Reader Question #2: How do you start believing when you don’t (even if you know it would be good for you)?

Dear readers, a reminder: Helleneste kai Grammateus is open to questions. To take advantage of this, please read the Site Policy and complete the Ask a Question form. As always, this is a free service, but if you wish to help support this blog, I greately appreciate donations.

This comment came in response to a previous article, Why believe in divinity if you can’t prove it’s real?

One slight problem: if you know you’re just deluding yourself in order to live longer and healthier, how do you even believe? For those that aren’t, the fact that being religious is correlated to better health is of no significance. -Quintin

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Orphic Hymn to Aurora

We had the great pleasure of entertaining Melissa of the Bees in our home before she flew back to Canada. She saw my window-side altar to our household gods and was moved to sing the Orphic Hymn to Aurora (Dawn) in ancient Greek. We recorded her lovely offering and it’s available on her channel where many of her other beautiful songs can be found.  See her video on her YouTube channel for her additional notes on the song.

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?

    The 2010 Hellenion Calendar

    Photograph of Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hell...

    Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes (YSEE) ritual in Greece via Wikipedia

    Many people have expressed interest in the 2010 Hellenion Calendar and how to find it.  I am including a link in here for interested, and also updating the links page for Helleneste kai Grammateus.

    The 2010 Hellenion Calendar

    The calendar is based on the monthly and annual observances and festivals of the ancient Athenians from about 800 BCE to 323 BCE. This version was created using information derived from http://www.numachi.com/~ccount/hmepa and from http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/MoonPhase.html as well as the sources Greek Religion by Walter Burkert (Harvard University Press, 1977, English translation: Basil Blackwell Publisher and Harvard University Press, 1985), Old Stones, New Temples; ancient Greek paganism reborn, by Drew Campbell (Xlibris Corporation, 2000) and Festivals of the Athenians, by H. W.Parke (London, Thames and Hudson, 1977)…

    In addition to ancient festivals and observances, certain modern occasions are listed as well. This includes the Hellenion monthly libation (ensuring that at least one day a month is shared by a community, albeit scattered, at the same time, and also ensuring that each of the twelve Olympians is honored at least once during the year). Note that this libation is not an official practice of Hellenion but a voluntary activity endorsed by many Hellenion members.  Some modern festivals are also listed, such as Heliogenna, held over several days during the shortest days of December, and Prometheia, held in Greece on the summer solstice near Mt. Olympos (see http://www.ysee.gr/index-eng.php for more information about this festival).

    Honoring Artemis Potnia Theron Fosoros on Mounukhia

    Àrtemis mata Acteó

    Artemis Image by Sebastià Giralt via Flickr

    The Mounukhia festival honors Artemis as her titles Potnia Theron (the Mistress of Beasts) and Artemis Fosforos (Artemis the Light-Bringer). It begins with a pompe in which the people carry round cakes in which small torches, or dadia, are stuck. These cakes are called amphiphontes (round-shining). They are offered to Artemis in thanks for the lives of beasts that were killed during the hunt, and for the light of the moon. Cupcakes studded with birthday candles make a simple and thoughtful substitute. Glaux Nest

    Mounukhia is an ancient Greek festival dedicated to Artemis. It falls between late April and early May in the month of Mounukhion in the ancient Greek calendar. At this festival, Artemis is celebrated in her titles as Potnia Theron (the Mistress of Animals) and Artemis Fosforos (Artemis the Light-Bringer).

    As with all Greek rituals, the participants are to be cleansed of miasma (negative energy) by first washing their hands and asperging themselves with water.

    An offering of thanks is given to Artemis for the lives of beasts that were killed during the hunt, and for the light of the moon, in the form of a meat offering and cakes called amphiphontes. Amphiphonton (the singular) means “shining-all-around” because the cakes are ringed with lit candles to symbolize the light of the moon. The meat that was offered to her was generally a stag or some type of wild game, though modern reconstructionists have been known to sacrifice meat from the market, or even small cakes in the shape of stags.

