As the secular old year draws to an end, many people around me are preparing for it. Interestingly enough, I recognize many themes of the Deipnon within their preparations. Purification of the house and person, tying up loose ends of the old year, setting goals for a set period ahead... I wonder if these commonalities are the reason the ancient Hellenes didn't celebrate the start of the new year in an exorbitant fashion; the new year usually started on Noumenia, and anything from the old year had already been settled the day (and month, and the month before that, and...) before. The new year was most likely just a new month: the continuation of the cycle, but not especially epic.

Be careful out there tonight and enjoy the celebration. We're having some friends over and eating together, followed with a party I'll most likely cut out of early. I've never really observed new year's as something special (mostly because I celebrated it around Samhain since I was thirteen), but in my Hellenistic tradition, new year's is still half a year away (the Athenians and the other Ionian peoples began their year with the first new moon after the summer solstice, the Dorians with the first new moon after the autumnal equinox, the Boeotians and other Aeolians with the new moon after the winter solstice). Still, it's a fun evening and night to spend with family, friends and other loved ones. I hope you enjoy it as much as I will.

Until tomorrow, in the secular new year.

PS: Thank you, everyone who came here through search engine searches. I can see what you guys have typed into the search bar, and almost all of you come here searching for something Hellenic or Hellenistic, and always with good questions. Some examples from last year:
  • genealogical greek gods tree
  • greeks think of suicide in greek mythology
  • stryax officianalis hellenism
  • was athena wrong in how she treated medusa?
  • argo navis
  • orphic daily practice
  • greek neo-paganism

The list goes on. Thank you for that. No weird searches, lots of searches that give me blog ideas and often questions I can answer. You guys rock.

Have a wonderful second half of the Hellenic year, everyone!

I came across Timothy Jay Alexander's questions about solidifying Hellenismos--as posted in my post about standardizing Hellenismos--last night, and suddenly remembered I had been meaning to answer these sometime soon. I totally forgot about it, so lets do it now. I'm sure I don't need to say this, but everything in this post is personal opinion, and while this applies for my practice, I have no say what so ever over the practice of others, nor do I want to.

At a minimum, how many Greek Gods need to be worshiped for a practice to be Hellenismos, and which ones?
There is a movement in Hellenismos that says the Twelve Olympians--Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hēphaistos, Hestia, Aphrodite, Poseidon, Ares, Demeter, Hermes, Artemis, and Apollon--as well as (perhaps) Dionysos, and Hades, are the only Theoi that need worship within Hellenismos. I am not part of that movement. As far as I'm concerned, Hellenists should give proper appeasement to all Gods, Goddesses, Titans, nature spirits, heroes, kings and queens that were worshipped in ancient Hellas. Many festival days may have been lost to us, but many were not. Follow the sacred days of the month, and the festival schedule and you'll come around to most of them throughout the year. So, at minimum? Fourteen; the ones listed above. At maximum? Every single one of Them.

Does every practitioner of Hellenismos have to honor Hestia? How about Zeus?
Yes, and yes. Why? Because the ancient Hellenes did and Hellenismos is a Recon faith. Hestia was honored in every single home. Children, a new wife, and new serfs were introduced to Her sacred flame within the household. If that flame went out, the kurios of the family went out to the Prytaneion, where Hestia's fire was kept for the city. Zeus, well, Zeus is head of the Twelve Olympians. He's the King of Gods. To me, it's perfectly logical that Zeus receives every honor possible.

Is there a specific ritual style?
Yes. There is a (short) procession to the altar, then there are purification rites, prayers and hymns, sacrifice/offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks. The jury is still out on animal sacrifice, so I'll hold off on including that one.

Can rituals be innovative? If they can, when does innovation cross the line?
This is a hard one. Innovation is a necessity; we can't practice our festivals and sacred days like the ancient Hellenes did. We don't have the community, temples, or days off from work for it. So yes, innovation within Hellenismos is allowed and required. Then again, within ritual, there is a standard format (see above) that should be maintained. It's perfectly possible to do so for any practitioner. The difficulty comes when a practitioner wants to include elements from other Traditions (like circles, but for that specific one, see below) into the ritual. When is the practice Hellenic Polytheism, and when is it Hellenismos? How much Recon needs to be in your practice before it's Hellenismos? I don't know. Personally, I would say that if you do regular concessions to the ancient Hellenic practice for reasons other than necessity, you're practicing Hellenic Polytheism (or, perhaps, Reformed Hellenismos), and if you stay true to the source material unless you absolutely have to, you're practicing Hellenismos.

Can a person cast a circle?
I have a pretty clear opinion about this, which I will nuance for the purpose of this post. My answer is that--if you want to practice Hellenismos--you should leave the circle in the (Neo-)Wiccan Tradition it belongs in. Why create a containing space for the Theoi when calling on Them will not bring forth the dangers associated with summoning the God and Goddess? Why confine Deities which were never confined in the past? Creating a sacred space is fine, but calling corners and dragging watchtowers and/or elements into Hellenistic ritual seems utterly useless to me--and terribly condescending. Your milage may vary.

Are sacrifices and offerings required?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Can I make this any clearer? Yes! Do the Theoi require it? No, most likely not, but even if it isn't something we do--as a Recon Tradition--because the ancient Hellenes did it, it's a sign of devotion, one of the basics for kharis, and a vital part of daily ritual and Hellenic rituals.

Is there a specific ethical system?
Hellenismos is known for its highly developed ethical system, derived from ancient scripture like the Delphic Maxims I keep going on about as well as scholarly works like the Homeric Hymns, the Tenets of Solon, the Ethics of Aristotle (1,2), the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, the Philosophy of Epicurus, the Stoics, Works and Days by Hesiod and many, many others. Amongst the ethical system, I count living your life in line with the pillars of Hellenismos, one of which is 'Ethike Arete': character excellence. from 'Virtue Ethics: Insights of the Ancient Greeks' by Raymond J. Devetter:

"A character virtue can be thought of as a state (a hexis) created in our psychological lives (our 'souls') over time by performing repeatedly certain actions. There is no official list of character virtues--Aristotle identifies more than a dozen--but three of them play a major role in most all versions of Greek ethics: temperance, courage, and justice."

Are there specific sacred texts?
Besides the ones above, there are a great number of ancient texts that are a staple in every Hellenists household. Hómēros' Odysseia and Iliad come to mind. The works of Hesiod, the tragedies, comedies and surviving satyr plays are another source of information about the ancient Gods. Are these texts sacred in the sense that the bible is sacred? No, there is no holy book within Hellenismos. There is just mythology, preferably from ancient sources.

Can new mythologies be incorporated?
This depends on your definition of new, I guess. Personally, I'm even careful with Roman mythology about the Theoi, so if the question is asked in regards to UPG, then my answer is no. Within the Hellenistic community, UPG is almost completely ignored. It may play a role in individual household worship but does not enter into the religion at large. Only UPG from the ancient Hellenes is used to base the religion on. I think it's valid to say that anything the ancient Hellenes did, was based upon UPG, too. Oracles made predictions, rulers made declarations and myths came into being to explain why certain days were special or how major spheres of influence came to be. 

Is there a specific festival calendar or calendars?
There are several, actually. The Athenian one is the most complete, but there are various surviving calendars. Making a combination of these is most certainly allowed. Integrating a monthly calendar of sacred days is also encouraged. Here at Baring the Aegis, I have supplied an Athenian+ calendar, as well as a calendar of sacred days, for your practicing pleasure. You can find it here.

Can you create new festivals? If you can, what are the limits? Are there limits to what is appropriate? 
Regular readers know that I don't look favorably upon invented, modern, holidays for the Theoi. It's not called a Recon faith for nothing, after all. Still, that's personal opinion and many Hellenists enjoy the various modern day festivals a lot. Another trend seems to be to honor certain deities on secular holidays having to do with their domains. Mother's day comes to mind. I take no issue at all with this if sacrificing to the Theos or Theia in question is a household decision you have made for/with your family. Within your household, you can give sacrifice to whomever you want on any day you want, after all. I'm not a big fan of generalized sweeping statements that proclaim 'mother's day is sacred to [Deity x]', simply because it ascribes a modern invention to the Theoi, who may or many not appreciate being gifted a certain day at all.

