Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hellenic mythology 101

Do you know what I dislike more than working a 16 hour day? Exactly, working two in a row with another one ahead. Please forgive me, kind readers, but I need to work and sleep. All I have for you is a video on the Hellenic Gods that I quite enjoyed. I hope you do too.

 
"Greek mythology is the body of myths and teachings that belong to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. It was a part of the religion in ancient Greece. Modern scholars refer to and study the myths in an attempt to throw light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

The oldest known Greek literary sources, Homer's epic poems Iliad and Odyssey focus on events surrounding the aftermath of the Trojan War. Two poems by Homer's near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths are also preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age, and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias.

Archaeological findings provide a principal source of detail about Greek mythology, with gods and heroes featured prominently in the decoration of many artefacts. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle as well as the adventures of Heracles. In the succeeding Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence. Greek mythology has had an extensive influence on the culture, arts, and literature of Western civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in the themes."


Monday, September 15, 2014

Plutarch on heroes

I'm sorry guys, I literally have no time to write anything for the blog today. Juggling four jobs sucks sometimes. As such, I am going to quote a few interesting bits and pieces from the 'Quaestiones Graecae' by Plutarch. He was a Hellenic historian, biographer, and essayist, who later in his life became a Roman citizen. As such, he was extraordinarily qualified to write two standard works: the 'Quaestiones Graecae' (Αἴτια Ἑλληνικά, or 'Greek Questions'), and the 'Quaestiones Romanae' (Αἴτια Ῥωμαϊκά, or 'Roman Questions'). These essays are part of the book series 'Moralia' (Ἠθικά, loosely translatable as 'Matters relating to customs and mores'), and can be found in book IV of the series. The Greek Questions contain fifty-nine questions, the Roman version hundred-thirteen, and all pertain to matters concerned with their respective culture. Many of the answers are names or customs, and because Plutarch often refers (back) to Hellenic customs, both are extremely valuable for research on ancient Hellenic life. Today, I am focussing on the questions dealing with ancient Hellenic heroes.

27. Why is it that among the Rhodians a herald does not enter the shrine of the hero Ocridion?

"Is it because Ochimus affianced his daughter Cydippê to Ocridion? But Cercaphus, who was the brother of Ochimus, was in love with the maiden and persuaded the herald (for it used to be the custom to use heralds to fetch the brides), when he should receive Cydippê, to bring her to him. When this had been accomplished, Cercaphus fled with the maiden; but later, when Ochimus had grown old, Cercaphus returned to his home again. But the custom became established among the Rhodians that a herald should not approach the shrine of Ocridion because of the wrong that had been done."


28. Why is it that among the inhabitants of Tenedos a flute-player may not enter the shrine of Tenes, nor may anyone mention Achilles' name within the shrine?

"Is it that, when Tenes’ stepmother falsely accused him of wishing to lie with her, Molpus the flute-player bore false witness against him, and because of this it came about that Tenes had to flee to Tenedos with his sister? But as for Achilles, it is said that his mother Thetis straitly forbade him to kill Tenes, since Tenes was honoured by Apollo; and she commissioned one of the servants to be on guard, and to remind Achilles lest he should unwittingly slay Tenes. But when Achilles was overrunning Tenedos and was pursuing Tenes’ sister, who was a beautiful maiden, Tenes met him and defended his sister; and she escaped, though Tenes was slain. When he had fallen, Achilles recognized him, and slew the servant because he had, although present, not reminded him; and he buried Tenes where his shrine now stands and neither does a flute-player enter it nor is Achilles mentioned there by name."

