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Greek Sacrificial Rituals

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Greek Sacrificial Rituals


The principle form of religious worship that the ancient Greeks participated in were the sacrifices made to the gods. Sacrifices were, in fact, the central event around which festivals, athletics, oracles, and all other worship events were focused. It was here, in the ritual sacrifice, that humans and gods came together.


Some cults may have eventually developed hierarchical priesthoods that controlled access sacrifices, but early on at least every adult (or every adult male) was considered eligible to perform sacrifices to the gods. This might occur in the home or it might occur publicly in a temple. Priests often attended sacrifices but their presence was by no means required.

Purity for the sake of sacrificing to the gods was deemed the normal state of affairs. Only under unusual circumstances would one be considered impure and, hence, ineligible.

Why did people make sacrifices to a god or goddess? Because they demanded it - only through sacrifices could humans please the gods and thereby get what they wanted: good crops, advice, information about the future, a successful voyage, etc.

There were gods with authority over every aspect of life and nature; thus, anyone who wanted anything was likely to at least consider invoking the assistance of some god or goddess - and that required a sacrifice. This was especially true on the political level: no political authority could be exercised absent the appropriate ritual sacrifices and every city magistrate was simultaneously a part of the priesthood, empowered to preside over sacrifices.

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