On December 21th or the night of the 20th, Elaion will organize a PAT ritual for the Poseidea. During this festival, Poseidon as savior of ships, protector of those who voyage in ships, and God of the lapping waters both salt and fresh important for agriculture, is thanked for the many gifts that came from faraway places that were likely given at that time. Will you join us at 10 am EST on the 21th or your evening on the 20th?

The most complete account of the festival is Noel Robertson's article Poseidon's Festival at the Winter Solstice, The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 34, No. 1. (1984), pp. 1-16:

"The record shows that Poseidon was once worshipped in every part of Greece as a god of deneral importance to the community. [...] The festival falls near the winter solstice, and the ritual business marked by jollity and license, belongs to the general type of solstice festival known the world over.  At Poseidon’s festival, however, the sportive conduct has a definite purpose; this purpose arises from the fundamental agrarian background if Mediterranean society, and may bring us close to the origin of solstice festivals.

It has scarcely been noticed that festivals of Poseidon, more than those of any other Greek deity, fall at just this time of year; yet the evidence is extensive. [...] The festival Poseidea and some of the rites in question are often claimed for Poseidon the sea-god, but at this season sailing is furthest from one’s mind, and fishing on the shore is by no means an overriding concern.  Such details as we have point elsewhere, to Poseidon as the god of fresh water who fructifies Demeter’s fields."

One of Poseidon’s epithets is prosklystios, 'of the lapping water'. He is also invoked as Poseidon phytalmios which implies natural fertility and human procreation. There are also implications in the legends that imply bonfires at the winter solstice.

Noel Robertson concludes:

"…the celebrants feast to satiety, then turn to lascivious teasing. What is the ritual purpose of such conduct?  It obviously suits Poseidon’s mythical reputation as the most lustful of gods, who far surpasses Apollo and Zeus in the number of his liaisons and his offspring. Poseidon the seducer is the god of springs and rivers; his women typically succumb while bathing or drawing water; the type of the river god is a rampant bull. But the ritual likewise treats Poseidon as a procreant force; witness the epithets phytalmios, genesios, pater, etc. as interpreted above. The myths and the ritual reflect the same belief. The rushing waters are a proponent male power, just as the fields which they fertilize are a prolific female.  Both water and the fields, both Poseidon and Demeter, can be made to operate by sympathetic magic.  The rites of our winter festival rouse Poseidon and bring the rushing waters."

It is interesting that that Theophrastus tells us that the silver fir was important in ship building, especially for masts. The ‘tannenbaum’ is a silver fir. It is also interesting to compare with the Roman Saturnalia which may very well have borrowed from the Poseidea.

Celebrating Poseidon's Festival seems to be lost in modern practice. It likely entailed bonfires, feasting, cutting of trees (probably decorated), and very likely gift giving. As God of begetting, that aspect was not forgotten. We'll bring at least the ritual for Poseidon back on December 21, at 10 am EST, or your evening on the 20th. You can find the community page here and the ritual here.
All right, we're going to tackle this before it gets picked up and you, as a Hellenist, find yourself without an answer. A summary of the issue at hand: A group of students at the University of Texas are calling for the firing of a classics professor who has written extensively on pederasty in ancient Hellas. Students claim Thomas Hubbard’s academic work “advocates for violent crime against teen boys” and is being celebrated in online communities that promote pedophilia. Read a whole, long article summarizing it all here.

So, pederasty. Yes, it existed. Yes, it often included sex between an adult male and a teenage male. Yes, technically, that makes it pedophilia. Do I condone it? No. Was it part of ancient Hellenic culture? Yes. Is it something any true Hellenist should want to bring back? Hell no! And if anyone ever uses ancient Hellenic culture as an excuse to break a modern law, they are missing the point of Hellenism.

So, now, let me explain pederasty so you can explain it to others, and tell you how modern Hellenist views these practices.

Hellenic society revolved around the household, and the household was founded upon the husband and wife. The ancient Hellenes knew of no other household foundation as this combination alone produced children. As many children died of illness, accidents and war and the continuation of the family line was one of the--if not the--most important desire and responsibility of every citizen. 

The ancient Hellenes seemed to have viewed all social interactions (so male-male, female-female and even male-female interactions) not only through a gender filter but also through a power filter. Male citizens had more power than slaves, for example, and female citizens had more power than male slaves, even though women were bound by other social structures than any man was. Older men had more power than younger men and the same held true for women. Married people even had more power than unmarried people. Gender was, if you will, merely a factor in the equation of who had more power during the exchange.

The one with more power was the active party and he (or she) was to be obeyed. When it came to the law, this partner was punished less severely for a crime both partook of (like adultery)--the complete opposite of how we'd view it today. The passive party was usually younger, a slave, or a woman. 

