How to Respond to Evangelical Christians

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Jesus was a charismatic religious leader Image via Wikipedia

The excerpt below was posted to one of the groups I read as a possible response to evangelical Christians who aggressively put down others’ beliefs.  I think it’s worthy of discussion, particularly as we (followers of Hellenismos) begin to gain more visibility in the public eye: Continue reading

The Ethics of Delphi, Solon, & Pythagoras Compared

This discussion continues from On Ethics, Defense, and Spirituality

I was asked in a comment what I think of the Delphic Maxims in comparison with Solon’s “Commandments” or the Golden Sayings of Pythagoras.

The Delphic Maxims are wide and varied, but share aspects with Solon’s Commandments and the Golden Sayings of Pythagoras. Here are some things they share in common… Continue reading

On the Ethics of Defense

In Hellenic Polytheist Reconstructionism, one follows the Delphic Maxims, which include:

Help your friends ( Φιλοις βοηθει )
Guard friendship ( Φιλιαν φυλαττε )
Watch out for your enemies ( Εχθρους αμυνου )

With the above three joined, that means: Treat your friends as friends and treat your enemies as enemies. If you don’t defend your friends against your enemies and theirs, then you have compromised your ethics.

Detail from Archaeological Site of Delphi, Greece

Delphi Image via Wikipedia

Also:
Despise evil ( Κακιαν μισει )
Pursue honor ( Δοξαν διωκε )
Guard what is yours ( Ιδια φυλαττε )
Despise insolence ( Υβριν μισει )
Die for your country ( Θνησκε υπερ πατριδος )

However, violence is restrained by:
Shun murder ( Φονου απεχου )
Control yourself ( Αρχε σεαυτου )
Be overcome by justice ( Ηττω υπο δικαιου )
Gain possessions justly ( Δικαιως κτω )
Venture into danger prudently ( Κινδυνευε φρονιμως )
Control anger ( Θυμου κρατει )
Be jealous of no one ( Φθονει μηδενι )

See More Maxims Here.

Discussion of this topic continues in Ethics: Delphi, Solon, and Pythagoras – Discuss!

Embossed Seal of Hellenion

The Seal of Hellenion

The Seal of Hellenion

I commissioned this embossed seal and gave it (the embosser and two inserts) to Hellenion as a charitable donation so that it could be used to officiate important paperwork and missives. I dedicate it to the theoi of ancient Greece that they might accept it as an offering.

More On Our Relationship with the Theoi (Gods)

As an insightful member of my demos said:

We are like cats to the gods. Sometimes they euthanize us, sometimes they just pick us up and move us to the next room. If you think a god is likely to do the former, try to escape the apartment and find one that will pet you and feed you the good food. If you pee on their furniture, they will get angry. Don’t assume you know what their furniture looks like. If you find one that really tries to understand things from your limited point of view and helps you be generally happy in this life, love them with all your heart.

The cat without a name

Image via Wikipedia

I’d also add, try to understand that when they are taking you to the vet, no matter how unpleasant and scary it is at the time, it is (usually) for your own good.

When the gods touch my life, I’m sometimes not sure if it will help me or hurt me. Just like when I pick eye-bookers from my cats’ eyes; they shy away a little bit but trust me enough to pick at their eyes and don’t run away. They don’t understand why I am doing it or that it’s to their benefit, let alone when I take them to the vet, but they trust that I’m not trying to hurt them. It should be the same way with one’s patron god(s).

The Nature of the Theoi (Gods)

Persephone and Hades. Tondo of an Attic red-fi...

Image via Wikipedia

1. Do the Immortal Olympians exist? Do other deities exist (i.e. HadesPersephone, Hekate, etc.)?

All of the theoi exist.

I would categorize myself under panentheist (gods permeate all of nature, but exist apart from nature as well), animist (I believe some things that are complex enough have a soul, like my car, although it is NOT a god), and a form of “hard” polytheism called henopolytheism (devotion to one pantheon without denying the existence of other gods outside of that set – I believe in, but do not follow, my husband’s path in which he is devoted to the Norse gods of his ancestors). With “hard” polytheism described as believing that there are distinct and literal gods and goddesses (or forces) in multiplicity with unique personalities who aren’t reducible to one force or being. I don’t think They are limited to the Olympians, either.

2. Of those beings that exist, can they interact with the world (e.g. cause real world changes)? Do they?

Yes. Sometimes They come to us in our dreams and influence us there. In-fact, the gods of dreams are said in the Orphic hymns to deliver messages from the gods. Sometimes the theoi take the personage of someone we know, or even a stranger, to test or guide us. Sometimes they take the role of natural forces that change the world in a direct way. However, different gods will interact more or less with the world and with us. Hestia is content to stay by the hearth, while Hypnos comes to us nightly to bless us with sleep, and hopefully, I hope I will not meet Nemesis in my lifetime – but acknowledge that She has every right to touch it should I stray from the just path or succumb to hubris. Her sister, Oizys (Anxiety and Guilt), is one that I’ve contended with since adolescence, and has motivated change in my life. Other gods once interacted with the world, but no more, like many of the Titans.

3. Of the beings that can and do interact with the world, are they concerned with the fate of mortals? Are they concerned with individuals or only groups?

It depends on the god and on his or her generation. With each generation, Their focus is more specific, and they are more approachable and take more direct influence upon specific mortals. Apollon inflicts plague upon many, while people pray to his son Asklepios for cures.

