Star Foster's latest blog post has been stuck in my head again. In a miraculous show of foresight, she already predicted that that post was going to get a lot of tongues wagging, and I will most certainly admit that it has. I'm sad to read that most of it is negative, but you know, that's what the blogosphere will do, it seems. I've never understood the how's and why's of that but lets leave that for another day. I'm not here to speak for Star but let me assure you that I am on her side should the need for sides arise. What I would like to do is explain what I took from the post and why it's positive.

The blog post has a simple message: the Gods you invite into your home will impact your life. Period. So if you are looking to shift your life, focus on the Gods that oversee the desired outcome of that change. 'Stable' Gods bring a stable life, 'chaotic' Gods bring a chaotic life, especially in the case of devotional practices to a singular deity. I'm putting it very black-and-white here but will nuance this later, bear with me.

Where Star left herself open to critisims, I fear, is when she crosses Traditions; the view put forth by her and that I--in essence--agree with works in Hellenismos, I feel, but not in Neo-Wicca or even some other Recon Traditions. Many in the greater Pagan community have patron Gods, were chosen by deities, or interact with deity in an entirely different way as Hellenismos fosters; the worship of an entire pantheon, with special sacrifices to Gods with whom you are looking to built kharis. For them, Star's post could read as an all-out attack: Star seems to be blaming the victim of a chaotic life, after all, because they were chosen by a 'chaotic' God. In essence, they are being blamed for something outside of the control of the worshipper, who is suffering through the side-effects of that worship or even the direct results.

I'm not here to speak for Star, so let me give you my view: to me, Star's view on 'square Gods' applies only to Hellenismos, and Traditional Hellenismos at that. Some people in other Traditions may identify, but in general, I would apply this view only to Traditional Hellenismos. There is no victim blaming here; Traditional Hellenismos encourages you to worship an entire pantheon, in general there are no patrons, and deities don't pick you. It might happen, obviously, but it's not the leading view. I'm not saying this to de-value the experiences of anyone, and I'm generalizing, but within Traditional Hellenism, this is the leading view--it is my view, at least.

Another bit of critisism may have emerged from the lack of specificity in that post concerning Gods; there are major differences between Zeus Labrandeus ('Raging') and Zeus Ktêsios ('Of The House'), for example, and within this example it will impact your life if you pray to either epithet daily. My household worship solely focuses on Gods who bring stability, prosperity, and protection to the household; Gods like Hestia, Asklēpiós, Zeus in His epithets of Ktêsios, Herkeios ('Of the Courtyard'), Ephestios ('Of The Hearth'), Athena in her epithets of Ageleia ('Protectress') and Eryma ('Defender'), etc. By building kharis with these deities, I bring these good things into my life and home.

Within this view, it makes a lot of sense not to pray to Eris and Ares in His war-epithets on a daily basis, because eventually, They will bring chaos and war into your home. This doesn't mean you should not pray to Them when a festival comes up or to an epithet of Them that brings forth positives for your life (Ares Aphneios, for example, is an excellent epithet of the God Ares to invite into your home on a daily basis: He is the Giver Of Plenty, after all). Again, this is all in the 'standard' view of Traditional Hellenismos, and does not nessesarily translate well to personal devotional practices. That is beyond the scope of this theory, I feel.

I also don't think bad things in your life nessesarily happen because of the Gods. Sometimes, things just happen and they suck. Hellenismos is very clear about that; the Gods don't oversee every aspect of our lives, They are merely willing to interfere on behalf of those who pray to Them regularly should things really go wrong. Yet, some things you can control and they might relate to your devotional practices. If you drink yourself into a stupor every night as a devotional act to Dionysos and you end up with a shot liver... well, that relates directly to the God you chose to follow/who chose you to follow Him. Again, black-and-white, because I'm ignoring a boatload of other (medical) reasons why your liver might have given out, but all the binge drinking most likely did not help matters any. This is also not to say that you mind in any way that your liver is shot or that there is a value judgement in this; we all worship in our own way, and if this is the way hypothetical you chose to worship than by all means!

What Star describes is the practice of kharis, and the sense it makes in Traditional Hellenismos to built that kharis with Gods who bring you the things in life you seek. For Star and me, that is stability. It might be something completely different for you. I think taking a critical look at the Gods you worship on a daily basis makes sense in a Traditional Hellenistic view; I don't really believe in doing things without thinking it through, and kharis influences your life considerably.

I found a lot of value in Star's post because it relates to my life. If it doesn't to yours than that is just fine to me as well; we all have our own way of making sense of life and experiencing the Gods. I simply wanted to share this with you because I feel these is an important lesson about the effect of kharis in Star's post that I think more in the Traditional Hellenistic community should hear--and preferably in a positive light.
There are not a lot of people on this planet I call friends. I can count them on two hands, actually, and I am incredibly blessed that there are so many. That might sound contradictory but it isn't. For all my blogging and 'baring', I am a very closed off person, emotionally speaking. Not when it comes to giving affection, but when it comes to receiving it. Let alone ask for it.

I know a lot of people, both in real life as on-line, and I am amicable with a lot of them; I rarely dislike someone and as a person, I am wired to help out anyone in need, no matter how distance of an aquaintance they are. Friends, however, have a special something; in general, I know friend-potential the moment hands are shook or the first words exchanged; it's an emotional familiarity that manifests itself right away in my heart. A soft spot, perhaps, or a sign that this is someone worthy enough to keep in my life (so don't screw it up).

I don't make friends easily because for someone to truly be a friend, I need to be able to open up to them about my life in the same way that I encourage them to. When I need help, they need to be the kind of people who give it. Surprisingly, this is the quality that tends to be missing in my amicable relationships, even when there is friend-potential. You see, I don't ask for help easily and I am even worse at accepting it. Emotionally, I am a very introvert person.

If you will indulge me a few more lines before I get to the point of this post, I would like to share a little bit more about myself, because I want to make clear what the words 'friend' and 'friendship' mean to me. I am the type of person who will drop everything in my life for a friend in need, who will go out of her way to make a friend feel better, even when I might not be doing so hot myself. My girlfriend has once called this my 'white-knight complex'; it boils down to feeling good when helping others.

On the flip side of my white-knight complex is that I am the type of person who handles her problems alone--which sometimes leads to disasterous results. I am the type of person who will assist in a deadly accident and then refuses to cry until home alone because she would rather be strong for others. I am the type of person who my girlfriend has learned to prod very carefully when in a fix; the type of person who responds better to silence than hugs when upset.

Before I get to the point of this post, I want to say that this has nothing to do with trust or my self-image; I trust people just fine, and I know and feel I am worth taking care of--but I don't want to impose and, as said, I feel best about myself when helping others. So if I feel comfortable and close enough to you to drop my myriad of walls, it's quite an event. There have been more people in my life whom I have felt able to open up to than friends on my list, unfortunately, mostly because very few people are willing to invest the same amount of time and availability in me as I have in them. That hurts sometimes, because when I open up, I open up completely.

Before I progressed into Hellenismos, I tended to give too much of myself with little to no emotional return. I didn't overstep my own bondaries, but it was exhausting. Hellenismos, however, has helped be funnel my 'complex' into a workable way to go through life; because no one can do everything by themselves, and I have no obligation to invest when those I give to will not give in return. It was Hesiod who said "be friendly to your friends, and go visit those who visit you" (Works and Days) This has become my motto when it comes to friendship: if I make the effort, eventually, you have to make the effort too. Human kharis.

I have found that my way of looking at friends and friendship is quite fitting for Hellenismos. If you look at the Delphic Maxims and the Tenets of Solon, it's clear that 'friendship' was a loaded word for these writers as well:

Solon wrote: "be not hasty in making friends; and do not cast off those whom you have made", and within the Delphic Maxims, you can find many examples along the same lines: help your friends (Φιλοις βοηθει), love friendship (Φιλιαν αγαπα), be kind to friends (Θιλοις ευνοει), do a favor for a friend (Φιλω χαριζου), give back what you have received (Λαβων αποδος), guard friendship (Φιλιαν φυλαττε)... Friendship is a rare and special commodity, one that comes with its own oaths, responsibilities and rewards. Once you make a friend, intend to keep them, and expect to work hard for them. That's the measure of a friend: how much you invest. In a time when your friend was also the person who went into battle with you, the person whom you had to trust to have your back when the fight was on, this was even more critical.

This post goes out to my friends--most of whom are half way around the world--some of you I have met in person, others I have merely spoken to or typed with. There are one or two amongst you with whom I have never discussed my affection for you; I don't think you know I count you as a friend. That's alright; perhaps it will happen one day. I want to thank my friends for seeing right through me and not letting me get away with hiding. I want to thank them for trusting me and letting me trust them in return. You, all ten of you, are my safe havens, the people I turn to when my head is driving me nuts, and when I can't do it alone anymore. I hope you know who you are, and what you mean to me. Because I love you, very much, and I don't tell some of you often enough.
Sometimes it's slow going in acheological news land, but when it rains it tends to pour. Today I am writing a round-up of archeological discoveries made in the recent past. Today on the schedule are: the restoration work at the ancient theatre of Sparta, the discovery of a Mycenaean settlement in NW Peloponnese, and a study on an erotic epigram on an ostrakon from Rhodes.

