Due to the Thesmophoria and the fasting for it, this post came a little late this week. Sorry about that. At any rate, I finished my fast without more than a headache and my girlfriend is very happy I'm eating again. All is well in the world. Plus, I get to have my cheesecake today! Alright, on to the actual post.

A large part of my Hellenistic household worship consists of tending Hestia's flame. Back in ancient Hellas, most religious activities surrounding the household revolved around the central hearth, which was the physical manifestation of Hestia. The male head of household, the kurios, presented slaves, children and his new wife to the heart fire so they became part of the oikos and fell under the protection of Hestia and the other household Gods.

While Hestia has little mythology to Her name, Her worship was a vital part of ancient Hellenic religion. For one, Her flame connected every single Hellenic oikos to each other and the state. All the household fires were lit with a flame from the prytaneion (Πρυτανεῖον), the structure where state officials met and where the city kept a fire for Hestia burning day and night. Every single heart fire in the city or town was linked to that central one, and that central fire was linked to the city from where the settlers of the new village, town or city came. This network of fires, which were never allowed to go out, brought all Hellens together.

Hestia is a very female-oriented Goddess. Caring for the household was a task solely intended for women and it is because of this, very few stories about Hestia were made or recorded; the male-dominated culture cared little for Her. Yet, it was also the kurios who traveled to the prytaneion for a bit of Hestia's fire when the fire within the oikos flamed out.

Personally, I keep a flame burning on my main shrine for Hestia at all times. I keep a live flame when I'm home and awake, and an electrical one when I'm out or asleep. I would love to keep a live flame at all times, but I don't exactly have a stone building to keep it in. That one's going to have to wait a few years or so. From this flame, I light the candles in my home, and the sacrificial fire I burn twice a day and on festivals.

I truly feel that tending a flame for Hestia should be a vital part of every Hellenistic's practice. A bold statement, I know, but there is so much ancient Hellenic foundation for it that it's hard to ignore. In fact, when Hellenismos gets bigger and starts forming communities, there should be a prytaneion at its center, with a fire being continuously kept.

Hestia's fire is a great way to form a community, to come together and rejoice in the Hellenic faith. When I look at mine, I envision Hestia's fire being tended to around the world, and feel just a bit closer to Her and other Hellenic practitioners. I truly hope tending Hestia's fire is something you'll consider adopting into your own practice, if you haven't done so already.
Fasting is a very ancient phenomenon. In fact, an original starting date can not be given. Still, fasting--for the purpose of this post--should be distinguished from its non-voluntary counterpart of going hungry due to a lack of food and/or resources. Fasting is the act of voluntarily withholding food from your body for a longer period of time than you would normally be without it. As today is the second day of the Thesmophoria, I'm fasting.

I have fasted in the past, finding it a very useful tool for purging my body, clearing my mind and regaining focus on the things that matter. After a fast, I am more aware of what I put into my body and of the signals my body gives me. After a fast, I take better care of myself. My girlfriend hates it when I fast, and not just because I'm a little bit cranky the first day. She thinks it's unhealthy to go without food, but regulars fasts have actually been proven to be very healthy, if you do it right. There is a method to fasting, and it depends greatly on the length of the fast.

One day fasts -- A one day fast is an easy, useful, tool which can consist of one or more skipped meals or simply not eating all day. The only intake should be water or herbal teas. Most people will be able to get through it without problems but if you suffer from diabetes, some forms of migraine or even asthma, not eating is probably not a good idea. An option is to avoid solid food but drink fruit shakes, where fruit is mixed 50/50 with water. After the day of fasting, start with light, easily digestible foods the next day but don't be afraid to eat regularly after your first meal.

Two or three day fasts -- From personal experience, day one is the worst. You're hungry, cranky and your head hurts. After that, the hunger sensation fades away and by day three it's actually not that hard to get through. It's absolutely possible to get through two or three days fasts on water only. If not, use the fruit shakes. Remember, you're supposed to feel tired and in a bit of discomfort. After you stop or break your fast, it's advisable to start with a boiled down barley solution the ancient Greeks called kykeon (κυκεών). The thick gruel is fine. Be careful with your food in the day following the fast, but you can eat regularly the day after.

Four day fasts or longer -- Realistically, your body can handle a fruit juice fast for a good few days. A week is not out of the question, although you may want to consult a doctor on it first. Don't try it with a water-only diet; our bodies aren't used to it anymore and going over the three-day limit should be worked up to. After three days, the body is at the lowest point. It's then that a process called ketosis sets in and the body turns on itself for fuel. This is where the purification starts. On the first day after a prolonged juice fast, drink only the strained barley water. On the second day, a thin, soupy gruel is best, and on the third day, you can eat a thicker gruel. On the fourth day, you can cook in lentils and vegetables as well, and on the fifth day, you can go back to your normal diet. Don't go back to regular food right away, because you'll nullify your hard work.

Like I mentioned, fasting does not feel good. You're hungry, low on energy and if you're like me, your mood will plummet with your blood sugar level. Still, fasts were used in ancient Hellas--and all over the world in modern times--to cure an assortment of illnesses. Anything from arthritis to flue, to metabolic and gestational problems, can be treated with a good fast. Why? Because a fast cleans up the toxins in our organs and blood. It's a natural purge. This is the reason why animals stop eating when they are sick; they rely on their body to get rid of that which ails them. Hippocrates describes it as such:

"Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.  But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness."

Great thinkers like Hippocrates, Plato and most of their students were avid practitioners and promoters of medicinal fasts and felt that a fast helped them think clearer. They found that the Inner Physician--as they called the mechanism--worked from top to bottom, starting at the head.

Head / Brain:  headaches, dizziness, vertigo, wooziness, lightheadedness
Nose, Sinuses:  sneezing, runny nose, itching, stinging, post nasal drip
Throat:  soreness or constriction, hoarseness, scratchiness
Lungs:  chest congestion, wheezing, phlegm discharges, foul breath odors
Skin:  rashes, acne, pustules; excessive or abnormal sweating; strange body odors
Stomach:  sour or nervous stomach, stomach cramping, belching, bad breath
Liver:  sore eyes, bitter taste in mouth, sallow complexion, pain or distension under the ribs on the right side
Gall Bladder:  colic, spasm, tenderness or pain underneath the liver area
Intestines:  foul smelling gas, cramping, diarrhea, spastic colon or irritable bowel
Kidneys:  low back pain and weakness, fatigue; frequent urination, often urgent; strongly colored or smelling urine

Now, none of this sounds very appealing, I get that, but the body undergoes these effects because of the pent up toxins in our system, not because it's struggling with the lack of food; mammals are incredibly capable of dealing with a lack of nutrients.

It should be noted, though, that our bodies have grown unaccustomed to being without anything. We overfeed it, often with a lot of junk, and listen to its every single signal of want. The people who lived in ancient Hellas--and also before that--were used to going without. Not only did they fast regularly for religious and medicinal purposes, but the amount of food there was to go around relied upon the Gods. In a bad year, there simply wasn't enough food to quench every hunger. For the ancient Hellenes, a one day fast was peanuts, while I'm writing this with a growling tummy and a huge need to go to bed.

Fasting is a beautiful practice and I feel it should be a regular part of the Hellenic Tradition, but it's important to listen to your body before even attempting it. A short fast should only be done when your body needs it or, in this case, when your body is in a good enough shape to do it for a religious festival. If not, cheat a little and use the fruit shakes. If that's also too much, pick something else you love to go without; if you smoke, vow to go without cigarettes for the day, if you're a big coffee drinker, give it up for the duration of your 'fast'.

Longer fasts should only be attempted when the temperature is not to hot or too cold; climate control within the body takes a lot of effort and will make fasting infinitely harder. Fasting is a practice that's reserved for healthy adults and non-pregnant women. It's not suitable for children, the elderly, pregnant women or anyone with medical or psychological conditions which may be triggered by a lack of food. If you're struggling with eating disorders or anything else that may be triggered by a fast, pick something that does not involve food or drink, like electronic devices. Go through the day without using a cell phone, your computer, the radio or the T.V.. Especially in a religious setting, it's the 'going without' part that matters most.

