The Greek Ministry of Culture has recently announced that the archaeological site of Philippi located in the municipality of Kavala will be the official Greek candidate for evaluation and inclusion in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Philippi's forum and basilica B seen from the acropolis
[Credit: Marsyas/WikiCommons]

A study on the site was prepared and conducted by the Scientific Working Group of Kavala Municipality in collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the local ephorates of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and of Byzantine Antiquities, and is awaiting final approval by the Greek Ministry of Culture.

According to the Archaeology News Network, the Ministry of Culture will present a candidature dossier in September at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and in February 2015 the international organization will evaluate the submission.

Philippi (or Philippoi - Φίλιπποι) was a city in eastern Macedonia, established by Philip II in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century after the Ottoman conquest. The present municipality Filippi is located near the ruins of the ancient city and it is part of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace in Kavalla Greece. According to Wikipedia:

"Philippi was established by the king of Macedon, Philip II, on the site of the Thasian colony of Krinides or Crenides (Κρηνἱδες, "Fountains"), near the head of the Aegean Sea at the foot of Mt. Orbelos about 8 miles north-west of Kavalla, on the northern border of the marsh that in Antiquity covered the entire plain separating it from the Pangaion hills to the south of Greece.
The objective of founding the town was to take control of the neighbouring gold mines and to establish a garrison at a strategic passage: the site controlled the route between Amphipolis and Neapolis, part of the great royal route which crosses Macedonia from the east to the west and which was reconstructed later by the Roman Empire as the Via Egnatia. Philip II endowed the new city with important fortifications, which partially blocked the passage between the swamp and Mt. Orbelos, and sent colonists to occupy it. Philip also had the marsh partially drained, as is attested by the writer Theophrastus. Philippi preserved its autonomy within the kingdom of Macedon and had its own political institutions (the Assembly of the demos). The discovery of new gold mines near the city, at Asyla, contributed to the wealth of the kingdom and Philip established a mint there. The city was finally fully integrated into the kingdom under Philip V.
The city remained. It contained 2,000 people. When the Romans destroyed the Antigonid dynasty of Macedon in 167 BC and divided it into four separate states (merides), it was Amphipolis and not Philippi that became the capital of the eastern Macedonian state.
Almost nothing is known about the city in this period, aside from the walls, the Greek theatre, the foundations of a house under the Roman forum and a little temple dedicated to a hero cult. This monument covers the tomb of a certain Exekestos, is possibly situated on the agora and is dedicated to the κτίστης (ktistès), the foundation hero of the city."

No announcements have been made on when either confirmation or rejection of the plan will happen.
Yesterday, I found myself inexplicably triggered (by a TV-show of all things!) into a tiny mental breakdown. I spent most of last night crying while huddled up in a blanket, sipping tea and eating chocolate. April is a month of many dark anniversaries, and I always struggle a little throughout it. That said, it had been years since I'd been triggered to this excess. I've told you all a little about my childhood before, and I won't go further into it today, but all of this did inspired today's post, which I will come back to once I have the spoons to do so.

Mental illness in ancient Hellas was often considered as sent by the Gods, either in punishment, as a lesson, or even a reward. It depended on the illness. I don't have a mental illness; I have a complicated past, like most people, honestly. Still, I believe the Gods put us through what we went through for a reason, and I have come to accept my childhood, as I have come to accept that every once in a while, it comes rushing up from whatever chasm of your mind you hid the really dark parts of it in. I've learned to slow down when it happens, to not fight it, and to open up to as any people as possible once I get overwhelmed, because it's an area of my life I don't talk about much or easily, and there are people in my life who deserve to know about it.

I will write more about mental health and the ancient Hellenes soon, I can't put in the research required today. What I can do is share some of the Gods and Goddesses especially willing to assist when you are suffering from mental illness or a dangerously low level of mental health spoons like I am today. I'm sure it won't surprise you that many of Them also take care of the body--the two are intrinsically linked, after all.

Asklēpiós and Hygeia
The most obvious deities associated with any form of health are Asklēpiós and His daughter Hygeia. the ancient Hellenes didn't really distinguish between mental and physical health, and so both came to be petitioned for both, although Hygeia seemed especially receptive to lending aid in the mental department.

For neither Apollon, nor Dionysos who follows, I have 'from the top of my head'-sources, so file this one under UPG for today. I'll get back to it. Apollon is a healing God, and the father of Asklēpiós. By extension alone, He can also be petitioned for mental health aid, and UPG-wise, it makes sense to me; as a God of Light, that tends to be exactly what is missing in my head when I trigger; light. Hope. All I can see is what happened over and over again, and I get sad, and guilty, and dark. Apollon can burn that darkness away and offer relief to an aching head and heart.

Again, file under UPG for now, but Dionysos can bring madness, and take it away as well. He is a God whose main influence is felt on the mind, and His influence can be both positive and negative. Until I get the research in, let me tell you a story; sometimes I can feel the darkness coming on. It used to happen a lot when I was still a teen and in my early twenties, although it's been blissfully stable the last few years. Whenever I would feel that, I would dance to the loudest music I could find--uplifting music that I put on high volume on my speakers or headphones, and then I would just dance. I'd dance until I was out of breath and my feet hurt, and my back hurt, and I would pray to Dionysos to lift my burdens from me all the while. I'd dance until I collapsed, and I would always, always, feel better. That is the kind of relief Dionysos offers--the one you need to work for, the one that hurts, but also the one that is so very rewarding in the end.

I'm going back to eat healthy foods today, drink plenty of water, and I'll sleep. Tomorrow, I'll feel a lot better, and I might revisit this. I'll be praying to these Gods today, for help and in gratitude for getting me through yesterday, and hopefully, They will listen.
Zero time today due to work and groceries, and a variety of other pressing issues, but Saturday was King's Day in The Netherlands, and I made out like a bandit. For those unaware, King's Day or 'Koningsdag' (formerly Queen's Day) is a national holiday in the Netherlands. Celebration includes parties, live music and markets all around, and while I tend to skip the partying and drinking in orange-coloured outfits, I do tend to scour one ore more flea markets. I don't tent to find much, although last year I got some gems as well. this year, however, I found three beautiful, hand painted, alabaster, statues of the Gods; Eros and Aphrodite Apollon and Daphne (see comments), Athena, and Dionysos. I thought I'd share.

The Greek Reporter, reports that a statue, believed to be of the ancient Greek goddess Demeter, has been unearthed at an illegal excavation in Simav, a town and a district of Kütahya Province in the Aegean region of Turkey. The statue, weighing in at 610kg and standing 2.8 meters tall, was discovered by two Turks, Ramazan C. And Ismail G, 26 and 62 years old respectively, who are alleged to have been conducting illegal excavations in the wider area where the statue was found. The head of the statue and the altar, missing during the raid, were later found in a house in the city centre.

The two men were taken into custody by the Turkish police and sent to court. the punishment could range anywhere from a fine to jail time; as far as I am aware, Turkey has no set punishment for illegally excavating at a site of historical importance. What will happen tot he statue is, at this point, unclear.
Every once in a while, I get tagged on things on social media; Facebook, Youtube, Google+, etc. In general, that means one of you lovely readers has decided I know something about the subject at hand or would take an interest in it. I love it when that happens, so never stop! Anyway, this time I was tagged in the comments of a Youtube video, this Youtube video, made by a young woman with the (screen) name 'Ioana Răducanu', who, in short, asks what the heck is up with the Delphic Maxim 'Rule Your Wife' (Γυναικος αρχε); all the others make sense but that one just hasn't withstood the teeth of time. Well, yeah, that's pretty much true: it made sense in ancient Hellas, and now it really doesn't anymore. Ioana, let me try to explain.

