Archaeological sites and museums across Greece have shut down for extended periods of time the last few weeks due to a strike by Culture Ministry employees protesting planned reforms that aim to streamline the ministry's operations. Workers are objecting to organizational reforms that they say could endanger some jobs and 'constitute a tombstone for the Culture Ministry'.


Strike action follows demands for more recruitments to cover the needs of extended opening hours that begin on April 1 at all sites. The union stresses that areas are understaffed to ensure the smooth and safe operation of the sites. Workers are calling for the government to take adequate measures rather than rush to recruit hundreds of contract workers at the last minute.

The union also expresses its objections to the merging of the culture and education ministries and the conversion of large museums to public-sector legal entities. The temporary staff are demanding “an autonomous culture ministry, stable payments, permanent staff hirings and other issues regarding their salaries.”

Gripped by a severe financial crisis since late 2009, Greece has been dependent on billions of euros in international rescue loans to remain solvent. In return, it has imposed structural reforms, deep spending cuts and tax hikes that have seen incomes slashed and unemployment spiralling to above 26 percent. May archaeological sites and museums have felt the impact of these budget cuts.

The union clarified that sites and museums will be shut down to the public during these hours though the national security staff will remain on duty.
So, remember how last year, I told you SyFy was going to bring you a TV show based on ancient Hellenic mythology? Syfy has unveiled the first full promo trailer for Olympus, and well... tool for yourself.


The new TV show follows the adventures of Hero (Tom York, Tyrant), the bastard son of King Aegeus (Graham Shiels, Guardians of the Galaxy), who is the holder of the Lexicon. The Lexicon is the secret code that allows man to enter Olympus, the legendary home of the Gods. The cast also includes Sonya Cassidy (The Paradise) as Oracle, the inimitable Matt Frewer (Orphan Black) as Daedalus, Sonita Henry (Doctor Who, Young Dracula) as Medea, Wayne Burns (Remedy) as Lykos, Alan C. Peterson (Hemlock Grove) as King Minos and Sophia Lauchlin Hirt (Klondike) as Ariadne. Here’s a synopsis for the upcoming series:

"A young man’s mythical quest to solve the riddle of the Gods, unlock the doors to Olympus and become an immortal. Hero’s epic journey leads him through the darkest realms of Ancient Greece accompanied by the beautiful, but twisted Oracle of Gaia, the powerful sorceress Medea and genius inventor Daedalus. Hero battles trickster gods, vicious monsters, seductive nymphs, kings and despots, as he transforms from fresh-faced naive into a ruthless, coldhearted killer, and match for the gods themselves."
 
I don't know about you, but I'll at least attempt to watch the first episode. There is a bit too much sex and nudity in there for me--not something I'm against on principle, but I've never been into 'Game of Thrones' or ' Rome' either, so I don't think I'm the target audience--but I want to at least see how badly the mythology will get mangled. Feel free to let me know what you thought when you've watched the first episode (or even the trailer); Olympus will premiere on April 2 on Syfy.
The festival season is starting up again, and Elaion is on a mission to host PAT festivals for all of them, so instead of spamming you with posts for upcoming rituals, you are getting just one--with two of them, the Dionysia and the Pandia.


The Dionysia
The (Greater) City Dionysia was and is a true theatric festival of Dionysos. It was and is held on the 10th to 17th days of Elaphebolion and is thought to have been founded, or at least revived, by the tyrant Pisistratus (around 530 BC). It was most famously held in Athens, when the city was once again full of visitors after the winter. The festival honours Dionysos Eleuthereus (Διονυσος Ελευθερευς), who was said to have been introduced into Athens from the village of Eleuterae (Ελευθέραι). The festival focuses on the performance of tragedies, but has included the performing of comedies since 487 BC. It was the second-most important festival after the Panathenaia.
 
Dionysos was a métoikos in a city of Athens, a resident alien, and on the first two days of the festival, the métoikoi of the city got to wear brightly colored festival clothes--mostly purple--and carried trays of offerings in the processions, something métoikoi never got to do otherwise. The Athenian citizens, on the other hand, wore their day-to-day clothes and carried wine and bread with them, or herded the bulls which would be sacrificed. Labrys, a Hellenic Polytheistic group located in Greece, recently performed the Phallephoria, the carrying of a phallus in procession in honor of Dionysus through the streets of Athens, for the first time after almost two thousand years.

At the end of the processions, the statue of Dionysos was placed in His temple in the theater district, and sacrifices were made to Him. Flute players and poets held contests, and were eager to outdo each other. After all of this, the festival most likely became very Dionysian, indeed.

Singing and dancing had always been a big part of the City Dionysia, but after a while, the structure of the seven day festival became more apparent. Instead of random singing and dancing, from the third day onward, everyone flogged to the theaters to view the plays, whose names and creators had been announced the day prior. The next three days of the festival were devoted to the tragic plays. The three chosen playwrights performed three tragedies and one satyr play each, one set of plays per day. Famous playwrights include Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles. They were judged by judges (agonothetai) chosen on the second day.

On the sixth day of the festival, five comedies by famous playwrights like Philemon, Chionides, and Aristophanes were performed. Comedies were of secondary importance at the Dionysia--the Lenaia was far more important for those--but winning the comedic prize at the Dionysia was still regarded a great honor. It seems that, from the fifth century BC onwards, plays could be recycled, and the audience seemed to have appreciated it. These plays were fan favorites, and were not rushed to completion.

Another procession and celebration was held on the final day, and the winners of the competitions were declared. The winning playwrights won a wreath of ivy, or a goat, although, when old plays were performed, the producer was awarded the prize rather than the long-dead playwright.

To celebrate the Dionysia, Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual on April 6, at the standard 10 AM EDT. You can find the ritual here, and we hope you will join us. We've chosen to host the ritual on the final day simply because it was a day reserved for sacrifices and rites, and we've already had quite the influx of rituals the weekend before (the other option was at the start, which would be Monday March 30).


The Pandia
The Pandia was an ancient state festival attested as having been held annually at Athens as early as the time of Demosthenes--namely the 4th century BC. Very little is known about this festival, but seeing as we know it was wedged in between a meeting to evaluate the misconduct during the Dionysia on the eitheenth of Elaphebolion and the Dionysia itself, we can at least say with relative accuracy that it was held on the 17th of the month, although the 14th is also mentioned for its connection to the full moon (see below).

What the Pandia celebrate or commemorated is unclear; it's origin story is lost to us and the only records we have of the festival taking place date from much later than its foundation. To the ancient Hellenes who attested to the festival, it was merely a fossilized event that had remained from times past, and they celebrated it in the same way every year--a way obviously not interesting enough to write down. It seems that even they weren't exactly sure about what the festival celebrated.

Pandia (πάνδια), or Pandeia (Πανδεια), was said to have been a Goddess of the moon, either as an epithet of Selene or as a Goddess onto herself--the daughter of Zeus and Selene. As such, there may have been a connection to the moon for the festival, and either to Pandia, Selene, or Zeus. Another explanation would be that the festival is derived from the Attic king Pandion I (Πανδίων Α'), who was said to have lived from 1437 - 1397 BC. Like his father Erichthonius, 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.

A third possibility is that the festival is connected to the Attic tribe Dias, so that the Pandia would have been in the same relation to this tribe as the Panathenaea to Athens. A fourth is that the name of the festival is linked to the tribe, but also the name of Zeus--Dias, Διός--which would make it a festival of Zeus Himself.

Elaion won't hold an official PAT ritual for the Pandia because there is so much unclear about it and the festival itself so archaic, but I enjoy celebrating it, so I've made a ritual outline, regardless, and will perform it on April 7 to honour Zeus, Selene, and Pandia. You are very welcome to join me! 
Women of the World is a festival where people of all ages and backgrounds can celebrate women’s achievements but also examine the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their full potential and contributing to the world. For the 2015 edition, historian Bettany Hughes and writer Charlotte Higgins discuss the lost heroines of the prehistoric and ancient worlds – women who were either wonderful or about whom we should wonder, from mother goddesses to Medea, Aphrodite to Cleopatra.