I'll get through my fast just fine, including making dinner for my girlfriend tonight. I've done it before and it's never a problem. I like the hunger I feel and the amount of willpower it takes not to nibble on the leftover cheesecake in the fridge. It helps to bring me closer to my religion, the ancient Hellenes and myself. Tomorrow, I get to celebrate and eat that cheesecake, but today, I grieve with Demeter over the loss of Her daughter and I remember a time when people went without food because Demeter had not shared Her secrets yet. Today, I sit on that hill, surrounded by women, and am brought closer to my Gods and my community by the hunger we share. Today, I fast, out of love, and gratitude.
I think I mentioned before that priesthood in ancient Hellas was a lot different from priesthood as we understand it now. In the modern (Pagan) interpretation, priests serve a mostly spiritual role; they serve the religious community as a vessel for or to a God or Goddess. The primary tasks of a modern day priest(ess) seem to be to serve the community, to spread the gospel of the God(ess) in question and to offer access to the God(dess) in question.

In ancient Hellas, the role of priest(ess) was a largely temporary, governmental, function. The profession of priest could be bought, and usually only lasted a few years at best. Minding a temple was almost exactly like minding a house; clean-up, clean-up, clean-up. In fact, religious celebrations weren't led by the priest(ess), but by the magistrate or other high ranking government official. The sole task of the priest(ess) was the animal sacrifice, but that was vitally important.

During most festivals, an animal was sacrificed. It was the job of the priest(ess) to pick out the animal, lead it to the altar and bless the animal. Especially the latter was a job only a priest(ess) could perform, because they were especially well versed in liturgy, and because a failure to preform the exact rites would result in a failure of the sacrifice.

After the blessing, the priest(ess) would slaughter the animal, skin it, cut it up and distribute the meat between the altar and the participants. He or she would see to it that the meat was cooked up properly and divided fairly, although he or she might leave the actual butchering and cooking to the mageiroi, ritual helpers.

What stands out from this practice is that the priest(ess) is not a representative of the Gods, but of the supplicants. Because of this, his or her presence during the ritual was indispensable. Because of their dual task, the ancient Hellens used two words to describe priests: hiereus, meaning 'sacrificer', and arètèr, meaning 'supplicant'. One of the most beautiful examples of a sacrefice comes from Hómēros. In the Illias, we find this:

"Meanwhile Odysseus had touched at Chryse, bearing the sacrifice. Entering the deep harbour, they furled the sail and stowed it in the black ship, dropped the mast by lowering the forestays, and rowed her to her berth. Then they cast out the anchor stones, made fast the hawsers, and leapt on shore. Next, the offering of cattle for far-striking Apollo was disembarked, and Chryses’ daughter landed from the sea-going boat. It was Odysseus, that man of resource, who led her to the altar, and handed her to her dear father, saying: ‘Chryses, our leader Agamemnon commanded me to return your daughter, and make holy sacrifice to Phoebus for all the Greeks, and propitiate your lord Apollo, who has brought the Argives pain and mourning.’ With this, he handed her to her father who joyfully clasped her in his arms.

Swiftly now they tethered the offering of cattle around the well-built altar, rinsed their hands and took handfuls of sacrificial barley grains. Then Chryses raised his arms and prayed on their behalf: ‘Hear me, God of the Silver Bow, protector of Chryse and holy Cilla, lord of Tenedos. Just as once before when I prayed to you, you honoured me and struck the Achaeans a fierce blow, so grant my new plea, and avert this dreadful scourge from the Danaans.’ So he prayed, and Apollo listened.

When they had offered their petition and scattered grains of barley, they drew back the victims’ heads, slit their throats and flayed them. Then they cut slices from the thighs, wrapped them in layers of fat, and laid raw meat on top. These the old man burnt on the fire, sprinkling over them a libation of red wine, while the young men stood by, five-pronged forks in their hands. When the thighs were burnt and they had tasted the inner meat, they carved the rest in small pieces, skewered and roasted them through, then drew them from the spits. Their work done and the meal prepared, they feasted and enjoyed the shared banquet, and when they had quenched their first hunger and thirst, the young men filled the mixing-bowls to the brim with wine and pouring a few drops first into each cup as a libation served the gathering. All that day the Achaeans made music to appease the god, singing the lovely paean, praising the god who strikes from afar; while he listened with delight."

In this beautiful written piece, Chryses is a priest of Apollon. He had previously begged Apollon to curse those who had taken his daughter, but performed the proper rites to Apollon to appease him as his daughter was returned to him.

There were other tasks a priest(ess) or the mageiroi performed. Depending on the temple, examples include oracular practices, the singing of oracles (usually by a thespiode), and dancers (especially for Artemis and Kybele, known as melissai).

Priests and priestesses were drawn from almost every hierarchical position, but mostly came from royalty. Still, coming from high birth was not enough. The priest(ess) had to be without deformities and if they were of particular beauty, they had a better chance of filling the position. Votes or lots are cast in order to choose the right priest(ess) for the temple at that time. 

Clergy lived 'off of the altar'; from every sacrifice, they received a large, good, piece of meat. For their services, they often received extra gifts of bread, other baked goods, and wine for the libations. As a counter, the priest(ess) brought the wood, oil and honey for the sacrifice, but these were paid back to the temple with interest. This practice led to a society where temples slowly accumulated wealth and could expand, bringing prosperity to the city or town around it.

As modern Hellenics, we need to decide where we will place priests and priestesses in our hierarchy. Which tasks will they be charged with? Will we add animal sacrifice to our practice? How will be pick our clerics, then? Will our priesthood be automatically made up by those who are legally allowed to sacrifice these animals, or would they have needed to build a physical temple? If so, will we sustain these priests and priestesses with gifts or money, or will we only make use of them at festivals and leave them a nine to five job to fend for themselves? How many clerics do we need and for how large a group do we need them? These are the questions that come to mind when thinking about priesthood in a modern Hellenic context. I have no answers for these, although I have my preferences. I would love to hear about yours. 
It's one of those day where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and although I had a post planned on priesthood, it will have to wait until tomorrow. It is what it it. As a consolation prize, I'd like to share an older BBC documentary about ancient Hellenic civilization, which offers a unique perspective of the influence of ancient Hellenic civilization on modern civilization.

From the description: 'the ancient Greek civilisation flourished for about a thousand years, not as a unified country but rather as a loose association of city states, both on the mainland of Greece and elsewhere around the Mediterranean. The philosopher Plato described the states as being like a series of frogs sitting around a pond. Although the Greeks drew on the ideas of various earlier civilisations, they were the people who, more than any other, handed down to us the foundations of our democracy, our notions of ethics and justice, our science, our mathematics and our music.

But perhaps their most amazing invention is the first known computer. This was a small box stuffed with cogs and moving parts all skilfully made and by turning a handle it would display the movements of planets to an astonishing degree of accuracy -in fact it was a planetarium.'


In the spirit of sharing more about the Hellenic festivals, I'm combining two of the coming ones in this post; three if you count a reference to a past one I hadn't talked about yet. Like I said on Sunday, I really only pay special attention to the festivals that resonate with me. This is not picking-and-choosing--because I try to at least offer libations to the stars of every single festival--but simply a matter of practicality.

I have to accept that I am a solitary Hellenic, which is a bit of an oxymoron. Like being a solitary Wiccan, being a solitary Hellenic is really not possible. Hellenismos is a community religion, like most of the Recon Traditions. Yes, you can focus solely on household worship, but in my view of the religion, you're practicing only half of it if you do that. The festivals made up a huge part of ancient Hellenic worship. With around ten festivals that took place outside of the home every month, it's hard to ignore that they mattered very much.

I feel it's very important to honor the festivals in my own small way, and I have come to realize that the festivals really make me long for a Hellenic community of my own. For a lot of the festivals, the entire city or town--especially in Athens--celebrated. Men, women, children, slaves, free men, everyone. There were special festivals for nearly all of them. Two women-only festivals were the Stenia and the Thesmophoria.

The Stenia was celebrated on 9 Pyanepsion, which is today. It was a festival dedicated solely to Demeter and Persephone and was held three days before the Thesmophoria. Not much information about this festival has survived, but because bits and pieces have survived of the Thesmophoria and the preceding Skiraphoria, we can put parts of the festival back together.

On 12 Skirophorion (which was on 2 Juli this year), the Skiraphoria was celebrated. It was a pretty elaborate festival which I'll probably describe in detail next Juli, but for now let me suffice by saying that the Skiraphoria was one of the few days when the women of ancient Athens would gather in public to honor Demeter and bless the harvest. They refused to sleep with the men on this day and took part in a very odd tradition: casting piglets down into a chasm where they were left to rot until the Stenia.

