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.

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Self, in relation to Deity

Those of you who have been visiting this blog for a while are most likely aware I have a pretty Reconstructionistic approach to Reconstructionism. I came to Hellenismos from a Neo-Wiccan/Eclectic Religious Witchcraft path and have never been subject to the restrictions religion seems to have brought to those who came here through Christianity or other major religions. Because of this, I have no qualms in surrendering part of my autonomy to serve the Theoi (and other Gods, before my progression into Hellenismos). Today I want to talk about finding the balance between yourself and your Deities, a balance that is different for everyone.

Depending on your Tradition (and I'm just going to assume that since you're reading this, you have allowed the Gods in your life), you will describe your relationship with the Gods in a myriad of ways; work with, commune with, meet with, talk with, worship, appease, etc. I serve. I worship, too, and I appease. Sometimes, I talk to the Theoi, but above all, I serve.

Funnily enough, I'm not a submissive person. I'm a caring person, true, and I will gladly put others ahead of myself, but I do that from a place of personal strength and confidence. I choose to put others' needs ahead of my own at times, but I claim my own space and rights when I need to. I have boundaries that no one ever crosses, unless I allow them. I learned to do this the hard way, when I was still a child. Yet, when it comes to the Theoi (and other Gods before Them), I seem to be completely without boundaries.


This means that--when it comes to the Theoi--I say 'how high' when They say 'jump', regardless of what is requested of me. It also means that I put my faith in Them. When I pray and sacrifice to Zeus the Thunderer for a day without rain as I do my rounds outside, I don't bring an umbrella. I trust that Zeus will either honor my prayer through kharis, or will have good reason not to. Who am I to go against His wishes and stay dry, regardless? To me, that is hubris.

One of the most controversial posts on this blog, 'How far would you go to appease the Gods?', was so controversial because of this notion. While this extreme is important in my relation to Deity, there is no reason why your practice should be the same. If you're in a Tradition where 'working with the Gods' is a big thing, you'll most likely give up a lot less of your autonomy to the Gods. Your relationship is more personal, more equal, than many Hellenists will ever have (although, I guess, there are exceptions to that as well, within the Hellenistic community).

I think it's fair to say that practitioners of Reconstructionistic Traditions always give up more of their autonomy to the Gods than their non-Reconstructionistic counterparts within the Pagan community. This is one of the reasons why Reconstructionism is not for everyone. I'm not doubting anyone's faith here, but a religious Recon approach forces you to to really believe in the Gods. If you secretly think They aren't real after all, or are archetypes or constructed personas, you're going to burn out. A Recon approach is a lot to take on if you don't have faith.

The Pagan community is wonderful, especially because of its many facets. The question of who serves whom is largely Tradition based, but where you fall on the scale depends greatly on your person. To know where you stand on this issue may be helpful in your practice, especially if you're trying to build any type of relationship with Gods. Asking yourself (and Them) about Their nature, your role in Their worship, Their role in your life and the relationship between you and Deity are essential to a healthy and fulfilling religious life. Some of these questions are questions we'd rather not ask ourselves, because we fear the answers, but being truthful to yourself and the Gods is one of the first steps to kharis and trust. Don't avoid the hard questions; they teach us the most about ourselves, our lives, our worship, and our Gods.

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Elani Temperance is a twenty-seven year old woman, who lives with her partner in The Netherlands. She has been Pagan for a little over twelve years and has explored Neo-Wicca, Technopaganism, Hedge Witchery and Eclectic Religious Witchcraft before progressing to Hellenismos. Although her home practice is fully Hellenic, she has an online Neo-Pagan magazine called 'Little Witch magazine' (www.littlewitchmagazine.com) in which she and several co-writers try to cover the whole gamut of Neo-Paganism. Baring the Aegis is also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BaringTheAegis

Comments

  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Saturday, 22 December 2012

    "Who am I to go against His wishes ...?"
    You are a beautiful and incredible human being is who you are. Who is he to say you have to get wet? The polytheistic gods, as I understand them, are not necessarily "good" or and they are not omni-benevolent. They are as flawed as human beings, but they just have more power. Why bow down to power, if it is not paired with virtue?

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Sunday, 23 December 2012

    Cross-reply between here and http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/the-role-of-faith-and-hubris-in-paganism

    Thank you for your reply to my post at PaganSquare. I read it, but hadn’t gotten a chance to reply to it. Let me do it here. I will also copy this reply to PaganSquare.

    As I wrote in my post, I was sharing my experience, my life, and my faith. Even in the original post, I explained that this is not a polytheist/religious staple. To quote the paragraph below the one you have quoted:

    “While this extreme is important in my relation to Deity, there is no reason why your practice should be the same. If you’re in a Tradition where ‘working with the Gods’ is a big thing, you’ll most likely give up a lot less of your autonomy to the Gods. Your relationship is more personal, more equal, than many Hellenists will ever have (although, I guess, there are exceptions to that as well, within the Hellenistic community).”

