Article Info

published: 2/9/07
updated: 2/11/14

Hellenic Polytheism





The Greek goddess Athena. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Photo © Sacred Destinations.


Parthenon, Athens
Sunset on the Parthenon, Athens.


Prometheia Festival
Prometheia festival led by the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes on Mt. Olympus, Greece. Photo under GFDL.

What is Hellenic Polytheism?

Hellenic Polytheism (also known as Hellenism, Hellenismos, Hellenic Religion, and Hellenic Reconstructionism) is a Neopagan path characterized by an emphasis on the deities and religious practices of the ancient Greeks.

Beliefs

Hellenic polytheists worship the ancient Greek gods, including the Olympians, nature divinities, underworld deities and heroes. Religious beliefs of Hellenists are typically influenced by ancient Greek writers like Homer and Hesiod, scholarly sources on ancient Greek religion and, usually to a lesser degree, personal experience.





Practices

As in ancient Greek religion, Hellenic religious practices center primarily on an exchange system of providing offerings and prayer to the gods in return for their blessings. Hellenic Polytheists also celebrate the ancient Greek festivals and some perform the rituals of the ancient mysteries. The ethics of modern Hellenic polytheists are often inspired by ancient Greek virtues such as reciprocity, hospitality, and moderation.

A majority of Hellenic polytheists are Reconstructionist — that is, they seek to faithfully reconstruct the rituals of a particular ancient religion, as opposed creating an eclectic faith from a variety of sources.

The American organization Hellenion, for example, emphasizes historical accuracy in replicating Greek practices and rejects Wicca, shamanism, and other modern Neopagan ideas. The American Hellenist author Drew Campbell sees Pagan Reconstructionism as a reaction to the cultural inauthenticity perceived in Wicca.

Groups and Organizations

Hellenion is a U.S.-based organization of Hellenic polytheists. It began online and was founded in part by Andrew Campbell, the author of Old Stones, New Temples. It gained official status as a nonprofit organization in September 2002. Hellenion is firmly Reconstructionist and excludes Wiccan influences and eclecticism. It ordains priests, who are known as Theoroi and are dedicated to a specific Greek god or goddess.

The Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes (Ύπατο Συμβούλιο των Ελλήνων Εθνικών), abbreviated YSEE, was founded in Greece in 1997 as a union of several independent gruops of Hellenic revivalists. The organization's main focus is striving for greater religious freedom for Neopagans in Greece, a country that is 98% Greek Orthodox Christian. Worship of the ancient Greek gods was illegal in Greece until a court decision removed the ban in May 2006. YSEE is now petitioning for access to worship in ancient temples in Greece. The organization also hosts Hellenic rituals, including an annual Prometheia festival on Mt. Olympus, which was attended by 2,500 people in 2005.




Sources

  1. Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes - official website in English
  2. Hellenion - official website
  3. Helena Smith, "Greek gods prepare for comeback." The Guardian, May 5, 2006.

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