votive object


The temple of Aphaia, Aegina:

The sanctuary of Aphaia in Aegina lies above the headland of Ayia Marina on a hill offering a panoramic view over the sea. Worship on the site of the sanctuary goes back to prehistoric times, around 1300 B.C, when  it was associated with a female fertility deity, as is clear from finds brought to light by archaeological excavations.

It was originally thought that the temple of Aphaia was built in honour of Athena, whose figure dominated the two pediments of the temple. During excavations by German archaeologists in 1901, however, an inscription was found referring to the name of the local goddess Apha (Aphaia), making it clear that the temple was dedicated to Aphaia and not Athena.

According to myth, Aphaia, who is identified with Britomartis, daughter of Zeus and Karme, was loved by Minos and to escape his attention, jumped into the sea and emerged in Aegina, where she became “invisible” (άφαντη/αφαία, unseen) in a grove. She hid in a cave, probably the one on the north-east corner of the Archaic enclosure, in which many terracotta figurines and other votive objects dating from the Mycenaean period have been found.

In historical times, three temples were built in different periods on the same site near the area associated with the prehistoric cult. Of the first temple, which is dated to the early 6th century BC, only traces of the foundations survive. The second temple was larger, with an altar in the front of the east side. The surviving temple is the third, which was built in about 500 B.C.

The pediments of the temple of Aphaia, which are dated to 490/480 BC, were adorned with scenes from battles fought inTroy and watched by Athena, whose figure was the predominant one at the center of both pediments. The east pediment depicted the campaign of Herakles against king Laomedon, and the west the Greek expedition under Agamemnon against Priam’s Troy. Part of the east pediment was destroyed during the Persian Wars, possibly from a thunderbolt.

The statues that survived were set up in the sanctuary enclosure and those that were destroyed were buried according to the ancient custom (in general old votive offerings and other objects of worship that had been weathered down, were not discarded, they were either buried, stored, or even “built in” the foundations of the temples).

The old composition  was replaced by a new one with a battle scene featuring Athena at the center. The pedimental sculptures were excavated in 1811 by Baron von Hallerstein and the architect C.R. Cockerell. They were put up in auction in Italy and purchased in 1813* by Ludwig I, king of Bavaria and father of Otto, first king of Greece. They were raken to the Glyptothek in Munich, where they have been on display ever since. Parts of the destroyed east pediment were found furing Furtwangler’s excavation and are now displayed in the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens.

Texts by L. Katsa

Part of the “reasons” listed by foreign museums that forbid the return of artifacts belonging to monuments, is that they have been owned by them for two centuries more or less. However, the greek state still paid off loans plus interest that were taken during the greek war of independence- that is before the existence of the official greek state- well into the 20th century*. Because of these loans greek lands had been mortgaged to foreing banks, and it was impossible for these lands to be redistributed to farmers. And what’s even more is that despite that Greece had loaned a certain amount, it actually received roughly a little over 50% of these money. The state still paid off however the whole amount plus interest on the 100%. So personally, I don’t see how we can both owe and pay off money we never received two centuries ago, but parts of monuments that belonged to Greece for over 2 milleniums can’t be owed to us.

So whenever you hear about the greek debt just replace everything with Greece was the best client of foreign banks for two centuries, and circa 2010 when there was a chance we wouldn’t owe as much we had to have an artificial crisis so we can owe money for two centuries to come. And whenever you hear about greek artifacts belonging more to foreign museums than Greeks just replace everything with Non-Greeks that don’t live in Greece believe that Greeks in Greece are not greek enough to have greek stuff from Greece.

*I was born in the 20th century, for all you youngsters.


At many Inari shrines and kamidana you will find nobori (幟). Nobori are a Japanese style of tall, narrow banner that can be found outside many venues, such as shrines, temples, and businesses.

The first image below gives an example of the most typical Inari nobori, in non-hōnō (left) and hōnō (right) variations. Let’s look at the non-hōnō one first…

At the top is a nyoi hōju (wish-fulfilling jewel, 如意宝珠) of Inari-sama. Below this, a formal name for Inari-sama is given, read from top-to-bottom… The first line gives Inari-sama’s rank, 正一位, Shōichii (this is the highest rank for kami). Below that in vertical text is 稲荷大明神, Inari Daimyōjin (“Daimyōjin” is a highly respectful suffix for a divine being, similar to Ōkami). Thus, the full text of the nobori is “Shōichii Inari Daimyōjin”.

An example of the non-hōnō nobori is found in the second image, where it is used on my home’s altar.

In the first image, the right-hand side nobori is the hōnō (奉納) variety. Hōnō is the dedication of a votive object, and is used here to denote that this nobori would have been donated by a person, organization, or business. The hōnō thus has two additions from the non-hōnō one: First, the word Hōnō (奉納) is given at the top, just below the jewel (note: it is read right-to-left on the nobori). Second, there is a blank area at the bottom where the donator’s name may be written.

An example of hōnō Inari nobori is found in the third image, where each one has been donated and erected on the grounds of an Inari shrine. As is common in this case, the nobori actually give the name of the shrine, rather than a name for Inari-sama.

These are examples of the most typical Inari nobori, but many variations exist. Some shrines use white ones, or even other colors such as blue, green, or yellow. It is also common to display the shrine’s crest… for bunsha (branch shrines), the crest of the parent, usually Fushimi Inari Taisha, is shown. There is even one shrine with kitsune on their nobori!

Sulis (Sulis Minerva)

In localised Celtic polytheism practised in Britain, Sulis was a deity worshipped at the thermal spring of Bath (now in Somerset). She was worshipped by the Romano-British as Sulis Minerva, whose votive objects and inscribed lead tablets suggest that she was conceived of both as a nourishing, life-giving mother goddess and as an effective agent of curses wished by her votaries.

Sulis was the local goddess of the thermal springs that still feed the spa baths at Bath, which the Romans called Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis”). Her name primarily appears on inscriptions discovered at Bath, with only a single instance outside of Britain at Alzey, Germany. This is not surprising, as Celtic deities often preserved their archaic localisation. They remained to the end associated with a specific place, often a cleft in the earth, a spring, pool or well. The Greeks referred to the similarly local pre-Hellenic deities in the local epithets that they assigned, associated with the cult of their Olympian pantheon at certain places (Zeus Molossos only at Dodona, for example). The Romans tended to lose sight of these specific locations, except in a few Etruscan cult inheritances and ideas like the genius loci, the guardian spirit of a place.

At Bath, the Roman temple is dedicated to Sulis Minerva, as the primary deity of the temple spa. Through the Roman Minerva syncresis, later mythographers have inferred that Sulis was also a goddess of wisdom and decisions.

Sulis was not the only goddess exhibiting syncretism with Minerva. Senua’s name appears on votive plaques bearing Minerva’s image, while Brigantia also shares many traits associated with Minerva. The identification of multiple Celtic gods with the same Roman god is not unusual (both Mars and Mercury were paired with a multiplicity of Celtic names). On the other hand, Celtic goddesses tended to resist syncretism; Sulis Minerva is one of the few attested pairings of a Celtic goddess with her Roman counterpart.