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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Who oversees the modern marvels?

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:

"One sad part of studying Divine genealogy is that there is an end. The lives of the Gods have come to a halt. We rehash the stories but no more children are born, no heroes rise. It makes me wish for the inclusion and revelation of UPG into Hellenismos. New blood, new stories, could really benefit the practice and believes of Hellenic practitioners. A new Divine child to shake up the pantheon, a new child of Zeus who grows up to fight new (or returned) monsters. Sacrilege, some say, and they might be right. But I admit to staring at the pages of genealogy in my book and wishing the lines, somehow, someway, extend to include more of the Divine family. "


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.


The internet and the telephone
It's one of humanities greatest achievements; a real-time communication link between every person on the planet who has access to a computer and a subscription. It's not one thing; it's housed on computers everywhere, everyone adding a small part to it, so you can read these words from any place in the world. I'm quite sure who would have this marvel in Their portfolio: Iris, rainbow Goddess of communication, who delivers Her messages as fast and the wind and who has always been a connector; in ancient Hellas, She connected the Theoi and mankind. Her speed, Her messenger spirit, and her ability to connect everyone anywhere in the world make Her an excellent candidate for the position of Matron of the Internet.
For most of the same reasons, I would also place the telephone firmly under Her domain.

Planes, trains and automobiles
I'm staying with the sky Gods on this one; airplanes, trains and cars have cut down travel time, have made goods readily available anywhere in the world, have allowed us to expand modern life to parts of the world where this was absolutely impossible before, and--in the case of airplanes--have given us entrance into Zeus' domain. yet, I don't feel Zeus would oversee flight. I think that would be Hermes' task. Airplanes would be a marvelous novelty for Hermes, who is known to fly everywhere. It's this huge, bulky, thing that miraculously stays in the air. I think Hermes would get a kick out of throwing a few air pockets in the way of a plane--just to see the panic on everyone's faces--before helping the plane land safely. Trains and cars go fast, make a lot of noise and are constantly out on the road. This, too, would make Hermes happy. Hephaestus may be involved with the construction of these travel aids, but Hermes would watch over your safety while in them.

Computers
As already discussed a bit with the internet, modern life would change dramatically if we lost computers. They help us communicate, solve problems beyond our natural capabilities, provide entertainment, allow us to make a living and that's just scratching the surface of its usefulness. For me, this is another no-brainer: Hephaestus. If Daidalos had been a Theos, I would have picked him. Athena's analytical mind may have had a part in its creation as well, but the actual tinkering bits would speak to Hephaestus far more than to Athena. Once the first computer was completed, I would see it likely Athena lost interest, while Hephaestus would relish the challenge of improving upon it again and again.

The radio and television
A slightly older means of communication, but none the less very valuable. Radio signals connect people, are used in jobs like airport control, security and construction, and bring music to the masses. Because of the broad application of the radio, and especially because of the music, I'm picking Apollo for this one. Anything that brings music all over the world would interest him greatly. Because of its ability to amuse, educate and spread awareness, the television would also fall under Apollo's domain.

Bombs, guns, tanks and other weapons of war
It's a cheap shot, but for their sheer destructive power, I would place any weapon of war under Ares' domain. It may not be honorable, but weapons of war are effective. When His rage reaches the point of no return, I'm sure His hands would itch to just wipe out the enemy. In fact, I think Ares would have felt a whole lot better if He would have been able to decimate the Hellenic army besieging Troy with a few powerful bombs. He is still the Lord of War. As for some of the other war-like Theoi; I think Athena and Zeus would find these methods too crude and/or imprecise. They would like the sniper rifle and, perhaps, to tinker with the missile guidance systems, but that actual weapons of mass destruction? Not so much.

This is a top-of-my-head list. Are there others you have ideas about? I'm sure Aphrodite would be happy with the invention of sex toys, and Apollo with electric lights, for example. I'd also really love to hear if you had envisioned other Theos or Theoi with these examples. Have fun!