Restoration work to begin at ancient theatre of Sparta
The Archaeology News Network heads with the news that the ancient Theater of Sparta--which is now almost completely burried with only Roman and later features still visible--is getting a make-over. The Spartan theatre is unique in that it had a mobile stage, as the theatre used to host several events. The stage was kept in a special 'case' under a hangar built at the west lane. It used to be a prosperous theater, done up in local white marble. It was one of the most important theaters around in Classical times, and thus the Central Archaeological Council has recently given the green light to start restoring the structure, starting with a careful evaluation of the monument. From the article:

"The study focuses mainly on the damage that the stone elements of the theatre have suffered (those made of marble and limestone) from erosion, the loss of material and the fractures caused by the growing of plants, the engravings and graffiti, while relevant damage has also occurred at the masonry of the monument. The road is now open for the correct documentation of the situation, of the theatre parts, and also for the cleaning off of all deposits, such as vegetation and microorganisms, or those brought by human hands such as graffiti."

Mycenaean settlement found in NW Peloponnese
Dr Lena Papazoglou-Manioudaki, Honorary Curator in charge of the Prehistoric Collection National Archaeological Museum, recently discussed the excavation on Mygdalia hill, a hill in Achaea in the Patras region, Hellas' third largest urban area and the regional capital of Western Greece, in northern Peloponnese, 215 km (134 miles) west of Athens. She did this in preparation for a speech she will be giving at the Mycenaean Seminar. In her words:

"The Mycenaean settlement on Mygdalia hill covered an area of 6,500 sq.m at the top of the hill, on three successive terraces. [...] Three areas/rooms of a large rectangular building were unearthed on Τerrace 1. [...] On Terrace 2 was excavated a densely built settlement, situated on different levels, following the slope of the hill. [...] The existence of a defensive/retaining wall, preserved for a length of at least 50 m and apparently protecting the settlement from the more accessible south side, was confirmed on Terrace 3. [...] Terrace 1 houses the public sector, the ruler’s megaron and later on it is the designated place for the erection of an archaic temple, while the main settlement is located on terraces 2 and 3. The cemetery of built cists was located on the west slope of the hill. "

According to the Archaeological News Network, 'the [first] meeting of the Mycenaean Seminar will be at 19:00 on Thursday, 31st October 2013, in the British School at Athens, Upper House (52 Souedias st.) Τhe lecture will be held in Greek. The Organising Committee of the Mycenaean Seminar are Nagia Polychronakou-Sgouritsa, Iphiyenia Tournavitou, Emilia Banou, Harikleia Brekoulaki'.

An erotic epigram on an ostrakon from Rhodes
Our last bit of news comes in the form of a study done on an epigram from the second century BC, found on an ostrrakon--a pottery shard--in Rhodes. Anastasia Dreliosi-Irakleidou and Nikos Litinas (University of Crete) studied the epigram and published their finds in the current issue (10-12) of Eulimene periodical. The ostrakon was found during excavations on a plot in the central cemetery of Rhodes. From the study it has become clear that:

"Two hypotheses can be advanced: (a) The epigram consisted of (at least) four elegiac distichs. The hexameter of the third elegiac couplet and the pentameter of the fourth elegiac couplet have been omitted, either deliberately or by mistake. (b) The epigram consisted of three elegiac distichs and the scribe wrote the pentameter of the last distich before the hexameter.

The content of the epigram(s) is that Glykera, perhaps a Samian hetaira, managed to be freed from her eros by vowing to dedicate a painting of a pannychis that had taken place on some occasion. Now a deity is asked that a thiasos already offered should also function as a lysis from eros for Papylides. However, the kind of the thiasos and the way it is dedicated are not clear. Also, there are some questions concerning the corresponding elements between the two stories of Glykera and Papylides. Since there are missing verses or the verses are reversed, as said above, it is uncertain whether the text constitutes one or two different epigrams."
The identity of the poet is unknown.

Image credit: Theater of Sparta: Greek Reporter via the Archaeology News Network, Mycenaean settlement: Archaiologia Online via the Archaeology News Network, epigram on ostrakon: A. Dreliosi-Irakleidou, N. Litinas via the Archaeology News Network.
How the heck did the week pass by so fast? It's already Monday again, and that means another Atlantis recap! Good news first: Atlantis has been renewed for a second season, so we'll get to enjoy these adventures for another fifteen episodes next year! Hurray!

Generally Atlantis starts with a 'previously on' segment showing you what we'll be tackling today, but not so this week so you are getting the general recap: Jason came to Atlantis from our time, found Pythagoras and Hercules, managed to save himself and the city a few times over the last few weeks, and love is in the air. Hercules is head over heals for Medusa, whom they rescued from the Maenads, and Jason is acting all cute around Ariadne, daughter of King Minos and stepdaughter of Queen Pasiphaê--who is living up to her evil stepmom persona quite well, mostly by trying to hex Jason to death. So far no luck, though. Oh, and there is an Oracle who predicted Jason is in a lot of danger while simultaniously being the best thing to ever happen to Atlantis.

In the relative 'now' of Atlantis, a dark skinned man is climbing the walls of Minos' palace. He manages to get in and goes by fairly unnoticed until he reaches out to a passing Ariadne, clamps a hand over her mouth, puts her in a chokehold and tells her he is not going to hurt her. Ariadne--to say the least--is mildly sceptical. It seems the man has a message for her and releases her. Then, guards spot her and the man and Ariadne tells him to run--which he does, straight into Queen Pasiphaê serfs and rooms. Lets just say, the window sounds like the best option and he takes it. This earns him a couple of very sore legs, an arrow in the back and a whack with the blunt of a sword. I feel sorry for him.

Queen Pasiphaê is not amused. She and Heptarian go to Ariadne for more information on the now-unconcious man. Ariadne lies through her teeth and says that the man demanded her jewelery and would have hurt her if she hadn't. The queen looks uncertain but she can't do anything about it. Ariadne gets an excort to her chambers and Queen Pasiphaê hatches another evil plot to get the man (or Ariadne) to talk.

Meanwhile in an inn, Jason, Hercules, Pythagoras and Medusa are out to bet the last of their money on a beetle Hercules trained to race. The boys (all but Hercules) are sceptical, but Medusa trusts Hercules' skills in beetle training. The beetle actually manages to win and instead of flying into Hercules' arms in relief and joy, Medusa flies into those of Pythagoras. Needless to say, Hercules is not amused.

Also not amused is the intruder, who is chained up in some dungeon and who is now awake. Queen Pasiphaê is about to put the (magical) thumbscrews on him. He says he did came here to rob Ariadne but she won't believe it. She offers him jewels or pain--his choice--for the truth. The man sticks to the story. The pain begins right away at the hands of the guards. Meanwhile, Ariadne asks her loyal servant girl Korinna (Hannah Arterton) for a favor.

Hercules scoops up some dung from the street for his beetle Astrabakos, named pretentiously after a minor Spartan hero. Jason does not exactly feel like the beetle deserves such high praise, but Hercules says--rightly so--that Astrabakos is the most valuable possession they have. This depresses Jason, obviously.  

Korinna finds Jason in the marketsquare and asks to speak to him. She tells him that the man she loves will meet her at a bridge outside of the city tonight; he can't come into the city because he was charged with a crime he did not commit. She asks Jason to accompany her into the mountains and he--as any hero who sees a damsel in distress would--agrees.

Ariadne, in the palace, gets painted with bull's horns on her forehead so she can make an offering to the Gods; 'for all she cares for' she tells a prying Pasiphaê and there are so many layers to those few words. Pasiphaê tries to trip Ariane up by saying she knows the true intentions of the man were not to rob Ariadne but the princess doesn't fall for it. Pasiphaê is convinced she will know soon enough.

The next day, Jason, Korinna, Hercules, Pythagoras and Astrabakos (in a pot) go out into the woods. Korinna teases Hercules about his love for Medusa, but does so kindly. Hercules is still not amused.

Back in the palace, two other someones are not amused at all either: both the intruder and Queen Pasiphaê are having a particularly crummy time. The intruder because he is being tortured, Queen Pasiphaê because she is not getting any results. Time to end the stalemate: Pasiphaê wipes the brow of the intruder, gathering blood and sweat, and mutters a spell while holding the cloth over an open flame. The intruder--whom I'm not sure they are ever going to name so I'm just going to tell you--whose name is Stolos (Daniel Adegboyega) writhes in pain. Eventually he gives in: he delivered a massage to Ariadne... from her brother. That spooks Pasiphaê enough to stop her torture. It seems the prince was supposed to be dead. He isn't however, and is waiting for Ariadne. He gives Pasiphaê the location.

