Baring the Aegis: Hellenismos
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.
Hubris, Recon and Hellenismos
Of all the differences between Recon paths and other (Neo-)Pagan paths, I think the notion of hubris is the most controversial. Sure, everyone who works with Them, respects the Gods but there is a big difference in the respect--and fear--level between Recons and non-Recons.
I'm not exactly sure how this is for other Recon paths but for Hellenismos, avoiding hubris is the foundation of faith. Hubris, in dictionary terms, means excessive pride or arrogance and comes from the Greek (hýbris, ὕβρις). For me, hubris is not an adjective but a verb. It describes the act of willful or ignorant refusal to comply by the will of the Gods.
Within Hellenismos, the Gods rule supreme. We are here to serve and honor Them, and in return, They provide us with what we need to survive. This practice of kharis is one of the pillars of Hellenismos. But it's there in all other pillars as well.
Ethike Arete - living an ethical life, as proclaimed by the Gods in, for example, the Delphic Maxims
Eusebia - the actual practice of honoring the Gods, a huge part of which is piety
Hagneia - being ritually pure, out of respect to the Gods
Nomos Arkhaios - bringing back the old practices and customs out of respect for the Gods
Sophia - bettering yourself so as to better serve the Gods and not offend them through ignorance
Sophrosune - controlling yourself and your actions so as never to cross any of the other pillars or the Gods
Xenia - being inviting to guests under the protection of Zeus Xenios, as it is the Gods' prerogative to send us whoever they want. As Euripides describes in Medea: "What God or Deity listens to you when you are a perjurer and deceive Xenoi [foreigner or city-guest]?"
I have read on some Hellenic websites that the Gods do not intent to harm us in any way. They wish to help us better our lives and would never punish us. I think there is overwhelming evidence of the contrary in ancient Hellenic practices, in mythology and in modern day UPG. Odysseus spent twenty years simply trying to get home because he had pissed off the Gods with his hubris; hubris killed many mythological people, amongst which all fourteen of Niobe's children, Tántalos, and even Íkaros, who flew too high towards the sun; many festivals included elements of appeasement; and building only on my own UPG experiences, I have definitely been told to remedy a situation in which I was displaying unintentional hubris, or else. Saying that the Gods will never (or always) do something is a clear example of hubris, to me.
Being aware of hubris comes with a certain fear of the Gods. When talking about this to non-Recon practitioners (even when I wasn't Recon myself, yet), I often encounter either a knee-jerk reaction as this reminds them too much of the Christian faith or I'm told that the Gods are beings of pure love and light. Every time someone says the latter, I feel Hades' head exploding and can practically envision Ares punching someone, just to prove them wrong.
To me, the Gods are their own beings, far more powerful than we are. We are not divine, we are mortal. One finger snap from Them, and we're toast. I know others see this differently, but it is the foundation of my faith and practice. It is why I offer to the Gods, why I practice the pillars, why I go through my days in the way that I do. I go out of my way to avoid hubris, judging by the ancient sources and mythology. I keep my mortality firmly in my mind. It's not the (religious) life for everyone, but it is mine.
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