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.

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

Continue reading

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.

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?

From Atheism to Paganism

Atheist Badge

Atheist Badge via Wikipedia

The issue of returning to Paganism from Atheism came up in a thread on MysticWicks.com:

…It’s been years since I’ve been a “practicing” pagan, and I largely consider myself a non-theist these days. However, I don’t particularly want to be.

I was happiest when I felt a strong spiritual connection, and I generally had a positive outlook, because I felt in control of my life via magic and ritual, and cared for by the Divine.

I first started falling away from it when my husband and I moved in together. (I officially considered myself a pagan at 16, moved out of my parents house at 19, and am currently 25.) It seems so strange, but living with my conservative parents, it was so much easier to do rituals… even if most of my supplies and books were hidden away, I spent every night alone in my room, and had all the privacy I wanted. Not that my husband minds, but I just don’t like the idea of running off to the bedroom (or sending him and the cats to the bedroom, as he has suggested) if I want to do a ritual. I feel timed, and a bit awkward knowing someone is aware of what I’m doing, when I consider it private. (A bit like talking through the bathroom door…)

I’ve spent so much time as a cynical atheist, and defending the (shocking!) idea of not believing in God to a few nosy co-workers, that I almost feel… too stubborn? to go back to believing in a higher power. I feel like it’s conceding or something.

I’m not opposed to the idea of non-theist witchcraft, as there are still some “spiritual” things I believe in (karma, energy, etc.) without believing in God, but believing in magic without a higher power seems almost blasphemous to me. Egotistical, at least. When I would do rituals, I would consider it a prayer or a request, not “controlling” the energy and elements myself… – humangirl

My advice for her, and others, considering returning to paganism:

It took me time to adjustment to practicing rituals while living with my husband and negotiate the space-sharing issues. So I know what that feels like – to feel self-conscious while living with another person, even one who is supportive and understanding of your practices.

There is a bit of pride wrapped up in being Atheist because that involves a level of certitude; it’s a personal certitude that takes the place of faith in one or more deities outside of oneself, and that can require significant pride to maintain. I say this having been an Atheist.  It was indeed a humbling experience to first doubt that there is nothing outside of the concrete physical world, and later to believe in something more.

If you are not certain about the existence of any deities, well, then you’re Agnostic. And that’s fine.  But if you don’t believe in gods in any way, shape, or form, you can still have other ideas about how the world works.  Example: belief in Feng Shui for example doesn’t involve any kind of deity, yet it’s nearly magical the way it functions through the direction and cultivation of Chi.

It’s really going to take some self-reflection for you to find out what you believe. Neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what to believe.  But once you do realize what your belief is, then you just need to come to terms with it. If you are changing your mind, what is there to be embarrassed about? People don’t stop learning or growing, they continue to do so throughout their entire lives.

Would you consider yourself a Theist?  Atheist?  Monotheist?  Polytheist?  Agnostic?  Have you ever changed from one to the other?  How would you advise someone experiencing a crisis of faith (or crisis of lack of faith)?

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

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.