Prayer and Magic


Mechanics of Prayer


Vocabulary of Prayer

euxe - prayer

euxomai - to prayer, claim, boast

charis - favor


Form of the Prayer

invocation (invocatio)

narrative (pars epica/argumentum)

wish (preces)


Types of Prayer:

do ut des: I give so that you might give

da quia dedi:  give because I gave previously

da quia dedisti: give because you gave previously

da quia dedit: give because (s)he gave previously

da ut dem: give so that I will give

da ut dare possim:  give so that I shall be able to give


Gifts for the Gods - dedications and sacrifice


Dedications:  votives, reliefs, statues, shrines, temples


Types of Sacrifice


cereal offerings

burning incense

animal sacrifice

communal meal



Sacrificial Meals And The Ordering Of Society

origins of sacrifice

procedures of sacrifice

distribution of sacrifice according to status

marking boundaries of community

performer of sacrifice

time and place for sacrifice


Emic vs. Etic views of prayer and sacrificial ritual

horizontal vs. vertical axis of communication

performer and audience

ritual and self-definition

past, present, and future


Religion of Here, There, or Anywhere



Pindar Olympian 1

And when he blossomed with the stature of fair youth, and down darkened his cheek, he turned his thoughts to an available marriage, to win glorious Hippodameia from her father, the lord of Pisa. He drew near to the gray sea, alone in the darkness, and called aloud on the deep-roaring god, skilled with the trident; and the god appeared to him, close at hand. Pelops said to the god, "If the loving gifts of Cyprian Aphrodite result in any gratitude (charis), Poseidon, then restrain the bronze spear of Oenomaus, and speed me in the swiftest chariot to Elis, and bring me to victory. For he has killed thirteen suitors, and postpones the marriage of his daughter. Great danger does not take hold of a coward. Since all men are compelled to die, why should anyone sit stewing an inglorious old age in the darkness, with no share of any fine deeds? As for me, on this contest I will take my stand. May you grant a welcome achievement." So he spoke, and he did not touch on words that were unaccomplished. Honoring him, the god gave him a golden chariot, and horses with untiring wings.  He overcame the might of Oenomaus, and took the girl as his bride. She bore six sons, leaders of the people eager for excellence. Now he has a share in splendid blood-sacrifices, resting beside the ford of the Alpheus, where he has his attendant tomb beside the altar that is thronged with many visitors.



Euripides Hippolytus 115ff.

Hippolytus:   Come follow me and sing of Zeus's heavenly daughter [60]  Artemis, who cares for us.

Lady, lady most revered, daughter of Zeus, my greeting, daughter [65]  of Leto and of Zeus, of maidens the fairest by far, who dwellest in the broad  heaven in the court of your good father, the gilded house of Zeus. [70]  My greeting to you, fair one, fairest of all who dwell in Olympus!  For you, lady, I bring this plaited garland I have made, gathered from an inviolate meadow, [75]  a place where the shepherd does not dare to pasture  his flocks, where the iron scythe has never come: no, it is inviolate, and the bee makes its way through it in the spring-time. Shamefast Awe tends this  garden with streams of river-water, for those to pluck who have acquired nothing by teaching but rather in whose very nature [80]  chastity in all  things has ever won its place: the base may not pluck. But, dear lady, take this coronal for your golden hair from a worshipful hand. For I alone of  mortals have this privilege: [85]  I spend my days with you and speak with you, I hear your voice but never see your face. May I end my life just as I have begun it!



Iliad 1.34 ff.

He went forth in silence along the shore of the loud-resounding sea, and  earnestly then, when he had gone apart, the old man prayed [35] to the lord Apollo, whom fair-haired Leto bore:  "Hear me, god of the silver bow,  who stand over Chryse and holy Cilla, and rule mightily over Tenedos, Sminthian god, if ever I roofed over a temple to your pleasing, or if ever I  burned to you fat thigh-pieces of bulls and goats, [40] fulfill this prayer for me: let the Danaans pay for my tears by your arrows."

So he spoke in prayer, and Phoebus Apollo heard him. Down from the peaks of Olympus he strode, angered at heart, bearing on his shoulders his  bow and covered quiver. [45] The arrows rattled on the shoulders of the angry god as he moved, and his coming was like the night. Then he sat down  apart from the ships and let fly an arrow: terrible was the twang of the silver bow. The mules he assailed first and the swift dogs, [50] but then on the  men themselves he let fly his stinging shafts, and struck; and constantly the pyres of the dead burned thick.



