Every year on the fourteenth day of Skirophorion, from the time of Erechtheus (1397 - 1347 BC) to--at least--the second century AD, this odd ritual was reenacted. It was called the 'Bouphónia' (βουφόνια), and was part of another festival; the 'Dipolieia' (τὰ Διπολίεια), a feast in honor of Zeus Polieus (Zeus of the City).
Recently, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus created some online controversy by arguing that one of the “points” of modern Paganism is to “bring back the gods”. Lupus’ post was written in the context of a wider discussion about the place of Polytheism within contemporary Paganism, which began when several prominent Polytheists decided to disassociate themselves from the term “Pagan”. (For more on this see here and here.)
Part of the reason for the antipathy of many Polytheists for Paganism is the perception that for Pagans the gods are personifications of natural forces or Jungian archetypes, whereas for Polytheists the gods are, in Lupus’ words, “actual beings with independence, volition, and power”. Polytheistic practice, according to Lupus, “presupposes a definite being with volition and consciousness on the other end of the interaction.” In contrast, Jungian archetypes are often understood by Pagans as mere metaphors of of natural or psychological processes. A Polytheist who understands the archetypes in this way might well wonder why would anyone worship the creations of their own mind.
In the 1960s and 70s, Pagans seized onto Jung’s conception of archetypes as a way of legitimizing Pagan polytheism in the face of the crumbling claims to historical authenticity. In the process though, the gods of Paganism became psychologized, and they lost their numinous quality. (Numinosity refers, in part, to the mysterious “otherness” of an encounter with the divine.) The Pagan gods had become archetypes, but Pagans had lost the sense of the archetypes as gods. In reaction, many Polytheists in search of communion with numinous Others rejected Jungian Paganism in favor of a radical (or “hard”) polytheism which treats the gods as beings existing independent of the human psyche.
I believe that this rejection of Jungian archetypes is the result of a misunderstanding by many Pagans of Jung’s concept of archetypes. Jung would say that, while the gods may be a part of us, we must remember that they are also other than us, if by “us” we mean our conscious mind or ego-self. Thus, Jung could say that “the world of gods and spirits is truly ‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me”, and in the same breath say that “the collective unconscious is the world of gods and spirits outside me”. This is why Jung called the archetypes “gods” and compared the psyche to an “Olympus full of deities who want to be propitiated, served, feared and worshipped”. He wrote that moderns congratulate ourselves
"imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. [...] Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus."
The gods are not gone; they have just come home -- to the psyche....
On the second day of the new Hellenistic month, we give sacrifice to (the) Agathós Daímōn, on a day named after the 'Good Spirit'. It's an important practice, and I have come to realize I don't know enough about Agathós Daímōn to do His worship justice. This is why this Pagan Blog Project post delves into His worship.
The mythology, application and existence of the Agathós Daímōn (ἀγαθός δαίμων) is a bit of a muddled mess. When one researches the term, six basic premises emerge:
- The Agathós Daímōn is a Theos, married to the Theia Agathe Tyche (Ἀγαθή Τύχη, 'Good Fortune')
- The Agathós Daímōn is an epithet of Zeus, or linked to Zeus Kthesios and/or Zeus Melichios
- The Agathós Daímōn is linked Hermes Chthonius
- The Agathós Daímōn is a fertility daimon, tied to the harvest and prosperity from agriculture
- The Agathós Daímōn is a personal guardian spirit, either tied to the person, the family, or the oikos
- The Agathós Daímōn is the personification of a person's conscious, or even their muse
At dusk on January 8th, the Haloa (῾Αλῶα) festival starts. This ancient Hellenic festival was held in honor of Demeter, Dionysus and a little bit in honor of Persephone. Like all festivals of Demeter and Persephone's 'Kore' persona, women were the only ones who were allowed to handle the religious and sacrificial side of it.
The Haloa is part of the Mysteries, and thus linked to the festivals of Proirosia (5 Pyanepsion), Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), Thargelia (6-7 Thargelion), Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), Skirophoria (12 Skirophorion) and the Eleusinian Mysteries themselves, which were held 15-17/19-21 Boedromion. It was a rural festival, meaning it wasn't state-organized and widely spread, so most details are incredibly fuzzy. He're what we do know about it:
The Haloa is assumed to be a celebration of the pruning of the vines and the tasting of the wine after its first fermentation, or it may be to encourage the growth of corn from the seed. It is named after the hálōs (ἅλως), which means both threshing floor and garden. Since the first sense of the word would be inapplicable to a festival celebrated in January, scholars--including Nilsson in his 'Greek Popular Religion'--insist it must have been a gardening festival--with lots of wine and adult content.
