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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in ancient history

In part one of this two part series, I wrote about personal patronage in the ancient and modern context. Today, I want to talk about professional patronage (i.e. Apollon as the patron of the arts, and thus prayed to by artists). Personally, I think the only thing that professional patronage shares with the practice of personal patronage is its name--and we will get to that in a second. 
 
The interesting thing is that none of the academic sources at my disposal make mention of this practice under the term 'patronage'. Patronage in the context of ancient Hellas seems to focus on the non-lineal bond between two people--a patron who took care of a client or slave in a material, financial, or emotional way. 'Patron' to mean the support, encouragement, or privilege that a deity bestows upon those practicing a profession or living in a city is a Christian term, which refers to patron saints. Patron saints are regarded as the tutelary spirits or heavenly advocates of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person. Taking this description would give you, for example, Athena as the patron of Athens--but outside of Christianity, the proper term is 'tutelage'; a tutelary deity.

A tutelary, or tutelar, deity is 'a guardian, patron, or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture or occupation'. Both tutelary and tutelar can be used as either a noun or an adjective. As such, Athena is the tutelary Goddess of Athens, or the tutelar of Athens--but because we are so used to 'patron(ess)', 'tutelar' does not have quite the same ring to it.

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  • Matt G
    Matt G says #
    This doesn't sound right to me. When I look at Catullus' "Carmina" in his first poem he addresses "patrona virgo" specifically in
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you that is a helpful distinction.
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    I think I will use the term 'tutelage' from now on, as the commonly-used modern Pagan term "Patronage" really does not seem to app

Patronage is a pretty big thing in Paganism these days. I frequently a few Neo-Pagan places, and one of the most ask newbie questions is: 'How do I find out who my patron is?", or a variation thereof. There is nothing wrong with this; modern patronage is a thing, and I have experienced it myself. The interesting change in the last few years seems to be that patronage used to be the exception, now it is the rule. Any person new to Paganism feels they are doing something wrong if there isn't a God or Goddess tapping them on the shoulder right away.

modern patronage, in this context, is the support or encouragement of a patron, where the patron or patroness (and we will get to that) is a divine being. In these relationships, the active party is often the deity in question, who claims the passive human. Some will describe a sense of 'being owned' by their patron. The human becomes a conduit for the work and will of the patron in question, and is required to spend large portions of their lives in active service to that deity. The bond between deity and human is personal. This is what having two patrons meant for me when I was growing up (because They were there long before I discovered Paganism), and this is what the word meant when I first joined the (online) Pagan community. These days, the first part still applies; humans are approached by deities and receive their help. I see less and less of the latter part, unfortunately, and while I think patronage is a beautiful practice, it seems time for a general discussion and some ancient Hellenic examples of why the modern concept of patronage does not apply to Hellenismos.

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  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    The concept of patronage in Hellenismos was described to me pretty much as you laid it out, but my teacher reasoned out an explana
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Like I aid, I am not against the practice at all, and yes, the Gods find ways to reinvent Themselves to the needs of Their modern
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    I don't have a modern patron-type relationship with the Theoi, either. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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Hekate is extremely important to me in my household worship. Like some of the early ancient Hellenes, I view Hekate as Hesiod's Hekate, the single-faced Titan, who rules in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea. She is a Theia of childbirth--to both animals and humans--and it is She who bestows wealth on mortals, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle. Yet, if mortals do not deserve Her gifts, she can withhold them from them just as easily. After the Titanomachy, Zeus bestowed upon Her the highest of honors. This is the Goddess I honor daily during my nighttime rites, but I do integrate some later practices and thoughts about Her; including Her role as protector of the house and 'crossroad Goddess'.

Personally, when I hear 'crossroad Goddess', I think Supernatural's crossroad's demon. I think it's exactly this modern view of supernatural forces at crossroads that makes it difficult to understand Hekate's role as a Goddess of crossroads. I therefor don't use the tem 'crossroad Goddess', because it is somewhat deceiving; Her imagery would have stood at crossroads, and offerings were left there for safe travel, but the crossroads Hekate was most valued for protecting was the crossroads leading from the street to the home; a 'T'-shaped crossroads where Hekate ever vigilantly watches over the threshold.