40. Who was the hero Eunostus in Tanagra, and why may no women enter his grove?

"Eunostus was the son of Elieus, who was the son of Cephisus, and Scias. They relate that he acquired his name because he was brought up by the nymph Eunosta. Handsome and righteous as he was, he was no less virtuous and ascetic. They say that Ochnê, his cousin, one of the daughters of Colonus, became enamoured of him; but when Eunostus repulsed her advances and, after upbraiding her, departed to accuse her to her brothers, the maiden forestalled him by doing this very thing against him. She incited her brothers, Echemus, Leon, and Bucolus, to kill Eunostus, saying that he had consorted with her by force. They, accordingly, lay in ambush for the young man and slew him. Then Elieus put them in bonds; but Ochnê repented, and was filled with trepidation and, wishing to free herself from the torments caused by her love, and also feeling pity for her brothers, reported the whole truth to Elieus, and he to Colonus. And when Colonus had given judgement, Ochnê's brothers were banished, and she threw herself from a precipice, as Myrtis, a the lyric poetess of Anthedon, has related.

But the shrine and the grove of Eunostus were so strictly guarded against entry and approach by women that, often, when earthquakes or droughts or other signs from heaven occurred, the people of Tanagra were wont to search diligently and to be greatly concerned lest any woman might have approached the place undetected; and some relate, among them Cleidamus, a man of prominence, that Eunostus met them on his way to the sea to bathe because a woman had set foot within the sacred precinct. And Diodes a also, in his treatise upon the Shrines of Heroes, quotes a decree of the people of Tanagra concerning the matters which Cleidamus reported."


58. Why is it that among the Coans the priest of Heracles at Antimacheia dons a woman's garb, and fastens upon his head a woman's head-dress before he begins the sacrifice?

"Heracles, putting out with his six ships from Troy, encountered a storm; and when his other ships had been destroyed, with the only one remaining he was driven by the gale to Cos. He was cast ashore upon the Laceter, as the place is called, with nothing salvaged save his arms and his men. Now he happened upon some sheep and asked for one ram from the shepherd. This man, whose name was Antagoras, was in the prime of bodily strength, and bade Heracles wrestle with him; if Heracles could throw him, he might carry off the ram. And when Heracles grappled with him, the Meropes came to the aid of Antagoras, and the Greeks to help Heracles, and they were soon engaged in a mighty battle. In the struggle it is said that Heracles, being exhausted by the multitude of his adversaries, fled to the house of a Thracian woman; there, disguising himself in feminine garb, he managed to escape detection. But later, when he had overcome the Meropes in another encounter, and had been purified, he married Chalciopê and assumed a gay-coloured raiment. Wherefore the priest sacrifices on the spot where it came about that the battle was fought, and bridegrooms wear feminine raiment when they welcome their brides."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Exhibition on the Aegean Sea

The Aegean Sea (Αιγαίο Πέλαγος) is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the Greek and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus. The Aegean Islands are within the sea and some bound it on its southern periphery, including Krete and Rhodes. In ancient times, there were various explanations for the name Aegean. It was said to have been named after the Greek town of Aegae, or after Aegea, a queen of the Amazons who died in the sea, or Aigaion, the 'sea goat', or, especially among the Athenians, Aegeus, the father of Theseus, who drowned himself in the sea when he thought his son had died.

In ancient times, the sea was the birthplace of two ancient civilizations–the Minoans of Crete and the Mycenean Civilization of the Peloponnese. Later arose the city-states of Athens and Sparta among many others that constituted the Athenian Empire and Hellenic Civilization. Plato described the Greeks living round the Aegean 'like frogs around a pond'. The Aegean Sea was a major part of ancient Hellenic life, and it is celebrated in an original exhibition titled 'Aegean – Creation of an Archipelago', which is taking place in cooperation with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s Geology and Paleontology Museum and the University of Crete’s Natural History Museum. It has already been shown at the Noesis Science Center and Technology Museum in Thessaloniki and will remain on display in Athens–in an enriched version–through October, before continuing to other venues in Greece and abroad, this reports Ekathimerini.
The exhibition took two years to put together after a more ambitious plan for a show on the birth of the entire Eastern Mediterranean had to be scrapped due to financial constraints.

"The Aegean Sea has a tumultuous history. Long before it became the subject of disputed claims and diplomatic tensions, it was rocked by volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, violent weather phenomena and many more dramatic events. The history of how its distinctive archipelago was formed over the course of 20 million-plus years, and how the islands became the cradles of culture and in many cases the fields of great battles, is the subject of an exhibition at the Eugenides Foundation in the southern Athenian suburb of Palaio Faliro.
 