Charlotte Higgins is chief culture writer at The Guardian and a member of its editorial board. This New Noise, a book based on her nine-part series of essays on the BBC, is to be published by Guardian-Faber in June 2015. Higgins began her career in journalism on Vogue magazine in 1995 and moved to The Guardian in 1997, where she has worked as classical music editor and arts correspondent. A classicist by education, she is the author of three books on aspects of the ancient world. The most recent, Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain (Vintage, 2014), was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction.

Dr. Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. She was awarded this year’s Distinguished Friend of Oxford Award for outstanding services to the academic life of the university and commitment to public engagement. She lectures around the world and is a passionate believer in the value of communicating ideas about humanity’s past to a broad international audience. Her television programmes such as Divine Women and Athens: the Truth About Democracy have now been seen by over 250 million people worldwide. Bettany regularly presents on Radio 4, most prominently with her series The Ideas That Make Us Human which looks at the power of philosophy in ordinary lives. Her latest book, The Hemlock Cup is a New York Times bestseller, while Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore has now been translated into 10 languages. Bettany is currently writing and filming a new BBC series about the lives of Socrates, Buddha and Confucius, and is writing a new history of Istanbul.

WOW is bold and broad-based in its approach, both lively and serious, and feeds the demand to discuss anything and everything. It presents the very best of recognised and emerging female talent across all fields including politics, the arts, economics, fashion, science, health, sport, business and education, and is made up of keynotes, talks, debates, performances, gigs, free music, a marketplace, speed-mentoring, a crèche, exhibitions, workshops, networking opportunities and more.
University Buffalo faculty member Philip Kiernan heard a rumour from a UB alumnus in 2010 that the UB Libraries housed a collection of rare coins. Three years later, Kiernan, an assistant professor of classics, channelled his inner Indiana Jones and journeyed to the depths of the UB archives to find them. The collection, he was shocked to learn, was real: 40 silver Greek coins, three gold Greek coins and a dozen gold Roman coins -- one from each era of the first 12 Roman emperors, from Julius Caesar to Domitian. They range in date from the fifth century B.C. to the late first century A.D.


Keirnan must have been the first person to touch them in almost 40 years. He brought in two experts to verify the coins' authenticity last semester and is now developing a graduate course to examine the items' history. It's the first time the coins will be extensively studied, and Kiernan and his class will publish their findings.

Within the collection is a "remarkably rare" coin of Roman emperor Otho, who reigned for a mere three months. The Greek coins were struck by some of the most powerful city-states and rulers of the ancient world, such as Athens, Corinth and Alexander the Great.

The coins were donated in 1935 to the UB Libraries Special Collections by Thomas B. Lockwood as part of a larger collection of rare books. However, it wasn't until Kiernan examined them out of curiosity that the currency's rarity and value were realized.
Lockwood's collection includes more than 3,000 books, medallions and additional coins from early America and England. Other notable items include a medallion of Napoleon Bonaparte and 36 British gold coins, including one of Queen Elizabeth I.

Lockwood, an avid reader and collector of rare and special books, purchased the items to supplement his personal collection. Accruing relics and art was common practice among affluent men in the early 20th century.
Kiernan focuses much of his research on ancient currency and antiquities, and the experts he brought in to examine the coins were numismatists--people who collect or study currency. The coins are one of the many treasures stored in the UB Libraries, which also hold original works by James Joyce, Dylan Thomas and William Shakespeare.

Most of the coins are in excellent condition, despite remaining in their original 80-plus-year-old casing. A few of the silver coins require conservation treatment. The collection's casing also will be improved. The UB Libraries will open the collection of coins to members of the campus and local communities pursuing relevant research.
"When making our kathiskos, should we limit the food stuffs to less perishable items? I eat a lot of cheese and would rather not have a jar of honey, oil, water, and cheese sitting in my pantry for a month, I'm sure you understand. What do you think of a refrigerator kathiskos?"

The kathiskos is an offer jar of foodstuffs used to protect the household’s food storage. Typically, it has olive oil and water; the rest is up to the household. The kathiskos is dedicated to Zeus Ktesios, guardian of the household. The jar is typically emptied into the compost bin or garden and refilled with fresh foodstuffs every month, on the Noumenia.

The ancient kathiskoi were often unsealed, and I suspect that sometimes they would be tossed earlier than the new Noumenia or ingredients were carefully selected. Personally, I don't know anyone who has an unsealed kathiskos these days, because most Hellenists I know enjoy the tradition of keeping it for a month.

in all my years making a kathiskos, I have never shied away from using anything, and the worst the content of the kathiskos did was that the water turned a little murky. If you seal it up air tight, you wont have much of a problem--until you open it, of course. But I like to think of it like this: all the rotting and fermentation that took place in your kathiskos did not happen to your other foodstuffs. The worse the smell and the worse the status of your content, the better ;-)


"Hello! On your blog is says that the Panathenaia is from the 23rd of hekatombaion to the 30th. Does that mean it ends before the 30th begins or does the festival include the 30th day?"

It includes the 30th, unless the month only has 29 days, then the festival includes the 29th day, but doesn't stretch on into Metageitnion. The Greater Panathenaia includes the 30th, the two Lesser Panathenaia in-between include only the 29th.


"Would it be 'allowed' (seen as non-disrespecrful I guess) to make one alter for more than one god/goddess? Or are alters and shelves reserved for one theos only? Thanks :)"

Most shrines in ancient Hellas were, and even during festivals for a particular Theoi others were worshipped, so I don’t see why not!

"Is there a greek god of finding missing things?"

Not as far as I know, but in general, Gods and Goddesses whom you have built kharis with will help you when you are truly in need. From a purely personal perspective, Hermes would most likely be able to find your items, seeing as he’s been known to hide (and steal) items Himself ;-)
2414 years ago, one of Hellas' greatest thinkers stood trial before a jury of 500 men, chosen by lot. Socrates (Σωκράτης), a philosopher who was of the opinion that people should not be self-governing; they needed to be led, like a shepherd led a flock of sheep. He was of the opinion that the average Athenian neither had the basic virtue necessary to nurture a good society, nor the intelligence to foster such virtue within themselves. As such, he was against the democratic system that came to fruition in the city of Athens at the same time he did.

 
Two years ago, when a Chicago court held a new trial. Dan Webb and Robert A. Clifford, who represented Socrates, were unable to successfully defend their long deceased client and he was convicted again.

Top legal minds in Australia recently gave Socrates another retrial at the Hellenic Museum. Greek-Australian actors interacted with top lawyers as Socrates was allowed to appeal his case.. Justice Lex Lasry, justice Emilios Kyrou and judge Felicity Hampel presided over the case, while QC Julian Burnside, QC Nicholas Papas and QC Ronald Merkel and Elizabeth King were tasked with his defence and prosecution of Socrates, played by Greek-Australian actor Tony Nikolakopoulos.

The trial managed to revive the ancient philosopher’s story for modern audiences in Melbourne. The retrial was based on the opinions of current legal professionals in Australia with the modern law being used to evaluate the case of Socrates as well as to address moral and social philosophica questions that transcend time. This time, Socrates was found 'not guilty' by the jury, although I am not sure which points were made to secure his freedom. It seems this trial is long from over.
The festival season is starting up again, and Elaion is on a mission to host PAT festivals for all of them, so instead of spamming you with four posts for upcoming rituals, you are getting just one--with two of them, the Elapebolia, and the Asklepieia--today, and to--the Dionysia and the Pandia--in a few days.


The Elaphebolia
On the sixth of the month of Elaphebolion, the people of Athens and Phocis (Φωκίδα), and perhaps other cities and city-states, held a modest ritual that gave its name to the month: the Elaphebolia (Έλαφηβόλια). It appears that the festival was a major festival in honor of Artemis Elaphêbolos (Αρτεμις Ελαφηβολος) down to the time of Plutarch. It was mainly observed at Hyampolis, to commemorate a Phocian victory over the Thessalians. Afterwards, it seems to have lost its grander, most likely in the face of the Greater Dionysia which was held only a few days later, starting on the tenth of the month, and the Asklepia, held on the eighth.

