Painting

It’s been a while since I’ve done a painting for the theoi — perhaps tellingly, my last one is Narkissos, left unfinished after my surgery in 2008 went awry.

I’ve been feeling the push to paint again quite recently, and the image I’m getting is for Britannia, and will most likely be in watercolours — indeed, one of the main things holding me back this last week is the search for where I unpacked my watercolours to.

“But Ruadhán!” you might wish to interject with, “That’s not a Hellenic goddess!”

Well, I suppose in the strictest sense, you’d be correct, but my reasons include ancestor-worship (definitely an ancient Hellenic practise) and the name “Britain” ultimately comes from Hellenic etymology. Of course, I’m only really justifying myself in public because I’m sure my #1 fan would love nothing more than to use this and the forthcoming painting as “evidence” that I’m somehow “not practising Hellenic religion/reconstruction” anymore, possibly ever (as he’s done this to others in the past, for lesser reasons) — which is hilarity-on-a-stick, true, but best to make such lunacy apparent from the start, den eínai?

My envisioning of Britannia is based part in the traditional Roman and part in the Mod subculture, and may even seem reminiscent of a certain scene from Derek Jarman’s Jubilee — and I’m sure at this point, you probably have the same mental image I do, especially if you’re familiar with my painting style.

One thing that I regret not posting about this year is my ritual and prayer for my re-envisioning of Shrove Tuesday as Pancake Feast of Britannia and St. Patrick’s Day as Bacon & Cabbage Feast of Hibernia. I intend to remedy this, but at a more seasonally-appropriate future time.

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So, I was dicking around on Theoi.com a couple days ago….

…and I entered in “Boeotia” in the search engine on there. First time I’d done that, actually. Really weird how I’ve used that site as a resource for YEARS and been gravitating further and further into Boeotian-specific religion, and I’d never done that before. Now, I’m putting this here rather than in Of Thespiae because my search basically proved me right about something else I’d posted here seemingly ages ago:

My babble about the nymphai poleis isn’t that far off-base.

It seems most, if not all, Boeotian cities are named for a nymphe. Thespiae (now Thespis) is named for Thespia. Thebes named for Thebe. And on and on. You know what this means? It means I’m right — and not just right, technically right — the best kind of “right” there is.

I admit, I feel a little stupid now — this would seem like a pretty remedial thing to learn, but there you go. It’s things like this, the “confirmed personal gnosis”, that lead me to believe that Eros has a master plan in this, somehow.

Urban Spirituality in song

One of the things that I love about the songs of Marc Almond is that so many of his songs celebrate the urban energy. “City of Nights“, “Waifs & Strays“, “Urban Velvet”, “Gutter Hearts” — these four songs especially strike me as celebrating of a unique kind of urban spirituality that’s very transcendent. It even transpires across religion (last I knew, Marc Almond was a member of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan), which shows me just how real the urban spirits actually are.

There are very few songs that touch on this kind of energy adequately — and even fewer coming from openly Pagan and Polytheist musicians. There are plenty of songs that are about specific cities, a handful of them are even good, but rare is the song that is both generalised (I could really care fuck all about New York, N.Y.) and so perfect in celebrating the energy of urban life.

If I accomplish nothing else as a musician, I wish to write just one song that celebrates the urban spirits even half as well as Marc Almond’s work.

Urban Hellenistai & Food Sacrifices

A question I see coming up frequently enough on Hellenic lists concerns food sacrifices. Many of the responses are impractical for urban dwellers, but some are actually very practical.

First off, let me state that in Hellenic practises, food sacrifices are a tradition that goes back to ancient worship. In ancient times, there were two kinds of food sacrifices: offering of a small portion or whole serving of food to non-Cthonic deities; and the offering of the whole of the servings to the Cthonic deities, sometimes with the adage “What the Underworld receives is [Theirs] — They Below receive all in full, because it is NOT our time and we are not ready to sup at Their table just yet.” Many food offerings were burned in the hearth of the home, or the hearth of the polis during large community fests and rituals, some weren’t. Some temples had designated areas for perishable (food) and non-perishable offerings, and sometimes when the perishables would stack up, they would be carted away to a separate area just outside the city — sort of a “landfil” to the Theoi.

