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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Hellenic

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's time for another constellation, and we are moving on to one of the larger ones: the sixth largest of Ptolemy's constellations, in fact. This one represents something that definitely exists: the Po river in northern Italy, or the Istros of Hungry, which was located in the mythical northern land of Hyperborea. The ancient Hellenes called the river 'Eridanos', and that's the name of the constellation as well.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing! That was great...

We pick up this third part of the Labours series with the second labour Hēraklēs has to complete: slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra. The funny thing about this hydra is that no one is really sure how many heads it actually has. The generally accepted number is nine, but ten, or even a hundred are also mentioned. It's also unclear if there was only one head that was supposed to be immortal (as per Apollodorus) or if the creature itself was immortal. The sequence of events, however, is quite clear.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing!

Oh guys, you know I love you, right? Yesterday I got not one but two e-mail from readers. One was a very sweet note abut the quality of the blog and how much they like reading it, the other was a very simple question, and I really appreciate that the reader (who has opted to remain anonymous) was comfortable enough with me to ask it. The message reads:

"Hello Elani,
 
I'm a frequent reader of your blog, and I read the post about the Greek statues being returned because the Qatar government did not want to display them naked. I saw the image that went with it and I want to ask you something I have been wondering about. Why do all the male statues from ancient Greece and Rome have small [packages]? Were ancient Greek men all that small? Sorry if this is inappropriate.
 
Thanks in advance!"
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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    That was a really good insight on how the Greeks valued Intellect over Instinct. Also, though, it's a physical fact that when you
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Sounds practical, thank you for the addition!
  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    An important foot note here; "It's not the size that matters, it's the motion in the ocean".

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In the blog post about sayings which can be traced back to ancient Hellas or Hellenic mythology, I make mention of Oedipus. The saying he is connected to--the Freudian Oedipus complex--introduced Oedipus and explains the saying:
 

"Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta. King Laius was fortold his son would kill him and marry his mother, and so he left him to die on a mountainside. The child was found, however, and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope. Oedipus eventually heard of the prophecy about him and fled, not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents, who he believed to be his biological ones. Fate would have him end up on the same road as King Laius, and in an argument over whom would step out of the way, Oedipus killed his father. He then traveled on and eventually met and married his mother. The myth continues on, but this is the part where the figure of speech comes from."


Today, I want to go a little deeper into this myth, to a milestone in the life of Oedipus. I quite recently acquired a little vase with a depiction of Oedipus solving the riddle of the Sphinx. It's a replica of a kylix motif. This seems like a perfect opportunity to tackle this story.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Sadly, I would have been Sphinx food.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Same, glad I'm n0t alone ;-)

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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...

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A little over a week ago, I introduced a new series for the blog: a short series about the labours of Hēraklēs. In that post, I described the life of Hēraklēs up until the point where he set out to complete the tasks. Today, I'm taking you through the first of twelve labours: Hēraklēs' challenge to slay the Nemean lion.

The Leon Nemeios (Λεον Νεμειος), or Nemean lion has been described with a large variety of parents. Selene is mentioned by Aelian and Seneca, amongst others, but one of the drakons is also possible, especially Echidna. Diodorus Siculus, in his Library of History describes the lion so: 

"This was a beast of enormous size, which could not be wounded by iron or bronze or stone and required the compulsion of the human hand for his subduing. It passed the larger part of its time between Mycenae and Nemea, in the neighbourhood of a mountain which was called Tretus from a peculiarity which it possessed; for it had a cleft at its base which extended clean through it and in which the beast was accustomed to lurk." [4.11.3]
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Making Sense of the Modernist Reconstructionist (Part 1)