Sappho Frag. 1

Ornate-throned immortal Aphrodite, wile-weaving daughter of Zeus, I entreat you: do not overpower my heart, mistress, with ache and anguish, but come here, if ever in the past you heard my voice from afar and acquiesced and came, leaving your father's golden house, with chariot yoked: beautiful swift sparrows whirring fast-beating wings brought you above the dark earth down from heaven through the mid-air, and soon they arrived; and you, blessed one, with a smile on your immortal face asked what was the matter with me this time and why was I calling this time and what in my maddened heart I most wished to happen for myself: "Whom am I to persuade this time to lead you back to her love? Who wrongs you, Sappho? If she runs away, soon she shall pursue; if she does not accept gifts, why, she shall give them instead; if she does not love, soon she shall love even against her will." Come to me now again and deliver me from oppressive anxieties; fulfil all that my heart long to fulfil, and you yourself be my fellow-fighter.



Odyssey 3.75 ff.

[75] Then wise Telemachus took courage, and made answer, for Athena herself put courage in his heart, that he might ask about his father that was gone, and that good report might be his among men:

 "Nestor, son of Neleus, great glory of the Achaeans, [80] thou askest whence we are, and I will surely tell thee. We have come from Ithaca that is below Neion; but this business whereof I speak is mine own, and concerns not the people. I come after the wide-spread rumor of my father, if haply I may hear of it, even of goodly Odysseus of the steadfast heart, who once, men say, [85] fought by thy side and sacked the city of the Trojans. For of all men else, as many as warred with the Trojans, we learn where each man died a woeful death, but of him the son of Cronos has made even the death to be past learning; for no man can tell surely where he hath died,-- [90] whether he was overcome by foes on the mainland, or on the deep among the waves of Amphitrite. Therefore am I now come to thy knees, if perchance thou wilt be willing to tell me of his woeful death, whether thou sawest it haply with thine own eyes, or didst hear from some other the story [95] of his wanderings; for beyond all men did his mother bear him to sorrow. And do thou nowise out of ruth or pity for me speak soothing words, but tell me truly how thou didst come to behold him. I beseech thee, if ever my father, noble Odysseus, promised aught to thee of word or deed and fulfilled it [100] in the land of the Trojans, where you Achaeans suffered woes, be mindful of it now, I pray thee, and tell me the very truth."



Odyssey 4.315 ff.

[315] Then wise Telemachus answered him: " Menelaus, son of Atreus, fostered of Zeus, leader of hosts, I came if haply thou mightest tell me some tidings of my father. My home is being devoured and my rich lands are ruined; with men that are foes my house is filled, who are ever [320] slaying my thronging sheep and my sleek kine of shambling gait, even the wooers of my mother, overweening in their insolence. Therefore am I now come to thy knees, if perchance thou wilt be willing to tell me of his woeful death, whether thou sawest it haply with thine own eyes, or didst hear from some other the story [325] of his wanderings; for beyond all men did his mother bear him to sorrow. And do thou no wise out of ruth or pity for me speak soothing words, but tell me truly how thou didst come to behold him. I beseech thee, if ever my father, noble Odysseus, promised aught to thee of word or deed and fulfilled it [330] in the land of the Trojans, where you Achaeans suffered woes, be mindful of it now, I pray thee, and tell me the truth."



Odyssey 4.758 f..

Penelope went up to her upper chamber with her handmaids, and placing barley grains in a basket prayed to Athena:

 "Hear me, child of Zeus who bears the aegis, unwearied one. If ever Odysseus, of many wiles, burnt to thee in his halls fat thigh-pieces of heifer or ewe, [765] remember these things now, I pray thee, and save my dear son, and ward off from him the wooers in their evil insolence."

 So saying she raised the sacred cry, and the goddess heard her prayer.



Odyssey 17.239 ff.

And the swineherd looked the man in the face, and rebuked him, and lifted up his hands, and prayed aloud:

 [240] "Nymphs of the fountain, daughters of Zeus, if ever Odysseus burned upon your altars pieces of the thighs of lambs or kids, wrapped in rich fat, fulfil for me this prayer; grant that he, my master, may come back, and that some god may guide him. Then would he scatter all the proud airs [245] which now thou puttest on in thy insolence,ever roaming about the city, while evil herdsmen destroy the flock."



Aristophanes Peace 385 ff.

Chorus: [385] Oh! mighty Hermes! do not do it; no, do not do it! If ever you have eaten some young pig, sacrificed by us on your altars, with pleasure, may this offering not be without value in your sight to-day.

 Trygaeus:  Do you not hear them wheedling you, mighty god?

 Chorus:  [390] Be not pitiless toward our prayers; permit us to deliver the goddess. Oh! the most human, the most generous of the gods, be favourable toward us, [395] if it be true that you detest the haughty crests and proud brows of Pisander; we shall never cease, oh master, offering you sacred victims and solemn prayers.

