[What’s That?] Altars and Shrines

Pagans and polytheists, at least in my experiences, differ in this way (amongst others): The former mostly maintains altars, the latter mostly maintains shrines.

BUT RUADHÁN, AREN’T THOSE JUST TWO DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE SAME THING?

No.

Here’s why:

An altar is a place where you practise your religion; a shrine is where a Deity, or several deities, have Their own space in your home or the community. A shrine is like a permanent or semi-permanent guestroom for a deity, or several deities, where one has created a space in one’s home specifically for Them. For purposes of space, a shrine may have a “threshold” area where one practises rituals, or at least lights a candle and incense daily or weekly (depending on how one’s religion honours the deity in question), but the rest of the area is usually left untouched, save for periodic days during the month or year when you perform maid service (still running with the guest room analogy), or when you get little gifts for the Deity and arrange them artfully in Deity’s space. On the other hand, an altar is assumed to be for you, the whole space is yours, and there is (usually) nothing on there that you don’t use at some point when practising your religion. The two things are very different in intent and purpose, so conflating the two as one in the same is to betray one’s ignorance.

Shrines are often more-or-less “permanent”; if it’s a fixture of the home, its location is often chosen very carefully (usually dependent on deity) and after the location is designated for a shrine, it’s not moved unless special circumstances (like ritual cleaning, or a move) require one to. An altar might require a special location or direction to face, depending n the religion, but it is, at most, assumed to be a “part time” placement, the lease can be cancelled at any time; it can be moved or taken down when not in use (even if one doesn’t, out of convenience or just plain laziness) and I’ve never heard of a religion that requires special reverence for taking down a mere altar that could be easily compared to the treatment of a shrine that needs cleaning or has fallen into disrepair.

Common fixtures of small indoor shrines include a representation of the deity, a dish for offerings like wine, a candle or two, a receptacle for incense, and (depending on how long one has worshipped the deity) lots and lots of items that are gifts for the Deity, such as coins, food items, or just trinkets and baubles made of or bearing images of stones, flora, or fauna sacred to the deity. Common fixtures of altars often include a candle or two, a receptacle for incense, a representation of a deity or two, and various ritual tools —which may be (but may not be limited to) blades/athames, wands, a goblet or chalise, etc…. Large “outdoor” shrines that are basically the size of a tiny house that can have standing or sitting room for a few people tend to have an altar inside them for the placement of offerings and candles and holding small rituals of reverence, but the aura of such an altar is less like leaving gifts at the threshold of a household shrine, and more like bringing a gift into another’s house as a guest; it’s the Deity’s altar at one of their many Earthly homes, not that liminal space at the borderline between your space and Theirs. Because there is some overlap in the characteristics of a small household shrine and a household altar (candles, incense, representations of Deity), people who don’t know or understand the differences between altars and shrines may confuse the two.

SO, RUADHÁN, SINCE YOU THINK YOU’RE SO SMART, HOW DO I TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

Well, aside from my description, I also thought to provide a visual aide. First, a couple photos from a search for “Wiccan Altar” on Bing.com:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wiccan_Altar

There is nothing on either of these altars that is not, or at least cannot be intended to be used in a ritual. Even the statue in the second photo might be ritually turned to face one direction or another, during the course of a ritual, be it before, after, or while all other tools are being used.

So here are now a few images of shrines:

my Eros shrine, 01-08

Dver's "Dionysos shrine" (image links to Flickr gallery)

Dver’s “Dionysos shrine” (image links to Flickr gallery)

Dionysos shrine from Flaming Thrysos

Dionysos shrine from Flaming Thrysos

Very little in these pictures (though one is erroneously referred to as an “altar” by its maintainer) is intended for use by human hands. These are places for their respective Deities to be most-present and welcomed into the household; these are not areas where the primary purpose is for humans doing rituals (though occasionally rituals may take place at the shrine’s threshold).

