A lot has changed for me over the last few months. I took the leap of faith needed to finally embrace Hellenismos, I started to blog and now, I have joined Pagan Square as a regular blogger. Especially the last one came as a complete surprise.

I have known for a least a year, I would be transitioning to Hellenismos. It was inevitable. Even when I first started out, I connected almost solely to the Hellenic pantheon. When I called the God and Goddess, I used the names of the Theoi. The Hellenic pantheon offered such a beautiful mix of endless power and possibilities, offset with Gods who erred, that I could relate without even trying. It was easy to see why these beings were Gods and how They related to my life. Yet, back then, I was also firmly trustful of the God and Goddess, and  letting Them go proved hard.

As I went through my life and progressed from Neo-Wicca to Technopaganism, Hedge Witchcraft and eventually on the Eclectic Religious Witchcraft, I realized that I was heading towards a crossroads. Oh how fitting, that term, because it was Hekate, Goddess of Crossroads, who eventually opened my eyes to the truth I had been denying; if I wanted to properly honor the Theoi, I needed to let go of the Neo-Wiccan framework in which I had been forcing Them, and let Them be their own Gods and Goddesses. I needed to start worshipping Them in a way which They were used to, a way designed especially for Them.

And I did.

From one day onto the next, I left behind everything I had been doing and started a daily, Hellenic, practice. It's been one of the best decisions of my life. Daily practice gives me stability and keeps me ever mindful of the Gods. I have come to realize that much of what I have always done, believed and practiced are close to Hellenismos. This is why the transition was easy. I simply put my faith in the Gods and They showed me that I really did not need to change anything in myself, just in my practice. I already lived my life with Their ethics in mind, I already saw the importance of family, of piety, of a daily connection to the Gods.

Trusting the Gods is not easy, but it's one of the pillars of Hellenismos. To do otherwise would be hubris. As I trusted the Gods when I transitioned into Hellenismos, I also trust Them now, as I join the ever-growing community at Pagan Square. I trust that this is the right thing for me to do at this time and, in the process, I hope to convey some of the fundamentals of Hellenismos to seekers and those who may simply be interested.

For the readers of this blog, nothing changes. This is my home base. Posts will appear here first. After that,t he Hellenic posts get doubled over to Pagan Square. Some as is, others with some slight editing as I have no history to fall back on. Still, Baring the Aegis on blogspot is my home and it will continue to be so. I want to thank all of you for reading this blog and making this possible.
Out of everything in life, the ancient Hellenes feared one thing above almost everything; remaining childless. Having children--well, a son--in ancient Hellas was a must, not only for the men, but also for the women.

Marriage in ancient Hellas was a family affair. The father of the son--who was often in his thirties by the time he got married--opened negotiations with the family of a bride in her teens. The two families came to an agreement about dowry, a contract was signed by the father of the groom and the father of the bride in front of witnesses, and the groom met his new wife--often for the first time--before taking her to bed.

Men married to have children, and to have someone to tend to the home while he was out, dealing with public affairs. Romance didn't counter into it. Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Hellas, once said: "We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring."

These lawful offspring were so important that, if a wife had not bore a husband children by the end of the tenth year of their marriage, the man was forced to file for divorce. This was a costly affair because a divorce  meant parting with the dowry that was paid to the husband upon marriage, as the ex-wife was entitled to it.

Should a husband die before producing offspring, the widow was encouraged--even forced--to take a new husband as soon as possible and produce a child with him. This first born child was considered to be the child of the widow's first husband and counted towards his family line and heritage. The practice was called 'raising up seed' and was a lawful and legitimate way of parentage, usually exectuted with the brother of the deceased husband. The custom of raising up seed also opened the way for the practice of adoption to sustain the family line.

Something that's important to understand is that children in ancient Hellas were born with a different sentiment than children are born these days. Children, now, are born out of love and a need of the parents to create something of 'theirs'. A child is precious, irreplaceable. We tend to have few children and place all our eggs in their basket(s). In ancient Hellas, families tended to be as large as possible. Children could help out around the house, the farm or with sustaining the family any other way but they also tended to die. Children were made for the hearth, not the other way around.

Giving birth was an incredibly risky ordeal in ancient times, for both mother and child. Stillbirths happened frequently and labor took mother and/or child quite often. Many children died in their infancy due to illness or malnourishment and should the children make it to adulthood, they had a good chance of dying in the Hellenic army. Many Gods, Goddesses and Nymphs were petitioned for aid in childbirth and the period directly after; Artemis, Eileithyia (Ilithya) and Phainō come to mind right away, but Hera, Adamanthea, Kynosoura and Maia were also responsible for childbirth and midwifery.

When a child was born, it was presented to the father, who had the right to refuse it as his own. In Sparta, the child was also presented to the Elders, who could refuse it, even if the father did not. If the child was refused--usually due to deformities which would prevent the child from performing his or her duties to the hearth--the child was left out in the woods as an offering to the Gods.

If the child was accepted, there was a celebration on the fifth or seventh day after birth called the Amphidromia (τὰ Ἀμφιδρόμια). The child was presented at the shrine to Zeus and Hestia by the father. This was observed by the family and gifts were given. If the child made it to the tenth day of life, there was another celebration, new gifts, and the child was named. Especially this last celebration was recorded as being postponed quite regularly. I suspect this was done to give the mother, who was to be present at this celebration, the time to stop bleeding from the birth. Once this stopped and both mother and child were cleansed of miasma, the ceremony could take place.

It almost seems logical to abstain from sex to avoid all of this but that did not happen; because if it did, who would tend to you when you grew old? Who would close your eyes in death and give you ritual burial? Who would give away your daughters in marriage? Who would cherish the memory of the dead and keep alive the institutions that were so dear to him? Who would, as was called, 'save the hearth' if there were no surviving children?

For the Hellenes, honor was incredibly important. To receive honor was to be talked about after death; you would receive libations, gifts and continued family honor if you were remembered. It was up to your children--mostly the son's--to pour the bulk of these libations and to spread the word of your deeds and accumulated honor. Being forgotten by the living was incredibly frightful. As a result, the Hellenes did everything they could to procure children who could continue the family line; celibacy was forbidden, law upon law was accepted to ward off childlessness... and the hearth survived.
I have an absolute weakness for little incorporial nature spirits*, like the Will-'o-Wisps in Brave and Princess Mononoke's Kodama's. The way they move, the sounds they make... It gets me every time. IKEA has these little bed light called Spöka that look like these guys and I have two of them just to cuddle with.

IKEA's Spöka's 

Something about these animated nature spirits bring out the kid in me. They are pure nature magic. Like Merida in Brave, I want to follow them wherever they may lead which, in Brave, is rumored to lead you to your destiny. Unfortunately, the Will-'o-Wisps of folklore aren't so well-inclined. Will-'o-Wisps tend to lead weary travelers to an early grave in a bog or snake infested pit out of hatred and/or spite. 

I tend not to think about that when looking at this (to remain pretty much spoiler free but still see the Wisps, fast-forward to the 30-second mark):

I think I fell in love (and a little bit of fear) with these creatures when I watched the So Weird episode on Will-'o-Wisps when I was a kid. Princess Mononoke (and many others) came after and now every time I see something resembling a tiny nature spirit on my T.V., I melt. It's a little pathetic, really, but I can't stop the love.

In Princess Mononoke, the Kodama's don't lead anyone to their doom. They are the manifestation of a healthy forrest inhabited by a God. Seeing them is a good sign. I think it's the only representation I know of them which is solely good. In Brave, they apparently do lead people to their doom on occasion, and lord knows I died horribly many, many times at the hands of Will-'o-Wisps and Wisp Mothers during my Elder Scrolls adventures. I will admit to finding them considerably less cute then. 

Now, I'm well aware that the folklore about Wisps is heavily exaggerate. Will-'o-Wisps appear when swamp and bog gas seep up through the earth and interact with the natural resources. They are not spirited and they are not magick. But they sure feel like they are and I greatly approve of their use in movies and series.

* These aren't nature spirits as the ancients Hellens them saw, of course, for those, see my previous post on Nymphs, Naiads and other nature spirits.
I came to Neo-Paganism for the freedom. The ability to integrate whatever I wanted into an existing framework. I only realized a lot later that that framework was (Neo-) Wiccan, not Neo-Pagan. No matter how much people keep trying to sell--or simply see--Neo-Paganism as Wicca, it's not. The best definition of (Neo-)Paganism I have ever heard--and still use today--is the following one, by The Cauldron:

 "Pagan religion is a religion that is not Jewish, Christian, or Islamic and self-identifies as Pagan."