4. Has this knowledge of Hellenic history changed (or enlightened) your religious beliefs? Of the beliefs of the different periods, which do you feel is closest to your own beliefs? In what ways?

Yes. A scholarly approach, and the content gained from it, enrich my beliefs and give them shape and substance. But this is tempered by the practicalities and needs of modern life. I don’t have enough knowledge yet to distinguish very much between the different periods, but I lean towards the pre-Christian and pre-monotheist emphasis that replaced religion with philosophy.

How We Relate to the Theoi (Gods)

So-called "Velletri Pallas": Helmete...

Velletri Pallas Image via Wikipedia

1. How important is it for you to understand such things as “the nature of the Immortals”? Is it enough for us to merely understand what the Immortals define as an ethical life? And how does this choice impact both worship and daily life?

I doubt I ever will succeed, but it is important to try to understand Their nature. The reason is that by studying, discussing, and contemplating Them we draw closer to Them. By understanding Their nature, we know how to approach our relationship with Them – to who we might pray to and what we may offer, and who to acknowledge when our lives are touched and how to compose a hymn in thanks.

The gods can be perceived literally as deities who can take the form of a fellow human, even one asking for the shelter of your oikos as a guest, and They can be perceived more figuratively and Their interactions for analogies for natural forces and concepts. Both perspectives are equally valid, like light being both a wave and a particle. It is the paradox, and ultimately unknowable, in which They dwell.

After-all, to understand is to stand under a concept. One has to put the concept (in this case a god) above oneself to comprehend it.

Following this desire to approach and acknowledge and revere is worship and daily life. They are not separated. Worship is the unity of mind with body (thought with action) and celebration and reverence with daily life.

2. How do you view the nature of the relationship between God and man? Do the Gods deserve worship simply because They are Gods? Or is there a deeper relationship?

The only way to avoid hubris is to accept our limitations. By worshiping that which is greater than ourselves, we accept our limitations because worship requires acknowledging that which is greater.

We seem to be the only mortal beings that have self-awareness and seek to understand the nature of the universe (the Immortals). That is what defines us and our relationship with the gods. That need, that hunger, to understand flows deeper than simply realizing that They are more powerful than us.

3. Is your practice focused on all of the Gods, or only some? When you perform ritual or make offering, do you try to balance your practice among all of the Gods, or merely focus on those you feel closest to?

I more regularly need to pay homage to Athena and Asklepios than others because of the nature of my work and interests, so it is right to give Them more than the rest because I ask for more of them. In exchange, I know that Asklepios and Athena are more likely to answer my cries than the other gods are, and sometimes, I can ask Them to speak to the others on my behalf. However, I am one who establishes relationships with all of the gods so that when the need calls I may ask for Their aid, whether I anticipate it or not.

Even if I did not need to ask more of some than others, it’s not very practical to give equally to all of the theoi. There are just so many of them, and I don’t have the resources to pay equal tribute individually. However, I have seen examples of festival and group libations in which the first offering is given to Hestia (by tradition), the second to Zeus, and the third to all of the theoi. That seems both practical and appropriate for holidays. but not for household worship.

If it isn’t practical, then it won’t fit into mortal life. Our lives are brief, and we must find the balance between extremes.

My aim is to burn incense the household gods (Zeus who watches over our oikos, Hermes patron of travelers, Hekate of the crossroads, and Apollon far-shooting) once daily, devotee a portion of my main meal of the day to Hestia and keep Her fire lit, give sponde to the theoi when my demos gathers or once per month in their absence, and celebrate the Olympians on Their feast days. I am sometimes more and other times less successful. Hestia’s light goes out, I am sometimes too tired to make full offerings and instead bid kalimera (good morning) and kalinihta (good night) to their images, and sometimes I dine out and am unsure if and how to make an offering to Hestia. Thus, I aim to gain some small favor with all, and more with They whose realms I walk in.

4. Choose one God http://www.theoi.com/ and examine the various epithets associated with that God. How do the different epithets have an impact on worship of that God? How would you approach this issue? Would you try to worship that God in all of His or Her identities, or do you focus on one or two aspects of the God/ess as you major focus?

At this time, the theoi site is down. I used http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena instead.

I would focus on a cluster of epithets for the purpose of which I was praying, thereby evoking that aspect of Her.

Athena Ergane as the patron of craftsmen and artisans.
Athena Promachos she led in battle Athena Polias (“of the city”), Athena was the protector of Athens and its Acropolis, but also of many other cities, including Argos, Sparta, Gortyn, Lindos, and Larisa. Athena Hippeia or Athena Hippia, horse as the inventor of the chariot
Athena Hygieia (“healer”)

Epithets sometimes overlap, such as with Athena Polias – because being “of the city” captures several aspects, from patronage (or matronage) over the craftsmen, to those needing healing, to warriors. I apply to the epithet that is related to the reason I am asking for blessing (or blessing for another). Thus, if it concerns establishing or maintaining the good of my demos, I would apply to Athea Polais and all the aspects that covers, whether they relate to Her other epithets or not. However, sometimes my need is more specific, such as when I am composing art (and applying to Athena Ergane).

In short, my approach depends on the situation. If my need is broad, I appeal to a broad epithet or more than one. If my need is specific, I tailor the epithet I invoke when I appeal to Her.