I have a tendency to go adopt new things in a very specific way: in general, I dive in without any restraint, give it my all, and spent every waking moment in it until the obsession normalizes. This makes me a very good person to put on any type of project, but it also means that I juggle a million-and-one projects at a time. I don’t believe in the slow build, in the careful exploration. I tend to go in full force and always believe I can do it. It was the same with adopting Hellenism. I started my new practice, read up as much as I could in a day or two, and started morning and evening libations, as well as a blog so I could share my new obsession with the world. 

I'm the type of person who would rather correct the course of the train than drive slow until I'm sure of the course. This has been both a help and a hindrance in the past, but in general I would say it has brought me some of the best things in life, including my religion, my blog, and my girlfriend. 

I am aware not everyone is like me, and honestly, I would not recommend my approach to religious practice to everyone. That said, what I would recommend is knowing the way you are wired. Starting and maintaining a religious practice--especially a Hellenic one where traditional sources place emphasis on at least twice-daily religious observance--is always an undertaking. When you're still int he infancy of your practice, it can be the most overwhelming thing: there is so much you don't know, so much you know you will still have to learn before you'll have a grip on all of it.

That first period is both the most exciting as the most frustrating and the scariest. On the once hand, you feel exhilarated because you've found something you feel really at home with, but you're scared to do it wrong, scared of not ebing good enough, and you're still missing the terminology to even Google for the things you should be doing. In Hellenism, 'khernips' is one of the best examples. I remember being blown away when I realized I'd been missing that rather vital step for a long while then. I came across it by accident, having no clue it was even a thing. My Google search was a frustrating experience because I only knew the term 'lustral water', and that wasn't even in the very limited supply of books I had at that point. Once I finally connected 'lustral water' to 'khernips', the search became a lot easier.

How you make it through this first period is dependent upon only yourself, I fear. My advice is to read as much as you can, ask questions to anyone willing to answer them, and to invest in a few books that will help you along greatly. Join Facebook groups, join Elaion, seek out others of your faith and just go for it. As I have said before, it's only hubris if you willfully go against the will of the Gods; I think They will not punish you for messing up when you had no way of knowing better. They have never punished me for it.

Once you get a handle on your practice comes phase two, and this is also the final phase: shaping your practice. You will never have a practice that you are fully satisfied with, that's fully perfect--not if you keep investing time and effort into your studies, into your rituals, into developing yourself. A religion is more than the rites you perform; religion is a lifestyle and it seeps into the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the people you meet, the person you become and everything else there is to you. No one is defined by a single aspect in their life, but your religion does say something about you as a person.

Developing your practice can be a hard thing to do, and it requires you to have an intimate knowledge of yourself, of your needs and desires. What do you want to get out of your religion? Why did you get into it? What religious baggage do you take with you? And most of all, perhaps, what are you willing to do for it? Are you willing to turn your life around if the Gods desire it of you, or would you rather just have a religion as a hobby? Both are fine, but you need to figure out the answer going in. 

Developing your practice is a beautiful thing, and everyone does it in his or her own way. Because of that, we all have something to teach, and we will always have something to learn from others. This is why community matters so much, and it is part of the reason I blog: to make information available but also to make myself available to you. If you are starting out, or even if you're shaping your practice, there will invariably come a time where you just don't know what to do. Reach out, to me or someone else, and allow other to help develop your practice. Honoring the Gods is and was never the job of one man or woman: we do it together, all of us, in our own little way.

By a huge margin, the American Non-profit organization the National Runaway Safeline has been elected as Anthesterion 2014 cause for Pandora's Kharis. NRS provides education and solution-focused interventions, offers non-sectarian, non-judgmental support, respects confidentiality, collaborates with volunteers, and responds to at-risk youth and their families 24 hours a day. Its sole competition was Adopt-A-Greek-School, an initiative which seeks to financially support struggling schools in Hellas using funds raised in the United States from individuals and other organizations. The National Runaway Safeline won with 78 percent of the votes.

Some history on the cause: Metro-Help was established in 1971 to fill a need for comprehensive crisis intervention for young people in Chicago. It was conceived as a centralized organization with free 24-hour services, expertise in all youth-related issues and as an information clearinghouse of youth services.

In 1974, the agency received an eight-month federal demonstration grant to establish a national hotline. During this time, 11,000 calls were received demonstrating the need for this type of service. Beginning as the National Runaway Switchboard, and now as National Runaway Safeline, NRS’ capabilities and services have grown considerably. The 1-800-RUNAWAY hotline now handles more than 100,000 calls each year. NRS’ 1-800-RUNAWAY crisis hotline is available 24-hours a day throughout the United States and its territories, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

The Pandora's Kharis PayPal account is once more open to receive donations, and can be accessed in the right hand sidebar. The deadline to donate is March 3, 2014. All PayPal costs will be covered by Elaion so your full donation will be transferred to the National Runaway Safeline. 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.

Last month, Greek Non-profit Foundation Desmos was elected as Gamelion 2014 cause for Pandora's Kharis. Unfortunately, it turned out that transfering funds to this cause is a banking nightmare unless you are in Hellas itself. We have been wrestling with banking systems to get the $146,- that was raised transferred and we are hoping to get confirmation of the transfer any day now.

Thank you for your patience and your more than generous donations!
Mesomedes of Krete (Μεσομήδης ὁ Κρής) was a Roman-era Hellenic lyric poet and composer of the early second century AD. He was a freedman and court musician to the emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138 CE), and created  three hymns and fifteen poems which have survived to this day. The hymns to Nemesis, the muse Calliope, and the Sun can be read here and listened to here. Today, I would like to leave you with his 'Hymn to Hēlios' because I'm a little sick and very busy, regardless.

Let the heavens be silent, 
the earth, the sea, the winds.
Mountains, valleys, echoes 
and the sons of birds, keep silent!
Phoebus of the long and beauteous hair is coming.
Father of the dawn, with eye of dazzling white,
you, with the glorious golden tresses, 
lead your rosy chariot along the limitless roads of the sky, 
following the winged footprints of the steeds,
intertwining your curling rays, 
surrounding the whole earth with your resplendent light. 
Your rivers of immortal fire give life to the smiling day. 
For your, the imperturbable chorus of stars dances on Olympus
accompanying their free melody on Phoebus' lyre; 
and in front, the pale Moon leads the rhythmic times 
of the seasons by the cadenced movement of white calves. 
Your benevolent spirit rejoices in turning the myriad-robed earth.
Oh boy... remember when I wrote about the Parthenon Marbles and called it 'one of the most controversial political landmines between Great Britain and modern Greece'? I wasn't exaggerating. To do a quick copy/paste for those not in the know about the marbles; the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, is a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803.

The Parthenon Marbles acquired by Elgin include seventeen figures from the statuary from the east and west pediments of the Parthenon, fifteen (of the original 92) of the metope panels depicting battles between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, as well as 247 feet (75 meters) of the original 524 feet (160 meters) of the Parthenon Frieze which decorated the horizontal course set above the interior architrave of the temple. As such, they represent more than half of what now remains of the surviving sculptural decoration of the Parthenon. Elgin's acquisitions also included objects from other buildings on the Athenian Acropolis: a Caryatid from Erechtheum; four slabs from the parapet frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike; and a number of other architectural fragments of the Parthenon, Propylaia, Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Treasury of Atreus.

Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and George Clooney promote their new movie 
The Monuments Men. Photograph: Dave M. Benett/WireImage

In the blog post linked above, as well as in the comments there, are a lot of pro's and con's about returning the marbles. I think they should be returned, honestly, but I don't think Great Britain is obligated to at this point in time. Thankfully, I'm just the writer of a teeny tiny blog and not American actor Georgy Clooney, because when he spoke up in favor of the return of the Marbles, shit hit the proverbial fan. The Archaeology News Network reports that:

"[...] [the] comments [were made] Saturday by Clooney while publicizing at the Berlin Film Festival his new film 'Monuments men' which tells the story of men recuperating looted Nazi art. Responding to a question by a Greek journalist asking him whether he believed the 2,500-year-old Parthenon marbles taken by British diplomat Lord Elgin two centuries ago should be returned to Greece, the actor had responded saying it was ''probably the right thing to do''. Clooney's words were immediately applauded by minister Panayiotopoulos who wrote a letter to thank him for his opinion and called him ''an active citizen and a creative artist who resolutely defends what is good and right''. He also invited him to spend a few days in Greece. [London Mayor Boris] Johnson's reaction was quite different, accusing the actor of ''plugging a film about looted Nazi art without realizing that Goering himself had plans to plunder the British Museum"."

