We are proud to announce that Pandora's Kharis members have come through for the Matthew Shepard Foundation! Together, they have raised $ 90,- to help support this very worthy cause. Thank you very much!

On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked, simply for being gay and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyo. and left to die. On October 12, Matt succumbed to his wounds in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. In the aftermath of Matt’s death, Judy and Dennis Shepard started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honor his life and aspirations.

Their work is an extension of Matt’s passion to foster a more caring and just world. They share his story and embody his vigor for civil rights to change the hearts and minds of others to accept everyone as they are.

From this moment on, the Pandora's Kharis Facebook page is open to pitches. If you do not have Facebook, feel free to pitch your cause in the comments. We will relay the message to the community. Please pitch your cause before January 9th. On to another month of pitching, voting, and giving!
On the day of the Hene kai Nea, I post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog and in projects and organizations related to it. I will also announce Elaion's coming PAT rituals.
Changes to the blog:
PAT rituals for Gamelion:
  • 1/6 - Gamelion 7 - Sacrifice to the Kourotrophos and Apollon Delphios
  • 1/6 - Gamelion 7 - Sacrifice to Apollon Lykeios
  • 1/7 - Gamelion 8 - Sacrifice to Apollon Apotropaius, Apollon Nymphegetes, & the Nymphs at Erkhia
  • 1/8 - Gamelion 9 - Sacrifice to Athena at Erkhia
  • 1/11 - Gamelion 12-15 - Lenaia - festival in honor of Dionysus in the Attic deme of Limnai
  • 1/26 - Gamelion 27 - Theogamia/Gamelia - celebrating the sacred marriage of Zeus Teleios and Hera Telei
  • 1/26 - Gamelion 27 - Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, Hera, Zeus Teleius, and Poseidon at Erkhia
Anything else?
The Matthew Shepard Foundation has become Pandora's Kharis' Poseideon 2016 cause. The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s longstanding mission is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance. Through local, regional and national outreach, they empower individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes.

The deadline to donate is December 31th, 2016. You can do so by using the PayPal option to the side of the Pandora's Kharis website or by donating directly to baring.the.aegis@gmail.com. Thank you in advance!

Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.
The Council of State judged the removal and subsequent return of the antiquities discovered during the construction of the Thessaloniki’s underground metro to Venizelos station to be fully legal and constitutional, dismissing objections raised by the Thessaloniki municipality. The municipality resorted to the court to block a 2014 culture ministry decision for the construction of the metro station around the antiquities, which are to be preserved and placed on display inside the station. To this end, the ministry instructed that the remains be removed and stored, then returned to their positions inside the station.

A crash course on the project for those who are new to the blog. In March of 2013, I blogged about an excavation conducted at the Venizelos metro station which brought to light a very well preserved 70-meter section of a marble-paved road, the remains of buildings dating back to the sixth to ninth centuries AD, as well as big public buildings of the 7th century; a rarity for the Byzantine world. Trouble was (and is) that the site of the find is part of a new subway tunnel and platform which are being built to transport 250,000 passengers daily, and thus decrease traffic congestion and air pollution in the city. The entire subway project has a price-tag of 3.5 billion euros (4.6 billion dollars), and was co-financed by the European Union. To keep the road, the entire subway project would have to be abandoned. To save the subway project, the road would need to be moved, or destroyed--the same thing, according to archaeologists.

By April it looked like Thessaloniki's government and archaeological institutions had found a solution to the problem: they were going to temporarily remove the finds during the station's construction and then restore about 85 percent to 95 percent after the station was completed. The solution proposed had a low cost--0,6 percent to 0.8 percent of the budget--with zero or only a few months delay to the works’ completion. Only a 45 square meter space (out of the area’s 1.600 square meters) would not be restored, due to the placement of vents and escalators.

By February of last year, word got out that the removal of the antiquities from the construction site was suspended in July of last year following a decision reached by the Council of State. In the beginning of April I blogged about the estimation that it will take at least another three years and some 40 million euros for the excavation of ancient ruins to be completed. Well, it seems that that was a careful estimate: the new numbers weren't pretty. the new completion date was somehwere in 2020 and it might cost another 42 million euros in funding for the archaeological work it has lined up to complete the digs, on top of 92 million already spent.

In September, 2015, a new decision issued by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) favored the in situ preservation of the antiquities found, however, KAS rejected the proposal about the enhancement of the monument on the ground of lacking documentation and asked the Municipality to conduct a complete architectural proposal in collaboration with the relevant services of the Cultural Ministry and the Attiko Metro.

The Thessaloniki Municipality claimed that the ministerial decision violated the constitutional principle of proportionality, since the 'worst solution for the protection of the cultural environment was selected, which results in the permanent disappearance of the specific historic monument as a complete whole'. It also argued that the decision violated laws on the protection of antiquities and cultural heritage.

It failed to convince the court, however, which ruled that the ministerial decisions were legal and in line with the constitution, since the ministry had previously examined all proposals, including that of the municipality. The final decision required that the greater part of Venizelos station be redesigned, structurally and functionally, so that the remains discovered could, in the most part, be restored to their original position, the court noted.

It also pointed out that the Central Archaeological Council had approved the removal for the protection of the remains but also in case deeper finds were revealed, while ruling that the studies for the protection, removal and storage of the finds were legal.
The ancient Hellenic calendar is a complicated affair. To make it easier to keep up with your home worship, I keep a Google calendar with the 'kata theion', the 'sacred month', and the festival days. It can be found here. Yesterday, I updated it for another half year. Since that took forever, this announcement is all the post you are going to get for today ;-)

Oh, don't forget I also have another calendar for you to follow on your phone or browser. This one is the Elaion event calendar, which will inform you of upcoming PAT rituals, as well as important dates for Pandora's Kharis. You can find it here. This one is updated as events come up.