Many traditions have a set of ethical and moral codes placed upon it by our ancestors. For Hellenics, they are the Delphic Maxims and there are a 147 of them. The maxims are said to be delivered by Apollon Himself to his Oracle at Delphi. They represent a honest, worthy way of living but are not to be taken as commandments. They are guidelines, forming a framework to life, without restraining the mortal soul. Because our ability to think and act for ourselves is a great good, even to the Theoi. In fact, it might have been a logical conclusion after receiving the gifts of Pandora.

The maxims are said to have been written down by the Seven Sages. They are usually identified as: Solon of Athens, Chilon of Sparta, Thales of Miletus, Bias of Priene, Cleobulus of Lindos, Pittacus of Mitylene and Periander of Corinth. Once noted down, they were shared with any who would listen.
Rule 95 is 'Rule Your Wife', and in the setting of ancient Hellas, it makes perfect sense to have a maxim like that. Now, as a woman and self-proclaimed feminist, one of the most prevalent questions I get asked is how I, as said woman and feminist, can worship a pantheon of raping Gods and why I would want to recreate the religious (and partly social) practices of a masochistic society. I don't; I believe religion should be seen and set against the backdrop of the society it came up in, so what follows is going to be a long lesson in Hellenic society and the dynamic between men and women.
It is true that marriage in ancient Hellas, and ancient Athens specifically, was a family affair. The father of the groom--who was often in his thirties by the time he got married--opened negotiations with the family of a bride in her teens. The two families came to an agreement about dowry, a contract was signed by the father of the groom and the father of the bride in front of witnesses, and the groom met his new wife--often for the first time--at the marriage ceremony before taking her to bed. In ancient Hellenic society, free women lived separate from men. They rarely had interactions with men not from their oikos.
Men married to have children, and to have someone to tend to the home while he was out, dealing with public affairs. Romance didn't counter into it. Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Hellas, once said: "We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring."

These lawful offspring were so important that, if a wife had not bore a husband children by the end of the tenth year of their marriage, the man was forced to file for divorce. This was a costly affair because a divorce  meant parting with the dowry that was paid to the husband upon marriage, as the ex-wife was entitled to it.

Should a husband die before producing offspring, the widow was encouraged--even forced--to take a new husband as soon as possible and produce a child with him. This first born child was considered to be the child of the widow's first husband and counted towards his family line and heritage. The practice was called 'raising up seed' and was a lawful and legitimate way of parentage, usually executed with the brother of the deceased husband. The custom of raising up seed also opened the way for the practice of adoption to sustain the family line.

Something that's important to understand is that children in ancient Hellas were born with a different sentiment than children are born these days. Children, now, are born out of love and a need of the parents to create something of 'theirs'. A child is precious, irreplaceable. We tend to have few children and place all our eggs in their basket(s). In ancient Hellas, families tended to be as large as possible. Children could help out around the house, the farm or with sustaining the family any other way but they also tended to die. Children were made for the hearth, not the other way around.
Adultery was a punishable offense. If a married woman had intercourse with a man other than her husband, she could be killed. Another option was to divorce. She was then sent back to her father. If he rejected her (and he usually did), she was left to fend for herself, which often led to a life of slavery. The man she cheated with was often worse off. He was also liable to get killed, especially if caught in the act, because the husband had the right to kill him, without getting punished for it.

It makes sense that the male involved with the adultery was more severely punished than the woman; birth control was available in ancient Hellas, but rarely applied. To bring an illegitimate child into the oikos was a terrible offense, and one for which the male was blamed. Needless to say, the husband was free to find pleasure with any woman who was not married and not above his societal rank.
Now, because much of what has remained from ancient Hellas was written, created, or otherwise preserved by men, it's easy to get a lasting negative impression of women in the ancient Hellenic society. In fact, until a couple of decades ago, that was the prevalent notion in the scholarly community. I grew up believing all women in ancient Hellas were good for was breeding strong sons. It's a very one-dimensional view, and one that has been proven incorrect again and again and again in more recent years.

Well-off women--the women who could actually afford to stay at home--were generally married to well-off men with high functions. With their future's finances secure, they could strive for the ideal of an ancient Hellenic woman. Especially in Attica, these women tended to write and publish poetry. They came together with other women to socialize and increase the standing of their husbands, they kept the oikos well-stocked and the Serfs under control. Women who were less well-off worked alongside their husbands on the fields, in the shops, and in any other capacity.
Women in ancient Hellas did not have the freedoms we have as women today, and they definitely lived in a society that favoured the men. That said, they had an important role to fulfil, and they did it well. They were often praised for their virtues, and because they were rather important for continuing the all-important family line, they were often cherished and protected as much as possible.
Ancient Hellenic society had strong gender roles, and we protest that today. Ruling your wife in ancient Hellas meant making sure she protected the family line, that she helped around the house and helped bring income into it where possible. Women, for men, were near-mythological creatures; they didn't see many of them in their daily lives--safe for their mothers and wives, and even them, they hardly saw because they spent most of their time separate. Men feared women a little, and because of that, they felt they had to keep a close eye on them or they would go wild--women, so men thought, were closer to their primal nature because they bled once a month and because they are simply wired differently; women were less capable of controlling their emotions, for example, a nd that made them unpredictable.
Two thousand years later, we pretty much know better; we understand the differences that make up our brains and brain chemistry, and we have somewhat accepted that at least in theory, men and women are equal. Still, we have lots of 'men come from mars, women come from venus'-books, because we tend to get each other's reactions wrong a lot of the time.
Especially in ancient Hellas, religion was so entwined with daily life, they would not have understood that there was a difference between religion and culture, but we know that difference exists today. Every single practice, for them, was tied to the Gods and Their worship. We try to reconstruct the religious practices of the ancient Hellenes, but in general, we do not reconstruct their culture. 'Rule Your Wife', as a maxim, is one of those instances where culture has seeped into religion, and visa versa. We no longer consider women property, and it's no longer encourage to control her actions and life. this maxim is one of the few we can simply leave in the past.
Anyone looking to reconstruct an ancient religion needs to do so with a firm and clear head on their shoulders. Always ask 'why' something was done, and try to understand the reasoning behind it. Reconstruction is not a matter of 'doing something because the ancient Hellenes did it', it's interpreting the practices of the ancients to form a modern religion our shared Gods can appreciate and relate with. Ruling over your wife was never a religious practice, and cultural practices, we can leave behind; we already have a culture and while it's far from perfect, that's what we work with today.
Yesterday, I got  reader question about the kathiskos; an offer jar of foodstuffs used to protect the household’s food storage. Typically, it has olive oil and water; the rest is up to the household. The kathiskos is dedicated to Zeus Ktesios, guardian of the household. The jar is typically emptied into the compost bin or garden and refilled with fresh foodstuffs every month. The question was:
"Why the contents of the kathiskos isn't a part of the offerings to Hekate on the Deipnon like all other 'left overs' of previous offerings are?"

When I the question, I had to think about the answer for a while, because it is largely a matter of the heart, not the mind. We don’t have a description on what to do with the contents of the kathiskos, after all. It got me thinking on how much of reconstruction depends on our well-informed intuition; on inferring courses of action simply because they just feel right and logical in line of everything we know.

For the kathiskos, for example, I strongly feel that the offerings to Hekate are the remnants of offerings given to the Gods, consumed by fire in Traditional Hellenismos, and after that no longer of value. These offerings become left-overs, ashes and dirt. They have served their purpose. The offerings to Zeus Ktesios, however, remain offerings, despite having served their purpose. They aren’t sacrificed through fire but through burial, through the recycling of the nutrients in them. They add to the cycle that feeds the family by becoming compost. They belong to Zeus, and because of that, they can’t be offered to Hekate.

