A while ago, I decided that on the day of the Hene kai Nea, I'd post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog.

Changes to the blog:
Anything else?
Pandora's Kharis, a charity circle for and by Hellenistic Polytheists, was launched a few months ago and has collected $186,- for the Coats For Kids Foundation last month. This month's very worthy cause is Greek Non-profit Foundation Dsmos, and there is still time to donate; right now, $145,50 has been donated by our wonderful members! Would you like to help? Join us on Facebook!

That is it for this month's updates, as far as I can remember. I hope you have had a wonderful end of the year, and you will have a great old month/start of the new.
Sappho (Σαπφώ) was a Hellenic lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos (Λέσβος) around 620 BC, although the exact date is unknown. She wrote beautiful and highly romantic poetry that comes and goes straight to the heart, and left behind a great volume of poems of which only one complete poem survives until today, along with substantial portions of four others. It seems, though, that two new works have been recovered recently. They came to light when the owner of an ancient papyrus consulted Oxford papyrologist Dr. Dirk Obbink about the Greek writings on the document he possessed.

The Greek Reporter reports Dr. Obbink's conclusions:

“The new Sappho is the best preserved Sappho papyrus in existence, with just a few letters that had to be restored in the first poem, and not a single word that is in doubt. Its content is equally exciting.

One of the two recovered poems speaks of a Charaxos and a Larichos, the names assigned by ancient Greeks to two of Sappho’s brothers, though never before found in Sappho’s own writings. The poem is set to cause discussions about whether or not the two men are Sappho’s brothers. It depicts an exchange between two people concerned about the success of Charaxos’ latest sea voyage. The speaker may be Sappho herself, but the loss of the poem’s initial lines makes this unclear. A horizontal line on the papyrus indicates the end of the first poem and the beginning of the next, an address to the goddess Aphrodite. Only scattered words from this second poem can be recovered from the papyrus, which grows more tattered and illegible to the end.

The two poems share a common meter, the so-called Sapphic stanza, a verse form perhaps devised by Sappho and today bearing her name. Both belonged, therefore, to the first of Sappho’s nine books of poetry and their recovery gives a clearer glimpse into the makeup and structure of that book. All the poems of Sappho’s first book seem to have been about family, biography, and cult, together with poems about love/Aphrodite.”

Because of copyright issues, I'm not allowed to reprint the poems--and there isn't an English translation available to begin with--but Dr. Obbink's report (which includes the poems themselves) can be legally downloaded from here. It included further details about the document and the poems in question and is a really good read. I'm very excited about this discovery, as Sappho is one of my all-time favourite poets, and 2004 saw the previous discovery of more of my work. This recent discovery has raised my hopes of more of her works being discovered in the years to come.

Elaion and I are proud to announce that by a large margin, Greek Non-profit Foundation Desmos has been elected as Gamelion 2014 cause for Pandora's Kharis. Desmos was established by a team of young, dynamic individuals sharing a common vision to responsibly and effectively address the imminent social and humanitarian crisis in Greece through collaboration and the involvement of the private sector. Desmos utilizes surplus products and services to meet the basic needs of vulnerable groups and individuals. With one phonecall or an email to Desmos, you can communicate your offer or your need, and enter into a dynamic network. Desmos won with 71 percent of the votes.
The Pandora's Kharis PayPal account is once more open to receive donations, and can be accessed in the right hand sidebar of the Pandora's Kharis page. Even if you are not a member of Pandora's Kharis, you are very welcome to donate any amount, no matter how small. The deadline to donate is February 1, 2014. All PayPal costs will be covered by Elaion so your full donation will be transferred to Desmos. Thank you in advance for your donation, for spreading the word, and/or aiding the cause in any other way. If you want to join the conversation, join Pandora's Kharis on Facebook.

On another note, today is the Theogamia. This festival celebrates the anniversary of the marriage (gamos, γάμος) of Zeus Teleios (Τελειος, Of the Marriage Rites) and Hera Teleia (Τέλεια, same), and Elaion is hosting a PAT ritual to celebrate it with other Hellenist around the globe. Will you be joining us at 10 AM EST? The ritual can be found here.
So, yesterday, I posted one of the reader questions I had gotten, and wondered if any of you guys could help me answer it. The question came down to the following:

"I’ve been wondering if there are any similar stories out there; [other] people who tried to rebel against the Gods of their society and were either more-or-less successful, or harshly punished."

The ever wonderful Rob Buckley answered with a few wonderful examples, two of which had crossed my mind as well. I will get to those, but before we do, I am going to assume we are talking about real live people, and not mythology. The example of Moses came up, which threw me a little. If mythological examples are allowed, Sísyphos, comes to mind--along with Cassiopeia, Niobe, and Tantalos.

Rob mentioned Socrates, who was pre-emptively punished by humanity so he would not bring down society with his blasphemous speeches. The people were sure that the Gods would eventually take our Their revenge on them, if he was not stopped. It was not the only reason he was put to death, but it was one of them.

Stēsikhoros (Στησίχορος) was another example of Rob's that I had completely forgotten about. He was a lyrical poet, who lived around 640 – 555 BC. To quote Wikipedia:

"Helen of Troy's bad character was a common theme among poets such as Sappho and Alcaeus and, according to various ancient accounts, Stesichorus viewed her in the same light until she magically punished him with blindness for blaspheming her in one of his poems. According to a colourful account recorded by Pausanias, she later sent an explanation to Stesichorus via a man from Croton, who was on a pilgrimage to White Island in the Black Sea (near the mouth of the Blue Danube), and it was in response to this that Stesichorus composed the Palinode, absolving her of all blame for the Trojan War and thus restoring himself to full sight."

I was also reminded of the first man who slew an ox, an act commemorated during the Bouphónia. Various authors name various people to commit the first slaying; Porphyrios names Diomus, priest of Zeus Polieus; Theophrastos (371 – 287 BC), a student of Aristotle, names a man called 'Sopatros' as the culprit, a métiokos who occupied a farm in Attika; and Androtion, a Hellenic orator from around 350 BC names a man called Thaulon as the killer, although he offers no more details than his name. The myth remains largely the same, though; the man in question slays the ox, flees, and is pursued to stand trial--usually because a drought or famine plagued Athens afterwards and an oracle (usually the oracle at Delphi) decreed that the punishment would only be lifted once the culprit was brought to justice. In all versions, those who witness the murder of the ox eat of the ox's flesh, and otherwise perform tasks in its processing. In most versions, the ox's skin is filled with hay and put in front of the plough. In almost all versions, the axe is eventually blamed for the murder, and destroyed.