Some urban homes still have working fireplaces, though those are less common, these days. If you live in a house or apartment that has a working fireplace, by all means, feel free to burn your offerings safely there. All that’s required is that you know how to operate your fireplace safely.

If you have a backyard, many urban-dwellers these days have a small designated “composting” area where food-waste is casually dumped and biodegredation is assisted with the help of red worms. This option is essentially keeping with the ancient temple practise, only on a smaller scale for your house. If you have a backyard and you know another Hellenist who does not, you can also feel free to invite them to use your “Divine composting heap” for food sacrifices; they can accumulate food offerings in a large snap-locking container (Rubbermaid or Tupperware are familiar brands) that they can keep in the fridge or under the sink. This will also help in aiding the development of an Hellenic community in your area, and community was very important in ancient practises, and is something that can be maintained today, with people who wish to cultivate it. Also keep in mind that, if you rent your house rather than own it, composting may be something restricted by your landlord, so be sure to read your lease or call them, first.

If you’re all alone, or neither you nor anyone else in your local Hellenic community can volunteer a backyard compost, another idea is to compost indoors. Some places sell composting containers for people in apartments or houses with small backyards, but anything conceivably large enough, like a 30lb bucket the previously held kitty-litter, can work. You’ll need both a container of appropriate sie, a few red composting worms, and (optionally to some, required to others) a base of potting soil. If you garden indoors or out, the resultant compost can be used for that — or if you don’t do that, this can get you started — after all, there is absolutely no shortage of plant-life sacred to the Theoi, and much of it can be grown indoors.

Other options I’ve seen from others include:

  • Have a separate trash receptacle for food sacrifices. I don’t like this, but I can understand it’s practicality for one who doesn’t have the time, patience, or skills for indoor gardening.
  • If you have a gas cooker, but no fireplace, burn your sacrifice under the broiler. I’ve done this on rare occasion. It can take forever, and if you’re not careful, it may set off your smoke-alarms. If you have non-Hellenic room-mates, be sure to make sure to use basic courtesies before burning a sacrifice under a communal broiler.
  • Some suggest eating it oneself, citing references to Egyptian priests doing such. This may not be appropriate if you do not wish to incorporate Kemetic worship or practises into your own.
  • Some state that they just leave the food sacrifices outside, bury it, or place it in trees. This may not be practical or even possible for many urban-dwellers. It may also be grounds for eviction in some apartment complexes.
  • Some have even suggested placing a serving of a meal in a plain paper lunch sack and leaving it at a city crossroads for Hekate or some One else. Others have suggested giving the meal to a homeless person as an offering to her.

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to comment with them.

Or if you have a funny story about leaving or otherwise making a food sacrifice to the Theoi, then by all means, let me know! I’m still fighting off this awful cold for another day, so maybe a laugh will help that out.

Blog Mission for 2009

I just read Blog Mission and Goals in the New Year on KALLISTI: An Apple in Pandemonium (probably my favourite Hellenismos blog, yes, even preferred over my own; add it to your blogroll if you haven’t, already) and figured that, in the midst of various New Year’s Resolutions for myself, it would be a good idea to make a similar post for this blog.

While I share many of Annyikha’s sentiments (especially the underlined portion of her post), my goal and mission for Urban Hellenistos is to be as unique a voice for Hellenismos as practical. I don’t want UH to basically regurgitate the sake dissections and commentaries of other Hellenismos and Hellenismos-related blogs. Blogs such as KALLISTI, Ramblings of a Mad Sannion [from a Graeco-Egyptian blogger], and others listed in my sidebar already provide content that I enjoy reading, so unless I have something wholly different to say about an item, I will trust my readers to go read other blogs and assume that I generally agree with what’s already been said perfectly well by somebody else in the English-language Hellenic blogosphere.

