Recently, I read a blog post by Star Foster, whom I admire as a person and writer and whose blog will survive any culling of my blog reader for a long time to come. In this blog post, titled 'Being Human', she questions basic life lessons, including ethical living. From that blog post:

"I’ve been thinking a lot about the Precepts of Solon. So many of these maxims are subjective. What is good character? What is good? What is bad?"

Although the original blog post is in no way limited to this question, this is the part of the post that stuck with me and has been a thorn in my side for the last two days. Why? Because my first reaction was 'you just know', and that is never a satisfactory answer for me. So I have spent the last two days trying to figure out how 'I just know' when I am not displaying a good character, when I am not good, and when I do something bad. Because I do 'just know'.

An example from my own life: yesterday, I came together with some friends who entered a short gossip session about someone who has been frustrating me as well. Not only did I not end the session or remove myself from the situation, I joined in. It wasn't bad, it wasn't hurtful to the other person, even if they had been there, but it was a bad and unethical thing to do. Even if it was a minor transgression. I broke Solon's 'Make reason your guide' guideline, and obviously broke the Delphic Maxim 'Accuse one who is present'.

I spoke about all of this before but in a more academic fashion. Today, I am writing a 'heart' post, not a 'head' post. I think your 'heart' (or the part of your brain that we interpret to be your heart when it comes to your emotions) is what tells you how a person of good character should act, and I also think it's a part of us that we are quick to suppress, reason away, or hide.

In order to live an ethical life, I strongly feel you need to engage in internal radical honesty. You don't even have to say out loud what you have discovered about yourself but when you find yourself displaying certain behavior, you need to be able to reason openly with yourself about it.

Take the gossiping example above: we know we shouldn't gossip. We're taught this by our parents or in school, or when our best friend finds out you have been talking about them behind their backs and ends the friendship. Somewhere, somehow, in our lives, we have learned that gossiping is bad. Yet we do it all the time. It's so easy; you reason it away by saying 'they will never know I talked about them', or you lessen your guilt by saying 'it was just for a moment, it's like the five second rule, but for gossip'. Yet, you still feel guilty, somewhere deep down, you know what you did was unethical. Now you just have the added bonus of the stress of lying to yourself.

What if we, instead, realized what we had done--or are doing this very moment--and just admitted to ourselves that what we are doing is wrong? We would feel guilty, we would be forced to examine our mistake and learn from it. The next time someone gossips, you might not join in, or walk away, or speak up against gossiping.

The point is: living an ethical life is like a muscle; you train it, and eventually it's strong enough to flex in any given situation. And it's okay to fail at it every now and again. I realized right away last night that we had entered the 'gossip' territory, but in all radical honesty, I decided that my own wellbeing trumphed my ethics. Besides, everything I said last night, I had also told the person it concerns prior to the gossip session, because I try not to lie about or bottle up things that really bother me.

One of the things about the pursuit of living an ethical life is that--if you are anything like me--you will find it impossible to lie not just to yourself, but others as well, even though I am really good at lying. I can lie about anything without turning red, without faltering, without giving myself away. For over twelve years now, though, I have made it a pillar of my life to not tell lies. I started out wanting to 'always tell the truth', but I revised it. Now I have vowed to 'not tell outright lies and try for honesty in any situation'. This leaves me a little wiggle room to not answer a question I would be forced to lie on, or to use my words creatively so I tell only a half truth. External radical honesty is a beautiful ideal, but unless everyone practices it, you are going to get feelings hurt, yours or the other person's

We lie a lot throughout the day, I have found. We exaggerate, use the word 'literally' too much, tell white lies, and--most of all, we censor ourselves when we want to say or do something positive. How often have you looked at someone on public transport and thought 'wow, sir/lady, you look incredibly hot today'? How about when you see someone standing alone at a party you are enjoying with your friends and you think to yourself 'I should invite them over', but you don't, because your friends might not like it or you can't be bothered, and who is that person anyway? Is there something wrong with them that they are standing alone? There is that reasoning mechanism again. Yet, the radically honest thing to do is go with your gut feeling (invite them over) and not lie to yourself about why you won't listen to that feeling. You are lying to yourself.

Solon gave the following advice, as is recorded by Apollodorus in his Treatise on the Sects of Philosophers (as written down by Laértios):

(1) Consider your honour, as a gentleman, of more weight than an oath.
(2) Never speak falsely.
(3) Pay attention to matters of importance.
(4) Be not hasty in making friends; and do not cast off those whom you have made.
(5) Rule, after you have first learnt to submit to rule.
(6) Advise not what is most agreeable, but what is best.
(7) Make reason your guide.
(8) Do not associate with the wicked.
(9) Honour the gods;
(10) respect your parents.

Personally, I sum Solon's rules up as: 'practice honesty, and respect, with yourself and others'. Anything that falls short of this mark is not the ethical life you might have envisioned for yourself. Honesty is the foundation of everything, and from honesty comes self-knowledge and self-respect, which become respect and caring for and of the world around you. And when you practice this, you will know when you are not living an ethical life, because you will have to be racally honest with yourself and admit that you have not been living an ethical life. It's scary, and sometimes painful, and it's far easier to go through life without the pursuit of a perfect ethical life... but when I am honest with myself, I know that I would not have it any other way. I am happiest when I am practicing arete, and arete, to me, includes living an ethical, and honest, life.
Before we get started on this one, I need to tell you that the interpretation of 'wolf' is a Roman one; The romans translated Ptolemy's work from Greek to Latin, and translated the constellation named 'Therion' as 'wolf', instead of the more general 'beast' or 'animal'. As such, the constellation did not actually represent a wolf until Roman times, but we are stuck with the Roman names, so I went with 'wolf' for the post's title.

The stars of the constellation Lupus were once considered to be part of the constellation Centaurus, where they represented an animal being impaled on a pole by the centaur, who was holding it toward the constellation Ara, the altar, as though he were about to sacrifice it. The Hellenic astronomer Hipparch separated the constellation from Centaurus and named it Therion in the second century BC.

Because the separation came so late, many references to Lupus are in connection to Centaurus and Ara. Aratos, for example, in his 'Phaenomena':

"The constellation of Centaur [Centaurus] thou wilt find beneath two others. For part in human form lies beneath Scorpio, but the rest, a horse’s trunk and tail, are beneath the Claws. He ever seems to stretch his right hand towards the round Altar, but though his hand is drawn and firmly grasped another sign – the Beast [Fera], for so men of old have named it." [436]

Hyginus, in his 'Astronomica' echoes this, linking Lupus to the constellation Centaurus. In his version, the Centaur holding out a sacrifice is either Kheiron or Pholus; Kheiron because he dropped a poisoned arrow on his foot and perished, and Pholus for his Gods-given powers of divination:

"When Hercules was once visiting Chiron, and while sitting with him was examining his arrows, one of them is said to have fallen on the foot of Chiron, and thus brought about his death. Others say that when the Centaur wondered at his being able to kill such huge creatures as Centauri with such slight arrows, he himself tried to draw the bow, and the arrow, slipping from his hand, fell on his foot. For this reason Jupiter [Zeus], pitying him, put him among the constellations with a victim which he seems to hold above the altar for sacrifice. Others have said that he is Pholus the Centaurus, who was more skilled in augury that the rest. Consequently, by the will of Jove [Zeus], he was represented coming to the altar with a victim." [II.38]
The constellation Lupus is a minor constellation, and in ancient writings, you won't be able to connect it to the wolf at all, especially because wolves--if they ever ended up being sacrificed on an altar at all--would most likely only be sacrificed in cult worship. It was not a regular sacrificial animal, but may have been a part of the worship of Gods with the 'Lykaion' epithet--like Zeus and Apollon.

The constellation is visible at latitudes between +35° and −90°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of June.
Remember a little while ago when I posted about my cathartic experience of clearing my Readerof all the Witchcraft and other non-Hellenistic blogs? When I did that, I realized something, something I also ended that post with: 'I think yesterday's exercise [of clearing my Reader feed] marked the end of the struggle I carried on from the time of that post [about losing the knowledge from my previous Eclectic practice]. I am done with my previous practice, and yes--I might just start packing some books into boxes soon. I don't need them anymore, just like no longer need all those blogs'.

Once I cleared out my reader and, in fact, did pack a lot of stuff away, I realized there was one, huge, tie I still had to my previous practice--one I was slowly becoming to see as a 'must', rather than a 'may': Little Witch magazine. And so, a little over a week ago, I made the tough decision to stop making Little Witch.

It was a hard decision to make, and one I did not take lightly, but now I have taken it and am on the verge of wrapping up the last one, I cannot tell you how relieved I am. I started Little Witch in September 2010. It was a way for me to keep writing and keeping up skills, like InDesign, that I'm good at but have no reason to use beyond some rare events. I used to role play a lot and that forced me to write but as life got busier, I had to let that go. Little Witch brought me closer to Paganism, forced me to do a lot of research and it opened a lot of doorways into the (on-line) Pagan community. It helped me figure out a lot of issues I had with my faith and my place in Paganism. Now, though, I have my place. I know exactly where I belong, and I knew that the moment I progressed into Hellenismos. It was time to stop.