Trygaeus: [400] Have mercy, mercy, let yourself be touched by their words; never was your worship so dear to them as to-day. Aside. Really they are the greatest thieves that ever were. To Hermes. And I shall reveal to you a great and terrible plot that is being hatched against the gods.

 Hermes:  [405] Hah! speak and perchance I shall let myself be softened.

 Trygaeus:  Know then, that the Moon and that infamous Sun are plotting against you, and want to deliver Greece into the hands of the barbarians.

 Hermes:  What for?

 Trygaeus: Because [410] it is to you that we sacrifice, whereas the barbarians worship them; hence they would like to see you destroyed, that they alone might receive the offerings.

 Hermes: Is it then for this reason that these untrustworthy charioteers have for so long been defrauding us, one of them robbing us of daylight [415] and the other nibbling away at the other's disk?

 Trygaeus: Yes, certainly. So therefore, Hermes, my friend, help us with your whole heart to find and deliver the captive and we will celebrate the great Panathenaea in your honor as well as all the festivals of the other gods; [420] for Hermes shall be the Mysteries, the Dipolia, the Adonia; everywhere the towns, freed from their miseries, will sacrifice to Hermes the Liberator; you will be loaded with benefits of every kind, and to start with, I offer you this cup for libations as your first present.

 Hermes:   [425] Ah! how golden cups do influence me!



Aeschylus Libation Bearers 245ff

Orestes:   O Zeus, O Zeus, regard our cause! Behold the orphaned brood of a father eagle that perished in the meshes, in the coils of a fierce viper. They are utterly orphaned, gripped by the famine of hunger: [250] for they are not grown to full strength to bring their father's quarry to the nest. So you see both me and poor Electra here, children bereft of their father, both outcasts alike from our home. If you destroy these nestlings of a father who made sacrifice and revered you greatly, [255] from what like hand will you receive the homage of rich feasts? Destroy the brood of the eagle and you cannot again send tokens that mortals will trust; nor, if this royal stock should wither utterly away, will it serve your altars on days when oxen are sacrificed. [260] Oh foster it, and you may raise our house from low estate to great, though now it seems utterly overthrown.



Demosthenes 18.141

In your presence, men of Athens, I now invoke all the gods and goddesses whose domain is the land of Attica. I invoke also Pythian Apollo, the  ancestral divinity of this city, and I solemnly beseech them all that, if I shall speak the truth now, and if I spoke truth to my countrymen when first I  saw this miscreant putting his hand to that transaction--for I knew it, I knew it instantly--they may grant to me prosperity and salvation. But if with  malice or in the spirit of personal rivalry I lay against him any false charge, I pray that they may dispossess me of everything that is good.



Aristophanes Thesmophoriazeusae 1136ff

Chorus: Oh! Pallas, who art fond of dances, hasten hither at my call. Oh! thou chaste virgin,-- [1140] --the protectress of Athens, I call thee in accordance with the sacred rites, thee, whose evident protection we adore and who keepest the keys of our city in thy hands. [1143] Do thou appear, thou whose just hatred has overturned our tyrants. [1145] The womenfolk are calling thee; hasten hither at their bidding along with Peace, who shall restore the festivals.

 And ye, august goddesses, display a smiling and propitious countenance to our gaze; come into your sacred grove, [1150] the entry to which is forbidden to men; 'tis there in the midst of the sacred orgies that we contemplate your divine features. [1155] Come, appear, we pray it of you, oh, venerable Thesmophorae! If you have ever answered our appeal, oh! come into our midst.



Aristophanes Thesmophoriazeusae 295ff

Woman Herald: [295] Silence! Silence! Pray to the Thesmophorae, Demeter and Cora; pray to Plutus, Calligenia, Curotrophus, [300] the Earth, Hermes and the Graces, that all may happen for the best at this gathering, both for the greatest advantage of Athens [305] and for our own personal happiness! May the award be given her who, by both deeds and words, has most deserved it from the Athenian people and from the women! [310] Address these prayers to heaven and demand happiness for yourselves. Io Paean! Io Paean! Let us rejoice!

Chorus: May the gods deign to accept our vows and our prayers! [315] Oh! almighty Zeus, and thou, god with the golden lyre, who reignest on sacred Delos, and thou, oh, invincible virgin, Pallas, with the eyes of azure and the spear of gold, who protectest our illustrious city, [320] and thou, the daughter of the beautiful Leto, queen of the forests, who art adored under many names, hasten hither at my call. Come, thou mighty Poseidon, king of the Ocean, leave thy stormy whirlpools of Nereus; [325] come, goddesses of the seas, come, ye nymphs, who wander on the mountains. Let us unite our voices to the sounds of the golden lyre, [330] and may wisdom preside at the gathering of the noble matrons of Athens.

