An aryballos (ἀρύβαλλος) was a small spherical or globular flask with a narrow neck used in Ancient Hellas to contain perfume or oil. They are often depicted in vase paintings where they are used by athletes during bathing. In these depictions, the vessel is at times attached by a strap to the athlete's wrist, or hung by a strap from a peg on the wall. The original shape of them is a bit boring. Over the years, though, the ancient Hellenes thought of something novel: animal shaped ones! I spent at least an hour yesterday googling as many as I could find an I'd like to spare you the search. So here are some of the cutest aryballoi in ancient Hellenic history.

Oh--point of interest: hedgehogs are among the most common forms of faience oil flasks. The center of production of these vases has traditionally been identified as Naukratis, a Hellenic trading colony on the Nile Delta, in Egypt. Faience, by the way, is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff earthenware body, originally associated by French speakers with wares exported from Faenza in northern Italy. The term 'faience' has been extended to include finely glazed ceramic beads, figures and other small objects found in Egypt as early as 4000 BC and elsewhere in the Ancient Near East, the Indus Valley Civilization and Europe. However this material is not pottery at all, containing no clay, but a vitreous frit, either self-glazing or glazed.

600 BC, East Greek, Hedgehog
 
600-500 BC, East Greek, Hedgehog
 
630 BC, Corinthian, Owl
 
620–590 BC, Corinthian, Bird
 
600-500 BC, Rhodian, Rooster
 
600-500 BC, East Greek, Fish
  
600 - 550 BC, Corinthian, Hare
You know what? Sometimes things just do not work out. Sometimes you have a string of days that do not work out. I'm on the tail end of a string of bad days and I won't lie, it got me down a little. I'm only human, right? I try t pracice Arete every day but some days you just have to curl up into a ball and wait it out. Now I'm recovering from my epic curl-up fest, I turn to the ancients for some words of wisdom. That's always soothing to me.

Today's words of wisdom will come from Plato and Plutarch. The subject? Lot. Sometimes things happen because they just happen. There is nothing to be done against it. You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to it. Thanks Plato, thanks Plutarch. that is what I'll do today.


Plato, Republic 604c-d)
 
“The best way to deliberate about what has happened is just as we might in the fall of dice: to order our affairs in reference to how the dice have fallen where reason dictates the best place would be, and not to stumble forward like children shocked at the outcome wasting time with crying. Instead, we should always prepare our mind towards addressing what has happened as quickly as possible and to redress what has fallen and what ails, erasing lament with treatment (or 'therapy').”
 
Plutarch, De Tranquilitate Animi 467b
 
“Plato likened life to a dice-game in which we need both to throw what is advantageous and to use the dice well after we’ve thrown them. And when we are subject to chance, if we take good advice, this is our task: though we cannot control the toss, we can accept the outcome luck gives us properly and allot to each event a place in which what is good for us helps the most and what was unplanned aggrieves the least.”
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.


"Do you think that, everytime people with Hellenic blogs reblog an aeshetic/moodboard of a certain deity or reblog a hymn, then that counts as a form of devotion? Kinda like an indirect prayer? Or maybe even buying new crystals for altars or something small like that? I like to think that when I reblog a post for my gods it's a way of showing my devotion without actually praying or pouring libations."

The traditional manner of prayer is accompanied by physical sacrifice and is performed in a ritual context. A sacrifice to the Gods is a way of bonding, of kharis. It's a way of showing our devotion to the Gods and bringing Them, actively, into our homes and lives. It's a way of acknowledging Their greatness and recognizing our loyalty to Them.

Traditionally, dedicating activity is not a way to honour the Gods. After all, it does not relate to Them directly, does not strengthen our bond with Them and They get nothing out of it. The energy is directed at other people, not upwards to the Gods. A small portion of that energy might 'bleed' up to Them but it's not going to establish kharis in the same way as sacrifice does.

Being actively engaged with your worship through blogging, shopping, prettying and cleaning shrines and even talking about Them with others, in my opinion, is something you do for you, not for the Theoi, but it does have value. It keeps the Theoi at the forefront of your mind and helps you practice arete, the act of living up to one's full potential.

If you are actively engaged with the Theoi on a day to day basis, you'll have an easier time motivating and reminding yourself of your actual practice. Daily sacrifices become easier to integrate, the Theoi become a priority much more easily than when you are not actively engaged with Them, and you'll simply feel more... Hellenistic. It helps. But I do feel like you do it for you; the Theoi get nothing out of it directly. They do, however, end up with a more engaged worshipper and that most certainly has its own (great) value!

~~~

"I frequently hear the list of Olympians ending in "either Hestia or Hermes (or Dionysus)" and this kind of confuses me. I know it doesn't matter that specifically if I worship all 12 (or 14 it seems) of the small part of the pantheon that compiles the Olympians, but personally I'd like to and I'm unsure how this roster is decided I guess?"

The ancient Hellenes did not have a consensus on the Dodekatheon; what mattered was that there was a council of twelve, the Dodekatheon, at all. Who resided on the golden thrones atop Snowy Olympos was subject to debate and varied per location.

The most canonical version of the Dodekatheon is represented in a relief currently located at the Walters Art Museum. The relief dates back to the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD and depicts the Twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession: from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hēphaistos (staff), Hera (scepter), Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt and staff), Artemis (bow and quiver), and Apollon (cithara). No mention of Dionysos.

There is a story floating about the internet and even some modern texts on Hellenic mythology, that Hestia gave up Her throne to Dionysos. Apparently, this is an ancient myth, and the ancient Hellenes would have believed this as well. It's a story so frequently told, one that is so common-knowledge, that very few people bother to check the source. Well, the source is Robert Graves' 'The Greek Myths', written in 1955. From that book (27.12):

"Finally, having established his worship throughout the world, Dionysus ascended into Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of Zeus as one of the Twelve Great Gods. The self-effacing goddess Hestia resigned her seat at the high table in his favour; glad of any excuse to escape the jealous wranglings of her family, and knowing that she could always count on a quiet welcome in any Greek city which it might please her to visit."

Graves provides two sources for this story: Apollodoros’ Bibliotheka 3.5.3, and and Pausanias’ Hellados Periegesis 2.31.2. As you can read for yourself, there is no mention what so ever of Hestia giving up Her throne. In fact, the sources only address the part of Graves' text that follows afterwards, about Dionysos bringing His mother Semele up to Olympos as well.
 
So, did Graves lie? Well, yes and no. Graves is a storyteller; he spun stories based on facts he could find. If he could not find a fact, he made it up to fit the story. Because of this, his books are a great read but they are not reliable as far as ancient mythology goes.
 
Obviously, Theoi who were held in high regard in a certain city-state would have held the thrones, according to the people who lived in that city-state. This means that it's quite likely there were people in ancient Hellas who firmly believed that Dionysos occupied one of the thrones of the Dodekatheon. Most likely, there were also people who believed Hestia did not occupy one of the thrones. It's entirely possible that some people--perhaps even the same people who believed Dionysos was part of the Dodekatheon, but not Hestia--believed that Hestia gave up Her seat to Dionysos. The problem is that there are no ancient sources to support this, and there was most certainly not a wide-spread myth to this effect that held sway in ancient Hellas.

In my personal practice, who hold the thrones of the Dodekatheon is nearly irrelevant. I follow the festival calendar and have my daily ritual practice. through that, all 'major' Theoi are honoured and many of the 'lesser' as well. The pantheon, after all, is much larger than just the children of Kronos and Rhea.

~~~

"I wanted to ask you, if you could make a post about the Underworld and how the judges judge exactly. Because I cannot find anything about it."

I actually did write about that twice, both in a long post about the Hellenic Underworld and in a post specifically dedicated to the Judges of the Underworld. I did not go into detail, however, about how judgement is passed. Mostly because we don't know exactly how and what we do know, well, except for being naked pretty much matches the (ancient Hellenic) court proceedings.

Naked? Yep! You are judged in your birthday suit. Why? Let Plato, in his Gorgias, enlighten you:

"The cases [of the dead] are now indeed judged ill and it is because they who are on trial are tried in their clothing, for they are tried alive. Now many,' said he, `who have wicked souls are clad in fair bodies and ancestry and wealth, and at their judgment appear many witnesses to testify that their lives have been just. Now, the judges are confounded not only by their evidence but at the same time by being clothed themselves while they sit in judgment, having their own soul muffled in the veil of eyes and ears and the whole body. Thus all these are a hindrance to them, their own habiliments no less than those of the judged.
 
Well, first of all,' he said, 'we must put a stop to their foreknowledge of their death; for this they at present foreknow. However, Prometheus has already been given the word to stop this in them. Next they must be stripped bare of all those things before they are tried; for they must stand their trial dead. Their judge also must be naked, dead, beholding with very soul the very soul of each immediately upon his death, bereft of all his kin and having left behind on earth all that fine array, to the end that the judgment may be just.
 
Now I, knowing all this before you, have appointed sons of my own to be judges; two from Asia, Minos and Rhadamanthus, and one from Europe, Aiakos. These, when their life is ended, shall give judgment in the meadow at the dividing of the road, whence are the two ways leading, one to the Isles of the Blest, and the other to Tartaros. And those who come from Asia shall Rhadamanthys try, and those from Europe, Aiakos; and to Minos I will give the privilege of the final decision, if the other two be in any doubt; that the judgment upon this journey of mankind may be supremely just." 
 
It seems the dead were allowed to plead their case, explaining why they felt they had lived as good people. If the judges agreed, they judged favourably. If not, well...
News of the Antikythera shipwreck is not an unfamiliar sight on this blog. The Antikythera mechanism and the subsequent finds on the wreck are spellbinding and have held my interest for years. So of course I am going to report on this too, because my Gods! Researchers from the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts have found a human skeleton at the bottom of the sea floor in the wreck where the famed Antikythera Mechanism was also found.


The recently found remains were pulled from the ship on August 31st. The team first uncovered a skull complete with a jaw and teeth, followed by arms, legs, and ribs. Some parts of the skeleton still remain underwater, but they were left behind and will taken to the surface at a later time.

Now, this is not the first time divers have found skeletons at the site. In 1976, Jacques-Yves Cousteau visited the wreck with his team and uncovered more than 300 artifacts, which included a number of skeletons. The find of human remains marks the first time since the beginning of DNA studies, however, that such an ancient skeleton has been identified aboard a ship and remains preserved. This means scientists have their first real hope of sequencing DNA from a victim of an ancient shipwreck.

Brendan Foley at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who is exploring the wreck site with archaeologists from the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities explained how Nikolas Giannoulakis, a team member, tapped him on the shoulder while out on a dive:

"Talking through his rebreather in muffled excitement, said: 'We found bones! We found a skeleton!' There was no doubt in any of our minds that what were were looking at were extensive human remains. This is the most exciting scientific discovery we’ve made here. We think he was trapped in the ship when it went down and he must have been buried very rapidly or the bones would have gone by now.”

Hannes Schroeder, an ancient DNA expert at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, will recieve samples from the remains for full analysis after the Greek authorities give permission.

“Against all odds, the bones survived over 2,000 years at the bottom of the sea and they appear to be in fairly good condition, which is incredible.” 

If a sufficient amount of DNA is recovered from the bones, researchers could learn a lot, including about the skeleton’s geographic and ethnic origins. Though the bones have been underwater for thousands of years, the bones are largely intact. That quality, combined with recent advances in DNA, should help experts in their analysis.

DNA tests are expected to provide information on the drowned person's age and gender which, if female, would add to evidence that such ships carried passengers as well as cargo, said Ageliki G. Simosi, director of the ministry's department of Underwater Antiquities. Simosi said the latest excavation, conducted 52 metres (170 feet) below the surface by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the culture ministry, had a lot more still to reveal.