Well, may I just say, again, 'oh boy...'? Actor Bill Murray--also in 'Monuments Men'--supported his co-star on the red carpet, adding more fuel to the fire by saying:

"It seems like it's a problem all over the world. Who owns this art? Where it came from? Do they have the right to give it back? I think it has had a very nice stay here, certainly. London's gotten crowded, there's plenty of room back there in Greece, plenty of room. England can take a lead on this kind of thing... letting art go back where it came from. If [the marbles] were all together the Greeks are nothing but generous – they'd loan it back every once in a while... like people do with art."

The question was put to Clooney and co-star Matt Damon again a little later on after he'd had time for some proper research, and he stuck to his previous answer. Quoting The Guardian:

"In London on Tuesday, the question was put to him again. "I did a little research just to make sure I wasn't completely out of my mind," he said. Slipping on pronunciation, he added: "Even in England the polling is in favour of returning the marbles from the Pantheon [sic], the Pantheon marbles."

Clooney said the Vatican and the Getty museum, in Los Angeles, had returned parts of the Parthenon and suggested the question was whether a piece of broken-up art should be put back together as best as possible. In this case returning them was "probably the right thing to do".

The actor said it was suggested over the weekend that because he was an American he probably didn't understand. "That's probably right," he deadpanned. But Damon quickly chipped in: "That can't always be the British default position. I mean seriously, it's not actually an argument to say we are Americans we don't get it."

Clooney added: "I do think it's worth having an open discussion." But he suggested he might not be getting his placards out quite yet. "It was one of a hundred questions at a press conference, a Greek reporter asking me about the marbles – and I just said I thought it was probably a good idea if they found a way back at some point.""

Let me be clear, in general, I don't think it's a smart movie to step into an argument when you know very little about it. That said, anything that comes out of the mouth of an actor as famous as George Clooney and his co-stars is bound to kick up dust somewhere. All we know for sure is that the situation remains unresolved and will remain so for quite some time. Sadly so, I would say.
I've been contemplating this expansion for a while, but I have finally decided to make the leap: today, I opened a Baring The Aegis Tumblr. For those of you who don't know what a Tumblr is... well, there is really no use explaining, is there, but here goes anyway:  Tumblr is a microblogging platform and social networking website founded by David Karp and owned by Yahoo! Inc. The service allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. The idea is to post and reblog content to form your own page. Social interaction is made easy by the possibility to reply to blog posts, reblog them to add your own commentary, or to contact the blogger directly through a multitude of forms.

Quite a few of you find this blog through blog posts by Tumblr users, and I quite enjoy that. I'm on Tumblr with a personal blog (and seeing as it's personal and completely non-Hellenic, you aren't getting the link to that) and figured the added work of running a Hellenic Tumblr blog would be offset quite easily by Tumblr's easy blogging features. So, while I have not yet decided how, exactly, this will work, the Tumblr page is up for you to follow.

As far as I can figure now, the blog will feature links to the blog itself, reblogs of others when appropriate, and will serve as a way for you to get in touch with me easily. The good thing about Tumblr is that it allows anonymous messaging, so if you've always wanted to ask me something you were a little nervous about, here is your chance. I've opened up all messaging types, so you should even be able to contact me anonimously even if you don't have a Tumblr yourself.

I hope to see you there!
Anyone who has ever taken the subway anywhere, be it London, New York, or any other place on earth, is aware of the difficulties of managing the tangled web of tracks so it ends you up at your desired station. It seems someone at the Iris Project figured that navigating the Underworld would be just as hard, so they made a map for poor lost souls to follow. Anyone looking for the Blessed Isle? Just take the northbound Asphodelos line to the Grove of Persephone, switch to either the eastbound Tartarus Line or the Kokytos line for three stops to reach your switch to the Hades Line. Get off at Makaron.

The Iris Project is an educational charity introducing the languages and culture of the ancient world to UK state schools in order to enrich the curriculum. It was founded in the belief that the opportunity to learn about Classical languages, literature, histories and art should be made available to all, regardless of background, and that learning about these fascinating subjects can be a vital tool in promoting learning across the school curriculum in UK state schools. They run a wide range of initiatives in state schools across the country, focusing especially on children in socially excluded inner city regions, and we also run projects which introduce Classics to adults in city communities. The centre opened in October 2013, and is run in association with the University of Oxford.

The Independant reported on the map with quotes from an interview--it seems--with the Iris Project's director, Lorna Robinson:

"I'd seen other maps of the Underground which had been themed to various ideas, and it struck me that the Classical Underworld would work really well for this design. I wanted a really vivid way of bringing the Underworld 'to life' and placing it in a modern framework. The stories are endlessly appealing and we hope the event will reach out to the community using these ancient tales."

The map is being used to promote a community myth day event hosted by the charity at the East Oxford Community Classics Centre, at Cheney Comprehensive School, for school pupils and local members of the community.

(Thank you, Star, for sharing this with me!)
There are some things religious Pagans are not encouraged to talk about. Doubt is one of them. I believe that the Gods exist, that They are real entities, who rule over life and death, and who dictate the way we should behave through teachings found in mythology and ancient societies. I chose to follow the Hellenic Gods in Their teachings, not disregarding that there are other Gods, but recognizing my human shortcomings, I could never honor all of the Gods in the way They feel They are entitled to be worshipped. And so I leave the worship of the Norse Gods to the Asatruar, the worship of the Egyptian Gods to the Kemetics, etc. I have specialized, so to say, in the Hellenic Gods, but to me, all the Gods are real and worthy of respect.

I didn't grow up religious. My parents were raised in various denominations of Christianity, but they had both rejected it before I was even born. My parents do not disapprove of faith, but they discouraged it, regardless. I did not have an easy childhood, and by the time I was twelve, I was already searching for religion, longing to satisfy the need in myself I found to reach out to beings beyond my reach who could offer me something to hold on to. I investigated the common, major, religions and found them lacking. I can see the beauty in many of them now, but for my twelve year old self, they were passive and lacking in what I needed: structure, active Gods, and the focus on household worship.

I found Paganism and self-dedicated after a year and a day of reading and practicing. I was thirteen at the time, and while I did not believe in the God and Goddess I found int eh books, the concept drew me in enough to start performing the rites, to start celebreating the festivals and to find my peace there. It took me years until I truly believed in the Gods, at least four or five years of active practice. It wasn't something that happened overnight, but I did find myself looking back and thinking 'when did I start believing?'. For me, it wasn't a specific ritual, or a moment in time that cemented my faith. Once day, I realized that I believed, and that was that.

I love believing in the Gods. It gives me something to hold on to during the dark days, someone to thank during the good, and it gives me a purpose in life. I've said before that I don't have a direct connection to the Gods. No one talks to me, nor makes Their presence known in any other way. I don't have chats with Aphrodite, nor does Hypnos visit me in my dreams. I'm just a person who gives Them their daily due, and in return, I trust They steer my life towards a place of quiet comfort.

In general, I don't doubt anymore, but every once in a while, I will find myself in a discusson over religion, and loose the ability to formulate why I dedicate so much time to a concept I can't prove. Every now and again, I find myself in front of my altar, pouring wine into a flame with my arms raised high and I wonder what the heck I'm doing, planning around three religious events every single day. After a rough night with only a few hours of sleep, I sometimes lie on my back and think I'm an idiot for getting up at eight a.m. every single day to write a blog post about beings that may not be real at all.

I used to feel embarressed and silly when that happened. I'd feel my heart squeeze and my stomach flutter, and I would think about all the hours I would have wasted if the Gods really aren't real. With a very modest count of one hour per blog post (in reality, I think an hour and half to two on average is closer to the truth), I have spent nearly 700 hours on this blog alone. That's about a solid month of non-stop blogging, and I'm not even counting daily rituals, festivals, book reading, etc. I don't think I can accurately estimate how much of my life I have dedicated to religion, especially not if you count the time spent thinking about it as well.

I have made a deal with myself a rather long time ago: even if there are no Gods, the time I have spent worshipping the idea of Them, was never wasted. It helped me grow as a human being, helped me love myself and the world around me, it gave me a purpose when times were rough, and because I felt I had the Gods on my side, I got away with just a mental flirt about suicide, depression, and self-harm. I always had something better than that: I had Gods who loved me, either unconditionally or because I loved Them, depending on the period in my life. I had a purpose, a positive to cling to, and a reason to get the help I needed.

