This is awesome enough to stand on its own, and even if it wasn't, it's Queen's day today in the Netherlands, so I'm about to spend the day looking for treasure in other people's junk. I can't wait! For those of you who are not otherwise engaged today, I have something awesome: audio books of the Iliad and Odysseia by Hómēros. Courtesy of Librivox. Enjoy!

Iliad: parts one and two


PART 1:
01 -- The Quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon -- 00:32:41
02 -- Agammemnon's Dream -- 00:44:16
03 -- Paris Challenges Menelaus -- 00:24:06
04 -- A Quarrel in Olympus -- 00:28:39
05 -- The exploits of Diomed -- 00:46:24
06 -- Hector and Andromache -- 00:26:41
07 -- Hector and Ajax Fight -- 00:24:13
08 -- The Victory of the Trojans -- 00:33:54
09 -- The Embassy to Achilles -- 00:38:59
10 -- Ulysses and Diomed go out as Spies -- 00:31:33
11 -- Agamemnon's Day of Glory -- 00:52:49
12 -- The Trojans Break the Wall -- 00:24:03

PART 2:
13 -- Neptune helps the Achaeans -- 00:41:19
14 -- Agamemnon Proposes that the Achaeans Should Sail Home -- 00:34:36
15 -- Apollo Heals Hector -- 00:48:49
16 -- Patroclus fights in the armor of Achilles -- 00:49:09
17 -- The Light around the Body of Patroclus -- 00:35:43
18 -- The Shield of Achilles -- 00:34:34
19 -- Achilles Goes Out to Fight -- 00:26:11
20 -- Achilles fights Aeneas -- 00:30:13
21 -- Achilles Drives the Trojans Back -- 00:36:39
22 -- The death of Hector -- 00:30:40
23 -- The Funeral Games of Patroclus -- 00:49:28
24 -- Priam Ransoms Hector's Body -- 00:44:04

The Odysseia



Book 01 -- 00:23:06
Book 02 -- 00:23:22
Book 03 -- 00:25:20
Book 04 -- 00:43:39
Book 05 -- 00:27:53
Book 06 -- 00:22:53
Book 07 -- 00:19:09
Book 08 -- 00:30:12
Book 09 -- 00:38:23
Book 10 -- 00:37:04
Book 11 -- 00:41:14
Book 12 -- 00:30:04
Book 13 -- 00:24:57
Book 14 -- 00:33:27
Book 15 -- 00:22:37
Book 16 -- 00:28:18
Book 17 -- 00:31:46
Book 18 -- 00:22:34
Book 19 -- 00:30:38
Book 20 -- 00:22:19
Book 21 -- 00:27:05
Book 22 -- 00:30:25
Book 23 -- 00:27:14
Book 24 -- 00:38:48
The coming days are filled with a trio of barely related festivals: the Olympeia, the Leukaspis, and Tritopatores.


The Olympeia
The Olympeia was celebrated in honor of Olympian Zeus. Most worship of Olympian Zeus took place around or during the Olympic games in Olympia. In 550 BC BC, however, the tyrant Peisistratos (Πεισίστρατος) decided to build a temple to Olympian Zeus in Athens. The temple, which became known as the Naos tou Olympiou Dios (Ναὸς τοῦ Ὀλυμπίου Διός), was demolished by his sons, Hippias (Ἱππίας) and Hipparchos (Ἵππαρχος), after Peisistratos' death, but replaced by the foundations of a grander structure. Hippias was expelled in 510 BC, and the project abandoned for three hundred years. The project--which was epic in scale--was seen as hubristic and bad form. Aristotle wrote about it in his Politics:

"Another art of the tyrant is to sow quarrels among the citizens; friends should be embroiled with friends, the people with the notables, and the rich with one another. Also he should impoverish his subjects; he thus provides against the maintenance of a guard by the citizen and the people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy; also the offerings of the family of Cypselus, and the building of the temple of Olympian Zeus by the Peisistratidae, and the great Polycratean monuments at Samos; all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor." (Part XI)

The temple project was revived from 174 BC to 164 BC, when King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who presented himself as the earthly embodiment of Zeus, changed the design and put builders to work. The project halted again after his death. What followed was a period of disarray with looting, some minor attempts at restoration, and lots of neglect, until the project was finally completed in the second century AD, by Roman emperor Hadrian.

In 267, the temple was badly damaged during the Herulian sack of the city, and very few--if any--attempt was made to restore it. By 425, the worship of the Hellenic and Roman Gods was banned by Christian emperor Theodosius II, and the temple was slowly dismantled for building materials.

Even in its half finished state, Peisistratus and those who came after him, held a festival at the structure: the Olympeia, celebrated on the 19th of Mounikhion. For how long the festival was celebrated is unclear, but it died out somewhere during the reign of Hellas--most likely after the death of the Peisistratidae--before being brought back in the second century BC, as the temple was completed. The festival was a military one, and featured a procession and contests by the Athenian cavalry. Also attested are large scale sacrifices of bulls to Olympian Zeus.

The Leukaspis and the Tritopatores
The Attikos deme Erkhia was located near the modern Spata, approximately twenty kilometers (twelve miles) east of Athens, with the deme center located at Magoula. The deme of Erkhia is unique as we have recovered an elaborate sacrificial calendar--the Greater Demarkhia--listing sacrifices, costs and rules for the festivals held under the supervision of the demarch. The calendar prescribes 59 annual sacrifices to 46 separate divinities, including heroes, nymphs, and Gods, and some of them seem unique to the deme. The Gods most frequently honored at Erkhia were Zeus, Apollon, Kourotrophos ('She who raises the young') and Athena. A few times a year, the men traveled to Athens to sacrifice to Zeus an Athena 'of the city', to Apollon Lykeios, and to Demeter of Eleusis. For worship at the deme, Erkhia had its own Akropolis, where the same Theoi were worshipped as on the Akropolis at Athens, as well as more obscure Gods, like Zeus Epopetes, the Heroines, the Herakleidai, the nymphs, and the Tritopateres, as well as local heroes like Leukaspis ('he of the white shield') and Epops.

I might revisit the deme Erkhia soon, but for now, I will only focus on two of these sacrifice: the one to the hero Leukaspis on the 20th of Mounikhion, and the sacrifice to the Tritopatores on the 21th of Mounikhion.

Leukaspis, depicted here on a drachma from Syracuse--designed around 405-400 BC by Eukleidas--was a famed warrior and hero, who was worshipped at the deme of Erkhia. What, exactly, the source of Leukaspis' renown wa has been lost to us, but his name means 'white-shielded', and I bet this has something to do with it. He might have been one of six Sican heroes killed by Hēraklēs.

A day later, the sacrificial calendar of Erkhia dictates a sacrifice to the Tritopateres (Τριτοπατορες). Suidas describes the Tritopateres as follows:

"Tritopatores : Demon in the Atthis says that the Tritopatores are winds (anemoi), Philochoros [Greek poet C4th B.C.] that the Tritopatores were born first of all. For the men of that time, he says, understood as their parents the earth (gê) and the sun (hêlios), whom then they called Apollon. Phanodemos [C4th B.C.] in [book] 6 maintains that only [the] Athenians both sacrifice to them and pray to them, when they are about to marry, for the conception of children. In the Physikos of Orpheus the Tritopatores are named Amalkeides and Protokles and Protokleon, being doorkeepers and guardians of the winds (anemoi). But the author of Explanation claims that they are [the offspring] of Ouranos (Heaven) and (Earth), and that their names are Kottos, Briareos and Gyges."

Which version(s) of the Tritopateres were worshipped at Erkhia is unclear. The latter in Suidas are often seen as the Hekatonkheires: Kottos (Κοττος, 'Grudge', 'Rancour'), Gyês (Γυης, 'Of the Land'), Briareôs (Βριαρεως, 'Strong', 'Stout'), Obriareôs (Οβριαρεως, 'Strong', 'Stout'), and Aigaiôn (Αιγαιων, 'Goatish', or 'Stormy'). As the Anemoi, the Tritopateres are: Amalkeidês (Αμαλκειδης, 'Bound to That Place'), Prôtoklês (Πρωτοκλης, 'First Locked Away), and Prôtokleôn (Πρωτοκλεων, 'First Confined').

According to the Greater Demarkhia, both the sacrifice to Leukaspis and the sacrifice to the Tritopatores were a ram, along with a 'libation not of wine'. In modern times, a libation of milk, honey, and/or water will most certainly do.

