With 75% of the votes, Plan International became Thargelion 2014 cause for Pandora's Kharis last week, and this time around, $110,- was raised for the cause. That is a beautiful number, especially when you know that, for example, for about $5,-, a child can get sight treatment, meaning screening and glasses or medicine.

Plan is a child-centred community development organisation, and one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. They work with children, their families, communities, organisations and local governments to bring about positive change, and they are active in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.

When children and adults work together as part of the change process, it is more likely that programmes will be successful and sustainable. Their work is linked to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which spells out the human rights of all children, including the right to:
  • survive
  • develop to the fullest
  • be protected from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation
  • participate fully in family, cultural and social life.
Listening to what children have to say about their rights, needs and concerns is key to this approach. They encourage and help children to take an active role in finding solutions to their problems and realising their full potential.

As always, Elaion is very proud to make an announcement of the generosity of our members. Especially at a time where many people are struggling financially, we still get donations that average out around $20,-. We are very grateful to every single person who made a donation--big or small--and helps us make a difference.

As always, we encourage members who have given so generously to dedicate this gift to the Gods, especially the Kourotrophos; (mostly) female deities who watched over growing children--Gaea, Artemis, Hekate, Eirênê, Aglauros and Pandrosos, especially. A pre-made ritual can be found here, on the Elaion Facebook page.

From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community.

On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving. Thank you for your generosity!
Okay, so it's not exactly Hellenismos, but I just had to blog about it, regardless. It seems someone trademarked the pi symbol. Apparently you can do that now. Blogger Jez Kemp recently wrote:

"Paul Ingrisano, a pirate living in Brooklyn New York, filed a trademark under "Pi Productions" for a logo which consists of this freely available version of the pi symbol from the Wikimedia website combined with a period (full stop). The conditions of the trademark specifically state that the trademark includes a period.

The trademark was granted in January 2014 and Ingrisano has recently made trademark infringement claims against a massive range of pi-related designs on print-on-demand websites including Zazzle and Cafepress. Surprisingly, Zazzle accepted his claim and removed thousands of clothing products using this design, emailing designers that their work was infringing Pi Productions' intellectual property - even designs not using a full stop."

Indeed, Zazzle states that:

"Recently, [they] were contacted directly by the legal representatives for Pi Production Corp. with regards to the trademark for the mathematical symbol of “Pi” on clothing items. The United States Patent and Trademark Office registration number for this trademark is 4473631, which can be found along with more information about the mark via a trademark search by registration number on the USPTO’s official website http://www.uspto.gov. As a result, Zazzle removed apparel designs containing the symbol while we evaluate the complaint."

The trademark is quite real, and applies to 'athletic apparel, namely, shirts, pants, jackets, footwear, hats and caps, athletic uniforms'. As blogger Jez Kemp rightly notes, there are huge implications for designers and individuals across the planet. If Zazzle wash their hands and accept one man's claim to own the rights to all use of an ancient Greek letter and generic mathematical symbol on clothing, it sets a precedent for other websites and companies to do the same.
A while ago, I decided that on the day of the Hene kai Nea, I'd post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog. There is not too much to report this month, but I did want to take the opportunity for a little update about how I'm doing. A while back, I told you all I wasn't doing too well. It's been a month now, and with regular therapy and  good bit of TLC I can honestly say I'm doing better. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm definitely getting there. I wanted to thank all of you for your support and understanding, and for sticking with me. It's very much appreciated.

Changes to the blog:
Anything else?
Pandora's Kharis, a charity circle for and by Hellenistic Polytheists, was launched a few months ago and is currently collecting for Plan International. If you want to donate, you have until tomorrow! Join us on Facebook if you would like to pitch a cause for next month!

That is it for the last month's updates, as far as I can remember. Have a blessed Deipnon!
So, look who remembered she was doing a constellation series? That's right: me! I'm not sure where along the way I forgot about that one but here we are, with a new instalment: Pisces. Pisces is a constellation of the zodiac. Its name is the Latin plural for 'fish'. It lies between Aquarius to the west and Aries to the east. The ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect within this constellation and in Virgo.


During the Titomanchy, the Olympians were in for a rough fight when Zeus led them against the Titans. One of their toughest fights was against the storm-giant Typhôeus (Τυφωευς), a fight so tough, in fact, that the Olympians had to flee from battle. Pisces is associated with Aphrodite and Eros, the who escaped from the monster Typhôeus, the most-feared son of Tartaros and Gaea, by leaping into the sea and transforming themselves into fish. In order not to lose each other, they tied themselves together with rope. Alternatively, the fish represent the Ikhthyes (Ιχθυες), a pair of large Syrian river fish who rescued Aphrodite and Eros when they were fleeing. Thirdly, they may be solely the fishes Aphros and Bythos, the fish-tailed Ikhthyokentauroi (Sea-Centaurs) of late classical art, who pulled Aphrodite to safety after her birth in the ocean. Hyginus says of the first option in his 'Astronomica':

"Diognetus Erythraeus says that once Venus and her son Cupid came in Syria to the river Euphrates. There Typhon, of whom we have already spoken, suddenly appeared. Venus and her son threw themselves into the river and there changed their forms to fishes, and by so doing this escaped danger. So afterwards the Syrians, who are adjacent to these regions, stopped eating fish, fearing to catch them lest with like reason they seem either to oppose the protection of the gods, or to entrap the gods themselves." [II.30]

Roman poet Ovid has an adaption about the second option, noted down in 'Fasti':

"[N]ext in turn do thou, O Fish, receive the heavenly steeds. They say that thou and thy brother (for ye are constellations that sparkle side by side) did support twain gods upon your backs. Once on a time Dione,55 fleeing from the dreadful Typhon, when Jupiter bore arms in defence of heaven, came to the Euphrates, accompanied by the little Cupid, and sat down by the brink of the Palestinian water. Poplars and reeds crowned the top of the banks, and willows offered hope that the fugitives also could find covert there. While she lay hid, the grove rustled in the wind. She turned pale with fear, and thought that bands of foes were near. Holding her child in her lap, “To the rescue, nymphs!” she said, “and to two deities bring help!” Without delay she sprang forward. Twin fish received her on their backs, wherefore they now possess the stars, a guerdon meet. Hence scrupulous Syrians count it sin to serve up such fry upon the table, and will not defile their mouths with fish." [2.458]

In all cases, the fishes were accepted into the heavens for their aid lend, and Aphrodite and Eros were safe, having escaped Typhôeus.

Pisces is visible at latitudes between +90° and −65°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of November.
My girlfriend is very fearful of snakes. They're completely alien to her, and when a common European adder decided to investigate our rural vacation home a few years ago, I was very glad I watch too watch Discovery Channel; I was suddenly in the questionably envious position to wrangle a snake who is not exactly deadly, but definitely poisonous.