Honestly, I don't know where or who I would have been if it weren't for my religion and Gods, and to be completely honest, I'm not even sure if I still would have been here at all. It's not pretty, but it's true. If I had not found myself supported by powers around me when there literally was no one around me who could or would take care of me emotionally, I might have given up. It was a short dark period, but I had it, regardless.

Whenever I find myself in doubt, I think back to that time in my life. I think back to the people who appeared out of nowhere when I reached the end of my rope. I prayed for help, and I found it. Other people would attribute that to sheer luck, or the human condition, but I choose to attribute that to the Gods looking out for me. It's a concious decission which makes me feel better--stronger--and in the end, that's enough.

I suspect I will find myself in moments of doubt for the rest of my life, and that's alright. It's hard to believe in something when there is zero proof. If you allow yourself to get past that doubt, though, there is so much to gain. It's worth the small moments, and so much more.
Let me start off today with the very happy news that Lauren made it through the night. She's still alive, and I could not be happier, nor more proud. She contacted me late last night, and it was such a relief. Thank you, everyone, for the supportive messages. In yesterday's emotional blog post, I quickly brought up the epitaphios logos (ἐπιτάφιος λόγος). I did not have the faculties to fully address its purpose and form yesterday, so I thought I would do it today.

The epitaphios logos, or funerary oration, was deemed an indispensable component of the funeral ritual, especially in ancient Athens, where it came into practice around 470 BC for the honored (war) dead. A large part of Hellenic rituals of the dead speak of honoring the dead by name, so their names will never be forgotten, their honor never lost. This practice starts with the epitaphios logos, in which the deceased is remembered for their greatest of deeds.

Because Plato was eternally weary of the abilities of others to conduct the oration in the way it was intended, he made a guide for it, describing the four steps. My interpretation yesterday would probably upset him, but perhaps my zeal would have been enough to placate the master of words. In this abridged version of the oration of Aspasia the Milesian, he explains what the key components of the oration are by noting down an oration in full. From Plato's Menexenus:

"If I remember rightly, she began as follows, with the mention of the dead:—(Thucyd.)

There is a tribute of deeds and of words. The departed have already had the first, when going forth on their destined journey they were attended on their way by the state and by their friends; the tribute of words remains to be given to them, as is meet and by law ordained. For noble words are a memorial and a crown of noble actions, which are given to the doers of them by the hearers. A word is needed which will duly praise the dead and gently admonish the living, exhorting the brethren and descendants of the departed to imitate their virtue, and consoling their fathers and mothers and the survivors, if any, who may chance to be alive of the previous generation. What sort of a word will this be, and how shall we rightly begin the praises of these brave men? In their life they rejoiced their own friends with their valour, and their death they gave in exchange for the salvation of the living. And I think that we should praise them in the order in which nature made them good, for they were good because they were sprung from good fathers. Wherefore let us first of all praise the goodness of their birth; secondly, their nurture and education; and then let us set forth how noble their actions were, and how worthy of the education which they had received.

And first as to their birth. [...] The country is worthy to be praised, not only by us, but by all mankind; first, and above all, as being dear to the Gods. [...] Thus born into the world and thus educated, the ancestors of the departed lived and made themselves a government, which I ought briefly to commemorate. For government is the nurture of man, and the government of good men is good, and of bad men bad. And I must show that our ancestors were trained under a good government, and for this reason they were good, and our contemporaries are also good, among whom our departed friends are to be reckoned. 

[...] This, O ye children and parents of the dead, is the message which they bid us deliver to you, and which I do deliver with the utmost seriousness. And in their name I beseech you, the children, to imitate your fathers, and you, parents, to be of good cheer about yourselves; for we will nourish your age, and take care of you both publicly and privately in any place in which one of us may meet one of you who are the parents of the dead. [...] Considering this, you ought to bear your calamity the more gently; for thus you will be most endeared to the dead and to the living, and your sorrows will heal and be healed. And now do you and all, having lamented the dead in common according to the law, go your ways." 

From this we can distil the key features of the epitaphios logos. It started with the preamble, which describes why this oration is held and how the audience should behave during it and after it. This part tends to include an apology from the speaker that he or she will never do true justice to the achievements of the dead. Following that, there is a long talk of the origin and ancestors of the deceased, followed by an account of the bravery and other good attributes of the dead. this part tended to include they devotion to the Athenian Polity. Finaly, there was an epilogue, which constitutes a consolation and an encouragement for the families of the dead. The epilogue employs a traditional dismissal of the mourners.

In the greater narrative, the epitaphios logos was used mostly to praise the city of Athens and remember all their victories in war, but many examples of these orations have been found addressing loved ones and speaking the best of them out of a deep connection to the person, not the city they lived in. In this regard, they are very similar to the modern eulogy.

The epitaphios logos was almost solely used for the dead of war, but in this modern age, with the freedom to stretch these cultureal limits, we can count depression and the battle with suicide as a personal war. There is no dishonor in losing your life to it, and you will not--should not--be mourned over it any less. When I thought my brave and beautiful friend was dead, I could not but help consider her a fallen warrior, and she deserved an oration, even if Plato would have disapproved.
I think last night, someone very dear to my heart may have committed suicide. I'm not sure, because I have never met her. She lives in the US, while I live in the Netherlands. We met online. She contacted me over social media because my behavior had pissed her off. I was talking to people she considered friends on the site, and felt I was encrouching on her life. She wrote me 'I challenge you!', and not realizing the severity, I replied 'I accept! (...what did I just accept?)' in return. She hadn't expected that, and so we spent hours playfully going back and forth where it was much more real for her than it was for me. Yet, I begun to sense a pain there--a truth. I surprised her with my honesty, and shocked her with my kindness. In my second message to her, I asked how I could win her friendship instead of her anger. That was on 31 January 2014, and she has made me work for it since then.

We have exchanged hundreds of messages in the 21 days we have known each other. That is not an aggageration; there have literally been hundreds. Some were one word replies, filled with pain, or anger, and sometimes laughter. Others were essays written about television show characters we thought were attractive, and colleagues at work we wanted to smack upside the head. I knew as soon as we dropped the facade of those first messages that I was talking to someone in a great amount of pain, and I loved her, from that moment on. She opened up to me four days into our talks; spoke about how pathetic she felt for our little feud, how jealous and lonely, and hollow. She told me that in four days time, my messages to her had become the reason she woke up at all in the morning.

I have a background in mental health care. I know the signs. I knew how deep down the rabbit hole she was. She told me I should just forget about her, because she couldn't be saved. If I continued to talk to her, I would only get hurt. I told her I was not going anywhere and that I had my eyes wide open. If I got hurt, it was my responsibility, not hers.

And so, she allowed me into her life.

Sometimes she would try to hurt me with her words to test me. People had always abandoned her, so why wouldn't some girl half way across the globe do it as well? I didn't. I never left. I kept sending her messages, kept reeling her back. I think she started believing me eventually, and decided that maybe it was worth the risk of getting close to someone again.

When the suicidal thoughts hit her again in full force a little over a week ago, she sent me a message that it was becoming too much. She let me talk to her, and replied to every message. She allowed herself to believe me when I told her that she had people who would miss her--that I would miss her--and that it would get better. Not tomorrow, not next month, but in a few years. I've been depressed, I know the darkness. I've seen it in myself and in my mother. I understood at least part of the pain she was going through, and she didn't kill herself. She lived and I was so proud of her.

I was never under any delusion I could save her, but I still tried. I hope and pray to the Gods she has not followed through with her plans yet, and that she will allow me to try again. The last few days have been hard on her. She stopped replying to me, and so I kept reaching out. One or two messages a day, telling her I missed her, that I hoped she was okay. She sent me back 'I miss you' yesterday, and then it was quiet again. This morning I found a suicide note in my inbox. 'I'm losing the battle', it read. She told me how she had experience the last few weeks since I came into her life. She started feeling again, she felt good, and had fun, but the darkness became stronger as well, because she could feel how bad she was doing now.

Her last words were well wishes to me, to not only not be sad, but be happy. To remember the fun we had in the short time we spent talking. To happily live the life I have fought so hard for.

"You mean so much to me. More than I'm even willing to admit to myself.
Thank you. For everything."

I was never under any delusion I could save her, but it still hurts, and if she did go through with it, I will miss her terribly.