Image source: Leukaspis
On a forum I frequent, a seeker new to Paganism asked how important mythology is to Paganism. Of course, that depends greatly on what flavor of Paganism you practice. They also mentioned that written lore stifles spirituality. Below is a large part of my reply, reworked slightly, as I feel that for Hellenismos mythology is vitally important, and it does not stifle spirituality at all.

As a Hellenic Recon, much of my practice, world view, and moral framework is based upon mythology. The rest is filled in with non-myth ancient sources, and a tiny bit of UPG. I'm not a new-age spiritualist, and if I were, I would most certainly be in the wrong religious field. I am religious: I believe in, worship, and have built my life around the Theoi. This means that a large part of my practice is making things not about me. As such, a new-age world vision and Reconstructionism do not really match.

Still, in my own way, I am very spiritual: I see the world as a place of wonder, a world influenced every day by the Theoi. Looking beyond myself in order to find the Gods has been a very spiritual journey. It's also a journey that I would not have been able to make without mythology.

Mythology not only teaches what kind of person you should strive to become, but tells us so much about the Gods. It speaks of Their likes and dislikes, Their spheres of influence, the way They relate to each other... and all give vital clues for worship. I look at the sun and see Hēlios' golden chariot. I know Eos had sped ahead before Him, and Apollon carries His bright rays down to us. I remember Hēlios' son, who would not listen to his father's advice and not only died for his hubris, but nearly killed many men with his recklessness. When I think of these events, I go over my own life to see where I am being as pigheaded as Phaëthon, and try to adjust my behavior. These myths make me a better person.

When I observe the cycle of the seasons, I see in it Persephone's cycle of Underworld visits. I can feel Demeter's grief. When I mourn the loss of Demeter during the Thesmophoria, I do not eat, as She did not eat. I do not make love to my partner, as Demeter refused to make the world fertile and pregnant with life. I do not do this, just as the women in ancient Hellas did not do this. They came together in a camp on the side of Pnyx, and they fasted, they wept, and they withheld sex. They recreated the time before Demeter taught humankind to cultivate the fields. It was a dark time, a time of hunger and pain. At the same time, this day was also used to remember the time when Demeter sought her daughter and neglected her duties as a harvest Goddess. This had also been a time of great hunger. They honor Demeter, and Persephone, and in return, the Goddess will look favorably upon them and grant them fertility of land and body once Persephone returns. This combination of myth and ancient sources makes me a better worshipper. I see the pattern that underlays the mythology, I perform the rites, and they bring me closer to the Theoi.

I could give you literally a hundred more examples of how mythology has influenced my religious life, my spirituality, my daily practice, and my life in general. It has shaped my person in such a way that I could not imagine ever living without them. I would not be able to practice my religion without investing in its mythological framework.

So these are my two cents. I hope they give you some insight in how I—as a religious Pagan—feel about mythology, and perhaps it will have given the original poster insights into their views as well. What place does mythology have in your practice? Is my world view recognizable to you? I would love to hear some of your closest mythological associations in every day life.
A few day ago, someone on one of my Facebook groups shared the article I'm going to share with you now. It's a letter written by a famous Hellenic Pagan orator, Libanius, to the Christian Emperor Theodosius. It was written in the late 4th century AD, and describes--from the Pagan perspective--what happened to the temples of the ancient Gods. A teaser:

"But they say, 'We have only punished those who sacrifice, and thereby transgress the law, which forbids sacrifices.' O Emperor, when they say this they lie. For no one is so audacious, and so ignorant of the proceedings of the courts, as to think himself more powerful than the law. When I say the law, I mean the law against sacrificers. Can it be thought, that they who are not able to bear the sight of a collector's cloak, should despise the power of your government? This is what they say for themselves. And they have been often alleged to Flavian himself, and never have been confuted, no not yet. For I appeal to the guardians of this law: Who has known any of those whom you have plundered to have sacrificed upon the altars, so as the law does not permit? What young or old person, what man, what woman? Who of those inhabiting the same country, and not agreeing with the sacrificers in the worship of the gods? Who of their neighbours? For envy and jealousy are common in neighbourhoods. Whence some would gladly come as an evidence if any such thing had been done: and yet no one has appeared, neither from the one nor from the other: [that is, neither from the country, nor from the neighbourhood.] Nor will there ever appear, for fear of perjury, not to say the punishment of it. Where then is the truth of this charge, when they accuse those men of sacrificing contrary to law?"  
 
 
Read the rest of the translation here: Libanius, Oration 30: For the temples (Pro templis) (1830) pp.72-96. I promise, it will be a valuable glimpse into the past.
When you are reconstructing an ancient religion, you will always run into several problems, one of which is the fact that people rarely describe in detail something everyone knew at the time. What would have been the point? Everyone knew it already, or was taught about it by their parents. An example is the eiresiône (εἰρεσιώνη), and its even less famous cousin, the iketiria (ικετηρία).

The eiresiône and the iketiria are two branches of the same tree--literally--but were used very differently. I have mentioned both before, the eiresiône mostly in connection to the Pyanepsia festival in honor of Apollon and Theseus, and the iketiria mostly in connection to the Delphinia festival, in honor of Artemis Delphinia and Apollon Delphinios. Both are branches of a sacred tree--usually an olive or laurel tree--wrapped in wool.

eiresiône

The eiresiône is described as a branch of olive or laurel (probably a sturdy one) bound with purple or white wool. It was decorated with fruits of the season, pastries, and small jars of honey, oil and wine. The eiresiône was also called a 'supplicant branch', as it was intended as a thank-offering for blessings received, and at the same time as a prayer for similar blessings and protection against evil in the future. During the Pyanepsia festival, boys tended to carry their home made eiresiône through the streets in a Halloween-esque manner. They knocked on the doors of every house and sang a song. In return, they expected a gift. The eiresiône song from Plutarch, Life of Theseus, 22.5, goes as follows:

'eiresiône suka pherei kai pionas artous
kai meli en kotulêi kai elaion apopsêsasthai
kai kulik' euzôron, hôs an methuousa katheudêi.'

Modern Greek pronunciation:
(Capitalized syllables are emphasized according to the poetic meter)
'EE-re-si-ON-NE SEE-ka fe-RE KE PEE-on-as AR-tous
KE me-lee EN ko-tee-LEE ke e-LE-on a-POP-SEE-SAS-the
KE kee-lik EF-ZO-RON, OS AN me-thee-OU-sa ka-THEV-dee.'

'Eiresione for us brings figs and bread of the richest,
brings us honey in pots and oil to rub off from the body,
Strong wine too in a beaker, that one may go to bed mellow.'

A special eiresiône was brought to the temple of Apollon by a boy whose parents were both alive. He was encouraged to recite the song during the procession. By the Classical Period an eiresiône was hung over almost every door in Athens and remained here a full year before being replaced by a new one. At the Thargalia, seven months later, either this eiresiône was re-used, or a new one created for another round through the town by the boys.

My colorful iketiria

The iketiria is, again, an olive branch, but could have been much smaller: for the purpose, a twig would have sufficed. While the eiresiône was used in rites of celebration and thanks giving, the iketiria was primarily used in rites of supplication, and was therefore a lot more sober. It's highly possible, the branch was wrapped only in white wool. Theseus used an iketiria to appease Apollon and Artemis for his journey to Krete, but the most attested use of the branch was as a purifier for those seeking asylia--asylum.

The olive tree was used in antiquity as a basic spiritual cleansing material. This is important to know, as those seeking asylia in a temple or grove usually were not spiritually clean. They had often committed crimes, most of which could taint the sanctuary with miasma, which would put it out commission until it was thoroughly cleansed.

To prevent this miasma tainting the sanctuary, the person seeking asylia had to go through a special rite: the hiketei. First, they openly had to declare what crime they had committed. Then they kneeled at the altar or statue of the Theoi or Thei the sanctuary was dedicated to, and present Them with an iketiria, often hastily constructed as the supplicant fled his or her pursuers. From this moment on, he or she (male: hikétes; female: hikétis) became a supplicant, and entitled to protection from prosecution. To break asylia was a heinous crime, and was punished almost always by death. Zeus Hikesios (Ζευς Ἱκεσιος, Zeus Protector) watched over supplicants at temples and avenged injury done to them.

The supplicant's olive branch remained on the altar while the supplicant waited for a city official to oversee his safe journey to the ancient Hellenic version of a courthouse. When the official arrived he would take the iketiria and transport both it, and the supplicant, safely through the city. A court would then pass judgment upon the supplicant, at which point, he or she was no longer protected by Zeus Hikesios.