The actual adder, and my actual hand

The ancient Hellenes were not fearful of snakes. They might have been cautious of poisonous ones, but in general, happening across a snake was a good omen. Unlike in Jewish and Christian mythology, where the Devil working though a snake got Eve to eat the apple, Hellenic mythology usually reserves a very positive place for snakes. Today, I'm giving some examples of the positive images surrounding serpents and snakes, although there are, surely, also negative ones to take into account.
  • Asklēpiós was, and is, a much beloved Theos. He started out being honored as a hero--the son of Apollon and Koronis--but became a God in His own right because of his healing skill. Worship places of Asklēpiós were called 'asklepieia' (Ἀσκληπίεια). An asklepieion (Ἀσκληπιεῖον) served as a temple, a hospital, and as a training-institute of the healing arts. In ancient Hellas, the sick would come to an asklepieion and offer a sacrifice to Asklēpiós--amongst the recorded sacrifices are black goats or sheep, gold, silver, or marble sculptures of the body part that required healing, and coins--in hopes of healing. They would then settle into the abaton (άβατον) or enkoimeterion (εγκοιμητήριοn), a restricted sleeping hall, which was occupied by the sick alone, or sometimes by a group of them, as well as a good few snakes, which are considered sacred animals of Asklēpiós.
  • In mythology, after His training is complete, Asklēpiós receives the blood of Médousa from Athena. Drawn from two different blood vessels in Médousa's neck, some of it can kill, and some of it can heal even the dead. Asklēpiós uses the blood to resurrect the dead, but this is against the wishes of Zeus, who kills Him. He is either placed amongst the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder, or revived by Zeus as a God to satisfy a furious Apollon.
  • The Drakones were named after the Greek 'drakein' and 'derkomai, meaning 'to see clearly' or 'gaze sharply'. These were guardians, usually of wells and springs, groves, Gods, or treasure. As guardians, they were usually equipped with sharp fangs, deadly poison and/or multiple heads. In essence, they were however seen as giant snakes which--and this is wholly a personal observation--makes sense when most protective and purifying Theoi were depicted as snakes.
  • All sources but the ones where Agathós Daímōn is identified as Theos, represent the Agathós Daímōn as a snake; this applies to both artwork as assumed physical appearance. The Agathós Daímōn was always a positive in one's life, and was generally seen as the source of personal or familial good fortune. Libations of (unmixed) wine were given to Him with each newly opened case of wine, and during feasts and symposium, Agathós Daímōn received the first libation. When crossing a snake on the road, it was also customary to pour out a libation, just in case it was a herald of Agathós Daímōn, or Agathós Daímōn Himself.
  • It should be said that Harrison believes Zeus Meilichios is an epithet of Zeus superimposed over an existing snake God: Meilichios, a 'home-grown, autochtonous [deity, from] before the formulation of Zeus'. Even more telling: the cult of Meilichios was very pronounced in Boeotia, where He was worshipped as a provider of wealth (Harrison, p. 21). I pose that, at the same time Zeus became equated with Meilichios, so did the Agathós Daímōn; a daímōn of good fortune (most likely through fertility and good harvest, the two greatest blessings from the Theoi), superimposed over the snake God Meilichios, exchanging positive qualities while assuming immortality for Himself. Zeus Meilichios adopted Meilichios' cleansing and purifying qualities.
  • In some cult worship, Agathós Daímōn was a male deity, who was married to the Theia (daímōn?) Agathe Tyche. Their worship was known in Athens, and They had a temple at Lebadeia, in Boeotia, where one could visit the oracle of Trophonios--but only after spending a fixed number of days in a building, which was sacred to the 'Agathei Theoi'--which probably refers to Agathe Tyche and Agathós Daímōn together--and most likely housed one or several snake(s). It was this building the suplicant was brought back to when he returned from the oracle--usually passed out from the experience--in order to recover.
  • Archaeologists suspect that Athena, Médousa and Poseidon found their origins in Libya. They came to Hellas through Crete at the dawn of Hellas. In the beginning of Her rein, Athena may have been a snake and fertility Goddess--a trait she shared with her Libyan counterpart, who had Her own cult--and may have either had a priestess who fit the Médousa myth or--and this is more likely--Médousa had her own cult as a snake, fertility and (menstrual) blood Goddess. Especially the latter may be linked to the myths concerning Médousa's blood.

    Athena's role as a snake and fertility Goddess is still visible in the myth about the child she had with Hēphaistos;  Erichthonios (Ἐριχθόνιος), who was half man, half snake. It's even posed that in the early days, Athena was married to Hēphaistos and had His child willingly. As Athena was stripped of Her roles as a fertility and snake Goddess, Médousa's myth came into being, where Athena distances Herself from sex and snakes, by punishing an epithet of herself (Athena Tritogeneia, perhaps: 'born of Trito', a lake which was supposedly located in Libya), or the Libyan snake Goddess Médousa, who may have still been attached to Her worship. By placing Médousa's head on Her breastplate or shield, Athena's mythology is continuously linked to Her Libyan heritage, but harmlessly so, to Her new image of a virginal warrior.

    Few references remain to Médousa's Libyan cult. There's vague reference to Médousa being a patron of Libya as a whole, or that she was the Goddess most worshipped by the Amazons. She was linked to protection, snakes, menstrual blood, blood, fertility, and femininity in general. If this is true, it's understandable why her worship did not match the Hellenic religion: for one, she's most likely a very powerful female deity. This did not match the hierarchy of the ancient Hellens, and so, Médousa became a monster, and was dealt with accordingly. Blood was one of the fluids that caused serious miasma, and menstrual fluid wasn't even spoken of in ancient Hellas, let alone revered. Not a single Goddess would have it in their portfolio.
Of course, this is not a complete list, but it is a starting point, and one I might build further on. Now our snake season is about to start again (and my girlfriend is fearfully eying the pond in our garden) I figured it would be good to have a reminder of the important mythology and customs surrounding snakes.
You guys are getting a meaty post tomorrow, but today, I am announcing to you that the New Acropolis Museum in Athens has been included on a list of the twenty most amazing museums in the world, compiled by the editors of online architectural magazine Archdaily. The list was announced in honour of International Museum Day. The focus of the contest was not so much the collection as the actual building.

The museum is located in the historic Makryianni district, and stands less than 1,000 feet southeast of the Parthenon. The top-floor Parthenon Gallery offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the Acropolis and modern Athens. The Museum is entered from the Dionysios Areopagitou pedestrian street, which links it to the Acropolis and other key archaeological sites in Athens. With 8,000 square meters (90,000 square feet) of exhibition space and a full range of visitor amenities, the Acropolis Museum tells the story of life on the Athenian Acropolis and its surroundings by uniting collections formerly dispersed in multiple institutions, including the small Acropolis Museum built in the 19th century.

The rich collections provide visitors with a comprehensive picture of the human presence on the Acropolis, from pre-historic times through late antiquity. Integral to this program is the display of an archeological excavation on the site: ruins from the 4th through 7th centuries A.D., left intact and protected beneath the building and made visible through the first floor. Other program facilities include a 200-seat auditorium. According to the editors of Archdaily:

"The Museum is deliberately non-monumental, focusing the visitor's attention on extraordinary works of art. With the greatest possible clarity, the design translates programmatic requirements into architecture."

As someone who has been dying to visit this museum, I am very happy to see it included in a list of museums that are, indeed, beautiful and acclaimed. As soon as I can get back to Greece, I'm visiting this cultural landmark for sure!
With 75% of the votes, Plan International became Thargelion 2014 cause for Pandora's Kharis! Founded over 75 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. They work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. In 2013, Plan worked with 78 million children in 90,229 communities. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.