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  • Tannim Wolfkin
    Tannim Wolfkin says #
    Hail, My wife and I are starting to work with Hekate especially on the New Moon. Are there any books or other resources that you
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Khaire Tannim, It's wonderful to hear you and your wife feel called to worship Hekate. I would suggest watching this video of a c
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Praise be to Hekate! As a Platonist, I honor Her as the World Soul. Home is a haven from an uncertain and sometimes dangerous w

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My apologies that it has been quite a while since  last posted a blog here on PaganSquare. I have been posting daily on my blog, but I have also been very busy with gradating and securing a job. The first part has been completed successfully, and the second part is well underway, so it's time to resume posting here.

today, I want to talk about the mēria (μηρια), a very specific portion of an animal sacrifice which was given to the Theoi in ancient Hellas. This portion consists of both of the animal's thigh bones in their fat, which was placed on the altar, sprinkled with a liquid libation and incense, and then burned. The scented smoke was said to sustain and please the Theoi, and the sacrificial smoke also carried the prayers of the worshippers to Them. The mēria is a very specific portion, and today, we will discuss how it came to be so, and how it related to actual sacrifice.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing! Your posts are always read... I'm not planning to sacrifice an animal anytime soon, but the subject is fascin
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    I'm not planning on animal sacrifice either, Jamie, but like you said, the practice tells us a lot about the ancient Hellenes, and

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When I first started out with Baring the Aegis, one of the first posts I did was on miasma and katharmos--pollution and purification, respectively. The post can be found here. Nearly a year later, I stand behind what I wrote in that post, but it's time for a revisit. Today, I'm talking about katharmos and miasma, the importance they had in ancient Hellenic religion, and the importance they have in its modern equivalent. From the previously linked post:

"Within Hellenic practice, miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. Miasma occurs whenever the space or person comes into contact with death, sickness, birth, sex, excessive negative emotions and bodily fluids. It also comes from a lack of contact with the Hellenic Gods. Not the actual acts of dying, sex and birth cause miasma but the opening up of the way to the Underworld (with births and deaths) as well as contact with sweat, blood, semen, menstrual blood and urine pollutes us. Miasma is an incredibly complicated and involved practice and it's often misunderstood. The most important things to remember about miasma is that it holds no judgment from the Gods, and that everyone attracts miasma. It's a mortal, human, thing."
 
"The practice of purification is called katharmos (Καθαρμός). The process of katharmos is elaborate because the process not only involves the physical but also the emotional, mental and spiritual. The practice of katharmos historically starts with a bath (or shower, in modern times). Step two is the preparation and use of khernips (Χἐρνιψ). Beyond the practical, there is a large mental component to katharmos. It means leaving behind negativity, worry, pain and trouble before getting in contact with the Gods."
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  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy says #
    Another wonderful post --and thanks so much for calling my rant fabulous. :-)
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Well, it was
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for another great post...

Ancient Hellas is often lauded as the birth place of modern science and philosophy. Certainly in the arts of medicine and healing, this is true. Hippokrátēs of Kos (Ἱπποκράτης) is seen by many as the founding father of medicine, and today--seeing as I'm a little sick with the flue--I wanted to talk about one of his basic understandings about the human body: the internal physician; the body's own ability to determine its illness and cure it where possible.

Hippokrátēs was alive from 460 BC to about 370 BC. In his lifetime, he set about to advancing the systematic study of clinical medicine, summing up the medical knowledge of previous schools, and prescribing practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Corpus and other works (although he Corpus itself was most likely not written by him, but assembled in and slightly after his time). Hippokrátēs separated the discipline of medicine from religion, believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the Theoi but rather the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits. Much of his theories came from his very basic understanding of the human body: in Hippokrátēs' time, it was forbidden to cut into a corpse, even for research.

Before we get to the inner physician, I must speak about two of Hippokrátēs's most famous ideas about illness: humoralism and the concept of crisis. Humoralism is a now discredited theory of the makeup and workings of the human body, positing that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids in a person directly influences their temperament and health. The four humors of Hippocratic medicine are black bile (melan chole), yellow bile (chole), phlegm (phlegma), and blood (haima), and each corresponds to one of the traditional four elements.

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When you are reconstructing an ancient religion, you will always run into several problems, one of which is the fact that people rarely describe in detail something everyone knew at the time. What would have been the point? Everyone knew it already, or was taught about it by their parents. An example is the eiresiône (εἰρεσιώνη), and its even less famous cousin, the iketiria (ικετηρία). Today, we will give both a closer look.


 
 eiresiône

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thank you! I wish I had an eiresione...but even if we were living in some parallel universe where most people worshipped Zeus, I'm

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I think it's about time I dedicate a full post to the subject of the worship of Hekate in ancient Hellas. Most of what a Google search will find on this magnificent Goddess is based upon later sources, or are moderately recent inventions. Note that I have no problem with that: I believe the Theoi can change--especially in the eyes of the people who worship Them--and one of the ways They do so is by the practice of epithets. So, in my personal practice, this dark version of Hekate is an epithet of Her that I respect, but do not offer sacrifice to. It's 'Threefold Hekate': beautiful and powerful in Her own right, but completely unknown to the ancient Hellenes. Yet, even in the time of the ancient Hellenes, Hekate's domains were entirely re-invented, so to say She would not have changed after the fall of the Hellenic empire seems not only futile to me, but disrespectful to a very adaptable Titan Goddess.

