Glossary

Athena and Herakles

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Apotheosis (ἀποθεόων): Elevation of a mortal to immortality through deification. Enrollment of a mortal among the gods.*** A Roman ceremony for the apotheosis of an emperor is described in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities pages 105-106.

Boule (βουλή): An assembly or council of nobles.*** Representatives of Hellenion members. They are charged with determining the date, location, and hosts of the Hellenion Annual Meeting. They advise the Prutaneis and may require it to take a vote on a particular matter of Hellenion governance. The Proedros is the Chair of the Boule. Individual members are Bouleutes.

Choe: An offering of wine or other nourishing liquid (honey, oil, milk, or water) for chthonic deities (underworld gods), ancestors, or deceased heroes. This is performed by overturning and emptying a larger vessel (a large two handled jug that stands on the ground or is held).**** This may be done to appease the Chtonic gods or deceased heroes to avoid being plagued by ghosts or evil spirits (keres). Note the difference between this and a sponde/libation.

A choe ritual would follow thus: the liquid to be offered is fetched and taken in procession to the grave site, herm, or pit. While facing east, a silent prayer is made and the choe is given to the ground in the west. Olive branches are strewn on the ground over the area where the offering soaked into the ground. Finally, everyone departs without looking back.

Daimon (δαίμων): A Greek term meaning “divine spirit” or “divine entity.”** These include minor gods and deceased heroes.

Demos/Demoi: A local congregation (demoi is plural) under Hellenion national which are open for public worship. A demos consists of three or more members of Hellenion, not all of whom belong to a single household, who worship together regularly (at least six times per year, a majority of which are public). They include a Demarkhos (local president), Grammateus, and Tamias.

Epistates (ἐπιστάτης): Chosen to preside as chairman of the senate, and the assembly of the people.*** President of Hellenion.

Eusebeia (εὐσέβεια): Greek for piety. See the page on eusebeia to learn more about what it means to be pious in Hellenismos.**

Grammateus (γραμματεύς): A clerk or scribe. Among a great number of scribes employed by the magistrates and governments of Athens, there were three of higher rank, who were real state-officers. One of them was appointed by lot, by the senate, to serve the time of the administration of each prytany, though he always belonged to a different prytany from the one which was in power. His power was to keep the public records, and the decrees of the people which were made during the time in office, and to deliver to the thesmothetae (reviewers of law) the decrees of the senate.

The second grammateus was entrusted with the custody of the laws.

A third grammateus was appointed by the people, and the principal part of his office was to read any laws or documents which were required to be read in the assembly of the senate.***

Secretary of Hellenion. He or she is responsible for documenting decisions made, and issues under consideration, by the Prutaneis and distributing these reports to the membership. A member of Hellenion may request a position on the agenda of the Prutaneis meeting, through the Grammateus. The Grammateus serves the role of Membership Support – processing applications to join and renew membership in Hellenion.

Hellenic: Another term meaning Greek in reference to Hellas, the name of the Greek nation.**

Hellenic Neo-Paganism: Worship of the Hellenic pantheon in modern methodology; Hellenic Neo-Wicca or Hellenic Shamanism, for example. PLEASE NOTE: Though a certain contingent of persons employing reconstructionist methods use the term “Neo-Paganism” in a pejorative light, I assure you, that I will never do that on this blog, I am simply using the “Neo-” prefix to illustrate a method or practise that is generally considered to be “modern” and not an innovation based on a reconstructionist methology. (also note: “Shamanism”, as used by many in the greater Pagan and Neo-Pagan community, is in fact modern; there is no such thing as a “shaman” in any Native American tribal religious practise; NAFPS, a group of Native American tribal persons and their supporters, corroborate this).*

Hellenismos/Hellenic polytheism/Hellenic reconstruction: See What Is Hellenismos? at Urban Hellenistos.*

Hellenistai/Hellenistos/Helleneste: Plural, masculine, and feminine forms of “Hellenic polytheist”.*

Hestia (Ἑστία’): The name Hestia literally means “hearth” in reference to the hearth fire. The hearth fire provided both heat and cooking in many ancient homes.** The hearth is also considered the altar of the goddess Hestia, Who is represented by the fire. She receives the first and last libation at daily meals and demoi rituals.