Plan's vision is of a world in which all children realise their full potential in societies that respect people's rights and dignity. They aim to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of deprived children in developing countries, through a process that unites people across cultures and adds meaning and value to their lives, by:
  • enabling deprived children, their families and their communities to meet their basic needs and to increase their ability to participate in and benefit from their societies
  • building relationships to increase understanding and unity among peoples of different cultures and countries
  • promoting the rights and interests of the world's children.
You can now donate to Pandora's Kharis at baring.the.aegis@gmail.com or by clicking the 'donate' button to the side of the Pandora's Kharis website. Please, give generously to support this wonderful cause, and thank you in advance! The deadline to donate is 30 May, 2014.
Well then, my poor girl managed to dislocate her first rib (again), which means that I have about ten minutes to get something up on the blog today because I still need to get her and myself ready to leave for her work at 8.45 (which is in twenty minutes from now. I hope you will forgive me for poetry blogging. Today, you are getting Shelley.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets and is regarded by critics as amongst the finest lyric poets in the English language. A radical in his poetry as well as his political and social views, Shelley did not achieve fame during his lifetime, but recognition for his poetry grew steadily following his death. Shelley was a key member of a close circle of visionary poets and writers that included Lord Byron; Leigh Hunt; Thomas Love Peacock; and his own second wife, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

The poetry I'm sharing today is Prometheus Unbound, a four-act lyrical drama first published in 1818. It is concerned with the torments of the Greek mythological figure Prometheus, who defies the gods and gives fire to humanity, for which he is subjected to eternal punishment and suffering at the hands of Zeus. It is inspired by the classical Prometheia, a trilogy of plays attributed to Aeschylus. Shelley's play concerns Prometheus' release from captivity, but unlike Aeschylus' version, there is no reconciliation between Prometheus and Jupiter (Zeus). Instead, Jupiter is abandoned by his supportive elements and falls from power, which allows Prometheus to be released.

Shelley's play is closet drama, meaning it was not intended to be produced on the stage. In the tradition of Romantic poetry, Shelley wrote for the imagination, intending his play's stage to reside in the imaginations of his readers. However, the play is filled with suspense, mystery and other dramatic effects that make it, in theory, performable. This is an excerpt.

SCENE.—A Ravine of Icy Rocks in the Indian Caucasus. Prometheus is discovered bound to the Precipice. Panthea and Ione are seated at his feet. Time, night. During the Scene, morning slowly breaks.

Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits
But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds
Which Thou and I alone of living things
Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth
Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou
Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,
And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,
With fear and self-contempt and barren hope.
Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate,
Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,
O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.
Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,
And moments aye divided by keen pangs
Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,
Scorn and despair,—these are mine empire:—
More glorious far than that which thou surveyest
From thine unenvied throne, O Mighty God!
Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame
Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not here
Nailed to this wall of eagle-baffling mountain,
Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured; without herb,
Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!
No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!
The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears
Of their moon-freezing crystals, the bright chains
Eat with their burning cold into my bones.
Heaven's wingèd hound, polluting from thy lips
His beak in poison not his own, tears up
My heart; and shapeless sights come wandering by,
The ghastly people of the realm of dream,
Mocking me: and the Earthquake-fiends are charged
To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds
When the rocks split and close again behind:
While from their loud abysses howling throng
The genii of the storm, urging the rage
Of whirlwind, and afflict me with keen hail.
And yet to me welcome is day and night,
Whether one breaks the hoar frost of the morn,
Or starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs
The leaden-coloured east; for then they lead
The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom
—As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim—
Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood
From these pale feet, which then might trample thee
If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.
Disdain! Ah no! I pity thee. What ruin
Will hunt thee undefended through wide Heaven!
How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror,
Gape like a hell within! I speak in grief,
Not exultation, for I hate no more,
As then ere misery made me wise. The curse
Once breathed on thee I would recall. Ye Mountains,
Whose many-voicèd Echoes, through the mist
Of cataracts, flung the thunder of that spell!
Ye icy Springs, stagnant with wrinkling frost,
Which vibrated to hear me, and then crept
Shuddering through India! Thou serenest Air,
Through which the Sun walks burning without beams!
And ye swift Whirlwinds, who on poisèd wings
Hung mute and moveless o'er yon hushed abyss,
As thunder, louder than your own, made rock
The orbèd world! If then my words had power,
Though I am changed so that aught evil wish
Is dead within; although no memory be
Of what is hate, let them not lose it now!
What was that curse? for ye all heard me speak.
This news is a little bit older, but since the news has been rather sad and trying lately, how about a pick-me-up? The Archaeology News Network reports that the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion (Iraklio) on Krete, which hosts the world’s best collection of Minoan artefacts, reopened on Tuesday after more than seven years of repairs and refurbishment.

[Credit: Haniotika Nea]

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum, considered as the museum of Minoan culture
par excellence worldwide, is one of the largest and most important museums in Greece,
and among the most important museums in Europe. It will be open to visitors daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The museum closed in November 2006 for a revamp. Most pieces in the museum’s collection are examples of the island’s Minoan civilization, which thrived from around 2,700 to 1,450 BC, but exhibits date from the Neolithic period to Roman times.

For an overview of the collection and far more detailed background information, go here.
Sometimes reader questions are hard to answer, either because I simply don't know the answer, or because I know the answer, but it's probably not what they want to hear. He's an example of the latter:

"First off, thank you so much for your daily blog posts! I read them daily and it has really helped me on my short journey in being a recon. So my question is that, I have a friend who unfortunately has a father is close to death. Is there a gift that I could give him that has a good meaning for the Gods and would be appropriate? Thanks again! Joel"

First of all, I'm sorry for your, and of course your friend's, immanent loss. I can't imagine losing your father. When he passes, may the judges judge him kindly. As for your question, Joel; the ancient Hellenes did not generally leave elaborate grave goods, and gifts were generally given to the family of the deceased. These gifts would have consisted--much like today--of food and other things to get through the trying time ahead where grief prevented them from doing the daily chores.

To answer your question, I'm going to do a bit of cutting and pasting from previous posts instead of just linking you to them, but you can read more about the practices described by following the provided links.

Sacrifices and gifts given to the Ouranic deities were given to establish kharis: the act of giving to the Gods so They might give something in return. It's religious reciprocity. Kharis need not be established with Khthonic deities: for us humans, we will go to the Underworld regardless of good standing--Haides always accepts us, if we can pay our way to Him. Any gifts given are for the dying or the deceased themselves--or their family.

The ancient Hellenes believed that the moment a person died, their psyche--spirit--left the body in a puff or like a breath of wind. Proper burial was incredibly important to the ancient Hellenes, and to not give a loved one a fully ritualized funeral was unthinkable. It was, however, used as punishment of dead enemies, but only rarely. Funerary rites were performed solely to get the deceased into the afterlife, and everyone who passed away was prepared for burial according to time-honoured rituals.

They believed the Underworld was a neutral place. One did not desire to go there in the least, but it was part of life, and as far as the afterlife went, it was dull and sunless but nothing like the hell of Christianity. The worst part about it is being without the touch of loved ones, and forgetting who you were.

A burial or cremation had four parts: preparing the body, the prothesis (Προθησις, 'display of the body'), the ekphorá (ἐκφορά 'funeral procession'), and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased. Preparation of the body was always done by women, and was usually done by a woman over sixty, or a close relative who was related no further away from the deceased than the degree of second cousin. These were also the only people in the ekphorá. The deceased was stripped, washed, anointed with oil, and then dressed in his or her finest clothes. They also received jewelry and other fineries. A coin could be presented to the dead, and laid under or below the tongue, or even on the eyes, as payment to Kharon.