Woman Herald: Address your prayers to the gods and goddesses of Olympus, of Delphi, Delos and all other places; [335] if there be a man who is plotting against the womenfolk or who, to injure them, is proposing peace to Euripides and the Medes, or who aspires to usurping the tyranny, plots the return of a tyrant, or [340] unmasks a supposititious child; or if there be a slave who, a confidential party to a wife's intrigues, reveals them secretly to her husband, or who, entrusted with a message, does not deliver the same faithfully; if there be a lover who fulfils naught of what he has promised a woman, whom he has abused on the strength of his lies; [345] if there be an old woman who seduces the lover of a maiden by dint of her presents and treacherously receives him in her house; if there be a host or hostess who sells false measure, pray the gods that they will overwhelm them with their wrath, [350] both them and their families, and that they may reserve all their favours for you.

Chorus:  Let us ask the fulfillment of these wishes both for the city and for the people, [355] and may the wisest of us cause her opinion to be accepted. But woe to those women who break their oaths, [360] who speculate on the public misfortune, who seek to alter the laws and the decrees, who reveal our secrets to the foe [365] and admit the Medes into our territory so that they may devastate it! I declare them both impious and criminal. Oh! almighty Zeus! see to it that [370] the gods protect us, albeit we are but women!



Theophrastus, fr.584a

There are three reasons one ought to sacrifice to the gods: either on account of honor or on account of gratitude or on account of a want of things. For just as with good men, so also with these (the gods) we think that offerings of first-fruits should be made to them. We honour the gods either because we seek to deflect evils or to acquire goods for ourselves, or because we have first been treated well or simply to do great honour to their good character.



Hesiod, Theogony 535-557

For when the gods and mortal men had a dispute at Mecone, even then Prometheus was forward to cut up a great ox and set portions before them, trying to deceive the mind of Zeus. Before the rest he set flesh and inner parts thick with fat upon the hide, covering them with  an ox paunch; [540] but for Zeus he put the white bones dressed up with cunning art and covered with shining fat. Then the father of men and of gods  said to him:

  "Son of Iapetus, most glorious of all lords, good sir, how unfairly you have divided the portions!"

[545] So said Zeus whose wisdom is everlasting, rebuking him. But wily Prometheus answered him, smiling softly and not forgetting his cunning  trick:

  "Zeus, most glorious and greatest of the eternal gods, take which ever of these portions your heart within you bids." [550] So he said, thinking  trickery. But Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting, saw and failed not to perceive the trick, and in his heart he thought mischief against mortal men  which also was to be fulfilled. With both hands he took up the white fat and was angry at heart, and wrath came to his spirit [555] when he saw the  white ox-bones craftily tricked out: and because of this the tribes of men upon earth burn white bones to the deathless gods upon fragrant altars. But  Zeus who drives the clouds was greatly vexed and said to him:

  "Son of Iapetus, clever above all! [560] So, sir, you have not yet forgotten your cunning arts!"

  So spake Zeus in anger, whose wisdom is everlasting; and from that time he was always mindful of the trick, and would not give the power of  unwearying fire to the Melian1 race of mortal men who live on the earth. [565] But the noble son of Iapetus outwitted him and stole the far-seen  gleam of unwearying fire in a hollow fennel stalk. And Zeus who thunders on high was stung in spirit, and his dear heart was angered when he  saw amongst men the far-seen ray of fire. [570] Forthwith he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; for the very famous Limping God  formed of earth the likeness of a shy maiden as the son of Cronos willed.



Homer, Odyssey xiv.418-436

On this he began chopping firewood, while the others brought in a fine fat five year old boar pig, and set it at the altar. Eumaios did not forget  the gods, for he was a man of good principles, so the first thing he did was to cut bristles from the pig's face and throw them into the fire, praying to  all the gods as he did so that Odysseus might return home again. Then he clubbed the pig with a billet of oak which he had kept back when he was  chopping the firewood, and its soul left it, while the others slaughtered and singed it. Then they cut it up, and Eumaios began by putting raw pieces  from each joint on to some of the fat; these he sprinkled with barley meal, and laid upon the embers; they cut the rest of the meat up small, put the  pieces upon the spits and roasted them till they were done; when they had taken them off the spits they threw them on to the dresser in a heap. The  swineherd, who was a most equitable man, then stood up to give every one his share. He made seven portions; one of these he set apart for Hermes  the son of Maia and the nymphs, praying to them as he did so; the others he dealt out to the men man by man. He gave Odysseus some slices cut  lengthways down the loin as a mark of especial honor, and Odysseus was much pleased. "I hope, Eumaios," said he, "that Zeus will be as well  disposed towards you as I am, for the respect you are showing to an outcast like myself."

