Sunday, January 25, 2015

The ancient Hellenic drinking game of 'Kottabos' recreated

Assistant Art History Professor Heather Sharpe and her students of West Chester University recently invested a fair amount of time deciphering ancient Hellenic texts and artworks in order to recreate a drinking game. The game, known as kottabos, involved men gathered in a circle during a symposion (συμπόσιον), a meeting of men and their courtesans to discuss philosophy and network, and flinging dregs of wine at a target in the centre of the room from a special cup known as a kylix.




The students used a 3D-printed drinking cup, some diluted grape juice and willing students who soon got the hang of the game and the findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America this month.

There are two ways of playing, according to texts and art works. The goal is to knock down a disc carefully balanced a tall metal stand in the middle of the room. In another version the goal was to sink small dishes floating in a larger bowl of water. Players hit their target with the leftover wine-dregs at the bottom of their cup. To achieve the best results in kottabos participants had to toss the wine-dregs overhand at their target as though they were pitching a baseball or throwing a frisbee. Ancient Hellenic players would utter the name of the object of their affection before flinging the wine. Winners received all sorts of prizes, such as sweets and even sexual favours from the available courtesans.

Now you know what to do after your group comes together to honour the Gods!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tips on hiding your practice

"What should I do regarding shrines and worship if I'm hiding my practice from my parents? (I worship Gaia...might the Earth be a good "shrine"?)"

At some point in our lives, most of us find ourselves in a situation where we are held back from practicing the way we want to. It can be a because we’re living with people who do not understand our religion or practice, or whom we simply do not want to come out to. It can be because we are on holiday, because we have guests over or because we’re busy and life is chaotic.
That having been said, there are a lot of things we can do to practice our religion within the restraints placed upon us by either internal or external factors. Here are some tips to deal with these issues:
  • Strip your religion back to its basics and/or find out which practices matter most to you. This allows you to maximize the time and the amount of privacy you have by uncluttering your head.
  • Make a portable altar/shrine kit. This is a box, can or any other medium in which you place those things you can’t practice without. I have two sets; my original Eclectic one and a Hellenic one. Within my Hellenic box are two tea-lights and a holder, a container with khernips, a container with ethanol, a container with olive oil, a cup for khernips, a cup to burn offerings in, cloth to dry my hands and face, some incense, a hair clip, matches, a little prayer book of the hymns I use most, a spoon and a container of barley. I use this kit when I travel but it can also be used to quickly set up a place of worship and break it down just as quickly. The box can be hidden away when not in use so it does not take up living space, a valued commodity for some people. 
  • Find substitutes. For those who like to have some sort of permanent altar or shrine but don’t have the liberty to do so, find substitutes for the basics of your altar needs. I have seen eclectic altars set up with pebbles, seashells, flowers, pompoms, even Barbies. For those who are not allowed open flame or candles, find substitutes. Electrical candles work just fine and look pretty realistic. Use essential oils to smell and a feather to set the air in motion. Substitutes are not perfect but they get the job done. Often, it’s the thought that counts.
As a final note in regards to the original question: worship on the Earth is generally for Khthonic deities—mostly those of the Underworld. Gaea, however, could be worshipped in that regard as well so yes, you could worship Her ‘on the earth’.


Friday, January 23, 2015

$118,- raised for Terre des Hommes

Elaion is proud to announce that this month's Pandora's Kharis donation run has raised $118,- for our democratically decided upon cause Terre des Hommes. I am once more very happy to say you have all given generously, and in the spirit of the Gods!

 
The Terre des Hommes International Federation is a network of ten national organisations working for the rights of children and to promote equitable development without racial, religious, political, cultural or gender-based discrimination. This month we donated to their special campaign to end female slave labour in the textile industry. It costs 60 euros to send a former textile worker to school, which means two girls have just been saved.

From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community. On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving. Thank you for your generosity!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The mystery of incuse coins

Researchers at Macquarie University's Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies (ACANS) have joined forces with scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), on a joint research program to solve a twenty-five century-old mystery behind the technology used to produce a special variety of ancient Hellenic coins, thus reports the Archaeology News Network.

Twenty-five century-old mystery uncovered
Silver Stater from Lucania Metapontion, 510-480 BC: Obv. Ear of corn, META reversed; 
Rev: Ear of corn incuse [Credit: Rosenblum Coins]
There are many mysteries about ancient Hellenic society, and it seems these researchers are working hard to solve one of them: how did the ancient Hellenes mint coins which shows the same image on the front and back, but with the image on the back sunk into the metal so that it appears as a negative or incuse version of the front?