The newest discoveries on Crete at the site of the ancient city of Knossos suggest that the capital of the Minoan Civilization was much more influential and larger than previously thought. Archeologists already knew that Knossos was Europe’s oldest city and ruled over the massive trade empire during the Bronze age, however, new evidence suggests that the Minoans may have actually survived into the Iron Age.

Previously thought to have perished around 1200 B.C. after the volcanic eruption of Thera on Santorini, new artifacts discovered by a team led by a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of classics, Antonis Kotsonas, suggests otherwise.

Nearby burial sites that have recently been excavated revealed that the Minoans were still in the trading business in the region long after 1200 B.C. and that the actual area of Knossos may have been much bigger than originally thought due to the new discoveries. Dr. Kotsonas said, according to argophilia.com:

“Even at this early stage in detailed analysis, it appears that this was a nucleated, rather densely occupied settlement extending over the core of the Knossos valley, from at least the east slopes of the acropolis hill on the west to the Kairatos River, and from the Vlychia stream on the south until roughly midway between the Minoan palace and the Kephala hill.”
Christmas is not really my thing, but it sure keeps you off of the street, doesn't it? I'm off to do some serious gift giving with my girlfriend's family so I am borrowing the work of others today. Sententiae Antiquae.com collected a bunch of quotes about gifts and the giving of them that I think fits brilliantly with the day. I hope Christmas was safe and enjoyable for all of you!

Epigonoi Fr. 4 (From Clement of Alexandria)
“Many evils come to men from gifts”
ἐκ γὰρ δώρων πολλὰ κάκ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέλονται.
Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.275
“Poems are certainly praised, but great gifts are what is sought.”
carmina laudantur sed munera magna petuntur.
Sophocles, Ajax, 664-5
“But the old saying is true: the gifts of enemies are no gifts, and sure to yield no profit.”
ἀλλ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἀληθὴς ἡ βροτῶν παροιμία,
ἐχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα
Aeschylus, fr. 279a2
“Alone of the gods, Death doesn’t long for gifts.”
μόνος θεῶν γὰρ Θάνατος οὐ δώρων ἐρᾶι·
Solon, 13.64
“The gifts of the gods must not be rejected”
δῶρα δ᾿ ἄφυκτα θεῶν γίγνεται ἀθανάτων
Nostoi, fr. 8.1
“Gifts debase the minds and actions of men”
δῶρα γὰρ ἀνθρώπων νόον ἤπαφεν ἠδὲ καὶ ἔργα
Ysterday was a sad day. Yesterday a very dear friend of mine lost a family member to illness. they had known it was coming and he'd asked a few days ago if I would perform rites once it did. I agreed, of course. He contacted me last night that it had just happened and I went straight to work.

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. 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.

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 important to speak the name of the deceased and their family line. Their character and greatest deeds were also recited, telling the Gods and anyone gathered how special and good the deceased had been. 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.

I am not a priestess. I firmly believe there is no such thing anymore in our religion. But I can perform ritual for others when they can't or do not know how to themselves. I've done it before and I will likely do so again in the future. While i was preparing for the ritual, I realized others might want a format to have their own rites of passage into the underworld for when a loved one leaves the world of the living. I decided to put one together for you--a kind of base to adapt and personalize. This is it. you can download a .doc file of it here (so you can edit it easily).

Rite of passage into the Underworld

¨       Perform this rite outside if possible, over a dug hole, else dispose of the offerings outside in a hole afterward

¨       Ritual washing
¨       Ritual washing with invocation to Okeanos

Okeanos whose nature ever flows, from whom at first both Gods and men arose; sire incorruptible, whose waves surround, and earth’s all-terminating circle bound: hence every river, hence the spreading sea, and earth’s pure bubbling fountains spring from thee. Hear, mighty sire, for boundless bliss is thine, greatest cathartic of the powers divine: earth’s friendly limit, fountain of the pole, whose waves wide spreading and circumfluent roll. Approach benevolent, with placid mind, and be forever to thy mystics kind.

¨       Purification – khernips (holy water) sprinkled from a bay branch – Be gone all corruption and evil” (three times).

“Blessed Okeanos, may your bright waters purify this space, and prepare both me, and it, for the rites that are about to unfold.”

¨       Strewing of barley groats around the altar (circling clockwise three times)
¨       To Gaia

First of all, in my prayers, before all other Gods, I call upon the foremost prophetess Gaia. 

Aeschylus – Eumenides (opening lines)

¨       Invocation to Gaia: Gaia, to you who nurtures us into being, who nurtures us through life, and who accepts us once again unto Thee, blessed Kourotrophos, I honor you with khernips . . . . 
¨       Offering of khernips poured out
¨       Orphic Hymn 26 To Earth

[Gaia Thea/], mother of men and of the blessed Gods,
you nourish all, you give all, you bring all to fruition, and you destroy all. 
When the season is fair you are heavy with fruit and growing blossoms;
and, O multiform maiden, you are the seat of the immortal cosmos,
and in the pains of labor you bring forth fruit of all kinds.  
Eternal, reverend, deep-bosomed, and blessed,
you delight in the sweet breath of grass, O Goddess bedecked with flowers. 
Yours is the joy of the rain, and round you the intricate realm of the stars
revolves in endless and awesome flow. 
But, O blessed Goddess, may you multiply the gladsome fruits
and, together with the beautiful seasons, grant me favor.

Translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis

¨       Invocations and prayers to Themis: To you who sits leaning against Zeus, who consults closely with Zeus, and who are the just order of all things . . . .
¨       Libation of honey sweet wine

Leap for goodly Themis

From the Hymn of the Kouretes

¨       Strike the ground three times with the flat of your hands

“Gods of the Earth, hear me!”

¨       Incense: storax
¨       Invocation to Hermes: Khaire Hermes, who swiftly carries the dead to the river…
¨       Offerings of honey sweet wine to Hermes Khthonios
¨       Orphic Hymn 57 To Khthonic Hermes

To Khthonic Hermes

You dwell on the road all must take, the road of no return, by the Kokytos,
you guide the souls of mortals to the nether gloom.
Hermes, off-spring of Dionysos who revels in dance,
and of Aphrodite, the Paphian maiden of the fluttering eyelids,
you haunt the sacred house of Persephone, as guide throughout the earth of ill-fated souls,
the souls you bring to their destined harbor when their time has come;
you charm them with your sacred wand, you give them sleep
from which you rouse them again. It is to you indeed
that Persephone gave the high office throughout broad Tartaros
to lead the way for the everlasting souls of men.
O blessed one, grant a good end for the labors of the initiates.

Translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis (revised edition)

¨       Prayers

“Blessed Hermes, who guides the souls of the dead into the Afterlife. You who is our final companion. Another comes to You, stripped of all. Take mercy upon who was in life known as [name] of [birth town] and who will always be remembered by that name. Do not strand the [daughter/son] of [name of parents] on the banks of the river but carry [him/her] swift and true to the realm of Haides.”

“Blessed is he who hath seen these things before he goes beneath the hollow earth; for he understands the end of mortal life, and the beginning of a new life given of God.”

Pindar, Dirges Fragment 137

¨       Invocation to Persephone: Khaire Persephone, maiden Goddess of spring’s bounty…
¨       Libation of pure water
¨       Orphic Hymn 29 Hymn To Persephone

Hymn to Persephone

Persephone, blessed daughter of great Zeus, sole offspring
of Demeter, come and accept this gracious sacrifice.
Much honored spouse of Plouton, discreet and life-giving,
you command the gates of Hades in the bowels of the earth,
lovely-tressed Praxidike, pure bloom of Deo,
mother of the Erinyes, queen of the nether world,
secretly sired by Zeus in clandestine union.
Mother of loud-roaring, many-shaped Eobouleus,
radiant and luminous playmate of the Seasons,
revered and almighty, maiden rich in fruits,
brilliant and horned, only-beloved of mortals,
in spring you take your joy in the meadow of breezes,
you show your holy figure in branches teeming with grass-green fruits,
in autumn you were made a kidnapper’s bride.
You alone are life and death to toiling mortals,
O Persephone, you nourish all, always, and kill them, too.
Hearken, O blessed Goddess, send forth the fruits of the earth
as you blossom in peace, and in gentle-handed health
bring a blessed life and a splendid old age to him who is sailing
to your realm, O queen, and to mighty Plouton’s kingdom.

Translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis (revised edition)

¨       Prayers

“Blessed Persephone, much-honored spouse of Plouton, life-giving, who journeys to and from the underworld where we shall all depart to once it is our time. As you depart, so we suffer and as you rise, so we thrive. You who rules over our lives and whose Mother provides us with all means for our survival. When [name] comes to You and [he/she] is judged, whisper kindly in their ears. Speak of [his/her virtues]. Speak of [his/her best characteristics]. Speak of [his/her strengths or accomplishments]. Lay your hand upon [him/her] once [he/she] arrives and accept [him/her] unto you."

¨       Invocation to Plouton: Khaire Plouton who are the wealth of earth and accepts all to rest
¨       Libation of honey sweet wine to Plouton
¨       Orphic Hymn 18 To Plouton

To Plouton
You dwell below the earth, O strong-spirited one,
a meadow in Tartaros, thick-shaded and dark.
Sceptered Chthonic Zeus, please accept this sacrifice,
O Plouton, holder of the keys to the whole earth.
To mankind you give the wealth of the year's fruits,
yours is the third portion, earth, queen of all,
seat of the gods, mighty lap of mortals.
Your throne rests on a dark realm,
the realm of distant, of untiring, of windless, and of impassive Hades;
it does not rest on gloomy Acheron, the river who girds the roots of the earth.
All-receiver, master of death, master of mortals, host of many,
Euboulos, you once took as your bride pure Demeter's daughter:
you took her away from the meadow, and through the sea
you carried her to an Attic cave upon your steeds –
it was the district of Eleusis, where the gates to Hades are.
You alone were born to judge deeds obscure and conspicuous.
Holiest and illustrious ruler of all, frenzied god,
You delight in the respect and in the reverence of your worshipers.
I summon you, come with favor, come with joy to the initiates.

Translation by Apostolos N. Athanassakis (revised edition)

¨       Prayers

“They say that the entire bulk and substance of the earth is dedicated to father Dis, because all things fall back into the earth and also arise from the earth. So as we all fall and arise, may You look upon us kindly. May you bestow upon [name] blessings and kindness. Accept [him/her], please, with open arms.”

¨       Sacrifices of water, milk, wine, fruits or eggs and possibly a lock of hair
¨       Prayers to the deceased

“Blessed [name], may your name be forever spoken. May you forever be remembered. May your stories be forever told by those who knew you in life and who will see you again after death. Accept these sacrifices to strengthen you on your journey.”

