Hellenistic Wicca and Worshipping the Greek Gods
'Greek' Wicca, Greco-Wicca or 'Hellenistic' Wicca
Wicca is a unique Pagan religion in that we really don’t have our own pantheon of Gods. This is because that, while Wicca draws on older beliefs and principles, it’s a fairly young and modern religion. We do have generic god and goddess archetypes that some of us feel more comfortable addressing—the Horned God, the Triple Goddess (Maiden, Mother and Crone). There’s nothing wrong with that. But some of us feel called to more ancient pantheons of our Pagan ancestors.
For me, that would be the Gods and Goddesses of the Greeks. Despite the Celtic knots and the Celtic and Germanic names for holidays, Hellenism is quite a natural fit for Wicca for those inclined to embrace it.
Greek Paganism and Wicca
Poll for Wiccans!
Do you worship the Greek Gods and Goddesses?
The Gods of Olympus
Hellenism and Wicca: A Perfect Fit
The Greek Gods and their stories have always been embedded in the heart of Western civilization. There’s arguably no Pagan religion that’s been as influential on language, politics, philosophy, art and literature. Because of this, it seems to me that it doesn’t matter whether you have specifically Greek lineage or not—if you grew up in the Western world, Greek Paganism has been a quiet yet sturdy fixture in your culture and part of your heritage.
Another advantage of Hellenism in Wicca is that—unlike the very fragmented traditions of the Northern European tribal cultures that have largely been lost to us—a great deal of beliefs and practices remain intact. Sure, some things have been lost to us- the Eleusinian mysteries, for example. But there’s probably no Pagan religion that provides us with a greater collection of artifacts and writings from which we can draw.
Despite the fact that Wiccans liberally use Celtic knot designs and Celtic names for some Sabbats, in a lot of ways Hellenism fits even more neatly within the Wiccan framework. For example, the Classical Elements as we know them-- Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Aether (spirit) -- came to us via the Greeks. There is a widespread mistaken idea that the Elements were found in Celtic religions-- some people even go as far as to say the Celtic cross symbolized the 4 Elements-- but this is simply not true. Some Celts believed in the three realms-- earth, sky and sea-- and fire was an altogether different thing. It wasn't until as late as the 19th century that the 4 Elements, which had been popularized in Ceremonial Magic, were thought mistakenly to come from the Celts.
The Greek myths can fit into the Wheel of the Year liturgy and symbolism quite nicely. The cycles of the seasons are mirrored in the story of Demeter and Persephone and the rise and fall of Dionysus; we can hear the whispers of Hades and Hecate in the Harvest season, and the Pan pipes on the wind in the budding spring. If you live in a warmer climate as I do, it’s particularly beneficial to adapt your Wheel of the Year to the Greek festivals, because our agricultural cycle is different than those of Northern Europeans.
An excellent book that can help Hellenistic Wiccans adapt rites worshiping Greek Gods to the Wheel of the Year.
Remember: Hellenism isn't Wicca
While many elements of Hellenism can fit neatly within Wicca, Wiccans need to realize that Wicca is not, in fact, Hellenism. Hellenic Reconstructionist religions are simply different. While Wiccans may be interested in bringing Hellenism into Wicca, Hellenic Reconstructionists are not interested in bringing Wicca into Hellenism.
This is why I use the term “Hellenistic Wicca” rather than “Hellenic Wicca”. Wicca can be ‘Hellenic-flavored’, but cannot be interchangeable with actual Hellenism as Wicca has too many other influences to be pure Hellenism. Keep in mind that the Wiccan Rede, the Threefold law and Wiccan ritual tools and structure are not something you find widespread in all ‘Greek’ Paganism. If you do find yourself befriending Hellenists or going to public gatherings, it’s important to keep that in mind. A lot of Wicca 101 books tend to paint all of Paganism as if it follows a Wiccan model, and it’s just not the case and should never be expected.
Where to Seek the Greek
Source to Raid
There are some must-read sources for the Hellenistic Wiccan to check out. For one thing, read Greek mythology liberally. Edith Hamilton is one of the most well-known and celebrated writer retelling myths in English.
Ethics and proper behavior was a big thing to the Greeks, and is also something very important in Wicca. While Wicca has no dogmatic commandments, you may find some inspiration in Pagan Greek writings. The Golden Versus of Pythagoras, were known to us since the 5th century CE (and perhaps have been around much longer), and are a list of more detailed codes of behavior. The Delphic Maxims (inscribed at Delphi, and said to have been delivered to man by Apollo himself) is a similar set of moral objectives. Solon’s Tenets extoll virtues valued in Hellenism. In studying magic, you definitely want to get your hands on a copy of The Emerald Tablet, which is the basis of Hermetic magic principles believed by some to come from Hermes.
While you need not take any of these as scripture, they’re certainly good advice that even in these modern times would be counted as wise and valuable.
If you’re looking for some great prayers and invocations, look no further than the Homeric Hymns and the Orphic Hymns. It's unknown when the Homeric Hymns are from, the Orphic Hymns date between 100 BCE and 150 CE. Any of these are rich sources for drawing poetry and liturgy into your rituals. You may wish to draw from some of these sources for your own Book of Shadows.
Some additional research you might want to do is to look into concepts important in Greek culture (and therefore important in relations to Greek Gods) like hubris, harmartia, sophrosyne, xenia, xenos, gnothi seauton, and meden agan. I will leave those interested to do their own research and consider for themselves how such concepts might be applied to Wicca, not just in relation with the Gods but in relation to one's life.
Wiccans who feel the call the Olympians and their kin should not hesitate to answer the call. You may find it a very enriching combination.
© 2013 Mackenzie Sage Wright