(Neo-)Paganism can't be described as 'earth-based'. It can't be described as 'reconstructing'. It can't be described as anything else besides the above. Because (Neo-) Paganism is very, very broad. These terms describe one or more Traditions under the (Neo-)Pagan umbrella but they don't cover all--not by a long shot. And this is exactly why I keep struggling with the (Neo-)Pagan umbrella; it can only be defined by saying what it is not, instead of saying what it is. Because most of what it is, we borrowed from somewhere else.

I think I transitioned to Hellenismos, in large part, because I looked for something authentically Pagan. Something pre-Christian, or something from which I could scrape the Christian coating added to it, if I scratched at it long enough with my fingernails.

I read a blog post once that I can't find anymore. In it, the Pagan author said that (s)he recently realized that the second most used tag on his or her blog was 'Christianity'--and it annoyed him or her to no end. I understand. This post is the second time I'm using the tag and the first time, I really had to ponder if I wanted to use it. It would be the same for 'Buddhism', 'New Age' or anything else from which Neo-Paganism has drawn.

Paganism is chock full of Everything Else. Tarot has a Christian history, magick has a Christian history, the elements were defined by the ancient Hellens, then added to magickal workings by Christian magicians, trying to get closer to God. Whatever is worshiped in Neo-Paganism tends to be offset by Christianity. Star Forster recently wrote a blog post about what we, as Neo-Pagans, own in terms of spiritual practices. She only found one thing; polytheism. And I think she's pretty much right. Tarot, for example, might be important in Neo-Paganism, but the people on T.V. who do Tarot readings are rarely Pagan; they're New Age spiritualist, sometimes even Christians. Like Star puts it; we don't own anything.

Some might wonder about the God and Goddess. Aren't they authentically Neo-Pagan? No, They are not Neo-Pagan; they're part of the Wiccan and Neo-Wiccan pantheon. See the first paragraph about my opinion on Neo-Paganism ≠ Wicca. Still, the God and Goddess as worshipped in (Neo-)Wicca are to be proud of, and the simple fact that there is so very little authentically (Neo-)Wiccan makes it all the more important to me that (mostly Neo-)Wiccans stop trying to pass off the God and Goddess as Deities who outdate all other Gods and Goddesses. Simply by doing that, They become tainted by Everything Else.

I think it's because of this, I (over)reacted so strongly to Cara's explanation of Hellenismos by way of comparison to Christianity and Hinduism. Hellenismos was not build on Christian or Hindu foundations, it's entirely its own religion. Can we please keep it that way?

The fact that Neo-Paganism has borrowed so much from Everything Else is not bad at all, it keeps Neo-Paganism fresh and vibrant. It allows for great flexibility and a strong appeal to seekers. It says to keep what you love and add to it with practices you come to love. There are no worries about doctrine; you can make your own. For over twelve years, it was exactly what I needed. Until it wasn't.

I'm still Pagan, still under the Neo-Pagan banner. I'm still proud of the banner we've build over the past 60 to 70 years. But I need to own something and be owned by something. I need doctrine, structure and liturgy. I need to be expected of, I need a framework of daily practice. I needed a new challenge, a new way of demanding excellence of myself and a new way to serve the Gods I hold so very dear. For me, I found that in reconstruction. Others might find it somewhere else entirely, including the eclecticism found in Neo-Paganism. To every seeker his or her own, I say.
It had been a long journey. Hermes had kept him safe through most of it, so he was not mugged, nor killed. His feet hurt from his blisters as he walked the final steps into the temple. He had arrived four days ago and was housed in one of the guesthouses by the priests of Delphi. He was asked to wait with the other petitioners until the Oracle was ready to receive him. He was lucky; he had only had to wait four days. Others had been here for weeks. 

He had been relieved of his gifts and offerings to the Oracle as soon as he walked through the gates. Four long days had passed and now he entered the dark temple, lit only by a couple of torches lining the wall. He was led deeper into the complex by a silent priest and he wondered if it was the same one who had greeted him at the gate. His thoughts halted as he laid eyes on Pythia; the Oracle.

She was younger than he had expected, in her early thirties, perhaps, and seated on a three legged stool, flanked by two priests. She swayed slightly, inhaling the fumes of laurel and barley, which hung heavily in the air. He held back a cough and waited when the priest who had led him here motioned for him to do so. The priest walked on and ascended the few steps to reach the Oracle. He tried to keep his eyes off of the woman on the stool. She unnerved him. As he heard a light whisper, he did look up, in time to see the priest whisper his question in the Oracle's ear. Should his brother leave the farm to his eldest or youngest son, or perhaps split it? It was a question which was tearing his family apart and so he had come here to hear the will of the Theos Apollon. 

The priest stepped away and the Oracle sunk deeper into herself. The swaying became a shaking that rocked her body and he could barely hold back a gasp when she threw her head back and inhaled sharply. The two priests stepped closer to hold her lightly as she begun to mutter, the words too soft for him to hear. The words swelled rapidly and soon her words carried through the entire hall but he was barely able to register them, enthralled as he was by the Oracle. His guide begun to scribe down the words, sitting at the feet of the Oracle. He remained silent, unsure what to do with himself now the Gods were so close to him. Then the Oracle's head fell forward and his guide stood. He silently motioned for him to follow him out and he did, not chancing a look at the Oracle, who was being supported by the two priests as she left the room through a doorway he had not seen.

When he stepped outside, the sunlight was painful to his eyes. the sounds were too harsh on his senses. Something had shifted in him, the universe redone through the words of the God. The priest halted him and spoke a few words. His interpretation of the words of the Oracle. His brother should offer libations of wine to Apollon and look to the birds on the dawn of the second day after the new moon. The son who commented on them should inherit the farm. He thanked the priest and, after gathering his belongings, he took to the road with relief in his heart. His family would be saved by a sign from the Gods.

This is how archeologists think a petition at the Oracle of Delphi could have gone, combined with some dramatization on my part. The Oracles of Delphi are, by far, the best known oracles but there were many, many more. Some were stationary, holding office in their hometown. Amphiaraus in Oropus, for example. Others traveled the country, providing the voice of the Gods in family disputes, fights over land and cattle ownership, and any other number of disputed that they could help with. They often walked a very thin line, as  they often had to pick a side in disputes and the losing party often did not appreciate it.

Oracles given directly, like at Delphi, were rare and called chesmomancy. All other forms of divination practiced in ancient Hellas were performed by seers, not oracles. Seer staples were divination through the spotting of birds (ornithomancy and augury), dream interpretation (oneiromancy) and animal sacrifice (hieromancy, haruspicy, empyromancy and extispicy) but other forms of divination were definitely used, including cledonomancy (listening to words spoken by a crowd), oneiromancy (divination through the reading of birthmarks) and Phyllorhodomancy, the reading of the sound rose petals make when slapping them together with your hands. The biggest difference between oracles and seers was that oracles gave long answers which usually needed some for of interpretation while seers usually answered yes-or-no questions.

Divination of any kind was rarely turned to, to predict the future. To desire knowledge of the future was considered hubris. Instead, oracles and seers were petitioned to help answer questions about the present or to advice on a decision which had to be made in the very near future. 'Shall I go to war?', ' Shall I put my sheep out on the high pasture?'. Most often, oracular questions were posed in a way which made it easy for the God(dess)--and the seer--to answer; they did not ask 'Shall I go to war?', they asked 'Don't you think I ought to go to war?'. Most likely, the answer of seers (and perhaps even oracles) depended on the offertory; if it was large enough, the answer was 'yes', if the offertory was dissatisfactory, the answer would be 'no'.

Divination played a fairly large role in Hellenic every day life, but it played an even greater role in mythology. many of the epic stories, like those written by Hómēros, feature signs given by the Gods and interpreted by humans. The eagles, sent by Zeus, in the Odysseia, for example:

"So Telemachus spoke, and Far-Seeing Zeus sent out two eagles from a high mountain peak. They flew for a while with outspread wings, side by side in the currents of air, but when they were above the voice-filled assembly they swiftly slanted their wings, circling round, gazing down on the heads below, and death was in their gaze. Then they clawed at each other’s head and neck with their talons, and soared away eastward over the roofs of the town. The people saw them and wondered, and considered what this might foreshadow. Then the old hero Halitherses, Mastor’s son, spoke out, for he was the wisest man of his day in bird-lore and prophecy. With goodwill in his heart he addressed the assembly:

‘Men of Ithaca, listen to me: and I say these words to the Suitors especially, since disaster approaches them. Odysseus will not be far from his friends much longer, and I believe even now he is near, sowing the seeds of dark death for all these men. Yes, and he will bring trouble to many another of us, who live in clear-skied Ithaca. Let us think in advance how we might prevent all this, or let them prevent it of their own accord, easily their best option. I am not unskilled in prophecy, but have true knowledge. I say that all things for that man will be fulfilled, just as I told him when the Argives sailed for Troy, he among them, resourceful Odysseus. I declared that, suffering many troubles, losing all comrades, he would return in the twentieth year, unknown to all: and now it is coming to pass.’ "

Many divinatory practices remain today but most modern Hellenics divine differently than the Hellens of old. Tarot has become a staple in divination. I have my Olympus Tarot deck for readings. Yet, I also practice cledonomancy when I have access to a crowd and no access to my tarot cards, and I absolutely believe in the prophetic powers of dreams.