Similarly, the springs to the city nymphai of Boiotia, and other springs sacred to locally important nymphai, and other parts of the city or villiage considered important to local mythos, would often serve as shrines to the nymph in question. If a traveller wanted the good graces of the local deities, gifts would be left at the city shrine(s) —similar to the continued tradition of dropping a coin in a fountain “for luck”. Then there’s the Greek tradition of roadside shrines:

Greek-Roadside-Shrine

While some of these shrines are, like the various roadside shrines seem in the American Midwest, created by surviving families at a location near a fatal traffic accident, a lot of times, the Greek roadside shrines are just erected by some-one giving thanks and praise to an Orthodox Saint (and, on occasion, alongside an ancient deity) for some joyous event in one’s life; some of these shrines are said locally to have been standing and maintained since ancient times, perhaps with the pre-Christian commemoration only thinly veiled. Their purpose is for a short prayer and/or reflection, and (as with the roadside shrines around here, which commemorate tragedy) small trinkets and candles may be left by local people. Some Greek roadside shrines are big enough to be miniature chapels, big enough for two or three people to stand in prayer or conduct small ceremonies, but the fact that those shrines can have that function is secondary to the purpose of creating a space sacred to a Deity or Saint, where one is encouraged to pause in reflection of said Divine figure, perhaps have a small prayer or light a candle, and then go about one’s business.

While some shrines maintained by modern polytheists (as those pictured) may take form on and around a table-top out of necessity (like lacking a means of enclosure of the shrine area) or personal preference (as these are indoor shrines, and protection from elements is already taken care of, or so the reasoning may go), the purpose is still clear, often just by looking at it as a person who understands the difference. Some altars may also be set up in a niche in a wall, of on a bookshelf, or perhaps it’s a portable thing barely bigger than a CD jewelcase, but again, the intent is clear of its function simply by its form.

In paths one is unfamiliar with, or deities one has not previously seen a shrine to, the purpose may not be clear. A shrine to Ares may contain a short military dagger, and depending on the age or originating military, it might be indistinguishable from a Pop Wiccan’s athame. One may be practising a self-invented path of lesbian witchcraft that simulates the “great rite” of Wicca by rubbing two cowrie shells together, so the altar might appear more shrine-like, lacking blades and wands. If you know noting about the person’s religion, it never hurts to ask, but at the same time, it’s also perfectly fine to kindly explain that shrines and altars are not one-in-the-same, and that one “preferring” one term over the other doesn’t necessarily make it true.


Apologies to the previous publication of this without the rest. I was touching up the post on the tablet, and well, I’ll add this to my ever-growing list of why touch-screens are the work of Typhoeus.

Also: I do intend on making a series out of these sorts of posts.


(ETA on 27 July 2014)
Cos this has been recently referenced in places, I figured I’d take advantage of this opportunity to inform people reading this for the first time that I’m raising funds for my upcoming move back to the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.

I’m also giving away Heathen goddess prayer cards.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

THIS is How You Name a Sexual Aid Company After an Ancient Goddess

Hathor Aphrodisia premium lubricants

image posted because I LOVE the design work on this logo

No, really, Athena doesn’t care about your sex life.

While I’m at it, The “Eroscillator” brand sure is expensive —I find this appropriate, especially considering all the graphics illustrating the superior design, and not to mention the goldtone of everything (and not to mention an actual gold-plated Eroscillator), I just can’t afford any of it.

And I gotta give props to Pjur brand’s Eros line of lubes; the Power Cream is honestly the best thing I’ve ever used.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

ΑΛΓΕΣΙΔΩΡΟΣ

For the first time in a long time, Eros entered me last night (not in the meat-puppetry sense). As I worked His device, it was as if I felt the blue, and green, and purple of my hair, and tasted His words (as always, “Your mine, you belong to me”), and heard the sensation of being broken open and tasted the divine connection pouring from between my legs and an orifice He made in my chest long before I had a surgeon cut me open. A few hours short of twenty-four later, I’m still feeling the contours of His device, even though it’s rested under its pillow since just shortly afterward.

And more importantly, I’ve been holding this complexity of feelings, like an infatuated adolescent who was only a virgin a few hours before, and the sick feeling before undergrad finals. Maybe there will be tears later? Who knows?


The birds are His (and the butterflies, as much as they are His sister’s) even, nay, especially those sacred to other Theoi. The dove was His before it was Aphrodite’s; the peacock was His before it was Hera’s.

He guided the worm to create itself into a butterfly for Psykhe to guide the souls to their loved ones.


I know what He expects of me; how He wants me to be marked as His. Indeed, it’s why my obsessions have been gravitating the ways they have lately.

