When I was a little girl, my favorite book was the Dutch translation of Michaels Ende's (originally German) 'Momo and The Grey Gentlemen'. Together with the main character from comic series 'Yoko Tsuno', my ethical system and basic personality got its foundation from Ende's main character Momo. If you haven't read this book--it's from the writer of 'The Neverending Story', if that helps--please pick up a copy. It was written in 1974, and describes well... exactly our current society. That's not what I wanted to talk about, however. I wanted to talk about the Constellation Cassiopeia.
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An altar is one of those basic necessities within Hellenismos, and it differs from a shrine. Where an altar is a 'work space', dedicated not so much to a specific deity, but used to do the bulk of the (daily) rituals, a shrine is a devotional area where an altar might be located. In ancient Hellas, the shrine was usually a temple, the altar an actual altar, standing outside of it. Household worship took place at a multitude of shrines.
Labeling something a shrine, does not mean you can't sacrifice at these spots in your home; every Hene Kai Nea and Noumenia, I offer libations of mixed wine and incense at my shrine to Apollon, Hermes and Hekate, every Noumenia, I offer mixed wine and incense to Zeus Kthesios at His shrine in my kitchen, and ever Agathós Daímōn, I make a libation of unmixed wine at His shrine. As explained previously, I don't have an outdoor altar; I have one indoors, and it also houses my continual flame to Hestia. It's at this shrine I do the bulk of my worship--it's my hearth. It has my offering bowl, and is very deity-neutral, just to make sure everyone I give sacrifice to might feel at home at it. It's located in my bedroom shrine--the actual space, decorated and kept clean for the Theoi.
My altar is not the altar the ancient Hellens would have used. For one, it's not outside--something I'm grateful for as it's snowing outside at the moment--and for another, it's not made of stone. I don't make a fire on top of it--a good thing, seeing as it's made of wood--but have to use a bowl to do so. In ancient Hellas, an altar was called a 'bômos' (βωμός)--properly signifying any elevation--with an 'epipuron' (ἐπίπυρον)--a movable pan or brazier--used on top of the bômos so it could serve as an altar for burnt-offerings. The household hearth was used to make sacrifices as well, and thus served as an altar of sorts. It was named after the Theia of the home and hearth: 'hestía' (ἑστία). Some state-owned altars--especially when they were simply large fires--were named 'hestía' as well.
2412 years ago, one of Hellas' greatest thinkers stood trial before a jury of 500 men, chosen by lot. Socrates (Σωκράτης), a philosopher who was of the opinion that people should not be self-governing; they needed to be led, like a shepherd led a flock of sheep. He was of the opinion that the average Athenian had the basic virtue necessary to nurture a good society, nor the intelligence to foster such virtue within themselves. As such, he was against the democratic system that came to fruition in the city of Athens at the same time he did.
His views came from an oracular message from Delphi. In the words of Diogenēs Laertios (Διογένης Λαέρτιος), a biographer of the Hellenic philosophers:
On the second day of the new Hellenistic month, we give sacrifice to (the) Agathós Daímōn, on a day named after the 'Good Spirit'. It's an important practice, and I have come to realize I don't know enough about Agathós Daímōn to do His worship justice. This is why this Pagan Blog Project post delves into His worship.
The mythology, application and existence of the Agathós Daímōn (ἀγαθός δαίμων) is a bit of a muddled mess. When one researches the term, six basic premises emerge:
- The Agathós Daímōn is a Theos, married to the Theia Agathe Tyche (Ἀγαθή Τύχη, 'Good Fortune')
- The Agathós Daímōn is an epithet of Zeus, or linked to Zeus Kthesios and/or Zeus Melichios
- The Agathós Daímōn is linked Hermes Chthonius
- The Agathós Daímōn is a fertility daimon, tied to the harvest and prosperity from agriculture
- The Agathós Daímōn is a personal guardian spirit, either tied to the person, the family, or the oikos
- The Agathós Daímōn is the personification of a person's conscious, or even their muse
It's due time for another astronomy post, wouldn't you say? Today, I'm picking up the fourth of the constellations in the zodiac: Capricornus. Capricornus is often referred to as 'Capricorn', the latin word for 'horned goat' or 'goat horn', and in ancient Hellas--and even in most modern interpretations--the hybrid is not between human and goat, as one might expect from a culture with satyrs in its mythology, but goat and fish.
At dusk on January 8th, the Haloa (῾Αλῶα) festival starts. This ancient Hellenic festival was held in honor of Demeter, Dionysus and a little bit in honor of Persephone. Like all festivals of Demeter and Persephone's 'Kore' persona, women were the only ones who were allowed to handle the religious and sacrificial side of it.
The Haloa is part of the Mysteries, and thus linked to the festivals of Proirosia (5 Pyanepsion), Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), Thargelia (6-7 Thargelion), Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), Skirophoria (12 Skirophorion) and the Eleusinian Mysteries themselves, which were held 15-17/19-21 Boedromion. It was a rural festival, meaning it wasn't state-organized and widely spread, so most details are incredibly fuzzy. He're what we do know about it:
The Haloa is assumed to be a celebration of the pruning of the vines and the tasting of the wine after its first fermentation, or it may be to encourage the growth of corn from the seed. It is named after the hálōs (ἅλως), which means both threshing floor and garden. Since the first sense of the word would be inapplicable to a festival celebrated in January, scholars--including Nilsson in his 'Greek Popular Religion'--insist it must have been a gardening festival--with lots of wine and adult content.
Have you ever wondered who the high priestess of Artemis was? it was Atalanta; a virgin huntress who could outrun just about everyone she met and protected the MEN she was with! According to Theoi.com, Atalanta was also a cross-dresser and her story carries overtones of transgendered and homosexual identity.