I would have loved to hand the magazine over to someone else, but most of the work always fell to me, so there is no one to give it to. A new Dutch initiative is about to emerge, though, and there are many English magazines focusing on Paganism. I can leave Little Witch behind with a clear conscience. It hurts, though; we made twelve issues over the span of three years, and that is quite a lot. I will miss it, regardless of how little I identify with most of the content.

Today, the last magazine goes live, and I will update this post with it once it does (noon, my time). It's a big step, a solemn moment. For those of you who read the magazine, thank you for your support. It was a good ride, a very good ride, but I now--officially--cut off the last tie to my previous practice. And by the Gods, I am so relieved.

EDIT: There it is!

The term 'Traditional Hellenismos' is one I frequently use on this blog, as it is the way I identify religiously. It is also the way this blog is written, so for the long explination of the term, please review the contents of this blog or even just its tags; it will tell you everything you need to know about the term. that said, I would like to dedicate a post to it that I can refer to to in the future, because there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the term.

I have tried to define Traditional Hellenismos before, but mostly in relation to Reformed Hellenismos, and while the terminology works, I have since become more aware of the way the term should be used. To quote from the original blog post:

"Two branches of Hellenismos are emerging: Traditional Hellenismos and Reformed Hellenismos. Traditional Hellenismos refers to those who strictly adhere to the ancient ways. This means animal sacrifice when appropriate, out-door sacrifices, and communal worship. Those who can't--or will not--practice Hellenismos this way, but who reconstruct everything else, practice Reformed Hellenismos."

The definition is correct, but far too generalized. An attempt at a better definition of Traditional Hellenismos:

"Traditional Hellenismos is a manner of Reconstructionism, where the practices of the ancient Hellenic peoples are understood and applied as much as possible in the modern day setting. This method of Reconstructionism requires knowledge of the ancient ways, but even more so, an understanding of it, so any modern adaption can be undertaken in the spirit of the ancient Hellenic practice."

Better, at least as far as I am concerned, but it requires more of an explination. I believe that those who practice Traditional Hellenismos have an obligation to learn as much about ancient Hellas and its religious practices as possible. They need to be aware of the full meaning of core principles like 'miasma', 'kharis', 'arate' and 'xenia', and appy these in their daily and religious life. By fostering this understanding of ancient Hellas, it becomes possible to judge modern influences on their ability to be integrated into a Traditional approach to Hellenismos, and find creative solutions to modern day difficulties in reconstructing the ancient ways.

Take animal sacrifice mentioned above. In a Traditional practice, I still feel animal sacrifice has a place. If I raised animals for meat, they would most certainly be sacrificed to the Gods when they came to the end of their lifespans. That said, I live in a moderately urban area; all I have is a lawn and a bunch of housemates who will undoubtedly disagree with me slaughtering an animal, and even if I could, I am not legally allowed to. This part of the ancient practice, I cannot reconstruct. That said, especially near therise of the Roman empire, more and more ancient Hellenes opted for non-animal sacrifices for celebration and honoring. They offered cakes, a pancarpia, or panspermia. All of these, we can reconstruct without breaking the rules of Traditional Hellenismos.

Traditional Hellenismos is about learning and understanding the past so you can design your future. A large part of that is the ancient hellenic culture and this is also the reason why I go on and on about ancient Hellas. These people lived by strict societal rules that were interwoven with their religious views and we can gain a very valuable understanding of Hellenismos by studying these ancient ways. So we study mythology for the message these stories convey, we study modern scholarly work so we can improve out understanding, we study the art the ancient Hellenes left behind, read the works of their philosophers and poets to compare their views, and practice in the most traditional way we can, because experience is often the best teaching tool.

By practicing you go from abstract knowledge to internalized wisdom. You learn to feel miasma on you, better yourself as a human being by practicing arate, develop socially by practicing xenia, and establish a bond with the Gods by practicing kharis.

I am a Traditional Hellenist. This is how I chose--or was chosen--to worship; others are not drawn to this, and that is perfectly fine with me. Traditional practice works for me, but may be too constricting or irrelevant to others. In general, I relate better with other Traditionalists, but that it is not a nessecity by far to share practice, knowledge and pleasant conversation. What I care about is if you honnor the Theoi, and if I at least recognise something of my practice in yours; do you practice katharmos? Do you honor the Theoi with libations and other sacrifices? Do you live an honest life? These are the things I care about. If you fill these in in a Reformed or even Neo-Pagan way, I can look beyond that, and we can at least talk.

Traditional worship is not dogmatic, it is not unchangeable; in fact, because we reconstruct in the spirit of the ancient Hellenes, we have a plethora of options at our disposal, which allowes us to adapt well to the present. That said, I will not take part in meditations to the Underworld or 'working with' the Hellenic Gods in a circle sealed by watchtowers. For me, that breaks kharis, and it would be a breach of arete, and in that way, we are most certainly not Neo-Pagan/Wiccanish.

A Traditional approach needs to become part of your person so you become aware subconciously of the right thing to do in any given circumstance, according to the ancient Hellenic rules of society and religion. It takes commitment, time, and the will to learn. It is also very rewarding, and that is why I do it. It gives me structure, helps me build lasting kharis with the Theoi, allowes me to teach others in a structured and wholesome manner, and has generally enriched my life. This is why I am a Traditionalist, and why I promote it on my blog: it has helped me so much; to become a better person, to live a concious and conscientious life, and to relate to others. That is what being a Traditionalist means to me.
Antiochia ad Cragum (Αντιόχεια του Κράγου) was an ancient city located about eight miles to the East of the modern town of Gazipaşa, in the area of the village of Guney, Turkey. It was founded around 170 BC, and was a hotbed for pirate activity. The additional name ‘ad Cragum’ comes from the site’s position on the steep cliffs (Cragum) overlooking the Mediterranean coast in Southern Anatolia.

Credit: Michael Hoff, UNL
Since 2005, archeologists have been excavating the ancient city, hoping to learn more about its heritage. Last year's dig was famous for the bath house mosaic that was uncovered. It's the largest Roman mosaic ever found in southern Turkey, and was of major influence to change the views of archeologies and scholars that this region of Turkey was left alone by the Roman empire.
The site covers an area of around three hectares and contains the remains of baths, market places, colonnaded streets with a gateway, an early Christian basilica, monumental tombs, a temple, and several unidentified buildings. The city itself was built on the sloping ground that comes down from the Taurus Mountain range which terminates at the shore creating steep cliffs; in some places several hundred metres high. The temple complex is situated on the highest point of the city and most of the building material remains though in a collapsed state. There is also evidence of a gymnasium complex nearby.
As last year's dig yeilded only (roughly) half of the mosaic, another dig was financed to recover the second half. As a bath house mosaic, it surrounded actual baths, and in the center bath, another discovery was made: the slightly damaged statuehead which would later be identified as belonging to a statue of Aphrodite. From NBC news:
"The excavators had been looking for more parts of the largest Roman mosaic ever found in Turkey: a 1,600-square-foot (150 square meters) marble floor elaborately decorated with geometric designs, adorning a plaza outside a Roman bath. During fresh excavations this past summer, they found the statue head lying face-down. The researchers think the marble head was likely long separated from its body; traces of lime kilns have been found near the site, suggesting many statues and hunks of stone would have been burned to be reused in concrete."
Project director Michael Hoff, Hixson-Lied professor of art history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was asked for his thoughts on the discovery:
"We have niches where statues once were, we just didn't have any statues. Finally, we have the head of a statue. It suggests something of how mainstream these people were who were living here, how much they were a part of the overall Greek and Roman traditions. [...] The head is the only piece of monumental sculpture recovered so far in an eight-year archeological dig at the site of Antiochia ad Cragnum."
The Archaeology News Network explains that 'the new discoveries add evidence that early residents of Antiochia -- which was established at about the time of Emperor Nero in the middle of the first century and flourished during the height of the Roman Empire -- adopted many of the trappings of Roman civilization, though they lived in relative isolation a thousand miles from Rome. In the past, scholars believed the region's culture had been too insular to be heavily impacted by Rome'.
It is a wonderful discovery, but as a personal note, I have to question why this head is said to belong to a statue of Aphrodite. To me, the evidence seems to point to Venus--if you can even be specific enough to determine that the statue found must belong to the Goddess of love at all. There is no doubt, though, that the find is important and I look forward to future finds. The next project seems to be the excavation of a temple, and finding out more about all the discoveries made this season.

For more information about the excavation and discoveries of the site, follow GraecoMuse's blog, as they have been part of the dig for the last two years and have many stoeries to tell.
Yesterday, a question came up on Elaion Facebook concerning incense. The original discussion focussed on processed incense and incense made from (cow) dung, but the part useful to know for this post is that I prefer resin incense over processed incense. The question then came up on how I burn resin tears and I posted pictures of my solution. I wanted to share this solution with you as the idea seemed to be a real eye-opener for people.

