An Entertainment for the Gods

A Celebration of the Twelve of Olympos



The Gathering


The People should gather with the Sacra necessary for the ritual. The Barley, the Knife, the Fire, the Cup, the Water, the Wine, the Incense, and the Food. Also a Book or Scroll, if necessary.


This should also be a festival with athletic competitions during the day, with the entertainment proper, and the banquet, at night. For the first years in which we held this festival we made this the occassion for a team sport, with the emphasis being on a sport which nobody had played before. It was usual that the men and the women held different sports in different locations, then came together for the Theoxenia proper, with an interval for bathing and dressing in more formal clothes for the banquet.


There should be no Stephanoi (victory wreaths) for the team sport, as such would be superfluous. Neither should there be stephanoi for the entertainments, as this would seem to give preference to one deity over another. Competition for entertainments are usually left for the Lenaea.


Also, when we began to practice this festival we made a transition between the sports and the banquet with (a) theater games, designed to foster trust, and (b) a mystery journey, different each year, to aid the transition into Sacred Space.


This information about our early rituals is included in the hope that in the future we can restore some of the splendor to a ritual which has lost much due to lack of a proper venue.


In the event that these activities can be restored, then the Theater Games take the place of the Gathering, and the Mystery Journey takes the place of the Pompe. The Sacra usually carried in the Pompe will be placed beforehand by the altar, which will be in the space designated for the banquet; possibly an open air Hestiatorion. Each person emerging from the Mystery will make his or her khernips, then approach the altar and offer barley to the fire which has already been kindled. In this case, the cry of "Hekas, o Hekas..." takes place when all have made their barley offering: a reverse of the usual form, which will then allow the group to come together in focus after the excitement of emergence from the Mystery.




(Asterisks mark places in the text where the above conditions cause variables from the usual procedures.)




The Pompe, or Procession


The Incense is lit, then, in the order dictated by the order of the Sacra, as listed above, the People are lead by the Priest and/or Priestess to the Temenos, or Sacred Precinct, containing the altar of sacrifice. At the entrance to the Temenos, each person performs the khernips, or hand-washing, then moves in a counterclockwise direction to form a circle around the bomos, or altar.




The Priest cries out:


"Hekas, o hekas, este bebeloi!"


The People Reply:


"Let All That Is Profane Be Far From Here!"




The Lighting




The Priest cries out:


"Paresmen time, sonta tas theas kai tous theous."


The People Reply:


"We Are Here To Honor the Gods and Goddesses."




The Priest then lights the fire on the altar, which should have been laid out beforehand. Most properly this would be done with a pure flame brought from the altar of Hestia, but this may not always be practical; and there are specific rituals in which the fire should be lit otherwise.


The Scattering


The Barley is passed counterclockwise and each person takes some and tosses it upon the altar. The remaining barley is placed nearbye.




The Mixing


The Libation bearers move to either side of the Priest and the Wine and Water is mixed.


The Priest says:


"Theasthe ta hudata biou."


The People Reply:


"Behold the Waters of Life!"




The First Libation


The Priest says:


"Hestia, Thine is always the first and the last."


Some of the mixture in the cup is poured out on the altar, then the cup is passed around counterclockwise, each person taking a sip in offering to Hestia, or touching a drop to his or her forhead in offering, and repeating the above formula of offering to Hestia, or saying simply "Sponde!". The Priest takes a last sip, and the remaining part is poured out on the altar.




The Entertainment: Libations and Sacrifices


In this ritual dedicated to the Twelve, and other Gods and Goddesses Who may be included, the Libations, Sacrifices, and Agon are combined into a banquet. A Libation is made in honor of a Deity according to the usual form, then a course of the banquet is served, the presiding priest or priestess selecting the portion that is best and offering it in the sacrificial fire. An entertainment in honor of that deity is then presented. The custom is that the course of the meal and the entertainment are offered by the same person. It will therefore be seen that it is practical for there to be a minimum of twelve people attending; thirteen or fourteen if one or two offerings are made to Hestia, which is also the custom. If there are not enough people in attendance, then one person may make more than one offering. If there are many more, then more than one dish may be served in a course, and more than one entertainment offered to a Deity.