Note--especially with every ritual connected to the (h)iketiria--how similar all the words are: a basic root to indicate supplication and protection, but also cleansing. The Kretan Epimenides, famed purifier who is among the seven wise men of the ancient world, used the olive branch in cleansing rituals. Theseus did the same during the Delphinia, and there are many accounts of pilgrims in the Hellenic and Roman time period who carried olive branches with them to the sacred places they visited. These account do not name the branches 'iketiria', but it would not surprise me at all if that was what these branches were called in ancient Hellas: supplicant branches, iketiria.

The difference between the functions of the branch are huge, but both are important objects in Hellenimos. The eiresiône has its role in many festivals of Apollon, as a symbol of thanks and a bringer of wealth, while the iketiria can be used as an offering for mercy from the Theoi, as well as a purifier. Should we ever be in a situation that requires one--even if the circumstances are less severe--an iketiria could really help us.
Tomorrow evening, the Mounikhia (Μουνιχιας), the festival after which the month was named, is celebrated. This one-day festival in honor of Artemis is celebrated on the sixteenth of Mounichion. On this day of the full moon, Artemis Mounikhia (Αρτεμις Μουνυχια) was honored at the hill of Munikhia, for granting the Hellenes victory in the Battle of Salamis (Ναυμαχία τῆς Σαλαμῖνος). From Wikipedia (because Herodotos' account is entirely too long to paste here, although it's far more inspiring):

(click image for a very interesting story about the female Persian general and Queen Artemisia I)

 "To block the Persian advance, a small force of Greeks blocked the pass of Thermopylae, while an Athenian-dominated Allied navy engaged the Persian fleet in the nearby straits of Artemisium. In the resulting Battle of Thermopylae, the rearguard of the Greek force was annihilated, whilst in the Battle of Artemisium the Greeks had heavy losses and retreated after the loss at Thermopylae. This allowed the Persians to conquer Boeotia and Attica. The Allies prepared to defend the Isthmus of Corinth whilst the fleet was withdrawn to nearby Salamis Island.
 
Although heavily outnumbered, the Greek Allies were persuaded by the Athenian general Themistocles to bring the Persian fleet to battle again, in the hope that a victory would prevent naval operations against the Peloponessus. The Persian king Xerxes was also anxious for a decisive battle. As a result of subterfuge on the part of Themistocles, the Persian navy sailed into the Straits of Salamis and tried to block both entrances. In the cramped conditions of the Straits the great Persian numbers were an active hindrance, as ships struggled to maneuver and became disorganized. Seizing the opportunity, the Greek fleet formed in line and scored a decisive victory, sinking or capturing at least 300 Persian ships.
 
As a result Xerxes retreated to Asia with much of his army, leaving Mardonius to complete the conquest of Greece. However, the following year, the remainder of the Persian army was decisively beaten at the Battle of Plataea and the Persian navy at the Battle of Mycale. Afterwards the Persian made no more attempts to conquer the Greek mainland. These battles of Salamis and Plataea thus mark a turning point in the course of the Greco-Persian wars as a whole; from then onward, the Greek poleis would take the offensive. A number of historians believe that a Persian victory would have hamstrung the development of Ancient Greece, and by extension western civilization, and this has led them to claim that Salamis is one of the most significant battles in human history."

The hill is located near coastal town of Piraeus--now in the suburbs of modern Athens--but in ancient times the hill lay a considerable distance from the main urban center. As the moon was full on the night of the battle--granting just the right amount of extra light--the ancient Hellenes attributed the victory to Artemis. The young girls who walked in procession to the temple on top of the hill carried green boughs, while the rest of the celebrants, followed, carrying special cakes called 'amphiphontes' (, 'shining all round’). These round white cakes were adorned with dadia (little torches)--lit candle--and were supposed to represent the full moon. A she-goat is also attested as a sacrifice.

For those interested in (ancient) warfare, this day presents the perfect opportunity to read up on the battle of Salamis, and other battles in the same war. If you're less interested in historic battles, think of struggle and battles in your own life, and honor Artemis for those. Whatever the case, it is good to remember that if the Hellenes had lost this battle, many of the famous playwright, philosophers and scientists of the ancient world could very well have never been born--Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, for example. What would have happened if Persia had conquered Hellas?

Bake a (small), round, cake for Artemis, and light it with small candles. Here is a good recipe. If you have the opportunity to do so, sacrifice the cake in a rural area, where Artemis is most at home. The obvious time to do so is at night, under the blaze of the full moon, even though Ouranic deities were usually honored in the daylight.
Over at The House Of Vines, Sannion has started  kind of  'reminder series' to motivate you into a daily practice. Although I like this idea, I don't necessarily feel everyone should have a daily practice, or should integrate the Gods into their lives on a daily basis. For some people, that just does not work. For those who do want to do something for their Gods every day, the series is a wonderful reminder, and it's being picked up by bloggers around the blogosphere. What the series does not tell you, however, is what you can do for your Gods. I would like to share a few basic Hellenistic practices for those struggling. I also want to add a reminder: traditional devotionals are wonderful, but adding modern ones is something I greatly encourage. As such, I will split the two and hope you get to combine them.

Traditional:
  • Prayers and sacrifice: the ancient Hellenes would give sacrifice to a number of household deities at their house altar at least once a day--usually twice, once in the morning, once in the evening--Whatever the sacrifice, this routine of prayers and sacrifice is also highly encouraged today.
  • Mealtime libations and food offerings: the ancient Hellenes--who had natural floors and a perpetual fire burning in the hearth--tended to offer the first sip of wine, and the first bite of food to the Gods. The wine was tipped on the ground, with a small prayer, and the food was offered to the fire. Most of us have floors that do not encourage impromptu libations of water, let alone wine. Very few of us still have a hearth, let alone one which is always burning. A modern solution is to get a plant or a pot with earth--which you can place near your (main) altar, or the shrine of the Agathós Daímōn--to tip your libations into. The food sacrifice you can burn to Hestia during your daily prayers, or even add to the plant or pot if the quantities are low enough.
  • Observe the Mên kata Theion, and the festival calendar
Modern or semi-modern:
  • Keep your house clean and tidy: this first one is semi-modern. Housekeeping was a staple of Hellenic life, but I'm not sure if it was a religious chore to do so. As a devotional to Hestia, and the other household Gods, keeping your house clean and tidy can most certainly be modern devotional.
  • Practice arête in everything you do
  • Create: write songs, blog, create poetry, sculpt, carve wood, knit, or do whatever other creative activity you're good at.
  • Preach: share stories about the Theoi with (non-)Hellenists, practice and share the ideals of the Theoi with them.  
  • Work on your shrines: even if you're not actively sacrificing at your altars, keeping them clean, adding things to them, or rearranging them is still a way to interact with the Theoi.
  • Read: there is a huge list of modern and ancient literature the modern Hellenist can simply get lost in. Reading about the Gods is one of my favorite ways to honor Them.
  • Teach
  • Meditate
  • Practice xenia with your guests
  • Live healthy: exercise, eat healthy food, and be careful with alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes
  • Recycle and/or pick up littered trash
  • Hold a public ritual
  • Do community service work/give blood as a devotional practice
The most important one:
  • If it's religious to you: it is to the Gods as well
It's been a while since I rounded up some archeology news, and since I'm well emerged in the technological wonderland called 'tablets' at the moment, I think it's time for archeological news with a technological twist to it.

Platonic Academy is getting a digital museum


The Akademia was founded by Plato around 387 BC, as the epicenter of his philosophical teachings. Aristotle was a student at the Akademia (Ἀκαδήμεια) for twenty years before founding his Lyceum. It survived through the Hellenic period, until 83 BC, although Plato's philosophies were taught there in some form or another until 529 AD. Needless to say, the place--located in Athens--has a lot of history connected to it. There is not much left but a few stones, but technology might be the key to bringing the Akademia back to life. The Archeology News Network reports:

"The project is being implemented under the title Academy of Plato: The City and the Citizen, put together by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, in cooperation with Foundation of the Hellenic World (FHW), Onassis Cultural Center of the Onassis Foundation and the Foundation for Youth and Lifelong Learning. The project is co-financed from National and European Funds through the operational program Education and Lifelong Learning."

What, exactly, the project will entail is unclear, but the project will be funded by the city of Athens, the costs being included in the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).The Foundation of the Hellenic World will be implementing the project, however, in an effort to promote the importance of Platonic philosophy.