Rob's last example had occurred to me as well; the earthquake at Sparta in 464BC was put down to disrespect towards Poseidon's laws. Pausanias, in his Description of Greece, writes:

"As the Spartans paid no heed to their being suppliants, the wrath of Poseidon came upon them, and the god razed all their city to the ground. At this disaster all the serfs who were of Messenian origin seceded to Mount Ithome. Against them the Lacedaemonians, amongst other allies, called to their assistance Cimon the son of Miltiades, their patron in Athens, and an Athenian force. But when the Athenians arrived, they seem to have regarded them with suspicion that they were likely to promote revolution, and as a result of this suspicion to have soon dismissed them from Ithome." [4. 24. 6]

I'm not sure if it counts, but the story of Atlantis might also qualify, even though there is no one man or woman blamed for the event--not even a God, although Poseidon comes to mind? From Plato's Timaeus:

"...But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island." [24e - 25d]

For now, these are all the examples I could come up with--besides the entire Trojan war--so I hope these are what you were looking for, Anon. I'll keep my eyes open for other examples, and if my readers have any, I encourage them to share. Thank you for your question, and Rob, thank you for your answers!
Hello everyone, I am sorry to say I am calling in a sick day today. I've had a rough couple of days with very little sleep, and there is a good chance that when you read this, I am catching up on some of it. While I sleep, I would like to ask for your help. I have received a question that I think I'd like to put to the group, although I have some ideas of my own. Since I did not get to ask permission for using their name, I'm posting the question anonymously.

"I have a question, which will probably need some context to make sense, so first some background information:
A while ago, I saw a very interesting documentary about Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh who ruled in the Amarna Period. After becoming Pharaoh, Akhenaten abandoned the traditional polytheistic religion and tried to introduce Atenism, a henotheistic worship of the Aten, originally the sun-disk and an aspect of Ra. He raised Aten to a status as the new supreme Deity, placing him above all traditional Gods. He even left Thebes behind and built a new city for the worship of Aten, the city of Akhetaten. Although he did not (actively) deny the existence of the other Gods, he did refrain from worshipping any besides Aten.
Now, the part of this story that fascinates me the most, is what happened after Akhenaten died. His son and successor changed his name from Tutankhaten (Living Image of Aten) to Tutankhamun (Living Image of Amun), and abandoned the city of Akhetaten, which fell into ruin over the course of time. His followers turned away from the henotheistic worship of Aten, and traditional polytheism was gradually restored throughout Egypt. Tutankhamun’s successors, Ay en Horemheb, destroyed the temples that Akhenaten had built. Horemheb eventually instigated a damnatio memoriae campaign against Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Ay, excising them from the official lists of Pharaohs in an attempt to delete all trace of Atenism, and the Pharaohs associated with it. Akhenaten was wiped from all historic records so effectively, his identity and reign weren’t rediscovered until the late 19th century, more than 3000 years after his death. The Amarna Period was also accompanied by a massive pandemic outbreak, causing later generations to believe that the Gods had turned against the Pharaohs associated with Atenism. Akhenaten had rebelled against the Gods, trying to change society, and as punishment his era was marked by disease and he was erased from history.
Now, as for my question. This story really intrigued me, and I’ve been wondering if there are any similar stories out there; other people who tried to rebel against the Gods of their society and were either more-or-less successful, or harshly punished. I have been Googling around, but I have not been able to find anything but the most obvious and successful ones (for example, Moses). So I was wondering, do you know if anything similar to the story of Akhenaten happened in ancient Hellas before the spread of monotheism through Greece? Are there records of anyone rebelling against the Hellenic Gods?"

Do you have an answer for this Baring the Aegis reader? I'll get back to this tomorrow, hopefully with some of your answers incorporated.
A while ago, I attended a church service for a friend. It was such a confusing experience for me that I wrote about it on Baring the Aegis, trying to sort out my feelings. I did, a little, and the comments helped a lot... but the experience has stuck with me, and I have found myself contemplating Christianity and why it feels so hollow to me on many occasions since then. Last night I watched a news item about the Sunday Assembly, an atheist church that is quickly gaining popularity in the world. In their own words, the Sunday Assembly describes themselves as:

"[...] a godless congregation that celebrate life. Our motto: live better, help often, wonder more. Our mission: to help everyone find and fulfil their full potential. Our vision: a godless congregation in every town, city and village that wants one. [...] Just by being with us you should be energised, vitalised, restored, repaired, refreshed and recharged. No matter what the subject of the Assembly, it will solace worries, provoke kindness and inject a touch of transcendence into the everyday. But life can be tough… It is. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, we have moments of weakness or life just isn’t fair. We want The Sunday Assembly to be a house of love and compassion, where, no matter what your situation, you are welcomed, accepted and loved."

I found myself watching recordings of their service and thought: 'that is what I witnessed when I went to church. This is church, everything is the same: there are pop songs, everyone is happy, they celebrate being together, and they ask for blessings for their own lives--the only difference is that there is no God that they pray to'. Then I realized where the problem lay: the service I attended could be made Godless and still summon the exact same feelings in its participants; you could leave God out.

As a Hellenist, I can't imagine a ritual ever giving me that idea, nor can I envision that for my religious ancestors. Every single thing in Hellenic ritual is focussed on the Gods; the goal of any rite may be to make a request for yourself or someone else, but the purpose of it is to honour the Gods. That is why there are sacrifices, that is why we recite long hymns, and make flowery prayers. That is why we pray our sacrifices are enough to appease the Gods and built our kharis with Them: the goal is not for us to feel good, the goal is to ask the Gods to keep us in mind in a way that might eventually lead to a better life for us--if we are pious, and live up to the ethical guidelines of our faith. If we work for it.

Just as a not, I still take absolutely no issue with Christianity; I am all in favour of pursuing something that makes you happy. If you have faith in the Christian God, then go for it! This is a personal observation, and I make it as respectfully as I can.

I believe in the Gods. I am a religious person at heart; believing comes easy for me. My girlfriend is fine with my religion, but it still spooks her that I actually believe--she is an atheist, after all. She is hardwired not to believe, I am hardwired to believe. It has caused some tension in the past, but you know, you make it work for love. Interestingly enough, my girlfriend--who was also at the service--thought the Sunday Assembly gathering looked 'too religious'. After a short discussion about definitions, she agreed it looked too Christian, but not religious at all--that's the point, after all: Sunday Assembly gives atheists a chance to find the community, the help, and the sense of belonging of a church without the addition of God. It won't be for everyone, but I could imagine feeling drawn to the concept if you were raised in church, or are simply missing this type of community in life.

I believe for the Gods. My own well-being is an afterthought to that. This has gotten me some flack before from the greater Pagan community, but I honestly don't care about that. My reason for being religious is that I think there are beings out there, who are greater than me, and even if they did not have the power to shape my life, I would still honour Them, simply for being who They are. I think that for the people in the service I attended--which is not reflective at all of the whole of Christianity!--this concept would be completely foreign. Not because they do not believe God exists, or that he should be honoured, but because I would still do it twice a day and extra on festival days if I got nothing at all out of it.

I could have titled this post 'believe for the right reason', but just as I feel I was wired for Hellenism, I am sure many Christians feel they were wired for Christianity, and many atheists feel they were wired for atheism. There is no 'right' way when it comes to religion--but it is important to debate (even if it's just with yourself) why you are in the religion you are in. Why do you do what you do, and does it make you happy? Does it feel truthful to you? If the answer is 'yes', then that is wonderful... but if the answer is 'no', then it may be time to examine your religious needs and the way you want them shaped in your life.

