I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"I don't read or speak Greek and want to get some ancient texts in book form. Should I get the English versions or the one in my native language? I have looked at those in my native language and most seem greatly influenced by Christianity. "

In general, it helps getting a version translated from the Greek, not the English, if you go for one in your native language. I have a few translations of various books and I have found that those based upon English translations usually base them on order ones--which are greatly influenced by Christian thinking. In general, if you are okay with English, I would go for an English translation.

 "I wonder, as God of War may involve the main character killing off Olympic gods, if you might find that game blasphemous?"

You know what, I think about things like that a lot, actually. I wonder about it when watching some TV show which does something horrid with the Theoi or play a game or whatever. Is this blasphemous?  And then I read some of the ancient plays and remember that even the ancient Hellenes had no issue at all with using representations of the Gods for their amusement. And the Gods never seemed to mind. There is a difference between the Gods and the characters in these games, movies, and series. Those characters are not my Gods. I think, in general, that distinction is very important to remember.


"Is there a certain ceremony I should do to devote myself to Apollon or should I just speak with him and tell him my wishes?"

Oh boy, am I ever not the right person to ask about the Neo-Pagan side of Hellenic Polytheism! Okay, what you ask sounds like personal patronage to me and I feel like that has no place in Hellenismos. Not in the Recon version I practice, anyway. Hellenism has its own beautiful system of kharis, and because of that, there is no need to bring in a modern concept like patrons. Modern patronage is a beautiful thing but unfortunately, I can't answer any questions about it because it's foreign to the ancient Hellenic religion. Sorry.


"Should I use diluted or undiluted wine (I only have red is that fine?) in my libation? And if diluted how much should my water to wine ratio be?"

That depends, are you worshipping 'Ouranic' or 'Khthonic' Gods? 'Ouranic' is a term that applies to Theoi and practices who reside or that are associated with Mount Olympos, home of many of the Theoi. As such, Ouranic deities are also referred to as 'Olympians'. Ouranic deities tended to receive wine libations that were mixed with water. 'Kthonic' refers to deities or spirits of the Underworld or the earth, and the rituals associated with Them. Khthonic deities received either wineless libations (water, milk, and honey, usually), or wine libations of unmixed wine.

It's unclear how diluted the wine was for Ouranic libations. Sources state that for a Symposium--a (non-religious) assembly--the best mix (depending on the wine, of course) was one part wine to about three or four parts water, but a dilution of 1/20 appears in the writings of Hómēros. Personally, from experience, I would say that a mixture of one part water to two or three parts water is best. This way the libation doesn't murder your fire.


"I've heard some say among our tradition that after death we either become Gods ourselves (Orphic Hellenismos) like Heracles, while others say we pass on to Elysium. I was wondering because you are very much a spiritual leader what you believe on the subject and any details you may provide."

Let me start off by saying I am not an expert in Orphism. I don't follow a Mystery Tradition in my own practice, after all. That having been said, let me give this a try.
Orphic ideas of the soul and afterlife are most often defined by explicit contrast with the Homeric view of the afterlife, which is taken as the standard view for ancient Hellenic culture. The Homeric afterlife is that of a grim, joyless and tedious existence in the Underworld. The Underworld of Homeros exists solely--at least for the now departed mortal--of the Asphodel meadows. The dead drink from the river Lethe and forget who they were. Sacrifical (animal) blood returns a sense of life to the shades and they recover their memories for a short time. In this tradition, life is lived while you are alive. One you die, you are dead. You might cling to life, but you will never truly be part of it again.
The Orphics were an ancient mystical cult with affinities to Indian religious systems. They believed in reincarnation and the possibility of liberation. Orpheus, the movement's legendary founder, is said to have taught that soul and body are locked together during life; the soul is divine, immortal and aspires to freedom, and during life, the body acts as a prison to the soul. Death releases the soul for a short while, but is then captured by another body until that, too, dies, and so the soul moves from body to body--both human and animal--until it can attain the highest good: liberation. In order to reach liberation, the Orphic way teaches to turn to God by ascetic piety of life and self-purification: the purer the life lived, the higher will be the next reincarnation, until the soul has completed the spiral ascent of destiny to live for ever as God from whom it comes.
The ancient Hellenes called this process 'Metempsychosis' (μετεμψύχωσις). It is a philosophical term which refers to the transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. The notion that the human soul enters another body upon death, though unfamiliar in Hellenic religion, was widespread in Hellenic philosophy. The doctrine of transmigration is first associated with the Pythagoreans and Orphics and was later taught by Plato and Pindar. For the former groups, the soul retained its identity throughout its reincarnations; Plato indicated that souls do not remember their previous experiences. Although Herodotus claims that the Hellenes learned this idea from Egypt, most scholars do not believe it came either from Egypt or from India, but developed independently.
My personal believes of life after death have shifted over the years. I transitioned into Hellenismos from Eclectic Religious Witchcraft and in my former Tradition, reincarnation was the primary belief. Since the ancient Hellenes had a version of it in metepsychosis, I simply went with that. Now, the older I get and the better my understanding becomes of the ancient Hellenic culture and religion, the more I pull to a more Homeric version of the afterlife. A bit later, perhaps, where Elysium is an option for those who live the highest, purest, of lives. I long for the meadows now. I don't strive for Elysium; I don't think it's for the common folk like me. Give me the meadows and the water of the river Lethe. Let me live life to the fullest. Let me live its up and downs. Give me the completion of my goals and my challenges, and then let me forget and wander in contentment, remembered sometimes--hopefully fondly--by those I leave behind.
Archaeologists think they may have found the city of Kane, site of a major battle between Athens and Sparta during the Peloponnesian war, reports National Geographic. The island, mentioned by the ancient Hellenic historian Xenophon, is famous for its proximity to the 406 B.C. sea battle of Arginusae, at which the Athenians defeated the Spartans near the end of the Peloponnesian war.

Ancient historical sources refer to three Arginusae islands, but the exact location of the third has long been unclear. The Arginusae islands, now called the Garip islands, lie only a few hundred yards off the coast of Turkey. Researchers drilled into the ground and used geological evidence to reveal that what is now a peninsula was once an island. At some point before the late Middle Ages, a land bridge formed between island and shore. An Ottoman map from the 16th century shows the island had already become a peninsula by that point.

It appears the island may have been connected to the mainland by deposits that formed in a narrow natural channel, possibly as a result of earthquakes or the erosion of mainland agricultural fields.
The scientists plan to determine the ages of the geological layers using radiocarbon dating, which will help them better understand how this happened. Archaeologists also found the submerged remains of an ancient harbor from the Hellenistic period (323 B.C. to 31 B.C.) nearby, another indication that the peninsula was once an island.

Though Kane was only a small city in antiquity, it held a place along a strategic maritime trade route running from the Black Sea along the southern coast of Turkey, with a large harbor where ships could shelter from storms. Previous research uncovered pottery on the island that suggested trade routes; now certain microorganisms native to the Black Sea that were likely carried in by boats to the nearby port of Elaia offer additional evidence of trade networks.

It’s unlikely that any of the wooden shipwrecks from the battle of Arginusae would have survived, but future research will aim to establish a timeline from the drilled cores and combine this data with historical sources to better understand the maritime networks of the broader region.

For the full article and several images of archaeological finds, the peninsula itself, and some of its researchers, please visit National Geographic.
For Maimakterion 2015, Pandora's Kharis members have selected three great causes to choose from for their Maimakterion 2015 donation run. Two focus on animal rights and wellfare, and the other focussess on the homeless of New Orleans.

Animal Defenders International
Animal Defenders International (ADI) is a major international campaigning group, with offices in London, Los Angeles and Bogota, who lobby to protect animals on issues such as animals in entertainment and their use in experiments; worldwide traffic in endangered species; factory farming; pollution and conservation.

The organization has been involved with several international animal rescues, funding both the relocation and rehoming of circus lions, tigers, chimpanzees and other animals and has become a major force for animal protection, succeeding through its undercover investigations in securing legal protection for animals.

The Donkey Sanctuary
The Donkey Sanctuary was founded in 1969 by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE and supports projects in 27 countries worldwide. It reaches out to those in greatest need through the provision of permanent refuge and veterinary services to alleviate their suffering. Over 50 million donkeys and mules exist in the world. Many need care and protection from a life of suffering and neglect, whilst others have a vital role to play in human survival and happiness; they are at the heart of everything they do at The Donkey Sanctuary.

The New Orleans Vampire Association (NOVA) is non-profit organization comprised of self-identifying vampires representing an alliance between Houses within the Community in the Greater New Orleans Area. Founded in 2005, NOVA was established to provide support and structure for the vampire and other-kin subcultures and to provide educational and charitable outreach to those in need.
NOVA is composed of artists, priests, mystics, lawyers, teachers, writers, parents, married couples and single individuals. NOVA as a group cuts across the socio-economic and ethnic spectrum. Like the legends of the vampire that the members invest in as a personal reality, NOVA finds its members in every segment of life.

Do you have a favourite out of these three? Vote for your favourite in our poll until December 1. We will announce this month's winner on December 2, 2015.
The months of late fall and early winter are relatively light on the festival agenda--Maimakterion, the month we are in now, wasn't even on the sacrificial calendar of Erchia, for example. This could have at least three reasons: It's getting cold and wet out and the ancient Hellenes held their rituals outdoors, most of the harvesting was done so food was assured or there was nothing that could be done to decrease the shortage, and with the fall of winter, warfare came to a halt; the seas were too rough to go on campaigns and it would soon be too cold to exist comfortably in a war camp. Seeing as these two latter two reasons were the major ones to have festivals, these months are quiet ones. In the Athenian calendar, only two festivals are attested to take place this month, and both are very minor--and archaic. Today, we speak of just one: the Pompaia, as Elaion will host a PAT ritual for the event today, at the usual 10 AM EST.

Let start with something obvious we do not know about the Pompaia: the actual date of the festival. We know it must be somewhere in the beginning of the month, but that is about it. The tenth is a decided upon date for a festival that was not originally celebrated by the people of Athens, but solely by its priests. Potentially, it was only celebrated by the priests of Zeus.

What we do know is that the Pompaia--like many festivals at this time of year--was linked to purification. It was one of the festivals that, by Classical times, had already lost much of its original meaning, but which was repeated year after year because it had always been repeated year after year--and in general these had been good years. Not having the rite on the calendar could have devastating effects, so it was performed.

Very few details remain: we know that the sacrifice was a sheep. Without further explination, it was most likely white. If the rite followed the standard practice of Hellenic ritual, the sheep was led to the altar--most likely that of Zeus (Meilichios)--in procession and then sacrificed. The animal was skinned and the fleece cleaned. At that point, a second procession took place--this time with the fleece. The fleece--the 'Diòs Koidion', as it was called--was said to have purifying and other magical qualities that would rub off on he who interacted with it, if he stood on it with his left foot.

In fact, a sheep skin was used in the Eleusian Mysteries in this fashion to absolve those who had a lot of guilt to carry around--or a lot of grief. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter mentions her sitting down in a chair covered by a fleece, and there is also artwork of initiates shrowded in a fleece.

The sheep skin was most likely not connected to Zeus at the start of the practice; as we have seen, it had much stronger ties to other deities. The Pompaia rite simply called for a sheep skin. The connection with Zeus most likely happened through assimilation: the rite fell in a month where people prepared for winter and where the weather got harsher. As such, Zeus had a major impact on the inhabitants of Athens; he controls the weather after all. The sheep from which the skin was used became sacrificed to Him as an appeasement, and then the ritually charged skin made its way through the city.

In the same fashion, the kērukeion (κηρύκειον)--better known as the kaduceus--the snake-entwined staf that was the symbol of Hermes, was carried through the city. Most likely Hermes was not part of the actual rite; the kērukeion, like the Diòs Koidion, was a powerful symbol which was used to offer protection and purification to the city now winter was upon them. After all, the kērukeion was said to ward off all evil--and the cold, dark, days of winter most certainly had those. Hermes was added through the procession solely by association, but it is doubtful that He also recieved an animal sacrifice.

The Pompaia--meaning 'to exorcise'--was not popular, and in general these minor festivals were performed by the priests, for the city, without its inhabitants taking part. A small group of priests most likely walked the city with the objects and those who came upon the group would have said their prayers, spoke their wishes, and paid their respects. Yet, they were not included in the ceremony. This rite fell to the priests, so they could ask the Gods to continue placing their blanket of protection over the city.

As we have no ancient priests of Zeus hanging around, we take this responsibility upon ourselves instead. Will you join us on November 22, at 10 AM EST? You can join the community here and download the ritual here.
I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"You recently answered a question about mythology and if it's real or not. You didn't answer if you think monsters are real as well. Do you? How about demi-gods? Are they currently amongst us?"

I feel about monsters the same way I do about all other aspects of mythology: they are real. They are the skeletons of dinosaurs and early mammals. They are the divine challengers of our Gods and heroes, They are the stories of the ancient Hellenes. There is no differnece between them. They are all facets of the same thing. I believe that if the ancient Hellenes had not found a field of mammoth bones, the Titanomachy and then the Gigantomachy would never have (retroactively) taken place in mythology, lending power to the Theoi. I believe  that the rise and fall of sea levels are caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth as much as I believe Kharybdis causes it. Facets.
As for demigods... define demigods. Do I think there is a camp in the woods somewhere with the offspring of Gods (even if they are traditionally considered virginal) like in Percy Jackson? No. But then again, what do I know? For Like I said before, I am sure there was someone like Herakles (or many men like Herakles!) who performed amazing feats of strength and endurance. I think those people exist today. On the one hand I think they are mortals, born from mortal parents, who grew up to do amazing, divinely inspired things. On the other hand, I believe they are the offspring of a God and a mortal. Even in ancient Hellas, these views were held. There was almost always a mortal father as well--and in case of twins, sometimes one was divine and the other wasn't. I am absolutely sure the Gods inspire mrtals to do great things, even today. The ancient Hellenes would have included the lives of these people in mythology and would probably have made them offspring of the Gods. In that regard, I believe in demigods with every fiber of my being.

Point is, science is quantifiable. Whether divinely influenced or not, gravity will always pull down the falling apple at the same speed if the apple always weighs the same and water will always boil at 100 degrees celcius in our atmosphere. On Mars, things would be completely different, obviously. I believe in these simple facts. I also believe the Protogenoi and Uranides make up the fabric of our world and are thus directly responsible for these facts being true. For me, they are one and the same and they are equally true whether you look at it from the side of science or religion.


"In Hellenic Polytheism, what rituals are made when someone has recently died?"

The ancient Hellenes believed that the moment a person died, their psyche--spirit--left the body in a puff or like a breath of wind. Proper burial was incredibly important to the ancient Hellenes, and to not give a loved one a fully ritualized funeral was unthinkable. It was, however, used as punishment of dead enemies, but only rarely. Funerary rites were performed solely to get the deceased into the afterlife, and everyone who passed away was prepared for burial according to time-honoured rituals.

They believed the Underworld was a neutral place. One did not desire to go there in the least, but it was part of life, and as far as the afterlife went, it was dull and sunless but nothing like the hell of Christianity. The worst part about it is being without the touch of loved ones, and forgetting who you were.

A burial or cremation had four parts: preparing the body, the prothesis (Προθησις, 'display of the body'), the ekphorá (ἐκφορά 'funeral procession'), and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased. Preparation of the body was always done by women, and was usually done by a woman over sixty, or a close relative who was related no further away from the deceased than the degree of second cousin. These were also the only people in the ekphorá. The deceased was stripped, washed, anointed with oil, and then dressed in his or her finest clothes. They also received jewelry and other fineries. A coin could be presented to the dead, and laid under or below the tongue, or even on the eyes, as payment to Kharon.