Generalizing, there are three types incenses: stick and spiral incense, cone incense, and raw resins and gums. Stick incense direct-burning, meaning you only need to light it once, and the glowing coal at the end helps burn the rest of the incense. Stick incense  is made from a moldable substrate of fragrant finely ground (or liquid) incense materials and odourless binder, pressed onto a holder. In other words, it is ground up resin (or gum), to which a binder is added, which covers a piece of bamboo. Some kinds of stick incense do not have a burnable center but are pressed into sticks without a core. Spiral incense only differs from stick incense in that rather than being a slender stick, it will curl. Cone incense only differs from stick incense in form, and it never has a burnable center.

Raw resins and gums are indirect-burning, meaning they require a separate heat source in order to stay lit. They are also generally unprocessed, are not prepared in any particular way, or encouraged into any particular form. In general, the tears came off of the trees they come from, are sometimes cleaned a bit, and then sold. They can also be bought in powdered from or a paste. In general, powder burns more intense, but less long than tears. Past incense is made from powdered or granulated incense material which is then mixed with an--incumbustible--binder such as honey or a softer type of resin and then formed into balls.

Hellenism knows a lot of incense types, all of them raw; the Orphic tradition made use of three types of resins, and a lot of burnable plant materials known as aromatics. There are also some specialty aromatics found listed with the surviving hymns. Last year, I made a list of all the incenses and the Gods they were burned for. Now, orphism hardly is the be all, end all, of incese use, but it's good to know, regardless.
indirect-burning incense is difficult to keep lit, and the usual way of burning them is on a piece of charcoal. Charcoal is notoriously unreliable, however, and it smokes, which makes it undesirable for indoor use. My personal solution to this is a home-made burner, with an oil-burner base. On top of that, I use one side of a tea sieve. The distance between the flame of the tealight in the holder and the sieve is absolutely perfect for burning incense tears. Gums, however, drip through the sieve so in order to burn softer resins and gums, you need to wrap a piece of aluminium foil around the outside of the sieve. It needs to be on the outside, because on the inside, the aluminium foil does not get hot enough to melt the resin.

I'll end this post with a few pictures, and hope this solution works for you. I am not a fan of processed incense, because you never know what it was processed with. I try not to eat processed foods, nor eat processed drinks (as much as I can avoid it, of course), so why give something processed to the Theoi? In my practice, it makes no sense.

Anyone with half an ear to the ground in the Hellenistic blogosphere must be aware that Thessaly Temenos is planning a Hellenistic festival next year. The Temenos is located in Louisiana, USA, which makes it impossible for me to attent due to finances, but who knows? I might make it work somehow? No matter if I make or do not make it, There will (amost certainly) be a Hellenistic Festival organized by the Thessaly Temenos on November 8 and 9, 2014. That is epic!

Let me start off by saying that, although I have never actually spoken to anyone who is part of the Temenos, I have been following their progress on Echoes From the Temple. Their temenos is extensive, with temples, shrines and statues littering the fields, and it would, indeed, be a perfect location for a festival.

Their reason for putting forward this plan is simple: Standard Neo-Pagan festival is wonderful, but many Hellenists find they do not belong, wether they try to fit in or not. From their blog:

"To clarify, at the pan pagan event we attended, there were no bad touches and no one tried to kill us.  The problem was simply that we just did not fit in. [..] Our Hellenic Revival will revolve around all of our worship of the Greek Pantheon. Our activities will revolve around Greece and Hellenism and how we, as individuals and groups, honor and worship our Pantheon. Everyone is allowed to present if they choose, speak if they choose, recite poetry, orphic hymns, play music, pour libations, wear Chitons and represent yourself and your tradition and not be shunned about it. [...] This is not a hug the earth event. When Hellenists hug the earth, so to speak, it is to pound it with our fists and summon the Lord of The Dead. Obviously there is a cultural difference here!"

Gods, this sounds so good! People in America and Canada, I do not think I can explain to you how envious I am of you all. Yet, I wish you two fantastic days as well, because it is going to rock! On the itinerary so far:

1.) Poetry recitals
2.) Music – if you have instruments or a good singing voice, bring them and be prepared to show your skill!
3.) Competitive games – If you or your group would like to sign up for competitions, please contact
a.) Archery
b.) Bocci Ball
c.) Spear Throwing (BYOS – bring your own spear…LOL…Just kidding)
d.) Night time Torch Races
4.) Lectures and workshops – for those wanting to present, please contact Jessica Cutrer, our activities director at and she will make the necessary arrangements.
5.) Rituals – for those individuals or groups who would like to present a ritual, please contact Jessica Cutrer, our activities director at and she will make the necessary arrangements.
6.) Vendors & Volunteerism - for those wanting to sell items and have a booth for the weekend or to volunteer to help with the festival, contact Justin Cutrer, our merchandise coordinator at
7.) Wine and Cheese tasting booth (all wines and cheeses will be imported from Greece)
8.) Food – This one is still a bit on the discussion board.  We have several people who are excellent at cooking Greek foods – it’s one thing that we encourage and train our members to do.  However, given our rather limited numbers, we may have to hire outside help with this.  Regardless…we’ll have food somewhere and somehow.
9.) We do have shrines for all twelve of the Olympians and a full temple devoted to Hekate and Hermes complete with life-sized statues.  If you want to bring offerings and libations, please feel free to do so.  This is a BYOL (Bring Your Own Libations) event!

I will leave you with the rousing words of the Temenos itself:

"[T]his festival will be entirely Hellenic. The primary focus will be on the 12 Olympians, Asklepius (because we do have awesome healers dedicated to him from around the world, they have emailed saying they are coming) Dionysus (We have a Lecturer and devotee of him presenting at the event) and Hermes and Hekate our Underworld deities, to whom our temenos is dedicated and to whom we have erected a fully functioning temple.  This is not an event to represent all walks of pagan belief, but rather to represent all walks of Hellenic, Hellenistic, Hellenismos and good old Greek practices, beliefs, ideas, concepts, philosophy, music, dance and of course…WINE!"

If I do somehow manage to make it there, I would love to see each and every one of you. These are the kinds of initiatives that are so incredibly important for our scattered community: a focal point to meet, share practices and compare notes. My only concern is if two days is going to be enough! The Temenos has already gotten hundreds of e-mail about attendance and speakers, so it should be interesting... and busy. Which is awesome!

For more information on attendance, such as locations, hotel information, restaurants in the area, etc. contact Mandi Kimble, the Thessaly Temenos Komastis at

Picture propery: Thessaly Temenos
Yesterday I got an interesting question from a reader named Wendy, who has allowed me to print part of her e-mail and my response to her so as to accomodate others who might be struggling with this question. It went as follows:

"Hi Elani, I read your blog a lot and saw that you wrote that sometimes sacrifices were burned fully, and sometimes they were only partly sacrificed and partly eaten. I think the difference is in who the sacrifice is to, but I have trouble deciding who should get what type of offering. Is there a list or something I can use? Thanks! Wendy."

Some definitions first: worship in ancient Hellas typically consisted of sacrificing at the altar with hymn and prayer. Holokautein (ὁλοκαυτεῖν) were sacrifices in which the sacrifice--domestic animal, fruits, cakes, wine, etc.--was utterly destroyed and burnt up, as opposed to thyesthai (θύεσθαι), in which the sacrifice was shared with the Gods in question and one's fellow worshippers. In the case of a latter animal sacrifice, the edible parts of the sacrificed animal were roasted or boiled and distributed for festive celebration, whereas the inedible parts were burned or placed on the altar, those being the Gods' share.

Let me now say that there is no list; well, I could probably make one but that would be highly impracticle and I would most likely forget two thirds of divinities and others who recieve(d) sacrifice. I can make a general working formula for you though: Ouranic deities (so any deity (!) who lives on the Earth, on Olympos, or in the sea) were honored with thyesthai. The Khthonic, or Underworld, deities, malign deities, heroes, the dead, ghosts and nymphs and their ilk recieved holókautein.

This distinction is very black and white, but there were variations, especially between city-states, but sometimes even within a single city-state. Context was important, but as a working model, the distinction above is useful. So, why this divide?

Sacrifices to the Ouranic deities were given to establish kharis: the act of giving to the Gods so They might give something in return. It's religious reciprocity. It is important to realize that even a sacrifice where the worshippers share in the sacrifice is essentially a holókaustos: the entire sacrifice is given to the Gods in question, but as part of kharis, the Gods do not take all of it, but give part of it back to Their worshippers to sustain them and reward them for their worship. So the entire sacrifice is property of the Gods as soon as it is dedicated to Them (a procession to the altar is sufficient for that, but hymns and prayers aid this proccess), but They share it with us. This way, kharis is established right away: I give to You, You give to me, and so we sustain and honor each other.

