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Advice on Libations

Post  Aoede on Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:24 pm

Hi there,

I am very new to Olympianism and I was wondering if I could get some tips on how to do libations? Like what to use and how to do it.
Any advice would be very very welcome Smile

Thank you very much!

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Re: Advice on Libations

Post  Erodius on Wed Jul 17, 2013 10:35 pm

Aoede wrote:Hi there,

I am very new to Olympianism and I was wondering if I could get some tips on how to do libations? Like what to use and how to do it.
Any advice would be very very welcome Smile

Thank you very much!

First, I would highly recommend reading the 'Sticky' topics posted at the top of this forum page, especially the second one 'On Domestic Piety', which is a short essay that I wrote a while back addressing the very basics of core religious practice (the fourth paragraph of which discusses the core basics of libation sacrifice. The first is a link to the Prolegomena, an introductory text outlining the contextual development of Greek Olympianism in Antiquity.

———

Regarding the other aspects of your question, the mechanics of offering libation are not complex. Libation follows immolative or material sacrifice (including incense), which itself follows the hymnody. Libation is, thus, the last of the three offerings. However, in worship, it has always been common to offer only hymnody and libation — not all sacrifices are elaborate immolations on an altar.

If done outdoors, libation is offered directly onto the altar fire, or if there is not otherwise a burnt sacrifice, is poured out directly onto the ground. Done indoors at a shrine, libation is, by necessity, poured into a vessel (any kind of simple glazed-ceramic or glass saucer will do. I use these myself: http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-474882/Kotobuki-Swirl-Dip-Dishes).

As far as what to do with a libation offering that has been poured out into a vessel, there are a few ways of dealing with it appropriately. Perhaps the best is, if possible, to pour it out outdoors after the act of worship. However, it is not always possible for everyone to do this depending on living space — some people do not have access to anywhere where it is possible to do this. In this case, there are other appropriate ways. First, it was done in Antiquity, and is considered acceptable by the living Orphic religion, in the case of any kind of non-immolative offering, to simply remove the vessel from the shrine and drink or consume the libation/offering  yourself (or share it with others present) after worship is done. This is acceptable because it is the action of giving the sacrifices that constitutes worship — Gods do not literally drink the libation or eat the food. However, such things are necessarily considered to have been blessed by being offered to a deity, and so are not simply normal food and drink. This is essentially identical to the conception of prasad in the Hindu religion Prasad.

The primary libation is wine, for a variety of important religious reasons. However, there are a handful of other proper libations, and in some particular cases of worship, it is customary not to libate wine. Other libations include grape juice or must, posca (an ancient 'commoners wine' made from watered down wine vinegar sweetened with honey), pure honey itself or hydromeli (a common drink in Antiquity made from watering down honey and sometimes adding spices), milk (traditionally would have been whole milk), barley water, pure water, or olive oil.

PS#1: things like grape juice or milk should not be left out in the open air long. They will spoil very quickly, may start to smell, draw bugs, and could make you sick if you drink them after they've sat out. Things like wine, diluted must (balsamic vinegar is usually a blend of wine vinegar and must), posca, honey, hydromeli, and, of course, water, can be left out safely unrefrigerated as long as they are used/consumed within a few days. Honey or hydromeli can usually be kept indefinitely, because honey does not spoil. For this reason, it was used as a preservative for centuries before refrigeration was possible, and was also, symbolically, associated with immortality.

PS#2: olive oil, however, should be avoided if you are not offering it onto an altar fire. It is really not drinkable, will kill plants if poured outdoors repeatedly, and should not even be poured out down drains — it will clog them very quickly.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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