Thessaloniki might have found a solution for their Byzantine road

Back in March, I reported on a very troubling situation in Thessaloniki:

"Thessaloniki in modern day Greece is dealing with a situation: an excavation conducted by the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities at the Venizelos station has brought to light a very well preserved 70-meter section of a marble-paved road, the remains of buildings dating back to the sixth to ninth centuries AD, as well as big public buildings of the 7th century; a rarity for the Byzantine world. Trouble is, the site of the find is part of a new subway tunnel and platform which are being built to transport 250,000 passengers daily, and thus decrease traffic congestion and air pollution in the city. The entire subway project has a price-tag of 3.5 billion euros (4.6 billion dollars), and was co-financed by the European Union. To keep the road, the entire subway project would have to be abandoned. To save the subway project, the road would need to be moved, or destroyed--the same thing, according to archeologists."

It seems that Thessaloniki might have found a solution to the problem: they are going to temporarily remove the finds during the station's construction and then restore about 85 percent to 95 percent after the station is completed. The solution proposed has a low cost--0,6 percent to 0.8 percent of the budget--with zero or only a few months delay to the works’ completion. Only a 45 square meter space (out of the area’s 1.600 square meters) will not be restored, due to the placement of vents and escalators. A perfect solution, it seems.

According to the Archeological News Network's article, the solution has been characterized as:

“Technically plausible in the first place” by the Thessaloniki Metro general manager Yiorgos Konstantinides, also stating that there will be a need for further study in order to make actual decisions."

Chamber’s president for Central Macedonia, Tasos Konaklidis, has commented that the plan will be handed in to the government and other authorities on the project, as the Chamber itself 'is not willing to be responsible for any additional delays to the construction'.

Personally, I'm very glad a consensus has been reached, and that the Roman road might be saved after all. No word from the archeological experts on the solution yet, so I'm not exactly sure if this solution is in the best interest of the road or not. Still, the image above, which shows how a section of the station might end up looking if the plan goes through, does look very appealing.

Image credit: Archaeological site of Plato's Academy [Credit: NewPost], and an illustration from the Technical Chamber proposal in relation to the Venizelou antiquities [Credit: To Vima]. Taken from their respective articles.
As you are most likely all well aware of, I am a huge fan of Samantha Lykeia, blogger and sculptor over at Beloved in Light. Not only does she actively base her life around Apollon and many other Hellenic (and syncretic) Gods, she also encourages others to participate in worship. This time, she has created a poetry contest for the Thargelia--the birthday of Artemis and Apollon in about a month. In her words:

"So even though I have a terrible track record so far of folks participating in contests, I thought maybe that was because I haven’t created the prize way before hand for people to see and feel driven by the want. So this time I have. This was made so that it could be worn around the neck (hence the reason the top coil is shaped as it is, or set on an altar. This is Apollon as a fiery serpent. It is made with red and white sculpy (which is being coated with a hardener for polymer jewelry), has turquois eyes, and carnelian chips set down its back. He is wrapped around a very nice luminous piece of carnelian. If he was being sold he would be 30 dollars.

Contest rules: only one submission per person, it has to your original work, submission needs to be of the poetic type as Apollon was honored at his birthday with songs and poems.

Please note that this contest is international and open to anyone so please do feel free to share about it!

Deadline is May 11th for submissions."

There is a Facebook group where you can sign up for the contest, but you can also send submissions to her through e-mail at: daphne.kyrene@gmail.com. I'm absolutely rubbish at poetry, so although I have signed up for the contest, I'm not sure if the Muses will actually allow me to participate. If you're better at poetry than I am (or simply more motivated to try your hand at it), this is the perfect opportunity.
A little while ago, I posted about my thanks giving rite to the Theoi, and included my actual ritual. Today, I want to share with you my daily prayers, both so those new to Hellenismos might have a bit of a model, as well as for me to look back on later on. I have done this before, writing out more, so if things here are confusing, try the older post. In the near future, I want to include more household Gods in these prayers, specifically Zeus Ephestios, Zeus Herkeios, Apollon Aguieus, and Hermes Propylaios, but for now, this is it. Please keep in mind that this sounds much better in Dutch.

Night time prayers (before bed:

Preparation:
  • Mix wine with water in my kylix
  • Empty water bowl and fill anew with water previously prepared by mixing tap water with sea water and asking Okeanos' blessing
  • Empty sacrificial bowl
  • Add ethanol to sacrificial bowl
  • Lay out two matches and a hand towel (one for khernips, the other to light the candle/ethanol)
Rite:
  • Procession to the shrine
  • Strewing of barley groats on the altar
  • Preparation of khernips 
  • Purification – washing of hands and face, sprinkling the room and altar with fingers
"Blessed Okeanos, may your bright waters purify this space, and prepare both me, and it, for the rites that are about to unfold."
  • Lighting of Hestia's candle (if not yet burning, mine almost always is), as well as the ethanol to burn sacrifices in
  • Hymn and prayers to Hestia
"Blessed Goddess Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind with Zeus the all-wise—draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.
Blessed Goddess Hestia, accept this offering of honey sweet wine, and guard this house as you guard the houses of all who sacrifice to you. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
"Blessed Nyx, Goddess of night. She who holds the world in her dark embrace, and Selene, Goddess of the moon, who illuminates the night like a torch. Accept this offering of sweetest wine, and come always, as the day follows the night. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
"Blessed Hypnos, Morpheus, Gods of sleep and dreams, respectively. Accept this offering of honey sweet wine, and grant me equally sweet sleep, and even sweeter dreams. Carry my mind far beyond the limits of my imagination. Accept my prayer, and allow me to rise rested and rejuvenated so I may continue my hard work. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
  • Libation to Hypnos and Morpheus
  • Hymns, prayers and libations to the night time or Khthonic Theoi whose sacred day it is, or any night time or Khthonic Theoi whom I feel the need to pray and sacrifice to.
  • Hymn and prayer to Hekate
"I call Einodian Hekate, lovely dame, of earthly, wat'ry, and celestial frame, Sepulchral, in a saffron veil array'd. Goddess of the night, companion to Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld. You, key bearer of this world. Accept my offering of honey sweet wine, and guard the borders of this house as you guard the borders of the houses of all who sacrifice to you. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
  • Libation to Hekate
  • Hymn to Hestia
"Blessed Goddess Hestia, Goddess of home and hearth. To you, I offer last of all, as any pious mortal should. Tend to those whom I love, and guard the houses of the pious. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
  • Extinguishing of the candle or replace with electric one, as I always do.
  • Drink remaining wine
  • Clean up and off to bed

Day time prayers (after waking up):

Preparation:
  • Mix wine with water in my kylix
  • Add ethanol to sacrificial bowl
  • Lay out a packet of matches and a hand towel
Rite:
  • Procession to the shrine
  • Strewing of barley groats on the altar
  • Purification – washing of hands and face, sprinkling the room and altar with fingers
"Blessed Okeanos, may your bright waters purify this space, and prepare both me, and it, for the rites that are about to unfold."
  • Lighting of Hestia's candle, as well as the ethanol to burn sacrifices in
  • Hymn and prayers to Hestia
"Blessed Goddess Hestia, you who tend the holy house of the lord Apollo, the Far-shooter at goodly Pytho, with soft oil dripping ever from your locks, come now into this house, come, having one mind with Zeus the all-wise—draw near, and withal bestow grace upon my song.
Blessed Goddess Hestia, accept this offering of honey sweet wine, and guard this house as you guard the houses of all who sacrifice to you. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
  • Libation to Hestia
  • Hymns and prayers to Eos and Hēlios
"Blessed Goddes Eos, Goddess of the bright dawn. You who speed forth from the gates of heaven before everyone else, and Hēlios, God of the sun; He who brings light and warmth to all on earth, accept this libation of honey sweet wine and come always, as the night follows the day. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
  • Libation to Eos and Hēlios
  • Hymns, prayers and libations to the Ouranic Theoi whose sacred day it is, or any Ouranic Theoi whom I feel the need to pray and sacrifice to.
  • Hymns and prayers to Zeus and Hera
"Blessed Zeus, King of Gods, and protector of the household, and Hera, Queen of the Gods, and protector of unions: guard mankind, and share with us the wisdom and strenth to worship the Theoi as they should be worshipped. Guard those I love, and all who need protection. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
  • Libations to Zeus and Hera
  • Hymn to Hestia
"Blessed Goddess Hestia, Goddess of home and hearth. To you, I offer last of all, as any pious mortal should. Tend to those whom I love, and guard the houses of the pious. As the Gods will it, so shall it be."
  • Drink remaining wine
  • Clean up and on with the day
Some constellations have barely any mythology connected to them, or are so entrenched in a major epic that writing about them is very straight forward. Others, not so much. Cygnus is one of them. This particular swan can be any of six mortal or immortal men.


