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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Solstice and Greece worshipping pre-christian Gods

In summer, days are long…. Perhaps kids can play outside till 0700 pm too…. But are the modern day kids playing outside at all and even if they want to, is there any place ?  21st June is an interesting day ~ it is the day of Solstice… !! In fact Summer Solstice in Northern Hemisphere ~ and hence the day would have the longest period of daylight.  Incidentally, do you know the country which has no official statistics of its religious groups ?

The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star (sun) that it orbits. Earth's maximum axial tilt toward the sun is 23° 26'. This happens twice each year, at which times the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the north or the South pole. The summer solstice occurs during a hemisphere's summer. This is northern solstice in the northern hemisphere and the southern solstice in the southern hemisphere.  Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied among cultures, but most recognize the event in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals around that time with themes of religion or fertility.

image credit : wikimedia commons

It is Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic with Athens as its capital. Though the prevailing faith is Christianity, Greece Constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief for all and the Greek government does not keep statistics on religious groups and censuses do not ask for religious affiliation. Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of Ancient Greece, generally considered the cradle of Western civilization. It is considered the birthplace of democracy,Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, political science and more.   They have an enduring legacy.  The Olympian gods were the main gods of Ancient Greece. After overthrowing their ancestors, the Titans, the Olympian gods became the rulers of the World (Cosmos), representing the civilization of the world. The Olympian gods majestically and democratically dwelled on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, built by the Cyclopes.

The leader of the Olympian gods was Zeus and some important Gods are :
Aphrodite : The sensual goddess of Love and Beauty                 
Apollo : The youthful god of the Sun and the Music
Athena : The sophisticated goddess of Wisdom and Arts
Hera : The mature goddess of the Family
Poseidon : The moody god of the Seas                 
Zeus : The superior King of the Gods and Ruler of Mankind    

And in Greece, the summer solstice, 21 June, is one of the most important dates in the calendar for many followers of ancient religions, and it's a special time for people in Greece who worship the country's pre-Christian gods. Prometheia festival, celebrates the ancient Greek hero Prometheus, who helped humans by stealing fire from the gods. It's the most important annual festival for followers of The Return of the Hellenes - a movement trying to bring back the religion, values, philosophy and way of life of ancient Greece, more than 16 centuries after it was replaced by Christianity. These people consider Greece to be a country under Christian occupation.

This festival reportedly  begins with six runners - in full Greek battle gear - racing the six miles (10 km) up Mount Olympus, home of the gods, their shields and long spears clanking as they  set out from the small village of Dion at the base of the mountain. The Return of the Hellenes focusses on the 12 main gods of ancient Greece - the dodecatheon. They don't actually pray to Zeus, Hera and the others. They see them as representations of values such as beauty, health or wisdom. Over the course of the three-day event, there are public prayers, two marriages, and a naming ceremony, where followers choose an ancient name - like Calisto, Hermis or Orpheus - and "cleanse" themselves of their modern Christian ones. None of these rituals is officially recognised by the Greek state. The biggest bone of contention for those involved is that they are prevented from praying at ancient temples, and struggle to get permission to build their own temples, which in Greece requires the approval of the local Orthodox bishop. In an attempt to formalise their status, the umbrella group the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes is campaigning to get their form of ancient worship classed as an "ethnic religion" of Greece.

Animal sacrifice  is also associated with these groups but in modern age, most of the revivalists make simple offerings of flowers, fruit, milk and honey. Greece continues with its history…..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
20th June 2013.

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