I wouldn't mind investing time in studying other types of ancient Hellenic divination in the future. I think there is a beauty in augury that should be preserved. I won't be slaughtering animals to read their liver any time soon, but I see the value of it, should an animal be sacreficed to the Theoi during a festival celebration. It would be a shame to let anything go to waste, especially the means to find solutions to your problems.
One of the most important practices within Hellenismos and ancient Hellenic orthopraxy is kharis (xάρις). Kharis is--to give an incredibly limited definition--the act of giving to the Gods so They might give something in return. It's religious reciprocity. It's also so much more.

Kharis is an important word. It means everything from beauty to joy, delight, kindness, good will, grace, favor, benefit, boon, charm, attraction, appeal, elegance, gracefulness, pleasure, cheerfulness, wit, gratitude, thankfulness and gratification. It's the name of a Goddess as well; the Goddess of Grace and Beauty. This seems to complicate matters, but it actually ties in pretty well.

When we, in Hellenismos, petition the Gods for aid, we always do so with an offering. This offering can be incense, a libation, a food offering or anything else. It must be something tangible. Good thoughts and intentions don't count. This offering is given freely, joyfully, with pleasure, out of respect and love for the Gods. We ask what we feel we need--sometimes that's a new job, sometimes just a vague sentiment like honor and prosperity to the household--and never expect to be granted this request. Petitions aren't bribery. We give to the Gods and should They feel inclined to grand us our request, we thank Them by offering to them again, to which the Gods might respond, to which we will sacrifice, and so on. This circular practice of voluntary giving is called kharis.

Kharis is one of the pillars of Hellenismos, together with xenia and katharmos. Those who practiced kharis properly in ancient Hellas were seen as humble, grateful and good people in general. Kharis is the base of a good few words we use to describe related acts and characteristics to this day; charisma, for instance, and charity. To word it differently; kharis represents your reputation with a specific Deity.

Building a relationship with the Theoi was vital for the ancient Hellens and it's vital in Hellenismos today. It's the foundation of daily practice, of the large-scale festivals of old, of Xenia, katharmos and the whole of Hellenismos. You can't practice Hellenismos without striving for a reciprocal relationship with the Gods. This means investing in the Theoi; living with Them every day and learning as much about Them as you can. It means leaving bread for the Nymphs, it means upholding your household shrines, it means practicing, even when limited, it means assuming that, when good things happen, it's by the hands of the Gods you have been given this bout of good luck, and thanking Them with offerings.

Petitions were said to have a greater chance of being granted when the sacrifice was grand and--more importantly--done correctly and to the right Deity. While ancient Hellens often petitioned the Gods they had good kharis with, often Gods ruling over certain domains were also appeased. An example from Hómēros' Odysseia as Menelaus is prevented from leaving Pharos;

"Though I was anxious to return, the gods kept me in Egypt, because I failed to offer the right sacrifice, and they want men ever to remember their commandments. Now there is an isle in the sea-surge off the mouth of the Nile, that men call Pharos, a day’s run for a hollow ship with a strong wind astern. There’s a good anchorage there, a harbour from which men launch their trim ships into the waves, when they have drawn fresh black water. The gods kept me there for twenty days, with never a sign of wind on the sea to speed our ship over the wide waters. All my stores, and my crew’s strength would have been lost, if a divinity had not pitied me and saved me. Eidothee, it was, the daughter of mighty Proteus, Old Man of the Sea, because I stirred her heart most of all. She met me as I walked alone, far from my men, who, pinched by hunger, roamed the shore fishing with barbed hooks.

She approached me, saying: “Stranger, are you a fool and slow-witted, or willingly trapped, and happy to suffer? You have been penned here so long you can see no end to it, and your men are losing heart.” So she spoke and I replied: “Whichever of the goddesses you are, I assure you I am not willingly trapped here, but it seems I have sinned against the deathless ones who hold the wide heavens. Tell me, since you gods know everything, which of the immortals holds me here, hindering my path, and tell me how to return over the teeming sea."

Menelaus is prevented from leaving because he has not appeased the right Deity. The appeasing of Deities, ghosts and Daímons is part of Hellenismos as well, and related to kharis. Kharis is build with appeased Gods, ghosts, Daímons as well as petitioned Gods. It was--and is--not uncommon to proclaim 'If I have offered to You once, please, grant my request' when petitioning the Gods for aid. This way, kharis is invoked and the petition has a better chance of being granted.

I need to make a note here, again, to say that the granting of a petition was not expected. It was appreciated, yes, but no one found fault with the Gods if the petition was not fulfilled. They would look into themselves to see if they had done something incorrectly and else assume that by not granting the request, the Gods helped them along anyway. They might seek out oracles for guidance on how best to approach the Gods with this or another problem and offer offerings of gratitude none the less.

Kharis is continuously build with the Deities we petition and honor. Simply reading to Them Their hymns or myths helps build kharis. Offerings of any kind helps build kharis. Dedicating events or activities to a certain God builds kharis; a campfire meeting to Hestia, for example, or the victory in a soccer match to Nikè. There are countless of ways to involve the Theoi in your daily life and build a relationship with Them. One of the most fundamental ways is to be ever-mindful of your kharis with a certain deity and to build upon the foundation you have. 
[This post contains spoilers for Disney Pixar's new movie 'Brave'. Although they are kept down to a minimum, readers who have not seen the movie and want to remain unspoilered, might do well to come back for a new post tomorrow and skip this one.]
Yesterday, I went to see 'Brave' for the first time. I had been looking forward to it greatly and it did not disappoint. Were there points that could be improved? Yes, certainly, but that was more a question of time, than a failure of writing. If the movie had been half an hour longer, any minor points, like a few one-dimensional characters and some flow issues, could have been fixed easily.

Although there were some lows, the highs far outweighed them. Mirida, Brave's hero princess, is likeable and voiced marvelously. The voice work is really good across the board, but what did you expect with actors like Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson and many others attached to the project?

For those (very, very few) unfamiliar with Brave; Brave is set in ancient Scotland where four family clans rule over the land. Merida's father Fergus (Billy Connolly) has been chosen to rule as king. Now Merida is coming of age, it's time she gets married... and that is where the trouble starts. Because Merida (Kelly Macdonald), much to her mother Elinor's (an absolutely incredible Emma Thompson) horror, not only does not want to get married but wants to go out into the forrest, improve her already impeccable archery skills, and be the wonderful tomboy that she is.

When Merida makes a show of kicking her suitors' asses, all hell breaks lose in the kingdom, Merida runs away and proceeds to make some incredibly stupid choices to get her mother to give up on this whole marriage thing. The rest of the movie focusses on Merida and her mother as they try to undo the mistakes made by both of them.

The movie focusses heavily on the relationship between mother and daughter, on the mistakes we make when we are young and how we must live with these mistakes. There's nothing overtly Pagan about the movie but the celtic themes made my Pagan heart beat just a little faster. This was aided by the truly magnificent animation. Everything looks fantastic. From the characters to the environment, to Merida's bright read hair which was--as a good friend told me--animated nearly strand by strand. As far as animation goes, Pixar has truly outdone themselves with Brave. It not only looks pretty, it looks real. Merida's smile, her hair, Elinor's errr... body... throughout the second part of the movie, the Will-'o-Wisps... all were mesmerizing.

I did not want to write a review when I started writing this today. I honestly don't know what I wanted to share with you. Brave struck a cord with me. I knew it, about 15 minutes in, when the first song started as Merida rode out of the castle during her day off from her princess duties and I was crying in the movie theater, the feeling of freedom soaring through my chest. I know that without seeing the movie, the song will probably not convey this feeling well, but listen to it anyway.

We all strive to be free. While we want stability, community, family, tasks to perform so we can feel good about ourselves, above all, we want to be ourselves. I dare say that the need to be ourselves is a Pagan binding factor. I don't know a single Pagan who did not (partially) come to Paganism to find themselves. Myself included. Way back when, it was Celtic music that brought me to Paganism. The kick-back to days of old, to a land filled with wonder and promises, to a more honest way of living, were like a band-aid to my weary mind and soul.