¨      Presentation of a coin to Kharon

“May this coin pay your way safely down the rivers and through the gates of Haides. May it guide you safely to the Blessed Isles.”

¨      Extinguishing of the lamp
¨      Either close the hole or take the offerings and coin outside and bury all

I've been feeling weary. It can come as no surprise. All of the world's pain and fear can become a little much. So today, although it's not Hellenic, I am sharing a story that I really needed to hear. It's the story of Ali Hribish, a former electricity company employee in his 50s, who has become the unlikely saviour of the ancient Roman city of Leptis Magna. Together with a group of other volunteers, he protects it from looting and vandalism as chaos rocks the country of Libya following the 2011 downfall of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Despite having no background in archaeology, Hribish gathered a band of fighters who dedicated themselves to preserving the ancient Roman city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. While others set up armed groups to protect banks and public buildings, they immediately thought of Leptis Magna. Ashraf Mohammed, 33, was one of the first fighters to join Hribish's group. He says:

"A bank can be rebuilt, but our monuments and our history are things we can't replace."

The group of 20 young men, Kalashnikov assault rifles in hand, go on a routine patrol around the 50 hectare (120 acre) site. They inspect the hippodrome, the basilica and the open-air theatre that used to host some 15,000 spectators on its terraces, with a sublime view of the Mediterranean. In 2015, his men discovered and defused a bomb weighing several kilograms (pounds) in a cafe close to the site. Hribish doubts it was put there by jihadists, in a country where multiple armed groups are struggling for power.

The jihadists of the Islamic State group, which destroyed priceless artefacts in Syria and Iraq, are still active in Libya despite having been ousted from Sirte, their North African bastion. The group, however, is much more worried about looting and acts of vandalism. Hribish told AFP he was appalled when IS blew up UNESCO-listed Roman-era temples and looted ancient relics in Syria's Palmyra.

"Leptis Magna has been protected from acts of looting and we are continuing to monitor it. We will not allow IS or anyone else to touch it."

Islamist ideologues are not the only threat to the site. Hribish pointed out that it was developers who destroyed part of the city of Cyrene, an ancient Greek and Roman city in eastern Libya, in order to build houses there. He is proud to have prevented acts like that in Leptis.He proudly added that he has blocked plans to build an unlicensed row of shops immediately next to precious remains.

Libya remains divided between rival governments and militias waging a bitter struggle for power. Other inhabitants of the nearby town of Khoms have also mobilised to protect administrative buildings and banks from vandalism and looting. Hribish says he supports the restoration of Libya's monarchy which was overthrown in the coup that brought Kadhafi to power in 1969.

 "At the start, we thought our mission would be a short-term thing. We expected a state would be built that could guarantee that the country's archaeological sites would be protected. We will continue with our mission until a real state is built."

Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, who was born in Leptis Magna and ruled Rome from 193 to 211 AD, favoured his home town and turned it into one of the most beautiful cities in the empire. He endowed it with splendid monuments including a vast basilica over 30 metres (100 feet) high, and renovated the thermal baths built during the reign of Hadrian (76-138 AD). The open-air pool is still intact to this day.

Make no mistake: these are modern day heroes. Everyone standing their ground in the face of this mindless, all-consuming hatred is a hero. We need people like this. We need them desperately. We need them to fight, to stand up, to protect. Until our own countries' governments finally get off of their asses and act, we have to rely on them to keep safe our culture, our people, our very lives. So thank you. Thank you for standing and fighting to preserve the best of the past. We owe you.
I should not read Aristotle's Politics when I am still mightily pissed off and disheartened by the going on's of American politics. On Monday, money once more prevailed over justice, democracy and common sense. And now we are all stuck with a tyrant. To those who say 'it's just for four years', I pray you are right, because there is very little preventing Trump from dismission of the four year rule altogether.

People like Trump are not a rarity. the ancient Hellens knew them ery well. Politics (Πολιτικά) was written in the 4th-century BC by Hellenic philosopher Aristotle. It is a work of political philosophy and in it, Aristotle defines a tyrant:

"A tyrant, as has often been repeated, has no regard to any public interest, except as conducive to his private ends; his aim is pleasure." [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

"The idea of a king is to be a protector of the rich against unjust treatment, of the people against insult and oppression. Whereas a tyrant, as has often been repeated, has no regard to any public interest, except as conducive to his private ends; his aim is pleasure, the aim of a king, honor. Wherefore also in their desires they differ; the tyrant is desirous of riches, the king, of what brings honor. And the guards of a king are citizens, but of a tyrant mercenaries." [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

"As of oligarchy so of tyranny, the end is wealth; (for by wealth only can the tyrant maintain either his guard or his luxury)." [Politics Book 5 Part 10]
"From democracy tyrants have borrowed the art of making war upon the notables and destroying them secretly or openly, or of exiling them because they are rivals and stand in the way of their power; and also because plots against them are contrived by men of this class, who either want to rule or to escape subjection." [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

Aristotle’s definition of tyranny:

"For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only." [Politics Book 3 Part 7]
Another quote I have found particularly striking:
"History shows that almost all tyrants have been demagogues who gained the favor of the people by their accusation of the notables. At any rate this was the manner in which the tyrannies arose in the days when cities had increased in power." [Politics Book 5 Part 10]

So how should it be? People should live in liberty. They should be ruled fairly, justly, pay taxes and be part of the whole for the betterment of all. As Aristotle puts it:
"One principle of liberty is for all to rule and be ruled in turn." [Politics Book 6 Part 2]
"The majority must be supreme, and that whatever the majority approve must be the end and the just. Every citizen, it is said, must have equality." [Politics Book 6 Part 2]
"A man should live as he likes. This, they say, is the privilege of a freeman, since, on the other hand, not to live as a man likes is the mark of a slave. This is the second characteristic of democracy, whence has arisen the claim of men to be ruled by none, if possible, or, if this is impossible, to rule and be ruled in turns; and so it contributes to the freedom based upon equality." [Politics Book 6 Part 2]

So what do we have to look forward to, according to Aristotle?

