There are many well known chariots and charioteers in ancient Hellenic mythology. All of the Theoi have one, and Helios and Apollo use one to bring light to the world. Hades kidnapped Persephone with His. Pollux and Castor were very skilled at driving the fast, light, open, two-wheeled conveyance drawn by two or more horses. Helios lost a son when he let his son Phaethon (Φαέθων) drive his chariot for its morning track through the sky. Phaethon flew too close to the earth and scorched it all; Zeus then cast him down with a lightning-bolt. Yet, these are not the charioteers the constellation is associated with. In this next installment of the constellation series, we will look at the Divine child the constellation refers to... and a few others, because the constellation Auriga has had many interpretations over the years.
Baring the Aegis: Hellenismos
Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.
I talk about Delphi a lot; the place speaks to my imagination and every time I pull out my Tarot cards for a session, or ask Apollo to grand me a divinatory dream, my mind flashes back to it. I have written about how a session with the Pythia would go. I have also talked a lot about the Delphic Maxims, and some about the site of Delphi. What I haven't talked about a lot is its history...and its future. This is what I will do today.
As legend goes, a shepherd herded his flock up the side of Mount Parnassus. The sheep came upon a chasm and seemed to lose their minds. They started jumping around, and darting about. When the shepherd went to inspect the chasm, he fell under the influence of gasses that welled up from it. He lost all his worries and cared not about the time. He simply wished to remain there and gleam the knowledge he felt at the edges of his mind.
When he did not return, his family went to look for him. They took him home and put him to bed. Everyone was worried by his strange behavior, but he seemed to be calmer when the morning came. Yet, the shepherd's behavior had not returned to normal. He was able to foretell the future. Soon, word of the shepherd's ability, and the chasm, spread. People came from far away to either talk to the man or go to the source. Yet, those who visited the chasm lost their minds as well, and sometimes even jumped in the chasm.
Before I start, allow me to take a moment for some blatant promotion of fellow blogger Star Foster's radical experiment: getting money for a blogging day job. She's absolutely worth it, so please check out her plea and IndieGoGo campaign!
Alright, on to the post!
Because I'm both a lesbian and a Pagan, I get send a lot of things people think I may find interesting. I love it when people do this; most of the stuff is really good, poignant, or simply hilarious. One of the things that got send to me a lot is the new UK series Switch. I guess this is because I blogged about Pagan characters we would like to see, and Pagan webseries.
Switch is a television series about a group of four girls who live in London, deal with boy/girl trouble, jobs, and friendship. Most of that dealing is done through magick, because all of them are witches. A few days ago, I caught up with the series, of which three episodes have aired. I didn't have high hopes for it, and most of my fears were realized, but I have found I like the girls, and the stereotypes aren't offensive.
The fifth constellation Ptolemy made famous was the constellation Aries: the ram. Obviously, this constellation is still recognized by modern astronomers. For the story of the constellation Aries, we have to go back to the Argo Navis: the ran the constellation resembles was the very same ram that carried the young king Phrixos to the palace of Helios before he could be killed in a plot by his step-mother.
The myth of the ram with the golden wool is part of the myth of Iásōn. Phrixos (Φρίξος) was the son of Athamas, king of Boiotia, and Nephele (a goddess of clouds). His twin sister Helle and he were hated by their stepmother, Ino. So hated, in fact, that Ino burned the local crops and asked for an oracular message to see if the Theoi were angry at her husband's people. She bribed the messengers to tell her husband that the Theoi were, indeed, angry at him. To appease Them, Phrixos and Helle had to be sacrificed. Pious Athamas did as he was told, but just before they could be killed, a ram with golden wool appeared by order of Nephele, and carried the children off.
The ram flew over the ocean and Helle looked down. Spooked by the height, she fell off of the back of the ram, leading to her death. The stretch of water she fell into was called the Hellespontos (Ἑλλήσποντος), literally 'Sea of Helle', a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It was later renamed Dardanellia (Δαρδανέλλια).
