Saturday, November 22, 2014

Labrys published 'Hellenic Polytheism: Household Worship' in English

The Labrys Religious Community aims to preserve, promote and practice the Hellenic polytheistic religious tradition through public rituals, lectures, publications, theatrical and musical events, and other forms of action. Their vision is to restore the Hellenic religious tradition and by extension the Hellenic Kosmotheasis and lifestyle to its rightful place, as a respected, acknowledged and fully functional spiritual path. To bring this goal closer, they have released a new book, previously only published in Greek: 'Hellenic Polytheism: Household Worship'. To quote:

"A long awaited effort to make available for the first time abroad, the realities of Hellenic worship as practiced in the birth place of our religion. Our hope is that with this publication newer but also older followers of Hellenismos will find all the basic information to practice household worship in a traditional manner.
Within this publication, the reader is presented with explanations for the central concepts and basic guidelines to the ceremonies that form a part of Hellenic Household Worship as has been established and is currently practiced by the LABRYS Polytheistic Community in Hellas (Greece).
It serves as a useful introductory manual for the newcomer to contemporary Hellenic Polytheism as they take the first steps on their journey to worship the Hellenic Gods in a traditional manner."

The book is available on Amazon store (both US and UK) but purchasing directly through our CreateSpace online store will be appreciated since that will give the LABRYS Polytheistic community a higher portion of the royalties (without changing the price for you) which in return will help them fund our second publication that is currently in research/writing stage concerning the public aspects of worship with all the major city/community celebrations.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Zeugma yields more stunning mosaics

I am posting a lot of pictures this week, I realize. What can I say? There are lots of pretty things in the world right now, and I could use some. it's a long week. Anyway, let me share something else that is very pretty: archaeologists at the ancient Hellenic City of Zeugma in Turkey have revealed stunning mosaics that went straight to my heart when I first saw them.

The ancient city of Zeugma was originally founded as a Greek settlement by Seleucus I Nicator, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, in 300 BC. The population of the city at its peak was approximately 80,000 inhabitants. Zeugma is 80 percent underwater, after it was flooded with the waters of a nearby artificial lake. The mosaics, which were recovered in excellent condition, belong to the 2nd century B.C.

The first mosaic depicts the nine Muses in portraits. This mosaic was originally in a large room of a house that archaeologists have named 'House of Muses'. In the center of the mosaic is Muse Calliope and she is surrounded by her sisters.

The second mosaic depicts Ocean and Tithys. What is really striking about this mosaic is the wonderful and vivid colors used as well as the beauty of the heroes’ faces. Experts say that special glass mosaic pieces have been created for this mosaic alone.

I was unable to locate an image of the third mosaic, but it depicts an unidentified young man. It was also revealed to be in very good condition.

Zeugma was founded by Seleucus Nicator I, one of Alexander the Great’s commanding generals. It is situated at one of the easiest fording places on the Euphrates. Hence its name, ‘Zeugma’, which means ‘bridgehead’ or ‘crossing place’. Thanks to its strategic situation on an east-west axis, it quickly grew and developed, becoming one of the four major cities of the Commagene Kingdom founded in the 1st century B.C. in the post-Hellenistic period.

When the region came under Roman hegemony, one of the empire’s thirty legions was stationed here, the 4th Scythian. Its presence fuelled trade, trade in turn brought wealth, and when that wealth attracted artists, Zeugma became a metropolis of 70.000 people. On the banks of the Euphrates merchants built villas with a perfect view of the sunset. In the courtyards of those villas they added refreshing, mosaic-paved pools. With their mosaics depicting Poseidon, Okeanos, Tethys and the river gods, these villas on the banks of the Euphrates transformed Zeugma into a virtual fine arts museum. Swelling shortly to twice the size of London and three times that of Pompeii, the city rivalled the Athens of its day.