Her name was, is, and always will be Lauren. She hated it because it's the name her parents use. She was (and I hope she still is) twenty-two years old. She called herself a demon, because it was the name her mother hissed at her and instead of letting it hurt her, she chose to claim it for herself. Lauren hurted others before they could hurt her, because underneath the short temper was a young woman in an infinite amount of pain, hanging on to life by the finger nails. She fought so hard, especially in the last few weeks. She let me fight with her for a little while in her life, and no matter what, I will always--always--be so proud of her.

I promised her in those first days that if she did kill herself, I would miss her, that I would add her name to the short list of people who are no longer in my life but whom I think about when I'm having a really hard time, or a really good one, or some momentous occassion. The people who should have been there, but aren't. She liked the idea of that, but when I first told her, I don't think she believed me, even when she wanted to have someone who would remember her. To have at least one person in her life who would understand why she couldn't go on and would not be mad at her for giving up. As much as I don't want Lauren to have taken her own life, I could never be mad at her for doing it if she did.

This is my funeral oration for Lauren, my epitaphios logos (ἐπιτάφιος λόγος), written in the hope I can let her read it and it will help her hold on until morning. In ancient Hellas, and in particular in ancient Athens, the funeral oration was deemed an indispensable component of the funeral ritual. If Lauren did kill herself, she will get one from her parents, and Lauren was sure they did not know her very well. I did. I knew exactly who she was on the inside, because she was brave enough to show me. She was beautiful, kind and sweet, and she would vow to wrestle me down and sit on my chest if she heard me describe her like that. She wasn't kind, and she wasn't sweet, she said--she was a demon. But she wasn't--isn't, hopefully. Lauren was in pain, and it was valid pain. Lauren was a warrior, who had fought an uphill battle for years. She fought with everything she had, and if life did end for her last night, it was a hero's death. In true epitaphios logos form, I must offer my condolances to the family, but that is hard because they were one of the main reasons she was so unhappy in the first place. I hope one day her family will see how brave and beautiful she was, how fierce and loving, and live by example.

From moment one, I believed the Gods had brought me into Lauren's life for a reason. I hold out hope that it is to help her through this dark time--however long it may take--but if it was to offer her some happy last days, than I will be alright with that as well. I will miss our talks, her sense of humor, and the way she would open up to me. I will miss her, period, and if she does end up in the realm of Hades, I pray the judges judge her kindly--judge her like a victor, a warrior. In a few short days, Lauren became family and part of my heart forever, and I will remember her as family always, if I can't have her as a friend.

I love you, Lauren, and I think you know that's true. I never lied to you, and although you challenged me, you knew that as well. So sweetheart, I will carry your name on my heart forever, and I will remember you always, because true heroes must never be forgotten.

I am so proud of you, and I always will be.

Update: Lauren is still alive. She contacted me late last night, and while she is struggling, she's still here. Thank you, everyone, for your concern. It's greatly appreciated. I could not be happier, nor more relieved.
It has been a while since we last did a Labours post, hasn't it. The last time we saw Hēraklēs, he was capturing the Cretan Bull, the very same bull that got Pasiphaê, wife of Minos, pregnant with the Minotaur. There is an extended break between the completion of this labour and the start of the next, in which quite a few things happened. I'm going to split those events up into two posts. The first is all about the Olympic Games--seeing as the winter Olympics are currently taking place--and the next will be about the war with the giants and the liberation of Prometheus.

Hermes, Hēraklēs, and Nike

After capturing the bull, Hēraklēs took some time to unwind, feast, and thank the Gods for all he had achieved so far. Hēraklēs has a lot to be thankful for, because bestowed upon him are great gifts from the Gods. Diodorus Siculus writes in his 'Library of History':

"It would also not be right to overlook the gifts which were bestowed upon Heracles by the gods because of his high achievements. For instance, when he returned from the wars to devote himself to both relaxations and festivals, as well as to feasts and contests, each on of the gods honoured him with appropriate gifts; Athena with a robe, Hephaestus with a war-club and coat of mail, these two gods vying with one another in accordance with the arts they practised, the one with an eye to the enjoyment and delight afford in times of peace, the other looking to his safety amid the perils of war. As for the other gods, Poseidon presented him with horses, Hermes with a sword, Apollo gave him a bow and arrows and taught him their use, and Demeter instituted the Lesser Mysteries in honour of Heracles, that she might purify him of the guilt he had incurred in the slaughter of the Centaurs." [4.14.3]

Chief amongst his accomplishments in his time off time period is the founding of the Olympic Games, which even Pausanias attributed to Hēraklēs in the mythological retelling of the practice. He writes in his 'Description of Greece':

"Heracles of Ida, therefore, has the reputation of being the first to have held, on the occasion I mentioned, the games, and to have called them Olympic. So he established the custom of holding them every fifth year, because he and his brothers were five in number." [5.7.9]

Corroborating accounts come from, for example, Diodorus Siculus who writes:

"After the performance of this Labour Heracles established the Olympic Games, having selected for so great a festival the most beautiful of places, which was the plain lying along the banks of the Alpheius river, where he dedicated these Games to Zeus the Father. And he stipulated that he prize in them should be only a crown, since he himself had conferred benefits upon the race of men without receiving any monetary reward.

All the contests were won by himself without opposition by anyone else, since no one was bold enough to contend with him because of his exceeding prowess. And yet the contests are very different one from another, since it is hard for a boxer or one who enters for the “Pankration” to defeat a man who runs the “stadion,” and equally difficult for the man who wins first place in the light contests to wear down those who excel in the heavy. Consequently it was fitting that of all Games the Olympic should be the one most honoured, since they were instituted by a noble man." [4.14.1 - 4.14.2]

That said, of course there are a great many non-mythological accounts of how the Olympics came to be. My favorite, perhaps, is from Diodorus Siculus again, who writes a beautiful line between myth and his reality, speaking of the five Daktyloi, daimones who were appointed by Rhea to guard the infant God Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida in Krete and eventually established the Olympic Games in the age of Kronos. One of them was called Hēraklēs as well:

"Also the greater number of the gods who, because of their benefactions to all men alike, have been accorded immortal honours, had their origin, so their myths relate, in their land; and of the tradition regarding these gods we shall now give a summary account, following the most reputable writers who have recorded the affairs of Crete.

The first of these gods of whom tradition has left a record made their home in Crete about Mt. Idê and were called Idaean Dactyli. These, according to one tradition, were one hundred in number, but others say that there were only ten to receive this name, corresponding in number to the fingers (dactyli) of the hands.

But some historians, and Ephorus is one of them, record that the Idaean Dactyli were in fact born on the Mt. Idê which is in Phrygia and passed over to Europe together with Mygdon; and since they were wizards, they practised charms and initiatory rites and mysteries, and in the course of a sojourn in Samothrace they amazed the natives of that island not a little by their skill in such matters. And it was at this time, we are further told, that Orpheus, who was endowed with an exceptional gift of poesy and song, also became a pupil of theirs, and he was subsequently the first to introduce initiatory rites and mysteries to the Greeks.

However this may be, the Idaean Dactyli of Crete, so tradition tells us, discovered both the use of fire and what the metals copper and iron are, as well as the means of working them, this being done in the territory of the city of Aptera at Berecynthus, as it is called; and since they were looked upon as the originators of great blessings for the race of men, they were accorded immortal honours. And writers tell us that one of them was named Heracles, and excelling as he did in fame, he established the Olympic Games, and that the men of a later period thought, because the name was the same, that it was the son of Alcmenê who had founded the institution of the Olympic Games." [5.64.2 - 5.64.6]

No one knows who actually founded the first Olympics, so I'll take the mythical explination of a hero named Hēraklēs, who founded the Games to honor the Gods and recieve blessings upon himself so he would be able to complete the coming labours.
Rob Buckley, who is a wonderful human being and whose comments I always adore reading on my posts (even if he disagrees or sets me straight on something) has left me another comment, this time on the valentine's day post about Eros. I wanted to reply to that, as well as get some more attention for it because what he has to say is well worth the read. Let me post the part of his comment I would like to address today:

"It's good that you provide sources for all the quotes, too, since rather than provide a blanket 'this is what myth said' statement about Eros, it allows your readers to determine for themselves which quotes are the most trustworthy! I know in Hellenism that people place varying degrees of reliability on myth, some disregarding almost altogether as just stories, others (like me) regarding them as important illuminations of the gods, albeit one's that need considerable scrutiny.