During the actual funeral, a related mourner first dedicated a lock of hair, then provided the deceased with offerings of honey, milk, water, wine, perfumes, and oils mixed in varying amounts. Any libation was a khoe; a libation given in its entirety to the deceased. None was had by the mourners. A prayer to the Theoi--most likely Hermes Khthonios--then followed these libations. It was also possible to make a haimacouria before the wine was poured. In a haimacouria, a black ram or black bull is slain and the blood is offered to the deceased. This blood sacrifice, however, was probably used only when they were sacrificing in honour of a number of men, or for someone incredibly important. Then came the enagismata, which were offerings to the dead that included milk, honey, water, wine, celery, pelanon--a mixture of meal, honey, and oil--and kollyba--the first fruits of the crops and dried fresh fruits.

Unlike the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Hellenes placed very few objects in the grave, but monumental earth mounds, rectangular built tombs, and elaborate marble stelai and statues were often erected to mark the grave and to ensure that the deceased would not be forgotten. Grave gifts were allowed in many places, but could not cost more than a set amount all together. These elaborate burial places served as a place for the family members to visit the grave with offerings that included small cakes and libations. The goal  was to never be forgotten; if the dead was remembered always, and fed with libations and other offerings, their spirit would stay 'alive' forever. That said, especially in Athens, names on grave markers were restricted to women who died in childbirth and men who died in battle.

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 honoured (war) dead. A large part of Hellenic rituals of the dead speak of honouring the dead by name, so their names will never be forgotten, their honour 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. 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. Finally, 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.

Many modern funeral rites bear striking resemblance to the customs of the ancient Hellenes, so do not worry to much about the funeral. An addition would be the khoe to Hermes Khthonios where you  present him with coin(s) for the dead. Tell him you will pay for your friend's father's passage, should he need it, and pray that He and Kharon will accept. Grieve loudly, especially if you are a woman. Tell stories of the deceased, and make sure your friend's father is never forgotten. This preservation of their memory is, perhaps, the greatest gift you can give someone who has passed; the Gods, really, are only marginally involved with the dead and dying.
Hi everyone, so sorry but I woke up to a work emergency, a mini-domestic crisis, and a long day ahead after about five hours of sleep due to a failure in our central heating unit causing a Gods awful whine to rise up form the units. I need to juggle geese or herd cats, or whatever the right figure of speech is for fixing stuff that shouldn't have been broken in the first place. Sorry, please come back tomorrow when I no longer feel like this happened:

(More on Pandôra here.)
It's going to be a hard pick this month: two very worthy causes have been entered into the race for Thargelion 2014 cause: UNICEF and Plan International. We are starting to notice we really like causes that support children around the globe, and for a religion which was founded in a society where children were of the uttermost importance, that's not really odd to us.

UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. They have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality.  That makes them unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.

They believe that nurturing and caring for children are the cornerstones of human progress. UNICEF was created with this purpose in mind – to work with others to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path. They believe that we can, together, advance the cause of humanity.

They advocate for measures to give children the best start in life, because proper care at the youngest age forms the strongest foundation for a person’s future. They promote girls’ education – ensuring that they complete primary education as a minimum – because it benefits all children, both girls and boys. Girls who are educated grow up to become better thinkers, better citizens, and better parents to their own children. They act so that all children are immunized against common childhood diseases, and are well nourished, because it is wrong for a child to suffer or die from a preventable illness.

Plan International
Founded over 75 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. They work in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. In 2013, Plan worked with 78 million children in 90,229 communities. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.

Plan's vision is of a world in which all children realise their full potential in societies that respect people's rights and dignity. They aim to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of deprived children in developing countries, through a process that unites people across cultures and adds meaning and value to their lives, by:
  • enabling deprived children, their families and their communities to meet their basic needs and to increase their ability to participate in and benefit from their societies
  • building relationships to increase understanding and unity among peoples of different cultures and countries
  • promoting the rights and interests of the world's children.
As you can see, we have two very worthy causes to choose from this month. The deadline for voting is May 25th, but of course you are also free to start making your donations today.
Starting today--well, last night really--we're heading for a small lump of festivals and sacrificial days. I'll give you a quick run-down of them, with links to longer articles. Happy celebrating!

May 18th/20th: On the 19th of Thargelion, an Athenian festival for the Thrakian Goddess Bendis (Βενδις) was held. This festival, which went on into the night of the 20th of the month, was designed especially for Bendis, who was introduced to Attika by Thrakian métoikos who took the opportunity to introduce their Goddess into the Athenian pantheon after the Oracle of Dodona decreed that Thrakian worshippers should be granted the right for ground to build a sanctuary on. Their shrine to Her was built on the hill Mounykhia, near to the temple of Artemis, with whom She was identified. The temenos was completed somewhere before 429 BC, and at least one Thrakian festival to the Goddess was held before the Athenians got involved. Read more here.

May 18th/May19th: A sacrifice to Menedeius was performed by the Attic deme Erchia on the 19th day of the month of Thargelion. Menedeius, or Menedeios (Μενεδάιοσ), means 'the One who stands His ground', but nothing more is known about this God or hero.

May 24th/May 25th (but see article): The 25th of the month of Thargelion marks the day of the Plynteria festival. This minor festival was held solely in Athens and surrounding areas, and was in honor of Athena Polias, Protector of the city. It was considered an auspicious day by the ancient Hellenes, because on this day, they did not have the protection of Athena.

During the Plynteria, the wooden statue of Athena was disrobed of the peplos that She received during the Panathenaia by Her priestesses, veiled, and then taken down to the sea for a wash.

There is another, smaller, festival connected to the Plynteria the Kallunteria, which was celebrated somewhere in the vicinity of the Plynthria. During this festival, the temple of Athena was swept out--the name of the festival means 'sweeping out' or 'to beautify by sweeping'--and cleaned thoroughly, so that the washed statue would have a clean home to return to. The lamp of Her eternal flame was also refilled and relit by the priestesses on this day. Read more about both festivals here.
Yesterday, a sweet anonymous person on Tumblr asked me about how to integrate feminist thought and ideals into Hellenismos. I answered them then that I have always, proudly, called myself a feminist. I will fight for women’s  rights, I will kick glass ceilings until something—either the glass or my  toes—gives, I will stand up for equality between the sexes. I will do a lot to  ensure equal treatment of men and women. As a woman and self-proclaimed feminist, the questions I get asked most by outsiders about my choice of religion are how I, as said woman and feminist, can worship a pantheon of raping Gods and why I would want to recreate the religious (and partly social) practices of a masochistic society. I went on to explain that much of this negative view stems from the perceived role of women in ancient Hellas—which I, as a woman and feminist—should be against, obviously.

I gave them this post, which states that I believe mythology--although taken literally by me to discover more about the Gods--is reflective of the culture they were formed in only in so much as The Real Housewives of [insert city]' is of ours; it shows daily lives of beings, but in a dramatized and overtly shocking manner. Not that I am equating anyone on The Real Housewives to the Gods, let me assure you.

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

I ended my post to the sweet Anon by saying that 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.

