Is the greek religion still around?
February 26, 2009 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Is the ancient greek religion of the gods still practiced?

I'm wondering if there's anyone out there who still prays to Zeus and the like? Anyone heard of any temples or anything?

Disclaimer: I'm not looking to go and sacrifice goats or pray to Dionysus...I'm just curious.
posted by names are hard to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes! You might google around for Hellenic Neo-Paganism! A fine faith, just swell!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:09 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes: Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism
posted by plz_no_moar at 12:10 PM on February 26, 2009

Is the ancient greek religion of the gods still practiced?

No. There are reconstructionists of various levels of authenticity.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 12:17 PM on February 26, 2009

....Yes and no.

There are those who do practice the Hellenic Neo-Paganism linked above, but practicioners can vary on the amount of scholarship they've done about "authentic" practices, and besides, there is still only so much we know anyway.

You'll find varying combinations of "I studied and so I know that this is what they did" and "well, I don't know the full details, so here's where I'm going to fudge a little".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on February 26, 2009

IIRC, Heinrich Schliemann did, but that was a bit over a hundred years ago.
posted by turbodog at 1:11 PM on February 26, 2009

No. There are all sorts of poseurs and wannabes, but to practice ancient Greek religion you have to be an ancient Greek. Read, say, Burkert for details. (And Schliemann was a classic poseur/wannabe.)
posted by languagehat at 1:29 PM on February 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

One of the problems with authentic worship of Greco-Roman deities is that the priests/hierophants/whatever frequently used mysteries, wherein only the fully-initiated were allowed to know the full scope of religious practices. Given the secrecy and the centuries that have passed, what we know of the practices is most likely incomplete or distorted.
posted by lekvar at 2:23 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's not exactly full practice of the religion, but (some) Waldorf school fifth-grade classes meet for regional inter-school competitive Greek Pentathlon. When my daughter participated the opening ceremony included all the students making offerings to the Greek gods of objects they had created. I found it very touching, and it felt almost as if the gods came back to visit.
posted by airplain at 3:49 PM on February 26, 2009

Various Neo-Paganism practitioners incorporate Greek myth into their practice too.
posted by divabat at 5:48 AM on February 27, 2009

No. There are all sorts of poseurs and wannabes, but to practice ancient Greek religion you have to be an ancient Greek. Read, say, Burkert for details.

Coming back after having read Burkert, I can't say that I found anything in there to substantiate the idea that one has to be an ancient Greek in order to be a practitioner of the religion. I mean, I guess one could say that any version that doesn't revolve around the daily life of the ancient polis is just for poseurs and wannabes, or one could say that a religion can't properly be said to be "real" if it's been broken down, time has passed, and it's been reconstructed. If one considers unbroken lineage or the original forms of practice to be the defining characteristics of religion, then the NeoPagans are indeed poseurs, but that way of approaching folks' outlooks on the divine strikes me as a little No-True-Scotsman-ish in its dismissiveness.

So the question seems to come down to which religious practices one chooses to view as legitimate, but Burkert himself doesn't make any arguments about present-day reconstructionists, nor does he out-and-out denigrate writers like Kerenyi or Otto:

"The work of Walter F. Otto and Karl Kerényi is in a category of its own. Die Götter Greichenlands (1929) is a challenging attempt to take the Homeric gods seriously as gods, in defiance of 2,500 years of criticism: the gods enjoy an absolute actuality as Urphänomene in Goethe's sense of the term. This path, which ends in a sublime private religion, is not one which can be taken by everyone, but the work still radiates a powerful force of attraction."

Burkert ends this (very, very brief) look at the Kerenyi/Otto revelatory approach by saying, "In the harsh climate of the present it is questionable whether the autonomy of images can maintain its spell and power." But clearly, there are people for whom the spell and power seem to be reasonably well-maintained; the term "spell" suggests a glamour cast on an unthinking victim, but if you look at the websites of the various NeoPagan communities, they seem to be doing their best to negotiate the weirdness of these ancient tales from an alien culture with humanity as it currently exists. It's weird and it's small and it's (generally, though not totally) without much cultural power, but I hesitate to deny that the practice exists as a genuine religion.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:34 AM on April 14, 2009

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