During the Stenia, women came together and begun the extensive purification rituals needed to partake in the Thesmophoria. How, exactly, the women purified themselves is unknown but it is known that the women engaged in Aiskhrologia, insulting each other and using foul language. To understand this practice, it's important to know the mythology behind it. Nearly all festivals where Demeter is included, recount the myth of Kore/Persephone who was abducted by Hades. While Demeter grieved and vowed to get her daughter out, Persephone was seduced to eat of the pomegranate fruit. This decision allowed Hades to keep Persephone in the Underworld for a part of the year, while she was allowed to rejoin her mother for the rest of it. While Demeter grieved, there was only one who could make her laugh: the strange old woman Iambe. For the longer version of this story, go here.

Important to know is that Iambe is a wise, cheeky, and sexually free Goddess and I believe that a large part of the Stenia was to make the other women laugh by shouting witty insults, making crude jokes or any other way they could think of that was out of character and liberal. It's a laughing day. Yet, there was also a serious note to it. At the Stenia, some women, called 'Bailers', hiked to the chasm where the piglets had been thrown into months ago. Then, in a gruesome display of devotion, the women hauled out the rotting corpses of the piglets and carried them to the Thesmophorion, a site probably on the hillside of the Pnyx.

Two days later, the three day festival of Thesmophoria took place. There was a male and female encampment at the Thesmophorian and the division was clearly set; no men were allowed in the female encampment, and no women in the male encampment. Sex was not allowed. From what I have been able to gather, the three days in the female encampment followed a strict regime.

On the first day, called Anodos ('ascent') and Kathodos ('descent'), the women sacrificed the rotting piglets to Demeter and Persephone. The remains were mixed with seeds and would be plowed into the earth after the festival to assure a good harvest. The piglets were fertility symbols, but also related to the myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hades, because it is said that, when Hades opened a chasm to swallow up Persephone, a swineherd called Eubouleus was grazing his pigs and they were swallowed up in the chasm as well. The women ate on this day, but only food which would not upset Demeter. Pomegranate fruits were off the menu.

The second day was called Nēsteia ('feast of lamentation'). On this day, the women did not eat. They recreated the time before Demeter taught humankind to cultivate the fields. It was a dark time, a time of hunger and pain. At the same time, this day was also used to remember the time when Demeter sought her daughter and neglected her duties as a harvest Goddess. This had also been a time of great hunger.

The third day, Kalligeneia ('she who is of beautiful birth'), was a happy one. The women prayed to Demeter and Persephone for fertility for themselves, their loved ones and the earth. They celebrated the magic of new life, fertility and the kindness of the Gods.

These festivals were huge. All free women, except for maidens, were allowed to participate. As a modern Hellenic practitioner who does not have a community to share these festivals with, I have to improvise. The positives first: I'm a woman and I'm married under ancient Hellenic law, although I'm not sure the ancient Hellens would have understood my living arrangements with a woman as a marriage. Still, a marriage took place when the woman moved into the house of her husband, and I have done this with my girlfriend. Allowing for cultural discrepancies, I can take the liberty of including myself in these festivals.

The negative: I don't have a rotting pig to pull out of a chasm, although I don't feel particularly negative about that. I also can't come together with other women and shout insults at them, nor camp out at the foot of a hill in Greece with them on friday, saturday and sunday. It sucks, but such is the life of a practitioner of a fringe religion.

Today, I will offer libations to Demeter, Persephone and Iambe. I'm going to watch the show of the crudest female comedian I can find and laugh as much as I can over inappropriate jokes. I am also going to lay out a piece of pork, which I will sacrifice on friday. I'll offer fresh libations to Demeter and Persephone on friday. I'll eat lightly and refrain from eating anything that could upset Demeter. On saturday, I'll fast, recount the story of Demeter and Persephone and count my blessings. Sunday, I'll offer libations to Demeter and Persephone and ask for the fulfillment of my needs; fertile soil for the end of my problems.

So there you go, three more ancient Hellenic festivals, and my way of practicing them. What do you think of them? Did the piglets scare you off?
When I turn on my T.V., the first thing I see is a beautiful man or woman, talking to an equally beautiful man or woman. I open a magazine and all I see is Photoshop. It's not easy to live the ideal, these days. Still, we should count ourselves lucky; even without mass media and Photoshop, living up to the ideal may have been a lot worse for the ancient Hellens. Instead of mortal men and women, they took their cue from the Gods.

Beauty was a great good back in ancient Hellas. Physical prowess, good health and beauty were virtues which were highly sought after and greatly admired in others. In fact, those who possessed these traits, were considered blessed by the Gods. In a society of strict gender roles, many traits were valued for both men and women; physical beauty, for one. Clear thought, another. The ability to speak eloquently and convincingly, a third. Odysseus says to Euryalus:

"How true it is that the Gods seldom grace men equally with their gifts, of mind, form or speech. One man is meagre in appearance, but the gods crown his words with beauty, and men delight in him as he speaks sweetly in modest eloquence, conspicuous in a crowd, and looked on like a god as he crosses the city. Another seems an immortal, but his words lack grace."

All these traits are called arête (ἀρετή): the act of living up to one's full potential. It is linked to knowledge and wisdom, mental attributes which, in turn, influenced physical ones. Possessing the mental capacity to solve any situation, either through beauty, guile, inspired speech or battle prowess.

The term arete was applied to anything and anyone superior. It could be applied to an exceptionally well crafted vase, the person who made it or even the seller, who sold it for more than it was worth. A Delphic Maxim was formed around the the virtuous arête:

"Praise those having arête (Επαινει αρετην)"

For Hellenics, it should be important to take care of our bodies and minds and to develop our skills. We should be eloquent, mindful and find something in our lives which we can excel at. This may be sales, crafting, public speaking, art, housekeeping, farming, anything. If you are good in it and it gives you joy, you should focus on it; it should give purpose to your life.

We all deal with the stereotypes, the distorted views of our bodies, our minds and our gifts. There is another Delphic Maxim that deals with arête and beauty:

"Speak well of the beautiful/good (Καλον ευ λεγε)"

We hate the Photoshop, the models, the fitness trainers who advertise the equipment that doesn't work as magically as they advertised. We envy the singers who make it, the business men and women who earn millions. We do this, while we should be applauding their arête. They have the skills, the raw talent and the willpower to do what they are good at. Most of them have sacrificed greatly to get where they are today. Instead of coveting theirs, we should be cultivating our own.

Of course, this is not easy. So very few of the maxims are. But it is a worthy struggle, and a good way to live, especially in the eyes of the Gods.
I don't write about Hellenic holidays enough. There are many Hellenic festivals every month and most I only observe with libations, offerings and hymns. I don't have the manpower or time to do most of them justice. On top of that, some just draw me more, like the Kronia and the Panathenaia ta mikra. Today, the seventh day of the month Pyanepsion, is the Pyanepsia, and because it's based solidly in mythology, I am a big fan.

The Pyanepsia (Πυανέψια) was one of the many harvest festivals of the season, but instead of focussing on the actual harvest like well know Pagan harvest festivals like Mabon, the Pyanepsia focusses almost completely on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

Theseus (Θησεύς) was fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, whom had both slept with his mother Aethra, and was thus destined to become a hero. In order to claim his rightful place as ruler over Athens, he had to uncover his father's sandals and sword from under a stone in his mother's birth land where Theseus grew up, and bring it to his mortal father. He did, taking the long and dangerous route over land, and fought many Khthonic creatures and mortal bandits in the process. This was long before he would vow to bring down the Minotaur and thus, set in motion the events that led up to the strange festival of Pyanepsai.

Theseus' father, Aegeus, had taken Medea as his new wife. Afraid hat Theseus would claim the throne and take her position of power from her, Medea pressed Theseus to capture the Marathonian Bull. This, he did, but upon returning, Medea tried to poison him. Aegeus recognized his son just in time and Medea fled while father and son reunited. Theseus then heard about the Minotaur of Crete, and the nine-yearly sacrifices to it. These sacrifices were a punishment by King Minos of Crete for the death of his son Androgeus, at the hands of Athenian assassins.

