The ancient Hellenic writers were dedicated historians, but they often neglected to mention the achievements of ancient Hellenic women. Now it so happens that I am a woman and I quite like having a few female heroes to look up to, so I want to introduce you to them. Today: the poet and warrior Aesara of Lucania.

Aesara of Lucania (Αἰσάρα, Aisara) was a Pythagorean philosopher, who lived in the 4th or 3rd century BC. Nothing is known about her life; she is known only from a one-page fragment of her philosophical work entitled 'On Human Nature' preserved by Stobaeus.

Joannes Stobaeus (Ἰωάννης ὁ Στοβαῖος) lived in the 5th century CE. He hailed from Stobi in Macedonia and was the compiler of a valuable series of extracts from Hellenic authors. The work was originally divided into two volumes containing two books each. The two volumes became separated in the manuscript tradition, and the first volume became known as the Extracts (also known as 'Eclogues') and the second volume became known as the Anthology (also known as 'Florilegium'). Modern editions now refer to both volumes as the Anthology. The Anthology contains extracts from hundreds of writers, especially poets, historians, orators, philosophers and physicians. The subjects covered range from natural philosophy, dialectics, and ethics, to politics, economics, and maxims of practical wisdom. The work preserves fragments of many authors and works who otherwise might be unknown today.

All we really know about Aesara is that she came from Lucania, an ancient district of southern Italy and part of Magna Graecia where many Pythagorean communities existed. On Human Nature, her famous work from which only a fragment remains, is written in the Doric prose characteristic of the 3rd century BC or earlier, although that doesn't exclude the possibility that it was written later in an archaic style. Aesara argues that it is by studying our own human nature (and specifically the human soul) that we can understand the philosophical basis for natural law and morality. She divides the soul into three parts: the mind which performs judgement and thought, the spirit which contains courage and strength, and desire which provides love and friendliness. These things, being divine, are the rational, mathematical, and functional principles at work in the soul. Aesara's theory of natural law concerns three applications of morality, concerning the individual, the family, and social institutions.

The Pythagoreans were notable for including women in their ranks. This did not necessarily equate to modern ideas of equality; they believed that women were responsible for creating harmony and justice in the home, in the same way that men had the same responsibility towards the state. Seen in this context, Aesara's theory of natural law is fundamental to justice and harmony in society as a whole.

It's not easy to find the full text of Aesara's exposition, so I have typed it out from 'A History of Women Philosophers: Volume I: Ancient Women Philosophers, 600 BC - 500 AD by M.E. Waithe.

"Human nature seems to me to provide a standard of law and justice both for the home and for the city. By following the tracks within himself whoever seeks will make a discovery: law is in him and justice, which is the orderly arrangement of the soul. Being threefold, it is organized in accordance with tripple functions: that which effects thoughtfulness is [the mind], that which effects strength and ability is [high spirit], and all that effects love and kindliness is desire. These are all so disposed relatively to one another, that the best part is in command, the most inferior is goverend, and the one in between holds a middle place; it both governs and is governed.

The god thus contrived these things according to principle in both the outline and completion of the human dwelling place, because he intended man alone to become a recipient of law and justice, and none other of mortal animals. A composite unity of association could not come about from a single thing, nor indeed from several which are all alike. (For it is necessary, since the things to be done are different, that the parts of the soul als be different, just as in the case of the body [the organs of touch] and sight and hearing and taste and smell differ, for these do not all have the same affinity with everything.)

Nor could such a unity come from several dissimilar things at random, but rather, from parts formed in accordance with the completion and organization and fitting together of the entire composite whole. Not only is the soul composed from several dissimilar parts, these being fashioned in conformity with the whole and complete, but in addition these are not arranged haphazardly and random, but in accordance with rational attention.

For if they had an equal share of power and honor, though being themselves unequal--some inferior, some better, some in between--the association of parts throughout the soul could not have been fitted together. Or, even if they did have an unequal share, but the worse rather than the better had the greater share, there would be great folly and disorder in the soul. And even if the better had the greater and the worse the lesser, but each of these not in the proper proportion, there could not be unanimity and friendship and justice throughout the soul, since when each one is arranged in accordance with the suitable proportion, this sort of arrangement I assert to be justice.

And indeed, a certain unanimity and agreement in sentiment accompanies such an arrangement. This sort would justly be called good order, whichever, due to the better part's rulling adn the inferior's being ruled, should add the strength of virtue to itself. Friendship and love and kindliness, cognate and kindred, will sprout from these parts. For closely-inspecting mind persuades, desire loves, and high spirit is filled with strength; once seething with hatred, it becomes friendly to desire.

Mind having fitted the pleasant together with the painful, mingling also the tense and robust with the slight and relaxed portion of the soul, each part is distributed in accordance with its kindred and suitable concern for each thing: mind closely inspecting adn tracking out things, high spirit adding impetuosity and strength to what is closely inspected, and desire, being akin to affection adapts to the mind, preserving the pleasant as its own and giving up the thoughtful to the thoughtful part of the soul. By virtue of these things the best life for man seems to me to be whenever the pleasant should be mixed with the earnest, and pleasure with virtue. Mind is able to fit these things to itself, becoming lovely through systematic education and virtue."
Sorry lovelies. Last week I worked 60 hours, most of which during the weekend and on Friday. Yesterday I put in far too many hours as well. I have absolutely zero inspiration today. Will you accept a few ancient words of wisdom? Because I need to read these words again and again today:

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 7.12-13 quoting from:
Philetairos in 'The Huntress'
"What ought one who is mortal do, I beg,
Other than live life pleasurably day by day
If he has any way to do it? But we should examine
This very thing when looking into human matters
Rather than fretting over what tomorrow will bring.
It is altogether bizarre to hoard money
For the next day at home."
Archaeological excavations near the southern Turkish province of Adana have unearthed a rare mosaic depicting Poseidon. It is believed to date back to the 3rd or 4th century B.C. and is nearly 11 square meters.

The Poseidon mosaic was found in the frigidarium, the large cold pool of a Roman bath which is part of the ancient bath at the ancient city of Aegae. The bottom part of the mosaic contains partly ruined writing in Greek that states: 'Greetings to all of you bathing' or 'Hail to all those who wash', depending on the translation you'd like to go with.

The city of Aegae served as a naval base in the era of the Roman Empire and it was also a famous place for Asklepios. Turkish archaeologist Tari said the region is rich in historical tissue, and they had previously found a mosaic depicting the god of love, Eros.

Adana Museum Deputy Director Nedim Dervişoğlu said they continued to place a big importance on excavations in order to further boost the province’s tourism potential, with such works carried out in a number of different parts of the city.  Dervişoğlu stated:

“During excavations, we found a mosaic on a field over a space of 11.39 square meters. It is separated into two main panels. The depiction in the southeastern part of the mosaic has been completely destroyed while the depiction in the north shows Poseidon carrying a trident. There are dolphins in the right and left of Poseidon. When the excavations are completed around the mosaic, the depiction will be meaningful. We believe it dates back to the 3rd or 4th century BC.”

The discovery of this mosaic is a part of a larger excavation in four quartered areas of the Aigeai Ancient City.
Ovid was a Latin poet who flourished in Rome in the late first century BC and early first century AD, during the reign of Emperor Augustus. His works include the Heroides, a collection of poems in the form of letters from heroines to their loves. Ovid's two other myth-themed works were the Metamorphoses and the Fasti. Today I would like to post something from the Heroides, however, and I found myself amused and enraptured by the words of compolete disdain towards one of our main heroes: Theseus. It seems, after all, that the note was written to the hero after he rudely abandoned her after she aided him in vanquishing the Minotaur.