While UH (and Of Thespiae) is predominantly anecdotal and based on my personal practises and beliefs, I aim to maintain my focus on cities, urban life, and topics related to urban people and urban-focused paganism. One goal I hope to meet this year is to finally get around to reviews and critiques of a few books on my “Things to Read” list, and relate how their content applies to Hellenismos or at least could be applied to Hellenismos by people living in modern cities — after all, current census counts seem to be stating that more people (by ratio) are living in cities now than ever before, making the current (albeit, still currently small) attention paid to the topic of urban-based spirituality seem long-overdue. Who better to sing the praises of urban Hellenic spirituality than somebody who actually enjoys prefers living in cities? (Unlike certain authors of books on “urban paganism” who outright prefer rural living.) I will welcome attempts of those who feel they can do better than I can when speaking of urban-based spirituality; though I shall leave it up to the readers of this and other sources to determine who puts urban-based (and urban-biased) spirituality best; I have no interest in a “pagan blogger pissing contest”, but I do feel that, at this time, I can do the urban population of the Hellenismos community some degree of justice by saying what I can, in the best way that I can.

To meet this goal, I intend to at least touch on certain topics related to urban spirituality:

  • utilising the benefits of living in cities to best serve Hellenistai
  • make the hindrances of urban living work in favour of Hellenistai
  • further discuss the urban aspects of the Theoi, Daimones and Heroes of the Hellenic pantheon
  • stress the historical importance of urban life in ancient Hellas and making comparisons and contrasts with modern Hellenic practise

Nothing too lofty, you see, but goals I feel that, if and when made, can prove to be of further benefit to the Hellenismos community. After all, among the few things I have had a life-long love-affair with, I think that bringing together both urban living and the Hellenic religion is something that definitely seems to be working for me so far (and in the event that I may be proved wrong, may the Theoi give me the strength to acknowledge that I’ve been bested by another).

Respect for Local Nymphai

I currently live in a small city; I prefer living in large cities, but many of the mechanics of living in a smaller one are essentially the same. When I fill my bath (on occasion, I do have a bath), the whole bathroom smells of chlorine, “city water”. Still, this water, though heavily treated, comes from a natural source.

In my kitchen, despite numerous attempts to have maintenance employees for my apartment complex here to fix it, has a dripping sink faucet. It drips, well, a lot. I also buy a lot of springwater cos I have a mild intolerance to ingesting fluoride, which makes the dripping faucet even more trying on any guilty feelings I had about it in the first place, since I’d rather not drink this water. It does, though, render me with an abundance of 1-gallon water jugs which has inspired me to put this dripping water to good use. Unlike a rural person, my water is not coming from a well and is not very easily recycled back into the earth (though, unlike what some oddly seem to prefer believing, it does get recycled).

Basically, I keep one jug positioned under the kitchen sink faucet to catch drip. When one jug is filled, I quickly place a new jug back under it and put the filled jug in the area with the rest of my water reserves. I use these reserves of water for many things around the apartment. Some of it, I clean with. I’ll fill up the cats’ water dishes with it. Water my plants with it. Use it in cooking. Fill my humidifiers in the winter. My room-mate drinks it, and in an emergency, I will, too. I prefer to use locally-bottled spring-water for rituals, as well, but this will do in a pinch, as well.

Though treated, I don’t believe that this treatment can remove the essential “essence” from the nymphai at its source. Some rural-inclined pagans I’ve spoken to seem to lean toward thinking so (though, I admit, this is a conclusion I’ve come to based on some round-about answers from them, when asked) or just stand mute on the subject, but I think that such thinking implies that humanity can be more powerful than these “lesser Goddesses” or terrestrial spirits/daimones, or whatever one prefers to think of the Nymphai as.

I don’t believe that there is anything that humanity can do to remove their divinity from that which is sacred to them, the Naiades, I believe, do not abandon this chlorinated, fluoridated water as it leaves the processing system and enters the city water system, I believe that perhaps they cannot more than simply don’t. It’s still freshwater from a freshwater source, and thus I believe that they still want it to go to a good use, so to honour them, I do what I can to put it to good use. If I just let it drip down the sink drain and let it recycle back into Ann Arbor’s water system, it would be like saying “sorry, Naiades, but I had no immediate use for this water, so I couldn’t be arsed to do anything with it! Better luck next time!” It would also be dishonest, as there are obviously many things that I can do with this water, so I save it for those things.