Khaire/Khairete/Xairete (Χαίρετε): A Greek word for greeting, also means “be well”. People often use this to sign off emails with. Xairete/khairete is the plural and xaire/khaire is the singular.**

Khernips: “Lustral water” used to cleanse oneself of miasma before ritual or approaching the theoi. The ritual water is set in a bowl outside the temenos, or poured from a jug over hands outside. It is also sprinkled over the offerings before ritual.*****

There are three kinds of khernips depending on the purpose of the ritual. The first two are for every day and festival ceremonies. 1) fresh clean water that is poured over the hands to cleanse the hands (and sometimes the forehead/face) to respect the Gods by appearing before them in a clean and hygienic fashion. 2) fresh clean and blessed water (made by plunging a burning twig of rue from the hestia in spring water) that is used to purify the sacrifices and offerings. 3) fresh, clean water (either salt water or containing certain herbs and flowers) that is used to cleanse miasma from the oikos, guests, new born babies, new mothers, brides, grooms, corpses and the funeral attendants/relatives of the deceased at specific rituals of marriage, birth and death. The herbs, flowers and minerals are added to the water depend entirely on what type of cleansing is required, which type of miasma is being expelled as well as the extent of the miasma.

Khiton: The basic ritual male tunic, customarily white linen.

Miasma: Ritual impurity or pollution caused by either neglecting eusebeia, or through contact with blood, the insane, criminals, birth, sex, or death.** It is pollution associated with being mortal or in contact with mortality. It is custom not to enter a temenos within 24 hours of contact with miasma. However, opinions vary on whether menstration is miasma (based on this link this author determines not), whether it is inappropriate to approach a household shrine or altar when tainted with miasma, or if some gods are more accepting of “mess” than others.

Mythos/mythology: The sacred texts of any religion/the study of those collected texts.*

Orthodoxy: From Greek orthos (“right”, “true”, “straight”) + doxa (“opinion” or “belief”, related to dokein, “to think”), is adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion.

Orthopraxy: From modern Greek ὀρθοπραξία (orthopraxia) meaning “correct action/activity” or an emphasis on conduct, ethicalliturgical, and in ritual practice, as opposed to faith or grace etc. This contrasts with orthodoxy, which emphasizes correct belief.

Oikos (οἶκος): Household, house, or family. The basic unit of society and the cornerstone of ancient Greek society. For more information on the oikos in antiquity, see here.

Peplos: The basic female ritual garment, customarily made of linen.

Polis (πόλις): A Greek word meaning city.**

Prutaneis: Executives of the Boule of ancient Athens.*** The Board of Directors and supreme governing board of nine members of Hellenion. Individually, they are known as Prutanis. Eac is elected for five years. They appoint the three Officers: the Epistates, Grammateus, and Tamias.

Reconstructionism: The process of reviving an ancient religion through academic research and practice. It is a method, and not a religion. I cannot stress this enough.**

Sacrifice: The act of making something sacred by giving up something important for the sake of the gods. Animal sacrifice can only be properly understood in the context of ancient society, knowing that a man must kill in order to live and realizing his place in the cosmos by doing so.** Modern practice of sacrifice simply means giving up something material one values to the gods.

Sponde/Libation: A toast or an offering of a drink in honor of the gods.** This offering would be the first sip and would be followed by a prayer. It is a controlled pouring of nourishing liquid (water, milk, honey, wine [sometimes diluted with water], or oil [I’ve also taken to including coffee, a more modern adaptation]) from a cup or phaile (flat drinking bowl with raised center and no handles) onto an altar , altar fire, herm, into a pit, or onto the flat ground. Note the difference between a libation and choe.

A sponde ritual would follow thus: The first portion of the drink would be poured on the ground, in the fire, or on the altar with a prayer which includes “Sponde! Sponde! Sponde!” which means “Libation! Libation! Libation!” and a prayer to the gods with the appropriate epithets. At festivals and feasts, this would be followed by relaxing, drinking, eating, songs, stories, and games. Of the three libations given, the first is given to Hestia, the second to Zeus, and the third to the deity invoked or the Olympians in general. At the end of festivities, the last sponde is given to Hestia, for She receives the first and last servings.

