In Boeotia, especially in the city of Thespiae, Eros was honoured as a major deity in His own right — unlike in Attika, where He was, at best, an important companion to Aphrodite’s cult. He’s one of a handful of deities who is perpetually youthful in appearance (unlike Hermes or Dionysos, who are sometimes bearded, suggesting middle-age), though exactly how young varies between region and era.
Eros first came to me in my dreams; as a young man nearly four years ago, or at least that was the first time I was aware of it. I can still see His face, His high-bridged nose, His sharp jawline, His calming aura, and all the soft blues about Him. Then He enfolds me, and makes His presence more specific, that nothing can separate us, and nothing ever will.
Believe me when I say that I’m not particularly keen on the idea that “everyone” should have or even should want to have a patron deity; in fact, I’d wager most don’t, and I’d even wager that most are probably better off for it. Those who talk to the Gods have always been on the fringes of society — from babbling oracles to unkempt mystics wearing rags, to those like Socrates and Joan d’Arc — outcasted and put to trial, and now considered schizophrenics by some. That’s not all there is to patron relationships; indeed, the word “patron” is from Latin for “father” and often used colloquially as “protector” and artistic “patrons” used to provide financial support, sometimes even housing; in all uses, the patron still have close personal ties with the other. But a patron relationship with a deity is typically a very close one, and simply being an enthusiastic cult worshipper or simply thinking a deity is cool beans (especially if you don’t even perform a simple devotional ritual or prayer on occasion [and yes, I’ve seen some-one who claims to have one or two “patrons” while admitting that he doesn’t even pray]) doesn’t make the relationship one of patronage. As I’d said, there’s nothing wrong with any of this, I’d even say it’s probably to one’s benefit to not be that close to deities. Being outside the mainstream of a religion isn’t necessarily the path of the “noble introvert” or “cool rebel” — it could very well be that of the “lone wolf”, and if you see a lone wolf, he either won’t be alone for long, or he is so fucked up no other pack wants him, and as a result, he is most likely a scavenger rather than a hunter, and most likely mangy rather than healthy-looking. True lone wolves are pathetic creatures who can’t get along with social situations, even when it’s in their best interests to. Some of us with strong deity relationships can get along fine with others (the “cool rebels” of a religion), others of us prefer not to (those “noble introverts”), and then there is the third group — those of us so dysfunctional that we simply can’t; not the best idea for a religion that prides itself on community.
I say this not necessarily to scare the n00bs — but because sometimes it all really does feel like a burden that I can’t handle, and I “handle” this by not-handling it, and all but shutting myself down, spiritually. And sometimes other stresses cause me to shut myself down like that, and my religious life suffers for it, and the whole fact of that closeness ends up making things feel even harder to come back to when I finally feel like I can again — at this point, I doubt I can lose Eros in my life, even if I wanted to, but it’s still hard to bring myself out of certain stress-related slumps; it’s like calling the friend you haven’t seen in years, even though you parted on decent terms, it’s awkward, and sometimes you just can’t pick back up where you left off, which may make things confusing. I can only recommend building that sort of closeness if you can say with certainty that you can handle the bad and the awkward as well as the good — because some people can’t.
That said, I wouldn’t say Eros is one of those “misunderstood” deities, like Hera or Hermes (I have to agree with a friend who is routinely annoyed, largely due to her own patronage, at the “Hermes The Playful Pixie of Capitalism and FaceBook” meme) — he’s simply one of those who isn’t regarded as important as others these days. After all, much of His domain is shared with Others, and I have to agree that Aphrodite has much of the more interesting mythology, Dionysos had better cult PR, Gaia tends to be better-regarded as a creative force deity, Apollon comes across as far more mature, and his mythological connections to the gymnasia and male couples are sparse, at best — not only are Apollon’s mythos in those areas also far more plentiful, there just aren’t that many gay men in pagan and polytheist circles. Eros is easy to overlook because much of the best narrative mythology was either lost or just never written down. Furthermore, His cult centre was in Boeotia, which Athenians tended to turn their noses from; and the fact that Thespiae remained one of the small handfuls of free cities under Roman rule also left His cult centre thoroughly outside the mainstream, and outside the radar of many ancient writers of the time. The fact that there are statues of Eros readily available in a handful on-line pagan shops show He’s not completely overlooked, but the fact that there are far fewer versions of Him (and especially few when you remove any “with Psykhe”) than many others shows a disproportion. It’s kind of sad, to see such a lovable deity appear so lonely.
I have never envisioned the giggling putti (cherub), popular since at least the Roman era, as a form of Eros — at least not one I myself would pay honour to.The small child is devoid of His own sexuality, and devoid of His own identity — a child is the ward of his parents (be they biological or adoptive), lacks his own freedoms and the majority of his identity to the outside world (for his own opinion on the matter seldom matters to those around him, and when it does, it’s not given the same weight as an adult opinion) rests upon belonging to some-one else. His status is higher than a slave, but still no-where near the same as a free adult. This is not the way to see a deity to Whom all of creation, including the other Gods and Goddesses, is in gratitude. His eternal youth is symbolic of passion, desire, seeking a purpose in this big chaotic nonsense called “life”; and unlike the older man, he’s not entirely sure what that is, but he knows how to get there.
