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.

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Elani Temperance

Elani Temperance

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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Hospitality in ancient Hellenic was a complicated ritual within both the host and the guest has certain roles to fill and tasks to perform. Especially when someone unknown to the host came to the door, the ritual held great value. The host had and has many tasks in his process, but the guest had/has an important part to play as well: the guest is expected to be courteous and not be a burden to the host. The house was a sanctuary in ancient Hellas with a lot of social rules attached to it. Guests could not enter certain parts of the house, and male guests were kept away from women at all times. Long term guests had a slightly different status, as they became part of the oikos, but they were still subject to restrictions when it came to social an religious behaviour. This practice was known as 'xenia' (ξενία), and we'll be talking about a very special version of it today: xenia related to Gods and heroes.

Xenia is described a lot in mythology. Especially the more general form of it where Theoi disguising themselves as beggars or undesirables and come to the door of an unsuspecting mortal features in many myths. The host is judged on the hospitality offered; good things befall those who treat guests with respect, very bad things befall those who do not. One of my favorite Hellenic myths shows this in great detail; it's the story of how Baucis and Philemon received some unexpected visitors. You can read the myth here.

Theoxenia is a little different, it's a specific ritual meant to bring the Gods closer to us and invite Them into our home. Heroxenia is the same practice, but for the heroes of Hellenic mythology. In short, theoxenia and heroxenia were a kind of Hellenic sacrifice in which worshippers presented foodstuffs to Gods or heroes (not usually at the same time, or at least not at the same table), who then attended the meal as guests, or xenoi.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, That's great! I really like these rituals. Thanks for sharing!

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I'm so out of touch with the greater Pagan community--especially the American one--that I might as well have been living under a rock the past few months. Every now and again, however, news seeps down to me, and yesterday I was suddenly confronted with the news of Kenny Klein's arrest on multiple counts of possessing child pornography.

I don't know Klein; I've read some of his posts on PaganSquare, and I've heard others talk about him, but I have never exchanged words with him, not even written ones. I can make no statement to his character beyond his now-tainted image. I don't know anything about Kenny Klein, and yet the news of his arrest and the charges for which he will be brought to court have hit me harder than I would have expected it to.

The Wild Hunt has a relatively complete account of the circumstances, so for anyone wishing to know more about this situation, I would kindly ask you to read up there as I feel no need to repeat Jason's hard work. As of this moment, Klein is not convicted of anything, so I won't comment on his guilt--one way or another--but I do want to comment on the greater ramifications of a Pagan Elder being charged with not only possession of child pornography, but also facing multiple testimonies of people who have felt intimidated and unsafe in his presence during festivals. If you read the article, you will see accounts of many people uncomfortable by his push for physical contact despite being told 'no', and one person even testified to keeping an eye on any kids around Klein long before this turn of events on Wednesday.

This is the part where I warn you about triggers for abuse, rape, rape culture and (male) privilege.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Yes, it is a great piece. And it applies to people of all faiths. Years ago I was a member of a New Thought Church in which "hug
  • Courtney Weber
    Courtney Weber says #
    This is a great piece--thank you for sharing this. I really resonate with the "entitlement" aspect that comes in touchy-huggy Circ
  • Tabitha
    Tabitha says #
    Excellently said!!!
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, I couldn't agree more. I myself am a solitary worshipper, but I've seen enough harassment in the workplace over t

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I've gotten a few messages about reincarnation and how--and if--it relates to Hellenism. Time to talk about it. The idea of reincarnation probably dates back to the Iron Age (so around 1200 BC.). It enters the Hellenic stream of thought and philosophy around the 6th century BC, although there is mention of the theoretical subject in pre-Socratic philosophy.

The ancient Hellenes most likely did not use the word 'reincarnation'; 'Metempsychosis' (μετεμψύχωσις) is a better word for the phenomenon they believed in. It is a philosophical term in the Hellenic language which refers to the transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. The notion that the human soul enters another body upon death, though unfamiliar in Hellenic religion, was widespread in Hellenic philosophy. The doctrine of transmigration is first associated with the Pythagoreans and Orphics and was later taught by Plato and Pindar. For the former groups, the soul retained its identity throughout its reincarnations; Plato indicated that souls do not remember their previous experiences. Although Herodotus claims that the Hellenes learned this idea from Egypt, most scholars do not believe it came either from Egypt or from India, but developed independently.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, Thanks for discussing the topic of reincarnation, et cetera! As a Platonist, I really do believe in the transmigr

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Recently, I received a message about health and healing. The questions centered on healing from physical injury, support during surgery, and common practices in ancient Hellas in these types of situations both of the injured and their families. Seeing as most of us will most likely wat to request the healing aid of the Gods at one point in our lives, I though I would make a blog post out of it.