Personally, I worry about the use of later, particularly AD sources but even tragedian and post-tragedian sources for myths. There's a worry tendency (one the later Greeks themselves were prone to) to synthesise everything together to create one story, regardless of when the original stories were written, who wrote them and so on. Indeed, people now seem to think that if a story is

1) Old
2) Written about the gods

That makes it a myth and necessarily a descriptor of the gods!

So with Nonnus, who lived in Egypt in either the 4th or 5th century AD, was a Christian (although he may have only converted to Christianity while he was writing The Dionysiaca) is very unreliable as a source. Indeed, HJ Rose says the Dionysiaca is "interesting as the longest and most elaborate example we have of Greek myths in their final stage of degeneracy," but cautions that "anyone who uses Nonnos as a handbook to any sort of normal and genuinely classical mythology will be grievously misled".

Equally, Apuleius was a Roman writer and although there is definitely a story involving Psyche and Eros attested to from as early as the 4th century BC in Greek art, the version in the Golden Ass is the first literary version we have and obviously involves Cupid and Psyche, not Eros and Psyche, and probably isn't in any sense the same as the the story of Eros and Psyche. Pausanias, of course, was a Greek travel writer of the 2nd century AD and while he's very useful in some senses, particularly in terms of what he records on his travels of ritual and worship, he also tends to get things wrong a lot about myths.

Personally, I usually prefer to look to Gantz's Early Greek Myths first, since that tells us who said what and when, rather than trying to synthesise everything into an equally valid whole. [...]"

I always, always, always try to source my quotes. There are very few things I find more frustrating than finding a quote, running it through Google to find the source because it isn't provided and coming up with repeats of the unsourced quote. It happens sometimes, especially when the words are common. Besides the frustration, though, sourcing allows my readers to destinguish if the quote is of value to them. I try to include at least the century in which the author was alive, but I sometims forget to do that. A quick Wiki search, though, and you should be able to establish it easily.

I have spoken before about selecting practices based on the time period you choose to reconstruct. The reign of the Hellenes lasted for roughly 650 years. During that time, several major changes took place within the culture and religion of these people. Trying to reconstruct all these practices is not only impractical but also impossible. As a Hellenic Recon, it therefor becomes important to find out which classical, Hellenic, period speaks to us. this will also have areflection on which sources we view as reliable for the mythology we choose to accept as true, and if we even consider mythology as true at all. Depending on the time period we reconstruct, we either find more value in mythology or philosophy, we accept the plays as (true) stories of our Gods, we accept Roman sources, or Egyptian-Hellenic ones, and so on. This is a personal choice and because i can't make it for you, I try to provide a little bit of everything.

When I write mythology posts, I often try to build a story. I leave out terribly conflicting views and pick the most commonly used version where possible. Hellenic myth is a fractured mess, to be honest, and every single myth has alternate versions. When I'm doing an actual portrait of a God, Goddess, or myth, I include all those alternates, but for a valentine's day post meant as a kind of summary, I don't. Often the variations lie in parenthood and the little details, but sometimes there are entire alternate endings where people do or do not die, do or do not find love, or do or do not kill someone. I always try to add a 'most often [this version of the myth] was retold'-disclaimer, indicating there were most certainly others.

Establishing reliability in myth is hard. Personally, I take no issue with authors like Nonnus, who were alive when Hellenic mythology was on its last legs. He is not the most Traditional of sources (and yes, I should have definitely added a little disclaimer with the name), but he builds upon older sources; Apollonius Rhodius (3rd B.C.), in his Argonautica [3.28], for example, makes mention of them. Gantz's Early Greek Myths is a fantastic reference work and serious student of Hellenic myth should engage with. It's impossible to read it for entertainment, I feel (but others will disagree, I'm sure), but you will never be lost in Hellenic mythology again.

The rest of Rob's post is about Eros himself, and can be read here. I very much recommend you do so, as it's valuable.

There will alwas be problematic Hellenic, Roman, and Egyptian sources. We're lucky to have enough written sources that have survived to label anything as 'problematic', so I try to concious of the problem parts, but don't avoid them. Even if one of these ancient writers stretched the common tale, his or her version was still enjoyed by some, if not many, and it reflected thoughts of the time--even if it did not match the overall mythology to a tee. It's good to remain sceptical of the acient writers, and to always question a source, but if a problematic source makes you feel closer to the Theoi, then who am I to judge? Thank you, Rob, for another interesting comment!
I had a dream last night, and I am going to share it, but you are not allowed to laugh. Just for the record, this is actually the first time (as far as I can remember) that I have dreamt about actually being in mythologica ancient Hellas. I dreamt that I was clambering through some forest, sword and shield in hand, being chased by something. I could see a city in the distance, down in the valley from the hill I was on, but I knew I would never be ale to reach it. In true horror movie stile, I ended up tripping over something--my own two feet, most likely--and I shifted onto my back, shield up, sword raised, and waited for whatever was following me to jump on me. I woke up out of breath and with a hammering heart just as a dark shadow fell over me. Completely freaked, I am putting together a list of monsters and other scary creatures from Hellenic Mythology to try and puzzle together which horrifying creature just tried to make me lunch in my dream. The candidates after much consideration:

Centaurs (kéntauros, kένταυρος) are depicted as half man, half horse; having the torso of a man extending where the neck of a horse should be. They were said to be wild, savage, and lustful, and in very old Hellenic artwork, they were often depicted as fully human, with a horse's end added to them. Somehow (prior to Harry Potter, anyway), Centaurs ended up being regarded as cute and cuddly, but most Centaurs in the ancient myths were very scary, and very dangerous.

The Chimera
The Chimera is described as a composite creature, with the body and maned head of a lion, a goat's head rising from its back, a set of goat-udders, and a serpentine tail. There was only one, and it was slain by Bellerophon, but that does not have to mea anything in dreams.

Best known from the Odysseia, a Cyclops (Kyklôps, Κυκλωψ) is a one-eyed giant who are not too smart, but very dangerous. Cyclopses eat meat, and live in caves to herded flocks on the Homeric island of Hypereia, which was later identified by the Hellenes with Sicily. The Elder Cyclopses are far more intelligent, and they make the lightning bolts for Zeus.

The Erinyes
Although there are other stories about Their birth, the most common is the one where these three Khthonic deities were born from Gaea, from the blood of Ouranos, as Kronos cut off His testicles and threw them over His shoulder, into the ocean. According to ancient Roman poet Virgil, They are three sisters: Alecto ('the angry'), Megaera ('the grudging') and Tisiphone ('the avenger'). They can be petitioned by victims--or family of victims--of homicide, unfilial conduct, crimes against the gods, perjury and crimes committed by a child upon their parent(s). They are famous for continuing their unrelenting punishments until the perpetrator shows remorse. Due to their ability to enter and leave the Underworld at will, they will even continue Their punishment after the perpetrator is dead.

The most famous of Gorgons is undoubtedly Médousa (Μέδουσα). In ancient Hellas, however, Médousa was one of three sisters, Khthonic daímōns called Gorgons. They were named Médousa, Stheno (Σθεννω), and Euryale (Ευρυαλη), and were born to the ancient marine deities Phorkys (Φόρκυς) and Keto (Κητώ), his sister. They were part of the Phorcides (Φόρκιδες), the offspring of Phorkys. Their sisters were Echidna (Ἔχιδνα, half woman, half snake), the Graiai (Γραῖαι, 'old women', sharing one tooth and one eye), and Ladon (Λάδων, the dragon serpent who guarded the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides).

The grýphōn (γρύφων) is a mythical creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle's talons as its front feet. They are not evil or dagerous per se, but they guarded their gold like the dragons of modern tales: ferociously.

The Harpyiai (Ἁρπθιαι) were the spirits of sudden, sharp gusts of wind. They were known as the hounds of Zeus and were despatched by the god to snatch away (harpazô) people and things from the earth. Sudden, mysterious dissappearances were often attributed to the Harpyiai. They are (most often) consdered the daughters of Thaumas and Elektra.

The Hippalectryon
The Hippalectryon was a beast with the foreparts of a horse and the tail, wings and hind-legs of a rooster.The creature occurs only in early Athenian vase painting, and may be based on an early artistic rendering of the winged horse Pegasos. It is awesome, however, and you cannot tell me that a creature that looked like that would not scare you half to death if it came upon you.