    I get the feeling that you think I’m somehow oppressed or that I must be unhappy in my relationship with the Gods. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I wrote in that very same post, I don’t have the negative connotations to serving (the) God(s) those who came to Paganism from one of the major faiths. I was never forced to attend service, never learned to be fearful of the Gods, never watched out for the All-Seeing in the sky.

    To me, there is beauty in serving, a humble existence that fits well with certain vows I have made to the Theoi, as well as the way I prefer to live my life. I don’t consider myself a ‘lower being’ at all, but do acknowledge that the Gods are more powerful and wiser than I am. Through kharis, I know They have my best interests in mind, and if things take a turn for the worst, I can be sure it’s happening because I did or did not do something that I shouldn’t or should have. I broke kharis, and They have every right to hold that against me.

    As you wrote in this brilliant post, my flavor of Paganism is much closer identified with the monotheistic faiths than the earth-centered or self-centered paths of Paganism. I also understand your comment about boundaries between me and the Theoi. You are right in saying that I would never assume to be a God, or to be divine in any way. I’m a mortal, and as such, the Theoi hold sway over my life.

    This extreme level of servitude is the level that works for me, just like it works for Christian nuns and priests, Buddhist monks, and everyone else who places their lives and fates in the lives of those they serve. It doesn’t make us weak or pathetic: reclaiming my right to bow down to deities within the current Pagan climate took more guts than any other stance I ever took, and I have taken a lot of stances in my life that were not appreciated by the mainstream majority.

    I know you practice Paganism differently, and as a loyal reader of your blog, I respect that greatly. I love reading your perspective. Yet, like my way of practicing would make you very unhappy, your way of practicing would make me feel the same. Thankfully, this Pagan label is applicable to both of us and anyone in-between, even if our practices differ to such a high degree, we have almost nothing in common.

    One last thing I wanted to comment on is ‘power’. In this post, you ask the reader–and me specifically–’Why bow down to power, if it is not paired with virtue?’. Who says the Theoi are not virtuous, even if they are flawed? Funnily enough, Star Foster wrote almost the exact same thing a while ago, and I blogged about it on my blog: http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-response-to-do-we-worship-power.html

    From that post:

    “As for honoring Gods because They are exemplars of virtue… It may be the phrasing, but I have difficulty with this. For one, all Theoi have Their epithets. Domains range from the destructive to the protective and back again. Does that make them virtuous?

    Until the rebellion, Zeus seduced every beautiful human specimen He laid His divine eyes on. Most of the male Theoi have mythology which focusses on an act of rape on Their part. Hera’s jealousy is legendary. Nearly all female Deities–although a case could be made for all–let the male Deities dominate Their lives. The Theoi are so human in Their failings (from a modern standpoint!), that They can hardly be considered exemplars of virtues.

    Then again, Their ‘flaws’ hardly make Them unvirtuous: They still teach a lot of them: temperance, prudence, justice, courage, etc. The trouble with the Theoi and Star’s statement–for me–is that all Theoi teach these virtues. All of them have virtues in Their ‘base’ and in Their various epithets. Choosing one above the other seems counterproductive to the spirits of reconstruction and polytheism. That having been said, there are a lot of people in Paganism–and most likely Hellenismos as well–who do not share my vision upon this issue, and so I understand where Star is coming from.”

    Within my path, my religion, I am not God. I am mortal. I serve the Gods who rule my life, and because I serve Them well, I have a very good life. Some may not understand–perhaps most will not understand–but this is the life I chose, and the life I am infinitely happy with. I have tried the other circles of Paganism you describe and it was not for me.

    The only faith I have is in the existence of the Gods. Not as archetypes, not as different personas or one or a few entities, but as a myriad of separate entities who may or may not give a crap about me. Hopefully They do, and to make sure They do, I try to appease and serve Them, but that has nothing to do with having faith. That has to do with building a relationship with those who were used to being served. This is why I call myself a Reconstructionist, yet even in the Recon community, there are various degrees in how much autonomy is surrendered.

    Surrendering to what I really wanted out of my religion and life, was the best decision I have ever made. No, the Theoi are not all good, but They are protective. I place my trust–and life–in Their hands because I know They will treat me well. And so, when I go out without my umbrella, it does not rain, or so minimally, it is not a hinderance, even if it should have been raining non-stop the whole day. Kharis. Faith. I love this life, my religion and the Theoi, and I do not need to be rescued from it. But thank you, for allowing me to solidify this for myself again :)

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