I don't have a good relationship to my mother. We went through hell together and, unlike Merida, we never got our moment to make it right. I think we both tried, in our own, limited, way, to undo some of the damage done but the chasm that has grown between us won't be bridged easily or soon. There is too much pain, too much resentment and too much healing to be done first. Again, on both sides. 

Watching Brave spoke to both my need to be myself and the hurt I still feel over my frail relationship with my mother. Before watching Brave, I read that you should see Brave with your mother but that won't do the trick for me. There is no quick fix. But it made me wish there was, which will make me try harder next time I see my mom. As for being myself and being free... I made and still make my own choices. I move on, grow, find my path, and above all; 'I will take hold of my own dreams, be as strong as the seas are stormy, and proud as an eagle’s scream. I will ride, I will fly, chase the wind and touch the sky'.
A while ago, I promised a good friend I would write about practicing when under the watchful eye of parents, partners or other housemates or when there is simply not enough room to accommodate living as well as (daily) worship. It, obviously, didn't happen so today I'm righting that wrong.

At some point in our Pagan lives, we all find ourselves in a situation where we are held back from practicing the way we want to. It can be a because we're living with people who do not understand our religion or practice, or whom we simply do not want to come out to. It can be because we are on holiday, because we have guests over or because we're busy and life is chaotic.

Before I start on the practical, I need to address something I realized. We are held back not only by external factors, but also by internal factors. The amount that external factors like time, space and privacy hold us back is usually directly linked to our confidence level (with)in our practice. Doubt uses the external factors as excuses for not practicing. It's important to realize which of the factors holding you back are internal and which are actually external. Because no matter how many external factors you end up clearing up, if you're still struggling with the internal ones, nothing will change in your actual practice.

That having been said, there are a lot of things we can do to practice our religion within the restraints placed upon us by either internal or external factors. Privacy seems to be the big one. Many of us don't have it and/or are limited to practicing without fire or incense. Time is also a difficulty. Here are some tips to deal with these issues:
  • Strip your religion back to its basics and/or find out which practices matter most to you. This allows you to maximize the time and the amount of privacy you have by uncluttering your head.
  • Make a portable altar/shrine kit. This is a box, can or any other medium in which you place those things you can't practice without. I have two sets; my original Eclectic one and a Hellenic one. Within my Hellenic box are two tea-lights and a holder, a container with khernips, a container with ethanol, a container with olive oil, a cup for khernips, a cup to burn offerings in, cloth to dry my hands and face, some incense, a hair clip, matches, a little prayer book of the hymns I use most, a spoon and a container of barley. I use this kit when I travel but it can also be used to quickly set up a place of worship and break it down just as quickly. The box can be hidden away when not in use so it does not take up living space, a valued commodity for some people. 
  • Find substitutes. For those who like to have some sort of permanent altar or shrine but don't have the liberty to do so, find substitutes for the basics of your altar needs. I have seen eclectic altars set up with pebbles, seashells, flowers, pompoms, even Barbies. For those who are not allowed open flame or candles, find substitutes. Electrical candles work just fine and look pretty realistic. Use essential oils to smell and a feather to set the air in motion. Substitutes are not perfect but they get the job done. Often, it's the thought that counts.
  • Find religion and/or magick wherever you can. When I have to run out the door, I rarely have time for a complete hymn or even a few words to Hermes for protection while on the road. I do that in the car. I turn the radio down, think of my shrine for a second, recite a hymn or speak a few words and promise to give offerings when I come home safely. Go to the park during your lunch break, be thoughtful of nature surrounding you, even in the urban jungle. Think of Hestia when you cook a meal or dedicate a romantic evening to Aphrodite. Find the basics and for from there. 
  • Don't be afraid to practice Slacker Paganism every now and again. 
  • When something works, do it again, and again, and again. This is especially true when you're simply struggling to add meaningful practice to your daily life. Find a moment in the day where you have the time, space and privacy to tend to one of the basics of your faith or practice and try to do something at this time of day, every day. Say a prayer to the Gods before bed. Say a hymn to Hestia during your morning coffee. I read somewhere that if you do something twenty-two times, it'll become ingrained in your routine. I'm not sure if it's true but it can't hurt to try.
These are some practical tips and tricks to make practice easier when you truly want to practice but are not at liberty to do so. If you have other tips to offer, don't hesitate to post them in the comments. If you have a practical problem which isn't covered by these tips, let me know and I'll try to help any way I can. To all struggling; I wish you the best of luck. Don't forget to enjoy yourself while doing it!
I was actually going to save this subject for a Pagan Blog Project post--as the ancient Hellenic word for hospitality is Xenia and, really, how many words starting with an 'X' are there that apply to Hellenismos and/or Paganism?--but the X's are still a long way away and I think the subject is important. I'm therefor deciding that I'll find a new X to discuss when the time comes and will be talking about hospitality in relation to ancient Hellenic culture, religion and Hellenismos today.

Hospitality in ancient Hellenic was a complicated ritual within both the host and the guest has certain roles to fill and tasks to perform. Especially when someone unknown to the host came to the door, the ritual held great value. This ritual practice of hospitality was called 'xenia' (ξενία) and is described a lot in mythology. This, because any unknown traveler at the door could be a Theos or Theia in disguise or they could even be watched over by a Theos who would pass judgement on the host. 

Hómēros, in the Odysseia, gives the following description of a guest being received at the door to the house; in this case by Athena, who is disguised as Mentes, as greeted by Telemachos, son of Odysseus.

"...Godlike Telemachus, sitting troubled among the suitors, imagining how his noble father might arrive from somewhere, throw the suitors from the palace, win honour and rule his own again, was first to see her. Thinking of it, sitting among the suitors, he saw Athene, and went straight to the doorway, ashamed a stranger should wait so long at the gates. Approaching her, he clasped her right hand, took her spear of bronze, and spoke to her winged words: ‘Welcome, stranger, here you will find hospitality, and after you have eaten you may tell us why you are here.’

At this, he led the way, and Pallas Athene followed. Once inside the high hall, he took the spear and set it in a polished rack by a tall pillar, with other spears that belonged to loyal Odysseus. He led Athene herself to a handsome, richly carved chair, spread a linen cloth over it, and seated her there with a footstool for her feet. He drew up on ornate stool for himself, as well, away from the Suitors, lest the stranger should shun the food, annoyed by the din, finding himself in a crowd of insolent men: and so he might ask news of his absent father. Next a maid brought water in a fine gold jug, and poured it over a silver basin, so they could rinse their hands: then drew up a polished table. The housekeeper silently brought them bread, and various delicacies, drawing liberally on her store. And a carver lifted plates of different meats, and set them down with gold cups beside them, while a steward, constantly walking by, poured the wine."

There are several things of interest to note in these passages; a guest should not have to wait to be greeted, they must always be accepted into the house and offered the best of everything, an inquiry as to the nature of the visit is delayed until the guest has eaten, recovered from the journey and sometimes--as found in other sources--has bathed and/or slept. Often, everything is set aside to help the guest with his or her quest because it was assumed no man or woman left their home unless they really had to.

Next to this, there are two other important rules concerning Xenia; the guest is expected to be courteous and not be a burden to the host and, and this is very important, the host must give the guest a parting gift--a xenion (ξεινήιον). The more valuable the gift, the better. In fact, Telemachos receives from Menelaus a cup made by Hēphaistos Himself:

"But stay here in the palace, till the eleventh or the twelfth day, and I will send you off with honours, and fine gifts, a shining chariot with a trio of horses, and a glorious cup with which to pour libations to the deathless gods, while remembering me all your days."

Mythology has a lot of examples of Theoi disguising themselves as beggars or undesirables. The host is judged on the hospitality offered. Good things befall those who treat guests with respect, very bad things befall those who do not. One of my favorite Hellenic myths shows this in great detail; it's the story of how Baucis and Philemon received some unexpected visitors. You can read a long version of the myth here but it comes down to this: 

"Zeus and His son Hermes descended to earth to test the hospitality of the little town that is home to the elderly couple of Baucis and Philemon, who live in a run down hut a little ways away from the small, rural village. The Gods are dressed as simple travelers, weary from their long journey on foot. They knock on the doors of all of the houses in the village but find no one willing to open the door and take them in. With every house the Gods pass, the anger of the Gods rises, but before They punish this town for their despicable ways, They decide to test the last house in the village as well; the house of Baucis and Philemon. 

It is Philemon who opens the door after the first knock and begs the travelers to enter. The hut is tiny and the two, who have been together for almost all of their long years, have not much to give. Still, the two bustle around the hut to repair enough stools for all to sit, to find enough food for all to eat and, as the night progresses, enough places for all to sleep. Neither Baucis nor Philemon realizes the true nature of their guests until they realize the small jug of wine has not run out, betraying the divinity of their guests.