Artemis Elaphêbolos is the stag-killer, the shooter of deer, the huntress, who relishes the chase. She's the slayer of prey, both animal and human, and in ancient Hellas, she guarded Hyampolis and the surrounding cities from the horrors of war.

The festival was most likely quite grand right after the war, but slowly became a festival which consisted almost entirely of a single offering. In the early days, the offering was always a stag, one per family, most likely. As the years went on, however, and the expansion of cities drove the stag far into the Athenian hills, only the city's elite was able to offer a stag to the Theia. Everyone else made due with cakes in the shape of stags. It seems these stag cakes--called 'elaphos' (ἔλαφος)--were made out of the basic dough mixture with honey, and sesame seeds.

The Elaphebolia was an important festival of Artemis. The 2015 festival day starts at dusk on the twenty-sixth of March, and will continue until dusk the day after. As Artemis Elaphêbolos is Ouranic, the sacrifice should be made during the daylight hours, so Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual for the Elapebolia on the 27th of March, at the usual 10 AM EDT. You can find the ritual here, and we really hope you will join us again.


The Asklepieia
Two days later, on the eighth day of Elaphebolion, the Asklepieia (Ἀσκληπίεια) was held in honor of Asklēpiós, who was honored monthly on the eighth. The Asklepieia is linked to the Epidausia, celebrated six months later, as both were special days where those in the medical profession--as well as those seeking medical counsel--made sacrifices to Asklēpiós.

In 242 BC, during the Mercenary War, the sanctuary at Epidaurus was granted immunity from war, and the Asklepieia Megala was established as a festival of athletic and musical competitions, held every four years, for a nine day period. Theater performances were also a huge part of the festival, and the famous theater of Epidaurus still stands today, one of the seven wonders of ancient Hellas.

The first of the festival days was spent preparing for the actual festival. The second day, religious exercises were undertaken. All temples and shrines were richly decorated and sacrifices were made to Apollon, Asklēpiós, Artemis, and Leto. Perhaps and the children of Asklēpiós--Hygieia (health, cleanliness, and sanitation), Iaso (recuperation from illness), Aceso (the healing process), Aglaea (beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment), and Panakea (universal remedy)--also received sacrifice. Apollon received the first offering along with Asklēpiós: a cock, the fowl associated with Asklēpiós. They also received barley meal, wheat, and wine. Asklēpiós was then gifted a bull, a second bull was sacrificed to His male associates, and a cow to His female associates.

On the eve of the third day, a statue of Asklēpiós was driven through the precinct, and followed by torch-bearers and priests, who sung hymns to Him. The priests sang and spoke the praise of the Theos. There were vigils throughout the night, and during the daylight hours of the third day, there were feasts. The succeeding days were given up to athletic contests in the stadium, races, wrestling contests, singing contests and theater performances.

The Asklepieia Megala was only held at Epidaurus; all other asklepieia--as well as at Epidausus the other three years--held only a small ceremony for the Theos. The festival did not include athletic games outside of the Asklepieia Megala, but there might have been a focus on singing, and there might have been large banquets, held after sacrifices were made to the Theos.
 
On the twenty-ninth of March, Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual for the Asklepieia, at the usual 10 AM EDT. You can find the ritual here, and we really hope you will join us for this one, too!
Elaion is proud to announce that Pandora's Kharis members have raised $65,- for our democratically decided upon cause the Wounded Warriors project. As always, you have all given generously, and in the spirit of the Gods!


Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.

From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community.

On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving. Thank you for your generosity!
Later this spring, BBC Four British television channel plans to broadcast the magnificent Greek masterpiece of  Sophocles’ 'Antigone', opened at London’s Barbican Theatre on March 5. This reports the Greek Reporter. The play, which is already sold out, features the BAFTA and Academy Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche taking the lead role of the tragic figure of Antigone, who chose to collide with her own uncle’s political power to pay proper respects to her dead brother Polynices.


In the delicate new translation of  'Antigone' by the 'TS Eliot Prize'-winning poet Anne Carson, the audience will have the opportunity to travel in an odd world of gloomy aesthetics while being challenged to face classic yet timely philosophical questions about love, family and political arrogance. The Head of the Barbican Theatre, Toni Racklin, said:

“We are delighted to be working with the BBC to bring a televised version of our production of Antigone to BBC Four audiences this spring. This has been a unique collaboration, with both organizations working closely together to realize two visions of the production – on stage and on screen. This ground-breaking collaboration means that the production will reach an even wider audience, supporting our mission to inspire more people to discover and love the arts,”

Worldwide fans of Juliette Binoche, the French actress known for her great artistic success in films, such as 'The English Patient' and 'Chocolat', are already excited to watch her in this unusual production as 'Antigone' under the directions of Ivo Van Hove on BBC Arts, as part of its 'The Age Of Heroes: Ancient Greece Uncovered'-season.
A while ago, I decided that on the day of the Hene kai Nea, I'd post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog, and today I am adding an Elaion PAT ritual announcement for Sunday and an announcement of some exciting things to come for Elaion and its members.

Changes to the blog:
  • I don't think it can have escaped anyone's notice, but I recently started a new series on the blog, the (Elaion) Beginner's guide to Hellenismos. This ongoing project strives to create a concise yet informational, practical guide to the practice of Hellenismos. It is an attempt to standardize the worship of the ancient Hellenic Gods and to provide members of Hellenic organisation Elaion with the basics to start their worship. So far published are an introduction, an article on Ouranic versus Khthonic Gods and practices, and an article on Traditional versus Reformed Hellenismos, which are terms that are in use by Elaion to specify our particular 'brand' of Hellenismos.

Statistics:

Anything else?
Pandora's Kharis, a charity circle for and by Hellenistic Polytheists Pandora's Kharis members have selected the Wounded Warriors project as its cause for Anthesterion 2015. If you want to donate, you have until tomorrow! Join us on Facebook if you would like to pitch a cause for next month!

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On Sunday, 22 March, at 10 AM EDT, Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual for the Galaxia. This rather obscure festival was held in many places in ancient Hellas, but most notably at Olympia. The Galaxia was closely linked to the vernal equinox, which was used to date it. As such, it should take place tomorrow, but as that is the Hene kai Nea, the ancient Hellenes would have likely considered it auspicious to hold the festival on that date.

The Galaxia is a festival held in honour of the Mother (of the Gods), who in Hellenic mythology is Rhea, although the title is also strongly associated with Gaia and Kybele, who have similar functions. She was worshipped as the mother of Zeus and the Galaxia celebrated His birth just as much as Her giving birth to him. Kronos--as Her consort and His father--was most likely also sacrificed to, along with Hera, who as Zeus' wife deserved honour alongside Him. In our ritual, we have included Helios and the Horai as well, as the Galaxia was associated so closely with the Spring Equinox.

The Galaxia had a special beverage attached to it--well, a special food item: a milk and barley porridge that may have been sacrificed to the Mother, but which was at least consumed at the festival. Pliny the Elder names the porridge a 'puls', which seems to have been a more general term which included pastes made from lentils and beans as well as from grain. On barley-based porridge, he has the following to say in his 'Natural History':

"There are several ways of making barley porridge: the Greeks soak some barley in water and then leave it for a night to dry, and next day dry it by the fire and then grind it in a mill. Some after roasting it more thoroughly sprinkle it again with a small amount of water and dry it before milling; others however shake the young barley out of the ears while green, clean it and while it is wet pound it in a mortar, and wash it of husk in baskets and then dry it in the sun and again pound it, clean it and grind it. But whatever kind of barley is used, when it has been got ready, in the mill they mix in three pounds of flax seed, half a pound of coriander seed, and an eighth of a pint of salt, previously roasting them all. Those who want to keep it for some time in store put it away in new earthenware jars with fine flour and its own bran. Italians bake it without steeping it in water and grind it into fine meal, with the addition of the same ingredients and millet as well." [XVIII-XIV]

Sources which mention the festival speak only of a milk and barley beverage that can be poured. Fundamentally, porridge is made by mixing oats with a fluid (normally water and or milk) and then heating it. Combine barley, water, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring continuously. Turn the heat to low and steam until grains are soft and all the liquid is absorbed. Add the milk once the water level drops below the level of the barley. Cooking time depends on the form of barley used. Use one cup dry barley on three cups of water.
  • Hulled barley is unprocessed and takes the longest to boil, about an hour and 15 minutes before it's soft.
  • Pearl Barley or Pearled Barley is the most common form of barley available and is sold in most supermarkets. Because the outer hulls including the bran have been removed, the grains have a pearly white color. Cooking time: 50-60 minutes.
  • Quick Barley, or instant barley is pearl barley that is pre-steamed then dried, shortening the cooking time considerably, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  • Barley Grits are processed similar to bulghur wheat. The grain is cracked, and toasted or parboiled, then dried, making it a quick-cooking product--about 2-3 minutes. As such, add a little less water or milk.
  • Barley Flakes, Pressed Barley, or Rolled Barley have the appearance of rolled oats and are often included in muesli-type cereals. The cooking time is about 30 minutes.
  • Barley Flour is hulled barley that is finely ground and has a lightness and delicate sweetness. It can be stirred into milk until the right consistency is reached.
To get a consistency where the puls can be poured, add milk or water to thin the porridge. If you want to sweeten the porridge a little, add warmed honey to the mixture.

