Greek Pagan Basics: Hints for Studying Religious Sources

Hearthfire Handworks

When I say I’m a semi-reconstructionist, I mean to say that I draw heavily on historical, archaeological and literary sources in building my religious practice but don’t limit myself to those sources.

I’d also like to say that I by no means feel that what I do is the only proper or viable way to honor the gods–we are all different, and different things will work for different people. What works for me is a limited reliance on historical practice to inform my own. Now, a lot of the work has already been done by your co-religionists in terms of working out ritual formats and so forth. There is no pressing need to re-invent the wheel.

But if, like me, you like that sort of thing? It can be a very rewarding way to expand your spiritual life and to personalize your practice.

So, how to go about it?

Finding…

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Shinto and Sexuality: A gift of life

Shinto and Sexuality: A gift of life

Living With Kami

With the recent ban on adult content on Tumblr, it has given way to a lot of discussion about adult content online and what is or isn’t acceptable. Legitimate issues were brought up in how violence is more normalized than intimacy and sexuality, and how the bans would affect sex workers and nsfw artists greatly – Tumblr, one of the last safe mainstream social media platforms that could ensure an income and audience base is now also being ripped out from under them. I feel this is not right and even a dangerous and irresponsible decision to make. Instead of relying on bots and algorithms to moderate between adult content and all-ages content, they should hire a dedicated moderation team, and proper safety features into the site to protect minors, but also while not censoring adult content creators and their adult consumers. There were ways that worked before that do…

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Remember the Titans

Remember the Titans

Hearthfire Handworks

Occasionally I am asked whether it’s all right for a Hellenic polytheist to worship the Titan deities. After all, doesn’t myth tell us that they were the enemies of the Olympian gods? Well, not necessarily.

At the very least, I think we can take it on a case-by-case basis. Kronos swallowed all his children (save Zeus), that’s certainly not a friendly act. And yet the Kronia was celebrated in Athens, by Athenians who worshipped Zeus as one of their regular pantheon. Besides, not all the Titans joined with Kronos to fight against the Olympians–Oceanos, for one, stayed out of the battle (he also stayed out of Kronos’ own struggle with their father Ouranos). And other Titans–Prometheus, say–have been helpful outright to humanity.

Even taken as a whole, the Titans are not evil beings. They are not chaotic beings. They harbor no desire to destroy the world–the Titanomachy, the battle between…

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Myth versus Religion

A common sticking point about Hellenic Polytheism for both those following it and critics has been the nature of our myths. “Why worship a god who is so violent!? Aren’t they supposed to be role models??” and “I love the Theoi and worship all of them except Zeus because these myths…” are two sides of the same error.

Historical Angle

Ancients didn’t take myths for fact because they knew Homer or Hesiod or someone else mortal had made them. There is plenty of proof for this, but one example I like is in Plato’s Republic, where Plato’s (characterization of) Socrates critiques how poets have depicted the Theoi and calls for a total censorship in the fictional, ideal city. Aside from the innate moral question, we have here a genuine, contemporary voice recognizing the fault in the myths and their mortal origins.

Curiously, the Adonia in particular reverses the progression of the myth of Adonis it is based off of. The ancient Athenians celebrating this festival, then, saw a need to honor the myths while not being strictly bound by them and using it for symbolic rituals about agriculture and growth. I recommend The Garden of Adonis by Marcel Detienne for a very in depth analysis of Adonis’ mythology and the Adonia overall.

Furthermore, ancients would have known just like we do that myths conflict each other(at least to some extent, but Herodotus surely must have pondered this often). This means even if one version was correct, then another would be false. Unless…they were not meant to be taken literally.

Which brings me to my next point.

Ancient Entertainment

Theaters of ancient Greece are well known to most. Obviously they were used for plays which often depicted myths. Songs seem to have been important in ancient Greek culture; hymns were sung, not read. So ancients saw myths as entertainment in an era before books. It still could have questionable morals and affect children like violent video games are feared to do (Plato would oppose those too). Thus ancients, or at least philosophers, probably knew the myths weren’t to be taken for their word.

