30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 30 ~ Advice for seekers

* For most people, your “patron deity” will be related to your stage in life (Apollon and Artemis have domain over protecting children and adolescents) or your careers and hobbies. Very few of you will have a close personal bond with a deity that may make you seem crazy or unstable. This is a good thing.

* While “magics” are not a central focus for Hellenismos, as they tend to be with other paths, it was used in ancient times (often in a for-hire context, but protective talismen were used by many, and by Roman times “curse kits” were popular throughout the Empire). Not everybody needs it, and I’d wager that it will remain a small and controversial aspect of the religion in its current state, if only due to the popularity of certain schools of philisophy and ethics.

* While you don’t have to be a scholar, it still is best to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when encountering people on-line.

* Most Hellenists are actually very friendly, even if we’re anti-bullshit. Don’t be afraid to ask us things or comment on our blogs.

* The religion doesn’t begin and end with Attik Platonism, but then if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ve at least figured that much out. Explore different ethical and philosophical systems and regional religions for what works best for you — and think about why it works best.

* The Maxims of Delphi are not “holy commandments”. They were written by the Seven Sages, most of whom were Ionian or Doric, and only one of whom was Aeolic, and Lesbian, not Boeotian (though one anonymous source cites Acusilaos as one of the Seven, it is unknown if he was Peloponesian or Boeotian). Their importance is going to vary, and it’s often debated exactly how much importance these Maxims even had in ancient times — even people with a Phd in Classical studies don’t definitively agree as to whether the Maxims of Delphi were regularly regarded as “great wisdom” or “quotable proverbs” (similar to the ending of Aesop’s Fables) or if they were simply a social conditioning tool and writing exercise for children. Maxims 73 (“Be happy with what you have” Κτωμενος ηδου), 130 (“Do not begin to be insolent” Μη αρχε υβριζειν), and especially 132 (“Be ready to die for your homeland” Θνησκε υπερ πατριδος) seem to support the latter hypothesis, as adult men have already passed compulsory military service and so meditating on that “wisdom” seems a bit redundant. Sure, there is wisdom in these proverbs, but clearly not for everybody, and especially not at every stage of life. The “Ten Commandments” of Abrahamic religion are, by their own mythos, “handed down divinely”; the Maxims of Delphi were created by man.

"Of the Earth", Gaia-Kybele, by J. Young

* Just because a secondary (typically “modern” — 17th Century or later) source uses words like “archaeology” and even if the guy has a degree does not make it credible. I can’t think of any well-known or easily identifiable examples for faulty scholarship of polytheism specifically, but Naked Archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici has a BA in Philosophy and a MA in Political Science &mdasj; at best, this qualifies him to be a diplomat, and doesn’t even qualify him to teach Philosophy at a community college, his History Channel special, Exodus Decoded has been heavily criticised by real archaeologists and real religious scholars, using very simple tactics to mislead viewers, and then mangles Anglicised Hebrew with the original, something that I very seldom see novelists do, all in an attempt to perform retrograde etymology, much like the Resurrect Isis guy does to claim “Genesis = genes-of-Isis”. True, there is some decent stuff on the telly, but if you’re going to absorb cable documentaries, note the by-lines and titles of the speakers interviewed, and check up on their credentials and claims. There are some well-knowledged and scientific-minded laypersons out there, but since they don’t tend to have an agenda, they come off “fair and boring” and tend not to have television shows.

* That said, you DON’T have to be a scholar to practise Hellenismos. You don’t have to be a puffy-chested philosopher, either. Hellenion’s website, for example, has ritual outlines and a calendar of festival cycles, and you can just go from there.

* Eschew anti-intellectualism.

* Embrace xenia.

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30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 29 ~ The future of Hellenismos

Like any minority religion, the future of Hellenismos is dependent upon those who practise it. People have to be dedicated not only to traditions, culture, and mythology, but also to growth: Population growth of the community (be it through “family building” or through outreach), spiritual growth, and the growth of organisations and informal groups that are and will become the public face of Hellenic polytheism — from umbrella groups like YSEE to generalised ritual groups like Hellenion to Thiassoi both big and tiny dedicated to all of our gods and goddesses from Zeus to Hera to Dionysos to Aphrodite to Eros to Gaia-Kybele to Asklepios to Hekate to Priapos to Kirke.

With this growth, there should be both dedicated de-facto clergy and community builders, and always at least a slightly larger number of “laity” — people who are religious, but who prefer a role as part of the masses, not as one in a spotlight within the religion. After all, if the social sciences have proved to us nothing else about ourselves, they have shown that the influence of a priest or city councilman has a far lesser effect on what we do with our lives than our friends and families.