Both Baucis and Philemon throw themselves down in front of the Gods, begging for forgiveness for such a sorry welcome but the Gods, who have not been offended in the least, beg them to rise and walk out with Them, to the top of the hill. There, Zeus turns to the village and floods the valley completely, killing all residents. He spares the hut that belongs to Baucis and Philemon and even transforms it into a temple. He then asks what favor the pair would want from the Gods, as they have truly deserved one. The pair asks to honor the Gods for their remaining eyars in the temple created below and ask that, when their dying day comes, that they may go together so they will never be without the other. This, the Gods grant happily."

With stories like this, it's easy to see why hospitality was so important in ancient Hellas, and holds a vital role in Hellenismos today. Not only do the Gods punish those who do not show proper Xenia, They reward those who do--handsomely, I might add. 

One God in particular watches over guests and the practice of xenia; Zeus Xenios, an epithet of Zeus. It was to him, libations were poured when a guest arrived. Two example from the Odysseia; the first as Odysseus washes ashore Phaeacia and declares himself to Nausicaa, the second as he meets Nausicaa's father Alcinous.

"...With this she called to her lovely maids: ‘Stop, girls, why do you shun the sight of a man? Surely you don’t imagine he’s unfriendly? There will never be mortal man so contrary as to set hostile feet on Phaeacian land, for we are dear to the gods. We live far-off, over the turbulent sea, the remotest of races, and deal with no other peoples. This man must instead be some luckless wanderer, landed here. We must care for him, since all strangers and beggars come from Zeus, and even a little gift is welcome. So bring him food and drink, girls, and bathe him in the river wherever there’s shelter from the wind."

"With this he sat down in the hearth’s ashes, close to the fire, and all remained silent. At last one of the Phaeacian elders, noble Echeneus, eloquent and wise, spoke to them. Helpfully, he addressed the gathering, saying: ‘Come, Alcinous, it is not right and proper that a stranger should sit there in the ashes of the hearth, while we all hold back awaiting your lead. Raise the stranger to his feet, and seat him on a silver-embossed chair, and let the heralds mix the wine, so that we may pour libations to Zeus as well, who hurls the lightning and follows the footsteps of holy suppliants. And let the housekeeper feed him supper from her store.'"

In contemporary culture, hospitality has lost much of its meaning and practice. Gifts are brought for the host these days, refills are in the fridge, staying for dinner is only possible if you have and appointment, etc. Bringing back some of the old hospitality customs might not be a bad thing at all. It would sure bring us closer as a community and, really, it would be wonderful to knock on the door of a house when you're in need and know that you would receive all the help the host can possibly give. 
I wanted to write about mythology today but then I got caught-up reading Hómēros, got stuck on the idea of epithets and I couldn't get off it again. So I'm saving mythology for tomorrow and today, I'm writing about the many, many epithets of the Gods.

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. 

An example; Aphrodite is the Goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. She's either born from Zeus as His daughter or from the sea foam after Kronos castrated His father Ouranos. In the latter case, Aphrodite is the daughter of Ouranos, a Titan and a half-sister to Zeus. some historians claim Aphrodite was actually an imported Goddess (hence the different creation myths) and used to be a Goddess of war. Some of Aphrodite's epithets include:

Aphrodite Paphos - Aphrodite of Paphos
Aphrodite Diôniaia - Daughter of Dione, daughter of Zeus
Aphrodite Anadyomenê - Risen from the sea Aphrodite 
Aphrodite Philommeides - Laughter-loving Aphrodite
Aphrodite Areia - Warlike Aphrodite

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 a 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.

Within poetry, epithets are used out of respect, as clarification and to add some flair to the poetry written. Certain forms of poetry relied on a set amount of syllables or words to work. Inserting and epithet helped fill the lines so they adhered to poetic rules. When reciting poetry, poets also added epithets to fill in a part of the poetry they had forgotten or to give them some time to remember the next line. 

Within polytheism, epithets are of great interest. A short introduction on polytheism for those who are unsure of its meaning; there are two, or three, branches of polytheism; soft polytheism, hard polytheism and somewhere in the middle, is middle polytheism. All believe that Gods exist as actual beings and influence our lives. Soft polytheists believe that Gods with similar portfolios are the same God(dess). An example; Athena, Brighid, Sarasvati, Neith and Minerva rule the virtue of wisdom in their respective pantheons. For soft polytheists, this means they are the same Deity with different faces for each pantheon. Middle polytheists believe that some of these faces belong to the same Deity but definitely not all. Athena and Minerva are the same Goddesses but Brighid, Sarasvati and Neith are so different from each other, as well as from Athena and Minerva, that They can't be the same. Hard polytheists belief that each and every God and Goddess is a separate entity with His or her own powers, lives and story.

Epithets within polytheism pose a challenge; are all epithets different Gods or different faces of the same God(dess)? I belief Aphrodite Diôniaia and Aphrodite Anadyomenê are different Goddesses but the epithet Aphrodite Philommeides could be applied to both and is not a distinct Goddess. I have no set rule for this; it's a matter of feeling. Practically, this destination would mean I would say either this:

"Oh, blessed Aphrodite, Goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite Diôniaia, Aphrodite Philommeides, I call on you, ruler over pleasure, oh, ever-laughing Goddess, now I struggle with love in my life. Aphrodite Diôniaia, Aphrodite Philommeides, daughter of Zeus the all-wise, if I have offered to you once, hear my plea and grant me aid."

or this:

"Oh, blessed Aphrodite, born from the foam of the sea, Aphrodite Anadyomenê, Aphrodite Philommeides, I call on you, protectress of those who take to the sea, oh, ever-laughing Goddess, now I journey over water to destinations at great distance. Aphrodite Anadyomenê, Aphrodite Philommeides, destined daughter of Ouranos, the primordial father, if I have offered to you once, hear my plea and grant me protection."

but I would never combine the two.

I'm fairly certain this destination is either completely unimportant, mildly important or critically important to other practitioners within Hellenismos; there is no set opinion in the Hellenic community on this as far, as I'm aware. Yet, if you are on this path, it might be something you want to get a clear opinion on.

For me, the use of epithets is important. They teach me a great deal about the Gods I worship and help focus my prayers and rituals. If you have an opinion on epithets, I would love to hear about it in the comments. 
I had to look it up but it was Dionne Warwick who sang 'a house is not a home'. The difference between a house and a home is a matter of the heart. A house can be inhabited for years and not feel like a home. It's my opinion that what makes a house, a home, is for the house to become part of the family that inhabits it.

Oikos (οἶκος) is a fascinating Hellenic word meaning (or is the basis of) a multitude of things. Amongst others, Oikos means:
  • a house, the material building
  • a household
  • family
  • lineage/descendants 
  • palace
  • temple
  • nation
It goes to show, once more, how interwoven family life, lineage, country and religion were in ancient Hellas. The basis of the oikos were the husband and wife, living in a house. Others that were counted amongst the oikos were the children, possible parents and female family members who lived at the house, as well as any long-term guests and concubines of the male head of the family.

Ancient Hellas wasn't a good place to be if you were a woman; you simply had no rights and were property to the male head of household, who was called 'Kurios' (κύριος). As a result, the whole of the oikos, including any property and land owned, were seen as possessions of the kurios. This included female members of the family and, of course, the children and concubines the male head of household was entitled to.

Oikos has a clear relation to possession, yet there is also a religious component to it. It's linked to temples and, because it's also linked to the physical structure of the house, to the hearth and Hestia. Religion in ancient Hellas was so ingrained in life that it was hardly seen as religion at all. The Gods were included in nearly every aspect of life and regular offerings to Hestia were a large part of that daily worship. In a modern sense, this makes a home a temple. Of course, every city had a sacred fire dedicated to Hestia as well.

Hestia is the Goddess of the hearth, family and the home. She's the Goddess closest to the people and was a very beloved Goddess in ancient Hellas. Hestia keeps the home fires burning and allows any Kurios to act as a charitable host by offering any guest a place near the fire.

Now, I need to address the obvious patriarchal nature of this topic. Men ruling over women, women as possession, men ruling over a household--implying there is no household without a man, etc. Well, yes, that's how it was way back when. This was the case in many ancient cultures and it's not something that modern Hellenics strive to re-create--simply because it was part of the culture, not of the religion. I do not have children and I'm a gay woman, living with my girlfriend of seven years. As I do the majority of religious practice in our household, traditionally, that would make me kurios. Yet, I also do most of the housekeeping while my girlfriend brings in most of the money, so does that make her Kurios?

