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Musings on Hellenic Priesthood

By Elani Temperance

I think I mentioned before that priesthood in ancient Hellas was a lot different from priesthood as we understand it now. In the modern (Pagan) interpretation, priests serve a mostly spiritual role; they serve the religious community as a vessel for or to a God or Goddess. The primary tasks of a modern day priest(ess) seem to be to serve the community, to spread the gospel of the God(ess) in question and to offer access to the God(dess) in question.

In ancient Hellas, the role of priest(ess) was a largely temporary, governmental, function. The profession of priest could be bought, and usually only lasted a few years at best. Minding a temple was almost exactly like minding a house; clean-up, clean-up, clean-up. In fact, religious celebrations weren’t led by the priest(ess), but by the magistrate or other high ranking government official. The sole task of the priest(ess) was the animal sacrifice, but that was vitally important.

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