So far, my answers to Timothy's questions. How would you answer these from your personal practice?
The last few days weeks have been pretty brutal. I've started those long working weeks, and the discussions of the last few days--although greatly appreciated--took up a lot of time and energy. As such, I really needed a lighter topic for today. Thankfully, there is comic book producer Marvel, who has taken just about any pantheon and turned the beings within them into comic book characters... including the Olympians.

The Olypians, like the Asgardians or other members of famous pantheons, feature only as an addition to the stories they are in, but a great majority of Them have made the cut. In the comics, the Theoi are sometimes replaced by their Roman equivalent, but the Theoi featured in the comics, along with Their domains, are:

Zeus - The God of the Sky and King of the Olympian Gods
Hera - The Queen of the Gods
Aphrodite - The Goddess of Love
Apollo - The God of Light, Music, Poetry, Medicine, and Science
Ares - The God of War
Artemis - The Goddess of Wild Animals, the Hunt, and the Moon
Athena - The Goddess of Wisdom
Eros - The God of Love
Demeter - The Goddess of the Harvest
Dionysus - The God of Wine
Hephaestus - The Gods' Blacksmith
Hebe - The Goddess of Youth
Hecate - The Goddess of Magic, Witchcraft, Necromancy, and Crossroads
Hercules/Herakles - The Gatekeeper of Olympus
Hermes - The Messenger of the Gods
Pan - The God of the Countryside and Nature
Poseidon - The God of the Sea
Persephone - The Queen of the Underworld
Hades - The God of the Underworld
Thanatos - The God of Death
Hestia - The Goddess of the Hearth

Wonder Woman (member of the pantheon through the Amazons, created by Ares and Athena) 
gives thanks to the Olympians at Their temple. [DC comics]

So, how do the Olympians translate into comic book characters? The basics come from the Comics Database:
  • Superhuman Strength: All Olympians are superhumanly strong with the average male being able to lift about 30 tons and the average female being able to lift about 25 tons.
  • Superhuman Speed: All Olympians have the potential of being able to run and move at speeds much greater than the finest human athlete.
  • Superhuman Stamina: The musculature of all Olympians produces considerably less fatigue toxins during physical activity than the muscles of human beings. The average Olympian male and female can exert themselves at peak capacity for about 24 hours before fatigue impairs them.
  • Superhumanly Dense Tissue: The skin, muscle, and bone tissues of all Olympians are about 3 times as dense as the same tissue of a human body. This contributes, somewhat, to their superhuman strength and weight.
  • Superhuman Durability: The bodies of all Olympians are considerably more resistant to physical injury than the bodies of humans. Olympians are capable of withstanding great impact forces, exposure to temperature and pressure extremes, falls from great heights, etc. without sustaining physical injury.
  • Regenerative Healing Factor: Despite their natural durability, it is possible for any of the Olympians to sustain injury. However, if injured, their highly advanced metabolism enables them to recover with superhuman levels of speed and efficiency. As with most of their other powers, the speed and extent of these powers varies from one Olympian to another. Most Olympians, for instance, are not able to regenerate missing limbs or organs while a small minority can.
  • Immortality: All Olympians are functionally immortal. They are immune to the effects of aging and haven't aged since reaching adulthood. Their bodies are also immune to all known Earthly diseases and infection.
  • Energy Manipulation: All Olympians have some potential to manipulate magical or cosmic energies for some purpose. These powers are mostly limited to changing their appearance or shape, and teleporting across great distances. However, a small minority of the Olympians is capable of manipulating vast amounts of energy for a variety of purposes including teleportation, shapeshifting, matter manipulation, augmentation of their physical capabilities, erecting powerful force fields, firing powerful blasts of energy for destructive purposes, granting superhuman powers to objects and beings, etc.
The Olympian Gods on the left, and the Olympian Eternals on the right

As for the story of how the Olympians fit into the broader pantheon of Gods; Marvel explains it best:

"In the early ages of the Earth, a sentient life-force developed and one day manifested itself into the being Demiurge. He birthed the Elder Gods who eventually warred among themselves until one of them, Atum, transformed itself into Demogorge and devoured or chased away all but himself and Gaea, also known as Mother Earth. Atum would reform from the Demogorge and leave the Earth, dispersing the energies he had absorbed into the planet. When mankind eventually began rising towards sentience, their dreams gave form to the absorb energies; this transformed those who would become the progenitors of mankind's gods, notably the Olympians, regarded as deities by the peoples of Greece and the Roman Empire.

[...] Under the gods' watchful eyes, the Olympians flourished, especially the Greeks, Romans and Atlantean civilizations. The Olympians soon found themselves drawn into conflict with other gods, in particular the Asgardian gods of Northern Europe and the Ennead of Northern Africa; however, the coming of the world-threatening Celestials taught these gods that there were greater threats to their world than each other, and Zeus and his fellow leaders created the Council of Godheads and made a pact despite individual conflicts, the pantheons would never go to war as a whole. When Zeus and the Asgardian leader Odin were unable to head off a war between their peoples, they cooperated to alter the minds of every warrior, leading each to believe briefly that they had won. The Celestials existence drew Zeus' attention to the Eternals, a Celestial-manipulated offshoot of mankind with powers which made them seem godlike to humanity. Their City Olympia lay near Mount Olympus, and Zeus and his daughter Athena met with the Eternals to negotiate a treaty by which the Eternals would act as gods on Earth; despite their best intentions, this lead to repeated confusion between similarly named gods and Eternals, heightening each society's resentment of the other. When the time came for a final conformation with the Celestials, Zeus used his peoples' annoyance towards the Eternals as motivation to lead them in an invasion of Olympia, though he soon withdrew when it proved unprofitable."

For a full checklist of the Marvel comics which feature the Olympians, go here. Happy reading!
For the last Pagan Blog Project post of the year, I'll be talking about Zeus-born, and other God-bothered kings of ancient Athens. Back in ancient Hellas, if you were a citizen--and especially one from an important family--you could trace your family line back to a Theos. For Athenians, this divine link was first through Gaea (autochthonous, αὐτός χθών, 'earth-born') and/or Athena (with links to Zeus), and then through Poseidon.

The kings of Athens were legendary, mythological, even in the time of ancient Hellas. Roman historian Eusebius of Caesarea (263 – 339 AD) has compiled a list of these kings (the dating took place at a later date):

Kékrops (Κέκροπος) I 1556 - 1506 BC: he is said to have had a top half shaped like a man and a bottom half in serpent or fish-tail form. Kékrops is the first ruler of Athens who was considered a king. He is said to have been the first who deified Zeus, and ordained sacrifices to be offered to him as the supreme Deity. Mythologically speaking, it was in Kékrops' reign, that Athena became the patron Theia of the city, after beating Poseidon in competition, and it were Kékrops' daughters who opened the box holding the child of Athena and Hēphaistos: Erichthonius and were scared so by his appearance (or the presence of two snakes in the box), they threw themselves off of a cliff.

Cranaus (Κραναός) 1506 - 1497 BC: earth-born like his predecessor. The flood in the myth of Deukalion is said to have happened during his reign. Amphictyon, son of Deukalion, is said to have married one of the daughters of Cranaus, and he became the next king.

Amphictyon (Αμφικτυών) 1497 - 1487 BC: son of Deukalion, or earth-born. According to Eustathios of Thessalonike (Εὐστάθιος Θεσσαλονίκης), Dionysos visited Amphictyon in Athens and taught him how to mix water with wine in the proper proportions.

Erichthonius (Ἐριχθόνιος) 1487 - 1437 BC: the fabled son of Athena and Hēphaistos himself, earth-born. With Praxithea (Πραξιθέα), a naiad, he had a son, Pandion I, who went on to become king himself. As an obvious favorite of Athena, She protected him for many years, and in return, he founded the Panathenaic Festival in honor of Athena.

Pandion I (Πανδίων Α') 1437 - 1397 BC: like his father, Pandion married a naiad, Zeuxippe, and they had five children, Erechtheus, Butes, Procne, Philomela, and Cecrops II. According to Pseudo-Apollodorus' Bibliotheca, it was during Pandion I's reign that Demeter and Dionysos came to the city-state of Athens. Before his death, he gave the rule of Athens to Erechtheus, but the priesthoods of Poseidon and Athena to Butes.