"Gentler than you I have found every race of wild beasts; to none of them could I so ill have trusted as to you. The words you now are reading, Thesues, I send you from that shore form which the sails bore off your ship without me, the shore on which my slumber, and you, so wretchedly betrayed me – you, who wickedly plotted against me as I slept.
‘Twas the time when the earth is first besprinkled with crystal rime, and songsters hid in the branch begin their plaint. Half waking only, languid from sleep, I turned upon my side and put forth hands to clasp my Theseus – he was not there! I drew back my hands, a second time I made essay, and o’er the whole couch moved my arms – he was not there! Fear struck away my sleep; in terror I arose, and threw myself headlong from my abandoned bed. Straight then my palms resounded upon my breasts, and I tore my hair, all disarrayed as it was from sleep.
The moon was shining; I bend my gaze to see if aught but shore lies there. So far as my eyes can see, naught to they find but shore. Now this way, and now that, and ever without plan, I course; the deep sand stays my girlish feet. And all the while I cried out “Theseus!” alone the entire shore, and the hollow rocks sent back your name to me; as often as I called out for you, so often did the place itself call out your name. The very place felt the will to aid me in my woe.
There was a mountain, with bushes rising here and there upon its top; a cliff hangs over from it, gnawed into by deep-sounding waves. I climb its slope – my spirit gave me strength – and thus with prospect broad I scan the billowy deep. From there – for I found the winds cruel, too – I beheld your sails stretched full by the headlong southern gale. As I looked on a sight methought I had not deserved to see, I grew colder than ice, and life half left my body. Nor does anguish allow me long to lie thus quiet; it rouses me, it stirs me up to call on Theseus with all my voice’s might. “Whither doest fly?” I cry aloud. “Come back, O wicked Theseus! Turn about thy ship! She hath not all her crew!”
Thus did I cry, and what my voice could not avail, I filled with beating of my breast; the blows I gave myself were mingled with my words. That you at least might see, if you could not hear, with might and main I sent you signals with my hands; and upon a long tree-branch I fixed my shining veil – yes, to put in mind of me those who had forgotten! And now you had been swept beyond my vision. Then at last I let flow my tears; till then my tender eyeballs had been dulled with pain. What better could my eyes do than weep for me, when I had ceased to see your sails? Alone, with hair loose flying, I have either roamed about, like to a Bacchant roused by the Ogygian god, or, looking out upon the sea, I have sat all chilled upon the rock, as much a stone myself as was the stone I sat upon. Oft do I come again to the couch that once received us both, but was fated never to show us together again, and touch the imprint left by you – ‘tis all I can in place of you! – and the stuffs that once grew warm beneath your limbs. I lay me down upon my face, bedew the bed with pouring tears, and cry aloud: “We were two who pressed thee – give back two! We came to thee both together; why do we not depart the same? Ah, faithless bed – the greater part of my being, oh, where is he?
What am I to do? Whither shall I take myself – I am alone, and the isle untilled. Of human traces I see none; of cattle, none. On every side the land is girt by sea; nowhere a sailor, no craft to make its way over the dubious paths. And suppose I did find those to go with me, and winds, and ship – yet where am I to go? My father’s realm forbids me to approach. Grant I do glide with fortunate keel over peaceful seas, that Aeolus tempers the winds – I still shall be an exile! ‘Tis not for me, O Crete composed of the hundred cities, to look upon thee, land known to the infant Jove! No, for my father and the land ruled by my righteous father – dear names! – were betrayed by my deed1 when, to keep you, after your victory, from death in the winding halls, I gave into your hand the thread to direct your steps in place of guide – when you said to me: “By these very perils of mine, I swear that, so long as both of us shall live, thou shalt be mine!”
We both live, Theseus, and I am not yours! – if indeed a woman lives who is buried by the treason of a perjured mate. Me, too, you should have slain, O false one, with the same bludgeon that slew my brother; then would the oath you gave me have been absolved by my death. Now, I ponder over not only what I am doomed to suffer, but all that any woman left behind can suffer. There rush into my thought a thousand forms of perishing, and death holds less of dole for me than the delay of death. Each moment, now here, now there, I look to see wolves rush on me, to rend my vitals with their greedy fangs. Who knows but that this shore breeds, too, the tawny lion? Perchance the island harbours the savage tiger as well. They say, too, that the waters of the deep cast up the mighty seal! And who is to keep the swords of men from piercing my side?
But I care not, if I am but not left captive in hard bonds, and not compelled to spin the long task with servile hand – I, whose father is Minos, whose mother the child of Phoebus, and who – what memory holds more close – was promised bride to you! When I have looked on the sea, and on the land, and on the wide-stretching shore, I know many dangers threaten me on land, and many on the waters. The sky remains – yet there I fear visions of the gods! I am left helpless, a prey to the maws of ravening beasts; and if men dwell in the place and keep it, I put no trust in them – my hurts have taught me fear of stranger-men.
O, that Androgeos were still alive, and that thou, O Cecropian land, hadst not been made to atone for thy impious deeds with the doom of thy children! and would that thy upraised right hand, O Theseus, had not slain with knotty club him that was man in part, and in part bull; and I had not given thee the thread to show the way of thy return – thread oft caught up again and passed through the hands led on by it. I marvel not – ah, no! – if victory was thine, and the monster smote with his length the Cretan earth. His horn could not have pierced that iron heart of thine; thy breast was safe, even didst thou naught to shield thyself. There barest thou flint, there barest thou adamant; there hast thou a Theseus harder than any flint!
Ah, cruel slumbers, why did you hold me thus inert? Or, better had I been weighed down once for all by everlasting night. You, too, were cruel, O winds, and all too well prepared, and you breezes, eager to start my tears. Cruel the right hand that has brought me and my brother to our death, and cruel the pledge – an empty word – that you gave at my demand! Against me conspiring were slumber, wind, and treacherous pledge – treason three-fold against one maid!
Am I, then, to die, and, dying, not behold my mother’s tears; and shall there be no one’s finger to close my eyes? Is my unhappy soul to go forth into stranger-air, and no friendly hand compose my limbs and drop them on the unguent due? Are my bones to lie unburied, the prey of hovering birds of the shore? Is this the entombment due to me for my kindnesses? You will go to the haven of Cecrops; but when you have been received back home, and have stood in pride before your thronging followers, gloriously telling the death of the man-and-bull, and of the halls of rock cut out in winding ways, tell, too, of me, abandoned on a solitary shore – for I must not be stolen from the record of your honours! Neither is Aegeus your father, nor are you the son of Pittheus’ daughter Aethra; they who begot you were the rocks and the deep!
Ah, I could pray the gods that you had seen me from the high stern; my sad figure had moved your heart! Yet look upon me now – not with eyes, for with them you cannot, but with your mind – clinging to a rock all beaten by the wandering wave. Look upon my locks, let loose like those of one in grief for the dead, and on my robes, heavy with tears as if with rain. My body is a-quiver like standing corn struck by the northern blast, and the letters I am tracing falter beneath my trembling hand. ‘Tis not for my desert – for that has come to naught – that I entreat you now; let no favour be due for my service. Yet neither let me suffer for it! If I am not the cause of your deliverance, yet neither is it right that you should cause my death."
RECASTING is Cambridge University's Classic's department's latest art show. It brings together works by contemporary artists 'who explore, embrace, or challenge the classical artistic tradition. Spanning different materials and formats – painting, sculpture, installation, video, and drawing'.

The exhibition takes the form of a series of interventions throughout the museum’s Cast Gallery. Artworks will be displayed among the plaster casts of the antique which are on permanent view, in order to reveal some of the contrasts and continuities that define art’s ongoing relationship with the classical past.

Through a series of pairings and juxtapositions, alternately dramatic and understated, RECASTING aims to provoke conversations between the classical tradition and the art of the present. Casting is examined as a mode of reproduction, but equally as a metaphor for classical reception.  

The Artists:
- Paul Allen (b.1952) is a Brighton-based illustrator whose work has featured in many fields, including advertising, design, publishing, and the music industry.
- Matthew Darbyshire (b.1977, Cambridge) graduated from the Slade in 2000 and the Royal Academy in 2005. His work has featured in exhibitions around the world, from Barcelona to Turin to Yorkshire.
- Tom de Freston (b.1983) is currently Cultural Fellow at University of Birmingham and Artistic Director at Medicine Unboxed.
- Maggi Hambling (b.1945) was was the National Gallery's first Artist in Residence and her major solo exhibitions include the National Gallery, London (2014), State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (2013), Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (2010), Yale Center for British Art (1991), and the Serpentine Gallery, London (1987). Hambling’s public sculptures include Scallop (2003), which is permanently sited on Aldeburgh beach, Suffolk.
- Paul Kindersley (b.1985, Cambridge) graduated from Chelsea College of Art in 2009. His drawings have featured online and in exhibitions in London and Berlin.
- Rosie O'Grady (b.1990) graduated from Glasgow School of Art and University of Glasgow in 2015, and from Glasgow School of Art in 2013. Her work has featured in exhibitions in the UK and USA.
- REILLY (b.1969) graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1993. His work has featured in campaigns for top brands, including Coca Cola, Vogue and Nike, and in magazines.

RECASTING is curated by Ruth Allen and James Cahill, graduate researchers in the Faculty of Classics. Ruth is a Roman art historian, currently working on the iconography of engraved Roman gemstones. James’s research focuses on the relationship between contemporary visual art and Greco-Roman art and mythology. He regularly contributes to art magazines and periodicals.

