Today I would like to share two questions (and my answers) I got this week and which are related to each other in spirit. They both refer to the influence the Theoi have on the world, even though the spheres of influence differ.
"Yesterday I watched the film 'Agora' for the third time, I'm asking myself- what happened that the gods allowed for things so unbelievable to happen? For their sacred statues to be broken to pieces, their temples profaned, their followers persecuted and the wisdom that the Hellenists built up over more than nine hundred years treated in the way they were ... Why did they let those things happen, or did they? It's probably hubris to think that, but I'm just a little confused. Please, tell me what you think?"
You ask a question to which I can only give a complicated and speculative answer. I think that answer is two-part: our Gods are not all-powerful, and Their sphere of influence ends where humanity wants it to end. By-and-large, religion is in the heart of its followers. I believe that is how the Gods were created--out of the stories of man, which shaped the Gods, who made stories of Their own--and I also believe that is how They had to let these atrocities happen.
Humans at their very core are weak. They are scared. They tend to like the path of least resistance. Hellenism (and similar for the Romans) offered a world with Gods whom you have to work to please, and when you pass, you pass into a land of eternal shadow. It was a bleak outlook and a lot of work for, well, very little guaranteed pay-off. And then came Christianity, which was... simple. It offered a great reward at the end of the line, and a smooth ride through life without much effort. Show up at mass, don't fuck up too badly throughout life (or ask forgiveness) and voila! Set up for all eternity. Long story short: people turned away from the ancient Gods and flocked under the banner of the new one.
That leads me to the first part: our Gods are not all-powerful. There are things even They can't stop. Zeus had to let his son Sarpedon die, many Gods let loved ones and beloved heroes die, in fact. Most had to do so because the mortal in question refused to listen to Their advice. I have no doubt that the Gods would have liked to interfere in the destruction of Their temples, in the prosecution of Their dwindling worshippers--but humanity as a whole had made its choice, and that choice was to move on, to abandon Them and go with the new God(s) in town. And so They let them. The Gods can't make anyone believe in Them.
What happened to the ancient temples--to the ancient religion--we let happen. For whatever reason, we let it happen and in our religion, it is us who need to come to the Gods. When we stopped coming, They did not--could not--force us to come back, and so They let us go. But they are not the type to hold grudges. They may have been disappointed, may have been angry, but they are immortal. We are coming back to Them now and They accept us with kharis. We do not have to make up for our religious ancestor's choices. We just have to worship the Theoi as best we can, and They will provide the same things they promised the ancient Hellenes: a good life if you are willing to work for it.
"I was a Hellenist for awhile but felt called to research and follow other paths since then. Now I'm feeling like the Theoi are calling me back to Their worship. Do you have any advice about what I should do to make amends for leaving off Their worship and be welcomed back into Their good graces? What about the miasma of not worshiping Them for so long? What specific steps do you think I should take?"
Thank you for coming to me with your question. I am happy to hear you feel called back to the Theoi.
This morning, I answered a question by another reader. It had to do with how the Gods could have allowed their temples to be destroyed and their worship to dwindle. I want to tell you what I told him: that what happened to the ancient temples--to the ancient religion--we let happen. For whatever reason, we let it happen and in our religion, it is us who need to come to the Gods. When we stopped coming, They did not--could not--force us to come back, and so They let us go. But they are not the type to hold grudges. They may have been disappointed, may have been angry, but they are immortal. We are coming back to Them now and They accept us with kharis. We do not have to make up for our religious ancestor's choices. We just have to worship the Theoi as best we can, and They will provide the same things they promised the ancient Hellenes: a good life if you are willing to work for it.
The same goes for a personal return to the Theoi. They let you go because you chose to take your break, and now you have decided to return, They will welcome you. I am sure you have seen that scene in the movies or television series where the rebellious youth joins the family he rejected at the start welcome him back with open arms near the end? I always feel coming back to faith is like that--or at least it should be. Come back with an open heart, an open mind, and an open smile. Recite the hymns with all the emotion and love you can muster. Perform katharmos, apply khernips, but mostly cast fear and doubt from your heart. Those emotions disrupt your ability to worship and that is the worst miasma of all.
The Gods will welcome you back just like they accept modern worship after being abandoned centuries ago. They want our worship--need our worship--and if you truly wish for Them to be in your life, They will be. If it makes you feel better, make a special sacrifice to proclaim your wish to return to Their worship. I dare say They haven't left your life, so don't worry too much about that. Kharis does not fade, it just gets put on hold when no longer desired. Reclaim it, be worthy of it, and the Theoi will gladly accept your sacrifices.
Enjoy your time with the Theoi, respect Them, and respect their worship. They will welcome you back with open arms.