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The Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos: Introduction

By Elani Temperance

Hellenismos (Ἑλλήνισμος)–also known as ‘Dodekatheism’, ‘Hellenism’, and ‘Hellenic Polytheism’ or ‘Hellenic Reconstructionism’–is the modern practice of the ancient Hellenic (Greek) religion. It focusses on the worship of the Twelve Olympic Gods–Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hēphaistos, Apollon, Artemis, Demeter, Hestia, Hermes, Ares, Poseidon and Aphrodite–along with the entire pantheon of Hellenic Gods, known collectively as the Theoi. Most Hellenists honour other types of divinities, including nature spirits, Khthonic (or Underworld) Deities, and heroes. Both physical and spiritual ancestors are honoured. Hellenists tend to be hard polytheists, meaning they view all Gods as separate entities and not linked through portfolio.

‘Hellenismos’ is a word coined by the Emperor Julian in the 4th century AD. He was the first to refer to a ‘Hellenic way’, which, at the time, encapsulated pre-Christian religion and the legacy of Greek philosophy and culture. Recently, Julian’s ‘Hellenismos’ has been popularized as a way of referring to the revival of ancient Hellenic religion in the West. This presents some difficulties, since, in modern Greek, it translates roughly as ‘Hellenism, the Greek nation’, which is why some disagree with the term and would rather use ‘Dodekatheism’; ‘Worship of the Twelve Gods’.

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