It may be of use here, in helping the group to focus amidst the merriment, for the Priest or Priestess (or the person presenting the entertainment) to cry out, before the beginning of each entertainment, the formulary "Koimeson Stoma!," at which the assembly should reply: "We stop up our mouths!" At this dromena the statement can then readily be followed by everyone literally stopping up his or her mouth with the food just presented; thus providing the quiet and focus due the person presenting the entertainment.


A Theoxenia is usually 'hosted' by the temple of a particular Deity. The most famous was that hosted by Apollon at Delphi. If this is the case, then the first Deity honored should be the one in whose temple the festival is offered. It has been our custom to hold the festival under the auspices of Apollon. Thus, our order of offerings is as follows:


1) Hestia:

2) Apollon:

3) Artemis:

4) Zeus:

5) Hera:

6) Poseidon:

7} Demeter:

8) Hermes:

9) Athena:

10) Hephaestos:

11) Aphrodite:

12) Ares

13) Dionysos:

14) Others:

15) Hestia:


One might also utilize the traditonal Hellenic order of invocation as a structure; but it is useful to decide beforehand, and also useful to have people 'sign up' for particular Deities in order that the banquet may proceed in an esthetic manner. Whipped cream and strawberries just before the roast beef tends to be jarring to the esthetics of people brought up with modern cullinary habits.


The Libation of Thanks


The Libation Bearers mix wine and water again. Then the Priest or Priestess offers up the cup, saying:


"To All the Gods we give thanks, for the life that has been and the life that will be."


"Kharin ekhomen humin."


Some of the mixture in the cup is poured out on the altar, then\ the cup is passed counterclockwise, each person taking a sip in offering to all the Gods, or touching a drop to his or her forehead in offering, and saying:



(Be Propitious!)



or simply


"We thank You."


The Priest takes a last sip, and the remaining part is poured out on the altar.


The Final Libation


The Libation Bearers mix wine and water one final time.


The Final Libation is offered to Hestia, with the words:


"Hestia, Thine is always the first and the last."


It is offered in the same manner as the first, but when the Priest pours out the last of it upon the altar, he cries out:


"Houtos heksoi!"


or simply:


"So Be It!"


This is the End of the Ritual.





20 August 1998.

Thiasos Olympikos 9

--Small revisions and

fine tuning added in July, 2001,

Thiasos Olympikos 12


Note on Timing and Practice:

We began to do this ritual in the summer of our first formal year and, by chance, our first attempt coincided with the Persiad Meteor Shower. At the end we all lay in a big pile on the terrace and fell asleep counting the shooting stars. We thereafter placed our Theoxenia in the calendar in such a way as to put it as close to the middle of the Persiads as we could. This is how traditions are born!

In the year 2000 of the Common Era, the Persiads occured during a full Moon, so, without a really good venue for star gazing anyway, we did the ritual indoors for the first time. In 2001, the Persiads are so invisible that they are not even listed in the calendar of meteoric occurrences. Here, for those interested in the science of exegesis, is an example of how 'something happened,' became the source of a tradition, and then vanished, leaving a tradition which, without documentation, became inexplicable. While we hope for the visible return of the Persiads, their occurrence on the occasion of our first Theoxenia provided a set time target window for the timing of the annual ritual, thereby leading to a traditional time, and thus, because we continued to hold the ritual at that time, an actual tradition.

Historically, a Theoxenia could be held at any time. We note that this is one of the very few Hellenic rituals that can be readily adapted for use with another Pantheon. Of course, it is a polytheistic ritual in concept, so it would be somewhat limited in a monotheistic or duotheistic context.





Those wishing to pursue further the worship of the Hellenic Gods may contact Thiasos Olympikos, c/o Rhinoceros Lodge, Post Office Box 1140, Cobb, CA., 95426-1140.



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