[an early, rougher version of this chapter was previously published at hellenismos.us]
Let me start off with saying that many are the people I’ve met in my travels and my copious amounts of free time wasted on-line who are Hellenistai first, and whatever else second. Me? I’m a musician first, then I’m a writer, then I’m an artist; these three are all close enough that they may as well be a three-way tie. Followed by that, I am an urbanite — maybe not in the exact same sense as Wikipaedia describes, as I am far from being a professional, but I am truly at peace in large cities living a Modernist lifestyle and taking in all of the joys and opportunities that a city has to offer on one day, and the next just sitting on the pavement outside my apartment, leisurely smoking a spicy Indonesian cigarette with just the right amount of vanilla blended in with the tobacco, reading a book by Colin MacInnes and waiting for my guitarist to show up as the cars whiz by and the sound of the El can be heard periodically just ten blocks up the street (gawd, I miss Chicago, already). Followed by Urban Modernist, I am an Hellenistos, plural Hellenistai, feminine form (I’m pretty sure) Helleniste; I am one who practises Hellenismos, the polytheistic religion of ancient Hellas (Greece) as a living, breathing religion relevant to the modern day. Obviously, being a few other things first is a slightly higher priority of mine, and it goes without saying that there are many more things that I am, following Hellenistos, but rest assured, that these top five are all very close together. Very close. If Musician, writer, and artist are a near three-way tie, then Urban Modernist missed it by a nose, and Hellenistos by a hair from Urban Modernist. The next thing I’d have to say is “total androphile” almost tied with my religion, and then “anachronistic audiophile”, and that’s at least an arm’s length from Hellenistos.
Musician, writer, and artist is irrelevant to this topic. It’s my trade, my livelihood. I may be doing this by the grace of the Theoi, but for this, it should be considered, for all intents and purposes, less important to the topic at hand. The topic is Urban Hellenistai, so for those of you unfamiliar with this concept, let me give you a brief overvirew of where I come from and what specifically makes me an Urban Hellenistos.
First off, I was born in metro-Detroit; specifically Toledo, Ohio. (Trust me, Toledo is metro-Detroit; it is to Detroit what Gary, Indiana is to Chicago. If you ever took even only a weekend’s time to check out all four cities, then you will know exactly what I’m talking about. I would compare Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA, but California lacks the Midwestern industrial cities, and Long Beach is actually pretty nice, in comparison.) Toledo, Ohio is one of the Amerikan Midwest’s many run-down factory cities that still maintains a pretty decent population and all the trappings of a city. It’s nothing like where I’m living now, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor is a thoroughly gentrified college town that used to be a sort of counter-cultural hub from 1955 to 1995, and at about then began its gradual and then very sharp decline into a lot of pre-jaded twenty-years-old hipsters and armchair activists who think that having a Farsi bank teller makes this place a cosmopolitan metropolis on par with Chicago or New York City. Ann Arbor is not a city. Ann Arbor could have been one, but has since adopted a strategy of systematically locking out all possibilities of Ann Arbor ever becoming a city. Because of this and the fact that I was born and raised part in metro-Detroit and part in London, UK, I have a two year plan with my guitarist to get out of Ann Arbor (in part for the sake of the band, in part for the simple sake of getting out of Ann Arbor). Cities are in my blood. Cities are where I thrive.
There were ancient people who thrived in cities, as well. Athens was a grand city of the ancient world. As was Sparta. As was Thespiae. As were many other ancient Greek cities. Oh, sure, it’s been estimated that most of the people lived spread out in the rural areas, and it is very true that the rural areas maintained many of the comparatively smaller practises from the ancient Pagan religion as “folk practises”, and that these little practises have become a somewhat integral part of the modern face of and development of Hellenic polytheism. I am in no way making an effort to discredit the historical and spiritual validity of rural areas to the Hellenic religion.
What I am making an effort to say is that, among the wide variety of Pagan and Polytheistic religions that people have and may become aware of in today’s world, none are better suited to the polisophile (city lover) than Hellenismos (and probably Religio Romana).