During the actual funeral, a related mourner first dedicated a lock of hair, then provided the deceased with offerings of honey, milk, water, wine, perfumes, and oils mixed in varying amounts. Any libation was a khoe; a libation given in its entirety to the deceased. None was had by the mourners. A prayer to the Theoi--most likely Hermes Khthonios--then followed these libations. It was also possible to make a haimacouria before the wine was poured. In a haimacouria, a black ram or black bull is slain and the blood is offered to the deceased. This blood sacrifice, however, was probably used only when they were sacrificing in honour of a number of men, or for someone incredibly important. Then came the enagismata, which were offerings to the dead that included milk, honey, water, wine, celery, pelanon--a mixture of meal, honey, and oil--and kollyba--the first fruits of the crops and dried fresh fruits.

Unlike the ancient Egyptians, the ancient Hellenes placed very few objects in the grave, but monumental earth mounds, rectangular built tombs, and elaborate marble stelai and statues were often erected to mark the grave and to ensure that the deceased would not be forgotten. Grave gifts were allowed in many places, but could not cost more than a set amount all together. These elaborate burial places served as a place for the family members to visit the grave with offerings that included small cakes and libations. The goal  was to never be forgotten; if the dead was remembered always, and fed with libations and other offerings, their spirit would stay 'alive' forever. That said, especially in Athens, names on grave markers were restricted to women who died in childbirth and men who died in battle.

The epitaphios logos, or funerary oration, was deemed an indispensable component of the funeral ritual, especially in ancient Athens, where it came into practice around 470 BC for the honoured (war) dead. A large part of Hellenic rituals of the dead speak of honouring the dead by name, so their names will never be forgotten, their honour never lost. This practice starts with the epitaphios logos, in which the deceased is remembered for their greatest of deeds. Because Plato was eternally weary of the abilities of others to conduct the oration in the way it was intended, he made a guide for it, describing the four steps. It started with the preamble, which describes why this oration is held and how the audience should behave during it and after it. This part tends to include an apology from the speaker that he or she will never do true justice to the achievements of the dead. Following that, there is a long talk of the origin and ancestors of the deceased, followed by an account of the bravery and other good attributes of the dead. this part tended to include they devotion to the Athenian Polity. Finally, there was an epilogue, which constitutes a consolation and an encouragement for the families of the dead. The epilogue employs a traditional dismissal of the mourners.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, but many modern, western, funeral rites bear striking resemblance to the customs of the ancient Hellenes.


"I would really love to hear whatever you have to say on the subject of Elysium."

The ancient Hellens believed the Underworld was a neutral place. One did not desire to go there in the least but it was part of life, and as far as the afterlife went, it was dull and sunless but nothing like the hell of Christianity. The worst part about it is being without the touch of loved ones, and forgetting who you were.

The ancient Hellenes believed the dead have three places to go in the Underworld: Tartaros, where those who are punished for all eternity remained, the Asphodel meadows, where everyone who had lived a good life wandered about endlessly, and the Elysian Fields, where the children of Gods, the blessed dead and those who had lead extraordinarily honorable, brave or otherwise well-respected lives resided.

The Elysian Fields were typically divided into two sections: the Island of the Blessed and the Lethean Fields of Hades. The Elysian Fields, or 'White Island' is the final resting place for the souls of heroes. It was an island paradise located in the far western streams of the river Okeanos and ruled over by either Kronos or Rhadamanthys, a Judge of the Dead. The second Elysium, the Lethean Fields of Hades, is a netherworld realm. It's located in the depths of Haides beyond the river Lethe. Its fields were promised to initiates of the Mysteries who had lived a virtuous life. When the concept of reincarnation emerged and spread in ancient Hellas the two Elysian realms were sometimes tiered--a soul which had thrice won passage to the Lethean Fields, would, with the fourth, be transferred permanently to the Islands of the Blessed to reside with the heroes.

