Incense is another simple offering that is indispensable. The smell of incense does much to enhance the religious experience. The smoke itself is an traditional Greek offering. The pleasing smoke wafts upward, carrying the scent to Olympos for the Gods to enjoy. The Orphic hymns outline the various fumigations proper to each divinity. Frankincense has been said to be acceptable all purpose offering.
Wine is one of the best bloodless offerings for the Gods. Libations can be poured into an offering bowl kept on the altar space or poured directly on to the ground. Some people will keep a special goblet on the altar for the offerings of wine. Red or white is acceptable, as well as grape juice for those who are not able participate in alcoholic beverages.
Olive oil is an excellent all-purpose offering, appropriate for all the Gods and was used to anoint statues and sacred stones such as the omphalos at Delphi.
A libation is a liquid offering to the Gods. The way a libation is offered depends on the Gods it is being offered to. A libation to the Olympic Gods is poured out steadily in a continuous stream. Khthonic libations, called a khoe, are dumped out onto the ground.
Common libations are wine, olive oil, honey and pure water. Having bowls to pour a libation into is very helpful, as you can pour the libation inside, during a ritual, and then dispose of it later. Simple wine glasses are suitable.
It is proper to represent the sacred flame in the form of an oil lamp, candle, or electric candle and use it as a centering for the altar and ritual space. Consecrate the light source to Hestia before ignition with one of her hymns.
Basic Ritual Structure
Before the Ritual
First of all, be presentable. Make sure you are clean, hair combed, teeth brushed. Some Hellenes like to wear ancient Greek dress, like khitons and himations. This is perfectly acceptable if it’s something you’d like to do but it is certainly not required.
For big, more important rituals, I recommend taking a ritual bath or shower first. You can use bath oils whose herbs are significant, but simple soap will suffice. Be sure to wash your hair and your body completely. As you are bathing, do not think about your normal worries. Imagine all these cares and concerns, the shopping lists and do-lists and every other annoyance, flowing from your body and going down the drain. Concentrate on the ritual ahead. Meditate on the God you are honoring and the reason you are doing this ritual.
Greek ritual began with a procession to the local temple of the God being honored. The participants adorned their heads with stephinoi, garlands of leaves, flowers and colorful ribbons worn during festivals. People in the community were chosen to carried the tools in the temple, and the rest of the worshipers followed behind.
If this is a solitary ritual, then it can be hard to carry all the supplies yourself. Set up the altar or ritual space beforehand, and when everything is in order then take a step back, out of the area where the ritual will occur. Close your eyes for a moment before beginning. Take deep, calm breaths. Step forward in slow, measured steps as you enter the sacred space. Be aware as you proceed that you are entering the presence of Divinity.
Before any rituals calling on the Gods it is important to cleanse ourselves of any miasma so that we may be pure in Their sight. This is usually quite easy, and can be achieved by washing your hands and face with khernips, or lustral water. Wash your hands and face. Visualize the water washing away all that is impure and leaving you clean and shining.
Have a small container of barely prepared at the altar. If you are outside, then take a handful and throw it on the ground near the altar. If you are inside, sprinkle some on the altar.
The prayer began by calling the God using Their name and a list of their epithets. You can use the Greek words, or the English translation. Using a combination of both is quite effective, as you get the tradition and weight of Greek language and the significance of the meaning behind it.
The second step of Greek prayer is to introduce yourself, and to list a few things you have done for the God before. If you have never had contact with this God and your intention is to start cultivating a relationship with this Deity, then you can skip the list of your deeds and simply state your name.
The third step of the prayer is state the intention of the prayer. whether you are asking the God for a boon, thanking Them for something They did for you, or your intention is simply to honor and commune with Them, this is where you say so. If this is your first ritual for them, then say so, and tell Them why you have chosen to honor Them.
To complete the ritual, thank the gods for their presence and extinguish any flame that you do not keep burning eternal and exit the ritual space.
This is intended as template, not script. True relationship with the Gods comes from trial and improvement as inspired by the divine.