Mantikhoras (Μαντιχορας) were Persian monsters with the body of a lion, the face of a man, and a spike-tipped arrow-shooting tail. The name 'Manticore' may have been derived from a Persian word meaning 'man-eater', and that did seem to be a favored past time of the creature.

Minos, king of Krete, requested Poseidon raise a bull from the sea, which the king promised to sacrifice; but when Minos refused to do so, Poseidon caused his wife Pasiphaê to fall in love with the bull. The child that came from this union was deformed in such a way that he had the head of a bull and the body of a man. It was locked in the labyrinth beneath the the palace, and eventually vanquished by Theseus.

Ophiotaurus, or Tauros Ophis
It would have been major overkill to sent the Ophiotauros (Οφιοταυρος) after me, but the serpent-bull is a terrifying monster that deserves mention on the list. It was born with the foreparts of a black bull and the tail of a serpent and was slain by an ally of the Titanes in their search for a victory against Zeus during the Titanomachy.

Stymphalian Birds
The Stymphalian Birds were a flock of man-eating birds which haunted Lake Stymphalis in Arkadia. They had beaks of steel, and an appitite for human flesh that made them absolutely terrifying. Hēraklēs killed them during his sixth labour.

I am sorry to admit that I am no closer to unraveling the mystery of my nightmare monster, but at least most of the creatures on this list have aready been slain or need a very speciffic reason to attack you. I foresee a nap in my future to catch up on the sleep I lost, and pray my dreams will not be as disturbing as they were last night. First, though, time for some hot tea to sooth my nerves.
I am so very busy today, but of course, I did want to get a post up. Today, you're getting some modern art I came across today of the Hellenic Gods. In general, I have issues with drawings of the Theoi, and I have issues with these as well, but they are also very, very, pretty. They were made by Fedini, whose DeviantART page can be found here. What I like about these are the variations in skin color (where the women are held to the ancient Hellenic beauty ideal of fair skin). What do you think?


Back in January, I asked the question if privitization of the ancient Hellenis sites could save the country's national treasures. Stephen Miller, an American archaeologist who has spent the last four decades unearthing Nemea’s treasures suggested that it just might. 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. This would 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.

The initial reaction to the proposal was not positive. The culture minister Panos Panagiotopoulos responded that, while 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:

“The cultural wealth, the legacy of this country, will remain under state control because it belongs to the Greek people.”

More reactions have been released since then. The Archaeology News Network reports that the Association of Greek Archaeologists issued a statement following the publication of a Time magazine article in which Miller promoted the privatization of under-used sites.

“Archaeological sites and the country’s monuments belong to the whole of society. The protection, promotion and management of these sites is the duty of the state, as stipulated in the Constitution and laws of this country. These sites embody our historic memory and conscience, they are not objects for negotiation with whatever investors, they are not up for privatization of available for any private firm or individual to make a profit.”

Miller, for his part, feels his words have been taken out of context, and do not deserve the backlash he has been getting. He insists had been talking only about abandoned sites that have been left to the mercy of vandals. In an interview, he said that:

“The only thing I can do so my statements are not misinterpreted is to publish my proposal on the Internet.” 

He proceeded to do so. The actual proposal made by the archaeologist can be found here for those interested. It's long, and detailed, and yes, indeed, it makes clear divides between used and underused sites. I would love to hear what all of you think about the proposal now it can be examined in its entirity. What are your thoughts? Still a bad idea? Or does it have potential?
On this Valentine's day, it only seems fair that I give due to Eros (Ερως), God of love and sexual desire, eternal companion of Aphrodite and either Her son or self-born into the cosmos before anyone else, as love is the binding and creative force that makes up the universe. Pausanias, for example, in his 'Description of Greece' writes:

"Most men consider Love [Eros] to be the youngest of the gods and the son of Aphrodite. But Olen the Lycian, who composed the oldest Greek hymns, says in a hymn to Eileithyia that she was the mother of Love. Later than Olen, both Pamphos and Orpheus wrote hexameter verse, and composed poems on Love, in order that they might be among those sung by the Lycomidae to accompany the ritual. I read them after conversation with a Torchbearer. Of these things I will make no further mention. Hesiod, or he who wrote the Theogony fathered on Hesiod, writes, I know, that Chaos was born first, and after Chaos, Earth, Tartarus and Love." [9.27.2] 

Oppianos of Apamea was a third century AD author whose surviving work focusses solely on hunting. The Halieutica is made up of four parts of which the fourth seems incomplete. In this fourth part, however, we find a beautiful description of love as it affects Gods, mankind, and animals alike:

"O cruel Love [Eros], crafty of counsel, of all gods fairest to behold with the eyes, of all most grievous when thou dost vex the heart with unforeseen assault, entering the soul like a storm-wind and breathing the bitter menace of fire, with hurricane of anguish and untempered pain. The shedding of tears is for thee a sweet delight and to hear the deep-wrung groan; to inflame a burning redness in the heart and to blight and wither the bloom upon the cheek, to make the eyes hollow and to wrest all the mind to madness. Many thou dost even roll to doom, even those whom thou meetest in wild and wintry sort, fraught with frenzy; for in such festivals is thy delight. 

Whether then thou art the eldest-born among blessed gods and from unsmiling Chaos didst arise with fierce and flaming torch and didst first establish the ordinances of wedded love and order the rites of the marriage-bed; or whether Aphrodite of many counsels, queen of Paphos, bare thee a winged god on soaring pinions, be thou gracious and to us come gentle and with fair weather and in tempered measure; for none refuses the work of Love. 

Everywhere thou bearest sway and everywhere thou art desired at once and greatly feared; and happy is he who cherishes and guards in his breast a temperate Love. Nor doth the race of Heaven suffice thee nor the breed of men; thou rejectest not the wild beasts nor all the brood of the barren air; under the coverts of the nether deep dost thou descend and even among the finny tribes thou dost array thy darkling shafts; that naught may be left ignorant of thy compelling power, not even the fish that swims beneath the waters."

While Cupid is better know nowadays, Eros has much of the same attributes--including His quiver of arrow. Nonnus of Panopolis was a Greek epic poet, wrote in his Dionysiaca about this quiver of arrows, of which twelve were dedicated and meant for Zeus:

"Now Eros the wise, the self-taught, the manager of the ages, knocked at the gloomy gates of primeval Chaos. He took out the divine quiver, in which were kept apart twelve firefed arrows for Zeus, when his desire turned towards one or another of mortal women for a bride. Right on the back of his quiver of lovebolts he had engraved with letters of gold a sentence in verse for each:
"The first takes Cronion to the bend of heifer-fronted Io.”
"The second shall Europa woo for the bold bull abducting.”
"The third to Pluto’s bridal brings the lord of high Olympos.”
"The fourth shall call to Danaë a golden bed-companion.”
"The fifth shall offer Semele a burning fiery wedding.”
"The sixth shall bring the King of heaven an eagle to Aigina.”
"The seventh joins Antiope to a pretended Satyr.”
"The eighth, a swan endowed with mind shall bring to naked Leda.”
"The ninth a noble stallion gives unto Perrhaibid Dia.”
"The tenth three fullmoon nights of bliss gives to Alcmena’s bedmate.”
"The eleventh goes to carry out Laodameia’s bridal.”
"The twelfth draws to Olympias her thrice-encircling husband.”" [110]

Eros has let loose many an arrow on the Gods of Olympos; whenever a God falls for a mortal--or even another God--Eros is involved. He, however, had his own love story as well, described beautifully and lavishly by Apuleius, in 'The Golden Ass', which I will not post here for length. I can summarize the tale, however. 

Psyche (Psykhê, Ψυχη) was once a mortal princess who was so beautiful, men stated worshipping her instead of Aphrodite. Aphrodite commanded Eros make Psyche fall in love with the most hideous of men, but Eros couldn't; He fell in love with her Himself, and carried her away to His secret palace. He commanded Psyche to never look at His face, and hid His true identity, but of course, Psyche eventually was tricked into looking at the God. Quickly, He abandoned her. In her despair, she searched throughout the world for her lost love, and eventually came into the service of Aphrodite. The goddess commanded her perform a series of difficult labours which culminated in a journey to the Underworld. In the end Psykhe was reunited with Eros and the couple wed in a ceremony attended by the Gods.

I hope you have a beautiful Valentine's day with a loved one, friends, or family, and that Eros may bless you richly in life. Like the God of love itself, I wish you love as well, and hope his arrows touch your life, and guide your heart.

