It Came from the Search Terms, April Issue

Every once in a while, I answer the questions that people typed into search engines to find this blog. Except for adding punctuation, I don’t change the wording. Enjoy!

How did greek oracles better tune there visions?

Every oracle had a particular method of divination. These included motion of objects in the spring, movements of birds,  cracks in the bones of animals, rustling of leaves, interpreted dreams, etc, and were all considered valid indicators for divination. Some established oracles were those of Zeus at Dodona, Apollo at Delphi and many more. Oracles were priestesses, often educated in temples devoted to particular gods. This means that more experienced priestesses trained them, and acolytes gained the benefit of practice before taking on the mantle of authority. They had the benefit of institutional structure and mentorship. Of course, more detailed questions presented to the oracle would help them focus.

A patron god or goddess and how to know?

It sounds like you think you might have a patron god or goddess but want to be sure. My best advice would be to continue reaching out to the deity in question – make offerings and libations, ask for specific favors – and see what happens. If you see objectively that your god is granting your request (and you’re holding up your end of the bargain) and subjectively you feel something inside when you speak to Him or Her, then you have a relationship. Another idea, if you have very specific questions like “Are you my patron?” is to write your question in a journal before you go to sleep, then the god may answer it for you in your dream. Regardless, as soon as you wake up before even getting out of bed, open your journal and begin writing. Don’t let any doubts or thoughts filter what you’re writing, just write for about 15-20 minutes or three pages. Then stop and see what you’ve written. You may recall your dream or have your answer.

Hellenism holy book?

The only state-recognized church in the US is Hellenion, and it had previously published an overview book of modern Hellenism called Old Stones New Temples which is currently under revision. Though our sources, which are divinely inspired, are Hesiod and Homer. Currently there is discussion in Hellenion about whether or not to produce a modern ‘holy book’, but this is a controversial issue.

Maxims of delphi hellenion.

The original Delphic Maxims can be found here. Though there are maxims that are no longer followed in modern Hellenism, such as “Rule your wife (Γυναικος αρχε)”. Modernizing the maxims is an interesting idea for a holy book, should Hellenion decide to produce one.

Can gods die?

I suppose that depends on if 1. You believe that time is linear (a modern idea) and not cyclical (an ancient idea, discussed by Herodotus among others) and therefore there is a permanence to death, and 2. If you count transforming into another deity, or part of a deity, death. Even though they were overthrown, many Titans such as Prometheus and Atlas were imprisoned but not killed. Early Titan wives of Zeus such as Metis (goddess of wisdom, skill, and craft) did not remain in the same form. Because She was both important and a threat to Zeus, prophesied to have powerful children with him, He tricked her into transforming into a fly and Athena was born. Does this mean She is dead?

On the soft polytheist side, we could argue that since there is still deep thought in the world, that the embodiment and essence of thought is not dead. On the hard polytheist side, the question of she died is open vs. if She is still inside Zeus (as He and His siblings were once swallowed but were able to escape), whether She ceased to be because She was transformed, or if She is actually reborn as Athena. It’s like asking if water cease to be water when it evaporates.

What is the difference between a demigod and a god?

A demigod is a hero, born of one god and one mortal parent. A demigod is between mortal and immortal, and therefore able to perform super-human feats but aren’t immortal (unless transformed into a god). They have the benefit of being able to travel between realms; which is off-limits to all but psychopomps, messenger gods, and mortals who have recently died. Some demigods, such as Hercules, had their own temples and many were worshiped as champions of the people – more approachable than gods.

Demigods, and their cult followings, are very similar to how today we sacrifice a great deal of time, money, and attention in tribute to super hero characters. They inspire the best (and worst) in us, live among us, and champion us, but aren’t totally human.

How to Find Your Patron Goddess or God

This is a common question for beginners: How do I find my patron goddess or god?  Those who are beginning their spiritual journey oft look to others in their religious community asking this question because they desire a mentor or deity to connect with.

My advice to you, if you find yourself asking this question, follows:

No one can answer this question for you directly, only give you a compass and tell you what landmarks they saw along the way.  It’s a bit like finding the right job, and right employer – that “right fit” isn’t “right” for everyone but you can approach it in about the same way. It may come to you from a combination of research (to open your mind to different pantheons), ritual (because the gods respond to ritual and it also cultivates your awareness of the divine), and self-reflection coupled with introspection (you must know yourself before you can know others, including the gods). You could design your own ritual, appealing to “Whoever will accept me as a devotee”, give an offering, and see who chooses you. It may not happen the first time, but your chances are better with persistence and the right approach.

Behave like you are applying for a job interview: clean and dress well, make an appropriate offering, approach respectfully, and be open-minded. Know what you can offer in return and include that in your ritual. Some deities accept food or libation, others accept music or art or poetry, some even accept blog posts praising them.  If you have decided to approach a particular god, research what He or She is known to favor and accept (like you would when researching an employer).

Finding your patron or matron god is kind of like an interview with a potential employer.

Finding your patron or matron god is kind of like finding the right employer.