[441] To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaios, "Eat, my good fellow, and enjoy your supper, such as it is. A god grants this, and withholds  that, just as he thinks right, for he can do whatever he chooses."

  [446] As he spoke he cut off the first piece and offered it as a burnt sacrifice to the immortal gods; then he made them a drink-offering, put the cup  in the hands of Odysseus, and sat down to his own portion.



Isaeus 8.15-16

 Now there are other proofs which we can bring forward to show that we are the children of Ciron's daughter. For, as was natural, seeing that we were the sons of his own daughter, Ciron never offered a sacrifice without our presence; whether he was performing a great or small sacrifice, we  were always there and took part in the ceremony. And not only were we invited to such rites but he also always took us into the country for the  Dionysia, and we always went with him to public spectacles and sat at his side, and we went to his house to keep all the festivals; and when he  sacrificed to Zeus Ctesius --a festival to which he attached a special importance, to which he admitted neither slaves nor free men outside his own  family, at which he personally performed all the rites--we participated in this celebration and laid our hands with his upon the victims and placed our  offerings side by side with his, and took part in all the other rites, and he prayed for our health and wealth, as he naturally would, being our  grandfather.



Pausanias V.15.3-12

            Well, there is in the Altis, when you are about to pass to the left of the Leonidaeum, an altar of Aphrodite, and after it one of the Seasons.  About opposite the rear chamber a wild olive is growing on the right.  It is called the olive of the Beautiful Crown, and from its leaves are made the crowns which it is customary to give to winners of Olympic contests.  Near this wild olive stands an altar of Nymphs; these too are styled Nymphs of the Beautiful Crowns.  [4] Outside the Altis, but on the right of the Leonidaeum, is an altar of Artemis of the Market, and one has also been built for Mistresses, and in my account of Arcadia I will tell you about the goddess they call Mistress.  After this is an altar of Zeus of the Market, and before what is called the Front Seats stands an altar of Apollo surnamed Pythian, and after it one of Dionysus.  The last altar is said to be not old, and to have been dedicated by private individuals.  [5] As you go to the starting-point for the chariot-race there is an altar with an inscription "to the Bringer of Fate." This is plainly a surname of Zeus, who knows the affairs of men, all that the Fates give them, and all that is not destined for them.  Near there is also an oblong altar of Fates, after it one of Hermes, and the next two are of Zeus Most High.  At the starting-point for the chariot-race, just about opposite the middle of it, there are in the open altars of Poseidon Horse-god and Hera Horse-goddess, and near the pillar an altar of the Dioscuri.  [6] At the entrance to what is called the Wedge there is on one side an altar of Ares Horse-god, on the other one of Athena Horse-goddess.  On entering the Wedge itself you see altars of Good Luck, Pan and Aphrodite; at the innermost part of the Wedge an altar of the Nymphs called Blooming.  An altar of Artemis stands on the right as you return from the Portico that the Eleans call the Portico of Agnaptus, giving to the building the name of its architect.  [7] After re-entering the Altis by the processional gate there are behind the Heraeum altars of the river Cladeus and of Artemis; the one after them is Apollo's, the fourth is of Artemis surnamed Coccoca, and the fifth is of Apollo Thermius.  As to the Elean surname Thermius, the conjecture occurred to me that in the Attic dialect it would be thesmios (god of laws), but why Artemis is surnamed Coccoca I could not discover.  [8] Before what is called TheĹcoleon is a building, in a corner of which has been set up an altar of Pan.  The Town Hall of the Eleans is within the Altis, and it has been built beside the exit beyond the gymnasium.  In this gymnasium are the running-tracks and the wrestling-grounds for the athletes.  In front of the door of the Town Hall is an altar of Artemis Huntress.  [9] In the Town Hall itself, on the right as you enter the room where they have the hearth, is an altar of Pan.  This hearth too is made of ashes, and on it fire burns every day and likewise every night.  The ashes from this hearth, according to the account I have already given, they bring to the altar of Olympian Zeus, and what is brought from the hearth contributes a great deal to the size of the altar.