The Hellenic pantheon literally has hundreds of Gods, Goddesses, Titans, nature spirits, heroes, kings and queens. Although the predominant Tradition within Hellenismos focusses mostly on the Big Twelve, Hades, Hestia and Hekate, Hellenic mythology is a true treasure trove of immortals. Most of these 'lesser' immortals get very little attention, and I'd like to change this. So, ever now and again, I'm going to introduce one of the lesser known immortals and try and find a place for them in modern Hellenistic worship, based off of their ancient Hellenic worship. Today, I'm introducing to you Hēlios (Ἥλιος), personification of the sun.
Crystal Blanton, over at Daughters of Eve, recently wrote a very moving blog post called 'Discovering my Inner, Nappy Headed Goddess', about her struggle to come to terms with her beautiful 'black woman hair'. In it, she addresses a sore point for the Pagan community, that I--as a long term polytheist--never understood: the Pagan need to whitewash every God and Goddess. Most deity images--especially those of women--depict the Goddess at hand as white, thin, with long, flowing hair, and wearing an equally flowing dress; even when the Goddess in question is most likely not white, thin, with long, flowing hair, and wearing an equally flowing dress. I quote from Blanton's post:
As promised, I’m beginning below the process of building a positive notion of the Divine, a constructive, systematic, theology. Of course, this is built on my own thoughts and views developed from my studies of science and the humanities, informed by the various theologies and narratives I have been exposed to. It is the output of that internal discussion and so I’m not constructing this as an argument, rather as something of a discursive story.
I presume your milage will vary, and well it should. I’m not writing this for you to agree with me (although you are welcome to), rather as an expression of my thoughts on the matter and as an example of one way to do this. We can debate forever, but at some point we need to make and here is my current product, ever subject to change. Frankly, you should do this for yourself, based on your own foundation. Nor do I claim the below is complete. I expect to be adding to it as time goes on and this is just the first layer. There are many issues with the Divine that need to be discussed but that won’t happen in one blog post. For now I simply invite you to read, reflect, and if you wish, respond.
Unless stated otherwise, nothing in this post is drawn from ancient sources. Most of it isn't even UPG. It's a thought exercise that popped into my head and won't leave anymore. To get it out, I'd better write it down and share. Way back when (when the Pagan Blog Project posts had only hit the 'G's), I wrote about genealogy of the Gods. I ended that post with the following:
I still feel that way. I still wish for a line that continues onto now. But, seeing as we don't have that, I'm going to make another mental leap. I'm going to see who of the Theoi would oversee some of the modern marvels, should They be willing to adopt them.
There are many well known chariots and charioteers in ancient Hellenic mythology. All of the Theoi have one, and Helios and Apollo use one to bring light to the world. Hades kidnapped Persephone with His. Pollux and Castor were very skilled at driving the fast, light, open, two-wheeled conveyance drawn by two or more horses. Helios lost a son when he let his son Phaethon (Φαέθων) drive his chariot for its morning track through the sky. Phaethon flew too close to the earth and scorched it all; Zeus then cast him down with a lightning-bolt. Yet, these are not the charioteers the constellation is associated with. In this next installment of the constellation series, we will look at the Divine child the constellation refers to... and a few others, because the constellation Auriga has had many interpretations over the years.
I talk about Delphi a lot; the place speaks to my imagination and every time I pull out my Tarot cards for a session, or ask Apollo to grand me a divinatory dream, my mind flashes back to it. I have written about how a session with the Pythia would go. I have also talked a lot about the Delphic Maxims, and some about the site of Delphi. What I haven't talked about a lot is its history...and its future. This is what I will do today.
As legend goes, a shepherd herded his flock up the side of Mount Parnassus. The sheep came upon a chasm and seemed to lose their minds. They started jumping around, and darting about. When the shepherd went to inspect the chasm, he fell under the influence of gasses that welled up from it. He lost all his worries and cared not about the time. He simply wished to remain there and gleam the knowledge he felt at the edges of his mind.
