Sunday, August 30, 2015

PAT ritual announcement: the Kourotrophos

Yes, once more, beginning at sundown on the 29th of August, the Kourotrophos (child nurturers) were honoured. This time, we know from the Arkhian calendar that the focus of this sacrifice were Artemis and Hekate. Elaion will be organizing another Practicing Apart Together ritual for this event in the daylight hours of the 20th of August, and you can join us here.

The Kourotrophos are (mostly) female deities who watched over growing children--Gaea, Artemis, Hekate, Eirênê, Aglauros and Pandrosos, especially. This specific offering is known from the demos Erkhia (or Erchia), but duplicates similar offerings on the Acropolis of Athens.

In this ritual, we honor Artemis and Hekate. Artemis is named Kourotrophos by Diodorus Siculus, a Hellenic historian, in book five of his library:

"And Artemis, we are told, discovered how to effect the healing of young children and the foods which are suitable to the nature of babes, this being the reason why she is also called Kourotrophos." [5.73.5]

Hesiod, in his 'Theogony', explains why Hekate is Kourotrophos:

"So, then. albeit her mother's only child, she is honoured amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Kronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Eos (Dawn). So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young (kourotrophos), and these are her honours." [404]
You can find the ritual here. The festival will be held on the 30rd of August, at 10 AM EDT, and we would love to have you join.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Question Collections post 24

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.

"I have a question about miasma and ritual purification. I understand that many start with a shower and end with khernips. But what about modern conveniences? Is it okay to use scented soaps? Is it okay to put on deodorant after the shower? Can I style my hair? Or is it better to just go straight from drying off to khernips?"

By all means, make yourself pretty and good smelling! the ancient Hellenes sure did! This whole shower-as-part-of-katharmos is a modern invention. Katharmos, or the act of getting ritually clean, starts the second you walk into the area you have designated as sacred with the intent of performing ritual. Your shower happens way before, as does any primping. Then, you prepare your mind and start your procession into the area. this is when katharmos starts. You wash your hands with khernips–lustral water, which you prepare there and then, or you could possibly have stored–sprinkle the area with the water and strew barley groats as if sowing them. That’s your purification. As you can see, all of the things you worry about happen long before!


"I'm really new to Hellenismos so I have a lot of questions, but in particular I have one about khernips. Do I have to use them every time I pray, or could I limit it to rituals? I am lacking in resources but I don't want to offend the gods in any way. Thank you in advance!"

You use khernips every single time you perform a rite for the Gods. This includes (daily) sacrifice, festival celebrations, etc. The only exception for the ancient Hellenes would have been the drops of wine tipped on the ground during a symposium (a social gathering where wine was consumed and philosphical talk was indulged in) or before a meal. In general, though, if you plan of getting in contact to the Gods, get ritually clean with khernips. Praying, really, is not an act that befits Hellenismos if partaken in as a standalone activity: you pray during ritual. The two are synonymous. I hope this helps!


"Do you know any Gods that were associated with Ravens/Crows?"

The only one that comes to mind is Apollon. For a variety of reasons, Hermes is often associated with these birds as well, but there is no ancient evidence for this. Apollon, on the other hand, has a long history with the birds. It seems odd that a deity associated with light is also associated with an animal with an image as negative as the raven. Ravens are often associated with battlegrounds, cemeteries, and death, with the rotting of carcasses, and funerals. In Hellenic myth, they are also associated with vision beyond that which is present. With oracular visions, and with spotting that which can not, or should not, be spotted.

One myth that associates ravens with Apollon is the myth of Koronis (Κορωνίς). Koronis was Apollon's lover, and was pregnant with His son, when she fell for another man, a mortal man, Ischys (Ἰσχύς). A raven--then white--had been assigned by Apollon to watch over His lover, and when the raven returned to tell Apollon of Coronis' betrayal, Apollon was furious the raven had not pecked out the eyes of the mortal whom his lover fell in love with. In a fit of rage, Apollon turned its feathers black.


"I've been reading your blog for a long time and you are one of my go-to sources. I have questions about statues which have left me stumped for months. My alter is far more "cluttered" than your own. Recently I've started to make it more deity neutral. Where would you suggest I place my statues? Would you mind sharing how you display your own? I've considered individual alters. Do you know any sources with images that might guide me? Thank you for all the amazing work you do and have a great day!"

I think there is an easy source of your confusion: there is a huge difference between an altar and a shrine. An altar is one of those basic necessities within Hellenismos, and it differs from a shrine. Where an altar is a ‘work space’, dedicated not so much to a specific deity, but used to do the bulk of the (daily) rituals, a shrine is a devotional area where an altar might be located. In ancient Hellas, the shrine was usually a temple, the altar an actual altar, standing outside of it. Household worship took place at a multitude of shrines. Labelling something a shrine does not mean you can’t sacrifice at these spots in your home. In general, you decorate a shrine but leave the altar rather bare.