Many beautiful mosaics have been discovered at Zeugma, and many of those can be viewed online and in person at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum. The museum is located in the town of Gaziantep, Turkey, and it is the biggest mosaic museum on the world, containing 1700m2 of mosaics. You can see a slideshow of some of them here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Google calendar updated until the end of the Hellenic year

In other news today, I have updated the Google calendar I use to keep up with all the Hellenic festivals. It can be added to your phone calendar like I always do, making it easy to see day by day whose sacred day it is and if anything else special is going on. I have (finally, sorry about that) updated the calendar until the end of the Hellenic year--that is until 16 July.

Looking for Carlos Jose

Khairete, everyone. I have a short request today: I am trying to locate someone for a reader of Baring the Aegis: Carlos Jose from Puerto Rico. He filled in his name on the map of Hellenic Polytheists but didn't leave a way for people to contact him. Are you, or do you know Carlos? There is another Hellenist from Puerto Rico looking for you/him. Any information is appreciated.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

John Keats: To Homer

I have ten minutes to get something together today, which is not a lot, so I hope you will forgive me for poetry blogging. I will leave you all with John Keats, one of my favourite poets.

Standing aloof in giant ignorance,
Of thee I hear and of the Cyclades,
As one who sits ashore and longs perchance
To visit dolphin-coral in deep seas.
So thou wast blind;—but then the veil was rent,
For Jove uncurtain'd Heaven to let thee live,
And Neptune made for thee a spumy tent,
And Pan made sing for thee his forest-hive;
Aye on the shores of darkness there is light,
And precipices show untrodden green,
There is a budding morrow in midnight,
 There is a triple sight in blindness keen;
Such seeing hadst thou, as it once befel
To Dian, Queen of Earth, and Heaven, and Hell.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

'Spartan' warriors take London by storm

Okay, so I know this news is a little older but since I have many readers who enjoy the male form, how can I not share this news (and these pictures)? Men dressed as Spartan warriors invaded the London Underground on October 2. They were actors, part of the cast of '300: Rise of the Empire', the sequel to the movie '300', and it was a publicity stunt. The Greek Reporter reports that:

"Dressed as the famous Spartan warriors of ancient Greek history, the muscled gentlemen boarded underground trains, rushed up and down the escalators and ran through the streets of London in a bid to advertise the DVD release of '300: Rise of the Empire'."

The sequel focuses on the battle of Salamis and the Athenian general Themistocles, the man who attempted to unite all Greeks against the Persian forces.

And now: image evidence, because please do not take my word for it! Are you looking forward to giving this movie (another) watch, yet?


Monday, November 17, 2014

"Atlantis" recap (2.01): A New Dawn: Part One

After months of waiting, it is finally time to dive back down to the ocean floor and return to Atlantis, BBC One's adventure series about Jason, hero of Atlantis who managed to cause quite a bit of turmoil in the relative time he's been back to his birth city. Together with his friends Hercules and Pythagoras, Jason has his hands full: there is a war coming, and these are trying times for the city that should have been long lost. For recaps of season one, please go here.

We start off with drumming and a tearful Ariadne (which is never a good thing in my book). A year has passed and a pyre is lit . A person is burned; King Minos. Jason, Hercules, and Pythagoras watch on. It seems Ariadne is now Queen and Pasiphaê has been outcast--and is on the war path. In the wake of her father's death, Ariadne has a war to fight and she carries the burden heavily. For those of you--like me--wondering when Minos died, he didn't die last season. He'd gotten that miracle cure from Jason's dad and was doing quite well. No worries, I am sure it will all make sense soon. By the way, Ariadne has a new head guard, Dion (Vincent Regan).

By the way, Pasiphaê in dark clothes, wearing a scowl, sitting astride a huge horse is now my favourite thing to ever happen. Normally I would recap the scene first but will you look at this? Exile becomes you, my dear!

It seems war really has come to the world. Thera, a seemingly small settlement, burns and everyone in it is getting slaughtered. Ancient Thera (Αρχαία Θήρα), by the way, was a city on a ridge of the steep, 360 meter high Messavouno mountain on the Hellenic island of Santorini (where the myth of Atlantis has its home). It was named after the mythical ruler of the island, Theras, and was inhabited from the 9th century BC until 726 AD.