When he did not return, his family went to look for him. They took him home and put him to bed. Everyone was worried by his strange behavior, but he seemed to be calmer when the morning came. Yet, the shepherd's behavior had not returned to normal. He was able to foretell the future. Soon, word of the shepherd's ability, and the chasm, spread. People came from far away to either talk to the man or go to the source. Yet, those who visited the chasm lost their minds as well, and sometimes even jumped in the chasm.
Say the words "coloring book" and most people conjure childhood memories of kitchen tables or classroom desks covered in crayons, markers, or (if they were lucky) paint and brushes. Coloring books, with the rare exception, were and are targeted at children. In most cases, I am sure, the publishers are not specifically targeting a Pagan audience. Nonetheless, there is a large number of coloring books which will appeal to adults and children from a variety of Pagan paths. Those that deal with mythology and ancient history, in particular, can be great resources for parents and teachers, inspiring kids to ask questions about the hero or God or Goddess or culture before them.
I still love coloring books. Perhaps that makes me odd, but there is nothing quite like returning to a favorite childhood activity after a stressful day of adulthood. It is comforting and reassuring. My latest acquisition is The ABCs of Lesser-Known Goddesses: An Art Nouveau Coloring Book for Kids of All Ages by W Lyon Martin. The twenty-six Goddesses included here are from cultures all over the world: Roman (Aestas, Pax), Chibche (Bachue), Greek (Chimera, Leucothea, the Moerae, Nike), Chinese (The Dark Maid, Wang Mu), Celtic (Flidais, Gula), Hittitte (Hannahanna), Cherokee (Igaehindvo), Semitic (Jerah), Egyptian (Kebechet, Opet), Incan (Quinoa-Mama), Hindu (Raka, Ushas, Vasudhara), Shinto (Tatsuta-Hime), Aztec (Xochiquetzal), Aboriginal (Yhi) and Russian (Zorya). I will definitely be doing research on some of these Goddesses.
Dover is one of the big coloring book publishers. Among my favorites in their mythology line are Goddesses Coloring Book, Greek Gods and Goddesses, Norse Gods and Goddesses, The Adventures of Ulysses, Gods of Ancient Egypt, and Celtic Gods and Heroes. They also have an entire line of stained-glass coloring books, which can be great fun to tear out and hang in the window....
I’ve very grateful for all of the on- and off-blog posts to me about the question of evil. It is gratifying to know that I’m being read. Before we go deeper into specific subjects, I want to take a step back and gain some perspective on our project. This blog is an experiment in what is technically called Systematic Theology. It is systematic in that it endeavors to cover core issues pertaining to a religious tradition, here Pagan, in an orderly, coherent, where appropriate rational, and hopefully complete way. This is different from Practical Theology, which has to do with applying theology to life (although we’ll do some of that too). Practical theology has a variety of sub-disciplines like pastoral, political or liturgical theologies, dealing with theology in the context of the practitioner’s service to a population, or in application to political or social discourse, or with respect to ritual practice, respectively. But now, I want to talk about the idea of theology itself.
I am a Latin teacher currently (and laboriously) working my way toward a PhD in Classics. I read a lot of Latin texts (in Latin and usually with quite a bit of cussing along the way as I attempt to untangle classical Latin syntax). Fortunately, for the most part, I enjoy this and one of the tangential elements that I find particularly satisfying in my studies is occasionally coming across an interesting reference to ancient Roman [polytheistic] religion along the way. It happens a lot and for all that I am Heathen, not a practitioner of Religio Romana, I find that every time I read about how a man or woman, raised in Roman culture, steeped in its religion honored his or her Gods, I find my own practices enriched.
When I started in Classics I was told (by a PhD candidate) that no one really understands Roman religion. I admit to being a bit taken aback. It always made perfect sense to me: honor your ancestors, honor the living spirit of your city, its genus loci, maintain the proper household and public rituals, and live in a world where everything has its spirit, everything is alive. It made perfect sense to me and I’ll tell you why: for all of their diversity, polytheistic religions – which are indigenous religions-- seem, in my opinion, to share a common thread, one quite alien to monotheistic thought; that common thread is rooted not just in a polytheistic and by extension pluralistic worldview, but in one that is, to greater or lesser degree, animist....