This post is a reminder, to never loose sight of why you believe. Just believing is not enough for most--it certainly isn't for me--because you lose not only your focus, but your purpose. Without a reason, why do it? Why make the libations, why form the prayers, why recite the hymns? For me, what I get out of it is not enough to do it, although a good, stable, life is always a plus. What I love about Hellenismos is that it allows me to feel close to the Gods, to know I have drawn Their attention, and in those few moments, I have an opportunity to show Them my devotion. This, at the end of the day, is my reason for performing the rites, and because of this connection, I believe.
On a day pretty close to Valentine's day us Hellenists honour a beautiful festival of love and social stability: the Theogamia, also known as the Gamelia. This festival celebrates the anniversary of the marriage (gamos, γάμος) of Zeus Teleios (Τελειος, Of the Marriage Rites) and Hera Teleia (Τέλεια, same). Zeus Teleios and Hera Teleia were considered the patron Theoi of marriage, although we are unsure if They were given sacrifice to when a man and women wed in ancient Hellas.

This year, the Theogamia starts at dusk on the 28th of January and ends at dusk on the 29th. To celebrate this divine marriage and ask for blessings upon the romantic ties we may have in life, Elaion is organising another PAT ritual on the 29th of January. The time is set for 10 AM EST. The ritual can be found here, and as always, we would love it if you joined us. For more information about the festival, please see last year's blog post I wrote about it. Should you have trouble opening the ritual, feel free to send me an e-mail and I will send it to you as an attachment.

We hope you will join us next Wednesday, and that you will snap some pictures of your celebration; we always love to see how you have celebrated with us. Again, if you can't make the exact time, any time before dusk on the 29th is perfectly fine; it's the thought that counts.
There are plenty of labels I identify with religiously--polytheist, Pagan, Hellenist--and I have found that the labels I identify with are linked closer to the experiences of others than my own. I label myself in a way that is understandable for others; I know who and what I am, I have no need to label myself just for me. When I am in the company of people who will have most likely never heard anything about Hellenism or even Paganism, I stick to 'Hellenist'. At least that way, I can explain right away what I believe in. With other Pagans, I identify as 'Pagan, Hard Polytheist--subset: Hellenist'. With other Recons, I identify myself solely as 'Hellenist'. Heck, with my parents, I'm just 'Religious', that's hard enough for them to agree with.

Labels, in my opinion, have their value placed upon them by those outside of the label; as much as a group might feel they have claimed and formed the meaning of a label, in truth it will always be defined by those outside of it. This is why labels change, and why we sometimes need new ones; the group doesn't outgrow the label--neither the original meaning of the label, nor the believes of the group have changed, after all--but through misuse or adoption by other groups, the label has become undefined, has expanded to include a broader group of people, or has had its meaning mangled beyond the point of recognition by the group. At this point, all of the labels I use identify me just as well as they have in the past, but they have also become muddled and messy. 'Hellenist' still works, and it will always work because it's the name of my faith, but especially in regards to the label 'polytheist', I am not sure I readily identify with it anymore.

Polytheism is defined as 'the doctrine of or belief in more than one God or in many Gods', and herein lies the rub; it includes everything from duotheism (Wicca), to soft polytheism (Neo-Wicca, mostly), and my brand of polytheism; hard polytheism, where all Gods are seen as separate entities, worthy of respect if not worship. 'Polytheism' today comes with subsets of its own these days, and it can make identifying with the label a frustrating experience when you just want to say 'I believe in and worship multiple Gods'.

It seems I am not the only one who has been mulling this over--although I have to admit the instances of this subject coming up are few and far between; I mostly interact with Hellenists, and we understand each other just fine--because Star Foster recently posted a manifesto to this extend, hoping hard polytheists are willing to adopt a new label: 'Multideist', defined by seven characteristics (which are still being updated and defined, but the basics are set):

1. The gods are many, separate and distinct. Any attempt to reduce the multitude of divinities to a single source or being is not multideism, but monotheism.
2. While the ultimate reality of each and every individual deity is beyond the scope of any human being to discover and articulate, every deity is treated as an individual worthy of hospitality and respect.
3. Ecumenical efforts must include an attitude of respect towards the gods and the role of belief in religion. No community can be built on dismissive disrespect.
4. Practice stems from belief, and there should be harmony between these two foundations of religion.
5. The beliefs and practices of the ancients have value and purpose. While they may in some cases no longer be relevant or appropriate, their wisdom can still serve us well if we don’t look down our nose at them.
6. Religious culture and community is built on shared values, not political ideals, imposed shame, or superficial similarities.
7. Free will is tempered by fate, and these forces held in tension shape our lives. While we may not always be free to do exactly as we would wish, neither are we helpless pawns of the gods. There is no ultimate good or evil to negate our personal responsibility, but our religious convictions are also not borne of whims or a matter of style.
As a Hellenist, I find myself drawn to this new label easily, and from what I can see, many Recons are drawn towards it with me. As Star says:

"So here we have an opportunity. To redefine ourselves, to bring clarity to our dialogues, and to increase understanding. I consider this concept, this identity, and I see hope. I feel a sense of relief in it, a burden lifted. Is it it divisive? Absolutely. All labels are. Is it a complete sundering of ties with paganism and polytheism? Not necessarily, it simply brings greater clarity to the conversations with those communities."

I am going to try out the label, use it for myself and in conversations with others to see how it defines in the long run. It's good to cut ties with the problematic labels that plague us and start as fresh as possible where others will always be reminded of similar labels and fill in this one as well by those definitions. Still, for now, the label is blissfully defined and familiar. Would this label be one you feel like adopting? It doesn't even have to replace any other the others you use, but perhaps there are circles in your life within which an identification of 'multideist' brings more clarity than 'polytheist', or any of our other labels. I would like your thoughts.
How long has it been since I did a straight up mythology post? Ages, at least. Well, yesterday someone brought up the myth of Sísyphos, and I realized that name is not even in my tags. Seeing as it is actually one of my favourite myths, that, of course, needs to be rectified.

Sísyphos (Σίσυφος) was a king; the king of Ephyra, the area now known as Corinth to be exact. For those who enjoy figuring out the convolutd family trees of the ancient kings, he was the son of King Aeolus of Thessaly and Enarete, and the father of Glaucus, Ornytion, Almus, and Thersander by the nymph Merope, the brother of Salmoneus, and the grandfather of Bellerophon through Glaucus. He was a very bright man, with a good mind for ruling. Unfortunately, he was also a proud man, and a deceitful one at that. He ruled his city with an iron fist, and killed visitors, breaking xenia and raising the ire of Zeus Xenios.

Sísyphos is not generally known for his deeds in life; he is far better known for his deeds in death. According to Hellenic mythology, Sísyphos is condemned to roll a rock up to the top of a mountain in Tartaros, only to have the rock roll back down to the bottom every time he reaches the top. The Gods, it seems, are well aware that working a dead end job without pay-off is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. There are various stories about Sísyphos and how he earned this fate. Apollodorus, in his Library, writes the following:

"Sisyphus is punished in Hades by rolling a stone with his hands and head in the effort to heave it over the top; but push it as he will, it rebounds backward. This punishment he endures for the sake of Aegina, daughter of Asopus; for when Zeus had secretly carried her off, Sisyphus is said to have betrayed the secret to Asopus, who was looking for her." [1.9.3]

According to Pherecydes (Frag. 78 in Müller, Fragmenta Historicum Graecorum, i. p. 91) Sísyphos told Asopus that Zeus had carried off his daughter Aegina, but continues to say that Zeus punished him by sending Death after him. Cunning as he was, Sísyphos managed to trick Death and bound him, so that men ceased to die, until Ares came to the rescue, released Death, and gave Sísyphos to Him. Before he died, however, Sísyphos told his wife Merope to omit his funeral rites, so that Hades, being deprived of his customary offerings, would be persuadable to let him go back to life in order to complain of his wife’s neglect. Hades did, indeed, let him go to deal with his wife, but when he refused to return, and had to be fetched back by Hermes, his well-known punishment ensued.

