Like a lot of American kids, I grew up on a steady diet of Saturday morning and weekday afternoon cartoons. I plunked myself down in front of the tv for hours, lost in the adventures of He-Man and She-Ra, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Tarzan and Isis and Aquaman. And, of course, Scooby and the gang.
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.
The last I wrote of Hēraklēs, our hero had successfully navigated Eurystheus' scheme of getting him killed by help of Artemis. Hēraklēs completed another labour, made Artemis happy, and saved the day. All was well in the world of Hēraklēs. At this point, Hēraklēs is aware he still has eight labours ahead of him: he completed three successfully, but the labour with the Lernaean Hydra was disqualified because he had accepted the help of his nephew and lover Iolaus. It was most certainly an unfair ruling, but nothing can be done about it: Hēraklēs must continue with his quest in hopes of cleansing himself of his crime.
The fourth labour is to capture the Erymanthian Boar, which got his name from the mountainside and swamp it roamed on. It seems Eurystheus realized that capturing something can be a lot more deadly than killing something, especially when that something is bigger and badder than any of its peers. That said, Hyginus in his Fabulae describes that the task was not to capture the boar, but to kill it, which Hēraklēs accomplished. As far as I am aware, though, he is the only one. Pausanias mentions the boar in his 'Description of Greece', saying:
"There is also a legend that Heracles at the command of Eurystheus hunted by the side of the Erymanthus a boar that surpassed all others in size and in strength. The people of Cumae among the Opici say that the boar's tusks dedicated in their sanctuary of Apollo are those of the Erymanthian boar, but the saying is altogether improbable." [8.24.5]
Asklepios (Aesculapius) is traditionally described as the mortal son of Apollo by Koronis or Arsinoe who was then deified after death.Traditionally it is said that as a babe Asklepios was cut out of his dead mother’s body and raised by the centaur, Kheiron, who taught him the arts of healing.He later became so proficient that Zeus ended his life to maintain status quo.Asklepios then was raised up as a god with many temples where people would seek cures.
Ah the fermented grape. How many ways may I sing your praises? You age to sometimes sweet or paper dry perfection. So many different varietals, so little time. Since the days of ancient Greece, wine has been a heartily enjoyed fruit beverage of choice. Here's a little suggestion for the autumnal equinox: hold an old-fashioned Greek symposium. Invite a round table of your nearest and dearest and pick a good juicy topic of discussion. If you really want to get authentic, take a nod from Plato and get a spirited debate going about the different kinds of love.
Have everyone bring a different bottle of wine. Stick with the Greek theme. An excellent choice is always a fresh and sassy Roditis. Serve feta, Kalamata olives, grapes, pita bread, hummus and a couscous salad with fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Shake up a dipping dressing of yogurt and honey on the side. When the discussion has waned and perhaps people are slurring their words a bit too much to continue to debate intelligently, make a toast to Dionysus, lusty god of wine and the dance.
Patronage is a pretty big thing in Paganism these days. I frequently a few Neo-Pagan places, and one of the most ask newbie questions is: 'How do I find out who my patron is?", or a variation thereof. There is nothing wrong with this; modern patronage is a thing, and I have experienced it myself. The interesting change in the last few years seems to be that patronage used to be the exception, now it is the rule. Any person new to Paganism feels they are doing something wrong if there isn't a God or Goddess tapping them on the shoulder right away.
modern patronage, in this context, is the support or encouragement of a patron, where the patron or patroness (and we will get to that) is a divine being. In these relationships, the active party is often the deity in question, who claims the passive human. Some will describe a sense of 'being owned' by their patron. The human becomes a conduit for the work and will of the patron in question, and is required to spend large portions of their lives in active service to that deity. The bond between deity and human is personal. This is what having two patrons meant for me when I was growing up (because They were there long before I discovered Paganism), and this is what the word meant when I first joined the (online) Pagan community. These days, the first part still applies; humans are approached by deities and receive their help. I see less and less of the latter part, unfortunately, and while I think patronage is a beautiful practice, it seems time for a general discussion and some ancient Hellenic examples of why the modern concept of patronage does not apply to Hellenismos.