One can not mention a swan in connection to Hellenic mythology and not think of the love affair between Zeus and Leda, the affair that led to the birth of some very influential people in Hellenic mythology. Leda (Λήδα) was the daughter of the Aetolian king Thestius (Θέστιος), and wife of the king Tyndareus (Τυνδάρεως), of Sparta. Zeus looked upon the beautiful Leda and fell for her instantly. In the guise of a swan, He came to her, seeking refuge in her arms from an eagle. Leda sheltered Him, and lay with Him--either after He transformed into a man, or while He was still a swan. That night, she also slept with her husband. She became pregnant and gave birth to two eggs, one housing Helene (Ἑλένη) and Klytaemnestra (Κλυταιμνήστρα), and the other Kastor and Polideukes (Κάστωρ καὶ Πολυδεύκης). Its also said that Zeus laid with Nemesis and She gave birth to an egg that housed either Helene alone, or her sister as well. A shepherd found the egg and took it to Leda, who hatched it, and adopted the child or children. In the first case, the swan is Zeus, in the latter, the swan was placed in the sky to celebrate the birth of Helene.

The second male the constellation is identified with is Orpheus. After being forced to leave Euridice in the Underworld, he travels the world with his lyre. He renounces both women, and many of the Theoi, pained as he is by the loss of his beloved wife. One day, he either sacrifices to Apollon--one of the few, or even the only Theoi he still offers to--at a shrine to Dionysos, and is discovered by the female revelers. Alternatively, the revelers stumble upon him as he plays, and they can't appreciate his divine music, or a group of women falls upon him for denouncing women. Whatever the case, Orpheus is ripped apart. His lyre is placed into the sky, and he is placed in the sky near the lyre by Zeus in the form of a swan. Plato explains this odd choice in his 'Republic', when he speaks of reincarnation:

"He said it was a strange, pitiful, and ridiculous spectacle, as the choice was determined for the most part by the habits of their former lives. He saw the soul that had been Orpheus’, he said, selecting the life of a swan, because from hatred of the tribe of women, owing to his death at their hands, it was unwilling to be conceived and born of a woman." (X, 620a)

I'm going to conflate the last four. All of them were named 'Kyknos' (Κύκνος). The first was a bloodthirsty son of Ares, who slaughtered all his guests when they came to his door. Hēraklēs killed him, either in self-defense, or in honorable battle. In one version of the story, Ares transforms His son into a swan before Hēraklēs can deliver his deathly blow, preferring this solution over his son's death. The second Kyknos was the son of Poseidon, and King of Kolonai. As the son of Poseidon, he was impervious to both spear and sword attacks, as such, he was suffocated by Achilles during the battle for Troy. After his death, this Kyknos, too, was turned into a swan.

The third Kyknos was a human King of Ligûria, and friend--or lover--of Phaëthon, son of Hēlios. When Phaëthon was killed by Zeus after scorching the earth, Kyknos was inconsolable. He spent the rest of his life mourning Phaëthon. To relief his suffering, Zeus transformed him in a swan, and was later put into the sky by Apollon. The last of the Kyknos' associated with this myth was a son of Apollon. This Kyknos was a handsome but arrogant man. Many young boys fell for his looks, but his personality drove them off again. One of the young men, Phylios, loved Kyknos unconditionally, but Kyknos felt the need to test Phylios' resolve, trying to scare him off. The first task was to kill a lion that was threatening the neighborhood without use of any weapons. The second task was to catch two man-eating vultures of enormous size that were posing an equal threat to the neighborhood, again without use of any devices. Finally, Phylios had to bring a bull to the altar of Zeus with his own bare hands. With divine help, Phylios managed to complete all three tasks, but Hēraklēs cured the boy of his love for Kyknos. Kyknos, enraged and humiliated, took his own life by drowning. His mother did the same. Out of love for the both of them, Apollon turned them both into swans. In the words of Roman poet Ovid, in his Metamorphoses:

"Whilst here, within the dismal gloom, alone, 
The melancholy monarch made his moan, 
His voice was lessen'd, as he try'd to speak, 
And issu'd through a long-extended neck; 
His hair transforms to down, his fingers meet 
In skinny films, and shape his oary feet; 
From both his sides the wings and feathers break; 
And from his mouth proceeds a blunted beak: 
All Cycnus now into a Swan was turn'd, 
Who, still remembering how his kinsman burn'd, 
To solitary pools and lakes retires, 
And loves the waters as oppos'd to fires."
(II 374-382)

The next time you look to the heavens and see constellation Cygnus, you'll have quite the stories to tell. The constellation is visible at latitudes between +90° and −40°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of September.
I think it's about time I dedicate a full post to the subject of the worship of Hekate in ancient Hellas. Most of what a Google search will find on this magnificent Goddess is based upon later sources, or are moderately recent inventions. Note that I have no problem with that: I believe the Theoi can change--especially in the eyes of the people who worship Them--and one of the ways They do so is by the practice of epithets. So, in my personal practice, this dark version of Hekate is an epithet of Her that I respect, but do not offer sacrifice to. It's 'Threefold Hekate': beautiful and powerful in Her own right, but completely unknown to the ancient Hellenes. Yet, even in the time of the ancient Hellenes, Hekate's domains were entirely re-invented, so to say She would not have changed after the fall of the Hellenic empire seems not only futile to me, but disrespectful to a very adaptable Titan Goddess.

Hekate's (Ἑκατη) worship was most likely imported from Thrace or Anatolia, where--especially at the latter--records were found of children being named after Her. This version of Her is single-faced, rules in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, is a Theia of childbirth--to both animals and humans--and it is She who bestows wealth on mortals, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle. Yet, if mortals do not deserve Her gifts, she can withhold them from them just as easily. After the Titanomachy, Zeus bestowed upon Her the highest of honors. This is the Hekate found in Hesiod's Theogony, written around 700 BC:

"Again, Phoebe came to the desired embrace of Coeus. [...] And she conceived and bare Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favour according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her. For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Cronos did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. 

Also, because she is an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours her. Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. 

And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less. So, then. albeit her mother's only child, she is honoured amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Cronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Dawn. So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young, and these are her honours." (ll. 404-452)

Epithets associated with this version of Her are:
  • Krataeis (the Mighty One)
  • Kourotrophos (nurse of children)
  • Soteira ("Saviour")
It is speculated that Hesiod hailed from a region where Hekate was heavily worshipped, and as such, his views upon Her power and stature were not reflected in the rest of Hellas, where other--Olympian--divinities took up her role--Artemis as the protector of animals, Nemesis as the administrator of justice, Selene as Theia of the moon, etc. As such, it was only logical that her power was dwindled down some--or, more accurately, focussed--into darker territories like the night, the (new) moon, spirits, the underworld, and sorcery when her cult spread throughout Hellas.

The Homeric Hymn to Demeter--composed somewhere in the late seventh century BC or the sixth century BC--sets this in motion, making Her an Underworld Goddess, and giving Her a Khthonius character. She becomes linked to caves, to torches, to night, and the Underworld itself. This transitional Hekate--still a protector of youth, and a bringer of plenty, but a more mysterious Goddess, linked to both the upper- and lower world--aids Persephone by being a torchbearer to Her mother, and by watching over Persephone when She is in the Underworld. When it is time for Persephone to leave, it is Hekate who guides Her out. It is this Hekate that is linked to the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Epithets associated with these events are:
  • Propolos (the attendant who leads)
  • Phosphoros (the light-bringer)
Hellenic tragedians felt drawn to the Khthonic side of Hekate, and slowly Hekate transformed into a Titan Goddess of the night, the moon, and (protection against) witchcraft, ghosts and necromancy. In this period, roughly around the fifth century BC, She also became the Goddess associated with crossroads, and Her triple form was born. Pausanias' 'Description of Greece' wrote of this form:

"Of the gods, the Aeginetans worship most Hecate, in whose honor every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thracian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple; its wooden image is the work of Myron, and it has one face and one body. It was Alcamenes, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hecate attached to one another, a figure called by the Athenians Epipurgidia (on the Tower); it stands beside the temple of the Wingless Victory." [2.30.2] 

There are two versions of this depiction. Both forms--when made into a statue--are called 'Hekataia'. The first are three women, beautiful and young--a maiden, as Hekate was always depicted--usually around a pillar, holding various attributes. A version of Her in this depiction can be found on the right. Statues like these used to stand at crossroads in ancient Hellas, as well as near the gates to a home, which was just as much a crossroads. Hekate, in this form, became a Goddess of purification, expiation, and protection, associated with thresholds and gates, both reaching back to the Underworld association. Very rarely, She was represented with a single body, and three heads, all looking different ways.