            [10] Each month the Eleans sacrifice once on all the altars I have enumerated.  They sacrifice in an ancient manner; for they burn on the altars incense with wheat which has been kneaded with honey, placing also on the altars twigs of olive, and using wine for a libation.  Only to the Nymphs and the Mistresses are they not wont to pour wine in libation, nor do they pour it on the altar common to all the gods.  The care of the sacrifices is given to a priest, holding office for one month, to soothsayers and libation-bearers, and also to a guide, a flute-player and the woodman.  [11] The traditional words spoken by them in the Town Hall at the libations, and the hymns which they sing, it were not right for me to introduce into my narrative.  They pour libations, not only to the Greek gods, but also to the god in Libya, to Hera Ammonia and to Parammon, which is a surname of Hermes.  From very early times it is plain that they used the oracle in Libya, and in the temple of Ammon are altars which the Eleans dedicated.  On them are engraved the questions of the Eleans, the replies of the god, and the names of the men who came to Ammon from Elis.  These are in the temple of Ammon.  [12] The Eleans also pour libations to all heroes and wives of heroes who are honored either in Elis or among the Aetolians.  The songs sung in the Town Hall are in the Doric dialect, but they do not say who it was that composed them.  The Eleans also have a banqueting room.  This too is in the Town Hall, opposite the chamber where stands the hearth.  In this room they entertain the winners in the Olympic games.



Hesiod Works and Days 320-340

[320] Wealth should not be seized: god-given wealth is much better; for if a man takes great wealth violently and perforce, or if he steals it through his  tongue, as often happens when gain deceives men's sense and dishonor tramples down honor, [325] the gods soon blot him out and make that man's  house low, and wealth attends him only for a little time. Alike with him who does wrong to a suppliant or a guest, or who goes up to his brother's bed  and commits unnatural sin in lying with his wife, [330] or who infatuately offends against fatherless children, or who abuses his old father at the  cheerless threshold of old age and attacks him with harsh words, truly Zeus himself is angry, and at the last lays on him a heavy requital for his evil  doing. [335] But do you turn your foolish heart altogether away from these things, and, as far as you are able, sacrifice to the deathless gods purely  and cleanly, and burn rich meats also, and at other times propitiate them with libations and incense, both when you go to bed and when the holy light  has come back, [340] that they may be gracious to you in heart and spirit, and so you may buy another's holding and not another yours.



Plato, Republic 364be

But the most astounding of all these arguments concerns what they have to say about the gods and virtue.  They say that the gods, too, assign misfortune and a bad life to many good people, and the opposite fate to their opposites.  Begging priests and prophets frequent the doors of the rich and persuade them that they possess a god-given power founded on sacrifices and incantations.  If the rich person or any of his ancestors has committed an injustice, they can fix it with pleasant things and feasts.  Moreover, if he wishes to injure some enemy, then, at little expense, he'll be able to harm just and unjust alike, for by means of spells and enchantments they can persuade the gods to serve them. And they bring in the poets as evidence for their claims, now smoothing the path of vice with the words of Hesiod:

       "Vice may be had in abundance without trouble; the way is smooth and her dwellingplace is near. But before virtue the gods have set toil,"

       and a long, harsh uphill road.  Then they cite Homer as a witness that the gods may be influenced by men; for he also says:

       "The gods, too, may be turned from their purpose; and men pray to them and avert their wrath by sacrifices and soothing entreaties, and by libations and the odor of fat, when they have sinned and trangressed."



Porphyry, On Philosophy Drawn from Oracles
I have come in response to your eloquent prayer, which was invented by mortals in accordance with divine counsels ... Why then have you summoned me, goddess Hekate, from purest heaven by means of god-taming constraints?



PGM I.321-325

And may you not be angry at my sacred chants. But guard that my whole body come to light intact, for you yourself arranged these things among mankind for them to learn. (cp. PGM IV.453-5, 1980)



Catullus 34

We, upright maids and youths, are in Diana's care: upright youths and maids, we sing Diana. O Latonia, progeny great of greatest Jove, whom your mother bore beneath Delian olive, that you might be queen of lofty mounts, of foliaged groves, of remote glens, and of winding streams. You are called Juno Lucina by the mother in the pangs of childbirth, you are named potent Trivia and Luna with an ill-got light. You, Goddess, with monthly  march measuring the yearly course, glut with produce the rustic roofs of the farmer. Be you hallowed by whatever name you prefer; and cherish, with your good aid, as you are accustomed, the ancient race of Romulus.



"Orphic Hymn" 16. To Hera,

            incense - aromatic herbs


You are ensconced in darksome hollows, and airy is your form,

O Hera, queen of all and blessed consort of Zeus.

You send soft breezes to mortals, such as nourish the soul,

and, O mother of rains, you nurture the winds and give birth to all.

Without you there is neither life nor growth;

and, mixed as you are in the air we venerate, you partake of all,

and of all are queen and mistress.

You toss and turn with the rushing wind.

May you, O blessed goddess and many-named queen of all,

come with kindness and joy on your lovely face.



"Orphic Hymn" 17. To Poseidon,

            incense - myrrh

Hearken, dark-maned Poseidon, holder of the earth,

equestrian; carved in bronze is the trident in your hand,

and you dwell in the foundations of the full-bosomed sea.