If you are a poet or musician, then Apollon may be an appropriate patron and you can offer song to Him. If you are a medical technician or some sort, then Asklepios may be appropriate and you can offer your services in His name. If you are talented with crafts, then you can offer artwork, weavings, or pottery to Athene (and you don’t have to appeal to Her aspects of crafty warfare).

Like I said, it’s a lot like a job interview to find not only who matches you, but who you match with. Essentially, asking for a patron/matron is also asking to be His/Her priestess. So cultivate the qualities that would honor Them and offer your services or what you can make or earn to Them in return like you would cultivate your skills and experience to put on your resume.  Make yourself a valuable devotee, and your chances of being chosen will improve.

Addendum: It’s also important to consider what kind of person you want to be and who you want to be associated with.  Again, like applying for work in which the reputation of the company and your supervisor are important for your career, your patron or matron deity will be important for the cultivation of your spiritual life.  If you are serious about becoming a devotee, you will be cultivating aspects that the god or goddess is known for and asking for aid in realms they have control over.  So be sure to research before committing yourself to a particular deity.

Autumn Update

You may have been wondering what happened during this lapse of time since the last article posted to Helleneste kai Grammateus.  The truth is there has been a lot.  Happening, that is.  I won’t bog down this article with the full details of everything, but this will be an overview for upcoming posts…

Hellenion had its Annual General Meeting which kept my hands, mind, and emotional capacity more than full.

Concurrent with that, our family lost a strong friend of 14 years which sent me into a deep immobilizing funk of guilt and regret.  Our friend was one of the two family cats my husband and I took into our home four years ago when my side split households across the country.  He was declining sharply due to kidney failure and we were forced to decide to put him down.  It felt like pulling the plug on a child, but one that couldn’t communicate his pain.  We are still coping with the loss.

I’m also now in my last two weeks of a class on digital painting.  That is, painting on the computer with Corel Painter.  I promise I’ll post a link to one piece I did which Hellenic Polytheists will enjoy: Hestia.  I felt moved by Her to paint it.  I’m considering selling prints of it to those in the polytheistic community if there’s enough interest.

I am also applying to the graduate program at the Academy of Art University in SF for a MFA in Illustration (Concept Art track).  This has required a lot of attention to cultivating my portfolio.

And then there was Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday.  Perhaps its approach was why I was compelled to paint Hestia as it is certainly Her holiday.  Family and friends gathered to give feast and give thanks as winter approaches and they spend all day over the oven cooking together.  What could celebrate the hearth more?  My husband and I went out of town for the week and celebrated twice with his family (his parents are divorced) and spent time with his brother, brother’s fiance, and our nephew (who is now three years old and both charming and brilliant).  Then we flew back and entertained my parents and family and friends for a third Thanksgiving feast (well, three of those really as friend and relatives came at three separate times).  What can I say?  We have much to be thankful for.

Now I am taking a deep breath and getting back into the groove.  As usual, I post not by a schedule or routine, but when something of interest begs to be shared and discussed.  Next, I’ll share some advice I posted at MisticWicks concerning finding a patron (or matron) deity.

The Pagan/Polytheist Health Survey

Medicine logotype

Symbol of Medicine Image via Wikipedia

I read about Kimberly Hunt’s Pagan Health Survey this on The Wild Hunt and after taking the survey, I want to encourage you, the reader, to contribute to her research.  Here are her reasons why:

As both a Pagan and cultural anthropologist, I felt it was vitally important that we help policy-makers and service providers understand our needs and beliefs. This will help us to meet the health care needs of our community and build public understanding of our religious and spiritual traditions. I designed the Pagan Health Survey to help people better understand us and our views on health. The results will be combined with what I have gained by being within the Pagan community and sitting in on healing panel discussions, workshops, and so forth, as well as interviews with Pagan clergy and health care practitioners.

And here are mine:

  • It allows your opinions to be heard by policy-makers.
  • Policy is informed by research.
  • We want more alternative healthcare options.
  • Why not?
    • It takes about five minutes.
    • They survey doesn’t ask for any identifying information (not even your email address).

Please take the survey here.  The last question is open-ended, allowing you to submit your thoughts in a cohesive manner.  Please save that answer and post it blow in the comments section. I’ll refrain from posting mine for now so as not to bias you.  I’ll post it later on next week.

What do you do to prevent health problems and treat them when they arise?  When it comes to your health, do you think science is in conflict with spiritual treatment?  Do you think they are separate?  Have you had bad (or good) experiences with MDs or spiritual healers?  If you are Atheist, what do you think of spiritual healing and prayer and have you ever tried it?   If you are a polytheist, in what cases would you employ western medicine?  Please comment below!

Letter To the Grammateus #1

Bacchus and Ariadne

Image via Wikipedia

As the Grammateus (Secretary) of Hellenion, I receive some very interesting letters.  Often these are queries concerning our policies and how we practice.  As I’ve been processing new and renewing members this autumn in lieu of the 2010 Annual General Meeting, I came across one particularly interesting letter with some excellent questions.  I also have my response from earlier this spring, and would like to share both here.  Some people who are new to Hellenic Polytheism and the modern reconstruction thereof might be interested, particularly those interested in joining Hellenion.  I have omitted the author of the original query and his/her contact information in order to protect his/her privacy.
Continue reading

Which Gods Can You Trust?