In another, scarier, and more bestial version, Hekate is depicted similarly as above, but with the heads of various animals. The Greek Magical Papyri, or Papyri Graecae Magicae, name the three as such, but variations exist:

"Take a Lodestone and on it have carved a Three-faced Hekate. And let the Middle Face be that of a Maiden wearing Horns, and the Left Face that of a Dog, and the One on the Right that of a Goat."

It is this Hekate that is appeased with the Deipnon, at the new moon: the last day of the month. These days, when the nights kept getting darker and darker, were some of the scariest days of the month, and were considered impure. The night when the moon completely disappeared was sacred to Hekate, as Hekate was able to placate the souls in Her wake, and could purify the household of miasma accumulated during the month. Removing this miasma allowed the members of the household to call on Hekate during the following month in times of need--as we have seen was common practice--and be more likely to have Her look favorably upon the supplicant.

Epithets associated with this version of Her are:
  • Apotropaia (that turns away/protects)
  • Enodia (Goddess of the paths)
  • Klêidouchos (Keeper of the Keys)
  • Propylaia (the one before the gate)
  • Tricephalus or Triceps (The Three-Headed)
  • Triodia/Trioditis (who frequents crossroads)
  • Trimorphe (three-formed)
The spell above--taken from the Papyri--is used to make a protective amulet, and offer protection much in the same way as her three-formed appearance at crossroads and entrances does. Then again, the Hekate in the Papyri is not a gentile being. The materials in the Papyri--which are Graeco-Roman Egyptian in origin--stem from anywhere between the second century BC to the fifth century AD, and show a much darker--although highly honored--part of Her, still linked to many other Goddesses:

"To You, wherefore they call You Hekate, Many-named, Mene, cleaving Air just like
Dart-shooter Artemis, Persephone, Shooter of Deer, night shining, triple-sounding,
Triple-headed, triple-voiced Selene, Triple-pointed, triple-faced, triple-necked,
And Goddess of the Triple Ways, who hold untiring Flaming Fire in Triple Baskets,
And You who oft frequent the Triple Way and rule the Triple Decades, unto me
Who'm calling You be gracious and with Kindness give Heed, You who protect the Spacious World
At night, before whom Daimons quake in Fear and Gods Immortal tremble, Goddess who
Exalt Men, You of Many Names, who bear Fair Offspring, Bull-eyed, Horned, Mother of Gods
And Men, and Nature, Mother of All Things, for You frequent Olympos, and the broad
And boundless Chasm You traverse. Beginning and End are You, and You Alone rule All.
For All Things are from You, and in You do all Things, Eternal One, come to their End.
As Everlasting Band around Your Temples you wear Great Kronos' Chains, unbreakable
And unremovable, and You hold in Your Hands a Golden Scepter. Letters 'round
Your Scepter Kronos wrote Himself and gave to You to wear that All Things stay steadfast:
Subduer and subdued, Mankind's Subduer, and Force-subduer; Chaos, too, You rule.
Hail, Goddess, and attend Your Epithets, I burn for You this Spice, O Child of Zeus,
Dart-shooter, Heav'nly One, Goddess of Harbors, who roam the Mountains, Goddess of Crossroads,
O Nether and Nocturnal, and Infernal, Goddess of Dark, Quiet and Frightful One,
O You who have Your Meal amid the Graves, Night, Darkness, Broad Chaos: Necessity
Hard to escape are You; You're Moira and Erinys, Torment, Justice and Destroyer,
And You keep Kerberos in Chains, with Scales of Serpents are You dark, O You with Hair
Of Serpents, Serpent-girded, who drink Blood, who bring Death and Destruction, and who feast
On Hearts, Flesh Eater, who devour Those Dead untimely, and You who make Grief resound
And spread Madness, come to my Sacrifices, and now for me do You fulfill this Matter."

Epithets associated with this version of Her are:
  • Antania (Enemy of mankind)
  • Khthonian (Earth/Underworld goddess)
  • Prytania (invincible Queen of the Dead)
Im going to go beyond the scope of this post's title a bit and summarize what happened next to Hekate and Her image. Throughout the following centuries--especially with the rise of Christianity--Hekate lost many of Her domains, and a greater focus was placed upon her darker features. Slowly, she became a sorceress, a witch, out to destroy the common man. By this time, she also became a crone. Around 1600 AD, William Shakesear describes the common opinion of Her best in his Macbeth:

"Have I not reason, beldams as you are? Saucy and overbold, how did you dare to trade and traffic with Macbeth in riddles and affairs of death, and I, the mistress of your charms, the close contriver of all harms, was never called to bear my part, or show the glory of our art?"

Hekate as the Queen of Witches, teacher of magick, ready to deal with desperate souls. This version of Hekate, especially combined with the Papyri Graecae Magicae, inspired occultist Aleister Crowley to write his Hymn for Her, and describe Her as a maiden-mother-crone trinity with Persephone and Demeter--the Goddesses with whom she was identified at Eleusis--in his 1917 novel 'Moonchild':

"...and thirdly, she is Hecate, a thing altogether of Hell, barren, hideous and malicious, the queen of death and evil witchcraft. [...] Hecate is the crone, the woman past all hope of motherhood, her soul black with envy and hatred of happier mortals; the woman in the fullness of life is the sublime Persephone, for whose sake Demeter cursed the fields that they brought forth no more corn, until Hades consented to restore her to earth for half the year."

Gerald Gardner--as all whom have been around the Neo-Pagan circles for a while undoubtedly know--was a great fan of Crowley, and used much of his teachings to create Wicca. This is how the modern image of Hekate entered modern Neo-Paganism, and how Hekate changed from a benign and helpful Goddess of animals, childbirth and victory into a Goddess associated with the dead, with magick, and sorcery. For those of you reading this who are not Hellenistic, perhaps this post will help you understand why Hellenists are usually not so happy with Hekate's current image--if you weren't already aware of those reasons. For Hellenists reading this, perhaps this post sheds some light on the modern incarnation of Hekate, and helps you figure out in what incarnation you want to worship Her at your home. Whatever the case, to my knowledge there isn't a single other Hellenic Goddess who managed to reinvent Herself as much as Hekate did. In a changing time, Hekate found a way to stay current, and be revered by many around the globe: a divine skill, indeed, and one worthy of honors and respect.

Image source: Hekate with dogHekataia, 'Hekate: Wanderer of Tombs' by superboy783
In the beginning of October, I wrote about Vic Toews, Canada's Public Safety Minister, who cancelled the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons across the country. From that post:


"'Toews' office says that [...] the part-time non-Christian chaplains will be let go and the remaining full-time chaplains in prisons will now provide interfaith services and counselling to all inmates'. One can easily see why this is an incredibly bad idea. To borrow an analogy from a close friend: this is like expecting a Volvo specialist to handle the needs of every other company's cars, just because they know 'cars'. The Christian chaplains may get some of the peripheral's right, but they'll never be able to provide religious services to all faiths, even if they tried. Why? Because doing so would go against the dogma of their own religion.

I can't imagine the Christian chaplains being happy with this decision either, honestly. Even if they were allowed/pushed to provide only Christian type services to those of other faiths, it would be a daunting and ungrateful task. If the Christian chaplains will be required to provide the services the part-time chaplains used to provide, they must feel even worse. Can you see a Christian chaplain performing a Samhain ceremony? Or a proper Sweat Lodge?  Of course, that's not exactly Toews' problem, now is it?"

A few days ago, The Wild Hunt reported a few updates on the situation. It seems that some individuals, religious groups, and prisoner right's groups weren't too happy with the decision Toews made, and started litigation. In response, the Canadian government back-paddled on the decision and chose to reinstate at least four minority faith chaplains. CBC reported on the decision as follows:

"The federal government is restoring religious counselling services to some non-Christian federal prisoners in British Columbia, but officials deny they are reversing cuts made last year. [...] Instead, media relations adviser Sara Parkes said, the government is taking interim measures to meet the needs of inmates until they can roll out a revised plan for spiritual services."

As a result of the reinstatements, and promises for future revisions, the lawsuit filed against the Canadian government is currently terminated. Undoubtedly, the plaintive will keep a close eye on the revised plan the government is slated to roll out. 

The Wild Hunt goes on to say that the Canadian government might be on the hunt for a new contractor for their religious services to inmates. The Globe and Mail reports on the topic that: 

"[T]he chaplaincy program will undergo another significant shift, with the federal government looking to contract all chaplaincy services through a single provider, a Corrections Canada spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

“Going forward, CSC will consolidate this contractual process under one national contractor,” Sara Parkes wrote in an e-mailed response to questions. “In conjunction with CSC, the national contractor will ensure the provision of chaplains who are qualified, official representatives of their faith traditions and capable of ministry in the correctional environment.”"

