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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Mythology

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

At dusk today, one of Hellenismos' most important festivals (if one can give classifications to the festivals at all) starts. It's the Anthesteria, and held in honor of Dionysos Limnaios, wine, and the dead. The Anthesteria was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. It is an ancestral festival, the oldest of the festivals for Dionysos in Athens, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season to come, a time to celebrate with the spirits of the departed the indefatigable resurgence of life. The festival centered around the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia (after πίθοι 'storage jars'), Khoes (χοαί 'libations') and Khytroi (χύτροι 'pots').

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Remember when I basically said that with Cepheus, we had come to the end of the Andoméda-related constellations? Yeah, I unintentionally lied. There is one more: Cetus, located in the aquatic portion of the sky, where many water-related constellations are places.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

When a whole family gets uplifted into the sky, the breakdown of their constellations gets a little repetitive over time, sorry about that. When we last saw the Aethiopia ruling family, we discussed the constellations Androméda and Cassiopeia. Today, we close the trilogy with Capheus, father of Andromeda, and husband to Cassiopeia, and add a good bit of info to the myth.

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I'm doing a combination post today: I'm combining a Pagan Blog Post, and a constellation series post. As such, I'll be talking about the mythical creatures as well as the constellation named after a few very famous examples of the species. Centaurs (kéntauros, kένταυρος) are depicted as half man, half horse; having the torso of a man extending where the neck of a horse should be. They were said to be wild, savage, and lustful, and in very old Hellenic artwork, they were often depicted as fully human, with a horse's end added to them. This shape for Centaurs remained in art for civilized Centaurs like Kheiron and Pholus.

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When I was a little girl, my favorite book was the Dutch translation of Michaels Ende's (originally German) 'Momo and The Grey Gentlemen'. Together with the main character from comic series 'Yoko Tsuno', my ethical system and basic personality got its foundation from Ende's main character Momo. If you haven't read this book--it's from the writer of 'The Neverending Story', if that helps--please pick up a copy. It was written in 1974, and describes well... exactly our current society. That's not what I wanted to talk about, however. I wanted to talk about the Constellation Cassiopeia.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Humanity has been studying and dreaming about and mythologizing the heavens since before the beginning of recorded civilization. No doubt, our ancestors were telling tales about the sun and stars even as they made the long trek out of Africa. Studying the heavens formed the very basis of some civilizations (see Sumer and the Maya, for example), giving rise to calendar systems, festival cycles, and whole arcs of mythology.

For those interested in the origins of the myths of the heavens (as opposed to just the science, which is a fascinating topic in and of itself) a good place to start is Exploring Ancient Skies: A Survey of Ancient and Cultural Astronomy by David H Kelley and Eugene F Milone. Dense -- though never boring -- Kelley and Milone's book offers a solid grounding in the place of "naked eye" astronomy in ancient civilizations, how our ancestors' observations shaped their civilizations, and the myths and legends that arose around celestial phenomena. A useful interdisciplinary reference, which I recommend for older children and adults interested in the history of astronomy.

Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans: A Sourcebook Containing The Constellations of Pseudo-Eratosthenes and the Poetic Astronomy of Hyginus by Theony Condos is a useful collection of primary source material. Organized by constellation, this books offers little in the way of commentary, instead allowing readers to compare and contrast myths on their own. If you are a writer setting a story in the Classical Age or a poet looking for inspiration, add this to your library.

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  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    It's not easy to find, but "Star Myths of the Vikings" by Björn Jónsson has a lot of material on Norse astronomy. Some of it is sy

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's due time for another astronomy post, wouldn't you say? Today, I'm picking up the fourth of the constellations in the zodiac: Capricornus. Capricornus is often referred to as 'Capricorn', the latin word for 'horned goat' or 'goat horn', and in ancient Hellas--and even in most modern interpretations--the hybrid is not between human and goat, as one might expect from a culture with satyrs in its mythology, but goat and fish.