For holókautein, I am going to disregard the nymphs for a bit and come back to them later. Kharis need not be established with Khthonic deities: for us humans, we will go to the Underworld regardless of good standing. As with Ouranic sacrifices, the entire sacrifice belongs to the intended force as soon as it is dedicated to them, be it Underworld Gods, or the dead in any form (heroes, after all, are dead as well). As humans, we try not to get in contact with the Underworld, as it brings miasma with it: miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. Miasma occurs whenever the space or person comes into contact with death, sickness, birth, sex, excessive negative emotions and bodily fluids. It also comes from a lack of contact with the Hellenic Gods. Not the actual acts of dying, sex and birth cause miasma but the opening up of the way to the Underworld (with births and deaths) as well as contact with sweat, blood, semen, menstrual blood and urine pollutes us.

If we were to partake from food that belongs to the Underworld (because we gave it to its deities), we would take something of the underworld inside of us, and as the myth of Persephone clearly states, this means you would become part of the Underworld itself. In my opinion, this is the main reason why we give holókautein to the Underworld deities and the dead.

As for the nymphs: they are a story unto themselves. We have very little factual information on the worship of nymphs. We know it took place, we know they receive libations (mostly of honey and water), and we know they had sactuaries which were sometimes tended to full time by self-appointed priests. There are, however, many forms of the nature spirits we call nymphs. Some are Ouranic in character, some Khthonic, so it varies what kind of sacrifice they got and get. Even more so, some source material (including Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles) features libations of water and honey to non-specified nymphs, but which seem to have an Ouranic character. As such, I tend to give holocaustal sacrifices to the nymphs, just to be on the safe side.

I hope this generalized list helps in deciding how to sacrifice to which force and furthers your understanding of ancient Hellenic sacrificial practices. If you have a question you would like to ask, you can always contact me through Facebook or e-mail at baring.the.aegis at gmail dot com. I greatly enjoy answering questions so don't hesitate if you are struggling with something.
Fresh from his success in capturing the Erymanthian Boar, Hēraklēs is dealing with the death of two good men and a whole lot of Kentautai, so the next labour would have not only seemed unworthy of him, but also a punch below the belt. Hēraklēs must clear the dung from the stables of Augeias (or Augeas), a king of Elis in the western Peloponnesos who possessed an enormous herd of cattle. He must do this in a single day, and he must also do this alone. Those are the rules of the labour.

Before I recount the story, let us take a minute here to consider the implications: Hēraklēs is a man on a quest to purify himself of a terrible deed, the slaying of his family while in a haze induced by Hera. He is also the son of a God, Zeus, and thus in theory eligible for apotheosis, becoming a God. In order to achieve either, Hēraklēs must, however, perform his labours with honor and pride. Every labour must be something extraordinary that shows his worth. Shoveling dung from a stable does not qualify by a long shot and his quest-giver Eurystheus knows this full well. Diodorus writes on this in his 'Library of History':

"Upon the performance of this Labour he received a Command from Eurystheus to cleanse the stables of Augeas, and to do this without the assistance of any other man. These stables contained an enormous mass of dung which had accumulated over a great period, and it was a spirit of insult which induced Eurystheus to lay upon him the command to clean out this dung. [...] He accomplished the Labour in a single day, and without suffering any insult. Surely, then, we may well marvel at the ingenuity of Heracles; for he accomplished the ignoble task involved in the Command without incurring any disgrace or submitting to something which would render him unworthy of immortality." [4.13.3]

Before he left, Hēraklēs was not aware he would be able to compelte the task with honor, but left to do it anyway. Once he got to Elis, he introduced himself to Augeias and told him he would clean out the stables, if the king would sign over ownership of the cattle afterwards, or--alternatively, depending upon source--a portion of the land of Elis. Obviously, King Augeias was not happy with this arrangement; from Apollodorus' 'Library':

"Now Augeas was king of Elis; some say that he was a son of the Sun, others that he was a son of Poseidon, and others that he was a son of Phorbas; and he had many herds of cattle. Hercules accosted him, and without revealing the command of Eurystheus, said that he would carry out the dung in one day, if Augeas would give him the tithe of the cattle. Augeas was incredulous, but promised." [2.5.5]

With the deal done, Hēraklēs took Augeias' son Phyleus to witness the events that followed, and took to the stables. It was quite apparent the task would not be an easy one, especially if he wanted to get through it with his pride and honor intact. Now, it just happened to be that the stables were close to a river, named 'Alpheios'. It had its headwaters in the south-eastern corner of Arkadia, flowing the length of the country into Elis in the east, past Olympia to reach the Ionian sea. A God by the same name ruled over its waters, and was the son of Okeanos and Thetys. Pausanias, in his 'Description of Greece' says about him:

"The boundary between the territories of Lacedaemon and Tegea is the river Alpheius. Its water begins in Phylace, and not far from its source there flows down into it another water from springs that are not large, but many in number, whence the place has received the name Symbola (Meetings). It is known that the Alpheius differs from other rivers in exhibiting this natural peculiarity; it often disappears beneath the earth to reappear again. So flowing on from Phylace and the place called Symbola it sinks into the Tegean plain; rising at Asea, and mingling its stream with the Eurotas, it sinks again into the earth. Coming up at the place called by the Arcadians Pegae (Springs), and flowing past the land of Pisa and past Olympia, it falls into the sea above Cyllene, the port of Elis. Not even the Adriatic could check its flowing onwards, but passing through it, so large and stormy a sea, it shows in Ortygia, before Syracuse, that it is the Alpheius, and unites its water with Arethusa." [8.54.1 - 8.54.3]

Armed with the knowledge about the river, Hēraklēs sets to work. From Apollodorus:

"Hercules made a breach in the foundations of the cattle-yard, and then, diverting the courses of the Alpheus and Peneus, which flowed near each other, he turned them into the yard, having first made an outlet for the water through another opening." [2.5.5]

Alpheius took the dung away in one go, and I presume Hēraklēs then diverted the stream back to its origional course. By accomplishing such a great feat, Hēraklēs had completed the taks, and had not suffered on bit of dishonor. Happy with his accomplishments, he returned to the king to ask for his reward, but Augeias would not give it. Apollodorus again:

"When Augeas learned that this had been accomplished at the command of Eurystheus, he would not pay the reward; nay more, he denied that he had promised to pay it, and on that point he professed himself ready to submit to arbitration. The arbitrators having taken their seats, Phyleus was called by Hercules and bore witness against his father, affirming that he had agreed to give him a reward. In a rage Augeas, before the voting took place, ordered both Phyleus and Hercules to pack out of Elis. So Phyleus went to Dulichium and dwelt there, and Hercules repaired to Dexamenus at Olenus. He found Dexamenus on the point of betrothing perforce his daughter Mnesimache to the centaur Eurytion, and being called upon by him for help, he slew Eurytion when that centaur came to fetch his bride. But Eurystheus would not admit this labour either among the ten, alleging that it had been performed for hire." [2.5.5]

So it was that Hēraklēs had performed such a great feat of strength and smarts, without any reward: not only had he not gotten what the king had promised him, but because he had made such a contract, Eurystheus refused to pay him as well. As such, it came to be that in order to fulfill his ten labours, Hēraklēs would have to perform twelve of them, as both this one, nor the one in which he slayed the Hydra, counted towards his total.

As for Augeias; Hēraklēs would get his revenge on him after the labours were over, but for now, Hēraklēs let him be. There were many more tasks ahead of him, after all.
I have a very short window to get a post up today--about half an hour--so I promise a longer and better post tomorrow. You have my apologies. In this short window of time, I would like to share in greater detail why, exactly, I progressed into Hellenismos. I want to share the story because I attended a small Pagan gathering last night and I was asked the question. Secondly, I was invited to a Mabon celebration last night where the main feature was a guided meditation to the Underworld to relive the story of Persephone and experience Her journey. If that concept does not raise the hairs on the back of your neck instantly, please read on to find out why it did mine.

My journey through the Pagan world started in 1999. I was thirteen at the time, and I discovered a little booklet about Neo-Wicca at my local new-age store. I was sold right away. By 2000, I rounded off a year-and-a-day solitary training based mostly on that book and I self-dedicated, a practice I continued every year. After that point, I walked a winding way through Paganism. I was Eclectic, but with a strong focus on the Hellenic Gods.

By 2010 I became aware that the way I was doing things, calling the Theoi into a circle, 'working with Them', summoning Them with my athame, was an incredibly disrespectful way to worship. Unsure of how to change my practice, I stopped practicing and became a bit of an 'armchair Pagan': studying, but not acting. I missed acting, though. I liked practicing--at least for festivals--so I compromised: I limited my work to the Horned God and the Goddess of (Neo-)Wicca, and studied the Hellenic Gods. It worked for a while.

Then, I was asked to aid someone with an issue. So I prayed and meditated and (UPG warning) felt Dionysos present Himself to offer help. I gladly accepted it, but decided on some actual ancient-practice research first, as I didn't want to anger the God who had just offered His help. I did the best ritual I could with limited information, and let me tell you, it was far from Recon. It did awake the fire in me to start doing it right, to leave behind--what I percieved as--the disrespect of my former practice, of summoning Gods, binding Them to circles and asking without giving the proper thank offerings.