I’d like to see the erection of new temples and the increase of semi-public and public dedicated sacred spaces within my own lifetime. This can only happen with not only people dedicated to making it happen, but also dedicated to acquiring resources; I’ve seen people with only part-time employment raise the funds and equipment to film feature-length underground-indie films, so while I know that many (if not most) Hellenistai are far from rich, I also know that a few people dedicating themselves to fund-raising for lasting projects can do it. The projects probably will take several years to finalise, but it’s possible with the right people channelling the right dedication into the right areas.

I’d also really like to see a certain mentality, or at least a certain camp that champions it, to basically lose the last remaining threads of genuine respectability it clings to, because the underlying game of “divide and conquer” that camp is best known for will become the downfall of Hellenismos if enough people are either stupid enough to get sucked into it, or apathetic enough to ignore the need for a necessary attention to everything that is at fault with that sort of thinking. Don’t become consumed with bringing others down &mdasjh; but don’t be so naive as to assume that a certain “Pope No-Life & His Talking Butt-Plugs” can’t bring real harm to a community if left unchecked; when everything one touches turns to rust, it’s best for others to take note of that and, like a colony of ants who’ve noted a member infected by cordyceps, reduce that member’s ability to infect others with the brain disease.

I’d like to see a reduction of growth from Christianity, at least to a greater extent than what’s alleged in some more recent surveys, and especially a reduction in its most harmful sects: Fundamentalists and Evangelists. I have little, if any problem with the meat-and-bones of things the composite character of “Jesus” is said to have said, and so I have no problem being asked to tolerate Quakers, Menonites, Shakers, other pacifist sects, and basically any Christian who will not pose a threat to those exercising their right to freedom of religion. Political clowns and “real-life Internet trolls”1 like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Glenn Beck and others pose a real threat to polytheism, if given any sort of power. For any Hellene to advocate any such person who advocates that sort of “religion” into a public office is to take a dump on the altar of the Theoi and on whatever hero-cult to United $tates “founding fathers” may exist:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” —Thomas Jefferson

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the Common Law.” —Thomas Jefferson

“If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both here (England) and in New England.”
—Benjamin Franklin

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” —James Madison,1803 letter objecting use of gov. land for churches

“Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1,500 years?” —John Adams

“The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.” —John Adams

“The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession.” —Adraham Lincoln

I’d also like to seem in my lifetime, true peace and harmony for polytheists in Hellas. While her people have decriminalised Their worship (all of five years ago), there are still social injustices faced by many who do so with any degree of public knowledge. This is also a problem I want to see eradicated within the Anglosphere, but it exists to a far lesser extent in recent years. I know this may be a little too much to ask, but if you don’t ask, then you never know what you might get; if you do ask, then there’s at least a chance.

1: Quote goes to my humanoid meat-based house-mate.

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30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 28 ~ One misconception about Hellenismos you’d like to clear up

I have something of a laundry list of misconceptions I regularly see from people, some of which, like “Hellenismos is Neoplatonic dick-baggery”, or “Eros is a god of one-night stands”, I seem to have already said something thourough in an effort to clear up, and at this point, I don’t think there’s much more room to “clear up” the idea that only fanatic Thiassoi cultists can be “real Hellenes”, if only cos most of the literature from primary sources to YSEE to Hellenion stresses all gods (or at least the “Olympian Twelve” plus Hestia and Hades) and also philosophy and ritual, avoiding (when possible) talk of us wackier types, even if not explicitly renouncing us — and I think that this very blog, along with a few others, also stresses that us wacky ones very much are a part of the religion, just not a part that is going to have immediate or regular appeal to all Hellenes — though in a “pan-Hellenic” context, we may provide valuable insight to worship of various deities, both directly and indirectly.

Is there really even one more misconception that I can clear up to any extent that I haven’t already? I may be a verbose little queen, but a man even of my own sort can only say just so much.

I think one thing that I haven’t really stressed enough is how Hellenism is for ANYBODY who is called to the Theoi:

  • You don’t have to be of or largely of or of any amount of Hellenic ethnicity — after all, I’m not (at least probably not until you go back to the Keltoi in Thrake, and with as much Black Irish1 in my father’s side of the family.
  • You don’t have to be a chest-puffing Neoplatonist more interested in talking than worship — I know very few Hellenes who are, and those I know who do fit that description have very little real respect in the actual community of Anglophonic Hellenists.
  • You don’t need a lot of expensive statues and junk to set up a proper shrine. In ancient Thespiai, the original image of Eros was an unwrought stone. All you need is an adequate amount of space, a small bowl for libations, a candleholder (for safety), some sort of incense burner, and (at least ideally) some sort of representitive image/s for the god/s. My first shrine was honestly just a spare custard cup, a small clay holder for a chime candle, cone incense on a piece of aluminium foil, and a computer-print-out collage of ancient statues; that was all I had, at first.
  • While usually a good idea to learn the Hellenic language and play ancient music (even if only in recording) for the Theoi, this is not necessary, either. It was common for ancient Hellenes to believe that all cultures worshipped their gods, just under different names (and they often believed this no matter how ill a fit two deities were, so long as they shared a superficial characteristic or two), so if this is held to be true, then logically it’s at least a little difficult to truly offend certain Theoi with words or music. Still, I recommend that people learn what they can, and explore as much music as possible; the Theoi are gods and goddesses Who all delight in beautiful things, Hellenic is a robust and ancient language that has lent significant vocabulary to English, and beautiful sounds of all sorts impress the gods of Hellas.
  • You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to approach the Theoi. Remember, Hephiostos is lame and dwarven. It is, though, best to take care of oneself as best as one can; if the mortal world has graced you with healthcare, then by all means, make use of preventative care, and exercise your body whenever possible, in the best ways possible — maybe that means you should swim competitively, or maybe that means you should stick to low-impact water aerobics.

One thing to remember is that, while in ancient times, there were differences between the classes and locations to the practises and hymns, at its core, Hellenismos was for everybody. Temples were attended by everybody, and so in this mnodern age, there is no real reason to believe that Hellenismos is no less for us Hellenising barbaroi than it is for those who speak native Hellenic.

1: An Irish Keltic ethnic group, usually characterised as having dark hair, darker eyes, and a somewhat Mediterranean appearance; currently, geneticists think the origins of this particular group is the Iberean peninsula, others turn to traditional folklore and history, which suggests a migration from Thrake.

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30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 27 ~ How Hellenismos has helped me in difficult times

I really don’t know why I never changed this topic. Anybody who’s read this far can probably figure out how a religion like this can help a person through difficult times — unless, of course, that mushy grey stuff between one’s ears exists for the sole purpose of keeping one’s skull from caving in.

When I’m upset or distressed, I typically light a candle and some incense and pray. It’s not a big thing, but it’s a thing to do. I don’t live in ancient Thespiae, so I can’t really go to a temple.

If I feel the situation calls for it, I do a divination to get an answer to interpret, but sometimes the answer to the answer doesn’t come right away, in which case, I figure the situation is not of immediate concern.

But hey, look, pretty music!

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30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 26 ~ Any “secular” pastimes with religious significance, and why

In traditional polytheism, it’s hard to truly separate out the religious from the secular, since it’s all got a connection in the lives of mortals. In the modern day, traditional polytheists will often look for historical and mythological connections and justifications for pass-times and politics, but those who do not see the possibility of, or even a realistic need to separate from the Abrahamic supremicist culture will advocate an approach of putting aside one’s religious differences with others to reach a political and social goal for the community; in that action, one’s religion and ethics may still be important, but simply guiding one to ignore the differences to reach a compromise. Ideologically, it is only traditional polytheism, not Abrahamic religions, which offer this option: In Rome, Christians were actually given immense freedoms (contrary to what the fairytales in state school history texts claim), and the political compromise was that they simply had to pay a tax to the cult of the Emperor as a secular action, consider it as a rent payed to be a Roman, and this is even advocated by Christianity’s own mythological figure of Christ, in Matthew 22:21, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…”. Rome didn’t care that Christians didn’t want to acknowledge the Roman gods as gods, they just wanted Christians to pay their taxes which, in Rome, were funneled through the cult of the Emperor, and even Christianity’s highest figure agreed with that. But a religion is more than the sayings of its most cherished figures, and as much as traditional polytheisms are more than their mythologies, so is Christianity and Islam, whose extra-mythological traditions include forced conversion and spiritual disharmony with one’s neighbouring religions.

But I digress.

Things I do that people might not consider explicitly religious in 2011 often have an ancient relationship with tranditional polytheism, and even a subculture that is thouroughly secularised still takes ancient Hellenic influences. Things like painting, music, gardening, etc…, don’t necessarily have to be religious — there are plenty of pictures, songs, landscapes, and so on that, for their creators and designers, had no religious significance, but at the same time may actually have such for an on-looker. I’ve no reason to believe that Gavin Friday specifically called on the guidance of Eros or Erato in composing, say, “Caruso”, but as an devotee of Eros, it’s hard not to see the God’s influence.