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. The ancient Hellenic gender roles were 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.
The sweet anonymous person who asked me the original question got back to me this morning. they write:

"I can understand the virtues that are promoted and I agree with them, I can even understand 'rape' in a mythological context but it is very hard for me to look past the parts I don't like or agree with in favor of it "working" for me, but it's very hard to say whether or not they enjoyed the role or if they had no choice but to enjoy the role. And when you're using the words of men who were a part of the society, it seeps into the religion as well. I would like to say that I respect how you've chosen to build your practice and am glad to see honest commentary on these issues, so thanks for taking the time to delve deeper." 

Hellenismos is not for everyone. Reconstruction is not for anyone. Many reconstructive Traditions draw from societies that had strict gender binaries and it's often reflected in mythology. That said, I have mentioned before how male Gods don't necessarily come out looking particularly good in the binary either.

Once more, I would warn against trying to place a modern ethical standard onto an ancient society. It serves absolutely zero purpose to anyone to judge the ancient Hellenic culture by the ideals we're still struggling for today; after all, I bet that a few centuries from now, humanity will look back on this era and find us equally ill-evolved when it comes to issues like race, gender, and sexuality. We don't have it figured out yet, either, so we are hardly one to judge the ancient Hellenes.

From a feminist standpoint, I get the resistance to ancient Hellas and the way women were treated. I will be the first one to say that ancient Hellenic women were--in general--treated very differently from the men. All I am trying to say is that the value judgement you attach to this difference is inspired by modern thinking--and modern thinking has no place in ancient Hellas.

As for modern worship; no one is asking you, as a woman, to assume the role of an ancient Hellenic housewife. Sure, I'm drawn to that, but I still work, I have my own life, I go out, etc. I love to be a homemaker, but at the same time, I am also kurios for our household--a traditionally male task.

I can't stress this enough: culture is not religion, and while their culture inspired the ancient Hellenes in their religion, there are a lot of cultural issues we have either adapted to our times or left behind completely. We have also adopted practices the ancient Hellenes would flinch at.

What we are doing is reconstructing an ancient religion in the framework of our modern culture. This means you get to take certain liberties with it--although where the line is between Traditional Hellenismos and Reformed Hellenismos is always hard to determine.

If you can't, in good conscience, find a way to accept the bare bones of a religion, then perhaps you are not meant to follow that religion? It needs to feel right--natural--or you will not be able to carry out your duties and the virtues asked of you with a clear mind and a loving heart. Many ancient societies had less of a gender binary, or allowed their women different things. Perhaps reconstructing the practices of those cultures is more for you. Region is a very personal affair, and it has to feel right... and only you can decide if it's right for you.
Sad news today: the fresco conservation laboratory, housed within the archaeological site at Akrotiri, Thera (Santorini) since 1967, has been closed due to lack of financial means that would keep it open and operating.

The fresco conservation lab at Akrotiri, Thera (Santorini)
[Credit: Enet.gr]

The Archaeology News Network reports this sad fact, and adds that according to Professor Christos Doumas, the excavation project’s director, the fresco fragments are now under constant danger to be transformed into 'nests for mice'. Frescoes as a group consist some of the dig’s most important finds which make the excavation unique in the world, being the subject for a hundred-title-long bibliography in many languages. Doumas explains:

"These frescoes are in fragmentary condition. However, our conservators have managed to gather these fragments and to gradually join them together, so that today we are in position to see large murals dating back in 1600 BC."
The frescoes lab was set up by leading conservators such as Tassos Margaritof and Stavros Baltoyannis and became the 'cradle' for three generations of high profile conservators. Until last years, the lab was operated through funds from private donors, and until three or four years ago, the Ministry of Culture awarded the Archaeological Society in Athens funds to finance this dig. Now, they have stopped sending money. The five to six thousand dollars that made up the monthly budget is no longer being raised.

Employees of the fresco conservation laboratory are already finding new positions to fill in Greece and abroad, but the closer is a hard blow for Doumas, for whom the laboratory constituted his life's work.

"The dig is failed by a government whose both the President and its Vice-president have served as Ministers of Culture.”
I adore reader questions, you guys know that, right? Today, we will be talking about Roman mythology and Ovid, as per anonymous request. I got a question in my Tumblr inbox that read as follows:

"Many "greek" myths come from Ovid's Metamorphoses, but since Ovid was a Roman, would you say those myths are true depictions of the hellenic gods or not?"

Ovid, and Roman mythology in general, has been a subject on this blog before, and always comes with a disclaimer that these views were not, in fact, Hellenic but Roman. I have mentioned in passing (like in the post on Médousa) that I don't feel the Hellenic and Roman Gods are one and the same, although they are often painted as the same Gods with a different name.

For one, the Theoi came first. The Roman empire came up about a thousand years after the rise of the Theoi.  Hellenic mythology featured the Hellenes, their stories and their cities, while Roman mythology focussed on the Roman people, their stories and their cities. The Hellenes had the Iliad as a major introductory and poetic text to introduce the Theoi, and the Romans had their own text: the Aeneid, a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans.

Differences in the two societies also reflected on the Gods and Their importance. For one, the Hellenes valued  physical prowess, but it were poets and scholars who were held in the highest regards. For Rome, it were the warriors who received the most attention. This reflected in the Gods of both people as well: the Roman Gods resemble the Hellenic Gods, but they are stricter, harder and possess more bloodlust. At the same time, they were also pruder when it came to excesses of any kind. Ares, temperamental God of War, has his Roman counterpart in Mars, yet, Mars is a much stabler God, who is also in charge of agriculture and fertility. Bacchus, the Roman equivalent of Dionysos, lost all ecstatic rites that made the worship of Dionysos so famous.

Another major example of the differences between the two religions was that the Romans had no set shape for their Gods: they looked different to every individual. They were not revered for Their beauty, like their Hellenic counterparts. The Hellenes knew exactly how their Gods looked. They were often described as having muscular bodies (for the men), beautiful eyes and hair (both men and women), and delicate ankles (women). They were role-models to strive towards. Not so for the Romans.

The Roman culture also had a thing for the afterlife. Where the Hellenes focussed on this life and saw death as an inevitable conclusion of it, the Romans struggled to do good deeds and live good lives to be rewarded in the afterlife. They felt that, if they had been good enough, brave enough, warrior-like enough, they would take their place with the Gods after death. The Hellenes worried more about the judgement of the Theoi while they were still alive and knew they would go to the Underworld afterwards. Of course, things changed in that regard already: the mysteries brought the idea of awareness after reincarnation, and parts of the Underworld fell into disuse.

It seems to me, that the Romans tried becoming Gods their whole lives, while the Hellenes accepted their lot as mortals, and respected the Theoi as all-powerful and all-ruling. A frame of mind like that shows in Gods that get neatly packaged, made non-threatening and can be rivalled by mortals. Yet, because of the warrior mentality of the Romans, the Gods that became more predictable and less formed, also became harder. They still punished socially unacceptable behaviour, however, and myths from the Hellenic period got retold from the viewpoint of a warrior's society.

I do add Roman mythology to the blog on occasion. Many myths from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' have passed the review. Arachne, for example, as well as Médousa, and many of his myths made it into the 'Remembering Transgender Day of Remembrance' post. The hard part is finding out which Roman myths were written by a Roman about the Theoi, and which were edited Hellenic myths or Roman myths. Because I don't have the proper knowledge about the Roman Gods and the Roman empire, I can't make this distinction very well. I do look at the Roman myths, though, but mostly because they're listed a 'Greek and Roman myths', and I have no choice but weed out the Roman influence.