This power equation also dictated sexual relations. The ancient Hellenes viewed male-female relationships not solely as defined by gender but as a relationship of active versus passive and applied that theorum to male-male (and most likely female-female) relationships as well. One partner was always the clear submissive and became, through that, the 'female' while the other always assumed the active role and through that became the 'male'. They equated any relationship that applied these roles and rejected (heavily!) any that did not. And they did not consider these relationships true relationships in a marriage sense because, as I said above, a household could not be formed around it as the union could not provide children--which was the main function of a marriage.

Pederasty was a socially acknowledged erotic relationship between an adult male and a younger male usually in his teens, and was practiced mostly in the Archaic and Classical ages of Hellenic history. The courtship of the younger male (although the age difference could be neglectable in some cases) started with a ritual abduction of the younger male. The older male selected a youth and enlisted the chosen one's friends to help him, and carried off the object of his affections to his andreion, a sort of men's club or meeting hall. The whole group spent one or two months out in the countryside where they feasted, hunted and simply spent time together, enjoying life.

The next step in the process was to court the youth with gifts. Three gifts were traditional: military attire, an ox, and a drinking cup, but the youth most certainly received more expensive gifts. When the youth returned to the city, the ox was sacrificed to Zeus and the youth and his friends feasted. The young man also received special clothing that in adult life marked him as kleinos, 'famous, renowned.' The young man was called a parastatheis, 'he who stands beside', and served as cup bearer for the older male, the philetor, during meals in the andreion. Sex was part of this relationship, although the younger male rarely carried any love for the older male. Semen was said to transfer wisdom, so this is why younger boys accepted the practice. The rise in status also helped. There was a female version of this practice, but it's much less documented.

In ancient Hellas, what mattered was the role you played in bed. The males, especially when older or higher up in the hierarchy, were supposed to be the dominant ones, the active ones, while the women, the young, and those lower in the hierarchy, the passive ones. Because of the age difference and the difference in social standing, the young male assuming a passive role was permitted in pederasty, but a grown man assuming that role was a social and sexual taboo. 

Taboos say a lot about a culture and the people in it. The boundaries of what is, and what is not, socially accepted bind people together. They also give clues about Hellenistic Reconstruction. I have said before that reconstruction separates religion from culture, but when reconstructing a religion where religion defined the culture, one is invariably bound to it by some extend. While pederasty was a big thing in ancient Hellas, no one is saying we need to bring it back today. There are laws against it, and those are justly in place.

Pederasty played a social role in ancient Hellas. It provided boys with a mentor, it allowed them to make friends in high places, for many, a pederastic relationship was the only way to qualify for military service, which was an all but mandatory part of being a citizen. None of these reasons exist today and so there is absolutely no reason to bring the practice back. Anyone who uses the ancient practice of it as a cover for sexual wrongdoings today is not a member of our tradition.
As legend goes, a shepherd herded his flock up the side of Mount Parnassus. The sheep came upon a chasm and seemed to lose their minds. They started jumping around, and darting about. When the shepherd went to inspect the chasm, he fell under the influence of gasses that welled up from it. He lost all his worries and cared not about the time. He simply wished to remain there and gleam the knowledge he felt at the edges of his mind.

When he did not return, his family went to look for him. They took him home and put him to bed. Everyone was worried by his strange behavior, but he seemed to be calmer when the morning came. Yet, the shepherd's behavior had not returned to normal. He was able to foretell the future. Soon, word of the shepherd's ability, and the chasm, spread. People came from far away to either talk to the man or go to the source. Yet, those who visited the chasm lost their minds as well, and sometimes even jumped in the chasm.

A decision was made: this chasm, which must send up messages from Gaea, needed to be managed so no one would get hurt. A woman was chosen and introduced to the vapors, and given servants to keep her safe and healthy. She spoke with the voice of Gaea, and spoke her prophecies for anyone who would visit. It is said that the chasm was protected by a serpent, Python (Πύθωνος), who was put there by Gaea to protect the chasm.

The chasm was seen as the center of the known world, as Zeus himself had once let two eagles fly at the far reaches of the world, and they met over the chasm. It was Gaea's sacred site, but it didn't remain that way for long. Apollon was born, and he soon moved to find the perfect site for His temple. In the Homeric hymn to Pythian Apollon, we find His arrival at the site of Gaea's oracle, and an account of His battle with the serpent:

"In this place I am minded to build a glorious temple to be an oracle for men, and here they will always bring perfect hecatombs, both they who dwell in rich Peloponnesus and the men of Europe and from all the wave-washed isles, coming to question me. And I will deliver to them all counsel that cannot fail, answering them in my rich temple."