Before I address the title, let me first address a fact that was illuminated in some fairly recent conversations:  I am old.  Chronologically, I'm just a bit over thirty, which isn't really anyone's idea of old --and contrary to the prevalent misconceptions of ancient longevity (which is an average) generally speaking, people who could survive past the age of 15 all through the Archaic and Classical eras could typically expect to live into their sixties, so this isn't even "old" by historical standards, but I'm old.  I'm old because I retain this stubborn identity of "Hellenic reconstructionist" even though many people my age and younger, even (sometimes especially) if they practise by the same general methods I do have long eschewed the term because of reasons.  I all get to those reasons very shortly.  I'm old because I've acquired greater measures of both patience and cynicism in my approach to dealing with others, largely because of persistent misconceptions of who and what I am and am about, and when I don't have the patience to explain it, I don't get angry, I just shrug and think oh well, this isn't news and frankly I don't think they're worth explaining it to, and then I ask the other person "Hey, let's agree to disagree?"  But the good thing about being an ageing cynic (but not really a Cynic, though I do appreciate some of their teachings --my philosophy is based largely on Kyrenaic Hedonism with equal parts Empedocles, Democritus, Kirkegaard, Sartre, Camus, Crisp, and Jarman filling in the gaps, and also a huge stress on aesthetic arts bringing joy and meaning taken from famous Dandies including, but not limited to, Beau Brummel, Oscar Wilde, and Lord Whimsy)...  [coughs]  Yes, the good thing about being an ageing cynic with a blog, is I get to make things as clear as i need to, update and revise as I need to, and point people to said blog when I don't feel like dealing with them right now.

I want to make clear what religious reconstruction is and is not, because in spite of being pretty active for about the last five years in trying to promote this method of practise as both a perfectly valid and relevant "pagan path", it seems I've been met with more gross and appalling misconceptions in this last year than the previous four combined.  Now, I have some suspicions on key players who may be a large part responsible for this, but this isn't about naming names, this is about using the position afforded me on PaganSquare to clarify, perhaps even educate.  In this, I also want to stress (though I doubt that I could ever stress enough for some people) that identifying with a reconstructionist method is not synonymous with being ultra-conservative, traditionalist, neo-luddite, or regressionist.

Religious reconstruction is a method of practise, not a religious doctrine in and of itself.

...
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  • Conor O'Bryan Warren
    Conor O'Bryan Warren says #
    What a *fabulous* post. I was very confused when I saw certain people calling it Hellenic Orthodoxy. I scratched my head and sneez
  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy says #
    I've concluded that the "Hellenic orthodoxy" thing is one of those made-up terms from people who want to feel superior about follo
  • Conor O'Bryan Warren
    Conor O'Bryan Warren says #
    I know, I think they were trying to invoke the image of 'Orthodox Christianity' and all the negative connotations that has in the

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The constellation Draco (from the Greek Drakon, meaning dragon) is identified--funnily enough--with some dragons in Hellenic myth but not others. There are quite a few creatures, after all, who would qualify as a dragon in Hellenic myth. For a dragon or hydra not connected to the constellation, think of the one Kadmos vanquished, for example, or the one Apollon vanquished at Delphi, or even the dragon who guarded the Golden Fleece and was slain by Iásōn. In truth, only two dragons were associated with the myth in ancient times, most notably by Hyginus in his Astronomica: Drakon Hesperios, the Hesperian Dragon, and Drakon Gigantomakhios, the Gigantomachian Dragon.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Release the Kraken...er, Drakon! Great and informative post. Thanks again.

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Some of the best epics are not told in a single story, so therefor, I will kick off a mini series today: the labours of Hēraklēs. Hēraklēs (Ἡρακλῆς), from 'Hera' and kleos, 'glory', was born as Alkaios (Ἀλκαῖος) or Alkeidēs (Ἀλκείδης). He became on of the greatest of the divine heroes in Hellenic mythology, and was born the son of Zeus and Alkmene (Ἀλκμήνη), foster son of Amphitryon (Ἀμφιτρύων), king of Tiryns in Argolis. By Alkmene, he is the great-grandson of Perseus, and by Zeus, his half-brother. He is perhaps better known as Hercules, his Roman counterpart. In this first part, I will introduce Hēraklēs and describe his life up until the labours, and then tackle the labours one at a time in coming editions.

