Sunday, June 10, 2012

PBP: Hellenismos (surprise, surprise)

Baring the Aegis is one week old today! Long live Baring the Aegis! I was shocked by this discovery as so many things have changed for me in that week. While some of that change took place in my regular, daily, life, most of it happened in my head and in my Paganistic practice. I still consider myself a Pagan... but I am no longer an Eclectic Religious Witch. In my head and heart, I am Hellenistic. So much change in one week. Most of my Pagan friends I haven't seen this week, so this is mostly for them (and anyone else who is interested in Hellenismos and my blog) so they can catch up a little.

What is Hellenismos?
Hellenismos (Ἑλλήνισμος) is the modern reconstruction of the ancient Hellenic religion. It focusses on the worship of the Twelve Olympic Gods--Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hēphaistos, Apollon, Artemis, Demeter, Hestia, Hermes, Ares, Poseidon and Aphrodite--along with Hades and Dionysios (when said to have replaced Hestia). Most Hellenists honor other types of divinities, including nature spirits (like Pan, Gods of rivers and Gods of the wind directions), Khthonic Deities (like Persephone and Hekate), and heroes (like the Argonauts). We tend to be hard polytheists although I'm sure there are some soft or middle hard polytheists walking about. 

Hellenismos is known for its highly developed ethical system, derived from ancient scripture like the Delphic Maxims I keep going on about as well as scholarly works like the Homeric Hymns, the Tenets of Solon, the Ethics of Aristotle (1,2), the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, the Philosophy of Epicurus, the Stoics, Works and Days by Hesiod and many, many others. 

I think Hellenismos often has the image of being stuffy and boring, focussed more on acquiring knowledge than actual practice. In my experience, this is plainly wrong. Yes, you're expected to read through the works mentioned above, as well as some of the greats like the Ilias, the Odyssey and the Orphic Hymns but when your interest is with this pantheon and the stories that depict them, this is no punishment at all. Also, there are actually daily rituals one is encouraged to perform as well as at least seven or eight libations, festivals or dedicatory moments to observe throughout a single month. Piety, in Hellenismos often called 'eusebeia', is of great importance. 

Is it Pagan?
Well... yes. It is. Sort of. So I still call myself Pagan but only in the sense of the umbrella term that Paganism has become; a practitioner of a non-Abrahamic faith. Even though I've barely started, I can see that this manner of worship in no way resembles the worship I undertook when I was an Eclectic Religious Witch. I've been separating the rituals for a while now but amongst other things;
  • Hellenists don't 'work with' the Gods, they honor Them and provide offerings in the hopes of establishing a system of reciprocity
  • While some items have been repurposed, almost every item I used in Eclectic Religious Witchcraft has become meaningless to me; including my Athame. I have an entirely new shopping list
  • There is a lot more to study and there's very little 'winging it' involved in Hellenismos as compared to my previous practice
  • (Almost) no borrowing from other pantheons or systems allowed
  • There's no magick (this is not entirely true as the term has a different meaning but any low magick becomes high magick in Hellenismos)
  • Nature and ecological activism are a lot less important in Hellenismos than in non-reconstructionist religions (but see nature spirits above)
  • No Calling Corners, no Circle work, no Cakes and Ale/Wine; Hellenistic ritual followes a very simple structure: procession, purification, Hymns, sacrifice/offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks, feast and, on occasion, games or competitions
  • Daily practice in Hellenismos focusses on the home, the hearth and family
  • There is no (well, very little) clergy as clergy was of very limited importance in ancient Hellas. As a result, there are no degrees one can get, no certificate. You either are (by following all the above) or you're not
  • There is a full body of work to practice from in Hellenismos and you are expected to do so
All of the above make me so very happy. It's what I've been looking for in Neo-Paganism for years now and have never been able to find. In all honesty, it's what I've been doing already only now it has a direction. I'm still struggling along, trying to find the resources to make sure I do it right, but I'm getting there.

I feel I should make one other note, concerning Hekate, as She is of immeasurable importance to me. While She is (most likely) a Pre-Olympic Khthonic Goddess--a Titan--She's been welcomed into the Hellenic pantheon and even has an Orphic Hymn dedicated to her (the first of them, even):

"I call Einodian Hecate, lovely dame,
Of earthly, wat'ry, and celestial frame,
Sepulchral, in a saffron veil array'd,
Leas'd with dark ghosts that wander thro' the shade;
Persian, unconquerable huntress hail!
The world's key-bearer never doom'd to fail;
On the rough rock to wander thee delights,
Leader and nurse be present to our rites
Propitious grant our just desires success,
Accept our homage, and the incense bless."

In Hellenismos, Hekate is not seen as She is by many Neo-Pagans;
  • In Hellenismos, She is not a triple (Maiden-Mother-Crone) Goddess
  • She is not a Crone Goddess at all (She's a maiden)
  • She is not solely a Mistress of Magic (although that is an authentic Hellenic conception of Her) 
  • She is not solely a Goddess of Death (although one of her functions is definitely to act as a Psychopomp) 
Although UPG is not a huge part of Hellenismos, it is to me, and what is stated above is something I have experienced with Her as well. Of course all are entitled to their own opinions and I will respect them as such. I simply want to point out my views, as subjective as they are, so it's easier to follow my practice. 

So this is the basis of Hellenismos and my practice. I enjoy it greatly and everything feels very natural to me. I've been holding off diving into Reconstructionism for so long that, now I have opened myself to this path, I feel like a sponge; sucking up every bit of information I can get my hands on. Yet, I am no authority of Hellenismos and not all Hellenists practice the same. If you are Hellenistic and you are reading this, you might not agree with me on all points. That is alright to me and, hopefully, to you as well.

While others might disagree, I feel Hellenismos is something you must really want to be a part of, else the workload might hold you back from practicing (and experiencing) it fully. There is a lot of reading and a lot to study and practice. Not everything is mandatory but it feels wrong to me to pick and choose which Gods to honor within the pantheon. So I try to honor everything I can and am greatly looking forward to it. If this is something that draws you as well, enjoy it!


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