Theseus offered to be one of the youths who sailed for Crete. Once there, Ariadne, daughter of the king, fell for him and offered him a ball of yarn so he would be able to find his way out off the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur the youths would be sacrificed to. Theseus defeated the Minotaur and took Ariadne and her sister Phaedra from their home in thanks for their help. That night, they slept on the beach but Athena woke up Theseus and told him to sail out now, and to leave Ariadne and Phaedra behind. He did, although it pained him greatly. In his dismay, he forgot to sail with the white sails he had promised his father to sail with if he was alive. As he reached the main land, Aegeus saw the black sails and figured his son dead. He then cast himself off of the cliffs overlooking the sea, and drowned.

Theseus blamed himself for his father's death, but was very relieved to be home none the less. He wished to thank Apollon for his safe journey and his victory over the Minotaur and thus, he ordered his men to gather all the foodstuffs that remained. This was mostly beans and grains, and he ordered the food to be cooked up for a feast and a sacrifice.

In celebration, Theseus then put together an eiresiône (εἰρεσιώνη), a branch of olive or laurel bound with purple or white wool. It was decorated with fruits of the season, pastries, and small jars of honey, oil and wine. The eiresiône was also called a 'supplicant branch', as it was intended as a thank-offering for blessings received, and at the same time as a prayer for similar blessings and protection against evil in future. He walked through the streets of Athens with his eiresiône, to signal his victory and the end of scarcity.

In ancient Hellas, and especially Athens, both observances were conglomerated into the Pyanepsia, and boys tended to carry their home made eiresiône through the streets in a Halloween-esque manner. They knocked on the doors of every house and sang a song. In return, they expected a gift. The eiresiône song from Plutarch, Life of Theseus, 22.5, goes as follows:

'eiresiône suka pherei kai pionas artous
kai meli en kotulêi kai elaion apopsêsasthai
kai kulik' euzôron, hôs an methuousa katheudêi.'

Modern Greek pronunciation:
(Capitalized syllables are emphasized according to the poetic meter)
'EE-re-si-ON-NE SEE-ka fe-RE KE PEE-on-as AR-tous
KE me-lee EN ko-tee-LEE ke e-LE-on a-POP-SEE-SAS-the
KE kee-lik EF-ZO-RON, OS AN me-thee-OU-sa ka-THEV-dee.'

Pausanias has the song:
'Eiresione brings all good things,
Figs and fat cakes to eat, soft oil and honey sweet,
And brimming wine-cup deep, that she may drink and sleep.'

A special eiresiône was brought to the temple of Apollon by a boy whose parents were both alive. He was encouraged to recite the song during the procession. By the Classical Period an eiresione was hung over almost every door in Athens and remained here a full year before being replaced by a new one.

The sacrifice to Apollon was upheld for a long while as well. The ship Theseus used on his return from Crete to Athens was kept in the Athenian harbor as a memorial for several centuries. It was maintained and kept in proper shape. Often, this meant replacing parts of the ship, a practice which led to the question if the ship could still ethically be called the ship of Theseus after so much of it had been replaced. This dilemma became known as the 'Ship of Theseus paradox'. 

At any rate, the ship was sailed out to the island of Delos--which housed a sanctuary of Apollon--yearly after Theseus' return. To ensure the sanctity of the sacrifice, executions were not allowed to take place during the weeks it took to sail to Delos and back.

For modern Hellenists, the Pyanepsia is a fun festival to celebrate. It's encouraged to make your own eiresiône and hang it over your door. This is also a fun holiday to do with kids, as he or she can make their own eiresiône and sing the song to get a gift from the parents or anyone else in the community. For the more serious part, the eiresiône can be brought to the shrine of Apollon or the main shrine and laid down or set near it while you or the chosen kurios offers a mixture of beans and grains to Apollon before a meal of beans, grains and fruits is eaten. This mixture of beans is called a panspermia and here is a good recipe. What's important is that you don't eat meat on this day, both in respect to Theseus' left over food stock and the fact that no executions were allowed to take place. Another tradition could be the retelling of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur afterwards, or a storyteller could recount any of his other victories. 

I like the uplifting nature of the Pyanepsia, and the fact that it is a true family festival. It's light and fun, while appreciating life and the Theoi for providing enough food to keep us alive. I'll be offering my beans and grains sacrifice to Apollon today, and I'll try and recite the song as I approach my shrine. I'll refrain from eating meat, although a bean meal is not in the cards today. I'll also enjoy the company of family and the warmth of my home. Above all, I'll thank the Theoi for all I have received and for what I may yet receive. I wish you all a blessed Pyanepsia!
Like the Pentagram of Wicca and Witchcraft, and the Mjölnir of Asatru, Hellenismos has its own symbols. Symbols are used for a couple of reasons; identification, for one. When I see someone wearing a pentagram, I almost automatically assume they are Pagan, for example.

Although the chances of running into another Hellenic Recon are slim here in the Netherlands, I am invested in the symbols of Hellenismos none the less. But what are they? Besides the obvious representations of the Theoi, there are a few, but we'll look into the Theoi first. Most Hellenic Gods and Goddesses are associated with a specific animal or item. Wearing Their favored symbols on a necklace of bracelet is a good way to feel closer to Them. From myth, this is a (non-exhaustive) list of the Theoi and their favored animals.

Amphitrite: Dolphin, Seal, fish
Aphrodite: Dove, Sparrow, Swan, Myrtle
Apollon: Crow, Dolphin, Laurel, Lyre
Ares: Vulture, Dog
Artemis: Stag, Moon, Cypress, Rabbit
Athena: Owl, Shield, and Olive Branch
Demeter: Horse and Swine
Dionysos: Leopard, Lynx, Serpeant, Bull, Goat, Donkey and Dolphin
Eros: Hare
Hades: Helmet, Metals, Jewels, Screech Owl
Helios: Rooster and white Horse
Hēphaistos: Fire, Blacksmith’s Hammer, Anvil
Hera: Peacock, Cow
Herakles: Lion
Hermes: Wand, Winged Sandals, Winged Helmet
Hestia: Fire, Swine
Pan: Goat, Sheep, Deer
Persephone: Screech Owl, Baby Chick, Hare
Poseidon: Trident, Horse, Bull
Psyche: Butterfly
Rhea: Lion
Zeus: Eagle, Aegis, Swan, Thunderbolt

As for the Hellenic Tradition itself, it doesn't have a universal one (yet). The ancient Hellenes never had one, so there are some in Hellenismos that vehemently refuse to adopt a symbol. Of course, back in the day, there was no alternative religion and there were no other Gods to worship. Symbols are used to differentiate and thus, I feel we need one. While the discussion goes on, there are a couple of symbols that could be used to represent Hellenismos. In the running are: the laurel wreath, the lightning bolt, the kithara, the cadaceus, the 'phi' symbol and the dodecagram.

The (Laurel) Wreath:
The wreath, which is already used by a number of Hellenic organization, has a strong link to Hellenic practice in ancient Hellas. For one, wreaths were often prices for winning a match, race or other sporting event. The Olympics, for instance. Especially wreaths designed with twelve sets of leaves, one for each major Olympic God(dess) would serve the purpose well. Unfortunately, a wreath is hard to draw, making it a less fortunate choice for a symbol.

The Lightning Bolt:
It's the quintessential weapon of Zeus, and everyone with a cursory knowledge of Hellenic mythology will instantly recall the King of the Gods and His lightning bolts. While there is--obviously--a lot more to hellenic mythology than Zeus, a religion that includes Him would benefit greatly from a symbol that represents the head of said pantheon. It's an easy symbol to draw, possible to find, and already used in a multitude of logos for Hellenistic organizations. Downside: it reminds us mostly of Zeus, not the rest of the pantheon. For some, it may also have some Christian undertones.

The Kithara:
The Kithara is an ancient Greek instrument in the Lyre family. In mythology, it was gifted to Apollon by Hermes. Apollon used it to bring music into the world and thus it represents the bridge between the Theoi and us mortals. Because it was used by many mythological heroes (Orpheus amongst them) and many famous Hellens, it's a good, solid, symbol which isn't that hard to draw. The only problem is that it isn't connected directly to all the Theoi, which means it lacks a bit in the one thing it's supposed to do: represent the whole of the religion.

The Caduceus:
The caduceus suffers from the same drawback the kithara does: it represents only a small sampling of the Gods, in this case Hermes and, perhaps, Iris. Now, Hermes was everywhere, so it isn't that bad a symbol. Still, most of the Gods don't have anything to do with the caduceus. Personally, I'm not a fan of this symbol because it's easy to confuse it with the Rod of Asklepius, which has only one snake and no wings, and is a medical symbol.