Erechtheus (Ἐρεχθεύς) 1397 - 1347 BC: son and heir to King Pandion I, who was the son of Erichthonius. His reign was marked by the war between Athens and Eleusis, when the Eleusinians were commanded by Eumolpus, coming from Thrace. An oracle declared that Athens' survival depended on the death one of the three daughters of Erechtheus. Orithyia, another daughter, was kidnapped by Boreas, the North Wind.

Cecrops II (Κέκρωψ Β') 1347 - 1317 BC: Not the most remarkable of rulers, and not linked to any mythological event.

Chyrasos 1317 - 1292 BC: information about his person and reign have been lost.

Pandion II (Πανδίων Β') 1292 BC - 1291 BC: son and heir of Cecrops II. May not actually have existed, but was invented to fill a gap in succession.

Metion (Μητίων) 1291 BC - 1291 BC: son of Erechtheus of Athens, or a son of Eupalamus, Erechtheus' son. His sons eventually dethroned Pandion II, although the sons of Pandion later overthrew them.

Aegeus (Αἰγεύς) 1291 BC - 1234 BC: son of Pandion II, father of the mythical hero Theseus, who cast himself off the cliffs into the sea below when Theseus failed to chance the ship's sails from black to white upon returning from killing the minotaur at Minos.

Theseus (Θησεύς) 1234 - 1204 BC (or 1213 BC): one of Hellas' greatest hero-kings and son of Poseidon. His greatest adventure comes in the form of the battle against the minotaur of Minos, whom he killed. For this, he is still remembered. The festival of Pyanepsia is linked to his return from Minos.

Menestheus (Μενεσθεύς) 1204 - 1181 BC (or 1213 - 1191 BC): son of Peteus, son of Orneus, son of Erechtheus. He was king during the fabled Trojan war, and was one of Helen of Troy's suitors.Although a good strategist, Menestheus seems to have been a bit of a dishonorable warrior, as he preferred to lead his men from the back of the formation, instead of in front of it. That having been said, he was one of the men inside the Trojan horse.

Demophon (Δημοφῶν ) 1181 - 1147 BC: son of Theseus and Phaedra. He fought in the Trojan war. He granted the children of Herakles, who were fleeing from Eurystheus, refuge in Athens. Upon accidentally killing a fellow Athenian, he was dethroned and tried for the murder.

Oxyntes (Οξύντης) 1147 - 1135 BC: grandson of Theseus, son of Demophon. Very little is known about him, or nothing remarable happened during his reign.

Apheidas (Ἀφείδας) 1135 - 1134 BC: son of Oxyntes. After a short reign of one year, his brother Thymoetes succeeded him on the throne.

Thymoetes (Θυμοίτης) 1134 - 1126 BC: son of Oxyntes. He was the last Athenian king in the line of Theseus.

Melanthus (Μέλανθος) 1126 - 1089 BC: before fleeing to Athens and becoming king, Melanthus was king of Messenia (Μεσσηνία), a regional unit in the southwestern part of the Peloponnese. He was among the descendants of Neleus who were expelled from Messenia by the descendants of Herakles.

Codrus (Κόδρος) 1089 - 1068 BC: he was the lask king of Athens; after his reign, his son Medon rulled the city-state as Archon. Aristotle--in 'constitution of the Athenians'--claims, however, that Medon ruled as king first, before becoming Archon. During the Dorian invasion, the Oracle of Delphi prophecied that the Dorians would win, as long as the king of Athens was not harmed. Hearing of this prophecy, Codrus disguised himself as a peasant and snuck to the Dorian camp. Here, he made a fuss, and was prompty killed. The Dorians retreated upon learning what had happened. It was decreed that no one would be worthy enough to succeed Codrus on the throne, and so, Athens only had Archons afterwards.

As you can see, many of these kings had connections to divinity, either in their bloodline, or through contact during their reign. These kings were the founders of Athens, and of Hellenic civilization. Their close identification with Deity is only logical; someone who had done so much for the city-state and the people of Athens could only be born from the Theoi Themselves.

Friday next week, the PBP starts all over again, and I'll add to this post in my first 'A', linking it to the Archons, and the place of both kings and Archons in Athenian society. For those of you who only follow my Pagan Blog Project posts, until then, otherwise, I'll see you all tomorrow.
In these days of homeyness, Hestia, the Theia of home and hearth rejoices in the times we spend at home, either alone or with family. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have family to spend family-oriented days like Christmas and New Year's with, or even have family they would want to spend the days with. My own Christmas days were varied to say the least. Returning home after days away--no matter how enjoyable they were--is always a wonderful feeling to me, as my home is the place I feel Hestia the most. Today's meditation is to Hestia, applied to a fictional home and adaptable to your own. This is a meditation I use when I'm about to do my daily rituals in a place that is not my home, and am reminded of when I come home and light my candle to Hestia first thing.

"I walk the path leading up to the house, my heart aflutter with the excitement of returning to the quiet and safety of my home. My keys jingle in my pocket as I reach for them, silently acknowledging the overflowing shrine to Apollon, Hermes, and Hekate. To them, I shall sacrifice later, as thanks for bringing me back to my sanctuary. Hor now, I touch the stone of Their shrine and move on, longing for the embrace of my harbor.

As the door opens, I catch a whiff of my home's familiar scent; incense, cat and flowers. Immediately, my posture relaxes, my shoulders sagging. Home is the place I need no pretenses, no mask, nothing to represent who I am besides indulging in things that define me. As the door closes behind me, I lean against it and happily take my home into account. With a smile, I take off my shoes and walk barefoot to my shrine, washing my hands and face with lustral water before lighting Hesia's candle with a chant to Her.

The candle lit, I feel Hestia's hands on my shoulders, a blessed homecoming. She who is home in every home, has been invited into mine. Elated, I turn to the fireplace and build a fire, lighting it with the flame of the candle, dedicated to the Blessed Immortal Lady. As the fire roars, I lavish in its warmth and light, engulfed in the very essence of the Goddess closest to us mortals, She who finds shelter and warmth in every home.

With sure gestures, I prepare Her offering of mixed wine, and once done, I return to the fire, allowing my eyes to open and see beyond the veil. A woman with long, black, hair turns from the fire with the warmest of smiles. She is beauteous, shapely, delicate. The Goddess sitting where She was invited to come. There is a gentile smile on Her ageless features.

As I pour the wine into the fire, she inhales deeply, the uniquely dark scent of burning wine filling the air. As I take my eyes off of Her, I feel Her leave, the veil falling back in place, leaving a hollow in my home. When I turn back, all that remains is the fire, crackling marrily in the fireplace. The place She occupied is empty, yet the fire burns and my home smells of sacrifice, accepted. A shuddering, thankful, breath and then a smile. I am grateful for Her eyes upon me, and give sacrifice to Her gladly. In Her presence, I am truly at home."
In the (at least for now) last installment of this short series of posts--part one here, part two here--I want to respond to the last response to John Halstead's posts that has caught my attention. It was written by Dave, whom I do not know, but vehemently agree with.

"I would argue that no matter how much autonomy may be given up, if you are actively relinquishing it as a free choice then you are nevertheless in complete authority over your own self. You would have, in fact, given up nothing. Indeed the very act of choosing (and the implications of being happy with said choice) to relinquish one’s authority to their god(s) speaks to a carefully considered choice. This would seem to imply that should the motivations for the choice change so too would the choice. This seems, to me, no less co-equal than choosing to “work with” gods and goddesses or archetypes or what have you. The relationship would be hugely asymmetrical of course but it would, in my opinion, no more constitute a true transfer of power (in the sense of a permanent loss of free choice) than consensual non-consent.

I think that what truly makes practitioners like Ms. Temperance so satisfied with their choice is the fact that it is a choice. The practical transfer of power may make it seem substantially different from other ways of relating to the divine but in my opinion it represents a difference of degree not a difference of kind. Now, if the argument was to be taken against one’s will, that is a whole different story. In my mind that would represent a moral failure on the part of the deity to which the only correct moral response would be to refuse that deity worship. Probably a large part of why I thought Christianity so inherently idiotic and repugnant when I first encountered it. The can’t opt out nature of the system, no matter how liberal the interpretation, begs to be challenged.

That opinion relies upon an understanding of authority as requiring justification, never being justified in and of itself, and it being incumbent upon the would be authority in question to prove why their authority is justified. Not everyone shares that view and I can respect that but frankly, for myself, I can’t imagine a worse hell. When it comes to voluntarily relinquishing one’s authority? I’m sure Ms. Temperance has valid reasons for that action within her own moral framework and I wish her the best. For my own personal standards it would be a failure of moral character – for me – to pursue a similar relationship and to her credit she does not advocate her model for all, to the best of my knowledge."