Reconstruction thrives on research, on understanding why certain people did certain things so when we encounter a problem in our modern worship, we can say: 'okay, we don't have a source for what to do in this exact situation, but we do know what they would have done in this situation that is at least a little similar, and so we can infer that they would most likely have done this'. It's not an exact science, but it allows us to get through the basics without too much fuss and second-guessing.

Repetition is one of the greatest goods of re-creating an ancient practice; here were a people who did things the same way over and over again with only minor differences to account for the large variety of Gods and circumstances that was engrained in their society. The ancient Hellenes believed that the Gods had to be drawn towards the ritual, so they always performed the same basic steps; they had a logic to the animals they sacrificed, the rituals of purification they did, and the way they wrote their hymns and prayers. They were very much a people of predictable action when it comes to their religion and culture. Finding out these patters and undercurrents means you can apply them to anything and anywhere in the now.

I believe in study, in finding out as much as you can, and then letting go of the details until the inconsistencies smooth out into a generalized red thread to follow. Like with the kathiskos, I have inferred a lot to get my answer, but all of it is based upon pre-existing knowledge. I feel my answer is correct, although there is a chance that--applying the same method--someone else comes to a different conclusion, or we one day come across evidence that the kathiskos was, in fact, emptied out along with the offerings to Hekate. That is a risk you always run with reconstruction, but if you let that stop you from trusting your gut, I promise you, you will never get any worshipping done at all.
One of the questions I get asked most is 'how do I start worshipping [insert deity], and what should I offer to Them? What do I put on Their shrines?' Usually--but not always--question like this is asked by someone new to Hellenismos, and I thought maybe it was time for a general introduction to rituals and shrines.

The major difference between reconstructive religions and modern ones--especially Pagan ones--is the way worship is conducted. Individual worship of Gods as well as patronage is perfectly acceptable in modern religions, but in Recon religions and the ancient Traditions they were based upon, worship tends to be of the pantheon, not so much the one God or Goddess. As such, it is hard for me to answer questions like 'how should I worship Athena', or 'what do I do to honour Poseidon'; you do pretty much the same for both, and all other Olympic Gods as well--at least at it's core. The devil is in the details, but that is beyond the scope of this post.

I have mentioned before that there are five steps to proper, Hellenistic, ritual: procession, purification, prayers and hymns, sacrifice/offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks, usually followed by a feast and/or theater and sporting events. We can apply this to modern worship quite easily: procession (no matter how short), purification with lustral water (named khernips), a hymn, song or modern poem which praises and draws the Theos in question, a sacrifice of some kind--be it incense, (mixed) wine, meat or anything else--along with barley seeds tossed on the altar or into the altar fire, prayers or words of thanks, and--in communal rituals--plays, games, or (sports)-competitions. Within communal celebrations, the sacrifice can be some of the (raw) ingredients used to prepare the communal meal that will follow.

For those of you looking to honour the Gods with sacrifices that are not the above staples, make sure you are aware of the mythology surrounding the God or Goddess in question. In general, any sacrifice is acceptable--although probably not Traditional--but some plants/trees/fruits can be either extra special to the God in question (Laurel for Apollon, for example), or extra painful (pomegranate seeds for Demeter, for example).

We have great variety in ancient hymns that you can draw from to worship just about any deity; it's important, though, that in the context of the worship of one God or Goddess, you at least include those closest to Him or Her. In the case or Apollon, for example, don't forget His sister Artemis, His Mother Leto, His father Zeus, and Hera in placation. For Athena, don't forget Zeus, Ares, and Hera, and for--for example--Poseidon, don't forget Zeus, Amphitrite, and Rhea. Kronos if you are so inclined. Just never forget Zeus, ever. Also, in general, Hellenists offer to Hestia first and last.

Part two: shrines. An important note first: there is a huge difference between an altar and a shrine. An altar is one of those basic necessities within Hellenismos, and it differs from a shrine. Where an altar is a 'work space', dedicated not so much to a specific deity, but used to do the bulk of the (daily) rituals, a shrine is a devotional area where an altar might be located. In ancient Hellas, the shrine was usually a temple, the altar an actual altar, standing outside of it. Household worship took place at a multitude of shrines. Labelling something a shrine, does not mean you can't sacrifice at these spots in your home. In general, you decorate a shrine but leave the altar rather bare.

As for decorating your shrine: delve into mythology and go as wild as you want. In general, a light source and an offering bowl are staples, the rest is up to you. For Poseidon, the great Olympian God of the sea, rivers, flood and drought, earthquakes, and horses, you might look for the trident that is His symbol, appeased with fumigations of myrrh incense and the outpour of (sea) water. You could add images or statues of horses, Himself, and perhaps His wife Amphitrite to your shrine, and add seashells and anything else you can collect off of a beach for decoration. For Athena, I think owls would be a staple, Her weapon is the spear, anything with olives (including an olive tree) would be fantastic, etc.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Hellenismos is not glamorous; in general, you do the same thing over and over again with minor variations. That is what I love about it. It's simple, clear, and repetitive. Practice it like that and it'll become engrained into your person, and the Gods will become part of your daily life. That is the beauty of reconstruction. Remember this when you do your rituals and make up your shrines: practicality is a great good!
Today, I found myself talking about homosexuality in ancient Hellas; the subject came up because we both identify as some version of LGBT, and I had just come out to her as being Hellenic. It was a civil conversation, and one I enjoyed very much. One of the things she said, however, stuck with me and I gathered some resources from my blog to counter it. She said, in relation to homosexuality in ancient Hellas, something I have heard countless of times before:

"Why or how was there are an issue with the homosexuality when your religion is a Greek thing? Hello?! That just doesn't make any sense."

Hellenic society was complicated when it came to sex; adultery was frowned upon, but most marriages were arranged and love was not a guarantee. The ancients saw sex as completely natural and--unlike many today--had no inhibitions and very few taboos when it came to straight up heterosexual sex. Anything else had societal stigma's attached to it. Heterosexual sex was defined by an active male and a passive female. Penetration was active, being penetrated was passive. Getting oral sex was active, while performing oral sex was a passive activity. There is a pattern there that is important, as it limited the socially acceptable interactions one could have. For example, men were stimulated to take on only an active role and thus avoided performing oral sex on a woman (or man, but see below). Due to this dynamic, homosexuality was frowned upon as well; here were two men (or women, but that's an entirely different dynamic and a longer story for which there is very little evidence) who alternated an active and passive roll--something very much against society's rules.

Pederasty was a socially acknowledged erotic relationship between an adult male and a younger male usually in his teens, and was practiced mostly in the Archaic and Classical ages of Hellenic history. Due to the age difference and the societal function the practice served, this type of relationship was accepted and not considered homosexual. The younger partner was always the passive party and performed to role of 'woman' in the exchange, thus making it a heterosexual relationship between two men (as contradictory as that may sound).

Women--perhaps somewhat obviously--had far fewer freedoms when it came to sex outside of the marital bed, and their lives were far less often discussed. I highly doubt ancient Hellenic men had any idea what happened in the almost completely separate lives of their wives--especially in the richer layers of society, and especially in the big cities like Athens and Corinth. It would not surprise me at all if women found sexual comfort with each other or themselves on a regular basis, but evidence of that is slim to none-existent outside of Sparta from where there is even evidence of pederastic relationships between older and younger women in high societal circles.