In the spirit of sharing more about the Hellenic festivals, I'm combining two of the coming ones in this post; three if you count a reference to a past one I hadn't talked about yet. Like I said on Sunday, I really only pay special attention to the festivals that resonate with me. This is not picking-and-choosing--because I try to at least offer libations to the stars of every single festival--but simply a matter of practicality.
I have to accept that I am a solitary Hellenic, which is a bit of an oxymoron. Like being a solitary Wiccan, being a solitary Hellenic is really not possible. Hellenismos is a community religion, like most of the Recon Traditions. Yes, you can focus solely on household worship, but in my view of the religion, you're practicing only half of it if you do that. The festivals made up a huge part of ancient Hellenic worship. With around ten festivals that took place outside of the home every month, it's hard to ignore that they mattered very much.
I feel it's very important to honor the festivals in my own small way, and I have come to realize that the festivals really make me long for a Hellenic community of my own. For a lot of the festivals, the entire city or town--especially in Athens--celebrated. Men, women, children, slaves, free men, everyone. There were special festivals for nearly all of them. Two women-only festivals were the Stenia and the Thesmophoria.
Have you ever felt like you're missing out on most of the magick? As if everyone else seems to have magick in their lives all the time and seems so happy about, but you aren't sure how you achieve that while remaining true to your authentic self? I've been there! I know what you mean, although I believe that what you're specifically looking for is unique to each person, I can say with certainty that there is at least a basic formula to get on the right path.
Of all the differences between Recon paths and other (Neo-)Pagan paths, I think the notion of hubris is the most controversial. Sure, everyone who works with Them, respects the Gods but there is a big difference in the respect--and fear--level between Recons and non-Recons.
I'm not exactly sure how this is for other Recon paths but for Hellenismos, avoiding hubris is the foundation of faith. Hubris, in dictionary terms, means excessive pride or arrogance and comes from the Greek (hýbris, ὕβρις). For me, hubris is not an adjective but a verb. It describes the act of willful or ignorant refusal to comply by the will of the Gods.
Within Hellenismos, the Gods rule supreme. We are here to serve and honor Them, and in return, They provide us with what we need to survive. This practice of kharis is one of the pillars of Hellenismos. But it's there in all other pillars as well.
I have written before about the differences between general (Neo-)Wiccan/Witchcraft Traditions and Reconstruction. In that blog post, I focussed on the practical, on the part you can see. This is not the most important part of Reconstruction Traditions, though. It's a part of it, but it only exists because of a mental component. It's this component I want to talk about today.
In general, 'reconstruction' is the practice of rebuilding something. This can be a crime-scene, a broken vase or any number of things. In Paganism, Reconstruction means the practice of reviving lost religious, social and practical practices from a specific time period or people. It is not that different from reconstructing a vase, actually, and I will be using that analogy a lot today.
Imagine this; long ago, a potter made a vase. He needed to make one because he had something which needed a holder. He shaped it in a specific form, inspired by his culture and need, and when the shape was done, he decorated it with imagery that was also culturally inspired. Somewhere over the years, the vase broke into a dozen pieces. There was no need for that particular vase anymore, so no one put it back together. Now, people need a holder again, and it seems logical to put the original holder back together instead of making a new one, because the first one functioned very well. They realize that in order to put the vase back together, they need to understand the culture and whatever was going on in the head of the potter who made it; without that knowledge, they won't be able to figure out how the pieces fit together and they can't restore the imagery without knowing what the potter created in the first place.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen the inside of a lot of museums. The summer holidays do that to my life. About half of those museums were museums focussing on the Greek, Roman, Egyptian and/or Islamic periods in our history. Needless to say, the Greek parts interested me most.
I saw pieces of temples to Artemis and Athena, visited the Pergamon and marveled at a lot of pottery from ancient Greece. It was marvelous... and I felt no religious connection to any of it. In fact, I was shocked at how little connection I felt to it at all. It was as if the many visitors had sucked every drop of authenticity from the very stone. As if the worship which took place on and around these stones lost even the echo of their previous function. Worse still, I looked for clues on how to practice my religion and found none.
Seeing these relics of the past drove home just how lost the ancient Greek religion is to us. It cemented my resolve to revive it in a form which fits into this cultural framework. I also realized there is no going back to the past. The temples of old are gone. The grander of those days is lost to us and that is a depressing thought.