Hēraklēs was conceived by Zeus upon Alkmene, as He disguised Himself as her husband, returning early from war. Alkmene accepted Him in her bed gladly, as she was happy to see her husband again. When The real Amphitryon did return later that night, Alkmene realized what had happened, and told her husband. Amphitryon accepted her in his bed, regardless, and so she became pregnant with twins, one fathered by Zeus, and one by her mortal husband. In the words of Apollodorus:

"But before Amphitryon reached Thebes, Zeus came by night and prolonging the one night threefold he assumed the likeness of Amphitryon and bedded with Alcmena and related what had happened concerning the Teleboans. But when Amphitryon arrived and saw that he was not welcomed by his wife, he inquired the cause; and when she told him that he had come the night before and slept with her, he learned from Tiresias how Zeus had enjoyed her. And Alcmena bore two sons, to wit, Hercules, whom she had by Zeus and who was the elder by one night, and Iphicles, whom she had by Amphitryon." [2.4.8]
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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    I really enjoyed your recounting of Herakles' labors. I have a small shrine to Him in my home. Thanks again!
  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I always love your writing style and you always choose the most informative topics on which to po
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you for your high praise It means a lot!

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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"...but most of all I love Icarus, who knew the wax would melt but still flew towards the sun."
 -- 'Ik hou van Icarus' - Tjitske Jansen (translated from Dutch)



One of my all-time favorite Hellenic myths is about Íkaros; Daidalos' son who escaped the labyrinth on the island of Krete with wings made of feathers and wax. He was warned not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax, or too low because wet feathers wouldn't carry him, yet Íkaros got too caught up with the marvel of flying, and did fly too high or too low. As a result, he drowned somewhere between the Island and the main land.

Daidalos (Δαίδαλος) was an inventor, a craftsman, who had murdered a gifted student of his--his nephew--in a fit of jealousy. This caused him to flee his home town (most often referred to as Athens, although there are some timeline problems if this was the case) and find refuge on Krete. King Minos saw in Daidalos a gifted man, and asked him to draw and constructed the labyrinth of the Minotaur, son of King Minos. Because he knew the secrets of the labyrinth, and the deformations of the Minotaur, he was never permitted to leave the Island.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Another great post! Thanks! If the Apollo 13 mission to the Moon had not experienced its famous mishap, and the moon shots not b

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Administering justice is often placed in the sphere of influence of either Athena or Nemesis, and both Goddesses do, indeed, have connections to it. There is one Theia, however, who is the personification of the phenomenon of justice. Dikē (Δικη) is the Goddess of justice placed upon mortals, fair judgements and the rights established by custom and law. According to Hesiod, She was born from a joining of Zeus and Themis, the Titan Goddess of divine law, custom and prophecy. She has five sisters, Eunomia (Ευνομια, Goddess of good order and lawful conduct) and Eirênê (Ειρηνη, Goddess of peace and spring), with whom Dikē forms the Horai (Ὡραι), the Goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time; and the Moirai, the Goddesses of fate. Their names are Kloto (Κλωθώ, spinner), Atropos (Ἄτροπος, unturnable), and Lakhesis (Λάχεσις, Alotter).

 
The Horai: Eirênê, Eunomia, and Dikē
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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Another great post! Such an important Goddess for us mortals...

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

This post is the first of a new series, a series on places where worship took place in ancient Hellas. In future installments, I will talk about the household, about temples, about caves, springs, and other special places. A little while ago, I spoke about nature religions, and how I feel Hellenismos is not a nature religion in the Neo-Pagan sense. Because I like to make life difficult for myself, I will now write a post which basically says that the ancient Hellenes practiced much of their worship in nature, partly in sacred groves. Before reading this post, it might be good to read the post about Hellenismos and nature religions first.