Marriage was to someone of the opposite gender. You were heterosexual. Period. While members of both sexes may have shared their beds with someone of the same gender, this had nothing to do with the way they identified on the Kinsey scale. In ancient Hellas, what mattered was the role you played in bed. The males, especially when older or higher up in the hierarchy, were supposed to be the dominant ones, the active ones, while the women, the young and those lower in the hierarchy, the passive ones. Because of the age difference and the difference in social standing, the young male assuming a passive role was permitted in pederasty, but a grown man assuming that role was a social and sexual taboo. A wife who took charge in the bedroom would have been frowned upon as well. Especially within the marriage, sex served to make babies, nothing more. Prostitutes and concubines were still supposed to assume a passive, female, role, but I am willing to bet there were some exceptions to that rule.

I'm sure there were both people in ancient Hellas we would now identify as homosexual--and even those who practiced a homosexual lifestyle--and people who practiced what we could now call homosexual sex, but I am willing to bet most of them stuck to the societal rules briefly laid out here, and hardly wavered from them for fear of rejection. In a society where the group far outweighed the individual, it was even harder to go against the grain than it is today.
The Daily Mail recently came out with a piece on match-fixing during ancient wresting competitions. Although not specifically mentioned in the text, the sport in question was rather obviously Pále (πάλη), an event was similar to the modern wrestling sport--with three successful throws necessary to win a match. It was the most popular organized sport in Ancient Hellas and was the first competition to be added to the Olympic Games that was not a footrace. It was added in 700 BC. An athlete needed to throw his opponent on the ground, landing on a hip, shoulder, or back for a fair fall. Biting and genital holds were illegal.

The Daily Mail bases their findings on a the work of historians who have 'deciphered a contract dating from 267AD, between the father and trainers of two teen wrestlers competing in ancient Egypt. It says that Demetrius, the wrestler, must fall three times to concede victory in return for 3,800 drachmas, while other clauses reinforce the contract. The papyrus was discovered in Oxyrhynchus, in Egypt a century ago and has only just been translated by an expert at Kings College London.'

More from the article: Oxyrhynchus lies south-west of Cairo and is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt; it has yielded a huge collection of papyrus texts from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods of Egyptian history and among them are fragments of plays and the Gospel of Thomas. The city was built around a system of canals and inhabitants dumped their rubbish at nearby sand hills, including lots of written material as Oxyrhynchus was governed bureaucratically by the Greeks and the Romans. Archaeologists have discovered tax returns, census material, receipts, letters about religion, politics, military action and diaries, giving them a thorough picture of everyday life.

In 1896, two young excavators - Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt - from the University of Oxford began to excavate the site and combed through the rubbish. While they were concerned with finding works of high literature, they realised the importance of the discarded everyday material. Some 500,000 papyrus fragments are now kept at the university's Sackler Library; among them the account of match fixing.

The text does not reference ancient Hellas specifically, but it wouldn't be a stretch to consider these practices prevalent in ancient Hellas as well.

The match-fixing in question happened between the father of a wrestler called Nicantinous and the trainers of Demetrius who were set to wrestle in the final of the 138th 'Great Antinoeia', which was a series of games held during a religious festival in Egypt. According tot he contract, Demetrius would be rewarded with 'three thousand eight hundred drachmas of silver of old coinage' if he fell three times and yielded. He would still get his money if the judges realized what was going on and refused to give Nicantinous his victory. In case Demetrius backed out of the deal, his trainers would have to pay a larger sum of money to Nicantinous.

Winners of these types of competitions were often put up for life and honoured as heroes, so it paid to fix matches in this way. The sum of money, Dominic Rathbone, a professor at King's College London who translated the papyrus, says, would have been enough to buy a donkey at best. Why a written contract was drawn up is unclear.
The International Mental Health Research Organization won this round as Mounukhion 2014 cause for Pandora's Kharis, with 64 percent of the votes! The organization is committed to raising awareness and funding neuropsychiatric research to find preventions and cures for severe mental illnesses, focusing on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder, within a generation. 100 percent of the money that is donated to them is dedicated to research.


With mental illness ranked as the number one cause of adult disability in America, affecting 1 in 5 adults, the mission of the International Mental Health Research Organization is to alleviate human suffering from mental illness by funding scientific research into causes, prevention and new treatments. The goal of research is to lead to cures, with a focus on schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and depression. To further this purpose, IMHRO:
  • Produces, supports, and builds awareness for fundraising events to raise money for mental health research
  • Directs funding to the most promising research by soliciting and selecting proposals in the area of prevention, treatment, and cure of mental disorders
  • Collaborates with affiliate organizations, people, and events worldwide to raise and direct funding—and minimize duplication of scientific effort
  • Works to build awareness of the scientific achievements and possibilities
The PayPal account is open to receiving your donations to this beautiful and worthy cause! The deadline for donations is May 1, and I thank you in advance already for them. All PayPal costs will be covered by Elaion so your full donation will be transferred to the International Mental Health Research Organization. Let's make this one count!

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The last we saw of Hēraklēs, he was taking a breather and establishing the Olympic Games after capturing the Cretan Bull. Before Hēraklēs returned to vanquishing monsters to clear his soul of miasma, he became involved with two other, major, events: the war with the giants and the liberation of Prometheus. To quote from a post I did on the Giant and Titans:

The rise to power of the Olympians was not an easy one, in fact, under Zeus' leadership the young Gods had many toils and troubles to overcome before They became the dominant force in the universe. Two of those hurdles were the Gigantomachy and the Titanomachy, two events that were first depicted as separate events but became more entwined as the years went on.

The Gigantes were a tribe of one hundred Giants born of Gaia. Some say their father was Tartaros, others that they were born from the blood of the castrated Ouranos. They aren't considered Gods, but fall under the label of 'monster', like the Gorgons and the Hekatonkheires. Hesiod, in his Theogony describes the birth of the Gigantes:

"Then the son from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him. And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Earth received, and as the seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes and the great Giants with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the Nymphs whom they call Meliae all over the boundless earth." [177]

Hēraklēs was alive and mortal for the Gigantomachy, and of course, he fought on the side of the Olympians, earning him great honour with the Theoi for his skill and bravery. Diodorus Siculus writes in his 'Library of History':

"After this, when the Giants about Pallenê chose to begin the war against the immortals, Heracles fought on the side of the gods, and slaying many of the Sons of Earth he received the highest approbation. For Zeus gave the name of “Olympian” only to those gods who had fought by his side, in order that the courageous, by being adorned by so honourable a title, might be distinguished by this designation from the coward; and of those who were born of mortal women he considered only Dionysus and Heracles worthy of this name, not only because they had Zeus for their father, but also because they had avowed the same plan of life as he and conferred great benefits upon the life of men." [4.15.1]

Afterwards, Hēraklēs has one more task to fulfil before he can return to his quest for redemption: free Prometheus. Prometheus, long before was given the task of creating man and his brother Epimetheus was ordered go give good qualities to all creatures of earth. So did Prometheus and Epimetheus. Prometheus shaped man out of clay and Athena breathed life into him. Epimetheus spread swiftness, cunning, fur and wings to the other animals but ran out of gifts when he came to man. Prometheus remedied the situation by allowing men to walk upright and gave them fire.

It soon became apparent that Prometheus loved man more than the Olympians. When Zeus decreed that man must give sacrifice to the Deathless Ones, Prometheus stood ready to aid humanity. He butchered an animal and divided it in to piles; the bones and fat formed one of them, the good meat wrapped in the hide of the animal, the other. Zeus vowed that he would abide by the choice He made now, and picked the tasty looking pile of bones. Zeus was angered but could not take back his vow. What he could take back, was the gift of fire, and this he did.