The ram, unfortunately did not get to live a long, healthy life. As soon as the ram delivered Phrixos to the palace of King Aeëtes--the son of the sun god Helios--on Colchis, it was sacrificed to Zeus. Its golden fleece was hung from a tree in a sacred grove of Ares, guarded night and day by a dragon that never slept. Iásōn eventually slew the dragon with Mēdeia's help and took the fleece back to Iolkos. The ram, after being sacrificed, was placed into the sky by Zeus.
The constellation Aries is visible at latitudes between +90° and −60° and is best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of December.
If you were a citizen of ancient Hellas, you strove for honor. It was earned through hard work, through arete, through excelling in combat (usually for men), athletics (men and women), science (mostly men, some women) and/or exacting vengeance upon those who wronged you, your family, or your country/city state.
I am in debt. Even when I do not count my study loans, I'm chronically--but not deeply-- in the red on my bank account. I don't have credit card loans, however, and I don't owe money or goods to anyone. I have had a tough year, but it's slowly getting better. Although I work, next to getting an education, my income does not cover all my costs. I am extremely lucky, though: I have a working partner who will gladly jump in and cover costs until my education is done and I can get an actual job that pays the bills.
I don't like being in debt. It's against the spirit of Hellenismos--or at least the two were antagonistic in ancient Hellas. Debts were paid off at the Deipnon--the end of the month--and those who could not pay them became serfs to their creditors. It was one of the main ways a citizen could become a slave.
It sounds a bit harsh, becoming a slave because of a missed payment. Yet, is modern life any different? Am I not tied to all people, companies and foundations who pull money from my bank account on a regular basis? Will not strong men and/or women show up on my doorstep if I can not afford to pay my bills and take items I own to pay off the debt? If all else fails, won't the government take my freedom? Aren't all of us a little enslaved to a economy which requires monthly contributions for protection, huge debts for housing and education, and for an ever-increasing number of people; financial support from their government simply to eat and have a roof to sleep under?
Through a fellow blogger, I came upon an article about an author's loathing for the Pagan sellers of all the Witchcraft stuff one can buy. The post boiled down to saying that monetizing your faith takes power away from you, and simply buying your equipment will lead to hollowed out rituals. The post is here.
There is a long discussion in this from the Witchcraft perspective, but I'm not going there. I'm not going there because I left that path behind and the more I look back, I realize what a tangled--but beautiful--mess it is. Instead, I'm going to write about this from the Hellenistic point of view and take you back to Ye Olden Days when the Ancient Hellens still practiced their faith in their temples.
Religion was entwined with daily life to such an extend that you'd be hard pressed to find a pottery seller who had not depicted one or more of the Theoi on his work. Near just about every temple was a stand which sold small statues which one could sacrifice to the Theoi at said temple. Every temple complex had a treasury where the various gifts of the devoted were stored. Religion, back in the day, was big business--as it should be. It helped instill the presence of the Theoi in daily life.
Welcome to another installment of the constellation series. I'm on a mythology binge so I thought it was time. As the fourth constellation, I have for you Argos Navis, a collection of constellations which together form the ship Argo, on which the Argonauts (Argonautai, Ἀργοναῦται) sailed to find the Golden Fleece.
The legend of Médousa (Μέδουσα) is one of the hardest myths to deal with out of ancient Hellenic mythology. It tells the story of a beautiful woman, who got raped by Poseidon, and gets transformed into a hideous monster who can turn people to stone just by looking at them, by Athena, because of it. She spends the rest of her life trapped on an island, in isolation, while brave warriors try to kill her for her head, which will still turn people to stone once cut off. Perseus eventually does so and gives the head to Athena to place on her shield. The circle is complete and Médousa is dead, after a lifetime of horror which was not her fault to begin with.
