Monday, August 3, 2015

Question Collections post 23

I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.


"Which theoi can be invoked in regards to friendship? Has Dionysus got any connection with friendship?"

There is actually a Goddess in charge of friendship (and sexual intercourse): Philotes (or Philia). Not much is known about Her, but you can pray to Her for sure. Theoi.com has a small article about Her. Not surprisingly, 'philia' is also the word used by the ancient Hellenes to denote friendhsip. As for Dionysos... He does not have a direct link to Philotes, but when there is drinking involved, friendship tend to be easily born (and broken!), so I would not be surprised if Dionysos would be open to listen to issues concerning friendships.

~~~

"I managed to watch the documentary. While its very interesting, many things bother me. About the fact they keep saying our gods are archetypes, for example. And at one point it's said that in ancient Greek religion 'we say we created the gods at our image'. That made me cringe. Am I wrong in thinking this?"

That would be this documentary. The woman who explained these things, explained them very simplisticly. She ditched all 'minor' Gods and put all major domains with the dodekatheon. She also integrated ancient Hellenic philosophy into her story when she spoke of mankind creating the Theoi. Her thought process is largely influenced by Socrates, and later Plato and Xenophanes (him especially). These philosophers, in turn, were influenced by the Jewish prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who interpreted parts of the Old Testament to reflect the idea that man created the Gods as a way to feel safer (simplifying here).

During the sixth and fifth centuries BC, the traditional Olympian religion began to lose its hold on some aristocratic Athenian citizens. A small number of poets and philosophers began to question popular views of the Gods (Socrates, famously, was put to death for that). They shifted their interest away from the role of Gods in mythical stories, supernatural events, and everyday life and instead towards the search for a single rational principle at the heart of the universe. They pushed religion from deities to divinity, from divine interventions to physical causes, and from tangible images to invisible forces. Xenophanes (570-478 BC) famously said:

"Ethiopians make their gods snub-nosed and black; the Thracians make theirs blue-eyed and red-haired ... Mortals imagine that the gods are begotten, and that the gods wear clothes like their own and have language and form like the voice and form of mortals. But if oxen or lions had hands and could draw and do the work with their hands that men do, horses would have drawn the form of gods like horses and oxen gods like oxen and they would represent the bodies of the gods just like their own forms."

Plato had much the same idea:

"The gods are human contrivances, they do not exist in nature but only by custom and law, which moreover differ from place to place according to the agreement made by each group when they laid down their laws."

As did Athenian playwright-poet Critias (460-403 BC), who had the leading character in his play Sisyphus, promoting a related idea:

"... a man of shrewd and subtle mind invented for men the fear of the gods, so that there might be something to frighten the wicked even if they acted, spoke or thought in secret. From this motive he introduced the notion of divinity. There is, he said, a spirit enjoying endless life, hearing and seeing with his mind, exceeding wise and all-observing, bearer of a divine nature. He will hear everything spoken among men and can see everything that is done."

Xenophanes and Plato believed in the Gods, though, and questioned only Their form--most ancient philosophers did. So the views expressed in the documentary definitely have ancient foundations. I don't agree with this way of thinking as the roots of my religious view lie earlier, with writers like Hesiod and Homeros. But to view the Gods as archetypes and created by humanity is definitely a valid form of thought and worship within Hellenismos. That said, I think philosophy and religion are not the same thing and while they influence each other, you can have one without the other as well. For more on that, please see here. I hope this puts your mind to rest a little.

~~~
 
"Hello Elani! I have a devotional necklace I wear constantly for Apollon. Is there a time when I shouldn't wear it? Like sex or sleeping or working or showering?"

Personally, I do not feel that a devotional necklace or anything you wear to show your dedication to the Theoi needs to be taken off for anything. It's a personal gesture that--while very important to you--is not tied directly to the Theoi, nor does it automatically draw Their gazd. It's something that shows other people what (and who) you stand for--it's not an extention of the Theoi.

~~~

"Do you have any resource on Oracle of Delphi?"

What sort of resources are you looking for? I have quite a few posts up on the subject on my blog?
I hope this helps!

~~~

"Do you speak/read ancient Greek? If so how did you learn and how would you recommend others learn? Have you ever been to Greece?"