"...Whosoever met the dragoness, the day of doom would sweep him away, until the lord Apollo, who deals death from afar, shot a strong arrow at her. Then she, rent with bitter pangs, lay drawing great gasps for breath and rolling about that place. An awful noise swelled up unspeakable as she writhed continually this way and that amid the wood: and so she left her life, breathing it forth in blood. Then Phoebus Apollo boasted over her:

"Now rot here upon the soil that feeds man! You at least shall live no more to be a fell bane to men who eat the fruit of the all-nourishing earth, and who will bring hither perfect hecatombs. Against cruel death neither Typhoeus shall avail you nor ill-famed Chimera, but here shall the Earth and shining Hyperion make you rot."

Thus said Phoebus, exulting over her: and darkness covered her eyes. And the holy strength of Helios made her rot away there; wherefore the place is now called Pytho, and men call the lord Apollo by another name, Pythian; because on that spot the power of piercing Helios made the monster rot away."

And so, the site became sacred to Apollon. At first, young virgins spoke the word of the Lord Apollon, but later on, it was decreed that the oracle--called the Pythia--had to be over fifty years of age. The site was at the epicenter of important travel routes; the road leading from northeastern and eastern Hellas to the plain of Amfissa--where it met the road joining northern Hellas with Naupactus--passed through Delphi. From the beach of Itea, it was easy to pass to nearby Peloponnesus. This not only made Delphi an important religious site, but a commercial one, and it was one of the major keys to its success.

Delphi is no more. The entire site is in ruins. While you can still walk a large part of the grounds, there is no longer an oracle who breaths in the vapors and gives prophesy. Hellenists lost that line to the Theoi.

Most of us know how to work a divinatory tool; we come from other Neo-Pagan paths that encourage it, or developed systems of our own. Some of us are just naturally gifted. I feel the Hellenistic community--when it becomes larger and more standardized and organized--could greatly benefit from another Oracle; someone whom we trust to speak the words of the Theoi and whom we pay for their efforts. A new Pythia, dedicated to the Hellenistic community, who is supported by said community. I honestly hope we get there some day. Delphi is not gone; it lives on in each of us. It's legacy drives us forward as a religion. One day, we may have it again.
Some beautiful prose today, by John Ruskin. John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy.

His writing styles and literary forms were equally varied. He penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, travel guides and manuals, letters and even a fairy tale. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation.

The elaborate style that characterised his earliest writing on art gave way in time to plainer language designed to communicate his ideas more effectively. In all of his writing, he emphasised the connections between nature, art and society.

He was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century and up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation has steadily improved since the 1960s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognised as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft. This part comes from his book, "Modern Painters."

"Thus, as far as I recollect, without a single exception, every Homeric landscape, intended to be beautiful, is composed of a fountain, a meadow, and a shady grove. This ideal is very interestingly marked, as intended for a perfect one, in the fifth book of the Odyssey; when Mercury himself stops for a moment, though on a message, to look at a landscape “which even an immortal might be gladdened to behold.” This landscape consists of a cave covered with a running vine, all blooming into grapes, and surrounded by a grove of alder, poplar, and sweet-smelling cypress. Four fountains of white (foaming) water, springing _in succession_ (mark the orderliness), and close to one another, flow away in different directions, through a meadow full of violets and parsley (parsley, to mark its moisture, being elsewhere called “marsh-nourished,” and associated with the lotus); the air is perfumed not only by these violets and by the sweet cypress, but by Calypso’s fire of finely chopped cedar wood, which sends a smoke as of incense, through the island; Calypso herself is singing; and finally, upon the trees are resting, or roosting, owls, hawks, and “long-tongued sea-crows.” Whether these last are considered as a part of the ideal landscape, as marine singing-birds, I know not; but the approval of Mercury appears to be elicited chiefly by the fountains and violet meadow.

Now the notable things in this description are, first, the evident subservience of the whole landscape to human comfort, to the foot, the taste, or the smell; and, secondly, that throughout the passage there is not a single figurative word expressive of the things being in any wise other than plain grass, fruit or flower. I have used the term “spring” of the fountains, because, without doubt, Homer means that they sprang forth brightly, having their source at the foot of the rocks (as copious fountains nearly always have); but Homer does not say “spring,” he says simply flow, and uses only one word for “growing softly,” or “richly,” of the tall trees, the vine, and the violets. There is, however, some expression of sympathy with the sea-birds; he speaks of them in precisely the same terms, as in other places of naval nations, saying they “have care of the works of the sea.”

If we glance through the references to pleasant landscape which occur in other parts of the Odyssey, we shall always be struck by this quiet subjection of their every feature to human service, and by the excessive similarity in the scenes. Perhaps the spot intended, after this, to be most perfect, may be the garden of Alcinous, where the principal ideas are, still more definitely, order, symmetry, and fruitfulness; the beds being duly ranged between rows of vines, which, as well as the pear, apple, and fig-trees, bear fruit continually, some grapes being yet sour, while others are getting black; there are plenty of “_orderly_ square beds of herbs,” chiefly leeks, and two fountains, one running through the garden, and one under the pavement of the palace to a reservoir for the citizens. Ulysses, pausing to contemplate this scene, is described nearly in the same terms as Mercury pausing to contemplate the wilder meadow; and it is interesting to observe, that, in spite of all Homer’s love of symmetry, the god’s admiration is excited by the free fountains, wild violets, and wandering vine; but the mortal’s, by the vines in rows, the leeks in beds, and the fountains in pipes.

