Growing up, my mother taught me a good few valuable lessons, but the one that has undoubtedly kept me out of trouble most was leaning to keep my mouth shut if I didn't have anything positive to contribute to the discussion. If all you're doing is pushing air and adding venom, then it's best to just remain silent. So, now I sit unraveling discussions out, I try not to take things personal, and when I contribute to any discussion, it is with respect to the other person, their opinion, and myself.

What I like most about our commandment-like scriptures--most notably the Delphic Maxims and the Tenets of Solon--is that they make sense. Following them helps you be a better person; to practice Arête, and you don't really need to study them at all to follow them. Most--if not all--made complete sense in the ancient Hellenic culture, and as our modern culture is inspired hugely by ancient Hellas, they are often still engrained within our own; if you're lucky, you are taught them at home, or in school, like to keep your mouth shut if you don't have something positive to add.

Almost all of the Delphic Maxims fit into the Tenets of Solon in some way. Take my example of keeping your mouth shut; it's the modern stating of the ancient maxim 'Restrain the tongue' (Γλωτταν ισχε). This maxim, along with  few other (most notably 'Control yourself' (Αρχε σεαυτου), 'Control anger' (Θυμου κρατει), 'Pursue honor' (Δοξαν διωκε), 'Long for wisdom' (Σοφιαν ζηλου), 'Exercise nobility of character' (Ευγενειαν ασκει), and 'Make just judgements' (Κρινε δικαια)) make up Solon's tenet of 'Make reason your guide'--or what I like to remember as the modern 'Think before you act'.

I am not an authority on ancient Hellenic philosophy, by far, but I do want to mention Plato and his student Aristotle for a moment, as we are discussing common sense. I love the English term 'common sense'. The Dutch equivalent means 'logical thought', and does not quite pack the same punch. Common sense implies that what is morally and ethically right or wrong is understood by the community which the individual is a part of; as such, actions are culturally understood to be either right or wrong. Plato believed in a Good that did not chance according to circumstances and individual folly (paraphrasing here, there is far more nuance in his actual writings). As such, the Platonic ideal is autarkia (αὐτάρκεια)--self-control and self-sufficiency--which would only be possible if we assume that our lives are under the sway of the idea of the Good that would be universal and therefore unchanged by any external circumstance.

Aristotle disagreed, saying that ethical deliberations and choices are always determined by the particular situation that we are in, where the right course of action can never be determined in advance. If human action were governed by rules--laws, maxims, tenets--then we would never have to deliberate about our actions, because it would always be clear and transparent what the correct action is. We would simply have to learn these rules in advance to be sure that we would not make the incorrect and unethical decision.

Taking an example from my more eclectic Pagan days: are you allowed to defend yourself against the burglar who enters your home and threatens to kill your family, even if it means killing him? This is why we have addendums to our laws; murder is forbidden, but if self-defense can be argued, you might walk away without (external) punishment.

The maxims and tents are guidelines, and if regarded as such, Plato's ideals of Good and autarkia are valuable, because just looking at the list of Delphic maxims, it is easy to envision these ideals were shared throughout the whole of Hellas. They even resonate well with modern society. Yet, as Aristotle points out, using maxims and tenets as laws is futile; there will always be situations where any of these guidelines will lead to an evil action, or one with great cost to the individual and those around him. Moderation is in order, therefore, and it so happens to be that that is one of the most important and well known Delphic Maxims: Nothing to excess (Μηδεν αγαν)

 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.

"Is Khaos considered a deity?"

The ancient Hellenic philosophers and mythographers were in agreement that the Gods created the universe--or are the universe itself. There are many variations of the divine family tree, and in the ancient writings, there are also creation stories that range beyond this basic framework. When Hesiod wrote his Theogony, he was adament about the sequence the Gods appeared from Khaos. Within the nothingness, Khaos appeared, then Gaia as the earth Herself, the Tartaros and Eros. The Gods and Godesses who rule over the cycle of night and day followed after and then, slowly, the earth itself took shape. The pre-Olypic and Olympic deities came into being. the universe as we know it was born.

Roughly divided, all our Gods and heroes (who were often raised up to become Gods in their own right) fit into five generational categories. These are the:
  • Protogenoi
  • Uranides
  • Titanes
  • Olympic Gods
  • Heroes/deified mortals
The Protogenoi are the Gods from which the universe is made. They are Gods like Khaos, Gaia, Ouranos, and Nyx. In general, these Theoi are more abstract and less defined than, say, the Olympians. They are cruder, more powerful Gods who, together, form the tapistry of earth and life. We simply could not live without Them as They are the air we breath, the earth we walk on, the water we drink and the death that eventually lays us to rest. And yet, neither we, nor the ancient Hellenes revered them often. They are distant and have very little to do with the individual’s lifecycle. But they are Gods and They deserve due honours.


"I am trying to understamd Nyx's family a bit more. Could you help? And was she worshipped in Greece?"

Nyx (Νυξ) is the deep Night, born from Khaos (Χαος) and the sister-wife of Aither (Αιθηρ, 'Light'). In Hellenic mythology, Nyx draws a veil of darkness between the shining atmosphere of the aither and the lower air of earth (aer) at set times in the day, bringing night to man. In the morning, Her daughter Hêmera (Ἡμερα, 'Day') removes this veil, and exposes the Earth once more to Light.

Nyx and Hêmera continually work to both create and dissolve darkness on Earth; Selene (the Goddess of the Moon) moves with Nyx, and Helios (God of the Sun) with Hêmera, as heralded by Eos. In this recap, it is quite obvious we are yet missing a speciffic time of the day: dusk, or the evening. This was in the domain of the Nymphs, in this case the Hesperides (Ἑσπεριδες), who--depending of source--are either the daughters of Nyx or Atlas.

In ancient Hellas, Nyx was only rarely the focus of cult worship. Pausanias mentions She had an oracle on the acropolis at Megara, but that is about it. More often, Nyx was worshipped in other major cults, alongside the main deity: there was a statue called 'Nyx' in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Spartans had a cult of Sleep and Death, conceived of as twins, with Nyx being worshipped as Their mother, etc.


"Hi I'm a Hellenic Polytheism ... my family just know that I don't like to go to the church and (I do it anyway - I'm a teenager and live with them) they are Catholics. I'm the only one in the whooole family that don't share that faith. They say to me things about sin, the hell and stuff ... they scares me, ok, although I believe in the Theoi and I feel my soul is relatively safe (nobody knows what would happen after dead). But ... idk, the fear that maybe I'm doing something "wrong" is there."

You know, I am a hard polytheist; I believe all Gods exist. That includes the Christian God. It's the bible I don't really put much stock into, but I have a healthy dose of respect for the Christian God.

I believe religion is a choice. If all Gods are real, and mythology tells you what They are like, theology is basically marketing for Gods. Eventually, something evokes an emotional response and whatever resonates most with you, you end up sticking with. Without going all philosophical on you, I thus believe that what it says in the brocure is what you get in the end of the day. For us, that means we go to Haides and wander the Meadow. If we did really well, we get a version of paradise on the Isle. If you choose the christian brosure, you get either heaven or hell, depending on the tally against you.

If you believe you are doing something 'wrong', I think you haven't made your final choice yet. You might feel drawn to Hellenismos, but you are still tied to Christianity. Some of us, we can let go of whatever religion we were raised in or wandered into on our own easily. Others take a bit of time. But I truly believe that once you get more comfortable in Hellenismos as a religion and lifestyle, the feeling of 'wrongness' will go away.

What I usually suggest to those breaking away from an existing religous bond in favour of a new one is to conciously say goodbye. Go to church and thank the Lord of Christianity for all He has done for you in the years you were under His protection. And then ask him to kindly let you go so you may present yourself to the Theoi. Then do that, present yourself to the Theoi and ask to be placed under Their protection instead. This way, proper respect is show for all involved and it should be easier for you to fully emerce yourself in Hellenismos.

Hellenismos asks of all practitioners to consider the ethics. What they may be is up to the practitioner, but being informed and having an opinion on issues that esist in our world is a must. That can lead to a lot of black and white thinking, and 'us versus them' behavior. This is not the goal of phylosophy and ethics.