Pagans, particularly modern Hellenic Polytheists and those of the hard polytheistic bent, will usually agree that the gods have their own agendas. This is clear in the earliest mythos of Homer. The gods take sides, have personal alliances, have varied personalities, and while our prayers are sometimes answered they are also sometimes ignored. So how can we trust them?

I visited a forum recently in which a poster asked this:

Currently, I’m a new pagan, only been pagan for about maybe a year or so, but how did you guys know which gods or goddesses to trust?
I realize that upon entering a relationship with any deity, there will be conditions that you will need to abide by.

It’s a very general question that I’m not sure how to phrase properly. However, how do you find a god or goddess who is open-minded, willing to let you ask questions no matter how irreverent, and just think for yourself? – gracesong

Zeus, the king of the gods, and controller of ...

Bust of Zeus via Wikipedia

My answer is this: Read up on the mythology of the god in question before approaching Them. This will give you a good start.

With many gods, you have to show that you are trustworthy first. That trust is built on exchange, you’re much more likely to develop that trust if you hold true to your side of the exchange than if you don’t. If you offer something in exchange for favor, then be worthy of Their trust and follow-through with your offering/sacrifice.

If you’ve done your reading, and keep your side of the exchange, then the rest is trial and error. Some gods will be indifferent to appeasement. Only They know who They favor.

If you’re not sure what to offer, then ask. If you don’t know which god to thank for something unexpected, you can say something like, “Hear me Zeus, if you are the right god to address, thank you for….” or “To whichever god blessed me with….thank you, I leave this offering for you.”

If you’re inclined towards the Hellenic Pantheon, these gods are known to be approachable:

  • Hestia – The hearth and seat of the home, what could be more inviting than that? She gave way to Dionisos and relinquished Her seat on Olympos when he was recognized as a god.
  • Hermes – He may play tricks on you, but he welcomes all kinds of people.
  • Asklepios – Very kind and known to accept all sorts of offerings (including a child’s dice) for healing.
  • Hypnos – The benignant god of sleep.
  • Which gods do you trust, and why?

    Was Jesus a Demi-god?

    Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

    Jesus depicted in stained glass in St John the Baptist's Anglican Church via Wikipedia

    This post follows The Difference Between Gods and Demi-Gods.  Please read that article first.

    Hi Alexandrabond, of course the Christian church is mostly Pagan in ritual, although forgotten are the meanings of the rituals.

    Isn’t Jesus a Demi-god? The fact is that Christianity looks nothing like Judaism so what does it look like? – bdrex

    The Catholic practice of revering saints:

    My suggestion is concerned more with the actions of followers than the nature of their saints. The cult behavior towards saints/heros/demi-gods is very similar in our respective religions.

    Christian ritual:

    I also agree that it’s very interesting how pagan their rituals are and that they have forgotten the meaning behind their rituals. That’s the unfortunate result of such a strict hierarchical church structure in which (at least until at least the Reformation) only priests and some nobility read and recited their mythology.  You’re also right that Christianity departs a great deal from Judaism. How interesting that this obscure Jewish cult divided so significantly from its parent religion and gained such notoriety over time.  While Judaism had its own, separate and contained, culture, the Christians under Paul reached out to gentiles (non-Jews) to convert them.  Any similarities they could borrow from pagan religions would make the transition easier and for utilitarian (not necessarily spiritual) reasons.

    Disclaimer:

    As always, as a modern Hellenic polytheist, I’m much less concerned with orthodoxy (correct thought) than orthopraxy (correct practice).  I don’t presume to hold a direct line to divinity, am not writing to fight over personal gnosis, and really don’t care to tell Christians what to believe.  Quite frankly, belief doesn’t matter, actions matter.  What I care about is how we relate to each other.

    That said, here is my approach the subject of Jesus and whether he was a demi-god:

    I don’t know for sure if Jesus of Nazareth existed; if he was a good, inspiring, mortal like Ghandi; if he was a god in disguise, or if he was descended from a mortal-immortal pairing and was therefore a demi-god/hero. If Jesus of Nazareth was a hero, then he could have undergone a process like apotheosis (elevation to godhood).

    The story of his life and death reminds me of Asklepios: born of a powerful god and a mortal female, rescued from death at birth, possessed life-restoring power, was a kindly man, and underwent apotheosis at the same time as his death.  Some also say that his mother was sent to the heavens.  It’s possible Jesus was the kind of hero Asklepios was – not one of strength, cunning, or quests – but of doing good deeds – and was rewarded for them by his father’s favor.   Yet it’s also possible that much like our holidays and rituals, this too was borrowed from our mythology and Jesus wasn’t divine at all. It’s possible he didn’t even exist.

    The Christian mythology is a knot of contradictions and it’s wound too tight for me to untie.  Personally given how many accounts there remain of Jesus, I’m inclined to think that he did exist and was a very good person, but as I have no gnosis of the Abrehamic god or Jesus, I cannot say whether he was anything more than that.

    Do you think Jesus was a demi god, a god, or just a man?  If he was just a man, do you think he was elevated to a demi-god or god?