'A difference of degree, not a difference of kind'. This, exactly, is what I've been trying to put into words but have failed to do in a to-the-point way. Dave's views upon my path are correct: it is a choice I have made, and with the proper steps, I would be able to step away from it, should I want to. I am not enslaved, nor forced into anything, even though I may not like some of the God-bothering that goes on in my life at times. This is what I--consciously, knowingly, willingly--signed on for when I became a Neo-Pagan, then an Eclectic Witch, and then when I progressed into Hellenismos. All came with a set of vows and requirements that I felt comfortable with at the time. I have made the choice to increase the asymmetricallity of the relationship between the Gods and myself, but there are many who have not done so, and I applaud them for making that conscious decision.

When it comes to religion, I feel there is no 'right way'. You either believe, or don't believe, on the scale, at a point of your choosing. This is good, it makes us different, unique, and it helps us to keep thinking and evolving. We come closer to our own needs through our relation (or lack of same) with supernatural forces. I applaud anyone willing to take this struggle on.

Opting out of Hellenismos--or any religion--should (in my opinion) be done with absolute care and respect. There is nothing binding you to a religion in the strictest sense, and especially the Theoi are not vengeful Gods, but there is something to waving a fond farewell, and respectfully ending a relationship. Like you would with a friend or love interest, issues and feelings need to be resolved. Otherwise, the lingering relationship becomes unhealthy.

When I worked in mental healthcare, ending a relationship with a client was as important--if not more important--than starting one. I feel the same way about ending a relationship with the Gods, and I did so with the God and Goddess of Neo-Wicca and Eclectic Witchcraft when I adopted Hellenismos. I made vows to the Lord and Lady that needed to be lifted from me, or transfered into my new practice. It was a process I got through with a lot of hurt and heartache, but without it, I would never have been able to fall into Hellenismos as completely as I have.

Dave, again, is someone who can not imagine relinquishing control over their life to a power they can not prove exists, and I respect that. I understand that. I wish him all the best in his current path. Again, I can't and would never force my religious views upon anyone. Those who come here and to PaganSquare to read my words, do so of their own accord. No one is (hopefully) forcing them, least of all myself.
Yesterday, I posted part one of a small series concerning John Halstead's fantastic post over at The Allergic Pagan, and will write part three tomorrow. I wrote about John's post and my reply to him yesterday, and will now move on to one of the replies that caught my attention, written by Humanistic Paganism's writer, B. T. Newberg, another Pagan whose work I follow. While our paths differ to the extreme, Mr. Newberg is a wonderfully skilled writer, and what he says makes a lot of sense, even if it's not applicable to my religious view of the world. I'm going to go ahead and copy his words into this message, but if you have not read the original post, it would be wise to do that before delving into this one.

"I have nothing against Elani Temperance – she seems like a nice person and all from all that I’ve read from her – but yes, her style of Paganism is 100% antithetical to anything I could possibly endorse with a clear conscience. Avoiding the kind of faith she describes here was the number one reason I was attracted to Paganism in the first place. Alas, the trend is in the direction she describes (even if she is an extreme example at present).

It seems to me there are two major things that determine whether a religious traditions proliferates or dies out in a culture. On the one hand, it must appeal to people on an individual level. On the other hand, at the group level, it must be an evolutionarily fit competitor in the cultural environment. Alternative movements do well at the individual level, appealing to those alienating from the current dominant religious paradigms. However, for an alternative movement to grow and spread, it must eventually acquire the traits that make it a fit to compete with the dominant paradigms on a larger scale. I am beginning to fear that faith, specifically Elani’s style of faith, may be one of those traits.

There are three reasons for this. First, the cognitive dissonance produced by believing something is true, that you know deep down cannot possibly be true, generates a fantastic amount of creative energy. As believers struggle to justify their beliefs to themselves, they become ever more active in justifying it to others, speaking out with great zeal, and thus spreading the beliefs further. This causes the movement to grow. This effect was first discovered in the 50′s studying how cults whose doomsday predictions failed actually *grew* due to the increased zeal afforded by the cognitive dissonance. So, the more radically unjustifiable a faith belief is, the more creative energy it generates. Elani’s style of faith is quite radical, and you can see a correspondingly prolific output from her in posts at Pagan Square.

The second reason is that this same zeal and conviction is fantastically persuasive. People rarely decide who to trust based on rational reasons. More often than not, they go for gut reasons, and one of those reasons is the sense that someone in your in-group really, truly believe what they are saying. By repressing their doubts as fully as possible, people with Elani’s style of faith become powerfully persuasive. And the more they demonstrate their sincerity and conviction, through speaking and especially through costly displays such as time, effort, and money spent on devotions that could have no motive in the absence of true belief, the more persuasive they become. Thus, this style of belief tends to spread through the population.

The third reason is the necessity of a group having an efficient way to bond themselves together and encourage cooperative effort. The idea of a supernormal being watching over everyone and rewarding prosocial virtues, a being that really is real in the most literal sense, is fantastically efficient at doing this. Particular faith beliefs, i.e. belief in Thor rather than Allah, is too arbitrary to convince outgroups, so it makes an effective boundary marker between ingroup and outgroup, and thus bonds the ingroup together. Meanwhile, cooperativeness within the ingroup is encouraged by rewards for prosocial behavior doled out by the supernormal being, who sees *even your thoughts* (this discourages deceptive behavior).

I am starting to suspect that these may be the most important “active ingredients” in large-scale religions, i.e. the essential elements that make it competitive at the group level. Almost all world religions have more nuanced and reasonable versions, even naturalistic ones, but the crucial observation here is that these versions are always proportionately small, and never exist in the absence of a much larger population of more radical “true” believers. Theravada Buddhist monks could not exist without the much larger population of lay Buddhists who take it on faith that the good karma generated by supporting monks will allow them to become monks themselves in the next life. Philosophical Daoists are similarly dwarfed by the much larger community of superstitious and magical Daoists, and philosophical Jnana-yoga Hindus are eclipsed the more numerous devotional Bakhti-yoga Hindus. If this pattern holds true, less faith-based versions of Paganism, including naturalistic versions, might only survive by attaching themselves to a growing movement of faith-based, more devotional Pagans. Perhaps the only alternative may be to start over again with a different new alternative movement, which will in turn become more faith-based as it grows over time, necessitating yet another alternative movement, and so on through the ages."

Mr. Newberg then went on to offer an amendment to his reply:

"Ugh. I was rushed in the last comment, and upon re-reading, I see it’s not only riddled with grammatical errors but also some statements that are just plain wrong. Apologies. Let me be the first to critique myself.

>Almost all world religions have more nuanced and reasonable versions [than faith-based]

That’s plain wrong. Many faith-based folk hold beliefs that are nuanced and reasonable (in the sense of being internally consistent), and Elani’s work in particular is both. What I should have said is less faith-based. Nuance and reasonability shouldn’t even be part of the conversation.

>the cognitive dissonance produced by believing something is true, that you know deep down cannot possibly be true

That’s also an untenable statement. No one can know what another person “knows deep down.” Rather, cognitive dissonance is between two internalized beliefs that are in conflict. The conflict is uncomfortable, producing an urge to resolve the discomfort by finding a way to disarm the contradiction. It may show up when concrete evidence contradicts a prior held belief, such as when the world does not in fact end on the prophesied day, and such prophets typically find some error to explain why their previous prediction was false but their *new* prediction is assuredly true. To the extent that those who hold radical faith-based beliefs encounter evidence that makes it difficult to maintain that belief, cognitive dissonance generates creative energy toward justifying the belief and explaining away evidence to the contrary. One example might be Elani’s anecdote about leaving home without an umbrella after making offerings to Zeus the Thunderer, asking that it not rain. Whether it rains or not, an explanation is ready at hand: either Zeus prevented the rain, or she deserved to get rained on. The underlying belief that Zeus controls the rain is neatly insulated from contradiction by the resulting evidence (raining or not), forestalling an uncomfortable confrontation between two conflicting beliefs.

I also want to reiterate that I don’t mean to disparage Elani as a person. I’ve read a lot of her work, and she is thorough, intelligent, sincere, and knows her stuff. My comments are about the style of faith she adopts."