In Plutarch's essay, "How a Man May Become Aware of His Progress in Virtue" (79e), he writes something I like to remind people of every once in a while:

"Rightly has it been said: Adjust the stone to fit the line, and not the line to fit the stone. But those who do not adjust their tenets to fit the facts, but rather try to force the facts into an unnatural agreement with their own assumptions, have filled philosophy with a great number of difficulties, of which the greatest is that which would assign all men to a general category of badness with the single exception of the absolutely perfect man; the result of which is to make a puzzle out of what we call progress, since it falls but little short of the utmost foolishness, and represents men who have been released by it from all kinds of passions and weaknesses as living in a state of equal wretchedness with those who have not yet been freed from a single one of the worst evils.

Now these men really refute themselves when, in their lectures, they put the wrongdoing of Aristeides on an equality with that of Phalaris, and cowardice of Brasidas on equality with that of Dolon, Band the hard-hearted attitude of Plato as actually not differing at all from that of Meletus; whereas in their life and practice they show an aversion for these latter men and avoid them as ruthless, but the former they seem to think are men of great worth, for they cite them with confidence in the most important matters.

But as for us, we observe that there are degrees in every kind of evil, and especially in the indeterminate and undefined kind that has to do with the soul. (In the same way also there are different degrees of progress produced by the abatement of baseness like a receding shadow, as reason gradually illuminates and purifies the soul.) We do not, therefore, think that consciousness of the change is unreasonable in the case of persons who are, as it were, making their way upward out of some deep gorge, but there are ways in which it can be computed.

Of these I beg you to consider the first without further preface. Just as men sailing out into the open sea calculate their run by the time elapsed in conjunction with the strength of the wind, reckoning how much distance, after spending a certain time, while carried onward by a certain force, they are likely to have accomplished; so too in philosophy a man may take for himself as a proof that he is gaining ground the uniformity and continuity of his course, which makes on the way no frequent halts, followed by leaps and bounds, but smoothly and regularly forges ahead, and goes through the course of philosophic reasoning without mishap.

For the lines: If even small upon the small you place and do this oft, dare not merely well put in regard to the increase of money, but they apply to everything, and especially to advancement in virtue, since reason thereby gains the aid of constant and effective habit. But the variation and obtuseness often shown by students of philosophy not only cause delays and stoppages in their progress on the road to knowledge, but also bring about retrogressions, since vice always makes an onset on the man who yields ground by loitering, and carries him backward in the opposite direction."

Italy said Monday it had recovered from a Belgian collector hundreds of illegally gathered archaeological finds dating as far back as the sixth century BC, worth 11 million euros.

The nearly 800 pieces "of exceptional rarity and inestimable value", including stelae, amphorae and other works, came from clandestine excavations in Apulia in Italy's southeastern tip, according to the Carabinieri police in charge of cultural heritage.

The investigation began in 2017 after a state archaeology lab in Apulia noticed in European art catalogues that decorative elements from a Daunian funerary stele belonging to a "wealthy Belgian collector" resembled those found within a fragment in a southern Italian museum.  That flat stone slab from Daunia—a historical region of Apulia—in the collection of the Belgian collector was missing a piece in its centre.

An official within the restoration lab noticed that the piece in the museum's collection completed the design of a shield and a warrior on horseback that was missing on the stele.

"During the course of the search, a veritable 'archaeological treasure' was recovered, consisting of hundreds of Apulian figurative ceramic finds and other Daunian stelae, all illegally exported from Italy, which were then seized in Belgium," read a statement from police.

Italy was able to repatriate the works after all the legal appeals of the collector were dismissed, police said.

Besides stelae, the collection includes vases painted with red figures, amphorae, black glazed ceramics, and numerous terracotta figurines. The pieces date back to between the sixth and third centuries BC.

 Lepus is a constellation lying just south of the celestial equator, immediately south of the constellation Orion. Its name is Latin for hare. While Hellenic mythology is not chuck full of hares, Lepus was indeed one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations recognized today.

The only ancient writer I have found who mentioned the constellation Lepus by name and myth is Hyginus, but to make up for it, he gives us a lot of material to work with. Lets break his words down, shall we? From the Astronomica:

"Some say that it was put there by Mercury [Hermes], and that it had been given the faculty, beyond other kinds of quadrupeds, of being pregnant with new offspring when giving birth to others." [II.33]

Well, there is not much to say against that, now is there? I looked it up, and it seems that hares have about three times three+ young every year, and European hares are, indeed, capable of carrying two litters.

"The hare is said to be fleeing the dog of the hunter Orion, for when, as was proper, they represented Orion as a hunter, they wanted to indicate what he was hunting, and so they put the fleeing hare at his feet. [...] Those who disagree with this reason say that so noble and great a hunter as Orion (we spoke about him in the discussion of Scorpio) shouldn’t be represented hunting hares. Callimachus, too, is blamed, because, when he was singing the praises of Diana [Artemis], he said she delighted in the flesh of hares and hunted them. So they have represented Orion fighting the Bull." [II.33]

Orion (Ὠρίων) was a famed hunter who has a lot of mythology to his name. He is also included in a lot of existing mythology. The constellation Canis Major might represent his entire pack or one of them, who are/is eternally pursuing Lepus the Hare or helping Orion fight Taurus the Bull. In the prime of his life, Orion joined with the Goddess Artemis and Her mother Leto, for an epic hunt in which Orion threatened to kill every beast on Earth. Gaea revolted and sent a giant scorpion to kill Orion. Orion, although very powerful, was overcome by the creature, but Artemis and Leto requested to Zeus he'd be immortalized in the night's sky. The Scorpion was admitted into the heavens as well, along with his hunting pack... and the hare.
Kallimachos' wonderful hymn to Artemis does, indeed, include the hare:

"Artemis we hymn – no light thing is it for singers to forget her – whose study is the bow and the shooting of hares and the spacious dance and sport upon the mountains." [1]

Hyginus has one more story to share, which comes not from the realm of mythology, but the realm of folklore.

"The following story of the hare has been recorded. There were no hares on the island of Leros, and a certain young man of the state, led by a liking for the breed, brought in from another country a pregnant female, and watched over her very carefully as she bore her young. When she had borne them, many of the citizens developed an interest, and by acquiring some for money, some as gifts, they all began to raise hares. In no long time such a multitude of hares was produced that the whole island was swarming with them. When men gave them nothing to eat, they made inroads on the grain fields and devoured everything. The inhabitants, faced with disaster because of this, since they were reduced to hunger, by co-operation of the whole state were said at length to have driven them from the island, through with difficulty. So afterwards they put the image of a hare in the stars, that men should remember that there was nothing so desirable in life but that later they might experience more grief than pleasure from it." [II.33]

The constellation Lepus is visible at latitudes between +63° and −90°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of January.

Greek officials signed a deal on Wednesday approving a $4.8 million donation to exhibit the findings from the 2016 necropolis discovery that was made as part of the construction of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC). The donation will finance an exhibition space for the ancient Greek necropolis, discovered at Delta Falirou as construction began for the center in 2016. Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Vesyropoulos and Culture Minister Lina Mendoni signed the agreement.

The proposed exhibition will be designed by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who also created the Niarchos Cultural Center as well as the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, The Shard in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

The donation agreement includes financing the study, construction and supply of equipment of an exhibition building, referred to as the Polyandri Shell for the amount of $4.8 million. Niarchos Foundation President, Andreas Drakopoulos, announced that the exhibition will be designed by Piano, the Renaissance architect.

With wrists still bound by iron shackles, the skeletons were found in the Delta Faliron  necropolis during the construction of SNFCC.  The grisly find was actually a rare and extraordinary one, which was hailed as one of the ten most important archaeological discoveries of 2016 by the respected US periodical Archaeology.

According to archaeologists, the men, also referred to as “desmotes,” had been victims of a mass execution at some point between the eighth and fifth centuries BC. But who the men were, how they got there and why they appear to have been buried with a measure of respect remains a mystery.

Two years earlier the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) decided to construct the underground shell which will permanently protect and display the 80 skeletons discovered in 2016 in the mass grave.