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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

Comments

  • Dver
    Dver Thursday, 15 November 2012

    You're not the first modern Hellenic pagan to ponder this concept. It has been a frequent topic on forums for over a decade. However, I have to say that the way you phrase this, while sadly not uncommon, concerns me.

    You ask which gods "would" oversee these things, as if it's just a game, a thought experiment, rather than reality. Well, the gods are real. They are involved in every aspect of our lives and the workings of the world. And with most of these issues, the main concepts remain unchanged from ancient times, even if the details are different. It's not a matter of which god "would" like such-and-such. The god who oversees travel is Hermes. Does it matter if the travel is by foot, horseback, carriage or airplane? No. Is it just an amusing pastime to conjecture about which of these characters - I mean, gods - would do what, or do you actually believe in Them and Their powers? If They are real, why not ask Them directly who you should pray to regarding these kinds of issues. If, in fact, you do pray and have a religious practice, in which case most of these issues will eventually resolve themselves as you deal with them - next time you're going on an airplane, who will you make sacrifices to beforehand for your safety? That is how a religion works.

    By treating the gods like characters in a fanfic, the future of Hellenismos as a serious religion of devotion is put in danger.

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Thursday, 15 November 2012

    Thank you for your comment. I'm not sure if you've read any of my other posts either here, or on my own blog, but we'll not go into that now. Let me say first that I'm glad other Hellenists have gone through the same thought process. I don't hang around the forums too often, so it's a good check-in.

    As for the use of 'would'; I tend to be careful with what I claim the Theoi do or do not do/say/think/etc. when it comes to anything not written down in ancient times. Of course Hermes watches over all travelers--like He has always done--yet, when it comes to the computer, things aren't as clear cut (IMHO).

    I invite your to read more of my blog. I most certainly believe in the Theoi, and I pray and practice religiously (pun a little intended)--on a daily basis, in fact. I have asked these questions, and this post is a reflection of my answers.

    As I have written before on my blog, I value UPG, but I know UPG is a fickle thing, and I will not promote my UPG as truth. That is why I make use of the wonderfully vague 'would'. As for your concerns about the future of Hellenismos--and my destruction of it--please, don't worry. It's living though a lot worse than my humble opinion.

  • Dver
    Dver Thursday, 15 November 2012

    I have not really read your blog before, am just responding to this one post, which is why I said "if" because I don't know anything about your personal practice and don't want to assume. Sadly, you can't even assume a practice at all, these days. Glad to hear that you have a strong one.

    I understand why you said "would", thanks for explaining. However, I guess the semantic difference to me is that "would" implies the gods aren't already involved. You can speculate on which god "IS" involved with certain modern things without overvaluing UPG, but still making it clear that the gods are involved, right now, already, with our modern world. And if we all talked to each other more and actually practiced together, maybe we wouldn't have to keep reinventing the wheel and wondering about these things! It's sad that we still haven't established any PCPG (peer-corroborated personal gnosis) about such basic theological elements, after several decades of modern practice.

    As for the future of Hellenismos - I didn't say you personally would destroy it. And I realize it's been through bad times. But honestly, if we can't get past the 101 stage as a group - including, most importantly, talking about the gods as real entities - this is going to fizzle out and the gods will have no more worshippers than they did 100 years ago (maybe fewer, actually). I'm glad that I misunderstood your stance on belief, but unfortunately there are many, many others who do indeed treat this all like a game.

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Thursday, 15 November 2012

    Thank you for explaining as well. All in all, it's easy to let our own fears color the words of others, especially when we don't know them well. I might be wrong, but I feel we are very much on the same page about the Theoi and Hellenismos. The entire reason I blog is because I want to develop the religion further, and offer resources to new seekers. This post is one of my 'light' ones; I write a lot about the serious, heavy, topics, and sometimes that gets a bit much. On the blog today, I posted a blog on my top five Hellenic mythology inspired video games. It can't always be completely serious, after all ;)

    My writing always reflects that the Theoi are real; even this post. While I might wonder if They're willing to adopt a modern invention like the computer, and the atom bomb, that is never a reflection on Their presence. If we're going UPG; who knows if the Theoi did not have more children who were given dominion over these things. We may just not know about it, and I--for one--would rather not piss off the child of a Theos by saying Their mother/father is more in charge of Their domain than they are.