Image source: theoi.com
I tend to make wreaths for most of the major holidays. They were a traditional part of Hellenic worship, and as such, I love to bring them back. For the Anthesteria, I made another wreath, and I thought some of you would like a how-to mini guide. Not that I only make use of natural materials. You can go a lot wilder with a glue gun or wire, but I've never been into that.

Basic materials: pick something wiry as your base. In this case, it's ivy because the Anthesteria is a celebration of Dionysos. Anything that you can loop together works, though. You can add a secondary green to strengthen the base, if the base is not cooperating. Pick two, maybe three, types of flowers. More, and it'll start looking like you're wearing one of those awesome helmets the guards of the British royal palace wear. Trust me.

Making the base: take your basic material, loop it until it's the requires size and tie it with something green. In this case, I use the stems of the ivy leaves. Build layers by adding smaller pieces to the main loop until you have some bulk. Don't worry too much about leaves going everywhere, or ends that poke out. Just try to get something together that does not fall apart when you shake it. 

Add the flowers: once you have your base, add the flowers. Still don't worry too much about leaves poking out. Make sure the stems of the flowers are well-integrated with the base, though. It needs to survive another shake-test at the end. Mind your spacing.
Once the flowers are in, it's time to start primping. Fold the leaves that stand out to the side into the wreath until they cover the base, and tie down the various layers with simple knots made with--in this case--ivy leaf stems. When you are satisfied, shake the wreath to see if everything holds.  

How does it look? At the end put it on, check the mirror, and adjust until happy. The more time you invest in it, the stronger and wholesome it becomes. Once you are happy with your wreath, try one more shake test--this one by jumping up and down while it's on your head. This will also tell you how solid it is on your head; if it falls off, fasten it with hair pins, or weave it into your hair if you can. You are now ready to ritual.
Oh how I try to avoid the general blogosphere these days. It's become an active pursuit not to know what's going on in the online Pagan community. I know it's bad blogger behaviour of me, but I don't have the spoons for it right now. For the last few weeks--months--I've just been hanging out on my own little island, and while I've started to branch out some, I was hoping to avoid the greater Pagan community for a while yet. It's not so much them as it is me. Sometimes, I just need a break. Well, the break is over, it seems. Totally by accident, I stumbled upon two blog posts on the same topics, one a reaction to the other--and now I have opinions. Bear with me here.

Wiccan elder Don Frew--in a guest spot on Gus diZerega's blog 'Pointedly Pagan'--had a few words to say 'on saving Pagan lives, ‘Wiccan privilege’ and interfaith'. Some of those words, it seems, were aimed at Reconstructionists who are not getting with the program:

"I have heard some Reconstructionists and “hard polytheists” complain they constantly have to explain that they are not Witches. Some complain about what they describe as “Wiccan privilege.” [...] All of the Witches involved in interfaith (and CoG has been doing interfaith work since 1975) have ALWAYS explained that there are other Neopagans out there.  We have usually specifically mentioned Druids and Heathens. [...] You do the best you can, but people come away with an impression, more than any specific information.  As long as the people doing the work are Witches, the impression is going to be of Witches, not of any other groups mentioned.
I am sorry about that.  I genuinely am.  However after decades of Witches sticking their necks out to explain that we weren’t Devil-worshippers or baby-murderers, the comparatively small amount of re-education and explanation that newer groups have to go through should be seen as a blessing rather than a curse.  The plain fact is that the interfaith community – and by extension, the public that all of those ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams educate – will continue to equate Pagans and Wiccans until more non-Wiccan groups step up and do both interfaith work and public relations. Pagans of all types are more welcome than we had initially ever been in interfaith circles, but non-Witch Pagans and Heathens (and anyone else) still must explain who they are and how they are different from Witches."

Now let me say before I continue that this is a good, solid, post. Frew seems like a wonderful man who does a lot of interfaith work. He seems to do it well, respectfully, and I believe him when he says he's doing the best he can in representing the full scope of Paganism. Paganism itself is s broad a term that to represent it fully takes time, a lot of effort, and a big vocabulary--not to mention an attentive and willing audience.

Sadly enough, however, the article makes clear once more that privilege is incredibly hard to distinguish when you are in the group who has it. For us Multideists/Hard Polytheists/Recons, it's not easy to go along with Pagan Interfaith talks. Our views tend to clash, and we rarely get invited. I understand the latter--the general reaction is that 'it would be confusing to so such different Traditions within the same path'--and also realize it feeds into the first. More importantly, it keeps the circle going, and it screams 'privilege'. If you reasons for not having us there, or minimizing our influence is that it might confuse the audience, you are privileged, and you are holding it over our heads. If we are not allowed to speak, or our words get undone with 'all Gods are one'-talk, we will never be acknowledged for our contribution, and we will never be invited in on the conversation. You are basically saying 'because your path is confusing (and maybe a little embarrassing) to me/us, we will just be talking about the path I/we are on. It's easier'. Yes, it is... but that right there, is privilege.

Galina Krasskova replied to the article on her blog, and I want to quote two passages:

"We show up. We show up and are confronted not only with Wiccan privilege, but with an interfaith setting in which the default paradigm to which we are all expected to bow our heads in tacit compliance is a monotheistic one, or at best monist or pantheistic. This may be fine for many Wiccans. I've noticed that many Wiccans and Pagans don't seem to believe in the Gods anyway as independent beings, but it's not for us. For us, that is impiety. For us to comply even by our silence with such an attitude of "all gods are one" is to collaborate in the further destruction of our traditions.
[...] It's far easier after all to believe everyone is the same as you, but the real test of interfaith values is how you treat people with whom you have nothing in common but a supposed commitment to your faith."

Now, I do far too little interfaith work, but I live in The Netherlands where this whole idea of interfaith seems to be largely non-existent. People either don't know or don't care, and under the law, all our religions are equal. I'm sure I could get approval if I wanted to build a temple--as long as I could fork up the money, no one would care. We don't really have panels to discuss religion, we don't have conventions to bring religious folk together. We live, and let live, and if we know in advance that we won't feel welcome somewhere, we don't show up. No hard feelings. No one is, or feels, obligated to cater to the greater Pagan community, and while that leaves some things to be desired as well, it's at least peaceful.

Interfaith matters where it matters, and I know plenty of Recons who di the work. They show up, they do the talks, but their work needs to be acknowledged to matter in the long run. Read both articles, please, and read the comments. Form your own opinions... and please, check your privilege at the door, because it does exist, and yes, it is hurtful. Even to people like me, who only deal with it in an online setting.
In a beautiful display of community initiative, Jonathan Agathokles and Derek Fletcher have created an interactive world map--hosted by zeemaps.com--where anyone can add their location and find others in their general area.


As the map is currently an editable one, there is no need to make an account.  Simply select 'Additions' in the top beam and click the first option: 'Add Marker - Simple'. A pop-up window will now appear and ask you for your information. Fill in your name, location, and under 'directions' you can fill in any contact information you wish to leave. I added my e-mail and blog link. You can upload a picture if you want. From the 'Marker' menu, select the 'candle' in honour of Hestia and save your entry by clicking 'submit'.

I would encourage every Hellenist to add their details to the map in an effort to locate each other in some way. Many of us are practicing alone while they would much rather practice with others. These types f initiatives matter, and I applaud them greatly. I hope to see your name show up on the map and I'd be grateful if you would spread the word. Thank you in advance!
At dusk today, one of Hellenismos' most important festivals (if one can give classifications to the festivals at all) starts. It's the Anthesteria, and held in honor of Dionysos Limnaios, wine, and the dead. The Anthesteria was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. It is an ancestral festival, the oldest of the festivals for Dionysos in Athens, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season to come, a time to celebrate with the spirits of the departed the indefatigable resurgence of life. The festival centred around the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia (after πίθοι 'storage jars'), Khoes (χοαί 'libations') and Khytroi (χύτροι 'pots'). For more information about the festival, please go here or read Robert Clark's fantastic account below.

For those of you who would like to join Robert and myself in ritual on Wednesday, there is a PAT ritual event on the Elaion Facebook page that we would love to have you join.10 AM EST. The ritual itself can be found here.

The Anthesteria, from anthein which means "to flower", is celebrated for three days (11th through the 13th of the ancient Attic month of Anthesterion).  The Anthesteria, a flower festival in honor of Dionysos, celebrates the new vintage and first flowering of the season, the irrepressibility and renewal of life. The festival is associated with the Limnaion, the old temple of Dionysos in the marsh but was primarily a festival celebrated in homes.  It is also an ancestral festival, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season. It is celebrated over three days just as the first growth appears and flowers began to bloom in Greece. Children three years old were garlanded and took part in the festival; Dionysos was often depicted as a young boy representing the return of new growth. 