Mankind suffered greatly without fire and Prometheus travelled either to the sun or Olympus to reclaim fire for his beloved mankind. This, of course, angered Zeus even further and so he devised a plan. First, he imprisoned Prometheus. He ordered Hermes to tie Prometheus to a mountain and had a giant Eagle come every day to eat his liver. As an immortal, Prometheus' liver grew back over night so his torment was endless--well, nearly endless because many, many, many years later, in one version of the myth Hēraklēs took pity on him. Diodorus Siculus again:

"And Zeus, when Prometheus had taken fire and given it to men, put him in chains and set an eagle at his side which devoured his liver. But when Heracles saw him suffering such punishment because of the benefit which he had conferred upon men, he killed the eagle with an arrow, and then persuading Zeus to cease from his anger he rescued him who had been the benefactor of all." [4.15.2]

Next up on the Labours of Hēraklēs series: the horses of Diomedes!
I'm sorry, but I'm still not up to posting anything worth reading, so I'm going to leave you with this art I stumbled upon on-line because I actually had an emotion reaction to it. They are so beautiful, and the artist so very talented. Traditional? Perhaps not, but beautiful none the less. Artist: Glen Mullaly on Etsy, all works for sale.






The original art is pencil on paper, colored and textured with a mix of digital and gouache techniques.
Divination played a fairly large role in Hellenic every day life. Oracles given directly, like at Delphi, were rare and called chesmomancy. All other forms of divination practiced in ancient Hellas were performed by seers, not oracles. Seer staples were divination through the spotting of birds (ornithomancy and augury), dream interpretation (oneiromancy) and animal sacrifice (hieromancy, haruspicy, empyromancy and extispicy), but other forms of divination were definitely used, including cledonomancy (listening to words spoken by a crowd), oneiromancy (divination through the reading of birthmarks) and phyllorhodomancy, the reading of the sound rose petals make when slapping them together with your hands. The biggest difference between oracles and seers was that oracles gave long answers which usually needed some for of interpretation while seers usually answered yes-or-no questions.

Divination of any kind was rarely turned to, to predict the future. To desire knowledge of the future was considered hubris. Instead, oracles and seers were petitioned to help answer questions about the present or to advice on a decision which had to be made in the very near future. 'Shall I go to war?', ' Shall I put my sheep out on the high pasture?'. Most often, oracular questions were posed in a way which made it easy for the God(dess)--and the seer--to answer; they did not ask 'Shall I go to war?', they asked 'Don't you think I ought to go to war?'. Most likely, the answer of seers (and perhaps even oracles) depended on the offertory; if it was large enough, the answer was 'yes', if the offertory was dissatisfactory, the answer would be 'no'.
Seers, in general, were considered touched by the Gods, and their gift was passed down through the blood line, often traced back to famous seers from mythology. These mythological people were considered gifted with the gift of sight and interpretation, and it could be passed by blood all the way down to the then-present. Some seers managed to make a good living from their job, others not so much and were rushed out of cities and towns when the answers they gave were not the desired ones.

In modern times, divination has become a game everyone can play. There are some who still position themselves as seers or oracles, but in general, many of us perform at least one type of divination, and all of us keep our feelers out to maybe find out what the Gods want from us--be it sacrifice, taking or not taking a job, going or not going somewhere, etc. There is an art--a skill--in interpreting signs, and it comes with a lot of practice. I remember starting out many, many, years ago and thinking everything was a sign while doubting every sign I got. In general, I have discovered a few things about interpreting signs:
  • Almost always, that sign you think you have gotten is either some random occurrence without meaning or your inner sockpuppets talking to you
  • It doesn't matter if it's the inner sockpuppets or it's simply a bird flying overhead; if you feel you must or must not do something in your gut, then do or do not do it--the opinions of the Gods matter, but yours do as well
  • Saying you speak for a certain God had best come with a boatload of proof
  • Making fun of someone who says they speak for the Gods is never okay
  • It's okay to believe someone speaks for the Gods, and it's equally okay not to make use of their talents if you don't believe--or even if you do
  • Divination is a beautiful practice, but it's hard to find true meaning in--mostly because of said needed skill and the inner sockpuppets; use divination as a guide, not a law, if you make use of it at all
  • Don't be afraid to interpret (or misinterpret) signs; the Gods will steer you right eventually, and most likely you won't even notice
  • Go with your gut; always go with your gut--an always be respectful to the Gods and those who serve them
Divination is a hot topic in the Hellenic community, mostly because of the historical foundation the practice is built upon. I rarely--if ever--use divination, but I do listen to my gut all the time. If I feel someone requires sacrifice, I'll do it, if I feel I'm meant to do something or walk away from something, I do it. Are those the Gods talking to me? I don't know, but I tend to believe they have instilled in me the qualities and wisdom to figure out my own life, and I have faith in Their willingness to steer my actions whenever I do something incredibly stupid. Interpreting signs is hard, and you will get it wrong many times over; that's fine. Keep at it, and once day you'll find the delicate balance between hope and faith.
It has been a while since I have hit this level of 'it's not going to happen'. Circumstances caused me to get about three hours of sleep last night (and none of them were me having a good time), so I'm going for a run to get rid of some frustration and then I'm going back to bed. Sorry guy, tomorrow is the PBP, and I'll make sure to have something good for you then.

Somehow, I have the feeling I have pissed someone or Someone off enough to have a few crappy days. Before I go back to bed, I am making ample libations to Eris in the hopes that, if it isn't Her directly, She will feel inclined to speak to whomever it is on my behalf. Eris (Ἔρις), Goddess of discord and strife, doesn't have a surviving hymn to Her name, but I have one for her, regardless, puzzled together from existing sources:

Hymn to Eris
"To Eris, the fearful Battle-queen, beheld of none, but cloaked in clouds blood-raining: on she stalked swelling the mighty roar of battle. From small to huge that Fury's stature grew; her arms of adamant were blood-besprent, the deadly lance she brandished reached the sky. Earth quaked beneath her feet: dread blasts of fire flamed from her mouth: her voice pealed thunder-like kindling strong men. Swift closed the fronts of fight drawn by a dread Power to the mighty work.
Sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She who then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walks through the onslaught making men's pain heavier. You, who are the last of the Gods to close an argument; hear my prayer today and pass your judgement kindly upon me. Be a good friend to mortals, and a friend to me."
[Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 10.51; Homer, Iliad 4. 441 ff; Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 1057 ff; Hesiod, Works and Days 11 ff]
Okay, blogging today is still not going to happen, so I'm going to leave you with one of my favourite poems by Sappho.

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. One of my favorite hymns is by her: the Hymn to Aphrodite. Today, you are getting a poem on love, on fate, and on everything that matters in life, indexed usually as 'Some say that the fairest thing upon the dark earth is a host of horsemen...'. Enjoy and hopefully, I'll have a real post for you tomorrow.

A troop of horse, the serried ranks of marchers,
A noble fleet, some think these of all on earth
Most beautiful. For me naught else regarding
Is my beloved.

To understand this is for all most simple,
For thus gazing much on mortal perfection
And knowing already what life could give her,
Him chose fair Helen,

Him the betrayer of Ilium's honour.
The recked she not of adored child or parent,
But yielded to love, and forced by her passion,
Dared Fate in exile.

Thus quickly is bent the will of that woman
To whom things near and dear seem to be nothing.
So mightest thou fail, My Anactoria,
If she were with you.

She whose gentle footfall and radiant face
Hold the power to charm more than a vision
Of chariots and the mail-clad battalions
Of Lydia's army.

