Offerings to Poseidon

The theoi, in Hellenic practice, should be given offerings that stimulate the senses, be it a sumptuous feast which delights the eye, nose, and tongue, a prayer said aloud with heartfelt intent, or a few granules of incense strewn over charcoal. Tangible offerings are what these gods have been given for millennia. Poseidon is no different, so I have compiled a list of offerings that I have myself made, which might serve as a launching point for the reader’s relationship with him.

Poseidon shrine

Shrine for Poseidon

While a table listing the astrological, animal, herbal, seasonal, lunar, and syncretic correspondences for each of Poseidon’s epithets would no doubt delight some readers, no such resource is being proposed by me at this time. Below is simply a list of offerings and, when appropriate, the epithet(s) with which I have personally found them most strongly associated. Other devotees might provide different suggestions. For more information, consult an oracle or perform divination to discover what Poseidon asks of you.

Animals were more commonly sacrificed in antiquity than they are today, although a skilled sacrificial priest treats a sacrifice with caring and dignity, far different than the fate of animals in modern factory farms. Cookies or votive objects in the form of horses are suitable for Hippios (and yes, that includes animal crackers). Likewise are representations of bulls something which could well delight Taureos. I also have been known to offer duck figurines for reasons that are beyond words; therein lies a mystery as yet unfolding. If an actual animal sacrifice is desired, one should seek out someone who has training and experience in making this kind of offering; a trained sacrificial priest will ensure that all legal and ethical requirements are complied with, and will also be trained to recognize if such an offering is not ultimately desired. I have never asked for or attended such a sacrifice.

Barley is a good, basic offering in and of itself, and is often the first one made to any of the theoi. It is also used for purification, and cast upon another object to signify that it is also an offering (such as a votive object or food).

Coffee is my main libation. The association I have between Poseidon and coffee comes from the Moby Dick character Starbuck, whose love of coffee has permanently associated the brew with the sea in my mind, which is why I offer it to Pelagaeus, Asphaleios, and Labrandeus.

Epithets, as many as one wishes to include, are often part of the invocation to any of the theoi. To a mortal, there is no sweeter sound than one’s own name said with love; I feel that so too is it for the gods, and that their names are thus a worthy offering in their own right. If epithets are included, it’s good to make the effort to pronounce them correctly, whether they are ancient Greek or from a more recent language. (I had to train myself to pronounce “Poseidon” with a long a sound rather than a long i in the second syllable; it turns out is really is all Greek to me.) It’s a common Hellenic practice to a phrase like, “or whichever names you wish to be known by,” to the end of a list of epithets.

Fish is an offering I reserve for really big things, like the swearing of oaths. Fish are imperiled and precious, and a worthy gift, particularly for Prosclystius and Basileus. Because I do so rarely, I have not noted that some fish are more appropriate for certain epithets, but this is quite possibly the case.

Grape juice was my go-to libation beverage of choice for a long time, and I never received complaints. Go for the 100% juice, if possible. If I were avoiding alcohol, I would offer grape juice especially to Phytalmius because of its association with plants.

Ground coffee can be used in conjunction with, or as a replacement for, barley when offering to Poseidon Psychopompos or Poseidon Kthonios. (Note that this is not the same as coffee grounds, which are the remainder after one brews coffee.) I drew this conclusion based on the practice in antiquity of offering white things to ouranic theoi, and dark things to the kthonic.

Hymns, be they ancient, those offered in this humble volume, or something of the reader’s own creation, should always be read or recited aloud. While it’s commonly believed that reciting the hymns which have survived from antiquity in the original ancient Greek is preferable, it’s probably better to use one’s native tongue unless one has mastered the pronunciation. The gods are not omniscient, and could well struggle if one’s accent is thick.

Mint was suggested to me by another devotee of Poseidon, specifically in the form of chocolate mint candies. The plant’s protective properties makes it suitable for Domatites, and the coolness it evokes brings to mind Glacius and Pelagaeus. Mint is also strongly associated with Haides, suggesting that it’s an appropriate offering to Poseidon Kthonios.

Incense is an ancient offering. Myrrh and frankincense are perhaps the most common ones to burn for Poseidon.

Ocean water can poured as a libation, if easy to acquire, or left in a sealed container as a votive offering, if it’s a more precious item in one’s locale. As I live inland, I hope to get water from all the world’s oceans, and especially the Mediterranean Sea, to leave on my altar.

Salt is something I occasionally get asked to provide, and when I offer salt, I go for the very coarse-grained varieties. Prosclystius, Katharsios, and (curiously enough) Petraios have all asked sea-salt of me.

Water is a perfectly acceptable offering. I have not yet been asked to mix salt into the water, but I’ve heard that others do this. Hudsonios may well ask for some salt in the water.

Wine mixed with water is the traditional Hellenic libation. I offer it at my shrine to Poseidon Phytalmius, to Poseidon in all his epithets on the eighth day of the lunar month which is sacred to him, and during my priestly devotions. I don’t mix the wine when I offer to Poseidon Kthonios or Psychopompos, pouring the cup out completely upon the ground as a holocaust offering, one that is destroyed completely and not shared with the god. I’ve also made libations specifically of white wine for Pelagaeus; I picked up the notion that it’s more evocative of the ocean than red, and that resonates with me.

Note:  this post is an excerpt of my upcoming book, Depth of Praise.  It is being provided now in answer to a reader’s question.  Do not share without linking back to this post as the source.  Thank you.

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