    I think most of your worries about me making caricatures of the Theoi comes from my desire to avoid hubris by all means possible. We all come from somewhere :)

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Thursday, 15 November 2012

    Wow, Dver, how long have you been reading Elani's blog? She is the most devoted Hellenic practitioner that I've pretty much ever met, and YES she believes that the gods are real. Perhaps you missed the fact that English isn't her first language, as she is Dutch, which could easily explain the "error" in grammar. I am highly confident that Elani does not IN ANY WAY consider the gods to be "thought experiments." I'm just sayin'.

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Thursday, 15 November 2012

    Thank you, Anne

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Thursday, 15 November 2012

    There was supposed to be a 'heart' symbol there, but it was eaten XD

  • Dver
    Dver Thursday, 15 November 2012

    No need to be so defensive. If I have completely misunderstood her point, due to language difficulties, I'm sure she can tell me. But, considering how often this exact perspective is expressed by Hellenic pagans, I think it's quite possible that indeed the "would" is intentional. Especially as she says "should They be willing to adopt them" as if the gods aren't already involved in the modern world but might become so at some point. I only said "IF you do pray and have a religious practice" because amazingly, a lot of Hellenic pagans who talk a lot online don't actually have a practice. Glad to hear that the author does. But it doesn't dismiss my point - even if she's not saying what it sounds like she's saying, enough people DO think that way, sadly, that we should be careful how we express these ideas lest they feed into the concept of gods as characters to play with in our imaginations.

  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers Thursday, 15 November 2012

    I think it is not only the use of 'would' which is being discussed here. Personally I strongly disagree with your opening quote: "The lives of the Gods have come to a halt. We rehash the stories but no more children are born, no heroes rise". No they have not ended. New stories are written. New gods are being born. The problem is that we are so hung up about everything being according the lore, that we stop creating new lore through actually living it. And I think Dver has pointed rather eloquently to this. I do not think that your article hints that you have no actual belief, but I do believe that (subconsciously perhaps) you are using this language partly because you know that other hellenists are so hung up about lore. A bit overly careful ... And I do not think you need to be. If we would al be so mindfull about what other people write and think, we would never be able to have an original thought. I think we need to let go of these conventions in order to write down new stories about the gods, who are very much a live, still.

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Thursday, 15 November 2012

    I'm conflicted about what you wrote, to be honest. As an Hellenist, I strive to re-create the religion of ancient Hellas. As such, I put little value in UPG, although I do understand that it is a cornerstone in the faith of many. In my post about UPG a while back (1), I addressed almost exactly what you touch upon. Please, allow me to copy and paste.

    "I can see a denomination of Hellenismos forming where UPG is allowed, where myth builders and oracles come together to stretch out the Divine genealogy lines and get revealed the name of the grand daughter of Hephaestus who rules over modern technology or the name of the son of Hermes who guards those who travel by plane. I would love to know if Hephaestus is still married to Aphrodite and if Persephone has driven her husband nuts yet.

    There is a time and place for UPG and, as long as everyone is clear that this is (modern) UPG, there is absolutely nothing against using it in your practice, even in a Recon faith. I think we all do that, just by having a certain idea about a Deity and interacting with Them. We get to know Them, and sometimes we see a different side of Them than described in mythology or experienced by others. Sharing this with others is a good thing but, especially within Recon Traditions, it's important to know that others may--and most likely will--disagree. And that's alright, because they have received their fair share of UPG events too. "

    So, yes, I agree that original thoughts are important, and that the lives of the Theoi have most certainly not stopped; yet, where do you draw the line? Whose UPG do we go by? And how much UPG can we add to Hellenismos before it stops being a Recon faith? When does Hellenismos become Hellenic Polytheism (2)? Because the latter is not what I practice. Being 'hung up about everything being according the lore' is pretty much the cornerstone of my religious practice, so it'll take a lot for me to accept additions to the divine family tree.

    Thank you for your comment!

