Ancient Greek Rituals

14/09/2007 12:55:00

Definition of ritual: “practice associated wit culturally significant event” • Ex: prayer, sacrifice, wedding, funeral Purpose of rituals: to organize space, time and social relations Rituals vs. Dogma: Greek religion meant action rather than study • Emphasis on tradition , absence of sacred texts Pervasiveness: rituals practice by all members of society • Rituals accompany most daily activities Diversity of rituals: variation • Within communities (age, gender, social status) • Among communities (regional, Pan-Hellenic) Main ritual of ancient Greek religion: sacrifice • Variety of forms: bloodless (burnt, poured); animal (ox, pig etc) • Basic scheme: quid pro quo (something in exchange for something) o Feedback loop connecting gods to humans Bloodless sacrifice Burnt offerings; foodstuffs for gods, the dead • Bread, incense, harvest (grain, spices, etc.), “first fruits” (aparchai) Liquid offerings (libations, spondai): edible liquid poured on the ground • Wine, honey, water, milk, oil (usually olive) • Daily occasions (meals, journeys) o Pervasiveness of ritual: sense of divine presence; fear • Symposium (drinking party) • Offerings poured out to dead (choai) Ex:

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Black Demeter in Arkadia Thesmoporia: Athenian Demeter festival o 334/3 BCE inscription from Attic demet (district) o female officials and priests shared with providing offering burnt offerings : barley, wheat, meal, pigs, oil seeds liquid offerings: wine, oil honey, cheese public expense

animal sacrifice purposes • civic bonding shared killing; compared hunter culture) • communication with supernatural • main source of non-fish meat in diet (barbecue as worship) contexts • domestic: performed by head of household • civic: festivals, political events (treaties, armies leaving for war, etc.) personnel • mageiros: kills the victim (compare kosher butcher) • hiereus, hiereia: priest, priestess overseeing sacrifice victims • kinds; expense: corresponds with prominence of rites o sheep, piglet, lamb, goad, cattle; special features o ex: sacrifices at Attic deme of Thorikos  specific victims for gods (Zeus-sheep, Poseidon-lamb etc) terms describing sacrificial rituals • thuein: to burn for the gods

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thusia: act of burning for the gods, sacrifice altar (bomos, bema): place for sacrifice sacrificial implements: weapon (machaira) in basket (kiste)

civic (polis) sacrifice ritual purity • abstentions: sex, menstruation, contact with corpse, etc. • cleaning (lustration) procession: worshippers parade to sacrifice bearing sacred implements prayers: sacred speech (meter) slaughter • comedy of innocence: “willing” victim; displacement of guilt • mock trial with conviction of sacrificial knife apportionment • parts to god (burned), priests, temple (sold), worshippers (barbecue) inscriptions from roman-period Greek city in Asia Minor • defines religious duties of civic officials • burnt offerings; incense and herbs • sacrifice and apportionment (head, tongue, skin for gods) • fines for failure to carry out duties • prayer for Roman overlords (religion as imperialism) sacrifices: myths explanatory myths (aitia, etiology) Prometheus (Hesiodic epic: Theogony, Works and days) • Zeus vs. Prometheus (1st sacrifice = beginning of human condition) • Leaving garden of Eden: all male: no killing o Sacrifice brings women and need for them (fertility)

Herakles (no one authoritative version of his story) • Sacrifice as culture myths (defines civilization) • Wandering Herakles introduces sacrifice, peoples institutionalize it • Sacrifice of domestic animal connects sacrifice with agriculture • Suppression of violence prerequisite for polis

14/09/2007 12:55:00

14/09/2007 12:55:00