I came to Hellenismos from a Wiccan Rede-filled path. I sent years not asking anything from the Gods for myself. The closest I ever got was asking to grand me the strength to aid someone else. I realized even back then that the Rede was limiting the magick I practiced, so I stopped practicing it all together. I never subscribed to the 'love and light' mentality. When I transitioned to Hellenismos, letting go of the Rede was like a weight had been lifted. Suddenly, I had the freedom to ask for things I needed badly in my life, without feeling guilty. I didn't expect the Theoi to grand any of my pleas, but They did, in most cases.
One of the Delphic Maxims is to 'pray for happiness' (Ευτυχιαν ευχου). It's one of the maxims that were so opposite to the practice I left behind, it felt positively alien. You can imagine how my first sacrifices went. To give you a hint, it went a bit like this:
"Blessed Goddess Hestia, Goddess of home and hearth, accept these offerings of incense sweet and barley white. If my offerings please you, and you erm... you... wouldn't mind spending a little time on my family, please keep us safe and erm... we could really use an opportunity for work and money because things get tight and well... okay, I'm rambling, I'm sorry. Please, don't be offended. I'm sorry, I'll go away now."
I got better at it; pretty fast, actually.
I go on about kharis a lot on this blog, and rightly so. Kharis, the reciprocity between us and the Theoi, is one of the cornerstones of Hellenismos. In fact, I think it may be the goal of Hellenismos as a whole. If not, why bother? And I don't mean any disrespect by that, not to Hellenics, and most definitely not to the Theoi. But isn't it true that we sacrifice and are pious because we need something of the Theoi? Part of it comes from the goodness of our hearts, but mostly, we would like some divine aid when we really need it. At the least, we practice so the Theoi won't smite us.
The ancient Hellenics prayed to the Theoi for everything. They prayed for health when someone got sick, they prayed for wealth or food when they were poor, they prayed for protection when they were in trouble, they prayed for courage and honor in battle, and they prayed for guidance in times of turmoil. In short, they prayed for happiness. Small statues were found in shrines with inscriptions of wishes, very often for fertility and/or protection, especially for Goddesses who had those domains in Their portfolio.
This maxim is a stark reminder of the ancient value of kharis, and it proved very liberating to me. How do you feel about this maxim? Does it go against what you've been taught or does it match what you've been practicing?
Alright, so on to the video tutorial. In the spirit of the Deipnon and Noumenia we have just celebrated, I am going to show you what to do with, and how to prepare, a kathiskos. As I will explain in the video, the kathiskos is a small jar filled with foodstuffs which is stored from the Noumenia (first day of the lunar month) until the Deipnon (last day of the lunar month) in a shrine to Zeus Kthesios. It's purpose is to protect the pantry.
A long time ago, I promised to look closer into the act of rape in ancient Hellenic mythology, and despite that promise, I haven't written about it in a cohesive way since. It's a difficult topic and while that doesn't usually hold me back, it's also a topic about which a lot is written but nothing is proven beyond a doubt. Paraphrasing the available information leads to an incomplete picture, but I'm going to do my best.
This post is inspired by a comment on yesterday's post, where I, amongst others, describe how Zeus raped Hera so He could marry Her. Understandably, this didn't go over well. Rape is a terrible act, a shameful act, with dire consequences for all involved. It's 'the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse'.
Dr. Susan Deacy, in her excellent essay 'The vulnerability of Athena' describes three categories of rape in myth: parthenoi (maidens--those who are unmarried) who reject normal female activities and wish to remain unmarried, parthenoi who are lured away from the paternal oikos, are raped and give birth to remarkable offspring, and rape as a representation of marriage.
Welcome to part three of the constellation series. I think I forgot to mention that I'm basing this series off of the works of ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy. He set out forty-eight constellations, based in Greek myth, of which some are still recognized to this day, and others got broken up or otherwise rearranged or added in the years that followed. The next is Ara: the altar. It's still a recognized constellation.
