Thursday, October 31, 2013

How the Gods influence our lives through kharis

Star Foster's latest blog post has been stuck in my head again. In a miraculous show of foresight, she already predicted that that post was going to get a lot of tongues wagging, and I will most certainly admit that it has. I'm sad to read that most of it is negative, but you know, that's what the blogosphere will do, it seems. I've never understood the how's and why's of that but lets leave that for another day. I'm not here to speak for Star but let me assure you that I am on her side should the need for sides arise. What I would like to do is explain what I took from the post and why it's positive.

The blog post has a simple message: the Gods you invite into your home will impact your life. Period. So if you are looking to shift your life, focus on the Gods that oversee the desired outcome of that change. 'Stable' Gods bring a stable life, 'chaotic' Gods bring a chaotic life, especially in the case of devotional practices to a singular deity. I'm putting it very black-and-white here but will nuance this later, bear with me.

Where Star left herself open to critisims, I fear, is when she crosses Traditions; the view put forth by her and that I--in essence--agree with works in Hellenismos, I feel, but not in Neo-Wicca or even some other Recon Traditions. Many in the greater Pagan community have patron Gods, were chosen by deities, or interact with deity in an entirely different way as Hellenismos fosters; the worship of an entire pantheon, with special sacrifices to Gods with whom you are looking to built kharis. For them, Star's post could read as an all-out attack: Star seems to be blaming the victim of a chaotic life, after all, because they were chosen by a 'chaotic' God. In essence, they are being blamed for something outside of the control of the worshipper, who is suffering through the side-effects of that worship or even the direct results.

I'm not here to speak for Star, so let me give you my view: to me, Star's view on 'square Gods' applies only to Hellenismos, and Traditional Hellenismos at that. Some people in other Traditions may identify, but in general, I would apply this view only to Traditional Hellenismos. There is no victim blaming here; Traditional Hellenismos encourages you to worship an entire pantheon, in general there are no patrons, and deities don't pick you. It might happen, obviously, but it's not the leading view. I'm not saying this to de-value the experiences of anyone, and I'm generalizing, but within Traditional Hellenism, this is the leading view--it is my view, at least.

Another bit of critisism may have emerged from the lack of specificity in that post concerning Gods; there are major differences between Zeus Labrandeus ('Raging') and Zeus Ktêsios ('Of The House'), for example, and within this example it will impact your life if you pray to either epithet daily. My household worship solely focuses on Gods who bring stability, prosperity, and protection to the household; Gods like Hestia, Asklēpiós, Zeus in His epithets of Ktêsios, Herkeios ('Of the Courtyard'), Ephestios ('Of The Hearth'), Athena in her epithets of Ageleia ('Protectress') and Eryma ('Defender'), etc. By building kharis with these deities, I bring these good things into my life and home.

Within this view, it makes a lot of sense not to pray to Eris and Ares in His war-epithets on a daily basis, because eventually, They will bring chaos and war into your home. This doesn't mean you should not pray to Them when a festival comes up or to an epithet of Them that brings forth positives for your life (Ares Aphneios, for example, is an excellent epithet of the God Ares to invite into your home on a daily basis: He is the Giver Of Plenty, after all). Again, this is all in the 'standard' view of Traditional Hellenismos, and does not nessesarily translate well to personal devotional practices. That is beyond the scope of this theory, I feel.

I also don't think bad things in your life nessesarily happen because of the Gods. Sometimes, things just happen and they suck. Hellenismos is very clear about that; the Gods don't oversee every aspect of our lives, They are merely willing to interfere on behalf of those who pray to Them regularly should things really go wrong. Yet, some things you can control and they might relate to your devotional practices. If you drink yourself into a stupor every night as a devotional act to Dionysos and you end up with a shot liver... well, that relates directly to the God you chose to follow/who chose you to follow Him. Again, black-and-white, because I'm ignoring a boatload of other (medical) reasons why your liver might have given out, but all the binge drinking most likely did not help matters any. This is also not to say that you mind in any way that your liver is shot or that there is a value judgement in this; we all worship in our own way, and if this is the way hypothetical you chose to worship than by all means!

What Star describes is the practice of kharis, and the sense it makes in Traditional Hellenismos to built that kharis with Gods who bring you the things in life you seek. For Star and me, that is stability. It might be something completely different for you. I think taking a critical look at the Gods you worship on a daily basis makes sense in a Traditional Hellenistic view; I don't really believe in doing things without thinking it through, and kharis influences your life considerably.

I found a lot of value in Star's post because it relates to my life. If it doesn't to yours than that is just fine to me as well; we all have our own way of making sense of life and experiencing the Gods. I simply wanted to share this with you because I feel these is an important lesson about the effect of kharis in Star's post that I think more in the Traditional Hellenistic community should hear--and preferably in a positive light.

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