The Modern Greeks Who Still Worship Zeus

“As to the gods, I have no means of knowing either that they exist or do not exist. For many are the obstacles that impede knowledge, both the obscurity of the question and the shortness of human life.” —Protagoras

In A Nutshell

Sixteen centuries ago, Christianity finally came to Greece, sweeping away the old religions. Today, around 98 percent of Greeks identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, with the remaining 2 percent mostly made up of Muslims and a handful of Jews. Yet there’s a growing number of Greeks who oppose the Abrahamic religions—not in favor of Hinduism, Buddhism, or even atheism, but in favor of Zeus.

The Whole Bushel

In 2007, former advertising executive Doreta Peppa managed to do something no one had done for 1,600 years. Dressed in flowing white robes and carrying a couple of white doves, she performed a pagan ceremony at the Sanctuary of Olympian Zeus. As a representative of Ellinais—an organization dedicated to reviving ancient Greek forms of worship—she became the first priestess to hold such a ceremony since the days of the Christian Roman Empire. The effect was apocalyptic.

Outraged at this flagrant breach of Greek law, the Orthodox Church went into propaganda overdrive. Peppa and the other pagans were denounced in sermons and press releases. The media went on the attack. The Greek state even sent riot police down to the ceremony, although they did not intervene. For many, Peppa’s prayers and ritualistic singing were nothing more than a shameless publicity stunt for a tiny organization that refused to drag its belief system out of the past.

In the seven years since Peppa’s illegal ceremony, opinion has shifted dramatically. Today, hundreds of thousands of Greeks from all walks of life openly worship the old Gods. Leftist academics, right wing Greek nationalists, new age types, and environmentalists all gather under the Hellenistic banner. Across the country, the group holds ceremonies and organizes all-night revelries to the glory of Zeus. They even consider Greece to be under Christian occupation and champion a return to the ancient traditions.

Many academics, however, have claimed the new Hellenics are interpreting the ancients too liberally. For starters, they don’t participate in animal sacrifice; a core component of the old Olympian ceremonies. Then there’s the fact that the philosophies and tenets of these ancient religions are pretty much incompatible with modern life. But for all it may be contradictory, pre-Christian worship is growing in Greece at a phenomenal rate. Its leaders are even hoping for legal recognition in the next few years. For the Greek state and Orthodox Church, that may yet prove a liberty too far.

Show Me The Proof

BBC News: The Greeks who worship the ancient gods
The Guardian: By Zeus!
National Geographic: Pagans Honor Zeus at Ancient Athens Temple

  • Hillyard

    The only thing wrong here is that it isn’t legal for them to worship as they see fit. Perhaps the local witch doctors are afraid of the competition. This makes as much sense as worshipping a dead Jewish guy who BTW, isn’t making a comeback regardless of what the local preacher would have you believe.

    • oouchan

      I have a friend who calls him a dead jew on a stick….I try not to laugh at that. It’s so bad, but I fail utterly in trying to supress the laugh.

      • Jesus!

      • TucsonJim

        Let me guess neither you or your friend ever did well in school, right?

    • TucsonJim

      No need for a comeback when most everyone believes, right? In America, no Atheist to come out of the closet has ever been electable to Congress. And, that’s not changing. A third of scientists are Christian but they win two thirds of Nobel Prizes. Jews only exist in two countries any more and yet they win a quarter of Nobel Prizes. Half of scientists are Atheists, Agnostics, and the irreligious and the few prizes they’ve won is totally embarrassing. Multiple sources estimate the number of Atheists in America and the world is only 2%. Many believe that world number is in decline due just the 25,000 Chinese coming to their senses daily… regardless of what the voices would have you believe.

  • oouchan

    If I had to pick a religion, I would pick the Greek one. I like Zues and all the other gods/goddesses. They were fun..and they let the rest of us have fun, too. The religions today are kinda lame in comparison.

    Interesting.

    • Nathaniel A.

      I’d have to go with Islam, they have really swell music. Though if I had to pick a life philosophy, Buddhism is pretty attractive.

      • oouchan

        Islam is kinda cool…if you are male. Not so nice if you are female. At least with the Greek mythology I’d have a sporting chance. Just as long as Zues doesn’t take a romantic liking to me. 😀

    • Higherformoflife mentioned Bokononism yesterday, which I had forgotten about. That one sounds pretty good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokononism

      • lonelydisco

        I love that idea, it’s hilarious.

