A pair of quotes

From Hellenismos Today by Timothy Jay Alexander (context: introduction to Hellenismos):

“Hellenic Reconstructionism allows for a great deal of diversity in beliefs and practice because of the very nature of ancient Greece.” (pg. 19).

and in the following paragraph (also pg. 19):
“Each city-state [polis] had a unique religious calendar. They had their own versions of the myths. The practices of each city-state could almost be described as separate denominations or even religions.”

See for yourself, this page available on Google Books preview (also, screen-cap taken for when he re-sets his Lulu preview permissions).

From this, we can conclude what I and others have been saying all along; indeed, it supports my theory that Hinduism is the way that polytheistic religions evolve naturally (after all, Shinto shows many parallels, albeit with a uniquely Japanese take on it), and that Hellenismos will be best served through the establishment of diverse sects and philosophies, Thiassoi to specific deities (including less popular minor deities, such as Kirke [for you modern-day Pharmakoussai]).

If this was a “one size fits all” religion, then why, when looking into the actual history, do we discover that different poleis did things differently? And if all these thirty-odd Hellenic tribes allegedly respected each-other as equally Hellenic (as one kid recently dared to alleged to me, a philoboeotian, in an e-mail), then what was the deal with Athenians regarding Boeotian Hellenes as “barbaros” (non-Hellenic speakers — after all, such chauvinisms usually come from Athenians, both past Athenians and modern Attic-focused polytheists)? There is a wealth of Hellenic diversity that should not be ignored or cast away because of the agendas of an extreme minority.


Who is a “Recon”?

The dictionary defines reconstruction as:

1. to construct or form again; rebuild: to reconstruct a Greek vase from fragments
2. to form a picture of (a crime, past event, etc) by piecing together evidence or acting out a version of what might have taken place
[World English Dictionary]

It can therefore be fair to say that Religious Reconstruction is hardly the act of making something exactly as it happened or was done before. That’s not to say that reconstruction is not sometimes meticulous, but it’s also not the act of making a broken vase unbroken — after all, more often than not, you can see the glue holding the fragments together, and most significantly, you can almost always see that there are fragments being held together. Another popular analogy is to take a house that has been damaged by flood or by fire and rebuild it. You’re not going to make it exactly as it was before, you know this. If the house was old enough to have lead paint in it, well, good luck making it exactly like it was before. If it was that old, then there was probably some electrical wiring and water or heat piping that would not fit with modern codes — again, good luck with that. A thing that is reconstructed is never exactly the same as it was before — if it was, then it wouldn’t need to be reconstructed, that’s just basic facts.

Furthermore, how to reconstruct, say, ancient art is often debated by art historians, art restorers, and archaeologists. A basic Google search for “reconstructed Venus de Milo [Aphrodite of Milos]” will turn up many different ideas of how the statue’s arms should be positioned and what, if anything, she’d have in her hands. Some of these ideas are obviously not supported by easily sourced evidence of how the statue was originally found and what she was found with, but some of the photo-manipulations obviously show skill and knowledge (albeit, knowledge of basic art) that these would be fair hypotheses if there was no other evidence.

Religious reconstruction is nothing more than forming a hypothesis, an educated guess, and more often than not, forming several hypotheses of what could have been, or what upgrades to the electrical wiring would need to be made. While there is a wealth of evidence in existence of what the ancient Hellenes (and other tribes) did and did not practise and believe, there are still a lot of gaps that could use some putty, a lot of corroded pipes that need replacing, and a lot of questions whose original answers have long crumbled away into dust, but those questions still need answers.

The long and short of it is that arguing over who is and is not “recon” is no less mental masturbation than any other mental exercises that have no real-world applications. It’s not as important as actual practise; if you’re actually practising your religion in a form and spirit consistent with that of ancient Hellas, then this will speak for itself. If you are not, then that is between you and the Theoi to judge whether or not it is improper or impious.

More thoughts on the International Pagan Coming Out Day:

The more I think about it, the more I like this idea — and additionally, the more I can see certain parallels with the GBLT Rights movements.