Stella Chrysoulaki, Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Piraeus and Islands, who is responsible for the excavation, stated, “Nothing macabre will be created in image or  experience.” With the approval of the donation “The next steps are clear, but it will take time to complete each stage. Renzo Piano will begin planning and will probably travel to Greece this summer to review the site.” Piano refers to SNFCC as the “Bella Vista.”

Archaeological evidence showed that they were men who were on the wrong side of a huge struggle between aristocrats and tyrants in seventh-century BC Athens.

The date may connect the prisoners with the Cylonian Affair, in which Cylon, a former Olympic athlete, attempted unsuccessfully to seize power. It is thought that these shackled men may have been his supporters.

Cylon staged an attempted coup in Athens in 632 BC with the help of his father-in–law, the tyrant of Megara. The coup failed, and Cylon then hid inside a temple on the Acropolis. He later managed to escape, but the people who had backed him were killed.

The KAS wants to turn the necropolis into an accessible site for public education and tours. The graves will be covered by the construction of a simple, plain underground shell which will blend tastefully with the surrounding landscape.

The shell will have to also provide just the right microclimate for the preservation of the skeletons, in accordance with environmental requirements. The project will be architecturally simple and plain and will seek to instill a sense that visitors are going downward into a respectful resting place for the dead.

The Polyandrio specifications have already been determined by the CAS. An information space will be created for the public at ground level before the visitors descend one story to an 11,000 square foot basement space where the graves can be viewed. Chrysoulaki stated:

“The cemetery of Faliro is located in the southern extremities of the city, on the border between land and sea, between familiar and unfamiliar, for departure, separation, for the passage from life to death.”

The necropolis of Faliro functioned for four centuries during the archaic period. To date, 10 acres have been excavated which yielded about 2,000 burials. In fact, the first phase of the excavations began in 1911 and 1915 by the Archaeological Society led by Stratis Pelekidis, who located the first burials of people who had died violently.

“Pelekidis’ systematic work, his persistence, the fact that he even collaborated with an anthropologist, were crucial for the continuation of the excavations and the revelation of the great historical truth about the tortures of the young men,” according to Chrysoulakis.

“Pelekidis then brought to light a dark page that history wanted to forget, the Fallen of Faliro. These were the skeletons of men who were sentenced to death and tortured to death. In 1915, political leadership and not only could not stand the idea of ​​such humiliating deaths that gave a dimension that did not fit the narrative of the Republic.”

 My parents got divorced when I was in my early twenties. They stayed together just long enough for me to grow up (and I always wished they'd just split once the relationship turned sour, but that's beside the point). I always knew it was the very best thing for them to do and I did not mind it one bit. I know others have a different experience. I was recently asked about divorce in Hellenismos: do we have a standpoint on it? Is it allowed? And how was it for the ancient Hellenes? So, I figured I'd put a few things together.

Marriage in ancient Hellas was a family affair. The father of the son--who was often in his thirties by the time he got married--opened negotiations with the family of a bride in her teens. The two families came to an agreement about dowry, a contract was signed by the father of the groom and the father of the bride in front of witnesses, and the groom met his new wife--often for the first time--before taking her to bed.

Men married to have children, and to have someone to tend to the home while he was out, dealing with public affairs. Romance didn't counter into it. Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Hellas, once said: "We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring."

Something that's important to understand is that children in ancient Hellas were born with a different sentiment than children are born these days. Children, now, are born out of love and a need of the parents to create something of 'theirs'. A child is precious, irreplaceable. We tend to have few children and place all our eggs in their basket(s). In ancient Hellas, families tended to be as large as possible. Children could help out around the house, the farm or with sustaining the family any other way but they also tended to die. Children were made for the hearth, not the other way around.

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

Adultery was a punishable offense. If a married woman had intercourse with a man other than her husband, she could be killed. Another option was to divorce. She was then sent back to her father. If he rejected her (and he usually did), she was left to fend for herself, which often led to a life of slavery. The man she cheated with was often worse off. He was also liable to get killed, especially if caught in the act, because the husband had the right to kill him, without getting punished for it.

So what abut this divorce? Were the Gods involved? The ancient Hellenes invited the Gods to things for which mortals needed protection and good luck. They invited Them into their homes, and invited Them into their marriages as well. A wedding was an occasion to bring the Gods into because they hoped for children in their marriage, for a partnership at least somewhat productive and enjoyable, and maybe even love.

As far as I am aware, there were no rituals involved with divorce. A divorce was a legal affair and the ancient Hellenes went to court for it. I have found no evidence the Gods were involved, which makes sense. There was no need to include the Gods, nothing to hope or pray for was involved. If and when the people involved married again, they celebrated again. I suppose it's much the same today. Divorce, I suppose, is something human which is taken care of between humans. Perhaps purification rites before partaking in ritual again as there might be a process of loss and grief, but at its foundation it's not a matter for the Gods.

 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.

"How can I learn to do divination through the Limyran Oracle?"
The Limyran Oracle, or ‘Alphabet Oracle’, is marketed as an authentic ancient Hellenic alphabet oracle, which was taken from an inscription in Olympos, a city in ancient Lycia. I haven’t been able to find much on it save a few websites, but the University of Tennessee Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science website has a version of it up for inspection. Please turn to that link for the full explanation, but let me give you the start:

The oracle works as follows: each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding oracle, and the first word of the oracle (in Greek) begins with that letter. There are at least three methods of consulting the alphabet oracle, according tot he article.

The first uses a set of twenty-four stones or potsherds, each inscribed or painted with a letter of the alphabet. When you want to consult the oracle, pick a stone without looking. According tot he article, one ancient method was to shake the stones in a bowl or frame drum until one jumped out. Stones used in this way would be called psêphoi in Ancient Greek.

A second method is to use, five knuckle bones, called astragaloi. Cast all five at once or one five times. Knucklebones have four ‘sides’, traditionally given the values 1 (Monas), 3 (Trias), 4 (Tetras), and 6 (Hexas), according tot he article. There are 24 possible total values from five knucklebones: 5 to 30, excepting 6 and 29, which are impossible. The highest cast would be associated with Alpha and the lowest with Omega (so Alpha = 30, Beta = 28, Gamma = 27, …, Psi = 7, Omega = 5). Say you throw 3, 6, 6, 4, and 1, your number is 20, which links to the letter 'K’, Kappa.

In the third way, five dice (cuboi, tesserae) are cast. Like with the knuckle bones, there are twenty-six possible total values, 5 through 30, which are associated in decreasing order with the Greek letters, including the archaic Digamma (Wau) and Qoppa. There are no oracles for Digamma and Qoppa, however, and so these need to be recast. The sum is the same as with the knuckle bones as well, add the results of all dice together and you will get the corresponding letter.

The website goes on to list a chart with the number, the numerical value by knuckle bones or dice, and the oracular message that corresponds with the letter, as taken from an inscription allegedly in Olympos. They read anywhere from 'Gaia will give you the ripe fruit of your labors’, to 'You will have a parting from the {Tôn} companions now around you’, and 'You will have a difficult {Ômos} harvest season, not a useful one’.
"hi! i love your blog and appreciate you answering questions and writing really enlightening posts, so thank you for all that! :) i have two questions that i hope you can answer. i'm agender and was wondering whether agender people (or non-binary people in general) "existed" in ancient greece? like, were they talked about, accepted, not accepted? also, which gods do you think could be associated with something like being agender?"
Gender was pretty important in ancient Hellas, and no matter how they might have identified, it seems pretty much everyone was forced to assume the role of the gender they were born in. So no, I do not know of any examples of clear agender characters in ancient Hellenis mythology, nor of any real-life examples. You were trained from birth how to behave as a boy or a girl and that path was continued down through the years. There are, however, a few instances of gender switching and other diviations from the traditional binary.

I must, of course, start with Hermaphroditos (Ἑρμαφρόδιτος), who is the child of Aphrodite and Hermes. He became a minor deity of bisexuality and effeminacy, and was portrayed as a female figure with male genitals. In the myth told by the Roman poet Ovid, Hermaphroditos was born fully male. As a young man, he wandered the lands and encountered a nymph, Salmacis (Σαλμακίς), in her pool. Salmacis fell for the boy right away, tried to seduce him. Hermaphroditos rebuked her, but she still jumped him when undressed for a bath in her pool. As he tried to fight her off, Salmacis cried out for the Theoi to let them stay forever merged–upon which the Theoi agreed: the two fused together, becoming the first hermaphrodite. 