As for your statues: I put them up on my shrines, not my altar. That’s why it’s bare-ish ;-)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Call to the Gods from 'The Oresteia'

Probably beyond all others, I am in love with the three plays of 'The Oresteia' by Aeschylus. There is something about the imagery and the use of language that sucks me in every single time. Besides, I love me some dark tragedy! There are so many pieces from all three plays that can be used as inspiration for your own worship. Today, I would like to share the opening of the third play, The Eumenides, in which the Pythian priestess calls upon the Gods.

The Oresteia was originally performed at the Dionysia festival in Athens in 458 BC, where it won first prize. Principal themes of the trilogy include the differences between revenge and justice, as well as the shift from practicing personal vendetta to a system of litigation. The name derives from the character Orestes, who sets out to avenge his father's murder. Enjoy!

"First, in this prayer, of all the gods I name 
The prophet-mother Earth; and Themis next, 
Second who sat-for so with truth is said- 
On this her mother's shrine oracular. 
Then by her grace, who unconstrained allowed, 
There sat thereon another child of Earth- 
Titanian Phoebe. She, in after time, 
Gave o'er the throne, as birthgift to a god, 
Phoebus, who in his own bears Phoebe's name. 
He from the lake and ridge of Delos' isle 
Steered to the port of Pallas' Attic shores, 
The home of ships; and thence he passed and came 
Unto this land and to Pamassus' shrine. 
And at his side, with awe revering him, 
There went the children of Hephaestus' seed,
The hewers of the sacred way, who tame 
The stubborn tract that erst was wilderness. 
And all this folk, and Delphos, chieftain-king 
Of this their land, with honour gave him home; 
And in his breast Zeus set a prophet's soul, 
And gave to him this throne, whereon he sits, 
Fourth prophet of the shrine, and, Loxias hight, 
Gives voice to that which Zeus his sire decrees. 

Such gods I name in my preluding prayer, 
And after them, I call with honour due 
On Pallas, wardress of the fane, and Nymphs 
Who dwell around the rock Corycian, 
Where in the hollow cave, the wild birds' haunt, 
Wander the feet of lesser gods; and there, 
Right well I know it, Bromian Bacchus dwells, 
Since he in godship led his Maenad host, 
Devising death for Pentheus, whom they rent 
Piecemeal, as hare among the hounds. And last, 
I call on Pleistus' springs, Poseidon's might, 
And Zeus most high, the great Accomplisher. 
Then as a seeress to the sacred chair 
I pass and sit; and may the powers divine 
Make this mine entrance fruitful in response 
Beyond each former advent, triply blest. 
And if there stand without, from Hellas bound, 
Men seeking oracles, let each pass in 
In order of the lot, as use allows; 
For the god guides whate'er my tongue proclaims."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Important finds reported at two excavations in Laconia

A new Mycenaean palace has been found on the Sparta plain during the archaeological surveys which have been going on since 2009 at the Aghios Vassilios Hill near the village of Xirokambi in Laconia. Among the finds were Linear B tablets, a very valuable discovery considering the fact that they come from a Protohistoric period of the Helladic area where written sources are scarce. The Archaeological news Network reports on these finds--and it includes lots of images of the finds so head on over there!

The Aghios Vassilios excavations are headed by the Director Emerita of Antiquities, Adamantia Vassilogamvrou and are considered to be among the most important systematic surveys in the Protohistory of the Hellenic world.

Another important ongoing excavation is that of the Sanctuary of Apollon Amyklaios on the Aghia Kyriaki Hill in Amykles of Laconia, headed by Professor Emeritus of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Angelos Delivorrias. There one of the most important Greek sanctuaries has been revealed, dating back to the Geometric period. The research team slowly but patiently also tries to shed light on the issue of the Apollon temple (Amyklaion Throne), which has engaged many archaeologists over the years. This survey is being conducted under difficult circumstances, as the Sanctuary has been severely damaged in the past.

The Aghios Vassilios excavation
The archaeological investigations conducted since 2009 at the Aghios Vassilios Hill near the village of Xirokambi in Laconia revealed a new Mycenaean palace on the Sparta plane. By using methods of geophysical survey buried building remains have been located at an area covering 3.5 hectares.

Habitation is believed to have started during the transition period from the Middle-Helladic to the Late-Helladic/Mycenaean period (17th-16th c. BC), based on the dating of the cemetery of stone-built cist graves and simple shafts at the top of the hill. The first building phase of the settlement is also dated to the same period.

According to the evidence found so far, these buildings were destroyed during the LH IIB-IIIA1 period (late 15th-early 14th c. BC), possibly due to a fire. After this, a new strong and extended palace complex was erected at the site. These buildings were arranged around a big central courtyard, on the south and western sides of which a stoa with a colonnade of pillars has been excavated.