Hekate's (Ἑκατη) worship was most likely imported from Thrace or Anatolia, where--especially at the latter--records were found of children being named after Her. This version of Her is single-faced, rules in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, is a Theia of childbirth--to both animals and humans--and it is She who bestows wealth on mortals, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle. Yet, if mortals do not deserve Her gifts, she can withhold them from them just as easily. After the Titanomachy, Zeus bestowed upon Her the highest of honors. This is the Hekate found in Hesiod's Theogony, written around 700 BC:

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thank you for sharing!
  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    Wonderful! Do you have something on the Muse. As an artist I work with Her alot. Can't wait!
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    I'm glad you liked it :-) I have actually written quite a bit about the muses: http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.nl/search/label/Mus

A very good friend of mine lost someone tonight, and came to me for spiritual advice on how to deal with this grief. He is not Hellenistic, but values the lessons of Hellenismos on life and religion, and as such, he wanted to hear about funerary traditions within Hellenismos, and ancient Hellenic practice. What came out what a bit of a rambled Facebook message that was vague enough for interpretation but was anywhere from complete. As such, I write this today--in a hurry before an appointment--with love and sorrow in my heart, for a friend who suffers, and a young girl who lost her life.

The ancient Hellenes believed that the moment a person died, their psyche--spirit--left the body in a puff or like a breath of wind. Proper burial was incredibly important to the ancient Hellenes, and to not give a loved one a fully ritualized funeral was unthinkable. It was, however, used as punishment of dead enemies, but only rarely. Funerary rites were performed solely to get the deceased into the afterlife, and everyone who passed away was prepared for burial according to time-honored rituals.

A burial or cremation had four parts: preparing the body, the prothesis (Προθησις, 'display of the body'), the ekphorá (ἐκφορά 'funeral procession'), and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased. Preparation of the body was always done by women, and was usually done by a woman over sixty, or a close relative who was related no further away from the deceased than the degree of second cousin. These were also the only people in the ekphorá. The deceased was stripped, washed, anointed with oil, and then dressed in his or her finest clothes. They also received jewelry and other fineries. A coin could be presented to the dead, and laid under or below the tongue, or even on the eyes, as payment to Kharon.

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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 Hellens 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.

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On top of the Acropolis, the oxen are released from the temple of Zeus Polieus. Outside, put out in sacrifice to the mighty Protector of the City, lie cakes on a table, and the oxen sniff them readily as they are herded past them. Nearby, two women with bowls of water in their hands stand by a man who is sharpening an axe and knife, using the water sporadically to cool and clean the blades. They watch as the third oxen in line reaches for one of the cakes with eager lips, devouring the sweet product merrily. One of the nearby men shouts at the ox, and--enraged at the cow's desecration--rushes to the man who is sharpening his weapons. He grabs the double-bladed axe and with one big swing, ends the life of the ox. As the ox falls dead on the ground, the Ox-Slayer realizes what he has done, and drops the axe in mortification. As fast as his legs can carry him, he flees the scene. 
 
Those who have witnessed the events rush to butcher the slain animal and sacrifice it properly to Zeus Polieus. All who witnessed the slaying, eat the flesh of the murdered ox. The hide of the ox is stuffed with hay and sewn closed. The filled skin is put in front of a yoke, out in the field. Afterwards, a hunt begins for the murderer of Zeus' sacred ox. He is found, eventually, and brought to trial. The man says it was not his fault he slew the animal; the man who had been sharpening the axe should not have been there. If he had not been there, he would never have been able to slay the ox. And so, the sharpener is heard. He, also, pleads innocence: if the women with the water had not been there, he could not have sharpened the axe, and he would not have been there. The women are called to explain themselves. They, too, claim the death of the ox is not their fault: they would not have been there if the axe had not needed sharpening. And so, the axe is heard, as well as the knife used to cut up the animal, but the objects remain silent. Because they will not defend themselves, they are found guilty of the murder of the ox, and as punishment, are tossed off of a cliff, into the sea below.


Every year on the fourteenth day of Skirophorion, from the time of Erechtheus (1397 - 1347 BC) to--at least--the second century AD, this odd ritual was reenacted. It was called the 'Bouphónia' (βουφόνια), and was part of another festival; the 'Dipolieia' (τὰ Διπολίεια), a feast in honor of Zeus Polieus (Zeus of the City).