Sísyphos' tale is a cautionary one: those who do things solely for their own gain and who abuse others to do it literally deserve a fate worse than death. It is also a reminder that everyone will and must die, and that we will be judged by our actions in life. If we are pious to the Gods, kind to our fellow humans, and care about more than ourselves, we will be judged accordingly, and the afterlife does not have to be such a dreary place. As for the boulder; we all feel like we are pushing boulders up hills some days, but if we are aware of it, we--unlike Sísyphos--can change our fate. We can let go of the boulder and look for more satisfying past-times. That is a blessing all on its own.

Image property: Theoi.com
Yesterday, I stumbled upon this little .pdf gem on how to make perfumes like they would have worn in the ancient world. The hand-out was part of a 2012 workshop offered by the J. Paul Getty Museum. On its blog, the museum offered the reasons for organizing the workshop:

"The goddess of love, beauty, and desire, Aphrodite was also mistress of the seductive arts, perfume primary among them. Accustomed as we are to the aromas of car exhaust and air-conditioned buildings, to us the ancient world would perhaps be most overpowering in terms of smell. Sweating men and animals and their waste filled a city’s streets, making it vital to set off sacred spaces as well as those of luxury by making them smell sweet. Fragrance was everywhere in the ancient world, from scented oils used to adorn the body to incense burnt in homes and temples. 
Perfumes had many uses and meanings: they could be holy, used in the worship of the gods or the burial of the dead; they could be a symbol of status and superiority, used by athletes, aristocrats, politicians, and royalty; they could be medicinal, used to relieve ailments of the lungs or skin. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and across the Roman Empire, perfume was part of ritual, beauty, and commerce—much as it is today."

Erin Branham, creator of the workshop, took the time to delve into the classics for pointers--Theophrastus' 'On Odors', and Pliny the Elder 's 'Natural History'--but came up with only a few tips and tricks, seeing as the writing was vague at best. their writing did include lists of ingredients for perfumes, as well as some discussion of techniques and tools. Tablets from Knossos, Krete, document oil deliveries to be processed by perfumers, and tablets from Mycenae, Thebes, and Pylos mention the work of perfumers. Branham also found visual representations of perfume shops, including the fresco to the left, which depicts a band of cupids in a perfume shop, mixing scents.

In the ancient world oils were used as the carrier medium for perfumes, where the medium today is alcohol. This must have meant that ancient perfumes were far less noticeable than modern ones, and would have lain more thickly on the skin. Plant-based ingredients were used--including flowers, leaves, seeds, woods, resins and gums-- as well as animal-derived ingredients.

According to Wikipedia, perfume is described in a musical metaphor as having three sets of notes, making the harmonious scent accord. The notes unfold over time, with the immediate impression of the top note leading to the deeper middle notes, and the base notes gradually appearing as the final stage. The ingredients settled upon by Brenham include: frankincense, myrrh, and labdanum as base notes; rose, cinnamon, sweet rush, and styrax as middle notes; and marjoram, anise, and coriander as top notes for the perfume.

The article goes on to list tips on how to mix the various ingredients Brenham has found to have been used in ancient Hellas--amongst other civilizations--and the key tips and tricks to perfume making in general. It's a good read and if you can get enough friends together to take care of the cost of base ingredients between you, it sounds like a great activity to take part in.
Discussion topic for the day: can privatization save the treasures of ancient Hellas? The Archaeology News Network recently published a discussion on this topic, and it is a very good read. In this case, the discussion is between Stephen Miller, an American archaeologist who has spent the last four decades unearthing Nemea’s treasures, and everyone ever in charge of Nemea. From the article:

"[...] frustrating to the 72-year-old is the lack of hotels and restaurants to serve visitors to the site. “The Ministry of Culture does some things very well: it does conservation work extremely well, they are very good at setting up exhibitions,” says Miller. “They are lousy businessmen.”

Miller has a solution, which he says will generate jobs and protect Greece’s vast archaeological wealth from the ravages of an economic crisis which has closed down ancient sites, shuttered museums and caused looting to surge. In a detailed proposal sent to the government at the end of last year, he suggests letting private companies take over the development, promotion and security of certain under-exploited sites in exchange for a share of revenue generated from tourists."

The Temple of Zeus, Nemea [Credit: Ophelia2/WikiCommons]

Needless to say, the reactions have not been positive, at least not from the Powers That Be:

"Elena Korka, the culture ministry’s Director for Antiquaries and Private Archaeological Collections, says pillaging for prestige or profit dates back to the Romans, who raided Greek tombs for artifacts to decorates nobles’ villas. Invading foreign powers like Napoleon and the Nazis also took a share of the rich archaeological pickings. As a result, Greece now has some of the strictest laws protecting antiquities. “We do not consider it an object of commerce,” says Korka.
The culture minister right now rejects any suggestion of handing over administration of sites. “The cultural wealth, the legacy of this country, will remain under state control because it belongs to the Greek people,” says [Panos] Panagiotopoulos. But he does not rule out greater private sector involvement in other areas, and says parliament recently passed a measure allowing tour companies to effectively rent out archaeological sites for an event or an out-of-hours visit. Businesses can now also shoot their commercials against the backdrop of Greece’s dramatic monuments."

Greece is in a terrible economic bind, and it's no secret that even in these crummy economic times, tourism is still a relatively safe bet for income generation. As such, it would be a wise investment to focus on the one major selling point the country has: its cultural heritage. Since budget cuts prevent the government from doing so, privatization is a viable option... but comes with risks.

Privatization literally means that the rights to do with the site whatever the owner wants--probably within bounds, but still--go to a non-governmental owner, who might not be willing to invest for the long-term. Further studies and digs might be denied, precious art and remnants stolen or destroyed. Privatization would mean a loss of control over the sites, and hat is a scary prospect--even if it would help save the economy.

Depending on the buyer, privatizing might not be the worst idea, but it would make far more sense for the government to step up its game and stimulate the type of reaction privatization would bring without losing the rights to the monuments itself. I'd love to hear your opinions on the subject. What do you say; privatization? Yay, or nay?
I seem to have managed to bring about another bout of intolerance issues yesterday, and as a result, fourteen hours later, I still have puffy eyes, a headache, and I'm stupendously tired. Forgive me for this short post today. In order to get my laughs in--because I need them, honestly--I visited Tumblr this morning to catch up on some 'Hellenic Problems'-posts. For those of you not up to speed with this blog; it's a Hellenistic blog which posts picture updates of problems we face as Hellenists, and most of them are very relatable and very funny. I encourage you to head over there for your daily dose of Hellenismos.