By far the most media attention concerning this exposition goes out to Scottish artist Reilly, who exhibits a work from his 2015 series called 'Pieter', in which the image of Rihanna and Aphrodite of Knidos was first seen alongside celebrities as Adele, Micheal Jackson, Obama and Amy Winehouse mutated into classic sculptures, paintings and each other. The Aphrodite of Knidos was one of the most famous works of the ancient Hellenic sculptor Praxiteles of Athens (4th century BC).

The show will be open to the public September 5th – October 15th.
The term 'phyllomancy' stems from the Greek words 'phyllon' (leaf) and 'manteia' (prophecy). As such, it's not too surprising that this method of divination uses leaves to predict the future. There are many ways to practice phyllomancy (watching the way they burn, the way they fall, the way they float, etc.) but one method is very important in terms of the ancient Hellenic practice: divinition in which the voices of the Theoi are made appearant through the rustling of the leaves of an oak (or birch) tree.

[The oak tree oracle at Dodona]

Anyone who has ever sat at the foot of a tree and has listened to the wind play through the leaves knows there is no toher sound like it. It's unique and ever changing. To the ancient Hellenes the sound could also be prophetic. This was the case, for example, with the sacred oak(s) of Zeus at the sactuary of Dodona.

Dodona in Epirus, north-west Greece, lies in a valley on the eastern slopes of Mt. Tomaros and was famed throughout the ancient Hellenic world as the site of a great oracle of Zeus. The site was expanded in the Hellenistic period.

The oracle at Dodona was considered the oldest in Hellas, even if it was later replaced in importance by the oracle of Apollon at Delphi. According to Herodotos, in his Histories, the oracle was founded when two black doves flew from Thebes in Egypt; one dove settled in Libya to found the sanctuary of Zeus Ammon, and the other settled in an oak tree at Dodona, proclaiming a sanctuary to Zeus be built there.

"That, then, I heard from the Theban priests; and what follows, the prophetesses of Dodona say: that two black doves had come flying from Thebes in Egypt, one to Libya and one to Dodona; the latter settled on an oak tree, and there uttered human speech, declaring that a place of divination from Zeus must be made there; the people of Dodona understood that the message was divine, and therefore established the oracular shrine. The dove which came to Libya told the Libyans (they say) to make an oracle of Ammon; this also is sacred to Zeus. Such was the story told by the Dodonaean priestesses, the eldest of whom was Promeneia and the next Timarete and the youngest Nicandra; and the rest of the servants of the temple at Dodona similarly held it true." [2.55]

In Hellenic mythology the oracle was visited by notable heroes, such as Jason, who was told by Hera to place a protective branch from the sacred oak tree on the prow of his ship the Argo before he set off on his search for the Golden Fleece. In Homeros’ Iliad Achilles, too, called on the help of Zeus Dodonean during the Trojan War in order to protect Patroclus in his fight against Hektor. In the Odysseia the hero Odysseus also consults the oracle to discover if he should return to Ithaca as himself or in disguise.

Pelgrims came to the site and would write down their question on lead tablets, which were placed at the root of one of the many trees in the grove. The priestess would then go into a trance and listen to the wind as it played through the trees to distil the words of Zeus. They would then pass on this answer.

Although the ancient Hellenes believed strongly that the trees through which the Gods spoke had been chosen by Them specifically and thus had been made sacred, we can still direct our questions to the Theoi during sacrifice and then listen to the wind as it plays through the leaves of tall and majestic oaks to see if you can find meaning in the rustling. Who knows what you might pick up!
Hellenic Reconstruction is sometimes jokingly referred to as 'Athenian Reconstruction', as so much of our information about ancient Hellas was preserved in the city of Athens. As soon as you set foot outside the city of Athens, only a few 'hot spots' provide any information about ancient Hellenic life, and in between the hotspots, there is no information at all. The annual sacrifice at Erchia to Zeus Epoptes (Εποπτες) is a perfect example of this. Still, it is a sacrifice to the King of the Gods, and we will celebrate it on August 28, at 10 AM EDT. Will you be joining us?

'Epoptes' (sometimes 'Epopteus') is often translated as 'overseer' or 'watcher'; 'to look down upon'. Among the ancient Hellenes, the title of 'epoptes' was used of those who had attained the third grade of initiation, the highest, of the Eleusinian Mysteries; a religious cult at Eleusis, with its worship, rites, festival and pilgrimages open to all Hellenes willing to undergo initiation. The epopteia were--appropriately--charged with overseeing the proceedings at Eleusis, but seemingly received the name mostly because they had beheld the full mysteries of the Mysteries.

From the calendar we have recovered from Erchia, we know that the sacrifice to Zeus Epoptes was a pig, burned completely in a holókaustos, without an offering of wine. It cost the Erchians three drachmas.

You can find the ritual for the sacrifice here, and if you would like to join our community page for it, come on over to Facebook here. We would jove it if you could join us!
 The Greek Ministry of Culture announced the conclusion of the 2016 excavation season at the Minoan palatial complex at Zominthos by the Greek Archaeological Society under the direction of Mrs. Efi Sapouna-Sakellarakis. A magnificent 150-room structure of the Minoan era came to light. Digging also unearthed some beautiful finds, all of which will be showcased in the new Digital Museum of Anogeia.
The latest excavations at Zominthos showed that the Neopalatial complex, whose main building phase dates to c.1750 BC, extended over an even larger area during the earlier Old Palace period (c.1900 BC) when the Minoan palaces were first constructed. It is thought that the earlier structure comprised some 150 rooms and was two (and in some place three) storeys tall.

Corridors, stairways, new pillared halls, polythyra (a system of doors set next to each) and skylights have been added to the majestic complex during the course of this year's excavations. The walls, which in places are preserved to a height of 2.5-3 metres, were covered with frescoes portraying plant, animal and architectural themes painted on thin plaster and reveal a particular sophistication.

The building has two and three storey-rooms in some areas, while some of the chambers have desks around the permitter, a feature that leads archaeologists to believe it was occupied by prominent people of the Knossos dynasty. Another feature the gives supports this is the fact that an area for religious gatherings was also present in the large building. A plethora of bronze religious items, like double edge axes, incense cups, statues and other items, possibly used in the religious chamber, were also unearthed during the excavations.
With its typically religious character, the Zominthos complex enabled the descendants of the Knossian Dynasty not only to control the Idaion Andron, but to also mobilize the products of the mountain (wool and medicinal herbs) and export them to the markets of Egypt and the Near East.
Apart from the areas of habitation and the public spaces, several workshops were also identified, including a pottery workshop with a huge kiln, a rock crystal processing facility, and a metal-working furnace.
After the destruction of the Minoan complex, sometime after 1450 BC, the same place was settled by the Mycenaeans 100 metres to the northeast. The Romans later built a military barracks on the site.

The Ministry of Culture also announced the opening of an innovative digital museum, erected by Efi Sapouna-Sakellaraki with the assistance of the Municipality Anogia, showcasing the history of the excavations and findings from Zominthos and the Idaion Cave.

For sources an many images of the finds and structure, go here and here.
The 21th of Metageitnion, Hera Thelkhinia was honoured at Erkhia. Hera Thelkhinia, Goddess of Charm. Will you join us in honouring Her on August 24, at the usual 10 am EDT?

We know very little about this epithet of Hera, and it is often confused (including by yours truly) with 'Telkineia', missing the  'H'. The epithet Telkinios (Telkineia) is used for Apollon, Hera, and the Nymphs. It is linked to the island of Rhodes and either to metalworking or storm, at this point in time I truly am not sure. Metalworking would make sense, after all Hephaistos is the son of Hera.

In the Erkhian calendar, however, the epithet of Hera is Thelchiniai (ΘΕΛΧΙΝΙΑΙ), with an 'H'. The only references to this epithet is ‘charm’ and ‘charming’, not metal working. H. W. Parke, in Festivals of the Athenians' writes on page 179:

“Hera besides her festival with him [Zeus] had a sacrifice alone on the 20th of the same month under a title which seems to mean ‘Goddess of Charm’ (Thelchinia). So in Erkhia she may have included in her sphere the functions of the classical Aphrodite who was not worshipped in the deme.

The ritual for this sacrifice can be found here, and you can join our community page here.
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.

"I'm wondering if the goddess Kybele plays a part in your worhsip/practice of Hellenismos. If so, can you point the way to any hymns or prayers? I'm having a very hard time finding anything. I found something from Pindar but only in Greek... which is Greek to me. Other than that option, are you familiar with any other epithets than mistress of the animals (of which she was one of many apparently) or mother of gods? I read that she was invoked in Athens as a protector of the city, but no hymns..."