So what do we do?

In terms of alternatives to seeing myth as straightforward truth, one could take them as allegorical truths, or go from the more anthropological perspective and think about how ancients sought to explain natural phenomena. In the former, it would benefit one to read myths and ponder the lessons ancient Greeks were being taught in each. In the latter, one could say the Theoi are the energies or forces behind those phenomena, orchestrating larger patterns and so on, capable of overlapping each other and interacting with us.

Whatever the path you decide to take with it, it’s highly recommended to read historical books at least to some degree so that you know what you are doing or basing your practice off of.

Floundering about with only the guidance of the myths is like a Christian Bible-thumper who doesn’t know how to pray or what the church is.

Pagan Pilgrimmage

Last year, I went to Greece. It was awesome. It was beautiful, from the trans symbol painted onto cement pillars in Athens to the cats strolling in ancient ruins. I felt power and time. I felt Kronos’ power, perhaps. I definitely felt Apollo and perhaps Persephone, when I visited some of Their respective sites. Oddly enough, I don’t think I felt much of Athena, but perhaps I was ‘numbed’ to Her presence by mainly staying in Athens, Her city even now. Even though I may not have felt Her explicitly, seeing the Parthenon tower over the buildings is still breathtaking! Was it something about those stones? Or was it the sheer energy of Delos, and the stranger clad in red who seemed to teleport back with us? Or perhaps was it the sheer joy I felt on the boat rides there and back? I don’t think it was any singular one of those things that told me Apollo was there. I don’t know if the stranger just walked very fast. But the holiness was strong, and I found myself trying to cover the whole island in a few hours. Even though I was with people who didn’t know about my faith, a family member remarked that the island had a feeling to it, that someone was there. It was an oddly pagan remark for someone avowedly atheist (spiritual, however).The grandeur of the temple to Zeus Olympios at Athens, or rather what remains of it, impressed upon me an awe that seems to serve as a larger metaphor for what I feel for the Theoi: respect, love and appreciation. I think it’s not necessary for everyone to visit ancient sites, but if you have the chance, it’s great. For me, being at the actual places where ancients worshipped felt like a magnification of my usual interactions with the Theoi, and the sort of feeling I get when one of Them is present could be stronger.If you can’t, hopefully there is a museum near you with archaeological artifacts, for the simple reason that museums are cool and seeing old things up close is a unique privilege.

Temperance, Wisdom

Cytherean Devotee

When Plato compared temperance with wisdom, it caught me off guard. In America, Temperance brings about names of pilgrims and Calvinists, and alcohol down the drains. Its a virtue, I could tell you as much, but I could not sings its praises if you asked. It seemed antiquated, like log cabins and women named Patience.

However in Charmides, Plato speaks of temperance and wisdom as if they are the same. While modern hellenic polytheists might translate this to a greek name of a pillar, i prefer to think of it as it remains in english. Temperance, moderation and restraint, unilaterally recieved praise by Socrates, Charmides, and Critias. The act of balance in hellenismos does not get tossed aside like in western culture. Today we often forsake health, both mental and physical, for more. More money, more joy, more more. This is not always by our design, those for whom the…

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Purity and Miasma, Part 2: Katharmos Is No Guarantee

Purity and Miasma, Part 2: Katharmos Is No Guarantee

Magick From Scratch

In my previous post in this series, I explored a text quote which demonstrates how the absence of purity is not a deal-breaker if you are a human calling out with an earnest heart to Hellenic deities.

In this post, I’d like to look at a quote very often cited as evidence that one should never make prayer in a state of impurity.

and with hands unwashed I would take shame to pour the glittering wine to Zeus; there is no means for a man to pray to the dark-misted son of Kronos, with blood and muck all splattered upon him

— Homer’s Iliad, 6.266-8

When you take this quote utterly out of the context of the surrounding story, it seems pretty clearly supportive of the idea that you can’t pray, at all, without ritual purity. Strange, considering the anecdote about Glaucus that I explored in my last post.

Let’s…

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