Pasiphaê, now on the war path, races to the temple where the Oracle is praying over her bowl of blood; a bowl of blood the queen angrily tips over. It seems the Oracle didn't actually say the words 'he's dead' to the queen, but hinted at it enough to make the queen believe so. The Oracle warns Pasiphaê that her hunger for power will lead to bloodshed and suffering. Pasiphaê just snarls and laughs. The Oracle than says that she is not the one who will bring Pasiphaê down, and Pasiphaê replies in kind: deceive her again and the Oracle won't have a future to divine. 

Heptarian gets charged with the ungrateful task of murdering Ariadne's brother Therus (Darwin Shaw) and burning his body. He, however, is hesitant: the boy is of royal blood, after all. The queen makes him by saying Ariadne will never marry him if she learns the truth about her brother. Funnily enough I also don't think she will marry him when she finds out he actually killed the brother she already thought dead. Might just be me, though.

Back in the forest, the group happens upon a group of men who were killed by robbers. Heptarian, meanwhile, has assembled a large group of soldiers to hunt down Therus, and Ariadne looks on with worry and fear for her brother. Heptarian lies to his second in command about the mission and says that there will be no prisoners. Pasiphaê materializes next to Ariadne and tells her that she has learned the truth: that the man was sent by Ariadne's brother. Ariadne, obviously, doesn't believe Therus is a traitor. Pasiphaê tries to console Ariadne by saying her brother will soon be dead. Somehow, I don't think that'll work to cheer Ariadne up.

Back in the forest, the group reaches a ruined temple. Korinna goes on ahead and promptly gets a knife to the throat by Therus. Pythagoras is worried and goes after her. Korinna is fine, though, and ready to go home. As night is falling, Pythagoras this is impossible. Awkward.

Back in Atlanta, Minos seeks out his troubled daughter. she brings up Therus and Minos recounts his pain over his son's betrayal. It seems there was a plot and those who stood with Therus confessed. Ariadne sill doesn't buy it. Minos has a bonding moment with his daughter--which is really very sweet--but Pasiphaê who overhears is not too happy.

Back at Therus' camp, it's become painfully obvious Korinna and Therus are not lovers. They sit apart, barely speaking, and the group is worried. They should be, but for a whole different reason: the soldiers have caught up with them. They don't have the element of surprise, however; Jason saw them coming and warns the others. They flee--including Hercules who went back for his beetle and almost got himself killed and Therus who had the perfect opportunity to shoot Heptarian's right hand man but didn't take it. Instead, he helps Korinna onto his horse while everyone else figures out why the soldiers are here: they are after Therus. Therus comes clean and with a heavy heart the group follows him: they are now traitors as well, after all.

Pasiphaê hears the king's son got away and is livid... until se realizes that Ariadne will take them to him. Jason, meanwhile, offers to go ad collect Ariadne--much to Hercules and Pythagoras' dismay. Jason has a plan. She will smuggle Ariadne out of the palace, and Jason will escort her further. The girl is as stealthy as an elephant, though, and Hepterian is on her like white on rice within seconds. Ariadne is excited to see her brother and shows she is perfectly capable of derailing Heptarian's plans: she manages to sneak out. Now it's up to Jason to do the rest.

Jason intimately manhandles the princess to get her to safety and sparks fly. Jason tells her to trust him next time she needs his help and she says it's hard for her to know who to trust. He takes her home and gives her clothes to borrow. She changes in a bedroom while Jason cleans up like a madman and is otherwise adorable. Unfortunately, the bowl of horse dung (without beetle) is in the bedroom ad Ariadne is not very amuse, although impressed. Ariadne looks younger in her peasant clothes, but equally beautiful, and Jason stumbles over every other word. It's positively adorable, and Ariadne thinks so too.

Minos worries about his daughter and blames himself for everything that has happened to his children. He weavers he is right for the throne, but Pasiphaê will hear nothing of it. While Minos worries about his kingdom, Hercules worries about his beetle, who won't live too long but is still the fastest beetle out there.

Jason is having trouble getting out of the city but the guard who Therus did not shoot finds them and helps them get out, saying he serves the king; emphasis on king. Ariadne understands and smiles. back in the camp, Pythagoras unfortunately drops the jar with Astrabakos and they have a scare as Pythagoras steps on something that crunches. It's only a spider, however. The beetle is fine. The two cradle Astrabakos in their hands as Therus comes back from fetching water and the scene looks so romantic, Therus decided to fully ignore it. Smart man.

Jason and Ariadne make it to the cabin where Therus doesn't run to them with joy but spikes a drink with something instead. Maybe he is a traitor after all. Ariadne is overjoyed to see her brother again and hugs him tight. He then thanks Jason who is dismissed by the man. The two siblings share a drink ad I'm sure you can guess who gets the spiked one. Ariadne questions Therus about what happened. It seems Pasiphaê made plans to kill Therus after he becae of age and so Therus was forced to flee. Pasiphaê then spun the tale of his betrayal and desire to kill his father and there was no way Therus could come back to explain himself; Pasiphaê would have had his head before he was two steps into the city. Therus warns Ariadne that as she is coming to age soon and that Pasiphaê will want her dead too. He tells her to run away with him but she refuses. That is the point the drugs kick in.

Jason finds Hercules and Pythagoras who were gathering wood and when they return, Ariadne and Therus are gone. Pythagoras identifies the poison added to Ariadne's drink as Belladonna and Hercules questions why Therus would so such a thing. Jason spots Therus and Ariadne on horseback and goes after them. The horse spooks by a bird and the two fall off. Jason catches up and sword fights Therus, saying Ariadne should have a choice in the matter and that he won't let Therus take her because she means too much to him. Ariadne wakes up just in time to stop Therus from killing Jason. 

Ariadne again refuses to leave, saying it is her duty to keep Pasiphaê from ruling, and that if she has to be away from the people she cares for, she would rather be dead. Therus finally relents. Jason steps away to allow them privacy and brother and sister hug it out before Therus goes off, leaving a distraught Ariadne. Jason comes to her side and they make it back to Atlantis and the palace safely. They almost kiss and Ariadne fibs that she didn't hear Jason's declaration of affection in the forest when Jason asks if she heard.

Barely three steps into the palace, Pasiphaê stumbles upon her and confronts her about being gone. Ariadne again pulls out the white lies and says she was in the temple consulting with the Oracle. The queen asks her what the Oracle told her. Ariadne says that the Oracle told her to be careful as there are those who plot against her. Pasiphaê growls that she does not believe Ariadne went to visit the Oracle but Ariadne blows her off. I really, really, like the strength Ariadne is showing. 

Minos interrupts the scene and tells her he was worried sick about her and that he loves her more than anything in this world. Pasiphaê looks like she swallowed a bug. Speaking of which, Hercules is sweet talking his beetle in the inn as they prepare for another race. He recounts their adventures the last few days and then puts him in the box. This time he looses, though, spectacularly. Pythagoras muses that perhaps this was not Astrabakos at all but an entirely different beetle. Meanwhile, Hercules takes off his shirt and hands it over to the winner. Medusa (hi Medusa! I missed you!) looks slightly shell shocked. Also, there is elastic in both the waistband of Hercules' pants and his shirts and it's distracting me to no end. Hercules renounces any clain to the beetle that just lost the race, saying he is slow and useless. Pythagoras knows exactly what to name this little fellow if that is the case: Hercules. It seems like the others agree.

Next time on Atlantis: Hercules talks to a witch about love and fights a burly man, and Jason and Pythagoras end up having to fight another monster in the woods. Saturday on BBC One, recap on Monday.
The best thing about being in the public's eye is the questions you get from students of Hellenismos. Even if it's something I have no experience with or knowledge about, it's very interesting to puzzle together answers. Take this one; Martin from Puerto Rico sent me an e-mail concerning exorcisms. He writes (in part):

"[A] friend of mine was talking about exorcism and knowing I follow the Greek religion he ask me if we had something like Christian exorcism. Is there?"

Exorcisms have a long and varied history, and the best known version of it is the 'Major Exorcism' as performed by a Catholic priest. This rite is recorded in the Rituale Romanum which seems to date from around 1600 AD. How old the ritual itself is, I am not sure, but the concept of possession is most certainly ancient. The idea of the Major Exorcism is to establish that a demon has taken possession of a person--which should be measurable by certain signs like speaking in tongues and convulsing--and then to drive out the possessor by reciting ritual texts and presenting the creature with holy iconography.