[W]e tend to regard the Earth’s landscapes as being relatively stable, a set for the rise and demise of human civilizations that leave a trace yet lack the power to bring about radical changes. Rivers and marshes are drained, canals forged, forests destroyed and mountains quarried, but the mountain ranges themselves, the islands and the seas are seen as constants, maintaining a sense of the historical continuity of mankind through the passage of time. This sense of permanence is challenged by the “Aegean” exhibition, which illustrates that everything we take for granted had a beginning and, inevitably, an end, shaped by unstoppable geological forces."

At the Eugenides Foundation, the 'Aegean' exhibition is split into three sections. The first goes back to the beginning, telling the story of how Aegeis, a vast landmass that emerged from the Tethys Ocean, emerged from the Tethys and eventually broke up to become the Aegean, explains Zouros. Intense volcanic activity in the region and how this shaped the archipelago through the eons is the subject of the second section, which explains how the still-active volcanoes of Santorini, Nisyros, Methana and Sousaki in Corinthia, which form the Aegean Volcanic Arc, helped shape islands such as Milos, Lemnos, Santorini, Kimolos and Samothraki. The third section explores ecosystems in the region by explaining the evolution of its biodiversity through displays of primal flora and fauna – such as a short-necked giraffe from Chios, a dwarf elephant from Tilos and an early antelope from Samos. The predecessors of modern man are also present in this section in the form of plaster casts of three humanoid skulls.

The exhibition is suitable for adults and children alike, offering two separate approaches: The first focuses on the tangible exhibits and the rich audiovisual material available, while the other is more profound, focusing on the Aegean’s geological history, with texts and a 15-minute informative video. Visitors are encouraged to set aside at least an hour to take in the whole display.

'Aegean: Creation of an Archipelago' will remain on display through October 23. Admission is free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Opening hours are Wednesdays-Fridays 5-8 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. More information is available here. Eugenides Foundation, 387 Syngrou, Palaio Faliro (entrance from 11 Pendelis), tel 210.946.9600.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend

Guys! Guys! You know I am Dutch, right, and that I thus did not grow up with all these awesome kid's shows? And you guys know I love kid's shows, right? So why did no one tell me that there is a Canadian-produced animated television series that was a fixture of CBS' Saturday-morning cartoon line-up and featured retellings of popular Hellenic myths that were altered so as to be appropriate for younger audiences? Because I feel a marathon coming on!

The show is called 'Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend'. From what I can tell, all of the stories told are very.... liberal interpretations of the myths, but that does not make them any less enjoyable to me. There were twenty-six episodes, and at least thirteen can be found on Youtube. I'm going to leave you with a few today and then binge watch all episodes I can find. Please excuse me while I revert to my six year old self. Also, how awesome is that intro?






Friday, September 12, 2014

The Epidauria and the Mysteries

On the ninth of September this year (15 Boedromion), the festival of the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries started. The Eleusinian Mysteries (Ἐλευσίνια Μυστήρια) had festivals throughout the year, which were tied to agriculture through Demeter's refusal to perform her duties as an agricultural Theia while her daughter Persephone is with Hades, and to the afterlife and Underworld through Persephone's return to the surface of the earth after Her mandatory stay with Hades has ended. Initiation ceremonies were held every year at Eleusis. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, the mysteries at Eleusis are assumed to be of great importance to a large portion of the ancient Hellens. The cult itself likely has origins dating back to the Mycenean period of around 1600 to 1100 BC, and it is believed that the cult of Demeter Herself was established in 1500 BC.

The Eleusinian mysteries consist mostly of two festivals, but the worship of Demeter and Persephone consist of a cycle of seven festivals: the Greater Mysteries (13-23 Boedromion), Proerosia (6 Pyanepsion), Stenia (9 Pyanepsion), Thesmophoria (11-13 Pyanepsion), Haloa (26 Poseideon), the Lesser Mysteries (20-26 Anthesterion),  and the Skiraphoria (12 Skirophorion). These are placed in sequence of the Athenian year. Sunset yesterday (or today, depending on the source) marked a special event during the Greater Mysteries, however: the Epidauria.

