Sunday, October 14, 2012

What's in a name?

I've been thinking a lot about the Hellenic label. We use a great many names to describe it, and I assume that we're all assuming we mean the same thing when call ourselves thus. Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism, Hellenic Reconstructionism, Hellenismos, Hellenism, the Hellenic tradition, the Hellenic religion, Hellenic polytheism, Traditional Hellenismos, Reformed Hellenismos, Greek polytheism, Greek Reconstructionism, etc. It's a big lump of labels and, supposedly, they all mean the same thing. Today, I want to explain what these terms mean to me. The whole point of this exercise is to show that your definitions probably differ. That's a good thing, it creates clarity.

Greek vs. Hellenic: In the beginning of this blog, I used 'Greek' quite a bit. That's what I thought was the proper term for the country, even in olden days. It's not. There is a big pride issue surrounding the word 'Hellas', or 'Hellenic Republic'. It's the preferred term by the Greeks, and the  official name of the country. That is why I use it. 'Greek', to me, also sounds like a description of modern day Greece/Hellas. 'Greek Recon' would then be Orthodox Christianity, as that is the major religion in Greece today. The same goes for 'The Hellenic Religion'. Obviously, that is not my religion.

Polytheism: polytheism is literally 'the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals'. 'Hellenic polytheism' would then be a decent description, but it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. If I'm a Neo-Wiccan, worshipping solely deities of the Hellenic pantheon, would get me this label. Another point of criticism: if 'Reconstructionism' is already part of the label, 'Polytheistic' is a pleonasm; the ancient Hellenic religion was polytheistic, so any reconstructionistic practice from that time period is polytheistic by default.

Reconstructionism: 'Hellenic Reconstructionism' works, just like 'Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism', although see above about the polytheism. This is a perfectly fine description of what I practice; Hellenic Reconstructionism. The only problem I have with it, is that it allows the user to pick and choose. 'Hellenic Reconstructionism' leaves a lot of room for interpretation and doesn't signify a united religion.

That leaves Hellenismos. As regular readers may be able to tell, I prefer this term. Although I criticizes the lack of standardization within the religion, 'Hellenismos', as a term, signifies that those who practice it, work towards the same goal, with the same means, and the same general set of rituals. Two branches of Hellenismos are emerging: Traditional Hellenismos and Reformed Hellenismos. Traditional Hellenismos refers to those who strictly adhere to the ancient ways. This means animal sacrifice when appropriate, out-door sacrifices, and communal worship. Those who can't--or will not--practice Hellenismos this way, but who reconstruct everything else, practice Reformed Hellenismos.

I'll, eventually, become more of a Traditionalist. I don't have the means to be one now, so 'Reformed' will have to do. It's not a label I adopt by choice, but out of necessity. You all read my blog, so I'm sure you're aware I don't oppose animal sacrifice. I do, however, think that it's unethical and wasteful to sacrifice an animal when you practice alone, simply because the meat should be distributed and feasted with. This way, the Theoi and the animal who was sacrificed, will both be honored properly. This is why I don't see an animal sacrifice in my future any time soon: I sorely lack a community to perform one with.

So yes, this is why I prefer the 'Hellenismos' label. I don't use 'Reformed' unless I have to, because I would prefer to be a Traditionalist. The only problem I have with that, is that Traditionalists tend to be very elitist and bigoted in their ways. Not always, mind you, but I steer clear of the official Hellenic forums none the less. It's just not worth the heartache.

Are these interpretations of the labels something you agree with, or would you change some of them? If you practice--or if you imagine yourself practicing--which label would you prefer?

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