Kybele is originally a primal nature Goddess worshipped in the mountains of central and western Anatolia. Ancient Hellenes who settled in those regions identified her most often with Rhea but also with Gaia, Demeter, Artemis and even Hekate. Her original cult was too barbaric for the ancient Hellenes to adopt whole. As such, I do not usually include Her in my worship; I honour Rhea, Demeter, Artemis and Hekate Themselves instead.

Perhaps there have been Hellenic hymns written especially for Kybele, but I don't know of any. The same goes for Her epithets. I am sure She had more local ones but in general, I assume many of those to Rhea, Gaia, Demeter, Artemis and Hekate apply or can at least be used to honour Kybele. I do know of Roman Emperor Julian's Oration to the Mother of Gods from which you might draw some inspiration? It can be found here.


"Hello! I was just wondering if you could explain the difference between a shrine and an altar. Thank you!"

An altar is one of the 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.


"Are there sins in Hellenic polytheism similar to Christian sins? I understand that hubris is condemned but is there some list of defined sins? Or is it more obscure and up to interpretation. Thank you."

Sin is defined as a 'transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate', often regarded as either 'deliberate disobedience to the known will of [the Abrahamic] God, or 'a condition of estrangement from [the Abrahamic] God resulting from such disobedience'.

Sin is a Christian issue, which is made clearest in the punishment of sin: once sinned, a devotee is barred from Heaven--the supreme goal--until he or she repents. Repenting is 'to feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do', and includes 'an admission of guilt for committing a wrong or for omission of doing the right thing; a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong or the omission where possible'.

The concept of sin has no place in Hellenismos. There are things you can 'do wrong' in Hellenism, but because of the way the concept of sin works, it can never be applied to the Hellenic religion: we are not working towards the goal of an afterlife. Mythologically speaking, we know that we will inevertably end up a shade in the realm of Hades. Only if you have done something incredibly inexcusable (kill, chop up and serve your son to the Theoi, for example, as Tantalos did), you might be punished in Tartaros. In general, we will walk the dreary Fields forever, while some of us--those who have done extraordinary deeds in life--will end up in Elysium, but that is a rare honor indeed.

Within Hellenismos, we try not to do wrong--or better, we always try to do right--by the Gods. They are the major influence over our lives and we live largely by Their will. As such, fear of the Gods is a cornerstone of the faith, but it is not meant in the Christian sense where any sin committed is seen by God and jeopardizes you place in heaven; here it is meant as a reminder of kharis: that the Gods look favorably upon those who honor Them properly. The implication here is, of course, that they do not look favorably upon those who do not honor Them properly, and this is correct. Yet, committing hubris does not automatically mean that you will be punished by the Theoi; it simply means a drop in kharis. A drop in kharis is restored by fostering more kharis.

Sin is an important concept but it is unrelated to Hellenismos. One should never feel guilt for doing wrong by the Gods--only, perhaps, sadness for not doing right. Sin and guilt have no place in our religion, although they have a place in many of us as our Western societies are often drenched with Christian values and morals. It's important to untangle yourself from these subconcious influences to live an authentic Hellenistic life, which is not better than an Abrahamic one, only different. And the differences count.


"I often follow the monthly calendar you have based off of HMEPA. Most often, that lines up in a lunar sense even though I'm on the other side of the ocean. However, the new moon on September 30th is before sundown for you and after sundown for me. I believe that would mean that I would celebrate the Deipnon one night after you if going by the moon. If I'm trying to be recon, would it be inappropriate to just go with your calendar instead of customizing,moving everything for the month a day off?"

Every once in a while, we run into ‘Reconstructionist problems’. In general, these are issues that would not have been an issue in ancient Hellas, but are one now because of societal, practical, or economical reasons.

A little background: Hekate’s Deipnon is a religious celebration that takes place on Hene kai Nea. Hene kai Nea basically mean 'old and new’, and takes place any time before the first sliver of the new moon is visible. In practice, this is the day after the new moon. The Noumenia is held the day after that, when the moon has become visible again, and Agathós Daímōn the day after that. It is important to note that the ancient Hellens started a new day at sundown the day before. Instead of starting a new day at midnight–or in the morning–like we do today, they started it at sundown of the previous day. This means that–when applied to modern practice–the Deipnon starts on the day of the suspected new moon, and the rest follows after, to the total of four days. For more information on this, please see here. For those of you who have issues reading the Hellenic calendar at all, please see here.

In general, the placement of Hene kai Nea is easy: check the date and time of the dark moon, and at sundown afterwards, the Deipnon starts. Every once in a while, though, there is a complication: because of the moon’s cycle we end up with a situation where,if we hold the Deipnon at the time of the dark moon, we are a little too early and if we hold it the night after, we are a little too late. There is an added complication: many of us follow the HMEPA calendar as a basis for our practice and as a concensus, the HMEPA calendar is divided equally in 29 day months and 30 day months. This was much less applicable in ancient Hellas (especially Athens) where days were dropped or added where needed to accommodate festivals, wars, public events, and anything else. If the ancient Hellenes needed a little time before the fourth of the month, they just repeated the third day.

Because we all work off of the same calendar, we can’t just drop or add days in our practice, or at least if we do, we need to reallign ourselves somewhere, preferably right away. Where the ancient Hellenes would have pushed the entire month back if they needed an other day and taken off a day at the end, we would like to celebrate festivals together in a way, so if we remain out of tune, we will end up with three possible dates for a single festival; one on the actual date, one a day earlier because of a dropped day, and one a day later for an added day.

So, let’s look at this practically. If you follow the HMEPA calendar, you’ll be a little early but you’ll automatically be aligned with the rest of the world. If you push the Hene kai Nea back, you need to cut a day in the beginning of the month to fit the month into the 29 day/30 day cycle we stick to in modern times. The third day of the month is set, so you would have to drop the Noumenia to make a 30 day month fit.

The choice, really, is yours. There is no right or wrong answer, there are only practical ones. If you want three full days like usual, you need to put the Hene kai Nea early. If you don’t mind being out of alignment with the rest of the word from now on, just push it back and don’t remove the Noumenia. If you want to push the Hene kai Nea back and you don’t want to be out of alignment, drop the Noumenia (or, alternatively, a day later in the month but you’ll be out of alignment until then, including festival days). The perfect example of a Reconstructionist problem, isn’t it?


"Is there a way to properly dispose of khernips? For some reason I decided my first batch ever should have essential oils in it and now the khernips' smell is extremely overwhelming. I have to dispose of it but I don't know how without disrespecting the gods."

Dispose of khernips--lustral water used in ritual to cleanse yourself with--in a pot or outdoor pit. Use the same spot every time. You can also use this spot to dispose of other offerings. Ancient temples had these pits as well (and they are now our main sources of information about the types of sacrifices that took place there).
Will you be joining us at 10 AM EDT on 22 August to celebrate the female heroes that we have so plentifully in our religion?

The ancient Erkhians honoured the Heroines twice a year, once on the 19th of Metageitnion, and once on the 14th of Pyanepsion. Certain heroines--like Basile--were worshipped separately from the group as well, most likely because they were local heroines instead of universally accepted heroines like Atalanta, who hunted the Calydonian boar, slew Centaurs, and defeated Peleus in wrestling, or Kallisto, who was an Arcadian princess and hunting companion of the Goddess Artemis. The Heroines received a white sheep in sacrifice, of which the meat was partly sacrificed and partly eaten by those who came out to sacrifice. The skin of the animal went towards the priestess.

Heroes and heroines have a special place in Hellenismos, as they had in ancient Hellas. These were humans--most with at least a part divine heritage--who were considered so brave, so skillful, so extraordinary in their lifetime that they became revered. Some were priests or priestesses of a temple, some excelled in battle, others were skilled healers or good rulers. Once they passed to the realm of Hades, their names were remembered at least once a year on a special occasion, because the ancient Hellenes believed that if the name and deeds of a person were remembered, they would live forever and potentially look out for those they had looked out for before.