I don't, actually. I would love to learn, but I suck at languages. English and Dutch is about all I can manage. I hope to one day get the hang of it, though. I have been to Greece, though. As a child, but still. I went there twice. Would you like to see pictures?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

PAT ritual announcements: the Kourotrophos and the Panathenaia

Two ritual announcements today, for the Kourotrophos and the Panathenaia.


PAT ritual for the Kourotrophos
Beginning at sundown on the 19th of June, the Kourotrophos (child nurturers) were honoured. Gaea, Artemis, Hekate, Aglauros and Pandrosos shall be sacrificed to. Elaion will be organizing another Practicing Apart Together ritual for this event in the daylight hours of the 20th (so today!). You can follow the event of Facebook here.


The Kourotrophos are (mostly) female deities who watched over growing children--Gaea, Artemis, Hekate, Eirênê, Aglauros and Pandrosos, especially. This specific offering is known from the demos Erchia, but duplicates similar offerings on the Acropolis of Athens.

In this ritual, we honor Gaea, Artemis, Hekate, Aglauros and Pandrosos. Artemis is named Kourotrophos by Diodorus Siculus, a Hellenic historian, in book five of his library:

"And Artemis, we are told, discovered how to effect the healing of young children and the foods which are suitable to the nature of babes, this being the reason why she is also called Kourotrophos." [5.73.5]

Hesiod, in his 'Theogony', explains why Hekate is Kourotrophos:

"So, then. albeit her mother's only child, she is honoured amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Kronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Eos (Dawn). So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young (kourotrophos), and these are her honours." [404]

Aglauros and her sister Pandrosos seem to have been fertility deities in Athens. They were eventually regarded as daughter of the Athenian king Cecrops, however, and myth tells us the sisters were entrusted with the care for Erichthonios, hidden away in a basket. He was the son of Athena and Hēphaistos, who grew to term in the Earth (Gaea), and would later rule Athens as king. Aglauros had a sanctuary on the Acropolis in which young men of military age swore an oath to her as well as to Zeus and to other deities. Herse, sometimes regarded as a third sister, has no mention in these accounts.

Gaea, as a mother and raiser of many children, of course receives honors as well during the Kourotrophos. Pausanias, in his 'Description of Greece' says:

"There is also a sanctuary of Ge (Earth) Kourotrophe (Nurse of the Young) [at Athens], and of Demeter Khloe (Green). You can learn all about their names by conversing with the priests." [1.22.3]

We are also considering adding Eirene, as Euripides, in Bacchae says the following about Her:

"The god [Dionysos], the son of Zeus, delights in banquets, and loves Eirene (Peace), giver of riches (olbodotes), goddess who nourishes youths (thea kourotrophos). To the blessed and to the less fortunate, he gives an equal pleasure from wine that banishes grief." [420] 

As the ritual is quite lengthy, you can find the full version here.


PAT ritual for the Panathenaia
The Panathenaia was an Athenian festival celebrated every June in honor of the Goddess Athena. The Lesser Panathenaia (Panathenaia ta mikra) was an annual event, while the Greater (Panathenaia ta megala) was held every four years and assimilated the practices of the Panathenaia ta mikra into itself. The set date for the festival was from the 23rd to the 29th of Hekatombaion and the festival was similar, in practice, to the Olympic Games but it had its own unique elements as well. In short, The Panathenaia was the 'birthday of the city' and referred to Athens. We will hold two PAT rituals to celebrate it: one on the first day in honour of Athena, and one on the last in honour of the many Gods who watched over the city. As such, the first PAT ritual should be performed either in the night of the 7th of August, or the daylight hours of the 8th of August, and the second on 15 August. Will you be joining us?

The ritual for the first day of the Panathenaia can be found here. It includes a torch-lit procession (which can also be conducted with a wind light or electric candle) and libations to Athena in Her many forms related to the Panathenaia. It can be performed either in the night of the 7th of August, or the daylight hours of the 8th of August.

The ritual for the last day of the Panathenaia can be found here. It honours Athena, Zeus, Agathos Daimon, Hera, Poseidon, and Hestia. We will be performing it at 10:00 AM EDT on 15 August.

For more information about the Panathenaia, please go here, and to join our group for the event, please go here.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pandora's Kharis nominees Hekatombaion 2015

This month, we do a round-up of worthy causes which have been selected by the members of Pandora's Kharis in 2015 but which did not make it in the votes.


