I saw pieces of temples to Artemis and Athena, visited the Pergamon and marveled at a lot of pottery from ancient Hellas. It was marvelous... and I felt no religious connection to any of it. In fact, I was shocked at how little connection I felt to it at all. It was as if the many visitors had sucked every drop of authenticity from the very stone. As if the worship which took place on and around these stones lost even the echo of their previous function. Worse still, I looked for clues on how to practice my religion and found none.
Seeing these relics of the past drove home just how lost the ancient Hellenic religion is to us. It cemented my resolve to revive it in a form which fits into this cultural framework. I also realized there is no going back to the past. The temples of old are gone. The grander of those days is lost to us and that is a depressing thought.
I realized, as I walked around these relics, I had hoped for a revelation. I had hoped for guidance from the Gods or those who worshipped Them. It's not that my girlfriend and I didn't try; we had a lot of fun fussing over the female statuary to figure out how these women had wrapped their clothes as we had tried to figure this out for a dress of mine a while back. We must have looked quite the pair, walking around the cases, arguing amongst ourselves, trying to sort out which part of the garment was what and how the heck it stayed up at all.
The first museum, I walked away from with a feeling of being cheated. I had hoped that this museum would give me clues into Hellenic household life I had not unravelled. I had hoped that I could have seen how the Gods were worshipped in Their temples. I had hoped for a lot of things, and although what I saw was beautiful, it was not that. So much was lost over the years. So much was stolen, destroyed, broken, burned or any other number of things which has hidden these clues in obscurity.
By the time the second museum came around, I still hunted the museum for clues but I enjoyed what little there was a lot more. These were things created and touched by my religious ancestors. That should be enough to fulfill the longing. And it is. It's the best I can hope for.
I visited the Acropolis in Athens when I was ten. I have pictures somewhere but I can't find them now, else I would have added one. All I remember is wearing a Gods awful multi-colored blouse and a red baseball cap. I also remember being very impressed by this temple, which had somehow managed to survive through the centuries. I wonder if I would be able to reclaim that sense of wonder if I went there today. I know now how much was lost and what little has actually survived. I wonder if I have become too cynical to appreciate the wonders.
I walk away from this summer with two thoughts clear in my mind; as Hellenics, we need community and we need Temples. We need accessible houses of worship where we can come together and combine our knowledge. I'm a broken record on this one, but we need a uniform way of practicing. So much has been lost to us and the individualistic worship that is so prevalent in the religious landscape Hellenismos operates in, will only serve to scatter the little that remains.
I will always be looking for clues; it's in my nature, but at the same time, I have a steady home practice, beautiful literature and an on-line community to fall back on. It may not be perfect, it my not be complete, but it's there. Remnants, like the old stones. I just need to see it through the eyes of new muses.