I’ve mentioned before that Ovid’s myths aren’t reflective of ancient Hellenic mythology–and in Hellenic myth, Hermaphroditos was either born with both male and female part, or he was simply very feminine in that he had pale skin and was very delicate, while still possessing the strength of a male. Especially in the latter case, there is a beautiful gender duality in Hermaphroditos that I much appreciate.

Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is the source for a few other Hellenic-inspired Roman myth: the myth about the immensely strong warrior Kaineus (Καινεύς), for example, who was born as a woman named Kainis, and asked to be transformed into a male after being raped by Poseidon (or Hermes). Poseidon agrees, and makes Kaineus impervious to mortal weapons to boot, making him a capable warrior. Kaineus is mentioned in ancient classics like the Illiad, but without the gender-shift. In the Illiad, he is one of the earlies heroic, and extraordinary, warriors.

Another of Ovid’s metamorphoses happens to Teiresias (Τειρεσίας), the blind prophet from Thebes. There is more Hellenic support for this myth, however. As the story goes, Teiresias was out one day, and came upon a pair of snakes, who were mating in the bush. He swiftly hit them over the head with a stick and killed both of them. Hera witnessed his actions and was not pleased: she transformed Teiresias into a woman. After recovering from the shock, Teiresias accepted her fate and married. She also became a priestess of Hera to make up for her crime. Eventually, Teiresias had children and a decent life. Yet, when he came upon another pair of mating snakes seven years later, he either clubbed them to death again, or left them alone. Either action let to another change of sex: Teiresias was male again. How his husband dealt with this is unclear. In a later myth, Hera blinds the prophet when he is asked to settle a dispute between her and Zeus: who enjoys sex more, male or female. Teiresias, who has experienced both, must side with Zeus: women most definitely enjoy sex more.

A myth of which only fragments have survived is the story of Siproites of Krete, who saw Artemis bathing in the woods one day, and was changed by her into a woman. Why this exact punishment was placed upon Siproites is unclear.

The last myth I’ll retell is the one about Leucippus (Λεύκιππος), who was born female to Lamprus and Galatea. Lamprus had warned Galatea that he would only accept a male child, so when Leucippus turned out to be female, Galatea hid the gender of the child from her husband and raised Leucippus as male. Of course, once Leucippus reached adolescence, her gender became hard to hide. In some versions of the myth, Leucippus fell for the girl next door, making it even more prudent that Leucippus became the male she wanted to be. And so, Galatea went to the temple of Leto and prayed to turn her daughter into the son she had promised her husband. Leto, moved by the mother’s plea, did as she was asked. The people of Phaistos, there the myth took place, honored Leto by her epithet 'Phytia’ (to grow, φύω), in reference to Leucippus’ newly grown penis. The people of Phaistos also founded a feast called the 'Ekdysia’ (undressing, ἑκδύω), because Leucippus was no longer forced to wear women’s clothes. It also became custom for the women of Phaestus to lie next to the statue of Leucippus before their wedding.

I hope this helps some :)
"i once called myself a hellenic reconstructionist, but it doesn't fit me anymore because i right now don't have the time or energy to be as recon as it takes to call myself that (if that makes sense...). so i'm starting to call myself a revivalist hellenic polytheist ("hellenic revivalist"?). i guess my question is if i can still say i belong in hellenismos? because i like that the religion has a name, but now that i'm less recon i'm not sure if i'm "allowed" to say hellenismos is my religion..?"
Hellenism is a sort of catch-all for anyone who worships the Hellenic Gods exclusively. The degree of Recon doesn't really change that. Feel free to use the term, as far as I am concerned :) The only terms that I do care about are the level of Recon you would ascribe yourself as it influences practice, viewpoints, and more of those things that would influence the conversation. But one thing is for certain: we all worship the Theoi and to me, that is all that is needed to call yourself a Hellenist!

 I've always been a little intrigued with the two-time creation of humanity in Hellenic mythology. While Christianity's end of humanity by way of deluge is much more well-known, and everyone knows about Noah and his ark, humanity in Hellenic mythology also ended and was revived. Story time:

After the Titanomachy--the war in which the Olympic Gods took control from the elder generation of Gods, the Titans--ended, Zeus claimed His throne as rightful King to the Deathless Ones. Humanity did not yet exist. While most Titans were locked away in Tartarus by Zeus, the Titans Prometheus and Epimetheus--who were brothers--had been either neutral or on the side of Zeus during the Titan War and were therefor given a task. Prometheus was given the task of creating man and Epimetheus was ordered to give good qualities to all creatures of earth. So did Prometheus and Epimetheus. Prometheus shaped man out of clay and Athena breathed life into him. Epimetheus spread swiftness, cunning, fur and wings but ran out of gifts when he came to man. Prometheus remedied the situation by allowing men to walk upright and gave them fire.

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

Mankind suffered greatly without fire and Prometheus traveled either to the sun or Olympus to reclaim fire for his beloved mankind. This, of course, angered Zeus even further and so He devised a plan. First, He imprisoned Prometheus. He ordered Hermes to tie Prometheus to a mountain and had a giant eagle come every day to eat his liver. As an immortal, Prometheus' liver grew back over night so his torment was endless. Before Prometheus had been taken prisoner, however, he had told his brother Epimetheus never to accept a gift from Zeus, as Zeus' wrath would undoubtedly also extend to the mortal race He had created.

And Zeus, indeed, was not done with His punishment. After imprisoning Prometheus, Zeus assembled the Theoi. He told Hēphaistos to fashion a woman out of water and clay. Hēphaistos did and brought the statue before Zeus. Zeus then asked Aphrodite to bless the woman with a beauteous face and feminine whiles. He asked Athena to dress her modestly and give her the ability to weave and craft, Demeter taught her to tend the garden. From Apollon, she received the ability to make music and sing. All Gods gave her treacherous gifts, including Hera, who made her curious, and Hermes, who made her cunning and quick of the tongue. Then, Zeus named her Pandôra (Πανδωρα), All-Giving, and breathed life into her. He then bade Hermes to deliver her to Epimetheus, along with a vase (pithos) Pandôra was never allowed to open.

Epimetheus had been warned by Prometheus never to open or accept a gift from Zeus, but he laid eyes on Pandôra's beauty and fell in love too deeply to reject her. He took her into his home amongst men and wedded her right away. Pandôra loved Epimetheus, because he was a good man and good husband. She worked tirelessly to please him and helped him keep the home. Yet, she found herself drawn to the pithos she was told never to open. Her eyes would wander to it constantly and Hera's gift eventually prevented her from holding to her promise.

On a day when Epimetheus was away from the home, Pandôra decided to risk a sneak peak at the contents she had fantasized about so often. She pulled the lid off of the pithos and out flew dark spirits of disease, death and the destruction of humanity. Pandôra hastened to seal the jar but managed to trap only Hope (Elpis)--by Zeus' decree or by mere accident.

Mankind was now plagued with illness, with failing crops, with all that makes life hard. But they had Hope and soon, Pyrrha (Fire) was born to Epimetheus and Pandôra. Prometheus had a son, Deukalion, with Pronoia, an Okeanid nymph of Mount Parnassos in Phokis. They lived in the time of the Bronze Race of Man, a corrupt age in which the Gods were rarely worshipped. Zeus was angered by their hubris and decided to end this race of man. He sent a great deluge, killing everyone but Deukalion and Pyrrha, who were warned of the flood by Prometheus. They did not build a boat, but clung to a chest, eventually sailing to the mountain peaks of Parnassos. 

Once Zeus caused the water to recede, Deukalion and Pyrrha travelled to the oracle of Delphi and begged to learn how they could bring back mankind. They were told that they needed to cast the bones of their mother over their shoulders, and they understood that they needed to pick up stoned and toss them, because Gaia, the earth, is everyone's mother. Where the pebbles landed, humans rose from the earth. Deukalion created the men and Pyrrha the women, and from their efforts, humankind once more arose to populate the earth.