I struggled with myself for a while longer, knowing that I was heading into Recon territory but not wanting to go there. For one, I wasn't quite sure if I was good enough, if I could devote the time and resources to it that I would need to, if I even wanted to be in that community, and if I felt comfortable leaving my own. I had also grown attached to my practice; as much as it wasn't working for me, it was still what I was comfortable with.

Then the Gods decided for me, and I progressed from questioning Eclectic to Hellenist in the span of a week. It was a whirlwind time and I found all the puzzle pieces slide willingly and easily into place: I knew this practice, I knew this frame of mind. This religion not only relected how I thought, how I worked, but it seemed absolutely destined that I would end up here eventually. It was exhilarating. I did a lot of things incorrectly in the beginning: I didn't have all the information I needed, but I firmly believe that hubris is only hubris if you are aware of your errors before you make them. In the end, I learned, and I am still learning.

Now, about the actual title topic of this post: there are many ways in which Hellenismos and (Neo-)Wicca/Witchcraft go together, but I personally believe there are more in which they do not. Take the example of a guided meditation into the Underworld: my first thought was 'oh good Gods, the miasma!'. My second thought was 'you have missed the point of the myth'. (Neo-)Wicca has a certain romaticism about it that the ancient Hellenes never ascribed to their mythology. I have long drawn out ideas about this, but it beyond the scope of this blog post--and most certainly beyond its time limit--but let me suffice in saying that, in general, I feel the myth of Persephone served three purposes: to explain the cycle of the seasons, to show the inevitability of (human) death, and to serve as a base for a mystery cult designed to deal exclusively with the fear of death and dying.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were not a cult for Hades in his Lord of Death role; in fact, I doubt they were mysteries for Persephone in her 'Queen of the dead' role. The Eleusinian mysteries were about fertility of the land, and had a decidedly 'upperworld' character, in which the initiates were prepared for death. We do not know this to be true, but I strongly feel there would have been no mock journey into the Underworld, at best the honoring of the dead.

I think the timing of the Mabon festival and the Eleusinian Mysteries this year--which occur on the same day--is wonderful, and I wish those participating in the celebration I was invited to a wonderful time. Yet, as someone who has experienced death and its miasma just a short while ago, I see no reason at all to repeat this exercise. It was a terrible feeling, and as a Hellenist, it would, indeed, be hubris to attend an event such as that. Incompatible, indeed, and I have made my choice.
Sin is a 'transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate', often regarded as either 'deliberate disobedience to the known will of [the Abrahamic] God, or 'a condition of estrangement from [the Abrahamic] God resulting from such disobedience'. I am not a Christian, nor was I raised as one, but in my opinion, sinful acts are acts which turn the actor away from the goal of Heaven; food, for example, if not a part of heaven, so to gutonously eat while here on earth shows you don't really want to get into heaven after all.

Once sinned, a devotee is barred from Heaven--the supreme goal--until he or she repents. Repenting is 'to feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do', and includes 'an admission of guilt for committing a wrong or for omission of doing the right thing; a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong or the omission where possible'. As Frank Stagg says:

"It is a call to conversion from self-love, self-trust, and self-assertion to obedient trust and self-commitment to God. It is a change of mind that involves a conscious turning away from wrong actions, attitudes and thoughts that conflict with a Godly lifestyle and biblical commands, and an intentional turning toward doing that which the Bible says pleases God."

 Naturally, sin has no place in Hellenismos, as well as modern Pagan religions, and yet, the concept lives on in its practicioners. I happened across another example a little while ago where guilt and fear over wrongdoing (in this case concerning a lack of daily--or at least consistant--ritual). Sin was never brought up, and this is my interpretation, but I still see it a lot around the Pagan internet hangouts: a fear to 'do wrong' that is beyond the scope of Hellenismos.

There are things you can 'do wrong' in Hellenism, but because of the way the concept of sin works, it can never be applied to the Hellenic religion: we are not working towards the goal of an afterlife. We know that we will inevertably end up in the realm of Hades, and it is nothing to look forward to. Only if you have done something incredibly inexcusable (kill, chop up and serve your son to the Theoi, for example, as Tantalos did), you might be punished in Tartaros. In general, we will walk the dreary Fields forever, while some of us--those who have done extraordinary deeds in life--will end up in Elysium, but that is a rare honor indeed.

Within Hellenismos, we try not to do wrong--or better, we always try to do right--by the Gods. They are the major influence over our lives, and we live largely by Their will. As such, fear of the Gods is a cornerstone of the faith, but it is not meant in the Christian sense where any sin committed is seen by God, and jeopardizes you place in heaven; here it is meant as a reminder of kharis: that the Gods look favorably upon those who honor Them properly. The implication here is, of course, that they do not look favorably upon those who do not honor Them properly, and this is correct, yet, committing hubris does not automatically mean that you will be punished by the Theoi; it simply means a drop in kharis.

Within Hellenic practice, miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. Next to piety, being ritually clean is one of the most important things to adhere to within Hellenismos. We all incur miasma, every single day of our lives. It is a consequence of living. We breath, make decisions, come in contact with others, and along the way, we become too human--for lack of a better term--to petition the Gods. The divide between the purity and cleanliness of the Theoi and our human mortality and imperfection, keeps us away from Them.
There are striking similarities between the previous paragraph and the first I posted: a divide of 'human-ness' between humanity and divinity, a transgression against the Gods, a typically human act... but the differences that are telling: miasma and hubris do not require guilt to absolve. There is no need to repent and beg the Gods for forgiveness: Hellenismos blows by that part of repentance and goes straight to a change in behavior. Acknowledging your error is important, and sacrifices are often given, but miasma is 'absolved' often by washing and cleaning alone, and a drop in kharis is restored by fostering more kharis.

Sin is an important concept, but it is unrelated to Hellenismos. One should never feel guilt for doing wrong by the Gods--only, perhaps, sadness for not doing right. Sin and guilt have no place in our religion, although they have a place in many of us as our Western societies are often drenched with Christian values and morals. It's important to untangle yourself from these subconcious influences to live an authentic Hellenistic life, which is not better than an Abrahamic one, only different. And the differences count.
Yesterday I came upon a fellow bemoaning the 'modern' system of grouping opponents together by lot in the sporting world. I think this specifically concerned The Netherlands' lack of luck in selected opponents for the Davis Cup (that would be a tennis competition, for those unaware). After a short chuckle, I politely told him that choosing opponents by lot was not as modern as he might imagine, and that any sporting competition in ancient Hellas where two or more people competed against each other was decided by lot.

The ancient Hellenes actually practiced many sports that didn't require lots: all the equestrian and running events took place with all registered runners, sometimes in their age category. Young boys, for example, rarely raced against grown men. That wasn't fair, even in the eyes of the ancient Hellenes. There was one group of sports, however, that did require a form of lots. There were the combat contact sports: wrestling, boxing, and pankration.

Especially from records concerning pankration, we know how lots were used in ancient Hellas. Lucian of Samosata (Λουκιανὸς ὁ Σαμοσατεύς), who lived from 125 - 180 AD, describes how lots for pankratia were drawn at Olympia in his surviving 'Hermotimus':

"A consecrated silver urn is produced, and into it are thrown little lots about the size of a bean, with letters on them. Two are marked alpha 1, two beta, two more gamma, and so on, if the competitors run to more than that--two lots always to each letter. A competitor comes up, makes a prayer to Zeus, dips his hand into the urn, and pulls out one lot; then another does the same; there is a policeman to each drawer, who holds his hand so that he cannot see what letter he has drawn. When all have drawn, the chief police officer, I think it is, or one of the stewards themselves--I cannot quite remember this detail--, goes round and examines the lots while they stand in a circle, and puts together the two alphas for the wrestling or pancratium, and so for the two betas, and the rest. That is the procedure when the number of competitors is even, as eight, four, or twelve. If it is five, seven, nine, or other odd number, an odd letter is marked on one lot, which is put in with the others, not having a duplicate. Whoever draws this is a bye, and waits till the rest have finished their ties; no duplicate turns up for him, you see; and it is a considerable advantage to an athlete, to know that he will come fresh against tired competitors." [p. 64]
Unlike modern competitions, this proccess was repeated every round. Being a bye, which was known as an 'ephedros' in Greek (ἔφεδρος, 'reserve') was considered an advantage, so if you managed to got through the competition without ever being picked as ephedros, you got much more prestige out of the competition. Due to the bye, however, it was possible to go through the entire competition without fighting until the finale. Winning that way was recognized, but wouldn't net you much respect.

