The Father in the Sky. King of the Olympians. He has many names and many attributes. Zeus is the God of law and order, destiny, and the weather - among many more.
By Jamain - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Historically, since He is the King of Gods, He was worshipped in every home. Many homes either had altars in their courtyards or shrines within their homes. The people gave offerings daily, and communities would build shrines to Him on hilltops that overlooked the city. Zeus had an oracle in Dodona, and it is considered to be one of the most ancient places in the Hellenic faith. There, the oracle and priestess would interpret messages from Zeus in the form of the wind rustling through the sacred trees.
According to mythology, the black dove from Thebes landed in an oak tree at this spot and stated with a human voice that a sanctuary of Zeus must be founded here. So it was. The tree was later encircled with bronze cauldrons that touched the sides of one another so that they constantly rang or buzzed, providing a layer of magical protection that guarded the tree against evil. (Study.com)
Lineage and Family Tree
Zeus is well-known for getting around . He married Hera, Goddess of the Sky, but he also had children with many other Goddesses and mortals alike.
His family tree is very long, so I will not go through all of it. If you are interested in seeing it all, you can CLICK HERE.
Siblings: Demeter, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and Hestia
Divine Children: Persephone, Ares, Ilithyia, Hebe, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Dionysus
Hesiod, Theogony 453 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"But Rhea was subject in love to Kronos (Cronus) and bare splendid children, Hestia, Demeter, and gold-shod Hera and strong Haides . . . and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker [Poseidon], and wise Zeus . . . These great Kronos swallowed as each came forth from the womb to his mother’s knees with this intent, that no other of the proud sons of Ouranos (Uranus, Heaven) should hold the kingly office amongst the deathless gods. For he learned from Gaia (Gaea, Earth) and starry Ouranos (Sky) that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, strong though he was, through the contriving of great Zeus.Therefore he kept no blind outlook, but watched and swallowed down his children : and unceasing grief seized Rhea. But when she was about to bear Zeus, the father of gods and men, then she besought her own dear parents, Gaia (Earth) and starry Ouranos (Sky), to devise some plan with her that the birth of her dear child might be concealed, and that retribution might overtake great, crafty Kronos for his own father and also for the children whom he had swallowed down. - The Theoi Project
Zeus’s father, Cronus, devoured all of his children because he had learned that they were to overcome him with the help of Zeus. Rhea loved Cronus, but she could not let Zeus be devoured by His father. So, to keep this from happening, Rhea went to her parents for help and came up with a plan. She spirited Zeus away and gave Cronus a swaddled boulder instead.
Hesiod, Works and Days 42 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"For the gods keep hidden from men the means of life [crops]. Else you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste. But Zeus in the anger of his heart hid it, because Prometheus the crafty deceived him; therefore he planned sorrow and mischief against men. He hid fire; but that the noble son of Iapetos stole again for men from Zeus the counsellor in a hollow fennel-stalk, so that Zeus who delights in thunder did not see it. But afterwards Zeus who gathers the clouds said to him in anger: ‘Son of Iapetos (Iapetus), surpassing all in cunning, you are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire–a great plague to you yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction.’
So said the father of men and gods, and laughed aloud. And he bade famous Hephaistos make haste and mix earth with water and to put in it the voice and strength of human kind, and fashion a sweet, lovely maiden-shape, like to the immortal goddesses in face [Pandora] . . . But when he had finished the sheer, hopeless snare [Pandora the first woman created by the gods], the Father sent [Hermes] . . . to take it to Epimetheus as a gift. And Epimetheus did not think on what Prometheus had said to him, bidding him never take a gift of Olympian Zeus, but to send it back for fear it might prove to be something harmful to men. But he took the gift, and afterwards, when the evil thing was already his, he understood." - The Theoi Project
Zeus had Hephaistos make the first woman - Pandora - because Prometheus stole fire from the heavens for mankind. Zeus then sent Hermes to deliver Pandora as a gift to mankind and, forgetting what Prometheus said to him, Epimetheus accepted the gift from Zeus and the evil was unleashed on mankind.
Sacred Symbols of Zeus
- Lightning Bolt - Zeus was often depicted with His lightning bolt, as that is His main weapon. Also, He is a God of the weather and rules over lightning itself.
- Throne - He is the King of Gods, so it is only fitting that a throne would be a symbol of Zeus.
- Wreath of Olives - In His artwork, He is often depicted as wearing a wreath of olive leaves. This is how they became sacred to Him.
Sacred Animals of Zeus
- Eagle - He abducted Ganymede in the shape of an Eagle. He also punished Prometheus with being chained down and having an eagle pester Him.
- Bull - He also abducted the maiden Europa disguised as a bull. Europa then bore Him three sons: Minos, Sarpedon, and Rhadamanthys.
Sacred Plants of Zeus
- Holm Oak - Zeus’s priests were inspired by the rustling of the leaves of the oak tree, and that is how they interpreted the messages from Him.
- Olive Tree - Since Zeus always wore a crown of olive leaves on his head, the olive tree became sacred to Him.
I know that was a lot of information to take in, but hopefully, you learned something new about Zeus and His worship. If you want to work with Him as a Wiccan, it is important to know His history, family, symbols, and personality. If you are more interested in His worship in a historical context or in the context of reconstructionist/revivalist Hellenismos, it is doubly-important to understand these things about Him, but to also understand the context of His myths and stories.
If you would like to start building a relationship with Zeus, I recommend the following.
- Construct a shrine or altar in His name. As King of the Olympians, it would be fitting to have His altar stand-alone or only with other Olympian Gods.
- Learn the pillars of Greek worship. This may not be necessary for a Wiccan, but I am a hard polytheist so I feel it is good for me to mention. There are several things that the ancient Greeks did before worshiping, and those include creating khernips and offering libations. You can learn about that HERE.
- Give daily offerings and practice daily devotion. If you need inspiration or want to use a premade devotional, CLICK HERE.
Do you worship Zeus or any other Olympian?
How do you feel about the myths of ancient Greece?
Sources and More Reading
Zeus - The Theoi Project
Zeus - Mortal Lovers
Prometheus Steals Fire for Man
Zeus Family Tree
Cronos Devours His Children
Baring the Aegis - Hellenismos in the Modern Age
The Greeks Who Pray to Zeus - Video
Oldest Greek Oracle At Dodona And Zeus Sacred Oak Tree
Oracles of Zeus: Dodona & Siwa