In ancient Hellas, people got sick just like we get sick now. With the poorer hygiene conditions and often heavy physical labor that was undertaken, epidemics one one illness or another must have been quite common, and accidents were prone to happen. As such, there were quite a number of deities who were especially prone to help humanity recover from diseases and injuries.

When we discuss health and healing, we must first look at the worship of Asklēpiós. Asklēpiós was, and is, a much beloved Theos. He started out being honored as a hero--the son of Apollon and Koronis--but became a God in His own right because of his healing skill. It seems Asklēpiós was such a fine healer, He could even bring the dead back to life, even though He is no longer permitted to do that. Apollon presides over the healing proccess as well--in general with the Hellenic deities, younger generations preside over the building blocks of the previous generation, so while Apollon has 'healing' in His portfolio, much of the actual healing is done by his younger son, and specific subsets of healing are distributed amongst Asklēpiós' daughters.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, Thanks for sharing! These are deities that most Hellenists, myself included, should probably honor more.

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There are some things religious Pagans are not encouraged to talk about. Doubt is one of them. I believe that the Gods exist, that They are real entities, who rule over life and death, and who dictate the way we should behave through teachings found in mythology and ancient societies. I chose to follow the Hellenic Gods in Their teachings, not disregarding that there are other Gods, but recognizing my human shortcomings, I could never honor all of the Gods in the way They feel They are entitled to be worshipped. And so I leave the worship of the Norse Gods to the Asatruar, the worship of the Egyptian Gods to the Kemetics, etc. I have specialized, so to say, in the Hellenic Gods, but to me, all the Gods are real and worthy of respect.

 

I didn't grow up religious. My parents were raised in various denominations of Christianity, but they had both rejected it before I was even born. My parents do not disapprove of faith, but they discouraged it, regardless. I did not have an easy childhood, and by the time I was twelve, I was already searching for religion, longing to satisfy the need in myself I found to reach out to beings beyond my reach who could offer me something to hold on to. I investigated the common, major, religions and found them lacking. I can see the beauty in many of them now, but for my twelve year old self, they were passive and lacking in what I needed: structure, active Gods, and the focus on household worship.

 

I found Paganism and self-dedicated after a year and a day of reading and practicing. I was thirteen at the time, and while I did not believe in the God and Goddess I found int eh books, the concept drew me in enough to start performing the rites, to start celebreating the festivals and to find my peace there. It took me years until I truly believed in the Gods, at least four or five years of active practice. It wasn't something that happened overnight, but I did find myself looking back and thinking 'when did I start believing?'. For me, it wasn't a specific ritual, or a moment in time that cemented my faith. Once day, I realized that I believed, and that was that.

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I agree that we have not become better. I believe that as long as we judge ourselves for practices that harm others and do not aut
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I live in Greece and am Greek (citizen and in my heart) but the Greek pantheon as portrayed in the Greek myths (Hesiod, Homer, et.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Back in 2012, I wrote a long and detailed post about rape in ancient Hellenic mythology and culture that you might like to read. Y

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The beautiful thing about Hellenism is that not only do we have a clear way to honor the Theoi, and incentive to do so, we also get to live in a world governed completely by the Gods. Hellenismos is special in that regards because it also largely matches up with science. To me--and many others with me--that is something very comforting. Now, as you are probably all aware, I live in a world full of Gods and Nymphs; for example, I take great strength in greeting Eos each morning as she paves the way for Helios, but there are many Gods who are, or who control, the cycle of day and night, and I would like to write out this cycle, if I may.

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  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you, Jamie! It's good to see you have returned to my blog
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, Thanks again for recounting the lore! These are deities I honor regularly.

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Beautiful Paga Square readers, I owe you an apology. I seem to have dropped off of the face of the earth for a few months, even though I never intended to. I have this odd quirk where I start feeling guilty and don’t know how to get back on the horse and that is what happened here. Back in October, things got a little heavy and stressful for me, and I took a little personal time, always intending to get back. Then, I forgot how to and despite returning to Pagan Square being a new year’s resolution, it’s half way through February before I finally did come back.

I’m sorry for disappearing on you without a word. I would love to promise it won’t happen again, but that would be a lie. I will promise, however, that now the first hurdle is taken, I will resume posting here, because this first post is the hardest for me. I hope to do regular scheduling again: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I never stopped blogging on my personal blog, so there is material enough to share with you guys.

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  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    It can be tough to overcome guilt -- glad you've made the first step!

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