…but if he’s assured me of otherwise, why do I still feel ugly, unworthy to become, much less be His?


Just take it, silly; even if you didn’t, that wouldn’t change things. Don’t ask why. Just accept.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Begin Again

So, now is the time I’ve come to observe as the Boeotian New Year (just downloaded hella PDF files, both something called The Boeotian Project and The Ancient Boeotians, if I can find anything more about the calendar, this may prove different next year). I realise it’s technically long into the AM hours for me, but considering the hours I’ve been keeping lately, it’s actually still kind of like late last night.

The “festivities” began with cleaning up the apartment for the previous two days and part of earlier today. This took the time that it did for a lot of reasons, but mostly 1) I like to do a lot of Noumenia-related cleaning during Hekate’s Depinion and 2) I have serious allergies and keep forgetting to buy face masks — this means I end up needing to take a break every twenty minutes to let the dust settle and to clear my head of snot. In this, i also ended up doing my laundry, including a bunch of things that probably didn’t need it, but the Theoi only know how long these things had been on the floor.

So, for Mnenosyne and Hai Mousai, who boasted a large cult in their own right in Thespiae, I’ve both acquired a rosemary and now it’s festive:

Do you know how hard that key pattern is to do by hand? :-p guh… like stringing pearls, man, I swear.

…and, because I’m a dork, I’ve strung lights around the laurel — pretty much because i can:

Actually, the plants were decorated last week, but whatever.

As I finished up today’s cleaning, I asked the Theoi for their blessings upon the household in the coming year. Afterward, I showered (cos I hadn’t yet — and even if i had, I was suddenly covered in cleaning dust and stuff. I’m still not completely done with cleaning, but it’s clean enough in here for most rituals.

Then onward to the Ultra-Traditional New Year’s Meal™ (hint: I jest) of Whatever Crap i could Find In the Fridge. Actually, i had a rough idea of what i was going to do, but I ended up doing some scrounging to complete the meal.

Often are the times I just decide to throw a bunch of crap onto a pita, toss it in a 400°F oven for ten minutes, and call it a meal. This time, I found a little left-over thing that seemed to contain a tappenade, i think from Macaroni Grill, and so that means, if I think right, this little single-serve portion of finely chopped olives and other stuff cost about $4 — now that’s class:

I then crumbled a bunch of feta on top, halved some pitted kalamata olives, sliced some roasted, marinated garlic i get in this jar in the produce section (this garlic, I swear — almost as good as sex), and chopped up some leftover turkey. Threw some parmesian and the last 1/4oz of shredded Swiss on top so that it all sticks to the bread, and then….

As the timer tick-tick-ticked away ten minutes, I even dished out a festive holiday meal for the kitties:

OK, it’s the same crap they get every night when i have dinner, but it’s not like they know what day it is! [taps nose] I sort of wish i had some of the fancier wet food for the cats, but considering that I didn’t even have the money to throw myself a meal any fancier than Crap I Found In the Fridge, I’m not too worried.

Ding! Dinner’s up, and I settle in with tasty food and libate to the Theoi in gratitude and kharis, then wash my hands for ritual.

Honestly, this was completely unscripted, and I found myself offering praise to Theoi I typically don’t offer additional cultus to, such as Herakles, and whom I have not in quite a while, like Dionysos. And as I scooped up portions of pomegranate with my hand, praised the nymphai Whose springs have founded cities, and the heroes who founded Boeotia, Hesiod whose words influenced the whole of the Hellenic religions, all of Hellas, and even my own family line, both ancient and current generations.

I still have some divinations to perform, but here’s once last photo to satiate you people:

(the far-left dish contains both pomegranate arils and pieces of quince — both of which i only seem to get around this time of year)

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Condom & Lube ritual for Eros

I have a bowl of condoms I keep by my bed, and three different kinds of lube. When I refresh the bowl or replace a bottle, I have a small ritual to Eros.