There are more flood myths in Hellenic mythology--Philemon and Baucis, for example--but none as all-consuming as this one, sent by Zeus. This severe example acts as a warning to mankind: the ultimate display of destructive power by the Gods should mankind disobey Them. In this case, human kind was unethical, did not give to the Gods, and overstepped their bounds. Autochthonous births (αὐτός χθών, 'earth-born') are also well-known in Hellenic mythology. Many ancient Hellenic kings traced their line back to Gaia in this way. These two themes give us an ethical standard to live up to, explain our place in the universe, and connect us to the divine in a beautiful and enlightening way. These are the major reasons why I enjoy this myth so much.

The Greek Herald has put together a list of five facts you need to know about music in Ancient Hellas, so I thought I'd share! 

1. Music as a gift of the Gods:

In Ancient Hellas, music was seen as a gift of the Gods and they considered that music could have a valuable effect on both body and mind of the listener.

The invention of musical instruments was attributed to specific deities including the lyre to Hermes, the flute to Athena and the panpipes to Pan.

2. Music and Education:

According to historical evidence, Hellenes started studying the theory of music from the 6th century BC. The earliest surviving text on music is the Harmonic Elements of Aristoxenos, which was written in the 4th century BC.

Music developed into an important element in the studies of philosophy by the followers of Pythagoras, the Hellenic philosopher and mathematician, who supposed that music was a mathematical expression.

3. The first school of musical education:

According to Plato, the first school of musical education was founded from the people of Crete followed by the music schools of Athens, where students were taught to sing and play the lyre. In Ancient Hellas, they believed that music taught order and discipline while allowing the educated to appreciate better the musical performance.

4. Music and Religion:

Music was associated with religious occasions in Hellenic cities including the Panathenaia and the Dionysia festivals in Athens.

Music contests in athletic competitions had a religious nature in honour of the Gods and the earliest such competitions were held in Argos, Paros and Sparta.

5. Musicians and Social Class:

The musicians of Hellas, also known as the makers of songs or melopoioi, were often regarded as composers and lyricists of the music they performed.

In Ancient Hellas, musicians had an elevated society status, indicated from robes and their presence on the lists of the royal household.

It's been a while since the last constellation! The constellation Leo is one of the most recognizable in the sky, and is obviously one of the constellations tied to the zodiac. Not surprisingly, it is therefor also tied to Hēraklēs.

The lion was considered the King of Beasts by the ancient Hellenic writers. For this reason, Hyginus--our primary source of ancient information on constellations--describes the constellation almost entirely as such, mentioning Hēraklēs in passing only:

"He is said to have been put among the stars because he is considered the king of beasts. Some writers add that Hercules’ first Labor was with him and that he killed him, unarmed. Pisandrus and many others have written about this. " [II.24]

The firs labour of Hēraklēs is, of course, to slay the Nemean lion. You can read about the start of Hēraklēs' life here, but for this constellation, all you need to know is that he was stricken mad by Hera, and killed his wife and children while he was out. As a result, he went on a long journey to cleanse himself of the miasma caused by these killings. First, he visited the oracle at Delphi, who, unbeknownst to him, was whispered to by Hera. The Oracle told Hēraklēs to serve the king of Tiryns, Eurystheus, for ten years and do everything Eurystheus told him to do. Eurystheus gladly provided Hēraklēs with these labors--ten of them, one for each year--and eventually ended up adding two more, resulting in the Twelve Labors of Hēraklēs.

The first of the twelve labours was to slay the Nemean lion. As the lion was terrorizing the area surrounding the mountain, Eurystheus must have seen in the lion a worthy opponent of Hēraklēs, whose tales of bravery and brute strength has proceeded him. He ordered the hero to return with its skin. And so, Hēraklēs went to the cave of the lion after picking up a bow and quiver of arrows, because he was unaware he would not be able to harm the creature with mortal weapons. After a long fight, Hēraklēs eventually chokes the lion, and hails victorious.

The Latin writer Seneca had a beautiful description of the constellation Leo, in the words of our great hero:

"See where the lion, my first toil, glows in no small part of heaven, is all hot with rage, and makes ready his fangs. Forthwith he will seize some star; threatening he stands with gaping jaws, and breathes forth fires, and shakes the mane upon his flaming neck; whatever stars sickly autumn and cold winter with its frozen tracts bring back, with one bound will he o’erleap, and attack and crush the neck of the vernal Bull." [II.942]

I want to add one more thing to he description of this constellation: Hyginus tells another tale about the constellation Leo: the story of Berenikē (Βερενίκη). The name translates to 'bearer of victory', and this version of the story refers to Berenikē II, who lived from about 267 - 221 BC. She was the daughter of Magas of Cyrene and Queen Apama II, and the wife of Ptolemy III, the third ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt. Prior to her marriage to Ptolemy III, she was married to Demetrius the Fair, a Macedonian prince, whom she had killed after he chose to become the lover of her mother Apama. Berenikē was quite the woman, and participated in the Nemean Games even the ancient Olympics. Her own son, Ptolemy IV eventually had her killed, but she was deified and to be honored from that moment on. The following story concerns her, her husband Ptolemy III, and Aphrodite.

"Above his likeness in the sky nearest the Virgin are seven other stars near his tail, arranged in a triangle, which Conon, the mathematician, and Callimachus call the Lock of Berenice. When Ptolemy had married his sister Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy and Arsinoe, and after a few days had set out to attack Asia, Berenice vowed that if Ptolemy returned as victor she would clip off her hair. She placed the lock, consecrated by this vow, in the temple of Venus Arsinoe Zephyritis, but on the following day it couldn’t be seen there. When the king was distressed by this, Conon the mathematician, whom we mentioned above, desiring to win the favor of the king, said that he had seen the lock among the constellations, and pointed out seven stars without definite configuration which he imagined were the lock.

Some authors along with Callimachus have said that this Berenice raised horses, and used to send them to Olympia. Others add that once Ptolemy, Berenice’s father, in panic at the number of the enemy, had sought safety in flight, but his daughter, an accomplished horse woman, leaped on a horse, organized the remaining troops, killed many of the enemy, and put the rest to flight. For this even Callimachus calls her high-souled. Eratosthenes says that she ordered returned to the girls of Lesbos the dowry left to them by their parents, which on one had released, and she established among them right to bring action of recovery."

The constellation Leo is visible at latitudes between +90° and −65°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of April.

An Athenian "neo-muralist" is blending Greek mythology and Byzantine iconography with graffiti and street art to depict how the coronavirus pandemic has forced people the world over to put down roots.

From Bangkok to Rabat to Zurich, Fikos has painted the walls of many cities, but he is now adding a splash of colour to the sun-beaten facades of the Cypriot capital Nicosia.

"Here in Cyprus, there are not many murals yet," he says. "It's the beginning phase of the street art scene in Cyprus, so they are impressed and kind of awed when they see this happening."

The 33-year-old spends time wandering the narrow back alleys of Nicosia's Old City in search of walls to use as a canvas. The one he chose for his latest project is the cracked veneer of a crumbling mud-brick house in an abandoned, dusty lot near the United Nations-patrolled buffer zone, which divides the city's Greek and Turkish-speaking halves.

The Greek artist, who describes himself as a "neo-muralist", says he has been living on the Mediterranean island for the past year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a theme reflected in his latest piece.

Standing on a wobbly platform, he gets to work with a brushstroke along the brow of Amaracus, the perfume-maker of Aphrodite, whose fate he says befits life in the time of the pandemic. Bit by bit, a sketch evolves into a jade-green male figure with leaves sprouting from his head, branches protruding from his chest and roots extending from his legs.

"He got punished by the gods and got turned into a plant or flower," says Fikos, who explains that he used the story from Cypriot mythology as an analogy for the pandemic, during which people "have grown roots" by staying in one place for so long.

Fikos says Cypriots have taken to his artwork, unlike others who tend to attach to it the stigma of graffiti. His works now adorn five facades on the Greek-Cypriot side of Nicosia, which has been divided on ethnic lines since communal unrest erupted in 1963 to 1964.