I think Mr. Newberg makes a few very valid comments upon my religious choices. While I doubt that a more structured religious movement within Paganism will be the end of Paganism, I also think that the Traditions based upon religious commonalities will outlast the ones without them, simply because there is some 'glue' missing. This is not to say that religion is be be-all and end-all of Paganism!

I think I view the label of 'Paganism' in a less... homogeneous way than Mr. Newberg views it. To me, all the different paths are only linked in name, not practice. What happens in one, will have little to no baring on all the others. If a single Tradition becomes too big or starts stretching the label too badly, that movement will start declaring itself independent from it, leaving the base of Paganism intact. You already see this happening in the Asatru and druid communities, as well as Mr. Newberg's own humanistic movement. The label starts to hold a movement back, so the group leaves.

I get the feeling Mr. Newberg feels threatened by the religious nature of my Tradition. In the part that is about me as a person and writer, he seems to force a type of subconscious evangelizing upon my person and writing. As I wrote yesterday, this is not my intent, and I always try to make that clear when I offer my opinion on this blog. As a side note, it seems Mr. Newberg has read only my PaganSquare blogs and thus assumed that is all I write. For those unaware, what I post at PaganSquare is only about a third of all blog posts I write; two or three a week, out of the seven. If he found the amount of posts on PaganSquare prolific, I shudder to think what he will think of this.

Moving away from me, and back to large-scale religions, Mr. Newberg makes a few very good points about the formation of a community, although I feel he would ascribe the term 'cult' to it. I also get the feeling he sees all these results of religion as negatives, where I view them as positives. A solid community, shared gnosis, etc. are all things I long for in my life, and which I would be very happy to help found. In this way, Mr. Newberg is absolutely right in recognizing my 'radicality'.

I must make a note of the very Abrahamic idea of a supernormal being watching over everyone and rewarding prosocial virtues; the Theoi (besides, arguably, Hēlios and Apollon), are not all-seeing. The whole reason of taking proper, ritualistic, steps, is to ensure you have attracted the notice of the Theoi before you sacrifice and pray to Them. Within Hellenismos there is--or should not be--fear of the Theoi watching your every move; not even the ancient Hellenes believed that. Free will and a clear mind are highly important within Hellenismos. The conscious choice to live ethically is as much a form of dedication as it is a way to bind the community.

I love Mr. Newberg's thoughts on the cognitive dissonance theory in relation to faith. In a way, he is absolutely right, especially in his amended version of it. That's the crux of faith; I say Zeus controls the weather, and no matter what, I will find a divine sign in the situation that follows. I call this a good thing, Mr. Newberg does not. My whole world is colored by the 'divine brush'; when it gets light out, I see the fair Eos riding out of the sky gates, in front of Apollon and Helios. I see things that happen unexpectedly as divine signs, and when the universe seems to conspire against something happening, I'm going to assume my misfortune was either cause by a breach of kharis, or because something simply was not meant to happen for me; divine guidance to where I was supposed to be. Usually, when some event eventually does happen, it enriches my life in a way that it would otherwise not have.

An example: an acquaintance of my girlfriend is a masseuse. My girlfriend wanted to gift me with a massage, so she tried to set up an appointment with the woman, which somehow fell apart. Lack of time, too busy, minor reasons that all added up to a postponed meeting on the Winter Solstice, the day Little Witch magazine came out. Because of the Solstice, we were both more attuned to our Traditions--Hellenismos for me, shamanism for her--although we did not know the other was some form of Pagan when we met. Within seconds of meeting each other, we were discussing religion and life, and we provided each other with answers to questions we had been looking for a long time. We became instant friends, and will be meeting again soon to talk more.

What happened with my friend could just have likely happened on the day we were supposed to meet, but I hadn't finished Little Witch yet, then, and that was the entry point of our deep conversation. It was also a special day because of the solstice, so were were more ready to accept the wondrous. These synchronicities are everywhere in my life, and so much more so since I took up practicing Hellenismos. To me, this is a blessing. To Mr. Newberg... I am not sure, but I doubt he would feel as inspired by these events as I always am. To me, that seems a shame, but I can see Mr. Newberg is very happy in his Tradition, so who am I to wish anything different for him?

I have no problem at all with organized religion, and it may very well be that--even within my religious field--I am radical. I don't like the term, as it's been mutilated by the fear of terrorism, but at its base, it applies. For now, anyway. If Mr. Newberg's assessments are right, faith-based practice may soon overshadow non-faith-based practice within Paganism. As I have explained, I doubt this is going to happen, but he is right in saying there is a certain trend towards it from a hand full of vocal Pagans, myself included, although I would never assume the whole of Paganism should adopt religion. What's the point in that? I also don't feel Paganism should unite into a single Tradition in order to claim our space within the spiritual and religious landscapes. As the differences between Mr. Newberg's vision and mine illustrate perfectly, trying to form a single Tradition out of the beauty of different paths seems folly and impossible. Thankfully.

B. T. Newberg and I view the world decidedly differently, and I am very happy about that. It works for us, we are happy with what we do and how we do it. In psychological terms, the pay-off is worth the effort and that is why we do what we do, in the way that we do it. That's why a living creature does anything. So once more, I must thank the wonderful Mr. Newberg for his reply, and the thoughts it has provoked.
John Halstead over at The Allergic Pagan wrote a fantastic article yesterday, titled 'The role of faith and hubris in Paganism', largely prompted--it seems--by a blog post of mine I wrote a little while ago entitled: 'You, in relation to Deity' (although I changed the title for the PaganSquare version, which is otherwise exactly the same). I would encourage everyone to read John's post before reading on, as it is a fantastic piece of writing and what follows won't make much sense if you don't. Reading my original post might also help, if you have not done so.

In his post, John writes the following:

"Last week I came across a word that, ten years ago, I would never have thought to see in a Pagan context: “faith”. In fact, I came across it several times:

[...] finally, I came across this striking description of faith by Hellenic polytheist Elani Temperance on her post, “Self, in relation to Deity”:

“[...] when it comes to the Theoi–I say ‘how high’ when They say ‘jump’, regardless of what is requested of me. It also means that I put my faith in Them. When I pray and sacrifice to Zeus the Thunderer for a day without rain as I do my rounds outside, I don’t bring an umbrella. I trust that Zeus will either honor my prayer through kharis, or will have good reason not to. Who am I to go against His wishes and stay dry, regardless? To me, that is hubris.”

Wow! That’s not just faith, but if-they-told-you-to-jump-off-a-bridge kind of faith! Who are you to go against Zeus’ wishes? I couldn’t help but respond:

“You are a beautiful and incredible human being is who you are. Who is he to say you have to get wet? The polytheistic gods, as I understand them, are not necessarily “good” and they are not omni-benevolent. They are as flawed as human beings, but they just have more power. Why bow down to power, if it is not paired with virtue?”

Elani explains that she is able to maintain boundaries with human beings, but not with the gods. That kind of faith makes no more sense to me in the context of divine beings than it would in the context of human beings."

Again, please read the whole of it. What I wanted to share with you is my reply to John, because he did put into motion some wheels of thought for me. Not about serving, or my faith, or anything like that, but his post reminded me that--although this way of worship is incredibly logical and normal for me--I'm very much part of a fringe minority because of it. It was enlightening. Others have taken up John's call and have replied to his post with thoughtful posts that--although my name is in there--are not about my person, but the type of movement I represent.

To be clear, I did not start this blog with the intent of evangelizing anyone. I was starting a new journey, and I love to write. Those were my reasons. I don't think I'm truly spearheading anything, and I hope I make clear that I'm still not trying to evangelize anyone, but we'll come back to that tomorrow, when I'll take on at least one reply to John's blog post. For readers who are not interested in this, I am sorry, come back after Christmas. By Thursday, I should have processed all of this. If my stance on religion and Paganism indeed put me in a separate group, I need to be aware of this. For now, my reply, unedited.

"Thank you for your reply to my post at PaganSquare. I read it, but hadn’t gotten a chance to reply to it. Let me do it here. I will also copy this reply to PaganSquare.