A very skilled warrior is tearing through villagers like they are ragdolls. In one of the few houses not yet ablaze, someone with wealth is locking a chest. He jumps when three men enter. Don't worry, they say, Queen Ariadne sent us to escort you back to Atlantis. It's our heroes: Jason, Pythagoras, and Hercules. Sarpedon (Robert Pugh) is not exactly convinced, but as long as they take the chest, he'll come. Pythagoras and Hercules end up carrying the backbreakingly heavy thing through the streets of the crumbling city. They have to fight through hoards of the former Queen's soldiers, but eventually they make it; even Pythagoras, who is getting better with a sword but still needs rescuing. Jason makes a detour to save a woman in distress from Pasiphaê's soldiers while the others flee. To Hercules' credit, he does stick around to see if Jason needs help--he doesn't.

Pasiphaê's new right hand Goran (Peter De Jersey) tells her that Atlantis won't fall as easily as Thera. Pasiphaê isn't worried; there is a legend that says 'as long as the palladium is within the walls of Atlantis, it will never fall'. She knows the city better than anyone; the plan is to get the palladium out, and them in to seize the city. Goran is not convinced, but he's a soldier, so he'll do as told.

In Hellenic and Roman mythology, the palladium (or palladion) was a cult image of great antiquity on which the safety of Troy and later Rome was said to depend. It was a wooden statue (called a xoanon) of Pallas Athena that Odysseus and Diomedes stole from the citadel of Troy and which was later taken to the future site of Rome by Aeneas. The Roman story is related in Virgil's Aeneid (amongst others).

In the daylight, Sarpedon and our heroes reach Atlantis, and Sarpedon is happy to be home. Now, I don't want to be a spoil sport, but when you've read enough ancient Hellenic mythology, the name 'Sarpedon' means quite a bit to you. I'm calling it now: this man was Minos' brother who was banished by him.

Ariadne greets him with joy and love, and it seems there was, indeed, trouble between Sarpedon and Minos. Ariadne says that is all in the past now, and that she needs his counsel. He agrees.

Relieved from rescue duty, Hercules gambles his time away in some dodgy bar. He is actually winning tonight, as Jason and Pythagoras look on, until the dice betray him.

Miles away, in the palace, a guard gets taken out and some keys stolen. A signal is given to Sarpedon, who--as it turns out--had a woman stuffed in that chest of his; a woman with a dagger and a very angry scowl. Sarpedon tells her that 'everything is ready', and although she seems conflicted, she sets out to do what she was smuggled into the city to do. Her name is Medea (Amy Manson), and she sneaks into the palace, avoids the guards, and enters the vaults.

Since Medea (or, classically written, Mēdeia) was not a thief, I'm not sure if this is related, but the Classical Medea helped Iásōn (Jason), recover the Golden Fleece. According to playwright Euripides, Iásōn betrayed Mēdeia, and wedded Kreousa (Κρέουσα), daughter of king Kreon of Korinth, instead of her. Mēdeia recounted all the help she had given him, and reminded him of his vow to marry her, but he told her that she should not be angry at him, but at Aphrodite, who had made her fall in love with him. Angered and ashamed, Mēdeia enchanted the dress Kreousa would wear for her wedding, and it caught fire as soon as she put it on. The fire killed both her and her father. Out of fear for retaliation, or out of a desire to hurt Iásōn even further, Mēdeia killed the two sons she had with Iásōn and fled. So, I'd say we are in for some fun times.

Medea is petrified as she takes to the vaults with a torch, but she perseveres. She descends far down into the earth and prays to Hekate for magical aid when she comes upon a door. The locks burst off and Medea is free to claim the icon. Sadly for her, as soon as she picks it up from the treasury, the ceiling starts to cave in. She secures the palladium and runs as fast as the wobbly earth will allow her while up top the citizens of Atlantis run for their lives as well. In the temple, the Oracle looks up at the ceiling and prays to Poseidon for aid.