"(1) [T]he humiliation of his subjects; he knows that a mean-spirited man will not conspire against anybody; (2) the creation of mistrust among them; for a tyrant is not overthrown until men begin to have confidence in one another; … (3) the tyrant desires that his subjects shall be incapable of action, for no one attempts what is impossible, and they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny, if they are powerless." [Politics Book 5 Part 11]
"The people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy; also the offerings of the family of Cypselus, and the building of the temple of Olympian Zeus by the Peisistratidae, and the great Polycratean monuments at Samos; all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor." [Politics Book 5 Part 11]
"The tyrant is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader." [Politics Book 5 Part 11]
Yes, I am worried. But keep in mind: tyrants can be overthrown. Power, always, is in the hands of the people.
Greek and Danish archaeologists investigating Lechaion’s harbour areas are finding that the town appears to have been much more important than previously thought. In the course of three excavation seasons, they have delineated major offshore structures, a monumental entrance canal and several inland canals connecting at least four harbour basins.

In total, the area is greater than 500.000 m2 – bringing it on par with other major harbour towns of the age, such as Athens’ harbours in the Piraeus and Roman Portus. Co-director of the Lechaion Harbour Project Bjørn Lovén stated:

"This season topographical and geophysical surveys have made it possible for us to successfully delineate the canal zone between the inner and outer harbours. In the process we discovered that the entrance canal connecting the Inner and Outer Harbours was up to 30 m wide in the 4th and 3rd century BC, then grew narrower in later centuries. The precise reason why remains to be discovered."

The team mapped the full extent of the mole flanking the eastern side of the entrance canal as far as 46 meters offshore in 1–3 meters of water. Working carefully and methodically for 35 days, divers defined the eastern side of the canal. At the harbour entrance, and interconnected with this mole, they discovered strong stone foundations, perhaps for a tower that would protect the entrance. Nearby were found two column drums. Their precise purpose remains unknown, but such drums found at other excavated Roman harbours supported porticoes on the harbour front. Future explorations promise more discoveries. Bjørn Lovén:

“The extremely rare wooden structures we’ve found in the early stages at Lechaion give us hope that we’ll find other organic materials, such as wooden tools, furniture, wooden parts of buildings and shipwrecks – the potential is immense and it is important to stress that we almost never find organic material on land in the central Mediterranean region.”

Located on the isthmus connecting the Peloponnese and the rest of mainland Greece, Corinth and Lechaion served as a perennial nexus of land and sea routes. From an early date Lechaion’s wharves swelled with trading goods, helping Corinth to become fabulously wealthy. Ancient authors comment that transhipping goods at Lechaion was far preferable to sailing around the bottom of the Peloponnese, a kind of mini Cape Horn. One of them, the first-century BC author Strabo, quoted a timeworn proverb: 'If you see Cape Malea [at the southeast tip of the Peloponnese], forget your home.'

Throughout antiquity, Lechaion played a crucial role in supporting Corinth's function as a cultural metropolis. Beginning in the 8th century BC her waterfront saw Corinthian colonists set out for Corfu and Sicily and elsewhere as they sowed the seeds of Hellenism to the rest of southern Europe. By the Late Roman period Lechaion, while still linked with Corinth, had developed her own identity as a town and religious centre. In the 6th century AD the town showcased one of the largest Christian churches of the time, the 180 meter long Leonidas Basilica.

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With only the barest of margins, the Matthew Shepard Foundation has become Pandora's Kharis' Poseideon 2016 cause. The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s longstanding mission is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance. Through local, regional and national outreach, they empower individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes.

On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked, simply for being gay and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyo. and left to die. On October 12, Matt succumbed to his wounds in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. In the aftermath of Matt’s death, Judy and Dennis Shepard started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honor his life and aspirations.

Their work is an extension of Matt’s passion to foster a more caring and just world. They share his story and embody his vigor for civil rights to change the hearts and minds of others to accept everyone as they are.

The deadline to donate is December 30th, 2016. You can do so by using the PayPal option to the side of the Pandora's Kharis website or by donating directly to baring.the.aegis@gmail.com. Thank you in advance!
Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος, Hērákleitos ho Ephésios) was a pre-Socratic Hellenic philosopher who lived from about 535 to about 475 BC. He was a native of the city of Ephesus, which was then part of the Persian Empire. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. Heraclitus was and is famous for his insistence on ever-present change as being the fundamental essence of the universe. This is most tellingly stated in his quote: 'No man ever steps in the same river twice'.

Heraclitus also commented on the elements a lot. Heraclitus considered fire as the most fundamental element. He believed fire gave rise to the other elements and thus to all things. He regarded the soul as being a mixture of fire and water, with fire being the noble part of the soul, and water the ignoble part. A soul should therefore aim toward becoming more full of fire and less full of water: a 'dry' soul was best. According to Heraclitus, worldly pleasures made the soul 'moist', and he considered mastering one's worldly desires to be a noble pursuit which purified the soul's fire. He also posed that the core of transformation is the replacement of one element by another.