Deep-roaring ruler of the sea and shaker of earth,

your blossoms are waves, O gracious one, as you urge horses and chariot on,

rushing on the sea and splashing through the rippling brine.

To your lot fell the third portion, the unfathomable sea,

and you delight in waves and in their wild dwellers, O spirit of the deep.

Save the foundations of the earth and ships moving at full tilt,

and bring peace, health, and blameless prosperity.



"Orphic Hymn" 18. To Plouton

Subterranean is your dwelling, O strong-spirited one,

a meadow in Tartaros, thick-shaded and dark.

Chthonic Zeus, sceptered one, kindly accept this sacrifice,

Plouton, holder of the keys to the whole earth.

You give the wealth of the year's fruits to mankind,

and to your lot fell the third portion, earth, queen of all,

seat of the gods, mighty lap for mortals.

Your throne rests on a tenebrous realm,

the distant, untiring, windless and impassive Hades,

and on dark Acheron that encompasses the roots of the earth.

All-Receiver, with death at your command, you are master of mortals;

Euboulos, you once took pure Demeter's daughter as your bride

when you tore her away from the meadow and through the sea

upon your steeds you carried her to an Attic cave,

in the district of Eleusis, where the gates to Hades are.

You alone were born to judge deeds obscure and conspicuous;

holiest and illustrious ruler of all, frenzied god,

you delight in the worshipper's respect and reverence.

Come with favor and joy to the initiates. I summon you.



"Orphic Hymn" 19. To Zeus the Thunderbolt,

            incense - storax

Father Zeus, sublime is the course of the blazing cosmos you drive on,

and ethereal and lofty the flash of your lightning,

as you shake the seat of the immortals with divine thunderbolts.

With the fire of your lightning you emblazon the rain clouds;

storms you bring and hurricanes, and mighty thunder,

blazing and roaring thunder - like a shower of arrows -

which with horrific might and strength sets all aflame,

this dreadful missile that makes hearts pound and hair bristle.

Holy and invincible, it comes with a sudden crash,

an endless spiral of noise, omnivorous in its drive,

unbreakable, threatening, and ineluctable; the gale's

sharp and smoke-filled shaft swoops down

with a flash, dreaded by land and sea.

Wild beasts cringe when they hear the noise,

faces reflect the brilliance of thunder roaring

in the celestial hollows. You tear the robe

that cloaks heaven and hurl the fiery thunderbolt.

But, O blessed one, (calm down?) the anger of sea waves

and mountain peaks. We all know your power.

Enjoy this libation and give all things that please the heart,

a life of prosperity, queenly health,

divine peace that nurtures youths and is with honors crowned,

and an existence ever blooming with cheerful thoughts.



"Orphic Hymn" 28. To Hermes,

            incense - frankincense


Hear me, Hermes, messenger of Zeus, son of Maia;

almighty is your heart, O lord of the deceased and judge of contests;

gentle and clever, O Argeiphontes, you are a guide

whose sandals fly, and a man-loving prophet to mortals.

You are vigorous and you delight in exercise and in deceit;

interpreter of all, you are a profiteer who frees us of cares

and who holds in his hands the blamesless tool of peace.

Lord of Korykos, blessed, helpful and skilled in words,

you assist in work, you are a friend of mortals in need,

and you wield the dreaded and respected weapon of speech.

Hear my prayer and grant a good end to a life

of industry, gracious talk, and mindfulness.



"Orphic Hymn" 29. Hymn to Persephone


Persephone, blessed daughter of great Zeus, sole offspring

of Demeter, come and accept this gracious sacrifice.

Much honored spouse of Plouton, discreet and life-giving,

you command the gates of Hades in the bowels of the earth,

lovely-tressed Praxidike, pure bloom of Deo,

mother of the Furies, queen of the nether world,

whom Zeus sired in clandestine union.

Mother of loud-roaring and many-shaped Eubouleus,

radiant and luminous playmate of the Seasons,

august, almighty, maiden rich in fruits,

brilliant and horned, you alone are beloved of mortals.

In spring you rejoice in the meadow breezes

and you show your holy figure in shoots and green fruits.

You were made a kidnapper's bride in the fall,

and you alone are life and death to toiling mortals,

O Persephone, for you always nourish all and kill them, too.

Hearken, O blessed goddess, and send forth the earth's fruits.

You who blossom in peace, in soft-handed health,

and in a life of plenty that ferries old age in comfort

to your realm, O queen, and to that of mighty Plouton.