Eventually the shaking stops and Medea catches her breath a moment too long: she is discovered by the guards and is forced to flee. In the distance, a large... something approaches. It screeches and flies, and when Medea summer saults off of the palace walls down to the cliffs below, it catches her and carries her off. I uh... it's not a sphinx, I think, nor a Pegasus, or even a drakon. I have no idea what it is, but then again, it wouldn't be the first time on this show that I have no idea what a mythical creature is supposed to be. Point is: Medea is a badass and I want her and Atalanta to become friends.

In the city, Jason, Pythagoras and Hercules are picking up the pieces after the earthquake. Since Poseidon is also the God of earthquakes, they think he must be mad to have caused this. Ariadne is equally worried and summons them to the palace. She tells them of the stolen palladium and they decide to keep the theft a secret. Ariadne asks them to retrieve the icon, and Jason agrees. She tells them of a valley where Pasiphaê has her encampment; the icon must be there.

Sarpedon questions if she is sure the boys can do it and she says they have never failed her before. He is not exactly happy to hear that and taunts her about her feelings for Jason. She vows that her feelings for Jason have nothing to do with it; when her father died, Atlantis became her sole responsibility. Ariadne refuses to be distracted; she wants everyone in the palace questioned. No way in Hades did the thief get in without insider help. Sarpedon watches the three go with hate in his eyes.

Jason visits the Oracle, who has been expecting him. The Gods have spoken, she says; 'a new dawn is beginning'. It seems she can give others visions as well, and she feeds him Kykeon (κυκεών). Kykeon was a barley beverage said to be preferred by Demeter, and drank by peasants in ancient times. It was used to break a sacred fast within the Eleusinian Mysteries as well as in preparatory rites for some of the most sacred--and secret--rites within Eleusis.

Although the actual recipe has been lost, kykeon was made with barley, water, herbs, and ground goat cheese. Sometimes honey was added. Herbs that are described as part of the kykeon are mint, pennyroyal and thyme, although it seems any herb that was found to flavour the drink, was acceptable. For some of the rites, hallucinatory herbs may have been added to heighten the experience of what was about to unfold.

Jason sure hallucinates: he sags into the Oracle's arms, who chants over him as he catches glimpses of the future: a dagger in someone's chest, battles, the ship Argo, a show-down with Pasiphaê. Blood, dripping into a basin from Ariadne's hands as she shouts at the sky, a warrior sliding down to the depths of the ocean where a sunken city lies. When he comes to, he gasps for air and clings to the oracle who holds him lovingly. She assures him that what he saw was, indeed, the future but that he can stop it from coming to pass. He is a hero, and he must embrace his destiny. Only then will he be able to stop this.

The creature flies Medea to a forest and she cuddles with it for a while as she speeks Greek to it. Anyone care to translate? As it flies off, I think the thing may be a griffon. Huh.

Anyway, far more interesting things are happening: the griffon brought Medea to Pasiphaê's encampment, and she flies into the older woman's arms, clinging to her in desperation. Pasiphaê says she was beginning to worry, but while Medea assumes she was worried about her, I think Pasiphaê mostly worried about the palladium. Medea tells her what happened when she took the icon and Pasiphaê tells her that princesses shouldn't fear anything. Medea is still afraid enough to cry, though, because the icon is very powerful and Pasiphaê is definitely in love with it.

In the daytime, our heroes have taken horses into the wilderness and Hercules isn't happy about it. He reminds Jason that he and Ariadne will never be together, no matter how often he risks his life. He tells the boys about his destiny; that's why he is doing this, not Ariadne. He spurs his horse onwards--towards the desitiny he now feels in his bones.

Ariadne is engaged in ritual to honour her father when Sarpedon walks in. They talk of the past, of how Minos was brave, even as a boy, and how Sarpedon's unjust exile (according to him) hurt him. Ariadne tells him that Minos came to regret his decision. Their heart-to-heart is interrupted by Dion, who announces they have found the accomplice.

Chained in a dungeon is the man who took out the guard and flashed the light at Sarpedon. He's bloody and seems pretty hurt. He's, however, not talking. Sarpedon, who has come down to the dungeons with Ariadne, gives the man a stern look, and I am fairly certain that no amount of torture is going to pry those lips apart; that man is scared shitless.