Ancient Hellenic combat sports did not take into account age or weight when picking lots. The youngest, leanest, fighter could be put up against the buffest, most experienced fighter of all. That was how Zeus had decreed it, after all. As such, I doubt modern lots are less unfair than the ancient equivalent: at least in modern times, the teams are split by level, and amateur players would never qualify for the Davis Cup. Because that would, indeed, be slightly unfair.
Tonight marks the start of the preperatory days for the Eleusinian Mysteries. Tonight--but most likely tomorrow morning--in the daylight hours of the thirteenth of Boedromion, riders would assemble. They were 'epheboi' (youths) and traveled to Eleusis, and back to Athens the day after, to bring the Ta Hiera (the Holy Things) to Athens, where they were received at the shrine to Demeter, the Eleusinion, on the Acropolis. It is possible priestesses of Demeter and Persephone joined the epheboi on the journey back to Athens, and they carried the holy objects themselves, perhaps on their heads. Villagers might have accompanied them as well.

The procession along the twelve miles of the 'Hieros Hodos' (the Sacred Way) that ran between Athens and Eleusis would have arrived at Athens at the end of the day, no doubt being welcomed by celebrants already in the city. The head priestess of Demeter would have climbed up to the Akropolis to announce the arrival of the Ta Hiera, and the religious ambassadors in entourage, to the priestess of Athena. In this way, the relationship of these two Goddesses and of their two, once independent regions, was established, and celebrants became free to travel to Eleusis the day after.

On the fifteenth the Mysteries would have actually started, with a procession back to Eleusis by all participants. To celebrate this events, I would like to gather some of the more important blog posts on the Mysteries I have written thus far, so those interested in the Mysteries can more easily find the information they are looking for.

The Eleusinian Mysteries
A short introduction to the Mysteries, which includes the mythological reason for the festival and the rewards for being innitiated.

Eleusinian festivals
A summary of the festivals included in the cycle of the Mysteries. It also includes a description of the way the days of the Mysteries would have been spent--as well as we can gather about a mystery tradition, of course.

The ancient tradition of Martes
Martes were pieces of string, worn around the wrist. The innitiates of the Mysteries recieved yellow ones on the way to Eleusis.

On Persephone and Spring
A writer's perspective on the myth of Persephone's abduction.

Dadoukhoi: torch bearers
On the importance of torches and torch bearers in the Eleusinian Mysteries.

It's not possible to reconstruct the ancient practices of the Mysteries, but we can take a moment to appreciate the massive undertaking they were, and how sacred they were in ancient Hellas. I will be offering to Demeter and Persephone daily from now on, until the 23th of the month. There are also dietary choices one can make: for example, the innitiates went without pomegranates, apples, eggs, fowls, and some varieties of fish for the duration of the Mysteries. As I don't eat grains and meat (save fish), it's not possible for me to completely cut out eggs and fish for this long a period (as they are major parts of my diet), but I will take care to avoid everything I can avoid, and to limit my intake of the rest. Will you be celebrating the Mysteries in some way? I would love to hear how.
"The Argonauts sailed on in gloom. The Seirenes  were behind them, but worse perils lay ahead, at a place where two seas met and shipping came to grief. On one side the sheer cliff of Skylla  hove in sight; on the other Kharybdis  seethed and roared incessantly; while beyond, great seas were booming on the Wandering Rocks."
-- Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 921

A map of the wanderings of Aeneas, showing the positions of Charybdis and Scylla (underlined in red), from an edition of The Aeneid of Virgil, Book III, edited by Philip Sandford, London: Blackie & Son. 1900

Some of the greatest heroes encountered the terrifying and destructive force of Skylla and Kharybdis on their travels: Odysseus had to pass them twice, and the Argonauts came upon them as well. We will discuss Skylla at a later date, but for now, we will discuss Kharybdis--monster and Goddess--who controls the tide.

The ancient hellenes in the time the Odysseia was written seem to have been largely unaware that the rise and fall of sea levels are caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth. Instead, they held a single entity responsible: a monster or a Goddess controlling a whirlpool, as described by Hómēros:

"Odysseus, you will notice the other cliff is lower, only a bow-shot away, and a great fig-tree with dense leaves grows there. Under it divine Charybdis swallows the black waters. Three times a day, she spews them out, and three times darkly sucks them back again. No one, not even Poseidon, could save you from destruction if you are there when she swallows." [Bk XII:36-110]

For those of you who grew up with huge differences between high and low tides, it might be hard to grasp how the ancient Hellenes attributed such a difference to a single whirlpool entity. Well, they didn't; Even modern Hellas hardly has a difference between high and low tide; a foot or two at max. As such, it becomes a lot more feasable for that amount of water to be swallowed and regurgitated.

The development of tidal science began in antiquity with the cosmology of Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), a Hellenic philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. In researching this subject, I keep happening upon a quote by him that I can't place in any of his works, but would love to have someone source for me. It goes:

"It is even said that many ebbings and risings of the sea always come round with the Moon and upon certain fixed times."

The closest I have gotten is from the 'Meteorology':

"Again, most earthquakes and the severest occur at night or, if by day, about noon, that being generally the calmest part of the day. For when the sun exerts its full power (as it does about noon) it shuts the evaporation into the earth. Night, too, is calmer than day. The absence of the sun makes the evaporation return into the earth like a sort of ebb tide, corresponding to the outward flow; especially towards dawn, for the winds, as a rule, begin to blow then, and if their source changes about like the Euripus and flows inwards the quantity of wind in the earth is greater and a more violent earthquake
results." [Bk 2, Pt 8]

"Every one admits this, that if the whole world originated the sea did too; for they make them come into being at the same time. It follows that if the universe is eternal the same must be true of the sea. Any one who thinks like Democritus that the sea is diminishing and will disappear in the end reminds us of Aesop's tales. His story was that Charybdis had twice sucked in the sea: the first time she made the mountains visible; the second time the islands; and when she sucks it in for the last time she will dry it up entirely. Such a tale is appropriate enough to Aesop in a rage with the ferryman, but not to serious inquirers. Whatever made the sea remain at first, whether it was its weight, as some even of those who hold these views say (for it is easy to see the cause here), or some other reason-clearly the same thing must make it persist for ever. They must either deny that the water raised by the sun will return at all, or, if it does, they must admit that the sea persists for ever or as long as this process goes on, and again, that for the same period of time that sweet water must have been carried up beforehand. So the sea will never dry up: for before that can happen the water that has gone up beforehand will return to it: for if you say that this happens once you must admit its recurrence. If you stop the sun's course there is no drying agency. If you let it go on it will draw up the sweet water as we have said whenever it approaches, and let it descend again when it recedes. This notion about the sea is derived from the fact that many places are found to be drier now than they once were. Why this is so we have explained. The phenomenon is due to temporary excess of rain and not to any process of becoming in which the universe or its parts are involved. Some day the opposite will take place and after that the earth will grow dry once again. We must recognize that this process always goes on thus in a cycle, for that is more satisfactory than to suppose a change in the whole world in order to explain these facts. But we have dwelt longer on this point than it deserves." [Bk 2, Pt 3]

In general, I would say the ancient Hellenes were aware of the connection between the Moon (and Sun) and the tides, but neglected to make a causal connection. For a long time Kharybdis was the most logical of options. Another name of hers is 'Trienos' (Τριενος), 'Three Times a Day', alluding to the earlier stated behavior of the whirlpool. Suidas, by the tenth century AD, had placed the actual whirlpool with accuracy. This location is portrayed on the map above:

"Kharybdis (Charybdis): It sucks up the sea around Gadeira and furiously spirals around again. It is said that it all leads down to chaos and destruction. Priskos (Priscus) says about Kharybdis: ‘They sail by Sikelia (Sicily) in front of Messene and by the strait of Italy where Kharybdis [is], taking in stormy winds, and sucking those men in. Kharybdis and Skylla (Scylla), lying in a narrow place, are subject to the currents of the oceans and sink those sailing past. There Odysseus lost all his companions with the ships; he himself was carried away hanging on to a board in the currents of the sea.’"
It is easy to link our modern understanding of tidal physics to the minds of the ancient Hellenes, but I am in no way certain they actually linked the tides to the Moon and Sun. As such, neither Selene, nor Artemis, nor even the Oceanic Gods like Poseidon would have had any influence on the tides: they were in the domain of either another divinity, or a monster, and both were out of reach.
Hey everyone, I am having a bit of an off day and I can't get myself to actually write anything useful. I'm sorry; tomorrow will be better. Today, I am more in the mood for fables and being a couch potato, so I am sharing with you a video of some of Aesop's fables, animated for kids. It makes me very happy, so hopefully, it does the same for you.

Aesop was a serf and story-teller who lived in ancient Hellas between 620 and 560 BC--if he actually existed. No records of him were every recovered and through the years, many fables scattered throughout ancient Hellas became attributed to him. His collected works became known as 'Aesop's Fables', and there are quite a lot of them: nearly enough to read your children one of them for every night for two years.
In this video, five are told: A Bad Dinner (00:04), Sour Grapes (04:46), Saving A Wolf (10:03), The Clever Kid Goat (14:58), and The Dog and the Bone (20:16). Enjoy!
More than 2,200 years ago, an order was placed by the keepers of the Oracle of Apollon at Klaros in Asia Minor. It was the order of one 10-meter column that would serve as the sixth column to strengthen the temple itself. Months later, news must have reached them that the column would not be arriving: the ship carrying the column had sunken to the bottom of the sea. Now, the column is returning home after all.