The question makes a few assumptions that need to be addressed before answering your question:
  1. Did the ancient Hellenes believe in possession?
  2. Did they believe it was a bad thing?
  3. Did the ancient Hellenes believe creatures which classically possess humans and/or animals existed?
  4. Did they believe these creatures would, indeed, possess humans and/or animals?
  5. Was it possible to cast out these creatures through religious (or even secular) rites?
The short answer to the first question is yes, they did. Certain Gods--especially wilder Gods like Dionysos and Pan were said to influence their followers in such a way that they became unaware of their surroundings and actions. The Maenads--followers of Dionysos, often female--in mythology at least are often portrayed as tearing people apart in their fit of madness and to see things while doing so. Most often, this is the way they are tricked into committing these acts. Almost always, they are inspired to do so by Dionysos Himself. The longer answer is a debate on if this constitutes possession as laid out by the Roman Catholic church. In the Rituale Romanum, the signs of possession are described as follows:

"[The] ability to speak with some facility in a strange tongue or to understand it when spoken by another; the faculty of divulging future and hidden events; display of powers which are beyond the subject's age and natural condition; and various other indications which, when taken together as a whole, build up the evidence."

As you can see, it leave a lot of room for interpretation. While the actions of the Maenads might fit part of the bill, it is more interesting to look at oracles as subjects of possession, as they tended to speak in tongues or riddles, divulge hidden events, and would often show physical signs of not being in control of their bodies. The oracle at Delphi is a classic example, and indeed, the ancient Hellenes believed the oracle possessed--not by an evil entity, but by a God; in this case, Apollon (for the majority of history anyway).

As such, I don't believe possession in these forms was considered a bad thing; it was the way the Theoi spoke to or through their followers, and in general, it was a much sought-out and desired skill of both mystery cults and divination.

Classical creatures who possess people according to the church are mostly demons, malevolent beings sent by the Devil or acting on their own accord. In general, their only goal is to bring pain and suffering to humanity. The word 'demon' comes from the ancient Greek root 'δαίμων'--'daímōn'. Hesiod gives us our first glimpse into daímōns as he writes about the five Ages of Man in 'Works and Days'. He gives us the following references:

"First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus made a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Kronos when he was reigning in heaven. [...] But after earth had covered this generation -- they are called pure spirits dwelling on the earth, and are kindly, delivering from harm, and guardians of mortal men; for they roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgments and cruel deeds, givers of wealth; for this royal right also they received.

[...] then they who dwell on Olympus made a second generation which was of silver and less noble by far. It was like the golden race neither in body nor in spirit. [...] But when earth had covered this generation also -- they are called blessed spirits of the underworld by men, and, though they are of second order, yet honour attends them also." [ll. 109-120]

Hesiod's Ages speak of only one race who became daímōns; those of the Golden Age, yet those of the Silver and Heroic Age also received many honors after their passing, and they were held in high regard. Hesiod makes clear distinction between the Theoi and daímōns: the Theoi are Gods, daímōns are members of the Gold Age who gained immortality. This differentiation is much less pronounced in the writings of Hómēros, where God and daímōn are used virtually interchangeably.

This difference led to a misinterpretation of the nature of the race of the Silver Age: they became dangerous daímōns in the eyes of later writers (like Plato), and eventually the demons of Christianity. Yet, neither Hómēros or Hesiod ever intended them to be so: all daímōns were pure and Deathless; they acted as a policing force for humanity. Especially through Neo-Platonics comes the placement of daímōns between the Theoi and mankind. They are less powerful than the Theoi, with lesser domains; more concerned with the daily happenings of life than the Theoi are, but they, too, are immortal, and deserve honors. Daímōns fulfill an important role in mythology and life: all aspects of life can be overseen by Deathless beings, without taking away from--or needlessly adding to--the portfolio of the Gods.

A daímōn could also be a personal guardian spirit or the personification of a person's conscious--or even their muse--this idea seems to be a Neo-Platonic evolution of Hesiod's classical daímōns, popularized by Socrates (and his followers), who described his personal daímōn in his trial. From Plato's 'Apology':
"You have often heard me speak of an oracle or sign which comes to me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment. This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything, and this is what stands in the way of my being a politician."

Daímōns had been separated from their Hesiodic cousins by then, but they were still considered positive forces. The later corruption of the term came from the Christians. The ancient Hellenes did not know demons in the way we know them now; the earliest mention I know of is from the Papyri Graecae Magicae, which also includes an exorcism rite. Note that this document can be dated anywhere from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, and that it was Graeco-Roman/Egyptian in origin. It was a rather obscure document even in its time, but for this search, it might suffice. Note that it is in essence a Christian rite, though, and adresses the Christian God and pantheon.

Now, I would like to focus a moment on 'evil' entities the ancient Hellenes did believe in: ghosts. Ghosts were the people who could not find the entrance to the Underworld or who didn't have the money to pay Kharon for their passage. Those who were not properly buried were also doomed to wander the Earth for a hundred years. Interestingly enough, Hellenic heroes were also considered ghosts and were honored in the same type of rites as other types of ghosts.

The ancient Hellens held festivals in honor of ghosts, and the Theoi that presided over them, so they would be sated and appeased and would not haunt them. Most of these festivals included a holókaustos--a sacrificial offering given in its entirety to the Gods--and were solemn affairs, conducted at night and without an offering of wine.

This fear of spirits and other supernatural entities was named 'deisidaimonia' (δεισιδαιμονία). The ceremonies of riddance were known to the Hellenes as apopompai (ἀποποπμαί), 'sendings away'. There isn't a single word in the English language that conveys the practice. Closest would be, indeed, 'exorcism'.

It is important to note here that these 'exorcisms' weren't performed on people, but on the ghosts themselves and in short, they consisted of rites to ask the Gods (especially Hekate) to keep these unfortunate souls away from their homes and families, because the ghosts could bring misery down upon them. Possession was not part of the fear. Many rites in the ancient Hellenic religion--including monthly ones like the Deipnon--were apotropaic. Many of these rites were also linked to miasma.

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. Severe miasma needs to be cleansed by the Gods, and these rites were apotropaic in nature.

The answer to the question at hand is thus that it depends on the time period and your definition. Strictly speaking, the ancient Hellenes in general did not believe in possession, but did have specific rites to ward off the evil and miasmic. Later on, especially in cult worship, some forms of demon possession became a known issue, but by and large, demon possession did not occur until the Roman empire and the rise of Christianity. Perhaps it was a different understanding of the same thing, but the concept would have been foreign to the ancient Hellenes. By extension, exorcisms were too.

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.
Today I would like to encourage you to take a walk in my head and share one of the greatest fears I have about writing Baring the Aegis. You see, what I do here on the blog and in my own religious practice, Wikipedia writers lovingly refer to as 'armchair theorizing', 'an approach to providing new developments in a field that does not involve the collection of new information but, rather, a careful analysis or synthesis of existent scholarship'. Back when I was in school, we called that 'desk research'. At any rate, what I write here is all based on third-party sources and my own skills of interpretation, which is both a good thing and an incredibly scary thing; it menas that all posts here are only as good as a) the source material, b) my researching skills, and c) my powers of interpretation.

I'm not fishing for feedback here, in either a positive or negative sense. It's just that I have readers--nearly 100.000 hits since Baring the Aegis first started--and I try my hardest to make sure that my abc's line up to provide a picture that a modern classics department could agree with. Yet, scholarship is a moving field, and ever-changing field; hypothesis rise and fall, and sometimes they get traction along the way, making it hard to drop them.

What I do on Baring the Aegis to avoid the major pitfalls is crosscheck everything I find, and make sure to report bias, UPG, and any other form of personal interpretation whenever it comes up. I also don't often quote modern scholarly work, although I get much of my understanding from reading these books. Quotes on my blog come from origional (but translated) sources, and unless I find something really intriguing, I don't post information I can't varify (i.e. find more than one reputable source for), except perhaps with a disclaimer. I'm careful, but in the end, none of the historic information on this blog comes from first hand experience, either archeologically or through use of a time machine. As I am fond of saying; I am just a woman with a pile of books and an active household practice.

So, why the sudden desire to remind my readers of these facts? Marc, over at 'Of Ax and Plough' recently posted a wonderfully informed rant on Paganism and psuedoscholarship. To quote:

"It seems like academic pursuits and research methodology have a rocky past within the (re)emergence of Contemporary Paganism. I blame the 1970s-1980s, in all honesty. It doesn’t seem like there was a period within our collective published history that provides a greater dearth of factual veracity in regards to the publications hit the popular scene as this time frame. It seems like it was a time when any person could throw together inane theories, fabrications with the barest strands of reasoning and logic and pump out a book.
[...] Pseudoscholars of this stripe do only one thing: They invalidate the workmanship, the efforts, and the veracity of actual scholars. Not only that, they can lay the foundation of beliefs that range from simply incorrect and absurd to downright inappropriate or dangerous. In some cases it can take years, if not decades, to rework misinformation and correct viewpoints that have been twisted by the scholarship.
[...] I have nothing against doing something for the Gods you love. I have nothing against being wrong, at all. We’re all wrong, and I have made my share of incorrect assumptions. But my mistakes are learned from, for the most part. But there are ways to be a scholar without using or resorting to pseudoscholarship.
[...] To Pagans, pseudoscholarship can lead to poor information and the creation of – historically speaking – mockery traditions. It can perpetuate wrong information that wracks up a ton of negativity from the tradition that they’re mimicking. In some cases, it amounts to appropriationism that verges on bastardization."
Although my work on Baring the Aegis is informed, it bears repeating that I do not have a degree in the Classics--although I am contemplating getting one--and while I'm a good researcher with a decent head on my shoulders, I am not a trained academic. This is also one of the reasons I don't write books; I don't feel qualified to. There is something wonderfully sheltering about writing for the internet; in general, people do not take your word for gospel where they would if I wrote the same down in a book. Of course, that is no excuse to become complacent and/or slack off.

