The art of consecration plays a relatively minor role in early Greek ritual, but in the Egyptian and Mesopotamian traditions, it was always crucial for cult statues to be ritually “activated”, so to speak, and in Greco-Roman times, this notion became accepted more widely across the Ancient Mediterranean. The process, known as consecration or “perfection”, was sometimes designated the perfective or telestic art (telestikê tekhnê) in late antiquity.
Beyond the context of cult statues in temples, it was also used in household ritual (naturally to a lesser extent than in temples) and for what we now call talismans, be they simple gemstones, rings, or more complicated constructions. The word “talisman” derives, via Arabic, from the same Greek word family as “telestic”.
Since no formal handbook on the subject survives from antiquity, we must piece together quite heterogeneous material to get a general understanding of the art of consecration. However, this method must not mislead us into thinking that all the different pieces ultimately belong to one unified tradition or method. Rather, we possess only a number of crystallized pieces from what was once a large number of streams flowing into each other and apart, converging and differentiating themselves through constant small innovations and adaptations.
The problem of understanding consecration rightly is exacerbated by the fact that not only the consecratory rituals strictly speaking, but also certain uses of the statue or talisman can fall under the term telestic. Beyond that, the Greek teletê or “perfection” can also refer to mystery rites and other kinds of ceremonies, and this leads to further terminological ambiguities. Nevertheless, I hope that I can separate out those things that really pertain to consecration in the narrower sense, and present them here, under the categories: