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 rule of Delphi

I talk about Delphi a lot; the place speaks to my imagination and every time I pull out my Tarot cards for a session, or ask Apollo to grand me a divinatory dream, my mind flashes back to it. I have written about how a session with the Pythia would go. I have also talked a lot about the Delphic Maxims, and some about the site of Delphi. What I haven't talked about a lot is its history...and its future. This is what I will do today.

As legend goes, a shepherd herded his flock up the side of Mount Parnassus. The sheep came upon a chasm and seemed to lose their minds. They started jumping around, and darting about. When the shepherd went to inspect the chasm, he fell under the influence of gasses that welled up from it. He lost all his worries and cared not about the time. He simply wished to remain there and gleam the knowledge he felt at the edges of his mind.

When he did not return, his family went to look for him. They took him home and put him to bed. Everyone was worried by his strange behavior, but he seemed to be calmer when the morning came. Yet, the shepherd's behavior had not returned to normal. He was able to foretell the future. Soon, word of the shepherd's ability, and the chasm, spread. People came from far away to either talk to the man or go to the source. Yet, those who visited the chasm lost their minds as well, and sometimes even jumped in the chasm.


A decision was made: this chasm, which must send up messages from Gaea, needed to be managed so no one would get hurt. A woman was chosen and introduced to the vapors, and given servants to keep her safe and healthy. She spoke with the voice of Gaea, and spoke her prophecies for anyone who would visit. It is said that the chasm was protected by a serpent, Python (Πύθωνος), who was put there by Gaea to protect the chasm.

The chasm was seen as the center of the known world, as Zeus himself had once let two eagles fly at the far reaches of the world, and they met over the chasm. It was Gaea's sacred site, but it didn't remain that way for long. Apollo was born, and he soon moved to find the perfect site for His temple. In the Homeric hymn to Pythian Apollo, we find His arrival at the site of Gaea's oracle, and an account of His battle with the serpent:

"In this place I am minded to build a glorious temple to be an oracle for men, and here they will always bring perfect hecatombs, both they who dwell in rich Peloponnesus and the men of Europe and from all the wave-washed isles, coming to question me. And I will deliver to them all counsel that cannot fail, answering them in my rich temple."

"...Whosoever met the dragoness, the day of doom would sweep him away, until the lord Apollo, who deals death from afar, shot a strong arrow at her. Then she, rent with bitter pangs, lay drawing great gasps for breath and rolling about that place. An awful noise swelled up unspeakable as she writhed continually this way and that amid the wood: and so she left her life, breathing it forth in blood. Then Phoebus Apollo boasted over her:
 
"Now rot here upon the soil that feeds man! You at least shall live no more to be a fell bane to men who eat the fruit of the all-nourishing earth, and who will bring hither perfect hecatombs. Against cruel death neither Typhoeus shall avail you nor ill-famed Chimera, but here shall the Earth and shining Hyperion make you rot."
 
Thus said Phoebus, exulting over her: and darkness covered her eyes. And the holy strength of Helios made her rot away there; wherefore the place is now called Pytho, and men call the lord Apollo by another name, Pythian; because on that spot the power of piercing Helios made the monster rot away."
 
And so, the site became sacred to Apollo. At first, young virgins spoke the word of the Lord Apollo, but later on, it was decreed that the oracle--called the Pythia--had to be over fifty years of age. The site was at the epicenter of important travel routes; the road leading from northeastern and eastern Hellas to the plain of Amfissa--where it met the road joining northern Hellas with Naupactus--passed through Delphi. From the beach of Itea, it was easy to pass to nearby Peloponnesus. This not only made Delphi an important religious site, but a commercial one, and it was one of the major keys to its success.

Delphi is no more. The entire site is in ruins. While you can still walk a large part of the grounds, there is no longer an oracle who breaths in the vapors and gives prophesy. Hellenists lost that line to the Theoi.

Most of us know how to work a divinatory tool; we come from other Neo-Pagan paths that encourage it, or developed systems of our own. Some of us are just naturally gifted. I feel the Hellenistic community--when it becomes larger and more standardized and organized--could greatly benefit from another Oracle; someone whom we trust to speak the words of the Theoi and whom we pay for their efforts. A new Pythia, dedicated to the Hellenistic community, who is supported by said community. I honestly hope we get there some day. Delphi is not gone; it lives on in each of us. It's legacy drives us forward as a religion. One day, we may have it again.

Image credit: map
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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

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