But with this façade of eternal youth is an aura most ancient. With His kindness and playfulness is a side that inspired ancient Hellenic depictions of Him boiling Psykhe in oil, or even Her flailing Him with a whip. Indeed, the depictions of Eros I find most intriguing are those that evoke a submissive side to Eros &mdash the most famous being Canova’s statue Love and Psyche Forgiven and the Caravaggian-styled panting Cupid Chastised (most likely by Manfredi, but its controversial authorship goes back-and-forth between he and Caravaggio). The painting depicts Ares [Mars] whipping the adolescent Eros for sparking the ware-god’s affair with Aphrodite [Venus], exposing Ares to the derision and contempt of the other Olympians — a thought often overlooked in popular versions of Hellenic mythology, perhaps even lost, but one which cements Eros’ place as a Trickster.
His marriage to Psykhe is very much about His connection to the Moirai. I know at least five Moirai, because Pindar names Tykhe as Their leader, and Psykhe has always seemed as one of Them to me; She is Their youngest, She is the weaver of Their great tapestry. (This is technically not Unverified Personal Gnosis [UPG], this is Shared Gnosis, as I’ve seen at least two other people on e-mail lists share similar in the last four years.) It makes perfect sense that Love & Creation would share a bond with Soul, The Weaver of Fate — don’t you agree? Whether it’s power or avarice or blood or companionship or creation or fame, our lives are defined by what and/or who we love. Our passions shape our lives — both our actions and our deeper selves; our passions feed our minds, nurture our souls — and thus Eros is a God of Passions, and Psykhe is the Weaver of the Moirai.
…He’s not just a God of Love, you see; His domain includes Passion, Sex, Creation, Beauty, Songs, Release. Through Creation and the city of Thespiae, I do believe He holds a deeper connection to the Arts and the Mousai, perhaps as deep as Apollon does, but in a different way. Apollon is, too, a passionate god, but I see Eros as the one who lights the fire under the tail of Apollon’s spit-dog to get him going. Apollon will mould that passion and drive you until your fingers are bleeding from practise; but Eros brings that first flash.
Before I knew it was Him, I first saw Him as a minor or thirteen. I met Apollon first, when I was younger, and coming back to polytheism, Apollon was right there from the start, but I’ve come to learn that this was at the discretion of the much older one — Eros. I sometimes imagine what the scene must have looked like, what They must have discussed.
There is a possessive side to Eros, one that wants what He wants because He’s the oldest and must have His way — and, indeed, has always had His way and (if I’m being perfectly honest), will always have His way, in the end. For being so old, He can be like a spoilt child — but at other times, He will prove His great wisdom, and prove His generosity. He’s a Deity Who will fight, but come out loving His opponent more than before.
I tend to describe Him as “kind of like Dionysos, but with a higher roll for Sanity”, but this, too, feels like an understatement. From what I know of Dionysos, Eros is less dramatic and more subtle, also more calculated. While They share the epithet of Liberator, Dionysos’ seems more like a freedom from convention, where Eros’ is more a freedom from oneself. It’s the difference between fellating your slave boy and the orgasm itself; the difference between putting on a mask or make-up to become a character, and going under the knife to become oneself. Like many other Deities with Trickster aspects, He exists in this liminal place in-between things; he’s like the Gancanagh that creeps into this realm from behind the shadows in those moments when you think you see something from the corner of your eye, and then turn to see nothing. This fairy is no “playful pixie”, mind you — His effeminate nature makes Him like a leanhan sidhe, highly inspiring His mark to greatness, but his skin is addictive and toxic, and will curse you to a short life as you kiss him more. There’s a give-and-take element to dealing with Him, with any Trickster, and most people don’t want to give back.
List behind cut:
0. Intro to meme
1. Beliefs – Why Hellenismos?
2. Beliefs – Cosmology
3. Beliefs – Deities
4. Beliefs – Birth, death and rebirth
5. Beliefs – Sacred sexuality
6. Beliefs – Divination, mysticism and various woo shit
7. Beliefs – The power of prayer/reciprocity
8. Beliefs – Festivals
10. Patrons – Eros
11. Patrons – Apollon
12. Pantheon – Mousai
13. Pantheon – Adonis
14. Pantheon – Nyx & Kybele
15. Pantheon – Every-One Else
16. Nature spirits, Khthonoi, & The Dead
17. My ways of worship
19. Hellenismos and my family/friends
20. Hellenismos and my love life
21. Other paths I’ve explored
22. Hellenismos and major life events
24. Personal aesthetics and Hellenismos
25. Favoured ritual tools, and why
26. Any “secular” pastimes with religious significance, and why
27. How your faith has helped you in difficult times
28. One misconception about Hellenismos you’d like to clear up
29. The future of Hellenismos
30. Advice for seekers