Archaeological evidence suggests that hero worship was closer to Khthonic sacrifices in execution than Ouranic ones the further back in time you go; especially in the archaic period, it seems that hero worship consisted of destructive sacrifices--sometimes in the form of a holókaustos where the entire animal was burned, sometimes in a sacrifice where only a part (most often 'a ninth' of the animal) was burned and the rest remained on the altar for the heroes to eat from until gone. The sacrifices were generally burned in an offering pit known as a bothros. The food offered to heroes consisted of meat, blood, and 'food eaten by men' like grains, fruits and other every-day dishes. These were usually offered to the heroes on a table--known as a trapeza--and the heroes were sometimes offered chairs or a bench to sit on. As time went on, the living began to eat part of the meal laid out for the heroes, joining them in celebration.

You can find the ritual here, and join our community page here. We have added some of the other main Hellenic Goddesses to the ritual as well. Feel free to add more of our Goddesses and heroines to your own ritual, especially if you feel close to Them! This ritual will be a celebration of the feminine power in our religion!
I'm not always active in the online Hellenistic community but I get tagged in a lot and I do read that. I also get and answer a lot of questions from you. What I sense in many of your posts is a kind of fear about faith. Fear of the judgement of the Gods; a sense that the Theoi are always watching and ready to strike. Fear of the afterlife (or, perhaps, lack of same). The ancient Hellenes struggled with this as well. How do I know? Because there is a word to define the opposite of that fear: that word is ataraxia.

Ataraxia (ἀταραξία) is a Greek term used by--amongst others--Pyrrho and Epicurus. Ataraxia is the Greek word for equanimity, sometimes translated as imperturbability.  It generally translates as tranquility, serenity, or peace, and it’s the telos or goal of all wholesome ethical philosophy. In Epicureanism, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the state of robust tranquillity that derives from eschewing faith in an afterlife, not fearing the Gods because They are distant and unconcerned with us, avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends and, most importantly, being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.

Ataraxia is satisfaction with life as it is here and now, not seeking its perfection but accepting its limitations and never minding them. It’s the mental aboveness of one who’s learned to be happy and to live in a pleasant state always, regardless of conditions. Ataraxia is unconditional pleasure in living.

Note that ataraxia is not about eliminating doubt, but about eliminating the cause of the mental distress people experience when doubts assail their minds. This cause contains a desire for the certainty of knowledge coupled with a belief that such knowledge is possible; and when we desire something, we always desire more of it. The practice of ataraxia requires the acceptance of the inherent uncertainty of most of our opinions and calls us to stop searching for answers that do not exist in our world and can never be attained.

Epicurus insisted that ataraxia is a mindful, positive state of peaceful abiding which can be cultivated through certain disciplines, including the cultivation of deep gratitude to life, to nature, to one’s teachers and ancestors. Sextus Empiricus supplies an example of ataraxia:

"The Sceptic, in fact, had the same experience which is said to have befallen the painter Apelles. Once, they say, when he was painting a horse and wished to represent in the painting the horse's foam, he was so unsuccessful that he gave up the attempt and flung at the picture the sponge on which he used to wipe the paints off his brush, and the mark of the sponge produced the effect of a horse's foam. So, too, the Sceptics were in hopes of gaining quietude [ataraxia] by means of a decision regarding the disparity of the objects of sense and of thought, and being unable to effect this they suspended judgment; and they found that quietude, as if by chance, followed upon their suspense. [Outlines of Pyrrhonism 1.28—29]

How do we benefit by accepting a basic human ignorance? The reason is pragmatic. We benefit by releasing debilitating mental agitation. Where knowledge is unavailable, we can only make a choice. The those who practice ataraxia choose not to choose in cases where there are no clear conclusions and opposing positions continue to be asserted even while everyone knows they cannot all be true. The benefit is in letting go of any and all doubt an fear of that which will always remain uncertain.

Stoicism often made use of the term, as they too sought mental tranquillity and saw ataraxia as highly valuable. In Stoicism, however, ataraxia is not an end to be pursued for its own sake as it is in many other philosophical schools. Rather, it is a natural consequence that occurs in a person who pursues virtue.

Ataraxia is very important in Hellenic philosophy and in Hellenismos today. Christianity clings to many religious terms we use today--including the word ' religion', which is often seen as synonymous to Christianity. It's concepts of fear of Deity and death live on in many of our minds, even in those minds that were not formed by Christian ideology. In modern times, practicing ataraxia includes becoming aware of this influence and letting it go in favour of more ancient ways of philosophical thinking. In modern Hellenismos, ataraxia is an almost necessary practice to apply in order to get ethically and philosophically closer to the ancient Hellenes and through their way of thinking, the Theoi.
On Sunday I posted about a report that had come out about skeletal remains found in the altar of Zeus on Mt. Lykaion. With the workweek done, various people and news outlets have gotten their shot at giving their opinion on the subject matter and I'd like to go through a few with you today.

Let's kick off with, who wrote:

"Since 2007, these researchers have been excavating a massive "ash altar" containing the remains of drinking cups, animal and human figurines, vases, coins, and a vast quantity of burnt animal offerings, most of which come from sheep and goats. Mount Lykaion in Greece is known to be the site of a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, Greek god of the sky and thunder.

"Several ancient literary sources mention rumors that human sacrifice took place at the altar, but up until a few weeks ago, there has been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site," excavation leader David Gilman Romano, a professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona, told the Associated Press.

The ancient writer Pausanias (A.D. 110-180) told of a legend he heard of a king named Lycaon who was turned into a wolf while sacrificing a child. "Lycaon brought a human baby to the altar of (Zeus) and sacrificed it, pouring out its blood upon the altar, and according to the legend, immediately after the sacrifice, he was changed from a man to a wolf," Pausanias wrote in a book on the geography of Greece (translation from a "Description of Greece with an English Translation" by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., and H.A. Ormerod, Harvard University Press, 1918).

Archaeologists told the Associated Press that they don't know whether the teenager they found was sacrificed and that much of the altar has yet to be excavated. "Whether it's a sacrifice or not, this is a sacrificial altar ... so it's not a place where you would bury an individual. It's not a cemetery," Romano told the news agency, adding that the upper part of the teenager's skull is missing."

The Christian Science Monitor weighed in on the issue as well (with the lovely headline 'Did ancient Greeks practice ritual murder?'):

"Though the excavators have said it’s too early to speculate how the adolescent boy died, the discovery casts doubt on the belief human sacrifice was only legend in ancient Greece, the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of democracy.

Until now, most studies of human sacrifice in ancient Greece concluded it was probably fiction, Jan Bremmer, a professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, and an editor of "The Strange World of Human Sacrifice," told The Guardian. He said that while the ancient Israelites, Romans, and Egyptians performed human sacrifice for religious purposes, modern-day archaeologists have long held that the Greeks did not.

"It nearly seems to good to be true," Dr. Bremmer said, although he questioned if the location of the findings could affect interpretations. Excavator David Gilman Romano, a professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona, noted that up until a few weeks ago, there was no evidence of human sacrifice at the site besides several ancient literary sources mentioning rumors of it. "There been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site," Dr. Romano said."

Because many of the reports state the same as these three, I'll only add a part of one more, by Yahoo:

"Excavators say it's too early to speculate on the nature of the teenager's death but the discovery is remarkable because the remote Mount Lykaion was for centuries associated with the most nefarious of Greek cults: Ancient writers - including Plato - linked it with human sacrifice to Zeus, a practice which has very rarely been confirmed by archaeologists anywhere in the Greek world and never on mainland Greece.

According to legend, a boy was sacrificed with the animals and all the meat was cooked and eaten together. Whoever ate the human part would become a wolf for nine years.

"Several ancient literary sources mention rumors that human sacrifice took place at the altar, but up until a few weeks ago there has been no trace whatsoever of human bones discovered at the site," said excavator David Gilman Romano, professor of Greek archaeology at the University of Arizona. A very unusual detail, he said, was that the upper part of the skull was missing, while the body was laid among two lines of stones on an east-west axis, with stone slabs covering the pelvis.

The mountaintop in the Peloponnese region is the earliest known site where Zeus was worshipped, and even without the possible human sacrifice element it was a place of massive slaughter. From at least the 16th century B.C. until just after the time of Alexander the Great, tens of thousands of animals were killed there in the god's honor.

Human presence at the site goes back more than 5,000 years. There's no sign yet that the cult is as old as that, but it's unclear why people should otherwise choose to settle on the barren, exposed summit. Zeus was a sky and weather god who later became the leader of the classical Greek pantheon. Pottery found with the human remains dates them to the 11th century B.C., right at the end of the Mycenaean era, whose heroes were immortalized in Greek myth and Homer's epics, and several of whose palaces have been excavated. So far, only about 7 percent of the altar has been excavated, between 2007-2010 and again this year. "We have a number of years of future excavation to go," Romano said. "We don't know if we are going to find more human burials or not.""