The more I think of it, the more I realise how considering my inclinations towards cities has enriched my reverence of the “natural” Theoi and daimones of the Hellenic pantheon. As I’ve said before in this blog, I don’t believe that human cities are more “unnatural” than rustic areas, no more so than a beehive or an ant colony, anyway. I believe that it’s all interconnected, and that they each benefit the other, in their own ways. If anything, this has made me realise how inherently Apollonian my practises are, as my beliefs in the context of being a city worshipper are about seeking a balance, a moderation if you will, between the human worlds on Gaia’s terrain. As much as I love the bustling metropoloi of this modern world, I’ve simply become more-conscious of how interconnected these worlds within this world are connected to the rustic worlds of this world. That’s such a beautiful thing to see.

And now, on a more personal note….

When I decided to do this blog, a bunch of things were going through my head.

First, I thought that urban-based and (shudder to think) pro-urban spirituality was something that had a relatively small voice in the greater Pagan and Polytheist community, and a small voice that often appeared to be “silenced” by the wealth of pro-rustic voices out there. If you’re somebody who has spent more than a fortnight in the Pagan/Polytheist/Witch community (and if you’re reading this, chances are good that you’ve at least spent that much time doing that), then you at least have an idea of how much rural worship and rural worship advocacy is out there, and how even some rather prominent voices in the Pagan and Polytheist community have said things like “true Pagans prefer worshipping in a rural setting” and “no real Pagan likes a concrete and iron landscape”. This can be upsetting, disheartening, and downright offensive to “those to whom the city speaks”. I love cities; I was born and raised in metro-Detroit* and I honestly find the hum of the nearby El trains in Chicago some of the most soothing sounds and sleep much easier during the week or two each year I’m in Chicago than the quiet suburban hum of Ann Arbor, Michigan. I felt that urban paganism needed a voice and, since I’m an Hellenic polytheist, I would keep my knowledge and experiences to that, just because I don’t think it’s a good idea for one to talk outside of one’s circles of expertise.

Secondly, based on the small amount of knowledge that I have of other Pagan religions, Hellenic polytheism seems especially well-suited to urban people. In ancient times, all of the biggest and best-kept temples were in the hearts of the cities. Yes, the traditions that were maintained longer (some of which even survive to this day with only the tiniest superficial changes), were maintained in rural areas, but that fact alone does not diminish the fact that city dwellers played a *huge* part in the growth and evolution of the Hellenic polytheistic religion and Theos-centred cults in the ancient world.

I also wanted to just… have a voice within the comparatively small Hellenic polytheistic community. The more voices that are out there, the better-defined the religion becomes.

Now, having this blog on WordPress.com has a few advantages — one of these is simply the fact that blog hit stats and incoming link sources are automatically counted with almost no real effort from my end. I will return to this point momentarily.

Like many bloggers who feel that they have something to say that’s worth saying, I did a small amount of linking this blog on other sites, but my efforts in that, due to my severe distaste for “spamming” practises, was reserved to a few e-mail lists that I’m on, my personal web-diary, and a message board that I read and post to periodically. I didn’t make a huge effort. In fact, I expected most of my readers would be people that I regularly spoke to on these fora already, most of whom already knew about my practises and about my love for large urban areas.

What I didn’t expect, in one month’s time, was to go and check my “incoming links” list, as I do every week, and find readers in Brazil who (after deciphering the Portugese on Bablefish) seem very enthusiastic about this blog. 🙂 This makes me very happy.

Maybe it’s a bit egotistical to say something about this so soon? After all, my first post to this blog was only made on October 4th of this year, but it’s still something that I found impressive and very flattering nonetheless. I’m very glad that somebody from outside of the major English-speaking countries I mainly converse on-line with (being the United $tates, Canada, the UK, and Australia) is excited enough about this blog to make a post about it on their own. I hope she doesn’t mind, but if you can read Portugese (or are at least willing to run her blog through Bablefish or Google Languages), check out Louro brotando (Urban Hellenistos has been added under “Links”).


*OK, technically I was born and mostly-raised in Toledo, Ohio (until my father remarried a Quaker woman with a chicken farm in rural Michigan — where I went to high school); but if you’re familiar enough with the urban Midwestern U$, you know that Toledo, Ohio is to Detroit what Gary, Indiana is to Chicago.