In the forest, our heroes are suddenly ambushed. They run, dodging arrows, and manage to not get impaled before they jump into a ditch. They fight and manage to win out; it's a very heroic feat, actually, and everyone carries their weight. They are all getting very good, especially Pythagoras. The horses, however, are gone.

Right when they are about to celebrate, they hear something in the shrubbery. It's one of Pasiphaê's soldiers, hurt and cowering. Hercules tells Jason to kill him, but he can't. The soldier refuses to pick up a sword so they can kill him, and so they have a problem: if they let him live, he could jeopardise the entire mission. None of them can kill him, and so they send him off, well aware of the danger.

Sarpedon goes to visit the prisoner. He's far more bloody than before, but he hasn't said anything. Sarpedon poisons him, making sure he will forever stay silent.

Around a campfire in the woods, Pythagoras and Hercules talk about how their lives have change since meeting Jason, and if they think Jason can fulfil his destiny. Jason has proven himself quite the hero, but the two are a little worried that their involvement with him is going to have them both end up dead. So why do they do it? Hercules follows Jason to become the man he always boasted to be before Jason came along... Pythagoras does it out of love; he loves both Jason and Hercules, and while it is quite illogical, it's also very true. Hercules is touched by that revelation.

In the palace, Dion tells Ariadne the bad news about the prisoner. Even worse, it seems the man told the guards that the palladium has been stolen, and Dion doubts the guards will be able to keep that to themselves.

Meanwhile, Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras spy upon tenths of thousands of soldiers camped out along the coastline. Somewhere amongst them is the palladium. This is not going to be easy.

The boys manage to make it into the encampment. I truly wonder why they don't just disguise themselves as soldiers and walk through the encampment instead of leaving bodies all over the place, but ey, I wasn't there so who am I to argue. They do realize that the palladium is undoubtedly with Pasiphaê. Pythagoras walks up to the guards guarding her tent as a distraction, and they get taken out from behind by Jason and Hercules. While Jason and Hercules rifle through Pasiphaê's things for the palladium, Pythagoras stands guard and is forced to kill a soldier with what is pretty much a butter knife. He manages it, though.

On the way out, they get spotted and Pasiphaê orders them to be captured. The boys manage to evade the soldiers, but it takes a fair bit of doing, and a fair bit of killing. It also takes a catapult: they slingshoot themselves into the ocean and manage to get away--with the palladium.

The guards pursue them, and in the following struggle, Jason gets injured; an arrow in the side, shot by the one guard they let go in the woods before. This time, Hercules kills him gladly. It's a pretty bad wound and Jason tries to force the boys to leave him behind--but they refuse. They make it into a cave where they hope the guards will pass them. Unfortunately, there is a huge chasm between them and the cave. They take a teeny tiny rope bridge over it and then--like smart people should--cut the damn thing down so the soldiers won't be able to follow them. Then they run for the barrage of arrows that the soldiers fire off in retaliation. They make it into the cave, and Pasiphaê's magic makes sure they stay there while the army marches on Atlantis.

Dion informs Ariadne of the bad news; the army will be at Atlantis tonight. In the cave, Pythagoras manages to stop Jason's bleeding, but things look dire--even more so when the route deeper into the cave reveals bats and something far more sinister... something monstrous.

Equally monstrous is Pasiphaê's army: over 40.000 strong. Ariadne watches them march upon Atlantis while Sarpedon tries to convince her to just surrender. Without the palladium, they don't stand a chance, he says. Pasiphaê will be merciful, he says. She doesn't believe him and says she would rather die with her men while they wait for Jason to save the day. Pasiphaê, meanwhile, releases every soldier that flees the city--and she lets it be announced that any Atlantian soldier who follows their example will be given free passage.

In the cave, it turns out there is a monster, a Cyclops, and he's not happy to have people invade his home...

Netx on 'Atlantis': things are looking dire for our heroes while Pasiphaê launches her attack, bathing Atlantis in arrows and fire. Saturday on BBC One (8/9C), recap on Monday.

So, what did we think of the first episode of the second season? Action packed, for sure! And how the heck did Minos die?!