So must we learn in world made as this one
Man can never attain his greatest desire,
[But must pray for what good fortune Fate holdeth,
Never unmindful.]
Oh boy, I woke up feeling slightly miserable, but my girlfriend is a sobbing mess of sickness, so I'm not going to be able to get anything up today besides a video I haven't even watched yet. If it's offensive, sorry if it's offensive. If it's bad information, sorry it's bad information. I clicked through it and it seemed pretty legit. Time to take care of my girl. More tomorrow.

"Greek mythology is the body of myths and teachings that belong to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. It was a part of the religion in ancient Greece. Modern scholars refer to and study the myths in an attempt to throw light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

The oldest known Greek literary sources, Homer's epic poems Iliad and Odyssey focus on events surrounding the aftermath of the Trojan War. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths are also preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age, and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias.

Archaeological findings provide a principal source of detail about Greek mythology, with gods and heroes featured prominently in the decoration of many artefacts. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle as well as the adventures of Heracles. In the succeeding Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence. Greek mythology has had an extensive influence on the culture, arts, and literature of Western civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in the themes."
As someone who spends most of her free time on-line in some form or another, I came across a listing of 'The 13 Gods of the Internet Pantheon'--based loosely on the Greek and Roman Gods--and laughed a lot harder than I should have. Technically, this has no place on this blog, but I have very little time today and I needed a decent laugh. Here is to hoping you do, too. If not, well, sorry--come back tomorrow. Also, who do you identify with most? I'm mostly drawn to Athenapedia, but I pray to Poseodon for most of what I say. Created by Nathan Yaffe.

PS: for once, I encourage you to read the comments.
Yesterday I received a wonderful e-mail from someone who would like to stay anonymous because of the subject matter of the question they asked me--a question undoubtedly many others are struggling with; many women, especially. That subject matter is the menstrual cycle in relation to active ritual, and if that is reason enough for you to stop reading, read on, because that attitude is exactly why women today are in the bind we are in. The full question goes as follows:

"I have a question - woman to woman - I'm too embarrassed to ask openly on the FB group; which is: What about the monthly week of menstruation and ritual? - Once I realized that menstruation causes miasma, I have not done ritual when on my period, but that is one week out of four! and every month it feels like I'm getting "out of touch" with the Gods. (I don't even touch my shrine when I'm bleeding, which gets me down even more as I then also don't keep Hestia's flame.) What to do? Is there a way of doing ritual respectively a special way of purification? - or is there something like a "ritual substitute"? How do you handle this delicate subject?"

First off, there is no 'delicate' subject; woman to woman and pre-op trans men, we all know that there is absolutely nothing subtle about our periods, is there? Most months it's a battlefield down there, and then I'm not even talking about the pre-menstrual fun of headaches, exhaustion, muscle fatigue and all the other joys. If you're lucky like me, you only deal with some cramping and exhaustion, if you're unlucky... well... I salute you for your bravery in the face of the lining of your uterus tearing away every month. I wish you strength while you suffer through the nausea and vomiting, through the pain that confines you to a bed, with the inability to eat or the craving to overeat. Men, if you think I'm being crude, think of our periods like this: you have seen the movie 'Prometheus', right, where the doctor ends up cutting open her own uterus to fish out this alien squid baby? It's like that but for days on end. Imagine that, if you will. There is nothing cute or fluffy about our periods, and it's not like the commercials at all, and if a woman ever takes your head of for making fun of her pain, you deserve it. With that PSA out of the way, let's get to the point I'm trying to make.

Women in ancient Hellas had periods just like us modern women, although due to improper dieting and hard labour, there is no guarantee it affected women as often then as it does women today. When it did, they would have most likely suffered through the same symptoms as we do. Sadly, we actually have no idea how the ancient Hellenes handled active worship when a woman was on her period. I suspect this comes down to two things: women tended to take a passive role in ritual, and history was written by men who tended (and tend) to get a little uncomfortable around the topic. As such, it was studiously avoided.

The ancient Hellenes had an odd view of blood; for one, they made a very clear distinction between human blood and animal blood, where animal blood was a purifier and human blood a contaminant. To a modern practitioner, 'blood' most likely has a negative connotation to it. 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. Because 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.

Next to piety, being ritually clean is one of the most important things to adhere to within Hellenismos. We all incur miasma, every single day of our lives. It is a consequence of living. We breath, make decisions, come in contact with others, and along the way, we become too human--for lack of a better term--to petition the Gods. The divide between the purity and cleanliness of the Theoi and our human mortality and imperfection, keeps us away from Them.

The greatest barrier in understanding miasma and katharmos--the act of getting ritually clean--to me, is our modern frame of mind. On the one hand, we know too much about personal hygiene, about the human body and about science as a whole, on the other hand religion in general has become something separate from life in general. As a result, we colour ancient Hellas with our 'hygiene brush'. Secondly, not everyone has faith, our society does no longer revolve around it, and as a result, we--as modern religious people--struggle for a mind-set of simple, all-encompassing, unquestionable worship. There might be a few remnants of 'Original Sin Thinking' lodged in there as well.

Miasma is not about being physically dirty, although that is a part of it, and katharmos is not about becoming physically clean, although that is a part of it. Men would sometimes come to public rituals fresh off the fields, dirty, sometimes cut up and scraped, in rumpled daily wear. With a washing of the hands, and the sprinkling of the body, they would be considered clean from the daily miasma, although they were almost as physically unclean as they were before their cleansing.

I know I have written about this before, but I can't find it on my blog despite my best efforts; after a lot of research into the workings of miasma, I have come to the conclusion that miasma is linked to distraction. Anything that takes your mind off of the Gods during ritual can be considered miasmic. For example, murder causes miasma (when not committed as part of a war, soldiers were not tainted with miasma for killing their enemies), but only once other people became aware of the fact that you had committed an act of murder. As such, if you were exiled and you travelled to another town where no one knew what you had done, in essence, you were not miamic to the rites and people around you. Men being terrified of women bleeding from their vagina's for a few days a month would undoubtedly have taken their minds off of the ritual at hand, and it would seem logial to me that women were barred from attending ritual because men were uncomfortable.

In ancient Hellas, the kurios was always the male head of household; if menstrual blood indeed caused miasma, the woman could simply not attend when she was having her period. Speaking from my own experience, I am not in a household where this is the case: I am kurios, for all intents and purposes, so how do I solve my monthly problem? Personally, I take extra kathartic steps to avoid miasma, because dropping a week's worth of worship every three weeks is not something I feel comfortable doing. I make sure I shower before my rituals, that I wear clean clothes, and I use tampons so blood does not leave my body during my rites. I spend extra time performing my kathartic rites, and keep my rituals short. If I'm in too much pain or I'm too distracted, I don't perform my rituals, but the danger of that is--for me--really only the first two to three days. Us women know how to get through a whole hell of a lot of pain and still perform well in a society that demands it of us, after all.

What your thoughts on this are depends on who you are and how badly your period affects you. If you practice in a group, it might be something to bring up; perhaps women who have their period can take on a more passive role in the ritual, but can still be allowed to be there to receive kharis? Whatever the case, it's a difficult subject because we have zero concrete examples or evidence from ancient Hellas to go on. This is something we have to figure out for ourselves, but I feel that with the proper preparations, the week of non-practice can at least be shortened to such an extend that you won't have to feel guilty for neglecting the Gods.
Another reader question today; where does the Hermetica fit in with Hellenic Polytheism? The short answer is going to be: wherever you want it to, but let me expand on that a little.

