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.