We hope you will join us on Sunday. The ritual can be found here.

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Now, I have one more thing to say in relation to Elaion: this month, Robert and I are planning to roll out a few changes that will renovate, invigorate and renew Elaion as a whole. I am very excited about these changes, but unfortunately, I can only tell you to give us a little more time to figure out the details and set things up. I'll--of course--keep you informed.

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Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

That is it for the last month's updates, as far as I can remember. Have a blessed Deipnon!
In the introduction to the 'Beginner's guide to Hellenismos', I made brief mention of Traditional versus Reformed Hellenismos. I would like to take a moment to delve deeper into the understanding of both. Those post (as most on this blog and all in the spirit of the beginner's guide) are greatly linked to Elaion and its particular way of viewing Hellenismos. These terms may not be used outside of it, or in a modified way.

So what is the difference between Traditional and Reformed Hellenismos? To start, there is no hard line—not in as far as can be defined beforehand; the distinction between 'Traditional' and 'Reformed' is a matter of intent.

The ancient Hellenes worshipped their Gods in a way they did not even have to think about. They were taught by their parents how a ritual was supposed to be conducted and what a festival looked like. Kids learned how to act in temples, and they played their parts in the sacrifice. The ancient religion varied from place to place and when details of a festival or rite changed, they changed because the polis wanted them to. The ancient Hellenic religion(s) were greatly tied to the ancient Hellenic culture(s). Yet, there were overarching ideals and ritual acts that a man traveling from Athens to Kos would recognize if he walked in on a festival there. In fact, it's likely he would have recognized the festival and could share in its intent. Perhaps not its execution, and perhaps not all the time (because of local mythology and deities), but most of the time, and in most of its execution. It's this overarching religion we search for in Elaion; the bare bones.
 
Now, bare bones are not enough to make up a full practice. They just give us basics; how to act in ritual, for example, and a basic calendar. The fact that we purify with water and barley groats before rituals would have been recognizable in many parts of ancient Hellas as well. After this, there is room to incorporate local ancient customs or to focus your home practice on a single God and Their close family. This fleshes out your practice and makes it yours. For Elaion, it's important that members accept our bare bones religion as the foundation of their communal worship (and for most who come to it, it already is or it feels completely natural to do so), and fill in the rest of their practice with customs that would have been recognizable to the ancient Hellenes. For one this can mean the syncretic worship of Rhea-Kybele, for another a more 'Spartan'-focussed path; we would applaud and encourage both because these are ways of thought mirrored by a subset of the ancient Hellenes.
 
What we don't encourage are the incorporation of practices that are either completely new or were derived from ancient Hellas with so many steps in-between that it's become completely unrecognizable. The incorporation of modern witchcraft, for example, or patron Gods as defined by modern Paganism. Wiccan elements are also not encouraged. Because there is no way for us to reconstruct the Mysteries in a way that the ancient Hellenes would have recognized, we also choose not to incorporate them in the foundation we try to share with our members. All of this goes for the shared practice of our members, but we do hope that once they understand why we choose to worship this way, they will keep their household worship Traditional as well.
 
'Traditional', to us, thus means to practice Hellenismos in the spirit of the ancients. We keep in mind that man from ancient Athens and with everything we do, we wonder if he would recognize what we are doing as the worship of the Gods he worships at home. That does not mean you need a big altar out in your garden (although we do encourage it), and this doesn't mean you need to hold daily ritual (although we do encourage it), and it doesn't mean that you always have to worship in a group or with your family (but we do encourage it). It means that whatever you do, you keep that man in mind and wonder if he would recognize what you are doing as an adapted and modernized version of his faith.
 
'Traditional', as such, has nothing to do with practices that link back directly to ancient Hellas; no one is claiming to trace a lineage back or to in any other way have a direct line into the ancient Hellenic religion. We take what we know from scholarly and original work and make a generalized framework that can be built off of and adapt that to modern culture. Then we flesh out our practice with ancient practices and ancient ways of thought that resonate with us.
 
To get back to the intent I mentioned earlier; your practice is Traditional to us if you adhere to the above: ancient practices in a modern context where the bare bones are as close to generalized ancient religion as we can make them. If you wilfully bring in modern elements from other religions or traditions, we consider those parts of your practice Reformed, and there is no value judgement in that. All we ask is that you keep those parts of your practice out of communal worship and discussions because we feel they do not add to the understanding of the ancient Hellenic religions--which is what we chose to 'reconstruct' in the context of modern society.
 
I want to make clear that we don’t really care about the Reformed part of a person's practice—and we all have those parts. We care about the Traditional part. There is no finger pointing and superiority complex; we just want to talk about the parts we do share together: the bare bones and the ancient customs that we fleshed them out with. We have only made the distinction between Traditional and Reformed to be able to highlight the Traditional part of a person’s practice and to have a name to call that by. ‘Reformed’ for the other part was just that; a name to use for the rest.
 
I hope this makes the distinction between the two clearer, and that it gives substance and context to the terms. For us, the value in using these terms lies in more easily finding likeminded people to share worship with. If a person reads the above and thinks: ‘Yes, this Traditional practice is exactly what I do, except for [this part]!’, then they might feel inclined to join Elaion to find other people who worship that way. If, on the other hand, a person reads the above and thinks ‘Oh Gods, that’s so restricting! I would never be able to fit in!’, then they will most likely choose not to join Elaion and make us all a bit happier in the process. Simple as that.
The astonishing project of French BK I Digital Art Company, 'Golem x Apollo', has recently brought the disembodied head of ancient Greek god Apollo to life, marking the beginning of a new era for art museum exhibits in the near future, thus reports the Greek Reporter. The company used face projection mapping technology in order to animate the sculpture of Apollon, offering moving eyes and verisimilar facial expressions to their installation.


“In ‘Golem x Apollo’ project we’re using an antic sculpture and video to create an uncanny feeling. Put life into an object. This work is based on the lack of life inherent of virtual imagery and classical sculptural art. ‘Golem x Apollo’ explores the thin line between virtual reality and real virtuality.”

Those are the actual words chosen by BK I Digital Art Company artistic director Arnaud Pottier and his colleagues in Villeurbanne, France, in an effort to describe their unconventional inspiration.

Pottier’s artistic team made a real 21st century update to the ancient Hellenic God by creating a shadowy and haunting atmosphere on the antic sculpture putting a light box underneath it. Apollon’s face is given new life to its eyes that were once white plastic orbs. They blink, flicker and gaze about the room.
I'd like to do a little museum and exhibition news round-up today, as there is/are going to be two new expositions that sounds very interesting--and one very important thing to be aware of when you visit them.


'Power and Pathos’ display can be viewed at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence
The ‘Power and Pathos’ exhibition displayed at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence on March 14 is an apotheosis of ancient Greek sculpture. Most of the ancient works show the body beautiful in the ancient Greek world. One of the remarkable achievements of the display is that it brings together 50 or so surviving bronze masterpieces when most pieces have been lost to time on account of the fact that bronze was easily melted down for recycling.

