News: “Reconstructionist pagans are reviving the polytheistic religions of the ancient Greeks, Druids, Egyptians, and others”- Beliefnet.com

Parthenon from west

Image via Wikipedia

For those unfamiliar with the modern movement towards reviving ancient polytheistic religions, this article is for you:

Reconstructionist pagans are reviving the polytheistic religions of the ancient Greeks, Druids, Egyptians, and others- Beliefnet.com.

It was written back in 2004 and these religions are still going strong.  Here is an excerpt describing the movement to reconstruct the ancient polytheist religions into religions for modern practitioners living in today’s cultures:

Reconstructionists are a group of neo-pagans-people who look to pre-Christian cultures for their faith-different branches of which worship the gods of ancient Norse, Roman, Egyptian, and Druid peoples. And while scholars say their numbers are only a fraction of the neo-pagan community, they also say they are a vibrant illustration of the rejection of traditional religion in the United States. And, in a curious boomerang effect, they are part of a movement away from the more eclectic forms of neo-paganism, like Wicca, taken up by pagan pioneers in the 1960s and 1970s.

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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.
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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 Difference Between Gods and Demi-Gods

    Hades with Cerberus (Heraklion Archaeological ...

    Hades with Cerberus via Wikipedia

    Gods are immortal and have particular domains that They control/embody/personify. Demi-gods, or heros, are descended from god and mortal pairings. Demi-gods have abilities that surpass mortals, can cross domains that gods can not cross (like descending into Hades – something we don’t see any gods but the Chthonic gods do, because it isn’t Their realm [except for Hermes and Iris because They are messenger gods]). Yet mortals don’t have the power of gods and can be subject to the whims of gods. Mortals often have a special relationship with their parent god and sometimes are blessed with long life or immortality by their parent god or gods in general. Sometimes they have/had cult worship as well (as in, people pray[ed] to them in addition to the gods).

    IMHO, Catholocism adapted the practice of worshiping demi-gods/heros to the worship of their saints (not the same figures in mythology/history, but rather, the very human tendency to elevate certain notable individuals to cult status and ascribing a divine quality to them).

    What do you think a demi god is?  What do you think defines a god?

    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 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