I think it's important to find the source of a myth and see when it was written. I'm not saying there isn't something to be learned about the Theoi from Roman mythology, but one should be aware that these deities may not be the same deities. Because of my limited knowledge of the Roman era, I don't have the tools to interpret these myths against the backdrop of Roman society, and can thus not translate them back to a Hellenic framework, or--perhaps more accurately--I can't let go of my Hellenic framework when I read them. The mythology of the Romans may not match the mythology of the Hellenes. Like the Roman Médousa myth, some myths do not add to the Theoi, only subtract from Them. I let these myths go, and leave them for a Religio Romana, who may find more value in them. I love Ovid's writing, but I read them more as stories than mythology, to be honest.
Yesterday I visited my psychologist for a session that was a bit of a mess. No need to go into details, I'm only giving you the context to indicate I was already uncomfortable and a little guarded when the following happened. We'd done an exercise with another therapist who 'played my blockades'. It's a valid form of therapy, but I'm fairly certain it's not supposed to be executed the way it was.

Anyway, during the exercise, my brother came up. I've always know I would have had a brother if my mother had allowed him to come to life--an older brother. I've named him for the boy's name my mother would have given me had I been born male: Davey.

I've been thinking about Davey lately. Whenever I think about my youth a lot, I think about him. He was supposed to be there, I'm sure, to protect me and guide me through everything that happened. I watched Beasts of the Southern Wild on Tuesday and there is this quote in it: 'The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece, the entire universe will get busted'. That's how I feel about my brother. He was supposed to live, and he didn't. And it hurts.

During the exercise, he came up although I had never mentioned him. I mentioned I give sacrifice to him every month on Agathós Daímōn, and afterwards, once we sat down, I was told to 'let him go'. To let his soul rest. Her interpretation of my feelings towards my brother, and her interpretations of my dead brother's feelings (yes, it was that kind of session, and no, I did not appreciate it) towards me were formed from the framework of her personal perspective. In general, I do not mind it, but I do start to mind it when it undermines and devaluates my religious choices.

I told her that I respected her views on the afterlife and our relationships to the deceased, but that I did not share it. I told her that I was going to think about her suggestion to stop sacrificing to him, but that in all fairness, I was most likely going to continue my practice, because in my believe, it's important to name and honour the dead. It's not 'trapping souls on this plane', it's remembering them and their potential so that they will never be forgotten. It's singing their songs and telling their stories--even though they never got to even start their own.

A large part of Hellenic rituals of the dead speak of honouring the dead by name, so their names will never be forgotten, their honour never lost. My brother deserves to be remembered. He deserves to live on in the Underworld with the honour of a human being with great potential. He was my brother, my blood, and I will honour him in any way I can.

I come from a Pagan background, I understand what my psychiatrists were talking about; in their view, the soul lingers on earth if they are kept here--either because they feel they are needed, or because they can't let go. A monthly libation to, indeed, keep my brother with the family must sound like hell to people who believe the soul must travel on into the Veil. Yet, I believe that my brother has always watched over me, and that he does so to this day. He's my blood, my family, and once I pass, I will do the same as he did until I become forgotten and lost. Then I will not be fed, and not be sustained, and I will fade away on the Asphodel meadows. That is the fate of the deceased who choose this life.

I don't know if my brother would have wanted to be remembered, sustained. Maybe he would, indeed, like to travel on. I told him, once I came home, during an impromptu libation to him, that he is allowed to go. I will continue making my sacrifices and singing his praise, but he is free to go if that is what he wants. He can forget, move on. There is no need for him to listen, nor stay. I can take care of myself now. I'm not a child anymore.

I have no idea what version of the afterlife is correct, and I would hate to hurt Davey in any way. If my therapists are correct, I'll gladly let him go. I won't stop honouring him, however, because he is my brother, and he is a warrior. He died before his time, and since then, he has guarded me, watched over me, and kept me as safe as he could. He is a true protector of my home, and he is my brother. My brother. That matters, and it's worthy of recognition and respect--from me, and from two women who have trouble leaving their personal views behind in a session with their client.
I was asked on Tumblr what I would say is the most sacred place for Hellenic Polytheists. I know they're looking for a temple or sacred site as an answer (and try the Acropolis, or any of the old temple sites for that... Delphi even...) but to me, the most sacred place for Hellenic Polytheists is their home, their oikos. Even in ancient times, the majority of daily worship took place there, and it was where the most personal of connections was made with the Gods.

Back in ancient Hellas, most religious activities surrounding the household revolved around the central hearth, which was the physical manifestation of Hestia. The male head of household, the kurios, presented slaves, children and his new wife to the heart fire so they became part of the oikos and fell under the protection of Hestia and the other household Gods.

The courtyard of the home often held a bômos, a free standing, raised, altar where the majority of household worship took place. Some houses also had a wall niche, an indoor worship area, either in a room especially designated for worship, or in the main family room. These altars were used to worship the Ephestioi (Εφεστιοι), the most personal of the household Theoi. These almost always included: Hestia, Zeus Ephestios (Overseer of the Hearth), Zeus Kthesios, and Agathós Daímōn. Worship of these deities was highly personal, and many other Theoi could be added to this worship list.

Hestia was represented by the hearth fire that was always kept burning. If it went out, the male head of household would go to the prytaneion (Πρυτανεῖον), the structure where state officials met and where the city kept a fire for Hestia burning day and night, for a new flame. All fires in the house were lit from this one fire, so Hestia would watch over everything and everyone inside the house. Zeus Ephestios was and is a more active defender of the home. He shields the actual structure of the house. Where Hestia watches over the occupants, Zeus Ephestios guards the very walls, the roof, the floor, and any possessions inside the structure. He was worshipped at the main altar.

Zeus Kthesios guards the pantry, and was honored there as well, where he had his own shrine, often adorned with a kathiskos. Agathós Daímōn and the ancestors were also worshipped at the main altar, although they may have had small shrines to themselves, especially in the case of wall niches.

In the courtyard of the house, the Herkeioi (Ἑρκειοι) were honored: those of the herkos or front court. Most notably, this was Zeus Herkeios (Ἑρκειος), protector of the enclosure of the house. And just outside the house, and especially near the gate to the street, small shrines and altars were placed in honor of the less personal protectors: Apollon (sometimes in his epithet of 'Aguieus' (Ἀγυιεύς), protector of the streets, public places, and the entrances to homes), Hermes Propylaios, Hekate, and especially in Sparta, the Dioskouroi. Hēraklēs sometimes took the place of Apollon.

Zeus Herkeios' altar stood in the courtyard and He, from the inside of the house, protected against anyone wanting to harm the house or the family living in it. These altars were most often pillars, on or around which the offerings could be placed. Hermes, Apollon, and Hekate were represented by a pointy four-sided post. The top was reserved for Apollon, the bottom often held a niche where Deipnon offerings could be placed to Hekate, and Hermes' face (and sometimes his genitalia) was  carved into the post. Hermes sometimes got his own post, called a 'herm', which was a rectangular post, with His face carved on top, and his genitalia carved out on the front.
Temples were of great importance to the many festivals of ancient Hellas, but nowhere was the worship of the Theoi so varied and extensive as in the home. Especially for modern practitioners who often lack temples and community, their own homes are the focal point of worship--as it should be, because at its core, Hellenismos is a household religion--a family religion--and I think that's beautiful.
We all know the Orphic Hymns; a collection of eighty-seven short religious poems composed in either the late Hellenistic or early Roman (first or second century AD) era. They are based on the beliefs of Orphism, a mystery cult or religious philosophy which claimed descent from the teachings of the mythical hero Orpheus. The Mysteries were mostly connected to Demeter, Persephone, life after death and reincarnation. From the Orphic Hymns also comes a list of which incenses to offer to which deity. For all Orphic Hymns, go here.