    1. http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.com/2012/08/unverified-personal-gnosis.html
    2. http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.com/2012/10/whats-in-name.html

  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers Thursday, 15 November 2012

    I understand. Of course we do not have to hail every piece of UPG as the new Homer. However ... the starting point of your article was that the genealogy of the gods has ended. That the stories have ended. In that case, frankly, all we can do is repeat the old stories and do as they did. Yet that is not what they did themselves. Their traditions were very much living and changing. Of course that did not mean that they could let go of all discernment. That becomes even more important!

    Secondly, I think that as soon as we allow more UPG imput, each part can be discussed freely and adopted when wanted (not necessarily by everyone). And thus none of it will get Homer-status, and nobody would claim it for themselves. Do we trust our own discerning eye that much, that we that we won't think we will be able to cut the corn from the wheat? And I must say I very much dislike the term 'UPG' as it immediately creates a dichotomy between lore and experience. And I do not the ancients would agree with such a dichotomy. For me it is the difference of the letter of the law and the spirit of it. Shortly put, I think we are making it necessarily hard for ourselves.

    Dver, Sannion and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus are some of the most learned of pagans, incredably well read and well-spoken about all things Greek and more, and yet also recognize the need for our traditions to be living. Reconstructionism is a method, and important one, but can be empty in and of itself. Let's not equate it one-to-one to authenticity.

    I applaud you for sticking up for your tradition, but I think it is more important to stick up for their gods. And treat them as the living beings they are. And I think hellenism will die if we do not prioritize them over our idea of them.



    And honestly, out of that first quote of yours, I gathered that you felt some regret over the fact that the stories of the gods have ended.

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Thursday, 15 November 2012

    I do feel that regret; very much so, in fact. I would love to add new mythology to the current, yet, until Hellenismos is standardized to a degree where we can have this discussion with the whole (or chosen representatives of the whole), I doubt we will find a consensus I would be willing to add to my practice.

    As I said; I struggle with how much Recon my Recon practice should hold. At this point in time, I would rather hold fast rigidly to the 'old mythology', and find a way to apply that to my current life, than add UPG (or whatever term you prefer) to my understanding of the Theoi.

    The same goes for tradition vs Theoi; I honored the Theoi before I practiced Hellenismos, yet transitioned to Hellenismos because I wanted to honor Them as They were honored in ancient Hellas. I might be making my religion unnecessarily hard to practice for myself, but I'd rather rehash the old over and over again than step back from that desire. And, to me, it has never felt like my religion and the Theoi are not alive.

    This is my personal opinion, and I would completely understand if you feel differently. It's not commentary on you, or any of the very well respected Pagans you have mentioned. I am simply sharing my struggle, and my opinion, as is my prerogative on my own blog ;)

  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers Saturday, 17 November 2012

    I appreciate you being so frank. I must say that 'standardization' sounds absolutely horrid in my ears. It makes me think of those within hellenismos who plead for restricting oneself to the Twelve (even though who the Twelve are has never been standardized fully). Even in the ancient times there where those who completely focussed on the nymphs. Are they to do without worship? Or the graces? Or the muses? If Northern paganism/asatru would do the same, the Jotunn would miss out, and maybe the elves too. I would love a stronger community, I would love stronger bonds both physically and theologically, but ... I think standardization is not the right way the go. The term has always implied a top-down process, and I would prefer things to go the other way round.

    I think reconstructionism is necessary, but I do not think it is enough.

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Saturday, 17 November 2012

    I very much do not subscribe to the 'honor the Twelve' mentality. I'm trying to reconstruct the ancient religion, and the ancient Hellens most certainly worshipped a lot more Theoi and other Immortals than the Twelve. I would never argue in favor of that.

    Have you read my post on standardization? I understand that it may sound somewhat... suffocating, especially in a day and age where individuality is such a big thing, but unless we can come to a consensus on the major issues--like Dver pointed out as well--we have no hope of forming a united religion that will span the decades to come. To what degree Hellenismos should be standardized is another discussion, entirely, but I most certainly feel the need for a consensus--either top-down or bottom-up) on the big things, if we want to make it through.

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