Not much has been preserved of Heraclitus' teachings. His words are mere fragments in the works of others now. I would like to give you those who relate to his views on the elements today.

"This world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made. But it always was, is, and will be: an ever-living Fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out." [Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, V, 14, 104, 2. / Fragment 30]
"All things are an interchange for Fire, and Fire for all things, just like goods for gold and gold for goods." [Plutarch, On the E at Delphi, 388 DE. / Fragment 90]
"The transformations of Fire: first, sea; and of the sea half is earth, half whirlwind [...] Sea pours out, and is measured by the same amount as before it became earth." [Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, V, 14, 104, 3. / Fragment 31]
"Fire in its advance will judge and convict all things." [Hippolytus, Refutation of all heresies, IX, 10, 7. / Fragment 66]
The death of fire is the birth of air, and the death of air is the birth of water. [Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, IV, 46. / Fragment 76]
"For it is death to souls to become water, and death to water to become earth. But water comes from earth; and from water, soul." [Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, VI, 17, 2. / Fragment 36]
At dusk on January 6th, the Haloa (῾Αλῶα) starts. This ancient Hellenic festival was held in honor of Demeter, Dionysos and a little bit in honor of Persephone. Like all festivals of Demeter and Persephone's 'Kore' persona, women were the only ones who were allowed to handle the religious and sacrificial side of it. Women, will you join me in celebrating freedom and fertility come 10 am EST on December 26th?

The Haloa is part of the Mysteries, and thus linked to the festivals of Proerosia (6 Pyanepsion), Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion), Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), Skirophoria (12 Skirophorion) and the Greater Mysteries themselves, which were held 13-23 Boedromion. It was a rural festival, meaning it wasn't state-organized and widely spread, so most details are incredibly fuzzy. He're what we do know about it:

The Haloa is assumed to be a celebration of the pruning of the vines and the tasting of the wine after its first fermentation, or it may be to encourage the growth of corn from the seed. It is named after the hálōs (ἅλως), which means both threshing floor and garden. Since the first sense of the word would be inapplicable to a festival celebrated in January, scholars--including Nilsson in his 'Greek Popular Religion'--insist it must have been a gardening festival.

Some time during the festival, the entire population was invited by the priests of Dionysos and the priestesses of Demeter and Kore to give sacrifice to these Theos; to Demeter and Kore for the fertility of the earth in which the grapevines grew, and to Dionysos in remembrance of Ikários, who was such a fine winemaker that he could produce wine so strong, those who drank it appeared to be poisoned. His skill turned out to be his undoing; Íkaros was killed by those who drank his wine, thinking the wine maker was out to kill them. This sense of being poisoned might have come from permanent erections brought on by the wine; they only went away when an oracle told the men to put out clay phallus-shaped objects. When they did so, their limpness returned. This event was celebrated at home, by the men, but the women traveled to Eleusis.

In the earliest times the religious part of the festival might have been restricted to married women, but after the fourth century BCE its celebration may have been limited to hetairai (ἑταῖραι, female companions, a term used non-sexually for women, about women, but used by men to indicate a woman hired for entertainment, often leading to sex), or they were simply also allowed to hold their own symposium during the Haloa, either at home or at Eleusis. The Haloa would have been the day on which they were initiated into the Mysteries. The Eleusinian Arkhontes (Ἄρχοντες, male magistrates of the Mysteries) prepared a huge banquet on this day, with a huge variety, including phallus- and vagina-shaped cakes, but not foods forbidden in the Mysteries: pomegranates, apples, eggs, fowls, some types of fish were out. Animal sacrifice was also disallowed on this day: Demeter received offerings of fresh fruit.

After preparing the food, the Arkhontes left, leaving the women to eat, to drink lots and lots of wine, and to celebrate being a woman and fertile (or the wish to be fertile). The Arkhontes went to the men who were waiting outside of Eleusis for their part in the Mysteries, and told them the story of Eleusis, and how the Eleusinians had discovered nourishment for the entire human race. A giant phallus is often assumed to have been set up on the hálōs, and the women would dance around it carrying clay models of phalli and vaginas, but it is more likely the phallus was never there, but depicted on artwork abbot the Haloa to indicate the fertility aspects of the festival and the dances that occurred there. As part of the festivities, the women engaged in sexualized conversation with each other. As part of the sacrifice, the women carried kernoi (κέρνοι, offering dishes) on their heads, containing incense, grains or other offerings, which they tipped onto the giant phallus or, and this is probably far more accurate, onto the altar.

After the feast and sacrifice, the men who had been waiting were admitted to the grounds, and the women were encouraged by each other--including the priestesses--to take secret lovers for the night. A priest and priestess--with torches representing Demeter and Persephone--apparently sat watch on chests as they presided over the fertility celebration.

The Haloa is the perfect time to organize an adult 'girl's night' with your closest female friends. Watch a movie with erotic tones, drink wine together, gorge yourselves on chocolate and gossip about your partners. If you have an agreement about it with your partner, you could find a lover for the night. If not, go home to him or her and spend the night together in your own 'fertility rite'. If you're single and have no one to fill your bed... well... a girl can get creative, can't she?

For the men, the Haloa might have had an extra ritual part as well; honoring Poseidon as an agricultural Theos. There is evidence that the men built a huge bonfire and had their own conversations around it. Afterwards, they joined the women, when possible (and desired). Single men; I'm sure you can be as creative as the single women reading this.

