I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"You recently answered a question about mythology and if it's real or not. You didn't answer if you think monsters are real as well. Do you? How about demi-gods? Are they currently amongst us?"

I feel about monsters the same way I do about all other aspects of mythology: they are real. They are the skeletons of dinosaurs and early mammals. They are the divine challengers of our Gods and heroes, They are the stories of the ancient Hellenes. There is no differnece between them. They are all facets of the same thing. I believe that if the ancient Hellenes had not found a field of mammoth bones, the Titanomachy and then the Gigantomachy would never have (retroactively) taken place in mythology, lending power to the Theoi. I believe  that the rise and fall of sea levels are caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth as much as I believe Kharybdis causes it. Facets.
As for demigods... define demigods. Do I think there is a camp in the woods somewhere with the offspring of Gods (even if they are traditionally considered virginal) like in Percy Jackson? No. But then again, what do I know? For Like I said before, I am sure there was someone like Herakles (or many men like Herakles!) who performed amazing feats of strength and endurance. I think those people exist today. On the one hand I think they are mortals, born from mortal parents, who grew up to do amazing, divinely inspired things. On the other hand, I believe they are the offspring of a God and a mortal. Even in ancient Hellas, these views were held. There was almost always a mortal father as well--and in case of twins, sometimes one was divine and the other wasn't. I am absolutely sure the Gods inspire mrtals to do great things, even today. The ancient Hellenes would have included the lives of these people in mythology and would probably have made them offspring of the Gods. In that regard, I believe in demigods with every fiber of my being.

Point is, science is quantifiable. Whether divinely influenced or not, gravity will always pull down the falling apple at the same speed if the apple always weighs the same and water will always boil at 100 degrees celcius in our atmosphere. On Mars, things would be completely different, obviously. I believe in these simple facts. I also believe the Protogenoi and Uranides make up the fabric of our world and are thus directly responsible for these facts being true. For me, they are one and the same and they are equally true whether you look at it from the side of science or religion.


"In Hellenic Polytheism, what rituals are made when someone has recently died?"

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.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, but many modern, western, funeral rites bear striking resemblance to the customs of the ancient Hellenes.


"I would really love to hear whatever you have to say on the subject of Elysium."

The ancient Hellens 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.

The ancient Hellenes believed the dead have three places to go in the Underworld: Tartaros, where those who are punished for all eternity remained, the Asphodel meadows, where everyone who had lived a good life wandered about endlessly, and the Elysian Fields, where the children of Gods, the blessed dead and those who had lead extraordinarily honorable, brave or otherwise well-respected lives resided.

The Elysian Fields were typically divided into two sections: the Island of the Blessed and the Lethean Fields of Hades. The Elysian Fields, or 'White Island' is the final resting place for the souls of heroes. It was an island paradise located in the far western streams of the river Okeanos and ruled over by either Kronos or Rhadamanthys, a Judge of the Dead. The second Elysium, the Lethean Fields of Hades, is a netherworld realm. It's located in the depths of Haides beyond the river Lethe. Its fields were promised to initiates of the Mysteries who had lived a virtuous life. When the concept of reincarnation emerged and spread in ancient Hellas the two Elysian realms were sometimes tiered--a soul which had thrice won passage to the Lethean Fields, would, with the fourth, be transferred permanently to the Islands of the Blessed to reside with the heroes.

It's important to note that over the course of time, Elysium evolved. Hómēros didn't mention anything like it and refers only to the Meadows for all those noble souls who have died. Hesiod mentions a special realm for heroes. Pindar, by the 5th century BC, seperates the two in his Odes. By Roman times, writers such as Virgil combine the two Elysia. Many views of the same place survive and many more most likely existed. Such is the nature of something only discoverable after death.


"Do you have any info, holidays, special activities, etc. on Hera?"

There are a few festivals of Hera that were celebrated in ancient Athens and Erchia, a demos near Athens. There were most likely others but much of that information has been lost. This is the list I have, in sequence of the festival year:

Metageitnion 20Sacrifice to Hera ‘Telkhinia’ at Erchia
Boedromion 3Plataia – festival of reconciliation, sacred to Hera Daidala
Gamelion 27 – Theogamia/Gameliacelebrating the sacred marriage of Zeus Teleios and Hera Telei
Gamelion 27Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, Hera, Zeus Teleius, and Poseidon at Erchia

Note that Hera would also have been honoured during any festival to Zeus and in many rites concerning Her children.