In a room of the Western Stoa storey an archive of the palace was kept. Its excavation hasn’t been completed yet. The unbaked clay tablets carved with Linear B texts were preserved thanks to a fire which has however destroyed the new palaces during the LH IIA period (14th c. BC). The archive contains tablets of all the known types found in other palace complexes, leaf-shaped or page-shaped, labels and clay seals. The texts refer to the supply of goods to a sanctuary (or sanctuaries), male and female names, places and the title άναξ in the genitive case (άνακτος).

One of the excavated buildings on the east side of the courtyard, Building A, is being associated to cult/religious rituals. The fire has “baked” and preserved part of the brickwork and clay mortar of the inner separating walls. Until now 10 rooms have been investigated. They contained many typical cult objects and vessels, such as clay figurines of bovids and an ivory statuette of a male figure holding a young calf or bull, a big clay rhyton of a bull head, a stone double-rimmed jug, two big Tritons etc.
Furthermore, many decorative objects, seal stones, Egyptian scarabs etc. have been found. In one room, possibly laid in a box made of organic material, 21 Bronze swords were kept, while underneath the floor of another room a dense layer of animal bones, pottery and valuable miniature objects was found. This layer might be related to the fire remains located in the surrounding area, on the eastern side of the building.

The abundance of wall-painting sherds depicting typical Mycenaean era scenes found in the backfill of a second building (Building B) and in a deposit in an unbuilt area suggest that the palaces were decorated with frescoes.

The Aghios Vassilios palace complex offers a unique opportunity for archaeologists to investigate the creation and development of a Mycenaean palace center and gain a rare insight into the political, administrative, economic and social organization of the area. Also new evidence is expected to come to light about the Mycenaean religion and linguistic and/or palaeographic issues.

The excavations of the Sanctuary of Apollon Amyklaios
The systematic excavation conducted in the framework of the 5-year Amykles Research Programme and completed this month under the direction of the Professor Emeritus of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Angelos Delivorrias, Dr. Stavros Vlizos (Ionia University) and the supervision of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Laconia, has revealed the continuation of the precinct on the western side of the Aghia Kyriaki Hill, where the Sanctuary of Apollon Amyklaios is being located, 5 km south of Sparta.

This important find is completing the more than encouraging results of the excavation works so far. From 2009 until 2013, the whole surface of the Aghia Kyriaki Hill, connected with the function and monuments of the sanctuary, has been thoroughly investigated.

Remains of the Early-Helladic/Middle-Helladic settlement were located at the top of the hill and the first monumental phase of the sanctuary was dated back to the Late-Geometric period, based on the discovery of the older precinct.

At the same time though, the location of the foundation trench of the so-called Throne of Apollon has offered new evidence about the dimensions of the building. At the northwestern side there is a monumental portico completing the picture of the Archaic sanctuary.

This year’s investigations also changed the view that the precinct had a horse-shoe form, as it runs through the whole western slope of the hill, reaching a length of 50 meters and preserved up to a height of 1.20m. On its whole length the wall rests on the natural porous rock of the hill, which has been carved to create two terraces of 2.50m total width.

Questions about its further route towards the south and its connection to the known corner of the monumental precinct remain unanswered. In the biggest part of the wall the subfoundation of big rough stones is being preserved, as well as parts of the inner masonry of big breccia stones, limestones and porous stones.

The building of the wall cannot be dated as the layers and movable finds are disturbed. Interventions on its outer side however can be dated to the Late Antiquity and the Early Christian years.

Based on the excavation survey, at the northwestern side of the wall, near the monumental entrance to the sanctuary, a Roman era construction has violated part of it to build a cistern (4x4m). In this building, which is very well preserved, the floor is made of square clay plaques, while the inner wall surfaces are covered with hydraulic plaster.

This room contains a unique find: in the centre of the room an intact Doric capital with hypotrachelium was found. Due to this unusual typology it can be attributed to the Apollon Temple, as a similar one (now in the Archaeological Museum of Sparta) had been found during past excavations in the sanctuary.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Hellenic ABC

I was challenged by a reader to select an ABC of Hellenismos. Needless to say, it was not easy, but I am never one to shy away from a challenge, so here we go! Don't judge me on how bad this is, okay?