Look, we all know that in most Western countries, Christianity is the major religion. This means that for many people in Western countries, 'religion' is synonymous with 'Christianity'. I suspect that in the modern Pagan movement, a lot of anger towards Christianity comes from this blatant disregard of two thirds of the world's religious people. In general, I can deal with the dominant Christian worldview. I may not like it, but I respect it. In my day-to-day dealings with those of the Christian faith, I can usually find the things we have in common within our religions and we make it work. This, however, does not mean that Christianity is the same as Hellenismos, and that a Christian chaplain--by origin a word applied to a representative of the Christian faith, now applied to men and women of other religions or philosophical traditions--could accurately guide me if I should ever end up in a hospital, the military or a prison.
While I'm usually very positive about Canada, I am not so positive today. CBC reports that the federal government is cancelling the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons across the country. This doesn't mean just the 'fringe' faiths like Buddhism and Sikh--the Wiccan chaplain that got hired, got fired right away back in September--but also Judaism, Islam and the First Nation spiritualities. Why? Because Public Safety Minister Vic Toews isn't convinced part-time chaplains from other religions are an appropriate use of taxpayer money.
I would love to go caveman batshit over this, but Hellenismos has this thing about ethics and eloquent speech, so I'm going to try and actually formulate my opinion instead of reducing my power of speech to a Lolcat.
Back on my own blog, I asked my readers what they would like to read from me. I was wondering what they came back for and if I was somehow not filling a void I hadn't even thought of. As it turns out, my readers were pretty happy, but they would like to hear more about my personal practice. I can understand; I am not good at talking about that, so I rarely do. As a result of that feedback, I made two videos about Hellenic basics: preparing and using khernips, and pouring libations.
For both these videos goes that the way I do it, may not be the way everyone does it. It's the basic steps that matter most. So without further ado: here's a video of me preparing and using khernips, and below, a video of me pouring libation. Sorry about the quality, my phone seems to have some trouble focussing. I promise any future videos will be stable.
Society is an ever-chancing construct, influenced by the people living (in) it and changing those people in return. What was socially acceptable as little as ten years ago, may not be socially acceptable today. Smoking in public spaces, for example. Imagine going back hundreds of years to a society much unlike our own. Most of what we do today would have been taboo then, and much of what was daily practice then, is taboo today. This post will serve to highlight some of these taboos, from both sides of the coin. Please, remember this post is all in good fun; some of these practices may seem barbaric, but that's your culture speaking. For the ancient Hellens, it was absolutely normal: it was their culture and no modern Hellenic would try to bring back practices which are now against the law.
On to the taboos!
Greek food is best known for the heavy amounts of meat, fish and tzatziki, but did you know that many of these dishes go back centuries? Here are some of the dishes the ancient Hellens would have eaten as well.
First, some basics: the main diet of the ancient Greeks consisted of bread, olives, olive oil, figs, cheeses, fish, squid, grapes, apples and other fruits, and honey. Meat was expensive and thus rarely eaten. Domesticated animals were only eaten after being sacrificed to the Gods. To not do so was barbaric and impure. Also considered barbaric was to drink wine which was not watered down and to drink milk. Breakfast and lunch consisted of bread dipped in wine, with olives, figs, cheese or dried fish added to the lunch menu. Dinner usually consisted of vegetables, fruit, fish, and possibly honey cakes, but which dishes survived to this day?
Fasting is a very ancient phenomenon. In fact, an original starting date can not be given. Still, fasting--for the purpose of this post--should be distinguished from its non-voluntary counterpart of going hungry due to a lack of food and/or resources. Fasting is the act of voluntarily withholding food from your body for a longer period of time than you would normally be without it. As today is the second day of the Thesmophoria, I'm fasting.
I have fasted in the past, finding it a very useful tool for purging my body, clearing my mind and regaining focus on the things that matter. After a fast, I am more aware of what I put into my body and of the signals my body gives me. After a fast, I take better care of myself. My girlfriend hates it when I fast, and not just because I'm a little bit cranky the first day. She thinks it's unhealthy to go without food, but regulars fasts have actually been proven to be very healthy, if you do it right. There is a method to fasting, and it depends greatly on the length of the fast.