I love this time of year...though I could do without the single to negative digit temperatures. A lot of my traditions haven't changed from what I did as a child in a Roman Catholic household but I do have some additions. Below, in random order, I list some of my holiday traditions.
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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]
Recently, I read a blog post by Star Foster, whom I admire as a person and writer and whose blog will survive any culling of my blog reader for a long time to come. In this blog post, titled 'Being Human', she questions basic life lessons, including ethical living. From that blog post:
"I’ve been thinking a lot about the Precepts of Solon. So many of these maxims are subjective. What is good character? What is good? What is bad?"
Although the original blog post is in no way limited to this question, this is the part of the post that stuck with me and has been a thorn in my side for the last two days. Why? Because my first reaction was 'you just know', and that is never a satisfactory answer for me. So I have spent the last two days trying to figure out how 'I just know' when I am not displaying a good character, when I am not good, and when I do something bad. Because I do 'just know'.
Yesterday I got an interesting question from a reader named Wendy, who has allowed me to print part of her e-mail and my response to her so as to accomodate others who might be struggling with this question. It went as follows:
I want to apologize for the mothballs covering this blog. I've been keeping up with my personal blog, but somehow, PaganSquare fell off the radar for a while. It's been nearly a month and that is unacceptable to you, kind readers, and to myself as well, as that was not the deal I made with Anne when I took the opportunity to blog at PaganSquare. A lot has happened here while I was away dealing with a boatload of personal issues, and I have no opinion on that for now. Perhaps at a later date. All I want to say about it right now is that I have never felt attacked, unwelcome, or in any other way uncomfortable at posting here. I stick to my own subjects and because of that, I seem to stay clear of a lot of trouble. It works for me. I'm not here to argue, I am here to share information. Please, be sure that my absence had nothing to do with these issues. For now, I would like to post on the strong link between prayers and hymns in the ancient Hellenic religion and modern Hellenismos, with a promise to resume regular postings here.
Probably the best definition of 'prayer' I have ever happened upon was by William D. Fuley, who says: "prayers (and hymns) are attempts by men and women to communicate with gods by means of the voice". It is simple, elegant, and accurate. Especially in the ancient Hellenic religion, it was important to raise one's voice when hymns were sung, and especially so when prayers were made.
I am going to generalize here and say that a hymn was sung to the Theoi, with the aim to please the God in question. They have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning contains two things: a note that the hymn is about to begin, and an announcement of whom the speaker/singer is addressing.
Oh, Kevin Sorbo, you hot Norwegian-blooded Minnesotan human pec monster, you gave me much fap fodder during my teens.
Which reminds me: The series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess did mythology wrong, so very wrong. They did ancient Greece even more wrong. They gave a more unflattering image of the gods than even Homer, but you know what else? They're something I genuinely enjoy watching....
In part one of this two part series, I wrote about personal patronage in the ancient and modern context. Today, I want to talk about professional patronage (i.e. Apollon as the patron of the arts, and thus prayed to by artists). Personally, I think the only thing that professional patronage shares with the practice of personal patronage is its name--and we will get to that in a second.
The interesting thing is that none of the academic sources at my disposal make mention of this practice under the term 'patronage'. Patronage in the context of ancient Hellas seems to focus on the non-lineal bond between two people--a patron who took care of a client or slave in a material, financial, or emotional way. 'Patron' to mean the support, encouragement, or privilege that a deity bestows upon those practicing a profession or living in a city is a Christian term, which refers to patron saints. Patron saints are regarded as the tutelary spirits or heavenly advocates of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person. Taking this description would give you, for example, Athena as the patron of Athens--but outside of Christianity, the proper term is 'tutelage'; a tutelary deity.
A tutelary, or tutelar, deity is 'a guardian, patron, or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture or occupation'. Both tutelary and tutelar can be used as either a noun or an adjective. As such, Athena is the tutelary Goddess of Athens, or the tutelar of Athens--but because we are so used to 'patron(ess)', 'tutelar' does not have quite the same ring to it.