It's easy to draw, it's Greek and it is linked to mathematical and philosophical scholarly works. Phi is a universal symbol of the educated mind. The adoption of the symbol within Hellenismos is not that odd. Still, for many, any Greek letter of the alphabet brings associations of frat houses and college years. It's a possibility, though.

The Dodecagram:
The dodecagram, or twelve pointed star, is one of the more widespread symbols of Hellenismos. The twelve points represent the twelve Olympic Gods and thus the symbol serves its purpose as a dedicational symbol well. Another version of this symbol is the Star of Vergina, a symbol with sixteen points. The Star was used in ancient Hellas (Macedonia, mostly) and is still part of the Macedonian flag today. Because of this association, the Star does not have my preference, but I'm a great fan of the dodecagram.

These are the main contestants in the race to win the honor of becoming the symbol of Hellenismos. My preference, obviously, lies with the dodecagram. I suspect, though, that what will decide the battle is the availability of the symbol. I would love to find a dodecagram to wear, but you can't order it anywhere, not even online. This means that I (and all Hellenics with me) would have to find someone who can make one, or make one themselves. That's not going to happen. I suspect that a lightning bolt, a phi symbol, or even the Caduceus, is much easier to find, making it a lot more tempting to adopt those.

I will remain on the look-out for a dodecagram to wear. I hope to run across one as soon as possible, but we'll see if that is going to happen. Out of all these, which one has your favor? Why? Do you have others you would like to suggest? I am all ears!
Hello, thank you for coming. Due to the Herculean effort of getting the magazine done in time, I'm taking a sick day today. I will be playing video games, taking naps and watching Grimm, in no particular order. As a tribute to yesterday's labor, I'll leave you with the Clash of the Gods' 45 minute episode about Hēraklēs (Hercules is His Roman name), so it's easier to imagine why I need this day off. Enjoy!

I'm not quite sure how I managed this time, but the new issue of Little Witch magazine is online!

In this Little Witch magazine we discuss, the Autumnal season, the proper pronunciation of witchy words, making amulets, the Evil Eye and the legend of Loki, who cut off the hair of the Goddess Sif. We also review the Sarina Star's fantastic children's book: The Magic Pica's, and Abe van der Veen's 'De Symboliek van Bomen'.

Enjoy the read!

Welcome to part two of the constellation series. As you can see, I'm trying for an alphabetical order in these but I might sneak one in if I forget one of them. Which I will. Anyway, the second sign we'll be looking at is Aquarius.

Aquarius is the eleventh sign of of the zodiac and is therefor pretty well know. In fact, it is amongst the oldest known constellations. The constellation is said to represent a number of people; for one, it can be Zeus himself, pouring down water onto the Earth. It could also be Ganymēdēs (Γανυμήδης), the beautiful male from Troy, who caught Zeus' eye and served as cup bearer to the Gods. The third explanation would be that the constellation represents Deukalion, son of Prometheus.

The latter two deserve a bit more explanation. Before her marriage to Hēraklēs, Hebe, daughter of Zeus and Hera, acted as cup bearer to the Gods. When she wedded, Zeus cast his eyes about and took a shining to a young boy from Troy: Ganymēdēs. There are various versions of the myth. In one, Zeus transforms himself into an eagle and swoops up the boy, carrying him off to Olympus. In another, he pays Ganymēdēs' father Tros with 'horses beautiful and strong enough to carry the Gods themselves'. In all versions, Ganymēdēs is made immortal and his father is comforted by that knowledge. All Gods were overjoyed to have the young man serve them, except for Hera, who saw a rival for her husband's affection in the boy. It was Zeus who later put Ganymēdēs into the sky as the constellation Aquarius.

The other option is that the constellation represents Deukalion. He and his wife Pyrrha, daughter of Pandôra, recreated humanity by tossing stones behind them as they walked, after Zeus flooded the Earth and killed humanity for its hubris. You can read the full story here, as I have blogged about it before. According to myth, Zeus put Deukalion into the sky to honor his contribution to humanity. Sadly, Pyrrha was not awarded this honor.

Whomever the constellation is supposed to represent, the constellation is very old and--as it's there in every horoscope, ever--very powerful. The Aquarius constellation is visible at latitudes between +65° and −90°. It is best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of October.
Alright, let me introduce this as delicately as possible. Over at Patheos, Timothy Dalrymple of the Evangelical Channel, opened a can of worms. He decided that, after a long flight and car ride discussing religion with Star Foster--a name you have heard here before, as I greatly admire Star's opinion--he would give his opinion on Paganism from a Christian standpoint. I read his blog yesterday morning, smiled, nodded, and agreed to disagree with him about his One True God. I left the blog post feeling enlightened, supported and happy to have allies, even though they would rather see me convert.

Last night, I read Joseph Bloch's response on the post over at PaganSquare and I felt myself agree with him a whole lot less. I would ask you to read both Timothy Dalrymple's post and Joseph Bloch's post before reading on. Context matters, and snippets don't do much to open dialog. I will therefor not post quotes from either article.

This is what I wrote in the comments of Bloch's post:

"I read Timothy's blog post this morning and I enjoyed it very much. He is aware that his own religious views color his judgement and makes no excuses for that. He views Paganism from a Christian world view, and from a Christian heart. I can understand how he would feel hesitant embracing religious views other than his own, as he has been taught--and obviously believes--that there is only One True God. He has found in Christianity what I have found in Hellenismos and on his blog, towards his Christian readers, he has every right to highlight the rise of Paganism from the standpoint of that conviction.

I agree with Timothy and Star that Paganism as a whole, and many of its branches, still have a lot of growing up to do. We are not united. We bicker amongst ourselves. We are not proud of the Pagan label and most branches fight to stand on their own despite the label. We focus on the individual (or branch), not the community. And this is fine, really, I understand. This is how Paganism was conceived and it has naturally progressed into this state. Yet, if we look at the big religions--you know, the religions that seem to have found a way to stay viable to this day--they have their unity in common. Do all the branches under the various labels love each other? No, not at all, but they (in general) don't fight the overarching label. 

And, FYI, we are young. Wicca has been around for... what? 80 years? 70? Hellenismos only 20. Christianity has a couple of years on us. And the early Christians didn't do anything the Greeks (or Romans, etc...) did not do. In fact, the early Christians were hunted down and killed for their views.

Could Timothy have been more politically correct in his post? Yes, probably, but I wasn't offended at all. I may be the odd one out, I may not have all the facts, I may be stupid, but I think Timothy meant well. He speaks from his religion, and I respect that. A lot. Also... if we want him to respect us... wouldn't it be a nice gesture not to belittle him either?"

After I wrote this, I went to check out the comments to Timothy's post. I hoped that the comments would be positive and they were, largely. There were a few angry Pagans, but most of the comments were intelligent, factual and/or emotional responses to a heartfelt--and progressive--post by an Evangelist Christian.

Timothy has made an effort to bridge the gap between Christians and Pagans. He wishes Pagans would come and find religion over at his corner of the religious landscape, but he still accepts our decision not to. I respect his decision to find religion in a corner of the religious landscape I am not at home at. We all have the right and the freedom to chose how we want to worship. I do not agree with Timothy's views. I don't even agree with Timothy's views on Paganism. Yet, I still enjoyed this post as an effort at interfaith dialogue that has obviously meant a lot to him, and I hope you did too.

EDIT: Star Foster dissected Timothy's post on her blog, and did an incredible job of voicing the opinions my mind didn't want to formulate very well. Please, read her post before you make up your mind about this issue. There are a lot of points in all posts which are real eye-openers, and it would be a shame to go without those.
I don't write about modern Greece much--if at all--because it has little to do with my faith. Greece is a mostly Orthodox Christian country; the forefathers of modern day Greeks created my faith, but these are not the same people. Still, we all know that Greece is not doing well, economically. Especially here in Europe, Greece's struggle to stay in the EU and the resistance of the inhabitants of the country is common knowledge.

USA Today recently wrote about the impact the massive budget cuts are having on the state of the ancient Greek (and Roman) monuments. According to Despina Koutsoumba, head of the Association of Greek Archaeologists, the budget cuts have caused the government to forego the annual restorative efforts on several monuments.

"Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus are in danger of falling down"

Please read the entire article here. It's a good read and it also highlights that the 50 percent budget cuts--and the possible future 50 percent budget cuts--for the Ministry of Culture was expected; the care for the monuments won't cease, although it may slow a bit.