As I wrote in my post, I was sharing my experience, my life, and my faith. Even in the original post, I explained that this is not a polytheist/religious staple. To quote the paragraph below the one you have quoted:

“While this extreme is important in my relation to Deity, there is no reason why your practice should be the same. If you’re in a Tradition where ‘working with the Gods’ is a big thing, you’ll most likely give up a lot less of your autonomy to the Gods. Your relationship is more personal, more equal, than many Hellenists will ever have (although, I guess, there are exceptions to that as well, within the Hellenistic community).”

I get the feeling that you think I’m somehow oppressed or that I must be unhappy in my relationship with the Gods. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I wrote in that very same post, I don’t have the negative connotations to serving (the) God(s) those who came to Paganism from one of the major faiths. I was never forced to attend service, never learned to be fearful of the Gods, never watched out for the All-Seeing in the sky.

To me, there is beauty in serving, a humble existence that fits well with certain vows I have made to the Theoi, as well as the way I prefer to live my life. I don’t consider myself a ‘lower being’ at all, but do acknowledge that the Gods are more powerful and wiser than I am. Through kharis, I know They have my best interests in mind, and if things take a turn for the worst, I can be sure it’s happening because I did or did not do something that I shouldn’t or should have. I broke kharis, and They have every right to hold that against me.

As you wrote in this brilliant post, my flavor of Paganism is much closer identified with the monotheistic faiths than the earth-centered or self-centered paths of Paganism. I also understand your comment about boundaries between me and the Theoi. You are right in saying that I would never assume to be a God, or to be divine in any way. I’m a mortal, and as such, the Theoi hold sway over my life.

This extreme level of servitude is the level that works for me, just like it works for Christian nuns and priests, Buddhist monks, and everyone else who places their lives and fates in the lives of those they serve. It doesn’t make us weak or pathetic: reclaiming my right to bow down to deities within the current Pagan climate took more guts than any other stance I ever took, and I have taken a lot of stances in my life that were not appreciated by the mainstream majority.

I know you practice Paganism differently, and as a loyal reader of your blog, I respect that greatly. I love reading your perspective. Yet, like my way of practicing would make you very unhappy, your way of practicing would make me feel the same. Thankfully, this Pagan label is applicable to both of us and anyone in-between, even if our practices differ to such a high degree, we have almost nothing in common.

One last thing I wanted to comment on is ‘power’. In this post, you ask the reader–and me specifically–’Why bow down to power, if it is not paired with virtue?’. Who says the Theoi are not virtuous, even if they are flawed? Funnily enough, Star Foster wrote almost the exact same thing a while ago, and I blogged about it on my blog.

From that post:

“As for honoring Gods because They are exemplars of virtue… It may be the phrasing, but I have difficulty with this. For one, all Theoi have Their epithets. Domains range from the destructive to the protective and back again. Does that make them virtuous?

Until the rebellion, Zeus seduced every beautiful human specimen He laid His divine eyes on. Most of the male Theoi have mythology which focusses on an act of rape on Their part. Hera’s jealousy is legendary. Nearly all female Deities–although a case could be made for all–let the male Deities dominate Their lives. The Theoi are so human in Their failings (from a modern standpoint!), that They can hardly be considered exemplars of virtues.

Then again, Their ‘flaws’ hardly make Them unvirtuous: They still teach a lot of them: temperance, prudence, justice, courage, etc. The trouble with the Theoi and Star’s statement–for me–is that all Theoi teach these virtues. All of them have virtues in Their ‘base’ and in Their various epithets. Choosing one above the other seems counterproductive to the spirits of reconstruction and polytheism. That having been said, there are a lot of people in Paganism–and most likely Hellenismos as well–who do not share my vision upon this issue, and so I understand where Star is coming from.”

Within my path, my religion, I am not God. I am mortal. I serve the Gods who rule my life, and because I serve Them well, I have a very good life. Some may not understand–perhaps most will not understand–but this is the life I chose, and the life I am infinitely happy with. I have tried the other circles of Paganism you describe and it was not for me.

The only faith I have is in the existence of the Gods. Not as archetypes, not as different personas or one or a few entities, but as a myriad of separate entities who may or may not give a crap about me. Hopefully They do, and to make sure They do, I try to appease and serve Them, but that has nothing to do with having faith. That has to do with building a relationship with those who were used to being served. This is why I call myself a Reconstructionist, yet even in the Recon community, there are various degrees in how much autonomy is surrendered.

Surrendering to what I really wanted out of my religion and life, was the best decision I have ever made. No, the Theoi are not all good, but They are protective. I place my trust–and life–in Their hands because I know They will treat me well. And so, when I go out without my umbrella, it does not rain, or so minimally, it is not a hinderance, even if it should have been raining non-stop the whole day. Kharis. Faith. I love this life, my religion and the Theoi, and I do not need to be rescued from it. But thank you, for allowing me to solidify this for myself again :) "

John replied to my post with the following:

"Elani: Thank you for being good humored about my using your experience and your faith as a foil. And thank you for taking the time to further explain your faith. I have found reading your blog very interesting, and I appreciate that your non-confrontational approach to your religion. I could probably use a healthy dose of that here."

Have I said how much I really like and appreciate John Halstead? Because I do. He's thoughtful, passionate and opinionated. Above all, he's a skilled writer and a wonderful intellectual, whom I would love to have a face-to-face discussion with about this broad concept called 'Paganism'. This whole issue--his post and all replies included--are being handled with uttermost care and courteousness, and it's greatly appreciated. Please check back tomorrow for part two, and most likely the day after that for part three. If you're uninterested in any of this, please check back on Thursday, I promise to write about something Hellenic or Hellenistic.

On the Solstice came the happy news that the temple of Zeus at Nemea is finally without its scaffolding again! Together with the temple of Apollon in ancient Corinth, the temple of Zeus is the most emblemetic of the ancient monuments in the provence of Corinthia. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the temple of Zeus at Namea, let me quote the article:

"Built c. 330 BC over the remains of an earlier temple, the Temple of Zeus lies in the center of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea. The 9,240 square foot Temple played a significant role in the Nemea Games, one of the original Pan-Hellenic Games of Ancient Greece. It was before this Temple that, prior to the Nemea Games, the athletes would pay homage to the father of their gods, Zeus. The Temple’s construction included three Greek architectural forms, the Doric, the Corinthian, and the Ionic. 32 limestone columns each standing 42 feet tall, and composed of 13 cylindrical stones, called “drums”, each weighing approximately, 2.5 tons, surrounded the Temple of Zeus."

While much of the old stone from the temple was preserved in the interior of a Basilica, all that remained upright of the temple were three limestone columns. Two more columns were reconstructed in 2002, including their crowning epistylia.

Dr. Konstantinos Papantonopoulos took on the next phase of the project, which was to reconstruct four more columns along the row. The project started in 2007, and now comes to a close with four beautifully reconstructed columns lining the outside of the temple. Between 2004 and 2012, a little over 2.5 million euro was pumped into the project, and while there are plans to reconstruct five more columns along the northern side of the temple, as the ancient material is preserved and a relevant study has already been conducted by architect Katerina Sklere, the current economic crisis in Greece has put these plans on hold.

While much of the temple's building materials were recovered, the temple will never be fully reconstructed. The interior Corinthian columns are mostly missing. Thirty-two orthostates (squared stone blocks much greater in height than depth that are usually built into the lower portion of a wall) from the base of the interior wall, and 1,120 blocks from the upper part of the wall are missing as well. The exterior collonnade remains roughly complete, so these are viable for reconstruction, but to attempt more would mean adding so much modern day building materials that the building becomes, not a reconstruction, but a new building founded on an ancient foundation.

My question to you, then, is the following: if you had the financial and legal means to do so, would you reconstruct the temple further? And if so, would you reconstruct it beyond the point where the ancient stones  allow you to? Would you introduce modern day building materials if it meant a fully constructed Temple would be at your disposal? Something to ponder on a fine sunday.

Fig 1. Plan view of the temple. The three columns standing from the ancient times are shown with orange. K-26 and K-27 were reconstructed in 2002. Taken from here.
Fig 2. 1805 drawing of the temple. Taken from here.
Fig 3. Image of the temple after reconstruction of two of the columns were completed in 2002. Taken from here.
Fig 4. An image of the temple as it stands today, taken from the article, copyright to Vima.
Fig 5. Aerial view of the Temple of Nemean Zeus in 1977. Taken from here.
I'll be taking part in next year's Pagan Blog Project (I signed up yesterday, so it's in print!), but for this year, there are still two posts to go. The first of the 'Z's goes to ancient beer. There was a special recipe for beer that the ancient Hellenes called 'zythos', and which was imported from Egypt. Most ancient Hellenes thought the barley beverage was absolutely undrinkable and only fit for barbarians, but some made use of it anyway.