        • The book was really good. The last one I read by him was Galapagos. That one was also hilarious.

          • lonelydisco

            I read it, and yes, I agree. Now, I have an idea for my funeral!

        • Theofanis Lantzakis

          True. Maybe you see it through your Dionisian eyes. Good for you 🙂

    • TucsonJim

      Zeus was but a lottery winner as supreme ruler for a rape culture. I mean, Zeua raping Europa and Hera, Pluto raping Proserpina, and the human raping of the temple “hand maidens” in exchange for worshiping the Hellenistic pagan gods only repeats the “vulnerability of Athena.” Yes, raping women who refuse marriage, raping pathenoi to give birth to “special” offspring (sounds a bit like incest), and raping women to force them into marriage (like Hera) contrasts greatly with what you call today’s “lame” modern religions (without idealizing rape). There was no word for “rape” in their language because “taking care of a man’s needs” in the act of rape wasn’t considered an act of violence. In fact, a man was expected to rape his sister-in-law as soon as possible after his brother’s death – a woman often half his age. Prostitution was common, many were even live in. Demosthenes, a Hellenic writer from ancient Athens, wrote “We have courtesans for pleasure, concubines to provide for our daily needs, and our spouses to give us legitimate children and to be the faithful guardians of our homes.” It was a religion and society devoid of real love. Well, sexual assault was criminal and fined – but only as a theft of property. A few women were “saved” by being turned into plants or animals. If Zeus ever desired any woman, he was free to take her under Hellenic law. Sex was only about rank: Zeus outranked all lesser immortals, nymphs, men, and women. Plus, their children were afforded no protections from witnessing such behaviors, any kind of violence, or even murder (Aries, Centuries of Childhood, 1962). Is that really what you meant by “They were fun… and they let the rest of us have fun, too?”

    • Artemis Ansel

      I agree. /fun leads to a lightheartedness we all need.

  • Jimmy

    Do you know who else proposed a move away from Christianity and back towards paganism? You won’t be surprised to know it was Hitler. Godwin’s Law aside and in all seriousness, it’s fun to laugh at the Christians and have a giggle with Zeus but this return originated from the rise in nationalism in Greece after their emasculation by Germany. I think that before you start the anti-Jesus circlejerk, you should bear in mind that a common visitor to these quasi-Olympian services is the Golden Dawn.

    • Theofanis Lantzakis

      Not anti-Jesus. Anti-suppression, anti-sexism anti-homophobia, anti-imposed-religion and above all anti you telling me how to think.

      • Jimmy

        Anti-Jesus was referring to the comments dipshit. Still I shouldn’t expect much better from someone who believes this bollocks unironically.

        • Theofanis Lantzakis

          Have the decency to reply without personal insults. But I believe that you threw a boomerang.

          • Jimmy

            You replied to a year old comment to talk shit. I’ll speak to you the way you deserve.

          • Theofanis Lantzakis

            If I talk s–t, then feel free o criticise my s–t, but you have no right to insult me.

    • Artemis Ansel

      The greek gods were not a cult. Hitler worshipped satan not the greeks in the way it was intended. Do your homework and research. You speak in ignorance.

  • Nathaniel A.

    “Then there’s the fact that the philosophies and tenets of these ancient religions are pretty much incompatible with modern life.”

    A state of affairs the Hellenics by no means have a monopoly on.

    • Theofanis Lantzakis

      Perhaps modern Western Life is incompatible with the Nature of Mankind, the major religion of which is capitalism and it’s major god is the holy trinity of google, facebook and the smartphone.

    • TucsonJim

      The term, “Relaxation Response” was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind / Body Medical Institute. He was considered one of the top authorities – that is until he dropped from fame for the irreligious due to writing the book, Beyond the Relaxation Response in which he showed any person using prayer could produce far greater physical effects than the greatest TM guru without prayer. Then, Dr. Krista Kurth did a spirituality study at George Washington University (1995) but Dr. David Trott at the University of Texas did a more comprehensive one in his “Spiritual Well-Being of Workers: Exploring the Influences of Spirituality in Everyday Work Activities” (1996). Drs. Mitroff and Denton did a study in “A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America” at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (1999). If you ever want to learn more (unlikely?), these texts are a good place to start your education.