It's important to note that over the course of time, Elysium evolved. Hómēros didn't mention anything like it and refers only to the Meadows for all those noble souls who have died. Hesiod mentions a special realm for heroes. Pindar, by the 5th century BC, seperates the two in his Odes. By Roman times, writers such as Virgil combine the two Elysia. Many views of the same place survive and many more most likely existed. Such is the nature of something only discoverable after death.


"Do you have any info, holidays, special activities, etc. on Hera?"

There are a few festivals of Hera that were celebrated in ancient Athens and Erchia, a demos near Athens. There were most likely others but much of that information has been lost. This is the list I have, in sequence of the festival year:

Metageitnion 20Sacrifice to Hera ‘Telkhinia’ at Erchia
Boedromion 3Plataia – festival of reconciliation, sacred to Hera Daidala
Gamelion 27 – Theogamia/Gameliacelebrating the sacred marriage of Zeus Teleios and Hera Telei
Gamelion 27Sacrifice to Kourotrophos, Hera, Zeus Teleius, and Poseidon at Erchia

Note that Hera would also have been honoured during any festival to Zeus and in many rites concerning Her children.
Ancient Origins recently posted a very interesting article about Minos' labyrinth. For those of you not aware of it, the Labyrinth is related to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus (Θησεύς) was fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, whom had both slept with his mother Aethra, and was thus destined to become a hero. When he heard about the Minotaur of Krete, and the nine-yearly sacrifices to it--a punishment by King Minos of Krete for the death of his son Androgeus, at the hands of Athenian assassins--Theseus offered to be one of the youths who sailed for Krete. Once there, Ariadne, daughter of the king, fell for him and offered him a ball of yarn so he would be able to find his way out off the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur the youths would be sacrificed to. With Ariadne's aid, Theseus defeated the Minotaur, and brought the sacrificial children home.

The labyrinth was supposedly located at Knossos. The palace there certainly existed. Knossos was  the capital of Minoan Krete. The ruins of the palace are located about twenty minutes south of the modern port town of Iraklio. Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, from the neolithic to 1375 BC, when it was abandoned after its destruction. The first palace on the low hill beside the Krairatos river was built around 1900 BC on the ruins of previous settlements. It--and many of the other buildings--were destroyed around 1700 BC by an earthquake or invaders. It was rebuild and destroyed or damaged again and again by earthquakes, volcano eruption, invaders and fires, until its abandonment. With its demise came the demise of the Minoan civilization.

Ancient Origins now discusses the possibility of the Labyrinth not being located at Knossos but on Krete, at Labyrinth Cave. As Ancient Origins reports: the Labyrinth Cave is an ancient quarry-cave located near the town of Gortyn, in the southern part of Krete. In the past, there were three different places speculated to be the ‘true’ Labyrinth. For many of the island’s locals, it was the Labyrinth Cave near Gortyn that was the Labyrinth of the Minotaur myth.

Labyrinth Cave is not a maze but rather, a complex system of corridors which may give a ‘labyrinthine’ impression to those visiting the cave for the first time. Indeed, within the Labyrinth Cave there are tunnels longer than 2.5 km (1.6 miles) and several rooms that led nowhere.These chambers actually served as quarries for the extraction of stone that was then used in the construction of buildings in nearby towns and cities. Constructions believed to have come from this quarry include: Phaestus, a Minoan palace, and the town of Gortyn when the island was under Roman rule.

For more on the cave and many pictures, please visit Ancient Origins. I think the cave is fascinating and it could easily be the birthplace of the myth of the Minotaur.
Have you heard of the 'Greece is...' magazine? It was inaugurated in the summer of 2015, with its first issue dedicated to Santorini, one of the world’s most beloved and coveted travel destinations. The second issue, 'Greece Is Athens - Summer Edition', is a treasure trove of information on Athens from past to present, distributed exclusively at the Acropolis Museum. The third is about the Peloponnese. The latest issue, 'Greece Is Democracy', on the occasion of the 3D Athens Democracy Forum, celebrates and relates to the birth, reality and influence of Athenian democracy, through a compilation of original articles by esteemed Greek and international academics, authors and journalists. If you have not read them yet, you might want to invest the time!