Beer has been around for a very long time, at least six thousand years, although the art of beer-making could date back as far as fifteen thousand years ago. The ancient Hellenes certainly were not the ones who invented it. Most likely, it travelled to them by way of the Egypt, but the Egyptians could probably trace the art back to Mesopotamia. A four thousand year old seal to the Goddess Ninkasi--the Goddess of beer--has been found, which is as well a hymn to Her as a recipe for beer.

Also from the Mesopotamians comes one of the early literary works, the Epic of Gilgamesh. In it, one of the two main characters encounters beer for the very first time:

"Enkidu knew nothing about eating bread for food,
and of drinking beer he had not been taught.
The harlot spoke to Enkidu, saying:
"Eat the food, Enkidu, it is the way one lives.
Drink the beer, as is the custom of the land."
Enkidu ate the food until he was sated,
he drank the beer-seven jugs!-- and became expansive and sang with joy!
He was elated and his face glowed.
He splashed his shaggy body with water,
and rubbed himself with oil, and turned into a human."

The beer that was drunk by the ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks--or anyone else, really--had very little to do with the beer we pick up at the grocery store today. They share the same base component--fermented barley--but that's about it. Ancient records ascribed to the following method of creating beer, which is somewhat similar to modern day practices, but vary greatly in execution:

According to Athenaeus Naucratis, a Hellenic rhetorician and grammarian, a grain, typically barley but also millet, rye and wheat, was malted. The grain was dampened with water and allowed to germinate. Nature took its course to converted some of the starches into fermentable sugars and the resulting malt was heated to dry it. The dried malt was often shaped into loafs which were then backed for a small amount of time. These loaves were crumbled, mixed with cereals, and then soaked overnight. To add flavor, spices, honey, dates or other types of sweeteners were used. After the mash had fermented, the liquid contained roughly six to twelve percent alcohol and was sucked out of large bowls with straws, because the gruel-like mash was left in.

Depending on the country or region of origin, the ancient Hellenes knew a wide variety of beers, all mixed slightly differently. Zythos (ζῦθος) came from Egypt. The beer or barley-wine of Crete was known as 'korma' (κόρμα) or 'kourmi' (κοῦρμι). A similar beverage was known in the north of Hellas and in Asia Minor under the name of 'βρῦτον', which simply means 'fermented' or 'something brewed', being made of barley by the Phrygians and Paeonians, of barley or of roots by the Thracians, while the Paeonians also made another mixture which they called 'παραβίας' or 'παραβίη' from millet and fleabane for which I have no translation.

The Roman Plinius reported of the popularity of beer in the Mediterranean area before wine took hold, but the Hellenes were much bigger fans of the fermented grape than fermented barley. Still, the ancient Hellenes associated beer with the Theoi. Dionysos was lauded for the drink, but the prime Theos of beer was (and is) Seilenos (Σειληνός), foster-father of Dionysos and son of Hermes. Please note that the preferred drink of Demeter, Kykeon, which is also made with barley, was not fermented and does not contain alcohol.

Within modern Hellenistic practice, beer is most likely not a suitable offering for the Theoi, and should not replace wine offerings. Even in ancient Hellas, beer was viewed as inferior and barbaric. Peasants drank it, as it was a lot cheaper than wine, but that's about it. On principle, I'm against offering anything sub-par to the Theoi, even if the modern process has made the drink a lot more palatable. Still, it's good to know the ancient Hellenes had options, although getting drunk was frowned upon even if you drank beer.
I made it, I made it, I made it! I don't want to admit how close I get to not finishing the magazine on time--every single time. Ah well, it's done and this afternoon, I am getting a massage. Life is good. There is very little Hellenismos in this one, but it might still be a good read.

"Another year has passed, and for some, the first snow has already fallen. Join us today for a new Little Witch magazine about the winter time, weather magick, flying ointment, druidism, spells, yearly festivals, pagan bands and much, much more. We even have an Hawaiian myth about snow! Keep safe, and we'll see you in Springtime."

So, there are a bazillion people who celebrate a very special event today: the Winter (or on the other half of the globe, Summer) Solstice. There's Yule, the Dongzhi festival, Yalda, Soyal, Mōdraniht, Pancha Ganapati, and Saturnalia, and then, around this time of year, there are also Christmas, Malkh, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah to celebrate. As Hellenists, we don't have one of those days (unless you count the Heliogenna), which makes this day a bit odd for me, as I have observed it in a religious manner for at least ten years.

I'm looking forward to the Lesser Dionysia, which is placed on the tenth of Poseideon this year (23/24 December), but which could have easily been set in January, due to the confusing but wonderful lunar calendar of the Hellens. I'm celebrating it by attending a Yule gathering of a friend, but I'll also read some tragedies and comedies, and sip while while wrapped in a blanket. I'm not sure if I want to accomplish a 'phallus procession' yet, but we'll see.

A bit after my noon (which is in about three hours from the time of this post), I'll post the winter 2012 edition of Little Witch magazine for your viewing pleasure. It's been taking up all of my time this week, so I hope you guys enjoy it.

For now, blessed Winter (/Summer) Solstice, and enjoy whatever festival comes attached. It was good to see Hēlios rise today.
Please, as soon as this hit the internet, you knew I was going to talk about it, right? It's about Dungeons & Dragons as well as the Olympic Gods; how can I resist? For those not curious enough to click the link, it leads to a wonderful post by Pthelms about Ares being the patron Theos of the tabletop role-playing game.

I think there is an overabundance of Pagans playing D&D, simply because it's one of the earliest places you can shout out 'I worship a whole pantheon of Gods', and no one will look at you funny. All their characters do, after all.

In one of my very early posts, I wrote about how much I learned about (polytheistic) religious life through playing Dungeons and Dragons. If I had never started playing D&D, I doubt I would be where I am in my religious path. I owe that game and its creators a lot. More than I probably am aware of myself.

At any rate, I have studied the Dungeons and Dragons version of the olympic pantheon (page 99 and on), and it makes a lot of sense. It's a simplified, 'Olympos for dummies', version of the pantheon and while it leaves out hundreds of Theoi, it gets the job done of conveying the gist of the characters of the Deathless ones.

Players of any game, but tabletop RPG's especially, will know that the dice are fickle, and any trick that has had effect in the past to influence its roll in a positive way will be used time and time again in case of an important roll of the dice. For us, that usually involved reserving one D20 for Very Important Rolls and keeping that one in our bras 'till the time came to use it. Don't knock it until you try it, we've brought down Dragons with those dices.

A little while ago, I posed a question to my readers: which Theoi would oversee the modern marvels? The 'would' got a lot of flack over at PaganSquare because it people who had never read my blog assumed I don't really believe in the Theoi. That's not why the 'would' is in there; the 'would' is in there because it's hubris to assume anything for the Theoi, and I'm not getting into a UPG war over the patronage of the internet, thank you very much. At any rate, Pthelms' post on D&D gives me a chance to examine my Dungeons and Dragons experiences in relation to the Theoi.

I like Ares as the creator of D&D--and I'm sure He relishes in the battles--but I'm pretty sure that Athena would be a far more likely candidate for the creation of D&D. Just look at the amount of rules involved in the game, the tactical combat with its flanking rules and twelve step program to grapple someone. Ares would bring the passion a player can feel about the game; the fear and excitement that comes from running into an air mephit at level one and knowing--by heart--what its stats are. The absolute horror when running smack square into a black dragon when you didn't get to finish your fifteen rounds of magickal boosting. That's Ares' domain.

I can probably tie any of the Olympians to the game; Hestia when you all come together to play, Aphrodite when characters fall in love, Athena when large scale battles are planned, Hermes when the dices fall, Zeus when quests are given and accomplished, Apollon when you write your SITREP or play a bard who writes his own songs or poetry about the adventure, Demeter who takes care of the munchies, Artemis when you slay a foe in honest battle, Hera when your party becomes in sync, etc.