For me, the most famous of groves is one written about by Sophocles, in Oedipus at Colonus, amongst others, the grove of the Erinyes, which is entered by a spiritually polluted Oedipus, for a rest, and to relieve his suffering. It is here that his daughters tend to him and perform sacrifice to the Erinyes in his name:

"My daughter, if thou seest a resting place 
On common ground or by some sacred grove, 
Stay me and set me down."
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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    This is great stuff, and so relevant for those of us who honor the Theoi! My thanks for finding it and sharing with us.
  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler says #
    Dear Elani, It seems to me that you may have misunderstood what Gus was saying about "nature religion". The very fact that the He
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Dear Constance, It may very wel be that I have misunderstood Gus's point. It still does nto change the situation in ancient Hella

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A little over a week ago, I introduced part one of this new series-within-a-series. Like Andromeda and her family, crater belongs to a group of constellations linked together by a single myth. The first part of this series, on the constellation Corvus, introduced the basics of the myth:

"Corvus represents a raven or crow in service to Apollon, who 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 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. To punish the bird further, Apollon made sure the krater would forever be just out of reach of the bird."

 

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing! How many great stories the ancients must have been able to tell around the fire at night...
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    From what I can tell, at least one for every day of the year

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Today we will look into the little talked about practice of the washing of feet within the context of xenia. It's something I have been curious about ever since I first read the Odysseia. I had completely forgotten I wanted to post about it, however, until I discovered a post by Robert of Doing Magick, who wrote about his recent experience with the practice--though for different reasons.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for bringing us the results of your research. These kind of posts inform us about the context of the society in which the T
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you for reading

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Giving gifts to friends, family members, or even acquaintances and complete strangers is a long standing tradition. It existed long before ancient Hellas, but was, indeed, a vital part of its culture. It was tied to both kharis and xenia. Gifts were exchanged between monarchs of city-states to create good will, and were thus an important part of diplomacy.

All votives, thank-offerings, and pinakes were gifts from mortals to Theoi. Athletic competitions always concluded with a price--a gift--awarded to the winner. Gifts were given to the submissive partner in a pederastic relationship, and to favored prostitutes and serfs. Gifts played a much more significant role in ancient Hellenic society as a whole than they do in ours today. The giving of gifts in ancient Hellas was not just a social event, however. There was far more to the practice than one might assume, and today, we will look at the tradition of gift giving in greater detail.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    That was fascinating reading! Thanks again...

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A few days ago, PaganSquare blogger Gus diZerega posted a blog post on nature religions within Paganism, a reply to a lovely post by Joseph Bloch. Paganism--as used by Gus--seems to include any pre-Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religion, and is separate from Neo-Paganism, which he classifies as 'modern revival of Pagan spirituality by people coming from within modern society'. The focal point of Gus' post was that, whether the ancient or modern Pagan cultures agree or not, they were, and are, nature worshippers. As such, reconstructionists of said religions are also nature worshippers. I'm paraphrasing here, so please, read Gus' words for yourself.

I disagree with Gus' conclusions, but I will not go into his writing here. I simply introduce Gus and his post to introduce PaganSquare reader Trine, who commented on one of my replies to Gus with a question I would love to dedicate a blog post to. Her post went as follows:

"I am curious - would you be interested in writing a blog post on your Hellenistic view on the reverence of (or indifference to) nature and on pollution? What I read above is that oil spills, trash in the woods, bee hive death due to insecticides, etc. does not really concern you as much as other topics may, because Hellenism is not a nature-based religion. My question, or curiosity, regards how you would approach this in terms of your Gods - is an oil spill offensive to Poseidon? Is littering in the wild and limiting the natural habitats of wildlife offensive to Pan, or Artemis? And how did the Hellenes approach this?"
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  • Trine
    Trine says #
    Thank you very much for taking the time to write this enlightening post, Elani. It answered all of my questions perfectly, and gav
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Very welcome, Trine, thank you for asking the questions!
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thank you for this great post! As a Platonist-leaning Hellenist myself, I honor the local nature spirits in addition to the Theoi.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's been a little while since the last constellation post, so here we are again. This time, I'm tackling a little one,  Corvus, the Latin word for 'raven' or 'crow'. It comes from the Hellenic 'korax'. It's one of three constellations linked to a myth I will only partly reveal today, as it makes much more sense to place it with the constellation Crater, which will be the next one I tackle.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing!
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Very welcome

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