For those unfamiliar, the GBLT Right MovementS has historically been (and in many ways, still is) pretty far from a single unified movement — and the divisions are more numerous than some may think. Some of the most apparent divisions can be generalised as two ideals(1):

  1. “We may be ‘queer’, but we’re as normal as you are!”
  2. “We’re Queer! We’re here! Get used to it! (And fuck you!)”

Basically, a lot of tension amongst the Queer community can be boiled down to between those who want Acceptance and those who will Tolerance as long as their civil rights aren’t trampled on.

I’m seeing a lot of similar ideas bandied about in the threads I’ve read about International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD, for short). I will say, I’m seeing a scant minority of people in the “Pro” arguments talking about genuine acceptance, but most seem pretty content with tolerance — conversely, I’d say most of the “Con” arguments are from those who believe that they already have tolerance, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that maybe they live in a town where they genuinely do, so that would mean that the civil rights and liberties that they are privileged enough to take for granted are something that many pagans elsewhere simply don’t have, and may never have until they are willing to come out, take a stand, and fight for it. Basically, the “Con” arguments are from people who, as one might say to a similar mind-set in the TS/TG community, “are letting their privilege show” — this is not a good thing, it’s a sign that, well, you’ve got yours and fuck everybody else, especially those who have to fight for the tiniest scrap of dignity you get to take for granted.

As much as I’d really like to say that I expect better from my co-religionists and those of other pagan and polytheist religions, the reality is that I’ve come to know this mega-community as very human, and humans are flawed creatures. Some humans can’t see past the end of their noses, and in doing so, assume that their rights and liberties are guaranteed to everybody, even when confronted with evidence that such simply isn’t the case.

As I pointed out in my previous post on this topic, in the United $tates and even some other countries, “freedom of religion” is little more than theory. Job and housing discrimination are hard enough to prove in places where it’s still allowed for certain reasons, much less in places where employers and landlords have to get creative about why they’ve coincidentally terminated your employment shortly after you requested Beltane or the Dionysia off, or why you’ve suddenly gotten an eviction notice the month after apartment maintenance came to fix the air ducts in the spare room you use for ritual. In theory, courts aren’t allowed to discriminate against religious choices in divorces that involve a child custody battle, but the fact that I’ve at least been conscious of North Amerika’s pagan community since the early 1990s and that I’m still hearing about the occasional mother deemed “unfit” coincidentally after her ex-husband brought up her Eclectic Wicca group in court is evidence that it’s obviously going to take at least another twenty years to get to a point where that’s not going to matter much, if at all. There is still a distinct cultural favouritism of Abrahamic religionists in North Amerika and elsewhere that ends up getting its inequality onto the legal system that promises freedom and justice for all.

As a Hellenic polytheist, I understand that the situation with religious freedom in modern Hellas is far worse than most Amerikans and Britons can even begin to fathom — to the extent that some people believe that you are socially better off to closet yourself as an “Atheist” than be honest about being a Polytheist, and that this hasn’t gotten better in a significantly noticeable way since joining the European Union finally, in 2006, stripped Hellas of her legal criminalisation of worshipping the ancient gods and goddesses. If for no other reason, THIS is why this needs to be an International event — not just for the United $tates, or North Amerika, or the Western Hemisphere, or the Anglosphere, but for all nations where religious civil rights and liberties get little more than lip-service, at best.

(1) This means I understand there are more complexities within this very generalised divide, but in my personal opinion, the majority of skirmishes in the GBLT communities can be boiled down as between two very different ideals for the movement.

After the shower

shower prayers and ritual

The following came to me, pretty much as-is, fresh from my shower:

I shave my face in honour of Apollon
Preserving the face of an eternal kouros
Keeping the passions for life and art and love
Eager to learn the wisdom of self-betterment

I, too, care for my hair in honour of Apollon
Its strands long in honour of The Eternal Kouros
May its length take my passions and desires
On the breaths of the Anemoi to yourself
And the Mousai, high on Mount Helikon
And may you all instruct me how to mould my passions
In the ways that best honours You.