In the end, I do not want to perform psuedoscholarship, so I invest a lot of time and energy into getting it 'right'--as right as possible from the materials at my disposal. This is simply a reminder that I am one woman with a lot of books at her disposal, as well as a call to read Marc's critical post. What he writes is important for anyone (re)constructing something, especially when they do their own research, but even more so when they rely on the research of others. It's good to remain critical, and to always look for multiple sources. Much of what I wrote prior about scholarly UPG applies to general scholarship as well, and it is important to be aware of that.

I want to thank Marc for putting this fear back into the front of my mind--and while I write that with a hint of sarcasm, I do mean it. It never really left, but I'm more aware again. In the end, every writer is just a person with a soapbox, and they can be incorrect or not completely informed; myself included. The fault is in the intent, and for many of us in Paganism, the intent is at least to do good work. Marc writes in his blog post an example of a Pagan who gets it wrong but refuses to adjust his views because he now has a following; I don't want to be that person and have always admitted when I got somethign wrong. I always accept the wisdom of others when they can bring me proof. I might not like it, but I do. And then I pay it forward by bringing proof to others. This is how we keep each other honest and on the right path towards a fair and beautiful practice of worshipping the Gods. Thank you for granting me my soapbox and thank you even more for keeping a critical eye on what I do with it.
As a woman and self-proclaimed feminist, the questions I get asked most by outsiders about my choice of religion are how I, as said woman and feminist, can worship a pantheon of raping Gods and why I would want to recreate the religious (and partly social) practices of a masochistic society. If that is your view of ancient Hellas and the Hellenic Gods then I doubt this post is going to change your mind. I will give explaining myself a try, though, because I find the subject very important. Much of this negative view stems from the percieved role of women in ancient hellas--which I, as a woman and feminist--should be against, obviously. The thing is, there is a lot of misinformation about the virtues of women in ancient Hellas.

Now, I am the first to be critical of our mythology, and have done so publicly on this medium as well; mostly here, in my post about the gender-roles in ancient Hellenic mythology. I will also be the first to assure you that I believe mythology--although taken literally by me to discover more about the Gods--is reflective of the culture they were formed in only in so much as The Real Housewives of [insert city]' is of ours; it shows daily lives of beings, but in a dramatized and overtly shocking manner. Not that I am equating anyone on The Real Housewives to the Gods, let me assure you.

Because much of what has remained from ancient Hellas was written, created, or otherwise preserved by men, it's easy to get a lasting negative impression of women in the ancient Hellenic society. In fact, until a couple of decades ago, that was the prevalent notion in the scholarly community. I grew up believing all women in ancient Hellas were good for was breeding strong sons. It's a very one-dimensional view, and one that has been proven incorrect again and again and again in more recent years.

Well-off women--the women wo could actually afford to stay at home--were generally married to well-off men with high functions. With their future's finances secure, they could strive for the ideal of an ancient Hellenic woman. Especially in Attica, these women tended to write and publish poetry. They came together with other women to socialize and increase the standing of their husbands, they kept the oikos well-stocked and the serfs under control. Women who were less well-off worked alongside their husbands on the fields, in the shops, and in any other capacity.

Semonides, an ancient Hellenic iambic and elegiac poet who is believed to have lived during the seventh century BC, in his 'Types of Women' gives us many negative qualities of women, speaking of the good in only a hand full of lines quoted below. Yet, in his negativity, he also notes all the virtues of women--women who are active, smart, clean, skilled, even-tempered, quiet, loyal, religious, modest (especially with her hair), beautiful, and ready to carry her share of the work--

"In different ways god [Zeus] made the mind of woman in the beginning. [...] [He made a]nother from a bee. Anyone getting her is lucky. To her alone cleaves no blame, but livelihood flourishes with her and increases. She loves her husband, and he loves her. She bears him noble and renowned sons. They grow old together. Conspicuous among all women is she, and divine grace surrounds her. She takes no pleasure in sitting among women when all they talk about is sex [or love, depending on translation]. Women like her Zeus gives to men. They are the best and most accomplished women."

There are more records of what a good woman should be like that have survived from ancient Hellas. The most telling, perhaps, were eulogies for women--and some for men by women--which describe the marriages of these women and the good they did in life. A somewhat later example I am fond of because it gives excellent examples is from the eulogy of a woman named Murdia. Her son praises her after her passing:

"For these reasons, praise for all good women is simple and similar, since their native goodness and the trust they have maintained do not require a diversity of words. Sufficient is the fact that they have all done the same good deeds that deserve fine reputation, and since their lives fluctuate with less diversity, by necessity we pay tribute to values they hold in common, so that nothing may be lost from fair precepts and harm what remains. Still, my dearest mother deserved greater praise than all others, since in modesty, propriety, chastity, obedience, woolworking, industry, and loyalty she was on a equal level with other good women, nor did she take second place to any woman in virtue, work and wisdom in times of danger."

It seems ancient Hellenic men were looking for someone many men today are also looking for: someone who they got along with, who supported them in all ways possible, who cared for them, and who had a good head on their shoulders. It didn't hurt if they were pretty. It helped if they were sensible and wise--not wasting away their time chatting about nothing while they should be working. It is not odd to think that women aspired to be this person, to be soft-spoken, kind and when it was called for, smart and loyal. A gender stereotype? Sure, but one that seems to have been embraced willingly by women--presumably partly because that was society as it was, and partly because life called for it. I am willing to bet that many women in ancient Hellas were free to strive for greater influence in their own lives than they actually did. This is why I always warn against enforcing modern ethics on ancient civilizations; it will put neither society in a good light.

Marriage in ancient Hellas was often a forced affair, arranged by men for women. Evidence suggests, though, that many women were happy in their marriages--not all, surely not all, but many. In a good marriage--which was often one where both parties carried their weight, there was financial stability, mutual respect, and a desire to work towards unified goals--women tended to be happy. I want to share another eulogy, this one recorded on the tombstone of first century BC Roman woman Turia, which is slightly out of my bounds, but remains one of the most moving testimonials from a husband to his wife. It's a long message--which can be read in its entirety here--but here are some of the important bits concerning their undeniable love. Keep in mind the importance of children within a marriage and the laws that surrounded them.

"Marriages as long as ours are rare, marriages that are ended by death and not broken by divorce. For we were fortunate enough to see our marriage last without disharmony for fully 40 years. I wish that our long union had come to its final end through something that had befallen me instead of you; it would have been more just if I as the older partner had had to yield to fate through such an event.