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  • B. T. Newberg
    B. T. Newberg says #
    Hi Elani. I was wondering if you might help me with a project. I'm writing a history of possible forms of Naturalistic Paganism

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.

Labeling something a shrine, does not mean you can't sacrifice at these spots in your home; every Hene Kai Nea and Noumenia, I offer libations of mixed wine and incense at my shrine to Apollon, Hermes and Hekate, every Noumenia, I offer mixed wine and incense to Zeus Kthesios at His shrine in my kitchen, and ever Agathós Daímōn, I make a libation of unmixed wine at His shrine. As explained previously, I don't have an outdoor altar; I have one indoors, and it also houses my continual flame to Hestia. It's at this shrine I do the bulk of my worship--it's my hearth. It has my offering bowl, and is very deity-neutral, just to make sure everyone I give sacrifice to might feel at home at it. It's located in my bedroom shrine--the actual space, decorated and kept clean for the Theoi.

My altar is not the altar the ancient Hellens would have used. For one, it's not outside--something I'm grateful for as it's snowing outside at the moment--and for another, it's not made of stone. I don't make a fire on top of it--a good thing, seeing as it's made of wood--but have to use a bowl to do so. In ancient Hellas, an altar was called a 'bômos' (βωμός)--properly signifying any elevation--with an 'epipuron' (ἐπίπυρον)--a movable pan or brazier--used on top of the bômos so it could serve as an altar for burnt-offerings. The household hearth was used to make sacrifices as well, and thus served as an altar of sorts. It was named after the Theia of the home and hearth: 'hestía' (ἑστία). Some state-owned altars--especially when they were simply large fires--were named 'hestía' as well.

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2412 years ago, one of Hellas' greatest thinkers stood trial before a jury of 500 men, chosen by lot. Socrates (Σωκράτης), a philosopher who was of the opinion that people should not be self-governing; they needed to be led, like a shepherd led a flock of sheep. He was of the opinion that the average Athenian had the basic virtue necessary to nurture a good society, nor the intelligence to foster such virtue within themselves. As such, he was against the democratic system that came to fruition in the city of Athens at the same time he did.

His views came from an oracular message from Delphi. In the words of Diogenēs Laertios (Διογένης Λαέρτιος), a biographer of the Hellenic philosophers:

"And it was in consequence of such sayings and actions as these, that the priestess at Delphi was witness in his favour, when she gave Chaerephon this answer, which is so universally known:
 
Socrates of all mortals is the wisest.
 
In consequence of which answer, he incurred great envy; and he brought envy also on himself, by convicting men who gave themselves airs of folly and ignorance, as undoubtedly he did to Anytus; and as is shown in Plato's Meno. For he, not being able to bear Socrates' jesting, first of all set Aristophanes to attack him, and then persuaded Melitus to institute a prosecution against him, on the ground of impiety and of corrupting the youth of the city."
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On the second day of the new Hellenistic month, we give sacrifice to (the) Agathós Daímōn, on a day named after the 'Good Spirit'. It's an important practice, and I have come to realize I don't know enough about Agathós Daímōn to do His worship justice. This is why this Pagan Blog Project post delves into His worship.

The mythology, application and existence of the Agathós Daímōn (ἀγαθός δαίμων) is a bit of a muddled mess. When one researches the term, six basic premises emerge:

  • The Agathós Daímōn is a Theos, married to the Theia Agathe Tyche (Ἀγαθή Τύχη, 'Good Fortune')
  • The Agathós Daímōn is an epithet of Zeus, or linked to Zeus Kthesios and/or Zeus Melichios
  • The Agathós Daímōn is linked Hermes Chthonius
  • The Agathós Daímōn is a fertility daimon, tied to the harvest and prosperity from agriculture
  • The Agathós Daímōn is a personal guardian spirit, either tied to the person, the family, or the oikos
  • The Agathós Daímōn is the personification of a person's conscious, or even their muse
Confused yet? Gods know I am. 
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Alright, so I'm writing this with a fever. If it makes a little less sense than usual, I'm sorry. Right, on we go. Last week, in a post on my own blog, I listed the mythical kings of ancient Athens. I ended that list with Codrus (Κόδρος), who ruled Athens from 1089 to 1068 BC. His son Medon was (probably) the first who ruled the city-state as archon. From that post:

During the Dorian invasion, the Oracle of Delphi prophecied that the Dorians would win, as long as the king of Athens was not harmed. Hearing of this prophecy, Codrus disguised himself as a peasant and snuck to the Dorian camp. Here, he made a fuss, and was prompty killed. The Dorians retreated upon learning what had happened. It was decreed that no one would be worthy enough to succeed Codrus on the throne, and so, Athens only had archons afterwards.