"The area is difficult to approach and the conditions are tough. This shipwreck continuously reveals treasures and I believe that this is only the beginning."
Near the end of the month of Boedromion, there was a singular sacrifice organised in Erkhia, a deme of Attica. It was held in honour of the river God Achelous, his intended wife ('alochos') Deianeira, the Nymphs, Hermes, and Gaea. We will be holding a PAT ritual for this sacrifice on the 29th of September, at 10 AM EDT.


In Hellenic mythology, Achelous (Ἀχελῷος Achelōios) is the patron deity of the 'silver-swirling' Achelous River, which is the largest river of Greece, and thus the chief of all river deities. His name is pre-Hellenic, its meaning unknown. His parents are generally believed to be Tethys and Okeanos. Very few of the river Gods have mythology about Them, but Achelous was featured heavily in the legends surrounding the hero Hēraklēs. In fact, we believe the origins for this sacrifice lie exactly there. The myth goes as follows:

Achelous, God of the most powerfully flowing river in Hellas, fell in love with the daughter of the king who ruled the land along the river. Deianeira, daughter of Oeneus king of Calydon came to age as the most beautiful woman in the land. For her hand, her father announced a contest: the strongest of her suitors would win her. Achelous, as a God, was by far the strongest in the region and was sure He would win her. But Hēraklēs had also heard of her beauty so in the end it came down to the two of them.

Hēraklēs was the strongest mortal in the world, but Achelous, being a God, had some advantages over him. He could change his shape at will. He could become a snake that curved like the winding river. He could become a bull that roared like the roaring river. And when He was a bull He could tear the very earth with His massive horns, just as the river carved away the land when it overflowed its banks. Even in the shape of a man, He had the horns of the bull on His head.

The fight was terrible. Achelous thrashed and fought Hēraklēs in all his shapes. When Hēraklēs pinned him, he became a snake and slithered loose. But Hēraklēs gripped him again and this time Achelous tried to shake free by changing into a bull. He bucked and raged, but Hēraklēs drove his horns into the Earth and with a mighty heave, he tore one off. Achelous howled and was forced to submit. As such, Hēraklēs won the match and won Deianeira's hand in marriage. And the people of Calydon won as well as the Nymphs hollowed out the horn and good Earth fills it with all the fruits and vegetables of the harvest. It became the Cornucopia, or Horn of Plenty.

This sacrifice, timed well with the reaping of the final fruits of the Earth before winter, includes all involved with the myth: Gaea's inclusion, as the source of all the fruits of harvest, speaks for Herself, Achelous (as the largest, life giving, river) was included because of His waters and the myth of the Cornucopia. That myth included his intended wife Deianeira and the manifestations of Achelous as the sacred bull, the serpent and the Minotaur--all creatures associated with Gaea. Because of their close connection to water, a fertilizing element, and the creation of the Cornucopia itself, the Nymphs were worshiped as daimons of fertility and vegetation. Hermes, as the Bringer of All that is Good helped bridge the divide between myth and humanity.

We hope you join us for this event on Facebook, and the ritual can be found here.
Thousands upon thousands of people participated in the Mysteries every year. And like any large scale events, there were people in charge of the proceedings. One group of people who took up that responsibility were the many priests and priestesses of the Mysteries. Today, I would like to take a look at the priests and priestess of which there was only one at a time at the mysteries--men and women who often traced their lines back far into the Eleusian mythology.

The Hierophant
The most important priest of the Eleusinian Mysteries was the Hierophant (Ἱεροφάντης). The Hierophant was nominated for life from the Eleusinian descendants of Eumolpos. Perhaps because of this first criterium, he was generally an elderly man. Once chosen, he became bound to a life of strict chastity. There was only one Hierophant at a time and his name was never mentioned in Hellenic times. He simply became the Hierophant. The title 'Hierophant' was constructed from the combination of ta hiera ('the holy') and phainein ('to show'). As such, his principal duty was, as his name indicates, to show and explain the sacred symbols and figures--perhaps in a kind of chant or recitative, as he was required to have a good voice.