Perseus is one of ancient Hellas' greatest heroes, and it is not odd that he was immortalized in the night's sky. He is--of course--linked to the many constellations dedicated to the rescue of Androméda, but there is far more tot he hero Perseus.

Perseus was born to Danae, who was locked in a bronze chamber by her father Akrisios, where she was impregnated by Zeus in the form of a golden shower. Akrisios put both mother and child in a chest and set them adrift on the sea, but they washed safely ashore on the island of Seriphos. From Hyginus' 'Fabulae':

"Danaë was the daughter of Acrisius and Aganippe. A prophecy about her said that the child she bore would kill Acrisius, and Acrisius, fearing this, shut her in a stone-walled prison. But Jove, changing into a shower of gold, lay with Danaë, and from this embrace Perseus was born. Because of her sin her father shut her up in a chest with Perseus and cast it into the sea. By Jove’s will it was borne to the island of Seriphus, and when the fisherman Dictys found it and broke it open, he discovered the mother and child. He took them to King Polydectes, who married Danaë and brought up Perseus in the temple of Minerva. When Acrisius discovered they were staying at Polydectes’ court, he started out to get them, but at his arrival Polydectes interceded for them, and Perseus swore an oath to his grandfather that he would never kill him. When Acrisius was detained there by a storm, Polydectes died, and at his funeral games the wind blew a discus from Perseus’ hand at Acrisius’ head which killed him. Thus what he did not do of his own will was accomplished by the gods. When Polydectes was buried, Perseus set out for Argos and took possession of his grandfather’s kingdom." [63]

The story of Perseus is somewhat chaotic; his myths have been told and retold many times--even in ancient times--and what happens to Perseus next is most certainly up for debate. To quote the 'Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology':

"According to a later or Italian tradition, the chest was carried to the coast of Italy, where king Pilumnus married Danaë, and founded Ardea (Virg. Aen. vii. 410; Serv. ad Aen. vii. 372); or Danaë is said to have come to Italy with two sons, Argus and Argeus, whom she had by Phineus, and took up her abode on the spot where Rome was afterwards built (Serv. ad Aen. viii. 345). But, according to the common story, Polydectes, king of Seriphos, made Danae his slave, and courted her favour, but in vain. Another account again states that Polydectes married Danae, and caused Perseus to be brought up in the temple of Athena. When Acrisius learnt this, he went to Polydectes, who, however, interfered on behalf of the boy, and the latter promised not to kill his grandfather. Acrisius. however, was detained in Seriphos by storms, and during that time Polydectes died. During the funeral gaines the wind carried a disk thrown by Perseus against the head of Acrisius, and killed him, whereupon Perseus proceeded to Argos and took possessions of the kingdom of his grandfather (Hygin. Fab. 63)."

No matter the version of the tale, Perseus' greatest heroic deed is what follows: the hunt for Médousa. In the most common versions of the story, Polydektes did not yet marry Danae, but wished to. A now grown up Perseus did not trust Polydektes and tried to keep him away from his mother, so Polydektes had to come up with a plan. He said he would marry Hippodameia--tamer of horses--and asked Perseus for a horse to give as a wedding present. Perseus didn't have one to give, so he told Polydektes to name any other favour, and that he would not refuse. Polydektes then instructed him to cut off and bring back the head of a Gorgon, and Perseus was trapped. From Apollodorus' 'Bibliotheca' we learn the following:

"So with Hermes and Athene as his guides Perseus sought out the Phorkides (daughters of Phorkys), who were named Enyo, Pephredo, and Deino. The three of them possessed only one eye and one tooth among them, which they took turns using. Perseus appropriated these and when they demanded them back, he said he would return them after they had directed him to the Nymphai. These Nymphai had in their possession winged sandals and the kibisis, which they say was a knapsack. (Pindaros and Hesiodos in the Shield of Herakles, describe Perseus as follows : `The head of a terrible monster, Gorgo, covered all his back, and a kibisis held it.’ It is called a kibisis because clothing and food are placed in it.). They also had the helmet of Haides. When the Phorkides had led Perseus to the Nymphai, he returned them their tooth and eye. Approaching the Nymphai he received what he had come for, and he flung on the kibisis, tied the sandals on his ankles, and placed the helmet on his head. With the helmet on he could see whomever he cared to look at, but was invisible to others.

Perseus took flight and made his way to the Okeanos, where he found the Gorgones sleeping. Their names were Stheno, Euryale, and the third was Medousa, the only mortal one : thus it was her head that Perseus was sent to bring back. The Gorgones’ heads were entwined with the horny scales of serpents, and they had big tusks like hogs, bronze hands, and wings of gold on which they flew. All who looked at them were turned to stone. Perseus, therefore, with Athena guiding his hand, kept his eyes on the reflection in a bronze shield as he stood over the sleeping Gorgones, and when he saw the image of Medousa, he beheaded her. (As soon as her head was severed there leaped from her body the winged horse Pegasos and Khrysaor, the father of Geryon. The father of these two was Poseidon.) Perseus then placed the head in the kibisis and headed back again, as the Gorgones pursued him through the air. But the helmet kept him hidden, and made it impossible for them to identify him.” [2. 36 - 42]

With Médousa's head secured, Perseus headed back to Polydektes, but was stopped while on route by the vision of a woman, chained to a rock, about to be devoured by a sea monster. It had been a dark day for Cepheus, king of Aethiopia, when he had heard his wife Cassiopeia boast that her daughter Androméda was more beautiful than the Nereids. Shocked, he had tried to silence his wife, but it was too late. The father of the Nereids, the sea God Nereus, had heard Cassiopeia's prideful boast and had brought his grievance to Poseidon. Poseidon had ruled in favour of Nereus and sent Cetus, a huge sea monster, to ravage the coasts of Aethiopia. Nereus would only be appeased when Cepheus sacrificed his daughter to Cetus. Cepheus had refused, but when the terror continued, Androméda had offered herself up to be sacrificed. Fast forward to Andromeda, chained to the rocks, about to die. Perseus pulled Médousa's head out of his bag and petrified Cetus with it before undoing Androméda's bindings. He fell for the beautiful princess instantly, and desired to take her as his wife. In most versions of the myth, he is allowed, but Hyginus in his 'Fabulae' has a different story to tell:

"When he wanted to marry her, Cepheus, her father, along with Agenor, her betrothed, planned to kill him. Perseus, discovering the plot, showed them the head of the Gorgon, and all were changed from human form into stone. Perseus with Andromeda returned to his country." [64]

Perseus eventually married Androméda and took her off to his native island of Serifos. They had many children; sons Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, and Electryon, as well as daughters, Autochthe and Gorgophone. According to Hyginus in his 'Astronomica', Perseus was committed to the stars for the following reasons:

"He is said to have come to the stars because of his nobility and the unusual nature of his conception."