"Orphic Hymn" 42. To Mise

            incense - storax


I call upon law-giving Dionysos who carries the fennel stalk -

unforgettable and many-named seed of Euboleus -

and upon holy, sacred and ineffable queen Mise,

whose twofold nature is male and female. As redeeming Iacchos,

I summon you, lord, whether you delight in your fragrant temple at Eleusis,

or with the Mother you partake of mystic rites in Phrygia,

or you rejoice in Cyprus with fair-wreathed Kythereia,

or yet you exult in hallowed wheat-bearing fields along

Egypt's river with your divine mother,

the august and black-robed Isis, and your train of nurses.

Lady, kind-heartedly come to those contesting for noble prizes.



PGM I. 262-347

Apollonian invocation: Take a seven-leafed sprig of laurel and hold it in your right hand as you summon the heavenly gods and chthonic daimons. Write on the sprig of laurel the seven characters for deliverance.

    The characters are these:                                                   , the first character onto the first leaf, then the second again in the same way onto the second leaf until there is a matching up of the 7 characters and 7 leaves. But be careful not to lose a leaf [and] do harm to yourself. For this is the body's greatest protective charm, by which all are made subject, and seas and rocks tremble, and daimons [avoid] the characters' charm for the rite so that you fear nothing.

    Now this is the rite: Take a lamp which has not been colored red and fit it with a piece of linen cloth and rose oil or oil of spikenard, and dress yourself in a prophetic garment and hold an ebony staff in your left hand and the protective charm in your right (i.e., the sprig of laurel). But keep in readiness a wolf's head so that you can set the lamp upon the head of the wolf, and construct an altar of unburnt clay near the head and the lamp so that you may sacrifice on it to the god. And immediately the divine spirit enters.

    The burnt offering is a wolf's eye, storax gum, cassia, balsam gum and whatever is valued among the spices, and pour a libation of wine and honey and milk and rainwater, [and make] 7 flat cakes and 7 round cakes. These you are going to make completely [near] the lamp, robed and refraining from all unclean things and from all eating of fish and from all sexual intercourse, so that you may bring the god into the greatest desire toward you.

    Now these are the names, [which] you are going to write on the linen cloth and which you will put as a wick into the lamp which has not been colored red: "ABERAMENTH´OULERTHEXANETHRENLYO´THNEMARAIBAI     AEMINNAEBAR´THERRETH´BABEANIMEA."  When you have completed all the instructions set out above, call the god with this chant:


"O lord Apollo, come with Paian.

Give answer to my questions, lord. O master

Leave Mount Parnassos and the Delphic Pytho

Whene'er my priestly lips voice secret words,

First angel of [the god], great Zeus. IA´

And you MICHAEL, who rule heaven's realm,

I call, and you, archangel GABRIEL.

Down from Olympos, ABRASAX, delighting

In dawns, come gracious who view sunset from

The dawn, AD´NAI. Father of the world,

All nature quakes in fear of you, PAKERBŠETH.

I adjure God's head, which is Olympos;

I adjure God's signet, which is vision;

I adjure the right hand you held o'er the world;

I adjure God's bowl containing wealth;

I adjure eternal god, AI´N of all;

I adjure self-growing Nature, mighty AD´NAIOS;

I adjure setting and rising EL´AIOS:


I adjure these holy and divine names that

They send me the divine spirit and that it

Fulfill what I have in my heart and soul.

Hear blessed one, I call you who rule heav'n

And earth and Chaos and Hades where dwell

[Daimons of men who once gazed on the light].

Send me this daimon at my sacred chants,

Who moves by night to orders 'neath your force,

From whose own tent this comes, and let him tell me

In total truth all that my mind designs,

And send him gentle, gracious, pondering

No thoughts opposed to me. And may you not

Be angry at my sacred chants. But guard

That my whole body come to light intact,

For you yourself arranged these things among

Mankind for them to learn. I call your name,

In number equal to the very Moirai,





And when he comes, ask him about what you wish, about the art of prophecy, about divination with epic verses, about the sending of dreams, about obtaining revelations in dreams, about interpretations of dreams, about causing disease, about everything that is a part of magical knowledge.

    Cover a throne and couch with cloth of linen, but remain standing while you sacrifice with the aforementioned burnt offering. And after the inquiry, if you wish to release the god himself, shift the aforementioned ebony staff, which you are holding in your left hand, to your right hand; and shift the sprig of laurel, which you are holding in your right hand, to your left hand; and extinguish the burning lamp; and use the same burnt offering while saying:


"Be gracious unto me, O primal god,

O elder-born, self-generating god.

I adjure the fire which first shone in the void;

I adjure your pow'r which is greatest o'er all;

I adjure him who destroys e'en in Hades,

That you depart, returning to your ship,

And harm me not, but be forever kind."