On the first day, the Pithoigia (jar-opening), pithoi of new wine were opened and, before tasting and partaking of it, the first libations poured out to Dionysos with prayers that the wine be harmless and beneficial.  New wine from the freshly opened pithoi was brought to the temple of Dionysos and offered to the God.  This may well have taken place at the end of the first day of the festival just before sundown which marked the beginning of the second day, Khoes. 

On the second day is the feast of the Khoes (drinking cups), the central day of the Anthesteria.  It was customary in ancient Greece to mix wine with water, two-parts of wine to one-part water.  Mixing of wine was generally for human consumption and the ancient references to mixing the wine at the temple of Dionysos implies drinking and celebration at the temple which undoubtedly means outside the temple as large numbers of people could not be accommodated within. Remaining sacrifices would be done inside the temple. There is apparent inconsistency and confusion between the ancient references which may be a result of modern interpretation (see Robert Parker, Polytheism and Society at Athens, Oxford 2005, pages 290-316).  Dionysos was celebrated in song and dance and invoked as “Of fair Flowers”, “Dithyrambos”, “Baccheutes”, and Bromios”. Note: “Dithyrambos” is both a name for a hymn to Dionysos and a name for the God.  This is in keeping with other celebrations of Dionysos where men would dance in large circles while singing “Dithyramboi”. The celebration could have lasted all night and into the next day as it includes drinking contests and much revelry and there are references that in ancient times it included a procession featuring Dionysos portrayed by an actor wearing a mask riding on a ship mounted with wheels. Although there was the public component of the festival, there were undoubtedly many private celebrations in homes. After celebrating in their homes, people would converge at the Limnaion, the old temple of Dionysos in the marsh, where they would dedicate the crowns they had worn during the celebrating. Other temples were closed (roped off) during this time.

This was also  day when the souls of the dead were present; pollution was kept from other temple by closing them.  The celebration likely had a component of recognizing the departed and honoring them through libations of wine. Ancient tradition considered the day of Khoes to be the day that Orestes arrived in Athens and was entertained separately and in silence due to his pollution.

The third day Khytroi (pots) was a somber day in recognition of the survivors of the great flood who boiled a mixture of seeds (panspermia) together in a pot (khytra) as an offering to Hermes Chthonios for those who were lost. Thus, on the third day of the Anthesteria, Kythroi, every household made a preparation of a mixture of grains boiled together (a panspermia) along with honey and made an offering of it to Hermes Chthonios (Hermes of the Underworld) on behalf of the spirits of the dead before eating of it. Priests were not allowed to eat of it. This was an offering to Hermes who guides the souls of the departed to the underworld. At the end of the day, celebrants shouted "Out you spirits, the Anthesteria are over!"

The Anthesteria is a festival of opposites, it celebrates Dionysos with the new wine at a time when new life is ready to break forth for the season, a time when marshes are filled with water like remnants of the flood, yet it is a recognition and reminder of life that is no longer, past lives, past seasons, and the realization that death is part of the life process. The celebration of life must include recognition of those who came before, for their spirits are always with us and we celebrate with them. Those who came before are the Wealth of Earth that is ever renewed in the living community.  The ritual swinging (Aiora) done by women with song was symbolic of the repeated cycles of life.  The Anthesteria also contained the symbolic marriage of the wife of the king (archon basileus) with Dionysos which imbued new life into all. 

Robert Parker shows a red figure stamnoi from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, pages 310 and 311 of Polytheism and Society at Athens, Oxford 2005, which depicts the column of Dionysos with mask of Dionysos in front of which is set a table with loaves of bread and jars of mixed wine. Women are ladling the wine into large drinking cups. Although the scene is suggestive of ritual drinking including women at the Khoes, it is very evident that the wine, from the fruit of the vine, represents new life and the bread from the sacred grain of Demeter culminated in the harvest that which sustains life. The breaking of bread and drinking of wine was not lost on the Christians who took the act beyond a celebration and sustaining of life to “drinking the blood and eating the body of Christ.”

"Out you spirits, the Anthesteria are over!"

Walter Burkert states in Greek Religion that:

"On the 13th Anthesterion, the day of the Pots, grains of all kinds are boiled together in a pot along with honey. This is the most primitive cereal dish of the early farmers, older than the discovery of flour-milling and bread-baking; in funeral customs it has survived down to the present day.  But the idea of food for the dead, conjoined to an abridged version of an ancient source, has lead to the mistaken view that the living were actually prohibited from eating from the Pots. According to the full text, it is only the priests who are barred from eating this food, in accordance with the fact that all sanctuaries are closed on the Choes day. The meal of pottage is linked to the myth of the flood: once the water had subsided, the survivors threw everything they could find into a pot and cooked it as their first meal after the cataclysm, an occasion for summoning up new courage and yet in memory of the dead.  One sacrifices to the chthonic Hermes for the sake of the dead and eats from the Pots in the certainty of life regained. The day of defilement is over, the masks and the dead lose their rights: 'Out you Kares, the Anthesteria are over' became a proverbial saying."

I think the work "basic" rather than "primitive" cereal dish would be a more accurate description.  It is a dish that people have enjoyed since grains were harvested down to the present day.  I have enjoyed it often, and one cannot have a better meal. The link to the "myth of the flood" is also interesting. There are numerous references to a great flood. That the survivors "threw everything they could find" into the pot does not make a lot of sense as the combination would likely be quite different from a panspermia.  I suggest, to offer sacrifice in thanks for survival, only the most precious gift would be offered, i.e., part of the future crop. But what is the mixture of grains (seeds), the panspermia, for?  Is it for the dead, the living, or both? Here I will quote from Themis by Jane Ellen Harrison:

"...The Keres are figured as what the Greeks called ei1dwla, little images, shrunken men, only winged.  They represent the shadow soul, strengthless and vain; but the qumo&j of the man, his strength, his life, his me/noj, his mana, has passed into the daimon of life and reincarnation, the snake.  An ei1dwlon, an image, informed by qumo&j makes up something approximately not unlike that complex, psychological conception, our modern 'immortal soul.'

The central ceremony of the Chytroi, the ceremony that gave its name to the day, still remains, and it will bring indefeasible evidence to show that the focus of attention at the Anthesteria was not on death, not on the ei1dwlon, but on the qumo&j, not on the 'strengthless heads of the dead' but on life through death, on reincarnation, on the life-daimon.  This central ceremony was the boiling but – significantly – not the eating of a pot (xu/troj or xu/tra) of all kinds of seeds, a panspermia.  The scholiast on the Frogs in commenting on the words 'with the holy pots says expressly, quoting Theopompos,
And of the pot which all the citizens cook, no priest tastes.
And again the scholiast on the Acharnians, also quoting Theopompos, says
They cooked pots of panspermia whense the feast got its name, but of the pot no one tasted.

The panspermia has not, I think, been rightly understood. In commenting on it before, misled by the gift-theory of sacrifice, I took it to be merely a 'supper for the souls.' No doubt as such it was in later days regarded when primitive [I prefer my word "basic"] magical rites had to be explained on Olympian principles.  But it was, to begin with, much more. The ghosts had other work to do than to eat their supper and go.  They took that 'supper', that panspermia, with them down to the world below and brought it back in the autumn a pankarpia.  The dead are Chthonioi, 'earth people', Demetreioi, 'Demeter's people,' and they do Demeter's work, her work and that of Kore the Maiden, with her Kathodos and Anodos.  An Athenian at the Anthesteria would never have needed S. Paul's angry objurgation:
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except to die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain.

It is sown a panspermia, it is reaped a pankarpia"

Hellenic religion, modern and especially ancient, is rich in symbolism.  There is nothing primitive about the Anthesteria and especially the panspermia.  The Anthesteria, the flowers, the wine, the panspermia should be viewed as the celebration of the irrepressibility and renewal of life and recognition of the souls of the departed.  The solemnity of the wine drinking again is not only a respect for the spirits, but a spiritual renewal of the spirit within us.  Dionysos lives within us, and we are renewed through Him just as the world is renewed through Kore who brings the wealth of earth to be culminated in the harvest.

Thus Paul was the 'fool' who was unwilling to or did not understand the meaning and significance of the panspermia.