Why should I mention your domestic virtues: your loyalty, obedience, affability, reasonableness, industry in working wool, religion without superstition, sobriety of attire, modesty of appearance? Why dwell on your love for your relatives, your devotion to your family? You have shown the same attention to my mother as you did to your own parents, and have taken care to secure an equally peaceful life for her as you did for your own people, and you have innumerable other merits in common with all married women who care for their good name. It is your very own virtues that I am asserting, and very few women have encountered comparable circumstances to make them endure such sufferings and perform such deeds. Providentially Fate has made such hard tests rare for women.
[...] You generosity you have manifested to many friends and particularly to your beloved relatives. On this point someone might mention with praise other women, but the only equal you have had has been your sister. For you brought up your female relations who deserved such kindness in your own houses with us. You also prepared marriage-portions for them so that they could obtain marriages worthy of your family. The dowries you had decided upon Cluvius and I by common accord took upon ourselves to pay, and since we approved of your generosity we did not wish that you should let your own patrimony suffer diminution but substituted our own money and gave our own estates as dowries. I have mentioned this not from a wish to commend ourselves but to make clear that it was a point of honour for us to execute with our means what you had conceived in a spirit of generous family affection.
[...] Why should I now hold up to view our intimate and secret plans and private conversations: how I was saved by your good advice when I was roused by startling reports to meet sudden and imminent dangers; how you did not allow me imprudently to tempt providence by an overbold step but prepared a safe hiding-place for me, when I had given up my ambitious designs, choosing as partners in your plans to save me you sister and her husband Cluvius, all of you taking the same risk? There would be no end, if I tried to go into all this. It is enough for me and for you that I was hidden and my life was saved.
[...] It is true that we did wish to have children, who had for a long time been denied to us by an envious fate. If it had pleased Fortune to continue to be favourable to us as she was wont to be, what would have been lacking for either of us? But Fortune took a different course, and our hopes were sinking. The courses you considered and the steps you attempted to take because of this would perhaps be remarkable and praiseworthy in some other women, but in you they are nothing to wonder at when compared to your other great qualities and I will not go into them.
When you despaired of your ability to bear children and grieved over my childlessness, you became anxious lest by retaining you in marriage I might lose all hope of having children and be distressed for that reason. So you proposed a divorce outright and offered to yield our house free to another woman's fertility. Your intention was in fact that you yourself, relying on our well-known conformity of sentiment, would search out and provide for me a wife who was worthy and suitable for me, and you declared that you would regard future children as joint and as though your own, and that you would not effect a separation of our property which had hitherto been held in common, but that it would still be under my control and, if I wished so, under your administration: nothing would be kept apart by you, nothing separate, and you would thereafter take upon yourself the duties and the loyalty of a sister and a mother-in-law.
I must admit that I flared up so that I almost lost control of myself; so horrified was I by what you tried to do that I found it difficult to retrieve my composure. To think that separation should be considered between us before fate had so ordained, to think that you had been able to conceive in you mind the idea that you might cease to be my wife while I was still alive, although you had been utterly faithful to me when I was exiled and practically dead! What desire, what need to have children could I have had that was so great that I should have broken faith for that reason and changed certainty for uncertainty? But no more about this! You remained with me as my wife, for I could not have given in to you without disgrace for me and unhappiness for both of us. But on your part, what could have been more worthy of commemoration and praise than your efforts in devotion to my interests: when I could not have children from yourself, you wanted me to have them through you good offices, and since you despaired of bearing children, to provide me with offspring by my marriage to another woman.
[...] What you have achieved in your life will not be lost to me. The thought of your fame gives me strength of mind and from you actions I draw instruction so that I shall be able to resist Fortune. Fortune did not rob me of everything since it permitted your memory to be glorified by praise. But along with you I have lost the tranquility of my existence. When I recall how you used to foresee and ward off the dangers that threatened me, I break down under my calamity and cannot hold steadfastly by my promise. Natural sorrow wrests away my power of self-control and I am overwhelmed by sorrow. I am tormented by two emotions: grief and fear-and I do not stand firm against either. When I go back in though to my previous misfortunes and when I envisage what the future may have in store for me, fixing my eyes on your glory does not give me strength to bear my sorrow with patience. Rather I seem to be destined to long mourning."

Turia was a counselor to  her husband, someone who would sacrifice her own happiness for her husband's, someone who dreaded not being able to provide for her husband what he desired most. She was the personification of a good ancient wife, echoing much of Semonides' virtues, and without claiming to be a good wife myself, I do find in her many of the things I aspire to be.

I feel best about myself when keeping a clean and tidy oikos, when providing my partner with all she needs, by sacrificing of myself on her behalf, and when I can stand by her as her equal and trusted companion. It's as much a selfish as a selfless pursuit and I make no apologies for that. I am saying this as a feminist.

I applaud ancient Hellenic women who were homemakers, artisans, farmers, doctors, poets, mathematicians, athletes, wives, priestesses, and who could become nearly anything they aspired to become. They had say in legal and marital affairs, owned property, cattle, and slaves; they counseled their husbands on the affairs of state, and were influential in society in their own way. Theirs was a complicated and multifaceted role in society and I am infinitely grateful we are slowly beginning to see just how multifaceted it was. I, as a woman and feminist, am proud to emulate the lives of ancient Hellenic women, and I can do this while having a job, while paying my own way, while speaking up, while carrying my own weight. I am completely unlimited by anything outside of my personal skill set--and neither were women in ancient Hellas.
"Suppose that 2,500 years from now all that survived of the Beatles songs were a few of the lyrics, and all that remained of Mozart and Verdi's operas were the words and not the music. Imagine if we could then reconstruct the music, rediscover the instruments that played them, and hear the words once again in their proper setting, how exciting that would be."
That is the start of an article by BBC News about reconstructing music that was earlier deemed lost to us. I would quote the entire article, but I will refrain and post only a few choice bits. Before I do, though, some of the terms in that post are a bit technical. I have already made an attempt at explaining how ancient Hellenic music was composed, so I will link to that first.
I had actually planned to write about something else today, but then the news about reconstructed ancient Hellenic music broke and that thought went right out the window. I love it when every single group I am a part of suddenly posts the exact same thing. So, of course, I have to join in today because reconstructed music from ancient Hellas? That is definitely exciting!

I forgot if I mentioned this to you--a quick search says I haven't--but while I don't play an instrument of any kind and I have zero ability to keep a rhythm going (you should see me try to waltz--my girlfriend's toes are still sore and that was years ago), I can actually carry a tune moderately well. I like music, and I would love to figure out a way to sing all the classics--because as the article posted by BBC News also states; all the plays, all the poetry, all the epics--they were meant to be sung and performed to music.

We have examples of what the ancient Hellenes might have listened to; the link above gives one, for example, and there have been earlier attempts at reconstruction. In fact, here is another example. This piece was performed by Newcastle University's David Creese. It's a song originally found on stone inscriptions from ancient Hellas and performed on an eight-string 'canon'--a zither-like instrument with movable bridges.

Now, from the article:
"The instruments are known from descriptions, paintings and archaeological remains, which allow us to establish the timbres and range of pitches they produced. [...] The Greeks had worked out the mathematical ratios of musical intervals - an octave is 2:1, a fifth 3:2, a fourth 4:3, and so on. The notation gives an accurate indication of relative pitch: letter A at the top of the scale, for instance, represents a musical note a fifth higher than N halfway down the alphabet. Absolute pitch can be worked out from the vocal ranges required to sing the surviving tunes. While the documents, found on stone in Greece and papyrus in Egypt, have long been known to classicists - some were published as early as 1581 - in recent decades they have been augmented by new finds. Dating from around 300 BC to 300 AD, these fragments offer us a clearer view than ever before of the music of ancient Greece.

[...] In ancient Greek the voice went up in pitch on certain syllables and fell on others (the accents of ancient Greek indicate pitch, not stress). The contours of the melody follow those pitches here, and fairly consistently in all the documents. [...] But one shouldn't assume that the Greeks' idea of tuning was identical to ours. Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD provides precise mathematical ratios for numerous different scale-tunings, including one that he says sounds "foreign and homespun"."

I am very excited about the possibilities this research by the article's writer, Oxford musician and classics expert Armand D'Angour. Not only am I interested in hearing these classics reconstructed in their former--if somewhat boring--glory, but for us Hellenists, this type of research gives us another way to be closer to our Gods and to make our Household and festival worship that much more authentic. Here is to hoping D'Angour works out the finer points of his research, and if he is ever short on funds, I will pitch this cause to Pandora's Kharis myself.
I am cross-posting with Pandora's Kharis today, seeing as I am very excited: today, we announced the nominees for the very first round of community giving! Naturally, I won't be doing that every time, as I realize quite well that if you are not following Pandora's Kharis, you are not interested in frequent updates here, but this is a special occassion, after all.

I would like to take a moment to thank those who have written about the circle and who help make Pandora's Kharis a success. So far, we are grateful to Ann Hatzakis of the GreekRevivalistMommy blog for her passionate speech on giving, to Terence P. Ward of the Dirty Money PaganSquare blog for his complete support, and to Jason Pitzl-Waters from Pagan news outlet The Wild Hunt for spreading the word about Pandora's Kharis. We are infinitely proud to have such great allies! And now: the nominees!

International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster. At work today in over 40 countries and in 22 U.S. cities, the IRC restores safety, dignity and hope to millions who are uprooted and struggling to endure. The IRC leads the way from harm to home.

"They're well-established (80 years this year) and use >90% of funds for the people they serve. They focus on some of the biggest humanitarian crises around the world, particularly refugee resettlement."

Médicins Sans Frontièrs/Doctors Without Borders
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

"They have a good rating with >85% of funds going towards program services and provide needed medical care in troubled areas."

The Wild Hunt's Fall Funding Drive
The Wild Hunt is primary destination for those interested in following news relating and of interest to modern Pagan religions and other minority faiths. Founded by Jason Pitzl-Waters in 2004, The Wild Hunt has grown to become one of the most-visited and popular destinations exploring these topics. Recruited to in the Summer of 2011, The Wild Hunt decided to exist as an independent entity once more in the Summer of 2012. In addition, The Wild Hunt has now expanded into a media outlet with paid contributors and two paid staff members.

"[H]aving a Pagan news resource is a valuable thing that we should not take for granted. While it is not a charity per se (the money will be used to pay for writers and server costs, mostly), it would be good [...] a good way to mend some bridges between Pagan and Polytheist camps."

The Hellenic Education and Language Program (H.E.L.P.)
The Hellenic Education and Language Program (H.E.L.P.) is a not-for-profit, community based initiative based in Astoria, NY. It's programs are open to all and none are rejected based on their financial situation. It's purpose is to provide an in-depth Hellenic education in all subjects of learning, from Hellenic history, language (both modern and ancient), mythology, and music. The school's philosophy is firmly embedded in the pre-Christian Hellenic traditions. HELP educates its students through classical instructional methodology, providing a comprehensive curriculum with a pleasant learning environment, and always faithful to Plato's saying " Do not train children to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each".  The do not currently have a website.