The archons did not rule as kings; where kings were sole rulers of the city state, archons ruled first in threes, then in nines, then in tens and their power did not extend to law-making. Indeed, the Athenians had a clear understanding of the difference between sovereign power and executive government, and they kept the two separate far more than any modern government.

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There was a special recipe for beer that the ancient Hellens called 'zythos', and which was imported from Egypt. Most ancient Hellens thought the barley beverage was absolutely undrinkable and only fit for barbarians, but some made use of it anyway.

Beer has been around for a very long time, at least six thousand years, although the art of beer-making could date back as far as fifteen thousand years ago. The ancient Hellens certainly were not the ones who invented it. Most likely, it travelled to them by way of the Egypt, but the Egyptians could probably trace the art back to Mesopotamia. A four thousand year old seal to the Goddess Ninkasi--the Goddess of beer--has been found, which is as well a hymn to Her as a recipe for beer.

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A few days ago, I was contacted through Facebook about the proper steps within Hellenistic ritual. I promised to write a post about it and here we are.

I have mentioned before that there are five steps to proper, Hellenistic, ritual: procession, purification, prayers and hymns, sacrifice/offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks, usually followed by a feast and/or theater and sporting events. Today, I want to delve into this deeper, in order to gain a greater understanding of where this formula came from.

There were many religious festivals in ancient Hellas. Some were attended my men only, some by women only, some by men and women, some by adults only, slaves were sometimes allowed to participate, etc. It depended upon the Theos in question who could participate. Roles in the festival were usually determined by your position in Hellenic society. The elite were given high honors during most festivals, citizens were always in the front of the line, slaves took what they could get, and the list goes on.
 

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  • THE BLYSSFUL WITCH
    THE BLYSSFUL WITCH says #
    This is wonderful...a beautiful description of the festival. Thank you.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you for reading

Ancient Hellas was brimming with active temples, where many came to sacrifice, plead and vow. The sacrifices are the most famous of the votive action and I've mentioned them--especial animal sacrifice--on lots of occasions. Yet, of equal importance were the votives and thank-offerings ancient Hellens donated to the temples they frequented.

Votive relief from the temple of Artemis at Brauron
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Say the words "coloring book" and most people conjure childhood memories of kitchen tables or classroom desks covered in crayons, markers, or (if they were lucky) paint and brushes. Coloring books, with the rare exception, were and are targeted at children. In most cases, I am sure, the publishers are not specifically targeting a Pagan audience. Nonetheless, there is a large number of coloring books which will appeal to adults and children from a variety of Pagan paths. Those that deal with mythology and ancient history, in particular, can be great resources for parents and teachers, inspiring kids to ask questions about the hero or God or Goddess or culture before them. 

I still love coloring books. Perhaps that makes me odd, but there is nothing quite like returning to a favorite childhood activity after a stressful day of adulthood. It is comforting and reassuring. My latest acquisition is The ABCs of Lesser-Known Goddesses: An Art Nouveau Coloring Book for Kids of All Ages by W Lyon Martin. The twenty-six Goddesses included here are from cultures all over the world: Roman (Aestas, Pax), Chibche (Bachue), Greek (Chimera, Leucothea, the Moerae, Nike), Chinese (The Dark Maid, Wang Mu), Celtic (Flidais, Gula), Hittitte (Hannahanna), Cherokee (Igaehindvo), Semitic (Jerah), Egyptian (Kebechet, Opet), Incan (Quinoa-Mama), Hindu (Raka, Ushas, Vasudhara), Shinto (Tatsuta-Hime), Aztec (Xochiquetzal), Aboriginal (Yhi) and Russian (Zorya). I will definitely be doing research on some of these Goddesses.

Dover is one of the big coloring book publishers. Among my favorites in their mythology line are Goddesses Coloring Book,  Greek Gods and Goddesses, Norse Gods and Goddesses, The Adventures of Ulysses, Gods of Ancient Egypt, and Celtic Gods and Heroes. They also have an entire line of stained-glass coloring books, which can be great fun to tear out and hang in the window.

...
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  • Kyrja
    Kyrja says #
    These are some GREAT choices - which I will happily share with others! May I also suggest "Rupert's Tales: The Wheel of the Year
  • Kyrja
    Kyrja says #
    These are some GREAT choices - which I will happily share with others! May I also suggest "Rupert's Tales: The Wheel of the Year
  • Kyrja
    Kyrja says #
    These are some GREAT choices - which I will happily share with others! May I also suggest "Rupert's Tales: The Wheel of the Year

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