The oldest sources for sponde is in Homer’s Iliad exemplifying the Bronze Age form of the simple ritual.  The following is Robert Fagles’ translation:

But Achilles strode back to his shelter now
and opened the lid of the princely inlaid sea chest
that glistening-footed Thetis stowed in his ship to carry,
filled to the brim with war-shirts, windproof cloaks
and heavy fleecy rugs. And there it rested…
his handsome, well-wrought cup. No other man
would drink the shining wine from its glowing depths,
nor would Achilles pour the wine to any other God,
none but Father Zeus. Lifting it from the chest
he purified it with sulfur crystals first
then rinsed it out with water running clear,
washed his hands and filled it bright with wine.
And then, taking a stand before his lodge, he prayed,
pouring the wine to earth and scanning the high skies
and the God who loves the lightning never missed a word:

“King Zeus- Pelasgian Zeus, lord of Dodona’s holy shrine,
dwelling far away, brooding over Dodona’s bitter winters!
Your prophets dwelling round you, Zeus, the Selli
sleeping along the ground with unwashed feet…
If you honored me last time and heard my prayer
and rained destruction down on all Achaea’s ranks,
now, once more, I beg you, bring my prayer to pass!
I myself hold out on shore with the beached ships here
but I send my comrade forth to war with troops of Myrmidons-
Launch glory along with him, high lord of thunder, Zeus!
Fill his heart with courage… let him come back to me
and our fast fleet unharmed, with all my armor around him
all our comrades fighting round my friend!”

So Achilles prayed
and Zeus in all his wisdom heard those prayers.
One prayer the Father granted, the other he denied:
Patroclus would drive the onslaught off the ships-
that much Zeus granted, true,
but denied him safe and sound return from battle.
Once Achilles had poured the wine and prayed to Zeus,
he returned to his shelter, stowed the cup in the chest
then took his stand outside, his spirit yearning still…

-Iliad, Book 16, 261-302

Stefanoi: Garland or wreathe of flowers and leaves worn on the head.*****

Tamias: Any person who had the care, managing, or dispensing of money, stock, or property of any description, confided to him. A general paymaster who received all money which was to be disbursed for the purposes of administration.*** Treasurer of Hellenion.

Temenos (τέμενος): A Greek term meaning sacred space, usually in reference to a Greek sanctuary or temple.**

Temple: A Greek building which housed the god or goddess. Unlike modern times, only priests or priestesses were allowed into the temple, and regular worship took place outdoors.**

Theoi: The gods of the ancient Hellenes and Hellenismos.

Theurgy (θεουργία): A Greek term meaning “god-work” in reference to various meditative and ritualistic prayer practices which were sometimes employed by others as an additional spiritual practice on top of their normal, everyday Hellenic worship and piety.**

Xenia (ξενία): A Greek term meaning guest-friendship or hospitality.** This is related to the sacred guest-host relationship, to which both guest and host have responsibilities, including giving mutual respect. Zeus was the protector of travelers, guests, and hospitality, as his epithet ‘Xenios Zeus’ indicates. ‘Xenos’ means stranger. A Xenos passing by a Greek house could be invited inside by the family. Only after the host offered a bath, food and wine, and the guest was conformable could the guest be asked for his or her name or ask other questions. Two important elements of ancient hospitality are protection and guidance (towards the guest’s next destination). The host gives the guest a parting gift (xenion, ξεινήιον). Likewise, the guest must be courteous and not be a burden.

Hospitality is critical, as the guest may be a god in disguise, mingling among mortals. If a host performed for a god, he or she would incur the wrath of that god. Likewise, if he or she performs well, the household may earn the blessing of that god.

*From Of Thespiae. Also, be sure to read Ruadhan’s excellent FAQ.

**From Temenos Theon.

***Paraphrased from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

****Paraphrased from Foundation of the Hellenic World.

*****Paraphrased from Paraphernalia of the Hellenic Reconstructionist.

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