We're not living in ancient Hellas anymore. It's easy enough to view a culture within its historical timeframe and see how it does, or does not, apply to modern day practice and culture. Neither me or my girlfriend is kurious but we both work hard to bring oikos into our home and we both do it in a different way. In the end, all that matters is that we both feel like our house is a home and I feel confidant Hestia has no problem with how my oikos functions.
Although nothing really happened over the course of the month to have me so happy for its end, I can't wait to get started on the Deipnon and wish the old month farewell. Just the thought of cleaning out the old and starting fresh is something I'm desperately craving.

I'm craving it so desperately, in fact, that since I started practecing Hellenismos, my period has become spot on, on the Deipnon. And this from the girl who has never had a set period in her life. Lets see if it holds. I hope so, because it adds to the experience--if by 'add to' I mean that I'm very cranky, the work is harder due to cramps and ridding myself of miasma is about ten times harder.

Today, I will be scrubbing the house, doing yesterday's dishes, making the bed and, most importantly, I will thoroughly clean all my ritual tools. I will clean out my jar with leftovers from this month and clean out my Kathiskos. Tonight, at dusk, I will ride out with the contents of the jar of leftovers, a key and a raw egg and leave all of it on a crossroad for Hekate. With it, I will leave all the frustration, pain and worry from this month.

It's likely due to my period, but I'm so happy about all of this, I could cry. I'm so ready to leave the old behind and it's shocking to me how quickly my mind and body have adapted to having a set day for this event. Tomorrow, I will start fresh. I will fill my Kathiskos with new foodstuffs, I'll add the first ritual leftovers to my jar, I'll light the first incense on one of my household shrines.

But today, it's a new moon, and a new month, and it is about time.
I often get asked what it would mean to me if it turns out that the Gods do not exist. It's a valid question from people who are not religious or who are very involved with their own God(s). I've never minded being asked this question because, no matter how sure I am, I have no proof to show, no evidence to present. Everything I have experienced could be part of an elaborate conspiracy theory of my mind and when I die, I could simply be gone.

I think the Gods exist. I have felt Them, I have experienced Them, I have seen the world filled with Divinity. But, if They do not exist, it doesn't really matter. Because it changes nothing. If the Gods do not exist, I will still have had a life which fulfilled me, which was filled with a practice that kept me honest, caring, respectful and kind. I will have been the best person I could be, because I had a reason to be that person. And should there really be nothing there when I die, well, it's not like I will notice, now will I?

This question is also pretty prevalent in the Pagan community itself, although the question is often phrased differently. 'Are the Gods real?', is a good one. I don't know if They are real but I think about it like this; if They are real, you have spent your life doing right by Them. If They are not real, well, it's not like you will have lost anything by honoring Them, now have you? Also, do you really want to take the chance of pissing off beings much more powerful than you or not arranging a good place to head to when you die?

Ultimately, religion is about having faith, about accepting something as truth even though you have no proof. It's a scary thing and yes, sometimes you will feel like an idiot as you stand in front of your shrine or altar, calling out to the air, hoping there is Someone there to hear it. It's all part of the fun, as they say, and perseverance is a requirement. If you do it often enough, if you learn to accept what you pick up with your senses as truth, you'll eventually get there--if a religious life is what you want to have--no matter if the Gods exist or not.

Part one here.

So, good news; it's the next day, I made it through without falling asleep (although there was that touch-and-go moment around 4 am), it felt incredibly good to do and save for one minor incident, the whole affair went off without a hitch.

Now, I'm not one for major religious revelations and big, flashy sentences about deep, meaningful conversations with the Gods. Religion doesn't work like that for me. For me, religion is serving the Gods and hoping to get a little bit in return, if the Gods see fit to do so. This means that instead of making it more than it was, I will tell you what my wake will have looked like to anyone else: long periods of a woman in her late twenties all done up in a black Hellenic-style gown and her hair up, lying on the couch, under a blanket, with a cat curled up at her feet, reading Hómēros, intercut with hourly libations at the shrine set up in her remodeled living room, candle making, divination through Tarot and munching on offerings.

It was awesome.

I will now tell you why I'm a bit of a bad blogger but, in my opinion, a good supplicant; I did not take pictures of the set-up. This was a conscious decision and it is based on the same thought train as why I suck at journaling. In short; I think it takes away from the experience and makes the memory stand out too much. I want my experiences to blend so I can learn from them a bit better. That said, I will describe, in as much detail as I am comfortable with, what I did and what it did to me. I do this, not for me, but for the other (fledgeling) Hellenics reading this blog and looking for answers from a community which is spread out around the globe and not very forthcoming with information or guidance. 

I held my wake from ten PM to six AM; eight solid hours, from sun down to sun set. I set up my shrine in the living room--instead of the bedroom where it usually is--so my girlfriend could get some rest. To accommodate me, she lovingly moved to the bedroom around 9.30 PM, leaving me alone as much as I wanted to be. Much of the shrine set-up was the same as it always is and the basic ritual was the same as my daily ritual, only now I poured libations as well as give offerings to not only Hestia but also Athena. For Athena, I used Homeric Hymn 11: to Athena, because I was sure enough I would remember the words of that hymn even when I got tired. Around 4 AM, I was very, very glad I had not gone with the much longer Homeric Hymn 28. 

To make a long description of my preparations short, I vacuumed and mopped the room, moved everything out of the way that I could without making a mess of the room, set up my shrine, laying out everything I needed to cleanse myself with, my offers to the Gods, everything I needed to burn and pour offerings, my books, a bed on the couch should I need it and everything I needed to turn the left over bits of Hestia's candles into new candles for Her. I also set out a vase with dirt into which I could place my torch after the procession and some wool from which I would make a makeshift garment for Athena later on. I also laid out my Tarot cards (for those interested; I use the Olympus Tarot) and the Homeric and Orphic hymns, should my tired brain forget the words and for the other hymns I wanted to say. That done, I brushed my teeth and ended my preparations with a shower.

This description of my preparations should also tell you most of what I did but I will create a schedule so you have a slightly better idea.
  • 09.30 PM - 10.00 PM: Final preparations, brushing my teeth a shower, dressing, putting my hair up
  • 10.00 PM - 11.00 PM: Torch procession (lit with Hestia's flame) from outside the living room to the shrine, cleansing (called katharmos), hymns to Hestia (Homeric Hymn 24), to Nyx (Orphic Hymn 3), to Selene (OH 9), to the Stars (OH 7), to Sleep (OH 85), to Dream (OH 86), to Zeus (OH 15) and finally to Athena (HH 11), libations of olive oil to Hestia and Athena with a repeating of their respective hymns, making a cloak for Athena
  • 11.00 PM - 12.00 PM: katharmos, libations of red wine to Hestia and Athena after proclaiming their hymns, offering of chocolate to both Goddesses, hanging the garment on Athena's statue, reading the Odysseia by Hómēros
  • 12.00 PM - 01.00 AM: katharmos, libations of milk to Hestia and Athena after proclaiming their hymns, reading the Odysseia, preparing the candle making
  • 01.00 AM - 02.00 AM: katharmos, libations of honey to Hestia and Athena after proclaiming their hymns, candle making
  • 02.00 AM - 03.00 AM: katharmos, offerings of barley to Hestia and offerings of beef to Athena after proclaiming their hymns, divination session, reading the Odysseia
  • 03.00 AM - 04.00 AM: katharmos, libations of honey to Hestia and Athena after proclaiming their hymns, reading about the history of Hellas and Athens
  • 04.00 AM - 05.00 AM: katharmos, libations of milk to Hestia and Athena after proclaiming their hymns, reading about the history of Hellas and Athens, fifteen minutes of simply lying on my makeshift bed
  • 05.00 AM - 06.00 AM: katharmos, libations of red wine to Hestia and Athena after proclaiming their hymns, reading the Odysseia, finalizing the candles, finding something to eat
  • 06.00 AM - 06.30 AM: katharmos, libations of olive oil to Hestia and Athena after proclaiming their hymns, reading the Odysseia, cleaning up the space, changing into my PJ's, feeding the cat, off to bed
Of course, this tells you nothing about my experiences. It doesn't describe the atmosphere, the tranquility that hung about a room bathed in candlelight and devotion. It doesn't tell you how I felt, standing in front of the shrine, palms up to praise the Gods. All I can tell you of that is that it was an experience I am so, so glad I have had. I'm terrible at all-nighters but it was well worth feeling a bit tired today. In fact, I'm much less tired as I thought I would be. My body is tired but my mind is full of inspiration and energy. I slept a couple of hours this morning and I kept dreaming in Hómēros' language. I woke up with a smile, and cleaned up the living room first thing. Hestia doesn't like things out of place, after all. 