The works on display come from 34 museums found in 13 countries on four continents. The display includes the Terme Boxer and the Boy with Thorn from Rome, Sleeping Eros from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as exhibits that have never travelled before. It is estimated that the works on display are worth about $1.5 billion.

The ‘Power and Pathos’ exhibition kicked off on March 14 at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. It will move to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in July and the National Gallery of Art in Washington in December.


Costa Gavras and Angeliki Aristomenopoulou’s documentary, in the Louvre
Samothrace through the eyes of Director Angeliki Aristomenopoulou and Costa Gavras, will be shown in the Louvre Museum’s Sully wing through a unique documentary. The documentary bearing the title “Nike of Samothrace, rediscovering a masterpiece” will show the unique angles of the archaeological sites, history and the people of the northern Greek island of Samothrace. The film is expected to be complete within the next few days.


Top museums banning ‘selfie sticks’
The annoying selfie sticks that tourists often use to film themselves while haphazardly walking and inevitably bumping into others have been characterized as “tripods”. The National Gallery in London and the former royal residence of Versailles near Paris recently joined Rome’s Colosseum in banning the sticks. According to an announcement in Versailles, the measure was taken “in order to protect paintings, individual privacy and the overall visitor experience.”

There is concern that the sticks act like extendable arms, allowing a broader field of vision but also causing accidents as hundreds of sticks twirl around. It is believed that the Pompidou Museum and Louvre are likely to follow suit.
"Hello, I am new to Hellenismos and I am having a hard time with quite literally everything. I want to start out figuring out the festival days and how that exactly coeincides with the calendar we go by now. Also, I would like to figure out how to do daily devotionals and I can't seem to figure that out. I know you always do Khernips first and then do a processional, but after that I'm confused and I don't know what to do. I would like to include prayer and offering of thanks if a prayer was heard and I don't know if you do them separately as in two different rituals or both in the same time or what because I'm trying to worship Aphrodite and Apollo and I don't know what to do and I am left very disconcerted that I can't figure out how to worship them properly."
 
Thank you for contacting me with your question. I think you will be happy to know that I have recently made the announcement that I am going to release a beginner's guide to Hellenismos over the coming months. Following along with that should help you form your own practice. Of course I want to give you a few helpful words and links already, to get you started with your practice. Let's go point by point, shall we?

There is a very handy tool online, named the 'Hellenic Month Established Per Athens' (HMEPA) calendar. It lists the Gregorian date as well as the ancient Hellenic equivalent of that day and also includes a good number of sacrifices and festivals. It should be a major help. There is also my page on the ancient Hellenic calendar that can tell you a bit more about everything calendar-related.

Daily devotionals are a highly personal endeavour and no two practices will be the same because of the Gods you have established kharis--ritual reciprocity--with. Hellenistic ritual always followed the same basic steps: procession to the altar, purification by strewing barley groats and sprinkling khernips, prayers and hymns, sacrifice and offerings, and prayers of supplication and thanks. Sometimes this was followed with a feast or sporting event, especially in case of a festival. Please see here for an overview of my daily practice, and here for a post on the difference between prayers and hymns.

What matters most is that you give with your heart and mind fully on the Gods, that you understand why you do what you do, and that you do it regularly--preferably daily. Do it with love and routine and you will built beautiful kharis with the Gods.
Lykeia is one of the Hellenic bloggers I greatly admire. She blogs over at Beloved in Light and is a devotee of Apollon. If you ever have any questions concerning the God or His worship, Lykeia is the person to ask. Period. She has previously published a book on Apollon and his worship and is now updating that through a series of booklets. The first of which is out now and it's called ' The Name of Apollon'.  The book is aimed for the modern worship of Apollon by utilizing the arts of history and philosophy to understand how our forbearers knew him and how that relates to us today.

The booklet can be purchased here for $9.00.

Other booklets that are on the way are 'Domestic Worship of Apollon, 'Mother Leto', 'His Father’s Will', 'The Shining Twins', 'The Serpent of Delphi', among others that shall be released over the next couple of years. These booklets will be a great addition for everyone looking to deepen their understanding and devotion to Apollon and His family.
http://pandoraskharis.blogspot.nl/2015/03/the-wounded-warrior-project.htmlPandora's Kharis has selected the Wounded Warriors project as its cause for Anthesterion 2015. There were two other projects in the race, but it was not possible to donate to them directly.

Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families. On that date, America watched in horror as approximately 3,000 people died including hundreds of firefighters and rescue workers. Many warriors note a sense of duty to volunteer for the military following these tragic events.

Sept. 11 also served as a stimulus for Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn. Operation Iraqi Freedom refers to military operations in Iraq that began March 19, 2003 and officially ended August 31, 2010. Operation Enduring Freedom refers to combat operations in Afghanistan and other regions in support of the Global War on Terror. Operation New Dawn refers to the conclusion of operations in Iraq beginning September 1, 2010 and ending December 15, 2011.

With advancements in battlefield medicine and body armor, an unprecedented percentage of service members are surviving severe wounds or injuries. For every US soldier killed in World Wars I and II, there were 1.7 soldiers wounded. In Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, for every US soldier killed, seven are wounded. Combined, over 48,000 servicemen and women have been physically injured in the recent military conflicts.

In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war including combat-related stress, major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury while on deployment.
Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) takes a holistic approach when serving warriors and their families to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. Through a high-touch and interactive approach, WWP hopes to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history.

You can make your donations to this very honourable cause until 21 March, 2015, by clicking the 'donate' button to the right side of the Pandora's Kharis website, or by transferring the funds directly to baring.the.aegis@gmail.com with PayPal. Thank you in advance.
Today, I would like to talking a little about the process of reconstruction and the way we view the Theoi in Hellenimsos. This post is part of the beginner's guide to Hellenismos.

Modern worshippers of the Theoi--myself included--often try to compartmentalize Their worship. This, because we aren't raised in a culture where the Theoi are worshipped in grand festivals and we have to reinvent the wheel as we try to find ways to worship Them in a way that resembles the ways of the ancient Hellenes. To have some hard rules for this worship helps us greatly; it allows us to look at the parts of the rites we do know and infer the rest--at least in broad lines. The biggest boxes we use are 'Ouranic' and 'Khthonic', and we often think the two are entirely separate--they are not.

'Ouranic' is a term that applies to Theoi and practices who reside or that are associated with Mount Olympos, home of many of the Theoi. As such, Ouranic deities are also referred to as 'Olympians'. In ancient Hellas, an altar for the Ouranic Theoi was called a 'bômos' (βωμός). Most bômoi were isolated cubes, around one meter (three feet) high, but there were altars which were far larger. The sacrificial altars were either square or round, and many held an 'epipuron' (ἐπίπυρον)--a movable pan or brazier, used on top of the bômos so it could serve as an altar for burnt-offerings. Impromptu altars for the Ouranic deities were made of earth, turf, or stones collected on the spot. What mattered was that the offering was sacrificed (high) off of the ground.

Ouranic deities tended to receive wine libations that were mixed with water. Food offerings were usually divided between the Theoi and the worshippers where only a ceremonial part of the sacrifice was given to the Theoi. In general, Ouranic-themed festivals were light in tone and included a measure of festivity. They were also conducted at temples, often within the city limits. Sacrifice to the Ouranic deities was given with hands raised high, up towards the sky, with the palms flat and up. Worshippers stood for the sacrifice, and they were given during the daylight hours of the festival day.

'Kthonic', on the other hand, refers to deities or spirits of the Underworld or the earth, and the rituals associated with Them. An 'eschára' (ἐσχάρα) is the term for a low-lying altar used in burnt-offerings  for the Khthonic Theoi. An offering pit--'bothros' (βόθρος) in Greek texts--also sufficed. Khthonic deities received either wineless libations (water, milk, and honey, usually), or wine libations of unmixed wine. These rituals often took place outside of the city walls, or started within the city walls ad ended outside of it. Their tone was usually sombre or grim, and there was far more fear of the Theoi invoked. Truly Khthonic sacrifices involved kneeling, and/or lowering or striking the flat palms either on or towards the ground. They were held at night and the sacrifices were given whole; it was a holókaustos (ὁλόκαυστος), and the matching libation a khoe (χοαί). The whole offering was either burned or buried and no one partook of any of the food or drink that was given to the Khthonic Theoi. This because contact with the underworld carried miasma.