These coins were first minted around 540 BC in the cities of Southern Italy (modern Basilicata and Calabria) and has attracted a good deal of discussion but it has never been satisfactorily explained. The mysterious technique of manufacture, which appears to be quite difficult to execute, was in practice for over a century. There are no surviving contemporary accounts of ancient coin manufacture, and no illustrations. Only three or four of the dies once used for striking coins in ancient Greek mints survive today. Therefore, what we know about the earliest history of coin minting is derived from a study of the coins themselves.

Dr Vladimir Luzin, Instrument Scientist at ANSTO, is at the head of the new research which makes use of neutron scattering texture measurements.

"Our aim is to explore the technology behind the production of one of the world's first coinages. In particular, our objective is to explain the very singular technology and processes for minting incuse coins."

ANSTO's Bragg Institute leads Australia in the use of neutron scattering and X-ray techniques to solve complex research and industrial problems in many important fields. Although measurements of coins using neutron texture analysis have been implemented before, a systematic and full-scale study to set a benchmark is unique to this project. According to Associate Professor Kenneth Sheedy, Director of ACANS, ANSTO's neutron scattering texture measurements will provide insight into the mechanical processes undertaken to create the coins. Numismatists from ACANS will then infer the production steps undertaken to produce these coins using knowledge of ancient materials and equipment that were available at the time. I will keep you posted when more information becomes available.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Poseideon B updates

A while ago, I decided that on the day of the Hene kai Nea, I'd post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog.

Changes to the blog:
  • I cleaned up the tags and the blog in general a little. I'm not sure if anyone notices, but it makes me feel better ;-)
  • Atlantis came back but is currently on break. There are recaps, though!
Statistics:
  • So, last week, I came on the blog and found out I'd gotten 5000 views overnight--which, for me? A bit much. I average out around 500 views a day; small fish and all. I am chalking it up to one of the internet's mysteries, but I did immortalize it for posterity.
Anything else?
Pandora's Kharis, a charity circle for and by Hellenistic Polytheists is currently collecting for the Terre des Hommes. If you want to donate, you have until tomorrow! Join us on Facebook if you would like to pitch a cause for next month!

Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

That is it for the last month's updates, as far as I can remember. Have a blessed Deipnon!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Question collections post 10

I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.


"Do you know of any Greek names? I would like my future children to have names connected to ancient Greece...! Maybe some with a religious connotation?"

I actually did a post on this before. Short version: children were often named after the Theoi, but names were often switched around a bit. To gift a child with the exact name of a Theos or Theia was considered hubris. The eldest son was usually named after his paternal grandfather and subsequent children after other relatives. Sons were rarely named after their father, although it was acceptable to give a child an altered version of the father's name. Female names came to be largely through the same customs, but were 'feminized' by editing the endings of the word. From '-es' or '-ias' to '-eis', '-e' or '-a' for example, as can be seen with the male name 'Agapias' and female name 'Agapia'.

As for specific names, Dion (after Dionysos), Dia (loosely after Aphrodite), Alex or Alexander, Cassandra, Cleo, Irene, Leo, and Tamara come to mind. Here is a link to a whole bunch of them: link. Good luck!


"Do you have an advice for someone trying to actively worship three deities at the same time? It seems like I do not have enough time for them all :/"

I recently wrote about how the major difference between reconstructive religions and modern ones—especially Pagan ones—is the way worship is conducted. Individual worship of Gods as well as patronage is perfectly acceptable in modern religions, but in Recon religions and the ancient Traditions they were based upon, worship tends to be of the pantheon, not so much the one God or Goddess. Worship was generalized in such a way that multiple Gods and Goddesses were worshipped in one rite—and usually in the same way.

I worship a pantheon, and I don't have 'patrons' as it wasn't the Hellenic way. So... sadly I don't have advice for you. If you feel called to exclusively worship three Gods, then you will need to make time to do so. In general, it is easier to worship a pantheon than singular Gods; in that way, you try to emulate an ancient Hellenic worshipper and not an ancient Hellenic priest of three deities. I wish you the best of luck; it sounds like a time-consuming but hopefully rewarding calling.


"Why do you blog?"

I started blogging simply as a way to organise my dive into Hellenismos. Along the way, Baring the Aegis became more of a general resource for the Hellenic community. There is a personal note in there, but I am a private person by nature, so not too much. Any and all UPG comes with a big fat warning label. As for why I do it: I like doing it. Sure, because I have a daily blog there are times when time or energy are sparse and it becomes a bit of a chore to do, but in general, I find it a good experience. It's also a way for me to keep researching, to keep reading--I want to be able to present new bits of information or understand the ancient Hellenic society better. I enjoy maintaining a general Hellenistic blog, with a bit of everything--mythology, ancient society, current events, personal practice, general contemplation on the religion, etc.That is what keeps me interested as well.


"Can you tell us about Persephone? She's quite an overlooked goddess but i think she's very important. Could you also speak about her role in spells?"