Personally, I'm slightly worried about this move. Wicca, for example, does not have a government recognized training program for ministry, as I'm aware, so how will this work for us as Pagans, exactly? I guess we will see what happens. For now, at least part of the terminated positions will be filled again, and that's the main thing at this point. I'll keep you updated.
I should have posted this yesterday, but yesterday, I couldn't find the words. I also didn't know if it was my place to comment. I don't know anyone from or in Boston, and I live way across the pond, so in all fairness, there is nothing that binds me to the events that unfolded there, and to the victims. Nothing but common decency and human empathy. As such, I will still comment--like every blogger--because I want to be a voice that speaks out against the crazy, the destructive, and the cowardly. I will not be silent in the face of fear mongering and murder. As such, I offer a prayer today, to the Theoi, with my wishes for Their involvement in the resolution of this terrible event.

"May Hermes Psychopompos carry the souls of the dead safely cross the river Styx.
May Hades accept them favorably, and may the judges judge them fairly.
May Asklēpiós tend to the wounds of the injured
May Ares instill in them the passion of life, and the strength of a thousand warriors.
May Hypnos sooth their weary minds, and cloud them in sleep
May Dionysos calm their terror.
May They offer the same to emergency personnel and passers-by who were witnesses.
May Dikē who weeps at the injustice done upon all touched by this tragedy, clutch the strong thigh of Zeus the All-wise, and beg of Him the severest of punishment.
May All-Mighty Zeus send winged Nemesis to administer swift judgement.
May Her judgement take from the guilty parties an equal or greater price than their victims have had to pay.
May Hēlios the All-seeing whisper truths to law enforcement, and guide the investigation swiftly towards those who conceived and executed this terrible crime.
May Athena led Her aid to them.
May Zeus the All-mighty bless those who ran not from the area, but towards it, in an attempt to offer aid to those wounded or dead.
May he look favorably upon those who ran away as well, as the will to live is at the core of every mortal's life.
To all Theoi: a last plea. To protect those whom the media will persecute, but are innocent of the crime.
To protect the innocent scapegoat from the actions of a species in the grips of fear and revenge."

This is my prayer, may it echo in your.
At dusk, the Athenian festival of the Delphinia (Δελφίνια) starts. What is known about this festival is that virgin girls walked to the Delphinion (Δελφίνιον) atop the Acropolis in procession, carrying olive branches bound with wool (known as 'iketiria') and baked cakes known as Popana, made of soft cheese and flour. There is overwhelming evidence that the festival was held on the sixth of the month of Mounukhion, most notably from Plutarch, but the seventh of same month is also considered a possible date, quite possibly because the festivities could have taken place in the daylight hours of the sixth day, which is the same day as the start of the seventh of the month, as dusk reigned in a new day.

Plutarch connects the sixth of the month Mounukhion to Apollon and Theseus--most importantly to Theseus' quest for the Minotaur--in his 'Life of Theseus'. Theseus vows to look over those the lots choose to be offered to the Minotaur in the maze on Krete. Plutarch continues:

"When the lot was cast, Theseus took those upon whom it fell from the Prytaneium and went to the Delphinium, where he dedicated to Apollo in their behalf his supplicant's badge. This was a bough from the sacred olive-tree, wreathed with white wool. Having made his vows and prayers, he went down to the sea on the sixth day of the month Munychion, on which day even now the Athenians still send their maidens to the Delphinium to propitiate the god." (XVIII)

The Delphinion was a shared temple, sacred to both Artemis Delphinia, and Apollon Delphinios. The title is confusing as it can relate to both the slaying of the dragon Delphyne--called 'Python' in the Homeric Hymn to Apollon--who guarded the oracle at Pytho, and to Apollon showing the Kretan colonists the way to Delphi, while riding on a dolphin or metamorphosing Himself into a dolphin. The latter is attested to in the Homeric Hymn to Apollon:

"I am the son of Zeus; Apollo is my name: but you I brought here over the wide gulf of the sea, meaning you no hurt; nay, here you shall keep my rich temple that is greatly honoured among men, and you shall know the plans of the deathless gods, and by their will you shall be honoured continually for all time. [...] Take out your goods and the gear of the straight ship, and make an altar upon the beach of the sea: light fire upon it and make an offering of white meal. Next, stand side by side around the altar and pray: and in as much as at the first on the hazy sea I sprang upon the swift ship in the form of a dolphin, pray to me as Apollo Delphinius; also the altar itself shall be called Delphinius and overlooking for ever." (474)

Artemis' title seems to be inherited through Her brother.

To understand Theseus' influence on this festival, I must first share more about him. As conflated from my posts on the mythical kings of Athens, and the Pyanepsia festival: Theseus had claimed his role as hero throughout Hellas, when he heard about the Minotaur of Krete, and the nine-yearly sacrifices to it. These sacrifices were a punishment by King Minos of Crete for the death of his son Androgeus, at the hands of Athenian assassins.

Theseus offered to be one of the youths who sailed for Krete. Once there, Ariadne, daughter of the king, fell for him and offered him a ball of yarn so he would be able to find his way out off the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur the youths would be sacrificed to. With Ariadne's aid, Theseus defeated the Minotaur, and brought the sacrificial children home. Theseus' return became the festival of Pyanepsia, celebrated on the seventh day of the month Pyanepsion (roughly around September).

Roughly in the month of Mounichion, the seafaring season started. It's therefor not odd that lots would have been cast about this time, for the youths--and everyone else with business across the sea--would set sail as soon as the weather allowed. The rising of the Pleiades, located in the constellation of Taurus, around late April, the beginning of May, was a signal for the boldest of sea-goers that the treacherous sea was at least moderately accessible. Still, it would be at least several months before the favored seafaring season started, so anyone braving the sea, could probably use some protection. Somewhere shortly after the Delphinia would have been Theseus' first opportunity to sail to Krete, but it would place his return almost five months later; quite some time for a three day journey (one way) in favorable conditions.

During the Delphinia, young maidens presented Apollon Delphinion, and perhaps Artemis Delphinia, with the iketiria Theseus had presented them with as well, in the hopes of receiving for the Athenians the same guidance and protection at sea as the Kretan colonists, as well as Theseus and the youths, had gotten.

Alternatively--or perhaps additionally--Robert Parker says in his 'Polytheism and Society at Athens', this event marked the start of an initiation period for girls and boys, the latter of which would make similar sacrifices at the Pyanepsia five months later. In Parker's own words:

"...Mounichion and Pyanopsion thus emerge, on evidence of the festivals celebrated during them, as ultimately associated with the young; and in myth Theseus and his companions are said to have set out during one, returned during the other.  The hypothesis arises that the myth provides a model for the actual practices by which the young of Athens had once been brought to maturity: in Mounichion, still children, they left society, like the twice seven, for a period of seclusion, to return in Pyanopsion as adults. The myth in short reflects the ritual cycle by which - the difficult concept can no longer be avoided - the young were initiated."

Personally, I have found no corroborating evidence of this practice, but it does sound plausible that the time between the Delphinia and the Pyanepsia was a transitional time for boys and girls. I'm hesitant to accept Parker's entire explanation, however, without further evidence and research. I might visit this subject again in the future. It is interesting to note, that it can be inferred that both Artemis Delphinia and Apollon Delphinios are associated with protecting and guiding maidens and youths to womanhood and manhood.

A connection can also be made with Theseus visiting the shrine of Apollon Delphinios as an opportunity for purification before his great quest, as the young supplicants who prepared for their personal collective journeys into adulthood would desire purification of their own, and Apollon in many of his epithets is a purifier. Also, in a little less than a month, the Thargelia took place in Delos, an event where the births of Artemis, and especially Apollon were celebrated. The rites at the Delphinia might have been part of the purification processes for those who were to go to Delos (with thanks to Daphne Lykeia for this interpretation).

One fact that muddles the theories is that according to most translations of Plutarch's statement, the Delphinia takes place on the sixth, not the seventh, which makes a case for the worship of Artemis, not Apollon. Also, because it were maidens who gave the sacrifice, it seems more likely that Artemis was the one receiving supplication and not Her brother. Many scholars, including Jon D. Mikalson and Ernst Pfuhl, on whom Mikalson bases his opinion, support this notion. Plutarch's account, however, seems to counter this. It is a possibility, though, that maidens prayed to Artemis Delphinia at the Delphinia in the same way boys prayed to Apollon Delphinios at the Pyanepsia, and both for the same reasons.

eiresione

What the purpose of the Delphinia actually was will remain a mystery for quite some time yet--perhaps it will always remain a mystery. We have theories, and a little bit of practice, based upon one source liable to translation and interpretation. Depending on your interpretation of the festival, and upon which aspect you want to focus most, there is a variety of ways one can celebrate the Delphinia.