Fikos says he draws from a varied palette of influences, from art in ancient Greece to Egypt to Japan. One such artwork is located near the Green Line that divides Nicosia. It shows King Onassagoras, who ruled the kingdom of Ledra around 672BC, next to three female figures - one of them Nicosia, depicted as a woman split in half.

"I've studied Byzantine painting since I was 13 years old in Athens, and I studied the art of the street in the streets. Street art has evolved from graffiti and it has different rules. You must leave your stamp. But my point of view is totally different. I'm always trying to adapt my sketch to the environment and get inspired from the colours of the neighbourhood. My approach is more like fine art."

Fikos says in the past he was unable to convince Athenians to let him paint over the garish graffiti that blankets the city, even for free. But now his appeal is growing both at home and abroad, and he gets paid for his work. He has been commissioned to paint murals in many countries, including France, Ireland, Mexico, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. They can cover entire facades of buildings as high as 17 storeys, like one in Kiev, yet they are not overbearing and do not look out of place.

"Most of the time, they have something in mind, they give me a theme," Fikos says of his commissions. "But I do my research on history, mythology or whatever I find appropriate, then I sketch and I start to paint."

Once the research is done, the process of painting the murals can take just two or three more days, he says.

"I'm mostly inspired by Greek mythology, because I trust that if these myths have survived, they must have something to say."

Ah, the Parthenon Marbles (or sculptures, or any of the other names they have). It's the topic that keeps on giving. In recent months, the Greek government has re-asserted its longstanding demand for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures from the British Museum. This demand was explicitly ruled out by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in March this year when he reiterated the government’s “firm longstanding position” that the sculptures “were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the appropriate laws of the time.” This provocative statement caused outrage across Europe and the world, with many international committees coming together in one voice to renew their passionate support for the case of the return of the Sculptures.

Ultimately, these expressions of support became a crescendo of neo-Philhellenism and one of the strongest voices among the crescendo was David Hill, who is the Chairman of an Australian committee known as Australians for the Return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Mr Hill, who is also the former chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, tells The Greek Herald exclusively that his passion for the Parthenon Sculptures and Greece began over 45 years ago when he first visited the country.

“I first went to Greece in 1973… and it was like a magnet, it was the beginning of a love affair. The relationship became deeper and richer over the years and I became absorbed in the history, spirit and culture of Greece. I visited the Acropolis on my first trip to Greece and after that… I went on to London and an old English friend took me to see the Elgin collection in the British Museum and I think I was struck by the injustice of the marbles being in London.”

Ever since then, Mr Hill has been working tirelessly to persuade the UK government to return the Parthenon Sculptures to their rightful place in Greece. For four years from 1999, Mr Hill was the Executive Director of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles in London. Later, from 2006 to 2016, he was the President of the International Association which encompasses all the committees, and he is now in his current position.

“Over the years I’ve worked with the Chairman of the Board of the British Museum, various arts and culture ministers in the UK government, and I’ve worked with, I think, 11 Greek culture ministers and six Prime Ministers. I also give… my views to the Greek government on a regular basis. Most of my work is trying to persuade the British to give the sculptures back and trying to generate more public opinion and support for the return of the sculptures. You’ve got the situation now where, particularly over the last 20 years, most of the public opinion polls around the world strongly support the marbles going back… the problem is we haven’t changed the mind of the British.”

To do this, Mr Hill says, 

“...the Greek government ought to litigate or to sue” because the strategy that has been employed since Melina Mercouri has been “cultural diplomacy,” but it has produced “no results.” I think it’s a Greek cultural thing. In Australia, America, Britain, if you can’t agree on an important issue, seeking the decision of an independent court or tribunal… is considered a civilised thing to do. But there are a lot of people in Greece who think it is almost a declaration of war, they feel uncomfortable, they feel it’s an aggressive thing to do. So trying to persuade the Greeks they should explore their legal options is proving very difficult.”

One way Mr Hill desperately tried to persuade the Greeks to pursue litigation was in 2014 when he took three of the best international lawyers to Athens to advise then-Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, of the Greek government’s legal options. These three people were Geoffrey Robertson QC, fellow barrister, Amal Clooney, and the late Professor Norman Palmer.

Mr Hill says that at the time, Mrs Clooney had just married famous actor, George Clooney, and this star factor ensured the spotlight was firmly focused on the reunification of the sculptures.

“I’ve never seen anything like it… but what it did was it made the marbles the news story around the world.”

Of course, it must be mentioned though that to this day the UK government and British Museum are still no closer to returning the Sculptures, and Mr Hill says Philhellenes and the Greek diaspora need to keep pushing and building public support.

This could involve supporting Greece through organisations such as the Hellenic Initiative, or even attending events such as the upcoming Australian book launch of Geoffrey Robertson QC’s new book, ‘Who Owns History,’ at The Governors Centre in Moore Park on June 5.

“It’s not often in history that a great wrong can’t be righted. In this case, it can be. They can be returned where they belong – to Greece. At the end of the day, it’s wrong for the British to keep them there… and I’m confident… that eventually right will prevail.”

Coming of age ceremonies are prevalent in most cultures and are often linked to the religious views of the people performing it. Famous examples are the bar mitswa's and bat mitswa's of the Jewish. The ancient Hellenes had coming of age rituals as well, and like almost everything else in ancient Hellenic life, these rituals were tied into deity worship. Today, I'm going to talk about these coming of age ceremonies, but because the differences are so great between girls and boys, I'm going to describe their coming of age ceremonies separately.

Girl to woman
In ancient Hellas, a girl's coming of age ceremony was linked to her wedding day. As soon as she got married, she would move out, into her new husband's oikos, and commit to the task she was born to fulfill: gift her husband legitimate offspring--boys, preferably. It won't come as a surprise that in preparation for this entirely new role in life, a girl's coming of age ceremony was focussed almost entirely on ending her own childhood, and petitioning the Theoi for help in her life as an adult. As such, fertility and womanhood were big parts of the rituals.

Young girls rarely had a role to play in household worship. The family only had them with them for thirteen to fifteen years, on average, after that, she joined her rightful place at the oikos of her husband, where she carried more (religious) responsibility. There were religious roles young girls could fulfill outside of the home, however, most notably as 'Arrephoros' (Ἀρρήφορος)--year long handmaidens of Athena Polias (Πολιάς)--in Athens, and as 'Arktos' (αρκτος), bear, a service in the following of Artemis Brauronia (Βραυρωνια) at Brauron (Βραυρών).

During the Arkteia festival, celebrated every four or five years alongside--or as a part of--the Brauronia, named and in honor of the epithet of Artemis. Every Athenian girl, as well as many other girls from all over Attika, had to take part of the festival before they could marry. The girls were brought to Brauron, a temple of Artemis with a rich history in both myth and history. Some versions of the myth of Iphigeneia have her taken from the sacrifice and dropped in Brauronia, where she established a temple to the Theia in gratitude. Otherwise, an oracle might have told the ancient Hellenes to build a temple to the Theia at Brauron after a terrible plague or famine plagued the land following the killing of a bear by two hunters.

The symbolism of the bear might refer to the bear which was slain by the hunters, or the clothes Iphigeneia might have left at her 'sacrifice'. It's also possible that the bear reference refers to Kallisto, who was transformed into a bear by the Theia.

During the festival young girls, and it seems that on occasion young boys, would gather to celebrate Artemis Brauronia with races, and dances. They would don bear masks and dance a dance known as the 'Arkteia', which was made up of slow, solemn steps meant to imitate the movements of a bear and was performed to a tune from a diaulos (double flute). They might have carried baskets of figs. Up until as far back as the 5th century, the girls might have worn actual bear skins, but bears soon became scarce, so they wore yellow dresses called 'krokoton', which they 'shed' instead of the skins to signal their coming adulthood.

The actual reason for the 'bear' ritual has been lost. It's possible that the ritual served to exorcise 'the wildness' out of little girls, but it's more likely that it was simply a way to procure kharis for the young girls who would soon call on Artemis during childbirth. In the same spirit, young women on the threshold of marriage made an offering to Artemis of their childhood toys and other paraphernalia that represented childhood, as with an offering of one drachma (roughly $ 60,-) at the temple of Aphrodite. Most likely, the bride also honored Hera Teleia and Zeus Teleios in some way.