This anonymous question has been sitting in my inbox Tumblr inbox for a fairly long time, which is why I'm posting my reply here because the original asker may not check there anymore for a reply. Every time I thought about answering this message, I found myself without words. You see, I think Persephone is one of the most honoured Goddesses both today and in ancient Hellas. She was one of the most honoured Goddesses in the Eleusinian Mysteries and especially in modern Paganism, Persephone is everyone's sweetheart. As for her place in spells... my dear, I can't help you there. I'm a Traditional Hellenist and magic wasn't part of the ancient Hellenic religion. I'm sorry, please try a more Neo-Pagan oriented person on Tumblr; I'm not the right person to answer this.


"I visit your blog site from time to time and I was wondering if your practice involves Chthonic deities? and if you don't, if there's any that you at the very least find interesting. It seems to me that not many Hellenic Polytheists really involve themselves with Chthonic deities so I thought it would be an interesting question to ask."
 
I give sacrifice to the Khthonic deities when the situation warrants it. I honour Hermes Khthonios when someone I love has passed away, for example, and I give sacrifice to Hekate at the Deipnon. I honour Persephone (and Demeter) on dates which were important for the Eleusinian Mysteries and appease the Erinyes when so required.
 
I have other experiences than you, though, when it comes to the wider Pagan community and even Hellenists. Especially non-Traditional Hellenists often worship or are dedicated to Haides in his Underworld epithets, and Persephone has a huge modern cult following. I hope this answers your question :)


Monday, January 19, 2015

More on the age of the Antikythera Mechanism

Remember when I reported that new analysis of the Antikythera Mechanism suggests the astronomical device is older than archaeologists had assumed?  James Evans, a physicist and science historian at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and part of an international group working to crack the puzzle of the device’s origins and purpose, recently added a new twist with an analysis that suggests it dates to 205 BC; as much as a century earlier than previously believed.

More on Antikythera Mechanism older than thought
Pieces of the Antikythera Mechanism are photographed at the Archaeological
Museum in Athens. The device consisted of a series of intricate, interlocking
 gears designed to predict eclipses and calculate the positions of the sun,
 moon and planets as they swept across the vault of the sky
 [Credit: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images]


If he’s right, that makes it more likely the Antikythera Mechanism was inspired by the work of the legendary Hellenic mathematician Archimedes. It would also mean the device was built at time when scientific traditions from multiple cultures were coming together to create a new view of the cosmos. According to Evans, pushing the date back is exciting.

“We think it would be highly significant because it could change the picture of the development of Greek astronomy.”

Greek sponge divers stumbled across the wreck of the Roman galley in 1900, after being blown off course and taking shelter in the lee of the tiny island north of Krete. Scientists think the ship was a merchant vessel that foundered around 60 BC. Archaeologists eventually identified more than 80 corroded fragments believed to be part of the Antikythera Mechanism, including the shoebox-sized piece with dials and gears clearly visible on the surface. Studies revealed at least 30 interlocking gears, and researchers believe the device held at least two dozen more. The assembly was housed in a wooden box and operated by a hand crank. Elaborate dials traced the movement of heavenly bodies, while ingenious gearing mimicked the fluctuating speeds at which the moon crosses the night sky, even though the Greeks had no understanding of the elliptical orbit responsible for the effect.

One dial plotted the four-year cycle of Olympic Games. Another predicted the timing of solar and lunar eclipses, apparently down to the hour. That was the dial Evans and Christián Carman, of the University of Quilmes, Argentina, focused on for their new analysis, published in the Archive for History of Exact Science.

Based on the style of Greek lettering on the Antikythera Mechanism, previous estimates of its construction date ranged between 150 to 100 B.C. But Evans and Carman took an astronomical approach, comparing eclipse dates on the mechanism to Babylonian eclipse records and a NASA eclipse catalog. They concluded that the 'start date' for the eclipse predictor was 205 BC. That doesn’t prove the device was built then, but Evans thinks it was.

“For us, it seems most likely that it was built close to the period for which it would have worked best."

Science historian Alexander Jones, who was not involved with the analysis, called it a really remarkable piece of work. Evans and Carman clearly establish the oldest possible age for the device, said Jones, of New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. But he’s still not convinced it was actually manufactured that long ago. It’s possible that 205 B.C. was a historic date, chosen by the maker as the starting point for his dial, Jones pointed out. Evans agrees.

“People should be leery of trying to associate it with any one particular person, but you would have to think that whoever built this must at least have made use of what Archimedes had done, or came out of a tradition that started with Archimedes.”

If the date holds up, it would also mean that the device was built before the invention of trigonometry, a branch of mathematics long linked to the golden era of Greek astronomy. According to Evans:

“I think that would make it much more interesting, because it would come from a more formative period of Greek astronomy.”

Future revelations about the device may hinge on the discovery of additional fragments. A new series of underwater excavations started last year and will resume in the spring. I will keep you informed.