A is for Agathós Daímōn, who brightens our life, unseen,
B is for Bômos, to honour our Gods of lovely mein.
C is for Chiton, the Romanized spelling of our ritual wear,
D is for Deipnon, Hekate's festival when the sky is bare.
E is for Eusebia, reverence, loyalty, and sense of duty toward the Gods,
F is for Fasting, which we do as a reminder of our lots.
G is for Gnosis, knowledge of the divine,
H is for Hellas, home of our Gods' bloodline.
I is for Iereio, anything sacrificed,
J is for Judgement, by the Gods and yourself.
K is for Kharis, what we foster with pride,
L is for Libation, liquid sacrifice.
M is for Miasma, which we wash off before our rite,
N is for Noumenia, the monthly festival after the darkest night.
O is for Oikos, the home from which our devotion projects
P is for 'Practicing Apart Together', through which our rite connects.
Q is for Quorum, the seat of democracy,
R is for Races, running and other sports the ancients brought to fruitation,
S is for Sophrosune, the control of self through deep contemplation.
T is for Theoi, the Hellenic term for the beings, divine,
U is for Universe, which the Theoi make shine.
V is for Virtues, which we foster in ourself,
W is for Wine, of which we have much on our shelf.
X is for Xenia, hospitality to Gods and men,
Y is for You, with whom it all starts,
Z, finally, is for Zeus, who holds all of our hearts.

How did I do, people? Which words would you have chosen? Thanks for the challenge, reader. It was fun!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

PAT ritual announcement for 12 Metageitnion

On 12 Metageitnion, two separate rites were held, one in Erkhia and one in Athens. The first was in honour of Demeter, the other in honour of Zeus Polieus, Athena Polias, and Apollon Lykeios. On Thursday 27 August, at 10:00 AM EDT, we will combine both rites into a single PAT ritual.

Demeter, we all know, and she is not listed with a specific epithet. Zeus, Athena, and Apollon, however, are. Zeus Polieus and Athena Polias were protectors of the city. That is literally the translation of their epithet: 'of the city'. Apollon Lykeios means 'of the wolves'.

From the Erkhian ritual calendar, we know that the sacrifices to Apollon, Zeus, and Athena were not to be removed from the site and were thus to be eaten on the spot after part of the offering was sacrificed. In all cases, this offering was a white sheep, male for the male Gods, female for the female Gods. Demeter also got a female sheep, but her entry does not have a note to not remoe the meat from the location, meaning the meat could potentially be taken away to be eaten later, or sold at shops founded especially for the purpose.

Will you be joining us in honouring these Gods on Thursday 27 August, at 10:00 AM EDT? The ritual can be found here, and you can join our community here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Antiquities looting surges in crisis-stricken Greece

The economic crisis has led many Greeks to antiquity looting and smuggling, with most of them being first-time offenders with no criminal record, says a National Geographic report, as reported by the Archaeological News Network.
Antiquities looting surges in crisis-stricken Greece

The sharp rise in applications for metal detector permits is an indicative sign. However, a permit is only given to people with no criminal record and after the approval of the Ministry of Culture.

Police detectives and the Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture say that illegal excavations and theft of cultural artifacts have increased in the past five years of the economic crisis. But the profile of looters and smugglers has changed.

Before the crisis, antiquities looters were members of criminal rings who were involved in other criminal activities as well. Nowadays, regular people dig on their own in order to find ancient treasures and sell them.

The economic crisis has made their illegal 'job' easier though, as severe budget cuts have left pertinent state agencies understaffed, the National Geographic report says. The resources to limit looting and smuggling are too small and the demand for black market antiquities is large.

Evgenios Monovasios, a lieutenant in the Security Police Division of Attica, says they are understaffed. He estimated that in all of Greece there are only about 60 employees who work exclusively to prevent and disrupt looting. While cooperation with local authorities across the country expands this capacity, it’s difficult to monitor more than a fraction of the country’s vast and varied landscape, which ranges from the mountainous north to hundreds of islands in the Aegean and Ionian Seas.

Elena Korka, General Director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, agrees with Monovasios:

“It would take an army to catch everything. It’s impossible not to find antiquities in Greece; they are literally everywhere.”

Greek police employ methods such as undercover police work. They gather information, infiltrate looting networks and then conduct raids to retrieve the stolen antiquities. Most illicit excavations are done at night and the items found are reburied or hidden in locations such as sheep pens and then they are sold to middlemen who own legitimate businesses that can be used to launder the artifacts.

There are also cases where the looters do direct 'custom orders' for collectors. The illegal artifacts circulate around the globe and they go from one private collection to another with misleading documentation in different parts of the world so they give the impression of legitimacy.

Since illegally obtained Greek antiquities appear anywhere in the world--from museums to private collections--the Ministry of Culture and pertinent state authorities go into legal negotiations with the owners of such artifacts in order for them to return to Greece. However, for every item repatriated there are several that remain in private collections.

According to the report, recent antiquities trafficking cases range from Byzantine manuscripts stolen from a monastery at Mount Athos and recovered from the Getty Museum and Duke University in 2014 and 2015 to a cache of neolithic Cycladic figurines, vessels, and statue parts confiscated in Attica in 2011 with an estimated value of almost twenty million euros.