A young woman came of age during her wedding and the subsequent wedding night, but became a woman when she gave birth for the first time. Especially during the latter, they desperately needed the support of the Theia Artemis. Aphrodite and Hera Teleia would support her through her marriage, and help her make it a success. With the help of the Theoi, a girl could become a woman.

Boy to man
Young boys had a very different life to young girls when it came to life in ancient Hellas. Because it was very important for a man to have legitimate children, the child's paternity was attested to on multiple occasions. In Athens, this was done the first time shortly after being named, and the second time when he reached sixteen years of age. Both times, the child was presented at the 'phratria' (φ(ρ)ατρία)--brotherhood--of his father. The system of brotherhoods, four in total, was the system that preceded the system of tribes. The brotherhoods largely fades, except for the registration of male offspring, and the vetting of such with testimonials and tests. The brotherhoods were overseen by Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria, who were honored yearly in a three-day festival called the 'Apoutouria'.

During a son's presentation to the brotherhood, Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria during the Apoutouria, boys sacrificed a lock of their hair to the patron Theoi and Hēraklēs, their father an animal. If one of the phratria contested that the father was, indeed, the father of this child, he could take the animal from the father before they reached the altar, and drag it away. Doing so would have been a very serious thing to do, and very shocking for a young boy to witness, not to speak of the father. The claim would then be put to a vote. When the phratria ruled in favor of the father, the animal was sacrificed and the meat distributed to the members of the brotherhood. The son became a full member.

At sixteen, a boy was considered a young man, and he entered one or two years of public service, either to mature, or to show he had matured enough to take part. This was called his 'ephebeia', which literally means 'young man'. On completion of this public service, a young man could enter the military and became a voting member of the Ekklesia. He became a citizen. Although young man were now considered adults, he only truly became an adult at age thirty, when he could serve in the boule, and get married.

Young men swore an oath upon completion of their ephebia, which has largely been preserved. It read as follows:

"I will not bring shame upon these sacred weapons nor will I abandon my comrade-in-arms wherever I stand in the ranks. I will defend both the holy and profane things. I will not hand on the fatherland smaller than I received it, but larger and better, so far as it lies in my power with the assistance of all the other citizens. I will obey the officials who govern wisely and the laws, both those which are already established and those which are wisely established in the future. If anyone attempts to destroy them, I will not allow it, so far as it lies in my power with the assistance of all the other citizens. I will hold in honor the ancestral sanctuaries. The following gods are witnesses: Aglauros, Hestia, Enyo, Enyalios, Ares and Athena Areia, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone, Heracles, the territory of the fatherland, the wheat, barley, vines, olive trees, and fig trees."

With this oath, the world opened up for young men; they would now be held divinely accountable for any trespassing upon the law and common sense. Political life would become important for men, as well as military service. They had roughly ten years to dedicate to these before he took a wife, so young men tended to fulfill much of their obligation to the city in these ten years. After his marriage, he became the one who presented sons to the phratria, and he got to experience the entire proceedings from the spot his father once held. This--most likely--created strong familial ties that continued through family lines for centuries.

In conclusion
There is much that remains to be said about coming of age ceremonies in ancient Hellas, more to be said about coming of age ceremonies in ancient Athens, even, but that is talk for another day. For now, I hope you have a basic idea of the youth and religious focal points of an Athenian child's life. Personally, I have a soft spot for coming of age rituals, and I strongly suggest creating or adapting ceremonies for the second (or even third) generation of Hellenists. What this would look like will be left for another post, but it would surely be beautiful.

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 have a question about miasma and ritual purification. I understand that many start with a shower and end with khernips. But what about modern conveniences? Is it okay to use scented soaps? Is it okay to put on deodorant after the shower? Can I style my hair? Or is it better to just go straight from drying off to khernips?"

By all means, make yourself pretty and good smelling! the ancient Hellenes sure did! This whole shower-as-part-of-katharmos is a modern invention. Katharmos, or the act of getting ritually clean, starts the second you walk into the area you have designated as sacred with the intent of performing ritual. Your shower happens way before, as does any primping. Then, you prepare your mind and start your procession into the area. this is when katharmos starts. You wash your hands with khernips–lustral water, which you prepare there and then, or you could possibly have stored–sprinkle the area with the water and strew barley groats as if sowing them. That’s your purification. As you can see, all of the things you worry about happen long before!


"I'm really new to Hellenismos so I have a lot of questions, but in particular I have one about khernips. Do I have to use them every time I pray, or could I limit it to rituals? I am lacking in resources but I don't want to offend the gods in any way. Thank you in advance!"

You use khernips every single time you perform a rite for the Gods. This includes (daily) sacrifice, festival celebrations, etc. The only exception for the ancient Hellenes would have been the drops of wine tipped on the ground during a symposium (a social gathering where wine was consumed and philosphical talk was indulged in) or before a meal. In general, though, if you plan of getting in contact to the Gods, get ritually clean with khernips. Praying, really, is not an act that befits Hellenismos if partaken in as a standalone activity: you pray during ritual. The two are synonymous. I hope this helps!


"Do you know any Gods that were associated with Ravens/Crows?"

The only one that comes to mind is Apollon. For a variety of reasons, Hermes is often associated with these birds as well, but there is no ancient evidence for this. Apollon, on the other hand, has a long history with the birds. It seems odd that a deity associated with light is also associated with an animal with an image as negative as the raven. Ravens are often associated with battlegrounds, cemeteries, and death, with the rotting of carcasses, and funerals. In Hellenic myth, they are also associated with vision beyond that which is present. With oracular visions, and with spotting that which can not, or should not, be spotted.

One myth that associates ravens with Apollon is the myth of Koronis (Κορωνίς). Koronis was Apollon's lover, and was pregnant with His son, when she fell for another man, a mortal man, Ischys (Ἰσχύς). A raven--then white--had been assigned by Apollon to watch over His lover, and when the raven returned to tell Apollon of Coronis' betrayal, Apollon was furious the raven had not pecked out the eyes of the mortal whom his lover fell in love with. In a fit of rage, Apollon turned its feathers black.


"I've been reading your blog for a long time and you are one of my go-to sources. I have questions about statues which have left me stumped for months. My alter is far more "cluttered" than your own. Recently I've started to make it more deity neutral. Where would you suggest I place my statues? Would you mind sharing how you display your own? I've considered individual alters. Do you know any sources with images that might guide me? Thank you for all the amazing work you do and have a great day!"

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

As for your statues: I put them up on my shrines, not my altar. That’s why it’s bare-ish ;-)

In the most common version of the myth, Narkissos (Narcissus, Νάρκισσος) was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia who was known for his beauty. He was the son of the river God Kephissos (Cephissus) and nymph Liriope. He was proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. Nemesis noticed this behavior and attracted Narkissos to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. Narkissos is the origin of the term 'narcissism', a fixation with oneself and one's physical appearance and/or public perception.

The Roman poet Ovid is our primary source on the myth of Narkissos, but he was, as I said, Roman. Ovid, and Roman mythology in general, has been a subject on this blog before, and always comes with a disclaimer that these views were not, in fact, Hellenic. I have mentioned in passing that I don't feel the Hellenic and Roman Gods are one and the same, although they are often painted as the same Gods with a different name, and often times, the myths the Romans knew were different from the Hellenic myths they were based on. Sometimes these differences are subtle, sometimes (like in the myth of Médousa) and also Narkissos, they are not.

The version by Ovid, found in book 3 of his Metamorphoses (completed 8 AD) is the story of Echo and Narcissus. One day Narcissus was walking in the woods when Echo, an Oread (mountain nymph) saw him, fell deeply in love, and followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted "Who's there?". Echo repeated "Who's there?" She eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He stepped away and told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo sound remained of her. Nemesis learned of this story and decided to punish Narcissus. She lured him to a pool where he saw his own reflection. He did not realize it was only an image and fell in love with it. He eventually recognized that his love could not be reciprocated and withered away like Echo did.