I might share more about my actual experiences in the blogs to come; I'm still sorting it all out myself, after all. For now, I hope to have given you an idea of my Panathenaia ta Mikra celebration. If you celebrated it, how did you do it?
Within Hellenismos, we reconstruct a great deal of ancient festivals. One of the major ones is the Panathenaia. The Panathenaia was an Athenian festival celebrated every June in honour of the goddess Athena. The Lesser Panathenaia (Panathenaia ta mikra) was an annual event, while the Greater (Panathenaia ta megala) was held every four years and assimilated the practices of the Panathenaia ta mikra into itself. The set date for the festival was from the 23rd to the 30th of Hekatombaion and the festival was similar, in practice, to the Olympic Games but it had its own unique elements as well. In short, The Panathenaia was the 'birthday of the city' and referred to Athens. The actual practice was very involved but usually included:
  • A procession from outside of the city walls to the Acropolis,
  • The hanging of a new (and elaborately woven) garment on the shoulders of the statue of Athena inside the Parthenon
  • A torch race
  • An all-night service called the Pannychis
  • A large offering (and ritual slaughter) of a hundred cows in honor of Athena
  • A meat meal for everyone at the city's expense
  • During the Panathenaia ta megala, wrestling competitions chariot races and many other horse-based games were also held
Unfortunately for me (and other Hellenics), it's not possible to rouse an entire city and re-create these practices. This is why Hellenics often condense the festival into a single night (or day, if night time worship is not possible). During this night, the procession is added to by the bearing of a torch. Libations are poured to Athena, most often with olive oil, milk, wine and/or honey. Butchering a cow is a bit much so most of us stick to the offering of a piece of beef to Athena and partaking of the meal as well, as the celebration did not call for a holókaustos of the ritual offering. We study the history of Athens, read the myths of Athena and some of us read into their own city's history as well, as most of us don't live in Athens at this time. Those of us who are crafty enough, make a garment for Athena and hang it around a statue of Her. Partaking in any other kind of craft are also encouraged, as Athena is the patron Goddess of crafts. 

So, this is what I'll be doing tonight. I've planned hourly libations, a lot of study and worship from dusk to dawn. I plan to start and end the celebration with the complete, Orphic, celebrations which Orphic practitioners performed daily. I'm greatly looking forward to it and I think it's an important step for me. Eight hours alone with my thoughts and the Gods is something I rarely have the luxury of having so I plan to get everything out of it that I can. I labeled this post 'part one' as part two will come tomorrow with my experiences.

Until then!

Update: Part two here.
This week is a very busy religious week; the Panathenaia is happening and I'm planning a night-long wake in honor of this festival and Athena tomorrow night, friday is the Deipnon, making saturday Noumenia and sunday Agathós Daímōn. Tomorrow I'll blog about preparing for the wake and my reasons for doing it but for today, I'm leaving you with my brand new blogroll.

As a Pagan and blogger, I follow a good amount of blogs and bloggers. Today, I've added a blogroll to Baring the Aegis and I wanted to put a spotlight on some of them. These are blogs I think would be good to follow for everyone interested in broad spectrum Paganism. Most of them are not Hellenic in nature. I think it's endlessly important to keep looking beyond your own Tradition, whatever that may be. It keeps you grounded and makes you aware of what you're gaining from your tradition. Maybe you'll eventually learn you need to transition. Maybe all you get from the blog is knowledge. That is never a bad thing. Enjoy!

Pantheos.com (Agora, Bishop in the Grove, Confessions of a Pagan soccer mom, Pantheon, The Wild Hunt)
Pantheos is a fantastic religious internet portal. It has bloggers of about every religion on the face of the planet. The ones I follow are listed above. Pantheon was the first I found and I went from there. Agora is general Pagan, Bishop in the Grove is druidistic, Confessions of a Pagan soccer mom is generally witchy, Pantheon is Telmatic with a dash of Neo-Paganism and Hellenic Recon and The Wild Hunt is a news website concerning everything Pagan.

This website is a site I now only visit for the news articles but when I was first starting out, this was my premier research website for anything Neo-Wiccan and Neo-Pagan. It's a good, solid, beginner's guide which is constantly updated.

Pagandad combines two things I know very little of in Paganism; the male viewpoint and children. Just those two make this blog worth reading.

Norse Mythology Blog
It's updated very sporadically (and when I say very sporadically I mean it hasn't updated in about two months) but the posts on there are so incredibly insightful and full of knowledge it's well worth the wait. If you're new to the blog, just read it back until you hit the first post. Trust me, it's worth it.

This blog is a little gem. It's written by an elderly woman who lives in a beautiful little cottage on her own bit of land. Her posts are close to the earth, to her family and to her heart. She intercuts her musings with all kinds of videos, poems and other inspiration messages and it makes for wonderful variety.

The Barbed Pentacle
The Barbed Pentacle is what they call 'not suitable for work'. It's about the grittier side of Paganism and magick; blood, sex, bondage, orgasms, masturbation--heck, even enema's. It's a completely different look at Paganism which can sometimes get a little bit too much 'love and light' for my tastes. The Barbed Pentacle is absolutely one of my favorite corners of the internet and It's a pleasure sharing it with you.

Society of Diana
Society of Diana is focussed mostly in Italy. Diana keeps an ear to the ground about what's currently happening in archeology, society and Paganism and she often comes up with very informative and though-provoking subjects.

A Young Flemish Hellenist
This is the one of the few Hellenic blogs I follow. There are always subjects on there that I find interesting and although I wish it was updated more, it's always a pleasure when it is updated.

The Quill is Mightier
Dawn has wonderful thoughts and opinions about Paganism and Hellenismos. Her patron is Ares so that gives you a bit of an idea about the state of her posts.

The Allergic Pagan
I love, love, love The Allergic Pagan. It's funny, tackles things haven't even thought of and combines blog posts, media fragments and anything else to formulate some of the best and worst of Paganism. A must read!

Sanna, Hagstone's author, is Asatru (Norse Recon). although her updates are a bit sporadic, I greatly appreciate her opinion and I check her site at least daily to see if she has updated it. 
Lately, I've been reading and hearing a lot about shame, shamelessness, saying--or not saying--sorry and how shame impacts our lives. I know a lot of people who greatly dislike shame and everything that comes with it; red cheeks, a loss of words and looking like an idiot are some. There are a couple of things I have learned from it all:
  • feeling ashamed and feeling sorry are not the same thing
  • shame is a social construct--we are not born with an understanding of shame
  • shame and it's cousin embarrassment are culturally defined
  • shame is often seen as a bad thing that should be expunged from our lives
  • shame is greatly misunderstood
The fact that we feel shame, is a social lifesaver. It keeps us from alienating ourselves from our fellow humans (who we need to get through the day) and helps us maintain our rank in the social hierarchy. Shame keeps us from calling our boss a jackass and losing our job, it helps us discover what is socially and culturally acceptable in the group that we are in, it strengthens our social confidence and it helps us save face when something goes wrong--like tripping over our own feet in public.

Our physical reactions to shame are very recognizable to everyone because we all feel them. We all blush, perspire and fumble for words. This makes us relatable. It says 'I realize I did something outside of the social norm'. This allows us to laugh away the faux-pas instead of getting annoyed or upset about it. 

An example to illustrate; I'm standing on the platform at the train station, waiting for the train to come along. Suddenly, someone crashes into me, hurting my arm and almost knocking me off of my feet. I turn around and see a young man clambering to his feet. If he shows signs of shame, my first reaction of annoyance will fade and I'll let him make his apologies so he can say that he tripped over a bag and he can ask me if I'm okay. If he shows no signs of shame, no explanation or apology can keep me from being cranky.

Hellenic society was structured in a set hierarchy. Everyone had his or her place and it was understood you did not step out of the norm. Listening to the warning signs shame sends out, allowed everyone to maneuver themselves throughout the various hierarchal interactions. It's not odd the ancient Hellens saw great honor in shame; one who knew his or her place was to be honored for it. It kept life clear and organized. 

This Delphic maxims is a solid reminder of the place shame has. There is nothing shameful (point intended) about feeling shamed. I'm a firm believer in saying you are sorry; yes, even if you don't really mean it. It's the social thing to do and should not be taken lightly. Saying sorry means you understand you had a part in what happened. You might not have had the biggest part, you might not even be wrong, but you had a part in it and that should be acknowledged. For those who would argue that saying sorry in this manner means giving away a piece of yourself or letting others walk all over you; I respect that opinion. I just don't think it's true.

I give nothing away, nor do I let others walk all over me. I accept my part on the affair and as a consequence, I show respect for the other party as well as myself. I revere a sense of shame and do so with pride, just like the ancient Hellens.
Today, I'm posting a mix-tape for Athena. This idea is not mine; it's a combination of a wonderful idea by Sannion and Hellenion's monthly libation schedule. Hellenion is a Hellenic organization from America and I've been using their wonderful calender and the great store of information they have gathered to start my own practice. Every month, Hellenion members pour a libation to a different Hellenic God or Goddess. This month, it's Athena's turn.