The constellation Perseus is visible at latitudes between +90° and −35° and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of December.
Around 1870, Heinrich Schliemann headed an archaeological dig in Turkey. His site was located south of the southwest end of the Hellespont and northwest of Mount Ida. In 1865, an  English archaeologist named Frank Calvert had excavated trial trenches in a field he had bought from a local farmer. The results were promising, and Schliemann took over Calvert's dig--which had since been named 'Hisarlik'--and took sole credit for the future finds at the site, even though Calvert had done the work of locating the site in the first place. In this documentary (which is rather old, but a great watch) tells the story of the dig for Troy and of Schliemann himself, and intercuts it with archived videos about the dig.

At Hisarlik, Schliemann found evidence of nine cities built on top of each other, as well as evidence of a high wall which must have fortified the town. Schliemann figured that the city of Troy--or Ilion/Ilios (Ἴλιον/Ἴλιος) as it would have been called at the time of the ancient Hellenes--must have been one of the lower, older, cities and thus he blasted his way down to the second city, where he found signs that seemed to corroborate his story--jewellery included, that Schliemann took to be those of Helen--which turned out to be a thousand years older than the time described in the epic. Due to his methodology, much of the later cities were destroyed.

Archaeologists today believe that the sixth and seventh oldest cities found in layers at Hisarlik are the best candidates for the Troy of The Iliad. Evidence suggests that city number six would have fit the setting of Troy described by Hómēros... but evidence points to its destruction not by the hands of man, but the hands of nature: Troy six was destroyed by a massive earthquake. Troy seven, however, was not as grand as Troy six, but its streets were littered with arrowheads, indicating that this city was, indeed, sacked by human hands. Hómēros, it seems, combined the two (destruction) stories into his great epic.

I will always be grateful to Schliemann for finding the location of Troy, but I don't agree much with his methodology. He was a man of his time, however, and we cannot really blame him for that... and in the end, we walked away with a lot more knowledge about Troy than we ever had--and perhaps ever would have had--without him. Or maybe it would have been Calvert's name in the hitory books; we will never know.
The ancient Hellenes had an odd view of blood; for one, they made a very clear distinction between human blood and animal blood, and ascribed powers of pollution and purification to it. It's a fascinating--if not somewhat dark topic--and I'd like to take a moment to discuss blood and blood rituals in ancient Hellas today.

To a modern practitioner, 'blood' most likely has a negative connotation to it; it's considered miasmic, after all, at least the blood of humans. Miasma--the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods--is a constant concern for the modern practitioner, and judging by the amount of purification rituals and methods we have available from the ancient Hellenes, it was for them as well.

Human blood has connotations of death; bleeding is a human thing, a weakening, an act that brings us closer to death even though we may have only cut our thumbs. We still spill our life's blood. While the ancient Hellenes studiously avoided talking about menstrual blood and the menstrual cycle of women, this reasoning is exactly why I feel menstruating women were most likely barred from religious rites: especially to the men who dictated these rules, a woman loosing blood would be a terrifying thing; a literal bloodletting and something that brings the woman closer to death and more in tune with her humanity. Miasma are those things that taint us as human while we long to be in the presence of the Gods, and take it from me, very few things make a woman feel more humbly human than suffering through her period.

Animal blood in Hellenism has an entirely different connotation; not only was it a religious sacrifice, but it was used as a purifier as well. During an animal sacrifice, the animal was killed by a blow to the head or the slitting of the throat. Even if the animal was killed by a blow to the head, the throat was slid afterwards, and the blood was collected. Some blood was sprinkled on the front of the altar and poured into the fire as part of the sacrifice; a representation of the animal's life force, and along with the barley groats that were tossed into the fire previously, a purifier.

Animal blood as a purifier was especially important in the ritual absolution of murderers. If we look at the Eumenides by Aeschylus, we can see how Apollon has purified Orestes of the murder of his mother by killing a swine and holding it out over him, letting the blood of the animal drip down over his head and hands. In this regard, the blood serves to make visible the blood guilt--Orestes is literally covered in blood, more so than he ever was during or after the murder of his mother--and then have something physical to wash away, taking the blood guilt with it. It's one of the many steps of Orestes' redemption which is only complete when Athena absolves him, but it starts with the presentation of a substitute to the daimons of vengeance, and the physical manifestation of blood guilt.

"Taught by misery, I know many purification rituals, and I know where it is right to speak and equally to be silent; and in this case, I have been ordered to speak by a wise teacher. For the blood is slumbering and fading from my hand, the pollution of matricide is washed away; while it was still fresh, it was driven away at the hearth of the god Phoebus by purifying sacrifices of swine. It would be a long story to tell from the beginning, how many people I have visited, with no harm from association with me." [276]

This link between blood and the tension between death and life shows more often in Hellenic mythology; the blood from the vein on the left side of Médousa's head was allegedly capable of killing, but Asclepius, a great healer, used the blood from the veins on the right side of the head for saving lives. Dionysos--a God very close to the cycle of life and death due to his troubled birth--was intricately linked with blood. There are many stories on His birth, but two are of importance to this post. In one, he is born from Semele and Zeus, and while Semele is pregnant with Him, Hera plants seeds of doubt in her mind about the father of the child truly being Zeus. Semele asks Zeus to reveal Himself to her in his true form, and when he is left with no other option, He does so, killing her in the process. Zeus takes pity on His child, and takes Him into either His thigh or testicle, where He is eventually born from.

In the other version of the myth, stemming from Krete, Dionysos is the child of Zeus and Persephone (or Demeter). In this version, Dionysos is born, but ripped to pieces by Titans, under orders of a jealous Hera. Zeus smites the Titans, but is too late to save anything of Dionysos but His heart, which He gets implanted into His thigh like the first myth, or implants into Semele.

In both versions of the myth, Dionysos is twice-born, hence his epithet 'Dimêtôr' (Διμητωρ). Dionysos was considered a fertility God, but also closely related to nature's eternal cycle of birth and death. The ancient Hellens considered the moment a plant--especially the grape--began to grow for the first time after being planted its first birth, and counted its second birth when it became laden with ripened fruit. As Dionysos is so closely related to  the grape vine, it was Dionysos Himself that was considered being born once from the earth and again from the vine--and as such, wine was literally his blood. Many of His festivals allude to this, and the wine so copiously drunk during them often has a bitter connotation because of it.

There are many hidden references to blood in Hellenic mythology and ritual. It's both a corrupter and a purifier; a gateway to birth, and to death; a manifestation of the divine and of humanity. This is only an introduction on the subject--at best--but I hope it at least serves as something to ponder on.
It my great pleasure to announce the Gamelion 2014 nominees for Pandora's Kharis charity of the month are in! I'm posting this here as well, because, of course, we would like everyone in the Hellenic community to go and vote, and then proceed to donate to the winning cause.

Desmos is a Greek Non-profit Foundation that was established by a team of young, dynamic individuals sharing a common vision to responsibly and effectively address the imminent social and humanitarian crisis through collaboration and the involvement of the private sector. Desmos utilizes surplus products and services to meet the basic needs of vulnerable groups and individuals. With one phonecall or an email to Desmos, you can communicate your offer or your need, and enter into a dynamic network!

