Baring the Aegis: Hellenismos
Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.
This blog focusses entirely on Hellenismos, and I have been writing about it on my own blog for quite some time. Because I will update my Pagan Square blog alongside my own, it might be handy for newcomers to have a bit of a Hellenismos 101 session; this way, the terms make sense and the basic belief system is a little bit clearer. Because of this, I have compiled a Hellenic primer out of various blog posts to give you an idea of what you're in for on this blog.
- What is Hellenismos?
- Is it Pagan?
- What are the pillars of Hellenismos?
- What's with all the terms?
What is Hellenismos?
Hellenismos (Ἑλλήνισμος) is the modern reconstruction of the ancient Greek religion. It focusses on the worship of the Twelve Olympic Gods--Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hephaistos, Apollo, Artemis, Demeter, Dionysos, Hermes, Ares, Poseidon and Aphrodite--along with Hades and Hestia. Most Hellenists honor other types of divinities, including nature spirits (like Pan, Gods of rivers and Gods of the wind directions), Chthonic Deities (like Persephone and Hekate), and heroes (like the Argonauts). We tend to be hard polytheists although I'm sure there are some soft or middle hard polytheists walking about.
Hellenismos is known for its highly developed ethical system, derived from ancient scripture like the Delphic Maxims, as well as scholarly works like the Homeric Hymns, the Tenets of Solon, the Ethics of Aristotle (1,2), the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, the Philosophy of Epicurus, the Stoics, Works and Days by Hesiod and many, many others.
I think Hellenismos often has the image of being stuffy and boring, focussed more on acquiring knowledge than actual practice. In my experience, this is plainly wrong. Yes, you're expected to read through the works mentioned above, as well as some of the greats like the Ilias, the Odyssey and the Orphic Hymns but when your interest is with this pantheon and the stories that depict them, this is no punishment at all. Also, there are actually daily rituals one is encouraged to perform as well as at least seven or eight libations, festivals or dedicatory moments to observe throughout a single month.
Is it Pagan?
Well... yes. It is. Sort of. So I still call myself Pagan but only in the sense of the umbrella term that Paganism has become; a practitioner of a non-Abrahamic faith who has adopted the Pagan banner. There are, however, many differences between the Neo-Wiccan framework that has become synonymous with Paganism and Hellenismos. Amongst other things;
- Hellenics don't 'work with' the Gods, they honor Them and provide offerings in the hopes of establishing a system of reciprocity
- There is a lot more to study and there's very little 'winging it' involved in Hellenismos as compared to my previous practice
- (Almost) no borrowing from other pantheons or systems allowed
- There's no magick (this is not entirely true as the term has a different meaning but any low magick becomes high magick in Hellenismos)
- Nature and ecological activism are a lot less important in Hellenismos than in non-reconstructionist religions (but see nature spirits above)
- No Calling Corners, no Circle work, no Cakes and Ale/Wine; Hellenistic ritual followes a very simple structure: procession, purification, Hymns, sacrifice/offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks, feast and, on occasion, games or competitions
- Daily practice in Hellenismos focusses on the home, the hearth and family
- There is no (well, very little) clergy as clergy was of very limited importance in ancient Greece. As a result, there are no degrees one can get, no certificate. You either are (by following all the above) or you're not
- There is a full body of work to practice from in Hellenismos and you are expected to do so
What are the pillars of Hellenismos?
As a post later this week will show; there are many ideas about the pillars of Hellenismos, myself, I have four:
- Eusebeia (εὐσέβεια): literally: 'right conduct in regard to the gods', translated today with the word 'piety'
- Katharmos (Καθαρμός): the act of being ritually clean
- Kharis (xάρις): the act of giving to the Gods so They might give something in return
- Xenia (ξενία): ritual hospitality
What's with all the terms?
Hellenismos focusses on the reconstruction of ancient Greek Traditions. I find it important to use the proper terminology. There will be a lot of it in my blog, simply because it's part of the fun of reconstructing a religion.
With all the introductions now done, I will start blogging with actual content tomorrow. Baring the Aegis on Pagan Square will update about 3-5 times a week, while I update my own blog once every day. The discrepancy comes not from not liking you guys, but because I want to keep this blog solely Hellenic. On my blog, I tend to discuss some aspects of Neo-Paganism as well, although always from a Hellenic standpoint. If you're looking for a daily read, check there, else please come back to my Pagan Square blog for Hellenic blog posts only.
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