"HELP is the first and only school founded and ran by Ethnikoi in the United States."

Do you have a favorite out of these four? Vote for your favorite in our poll. If you would like to donate to any of these, or have other causes to pitch for next month? Come join us as well! We will announce this month's winner on the 29th of October.
Something about writing these Atlantis recaps makes me want to write about Hēraklēs. It might be a need to redeem the man from myth after his on-screen counterpart Hercules is done with him. So it's time for another labour from ancient Hellas' greatest hero: Hēraklēs.

The last time we met up with Hēraklēs, he had just used a river to clean some very dirty stables--for a reward, no less. Because of the contract for pay, king Eurystheus refuses to count the labour towards Hēraklēs' ten (well, eleven at that point) labours, and to make matters worse, king Augeias with whom Herakles had the contract, refuses to pay Hēraklēs for his efforts. To be fair, the river Alpheius did do all the work.

What follows next is one of the easiest labours for Hēraklēs--but only because of divine intervention. Eurystheus has been called upon to remove a huge flock of birds covering the waters of the Stymphalus, there they are hiding from wolves, it seems. Pausanias, in his 'Description of Greece' describes the birds that came to be known as the Stymphalian Birds:

"The Arabian desert breeds among other wild creatures birds called Stymphalian, which are quite as savage against men as lions or leopards. These fly against those who come to hunt them, wounding and killing them with their beaks. All armour of bronze or iron that men wear is pierced by the birds; but if they weave a garment of thick cork, the beaks of the Stymphalian birds are caught in the cork garment, just as the wings of small birds stick in bird-lime. These birds are of the size of a crane, and are like the ibis, but their beaks are more powerful, and not crooked like that of the ibis. Whether the modern Arabian birds with the same name as the old Arcadian birds are also of the same breed, I do not know. But if there have been from all time Stymphalian birds, just as there have been hawks and eagles, I should call these birds of Arabian origin, and a section of them might have flown on some occasion to Arcadia and reached Stymphalus. Originally they would be called by the Arabians, not Stymphalian, but by another name. But the fame of Heracles, and the superiority of the Greek over the foreigner, has resulted in the birds of the Arabian desert being called Stymphalian even in modern times." [8.22.4]
Naturally, Hēraklēs gets the job. When he reaches the waters, even he is mystified on how he is going to get thousands upon thousands of birds to line up for his arrows; these birds in many of the stories are not only equipped with hard beaks, but some accounts even have them shoot out their feathers like arrows. There are two versions of the story, with variances upon these. The most deity-centered is from Apollodorus' 'Library':

"[W]hen Hercules was at a loss how to drive the birds from the wood, Athena gave him brazen castanets, which she had received from Hephaestus. By clashing these on a certain mountain that overhung the lake, he scared the birds. They could not abide the sound, but fluttered up in a fright, and in that way Hercules shot them."

Others, however, do not include the rattle at all, or do not mention Athena. In some versions, the birds are only scared off. Two examples; Pausanias in his 'Description of Greece':

"There is a story current about the water of the Stymphalus, that at one time man-eating birds bred on it, which Heracles is said to have shot down. Peisander of Camira, however, says that Heracles did not kill the birds, but drove them away with the noise of rattles." [8.22.4]

...and Diodorus in his 'Library of History':

"Now it was not possible to master the animals by force because of the exceptional multitude of them, and so the deed called for ingenuity in cleverly discovering some device. Consequently he fashioned a bronze rattle whereby he made a terrible noise and frightened the animals away, and furthermore, by maintaining a continual din, he easily forced them to abandon their siege of the place and cleansed the lake of them." [4.13.2]

Regardless of the actual details, Hēraklēs wraps up the job easily, and is now half way though his labours: six down, six to go. I can make one guarantee: the next labour will not be so easy: slay the Cretan Bull; a bull who has no intention of staying down.
Hurray, it's monday! Time for another Atlantis recap--something I am really enjoying doing. You should know that I only see the episodes once: while I recap. I don't watch the episode first because it takes the fun out of recapping. I say this because someone asked me why I didn't reveal right away that the girl suggested to be Demetria was Medusa in the second episode of the series. Well, because I didn't know. Plus, it was obviously the intent of the creators to have that be a surprise so why spoil it? With that out of the way, lets return to Atlantis where Jason, Pythagoras and Hercules were just spared by Poseidon (with a little help form Medusa) from being mauled by a bull and where Jason is still trying to find out who he is and why he ended up in Atlantis. I think we will never find out how he actually got there, because no one is wondering about that.

Everyone is on the hunt, Jason with a bow and arrow, Hercules with a spear and Pythagoras with what looks like a butter knife. Something tells me he's not making a kill today. A sound appears from a bunch of conveniently placed dead branches and Hercules throws his spear--which is expertly caught by Jason, I must say. Turns out it wasn't a teeny tiny boar in the bushes, but a baby. 1-0 for Jason's reflexes.

I am just going to start the history lesson right away: yes, the ancient Hellenes did abandon babies in woods, letting the Gods decide their fate. They either died or were found and taken to grow up as slaves. When a child was born, it was presented to the father, who had the right to refuse it as his own. If the child was refused--usually due to deformities which would prevent the child from performing his or her duties to the hearth--the child was left out in the woods as an offering to the Gods. Something that's important to understand is that children in ancient Hellas were born with a different sentiment than children are born these days. Children, now, are born out of love and a need of the parents to create something of 'theirs'. A child is precious, irreplaceable. We tend to have few children and place all our eggs in their basket(s). In ancient Hellas, families tended to be as large as possible. Children could help out around the house, the farm or with sustaining the family any other way but they also tended to die.

There seems to be nothing wrong with this baby, however, and Jason insists on saving it. In a surprising twist of historical accuracy, Hercules and Pythagoras don't want to interfere with the child's fate: it was give to the Gods to die, so let it die. Jason--who was raised in our time--will hear none of it and scoops up the baby. Hercules takes it and plans to put it back, but then the baby turns all happy and bubbly, and Hercules can't put it back anymore. It's simply too cute.
So, with the wrath of the Gods looming over them, the three return home where they turn--quite literally--into '3 men and a baby'. Especially when the baby poops... and the boy--as they are now able to determine--pees in Jason's face. Their examination of the baby reveals something else: a swollen or deformed right foot. That might be the reason the baby was abandoned.
In the market square, Medusa comes to Jason's aid when he tries to decide between sardines and olives for the baby's first meal of solids ever. Medusa tells him he is at the wrong stall and like any good woman in ancient Hellas swoops to the rescue of a member of the oikos. Before they can move over to the stall with goat's milk, however, men on horseback thunder by and Medusa and Jason kneel so as not to get in trouble. Medusa explains that the men riding past were Laius of Thebes (Tristan Gemmill) and his men who have been visiting king Minos for the last few weeks. Minos rides with them to the palace where Queen Pasiphaê proceeds to stand so close to him to congratulate him on a succesful hunt that you just know they are sleeping together--or really, really want to.
Ariadne is not amused by her stepmother's actions and desires and tells her so. She also informs the audience that the young blond thing standing to the side looking like she is about to cry is, in fact, Laius' wife, who--if my mythology serves me right--should be Jocasta (Elen Rhys). Pasiphaê blames Jocasta's discomfort on her age and brushes off. May I just say that I am enjoying Ariadne more and more each week?
Meanwhile, Medusa rattles off a list of items Jason surely already has for the baby and Jason draws blanks on nearly all of them. Medusa's heart goes out to the baby already. Poor thing. She is sure that the baby stood more chance to survive on the mountain than with the three of them. Jason, who is carrying arms full of supplies remains wisely silent.
Hercules is overjoyed to see Medusa again, but Medusa only has eyes for the baby. He pretends it was his idea all along to save the baby and the boys just roll their eyes and passivley agressively disagree. The two of them head out to the mountainside to look for clues while Hercules remains home with Medusa and the baby to play oikos. In another surprisingly accurate display of history, the bottle Medusa uses to feed the baby actually looks like the ancient ones, although they were usually shaped like animals.

New dad Hercules is rather aweful at entertaining babies, unfortunately, and I get the feeling that Medusa is somewhat over Hercules. Gods knows I am by now. She leaves after putting the baby down--who promptly starts crying with only clueless Hercules at his disposal. When Medusa returns for her scarf, she oversees and overhears Hercules talking about Medusa's beauty to the baby, who is enjoying his goat's milk in Hercules' arms. Medusa suddenly sees the softer side of Hercules, but I'm just hoping for the scene to play out fast. Sorry, but I'm not shipping Hercules/Medusa (do they have a portmanteau yet?).