    The Mounukhia ritual also may include the reading of her hymns, and the telling of myths associated with the Goddess of the Hunt. Richard – The Pagan Village

    Ritual Outline: Honoring Artemis Potnia Theron (Mistress of Beasts) & Fosforos (Light-Bringer)

    Honoring Athene Ergane Agoraia, Patron of Craftsfolk

    Pallas Athene

    Pallas Athene via Wikipedia

    I dedicated my artistic labors to Athene today and asked for Her to be my patron and give her blessing.  With barely cleansed with khernips and an olive oil sponde, I fed an ink-and-watercolor painting I created of Her to the hearth fire as an act of dedication.

    This is the ritual outline I designed, based on Old Stones, New Temples by Drew Campbell and hymns researched on theoi.com.:

    • Wash hands and face with lustral water (khernips).
    • Process to the altar or shrine in a respectful manner.
    • Light incense.  Frankincense is generally applicable.
    • Read or recite a hymn.
      • [Orpheus] XXXI. TO PALLAS [ATHENE]A Hymn.
        Only-Begotten, noble race of Jove, blessed and fierce, who joy’st in caves to rove:
        O, warlike Pallas, whose illustrious kind, ineffable and effable we find:
        Magnanimous and fam’d, the rocky height, and groves, and shady mountains thee delight:
        In arms rejoicing, who with Furies dire and wild, the souls of mortals dost inspire.
        Gymnastic virgin of terrific mind, dire Gorgons bane, unmarried, blessed, kind:
        Mother of arts, imperious; understood, rage to the wicked., wisdom to the good:
        Female and male, the arts of war are thine, fanatic, much-form’d dragoness [Drakaina], divine:
        O’er the Phlegrean giants rous’d to ire, thy coursers driving, with destruction dire.
        Sprung from the head of Jove [Tritogeneia], of splendid mien, purger of evils, all-victorious queen.
      • [Homer] XI. TO ATHENA  Of Pallas Athene, guardian of the city, I begin to sing. Dread is she, and with Ares she loves deeds of war, the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. It is she who saves the people as they go out to war and come back. Hail, goddess, and give us good fortune with happiness!
    • Plunge a burning twig (of rue if possible) from the hearth (hestia) into the clean water.  Sprinkle this water (khernips) over the offerings.
    • Place offerings (olives, flax, wool, crafts, & intellectual labors) before the statue or other sacred symbol.
    • Stand erect with palms up and make your own prayers.
    • Call upon the deity to listen to you, evoking as many epithets as are applicable.
      • Pallas (forename, as in “Pallas Athene”)
      • Glaukopis (Grey-Eyed, Owl-Eyed)
      • Ergane (Workerwoman)
      • Agoraia (of the Market)
      • Khruse (Golden)
      • Meter (Mother)
      • Nikephoros (Victory-Bringing)
      • Polumetis (of Manny Counsels)
      • Promakhos (Champion)
      • Soteria (Savior)
      • Sthenias (Mighty)
    • Remind Her of previous assistance.
    • Make your request and state what you will do in return when it is fulfilled.
    • Pour libation (sponde) into a cup or bowl and place on the altar.
      • Wine (best mixed with water)
      • Milk and Honey
      • Olive Oil (especially appropriate)
    • Process away from the altar.
    • Place offerings in the hearth fire or else outside in a sheltered place by the door or fence.

    You are welcome to use this ritual, or modify it, as you like.

    What rituals have you performed for Athene?

    Dedication to Pallas Athene, Patron of Craftsfolk

    Pallas Athene Statue

    Pallas Athene Statue via Wiki

    In this month of April, I’ve returned to my roots.  I’ve delved into art (particularly production design for media like film, TV, illustrated stories, etc.) through immersion in classes, correspondence with others in the business, reading, and tutorials.  The more I learn the more I am energized.  This may be my new career.

    I am going to pray to Pallas Athene to be my patron, and at the same time, ask for Her blessing.  I am going to ask if I can integrate Her symbol of the owl, perhaps as part of water-marking my freelance art, as a way to honor Her.  To do this, I will need to perform a ritual. Continue reading