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Consuming the edible offerings

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Consuming the edible offerings

Post  Momos on Mon Jul 14, 2014 4:13 pm

I know it's ideal to either burn or bury your offerings, but I live in an apartment/big city so that's not an option for me. I am well aware that offerings for cthonic deities should not be consumed but I am interested in knowing whether I should consume the edible offerings or not when it comes to the Olympians and the rest of the gods or should I just leave it outside somewhere?

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Re: Consuming the edible offerings

Post  Erodius on Mon Jul 14, 2014 10:28 pm

Momos wrote:I know it's ideal to either burn or bury your offerings, but I live in an apartment/big city so that's not an option for me. I am well aware that offerings for cthonic deities should not be consumed but I am interested in knowing whether I should consume the edible offerings or not when it comes to the Olympians and the rest of the gods or should I just leave it outside somewhere?

Consuming one's offerings, while not the norm, was not totally unheard of either – although the reasoning was not quite as above.

In the electricity-free world of Classical Greece and Rome, virtually every household, no matter how poor, would probably have owned at least a small brazier for cooking, heating the home in winter, and burning religious offerings, even if they did not have a full fireplace, as would have been the case for the many thousands of less wealthy people living in the high-rise apartments of ancient Rome (yes, ancient Rome had apartment buildings in highly urbanized areas – there were people 2,000 years ago living in a similar situation to you today). However, even for those individuals so underprivileged as to be unable to afford even a brazier, it would have been possible to walk to the nearest shrine and offer there, as there were so many shrines in ancient Greek and Roman towns as to make it impossible to walk anywhere without passing one or another. That, however, is obviously a luxury we no longer have. 

Occasionally, ceremonies would be held called lectisternia in which meals would be symbolically shared with a deity (whose image would be treated as a guest to the banquet) and the worshippers. 

Ultimately, however, it is the act of offering a sacrifice that is beneficial, and, even then, it benefits the sacrificer, not the deity. Gods need nothing from us. By sacrifice, however, we enact kinesis toward divinity, which is the source of blessings received. Therefore, what is done with the sacrificta after the worship is over is not of primary importance, although, being as the items have been offered to a deity, or have even, perhaps, sat on a deity's altar or shrine, in many cases, the items would be considered to have acquired a certain kind of holiness and connection to the deity to whom they had been offered, which, by extension, would have been considered, in some cases, to confer that kind of 'residual holiness' upon someone who consumed them. 

In the Roman rite, in particular, items to be consumed by worshippers after a sacrifice would be symbolically 'taken back' to the mortal world simply by being touched (whereas, before, meal offerings to deities would often have been kept away from direct contact with any part of a mortal body – a custom that is still the norm in India, where wealthier families will even have separate, special kitchens in their homes solely for the purpose of making food for the Gods).

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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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Re: Consuming the edible offerings

Post  Momos on Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:35 am

Thank you. The reason I asked is because I never found any sources on this, also, it's odd that neither Timothy Jay nor Sarah Kate Istra talks about this in their ''beginners guide to Hellenismos''-books.

Is there any sites or books out there that cover the basics of the consumption of offerings? It can even be a vague mention, I'll take anything.

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Re: Consuming the edible offerings

Post  Erodius on Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:53 am

Momos wrote:Thank you. The reason I asked is because I never found any sources on this, also, it's odd that neither Timothy Jay nor Sarah Kate Istra talks about this in their ''beginners guide to Hellenismos''-books.

A word of advice: do not put too much stock in either Winter or Alexander. Without going into too much of the specific problems, I'll just say that both have their issues, and neither is really worth paying for. 



Is there any sites or books out there that cover the basics of the consumption of offerings? It can even be a vague mention, I'll take anything.


As I tried to convey, although the practice of consuming offerings was not unknown, the reason/situation you are describing (that is, consuming offerings because of a lack of means to dispose of them) would have been almost unheard of in Antiquity. As such, there is unlikely to be much of any mention of such an act.

However, the post-ceremonial consumption of meal items shared with deities was a fairly customary part of public religion (private less so, but still somewhat) in the Classical world. As I mentioned, banquets would be held, called lectisternia or θεοξένιαι whereat special feasts would be shared with deities, who were considered as honored guests of the banquets. 

My scanner is broken, so you'll have to forgive the quality of the image, but I'm attaching for you a passage from Burkert describing the θεοξένιαι feasts:






I'm pressed for time at the moment, but I will continue looking into finding particular readings for you, if you are interested. 

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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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Re: Consuming the edible offerings

Post  DavidMcCann on Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:02 pm

Herodas, in his fourth mime, depicts a woman going to the temple of Asclepius with a friend and a slave to give thanks for a cure. She brings a votive tablet, a cock for sacrifice, and also puts a coin in the offering box. After the cock is dispatched, a leg is given to the temple warden and the rest of the bird taken home for dinner. Presumably the slave got the job of plucking it and taking a leg off.


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