 
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  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    Always love your posts, Elani! Thanks for making them so informative and horizon-expanding.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    High praise, coming from you Thank you very much!
Three people, who are made of absolute win, have created a visualization of Zeus' affairs and the offspring that came from those unions, based on classical authors. You can go here to get taken to the interactive map where you can explore for yourself and/or read my thoughts on it after the jump.
 
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  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers says #
    Pretty awesome.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Some constellations have huge mythological backstories, others do not. I'm starting to realize that those who are best know--like Aries and Cancer--have tiny backstories while some unknown constellations--like Argo Navis--have huge ones. Cancer's mythological backstory can be found in the myth of Herakles, and today, I'll present you with the whole story.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Unless stated otherwise, nothing in this post is drawn from ancient sources. Most of it isn't even UPG. It's a thought exercise that popped into my head and won't leave anymore. To get it out, I'd better write it down and share. Way back when (when the Pagan Blog Project posts had only hit the 'G's), I wrote about genealogy of the Gods. I ended that post with the following:

"One sad part of studying Divine genealogy is that there is an end. The lives of the Gods have come to a halt. We rehash the stories but no more children are born, no heroes rise. It makes me wish for the inclusion and revelation of UPG into Hellenismos. New blood, new stories, could really benefit the practice and believes of Hellenic practitioners. A new Divine child to shake up the pantheon, a new child of Zeus who grows up to fight new (or returned) monsters. Sacrilege, some say, and they might be right. But I admit to staring at the pages of genealogy in my book and wishing the lines, somehow, someway, extend to include more of the Divine family. "


I still feel that way. I still wish for a line that continues onto now. But, seeing as we don't have that, I'm going to make another mental leap. I'm going to see who of the Theoi would oversee some of the modern marvels, should They be willing to adopt them.

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  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers says #
    I appreciate you being so frank. I must say that 'standardization' sounds absolutely horrid in my ears. It makes me think of those
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    I very much do not subscribe to the 'honor the Twelve' mentality. I'm trying to reconstruct the ancient religion, and the ancient
  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers says #
    I understand. Of course we do not have to hail every piece of UPG as the new Homer. However ... the starting point of your article

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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.

We will look at large scale war--as described in the Iliad--first. Failure to bring a foe to justice was truly dishonorable to the ancient Hellens. Just the thought of leaving Troy without victory after nine years was impossible to bear for the Hellenic warriors who had come all this way.

"Doesn’t a sailor in his benched ship fret, when the winter gales and roaring seas keep him from wife and home for even a month; while we are still held here after nine long years? Small blame then to you Achaeans, impatient by your beaked ships, yet how shameful it would be after this to return empty-handed! My friends endure a little longer, so we may know the truth of Calchas’ prophecy."
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  • Sophie Gale
    Sophie Gale says #
    This post comes at a good time. I've been thinking about blogging about our Pagan history. A couple of years ago, I came across
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    That depends on the time period, but I get the sentiment. It's a rough way to live, and the eye-for-an-eye mentality largely exist

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Being a devotee of *cough* "lesser-known" Deities does occasionally suck. In my case, while I honor well-known Deities such as Hermes and The Muses and Artemis and Hekate, I am also very devoted to The Charites.

The usual response to that statement is "who?"

If I said "The Graces" instead, would that help?

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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.

It's one of the best known Hellenic myths, and the movies, series, books, comics and other mediums which feature it--or Médousa--are endless. Percy Jackson comes to mind, and Clash of the Titans, but there are many others. What's less well known is that this particular myth doesn't date back to ancient Hellas, but ancient Rome: it was written by the Roman poet Ovid, in 8 B.C., in his Metamorphosis
 