*wash hands and face from khernips bowl
*light a candle
*light incense (for Eros, i like a stick of sandalwood and a stick of vanilla)
*my hymn to Eros
*a small prayer for blessing as a sprinkle spring water from khernips
*wave bowl and/or bottle(s) through the smoke

…my rituals for Eros use tea lights and I prefer to just let them burn out rather than extinguishing them with a snuffer, but the reasons I have for that are between Eros and myself. The ritual, though, pretty much anybody can use — I imagine Aphrodite might appreciate similar, even.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

On the Nature of Patron Relationships with a Deity

First off, I want to make it quite clear that the more I learn of ancient Boeotian practises, the more I love the way the ancient Boeotians did things. The more I see photos of the modern region, the more apparent how beautiful it is. The more and more, the more I start thinking that the best descriptive for my religion of “Boeotian”. That said, what led me to this was Eros — after all, it where there, especially in the ancient city of Thespiae, where His cult was maintained long before any other region.

Would I say that this is a “patron relationship”? In a way, yes.

Unfortunately, I often find myself having to specify what this way is, because there is a certain “fluffy-bunny school of NeoPaganism” (to differentiate from those more serious NeoPagans) who treat the term “patron relationship with deity” as if it has no meaning. I’m not going to say that they’re “actively working to destroy all meaning” because not only is that paranoid, it’s just not true — and anyway, I highly doubt that these people are even thinking that far ahead, in fact, I doubt that they even can.

But regardless of the facts, there are always going to be those who will misunderstand what I mean, for whatever reason, so here’s a quick explanation (as quick as I can make it, anyway) for what it means to have a patron relationship with a deity:

First off, just like any relationship, this is one that takes work to make real (and just like any relationship, it can become either healthy or dysfunctional, depending on how it’s fostered). You can’t just pick a deity like drawing a card from a fan in a parlour trick and make that Deity your patron. Nor can you just pick a Deity who “seems cool” and declare Them your patron without doing anything to foster a relationship — when you do that kind of thing to people, you’re not their friend, you’re merely an “acquaintance”, at best, or “tag-along”, or at worst, a “stalker”. When you just pick a Deity and decide that they’re your “patron”, best that could happen is the Deity will ignore you — worst that could happen is that They’ll actively work to make you go away (oh, just like with people — except that when a Deity is doing it, you’re probably going to like it a lot less).

You can’t “prove” a patron relationship exists just by pointing out a lot of random coincidences as evidence that the Deity likes you — especially when you admit that you’ve done next-to-nothing to foster a relationship. A genuine Deity relationship is generally rather hard for a person to prove, except to those who also have one (especially one with a Deity you’ve claimed is a patron), and that’s one of the reasons that I’m not particularly “loud” about my own with Eros. Sure, I can illustrate anecdotes that make it clear to me, but if you’re an Atheist, or even simply a pagan or polytheist who doesn’t believe that Deity relationships are at all plausible, then chances are good that there’s nothing I can say that will convince you, so I don’t (and anyway, a lot of my “evidence” is very personal and tend to avoid sharing too much of it with others, anyway — keeping arguments to a minimum is, like, a bonus, if you ask me). But if you’re talking to a person who has a genuine Deity relationship, or one who does simply happens by what you have to say, and it strikes them as total bullshit (and they may even say such, politely), then perhaps this should give you pause to think if this is genuine “evidence”, or if it’s just random coincidence or, at worst, the wishful thinking of somebody rather delusional.

Despite what some few and rather vocal polytheistic traditionalists may want people to believe, there is sufficient evidence that the ancients did believe that Deity relationships were at least plausible. The pythai are one example of this. The Vestal Virgins of Rome are another. The eunuchs in service to Kybele are another. The meneads of Dionysos are yet another good and easily searchable example. There are examples in The Iliad and The Odyssey. If I wanted to spend a week on Google Books, I could dig up more examples, I’m sure. What this says to me is that patron relationships, in ancient Hellas, were something that was sort of on the periphery of mainstream practise — it’s no more required of Hellenic (or any other) polytheists of today to have a strong and genuine Deity relationship than it was then, nor should it be. Trust me, sometimes I feel my Deity relationships with Eros and Apollon (especially Apollon) can be downright antagonistic, and wouldn’t wish this on anybody (well… maybe on a few people… just so they can see what it’s like before opening their fat mouths).