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.

"I can't use fire for sacrifices where I am, is it ok to not use fire?"

I always find it difficult to answer that. According to ancient Hellenic orthopraxy, it's not okay to give sacrifice without fire; it's the fire that raises the fumes of the sacrifice up to the Gods, after all. But we don't live in ancient Hellas anymore. As much as I would like to, modern times make it impossible (and sometimes undesirable) to practice Hellenismos as the ancient Hellenes did. I practice as Traditional as I can but in some cases, that is just not possible. Is that okay? I don't know. We do what we can. I you can' tpractice with a fire, then you can't practice with a fire. It is what it is. The goal should--in my Traditional opinion--always be to practice with a fire but if you can't manage that, whatever you can do will have to be enough.


"Is there a way to honour the Theoi for my birthday?"

You can do whatever you want for your birthday! (And happy birthday, of course!) The ancient Hellenes did not celebrate their birthdays. Families celebrated the birth of a child, a coming-of-age feast, and feasts after death held on the anniversary of the day of birth (or death, depending on the scholar), but otherwise there were no annual birthday ceremonials. The birthdays of many of the Theoi were ritually acknowledged once a month, but the individual did not celebrate theirs. Herodotos notes this in his Histories, when he describes the birthday practices of the Persians.

"Of all the days in the year, the one which they celebrate most is their birthday. It is customary to have the board furnished on that day with an ampler supply than common. The richer Persians cause an ox, a horse, a camel, and an ass to be baked whole and so served up to them: the poorer classes use instead the smaller kinds of cattle. They eat little solid food but abundance of dessert, which is set on table a few dishes at a time; this it is which makes them say that "the Greeks, when they eat, leave off hungry, having nothing worth mention served up to them after the meats; whereas, if they had more put before them, they would not stop eating." They are very fond of wine, and drink it in large quantities. To vomit or obey natural calls in the presence of another is forbidden among them. Such are their customs in these matters." [133]

This, of course, changed with the Romans--especially the Emperors--but the ancient Hellenes found the birthdays of the Gods much more important.


"Can you tell me how you keep your fire going for offerings. Even with high proof alcohol, the mixed wine puts the fire out before I've offered to all the Theoi I've intended on offering too. It's quite annoying and I find it distracting. I was using 70% alcohol. Maybe I need 95%? I don't dilute my wine more than one part wine to 2 or 3 parts water."

The ancient Hellenes had it much 'easier', I fear--they always had someone assigned to guarding the fire. That said, they did always have to build up a fire--a time consuming practice.

The best advice I can give you is small volume offerings; give only a few drops with each outpour. That, so far, has been the only way that I have found to keep the fire going while you libate. I use bio-ethanol and as long as I don't flood it, the fire stays lit quite well. It even evaporates all the moisture if I do it well. And yes, don't mix the wine with too much water. Practice makes perfect!


"Do you cleanse yourself of miasma with khernips when interacting with Khthonic Theoi?"

Khernips are the traditional way to cleanse yourself from miasma–religious impurity. It is created by dropping smoldering incense or herb leaves into water. When throwing in the lit item, one can utter ‘xerniptosai’ (pronounced ‘zer-nip-TOS-aye-ee’) which translates as ‘be purified’. Both hands are washed with khernips and you can wash the face as well.

Artwork has taught us that khernips was often applied just outside the temenos, with hands being washed in a bowl or water poured out of a jug while the supplicant washed their hands. The water was collected from a moving source of water, which could be a natural spring, a river, or even the sea. Moving water was considered sacred, and often viewed as an extension of the body of a stream/river/sea God(dess). For my video tutorial on how to prepare and apply khernips, go here.

Khernips are applied whenever one engages in ritual that includes the Theoi. That goes for both the ouranic Gods and the khthonic ones. The distinction in deciding if khernips are a requirement is not between 'classes’ of Gods (ouranic vs. khthonic) but 'divine vs human’. If the Theoi are involved in any way, khernips is a requirement.
I was recently asked if it is posstible--and respectful--to worship botht he Hellenic and Egyptian pantheons. This can certainly be done. In fact, the ancient Hellenes did it. In 7th century BC, after the Hellenic 'dark ages' (1100-750 BC), the city of Naucratis was founded in Ancient Egypt. It was located on the Canopic branch of the Nile river, 45 mi (72 km) from the open sea. It was the first and, for much of its early history, the only permanent Hellenic colony in Egypt; acting as a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Greek and Egyptian art and culture. Under Greco-Roman rule, Egypt hosted several Hellenic settlements, mostly concentrated in Alexandria, but also in a few other cities, where Hellenic settlers lived alongside some seven to ten million native Egyptians.

Alexander the Great conquered Egypt at an early stage of his conquests. He respected the pharaonic religions and customs and he was proclaimed Pharaoh of Egypt. He established the city of Alexandria. After his death, in 323 BC, his empire was divided among his generals. Egypt was given to Ptolemy I Soter, whose descendants would give Egypt her final royal dynasty. Ptolemy and his descendants showed respect to Egypt's most cherished traditions--those of religion--and turned them to their own advantage. Alexandria became the centre of the Hellenistic world and the centre of international commerce, art and science. The last Pharaoh was an Hellenic princess, Cleopatra VII, who took her own life in 30 BC.

Contacts between both cultures created a sycratic mix of Gods that were influenced by both cultures. Similarly, some Gods were imported one-on-one into either Egypt or Hellas from a very early time on. There might be a depiction of the Egyptian Goddess Taweret in the vault of Minoic Krete, for example, transformed into an aquatic Hellenic deity.

The most important syncratic Gods are the 'Alexandian Triad', worshipped--predicatbly--in Alexandria. The triad consisted forstly of the Egyptian God Amon, who was represented by Zeus' statue with two ram horns. Serapis is the Graeco-egyptian God par excellence: Osiris risen and become the bull Apis. He is identified with Hellenic Gods such as Hades, Zeus and Dionysos. For the Hellenes He was the God of fertility and medicine, represented the male productive forces of nature, and was regarded as sovereign of the kingdom of the dead. He was represented by the Greeks with long hair and beard, and a large cloak covering his entire body except the arms, seated on a throne with Kerberos at his feet. He was represented as a mummy, with the crescent moon and two flails in the Egyptian iconography.

Isis, the wife of Osiris and Goddess of motherhood and fertility, was identified firsly with Demeter, but later was associated with other Goddesses such as Aphrodite, Athena or Artemis. She was represented at the Egyptian manner, sometimes with a double crown holding the feather of Maat, or a pair of lyre-shaped horns, and in the half the solar disk. She was also frequently represented sitting with her son Horus in her arms, breastfeeding him.

The last god of the 'Alexandrian triad' was Horus, son of Isis and Osiris. Osiris, after being murdered by his brother Seth, resurrected and had, with Isis, Horus. To the Alexandrians and the Greeks, Horus was equated with Apollon.

Another Alexandrian God was Hermanubis, a combination of Hermes and Anubis. The jackal God was here identified with Hermes Psychopompos, but also was identified with Thoth, the ibis-headed scribe. There were many another assimilations between both pantheons: Hathor and Aphrodite, Min and Pan, Mut and Hera, Nefertum and Prometheus, Ra and also Sobek with Helios, Neith and Athena, Bastet and Artemis, Onuris and Ares, Nekhbet and Eileithyia, and Heryshef and Heracles, amongst others.

But Dionysos was undoubtedly the most accepted Hellenic God by the Alexandrians. Unlike most Hellenic gods, Dionysos was worshiped By His Hellenic name, without being equated with any Egyptian deity. He was the favorite God of Alexander the Great, who, like his mother Olympias, was involved in the Dionysian Mysteries. The kings of the Ptolemaic dynasty, considering themselves the successors of Alexander, encouraged the continuation of the cult throughout their entire reign.

Reconstructing a Graeco-Egyptian pantheon and practice is possible, and I have seen it done. It'll take a lot of research and a deep understanding of both religious practices to do it respectfully, but I believe a very rewarding practice await those who feel drawn to this pantheon.
On the sixteenth of Metageitnion, beginning at sundown on the 19th of August, the Kourotrophos (κουροτρόφος, child nurturer) honors Gaea as the true Kourotrophos and the two Goddesses who protect women and children, Hekate and Artemis. Elaion will be organizing another Practicing Apart Together ritual, which I would love to have you join.

The Kourotrophos was an offering to the Kourotrophos; (mostly) female deities who watched over growing children--and especially boys. This specific offering is known from the demos Erchia, but duplicates similar offerings on the Acropolis of Athens.