Miasma (Μίασμα) literally means 'pollution', and it describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. Next to piety, being ritually clean is one of the most important things to adhere to within Hellenismos. Miasma occurs whenever the space or person comes into contact with death, sickness, birth, sex, excessive negative emotions and bodily fluids (amongst a few others). Especially death and birth, because these acts open up of the way to the Underworld. When a Khthonic deity is invoked, this passageway is opened as well.

Ouranic deities cannot and will not come into contact with the Underworld. They must remain pure, untainted. If a worshiper is tainted with miasma, he or she must first clean themselves of it through katharmos ((Καθαρμός). The most well-known of these is through applying khernips (Χἐρνιψ). Khernips is created by dropping smoldering incense or herb leaves into (fresh and/or salt) water (preferably sacred spring water or sea water). Both hands and face are washed with khernips.

There are, however, entities that exist between the strict divide between Ouranic and Khthonic, and the rites that honour them are mixed as well. Heroes were often worshipped at the eschára, for example, and certain Gods walk the fine line; Hekate, for example, who walks freely between the upper world and the Underworld, or Persephone, who spends part of the year in the Underworld and the rest on Olympos with her mother and father. And then there are Theoi like Zeus and Hermes, who have certain epithets that can make the journey down, and Hades who has an epithet who can make the journey up.

An epithet is an attachment to the name of a God or Goddess, used to indicate either a specific domain of the Deity, a specific origin myth or region from which the Deity came, or an entirely different entity, through either domain or origin. Epithets serve(d) either a ritualistic function or a literary on; hymns and chants are used in both aspects of Hellenismos and in both, destinctions are made between the various epithets of the Gods. 
 
Within ritual, epithets are used out of respect, devotion and out of practicality. It's seen as respectful to address the Gods by their various names. It shows you are aware of the names of the Gods as well as the domains They influence. As for the practical; well, some Gods rule over a variety of domains. Zeus, for example guards travelers in His epithet of Zeus Xenios but is seen as the bringer of storm-clouds in his epithet of Zeus Ombrios. It's rather obvious, but getting rained upon is probably not what you were after when asking Zeus for aid on your journey.
 
In general, Khthonic deities have epithets that make them less scary and more helpful to humanity, and then there are Ouranic deities who have darker epithets. Ploutōn (Πλουτων), as an epithet for Hades, was venerated as a stern ruler but the loving husband of Persephone. The couple received souls in the afterlife, and are invoked together in religious inscriptions. Hades by contrast had few temples and religious practices associated with Him, and was portrayed as the dark and violent abductor of Persephone. Ploutōn was viewed as a harvest God, and prayed to for prosperity. The other way around, Hermes has his epithet 'Khthonios', in which he guides the souls of the dead down to the Underworld. Zeus has his epithet of 'Meilichios', and it was one of His most popular ones.
 
Meilichios (Μειλίχιος), meaning 'Kindly One', is a Khthonic epithet of Zeus, who generally receives nighttime sacrifices, and only by way of a holókaustos. Zeus seems to have adopted the Meilichios epithet from an older Khthonic serpent daímōn or Theos. He is considered a purifier. In fact, during the Diasia--a festival held at the end of winter, a time where many festivals linked to ritual purification were held--the members of the household would touch a sacrificial animal before it was sacrificed, believing the miasma they carried would be transferred into it and then burned away. Old practices for Hekate's Deipnon included the same to be done with a dog.
 
Theoi that mixed Khthonic with Ouranic markers (or the other way around) also tended to have mixed rites performed in Their name. The aforementioned Diasia, for example was held during the daylight hours of the festival day. The sacrifice was given on a raised altar made of stone found in the area, but it was performed outside of the city walls. It was a holókaustos sacrifice, but there was a big picnic-type feast held afterwards with other foodstuffs that people brought. The sacrifice itself was sombre and gloomy, but the day ended with good food and gifts for kids, making it a favourite amongst huge amounts of people. Its function was to lift the burden of miasma from the worshippers, but in doing so, a way to the Underworld had to be opened; a mixed bag for sure.
 
As much as we, as Hellenists, would like to create boxes and labels for the Theoi and Their worship, there will always be instances where the lines are blurred and it's important to realize that for the ancient Hellenes, these lines would not have existed--and if they did, they evolved with every generation. Our religion is far more flexible than we would perhaps like it to be, but therein lies its beauty: the ancient Hellenes found ways to include the most powerful and most beloved Theoi in the rites that mattered most to them. They created loopholes and reasons within the framework of their religion to do what they perhaps felt to be the right thing. This flexibility is hugely important to remember for modern practitioners lest we get bogged down in rules that never existed, and the dichotomy between Ouranic and Khthonic is one of them.
In the middle of the Lesser Mysteries is another festival, one that seems very minor, but which was very widespread in ancient Hellas. From Athens, to Erchia, to Agria, the night of the twenty-third of the month of Anthesterion was reserved for the Diasia, an ancient festival--even back then--dedicated to Zeus Meilichios. The Diasia was a hugely important festival, because it was a festival full of rites of placation and purification. In the daylight hours of March 14th, 10 AM EST, Elaion hosts a PAT ritual for the Diasia, and we encourage everyone to take part.


The Diasia is a complicated and very old festival. It has a mixture of Ouranic and Khthonic elements because it's related to purification; its intended purpose was to remove miasma and to bring prosperity. Ouranic influences are in the raised altar that was improvised, and in the fact that it was held during the daylight hours. Khthonic influences can be found in the fact that the sacrifice was given in a holókaustos and khoe, and that the actual festival took place outside of the city walls so as to carry miasma out of it (this is a practice more commonly seen during Hekate's Deipnon where a sacrifice was taken out of the house so the household would be purified).

Like with Hekate's Deipnon, the members of the household would touch a sacrificial animal during the Diasia before it was sacrificed, believing the miasma they carried would be transferred into it and then burned away. Old practices for Hekate's Deipnon included the same to be done with a dog. It was a grim festival, not a joyous one and it could have been quite scary for kids. As such, the festival was wrapped up with a communal meal that was usually lavish and kids were sometimes presented with a new toy. The day was ended on a happy not, because the family was now purified and Zeus Meilichios would watch over it and the crops. You can read more about the Diasia here and I highly encourage that you do so. The Diasia is special and because of its Khthonic character it was seen as somewhat dangerous if you messed it up. Understanding this festival is essential to any who participate in it.

The ritual for the Diasia can be found here. Please note that libations to Zeus Meilichios are khernips (water) libations and that all sacrifices are to be wholly burnt; they are given as a holókaustos! You are not to share in any liquid or foodstuff that you sacrifice to Zeus Meilichios. The Diasia calls for a sacrifice of an animal, or a cake version of it (namely a sheep or pig). Here is a recipe for ancient Hellenic honey cakes which you can use to make these.

I hope you will join Robert and myself on Saturday to celebrate this special festival.
In the small, unassuming French town of Lavau, in the country’s Champagne region, archaeologists with France's National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research have discovered the tomb of a Celtic prince dating to the fifth century B.C.. The prince was buried with his chariot in a gravesite that stretched 130 feet across, as well as many ancient Hellenic artefacts.


Inrap president Dominique Garcia told journalists on a field visit that the buried prince was most likely local. The most exciting find, he said, was a large bronze-decorated cauldron that was used to store watered-down wine. It appears to have been made by Etruscan craftsmen from an area that is today in Italy. The cauldron has four circular handles decorated with bronze heads that depict the Hellenic deity Achelous, considered the God of the most powerfully flowing river in Greece. The river deity is shown with horns, a beard, the ears of a bull and a triple moustache. Eight lioness heads decorate the edge of the cauldron.


The mausoleum contained a decorated ceramic wine pitcher made by the ancient Hellenes. Decorations on the vessel reveal the God Dionysus, lying under a vine and facing a woman.