Beyond the Orphic Hymns, there are the Orphic Fragments, poems and lines connected to the Orphic school of thought. Many of these are a true treasure-trove of information and religious material. As I'm taking the day off from everything computer related today, I am leaving you with one of these poems on queue.

"Zeus is the first. Zeus the thunderer, is the last.
Zeus is the head. Zeus is the middle, and by Zeus all things were fabricated.
Zeus is male, Immortal Zeus is female.
Zeus is the foundation of the earth and of the starry heaven.
Zeus is the breath of all things. Zeus is the rushing of indefatigable fire.
Zeus is the root of the sea: He is the Sun and Moon.
Zeus is the king; He is the author of universal life;
One Power, one Dæmon, the mighty prince of all things:
One kingly frame, in which this universe revolves,
Fire and water, earth and ether, night and day,
And Metis (Counsel) the primeval father, and all-delightful Eros (Love).
All these things are United in the vast body of Zeus.
Would you behold his head and his fair face,
It is the resplendent heaven, round which his golden locks
Of glittering stars are beautifully exalted in the air.
On each side are the two golden taurine horns,
The risings and settings, the tracks of the celestial gods;
His eyes the sun and the Opposing moon;
His unfallacious Mind the royal incorruptible Ether."
The ancient Hellenes adored music, and it was a huge part of their religious devotion. Hymns were sung, and processions often accompanied with easy to carry instruments, adding to a festive mood and serving as a way to draw the attention of the Gods. Of course, the acient Hellenes carried different instruments than we are used to today, and chief amongst them was the Kithara (κιθάρα).

The kithara was an ancient Hellenic musical instrument in the lyre or lyra family. It was a professional version of the folkish two-stringed lyre. Musicians who played the kithara were called 'kitharodes'. The kithara's origins are likely Asiatic. The barbiton was a bass version of the kithara. In modern Greek the word kithara has come to mean 'guitar', making that the closest modern equivalent, although the sounds would be quite different.

Recently, luthier Michalis Georgiou invested a lot of time re-inventing the long-lost instrument, and there is a video of this journey of discovery. It's well-worth the watch, and full of information. I adore initiatives like these where the sounds of the ancients are truly brought back to life.
It's not a new issue; archaeologists have been aware of the erosion caused to the subsoil of the Acropolis by the rainwater and have already submitted a study to bring the problem to the attention of the Central Archaeological Council of Greece (KAS). Parts of the walkways were blocked so as to prevent visitors from injury. It seems, though, that the problem is getting more serious by the day.

The damaged section of the southern wall of the Acropolis [Credit: To Vima]
According to the Archaeology News Network, the erosion problem derived from the fact that the Acropolis doesn’t have an up-to-date drainage system to absorb rainwater. Five out of the six ancient gutters have been blocked for many years now and the drainage system of temple complex hasn’t been connected to that of the city.

The secretary-general of the Ministry of Culture, Lina Mendoni has mobilized both the Acropolis Restoration Scientific Committee and the Committee for the Preservation of the Acropolis Monuments to launch a program addressing the collapsing of the Acropolis’ walls. At the same time, the archaeological authorities have launched restoration programs for the already collapsed stones, stressed the KAS.
A karyatis (singular: Καρυάτις, plural: Καρυάτιδες) is a support column of a temple, in the form of a woman. In ancient times, six karyatides graced the south column gallery on the Erechtheion (Ἐρέχθειον). The Erechtheion served as a temple to Athena Polias, Poseidon, the hero Erichthonius, and perhaps the legendary king Erechtheus. The six statues currently on display on the Erechtheion are copies; five of the statues were removed during restoration of the building, and are now on in the Acropolis Museum in Athens where they are being restored and preserved.

The Archaeology News Network reports that the make-overs of the statues that started in 2011 are well underway, and that the have museum had released images and video of the process and progress. The restoration work is expected to finish in June are is executed by three goggle-wearing conservators making use of custom-designed lasers to burn away soot and grime from the karyatides.

The process is a true marvel of ingenuity. The Network reports that it takes about seven months to cleanse each of the larger than life-sized statues, which were carved around 420 BC. Conservators use a technology developed especially for the Acropolis sculptures, employing two infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths so as to avoid causing discoloration or abrasion, while leaving intact the patina, that orange hue that the statues took on with the passage of centuries.

“The laser beam hits the black crust formed on the surface of the statues over the years, and that absorbs energy and disintegrates,” head conservator Kostas Vassiliadis mentioned. “The crust has a much lower resistance threshold than the marble, which is not affected.”
A question I get quite a lot is the question why I use 'Hellas' and not 'Greece' to describe the country of origin of my Gods. For clarity: I use 'Hellas' or 'ancient Hellas' to indicate ancient Greece and everything connected to it, and 'Greece' or 'Modern Greece' for anything concerning the present. That said, 'Hellas' is the preferred term for both, and I know that. It's simply clearer to use the terms like this on this blog because it differentiates so beautifully.

Anyway: Hellas (Ἑλλάς) or the Hellenic Republic (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία)--which is written 'Ellada' by modern Hellenes themselves. Back in mythical times, there lived Hellen, the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha of flood fame, although Zeus is also said to have been his father--as many kings did. Thucydides (Thoukudídēs, Θουκυδίδης), who lived from 460 BC to 395 BC, was an Athenian historian, political philosopher and military general. He is best known for his 'History of the Peloponnesian War', which recounts in great detail the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens in the year 411 BC, but he also wrote a text called 'On The Early History of the Hellenes' in 395 BC. In it, he says some rather beautiful things about Hellas as a man, and Hellas as a country:

"The country which is now called Hellas was not regularly settled in ancient times. The people were migratory, and readily left their homes whenever they were overpowered by numbers. There was no commerce, and they could not safely hold intercourse with one another either by land or sea. The several tribes cultivated their own soil just enough to obtain a maintenance from it. But they had no accumulation of wealth, and did not plant the ground; for, being without walls, they were never sure that an invaded might not come and despoil them. Living in this manner and knowing that they could anywhere obtain a bare subsistence, they were always ready to migrate; so that they had neither great cities nor any considerable resources. The richest districts were most constantly changing their inhabitants; for example, the countries which are now called Thessaly and Boeotia, the greater part of the Peloponnesus with the exception of Arcadia, and all the best parts of Hellas. For the productiveness of the land increased the power of individuals; this in turn was a source of quarrels by which communities were ruined, while at the same time they were more exposed to attacks from without. Certainly Attica, of which the soil was poor and thin, enjoyed a long freedom from civil strife, and therefore retained its original inhabitants [the Pelasgians].
The feebleness of antiquity is further proved to me by the circumstance that there appears to have been no common action in Hellas before the Trojan War. And I am inclined to think that the very name was not as yet given to the whole country, and in fact did not exist at all before the time of Hellen, the son of Deucalion; the different tribes, of which the Pelasgian was the most widely spread, gave their own names to different districts. But when Hellen and his sons became powerful in Phthiotis, their aid was invoked by other cities, and those who associated with them gradually began to be called Hellenes, though a long time elapsed before the name was prevalent over the whole country. Of this, Homer affords the best evidence; for he, although he lived long after the Trojan War, nowhere uses this name collectively, but confines it to the followers of Achilles from Phthiotis, who were the original Hellenes; when speaking of the entire host, he calls them Danäans, or Argives, or Achaeans."
'Greece' stems from the Latin 'Graecia', which in turn is said to stem from 'Graeci'/'Graecus' with the letter 'G' pronounced 'Y' as in 'Yard'. In short: the name of 'Greece' is 'Hellas', and the adjective 'Greek' is 'Hellenic', at least according to the inhabitants of Hellas, who are themselves Hellenes. Given that most modern European languages originate from Latin, the word 'Graecus' became the root for all other respective names for the Hellenic Republic--including 'Greece', or as we call it in my country: 'Griekenland' ('country of the Greeks').

