Recommended Reading for Hellenic (Greek) Paganism

If you're interested in following a Hellenic, or Greek, Pagan path, there are a number of books that are useful for your reading list. Some, like the works of Homer and Hesiod, are accounts of Greek life written by people who lived during the classical period. Others look at the ways that the gods and their exploits intertwined with the daily lives of man. Finally, a few focus on magic in the Hellenic world. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything you need to understand Hellenic Paganism, it's a good starting point, and should help you learn at least the basics of honoring the gods of Olympus.

Burkert is considered an expert on the ancient Greek religions, and this book presents a summary of a series of lectures he presented at Harvard University in 1982. From the publisher: "The foremost historian of Greek religion provides the first comprehensive, comparative study of a little-known aspect of ancient religious beliefs and practices. Secret mystery cults flourished within the larger culture of the public religion of Greece and Rome for roughly a thousand years. This book is neither a history nor a survey but a comparative phenomenology... [Burkert defines] the mysteries and describing their rituals, membership, organization, and dissemination."

Campbell presents an overview of modern Hellenic reconstructionist traditions, looking at contemporary worship of the gods, the festivals, magic, and more. The big problem you'll have with this book is tracking a copy down -- it was published by Xlibris in 2000, and doesn't appear to be available anywhere else. Keep your eyes peeled for a gently used copy if possible.

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Derek Collins: "Magic in the Ancient Greek World"

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Derek Collins is an academic -- he's an associate professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan. However, this book is readable even for those with little knowledge of the Hellenic period. Collins looks at common magical practices, such as curse tablets, spellwork, figurines such as the kollossoi, offerings and sacrifice, and more. Read a full review from N.S. Gill, our Guide to Ancient History.

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Christopher Faraone: "Magika Hiera - Ancient Greek Magic and Religion"

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This is an anthology of ten scholarly works about Greek magic and how it was incorporated into daily life and religious structure. From the publisher: "This collection challenges the tendency among scholars of ancient Greece to see magical and religious ritual as mutually exclusive and to ignore "magical" practices in Greek religion. The contributors survey specific bodies of archaeological, epigraphical, and papyrological evidence for magical practices in the Greek world, and, in each case, determine whether the traditional dichotomy between magic and religion helps in any way to conceptualize the objective features of the evidence examined."

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Homer: "The Iliad", "The Odyssey", "Homeric Hymns"

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Although Homer didn't live at the time of the events he describes in The Iliad or The Odyssey, he did come along shortly after, and so his accounts are the closest we have to an eye-witness version. These two stories, along with the Homeric Hymns, are essential reading for anyone interested in Greek culture, religion, history, ritual, or mythology.

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These two works by Hesiod explain the birth of the Greek gods and the introduction of mankind into the world. Although Theogony can be a little baffling at times, it's worth reading because it's an account of how the gods came to be from the perspective of someone who lived in the Classical period. More »

From the publisher: "Magic, miracles, daemonology, divination, astrology, and alchemy were the arcana mundi, the "secrets of the universe," of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In this path-breaking collection of Greek and Roman writings on magic and the occult, Georg Luck provides a comprehensive sourcebook and introduction to magic as it was practiced by witches and sorcerers, magi and astrologers, in the Greek and Roman worlds."

Although Gilbert Murray first published this book in the 1930s, it's still relevant and important today. Based on a series of lectures given at the beginning of World War I, Murray looks at the evolution of Greek philsophy, logic and religion and how they managed to coexist. He also accounts for the transition from Greek Paganism to the new religion of Christianity, and conversion of the Hellenes.

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Daniel Ogden: "Magic, Witchcraft & Ghosts in the Ancient Greek & Roman Worlds"

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This is one of my favorite books on ancient Greek and Roman magic. Ogden uses examples from classical writings to illustrate all kinds of nifty things -- curses, hexes, love philtres, potions, exorcisms, and more. It's a detailed account that focuses on actual primary sources for its information, and it's a true delight to read.

If you're going to study Hellenic Paganism, the exploits of the gods are a must. They loved, they hated, they killed their enemies and bestowed gifts upon their lovers. Richardson's mythology book summarizes some of the most important Greek myths and legends, and makes them readable and entertaining, while at the same time educational and informative. It's hard to find a good copy of this nowawadays, so check your local used bookstores if you need to.