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. 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.
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.]