The summer solstice, 21 June, is among the many important dates in the calendar for numerous followers of old religions, and it's a distinct time for human being in Greece that worship the country's pre-Christian gods.

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"I love the power this place has," states Exsekias Trivoulides who has pitched his tent on what the considers to it is in the holy site of mountain Olympus.


Trivoulides is a sculptor who studied art background and classics, and also these days, the is life his passion.


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


It's the most important yearly festival for followers of The Return the the Hellenes - a motion trying to bring earlier the religion, values, approach and way of life of old Greece, much more than 16 century after that was replaced by Christianity.


"People want to identify with other in the past - where they come from - so as to know wherein they room going," claims Trivoulides. "If you don't recognize your past, friend don't have a future.


The festival begins with six runners - in full Greek battle gear - gyeongju the six miles (10 km) up mount Olympus, house of the gods, their shields and also long spears clanking together they go.


But together they collection out indigenous the tiny village of Dion at the basic of the mountain, passersby hardly it seems to be ~ to notification - castle are provided to them.


It's a telling authorize of how much they have actually come already, in a country where 98% of the public are stated to determine themselves together Orthodox Christian.


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


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


The economic crisis in Greece should be a time of reflection about the values that should govern a society, the says.


They don't actually pray come Zeus, Hera and also the others. They see them as representations of worths such as beauty, wellness or wisdom.


The followers room an odd mix. There are brand-new Age types who revere old traditions, leftists who resent the power of the Orthodox Church, and Greek nationalists who watch Christianity as having damaged everything the was truly Greek.


As the modern-day ancients relax in your camp in ~ the base of the mountain, a few sell viewpoint books, CDs, food and jewellery. Some wear modern-day clothes, rather tunics, and a couple of sport a wreath.


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Over the food of the three-day event, there are public prayers, 2 marriages, and also a specify name ceremony, wherein followers choose an old name - prefer Calisto, Hermis or Orpheus - and also "cleanse" themselves of their modern-day Christian ones.


None of this rituals is officially recognised through the Greek state. The biggest bone the contention for those associated is the they space prevented native praying at old temples, and also struggle to obtain permission to build their own temples, which in Greece requires the approval the the regional Orthodox bishop.


In an attempt to formalise your status, the umbrella group the can be fried Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes is marketing to gain their kind of old worship classed together an "ethnic religion" the Greece.


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


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


Those who worship the old Greek gods room widely pertained to as no much more than "interesting curiosities", he adds.


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


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


He has actually two indigenous to explain those that attempt to carry out so - the first is "kooky", the second, "ridiculous".


Parker points to historical inconsistencies. Prometheus, because that example, was only a reasonably minor figure in old Greek religion, that says, and also never had actually a major festival committed to him.


Other chroniclers say these teams are idealising an ancient religion the had tiny to execute with principles or morality.


"The whole point of it is the you save the gods sweet - you scratch their back, they will scrape yours," says Peter Jones, co-founder of friends of Classics.


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


Animal sacrifice to be by far the most important component of any old Greek religious ritual, with the throat of a live bull slit v a knife at the altar external the temple.


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


The power combines standard drama with lessons about what the ancients need to teach us, all these century later.

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


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"In the beginning, they to be making jokes, then they to be ignoring us, now they room interested," claims tax manager Persis Argyros, who has been associated since the start of the movement. "We ended up being too big to ignore."


No-one has accurate figures for the variety of followers, however numbers have swelled since their very first gathering on the mountain 17 years ago, and also the movement cases to have hundreds of hundreds of supporters.


It's clean they space in their element here on Olympus. After the display closes, the Hellenes dance and frolic under the moonlight.


Matthew Brunwasser was reporting for The World, i beg your pardon is a co-production that the jajalger2018.org civilization Service, PRI and also WGBH