[awr-thuh-prak-see] Show IPA
I encountered this word in the book Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored, an excellent resource for Hellenismos. The definition above uses its antonym, so let me give it a stab: orthopraxy is the idea of following correct action, while orthodoxy focuses on correct belief.
|Home altar to Poseidon|
The idea that doing the right things is more important than believing the right beliefs is reassuring to those of us who find that the gods aren’t always super forthcoming about their intentions. If your gods want you to believe a certain way but don’t tell you right out, that can lead to stress. If, on the other hand, your gods want you to behave in a certain way, well that can be a pretty helpful road map.
Here’s an example of orthopraxy: I set up a shrine to Poseidon at home. Making offerings to the gods (my gods, anyway) is proper behavior, and having an altar makes it a lot easier. I’ve actually had an altar to Poseidon for some months now, but the wreath and Poseidon bust are new additions, and they definitely help keep my orthopraxy sound. In fact, when I received the wreath, I was told that they “have a way of reminding you” to do the right thing.
And yes, because I must care for the wreath, I also tend to the altar (which is also an act of devotion in Hellenismos), and it’s not easy to dust and clean without wanting to make an offering or at the very least thinking about the god or gods the altar is consecrated to.
So to me, orthopraxy is about establishing habits, and orthodoxy is about establishing rules. Neither one is going to give a full answer to the unknowable question of “why?” That answer comes from faith and a relationship with the gods. Both orthodoxy and orthopraxy can make it easier to get to that answer, though; for me, the habits of orthopraxy are just an easier tool than the rules of orthdoxy.