What is Hellenic Polytheism?
Hellenic Polytheism, or Hellenismos, is the revival of the worship of the gods of Greece. It is a hard polytheist path, meaning that those who subscribe to Hellenic Polytheism believe and experience the gods as real, existent beings of power and intelligence, completely independent of each other, and who are able to have a direct influence on our lives. This differs from monotheism; the belief that there is only one god or divine spirit, and soft polytheism; the belief that the many various gods are aspects of a single entity.
Hard polytheists accept that all gods are real and deserving of worship, but may chose to be (primarily at least) devoted to a single pantheon, such as the Norse/Germanic Gods in Heathenry, the Ancient Egyptian Gods in Kemetic Polytheism or the gods of Greece in Hellenismos.
Hellenic Polytheists may be of Greek origin, possess Greek ancestry, or may just feel drawn to worshipping the gods of Greece. One does not need to be ethnically Greek or living in Greece to be a Hellenist. The Athenian orator Isocrates in the 4th century BC said "The name Greek is no longer the mark of a race, but of an outlook, and is accorded to those who share our culture rather than our blood" and the ancient Greeks brought their cults and gods to various parts of the world. With the campaigns of Alexander the Great, Hellenisation spread to Egypt, Italy and Rome, the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia.
Just as our religious ancestors, modern Hellenists follow any number of paths and worship any number of gods. Ancient Greece was a loose affiliation of various city states (polis) and there was no one, single, unifying Hellenic religion. Different regions might have an emphasis on a particular deity or group of gods, such as Athene in Athens or Demeter at Eleusis. The ancient Greeks were also rather pragmatic and subscribed to one or more cults dictated by personal need, circumstance or profession. If a farmer wanted to ensure a good crop, he might make an offering to Demeter and the local nymphs. If a young woman wanted to make a good marriage, she might pray to Aphrodite or Hera.
Hellenic Polytheism is reconstructive, that is it takes ancient beliefs and practices and adapts them for modern worship. It is not a wholesale reconstruction of life in Ancient Greece. That would be both impractical and undesirable. Slavery, patriarchy, distrust of foreigners and so on, are not practices that modern Hellenists subscribe to, and many would prefer not to give up their fridges and cars. What we do take from Ancient Greek practices however is a blueprint for approaching the gods. We learn cult titles and epithets, what offerings are most likely to please a particular deity, who Their family is and which hymns to speak or sing.
The level of reconstruction varies between individual Hellenists. Some try to imitate as close as possible the religious lives of the Ancient Greeks while others will take certain pieces of lore and practices and adapt them to suit a modern framework. The information is fragmented; we've lost far more than we've saved, particularly the oral lore, rituals, poems, songs and dances that weren't recorded. We can turn to what texts remain for guidance, but it is up to modern Polytheists to build new traditions to honour the gods and to connect with our ancestors and the daimons (spirits) of the land.