It pains me to read that the monuments to my Gods, which have survived for so many years--despite it all--now run the risk of corroding into nothingness. Because Greece hasn't even hit economic rock bottom yet. A new round of budget cuts is on the horizon. If they drop out of the EU, the Greek economy will suffer even more. It will take decades before the Greek economy recovers from this economic blow--and by then, irreparable damage may have been done to these beautiful structures.

I visited the Temple of Zeus once. It's huge. It's inspiring. For the twelve year old me, it was something straight out of a fantasy land I wished I could go to. To this day, the effort that went into building these monuments is awe inspiring to me. The pure devotion that speaks from these stones should--and must--be preserved.

Yet, I have no solution to their decline. It is the reality of a money-driven age. What I encourage is the building of new temples and monuments: temples and monuments not polluted by tourists. Monuments built out of piety, out of love for the Gods. Stones may crumble, but the Theoi remain. They will survive this age of hardship, even if Their old temples do not. I am afraid that the potential loss of these monuments is completely ours to deal with...
I was fourteen when I first played Dungeons & Dragons. I had befriended a group of people in high school almost solely because they played. One of the boys developed a crush on me, so as a scheme for him to spend more time with me, I got invited to play. The boy and I never got together, but playing cemented a life long commitment to role playing in me. To this day, I can still recall some of the best and most frightening moments of that campaign. I still recall my Elven archer's name, Caitlin Silverbow, and I remember thinking picking an Elf as a first character was lame even back then.

I already shared that I learned much about leading a religious life from playing Dungeons & Dragons. It has shaped many of my ideas about clergy, the fundamentals of religion and polytheism. But Dungeons & Dragons--and any other type of role play I have ever played--taught me much more. It taught me how to handle myself in a group, how to graciously accept leadership, how precious life is, how giving up is never an option but most of all, it has taught me how to see things from the viewpoint of another person.

When life got hectic, I stopped role playing for about two years and I missed it very, very much. A few months ago, I rejoined a role playing website I frequented a lot when I was younger. It was like coming home. I realized just how much I had missed climbing into the world of another person. How much I had missed researching a topic I knew nothing about but which was an integral part of that person's life. The US marine corps, for example, or blacksmithing. Many of the random tidbits of information I use to impress people with at birthday parties come from role play research.

So why is this on a religious blog? Because I've been thinking about interfaith work a lot, and one of the key characteristics of a good interfaith worker is the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the other person and understand where they come from. To understand why they feel the way they feel. To have done the research and get the basics of their faith and how it relates to yours. As an interfaith worker, you build bridges and one way to do that is to provide anchor points for conversation.

I don't do enough interfaith work. I would like to do more but there isn't really a platform for it in the Netherlands. We tend to stick to our little islands and leave everyone alone. This goes for the Pagan community but also for the community of every other religious group. It sounds pretty ideal but it's not. The discrimination of Muslims is prevalent here as well. Anyone who wishes to build a religious structure other than a church will get harassed. We all like our islands too much and guard them ferociously. It's only when the islands rub together, everyone gets uncomfortable. And then no one wants to talk.

Role playing has taught me a lot, but it hasn't taught me how to initiate interfaith conversations, unless I stumble upon them. I have plans for the Dutch Pagan community but I'm a little hesitant to step further into it without decent interfaith skills. I could use some advice on how to structure these talks, organize them, even. Are any of you active in the interfaith world? If so, I would love to hear some of your experiences. Neil Gaiman said 'pretend to be someone who can do it... and then act like they would'. I think it's good advice. This, I have spent years mastering. This I can do. Here's to hoping it'll be enough.
Control anger (Θυμου κρατει) is a Delphic Maxim that seems so simple: don't get mad. But it's not about that. Controlling anger is about knowing when you can show your anger and when you can not. It means stepping back from your emotions to understand the words and actions of the other person. There is a time and place for anger, but more often, anger has no place at the current time.

Think of anger as a wildfire: once it burns, it burns everything in its path. You can try to extinguish it, but without specialized tools, stepping out of the way is better for your health. But some fires are lit and carefully controlled. The fire still burns hot, but can be guided. Their purpose is to promote life. It is this control this maxim teaches.

Anger can be a very constructive emotion. Just look at Ares: Ares is a warrior, a Theos driven by the fires of passion. He is unconquerable on the battlefield and if you're favored by Him, you will be unbeatable yourself. Yet, even Ares can halt Himself enough to accept input of the other Theoi. He has the skills to guide His anger and passion into a form which benefits Him and the Theoi.

This maxim reminds us that emotions are powerful influencers in our lives. It is easy to be ruled by them, but an angry heart is a closed heart. Anger closes you off from the outside world, and the Theoi. An angry practitioner will never be able to see the influence of the Theoi on their life, and this is why the Oracle of Delphi urges to control your anger. An angry practitioner can not serve the Theoi, yet, one who feels no passion can not serve the Theoi, either. It's the balance, this maxim urges you to find.

Anger is a hard emotion to fight. It comes from pride, insecurity, desperation and frustration. All are sources which are hard to control. I think the key lies in the acceptance of yourself and the world around you. If you accept what comes on your path with piety, optimism and temperance, you have the ability to master your anger. I've been at this for a long time but there are still times when my boundaries get crossed so dramatically and suddenly, the only thing which prevents me from exploding is leaving the situation. I haven't mastered this maxim yet, but I try.
There are many ways of sacrificing to the Gods, but none are as prevalent within Hellenismos as a poured sacrifice. As Hellenics, we have two general types of libations at our disposal; a sponde (Σπονδή) or a khoe (χοαί). Both are poured sacrifices, libations, but the practice differs, as does the goal. Before we look at these, it might be wise to discuss why we sacrifice in the first place.

A sacrifice to the Gods is a way of bonding, of kharis. It's a way of showing our devotion to the Gods and bringing Them, actively, into our homes and lives. It's a way of acknowledging Their greatness and recognizing our loyalty to Them. Practically, this means that whatever the sacrifice, it should be given with this kharis in mind. It should be given with love, dedication and with respect to the bond between immortal and mortal.

On to the sponde: a sponde is a libation given, partly, to the Deity or Deities offered to, and partly drunken by those given the libation. Most sacrifices, especially animal sacrifices, worked with this principle, called thyesthai (θύεσθαι). They are appropriate for the Olympic Deities. There are two types of sponde: one used as a toast--usually to Hestia and/or the Agathós Daímōn--and one as a general libation.

A sponde to Hestia and/or the Agathós Daímōn is always a measure of wine. It is traditionally poured on the floor, but may also be poured onto a dish to be taken out after the meal or be poured into a potted plant or measure of earth in a pot. Some people give the sponde before the meal, others after the meal, and some give both before and after the meal, as a way of thanking Hestia and/or the Daímōn for the meal.

A general sponde is a measure of wine, oil, honey, milk or even water. It may be poured to any God or Goddess, nature spirit, Titan or hero who is not Khthonic. It may be poured on the ground, in a bowl, a potted plant or even in a fire. The latter has my personal preference because the vapors are allowed to rise to the Gods. Be careful when pouring our wine, though; the alcohol can cause a flare.

A sponde, no matter to whom, is poured in a specific manner. After the procession, cleansing, hymns and prayers, the Spondophoroi (Σπονδοφοροί), the vessel which holds the sponde, is held up in the right hand, and presented to the Gods. It is dedicated to the Deity or Deities who will receive it. Then, the Spondophoroi is transfered to the left hand and a sponde is poured to Hestia first, then, possibly to the Gods who rule this zodiacal month, and then to whomever the sponde was intended for. Then, Hestia receives the last sponde before practitioners divide the remaining content between them. The ritual can then be continued or ended.

A khoe is a type of libation which is reserved for Khthonic Theoi and other Underworld beings, like spirits or ghosts, as well as earth deities. It consists of a measure of honey, milk and dark-red wine. The major difference with the sponde is that in a khoe, the entire content is poured out; the practitioner drinks nothing of it, like with a holókaustos. The only acceptable way to pour a khoe is to pour it directly onto the ground, often in, or around, a rectangular hole which was dug by the practitioner.

A khou is poured from a khoi, a large vessel which is tipped over or slowly emptied while (most often) remaining in contact with the ground.

