Pagan Paths

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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Doubt

There are some things religious Pagans are not encouraged to talk about. Doubt is one of them. I believe that the Gods exist, that They are real entities, who rule over life and death, and who dictate the way we should behave through teachings found in mythology and ancient societies. I chose to follow the Hellenic Gods in Their teachings, not disregarding that there are other Gods, but recognizing my human shortcomings, I could never honor all of the Gods in the way They feel They are entitled to be worshipped. And so I leave the worship of the Norse Gods to the Asatruar, the worship of the Egyptian Gods to the Kemetics, etc. I have specialized, so to say, in the Hellenic Gods, but to me, all the Gods are real and worthy of respect.

 

I didn't grow up religious. My parents were raised in various denominations of Christianity, but they had both rejected it before I was even born. My parents do not disapprove of faith, but they discouraged it, regardless. I did not have an easy childhood, and by the time I was twelve, I was already searching for religion, longing to satisfy the need in myself I found to reach out to beings beyond my reach who could offer me something to hold on to. I investigated the common, major, religions and found them lacking. I can see the beauty in many of them now, but for my twelve year old self, they were passive and lacking in what I needed: structure, active Gods, and the focus on household worship.

 

I found Paganism and self-dedicated after a year and a day of reading and practicing. I was thirteen at the time, and while I did not believe in the God and Goddess I found int eh books, the concept drew me in enough to start performing the rites, to start celebreating the festivals and to find my peace there. It took me years until I truly believed in the Gods, at least four or five years of active practice. It wasn't something that happened overnight, but I did find myself looking back and thinking 'when did I start believing?'. For me, it wasn't a specific ritual, or a moment in time that cemented my faith. Once day, I realized that I believed, and that was that.

 

 

I love believing in the Gods. It gives me something to hold on to during the dark days, someone to thank during the good, and it gives me a purpose in life. I've said before that I don't have a direct connection to the Gods. No one talks to me, nor makes Their presence known in any other way. I don't have chats with Aphrodite, nor does Hypnos visit me in my dreams. I'm just a person who gives Them their daily due, and in return, I trust They steer my life towards a place of quiet comfort.

 

In general, I don't doubt anymore, but every once in a while, I will find myself in a discusson over religion, and loose the ability to formulate why I dedicate so much time to a concept I can't prove. Every now and again, I find myself in front of my altar, pouring wine into a flame with my arms raised high and I wonder what the heck I'm doing, planning around three religious events every single day. After a rough night with only a few hours of sleep, I sometimes lie on my back and think I'm an idiot for getting up at eight a.m. every single day to write a blog post about beings that may not be real at all.

 

I used to feel embarressed and silly when that happened. I'd feel my heart squeeze and my stomach flutter, and I would think about all the hours I would have wasted if the Gods really aren't real. With a very modest count of one hour per blog post (in reality, I think an hour and half to two on average is closer to the truth), I have spent nearly 700 hours on my personal blog alone. That's about a solid month of non-stop blogging, and I'm not even counting daily rituals, festivals, book reading, etc. I don't think I can accurately estimate how much of my life I have dedicated to religion, especially not if you count the time spent thinking about it as well.

 

I have made a deal with myself a rather long time ago: even if there are no Gods, the time I have spent worshipping the idea of Them, was never wasted. It helped me grow as a human being, helped me love myself and the world around me, it gave me a purpose when times were rough, and because I felt I had the Gods on my side, I got away with just a mental flirt about suicide, depression, and self-harm. I always had something better than that: I had Gods who loved me, either unconditionally or because I loved Them, depending on the period in my life. I had a purpose, a positive to cling to, and a reason to get the help I needed.

 

Honestly, I don't know where or who I would have been if it weren't for my religion and Gods, and to be completely honest, I'm not even sure if I still would have been here at all. It's not pretty, but it's true. If I had not found myself supported by powers around me when there literally was no one around me who could or would take care of me emotionally, I might have given up. It was a short dark period, but I had it, regardless.

 

Whenever I find myself in doubt, I think back to that time in my life. I think back to the people who appeared out of nowhere when I reached the end of my rope. I prayed for help, and I found it. Other people would attribute that to sheer luck, or the human condition, but I choose to attribute that to the Gods looking out for me. It's a concious decission which makes me feel better--stronger--and in the end, that's enough.

 

I suspect I will find myself in moments of doubt for the rest of my life, and that's alright. It's hard to believe in something when there is zero proof. If you allow yourself to get past that doubt, though, there is so much to gain. It's worth the small moments, and so much more.

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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

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Thursday, 27 February 2014

    I live in Greece and am Greek (citizen and in my heart) but the Greek pantheon as portrayed in the Greek myths (Hesiod, Homer, et. al.) does not inspire me very much. For a start, I am against rape and war, yet, the Greek Gods engage in war, and Zeus is a serial rapist. How do you deal with those aspects?

    For me this pantheon sanctifies the warlike and patriarchal culture of the Indo-Europeans.

    I find my inspiration in the Greek landscape, in Neolithic Greece and Old Europe, and in Crete. . .

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Thursday, 27 February 2014

    Back in 2012, I wrote a long and detailed post about rape in ancient Hellenic mythology and culture that you might like to read. You can find it here: http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.nl/2012/10/rape-in-ancient-hellas.html . The TL;DR version is that rape in ancient Hellenic myth is only very rarely rape if you judge the stories by the standards of the ancient Hellenic culture.

    In fact, it all eventually comes down to culture vs. religion: the myths were inspired by the culture of ancient Hellas, but as Hellenic Recons, we do not strive to re-create the culture but the religion. Although the two are entwined, they are not equated and we can leave issues like sex with problematic consent and a desire for war out of our practice--thankfully.

    Personally, I am against judging a culture by the societal and ethical standards that followed after it. The way the ancient Hellenes were is a fact that we cannot change. We, as a species, left behind certain practices and in the mean time we adopted others that would horrify the ancient Hellenes. Judging the value of either one by the standards of the other seems not only futile but counterproductive.

    I'm a pacifist, as were a lot of the ancient Hellenes, by the way. Yet, they lived in an age of war--as we do now. Right now, wars are being fought in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali... and the list goes on. I don't think we have any right to judge the ancient Hellenes on theirs, especially because our death toll is far higher, especially counting civilians. The stories of war like Homeros for example describes served as guidelines for ethical behavior: to be brave ad honorable, to stand with your fellow men against an enemy of the country or city state. They taught men how to be men and women how to be women. We may not agree with those gender roles today, but they were very important back then.

    I can understand not being drawn to ancient Hellenic mythology, nor the ancient Hellenic Gods. That is your right. I just want to make the point that I am not trying to emulate that time period, nor do I think we have necessarily become better as a race and society. Your mileage may vary.

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Thursday, 27 February 2014

    I agree that we have not become better. I believe that as long as we judge ourselves for practices that harm others and do not automatically assume that our culture is superior, we can and must judge other cultures too.

    I think the ethical standards of Societies of Peace mainly preceded not followed ancient Greece, and are being recovered today.

    Glad we agree on pacifism and I suspect also rape culture.

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