The burial mound itself has a 14 square foot chamber which house the prince. It has yet to be opened though archaeologists have been excavating the site since October.
Yesterday at dusk, the Lesser Mysteries started, according to the ancient Athenian festival calendar. They will last until dusk on the 17th of March. The Lesser Mysteries were not always a part of the Eleusinian Mysteries; around the middle of the fifth century BC, Eleusinian officials decreed that the Lesser Mysteries could serve as a necessary prerequisite to the Greater Mysteries. From that point on, they took place at a shrine located near the Ilissos river, from 20 to 26 Anthesterion, while they had most likely taken place at a special building at Eleusis, the Telesterion, before that. The river is located between Athens and Eleusis, and served as a meeting point when Athenian and Eleusinian worshippers came together. The location is also important for another reason: it was said to be the place where the first Lesser Mysteries were held; the place where Hēraklēs underwent purification before his initiation, so he could travel to the Underworld and not forget who he was, and through that, make sure he could get back to the surface world.

Hēraklēs, son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene (Ἀλκμήνη)--who was a bane in Hera's life, simply for being born--was stricken mad by the Queen of the Gods and killed his five sons by his wife Megara (Μεγάρα), oldest daughter of Kreōn (Κρέων) of Thebes. When he was released from his madness by a hellebore potion--provided by Antikyreus--and realized what he had done, he cried out in anguish, and went on a long journey to cleanse himself of the miasma caused by these killings.

First, he visited the oracle at Delphi, who, unbeknownst to him, was whispered to by Hera. The Oracle told Hēraklēs to serve the king of Tiryns (Τίρυνς), Eurystheus (Εὐρυσθεύς), for ten years and do everything Eurystheus told him to do. Eurystheus gladly provided Hēraklēs with these labors--ten of them, one for each year--and eventually ended up adding two more, resulting in the Twelve Labors of Hēraklēs. Hēraklēs was told to: slay the Nemean Lion, slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra, capture the Golden Hind of Artemis, capture the Erymanthian Boar, clean the Augean stables in a single day, slay the Stymphalian Birds, capture the Cretan Bull, steal the Mares of Diomedes, obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon, steal the apples of the Hesperides, and to capture and bring back Kerberos.

This twelfth labor caused a problem for Hēraklēs, because he had to enter the Underworld to capture Kerbaros, and come back up, something that the Underworld was not intended for. Yesterday I explained how the river Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, runs through the Underworld, and all who come to the afterworld are eventually forced to drink from it in order to forget their old lives. Those who were initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries, however, could drink from the fountain (or well) of Mnemosyne (memory) and were allowed to remember. Hēraklēs had to go through the mysteries, but initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries excluded those who were guilty of murder, and of course Hēraklēs was quite guilty of that. He was tainted not only with the miasma of killing his family, but also for killing the kentaur Nessus (Νέσσος), the kentaur who carried Hēraklēs' third wife Deïaneira (Δῃάνειρα) over the river Evinos (Εύηνος), and was killed by Hēraklēs for attempting to abduct and rape her.

Hēraklēs traveled to Eleusis in search for a way into the mysteries. Eventually, the officials of the mysteries decided that, in order for Hēraklēs to take part, he would have to be cleansed of the blood of his crimes first. As such, he was put through a rite, most likely at the shrine at the Ilissos river. Hēraklēs was cleansed, and eventually, he was initiated into the mysteries. He traveled to the Underworld--aided by a lot of Theoi--and eventually, he returned successful in his quest. For the ancient regular mortal, returning from the Underworld was not the goal. They did, however, want to be initiated. In order to qualify for initiation, participants would sacrifice a piglet to Demeter and Persephone.

In ancient texts, the rituals of the Lesser Mysteries were often referred to as 'myesis', as opposed to the rites of the Greater, which were referred to as 'epopteia'. The word myesis means 'to teach', as well as 'to initiate', while epopteia has a similar meaning, but with an important difference; it means 'to witness', as well as 'to be initiated'. This difference equates the major difference between the two rites: in the Lesser Mysteries, candidates underwent a teaching course. They were educated on the gifts of Demeter, on the mythology surrounding Her and Her daughter, and on the mysteries. They went through a rite of purification--possibly in the river. Upon completion of the Lesser Mysteries, participants were deemed mystai ('initiates') worthy of witnessing the Greater Mysteries.

While what exactly happens on which day, is completely unknown due to a vow of silence--which was most likely placed upon the seekers the first day. If initiates broke that vow, they could be executed. What we do know from artwork is that a pig was sacrificed on a eschára, a low-lying altar to the khthonic deities--most likely Persephone. Also sacrificed by the seeker was a stack of flat cakes called 'pelanoi', although the actual sacrifice is not depicted. A priest gave a libation, and may also have burned poppies, a plant linked to both Demeter and Persephone, as Demeter might have used it to relief the burden of Her grief over losing Her daughter. Other options for offerings include pomegranates, the seeds of the pomegranate, cakes, or cheese.

The seeker was--assumably after this sacrifice--told of Demeter and Persephone, and he or she might have been seated on a chair, coated by a ram's fleece, while these stories were told to them. Again, we know this from artwork, but we do not know why they were seated as such, save that Demeter also sat on a chair with a ram's fleece on it as she grieves over Persephone's abduction. A ram appears to have been a favored sacrificial animal for Persephone, so it might be that the ram--minus its fleece--was sacrificed as well.

Next--and I use this term loosely, because we have no idea about the order of things--the seeker was blindfolded and led on a journey--either physically, or as a meditative exercise. As a journey into the Underworld is also a journey into the darkness, one can assume this was the main goal of the exercise; for the seeker to feel he or she was being led deeper into the mysteries of the Underworld, deeper into a sense of sacredness and trust in the Theoi and priests who overlooked the mysteries, and deeper into him or herself, possibly to face their own crimes and impure actions. Anyone who has ever walked to an initiation in a blindfold knows the power of the act. It brings a finality, a true sense of entering a new world, and a leaving behind of the old. It may be that especially the latter was the goal of this exercise; a continuation of the purification that started with sacrifices.

During the blindfold exercise, a winnowing fan, a 'liknon', which was used to separate wheat from the chaff was held over the head of the seeker. It's a common symbol of Dionysos, and withing the mysteries, it may have signified the separation of the soul from the body--a start of the preparation for the demise of the seeker at the end of life, and the control they would have not to drink from Lethe.

After this ritual, the seeker was purified, and 'brought before Demeter'. This was most likely a priestess representing the Theia for the rite. She was seated on the kiste--a basket which held the ritual items used in the Greater Mysteries--and on her lap (or somewhere close) would be a snake. The seeker had to reach out and touch the snake, to show they had no fear of death, nor dying. It appears this was the final step in completing the Lesser Mysteries, and becoming a mystes, but there may have been be a dozen more rites the seeker would have had to go through that were lost in time.

Because so much is lost of the mysteries, celebrating the Lesser Mysteries as a modern Hellenist is virtually impossible. Of course, it is possible to see these days as sacred to Demeter and Persephone and to add them to your daily prayers--Persephone at night, Demeter during the day, preferably. Certain foods were forbidden to eat during the Greater Mysteries, and perhaps also during the lesser mysteries--pomegranates, apples, eggs, fowls, and fish come to mind. Refraining from eating these during the days of the Lesser Mysteries would be a way to honor the Theoi. Spent some time meditating on your wrongdoings, or ways to better your life in the eyes of the Theoi, you could even blindfold yourself and simply sit in the dark, outside, preferably, and listen to the world around you. Become aware of the beauty of the surface world through a medium other than your eyes.

Personally, I think the mysteries are a beautiful practice, and I most certainly understand why seekers wished to be initiated. After purification during the Lesser Mysteries, they had to wait until the fall of the following year--at the earliest--to be fully initiated. Seeing as the Greater Mysteries were almost always held every five years, it could take a maximum of four and a half years from purification to full initiation. I'm assuming the mystes was asked to purify him or herself again in the spring before the Greater Mysteries if this was the case.

