Where does Hellenismos fit in? Are we part of the Pagan banner? Is there a 'we'? I tend to believe in the awesomeness that is a unified Hellenismos; I tend to believe that we all believe the same thing. But we don't, do we? There are so many labels, so many terms, just to figure out a way to tell someone else what you believe in, in a way they might just possibly relate to.

The Allergic Pagan's John Halstead wrote a fantastic piece about terminology that can mean something for one person that totally does not mean the same for another. A quote from the post:

"The problem is not just a difference in definitions, it’s a problem of false dichotomies, the dichotomies that we use to distinguish self from other. Now I’m not so naive as to suggest that we should stop using these dichotomies to distinguish ourselves from others. Our lives are full of them: male-female, homo-hetero, patriot-terrorist, Christian-bad person, and so on. The problem is that, whether we realize it or not, these dichotomies are not self-evident. We may choose to define ourselves vis a vis others using any of the dichotomies above, but we should not think that any of these natural opposites. And we absolutely cannot assume that other people are using the same dichotomies."

I tend to generalize a lot; I assume everyone thinks about Hellenismos the same way I do, even though I know that's rubbish. Being aware of this flaw, I go out of my way not to impose my views on others. It's a bit of mental gymnastics I don't expect you to even try to follow, so let me suffice with saying that I respect everyone's views on Hellenismos--or anything else--equally, and would never force my opinion of it onto anyone. Then again, this is my blog, so I will share with you the labels I associate with Hellenismos.

Supernatural: supernaturalism is the belief that events and values require supernatural powers or authority for their explanation. It is opposed by naturalism, which is the belief that all objects, events, and even values can be fully explained in terms of factual and/or causal claims about the natural world. Naturalism is on the rise in Paganism--a fact Halstead is well aware of--and I have no problem with it. I just do not think it has any place at all in Hellenismos. As a religion, I feel it is required to believe in the Theoi as actual being who have actual influence on your life. Else, you are just going through the motions. To put it bluntly: the ancient Hellens believed, thus so should the modern reconstructionist practitioner. Starting out with a shaky faith is fine; you can grow into faith. Going into it with a set mind that the supernatural does not exist? Not so useful, in my opinion.

Hard polytheistic: I'm not sure how, exactly, a soft polytheistic or even monoistic/monotheistic vision on Hellenismos would work, but it doesn't for me. To me, being a hard polytheist is pretty much the only way to believe if you're Hellenistic. A belief that the Theoi are all fragments of a single divine source (monotheistic), or that They can be conglomerated into a set of archetypical deities that span the entirety of the divine world (soft polytheism) is a wonderful thought process and belief system, but I don't see it working in Hellenismos, where worship is based on ancient sources who clearly show that's not how it works.

"Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them."

Pantheism would be another option, were it not for the fact that the Theoi are just as much a part of the world as we are--as Hesiod shows above--not the world itself. They, too, exist within a world frame; They were born into it, and are not part of it. They are a part of everything else that exists within the world frame. I can see, however, that this is a matter of interpretation of the term, and I could be able to understand a pantheistic view of Hellenic Divinity.

Immanence: the Theoi are immanence; partakers of the same world as we reside in. Like us, They make changes to it, steer the course of its development and interact with it constantly. They are a part of it, like us, just on a far larger scale. Some of the Divine are more involved with it than others--those who represent abstracts like Chaos, versus Theoi like Zeus, for example--but all of Them are as much part of the world as we are. Does this mean that the top(s) of Mount Olympus house the Theoi? Yes, in my opinion, it/they do. We just don't have the ability to perceive the world as the Theoi do, and so we can not see it.

Literal: this one is related to the previous three and is probably the most controversial one; Hellenists are called to see the myths of the Theoi as a literal interpretation of the nature of the Divine, as well as history as a whole. What happened in the myths, literally happened. It's called living with the Theoi on a daily basis. It means seeing the divine in everything. Lightning is just as much a scientific phenomenon as Zeus' mighty weapon cast down upon the earth. The little girl who guided Odysseus to the palace of Alcinous was just as much a little girl as the personification of Athena. The two overlap and co-exist. And as such, Hēraklēs' madness was brought on by Hera, and--at an even more basic level--Hēraklēs existed. He may have existed in multiple men, but there was once a man so powerful that he could only be the child of Zeus, and the many extraordinary things he did could only be attributed to a man aided by the Theoi. Literalism is tied to supernaturalism in a way that can not be untied, and as such, I feel it is part of Hellenismos. To chalk the myths up to metaphor is to deny the Theoi.

Orthopraxic: Hellenismos is a religion focussed on orthopraxia; the correct performance of the rituals associated with the religion. Yet, you can not have orthopraxia without orthodoxia; the correct thoughts behind said rituals. And so, it is both, but it is true that great focus is placed upon the proper performance of rituals, devotionals and other practices related to the Theoi. This is why I have portable shrines, so I can do my daily rituals, and it is why I honor the festivals in a way that the Theoi can relate to. What we do, matters, and I still feel very strongly for a standardized Hellenismos. This is also why I don't celebrate modern Hellenistic festivals, but more on that soon.

Reconstructionistic: If you're not doing it like the ancients did it, you're not practicing Hellenismos. Although we're still trying to draw a line where--exactly--the practice loses its reconstructionistic status, a good indication would be the pillars of Hellenismos, and all the above. Just worshipping the Theoi is not enough to adopt the label. I used to 'work' only with the Theoi, but as long as I was still drawing circles and calling quarters, I simply had no business calling myself Hellenistic. And I did not. Again, I call for standardization, in the knowledge it will not happen.

There are so many more terms and thoughts to get into, but they mostly serve to differentiate between the many varieties of Pagan out there. A few examples: I believe that within Hellenismos, humans should not be seen as divine, or holding a spark of the divine. We should not consider ourselves priests and priestesses of our religion, we are simple worshippers. Our lives should be dedicated and ruled by the Theoi, because we believe in Their divinity and feel They deserve our worship simply for being what They are. The list goes on.

Not agreeing with this interpretation of Hellenismos is perfectly alright. It was written to convey my firm belief of the religion, but--again--as we lack standardization, there is no 'right' or 'wrong', nor do I feel my way is the only 'right' way. If Hellenismos was standardized tomorrow and changes were made to any of the above, I would adjust my viewpoint(s) to fall in line, for the greater good of the religion. Until that happens, though, I stay with the terminology that makes the most sense to me. I wonder if it does to you as well.