A libation is a an easy sacrifice which can be accomplished with hardly any material requirements. All you need is a bottle of wine and a bit of ground. A libation can be as long or intricate as the practitioner desires. Just remember that it's the thought that counts, not the physical actions.
Remember when I called out for a Pagan web-series and even described some of the characters I would like to see? I think MTV and I are somewhat on the same wavelength because they just put out a national casting call for an episode of True Life, about youth who are 'occult enthusiasts'. According to their ad, they are looking for:

"...'anyone who practices Wicca, Satanism, alchemy, astrology, ESP or other mystical sciences' or those who feel they can 'tap into unseen spiritual forces.' Those who are interested in the study of 'the Kabbalah or Esoteric Christianity' are also invited to participate; the show is presently seeking males and females ages 17-29 who take their occult practices seriously, regardless of societal views. The casting call will remain open for a one year period and closes on Sept. 10, 2013."

All but the first and last quotation marks are theirs. True Life, by the way--for those as unfamiliar with it as I am--is:

"...a reality-based television series first established in the late 1990s; the show is presented in documentary fashion and depicts different people and lifestyles; According to MTV’s website, "True Life" is a show “narrated solely by its characters” and the producers strive to offer shows that are “unusual” or “remarkable.” “True Life” is an Emmy award winning television series that allows those depicted to share their lives and their personal stories with the world."

I wanted to say I am unsure about this idea but truth be told, I am actively against the idea of MTV bringing any Pagans to my T.V. screen. Even if they try to bring this to the people without going 'Oooohhh! Look! A witch!', I doubt they will succeed.

Of course, I should not judge. I have never seen an episode of True Life. It will also depend greatly on the people who sign up for this how awful it will be. If some of our Elders sign up, this might actually be pretty darn epic. If you are interested in signing up, you first need to fork up $9.95, though, because you need an account at Reality Wanted.

I would love some feedback on this show from viewers. Is this something we should be excited about? Dread? Ignore? Would you ever sign up for something like this? If so, why?
I greatly enjoy looking at the night's sky although I can barely make out any of the constellations. As a new and regular series on Baring the Aegis, I want to share with you my study of the mythology behind various constellations. Today, I'm starting with Andromeda.

Androméda (Ἀνδρομέδα) is a princess, the daughter of Cepheus, king of Aethiopia, and his wife Cassiopeia. One faithful day, Cassiopeia boasted to an attentive court that her daughter was more beautiful than the Nereids. The father of the Nereids, the sea God Nereus, heard Cassiopeia's prideful boast and brought his grievance to Poseidon. Poseidon ruled in favor of Nereus and sent Cetus, a huge sea monster, to ravage the coasts of Aethiopia. Cepheus, desperate, visited the Oracle of Apollon to hear how he could solve the suffering of his people. The Oracle told his that Nereus would only be appeased when he sacrificed his daughter to Cetus.

Although Cepheus was reluctant, he knew it was the only way to keep his people safe, and so he took Androméda to a cliff overlooking the water and chained her to the rock. It is this image that was immortalized in the sky. Androméda was not sacrificed, though; Perseus, on his way back from defeating Médousa, came upon her and turned Cetus to stone with the Gorgon head. He married Androméda and took her off to his native island of Serifos. They had many children; sons Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, and Electryon, as well as daughters, Autochthe and Gorgophone. After Androméda's death, Athena placed her among the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia.

The Andromeda constellation is visible at latitudes between +90° and −40°. It is best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of November.
The reign of the Hellenes lasted for roughly 650 years. During that time, several major changes took place within the culture and religion of these people. Trying to reconstruct all these practices is not only impractical but also impossible. As a Hellenic Recon, it therefor becomes important to find out which classical, Hellenic, period speaks to us.

Within modern Hellenic Recon, three periods in the history of ancient Hellas stand out and in this blog post, I take on the basics of each and try to explain their differences on practice:
  • Archaic Period (800 BC - 480 BC)
  • Classical Period (480 BC - 323 BC)
  • Hellenistic Period (323 BC - 146 BC)
The Archaic Period
Before the Archaic period, there was no Hellas. As the Mycenaean civilization fell, it signaled the end of the Dark Ages. The founders of ancient Hellas founded their own script, based off of the Phoenician alphabet and small social hubs began to emerge. Because the land they lived on was divided into islands, or intercut with mountains, many of these hubs were self-governed. Many wars were fought over the next 300 years or so, as the cities Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes tried to expand their land, work force and supply of raw materials.

As the population grew, the territory was expanded and colonies were set up as far as Magna Graecia (Southern Italy and Sicily) and Asia Minor. This expansion reigned in an age of tentative stability and economic prosperity. There was a lot of trade between the core cities and the settlements on the edges of the domain. It was during this time, democracy was created to arrange the rule of the city of Athens.

For Hellenic religion, this age was a formative age. Gilbert Murray in his 'Five Stages of Greek Religion' describes how the various tribes of the Dark Ages brought their Gods with them as they traveled the land and settled in different places. Various Gods with overlapping domains were worshipped in different parts of the region, forming a cohesive but unstructured whole. There are varying incarnations of Gods and Goddesses and their abilities and strength vary greatly across the land.

Hellenics who operate mostly from sources within this time period have the difficult (and often ungrateful) task of reconstructing a period which was largely unformed and ever-evolving. There is a smorgasbord of religious choices to make, all of which will greatly influence their practice. Specifying a region or at least a tribe, may hep forming a daily practice greatly.

The Classical Period
The Classical period is the best know period. Most of what we know about ancient Hellas is from this period. The Classical period was the foundation of modern Western politics, architecture, scientific thought, literature, and philosophy. It was also the age of Athens; most of what we still know about ancient Hellas comes from records from this city who was at its greatest during the two centuries of the Classical period.

Many wars were also fought during this age, the most famous being the Persian war. Although Athens struggled through the wars and a temporary rule under Sparta, many issues settled and solidified during these two centuries. Democracy became well-defined and the major temples were built. This is the age of Herodotos, Euripides, Socrates and Plato. This is also the age in which Alexander the Great came to power.

This was also the Age of the Olympians. Many of the old Gods got merged into single personas with different epithets to accommodate local worship. This more unified faith was introduced to many of the city states and although it was never a unified whole, this was the closest the ancient Hellenic religion ever got to being a solidified faith.

For the modern Hellenic, operating in this time period is relatively easy. There wasn't a completely unified faith to draw from but there are many records from Athens that date back to this period, giving us precious clues about procedures, daily worship, life with the Gods and this high time of Hellas.

The Hellenistic Period
At the start of the Hellenic period, ancient Hellas was at its largest. Alexander the Great had conquered lands as far as Asia Minor, Assyria, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Media, Persia, and parts of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the steppes of central Asia. The term 'Hellenistic', as applied to this time period is a modern invention, dating back to the mid-19th century. It is defined by the 'Hellenisation' of the conquered lands, something that succeeded only partially, although all areas fell under the Hellenic nation. It is offset by 'Hellenic', which describes Greek culture in its native form.

After Alexander the Great died, there was no logical successor. He left his empire to 'the strongest' and thus his generals fought a forty year battle which resulted in four major domains. Next to those four, much of mainland Hellas and the Hellenic islands remained at least nominally independent, although often dominated by Macedon. the four domains, called dynasties, were:
  • The Antigonid dynasty in Macedon and central Hellas;
  • The Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt based at Alexandria;
  • The Seleucid dynasty in Syria and Mesopotamia based at Antioch;
  • The Attalid dynasty in Anatolia based at Pergam
For modern Hellenics, this is important because all four dynasties developed differently from this point on. Most reconstruction based in this period is focussed on the Antigonid dynasty, but those who feel a draw to both the Hellenic and Kemetic pantheons might find a suitable home in the Ptolemaic dynasty.

The Hellenistic period ended with the rule of Rome over many former Hellenic territories. Both the lands and Gods were integrated into the Roman dynasty. It signaled the end of the Hellenic world as it had stood for centuries.

It may be obvious from this write-up, as well as the general tone of this blog, that I'm a follower of the Classical period. It's the age of Gods, an age where the philosophers held sway, but not as much as the poets. It's the most 'romantic' of the periods, the age in which the power of the Olympians was fragmented but universal none the less. The age of epithets and  unquenchable potential. I have love for the other periods as well, but not as deep as for the Classical period. Where does your heart lie?
Today, I am teaching my mother how to use a smartphone, so I'm afraid I'll need all the time I can get. I promise that tomorrow, you will all get to read a big post on something ancient Greek/Hellenic Recon. These last few days have been crazy. To distract you from my obvious lack of awesome posts, I will now attempt to show you shiny Hellenic jewelry made by Etsy shop Esma Designs' owner. Check out their full collection here and for only the Greek stuff, go here. I am unaffiliated with this shop and the person running it; I simple adore everything they sell there. The words of the creator have been added to the picture of the item. A huge thanks to Thorn for bringing this to my attention!