Ulysses has, however, one touching reason for loving vines in rows. His father had given him fifty rows for himself, when he was a boy, with corn between them (just as it now grows in Italy). Proving his identity afterwards to his father, whom he finds at work in his garden, “with thick gloves on, to keep his hands from the thorns,” he reminds him of these fifty rows of vines, and of the “thirteen pear-trees and ten apple-trees” which he had given him; and Laertes faints upon his neck."
[Modern Painters 13.16-18]
A man of 34 was arrested on Tuesday November 26 in Messenia, Greece, by police officers from the Department of Cultural Heritage and Antiquities of the Security Directorate of Attica for the illegal possession of a highly valuable ancient movable monument with intention to sell.

A criminal case has been filed against him for infringement of the provisions of the Law on the Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in general.

Specifically, while investigating a case of illegal possession of a very valuable ancient statue by a person seeking buyers for the sum of € 350,000, a team of police officers located the man and while searching his home, found and confiscated part of a marble statue.

The confiscated antiquity was then shown to an expert archaeologist from the Ephorate of Antiquities of Messenia, who pronounced it to be subject to the provisions of the Protection of Antiquities Act and Cultural Heritage in general and an object of great value, originating from an ancient provincial workshop. It is part of a marble statue of the Archaic period (6th century BC) with high relief details, 60cm high and 33cm wide, depicting a nude youth.

The ancient artefact will be handed over to the Archaeological Museum of Kalamata for safekeeping and a final evaluation.
I am short on time today, so have a video about the ancient wonders of ancient Hellas! It's an older one but quite enjoyable.

"Greece, a land of breathtaking beauty and light. A land where science, art and inspiration from the gods combined to produce some of the world's greatest marvels of architecture and design. The ancient Greeks used buildings and structures to reflect the variety of life at the core of their civilisation - they built the first theatres, staged the first sports events and worshipped in some of the most spectacular temples ever built.

From prehistoric palaces to bold symbols of victory, this programme explores the Seven Ancient Wonders of Greece - the Theatre of Epidaurus, Olympia, Delphi, the Colossus of Rhodes, Santorini, The Palace of Knossos and the greatest masterpiece of them all - The Parthenon. Revealing the true icons of this incredible civilisation, we explore how and why the seven wonders of Ancient Greece still retain the power to amaze the world today. By recounting the stories behind the people who designed and oversaw their construction and unravelling the tales and myths of those who lived within them, we unearth the secrets behind The Seven Wonders of Ancient Greece."

Professor Alexander Cambitoglou, the first person of Greek background to become a university professor in Australia in 1963, has passed away at the age of 97. Cambitoglou spent more than five decades tirelessly championing Australian research in Greece as well as his lifelong passions of classical archaeology and attic vase painting. He was also a world authority on the subject of red-figure vase painting of the Greek colonies of southern Italy.

Born in Thessaloniki in 1922 to parents hailing from Veria and Thessaloniki he was a bright and studious child in what was then an interesting, cosmopolitan centre, receiving private tuition in Ancient Greek, Latin, French, German, English, and piano in addition to his formal high school education. He proceeded to obtain a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Thessaloniki as well as Doctorates at the Universities of London and Oxford, eventually becoming a Classical Archaeologist.

In 1980 he had the insight to create the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens (AAIA) promoting and enabling Australian research in Greece and leaving a legacy for future Australian scholars, and at 96 years old he was still working at his office at the University of Sydney on a daily basis. Professor Cambitoglou told Greek City Times in an interview in 2018:

"The most important achievement for me is the creation of the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, through which Australia joined another 18 foreign schools or institutes in the Greek capital. My love for Australia and Greece led me to create the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens."

The Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens announced that Professor Cambitoglou’s passed away on Friday the 29th of November. Dr. Stavros Paspalas, Acting Director, spoke of Cambitoglou:

"The long list of Professor Cambitoglou’s achievements is truly awe-inspiring. His dedicated efforts have established Classical Archaeology, and more widely Greek studies, in Australia on a very firm footing. His vision has inspired generations of students, and will continue to do so, while his dedication to his field has set a benchmark for many of his colleagues. Alexander will be greatly missed, both here in Australia and in Greece, as well as more generally internationally as he is widely recognised as one of the great classical archaeologists of his generation. His multi-faceted legacy, well characterised by the AAIA, is his lasting gift to Australia and for this, and much more, I am certain that we are all grateful to him."