The Epidauria was a festival of Asklēpiós placed smack in the middle of the Mysteries--exactly six months after the other major festival of Asklēpiós in Athens: the one during the Greater Dionysia. The day was named after Asklēpiós' healing centre to the south at Epidauros. It was said that on this day, the cult of Asklepios and Hygeia joined the Eleusinian Mysteries rites in Athens.

What, exactly, happened during the Epidauria is unclear as discussing the rites that took place at Eleusis carried a death sentence, but I think we can safely say that the rites at Eleusis involving Asklēpiós were most likely similar to the rites to Asklēpiós that took place at other places--including Epidauros. What we do know is that the evening rites of sacrifices were held at Demeter’s Eleusinion temple in Athens to honour Asklēpiós, His daughter Hygeia, and Demeter and Persephone, who also were revered as healing deities. Special blessings were invoked for doctors and healers, and perhaps healing practices were offered at Demeter’s Eleusinion temple.

Then started the part that we have to guestimate by way of other practices involving Asklēpiós. Asklēpiós' worship almost always included a 'night watch'; a night time period of meditation and contemplation at a temple to Asklēpiós; the Asklepion. the initiates would most likely sit, contemplate, and cleanse themselves of ailments, distress, and anything that might distract them form the proceedings to follow. The temple of Asklēpiós was built near the enclosure of a sacred spring in a small cave and it included an abaton, a sleeping hall sacred to Asklēpiós where initiates could sleep while watched over by priests of Asklēpiós who prayed to Asklēpiós to visit these initiates in their sleep and give them messages intended to heal and cleanse. The following morning, initiates would tell their dream to a priest of Asklēpiós or Hygeia, called 'therapeutes'. The initiate would then be encouraged to put the advice he or she had gotten into practice.

The Epidauria took place as a preparatory intermezzo: afterwards, the initiates were cleaned and focussed, ready to be drawn further into the Mysteries. As these proceedings took place late at night, a certain lack of sleep might also occur, leaving the initiates more susceptible to the coming proceedings. Whatever the case, the initiates would soon be enveloped in the hectic but highly ritualized proceedings of the Mysteries, and likely feel far more ready--and worthy--to face them.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Funding archaeological endeavors for the future

Recently Joanna Kakissis over at NPR posted a very telling piece on Greece and its funding of archaeological endeavours--or lack of same. She starts the piece off with a single case, the case of archaeologist Xeni Arapogianni and her discovery of an ancient healing centre at ancient Thouria.
 

 
"About seven years ago, just as Greece was falling into its worst recession in a half-century, veteran archaeologist Xeni Arapogianni made an important find in a forest of olive trees above the city of Kalamata, in the southern Peloponnese.

'It was an asclepio, an ancient healing center, but one that has not been recorded in any ancient or modern source,' says Arapogianni on a recent day, as she walks on the bone-white stone foundation. 'It's an entirely new discovery. And it tells us a lot about the ancient city that it came from.'

That city, Ancient Thouria, was notable enough to be referenced by Homer. Yet Arapogianni, who has excavated in Greece for more than 37 years, is struggling to finance her work.

'We don't have any support from the state or the Greek archaeological society,' she says. 'So we have to get all of our support from private sources,' including a tobacco heiress and local donors from Kalamata."

Greece has a very rich history, which is a great source of pride and income for the Greeks. Before the current financial troubles, the Greek government could support archaeological research and digs. The debt crisis and subsequent austerity budget have slashed the Ministry of Culture's budget in half since 2010. As a result, more and more Greek archaeologists are scrambling for private funding to underwrite their work--a difficult endeavour as everyone struggles under the recession.

Ancient Messene, about 18 miles north of Ancient Thouria, covers about fifty percent of the costs of running the site with funds gained from non-governmental sources. Running the site costs more than 500,000 euros ($660,000) a year. Half of the funds come from the European Union, but the rest comes from bank foundations and ship owners. Partnering with luxury resorts so tourists can pay to work as 'archaeologists for a day' is another source of income. The ancient theatre is also rented out for events, such as a recent staging of The Woman of Zakynthos by Greek writer Dionysios Solomos.