The Hellenic religion, in all it’s forms (both ancient-traditional and modern) should be something that encourages people to grow, and hopefully grow up. This is possible without a Deity relationship — but having one just puts a whole new angle and set of expectations on a person. Trust me when I say that I don’t mention mine as a means to “feel and seem special” — hell, I’m a Leo, so I highly doubt I need Eros or Anybody Else to make me “seem special”. Heck, I have two cats, and to them I’m the Supreme Ruler who gives pettins and stinky canned food, so for all I know, I may already be somebody’s hemitheos in need of appeasing. LOL

There is a concept in ancient-traditional Hellenic polytheism, kharis, often translated as “reciprocity, giving with delight” and it works both ways: If you give with delight to the Theoi, They will give back to you with delight. This goes double, maybe even triple or more (depending on the Theos) for those with a patron-Deity relationship. If you think that just getting up in the morning is enough to give your “patron deity”, then the Deity you want that sort of relationship is probably just sitting there and thinking “uh, dude, you should be doing that anyway, only a weak character will simply do the menial every-day things for a God.”

As many differences as I’ve had with Todd Jackson of Kyklos Apollon, he once said on his group’s discussion list:

The story of Abraham and Issac would have looked very different if the God was Apollon and not YHWH. If it was any of the Greek gods, the point of the story would have been to be so devoted to one’s family and community that sacrificing your own son would have been unacceptable.

I have to say, I agree with that. That’s one of the things I never liked about Christianity — weak character is a virtue to mainstream Christianity. The Theoi, on the other hand, want us to be creative, Deity relationships or not, and think beyond the every-day hum-drum of things that we can do especially for Them. The enrichment of our own lives should go along with that, sure, but unless you’ve been bedridden after a major surgery or an accident or something equally traumatic, don’t assume that simply getting out of bed is going to be especially pleasing to Them, when you should be doing that, anyway.

Eros and Apollon, as well as the rest of the Theoi, have enriched my life in so many ways that if I were to thank Them by simply thinking what I would have done anyway is good enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if I started getting a lacklustre response.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Is This the Dawning?

“When the moon is in its Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then Peace will guide the planets
And Love will steer the Stars”
— from “Aquarius” by James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot, from the 1968 musical Hair

Tomorrow is known to most of the world as (St.) Velentine’s Day, which is either religious or secular, dependant on whether or not you’re an old-style Catholic who still has a feast and shit on important Saint Days. It’s also Hellenion’s date for the Libation to Aphrodite & Eros, and I just read from a member of Hellenion_Chat that the astrological predictions for tomorrow will match that described in the verse quoted above.

I find this an entertaining coincidence, to say the very least. Another domain of Aphrodite’s is sometimes said to be Peace, and that also seems appropriate for Eros, as He’s sometimes said to be a direct contrast to Eris, the Goddess of Discord.

So make some Peace and Love tomorrow with your libations or even just your night in or out with your lover(s).

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Eros in My Daily Ritual

When I first “came back to the Theoi” several years ago (after identifying as a “Satanist” between the ages of 19 and 22, then as “spiritual agnostic” for another year), I was initially “led” by Apollon. Based on the experiences relayed to my by other Hellenistai and Hellenic Neo-Pagans, Apollon seems to do that, a lot. Since coming to understand Eros cult worship, I include specific Eros reverence in my daily devotional worship.

My daily devotional worship is based on the page of Daily Devotions w/ Orphic Hymns that is on the Hellenion website. I follow this format almost exactly with only three real differences:

  • I do not use strictly Orphic hymns. My own theology deviates from that of the Orphics, so continuing to use hymns of their that deviate from my own theology just doesn’t seem right; after all, if you don’t believe it, then don’t recite it in devotional practise just because it’s ancient. If you ask me, there’s a difference between having respect, a certain degree of reverence, and consideration for ancient ways, and then there’s just blindly doing something or saying it just because it’s old. I do use a couple of the Orphic hymns, but pretty far from all of them; I also think that the Taylor translation of the Hymn to Hestia/Vesta is the best one to use, as I think his choice of words, measure, and general “flow” is the best-suited English translation of the hymn as it doesn’t merely translate the words, it gives an amazing feel for Who Hestia is, as a Goddess (some Hellenistai may disagree with me, but if studying primary sources has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me that even though the pre-Christian Hellenic religion was community-based, seldom were the times that people actually agreed on anything). I’m using more and more of my own works, which use simple lyric measures, alternative and/or modified lyric septameters, Beat-influenced free verse, and “slam”-influenced measure and verse.
  • I no longer use “Theos of the days” hymns listed by Campbell that weren’t regarded by Hesiod. I still do devotional practises daily, but a lot of those recitations he listed just felt like “busywork”, to me. Also, a lot of my modern practise is, essentially, Boeotian in origin, and maintains Eros as a primary Theos; while I have immense respect for Dionysos and Dionysian cultists, a lot of the numbered hymns of Orpheus are Dionysos-based — which makes sense for them, as Dionysos was one of their primary deities. For one whose primary cultus paid is “Erotic” and Apollonian in origin, filling a month with Dionysian “busywork” just doesn’t sit well.
  • At night, I also add in a special “Eros portion” at the point in the ritual outline where it says “Hymns to Patron/Matron Deities”