"I wondered about the situation in Greece which is so bad and want to help..."
Chicago Coalition For The Homeless
Since 1980, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) has followed a clear mission: to organize and advocate to prevent and end homelessness, because they believe housing is a human right in a just society. They are the only non-profit in Illinois dedicated to advocating for public policies that curb and can ultimately end homelessness. The organization leads strategic campaigns, community outreach, and public policy initiatives that target the lack of affordable housing in metropolitan Chicago and across Illinois. In addition, CCH presses for access to jobs, training, and public schools. Community organizers, policy specialists, and public interest attorneys advocate with people hurt by homelessness, including mothers with children, unaccompanied youth, ex-offenders, prostitution survivors, and low-wage workers.

"It being so cold here in the states, I think it's important to support efforts to aid the homeless. I'd like to pitch support to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. They are a top-rated non-profit and have 4 stars (highest rating) from Charity Navigator."

International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. At work in over 40 countries and 22 U.S. cities to restore safety, dignity and hope, the IRC leads the way from harm to home.

"They're well-established (81 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."

Educate Girls Globally

Educate Girls Globally exists to provide opportunities for women and girls to achieve their full potential, recognizing that educated women are the world’s most powerful agents of social change. As a result of their education, the world becomes a safer, healthier, and more just place.

"I have come to believe that one of the root causes for MANY of the problems in the world is the oppression of women. Knowledge is power, so I would like to see our donations go to Educate Girls Globally, which focuses on bringing basic education to girls in places where it's not at all common to do so."

Do you have a favourite out of these four? Vote for your favourite 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 January 22, 2014.
A while back, I shared the famous statue of Nike found in Samothrake and currently on display in the Louvre in Paris, France, is getting a four million euro restoration. The operation is worth 4 million euros, one more than originally scheduled, of which three are to be provided by sponsors. The Louvre has called on companies and private donors to provide funding for the rest of the money with the campaign 'Tous mecenes!', and today, I have very happy news to report: the final million has been raised!

[Credit: ANSA]

The Archaeology News Network reports that some 6,700 individuals made donations to the drive to raise funds for the restoration since its launch date on September 3.

An international restoration commission comprised of French and international experts is in charge of the project, which is expected to be completed by June next year. Its members were apprised of the scope of project, entailing restoration of the monument in coordination with renovation of the Daru Staircase and including scientific analyses by various labs, a visual survey by the CNRS of the blocks of the ship, and a 3D digitizing program.

At the current time, the Louvre reports that scaffolding has been erected around the Victory to make it fully accessible. Small window-like sections of the statue are squared off for cleaning with water. Meanwhile, further analyses are being carried out on the statue and boat, complementing those conducted in September. The 19th-century metal staples and mortar joints have been removed from the blocks that make up the boat. Cleaning has begun, revealing the variety of finishes produced by the ancient craftsmen's different tools.

I, for one, cannot wait for the end result.
Yesterday--at dusk--the Lênaia (Λήναια) festival started. It's dedicated to Dionysos Lênaios (Ληναιος, of the wine press), and is almost undoubtedly a fertility festival, which was celebrated to encourage the earth to thaw and soften, and become ready for sowing. This three-day festival honors Dionysos and has a multitude of links to the Lesser Dionysia. In fact, it's been described as an urban version of the Lesser Dionysia, but without the grander of the greater Dionysia. I have written about the festival before, and those looking to celebrate might want to read up on the history of it.

The Lênaia starts at the twelfth and ends either on the fourteenth or fifteenth of the month. Personally, I feel it ends at dusk on the fifteenth, as that would make up the full three days attested to (from dusk on the twelfth, to dusk on the fifteenth). It can be celebrated with wine, by seeing a show or movie, and by spending some time in bed with your lover--in fact, it's much like the Haloa festival in this regard. It's a festival mostly aimed at having a good time, and enjoying the good things in life, despite the cold outside. Offer wine to Dionysos, and dance for Him, if you feel so inclined. I'm pretty sure He would appreciate it. As a personal note, dancing for Dionysos is always my favourite part of my celebration, and I look forward to dancing for Him on Thursday night.

Yesterday, I came across one of the best representations of one of Aristophanes' theories as quoted in Plato's Symposium. Some of you will now know exactly what is going to come next; for those who don't, please read the comic first.

"Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse; he had a mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that either of Pausanias or Eryximachus. Mankind; he said, judging by their neglect of him, have never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For if they had understood him they would surely have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honour; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done: since of all the gods he is the best friend of men, the helper and the healer of the ills which are the great impediment to the happiness of the race. I will try to describe his power to you, and you shall teach the rest of the world what I am teaching you. In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word "Androgynous" is only preserved as a term of reproach. In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast. Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three;-and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round: like their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, dared to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods. Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained.
At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. He said: "Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg." He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that the man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw in, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel); he also moulded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state. After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they were on the point of dying from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them, being the sections of entire men or women, and clung to that. They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man.
Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they hang about men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature. Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saving. When they reach manhood they are loves of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children,-if at all, they do so only in obedience to the law; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded; and such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him. And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment. Suppose Hephaestus, with his instruments, to come to the pair who are lying side, by side and to say to them, "What do you people want of one another?" they would be unable to explain. And suppose further, that when he saw their perplexity he said: "Do you desire to be wholly one; always day and night to be in one another's company? for if this is what you desire, I am ready to melt you into one and let you grow together, so that being two you shall become one, and while you live a common life as if you were a single man, and after your death in the world below still be one departed soul instead of two-I ask whether this is what you lovingly desire, and whether you are satisfied to attain this?"-there is not a man of them who when he heard the proposal would deny or would not acknowledge that this meeting and melting into one another, this becoming one instead of two, was the very expression of his ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love. There was a time, I say, when we were one, but now because of the wickedness of mankind God has dispersed us, as the Arcadians were dispersed into villages by the Lacedaemonians. And if we are not obedient to the gods, there is a danger that we shall be split up again and go about in basso-relievo, like the profile figures having only half a nose which are sculptured on monuments, and that we shall be like tallies.
Wherefore let us exhort all men to piety, that we may avoid evil, and obtain the good, of which Love is to us the lord and minister; and let no one oppose him-he is the enemy of the gods who oppose him. For if we are friends of the God and at peace with him we shall find our own true loves, which rarely happens in this world at present. I am serious, and therefore I must beg Eryximachus not to make fun or to find any allusion in what I am saying to Pausanias and Agathon, who, as I suspect, are both of the manly nature, and belong to the class which I have been describing. But my words have a wider application-they include men and women everywhere; and I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the next degree and under present circumstances must be the nearest approach to such an union; and that will be the attainment of a congenial love. Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to us the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest benefactor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and giving us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are pious, he will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make us happy and blessed."  [189c onwards]
Aristophanes' speech is an alternative creation myth which accounts for homosexuality, as well a why people in love say they feel "whole" when they have found their love partner. He says that, before the Gods separated us, we had four hands, four arms, and two heads. There were three sexes: the all male, the all female, and the androgynous--who was half male, half female. The males were said to have descended from the sun, the females from the earth and the androgynous couples from the moon. The creatures tried to overtake Olympus, so Zeus devised a plan to cut their power but not deprive himself of their devotions and offerings. He decided to separate them from each other.
Apollon pulled the two heads to the side and let Zeus chut tem in two before stitching them up to form the navel, which he chose not to heal so Man would always be reminded of this event. The women who were separated from women became lesbians, the men split from other men and became homosexuals and those that came from androgynous beings became heterosexual.s From this point forward, mankind would always be looking for the other half of them, and thus not thinking of overthrowing the Gods.
Aristophanes admits readily that this is just a thought, a theory, and that it is not--in fact--myth at all. It would, however, explain the sensation of never wanting to be separated from the person you love. It's a cautionary tale of the price disrespecting the Gods can cost us, but also a way of trying to explain the human emotion of 'love'.
I adore this passage in the Symposium, although, obviously, it has it's flaws in the treatment of homosexuality. It's a brave speech to make, however, and I'll be damned if it does not explain a couple of things about this incredibly complicated thing called love.
I received a reader question yesterday (yes, I'm still open to those, even though I have a backlog--so sorry, especially for Facebook people!) from someone who'd rather remain anonymous. Their questions were rather personal in nature (for them, not for me) so I won't post those up, but one of them was:

"If you had not become Hellenic, what would you have become?"

