The summer solstice, 21 June, is among the many important days in the calendar for plenty of followers of ancient religions, and it's a one-of-a-kind time for human being in Greece who worship the country's pre-Christian gods.

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"I love the power this place has," claims Exsekias Trivoulides who has pitched his tent on what he considers to be the divine site of mount Olympus.

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

Along with a few thousand others he is taking component in the Prometheia festival, which celebrates the ancient Greek hero Prometheus, who aided humans by steal fire from the gods.

It's the most important annual festival for pendant of The Return of the Hellenes - a motion trying to bring back the religion, values, approach and means of life of old Greece, an ext than 16 century after the was replaced by Christianity.

"People desire to determine with miscellaneous in the past - whereby they came from - so as to know whereby they are going," claims Trivoulides. "If you don't recognize your past, friend don't have a future.

The festival starts with six runners - in complete Greek fight gear - racing the six miles (10 km) up mount Olympus, house of the gods, your shields and long spears clanking together they go.

But together they set out from the little village that Dion in ~ the base of the mountain, passersby hardly it seems ~ to an alert - they are provided to them.

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

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

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

The economic situation in Greece need to be a time of reflection around the values that need to govern a society, that says.

They don't in reality pray to Zeus, Hera and the others. They see them as depictions of values such as beauty, wellness or wisdom.

The followers space an strange mix. Over there are brand-new Age types who revere old traditions, leftists that resent the strength of the Orthodox Church, and Greek nationalists who view Christianity together having destroyed everything the was important Greek.

As the contemporary ancients be sure in their camp in ~ the basic of the mountain, a few sell approach books, CDs, food and jewellery. Part wear modern clothes, others tunics, and a few sport a wreath.


Over the food of the three-day event, there room public prayers, 2 marriages, and a naming ceremony, whereby followers choose an ancient name - favor Calisto, Hermis or Orpheus - and also "cleanse" us of their modern-day Christian ones.

None of this rituals is official recognised by the Greek state. The biggest bone that contention for those involved is the they room prevented from praying at old temples, and also struggle to obtain permission to develop their very own temples, i beg your pardon in Greece calls for the approval the the regional Orthodox bishop.

In an effort to formalise their status, the umbrella team the can be fried Council the Ethnikoi Hellenes is marketing to get their kind of old worship classed as an "ethnic religion" the Greece.

But it's an idea couple of Greeks would certainly support, states Victor Roudometof, a professor of sociology at the university of Cyprus, and also an expert on religion in Greece.

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

Those that worship the old Greek gods space widely concerned as no much more than "interesting curiosities", the adds.

"I don't think you can roll the clock back," states Robert Parker, a professor that ancient history at the college of Oxford.


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

He has two native to describe those that attempt to do so - the first is "kooky", the second, "ridiculous".

Parker clues to historical inconsistencies. Prometheus, for example, was just a relatively minor number in old Greek religion, that says, and never had actually a major festival committed to him.

Other historians say these teams are idealising an old religion the had small to perform with ethics or morality.

"The whole suggest of it is the you store the gods sweet - you scrape their back, they will scrape yours," states Peter Jones, co-founder of girlfriend of Classics.

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

Animal sacrifice to be by much the many important component of any old Greek religious ritual, with the throat of a live bull slit with a knife in ~ the altar external the temple.

The ancient Greeks were additionally famed for drama and also tragedy, and a night-time torch-lit theatrical manufacturing Prometheia is the main event at the mountain Olympus festival.

The performance combines standard drama v lessons around what the ancients need to teach us, all these centuries later.

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Followers room all too aware they are seen as outsiders by part in society, but insist that perspectives in Greece room changing.


"In the beginning, they were making jokes, climate they to be ignoring us, now they room interested," claims tax manager Persis Argyros, who has actually been involved since the begin of the movement. "We came to be too big to ignore."

No-one has accurate numbers for the number of followers, however numbers have actually swelled due to the fact that their an initial gathering on the mountain 17 years ago, and the movement insurance claims to have hundreds of countless supporters.

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

Matthew Brunwasser was reporting for The World, i m sorry is a co-production of the people Service, PRI and WGBH