Out in the forrest, Jason reveals the true reason he's so adamant to help the baby: he grew up without a mother as well, and he feels no child should grow up without a mother. At the scene of the abandonment, Pythagoras and Jason find pottery shards and grains and go about finding as many shards as they can to see if the reconstructed piece of pottery can tell them anything. From behind a tree, a man looks on with a mixture of despair and hope.

Hercules has fallen asleep with the baby on top of him--who really is very cute--and wakes up grumpy and lovesick. Pythagoras, meanwhile, reconstructs the baby rattle in the form of a pig. It's beautifully made and thus he promptly deduces the baby is from a weathy family. In one of the cutest things to ever grace your TV screens, the baby squeezes the rattle to its chest when Pythagoras places it in his crib with him.
Back in the castle, it turns out that the Atlantians really are polytheistic because king Minos pours a libation to Artemis in thanks of a succesful hunt. It's close enough to accurate that I will not pick on the scene. Next thing we know, we are at dinner with a miserable Jocasta, a spunky Ariadne, and two flirting members of the royal court. Three guesses. If you guessed Laius and Pasiphaê, you would be right, as the latter invites herself to tomorrow's hunt, saying that Artemis Herself is a woman, so why shouldn't she join? Ariadne snarks on Pasiphaê's non-existent hunting skills, indicating she sees right through Pasiphaê flimsy attempt at a cover-up for being with anotgher King.
That night, the man from the woods, Andreas (Bill Thomas), reports to Pasiphaê and an elderly gentleman by the name of Tiresius (Donald Sumpter), advisor to the King and Queen of Thebes, that the baby is gone, not dead. There was also no blood. He followed 'some boys' back to Atlantis but lost them in the streets. Pasiphaê is less than amused, to say the least. The area will be combed by the guards and Laius--who has come sneaking up--says the baby must be found and 'dealt with'. The Queen promises it will be so by nightfall and that her husband will be none the wiser.
The baby, all the while, has finally fallen asleep when Hercules knocks over a bunch of pottery Jason with his lightning reflexes manages to catch. The next morning, a rooster wakes the baby, who is promptly placed in bed with Hercules and settles contently while Jason goes out to get more milk. He spots guards in the marketplace who are checking out every baby in sight. News has traveled fast and Medusa--who has most likely arrived with said news--informs Jason of the baby's family tree: the baby was fathered by Laius. Jason doesn't understand and Medusa explains that the baby was born out of wedlock--not to queen Jocasta.
Everyone rushes to pack some things and leave: the baby is not safe here. That said, the guards and Tiresius are at the door, banging. Medusa tells Pythagoras, Hercules, and Jason to take the baby and make it to a tavern on the Sacred Way. The landlord is a friend of hers. By now it's clear that Medusa is by far the most capable character on this show, which is only added to when she goes through the house like a whirlwind to hide any evidence of the baby and then opens the door as if nothing ever happened. She does, however, miss the reconstructed baby rattle lying on the floor.
The boys rush to safety while Medusa goes through the third degree with Tiresius. She spots the rattle and manages to push it behind some baskets while she rambles on about laundry. She goes off and takes a moment to collect herself while Tiresius pushes the baskets away and finds the rattle. Oh boy... Medusa is in trouble now...
Meanwhile, the boys have reached the city walls only to find themselves cornered. With his awesome athletic prowess, Jason leaps from the wall onto a nearby building with the baby strapped to his chest. Hercules throws Pythagoras across the chasm and then runs the other way himself, knowing full well he would not be able to make the leap. He outsmarts the guards and wanders off contently. Jason and Pythagoras almost make it to the inn when the baby squeals within earshot of a pack of guards. When the guards eventually move off, Pythagoras tells Jason he really can't take too much more of this. Thankfully, they make it to the tavern where the owner is willing to shelter them. He warns them to be quiet, though, as the walls are 'thinner than they look'. Funny, the walls look like thirty to fourty centimeter blocks of solid stone to me, but what do I know, right?
Back in the palace, Laius has recieved the rattle from the guards and holds it wishfully. He's acting tough, but somewhere deep down, the King realizes this is still his son and is having trouble with the whole affair. The rattle was a gift from him, after all. Tiresius and Pasiphaê squash Laius' hopes of parenthood, however, and the hunt is back on. Tiresius, meanwhile, pays someone to track Medusa and when she leads him to the child, kill him. Medusa realizes she is being followed out of the palace, however, and I hope she will lead him on a wild goose chase.
At the inn, the baby is hungry and screaming his bloody face off. Someone comes in and the two men hide. The baby screams again... but it's just Hercules, and he doesn't have food. Great. Medusa, indeed, tried to lead her followers astray but a band of soldiers along with Tiresius and Locasta must have caught up with her because she regretfully leads them right into the basement where the boys are hiding the baby. Locasta begs for her baby back and Hercules sneers at her she can hardly still call the baby hers, with her terrible parenting skills so far.
It turns out that the boy wasn't born out of wedlock afterall; after his birth, Laius took him to see the Oracle and the Oracle told him that once the boy grew up, he would kill his father. So the King made Tiresius get rid of the child. Now Jocasta's sadness and anger towards her husband makes a lot more sense. Emotional, Hercules gives Jocasta the child.
Jocasta is overjoyed but Tiresius warns that Jocasta must leave now if she wants the child to live. Jason--for his heroic deed of the week--offers to take the child outside of the city gates. Knowing that a relatively unknown young male has a far better chance of getting out of a city flooded with guards than the Theban Queen or her old advisor, Tiresius entrusts the child to Jason but warns him that if he gets caught, there is nothing he can do for him. Jason understands. His friends are less understanding, although they want the child to be well.
Jocasta does not want to give up the child again, but has to, eventually. Hercules and Pythagoras offer to go as well and Tiresius gives them the battle plan: sneak out of the city at the least fortified gate and take the boy to the neighboring kingdom where Jocasta's father's men will be to take the child from them. Tiresius gives one more bit of information to Pythagoras: the Oracle has also foretold that the child will grow up to marry his mother. For who the swollen foot, his family line and the murder of his father were not enough clues, this final one must ensure you know the name of the child: Oedipus. With one last kiss, the three are off; a last kiss from Jocasta for Oedipus and one from Medusa to Hercules who asks what that was for. "For being a good man," she says, and I admit, I swooned a little. That woman can act.
What follows is a long climb through the city by three men and a baby, and several close calls with the city guard. They get stopped once, but the baby's incessant pooping helps scare them off. Even covered in drool and poop, the baby is adorable. At the city gates, Jason lures the guards away so the rest can escape the city. Jason himself one-handedly takes down many of the guards and then uses his athletic prowess to escape the guards.
By daytime, Pythagoras and Hercules are waiting in the forest for Jason to catch up. They are worried for him, but know that if anyone could outrun the guards, it's Jason. Jason is special, different, and they both know it. And they made the right decission with the baby. Oedipus, meanwhile, is being so cute on Hercules' lap that I must share.
Jason catches up to them and they make a fire to signal to Tiresius that they are safe and sound outside of the city walls. It sounds like a rather obvious sign to me but you know, if it works... Jocasta, meanwhile, questions Tiresius on why he helped her with the baby; he is, after all a faithful servant to her husband. He says he hopes to be a faithful servant to her husband for many more years but that sometimes, you have to follow your concience over your duty. He also assures Jocasta that her husband is not a bad man; Laius is just scared of the words of the Oracle.
The three friends reach the border and name the boy Oedipus, which literally means 'swollen foot'. They leave him with the guards--hard as it may be. Tiresius assures Laius and Pasiphaê that the baby is dead and that he did not suffer. Laius asks him to make libations to the Gods, to which Tiresius agrees. Pasiphaê doesn't look convinced of the death of the child but leaves it be.
The King and Queen of Thebes leave and again, the interactions between Laius and Pasiphaê are a bit too intimate. Ariadne asks if her stepmother is going to miss a man with the King's 'talents' and Pasiphaê questions why they must always quarrel; she means Ariadne well, after all. Ariadne tells her she wishes she could believe that and the two head inside for another cosy night at the palace. I'm actually starting to feel sorry for Minos.
Back in the city, Hercules wonders if he should go to the baths first or Medusa first. After their kiss/peck (the opinions of Hercules and Pythagoras differ on the subject), Hercules is convinced Medusa must be anxiously waiting for his manly body. If he goes to her right away, he will smell bad, but it will show he cares about her above all, but if he goes to the baths first, he will smell better, which is also considerate. In the end, Hercules decides on heading straight for Medusa. Pythagoras fears the worst for his friend, but Jason is less concerned... until they start talking about four kids, pigs, and chickens which Hercules will gamble or drink away. By that time the boys agree this will, indeed, not end well at all.
Next time on Atlantis: Ariadne gets grabbed by a muscular black man who promptly gets tortured by Pasiphaê, Jason and Ariadne nearly kiss, Pasiphaê takes out her anger on the Oracle and someone falls off of a horse. Saturday on BBC One, recap on Monday.