I wanted to give an easy answer and found I couldn't. I have spoken before about how I think some of us were destined to follow the religion or tradition they are. From that post: [a] person [can find] themselves naturally suited to live up to the standards placed upon you by the religion. I have that with Hellenismos; I fit its ethical standard, its belief system, its way of looking at the world. I understand instinctively the how's and why's of the religion and walking a Recon path is therefor pretty easy most days; I am just me and it is enough. I think this 'wiring', as I have taken to call it, was done by the Gods, on purpose.
That said, I feel a fluxuating religious draw to the Kemetic belief system--reconstruction of the old Egyptian religious practices. It's not always there, but when I was looking to commit myself to Hellenismsos, it played through my mind quite heavily. Most of the Egyptian religion is not for me, and while the ancient Hellenes made it work somehow, I can't imagine mixing the two. There is one concept, however, in Kemeticism, that I am drawn to so much: Ma'at. Ma'at, to me, means the active endeavour to promote order (as opposed to Isfet--chaos). This means living to the letter of the law, fostering stability within yourself so you are not swayed by Isfet, and actively removing chaos from the world when possible (the famous shopping cart example comes to mind here). There are philosophical equivalents in Hellenismos, but Ma'at is the Kemetic kharis, or xenia, or any other core value. It's inseparable from the Kemetic religion, where it would be possible for us to simply not adhere to this.

Solely for the beautiful lifestyle that Ma'at dictates, I considered the Egyptian Gods--who, I admit, speak to me as well. I have never truly worshipped Them--They have never seemed like the forgiving sort, and where the Hellenic Gods accommodated the Neo-Wiccan style rituals of days past, I never felt like the Kemetic Gods would do so. The mythology and the rituals are beautiful, though, and I have often mused about how incredibly easy it is here in the Netherlands to get statues of the Egyptian Gods while I have to mail order statues of the Hellenic Gods. That always seemed unfair to me.

So, for about two seconds, there was a chance I would take a detour into Kemeticism first... but it would always have been a detour. I belong here, in Hellenismos, and while I acknowledge all the Gods exist, I am solely called to worship the Theoi. I want to thank my Anon, though, for their thought-provoking question. I had a few very pleasant moments to walk down memory lane.
Do you ever come across research that has some very interesting results but then draws conclusions that seen either so far-fetched or non-causal that you have trouble determining the value of the research? When I first read about the research done on Mycenaean grills by Julie Hruby of Dartmouth College, that was my exact reaction.

Hruby has conducted an interesting experiment to find out the use of various clay griddles and trays found amongst the ruins of Mycenaean palatial settlements. The equipment had been determined to be used for cooking, but the details of how food was prepared with them was never determined. No one knew if the rectangular ceramic pans that sat underneath skewers of meat would have been placed directly over a fire, catching fat drippings from the meat, or if the pans would have held hot coals like a portable barbeque pit. The round griddles had tiny holes on their one side, while the other was smooth... how were these griddles used?

Hruby took it upon herself to discover these ancient cooking techniques and teamed up with ceramicist Connie Podleski, of the Oregon College of Art and Craft. the artist mixed American clays to mimic Mycenaean clay and created two griddles and two souvlaki trays in the ancient style. With their replica cookware, they tried to cook meat and bread.

So far, so good. On the trays, they found that meat only cooked properly when coals were shuffled into it to roast the meat from up-close, and bread was most likely baked on the side with the holes so it did not stick too badly if oil was used lavishly. I find these results very interesting, and long for more and better pictures than the article provides.

Now on to the conclusions:
  • "We should probably envision these as portable cooking devices — perhaps used during Mycenaean picnics."
  • "As for the griddles, bread was more likely to stick when it was cooked on the smooth side of the pan. The holes, however, seemed to be an ancient non-sticking technology, ensuring that oil spread quite evenly over the griddle."
  • "They're coming from elite structures, but I doubt very much that the elites were doing their own cooking," Hruby told LiveScience. "There are cooks mentioned in the Linear B [a Mycenaean syllabic script] record who have that as a profession — that's their job — so we should envision professional cooks using these."
 I... do not fully agree, but most of all I resist modern terminology like 'picnic' and 'non-sticking technology'. When interpreting anything left behind by ancient civilizations, it is easy to taint the interpretations with your modern way of thinking. Unfortunately, this not only hampers your ability to draw the right conclusions, but also the ability to do good research.
I haven't read the report, so perhaps Hruby has done far more extensive research than we are led to believe, but I for one find myself wondering how hot the bottom of these trays become, because I severely doubt that they were used (only?) for 'picnics'. It would seem far more logical to use these in-doors as regular cooking appliances so the meat burns over an easily manageable bed of coals from the hearth instead of over the hearth itself--which would then be soiled with fat and would need a lot of maintenance to be restored. If the bottom remains relatively cool, these could just have been placed on a table or other surface to make cooking far easier. It would also explain why they are portable; it is much easier to bring the tray to the fire, shuffle coals in, and then carrying it to your cooking area than to transport coals to a fixed tray. I don't understand why these appliances are negeted to a fringe 'picnic'-status? Were they only found in meadows?
I find myself equally wondering about the grills--of which I have yet to find a good picture... anyone?--because it seems odd to solely consider this as an 'or'-situation. Bread was either baked on the smooth side or the side with holes. No, why? Why not consider they baked one type of bread on the one side and another type of bread on the other? Maybe they made honey cakes on the flat side, or baked eggs on it, I don't know, but I doubt they made a smooth surface just to disregard it during cooking.
As for the last mentioned conclusion... I am sure some of the Mycenaean elite had cooks, and these ceramic tools were used by them, and yes, there were probably many people who did not own these, but I somehow doubt that tools like these were used only by professional cooks. It's not rocket science, and it seems to make life a lot easier. As far as I know, we have no evidence to support either theory, so why even limit your conclusion to 'professional cooks for the elite'?
All in all, I would love to read Hruby's paper on the subject and see better pictures of the cooking process. I think the subject matter is very interesting and while it may not be the most glamorous of studies, I am far more concerned with items like these--items that belonged to the household--than the finery that has survived from the late Bronze Age (1700 BC to roughly 1200 BC). What do you think about the research and conclusions?