So, ladies, will you join me on December 26, at 10 am EST? The community page can be found here and the ritual here. Enjoy your Haloa celebration! Be safe, happy, and sated!
Remember when I posted about a recently discovered city in central Greece? I've been talking about it with some people (and other have commented on a few inconsistencies in the story. Then I found the press release below, made by the archaeologist working on the site. It seems the city has not been undiscovered as long as previously reported.

Responding to press articles about the discovery of a ‘lost’ ancient city in the Vlochos area of Thessaly, archaeologists working on the Vlochos Archaeological Project (VLAP) on Tuesday posted a press release clarifying that the remains in the area had been known for more than 200 years and were not a new discovery. While they welcomed the media attention, the archaeologists said they were 'somewhat overwhelmed' and noted that some misleading information seemed to have crept into the reports.

"It is only the status of a city that can be confirmed by the new project. There has been several different theories about what the remains represent, all based on more or less unsystematic observations. The preliminary results of VLAP shows that the remains at Vlochós do indeed belong to a sizeable urban settlement. We would like to stress that the archaeological remains at site were well-known to the local archaeological service, and that our collaboration is focused on discovering the unknown aspects of the site."

They also noted that VLAP was a Greek-Swedish-British collaborative project and, contrary to what some reports seemed to suggest, was the result of collaboration between the Ephorate of Antiquities of Karditsa and the Swedish Institute at Athens.

"Archaeologists from the said Ephorate, the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) and the University of Bournemouth (UK) are working side by side, with equal responsibilities at site."

They also made clear that VLAP is not collecting pottery and that no finds have left or will ever leave Greece.

"We are sorry if some of the press headlines are a bit exaggerated, and we hope this little blog post will bring some more clarity in the matter."

So there, I wanted to get that out there as well. The project is very interesting, be it a newly discovered site or not, and the progress of it can be followed here.
Aristotle, to me, was perhaps the greatest thinker of the whole of ancient Hellas. His ideas have largely been proven incorrect by modern science and psychology but they are no less intriguing for it. One of those theories is the theory of the three types of souls. As Aristotle himself wrote:

"The knowledge of the soul admittedly contributes greatly to the advance of truth in general, and, above all, to our understanding of Nature, for the soul is in some sense the principle of animal life. [...] To attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world."

The soul, according to Aristotle, is a grounding principle of sorts. It is the realization of life. The soul is the one thing that enables a body to engage in the necessary activities of life and they build upon one another. the more parts of the soul a being possesses, the more evolved and developed he is. the three types of soul are the nutritive soul, the sensible soul, and the rational soul.

The nutritive soul is the first and most widely shared among all living things. For it can be said that anything that takes in nutrition, grows from this nutrition, and eventually decays over time has a soul. Plants, for example, possess the nurative soul solely while it is one of two or three parts of the soul possessed by animals and humans. the nutritive soul is what urges any creature to protect itself whenever possible, but also to produce offspring in any form because it's own life is finite.

The sensible soul, or the soul of perception, is the part of the soul that allows us to perceive the world around us. It encompasses the senses but also allows us to remember things that happened to us, experience pain and pleasure, and have appetites and desires. Most animals and all humans possess the sensible soul while plants to not. Of course, not all animals have the same abilities of perception. those who solely possess sense organs for a single sense can potentially not be actualized by the sensible soul and are more like plants, possessing only the nutritive soul. A cricket, for example, or mollusks.

Aristotle believed that animals and humans both possess the sensible soul. However, he asks the question if animals have the capacity for belief. Belief would seem to imply conviction. Conviction would seem to imply that a creature was persuaded, because one can not be convinced of something without being persuaded in some way. Finally, persuasion would seem to imply a rational function of measuring possibilities and drawing conclusions, a function that Aristotle believed animals did not possess.

The rational soul belongs to man alone. The rational soul is that by virtue of which we possess the capacity for rational thought. Aristotle divides rational thought into two groups. The first is the passive intellect. It is the part of our mind that collects information and stores it for later use. This is almost an extension of the sensible soul in that it allows us to act upon the information gathered by that part of the soul.

The active intellect is the part that allows us to engage in the actual process of thinking. It allows us to take our sensory input, combine it with our memories and skills and apply it to our betterment. Aristotle also believed that the active intellect was responsible for our ability to consider abstract concepts that we have never perceived. Through active intellect, philosophy becomes possible and it is this ability that distinguishes humans from animals.

Modern science has disproven much of Aristotle’s ideas on the soul. It states that there is no nutritive, sensible, or rational soul. All three levels of the Aristotelian soul can be explained by nutritive and perception organs. And the rational soul is merely the rapid firing of neurons in our brain. And yet, it makes sense. It's the understanding of the human mind through experience alone. It is man explainign the world through it's own eyes--and yes, by way of the three parts of the soul. It's the theory, applied. It's absolutely beautiful to me solely for that.
Nope, sorry. I am absolutely swamped today. I need to fly out the door. Sorry, lovely readers, I will be back tomorrow with more of substance. For today, a reminder of the awesomeness of the ancient Hellenes. You are welcome.

