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.
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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