Now, in the interest of “community” cult worship (no matter how small or how many miles apart), let me share with you what I do in that little breaking-up of ritual.


After the hymn to The Stars, I go to my Eros shrine (which, in my small bedroom, is directly across from my Apollon/Hermes/Dionysos shrine, which also doubles as my primary ritual altar), and I light a small “tea light” candle from the Hestia candle on my primary altar/shrine; this, in my head, keep my Eros cult worship symbolically “connected” to my primary/general Hellenic practise. I then take a stick of sandalwood incense and light it from the tea light, get the flame going for a few seconds, then blow out the flame so that the incense smoulders and burns evenly[1]. I then recite the hymns to the Theoi I pay cultus to, starting with Eros. At libations, I first pour a portion of wine to Eros in an offering bowl at His shrine, then to the Pantheon at the bowl at my primary altar; then I turn back to the Eros shrine and take a tiny sip from His bowl. I also do not extinguish the Eros candle after extinguishing the first one.


The act of drinking a portion of the offering I took from a friend’s Shiavite Hindu practise, wherein he tells me that this is customary as it makes the offering a formal invite to the Gods into our lives. This struck me as a beautiful practise, in and of itself, and I also thought long and hard about how Hinduism has maintained many of its practises and traditions through the centuries and how, in ancient times, there is plenty of surviving evidence that little practises were taken back and forth between peoples. I see no reason for that small act to have not been adopted by, or possibly even adopted from Greek cult sects, had the traditions survived Christianity — in fact, I have a huge theory that I need to formalise into an essay about the similarities in practises between ancient Greeks and modern surviving polytheistic religions of Hindus and the Kalash peoples, and why modern polytheists engaging in a reconstructionist method should look to those surviving groups, as well as surviving Greek “folk practises” maintained in rural areas almost completely unchanged for centuries if the goal is to truly connect what we do, as modern worshippers, to the practises of ancient peoples. Shivite Hinduism is, basically (though more complex than just this, I’m sure), a sect that centres on Shiva as a primary deity. Even if I were to assume that this is a practise unique to that sect, that the Shivite sect is essentially what many Hellenics would consider a “cult”, then it still makes some sense to adopt some version of the consumption of the offering within a cult practise. I take a small sip of wine from Eros’ bowl with the thought, belief, and intent in my mind and heart that I am both inviting Eros into my life and a small part of Him into my soul.

I leave the tea light to burn itself out because first off, tea lights in aluminium cups (what I use) are probably the safest candles to do that with and since the cats aren’t allowed in my bedroom (for a large number of reasons), I don’t have to worry about them setting anything on fire. Secondly, as the shrine lies near the foot of my bed, I liken it to “leaving the light on” for a lover to come home to. As a symbolic gesture, it solidifies the invite to Eros into my life and soul.


Footnotes
1: I got the idea for sandalwood specifically from Sannion, as well as others who are Dionysos cultists. On the Hellenion devotions Devotional page I linked above, aromatic herbs are listed as appropriate for Eros, and while I do give aromatics at some times, I arrived at the conclusion for daily sandalwood for two reasons. 1) He shares with Dionysos the epithet of “Eleutherios”, or “The Liberator”. 2) Sandalwood incense, scented oils, scented candles, etc…, are commonly sold today as an Aphrodisiac or Erotic scent. [And, as a bonus, a box of 200 sticks of the sandalwood incense I use costs only $10 and lasts me over six months. As much as some people claim otherwise, being an Hellenistai in the recon method does not have to be expensive.]

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.