The Dadoukhoi
I have written about the Dadoukhoi before. The Daduchos (δᾳδοῦχος), or torch-bearer, was below the Hierophant in terms of power and of equal rank to the Keryx below. Originally, he was descended from the Eleusinian Triptolemos but about 380 BC. The lineage died out and the Lykomidai (Λυκομίδαι) took over. The Lykomidai celebrated a local worship of Demeter at Phlyae full of Orphic doctrines and ceremonies. As with the Hierophant, there was only one. His main duty was to hold the torch at the sacrifices but he also recited portions of the ritual and took part in certain purification rituals.

The Keryx
The Keryx (Κῆρυξ) or Hierokeryx (Ἱεροκῆρυξ) traced their origin back to Keryx, a younger son of Eumolpos; but they themselves considered their ancestors to be Hermes and one of the daughters of Kekrops—Aglauros according to Pausanias, Pandrosos according to Pollux. His duties were chiefly to proclaim silence at the sacrifices. No family laid especial claim to this priesthood.

The Hierophantis
There was originally only one Hierophantis (Ἱερόφαντις). She belonged to Demeter and her name was sacred. In Roman times, there were first two, then even more. They lived a life of perfect chastity during their tenure of office, though they might have been married previously. It was lost to what family the original Hierophantis of Demeter belonged. The duties of the Hierophantis corresponded to those of the Hierophant.
The Archaeological News Network reports something that caught my interest: the remnants of a small jungle with hyenes, rhinos, giraffes, gazelles, antelopes, apes and also sabre toothed tigers that lived 7 million years ago in the mountainous region of Kerasia on northern Euboia, Greece, has been discovered by a team of scientists headed by professor of Paleontology Georgios Theodorou.


"We have already found parts of Acerhorinus neleus, namely the skull and the lower jawbone of a rhino which are displayed at the Mammals Fossil Museum in Kerasia. It is a new species for science and the most important exhibit of the museum. It is a 'holotype' the first and only specimen in the world which is used as the basis for the original description of a species. Our team will seek skulls, jawbones and bones from giraffes, gazelles, apes, birds and turtles not discovered yet and have a special importance for paleontology."

Theodorou's vision and dream is the establishment of a modern local museum which will display the finds of the fossils as well as an exhibition on the petrified forest of Kerasia. An exhibition that will give the opportunity to the visitors to observe the spectacular changes of the geomorphology and enviroment that took place in the last 7 million years, when the Aegean Sea was not sea but land. The excavations, Theodorou said to ANA, are expected to resume in April 2017.

Of course, this is not necessarily of interest to us Hellenisist, but it triggered a memory. Way back in 2013, I already wrote a post on a theory I have and that certain achaeologists have as well: that ancient fossils may have been the source for mythological creatures like griffins, the cyclopses and giants. From that point of view, this find definitely holds interest.

There is no question that hyenes, rhinos, giraffes, gazelles, antelopes, apes and also sabre toothed tigers have very interesting skeletal structures and skulls. Take, for example, the catoblepas (καταβλέπω, katablépō). Pliny the Elder (Natural History, 8.77) described the catoblepas as a mid-sized creature, sluggish, with a heavy head and a face always turned to the ground. It is said to have the body of a buffalo and the head of a wild boar. Its back has scales that protect the beast. Call me crazy, but a rhino (or hippo) would fit the bill. The Ophiotauros was a creature that was part bull and part serpent. The description could maybe be applied to the (skeletal remains of a giraffe.

Now, of course, I am leaping at conclusions. It is interesting to me, though, and I hope it's a thought someone with an archaeological study will come up with as well so there can be a bit more research done on local myth in conjunction with the skeletons found. In conclusion: I am leaving this here for your consideration. Don't call me nuts!