In this ritual, we honor Gaea, Artemis, Hekate, Aglauros and Pandrosos. Artemis is named Kourotrophos by Diodorus Siculus, a Hellenic historian, in book five of his library:

"And Artemis, we are told, discovered how to effect the healing of young children and the foods which are suitable to the nature of babes, this being the reason why she is also called Kourotrophos." [5.73.5]

Hesiod, in his 'Theogony', explains why Hekate is Kourotrophos:

"So, then. albeit her mother's only child, she is honoured amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Kronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Eos (Dawn). So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young (kourotrophos), and these are her honours." [404]

Aglauros and her sister Pandrosos seem to have been fertility deities in Athens. They were eventually regarded as daughter of the Athenian king Cecrops, however, and myth tells us the sisters were entrusted with the care for Erichthonios, hidden away in a basket. He was the son of Athena and Hēphaistos, who grew to term in the Earth (Gaea), and would later rule Athens as king. Aglauros had a sanctuary on the Acropolis in which young men of military age swore an oath to her as well as to Zeus and to other deities. Herse, sometimes regarded as a third sister, has no mention in these accounts.

Gaea, as a mother and raiser of many children, of course receives honors as well during the Kourotrophos. Pausanias, in his 'Description of Greece' says:

"There is also a sanctuary of Ge (Earth) Kourotrophe (Nurse of the Young) [at Athens], and of Demeter Khloe (Green). You can learn all about their names by conversing with the priests." [1.22.3]

We are also considering adding Eirene, as Euripides, in Bacchae says the following about Her:

"The god [Dionysos], the son of Zeus, delights in banquets, and loves Eirene (Peace), giver of riches (olbodotes), goddess who nourishes youths (thea kourotrophos). To the blessed and to the less fortunate, he gives an equal pleasure from wine that banishes grief." [420]
You can find the ritual here and join the community here.
A biannual event started on the 15th of Metageitnion at Eleusis: the Eleusinia. This year the festival starts on August 18. Will you join us for the first and last day celebrations of it on August 18 and August 21 at the usual 10 am EDT?

From the 15th day to the 18th day of Metageitnion, the Eleusinia took place. It was a festival that served as a prelude to the Mysteries and consisted mostly of sporting events.It was not part of the Eleusian Mysteries, however. The Eleusinia was held on the 4th year of every Olympiad, and on a lesser scale on the 2nd year. The festival included a religious procession and sacrifices on the first day, as well as games the second and third. The winner's prize was a quantity of grain. This is noted in Pindar's Scholia:

"It is celebrated there [in Eleusis], the agon in honor of Kore and Demeter, which is called Eleusinia; the prize consists of barley grains... this is the first agon ever celebrated. In fact, ...after Demeter found the fruit of strength, men made show of it and performed in this competition..." [Ol. 150a/b]

The first day boasted at least a general procession but there are reports of a procession of the youths and a sacrifice on their part of oxen as well. This could have been on the first or third day, we are not sure. We are sure, however, that they were held at Eleusis, as were the games. Eleusis boasted a stadium, a race track and also a theater, after all. In modern times all these are now lost due to the construction of factories.

We know from several sources that the main sporting events were running races, in particular the stadion and the race in arms, but we also know of other competitions: pancratium, pentathlon at the Megala ('Greater' Eleusinia), diaulos and horse racing at the Megala, dolichos, boxing, a horse race and a chariot race. there was even a musical competition and an 'ancestral competition', although we are not entirely sure what that entailed.

A list of expenditures for the celebrations informs us that the competitions were essentially the same, but at the Megala the prizes were most valuable. A report drawn up by the treasurers of Eleusis remembered uses of the wheat grown in the sacred plain of Rharos: among those mentioned, there are also the medimnai awarded to the winners at the Eleusinian competitions: 70 to the winners of the Mikra, and 260 to those of the Megala.

Will you join us for this event? The rituals can be found here and the event page can be found here.
New and highly significant finds came to light during this year’s excavations at the sanctuary of Zeus at Mt. Lykaion, located in the southwestern tip of Arcadia, where Zeus was born, raised and worshipped. This reports the Archaeological News Network.

The 'ash altar', made to host animal sacrifices honouring Zeus, is located on the Mountain’s southernmost peak, at an altitude of almost 1,400 meters above sea-level offering panoramic views across the Peloponnesian mainland, while monumental buildings belonging to the 'lower sanctuary' have been located on a lower plateau, where athletic games called the Lykaia took place in antiquity.

The Greek-American collaborative archaeological research project taking place on the site since 2004, has yielded new important information about the altar. Pottery from within the excavation trenches attests to the fact that human activity on the hill dates back to the Neolithic period and throughout the Early and Middle Bronze Age. During the Mycenaean period the hill emerges as an important sanctuary and was to remain a place of worship well into historical times. The animal sacrifices in honour of Zeus, mainly goats and sheep, indicate continuous religious activity at the altar from at least the 16th century BC through to the Hellenistic period.

In the summer of 2016, a human burial with an East-West orientation was found and excavated in the middle of the altar and next to a platform carved into the rock. The skeleton, in the supine position and in an excellent state of preservation, was deposited in a narrow trench some 1.52 meters in length, created within the embankments of the ash and burnt earth.

The skull of the deceased is missing, although the lower jaw is preserved. The narrow trench was lined with carefully carved stone slabs on the north and south sides, and the deceased’s pelvic area had also been covered with slabs. 

According to the preliminary study, the skeleton is probably that of an adolescent male. Pottery found during the excavation is dated mainly at the end of the Mycenaean period, indicating that the burial probably belongs to the 11th century BC, not long after the collapse of Mycenaean palatial society, during the transitional period from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age.

From the 4th century BC onwards, written sources mention human sacrifices at the altar of Lykaion Mountain but, till now, no human bones had ever been revealed during excavations in the area. The study of the skeleton is in progress but, despite the fact that it is still too early to draw conclusions as to the cause of death, the burial’s prominent position in the middle of the altar, and its orientation, clearly demonstrate its importance.

Excavations were carried out this year at the lower sanctuary also. Among the most important new findings worth mentioning are a monumental staircase and an impressive apsidal entrance flanking the two ends of a corridor dating to the 4th century BC, where athletes apparently entered the hippodrome and stadium.

In the administrative building - previously identified as a xenonas or guest-house - a large clay sima (ie., the upturned edge of a roof which acts as a gutter) was found. Within a circular natural formation (visible on Google Earth) which is been located West of the stoa and East of a fountain, the excavators brought to light two well-preserved clay water-pipes, one stone basin and traces of a wall, possibly from a sanctuary of Pan which is documented in sources but has yet to be located.

Excavations in the hippodrome continued to expose the embankments that supported the seats, while investigation of the bath-house area also dating to the 4th century BC revealed the remains of earlier phases of construction.

Excavations at the sanctuary will continue until 2020. Go here for more images of the excavation and find.
Death. It's a scary concept for many, I have discovered. I've received a message from a reader of this blog about it while I was away on vacation (I'm back now, yay, and will be catching up with my inbox in the next couple of days. If you've sent me something I ask for a bit more patience. Thank you!). The message reads as follows:

"As I read about the Hellenic understanding of the afterlife, I am left with a feeling of uneasiness and, I'll be blunt, fear.  I grew up in the Orthodox Christian tradition where the afterlife in Heaven is what one was to strive for, and the rewards were supposed to be great.  I love the Theoi, and I love to worship them, and at the same time, I somewhat fear the afterlife that may await me in this tradition.  It seems dreary, empty, monotonous, and devoid of feeling.  As reading, I found that the dead Achilles is to have said to Odysseus, ' Do not try to make light of death to me; I would sooner be bound to the soil in the hire of another man, a man without lot and without much to live on, than ruler over all the perished dead.'  How do I reconcile my faith and practice in life with that which seems to await me in death?"

This question is one I hear more often. It's one I always find hard to answer because I have never been involved in Christianity and find the idea of heaven (or hell) neither comforting nor desirable. In Hellenismos, it all comes down to living life as a mortal, one of the Delphic Maxims, and being judged by that standard, not the divine one of Christianity. The Christian mindset, in fact, would be considered hubristic in Hellenismos: we would ask to be put on the same level as Gods and judged by Them instead of our peers. We are not Gods, we are human and the human standard applies to us.

