Some Greeks have returned to worshipping the ancient gods as groups dedicated to the adoration of mythological figures spring up across modern-day Greece.
Several different organizations and events exist that are working to create modern forms of celebration and ritual around the Greek gods. These groups often believe that Christianity replaced the ancients’ devotion to the gods by violent means and that rediscovering their connection to the gods is a form of reclamation.
Groups such as the Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes and the LABRYS religious community are finding ways to “preserve, promote and practice the Hellenic (Greek) polytheistic religious tradition through public rituals, lectures, publications, theatrical and musical events, and other forms of action.”
Many of the worshippers of the old gods are modern-day Greeks who seek to revive the Hellenic spirit of ancient times in elaborate, boisterous festivals.
The Prometheia festival is one such example. Prometheia is an annual event which its adherents say “highlights the ancient Greek spirit.” Inspired and made a reality by Stockholm University Professor of Philosophy Dr. Tryphon Olympios, it has now become something of a pan-Hellenic institution, entering its 26th year of celebration.
The Prometheia Festival injects life into ancient Greek traditions
The festival takes place at the foot of Mount Olympus, the home of the twelve gods of ancient Greece. Unlike LABRYS or the Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes, Prometheia is more of an event than it is an institution. It transports Greeks “back to their roots” as Olympios has said, in a lively bacchanal that features costumes and music. But the purpose of this revelry is to express sincere devotion to the ancient gods — something all of these organizations have in common.
The three-day event is punctuated by ancient poetry, lectures, music, dance, ceremonies and food. There are even training sessions for would-be spear throwers and sword fighters. The first night sees a parade of hundreds of people in costumes, holding torches, marching through the streets of Litochoro.
The rest of the event is held in a meadow just above the town with events happening each hour. The food, though simple, was surprisingly tasty: a stew of bulgur wheat with chunks of meat, served with a goblet of wine.
Yet there are aspects of these movements that are not as peaceful. For instance, an Orthodox church on the island of Crete was vandalized by so-called “followers of Zeus.” The perpetrators smeared all 13 icons of the church with feces.
“This one’s courtesy of Zeus,” the message said, written in charcoal. Other messages that spoke out against Christians were also written on the icons.
Similar incidents have taken place in Christian churches across Greece. These “followers” are targeting these areas because the first Greek Christians built their churches on the sites of temples of worship of the ancient gods.