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The Beginner’s guide to Hellenismos: Ouranic versus Khthonic

By Elani Temperance

[Snip] Modern worshippers of the Theoi–myself included–often try to compartmentalize Their worship. This, because we aren’t raised in a culture where the Theoi are worshipped in grand festivals and we have to reinvent the wheel as we try to find ways to worship Them in a way that resembles the ways of the ancient Hellenes. To have some hard rules for this worship helps us greatly; it allows us to look at the parts of the rites we do know and infer the rest–at least in broad lines. The biggest boxes we use are ‘Ouranic’ and ‘Khthonic’, and we often think the two are entirely separate–they are not.

‘Ouranic’ is a term that replies to Theoi and practices who reside or that are associated with Mount Olympos, home of many of the Theoi. As such, Ouranic deities are also referred to as ‘Olympians’. In ancient Hellas, an altar for the Ouranic Theoi was called a ‘bômos’ (βωμός). Most bômoi were isolated cubes, around one meter (three feet) high, but there were altars which were far larger. The sacrificial altars were either square or round, and many held an ‘epipuron’ (ἐπίπυρον)–a movable pan or brazier, used on top of the bômos so it could serve as an altar for burnt-offerings. Impromptu altars for the Ouranic deities were made of earth, turf, or stones collected on the spot. What mattered was that the offering was sacrificed (high) off of the ground.

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