Finding a label for ‘ancient Greek religion’ in the modern world is difficult because the ancient Greeks did not have a word for religion. They referred to practice and service to the Gods that demarcated it from the religious practices of other countries. Greek religion was (and is) an integral part of daily life and the spiritual flux of new influences and spiritualities. There was no sense of it as a being separate from life.
‘Hellenismos’ is a word coined by the Emperor Julian in the 4th century AD. He was the first to refer to a ‘Hellenic way’, which, at the time, encapsulated pre-Christian religion and the legacy of Greek philosophy and culture. Recently, Julian’s ‘Hellenismos’ has been popularized as a way of referring to the revival of ancient Hellenic religion in the West. This presents some difficulties, since, in modern Greek, it translates roughly as “Hellenism, the Greek nation.”
When Elaion was founded, we used to term ‘Hellenismos’ to refer to ancient Greek religion. However, we came to feel that it’s limitations were overwhelming. It is based on a historical misunderstanding and a linguistic mistranslation. The word “Dodekatheism” has been used for some time within and outside Greece to refer to ancient Greek religion and we feel that it is important for those of us outside Greece share a common name and identity with our co-religiosts in the homeland of our spirituality.