In 2017, the Greek government finally recognized Hellenism as an official religion. That came more than 1,600 years after the Ancient Hellenic religion was banned by Emperor Theodosius I. The process started long before. In May 2006, an Athens court granted official recognition to the veneration of the Ancient Greek pantheon. Do people still believe in Greek Gods?
Yes, there are people in Greece, a small number, but a number, that believe in Greek Gods. The Hellenist group Ellinais holds ceremonies at the historic Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens.
Back in the time of Ancient Greece, Greeks built temples to the Hellenic Gods. But the first modern Hellenic Temple dedicated to the Greek Gods was started in 1994 just outside Thessaloniki. It was completed in 2009.
Today, we will talk about the modern religion in Greece, as well as Ancient Greek mythology and Ancient Greek religion.
What Is The Religion In Greece Nowadays?
Today, Greece is a country where the state and religious authorities are tight. Nearly 98 percent of the population profess themselves to be Christian Orthodox. Greece is officially a secular state. But it is also an overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian Nation, similar to Russia, Ukraine, and some other Eastern European countries.
But at the same time, the practice of worshiping ancient gods has been growing in popularity since the 1990s. Today, more than 2,000 years after Ancient Greece, the group called Hellenic ethic religion is trying to revive the belief in ancient Greek gods. Its followers call the religion Dodekatheism.
The Twelve Greek Gods
Let’s take a quick look at the twelve Greek Gods of Ancient Greece.
- Zeus, the Olympian god is the king of the gods and ruler of Mount Olympus, he is the god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, and justice. He is the youngest child of the Titans Cronus and Rhea
- Hera is the queen of the gods and goddess of marriage, family, childbirth, and women. She is the youngest daughter of Cronus and Rhea and sister and wife of Zeus
- Poseidon is the brother of Zeus, God of the sea, water, storms, hurricanes, horses, and hurricanes
- Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, fertility, nature, and agriculture, and presides over grains and fertility of the earth. She is a lover of Zeus and Poseidon
- Athena, the goddess protector of Athens, is a goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and warfare
- Apollo is the god of light, the sun, prophecy, archery, truth, philosophy, poetry, music, arts, inspiration, medicine, healing, and plague
- Artemis is the goddess of the hunt, virginity, the wilderness, moon, childbirth, protection, archery, and plague. She is the twin sister of Apollo
- Ares is the Greek god of war, violence, and manly virtues
- Aphrodite is a Greek goddess of love, pleasure, passion, procreation, beauty, desire, and fertility. Her name serves as inspiration for the word “aphrodisiac”
- Hephaestus is a master blacksmith and craftsman of the gods, and god of the forge, invention, fire, and volcanoes
- Hermes is the messenger of the gods, but also a god of travel, communication, diplomacy, thieves, games, and commerce
- Dionysus is the god of wine, fertility, festivity, madness, and resurrection. He is the patron god of the art of theatre
Who Are The People Still Believing In Greek Gods?
So, do people still believe in Greek gods? Yes. Who are they? Originating and practiced in Greece, but also in some other countries, they call it Hellenic polytheism. The religion is often referred to as Hellenism.
It is difficult to know the exact number of followers. But per some estimates, there are around 2,000 devotes in Greece and more than 100,000 have some sort of interest in the religion.
There are several organizations in Greece that support the revival of the Hellenic religion. Those are the Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes (YSEE), the Labrys religious community, and Ellinais. Proud of their beliefs, supporters of the religious revival want their faith to be recognized. As we said in the beginning, in 2017, the Greek government finally recognized Hellenism as a religion.
When asked about their reasoning, many followers say that they were attracted by the focus on humanity, cosmic connection, and ecology. But a strong motivation is going against the indoctrination of the Orthodox establishment. As we know, the Orthodox establishment fights against heretics, divorce, and homosexuality.
Historians, on the other hand, believe that these groups are idealizing an ancient religion that had little to do with ethics or morality.
The Prometheia Festival
The Prometheia Festival is the highlight of the year for the group of Hellenist supporters. Inspired and realized by Stockholm University professor of philosophy, TryphonOlympios, the event has gained the status of a pan-Hellenic institution. The event has been held 27 times as of 2021.
Visitors from Greece and abroad gather every year at the natural surroundings of the Prometheus Grove at the foot of Mount Olympus to exchange opinions, honor the ancient philosophers, breathe refreshing air, and spend the night talking and stargazing on the Mountain of the Gods.
They revive the ancient Greek procession on the streets of village Litochoron on Friday, the third of the festival, and watch the events of the Promethean Drama and the Promethean fire.
On Saturday, the fourth day of the festival, they present a representation of historic events and ancient Greek ceremonies.
The three-day event includes public prayers, two marriages, and a naming ceremony. During the naming ceremony, followers choose an ancient name and cleanse themselves of their modern Christian ones.
We have to note that while the religion is recognized, none of the rituals is officially recognized by the Greek state.
Some followers say that “people want to identify with something in the past – where they came from – so as to know where they are going. If you don’t know your past, you don’t have a future.”
Their focus is on the 12 main gods of ancient Greece, the dodekatheon. They do not pray to Zeus, Hera, and other Greek gods. Followers see them as a representation of values in life, including beauty, health, and wisdom.