Ancient Greek Religion - Greek Mythology God - Greek Oracles

Read on to take a glimpse into Greek religion and the fundamental beliefs and practices and the major deities of Greek religion.

Greek Religion Origin:

The Greek religion is based on anthropomorphic polytheism, it comprises multiple divinities having human forms and feelings. This article gives you insight on the origin of Greek religion, Greek mythology, Greek Gods, and the various forms of Greek worship.

Early Greek religion is a blend of the Achaean, Dorian, Minoan, Egyptian and the Asian cultures. It dates back to the period of the Aryan invasion during 2d millennium B.C. The Aryans mingled with the Aegean (Pelasgians) and the Minoan cultures to create the present day Greek culture. The civilization that resulted from the amalgamation flourished between 1600 B.C. and 1400 B.C. and was known as the Minoan-Mycenean civilization. Greek religion emerged as an amalgamation of various civilizations and races, Zeus, Demeter and Hestia were initially Gods of the Indo-European invaders, Rhea was a Minoan Goddess, God Athena belonged to Mycenean, Hera and Hermes were borrowed from Aegean, God Apollo came from Ionian, Aphrodite was Cyprus, Dionysus and Ares belonged to the Thrace.

Greek Mythology

Greek mythology is complete with supernatural beliefs and ritual observance of the ancient Greek and Greek religion. It contains a body of stories, myths and legends that originated since the ancient Hellenic civilization. The Greek mythology is rich with the tales of monsters, heroes, wars, and the various Greek Gods, their worship and beliefs.

According to Greek mythology Gods are assigned human form, they are immortal and are worshiped for the supernatural powers that they possess. The Greeks placed the deity of their Gods at appropriate positions around them for blessings and future favors. They invoked Gods during every memorable occasion. A conical stone of Apollo was placed in front of many of the street doors, the alter of Zeus was placed in the courtyard, Hestia was worshipped at the Hearth, the bed chamber, kitchen and storeroom each had its own specific divinity. The twelve Gods of Olympus constitute an important element in the Greek mythology.

Greek religion worshipped God as individual deities or as pairs of deities, for example, Demeter and her daughter Persophone. Sculptures were designed using Stone, terracotta and bronze to portray Gods and Goddesses. Deities were depicted either by themselves or as interacting with humans, demi-gods, and legendary characters in various traditional mythological situations. Regeneration and Afterlife were important beliefs in the ancient Greek religion.

Greek Gods

The ancient Greeks worshipped many Gods as personifications of the forces of the universe. Greek Gods appeared in human form but possessed supernatural powers, superhuman strength and ageless beauty. Each God possessed and implemented their individual sense of justice, their anger was harsh and they were often vengeful. According to the Greek mythology, Gods possessed a material called ichor in their blood that granted them their immortality. Zeus was the chief God of the Greeks. They offered sacrifices and won favors through faithfulness and piety.
Each Greek city was under the protection of one particular God, here their deity was worshipped with unique emphasis. Athena is the God of Athens, Artemis is the God of Sparta, Aphrodite was worshipped at Corinth, Apollo worshipped Delphi and Delos and Zeus was worshiped with special reverence at Olympia.
Every Greek God was associated with specific aspects of life. The important Greek Gods are,

Zeus -the supreme lord and sky father
Hera –his wife -the marriage and fertility goddess
Demeter -the earth mother
Hestia -the virgin goddess of the hearth
Hephaestus -the God of fire and the forge
Hermes -the God of travelers
Hades -the lord of the dead and underworld
Poseidon -the lord of waters
Aphrodite -the Goddess of love
Ares -the God of war
Athena -the virgin goddess of wisdom
Apollo -God of light, poetry and music
Artemis –his sister -Goddess of wildlife and later Goddess of moon

Greek Worship

The Greek worship formula was do ut des, it meant, I give sacrifices so that God will reward me in return. The ancient Greeks considered sacrifice as the appropriate method to worship God. Public worships were held to obtain public blessings, rain, good harvest, military victories, etc. Private sacrifices were offered for fulfillment of personal goals, wishes and victories. Blood sacrifices of animals such as oxen, sheep, horses, swine, dogs, birds, fish, fowl etc were common in the temple of Gods. The Greek temples were part slaughterhouse and part barbecue. During sacrifices, the people offered the blood, bones and hides of the slaughter animal to the God, the remaining portions were used up as food for themselves.
Greek prayers were held in a highly formulaic and ritualized manner in temples. The Greek temples were small buildings that contained the cult idol of the deity. Most of these temples did not have a professional or full time clergy or priest.

Greek Oracle

Divination was a very important part of the Greek religious life. Oracles played an important role in the Greek religion and beliefs. The Greeks considered death as a necessary evil and therefore Immortality was not an enviable asset. They however required information on their future life on earth, for this they turned to the oracle.
Greek oracle was the religion priest or priestess who acted as a mediator between man and God. He communicated with God to obtain the information required. Every oracle had a distinct method of divination. Motion of objects in the spring, movement of birds, rustle of leaves, interpreted dreams, etc, were considered valid indicators for divination. Some established oracles were those of Zeus at Dodona, Apollo at Delphi and many more.

Greek Mystery Religions

Greek religion included a number of mystery religions. The mystai emphasized on the participation in cult mysteries to obtain a happy afterlife through salvation. The true nature, beliefs and practices of the mystery religion were revealed only to those who were initiated into its secrets as members and followers. It is believed that in Athens alone, at a particular point of time, there were around six hundred mystai. Eleusis and Samothrace were two important Greek Mystery religious cults. Some important Greek Mystery religions Gods were Dionysus, Osiris and Mithra.

With the onset of Christianity, the Greek religion slowly became extinct. Today the Greek mythology is the sole reference to the Greek religion that is no longer in existence. The Iliad and the Odyssey are two great epics of the Greek mythology, which sheds light on the Greek religion, culture, practices, beliefs and other mythological incidents. Other works of Homer, Theocritus, Vergil, and Ovid contribute valuable additions to the Greek mythology.


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