Privatization of ancient sites is another option to preserve them, but it is opposed by many Greeks who fear the private sector will destroy or cheapen the surviving archaeological wonders.

Because of the funding issues, many recently discovered historical sites are abandoned, usually protected from looters and vandals by a lone farmer or ground owner--if that. The risk of losing valuable information from ancient Hellas becomes larger with every day this goes on--and there is no obvious end in sight for the situation. Crowd funding, sponsoring, and maybe even privatization might preserve these ancient sites where the government can't. It will take an entirely different way of marketing archaeology and Greece's rich history, however, and that will be a real challenge.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On the practice of veiling

Today I am doing a good, old-fashioned post on ancient Hellas, and in particular the practice of veiling. For the last year or so, veiling has gained popularity in the Hellenistic and greater Pagan community. It's not a large part of my practice; I might do it on occasion when engaging in ritual--mostly when divining--but the closest I get is binding my hair, which I have done for nearly two years now. It is, however, a very interesting topic to me as it says a lot about ancient Hellenic society.

In ancient Hellas the word for veil was 'kalyptra' (καλύπτρα), or 'kalyptrē' (καλύπτρη) in Ionic Greek. It comes from the verb 'kalyptō' (καλύπτω), 'I cover'. Veiling was a huge part of social life in ancient Hellas, and retained its importance well into the Roman era. While we don't know how many men and women veiled--because veiling was important for men as well, especially in the Roman era--we can assume that especially in ancient Hellas adult women tended to veil whenever they left the house. The fact that so few ancient writers mention the veil is indicative of one of two things: either it rarely happened, or it happened so often that it was not worth mentioning. Seeing as we have a lot of depictions of veiling on statues and other forms of art, we can only assume the latter to be true.

While we cannot accurately establish the frequency of veiling, we can most definitely try to discern 'why'. I say 'try' because veiling was a very complicated practice and it was done (and not done) for a great variety of reasons. Let's start with religious veiling: during rites to the Ouranic Gods at least, women tended to veil. At least in Roman times men did as well, but because of the words of Plutarch we can assume that the ancient Hellenic men frequently did not. Veiling during religious rites was seen as an act of dedication. By veiling, women--and by Roman times, men--put themselves below in status to the Gods as an act of piety. As Plutarch says in his 'Quaestiones Romanae':

"[T]here is only one matter that needs investigation: why men cover their heads when they worship the gods; and the other [why men uncover their heads when they meet any of their fellow-men worthy of honour] follows from this. For they uncover their heads in the presence of men more influential than they: it is not to invest these men with additional honour, but rather to avert from them the jealousy of the gods, that these men may not seem to demand the same honours as the gods, nor to tolerate an attention like that bestowed on the gods, nor to rejoice therein. But they thus worshipped the gods, either humbling themselves by concealing the head, or rather by pulling the toga over their ears as a precaution lest any ill-omened and baleful sound from without should reach them while they were praying. That they were mightily vigilant in this matter is obvious from the fact that when they went forth for purposes of divination, they surrounded themselves with the clashing of bronze. " [10]

Plutarch (Ploútarkhos, Πλούταρχος) was a Greek historian, biographer, and essayist, who later in his life became a Roman citizen. As such, he was extraordinarily qualified to write two standard works: the 'Quaestiones Graecae' (Αἴτια Ἑλληνικά, or 'Greek Questions'), and the 'Quaestiones Romanae' (Αἴτια Ῥωμαϊκά, or 'Roman Questions'). These essays are part of the book series 'Moralia' (Ἠθικά, loosely translatable as 'Matters relating to customs and mores'), and can be found in book IV of the series. The Greek Questions contain fifty-nine questions, the Roman version hundred-thirteen, and all pertain to matters concerned with their respective culture. Many of the answers are names or customs, and because Plutarch often refers (back) to Hellenic customs, both are extremely valuable for research on ancient Hellenic life.