Klaros (Κλάρος) was an ancient Hellenic sanctuary on the coast of Ionia, an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. It contained a temple and oracle of Apollon, honored here as Apollo Klarios, and was considered a very important center of prophecy as in Delphi and Didyma. It may have dated back to the sixth or sevent century BC, and is perhaps even older. It was also the site of ancient games, helt every five years. The site has mention in the Homeric Hymn to Artemis:

"She [Artemis] waters her horses from Meles deep in reeds, and swiftly drives her all-golden chariot through Smyrna to vine-clad Klaros where Apollon, god of the silver bow, sits waiting for the far-shooting goddess who delights in arrows."

Pausanias decribes the founding of the sanctuary in his 'History of Greece':

"The people of Colophon suppose that the sanctuary at Clarus [Klaros], and the oracle, were founded in the remotest antiquity. They assert that while the Carians still held the land, the first Greeks to arrive were Cretans under Rhacius, who was followed by a great crowd also; these occupied the shore and were strong in ships, but the greater part of the country continued in the possession of the Carians. When Thebes was taken by Thersander, the son of Polyneices, and the Argives, among the prisoners brought to Apollo at Delphi was Manto. Her father Teiresias had died on the way, in Haliartia, and when the god had sent them out to found a colony, they crossed in ships to Asia, but as they came to Clarus, the Cretans came against them armed and carried them away to Rhacius. But he, learning from Manto who they were and why they were come, took Manto to wife, and allowed the people with her to inhabit the land. Mopsus, the son of Rhacius and of Manto, drove the Carians from the country altogether." [7.3.1 - 7.3.2]

The Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reports about the decision that was made and the original find of the column:

"The column was discovered in 1993 by researcher and writer Cemal Pulak, and removed in 2007 by six archaeologists under the coordination of the U.S-based Underwater Archaeology Institute. Research revealed that the column was carried for the Apollo Temple in Klaros, in İzmir’s Menderes district.

“For the first time in the world, the address of a sunken ship was found. Following the cleaning process, the plan was to display the column in Çeşme Museum but we said that it would be more truthful to display it in its original place, Klaros,” she said."

No news yet on if it's actually going to be placed at its intended spot or will end up in a museum, but I am very happy to hear that the column will finally be allowed to end its journey in the place where its creators intended it to go.
The Spartoi (Σπαρτοι, or Sparti (Σπαρτος)), were a mythological race of fighters, born from the earth out of the teeth of a Drakon who was sacred to Ares. They were grown twice; first by Kadmos, then by Iásōn. While there are more stories of earth-born people in Hellenic mythology, the Spartoi are quite unique, and that is why we discuss them today.

The name 'Spartoi' literally means 'the sown men'. Starting with the myth of Kadmos, the Spartoi were involved in the founding of the city of Thebes. In short, Kadmos was the brother of Europe, who got taken by Zeus. During his quest to recover her, he was ordered, by the oracle in Delphi, to follow a cow with a half moon on her flank and to built a town on the spot where the cow laid down. The animal led him to Boeotia, where he founded the city of Thebes. Hygenus has written a nice summary of the myth in his Fabulae:

"Cadmus in his wanderings came to Delphi. There the oracle told him to buy from farmers an ox which had a moon-shaped mark on its side, and to drive it before him. Where it lay down it was fated that he found a town and rule. When Cadmus heard the oracle, he did as he was told. While seeking water he came to the fountain of Castalia [N.B. Hyginus' error, it was actually the Ismenian spring], which a Dracon, the offspring of Mars [Ares], was guarding. It killed the comrades of Cadmus, but was killed by Cadmus with a stone. Under Minerva's [Athena's] instructions he sowed the teeth and ploughed them under. From them sprang the Sparti. These fought themselves, but from them five survived, namely, Chthonius, Udaeus, Hyperenor, Pelorus, and Echion. Moreover, Boeotia was named from the ox Cadmus followed." [179]

Apollonius Rhodius, in his 'Argonautica', however, says that Kadmos only got half of the teeth from Athena:

"But the teeth the Tritonian goddess tore away from the dragon's jaws and bestowed as a gift upon Aeetes and the slayer. And Agenor's son, Cadmus, sowed them on the Aonian plains and founded an earthborn people of all who were left from the spear when Ares did the reaping; and the teeth Aeetes then readily gave to be borne to the ship, for he deemed not that Jason [Iásōn] would bring the contest to an end, even though he should cast the yoke upon the oxen." [1188 - 1190]

The second portion of the teeth came into the posession of Iásōn in his quest for the Golden Fleece, which I have described before. As so many kings in ancient Hellas, Pelias unrightfully laid claim to his half-brother's throne. He became the king of Iolkos in Thessaly, and fell in disfavor of the Theoi because of his actions. It was prophesied that a member of the rightfully royal bloodline would one day punish him, and he was likewise warned to watch out for a man with only one sandal.

Pelias didn't believe in half measures and murdered every prominent descendant of Aeolus he could, but spared his mother Tyro's youngest son, Aeson. Instead, he imprisoned him and forced him to renounce his claim to the throne. Aeson complied, and eventually was set free. He married  Alcimede, who bore him a son named Diomedes. Alcimede successfully saved her son from certain death by having her nursemaids keen as if the boy had been stillborn. She secretly packed him off to Mount Pelion, where he was raised by the kéntauros Kheiron, who changed the boy's name to Iásōn.

From Kheiron, Iásōn learned the arts of combat, sports, medicine and music. When he reached adulthood, he was send back to Iolkos with proof of his royal birth. On the way there, he had to cross a river and found an old woman on the bank of it, who begged everyone who passed by to carry her through the water. All but Iásōn ignored her. He took her onto his back and he helped her across, although he found the journey tougher than he had ever thought possible. He also lost one of his sandals in the mud. As he put down the old woman, she turned into the magnificent Hera, of whom he would continue to receive support now he had passed her test.

As soon as Pelias laid eyes on the youth with one sandal, he knew what would happen now. And thus, he devised a plot to get rid of Iásōn. As Iásōn presented him with an offer to keep some farms and cattle, while Iásōn claimed his rightful place on the throne, Pelias happily accepted, but gave Iásōn a tasks to complete first, of which one was the retrieval of the Golden Fleece, which Iásōn set out to do with the Argonautai.

The journey to the lands where the Fleece was kept--Kolchis--was long and hard, and once the Argonautai reached Kolchis, their struggle wasn't over. King Aeetes was unwilling to part with the Fleece, as it had brought great prosperity to his lands. He devised three tasks for Iásōn: to plow a field with fire-breathing oxen, to sow the teeth of a dragon into the field, and to overcome the sleepless dragon guarding the Fleece.

Iásōn managed the first of the quests, and yoked the oxen. From Apollonius Rhodius' 'Argonautica' comes the following account of the planting and rising of the Spartoi:

"The bulls meantime raged exceedingly, breathing forth furious flame of fire; and their breath rose up like the roar of blustering winds, in fear of which above all seafaring men furl their large sail. But not long after that they moved on at the bidding of the spear; and behind them the rugged fallow was broken up, cloven by the might of the bulls and the sturdy ploughman. Then terribly groaned the clods withal along the furrows of the plough as they were rent, each a man's burden; and Jason followed, pressing down the cornfield with firm foot; and far from him he ever sowed the teeth along the clods as each was ploughed, turning his head back for fear lest the deadly crop of earthborn men should rise against him first; and the bulls toiled onwards treading with their hoofs of bronze.

But when the third part of the day was still left as it wanes from dawn, and wearied labourers call for the sweet hour of unyoking to come to them straightway, then the fallow was ploughed by the tireless ploughman, four plough-gates though it was; and he loosed the plough from the oxen. Them he scared in flight towards the plain; but he went back again to the ship, while he still saw the furrows free of the earthborn men. And all round his comrades heartened him with their shouts. And in the helmet he drew from the river's stream and quenched his thirst with the water. Then he bent his knees till they grew supple, and filled his mighty heart with courage, raging like a boar, when it sharpens its teeth against the hunters, while from its wrathful mouth plenteous foam drips to the ground. By now the earthborn men were springing up over all the field; and the plot of Ares, the death-dealer, bristled with sturdy shields and double-pointed spears and shining helmets; and the gleam reached Olympus from beneath, flashing through the air. And as when abundant snow has fallen on the earth and the storm blasts have dispersed the wintry clouds under the murky night, and all the hosts of the stars appear shining through the gloom; so did those warriors shine springing up above the earth.

