Pagan Paths

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.

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Post-apocalyptica and I

I woke up this morning with absolutely zero inspiration. It happens every once in a while when you write a blog post every day and try not to work ahead as much as possible. Zero inspiration gives me the opportunity to look around and find something that I simply love to do, to read or to watch and blog about that. As I've been on a Falling Skies binge lately, trying to fill the void of the Olympics, that show fueled this post, although it's not much about that show.

Falling Skies, if you will indulge me the introduction, revolves around the survivors of an alien invasion as they deal with the constant threat of the aliens, the threat of humanity driven to the brink, and the challenges of reconstructing civilization.

I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories and a big fan of their respective series, movies and books. Anything from Falling Skies, The Walking Dead, Carriers, Resident Evil, The Hunger Games, The Books of Amber (books preferred), The Stand, Dark Angel, and The Book of Eli, to games like Fallout, books like Orson Welles' War of the Worlds and even T.V. series like Lost. But it's not all about entertainment; it's about a very important (religious) question: what would you do?

If civilization as we know it came to an end right now, what would you do? How prepared are you? I admit that people with a gun might have a tad better odds of survival than myself, well, at least if the world goes to hell in hand basket due to some kind of alien invasion or zombie apocalypse which renders any rebuilding of a government useless. If our civilization's downfall is more a matter of our economy crashing, the power switching off permanently, global war, or something as basic as an epidemic that kills all but a few... well... then that gun might come in handy but the government would remain intact and it's probably more important that your mortgage is paid off.

I didn't want to write about violence, though. If pushed to the brink, we will all do things we might never have expected of ourselves. I'm not diluted enough to say that, when presented with a world like that, any reservations about guns I might have will go right out the window. If pressed to survive or die, I would fight to survive, no matter the cost. No, I'm musing about the times in-between fights, about the difficult decisions, about dealing with other people. If you could only carry a single backpack with you, and most of that space was reserved for food and an extra pair of undies, would you sacrifice precious space for religious items? Would your religious items be the first in the pack?

I've been trying to imagine myself in that type of situation and see which of my practices would survive. Many of them would be improvised, of that I'm sure. I have spoken before about the importance of finding the base of your faith. The items I use now, are mostly too heavy to lug around. The clay offering bowl, the jug for khernips, the ethanol I use to burn my daily food offerings, I would not be taking those with me if survival meant constant travel. I'd try for some barley but I'm not sure my supply would hold out or if I wouldn't get hungry enough to eat it. Incense? Not likely. My flame keeping I would let go of right away but I would try and have a candle burning for prayers and offerings. Dragging along a candle or a few tea lights and a matchbook would be a small sacrifice.

But I guess it's the little things that matter; what's on your mind. For me that would mean staying ethical, staying kind to strangers, sharing what little I have and offering praise and sacrifice to the Gods. I don't think I would lose faith but unless you're in that situation, well... there is no way of knowing, is there? On Falling Skies, there is a young Christian woman who continues to practice her faith despite raised eyebrows. She says grace before her meals, she prays for the wounded, she goes to church meetings on Sunday. She is grateful for every day, even the bad ones. She finds glimmers of hope.

I think religion in a situation like that, post-apocalyptica, you either lose faith or lose yourself in it. There are no half measures. You either believe, through the hardship, through the loss, through the pain to see beyond it, or you give up on Him/Her/Them. I think that happened for a lot of religious people after the first and second world wars; they couldn't imagine that their God(s) had abandoned them in such a way, and so they stopped believing. Or they resented Him/Them so, that they could not bring themselves to worship Him/Them any longer.

As for Hellenismos; the Gods have always chosen sides. Look at Troy; on the side of the Greeks were Athena, Hera, Hephaestus, Poseidon and Hermes. On the side of the Trojans were Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares and Artemis. Zeus, Demeter, Hestia and Hades remained neutral. As for a post-apocalyptic world right now; They would probably be on the side of humanity in case of an alien invasion but beyond that, all bets are off as far as I'm concerned. There would be a lot of appeasing from me, of that I am sure.

I know there is a Pagan consensus on not evangelizing but I feel no reservation about evangelizing about Hellenismos. I would most likely try and offer faith to those who have lost theirs. Religion is a binding force, a  force that can push your spirits upwards, provide courage, stability and hope. It makes one feel special, protected. It might just get you through another day when the world around you is falling apart.

Of course, the event of a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion is unlikely, but with the economy as it is, civilization won't be going through a good time any time soon. The economy hasn't collapsed yet, but it might, and I'm not knowledgeable enough to imagine what the world will look like when it does. What about when we run out of fossil fuel? Everything we depend upon runs on that. What if traveling long distances became impossible? How would the world change?

These stories present the far end of the scale, but we're moving further up the scale every day. It's a good thing to get your priorities straight even without taking a dive off into the deep end of conspiracy theories. As for me, practically, there is not much I can do right now. If civilization ends tomorrow, I'm in for a world of hurt. I have nothing to my name, no practical survival skills to speak of. I have my faith and my mind. I'm a quick learner and I have hope. It will have to do; if I lose faith, I have nothing to get me through another day. So that is why I can't imagine losing it; I would need it too much.

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Elani Temperance is a twenty-seven year old woman, who lives with her partner in The Netherlands. She has been Pagan for a little over twelve years and has explored Neo-Wicca, Technopaganism, Hedge Witchery and Eclectic Religious Witchcraft before progressing to Hellenismos. Although her home practice is fully Hellenic, she has an online Neo-Pagan magazine called 'Little Witch magazine' (www.littlewitchmagazine.com) in which she and several co-writers try to cover the whole gamut of Neo-Paganism. Baring the Aegis is also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BaringTheAegis

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