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Greek Popular Religion, by Martin P. Nilsson, [1940], at

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Lines of research in the study of Greek religion; importance of popular religion; agriculture and stockbreeding the foundations of Greek life in early times; Zeus, the weather god; weather magic; human sacrifices to Zeus Lykaios and to Zeus Laphystios; prayers for rain; stone heaps and their god, Hermes; stone heaps as tombs--Hermes Psychopompos; the herms; pastoral gods--Pan; the rivers and their gods--represented in the form of a bull or a horse; Poseidon, the god of water and earthquakes; centaurs; seilenoi and satyrs; nymphs; Artemis, the foremost of the nymphs; the Nereids in modern Greek belief; the sacral landscape; the heroes; sometimes the heroes appear as ghosts; cult of the heroes bound to their tombs and relics; transference of the relics; heroes helpful in everything, but especially in war; similarity of hero cult to the cult of the saints; the great gods less prominent in the rustic cults; the great gods disappeared, while rustic beliefs survived





Greece originally, and still in part, a country of peasants, who cling to old customs; Greek mode of living; significance of agriculture in the festivals; a natural calendar; Demeter, the Corn Mother, and her festivals; festival of autumn sowing--the Thesmophoria; festivals of harvest--the Thalysia and the Kalamaia; the preharvest festival--the Thargelia--and the pharmakos; first fruits and their significance; the bucoliasts; the panspermia and the kernos; cultivation of the olive; the gardening festival--the Haloa; the flower festival--the Anthesteria--the blessing of the new wine, and the Athenian All Souls' Day; vintage festivals; Dionysus and the wine; the phallus; the May bough--the eiresione; the boys carry swallows; other forms of the May branch--the thyrsus and the crown; tenacity of rural customs


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Eleusinian religion, the highest form of Greek popular religion; scanty knowledge of the mystery rites; unreliability of the accounts by Christian authors; modern interpretations referring to sexual symbols; our knowledge of the deities and of the myths; Mycenaean origin of the Eleusinian cult; two triads--Demeter, Kore, and Triptolemos and "the God" (Plouton), "the Goddess" (Persephone), and Eubouleus; representations in art; Homeric Hymn to Demeter; legend of Eubouleus and the sacrifice of the pig; aetiological character of the Homeric Hymn referring to the preliminary rites; rape of Kore refers to storing of corn in subterranean silos at time of threshing; Plouton, the god of wealth (the store of corn); fetching of corn at autumn sowing is the ascent of Kore; Plouton as god of the underworld--burial jars; Greek Corn Maiden and pre-Greek queen of the underworld; second ascent of Kore in the sprouting of the new crop; reuniting of Mother and Maid in the autumn sowing is kernel of the mysteries; the ear of corn; Triptolemos, the hero of agriculture and of civilized life; the Eleusinian ideas of peace and piety; happiness in the underworld a repetition of the mystery celebration; sprouting of the new crop a symbol of the eternity of life in successive generations; monuments showing that individual edification came to the fore in the fourth century B.C.; accretion of Dionysiac elements





Fear of the wilderness; the Greek house (megaron) and its courtyard; Zeus Herkeios, Zeus Kataibates, and Zeus Ktesios; the Dioscuri in the house cult; Zeus Meilichios and Zeus Soter; Zeus, "the father" (pater familias), the protector of the house; the snake guardian of the house; the hearth and its sanctity; rites at the hearth; sanctity of the meal; animal sacrifice; Hestia; the public hearth; intermingling of sacred and profane in daily life; hearth sacred in itself; Zeus, as the protector of suppliants and foreigners, upholds the unwritten laws; averters of evil and witchcraft--Heracles, Apollo Agyieus, Hecate; social aspect of ancient Greek religion; no professional priests; cults the property of certain families; democratization of the family cult





Urbanization of Greek life--industry and commerce; the rule of the tyrants; Athenian state religion; religion secularized and the great gods elevated; the handicrafts; the potters' gods; Athena and her de-creasing popularity among the common people; Hephaistos; man's need for gods near to him; importation of foreign gods; Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft; specters; the Great Mother, Ammon, the Cabiri, Bendis, Kotyto, and Sabazios; the rise of the cult of Asclepius; the


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trials for atheism; the turning away from ancestral gods; popularity of mystic and orgiastic cults; religion of the women; cult of Adonis; the panegyreis; the great games, the amphictyonies, and the truces; the fairs; modern Greek panegyreis; the importance of the panegyreis for the social and "international" life of the ancient Greeks





Religious movements of the early age; mystic and ecstatic forms of religion; union with the god Dionysus; legalism the striving to fulfill the divine commandments; miracle men; Hesiod's rules for the religious life and the conduct of man; the Pythagorean maxims; The Days; regulation of the calendar; legalism accepted by Delphi in cult only; the Seven Sages and Apolline piety; justice, the equalization of rights; hybris and nemesis; baskania; the gods in the abstract; superstition and the significance of the word deisidaimonia; Theophrastus' characterization of the deisidaimon; Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft; Hippocrates' tract on the holy disease; ghost stories; Plato on sorcery; imprecatory tablets of the fourth century B.C.; general conception of the nether world; punishment in the underworld, starting from the Orphic idea that he who has not been purified will "lie in the mud"; demand for moral purity added; mythological and other sinners; idea of punishment in the other life promoted by idea of retributive justice; hell in Aristophanes; spread of the fear of punishment in the other life





The religious situation in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.; belief shaken but not abandoned; religious hysteria and the trials for atheism; Greek religion bound up with political life; advice of oracles sought by the state and by individuals; art of foretelling the future a part of Greek religion; questions concerning daily life put to the oracles; role of the seers in war; popularity of the seers; the oracle mongers and their influence on public opinion; collections of oracles; political importance of the oracles; Sibylline Books; Thucydides' account of oracles; role of the oracles in the preparation of the expedition to Sicily; oracles in Aristophanes; some seers were influential politicians; seers the defenders of the old religion; Diopeithes, the instigator of the trials for atheism; clash between seers' interpretation of phenomena and that of the natural philosophers; the Sophists confused with the natural philosophers in popular opinion; clash between belief and disbelief took place not in theoretical discussion but in practical life









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