For those of us who live nowhere near the sea, and who haven't set foot on a boat in years, the Delphinia might seem of little importance as a naval festival, but it is still a day that is sacred to Artemis--whether in her Delphinia persona or not--and Apollon Delphinios and Theseus as well. One can celebrate this day by offering Them both (to be sure) hymns, libations, and Popana cakes, and presenting Them with an iketiria, an olive branch wrapped with white wool--a form of the eiresione, used in rites of supplication, instead of celebration, decorated with white wool and ribbons only, not the first fruits and decorations of the eiresione above--while asking for the protection of all ships and sailors braving the water to bring you a large amount of the food found in your grocery store, the fish you eat, and a large part of the non-priority mail you receive. If you are a sailor yourself, or live and work on or with the water in any other way, you can make prayers for yourself and your colleagues/neighbors, for protection while presenting the Gods with the same (olive) branch.

In line with Parker, the Delphinia reigns in a transitional time, especially for young boys and girls. Similar to the youths Theseus took took Krete, and brought home, those in the right age bracket have the time from the  Delphinia to the Pyanepsia to experience a more adult lifestyle. The youths were faced with the fear of the Minotaur, where young boys and girls today will most likely encounter something more along the lines of 'the summer of '69', but that's besides the point. If you are in the target age bracket, you can ask for guidance and blessings as you grow from boy/girl to man/woman (or any variation thereof), or alternatively, if you have a son or daughter transitioning, you can ask these blessings for them.

As a festival of purification, the Delphinia can be interpreted to be open to all who are going through a time of transition and/or struggle. A divine purification of miasma might allow you to focus better on these issues, and receive guidance from the Theoi more easily--like Theseus, who purified himself at the Delphinion and prayed for the guidance of Aphrodite directly thereafter. Aphrodite made Ariadne fall for him, saving his life and those of the young men and women in the process.

Image source: clipart.
"...but most of all I love Icarus, who knew the wax would melt but still flew towards the sun."
 -- 'Ik hou van Icarus' - Tjitske Jansen (translated from Dutch)


One of my all-time favorite Hellenic myths is about Íkaros; Daidalos' son who escaped the labyrinth on the island of Krete with wings made of feathers and wax. He was warned not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax, or too low because wet feathers wouldn't carry him, yet Íkaros got too caught up with the marvel of flying, and did fly too high or too low. As a result, he drowned somewhere between the Island and the main land.

Daidalos (Δαίδαλος) was an inventor, a craftsman, who had murdered a gifted student of his--his nephew--in a fit of jealousy. This caused him to flee his home town (most often referred to as Athens, although there are some timeline problems if this was the case) and find refuge on Krete. King Minos saw in Daidalos a gifted man, and asked him to draw and constructed the labyrinth of the Minotaur, son of King Minos. Because he knew the secrets of the labyrinth, and the deformations of the Minotaur, he was never permitted to leave the Island.

As often, many details of this myth come from the Roman poet Ovid. In earlier versions of the tale, the labyrinth is an actual labyrinth: it has one pathway that leads inexorably from the entrance to the goal, albeit by the most complex and winding of routes. In Ovid's version--and other like him--the labyrinth is not a labyrinth at all, but a maze: a design with choices in pathways, aimed to confuse the seeker. In fact, Ovid's version of the 'labyrinth' is so complex that Daidalos himself almost gets lost in it:

"Great Daedalus of Athens was the man
That made the draught, and form'd the wondrous plan;
Where rooms within themselves encircled lye,
With various windings, to deceive the eye.
As soft Maeander's wanton current plays,
When thro' the Phrygian fields it loosely strays;
Backward and forward rouls the dimpl'd tide,
Seeming, at once, two different ways to glide:
While circling streams their former banks survey,
And waters past succeeding waters see:
Now floating to the sea with downward course,
Now pointing upward to its ancient source,
Such was the work, so intricate the place,
That scarce the workman all its turns cou'd trace;
And Daedalus was puzzled how to find
The secret ways of what himself design'd."
(The Labyrinth)

It takes many years for Daidalos to get restless on the Island, but when he does, he goes to King Minos and asks to be set free. Minos refuses him every time, and eventually, Daidalos is forced to think of another plan. Being a master craftsman, he constructs wings of feathers, wax, and string, and creates one for his young son, Íkaros (Ἴκαρος) as well. Apollodorus describes the tale in a very compact manner in his Epitome:

"On being apprized of the flight of Theseus and his company, Minos shut up the guilty Daedalus in the labyrinth, along with his son Icarus, who had been borne to Daedalus by Naucrate, a female slave of Minos. But Daedalus constructed wings for himself and his son, and enjoined his son, when he took to flight, neither to fly high, lest the glue should melt in the sun and the wings should drop off, nor to fly near the sea, lest the pinions should be detached by the damp.
 But the infatuated Icarus, disregarding his father's injunctions, soared ever higher, till, the glue melting, he fell into the sea called after him Icarian, and perished.15 But Daedalus made his way safely to Camicus in Sicily. [E.1.12 / E.1.13]

It's important to note that not all historians and writers in ancient Hellas quite agreed with the story of Íkaros and his wings. Pausanias mentions that it were not wings at all that carried Daidalos and Íkaros, but boats, crafted especially well by Daidalos:

"Here [at Thebes] is a sanctuary of Herakles. The image, of white marble, is called Promakhos (Champion), and the Thebans Xenokritos and Eubios were the artists. But the ancient wooden image is thought by the Thebans to be by Daidalos, and the same opinion occurred to me. It was dedicated, they say, by Daidalos himself, as a thank-offering for a benefit. For when he was fleeing from Krete in small vessels which he had made for himself and his son Ikaros, he devised for the ships sails, an invention as yet unknown to the men of those times, so as to take advantage of a favorable wind and outsail the oared fleet of Minos. Daidalos himself was saved, but the ship of Ikaros is said to have overturned, as he was a clumsy helmsman. The drowned man was carried ashore by the current to the island, then without a name, that lies off Samos. Herakles came across the body and recognized it, giving it burial where even to-day a small mound still stands to Ikaros on a promontory jutting out into the Aegean. After this Ikaros are named both the island and the sea around it." (Description of Greece 9.11.1.)

Daidalos makes it to the main land. The island Íkaros' body washed upon, was called 'Ikaria' (Ικαρία) from that point on. It still carries that name, and is located ten nautical miles (nineteen kilometer) southwest of Samos. Minos was of no mind to let Daidalos go, however, and so he went from court to court, knowing that a mind as sharp as Daidalos' would be noticed wherever he went. King Minos posed a riddle to every king, as described by Apollodorus:

"And Minos pursued Daedalus, and in every country that he searched he carried a spiral shell and promised to give a great reward to him who should pass a thread through the shell, believing that by that means he should discover Daedalus. And having come to Camicus in Sicily, to the court of Cocalus, with whom Daedalus was concealed, he showed the spiral shell. Cocalus took it, and promised to thread it, and gave it to Daedalus;
And Daedalus fastened a thread to an ant, and, having bored a hole in the spiral shell, allowed the ant to pass through it. But when Minos found the thread passed through the shell, he perceived that Daedalus was with Cocalus, and at once demanded his surrender. Cocalus promised to surrender him, and made an entertainment for Minos; but after his bath Minos was undone by the daughters of Cocalus; some say, however, that he died through being drenched with boiling water." [E.1.14 / E.1.15]

And this was the end of King Minos' hunt and his life. Depending on the source, it might have been Daidalos himself who poured boiling water over King Minos, leading to his death. What happens to Daidalos afterwards is unclear. I hope he found a place to remember his son, and build more of his wonderful inventions.

This myth encourages people to look at the consequences of their actions, even those--or especially those--with good intentions. Daidalos' genius cost him his son. On the other hand, whenever I read this myth, Íkaros reminds me that, although great risk comes with a leap of faith, it might just be worth it sometimes. Íkaros chose the dangerous path, and while it led to his death, it also led to one of the most beautiful moments of his life. I'm a cautious person, a tempered person, and remembering Íkaros is a great help in my life sometimes. It reminds me to hunt for happiness, even though the quest requires me to let go of the familiar. I live my life looking for small flights of Íkaros, and I wish the same for you.