The oldest version of the myth currently known to us, ascribed to the poet Parthenios of Nicaea (Παρθένιος ὁ Νικαεύς), composed around 50 BC, differs. It was found in fragments in ancient rubbish dumps at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. The papyrus fragment is one of tens of thousands that were found in the late 19th and early 20th century. These dumps, now fully excavated, are the world's largest source of ancient writings, accounting for 70 percent of all known literary papyri. Many are kept at Oxford but the majority have still not been fully transcribed and translated. It was during work on these remaining manuscripts that the Narkissos fragment was found. This is what was written:

... god-like ...
... ...
He had a cruel heart, and hated all of them,
Till he conceived a love for his own form:
He wailed, seeing his face, delightful as a dream,
Within a spring; he wept for his beauty.
Then the boy shed his blood and give it to the earth
... to bear

There is also another ancient Hellenic version by Conon, in his Narrations 24, which differs from Ovid's account even though they were contemporaries. Conon was a Hellenic mythographer who lived from the 1st century BC to 1st century AD.

"Ameinias was a very determined but fragile youth. When he was cruelly spurned by Narkissos (Narcissus), he took his sword and killed himself by the door, calling on the goddess Nemesis to avenge him. As a result when Narkissos saw the beauty of his form reflected in a stream he fell deeply in love with himself. In despair and believing that he had rightly earned this curse for the humiliation of Ameinias, he slew himself. From his blood sprang the flower."

These versions of the Narcissus story is much more concise than Ovid's. Ovid devotes many verses to the nymph Echo, who in her unrequited love for Narkissos wastes away. There is no trace of her either in the papyrus text, nor Conon's account. There, Narkissos is a young boy and his lovers are all male. Ovid also distinguishes himself from the other two authors by having Narkissos, like Echo, simply waste away. His body mysteriously disappears, and when the nymphs come to collect it, they find a flower in its place. In Conon's version, as in the new papyrus, the boy kills himself. In Parthenios' version, no flower is mentioned, but (as a kind of midway form) the narcissus flower is mentioned by Conon. 

There are no older versions of this myth we are aware of than the version by Parthenios, which stems from 50 BC. If the ancient Hellenes in the fourth or third century BC even knew of Narkissos is thus questionable. They may have, or they may not have. The more you know, right?

It's time for part three of the series-within-a-series featuring the myth of Apollon and the raven. The previous parts were the constellation Corvus: the Raven, and the Constellation Crater: the Cup. This third installment is about the longest constellation we still recognize as a constellation today: Hydra, or the sea-serpent.

To recap the story of Apollon and the raven: the raven (or crow) was in service to Apollon, and was sent out on an errant for the Theos. He was asked to bring water to Him, but instead, he paused in his quest. Most commonly it is assumed is that he stopped for a meal of figs. When the raven returned without water, Apollon questioned him. Instead of giving a straight answer, the raven lied, and said he had been kept from the water by a snake. In some accounts, he actually had a snake in his talons as he said this. Apollon, however, saw that the raven was lying, and flung the raven, the krater with which the raven was supposed to collect water, as well as the snake into the sky, where they remain to this day.

Roman author Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC - 17 AD) talks about the serpent's continued function in his Astronomica:

"This is the sign on which the Crow sits and over which the Bowl is placed. [...] As long as the figs are ripening, the crow cannot drink, because on those days he has a sore throat. So when the god wished to illustrate the thirst of the crow, he put the bowl among the constellations, and placed the water-snake underneath to delay the thirsty crow. For the crow seems to peck at the end of its tail to be allowed to go over to the bowl." [2.40]

Another hydra the constellation is associated with is the Hydra vanquished by Hēraklēs as his second labour. After his victory over the Nemean lion, Hēraklēs is send off to handle another sticky problem: the Lernaean Hydra, who was raised from the earth by Hera just to end the life of Hēraklēs. The Lernaean Hydra (Λερναία Ὕδρα) was the offspring of Typhon, and layered in the swampy lake of Lerna. He realized he would need help for this labour, and asked it of his nephew Iolaus (Ἰόλαος). Together they devised a plan: Hēraklēs would cut off the heads, and Iolaus would sear the stumps shut, in this way, the heads could not regenerate. When Hēraklēs returns to Eurystheus after completing the labour, the king decrees that, because Hēraklēs could not have completed the labour without the help of Iolaus, the labour will not count against his total, and he will have to do an extra one to fulfill his debt.

On the hydra, Pausanias writes in his 'History of Greece'. He speaks of the birth place of the hydra, and of his alleged number of heads:

"At the source of the Amymone grows a plane tree, beneath which, they say, the hydra (water-snake) grew. I am ready to believe that this beast was superior in size to other water-snakes, and that its poison had something in it so deadly that Heracles treated the points of his arrows with its gall. It had, however, in my opinion, one head, and not several. It was Peisander76 of Camirus who, in order that the beast might appear more frightful and his poetry might be more remarkable, represented the hydra with its many heads." [2.37.4]

Constellations are often associated with the constellations they are surrounded with, and with no constellation this is clearer than with Hydra. Aratos, a Hellenic poet who flourished in Macedonia in the early third century BC, speaks best of Hydra in regards to his surrounding constellations in his 'Phaenomena':

"Another constellation trails beyond, which men call the Hydra. Like a living creature it winds afar its coiling form. Its head comes beneath the middle of the Crab, its coil beneath the body of the Lion, and its tail hangs above the Centaur himself. Midway on its coiling form is set the Crater, and at the tip the figure of a Raven that seems to peck at the coil." [443]

The constellation Hydra is visible at latitudes between +54° and −83°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of April.

The University of Connecticut will soon open a new Sparta museum on its campus which will be entirely dedicated to the ancient Hellenic city-state. The news that the University would construct a museum on the Ancient Hellenic city state was made public after a meeting held two years ago between Ilias Tomazos, the head of the University’s department of Greek studies, and Greece’s Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.

The new Spartan museum will focus its interest on artifacts and events dating from the prehistoric era of the broader Laconia region all the way to Byzantine times. The museum is located in the area of the campus where an Orthodox Christian chapel and a Greek theater are already located, along with a library and an educational center. The stunning, all-marble Classical-style theatre, which was recently completed, seats over 700 spectators.

The nearby Three Hierarchs Byzantine Chapel was opened in 1995. The Greek Orthodox church is open during the academic year and during major holidays. The Macedonia Educational Building, also in the same area of the Storrs campus, was opened in 1997. It includes multiple classrooms, several offices, student meeting rooms, a community hall, a library, and an exhibit hall.

Ilias Katsos, a prominent member of the New York are Greek diaspora, donated funds for four of its marble metopes which are currently being installed. Volunteers such as himself, along with Christo Bakes and Nikos Skroubelos, whose families originated from the Epanou Riza area of the Laconian Northern Taygetos also helped make the gleaming new Museum and its facilities a reality.

Additionally, a new statue of Spartan leader Leonidas, as well as a sculpture depicting the battle of Thermopylae, will be placed there in the future. The majority of the expenses for the construction of this project were covered through donations.

The Greek Culture Ministry, which declared its intention to assist with the Sparta project, also pledged to offer materials that were used in its creation. Mendoni said the Culture Ministry would support the initiative through the provision of sculpture copies, photographic material, and digital media.

The Paideia Center’s Tomazos also informed Mendoni about the cultural programs to be offered at UConn and invited the minister to the opening of the “Alexander the Great” open-air theater in October.

On the day of the Hene kai Nea (or sometimes, like this month, the day after), 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.

PAT rituals for Skirophorion:
  • Skirophorion 3 - June 14 - Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, Athena Polias, Aglaurus, Zeus Polieus, Poseidon & possibly Pandrosos at Erkhia
  • Skirophorion 12 - June 23 - Skirophoria - festival in honor of Athena, Poseidon, Apollon & Demeter; the Tritopatores were worshipped at Marathon on the eve of this festival
  • Skirophorion 14n - June 25 - Dipolieia/Bouphonia - festival in honor of Zeus Poleius
  • Skirophorion 29 - July 10 - Disoteria - Sacrifice to Zeus the Savior and Athene the Savior

    Anything else?
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