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.

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The Protogenoi (Πρωτογενοι)

The Protogenoi (Πρωτογενοι) are the First Born Deities of the Greek Kosmos. They are the building blocks of the universe, primordial Deities. I have written before about Them, in a post about genealogy of the Gods.

The Protogenoi we know of are: Aether (Αἰθήρ, 'Light'), Ananke (Ἀνάγκη, 'Fate' or 'Compulsion'), Khronos (Χρόνος, 'Time'), Erebos (Ἔρεβος, 'Darkness'), Eros (Ἔρως, 'Desire' or 'Love'), Gaea (Γαῖα, 'Earth'), Hemera (Ἡμέρα, 'Day'), Hydros (Ὑδρος, 'Primordial Waters'), Khaos (χάος, 'Chaos' or 'Air'), Nêsoi (Νησοι, 'Islands'), Nyx (Νύξ, 'Night'), Ôkeanos (Ωκεανος, 'Water'), Ourea (Oὔρεα, 'Mountains'), Phanes (Φάνης 'Procreation'), Pontos (Πόντος, 'Sea'), Phusis (φύσις, 'Nature'), Tartaros (Τάρταρος), Thalassa (Θάλασσα, 'Sea'), Thesis (Θεσις, 'Creation'), Uranos (Οὐρανός, 'Sky').

As might have become apparently from the, previously mentioned, earlier published post; any mythology from this era is incredibly mucky. There are a few sources we can track the beginning of the universe to; because that is where the Protogenoi were born in--or from; the beginning of the universe. They are the embodiments of the aspects of life They are named after. Zeus may be Lord of the Sky, but the sky itself is a primordial Deity, distant from humanity but ever-present.

Hesiod, in his 'Theogony', writes:

"Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros, fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought forth long Hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-Nymphs who dwell amongst the glens of the hills. She bare also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love."
 
And then there is another version out there, articulated best by playwright Aristophanes in 'The Birds':
 
"At the start, there was Chaos, and Night, and pitch-black Erebus, and spacious Tartarus. There was no earth, no heaven, no atmosphere. Then in the wide womb of Erebus, that boundless space, black-winged Night, first creature born, made pregnant by the wind, once laid an egg. 
It hatched, when seasons came around, and out of it sprang Love—the source of all desire, on his back the glitter of his golden wings, just like the swirling whirlwind. In broad Tartarus, Love had sex with murky Chaos. From them our race was born—our first glimpse of the light.
         Before that there was no immortal race at all, not before Love mixed all things up. But once they’d bred and blended in with one another, Heaven was born, Ocean and Earth—and all that clan of deathless Gods."
 
Within Hellenismos, the Protogenoi are not often mentioned or worshipped. Eros and Gaea may receive honorable mention on occasion but the Olympians have much more sway. The Protogenoi are specialists, beings of one base component of life. They hold sway over these and, when roused, They wield terrible power, without regard of those who are in the way, be they Gods, Demi-Gods or mortals. The Olympians are (besides Hermes) moral Deities; They wield Their power thoughtfully. The Protogenoi are too ancient, too huge, to hold back Their power and take into account our little race of mortals. I suspect that therefor the Protogenoi are appeased more often than worshipped, if thought of at all in a ritual setting. 


I'm fascinated with the Protogenoi. If I ever founded (or revived? Were there cults for the Protogenoi?) a Mystery Cult, it would be for the Protogenoi. I won't do this without considerable research, however, and on most days I doubt I would have the courage to do so anyway.

The true nature of the Protogenoi is shrouded by time. Much of their mysteries were lost. Yet, they, too, are part of the Greek pantheon. They, too, hold sway over the universe. Deities like this should not be forgotten, and they should most certainly never be ignored.

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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

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Friday, 10 August 2012

    I'm seeing a pretty clear parallel between these deities (what, if anything is different between these deities and the Titans?) and the Jotuns of Heathenism. Do you think that there's a connection?

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Friday, 10 August 2012

    The parallel between the Protogenoi and the Titans is definitely there. The Titans are the children of the Protogenoi so they definitely influenced each other. My guess is that the different generations of Deathless Ones diversify in funcrion while losing some of their power. From the specialist Protogenoi to the powerful but more relatable Titans and on to the Gods who take on even more specified roles.

    I don't know enough about the Jotuns to judge their similarities, but I would not be surprised if they resembled each other.

  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley Friday, 10 August 2012

    This is a really great post, thank you so much for writing it!

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Friday, 10 August 2012

    Very welcome! I'm very happy you enjoyed it.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Friday, 10 August 2012

    I had a vision of Nyx once, in my dreams. She was standing in a corner of my basement now (interestingly, and for unrelated reasons, 3 years later) used as my sacred space.

    The Goddess' form was like living, polished black stone, and She was just to the left of a window. A larger-than-life rose, made from the burning embers of holy fire, was just outside the window, and filled the window frame. It was (unsurprisingly) night time, and the fire from the flaming rose lit up the right side of Nyx's face.

    Needless to say, I made a shrine to Her after that. Praise Nyx!

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Friday, 10 August 2012

    Thank you for sharing your experience and for your kind words. It sounds like a powerful experience and I fully understand that you made a shrine to Her afterwards! Perhaps the Protogenoi want to be worshipped after all! Food for thought.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Friday, 10 August 2012

    The Orphics believed that She and Aphrodite are one and the same, as I understand it.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Friday, 10 August 2012

    By the way, great post!

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Friday, 10 August 2012

    You mean Aphrodite Philophannyx? I... Guess you could say the two were equated but as far as I'm aware, Philophanny was only used as an epithet for Aphrodite, meaning 'Night-Loving Aphrodite'. I'm not sure how much the worship of the two was linked because of it. Dionysos has an epithet with 'nyx' as well, meaning 'Nocturnal Dionysos'.

    More on epithet's here, if you're interested: http://baringtheaegis.blogspot.nl/2012/07/on-epithets-and-polytheism.html?m=1

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Friday, 10 August 2012

    Sorry, Jamie, this was supposed to stick to your post. I'm on vacation so restricted to the use of my mobile phone. Between writing my comment and copy/pasting the link, the comment got displaced.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Saturday, 11 August 2012

    I'm referring to the Orphic hymn to Nyx.

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Saturday, 11 August 2012

    I know a few modern Hellenics who honor the Protogenoi. :) There is even an Oracle of Nyx.

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