      There are two models for measuring spiritual well-being: the Stoll, Banks, Hungelmann, and Brukhardt Web model and the Mobherg, Ellison, and Paloutzian Cruciform Model. Over 400 university studies have found a mixed SWB scale (with the first question being “Do you find satisfaction in prayer to God”) to be highly related to a long list of basic mental health metrics (and corporate profits). The SWBS is extensively examined and has been confirmed as reliable for assessing one’s general level of spiritual well-being (Brinkman, 1989). Investigations have found a mixed SWB scale to be significantly related to depression and loneliness (Paloutzian and Ellison, 1982), self-esteem (Campise, Ellison, and Kinsman, 1979; Marto, 1983), response to treatment of chronic pain (Mullins, 1985), hypertension (Hawkins, 1986; Mullins, 1985; Sherman, 1986), eating disorder patient groupings (Sherman, 1986), marital satisfaction (Mashburn, 1986), coping skills and feelings of connectedness, employment status, and family closeness (Jang, 1986), anxiety (Kaczorowski, 1989), and coping with terminal illness (Reed, 1987, 1992). Then, Dr. David Schnarch (the most respected and quoted relationship expert for 60 years) pointed out in the 1980s how decades of research only confirmed that high school sex education classes doubled the number of STDs and unwanted pregnancies as human sexuality taught without a discussion of intimacy and morals (which means religion) does permanent emotional damage to children. Finally, functional MRIs by a half dozen Oxford researchers have shown when religious people are shown pictures of faith icons, their brains are activated in ways that can be used to control pain. In other words, the truth is that brains of the religious have pathways that are lacking in the brains of the irreligious.

      America didn’t just birth everything from the light bulb to the Internet (producing more daily medical patents today than the rest of the world combined), we also birthed the morals of the modern world. America’s Christian “Three Great Awakenings” drove the scientific age with greater public access to a basic education, the industrial age with fairer access to opportunity and social systems of support like welfare to encourage greater risk taking, and the information age with more democratic access to decision making. Poverty is now seen as the by-product of broader flaws in society and not the wages of “sin.” Economics Nobel Prize winner Dr. Fogel argues America is again leading the world through a fourth Great Awakening of equality of purpose adding to knowledge, opportunity, and politics as a fresh relational base for a new Symbiotic Age as the moral foundation for a New Economy where end-to-end solutions are typically built on networks of small companies (already producing over half of our nation’s economic growth today). The most scientifically validated concept in all of history is the solely Christian concept of “Original Sin.” Let’s take you. You lie 200 times a day hoping your lies will get people to like you, fearing (correctly) nobody could love the real you (as per Ekman and many others), you would torture any stranger to DEATH if simply asked you are such a wimp to peer pressure (as per Milgram and many others), you steal whenever you believe you can get away with it (as per the MMPI and many many others), you live in an information bubble (Self-Confirmation Bias), use the least data possible to make any decision (Kahneman even won a Nobel Prize for proving this), and you just can’t be taught better (Bias Blind Spot). Science has confirmed the only option for a moral society is a church (perhaps why Danish Atheists attend church more often than American Christians).

  • Paul Hanson

    In reference to the last paragraph, who says that Hellenic beliefs and practices can’t be adapted to modern day standards? After all, Jews and many Hindu sects no longer sacrifice animals to their deities anymore. There’s this whole branch of religion called reconstructionist which are people trying to restore religions of the pre-Christian European past like the Greeks or Celts, and adapting them to fit modern day standards, which is honestly something lots of more “established” religious have avoided doing.

    • Theofanis Lantzakis

      The author mixes fact with opinion and does not state his/her underlying philosophical bias. My opinion therefore is that the text is mere pretentious sofostry. ie. Do not pass off your opinion as fact mister M.

  • Earthstar

    Isn’t Discordianism a resurrection of at least one lady from this pantheon?

    • Theofanis Lantzakis

      Our paths do meet, so don’t put up fences. 😉

  • Theofanis Lantzakis

    My Gods and Goddesses are not jealous. My Gods and Goddesses are not prohibitive. My Gods and Goddesses are not marble statues, nor are they an external force, for they reside in my heart and in my soul. My Gods have rescued me from Death by Hunger and Disease. My Gods demand that I obey the Kanon, punish me ten-fold when I break it and smile upon my fate when I adhere to it. I was born Greek; my gods are Greek!

  • Jason Cutshaw

    CHRISTIANITY has stolen GLORY away from ZEUS and the power of Gods,I suffer under a religion that I know deep down is wrong and am surrounded by BRAINWASHED people.. POWER UNTO ZEUS!!