Some Notes from Walter Burkert, GREEK RELIGION (Harvard, 1985).

D. B. Levine. 01/15/02


Religious Ritual is a collective institutional act, and form of social communication,


Magic which is for the individual, the few, and develops into a pseudo-science.


Animal Sacrifice

CHERNIPS: washing of hands

voluntary animal


sacrificial basket with grains and knife

OULOCHYTAI: scatter of barley

prayer/invocation, wish, vow

APARCHESTHAI: to make a beginning. hair cut, thrown into fire:

SPHAGIA: slaughter

HAIMASSEIN: to stain with blood

sacrificial cry

butchering of animal (splanchna [internal organs ]cooked and eaten)

bones/food/meat pieces on altar

wine poured on fire



Burkert: Sacrifice emphasizes the importance of Community: KOINONIA


APARCHAI. can be pieces of meat, ears of wheat, bread, figs, olives, grapes, wine, milk: often in rural shrines.




vows: EUCHE (loud cry, prayer, vow)

Anathema: something set up. Pl: anathemata. first cuttings of hairs, toys, tools of a trade.

Tithe: DEKATE, often of battle spoils. "The Sacred Way at Delphi is lined with monuments to the victories with which the Greeks destroyed themselves in the fifth and fourth centuries." (69)



SPONDE: a pouring of liuids. Verb: SPENDEIN. vessels: choe = jug. used for the dead and CHTHONIC GODS. The earth 'drinks' the libations.

Sponde accompanies all wine drinking.

Invocation and Prayer are inseparable from libation. Libation accompanies animal sacrifice often.

Oil: not a drink, but is used for spondai: often poured on special stones.

Water: Bathing water for the unmarried dead = posthumous bridal bath.



BLASPHEMIA = any wrong, evil, coarse, or complaining word is harmful.

EUPHEMIA: holy silence. the opposite of blasphemy

EUCHESTHAI: to pray, to boast, to let out a cry of triumph. draws attention to the speaker.

ARA: a prayer/vow; but also means a curse. Thus a priest who knows how to manipulate words of prayer is called ARETER. See Chryses the priest in the first book of the ILIAD.

"It is a striking fact... that in Greek no ancient liturgical prayer formulae are transmitted, no Veda, and no Arval Hymn." (74)

Important to find the right name and appropriate epithets, as well as to define the sphere of the god spatially by naming his favorite dwelling place..

Outstretched arms: the gesture of entreaty.

"A cult image or sanctuary must always be given a friendly greeting -- a chaire -- even if one is simply passing by without any special reason, or else the gesture of kiss may be made by raising a hand to one's lips; a short, simple prayer may always be added. Socrates greets the rising sun also in this way." (75)

KATADESIS (Latin defixio): Lead leaves inscribed with curses on one's enemies and buried in subterranean gods' shrines, or put in graves (curse tablets).



KATHAIREIN: to purify. (maybe derived from Semitic word for cultic fumigation, qtr.

Cleanliness is important to set limits. The outsider is unclean.

"Purification rituals are involved in all intercourse with the sacred and in all forms of initiation; but they are also employed in crisis situations of madness, illness, and guilt.. Insofar as is the case the ritual is placed in the service of a clearly identifiable end, it assumes a magical character." (76)

Water, fumigation, fire, winnowing fan (liknon), sea onions (skilla). blood of pigs.


HAGNOS = sacred. Applies to those qho shun contact with blood and death, especially the virgin.

Its opposite is Mysos, Miasma (defilement).

Miasma can include dislocations of normal life: sexual intercourse, birth, death, murder.


PHARMAKOS: the scape-goat, driven out from city to pruify it. Hipponax (6th century BCE): ugly man chosen feasted on figs, barley broth, cheese, and whipped out with fig branches and sea onions, struck seven times on his membrum virile. (Late source says he was burned and his ashes scattered in the sea -- is that true?) Other examples.

OSTRAKISMOS is another example of the Pharmakos ritual.



TEMENOS: 'place cut off' from the regular world. located inside and outside urban areas. Marked somehow to distinguish it from other territory.

ALSOS: sacred grove. (Altis at Olympia). Inside miasma-producing activities are forbidden.



Bomos: place where the fire is kindled. essential to a sacred area.

Natural stones, or built with bricks and whitewashed, or cut stone blocks.

Position remains fixed.



NAOS: dwelling place of the god. houses the cult image.

XOANON: carved wooden statuette.

table of offerings, incense stands, lamps.

ADYTON: a holy of holies, with restricted access. In some temples.

CHRYSELEPHANTINE: gold and ivory image.

AGALMATA glorious gifts of (sculpted) images of the gods.


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