"This 2.25" hefty copper disc is hand-stamped in a spiraling whirlpool fashion with the Homeric Hymn to Poseidon, god of the sea, earthquakes, horses, and protector of sailors (minus Odysseus...read the Odyssey to find out why!). The disc has been given a verdigris finish to accentuate Poseidon's watery nature, but the finish lets some earthy tones peek out, further accentuating his earth-shaking nature. This pendant is hanging by a handmade blackened planished S-hook which is hanging on an 18" rubber cord with a sterling silver clasp. The piece comes with a handwritten translation, so no worries about not knowing Ancient Greek...unless you're me. Then I'd have to wonder where that degree came from. This piece is suitable for water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces), but I think earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn) should give it a try, too. Naturally, if you know a sailor or horse-lover, he or she might find this kinda awesome."

Homeric Hymn to Athena Gun Metal Finish Copper Cuff

"Don't mess with Athena. She's smarter than you. That's what I learned while getting a degree in Classical Studies. This 1.5" hand-stamped copper cuff has been given a sort of gun metal finish. I say "sort of" because it's seen some battle time. Athena is the goddess of war (the strategy side of it, unlike Ares), wisdom, crafts, and a slew of other things because, hey, she's well-liked. They even named a city after her...If you like strong goddesses, this is the cuff for you. It comes with a handwritten translation of Homer's hymn to her, so no worries. Athena, in my opinion, is a grounding and tactile figure, so I've always thought of her as a compliment to earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), but since her worship was so vast, she's a great compliment to any sign."

Apollo/Artemis Copper and Sterling Silver Ring

"We all love twins, don't we? Well, maybe Niobe didn't. Sorry, my degree is showing again. This ring is handcut and hand-stamped, in the shape of half moons, or bows (Artemis is the moon goddess, and both are archers. See what I did there?). The copper side is stamped with Apollo, the silver side with Artemis, and both are conjoined sitting on a sterling silver ring band. Apollo was not the original sun god of Greece (that was Helios), but was later given control of the sun by the Romans. Artemis took over the moon once she increased in popularity (it was Selene before her). Apollo also lords over music, prophesy, and more, but notably...he's the healer who had a temple at Delphi. Artemis is also the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, childbirth, and virginity, amongst many other attributes. What I like to do with this ring is wear Apollo facing up during the day and flip it over to Artemis at night. It's my attempt to make a little black dress as a ring. This ring is perfect for Geminis (the twins of the zodiac), but really, it's pretty awesome for anyone."

Adjustable Sterling Silver Greek Stamping Open Band Ring

"These nifty rings are very versatile in that they have an open band, making them suitable for different sized digits. I leave them ever so slightly soft, so that they can be bent (if your going to bend them, GENTLY squeeze the edges. Please don't pinch down on the center of the ring or I will be sad). These are sterling silver, and darkened to give them an aged look. If you have a specific god, goddess, or figure from Ancient Greece you'd like stamped on the ring, please let me know, otherwise I'll pick someone for you (Artemis, Kassandra, Persephone, Selene, or Circe are the ones I've used thus far). I finish the edges off with a Greek key stamp."

Did I mention all of the items are hand crafted for you? In your size? And that there is more? Yes, that awesome, and they are also on Facebook!
I've been having a difficult couple of days and to keep my mind off of the topics that stress me out, I have been watching a lot of silly T.V. shows and playing board games. That part of my weekend was awesome. In line with the web-series reasoning, I have been distracting myself with answering the question of what kind of Pagan characters I'd like to see on my T.V.

It's been a while since there was a Pagan character on an assembly show. In fact, besides witchy Willow and Technopagan Jenny Calendar on Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, I can't think of any. Zhaan, of Farscape fame, comes to mind as well, but I feel she was more 'Earthy' than 'Pagan-y'. At any rate, I'm talking more of characters with a religion or practice recognizable as Pagan.

I think I am mostly longing for characters on a scripted assembly show who are Pagan, but who are not defined by it. Like there are now parts for actors which are labeled 'of any ethnicity' or 'of either gender', there should be characters 'of any religion'. A character who is described as 'Christian' could, in most cases, simply have their religion replaced by 'Pagan'.

I talked about Falling Skies before, and the deeply religious character in it. She could have just as easily been made Pagan. The difficulty with picking a religion or practice with which the mainstream public is unfamiliar is that you'll end up with just a few, basic, story lines as some aspects of it need to be introduced before it can become a non-issue:

  • The coming out: "you are [insert faith or practice under the Pagan umbrella], you say? What's that?"
  • The struggle: "you are weird for being [insert faith or practice under the Pagan umbrella], so we won't trust you/we will call you names/we will make you feel horrible before we accept you"
  • The examination: spending too much time focussing on the practice so 'we get it right' (and usually get it wrong in the process), making the character all about their religion
I see this happening a lot for lesbian characters as well. They only have three basic story lines:
  • Coming out/struggling with being gay
  • Wanting to have a baby
  • Dying/having their lover die (or go back to boys)
This was especially bad ten to twenty years ago, so maybe there is hope for Paganism as well. I would love to see a Neo-Wiccan character of Glee, or an Asatru on Flashpoint. Maybe a practitioner of Hellenismos on Pretty Little Liars or a non-religious witch on a day time soap (although that'll probably go epically wrong). 

Are there shows you would like to see a Pagan character on? If so, what should they look like? Act like? Is there a specific story line you'd like to see? I'm curious to hear your reactions.
Next wednesday, the people of the Netherlands are going to vote on their new government. We have a slightly different system than some other countries. On wednesday we get to cast our vote on one of twenty-two parties. They range from Christian parties, to parties who fight for animal rights, the rights of workers or to parties who simply take a left or right wing approach to all issues. With our votes, the parties divide 150 literal seats in government. The biggest parties will try to come together and get a majority, or--and this has not really worked well in the past--the smaller parties come together to form a majority.

For weeks, my T.V., radio, roadside and randomly generated internet advertisements have been spamming me with messages of the various parties. All are trying to get my vote. One thing is sure; voting is difficult. Whomever we vote for will have to come to an agreement on staying or leaving the EU, on providing financial support to Greece, on putting together a way to minimize our economic deficit so the EU won't fine us, on fines for students who take more than the set amount of years for a study, and many, many, many other, difficult, issues.

I have been debating myself on which party to vote for. What I haven't been debating is the decision to vote. Because I will vote, no matter what. I strongly believe that the right to vote should not be wasted. As a young woman, I wouldn't have been able to vote even a hundred years ago... and if I lived in ancient Hellas, I most certainly would not be able to.

The right to vote, in ancient Hellas, was reserved for only a hand full of people. In order to be eligible to vote on anything, you had to fulfill a good couple of criteria:
  • You had to be male
  • Both of your parents had to be Greek citizens
  • You had to be a landowner
  • You had to be an adult
  • In Athens, you needed to have completed your military training as ephebes
  • Also in Athens, your right to citizenship could not be under suspicion
This means that children, women, slaves, foreigners and landless men were not allowed to vote on any decision put in front of the assembly. Around 10 to 20 percent of the whole of the citizens of Athens could vote. this number gives a fair idea about the voting in ancient Hellas as a whole. But despite the limited voters, ancient Hellas, and especially Athens, was definitely a democracy. The word 'democracy' (δημοκρατία) is made up of two, Greek, words: dêmos (δῆμος), meaning 'people' and krátos (κράτος) meaning 'power' or 'force'. In fact, in ancient Hellas, no one voted on a person to represent them; they represented themselves.

I greatly encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote. For Dutch voters, this may be especially prudent because the votes which have not been cast, get divided equally between the 22 parties. This means that your vote could end up with the party you oppose the most. If you really don't know who to vote for, vote 'blank'. This way, your vote gets taken out completely.

The right to vote, either looking at it from a modern or ancient perspective, is exactly that; a right, a privilege. Besides children, most of us now have the right to vote. We have a right to voice our opinion and make a stand. It may be difficult, confusing and it may even seem like your vote won't matter, but if you don't voice your preference and those who would vote opposite of you, do... well... you can only blame yourself if your candidate doesn't win, right?