I poured my libation today and found it a wonderful experience. Yet, I also want to do something special for these libation days, another way of honoring these Deities. I've never been much for mix-tapes, although I did make one for my girlfriend once. Still, it's a good way to figure out what the Deity is really about and what They mean to you--or me, in this case.

For this mix-tape series, I will limit myself to five songs, each. So, without further ado; my mix-tape to Athena.

Ani Difranco - Gratitude (live)

In the Olympian version of Athena's birth, Hēphaistos helped birth Her by liberating her from Zeus, Her father's head. A little later on, He turned around on her and attempted to rape Her. She rebuffed Him and Erichthonius was born from Gaea. Athena raised him as Her own. Ani's song tells of an experience where she, after receiving help, was forced to repay the favor in a sexual manner. I'm especially partial to the lines 'what does my body have to do with my gratitude?' and 'you can't write me off and you don't turn me on'.

Spiral Dance - The Goddess and the Weaver

I think this is a beautiful retelling of the myth of Athena and Arachne. It, of course, had to be included.

Andy Bull Feat. Lisa Mitchell - Dog

I am going to share a bit of UGP (and SPG) on Athena for this one. I have interacted with Pallas Athena a lot. One night, she shared some of Her story with me. After being born from Zeus' head, the young Athena was sent to Triton who was tasked to raise Her. Triton had a daughter, a Nymph named Pallas and the two became friends; friends so close they blurred the lines between friendship and love. One day, Zeus came to check up on His daughter and found Her in mock combat with Pallas, with Athena practicing Her spear-play. Distracted by the Aegis, held by Zeus, Athena struck down Pallas, who died in Her arms. Athena, unconsolable, vowed to remain a virgin, realizing Her love could only have been given to Pallas and took the name of the Nymph to keep her memory alive. 

This song reminds me of this story. I'll link here to the lyrics because they're a bit hard to hear. In short, it's the story of young Pallas Athena coming to terms with that She has done, Her struggle to learn from the experience, coming to terms with the realization She really did love Pallas as much more than a friend, and move on as a harder Goddess who has sworn off love.

Dar Williams - As Cool as I Am (live)

The above video is, obviously, a live version. the CD version is here. I was inspired to post the live version, as so I did. The mix-tape is not for me, after all. 

This is one of my favorite songs by Dar Williams and the one sentence that always stays with me is 'I will not be afraid of women'. And I think that Athena is very afraid of women--and of being a woman. Forced into the role of a boy (not a man), Athena tends to take the side of the males when conflicts arise and She is usually harsher on females than males. It's a side of Her I often find hard to reconcile with my feelings about Her because, especially in Neo-Wicca and Eclecticism, Athena seems to be the epitome of feminism. And She's not. 

Peaches - Boys Wanna Be Her

Alright, ignore the video, please. I chose this song to round off my mix-tape with this song by Peaches mostly as a continuation of the point raised at the previous video; that Athena seems to be, for many, the most awesome of the Gods and Goddesses. She's wise, strong, confident, gets on with the boys and she's independent. This song speaks to that part of her persona and I adore it because of that. 

So this is it, my mix-tape to Athena. Are there songs you disagree with or do you have your own to add? I'd love to hear it. 
An often forgotten part of Hellenismos, Hellenic myth and Hellenic religion in general is the worship of nature spirits. This group of divine and/or supernatural creatures was worshipped by many local cults back in the olden days, sometimes more actively than the worship of the Olympic Gods. This was especially true in the more rural areas.
    The most famous of the nature spirits are the Nymphs. The term Nymph means 'bride' and although these creatures rarely married, they were certainly desired. Nymphs are the divinities of the natural features of the landscape. Nymphs are always female and there are many kinds. Amongst others there are the: Alseid, Auloniad, Aurai, Crinaeae, Dryads, Eleionomae, Epimeliades, Hamadryads, Hesperides, Leimoniades, Limnades, Meliae, Naiads, Napaeae, Nereids, Oceanids, Oreades, Pegaeae, Pegasides, Pleiades and Potamides. Their male counterparts are Centaurs, Sileni, and Satyrs. Dryads, for example, are Nymphs of the trees (especially oak trees). Naiads are are Nymphs of the oceans, Oreads are nymphs of the mountains and Epimeliades, for example, protect flocks (or a specific flock) of sheep.

    In Hellenic mythology, nature spirits are rarely featured. When they are featured, the female nature spirits are usually chased, or even sexually molested by Gods or Satyrs. What Satyrs do is, of course, legendary. It is interesting to note that Nymphs are often revered side by side with the Gods who chase them and they share shrine space easily. The two are connected and usually enjoy the company of the other party. Examples include Dionysos, Apollon, Pan, Poseidon and Hermes. Goddesses who are closely associated with Nyads and other nature spirits are Artemis, Callisto and Aphrodite.

    Certain Nymphs--Naiads, Nereids and Limnades especially--are known for their healing powers. The waters they guards are often used in potions or used to wash away the disease with. Other Nymphs are known for their ability to gift the supplicant with prophetic powers. Those thus touched by a Nymph are called Nympholepts. Nympholepts were on the fringes of society in ancient Hellas but it were these men and women who tended the shrines for the Nymphs; an important task. Nympholept has several meanings; it can be someone who has prophetic powers, as gifted by Nymphs, like just discussed. It was also used as a term to describe those who were seen as possessed by the Nymphs and as a term for the priests and caretakers of the shrines of the Nymph cults.

    The worship of nature spirits is easy; when you visit them at their home--an especially old oak tree, a lively stream or a bee visited meadow--you can leave them offerings. Suitable offerings are a bit of water from your flask, shiny things like coins or honey. Especially honey is closely related to nature spirits--Nymphs in particular--as they were often assumed to taken the form of bees to interact with us. 

    A certain animistic worldview can be seen in the worship of nature spirits. It's one of the major links between Paganism and Hellenismos and yet, very few Hellenics actively partake in this type of worship or use it as a bridge. When I was young, I used to talk to trees and bushes. The rustling in the leaves reminded me of words. When I discovered Paganism, I made connections with trees or areas I felt were inhabited with something more than organic matter. I was never much of a tree hugger in the new age sense, but I know that some natural features are home to beings who are worthy of our respect. I will make the worship of nature spirits an active part of my practice and I hope others do as well; if not to honor these beings than to bridge the gap between Paganism and Hellenismos. That might be more important than we realize. 
    I need to start this post on my difficulties with a specific aspect of Hellenismos with a bit of background on my life. I was raised in the Netherlands, a country with an--at best--neutral attitude towards the army and combat. When a vote comes up for our involvement in a war over here, the odds are about even we will or will not participate. If we do participate, it's always for peace missions. The Netherlands saw heavy action in both World Wars and I think everyone has their belly full of them. We have very little warrior spirit.

    I was raised in a household which actively opposed war. My dad refused service and participated in protest marches against the army and Dutch military involvement in other countries when he was younger. I was raised with a 'make love, not war' mentality and now I'm an adult, I still can't see the logic or reason behind warfare. All I see is young men and women being send out to kill and be killed with no reason at all. Because no, people, not every Iraqi is a terrorist or an enemy. They're human beings, just like you. And if they barged into your country trying to reform your life, you'd fight them too.


    The Hellenic empire has a long history of warfare; from cattle robbing to the Greco-Persian and the Peloponnesian War. Sparta was part of the Hellenic empire and we all saw 300 (exaggerated though that movie was) so we know what they valued. Even when there were no wars to fight, heroes of the army stayed in shape by training's, competitions and games (like the Olympics). Physical prowess was an ideal in ancient Hellenic, at least for the men. Women, thankfully for me, had other ideals to uphold.

    I dislike physical exercise. It's one of those things I hope to change eventually but I severely doubt will happen in the near future. The most I'm hoping to achieve in the relatively near future is to practice sports religiously--as in; within a religious context. One thing I doubt I will even be able to get behind, though, is the conquest spirit that the ancient Hellens had. Their lust for warfare.

    I have read many accounts of the Trojan war myths and have seen not just men but also Gods take sides. In the end, all that came from it was death, where the Hellens mostly saw honor. I don't see the honor in murder, but then again, it probably isn't murder if the killing happens at war time.

    Thankfully, the warrior spirit has taken a back seat position in current Hellenismos. Intellectual pursuits are more important, as are the family-oriented rituals. It was something I needed to figure out before accepting Hellenismos as my religion. If the warrior spirit had still been as prevalent (like, for example, in Asatru), I doubt I would have been able to make it such a large part of my life.