Especially back in the day, my focus was on Athena, and I've sent quite a few prayers Her way for guidance on game situations which seemed unsolvable. I channeled Her for a lot of my party leader characters, and I swear that without Her guidance, I would have gotten a good few characters killed. Yet, when the time for planning was over, and the dices came out, it was Hermes I prayed to. The trickster God with the ability to make or break a roll. I still do. The air mephit example above? That's a recent one where I got a critical roll after praying to Hermes. It saved our in-game lives.

The Theoi are everywhere you allow Them to be. I hope that They look down upon our D&D games like a modern day, less lethal, Troy. They get to pick sides and watch us squirm as They make or break our luck. I hope They inspire Dungeon Masters to challenge players, and then come through for us when all hope is lost. That's how I play my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, and it's part of the reason why I love--and miss--it so very much.

*Hestia symbol taken from: Wizards of the Coast
The Hellenic pantheon literally has hundreds of Gods, Goddesses, Titans, nature spirits, heroes, kings and queens. Although Hellenismos focusses mostly on the Big Twelve, Hades, Hestia and Hekate, Hellenic mythology is a true treasure trove of immortals. Most of these 'lesser' immortals get very little attention, and I'd like to change this. So, ever now and again, I'm going to introduce one of the lesser known immortals and  try and find a place for them in modern Hellenistic worship, based off of their ancient Hellenic worship. Today, I'm introducing to you Hēlios (Ἥλιος), personification of the sun.

Hēlios is a Titan, born from Hyperion and Theia (Hesiod, Pindar), or Hyperion and Euryphaessa (Homeric Hyms). Hyperion (Ὑπερίων), meaning 'The High-One', was born from Gaea and Ouranos. He is the Lord of Light, and Titan to the east. Due to his (and Helios') epithets, there is often confusion between the two: Helios is refered to as 'Hyperion' by Homeros in the Odysseia, and one of the well known epithets of Hyperion is 'Helios Hyperion', yet the ancient Hellens distinguished between Them quite rigidly. Hyperion is the observer--and father--of many of the Titans connected to the sky. Diodoros Sikeliotes (Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης), Hellenic historian and writer of the Bibliotheca historica, says the following about Hyperion:

"Of Hyperion we are told that he was the first to understand, by diligent attention and observation, the movement of both the sun and the moon and the other stars, and the seasons as well, in that they are caused by these bodies, and to make these facts known to others; and that for this reason he was called the father of these bodies, since he had begotten, so to speak, the speculation about them and their nature."

Theia and Euryphaessa are generally regarded as the same Deathless woman: 'theia' is the Hellenic word for 'Goddess', so it was likely 'Theia Euryphaessa' translated to 'Goddess Euryphaessa'. This means that Hēlios' family tree is as follows:

Chaos --- Gaea
            |         |
  Ouranos --- |
                          Hyperion --- Euryphaessa

As far as confusion goes, Hēlios is also often confused with Apollon, mostly because of their conglomeration as a single Deity in the Roman era. In ancient Hellas, it was Phoibos (or 'Aiglêtos') Apollon who drove the chariot of the sun through the sky each morning, following the lovely Eos out of the heavenly gates. Phoibos Apollon is associated with carrying sunlight, but He is in no way the sun itself. That honor befalls Hēlios.

Hēlios is the sole Theos described as 'all-seeing' (Panoptes, because His rays reach (almost) everywhere on the Earth's surface. Most famously, He sees Aphrodite' affair with Ares, and warns Hēphaistos of it. As such, Hēlios is regarded as the enforcer of justice and vows. From Orphic Hymn seven:

"Dispensing justice, lover of the stream, the world's great despot, and o'er all supreme.
Faithful defender, and the eye of right, of steeds the ruler, and of life the light"

The most famous piece of mythology concerning Hēlios regards His son Phaethon (Φαέθων), by Klymene (Κλυμένη). The story is told to us by Ovid, a roman poet. In it, Klymene boasts to Phaethon that his father is the sun God Himself, and so, Phaethon goes up to Olympus to confirm. To prove His paternity, Hēlios swears of the river Styx to give Phaëthon anything he desires. Phaëthon grabs this opportunity to demand of his father to let him drive his golden chariot the next time the sun rises.

Hēlios tries to talk His son out of it, claiming that not even Zeus would attempt to drive the chariot, as it is hot with fire and the horses wild and fire breathing. Phaëthon will hear none of it, and so Hēlios must let him get on. He rubs his son's body with magical oil that will protect him from the heat and as Eos and Apollon leave the gates, so does Phaëthon.

The four horses of the chariot--Pyrois, Aeos, Aethon, and Phlegon--sensed Phaëthon's weaker hand and became virtually unsteerable. First, Phaëthon drove them too high, and the Earth below cooled and the people suffered. Then, he flew too low and entire cities burned, lakes and rivers dried up, and even the seas were affected. Mighty Poseidon tried to stop Phaëthon, but had to flee from the heat. It was Zeus who threw His lightning bolt and killed Phaëthon.

Hēlios was inconsolable, and refused to man the solar chariot for days on end. He blamed Zeus for His son's death, but Zeus rightly claimed He had no other choice. The Theoi eventually convinced Him to to take up His responsibility again, but His son's death pained Hēlios greatly. On the epitaph on Phaëthon's tomb was written:

"Here Phaëthon lies who in the sun-gods chariot fared. 
And though greatly he failed, more greatly he dared."

Another piece of Hēlios' mythology comes from Hómēros who writes in the Odysseia:

"we came swiftly to Helios Hyperion’s lovely island, where the sun-god grazed his fine broad-browed cattle, and his flocks of sturdy sheep. I could hear the lowing of cattle as they were stalled and the bleating of sheep from my black ship while I was still at sea, and the blind seer Theban Teiresias’ words came to mind, with those of Aeaean Circe, who both warned me to avoid the isle of Helios who gives mortals comfort."

Yet, not only do they not steer clear of the island, they kill and eat (unbeknownst to Odysseus), some of the sheep in Hēlios' herd as they become stranded on this island for days or even months.

"Now Lampetia of the trailing robes sped swiftly to Helios Hyperion with the news we had killed his cattle, and deeply angered he complained to the immortals: “Father Zeus and you other gods, immortally blessed, take vengeance on the followers of Odysseus, Laertes’ son. In their insolence, they have killed my cattle: creatures I loved to see when I climbed the starry sky, and when I turned back towards earth again from heaven. If they do not atone for their killing, I will go down to Hades and shine for the dead instead.""

"The gods at once showed my men dark omens. The ox-hides crawled about, raw meat and roast bellowed on the spit, and all around sounded the noise of lowing cattle. Nevertheless my faithful comrades feasted for six days on the pick of Helios’ cattle they had stolen. And when Zeus, Cronos’ son, brought the seventh day on us, the tempest ceased, and we embarked, and, raising the mast and hoisting the white sail, we put out into open water.

"It was not till the island fell astern, and we were out of sight of all but sky and sea, that Zeus anchored a black cloud above our hollow ship, and the waves beneath were dark. She had not run on for long before there came a howling gale, a tempest out of the west, and the first squall snapped both our forestays, so that the mast toppled backwards and the rigging fell into the hold, while the tip of the mast hitting the stern struck the steersman’s skull and crushed the bones. He plunged like a diver from the deck, and his brave spirit fled the bones.

"At that same instant Zeus thundered and hurled his lightning at the ship. Struck by the bolt she shivered from stem to stern, and filled with sulphurous smoke. Falling from the deck, my men floated like sea-gulls in the breakers round the black ship. The gods had robbed them of their homecoming."

The worship of Hēlios was quite widespread throughout ancient Hellas, but never in a measure beyond a cult. Athenians observed Helios as a Theos, but had no worship for Him. On the island of Rhodes, Hēlios was revered most, although evidence of His worship has been found in Corinth and Hermoine. The Colossus of Rhodes was dedicated to Him and the acropolis of Corinth was part of His worship as well.

For modern practitioners, there is not a lot to go on if you want to honor Hēlios. One can assume that manna is an acceptable offer because of His close identification with Apollon. There is also vague record of a festival on Rhodes, where a chariot with four horses was driven off of a cliff to commemorate the death of Phaëthon, but I would opt against this in modern day society. I would suggest thinking of Hēlios as He rises, and perhaps offering to Him when offering to Apollon in His solar aspects.

Helios is a beautiful, bright and all-encompassing Theos who deserves the worship of modern day practitioners. I, for one, would love to see a new cult rise on His name.