For those unfamiliar with the Hermetica, they are Egyptian-Greek wisdom texts from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, which are mostly presented as dialogues in which a teacher, generally identified as Hermes Trismegistus ('thrice-greatest Hermes'), enlightens a disciple. The texts form the basis of Hermeticism. They discuss the divine, the cosmos, mind, and nature. Some touch upon alchemy, astrology, and related concepts.

The Hermetic tradition represents a non-Christian lineage of Hellenistic Gnosticism and has greatly influenced the Western esoteric tradition. It was considered to be of great importance during both the Renaissance and the Reformation. The tradition claims descent from a doctrine which affirms that a single, true theology exists which is present in all religions and was given by God to man in antiquity. Many Christian writers considered Hermes Trismegistus to be a wise pagan prophet who foresaw the coming of Christianity.

Like with the Greek Magical Papyri, or Papyri Graecae Magicae--another body of papyri from Graeco-Roman Egypt, dating back to the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, which each contain a number of magical spells, formulae, hymns and rituals--inclusion of these obviously muddled texts is up to the practitioner.

I have stressed before on this blog the importance of narrowing down your practice to a time period and even a location. 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--and if we want to go beyond the scope of those time periods into the Graeco-Roman and Graeco-Egyptian. Of even more importance, perhaps, is if you want to follow or include mystery Traditions, like those taught at Eleusis, or by the Orphics, or even those found in the Papyri or Hermetica.

So, again, if you feel the need to include the Hermetica, if its words speak to you on a religious or spiritual level, then by all means include them. You'll probably be a minority within the religion, but if you feel that is how you can best serve the Gods then go for it! Personally, I steer clear of both the Hermetica and the Papyri, but I've read both, and there is great beauty there. It's just not for me.
Hospitality in ancient Hellenic was a complicated ritual within both the host and the guest has certain roles to fill and tasks to perform. Especially when someone unknown to the host came to the door, the ritual held great value. The host had and has many tasks in his process, but the guest had/has an important part to play as well: the guest is expected to be courteous and not be a burden to the host. The house was a sanctuary in ancient Hellas with a lot of social rules attached to it. Guests could not enter certain parts of the house, and male guests were kept away from women at all times. Long term guests had a slightly different status, as they became part of the oikos, but they were still subject to restrictions when it came to social an religious behaviour. This practice was known as 'xenia' (ξενία), and we'll be talking about a very special version of it today: xenia related to Gods and heroes.

Xenia is described a lot in mythology. Especially the more general form of it where Theoi disguising themselves as beggars or undesirables and come to the door of an unsuspecting mortal features in many myths. The host is judged on the hospitality offered; good things befall those who treat guests with respect, very bad things befall those who do not. One of my favorite Hellenic myths shows this in great detail; it's the story of how Baucis and Philemon received some unexpected visitors. You can read the myth here.

Theoxenia is a little different, it's a specific ritual meant to bring the Gods closer to us and invite Them into our home. Heroxenia is the same practice, but for the heroes of Hellenic mythology. In short, theoxenia and heroxenia were a kind of Hellenic sacrifice in which worshippers presented foodstuffs to Gods or heroes (not usually at the same time, or at least not at the same table), who then attended the meal as guests, or xenoi.

The practice started with the laying out of a beautifully done up table--it was made up to absolute perfection and then a bench was placed at it, sometimes with icons of the Gods set on it to make absolutely clear this was where the Gods (or heroes) were invited to eat from. We label the meal a sacrifice, but very little meat was served, and none of it was burned. It was simply a meal, shared with the Gods; the other guests would eat at other table(s) and all would theoretically share their meal with the Gods and heroes they worshipped and revered.

Important to note is that the participants did not try to locate which God or hero sat where, nor were They addressed after being invited; They were left alone to enjoy a good meal and hopefully They came away thinking higher of the hosts and guests. As such, the theo- and heroxenia were considered to establish kharis with the Gods and heroes they invited into the home.

There is one other form of the practice, meant not to establish kharis as such, but to appease polluting spirits, ghosts chief amongst them. Ghosts were the people who could not find the entrance to the Underworld or who didn't have the money to pay Kharon for their passage. Those who were not properly buried were also doomed to wander the Earth for a hundred years. Interestingly enough, Hellenic heroes were also considered ghosts and were honored in the same type of rites as other types of ghosts.

The ancient Hellens held festivals in honor of ghosts, and the Theoi that presided over them, so they would be sated and appeased and would not haunt them. Most of these festivals included a holókaustos--a sacrificial offering given in its entirety to the Gods--and were solemn affairs, conducted at night and without an offering of wine. It was, however, also possible to invite them to dine with the living so they would feel included and then end the proceedings by asking them to leave; something the ghosts would do as it's not polite by the rules of xenia to be a burden on your host.

This fear of spirits and other supernatural entities was named 'deisidaimonia' (δεισιδαιμονία). The ceremonies of riddance were known to the Hellenes as apopompai (ἀποποπμαί), 'sendings away'. There isn't a single word in the English language that conveys the practice. Closest would be 'exorcism'. It is important to note here that these 'exorcisms' weren't performed on people, but on the ghosts themselves and in short, they consisted of rites to ask the Gods (especially Hekate) to keep these unfortunate souls away from their homes and families, because the ghosts could bring misery down upon them. Possession was not part of the fear. Many rites in the ancient Hellenic religion--including monthly ones like the Deipnon--were apotropaic. Many of these rites were also linked to miasma.

Heroxenia and theoxenia are beautiful examples of how the Gods were included in everyday life, and how much the ancient Hellenes personified their deities. This practice is still alive and well in many other religions, and it's a wonderful one to bring back in Hellenismos as well. The next time you meet with a group of Hellenes for dinner, set aside a table and some food to the Gods or heroes and invite Them to join you; undoubtedly, it will add a lot to your meal.
It was a slow round of pitches this month, but that only means we have the choice between two very worthy and deserving causes. The nominees for Mounukhion 2014 cause are:

The International Mental Health Research Organization
The International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO) is committed to raising awareness and funding neuropsychiatric research to find preventions and cures for severe mental illnesses, focusing on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder, within a generation. 100 percent of the money that is donated to them is dedicated to research.

The Donkey Sanctuary
The Donkey Sanctuary was founded in 1969 by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE and supports projects in 27 countries worldwide. It reaches out to those in greatest need through the provision of permanent refuge and veterinary services to alleviate their suffering. Over 50 million donkeys and mules exist in the world. Many need care and protection from a life of suffering and neglect, whilst others have a vital role to play in human survival and happiness; they are at the heart of everything they do at The Donkey Sanctuary.

Do you have a favourite out of these five? 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 April 20, 2014.
George Gemistos Plethon (1355–1452/1454 A.D.) was a Greek scholar of Neoplatonic philosophy. He re-introduced Plato's thoughts to Western Europe during the 1438 - 1439 Council of Florence, and was one of the chief pioneers of the revival of Greek learning in Western Europe. He was a follower of the Hellenic Gods and fought to have Them be worshipped again, like They had been in the past. He was a Humanist, and refused to absorb Plato’s dogmas into a Christian context, making him one of the first 'Pagan' Neo-Platonists.