In the beginning of this blog, I used 'Greek' quite a bit. That's what I thought was the proper term for the country, even in olden days. It's not. There is a big pride issue surrounding the word 'Hellas', or 'Hellenic Republic'. It's the preferred term by the people of the country, and the official name of the country itself. That is why I use it.
Tumblr is a lovely medium, especially for asking questions to keeper of blogs. Sometimes, those questions are very specific, and sometimes, not so much. Yesterday, for example, I got a question that read:

"Could u pls make a post about Euripides, Aeschylus, and Sophocles???"

To which the answer is 'sure! But I'm not sure if it's going to include what you want it to include'. Let's start with introductions. Euripides, Aeschylus, and Sophokles were all playwrights of ancient Hellas, and their plays are pretty much the only ones that have survived--well, some of them.

Euripides (Εὐριπίδης) was alive from about 480 to 406 BC, and in his lifetime, he wrote about 95 plays, 18 of which have survived completely and many more as fragments. His most known works are Alcestis, Medea and The Bacchus. His plays included strong women and wise slaves--something considered very modern, and very unconventional at the time. Euripides is undoubtedly the Hellenic tragedian who has had the biggest influence on European tragedy, and even in his day, how writing became a cornerstone of literary education, along with the greats like Hómēros. Euripides is known for his representation of traditional, mythical heroes as ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances--which is a story told many times over in modern day writing.

Aeschylus (Aiskhulos, Αἰσχύλος) was the first of the three Hellenic tragedians whose plays can still be read or performed. He was alive from around 525/524 BC to 456/455 BC, and according to Aristotle, he expanded the number of characters in plays to allow for conflict amongst them, whereas previously characters had interacted only with the chorus. Aeschylus' most famous works are undoubtedly the Seven against Thebes, the Supplicants and the Orestia.

Sophoklēs (Σοφοκλῆς) was a tragedian who wrote 123 plays during his life (497/6 BC – winter 406/5 BC). Only seven have survived in entity, but they include classics such as Antigone, Oedipus the King and Electra. He developed theatre by adding a third actor, reducing the importance of the chorus, and introducing scenography. Sophocles also abolished the traditional trilogic form of tragedies and made each play complete in itself – this added dramatic value to the plays.

For almost fifty years,  Sophoklēs was the most awarded and recognized playwright in the dramatic competitions of the city-state of Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaia and the Dionysia. He competed in around thirty competitions, won perhaps twenty-four, and was never judged lower than second place. Aeschylus won fourteen competitions, and was sometimes defeated by Sophoklēs, while Euripides won only four competitions.

There you have it, a very basic introduction on the three great playwrights of ancient Hellas.
About a week ago, I announced the PAT ritual for the Thargelia. Elaion created the event for yesterday and today, but the main ritual takes place today. PAT rituals, or Practicing Apart Together rituals, have become a staple for Elaion, where we, as an organisation, provide a date, time, and ritual for the festival at hand, and around the globe, as many of our members as possible perform the ritual at their homes. some do it alone, some in groups, and we tend to share experiences and photographs of the altar or the festivities on the Elaion Facebook page.

On the 6th and 7th of Thargelion (sundown on the 5th to the sundown on the 7th of May), the two day festival of the Thargelia is held in honour of Artemis and Apollon Pythios. The Thargelia was a pre-harvest festival at Athens, and was a rather large event. More information about the festival can be found in the aforementioned announcement of the PAT ritual, but for those attending who have not located the ritual yet: you can find it here.

We hope you enjoy your celebration, and as always, we hope you enjoy it with us.
With another successful donation run, Pandora's Kharis has raised $116,- for the International Mental Health Research Organization!

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. 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 money we have donated as a giving circle today has helped aid that purpose, and Elaion could not be prouder! From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community. On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving. Thank you for your generosity!
I was asked this a while ago, and I wanted to publish the answer here as well. There are plenty of labels I identify with religiously—polytheist, Pagan, Hellenist—and I have found that the labels I identify with are linked closer to the experiences of others than my own. I label myself in a way that is understandable for others; I know who and what I am, I have no need to label myself just for me. When I am in the company of people who will have most likely never heard anything about Hellenism or even Paganism, I stick to ‘Hellenist’. At least that way, I can explain right away what I believe in. With other Pagans, I identify as ‘Pagan, Hard Polytheist—subset: Hellenist’. With other Recons, I identify myself solely as ‘Hellenist’. Heck, with my parents, I’m just ‘religious’, that’s hard enough for them to agree with.

Labels, in my opinion, have their value placed upon them by those outside of the label; as much as a group might feel they have claimed and formed the meaning of a label, in truth it will always be defined by those outside of it. I have gone on record saying that I think Hellenismos is part of the Pagan banner, not so much because we define as such, but because the outside world sees us as part of it—so as for your question; I think nothing does; I think Hellenists are labelled Pagans.
There are many ways to look at our inclusion in Neo-Paganism, however: one could make a case for being outside of it but also within it. Neo-Paganism is so undefined that it can encompass any religion or tradition looking to be a part of it; as long as it is at its core non-Abrahamic, it can qualify—even though that line is muddled and not very useful to begin with.

I think Hellenismos is moving away from Neo-Paganism slowly but surely; we’re growing as a religion, and we are unifying in a way that was previously unheard of. I feel this has a lot to do with the rupture that went through the Neo-Pagan movement as a whole a while back with the whole ‘Pagan vs. Polytheists’-thing. While that debate seems to have mostly died down now, it did leave a desire in many Reconstructionists to focus more on practices and traditions similar to ours instead of the more nature-based other half of Neo-Paganism. I see more calls for Recon events now, or for Recons to have more (or a separate) say in events already hosted. Recon blogs are more vocal now, and we are becoming far more mainstream.

That said, the line between the ‘classical’ Neo-Pagan traditions like Wicca, Neo-Wicca, shamanism and even Druidism and the Recon faiths is thin; it’s far more likely these days that modern Recons came from one of these traditions than straight into Reconstructionism itself. Many of us—myself included—wandered through many forms of Neo-Paganism before ending up here and for some the ability and/or desire to shake those previous practices was greater than others. The same holds true if you came here from Christianity or any of the other religions known to man.

At the end of the day, ‘(Neo-)Pagan’ and ‘Hellenist’ are simply labels. It’s a way for me to quickly convey to others who I believe in and what I do. That said, the usefulness of both labels depend on the knowledge these ‘others’ possess, and I have zero influence over that.