As someone who struggled to find resources that weren’t entirely one sided and hard to understand, I believe this post is in order! It explains how to petition to, (in other words, pray to) the Theoi concerning both everyday matters and big events in your life, as well as how to praise them and some general worship tips. I hope this helps some of you get started!
P.S. This is from a reconstructionist point of view, so if you’re not very traditional, then this post may not hold everything you’re looking for!
Unlike what I first thought whenever I began doing research into Hellenismos, praying is not simply talking to a Theos, or even praising them. There is definitely a place for that in Hellenismos, but prayer typically means to ask for help in a matter that the Theos has a connection to. So when I talk about prayer, this is what I refer to. For example, asking Aphrodite for help in your love life is praying to Her.
Prayers are usually said while an offering is being given, whether that be after a hymn, libation, etc. Or it can happen in a moment where you can call upon the Theos of your choice and say something such as “if I have ever brought offerings to you, hear my prayer”. Prayers are very loose and there aren’t necessarily rules for petitioning the gods, just general standards. For example, don’t outright demand something from the Theoi without an offering or something similar. Be respectful, and know that you are asking for something, not taking money out of the bank. If the gods will it, it shall happen
Whenever I want to pray for something, I sing a hymn. Sometimes these are ones I write myself,or they come from the Homeric or Orphic hymns. I’ll be talking more about praising the Theoi in a little bit, so I won’t go into details, but incorporating your prayer into a hymn is very easy to do, and hymns often make a good lead-up offering. Singing a hymn, no matter how awful you think your singing voice is, is a performance and a gift to the Theoi. Sing, be proud, and lift your words to the heavens. They will appreciate all you give as long as it comes from your heart.
If you cannot or will not sing for any reason, giving an offering may be your best choice. Poetry, artwork, food, libations, incense/candles (mainly for Ouranic Theoi) and anything else you wish to give, such as time, are perfectly acceptable offerings. If you’re curious as to how one goes about conducting a traditional Ouranic offering, please visit this blog post. I am still writing one to match the khthonic side of things. My apologies!
In times of need or when you have very little time but desperately wish for the aid of the Theoi, you can petition to the gods without an offering. I have done this either with a mention of a previous offering, or an oath to give them a specific offering if they helped me. Here’s an example for both instances:
“Wise Athene, if I have ever pleased you with my offerings, answer my prayer, great goddess!”
“I swear upon the life which I love to make you an offering, Athene, if you aid me and answer my prayer!”
You can then say your prayer after making this plea or beforehand by using something similar. I think the more heartfelt and honest the prayer, the better. I have a few daily prayers I use and I try to really feel them, since I’ll be using them very often. If a certain prayer clicks with you, I say use it.
Praising the Theoi is a major part of Hellenismos, and as such, there are tons of ways you can shower the gods with adoration and love. As aforementioned, hymns and offerings are both excellent ways to do so.
Hymns, in the Hellenic sense, are beautiful poem-like songs we can sing (or say) to build kharis with the Theoi. Kharis is the grace, the love, and the beauty shared between a mortal and a god. It is the relationship.
The Homeric and Orphic hymns are obviously very well-known, but they are by no means the only or the best hymns out there. Ones made by yourself or other Hellenists are also wonderful. @hymnstothetheoi has a collection of hymns on their tumblr blog, which I recommend for anyone interested in learning more. @baringtheaegis om tumblr has a wonderful post on how one could go about creating a hymn based off of the Orphic hymn to Pan. This is similar to how I personally write my hymns.
Feel free to only use the Homeric and Orphic pieces, but you don’t need to by any means. I love the old style of them and the connection I feel to the Ancients, but I make my own for personal and public use as well. During rituals, using the old hymns seems special, so I do that. Here is a link to a pdf download of the Homeric hymns (as soon as you click on it it will begin downloading, just so you’re aware). I haven’t found a good resource for the Orphic hymns as of yet, but Theoi.com definitely has a nice collection in their library.
Other ways to praise the Theoi include celebrating some of their festivals, dedicating time to them (doing something they hold influence over, ex: archery for Artemis and/or Apollo), or even keeping an e-shrine or playlist you made for them. People with disabilities, illnesses etc. often do things such as simply spend time thinking about them or creating aesthetic posts. These are wonderful alternatives to energy-draining activities such as rituals.
Prayer and praise both tie into worship. The only reason I didn’t include praise within the worship heading is because I wanted to touch more on the ritual aspect of Hellenismos. I barely knew anything about rituals as a beginner simply because no one had any resources. After finding Elani’s blog, that changed of course, and I began to understand what rituals were and how to do them. A big thank you to her for all of the information and resources, I have no idea how I would have learned everything without her.
In ancient Hellas, there were rituals, and they were usually public. They were very important to the city that held these rituals, so I see them as vital in my personal practice. Rituals are not for everyone, of course, but I love them. There were very repetitious steps involved in rituals, so once you grasp the concept, it comes naturally and is easy to follow.
A procession would take place first, sometimes from outside the city walls, or from an important place. To mimic this procession, many modern Hellenists take a walk outside or around their homes to put themselves in the ritual mindset. It’s a small thing that helps in the long run.
After the procession, the people cleanse themselves and the space, and of course the offering. Temples had an altar set up outside where people would gather to watch and make prayers as the offering (usually an animal sacrifice) was made.
Barley was scattered to cleanse the altar space, people washed themselves with khernips, and this was called Katharmos. In other words, it was a time for cleansing away miasma. They would also circle the altar with khernips to cleanse it as well.
After this had been done, prayers, hymns, and other related things were sung and said. They would make their sacrifice, and then hold a feast using the meat of the animal they had sacrificed (unless this was a cthonic ritual, in which case nothing sacriificed would be ingested). In modern times, people may give up something such as a bottle of wine or a meal, and then feast with what they give up.