This dedication extended into the social as well: veiling and unveiling was a large part of wedding ceremonies for both men and women--who were both veiled for the ceremony. In ancient Hellenic times, men veiled during funerary rites, while women unveiled (in ancient Roman times, this was reversed) as anything associated with the underworld and death required a reversal of the usual. Plutarch, again in the 'Quaestiones Romanae' questions 'why do sons cover their heads when they escort their parents to the grave, while daughters go with uncovered heads and hair unbound?' and answers, partly, with the following:

"Is it because fathers should be honoured as gods by their male offspring, but mourned as dead by their daughters, that custom has assigned to each sex its proper part and has produced a fitting result from both? Or is it that the unusual is proper in mourning, and it is more usual for women to go forth in public with their heads covered band men with their heads uncovered? So in Greece, whenever any misfortune comes, the women cut off their hair and the men let it grow, for it is usual for men to have their hair cut and for women to let it grow." [14]

Now, for women in ancient Hellas, there was another obvious--although very much linked--reason to veil: as a way to move freely outside of the oikos. Ancient Hellenic homes were simple structures, made from clay, wood, and stone. In many cases, a large wall with a single door connected the house to the street, while insuring maximum privacy to the occupants of the house. Women and men lived almost entirely separately within the home. Male-only rooms were called 'andron' (ανδρών), female-only rooms were called 'gynaikon' (γυναικῶν). Men were not allowed to enter female-only rooms, and a visiting male guest would be punished most severely if he entered the gynaikon.

Women, at least while in the gynaikon, were likely not veiled. When a married woman was alone with her husband, she most likely was not veiled either. When surrounded my other men, however, she most likely be veiled without fault unless the social rules dictated she must go unveiled. There was a good reason for this: women, for men, were near-mythological creatures; they didn't see many of them in their daily lives--safe for their mothers and wives, and even them, they hardly saw because they spent most of their time separate. Men feared women a little; they were closer to their primal nature because they bled once a month. That made them unpredictable.

Females started veiling around their first menstrual cycle: from that point on they were viewed as women and they developed their appeal on men. Ancient Hellenic men viewed women as having an uncontrolled sexuality, as well as a natural miasma linked to that sexuality, both of which posed serious threats to the social order. Men were attracted and aroused by women, who shook their self-control and their ideals of temperance. Instead of looking inward, changing their own behaviour and controlling their own desires, they lay the fault with women. As such, the veil shielded males from the female's dangerous gaze, controlled her enticing hair, and symbolically contained her siren's voice.

In ancient Hellenic society, women were regarded as being the property of the men in their lives--first their father, then their husband. They rarely had interactions with men not from their oikos. This was explainable: lawful and legitimate parentage was extremely important in ancient Hellenic society. A man who caught his wife cheating could bring the man she was cheating with to court. Plutarch, in a discussion of law, says that Solon gave 'to the one who catches a moichos (an adulterer) the right to kill him, but if anyone seizes a free woman and forces her, he assigned the penalty of one hundred drachmas’.

Veiling, like sexual separation, helped to preserve the Hellenic female's chastity, which, in turn, ensured both the legitimacy of her husband's heirs and the highly valued honour of her husband and family. When the woman left her home and the protection of her male guardians, the veil rendered her both socially invisible and sexually inviolate and marked her as the property of the male whose honour was reinforced by both her invisibility and chastity. The veil, essentially, served as an extension of the oikos: when women left the house veiled, they were safe. They became untouchable.

Veiling, however, was not simply a cultural mandate that underscored the woman's powerlessness relative to men. While women's adoption of the veil supported the male ideology that advocated female subordination, veiling also gave women a certain degree of authority by allowing them to claim both respectability and assert their own position in the social hierarchy. Because of this it is not surprising that the practice of veiling for women increased as their power in society increased.

Veiling for religious reasons is a pious act, one that speaks of dedication and devotion. If veiling outside of ritual in a modern context makes sense to you, I applaud it. I think it's a beautiful practice. For those of you who veil or are thinking of veiling, now you also have a bit of information on the traditional precedent.