I perform these tasks daily before my mirror
Which reminds me of how the Thespian youth,
Narkissos, finally wept, and may He, as a beautiful Daimon,
protect me from destructive self-love.

[extinguish candle lit before shower]

A great post I found from a member of the Hellenistai forum

Well, I’d thought of going back to this blog’s theme of Urbanism, Modernism, and Polytheism and making a detailed and rather silly post about the band Army of Lovers and why Hellenes everywhere should love them, even if they aren’t a Hellenic band, but I’ve been getting very spacey and I’m putting that one on the back-burner for now to bring you something that makes a little more sense:


I haven’t been sleeping very well this last week, so it was starting to feel a little “too long, can’t read” maybe a quarter through it, but it’s definitely worth the read. In short, the general gist I got out of this one is that with a better translation of the Maxims of Delphi, “’Επαγγέλου μηδενί’, which was once ‘make promises to no-one’ becomes ‘renounce no-one'”. Mano has sourced his statements adequately and explains himself and his reasoning rather well.

Bedtime prayers

I have my evening devotionals, which are taken partly from the outline offered by Drew Campbell to Hellenion (link); the slight changes i have made are:
1) where is says “Hymn to patron/matron deities, I keep it simple: Eros and Apollon. Apollon was the Theos whose reverence “brought me back” to Hellenic polytheism, and Eros is He whose cultus I feel ever so slightly closest to. If this makes Them “patrons”, then fine, but there are several reasons i don’t apply that word to my relationship with Them.
2) at the point in the outline for “supplications and thanksgivings”, I first offer a simple praise to many Thespian and Theban deities and legendary kings.
3) I don’t offer the Orphic Hymn to Zeus, but instead a prayer of my own device to Zeus, as king of the Gods and thus God of kings, and to Posiedon, the mythological father of Boeotus, for whom Boeotia was named.

As I crawl into bed, I turn on some music (an old habit going back to my childhood; when i was very young, my mother used to sing me to sleep, and later she got in the habit of putting on a record or turning on the radio), and then I wind my watch and my alarm clock. As I wind them, I say this prayer:

Holy Khronos, Father of Time, I ask that you see these ieces run as they should, and not a minute too fast or too slow,
And I ask that The Most Revered Moirai, Mothers of All Destinies, please see that i may have the honour to wind them again.

Shower Prayer to Asklepios & Hygaeia

So, here’s my shower ritual — everybody has one, mine just involves lighting a candle and saying a prayer:

*procession (head into bathroom)
*light candle at shrine to Asklepios & Hygaeia
*turn on water, sun a bar of strongly scented soap under tap to fill the room with the scent of lavender & anise (serious, that Zuma(?) slice-off stuff from Whole Foods is not only expensive enough to serve as an offering, but it’s got a strong enough smell that this is all you need to do to make the whole bathroom perfumed for hours)
*step into shower
*recite prayer as I wash

O Athanatoi,
Praise of the highest to Apollon, His son Asklepios, and to Hygaeia and Her sisters, daughters of the first doctor,
As I shampoo my hair, i ask that it be free of grit, superfluous oils, and excess dander,
As I condition my hair, I ask that it shine and be full of body, attractive enough to approach the Theoi who preside over the aesthetic arts,
As I wash my face, I ask that the pores be free of grit and excess oils, and that the hairs of my jawline and brow be pleasing to the Theoi of the aesthetic arts,
As I cleanse my body with mildly-scented soap, I ask that my skin be free of grit and excess oils,
I ask that my arms and shoulders be strong enough to display my virility when needed but yeild to the embrace of a lover,
I ask that my belly become full at no later than the necessary moment,
I ask that my back stand up to the demands of the day,
I ask that my legs and feet be strong enough to carry me on the day’s journeys,
And I ask that my groin and arse prove fulfilling to what-ever mortal man may lie with me, and even more so if he should prove a god in human form,
As i stand and rinse my body clean, I ask Hygaeia to kiss the water with her blessings,
And I ask the Moirai to see that I may enjoy this pleasure again tomorrow.