— The Associated Press (@AP) 12 juli 2017
“Eternal and almighty Zeus, we call on you. We praise you, and we will always honor your strength.“
These are the words of George Klonis, a Greek former bus driver, who in his 60’s seems to have found meaning and purpose in life. He spoke his words at the foot of Mount Olympus, with arms outstretched and toes touching cold spring water. About 50 men and women were with him, part of several groups of Greeks, from all walks of life, that are devoted to ancient Greece’s religion and traditions. So much so, that they come to worship and revel in reinvented rituals, taking part in a yearly range of events in July centred around the country’s highest peak and home of the Olympian gods.
— AP Europe (@AP_Europe) 12 juli 2017
The BBC writes that the movement started around 1996, with the founding of the Return of the Hellenes by Tryphon Olympios, and has since slowly expanded, gaining tracking and recognition in the process. Olympios says that the economic crisis in Greece should be a time of reflection on the values that govern a society. According to him, people don’t actually pray to Zeus, Hera or the others, but see in them representations of values such as beauty, health or wisdom. Nevertheless, the followers are described as “an odd mix“:
“There are New Age types who revere ancient traditions, leftists who resent the power of the Orthodox Church, and Greek nationalists who see Christianity as having destroyed everything that was truly Greek.“
The Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes (YSEE) claims a role for itself, though. It was founded in June 1997 and aims to ‘morally and physically’ protect and restore the polytheistic, “Ethnic Hellenic religion, tradition and way of life in the ‘modern’ Greek Society which is oppressed due to its institutionalised intolerance and theocracy.” The result of a coming together of various existing organsiations, it traces its roots back to a pan-Hellenic gathering in South Olympus on 9 September 1995.
While the religious overtones are stronger in YSEE than they are inReturn of the Hellenes, LABRYS, founded in 2008, describes itself as a “Religious Community. It claims, on its website, to aim to preserve, promote and practice the Hellenic polytheistic religious tradition and says:
“Our vision is to restore the Hellenic (Greek) polytheistic religious tradition and by extension the Hellenic worldview and lifestyle to its rightful place, as a respected, acknowledged, legally recognised and fully functional spiritual path.“
This in a country that still overwhelmingly considers itself Orthodox Christian, with an official of that Church describing them in 2007 as:
“a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion.“
Some things have changed since. The European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER) reported recently that on 9 April 2017, the Greece has recognised polytheism as religion.
All in all, time for that scene from Immortals.