Christianity is a very dogmatic religion centered on belief: belief in God, belief in Christ and in Mary as mother, and there is the Holy Ghost and all the saints if your Catholic.  If you live a decent life, perhaps not even a good one, and believe in Christ you will go to heaven which has taken on all sorts of grandeur depending on the various branches of Christianity with a promise of eternal life. Our Hellenic religion as practiced by the ancients was not one of dogma nor of belief in the sense of Christianity. It is one of relationship, of accepting the reality of the Gods and Goddesses as part of the world and cosmic order, and honoring that reality in ritual practice and acts of piety. The cultivation of ‘eudaimonia’, happiness, literally the state of the good daimon, was (and is) a major goal of philosophy. Christianity includes judgement before entering heaven and we, long before the Christians, have judgement by the law givers, Rhadamanthys, Aiakos and Minos. In other words, we are judged by a human standard--as we should be.

What seems to be rather universal is a concept of something after life. The Homeric view of death is that we live on in the lives of others which is quite sensible and realistic. where our bodies go after death of secondary importance. This is why--especially in the Homeric view of the Underworld--we lose our memories. We are no longer part of life. Our memories belong with those who do. Thought the mystery cults--especially The Eleusinian Mysteries--we got to keep our memories, meaning we would hold on to our sense of self. Personally, I would not want that. Once my life has ended, who I was is gone. As it should be. I will be laid to rest and perhaps reborn to live again. But it is that time that I am alive that matters. It is there I must strive to do good and live up to the Gods and the maxims They have set out. I must make that time a pleasurable and ethical one for myself. Once I die, I am dead and I will forget. there is nothing to fear.

Now, mythology is a way of understanding the reality of nature and the human condition for both good and bad. It was not meant to be taken literally but used colorful imagery in poetic form (poetic license) to make the oral tradition memorable. Just because the dead Achilles is to have said to Odysseus, 'Do not try to make light of death to me; I would sooner be bound to the soil in the hire of another man, a man without lot and without much to live on, than ruler over all the perished dead' does not make it so. This is Homeros’ view of death and not to be taken as the Christians do their gospel.  Pherekydes visited the underworld and describes a rather gloomy place, but that does not make it so. Likewise, Christians describe heaven as a lovely place as a reward for living a decent life and following their beliefs, a very attractive alternative but that does not make it so. Religions around the world have differing views of the afterlife, but which view is correct? The ancient Hellenic practice always contains the element of unknowability. 

Of course that does not mean the ancient Hellenes did not believe the Underworld to be as described--the idea formed somehow, after all. And throughout Hellenic history this view has changed to include more desirable outcomes once death occurred. Even at its brightest, though, the Underworld was never something to strive for like in Christianity. It was Pherekydes of Syros who was born in 585 BCE who was the first to describe the immortal human soul, which underwent refinement throughout Hellenic philosophy and gave the Christians a base for their future dogmatic views of the afterlife, but even he did not consider that immortal soul's afterlife experiences the goal of life. Our religion is all about living not in a promise of the hereafter.  We all must go through the death experience. That is what it means to be human; to be alive.

Fear of death is inherently human but Christianity has fostered it into a way to control life. Hellenismos is not like that. We govern ourselves through ethics because we value life, not because we want a reward after death. What happens after death in unknowable and unavoidable. It is the time we are alive that we should be ' worried'  about and make the most of. Letting go of the fear of death is, perhaps, the first step towards that goal and I strongly wish thatfor all my readers.
Ohhh my, look at the pretty! Archaeologists working in the western Turkish province of Manisa have discovered a 2,200-year-old dinner set believed to have been buried as part of a ritual in the ancient city of Aigai.

2,200-year-old 'dinner set' found in ancient city of Aigai 

The dinner set was buried in a hollow in the bedrock as part of a ritual after being used on a special occasion. According to scholars’ hypotheses, beliefs required the dinner set to never be used again, thereby requiring its burial.

The dinner set, which has been sent to the Museum of Manisa for display, includes pieces such as cooking pots (khytra and lopas), cups (skyphos) and pitchers (lagynos) for drinking, as well as clay figures depicting gods and goddesses.

The set was found in the Aigai Town Parliament building, which was built around 150 BC and was thought to have been used during sermons dedicated to architecture.

Work in Aigai, located in Manisa’s Yunusemre district, was resumed on July 14 this year with the support of the Culture and Tourism Ministry under the direction of the archaeology departments at Ege University and Celal Bayar University.

Excavations on the site, which are currently being conducted on only a small area due to a lack of sponsorship, will continue until September.
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.

"Hi, I'm just discovering Hellenic Polytheism and I can't seem to find a good source that explains the intricacies of the religion, do you have any sites or blog posts to help?"

I do! I have a series on my blog called ’The beginners guide to Hellenismos’ in which I try to explain the fundamentals of Hellenismos. Currently available in the series:

What is Hellenismos? Who do we worship? Why do we worship the way we do? What is our history?
Ouranic versus Khthonic
The distinction between Olympic, Earth and Underworld Gods.
Generations of Gods
A more in-depth look into the pantheon.
The daímones
On the lesser spirits of Hellenismos.
Ritual and sacrifice in Hellenismos
On how and why we worship.
Traditional versus Reformed Hellenismos
There are different terms for different levels of reconstructionism a practitioner might apply. This is an overview of those terms.

More posts will be added so keep an eye on that link above or follow my blog.


"Silly question but is it Hades or Haides? I've always only seen Hades until tumblr."

Well, technically, it’s Ἁιδης. The literal translation from the Greek is ‘Haidês’ and Latinized it’s ‘Hades’. Basically all are correct and refer to the same God. It’s a matter of which translation you wish to uphold. Many Hellenists choose the translation from the Greek (simplified to 'Haides’). I use 'Hades’ on my blog because it’s more familiar to people.


"I heard someone say that Paganism was more 'valid' than Christianity because 'we were here first'. What's your opinion on that?"

I'm not a big fan of 'who was here first' sort of statements, to be honest. First off, define 'pagan', define 'first'. Are we talking Neanderthals first who--presumably--practiced some form of animism? Are we talking 7500 BC when the Catalhoyuk started building shrines to their spirits or Gods in what is now Asia? Are we talking the Proto-Semetic people who laid the groundwork for the Abrahamic faiths around 3750 BC?

Stonehenge was completed around 1600 BC but had been started in 3100 BC. The oldest pyramid currently known stems from somewhere between 2635 and 2610 BC. Minoan civilization developed around 2200 BC. The Judeochristian/Islamic patriarchal figure Abraham is assumed to have lived somewhere between 2000-1850 BC. Judaism dates back probably about as far as 1500 BC. The Greek Dark Age started in 1200 BC. We all know when Jesus was said to be born.

You know, I understand the sentiment: everything pre-Christian is assumed to be pagan was, thus, there 'first'. But Christianity didn't come to rise in a vaccuum. It was build on Judistic core tennets that predate at least the Greeks. In fact, much predates the Greeks. All of these peoples and all of these religions were intwined and many were related. Christianity took hold because it was a much nicer religion to be a part of than what they previously believed in. Sure, many were forced to follow it, but Christianity is easy and it gives solace much more than the religions that predated it: redemption, heaven, all these nice things.

I see value and validity in every single religion, ancient or otherwise. Wicca is only about forty years old now and it's a beautiful thing. Every God, in my opinion, deserves worship and respect. The question of 'who was here first' is neither logical nor useful in my opinion. Religion is. What form it takes is secondary to that. At which time it came to be is irrelevant.


"What kind of bowl do you recommend getting to hold the flame for burning your offerings indoors? I was using a small ceramic baking dish, but it cracked and I don't think it's safe to use anymore. I have no clue where to get a dish or what materials to look out for when choosing something that can handle the heat of a fire."

My advice is to make sure to use a cast-iron or at least solid container to burn in. A sacrifice gets hot and if your bowl cracks–like yours did–you will burn the house down. Make sure to test it out a couple of times (outdoors, on stone) and usually if it says ‘oven proof’, you’re good.


"I recently moved to a dormroom and now I have issues with xenia, hospitality. When am I the host? And when am I a guest? I especially have trouble with deciding for communal areas. Can you help?"

I lived in a house with fourteen others for a fair number of years. We had our own room but the kitchen and bathrooms were communal. My range of hosting in that time was my room: in it I was the host, outside of it was communal (ie the street or a café) and in the room of a housemate, I was the guest. Consider your own threshold the entrance to your home, not the threshold of the front door. A good rule of thumb is the following question: 'am I in complete control of this space?' If the answer is yes, you are the host. If the answer is no, the area is either neutral (so hosting responsibility is shared) or you are the guest. I hope this helps and I wish you a wonderful time in your dorm!