The summer solstice, 21 June, is among the most important dates in the calendar for many followers of old religions, and also it's a distinct time for people in Greece that worship the country's pre-Christian gods.

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"I love the power this ar has," states Exsekias Trivoulides who has pitched his time on what that considers to it is in the holy site of mountain Olympus.

Trivoulides is a sculptor that studied art history and classics, and also these days, he is life his passion.

Along through a few thousand others he is taking component in the Prometheia festival, which celebrate the ancient Greek hero Prometheus, who helped humans by thefts fire native the gods.

It's the many important annual festival for pendant of The Return that the Hellenes - a activity trying come bring back the religion, values, approach and means of life of old Greece, much more than 16 century after it was replaced by Christianity.

"People desire to identify with miscellaneous in the previous - whereby they came from - so regarding know where they space going," claims Trivoulides. "If girlfriend don't know your past, girlfriend don't have actually a future.

The festival begins with six runners - in complete Greek battle gear - gyeongju the six miles (10 km) up mount Olympus, house of the gods, your shields and also long spears clanking as they go.

But together they collection out native the tiny village that Dion in ~ the basic of the mountain, passersby hardly it seems ~ to an alert - castle are offered to them.

It's a telling sign of how far they have actually come already, in a nation where 98% of the general public are stated to recognize themselves as Orthodox Christian.

In 2007, an official of the Orthodox Church described them as, "a handful of miserable resuscitators that a degenerate dead religion".

These days, relations have actually improved, follow to Tryphon Olympios, the ideology professor who started the Return the the Hellenes activity in 1996.

The economic dilemm in Greece have to be a time the reflection about the values that must govern a society, the says.

They don't actually pray to Zeus, Hera and the others. They view them as representations of values such as beauty, health or wisdom.

The followers room an strange mix. Over there are brand-new Age species who revere old traditions, leftists who resent the strength of the Orthodox Church, and also Greek nationalists who see Christianity together having ruined everything that was truly Greek.

As the modern ancients be safe in their camp at the base of the mountain, a few sell approach books, CDs, food and jewellery. Part wear modern-day clothes, others tunics, and a couple of sport a wreath.


Over the food of the three-day event, there space public prayers, two marriages, and also a specify name ceremony, wherein followers choose an old name - prefer Calisto, Hermis or Orpheus - and "cleanse" us of their modern-day Christian ones.

None of this rituals is official recognised by the Greek state. The biggest bone of contention for those associated is that they space prevented indigenous praying at old temples, and also struggle to obtain permission to construct their very own temples, i beg your pardon in Greece requires the approval that the local Orthodox bishop.

In an effort to formalise your status, the umbrella group the supreme Council the Ethnikoi Hellenes is campaigning to obtain their type of old worship classed as an "ethnic religion" of Greece.

But it's one idea few Greeks would certainly support, says Victor Roudometof, a professor of sociology in ~ the university of Cyprus, and an professional on faith in Greece.

Although plenty of Greeks only actually attend church a few times a year, the Orthodox religious beliefs is a "cornerstone" the Greek identity, that says.

Those that worship the old Greek gods space widely pertained to as no an ext than "interesting curiosities", the adds.

"I don't think you deserve to roll the clock back," says Robert Parker, a professor of ancient background at the university of Oxford.


"You can't import an ancient religion into a totally different environment and social system."

He has actually two words to define those that attempt to carry out so - the very first is "kooky", the second, "ridiculous".

Parker clues to historical inconsistencies. Prometheus, because that example, was just a reasonably minor number in old Greek religion, the says, and also never had actually a significant festival committed to him.

Other historians say these groups are idealising an ancient religion that had tiny to perform with ethics or morality.

"The whole suggest of that is that you store the gods sweet - you scrape their back, castle will scrape yours," claims Peter Jones, co-founder of friends of Classics.

"You create a quid pro quo relationship... It is just an acknowledgement of the gods, in the hope the the gods will help you," he says. "Values and also virtues are entirely meaningless in ancient terms."

Animal sacrifice was by far the most important component of any ancient Greek religious ritual, with the neck of a live bull slit with a knife at the altar exterior the temple.

The old Greeks were also famed for drama and tragedy, and also a night-time torch-lit theatrical manufacturing Prometheia is the main occasion at the mount Olympus festival.

The power combines standard drama with lessons about what the ancients have to teach us, all these centuries later.

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Followers space all too conscious they are viewed as outsiders by part in society, however insist that mindsets in Greece are changing.


"In the beginning, they were making jokes, climate they were ignoring us, now they space interested," states tax manager Persis Argyros, who has actually been connected since the start of the movement. "We became too huge to ignore."

No-one has accurate numbers for the variety of followers, yet numbers have actually swelled due to the fact that their an initial gathering ~ above the hill 17 years ago, and the movement cases to have hundreds of hundreds of supporters.

It's clear they room in their element here top top Olympus. After the present closes, the Hellenes dance and also frolic under the moonlight.

Matthew Brunwasser to be reporting for The World, i m sorry is a co-production that the civilization Service, PRI and WGBH