Plethon--as he came to be known--had some strong ideas about how to re-establish this worship. Believing that the Peloponnesians, his people, were direct descendants of the ancient Hellenes, Plethon looked to re-create the Hellenistic civilization to far larger extends than just religiously. In his 1415 and 1418 pamphlets to this effect, he suggested ruler Manuel II and his son Theodore:
  • turn the peninsula into a cultural island with a new constitution of strongly centralised monarchy advised by a small body of middle-class educated men
  • the army must be composed only of professional native Greek soldiers, who would be supported by the taxpayers
  • 'helots' (an ancient term for Spartan slaves) would be exempt from military service
  • land was to be publicly owned, and a third of all produce given to the state fund; incentives would be given for cultivating virgin land.
  • trade would be regulated and the use of coinage limited, barter instead being encouraged; locally available products would be supported over imports.
  • mutilation as a punishment would be abolished, and chain gangs introduced
  • homosexuals would be burnt at the stake as sexual deviants
The political and social elements of his theories covered the creation of communities, government (he promoted benevolent monarchy as the most stable form), land ownership (land should be shared, rather than individually owned), social organisation, families, and divisions of sex and class. He believed that labourers should keep a third of their produce, and that soldiers should be professional. He held that love should be private not because it is shameful, but because it is sacred. Because of the Ottoman threat of his time, he also supported the reconciliation of the churches in order to secure Western Europe support. He also proposed more practical, immediate measures, such as rebuilding the Hexamilion, the ancient defensive wall across the Isthmus of Corinth, which had been breached by the Ottomans in 1423.

The new state religion was to be founded on a hierarchical pantheon of Pagan Gods, based largely upon the ideas of Humanism prevalent at the time, incorporating themes such as rationalism and logic. After his death, Pletho's Nómon singrafí (Νόμων συγγραφή) or Nómoi (Νόμοι "Book of Laws") was discovered, and it detailed his esoteric beliefs. He recommended religious rites and hymns to petition the classical gods, such as Zeus, whom he saw as universal principles and planetary powers. Man, as relative of the Gods, should strive towards good. His ethical system, overall, seemed to represented a merging of Stoic philosophy and Zoroastrian mysticism. Plethon believed the universe has no beginning or end in time, and being created perfect, nothing may be added to it. He rejected the concept of a brief reign of evil followed by perpetual happiness, and held that the human soul is reincarnated, directed by the gods into successive bodies to fulfil divine order. This same divine order, he believed, governed the organisation of bees, the foresight of ants and the dexterity of spiders, as well as the growth of plants, magnetic attraction, and the amalgamation of mercury and gold.

Plethon's pantheon varies greatly from earlier times. Zeus is the supreme sovereign, containing within himself all being in an undivided state; his eldest child, motherless, is Poseidon, who created the heavens and rules all below, ordaining order in the universe. Zeus' other children include an array of 'supercelestial' Gods, the Olympians and Tartareans, all motherless. Of these Hera is third in command after Poseidon, creatress and ruler of indestructible matter, and the mother by Zeus of the heavenly gods, demi-gods and spirits. The Olympians rule immortal life in the heavens, the Tartareans mortal life below, their leader Kronos ruling over mortality altogether. The eldest of the heavenly Gods is Helios, master of the heavens here and source of all mortal life on earth. The Gods are responsible for much good and no evil, and guide all life towards divine order. Plethon describes the creation of the universe as being perfect and outside of time, so that the universe remains eternal, without beginning or end. The soul of man, like the Gods is immortal and essentially good, and is reincarnated in successive mortal bodies for eternity at the direction of the Gods. [Wikipedia]

Needless to say, Plethon's ideas aren't Traditional; they aren't even Hellenic, but they have had a great impact on the way Neo-Platonic thought ingrained in society, and on the views of later generations on the ancient Hellenes. Surviving from his work is also a collection of hymns to the Gods of his pantheon. According to translator Manuela Simeoni:

"[These] hymns must be chanted at wake up, at midday and at sunset. This must be preceded by an announcement made by a ‘sacred herald’ chosen among the venerable ones of the community: "Listen, you all who honour the divinity; it’s time to address to the Gods the morning [or midday, or evening] prayer. Let’s call the Gods with all our heart, all our spirit, all our soul; let’s invoke them all, but above all Zeus who rules on them". What follows is a complex choreography in which all members kneel invoking the Gods, then put their right hand on the ground and lift a knee, continuing to recite invocations, then put the other hand on the ground and finally lay on the ground invoking "Zeus the king".
After invocation and before hymns, in this complicated ritual some ‘allocutions’ are also recited: these are some sort of prayers in which a divinity is thanked and the philosophic view of mythology is explained. They resemble a catechism that must be recited every day: there’s an allocution for the morning, three for midday and one for the evening. After the allocutions, hymns are chanted but not chosen randomly: first the monthly hymn, then the hymn that fits the celebration of the day and last but not least the all-year hymn to Zeus. In some particular days, they are preceded by the sacred hymn for the occasion."

The full list of hymns can be found here, and although Plethon's ideas aren't Hellenic, and very much non-Traditional, his hymns are quite beautiful. They can be a resource for anyone looking to extend their practice or simply their collection of hymns. I'll leave you with a snippet from the All Year Hymn To The Gods, in the hope that you will find beauty in it. Plethon's hymns are not part of my personal practice, but I love reading them because of the true devotion they portray.
"But, Gods, you who address the mind that leads us
and that you put on us similar to yourselves,
let us lead our life well in everything
and chant with you the supreme Zeus." 
Another reader question today because I'm burning through my backlog: which Hellenic Gods are associated with fertility? Well, that is certainly a broad-scoped question! Are we talking fertility in humans, animals, soil? What kind of fertility; a fertile mind or reproduction? Spiritual, emotional, or physical growth? Without a tighter definition (and I can't ask after it because it was a question posted anonymously through Tumblr), I'm going to assume you mean fertility in humans (although there is obviously going to be some overlap with the Earth).

I'm going to start off with a lesser known deity: Priapos (Πριαπος), protector of sheep, goats, bees, the vine and of all garden produce. He was depicted with a huge male member, and can be petitioned for aid with any issues regarding the male genitalia. He was native to the Mysian city of Lampsakos on the Hellespont but the ancient Hellenes adopted the God as the son of either Hermes or Dionysos. His mother was usually Aphrodite. Fun fact: primitive statues of Priapos were traditionally set-up in vegetable plots to promote fertility with the added benefit of functioning as a type of 'scarecrow' scaring away birds.

Rhea (Ρεα), wife of Kronos, is a female fertility Goddess--amongst other things. She also looks after mothers and children, and is one of the great mother Goddesses in the pantheon having obviously given birth to the Olympians. Anything female-related (including issues with fertility) can be put before Her. Hera, by the way, has many of the same domains as Her mother--logical as she is the new generation's mother figure.

Aphrodite is also a fertility Goddess. She along with Zeus, Hera, Eileithyia and Hymenaios were the Theoi Gamelioi (Gods of Marriage) who presided over the wedding rites. She was invoked as the Goddess of the consummation of marriage and the fertility of the bride.

Speaking of which, Eileithyia (Ειλειθυια) is the Goddess of childbirth and labour pains. According to some there were two Eileithyiai, one who furthered birth and one who protracted the labour. Her name means 'she who comes to aid'.

Demeter and Persephone were regarded as fertility Goddesses in the Eleusinian Tradition, and during Their Thesmophoria festival, women actively asked for fertility from Them. Demeter, especially, is obviously also very important for the growth of plant life.

Dionysos is mostly associated with the fertility of the soil, and especially in regards to the grape vine, but human fertility is amongst His descriptors. Pan is regarded as much the same, as are many of the Satyrs and daimons connected to Them--like Tykhon, Konisalos, and Orthannes.

Phanes (Φανης) is the Protogenos of procreation in the Orphic cosmogony. He is the primal generator of life, and was the driving force behind reproduction in the early cosmos. Phanes was hatched from the world egg when it was split into its constituent parts by the ancient gods Khronos and Ananke. Arguably, He still drives the process of reproduction, be it in plants, animals, or humans.

Hopefully this covers the scope of the question, and if not, I look forward to hearing from you again!