Whatever the case, the Lesser Mysteries drew people from all corners of ancient Hellas, and they were certainly very sacred. Observing them is some way--even though we could never celebrate them as the mysteries were intended--would do great honor to Demeter and Persephone. The choice is, of course, yours to make as you will. Blessed mysteries, everyone.
Hellenismos (Ἑλλήνισμος)--also known as 'Dodekatheism', 'Hellenism', and 'Hellenic Polytheism' or 'Hellenic Reconstructionism'--is the modern practice of the ancient Hellenic (Greek) religion. It focusses on the worship of the Twelve Olympic Gods--Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hēphaistos, Apollon, Artemis, Demeter, Hestia, Hermes, Ares, Poseidon and Aphrodite--along with the entire pantheon of Hellenic Gods, known collectively as the Theoi. Most Hellenists honour other types of divinities, including nature spirits, Khthonic (or Underworld) Deities, and heroes. Both physical and spiritual ancestors are honoured. Hellenists tend to be hard polytheists, meaning they view all Gods as separate entities and not linked through portfolio.

'Hellenismos' is a word coined by the Emperor Julian in the 4th century AD. He was the first to refer to a ‘Hellenic way’, which, at the time, encapsulated pre-Christian religion and the legacy of Greek philosophy and culture. Recently, Julian's 'Hellenismos' has been popularized as a way of referring to the revival of ancient Hellenic religion in the West. This presents some difficulties, since, in modern Greek, it translates roughly as 'Hellenism, the Greek nation', which is why some disagree with the term and would rather use 'Dodekatheism'; 'Worship of the Twelve Gods'.

Another problematic term is ‘Reconstructionism’. We cannot begin to reconstruct the ancient religion because of our incomplete understanding of many practices, the absence of polis religion (i.e. group worship as practiced by inhabitants of a city) preventing the celebration of festivals in their traditional way, and the vast differences between the ancient and modern cultures, just to name a few. The best we can do is understand ancient practice based on scholarly research and to base our modern practice on the spirit of ancient practice. Religions, like all things, must adapt to the times, but preserve the essence of traditional, dynamic, and non-dogmatic practice. When the word ‘Reconstruction’ is used in regards to Hellenismos, it is mostly used in a Pagan context where it is used to differentiate between practices that are based on ancient ethnic religions and modern Pagan religions and traditions, most notably Wicca and related paths.

Hellenismos in its current--though ever-growing--form was established in the 1990's, although many members have practiced the ancient Hellenic religion for much longer than that. Over the last decade or so, two branches of Hellenismos have emerged: Traditional Hellenismos is a manner of following the spirit of ancient practice, where the practices of the ancient Hellenic peoples are understood and applied as much as possible in the modern day setting. This method requires knowledge of the ancient ways, but even more so, an understanding of it, so any modern adaption can be undertaken in the spirit of the ancient Hellenic practice. Anything else is Reformed Hellenismos and it often includes the incorporation of one or more belief systems or practices that are not strictly Hellenic--including the use of modern magic, the inclusion of 'patron Gods', or the appropriation of non-Hellenic ritual customs from other (often Pagan) religions.

The ancient Hellenes did not have a word for religion; the spiritual world and the tangible world were one and the same as Plotinus describes as late as the 3rd century CE.  It recognizes and sanctifies natural cycles and the natural order of the kosmos. It is not a belief system and has no dogma but one of connecting with and understanding one's relationship to the real world of Nature. It is all about living the best life possible rather than a promise of the hereafter, about virtue rather than sin and redemption. 

Hellenists practice the religion of ancient Hellas in much the same spirit of the ancients: with reverence to the Gods, and with respect to the poets and philosophers. Hellenismos, as a way of life, is both mainstream and community-minded, and concerned with living a good and pious life. Today, the household is the seat of worship, not temples, and at its core is the relationship we build with the Theoi through sacrifice in ritual. This act of establishing and maintaining relationship with the Theoi is known as 'kharis'. There is no central 'ekklesia' (church or assembly) or hierarchal clergy, though some groups do offer training in that capacity. Individual worshipers are generally expected to perform their own rituals and learn about the religion and the Gods by reference to primary and secondary sources on ancient Greek religion and through personal experience with the Gods.

Furthering ones knowledge of the Hellenic Gods and religion, as well as all other areas in life is a valued part of Hellenismos. Studying as much as you can is encouraged. Knowledge--including knowledge of yourself--is essential. Ethics is at the very core of Hellenismos, and supports the heart of human life: arête, the act of living up to one's full potential. When one lives in the way of arête, they live their life ethically, consciously, and in happiness. The ancient Hellenes had many guidelines for this ethical framework. As such, Hellenismos is known for its highly developed ethical system, derived from ancient sources, especially the Delphic Maxims. Hellenismos encourages the practitioner to take control of their life; to become an active participant in it. Arête, for Hellenists, should become a way of life.

Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood writes in Oxford Readings in Greek Religion, Oxford 2000: "Greek religion is, above all, a way of articulating the world, of structuring chaos and making it intelligible: it is a model articulating a cosmic order guaranteed by a divine order which also (in complex ways) grounds human order, perceived to be incarnated above all in the properly ordered and pious polis, and providing certain rules and prescription of behaviour,  especially towards the divine through cult, but also towards the human world."  She also writes that it "...was not a dogmatic schema demanding faith, but an open system proposing certain articulations of the world and transversed by the fundamental Greek category of unknowability."

Hellenismos from a historic standpoint was a communal religion, practiced in groups which strengthened solidarity, community, and kharis which was applied to the group or city as a whole. As modern practitioners are often few and far between, many on-line groups have arisen throughout the years to at least foster a sense of community where there isn't one physically. Even then, household rituals are often performed in the name of members of the--extended--household to grant kharis even to non-believers close to the practitioner.

Hellenismos is a religion focussed on community and family on the one hand, and personal excellence on the other, where the worship and love of the Theoi serves as an overarching ideal. It requires a sharp mind and open thought, as well as the willingness to adopt a practice that is both devout and fully ingrained into daily life. Because of these prerequisites, it is not an easy religion to adhere to, but it is a very fulfilling and rewarding one if practiced with arête.
Today I am announcing a new series of sorts on Baring the Aegis. Starting tomorrow, I will start a series that I hope to update once a week, which together will form the primer for Elaion I have been struggling to put time and effort in forever. It's going to be the (Elaion) beginner's guide to Hellenismos, and it will contain all the information an aspiring Hellenist needs. During this project, I will have the help of Elaion co-founder Robert Clark, who has previously written many wonderful essays on our religion, and who is more knowledgeable on the subject than I can ever hope to be.

The primer will cover both the view point of someone new to religion in general, as those who came here from a Christian or Pagan background--without making mention of either too much. It will be both a practical and theoretical guide and once it's completed (and edited), it will be added to the standard package a new member of Elaion receives (as an e-book) and downloadable from both Baring the Aegis and the Elaion website in both .pfd and .epub. Other formats to come later, if requested.

You will find the tentative index below, and you will be able to follow along with the progress from this brand new page, aptly named 'The beginner's guide to Hellenismos'. The posts that contain the information from these chapters may be split up, which is why there will eventually be a full document to download.

If you have additions to this index, please feel free to contact me about it either through the comments, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, or e-mail at baring.the.aegis@gmail.com.

  • Introduction
    What is Hellenismos? Who do we worship? Why do we worship the way we do? What is our history?
  • The Theoi, heroes and daimons
    Overview of the pantheon, classes of the Gods, and world view.
  • Starting a daily practice
    On the importance of daily worship and the tools you'll need to do it--both material and mental.
  • Worship
    Procession, purification, prayers and hymns, sacrifice and offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks.
  • The festivals
    An overview of all of the major (Athenian) festivals.
  • (Modern) magic ...and why it has no part in Traditional Hellenismos.
  • EthicsEthical thinking is an essential part of Hellenismos and there are many sources of ethical thought. An overview of the most common and--tentatively labelled--most important ones.
  • Philosophy
    A brief overview of the major schools of philosophic thought that can optionally be applied to Hellenismos.
  • Mystery cults
    An overview of the major mystery cults of ancient Hellas and why Elaion does not actively support their continued existence.
  • Appendix one: Recipes for household sacrifice
  • Appendix two: Hellenic reading list
  • Appendix three: Terms and terminology