But Jason bethought him of the counsels of Medea full of craft, and seized from the plain a huge round boulder, a terrible quoit of Ares Enyalius; four stalwart youths could not have raised it from the ground even a little. Taking it in his hands he threw it with a rush far away into their midst; and himself crouched unseen behind his shield, with full confidence. And the Colchians gave a loud cry, like the roar of the sea when it beats upon sharp crags; and speechless amazement seized Aeetes at the rush of the sturdy quoit. And the Earthborn, like fleet-footed hounds, leaped upon one another and slew with loud yells; and on earth their mother they fell beneath their own spears, likes pines or oaks, which storms of wind beat down.

And even as a fiery star leaps from heaven, trailing a furrow of light, a portent to men, whoever see it darting with a gleam through the dusky sky; in such wise did Aeson's son rush upon the earthborn men, and he drew from the sheath his bare sword, and smote here and there, mowing them down, many on the belly and side, half risen to the air -- and some that had risen as far as the shoulders -- and some just standing upright, and others even now rushing to battle. And as when a fight is stirred up concerning boundaries, and a husbandman, in fear lest they should ravage his fields, seizes in his hand a curved sickle, newly sharpened, and hastily cuts the unripe crop, and waits not for it to be parched in due season by the beams of the sun; so at that time did Jason cut down the crop of the Earthborn; and the furrows were filled with blood, as the channels of a spring with water. And they fell, some on their faces biting the rough clod of earth with their teeth, some on their backs, and others on their hands and sides, like to sea- monsters to behold.

And many, smitten before raising their feet from the earth, bowed down as far to the ground as they had risen to the air, and rested there with the damp of death on their brows. Even so, I ween, when Zeus has sent a measureless rain, new planted orchard-shoots droop to the ground, cut off by the root the toil of gardening men; but heaviness of heart and deadly anguish come to the owner of the farm, who planted them; so at that time did bitter grief come upon the heart of King Aeetes. And he went back to the city among the Colchians, pondering how he might most quickly oppose the heroes. And the day died, and Jason's contest was ended." [1326 - 1404]

The Spartoi who remained for Kadmos assisted him in founding Thebes, and one of them--Ekhiôn--even married Kadmos' daughter Agave. I suspect the Spartoi--especially in the case of Kadmos--were a form of the 'God-born King' line of thinking which Athens was also famous for. This way, the five most powerful and most ancient family lines in Thebes could trace their line back to extraordinary men. Through the myth of the Spartoi, not only Apollon (through the oracle at Delphi), but also Athena was tied to the wellbeing of the city of Thebes and the powerful family lines. Kadmos ended up paying a hefty prize for sowing slaying the Drakon, but that is a tale for another time. For now, I leave you to ponder the Spartoi who were the offspring of Ares, and helped found one of the most powerful cities in ancient Hellas, and made life miserable for Iásōn.
As the title might betray, this will not be a fun post, and it contains descriptions of a deadly accident that I assisted at yesterday. This post, I guess, I am writing mostly for me, but there is a message of hope in there, and some Hellenistic ritual concerning the dead and death, so perhaps it is of interest to you as well. Beware of triggers, and if you feel the post is affecting you, please just close the window.

Photo credit: Menno Bausch

Yesterday was quite a day. I was making the bed when I heard a minor crash outside. Accidents are quite frequent outside our houseas I live literally four meters away from a busy road. As there is a weird curve in the road to slow down traffic, many cars catch the curb when they drive through too fast. At the sound of the crash--which had sounded more like a 'thud'--I looked up just in time to see a woman on a scooter fall next to a large truck in a way that I could not imagine her avoiding the back wheel of said truck. I hurried into my shoes and ran outside. On the front porch was a housemate and friend--we'll call him 'Bob'--who had heard the crash and followed me out onto the road when I told him it was bad.

When we rounded the driveway onto the street, we saw a fallen scooter and a figure lying on the road, not moving. Even from ten meters or so away, we could see pink matter on the street and some blood. Next to her stood another scooter and a woman, looking wildly around her, phone to her ear. I ran to her, pulled her into a hug so she looked away from the woman on the ground, and looked over her shoulder to check if the woman could still be saved. By the way she was not moving a muscle and the way well... the way she looked, I could say without a doubt that she was dead. I asked the woman whom I was holding what her name was, and she told me. For privacy reasons, we'll call her 'Jane'. I asked her if she had called our equivalent of 911. She said she had dialed the number and handed me the phone. I held her as she cried on my shoulder and spoke to the woman on the other end of the line. I told her our address and that there had been a deadly accident: scooter versus truck. She promised to sent out emergency services right away, and we hung up.
I asked Ashley what had happened, and looked up to see where Bob was. He was with the teenage school kids who go to the school next to our house. I would later hear from him that two of the girls had seen the accident happen. The whole group was in shock and crying. Another housemate, we'll call him 'Harry', had joined Bob with the girls, and a young female cop who had been on a prisoner transport when the accident happened and was parked in the cue of cars waiting had joined them as well.
While we waited for the emergency services, Jane told me that the woman on the ground was her colleague, Melissa, whose name I will not change out of respect and remebrance for the dead. They had to swerve around the group of students previously mentioned, and Melissa had appearently not noticed the truck. She hit the side, lost control of her scooter, and fell. Obviously, she had not been able to avoid the tire of the truck, and she had not worn a helmet.
From the other side of the road, two off-duty cops joined the scene and went back to the car for a blanket once they saw what had happened. They covered Melissa up a little--her head at least-- and went on to direct traffic. The next hour, the cops and ambulances showed up and I took Ashley away while Bob and Harry took the students to a place they could not see the woman. The whole street was closed off, and witnesses heard. I stayed with Ashley until her dad came and then kept an eye on her until she was taken away to the police station. Harry, Bob, and I then stayed for a while to direct cyclists and then went back to the porch to wait out the next bit.
Forensic teams worked the scene and when the coroner came, we went to watch how Melissa was taken away. It was a horrible thing to watch--perhaps the worst part of it, even though we were at the edge of our driveway and at least 10 meters away--but we had to see this thing through. I felt I couldn't leave Melissa yet, not like that. We watched the car drive off and then huddled together to talk over the events, cry, and call family and friends for support. I covered up my main altaer to keep miasma away from it as much as possible, and signal this household 'out of service' until purification could take place. I also went online to get some advice on proper kathartic rituals, because my brain refused to provide me with the next religious steps.
Armed with advice, I went for a (sea-salt) shower and put the clothes I had been wearing in the laundry. I dressed, and waited for the police and firemarchals to finish processing the scene and cleaning the street. When the road was free again, and cars were allowed back on the road, I went for a visit of the site. I stood there for a while, marveling at the fact that you couldn't even see what had happened anymore, and said a second prayer for her--the first I did when the initial panic had subsided. After that, I went back inside, for some food and distraction.
Last night, around 11 PM, I went out with a plate of offerings to the dead and Hermes Khthonios. I had my hair unbound (as traditional for the dead), and walked right up to the fence. The woman died not a meter away from there. Next, I dug a pit and sprinkeled it with barley, then fell to my knees at the edge of it. I offered a hymn and coin to Hermes to pay for the woman's passage to wherever she wanted to go. I recited the Orphic hymn to Hermes with a few tweaks and in another translation:
"Hermes I call, whom Fate decrees to dwell in the dire path which leads to deepest hell. O Bacchic  Hermes, progeny divine of Dionysos, parent of the vine, and of celestial Aphrodite, Paphian queen, dark eye-lash'd Goddess of a lovely mien: who constant wand'rest thro' the sacred feats where hell's dread empress, Proserpine [Persephone], retreats; to wretched souls the leader of the way when Fate decrees, to regions void of day: thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumb'rous rest the weary eye; For Persephone's thro' Tart'rus dark and wide gave thee forever flowing souls to guide. Come, blessed pow'r the sacrifice attend, and grant our mystic works a happy end." [56]

Then I gave sacrifices of milk, honey, and wine to the spirit of Melissa by pouring them into the pit in the ground, to strengthen her mind and spirit for the journey. I promised her that she would be remembered at least in my lifetime, and expressed my hope that she would be remembered always. I sat there crying for a while--loudly--and then covered the pit up. After walking back inside, I cried for a little while longer and then went to sleep. I had a bit of trouble falling asleep as my mind kept flashing back to some of the roughest moments--seeing her fall, checking to see if she could possibly be alive, shielding her friend, watching her get picked off of the ground--but slept soundly, without nightmares, although I couldn't go back to sleep when I woke up at seven AM because of the images.When my girlfriend wakes up, I will shower, bind my hair up, and pray to Apollon in his epithets of Paian ('The Healing'), and Alexikakos ('Averter of Evil'), as well as Apollon Argyieus ('Of The Street') whom I honor daily. I will go around the fence, garden and home with khernips and incense, and pray for purification. After that, I will Uncover my altar and perform my daily rituals. Then life can continue.

What I did yesterday, I did without concious decision. It never occurred to me not to run out and offer help in any way that I could. I am glad I did, and got to be there for someone who needed help and comfort so badly at that time. I think the images will haunt me for a while to come, but I got a text from the surviving woman yesterday, who was home, with fries, trying to sort it all out, but who thanked me for being there for her when she needed someone most... It makes it worth reliving the moments for a while longer.