..in fact, the whole Shag Tobacco album has been described by the artist himself to be an intricate art-rock opus “about a man who comes home to make love to his wife/partner”. It’s really hard for a devotee to not see the guidance of Eros in that. It’s actually kind of hard not to see the guidance of Eros, Apollon, the Moisai, in all of Mr. Friday’s work, and I once paid over $50 (*before* shipping) for a copy of Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves on eBay, proving my most expensive CD to date, and if it were something I didn’t get some spiritual meaning from, I’d probably be rather embarrassed to admit paying that much for what’s essentially a used CD — out-of-print, sure, but used, and I’d long had a pirated mp3-copy of the album for years, prior. It’s also hard not to see Gavin Friday’s pagan sensibilities in general, even when naming his new album (first in sixteen years) catholic.

Maybe that’s it? When one has decided to integrate the Theoi into every aspect of one’s life, it becomes actually difficult to not see how one deity or another has influenced decisions from politics to film to favourite cheeses, and so it becomes harder to say which activities are “secular” with religious significance? That’s pretty much where I’m at, right now. True, I’m not one of those people who has to cast bones before switching brands of toilet paper, but if I think about it for even a moment, I can see how this deity or another may have shaped that decision, I can see the hand of Apollon in the films of Christian Derek Jarman, and I feel Eros in “I Got You Babe”.

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30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 25 ~ Favoured ritual tools, and why

I probably should have re-titled this, but it feels a little late now.

This really depends on the ritual in question.

For devotionals, I love incense, and a lot of my statuary is pretty expensive (at least relative to my budget) and took me quite a lot of time to save up for, so I have some special sense of attachment to the statues for that reason alone. My Eros & Psykhe was the most expensive, to date, followed by Hermaphroditos.

I love my shells on my Eros shrine and devotional altar, cos I’ve found ways to assure that they big ones would be more than decorative.

I also LURVE my scrying bowl. It was a gift from some-one in the old full_moon_swaps gift-exchange LJ community. I regularly contemplate painting it, the exterior, cos it would look gorgeous, if I did, but I never start to, cos I can never completely decide what colours to use for everything.

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30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 24 ~ Personal aesthetics and Hellenismos

How do I answer this?

Personally, I can’t think of any sort of aesthetics that would be prohibited by any sort of traditional polytheism. Hell, one of my friends is a Hindu and has been gravitating toward the Horrorcore scene, and while I think most of the fans of that scene look like they just rolled out of bed, you know, I can’t think of anything from what I know of Hindu religions, much less Hellenic polytheistic religions, that would outright prohibit dressing like an evil clown and spraying your friends with soda.

Granted, that’s not to say that it’s all “anything goes”, especially when one is of especial cultus to gods whose domain includes aesthetic arts. I generally put time and effort into my own appearance — even my “wearing rags to do yard work” look isn’t complete until I’ve taken a light shower, washed my face (including toner and moisturiser), lip balm, sunblock, my hair tied back, and a handkerchief to dab (never wipe) sweat — and expect any-one practising a traditional Hellenic polytheism, and so generally understanding of ancient Hellenic ideals, to do so, as well. I don’t expect such others to dress in any of the same ways I do, but I do expect to notice at least some minimum amount of effort toward an intentional appearance, at least most of the time. That appearance can be “soccer mom” or “misanthropic quasi-goth” or anything outside or in-between.

I’ve always been an aesthete and quite a dandy. As a little kid, I delighted in getting “dressed up” and would think of any excuse to do so. When I switched to a state junior high and high school, I became one of those kids who went nuts now that I didn’t have to wear a school uniform, in spite of the efforts of nearly every adult in my life at the time begging with me to knock it off with the flamboyance — apparently, I’d have “plenty of time” to look like Marc Bolan after I became an adult.

While I’m hard pressed to instantaneously recognise any explicit relationship between my Mod dandyism and Hellenismos, if I think about it just a little, it really all makes perfect sense:

*Beau Brummel, often regarded as the archetypical dandy, caused a sensation when he abandoned the powdered wig (long before a tax on the powder caused it to fall out of fashion) and decided to wear his natural hair cut “à la Brutus” — calling to mind images of ancient Rome.
*Lord Byron fought for Greek independence
*Oscar Wilde praised the ancient Hellenes on all levels.
*Colin MacInnes’ novel Absolute Beginners, long-influential in the Mod subculture includes a supporting character referred to only as “The Fabulous Hoplite” and described as have a “Caesarian” haircut, which remains somewhat popular in Mod circles.

The Hellenic influence on Dandy subcultures has always existed, and though the clothing often associated is a far cry with the reality of ancient painted stoneworks, it’s easily reasoned that the “fabulous simplicity” of the now-white statuary and columned temples was an influence on the lines and daring use of solid colours from Beau Brummel to Oscar Wilde to Pete Meaden.

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