"When you hear the words 'ancient Greece' what do you think about? Does your mind wander to the very first Olympics? Maybe it recalls the mythology of the Greek gods. It might even remind you of ancient Greece's role in the development of democracy. It's true, there are many things we would not have today if it wasn't for ancient Greece such as vending machines, classical architecture, anchors, sinks, coins and more. But even though most people are aware that many things related to Western culture originated in Greece, there’s much more associated with it than we realize. In fact, if you look around, you're bound to see or interact with something that has its roots in ancient Greece. Take a look for yourself with these 25 Things We Would Not Have Without Ancient Greece."
This is the list: urban planning, the watermill, heliocentrism, plumbing, the odometer, maps, lighthouses, cranes, coins, clock towers (and weather stations), central heating, sinks, anchors, showers, automated doors, alarm clocks, the flying machine, the vending machine, thermometers, classical architecture, theater, robots, western philosophy, the first analog computer/calculator, and logic.
The written list can be found here.
In a very recent and very interesting turn of events, it seems like an international research team at the Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg, is exploring the remains of an ancient city in central Greece. The results can change the view of an area that traditionally has been considered a backwater of the ancient world.

Archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg have begun exploring a previously unknown ancient city at a village called Vlochós, five hours north of Athens. The archaeological remains are scattered on and around the Strongilovoúni hill on the great Thessaliska plains and can be dated to several historical periods. Robin Rönnlund, PhD student in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Gothenburg and leader of the fieldwork, explained:

"What used to be considered remains of some irrelevant settlement on a hill can now be upgraded to remains of a city of higher significance than previously thought, and this after only one digging season. A colleague and I came across the site in connection with another project last year, and we realised the great potential right away. The fact that nobody has never explored the hill before is a mystery."

In collaboration with the Swedish Institute at Athens and the local archaeological office in Karditsa, the Vlochós Archaeological Project (VLAP) was started with an aim to explore the remains. The project’s research team completed the first field season during two weeks in September 2016.

Rönnlund says that the hill is hiding many secrets. Tall remains of towers, walls and city gates can be found on the summit and slopes, but hardly anything is visible on the ground below. One ambition is to avoid excavation and instead use methods such as ground-penetrating radar, which will enable the team to leave the site in the same shape as it was in when they arrived. The success of this approach is evident from the results of the first field season:

"We found a town square and a street network that indicate that we are dealing with a quite large city. The area inside the city wall measures over 40 hectares. We also found ancient potsherds and coins that can be used to date the city. Our oldest finds are from around 500 BC, but the city seems to have flourished mainly from the fourth to the third century BC before it was abandoned for some reason, maybe in connection with the Roman Empire conquering the area."

Rönnlund believes that the Swedish-Greek project can provide important clues as to what happened during this stormy period in Greek history.

"Very little is known about ancient cities in the region, and many researchers have previously believed that western Thessaly was somewhat of a backwater during Antiquity. Our project therefore fills an important gap in the knowledge about the area and shows that a lot remains to be discovered in the Greek soil."
On December 21th, Elaion will organise a PAT ritual for the Poseidea. During this festival, Poseidon as savior of ships, protector of those who voyage in ships, and God of the lapping waters both salt and fresh important for agriculture, is thanked for the many gifts that came from faraway places that were likely given at that time. Will you join us at 10 am EST?

The most complete account of the festival is Noel Robertson's article Poseidon's Festival at the Winter Solstice, The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 34, No. 1. (1984), pp. 1-16:

"The record shows that Poseidon was once worshipped in every part of greece as a god of deneral importance to the community. [...] The festival falls near the winter solstice, and the ritual business marked by jollity and license, belongs to the general type of solstice festival known the world over.  At Poseidon’s festival, however, the sportive conduct has a definite purpose; this purpose arises from the fundamental agrarian background if Mediterranean society, and may bring us close to the origin of solstice festivals.
It has scarcely been noticed that festivals of Poseidon, more than those of any other Greek deity, fall at just this time of year; yet the evidence is extensive. [...] The festival Poseidea and some of the rites in question are often claimed for Poseidon the sea-god, but at this season sailing is furthest from one’s mind, and fishing on the shore is by no means an overriding concern.  Such details as we have point elsewhere, to Poseidon as the god of fresh water who fructifies Demeter’s fields."

One of Poseidon’s epithets is prosklystios, 'of the lapping water'. He is also invoked as Poseidon phytalmios which implies natural fertility and human procreation. There are also implications in the legends that imply bonfires at the winter solstice.

Noel Robertson concludes:

"…the celebrants feast to satiety, then turn to lascivious teasing. What is the ritual purpose of such conduct?  It obviously suits Poseidon’s mythical reputation as the most lustful of gods, who far surpasses Apollo and Zeus in the number of his liaisons and his offspring. Poseidon the seducer is the god of springs and rivers; his women typically succumb while bathing or drawing water; the type of the river god is a rampant bull. But the ritual likewise treats Poseidon as a procreant force; witness the epithets phytalmios, genesios, pater, etc. as interpreted above. The myths and the ritual reflect the same belief. The rushing waters are a proponent male power, just as the fields which they fertilize are a prolific female.  Both water and the fields, both Poseidon and Demeter, can be made to operate by sympathetic magic.  The rites of our winter festival rouse Poseidon and bring the rushing waters."

It is interesting that that Theophrastus tells us the the silver fir was important in ship building, especially for masts. The ‘tannenbaum’ is a silver fir. It is also interesting to compare with the Roman Saturnalia which may very well have borrowed from the Poseidea.

Celebrating Poseidon's Festival seems to be lost in modern practice. It likely entailed bonfires, feasting, cutting of trees (probably decorated), and very likely gift giving. As God of begetting, that aspect was not forgotten. We'll bring at least the ritual for Poseidon back on Wednesday, December 21, at 10 am EST. You can find the community page here and the ritual here.