"...He [Perseus] told of his long journeys, of dangers that were not imaginary ones, what seas and lands he had seen below from his high flight, and what stars he had brushed against with beating wings. He still finished speaking before they wished. Next one of the many princes asked why Medusa, alone among her sisters, had snakes twining in her hair. The guest replied ‘Since what you ask is worth the telling, hear the answer to your question. She was once most beautiful, and the jealous aspiration of many suitors. Of all her beauties none was more admired than her hair: I came across a man who recalled having seen her. They say that Neptune, lord of the seas, violated her in the temple of Minerva. Jupiter’s daughter turned away, and hid her chaste eyes behind her aegis. So that it might not go unpunished, she changed the Gorgon’s hair to foul snakes. And now, to terrify her enemies, numbing them with fear, the goddess wears the snakes, that she created, as a breastplate.’"
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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.

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  • Christine L Berger
    Christine L Berger says #
    I have to say that I am grateful for your blog. This past summer I started intensely studying, making offerings etc. to several o
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    I'm very sorry to hear your teacher passed. May he/she be judged fairly and find comfort in Elysium, or anywhere else they wanted

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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.

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In the spirit of sharing more about the Hellenic festivals, I'm combining two of the coming ones in this post; three if you count a reference to a past one I hadn't talked about yet. Like I said on Sunday, I really only pay special attention to the festivals that resonate with me. This is not picking-and-choosing--because I try to at least offer libations to the stars of every single festival--but simply a matter of practicality.

I have to accept that I am a solitary Hellenic, which is a bit of an oxymoron. Like being a solitary Wiccan, being a solitary Hellenic is really not possible. Hellenismos is a community religion, like most of the Recon Traditions. Yes, you can focus solely on household worship, but in my view of the religion, you're practicing only half of it if you do that. The festivals made up a huge part of ancient Hellenic worship. With around ten festivals that took place outside of the home every month, it's hard to ignore that they mattered very much.

I feel it's very important to honor the festivals in my own small way, and I have come to realize that the festivals really make me long for a Hellenic community of my own. For a lot of the festivals, the entire city or town--especially in Athens--celebrated. Men, women, children, slaves, free men, everyone. There were special festivals for nearly all of them. Two women-only festivals were the Stenia and the Thesmophoria.

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  • Janneke Brouwers
    Janneke Brouwers says #
    Hallo landgenoot! Ik wist niet dat er Hellinisten waren in onze koude kikkerlandje, en die dan ook nog eens een blog hebben op Wit
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Hallo Janneke, leuk om een landgenoot te spreken! Ja, er is inderdaad in ieder geval één Helleniste in Nederland. Als Helleniste v

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Warning: blatant self-promotion ahead! But, there is a really good reason for said self-promotion, so please bear with me.

Science fiction as a genre is both extremely popular and notoriously difficult to define. It is often a case of "I'll know it when I see it." Stars Wars? Yes. Star Trek? Yes. McCaffrey's Pern books? Yes. KA Laity's Owl Stretching? Considering the people-eating aliens and near-future setting, yes. Devon Monk's The Age of Steam series? Um ... it's set in the Wild West, but it's steampunk, which is often considered a subgenre of science fiction, but it's got faeries and magic, too, so ... maybe? Lucian of Samosata's True History? Um ... second century fable-ish proto-science fiction? 

Throwing "Pagan" into the mix makes things even more difficult. How does one define "Pagan" in this context? Does the author of a work have to identity as some flavor of Pagan? Or does only the work itself have to deal with Pagan Deities, philosophies, and myths?

...
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  • Eli Effinger-Weintraub
    Eli Effinger-Weintraub says #
    Hey, Rebecca. I wanted to mention The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction, a co-effort of Llewellyn and our own Witches&Pagans. Sever
  • Ryan Musgrave-Evans
    Ryan Musgrave-Evans says #
    Hey guys. If there's a free-for-all on self promotion going at the moment, I'll mention my own works. "Dead Stars" is a 110,000 wo
  • Sophie Gale
    Sophie Gale says #
    Now you've got me hunting for Pagan authors! SF is a labor of love for JMG, not necessarily a paying gig. Patricia Kennealy-Morr

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