The League Against Cruel Sports
The League Against Cruel Sports is the leading UK charity helping to prevent cruelty to animals associated with sports such as fox hunting, game bird shooting and wildlife crime. Over nine decades of campaigning, the League has developed effective ways to thwart such sports through calling form and bringing about, legislative change; educating the general public and gaining public support for the issues at hand; and causing difficulty for the people inflicting cruelty. All these actions help animals on a day-to-day basis. But there is always more to do. They rely on public support to carry out their work, which includes campaigning to keep the Hunting Ban and preventing illegal hunting with dogs which, despite the Hunting Act, is still happening around the UK.
 
The Donkey Sanctuary
The Donkey Sanctuary was founded in 1969 by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE and supports projects in 27 countries worldwide. It reaches out to those in greatest need through the provision of permanent refuge and veterinary services to alleviate their suffering. Over 50 million donkeys and mules exist in the world. Many need care and protection from a life of suffering and neglect, whilst others have a vital role to play in human survival and happiness; they are at the heart of everything they do at The Donkey Sanctuary.

Feeding America
In the United States, 1 in 6 people struggles with hunger. For 35 years now, Feeding America's mission is to feed America's hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage America in the fight to end hunger. Today, Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization—a powerful and efficient network of 200 food banks across the country. As food insecurity rates hold steady at the highest levels ever, the Feeding America network of food banks has risen to meet the need. They feed 46.5 million people at risk of hunger, including 12 million children and seven million seniors.

The Greek Archaeological Committee (UK)
The Greek Archaeological Committee, thereafter referred to as GACUK, was founded in London in the autumn of 1986 on the 150th anniversary of the Greek Archaeological Society at Athens, with which it is associated. The founders of GACUK believe that the history and archaeology of Greece are important assets of Western culture and a better understanding of them is essential to a deeper appreciation of the shaping of the modern world. GACUK awards scholarships for post-graduate studies in British Universities to students of Hellenic ethnicity, of moderate means, who have obtained a first-class degree or equivalent in their previous studies from reputable universities.

Save The Children
Save the Children invests in childhood – every day, in times of crisis and for our future. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. By transforming children's lives now, we change the course of their future and ours. Save the Children is currently on the ground providing critical help and health relief, working with health ministries in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to help fight the Ebola outbreak. This cause builds Ebola health centers, cares for orphans, trains health workers and provides protective kits and essential medical equipment. Your generous donation could help ensure that they reach vulnerable children.

Do you have a favourite out of these five? Vote for your favourite in our poll until August 5. We will announce this month's winner on August 6, 2015.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Orichalcum: the metal of Atlantis

In Greek, the term 'Atlantis' means 'island of Atlas' (Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος), and it may very well have applied to the island of Santorini. It was Plato who brought life--and myth--to Atlantis. According to him, Poseidon fell in love with Cleito, the daughter of Evenor and Leucippe, who bore him five pairs of male twins. The eldest of these, Atlas, was made rightful king of the entire island and the ocean--called the Atlantic Ocean in his honor--and was given the mountain of his birth and the surrounding area to rule over. It was also Plato who wrote that Poseidon made Atlantis--a huge island with a volcano at its center--His home after Zeus, Hades and He divided the world.

Plato's description of Atlantis would have fit the ancient hellenic version of Santorini well. It was a large, mountainous, island, with an active volcano at its center. The large settlement on the island was build around said volcano. Poseidon's influence on the island isn't a stretch of the imagination at all; there was sea and ocean all around and from time to time, the entire island would tremble due to the volcano.

The volcano eruption decimated the settlement, but from what archeologists and scholars have been able to piece together, the settlement was a sight to behold while it stood. It had walls eight meters tall, three story houses, beautiful frescos and a rich economic climate. The volcano eruption preserved much of the ancient city of Akrotiri, despite the huge lagoon the eruption left at the center of the island.

One of Atlantis' marvels was the much-praised and highly valuable metal called 'orichalcum'. It was called 'aurichalcum' by the Romans and is a metal mentioned in several ancient writings, including the story of Atlantis in the Critias dialogue, recorded by Plato. In it, he says:

"Some of their buildings were simple, but in others they put together different stones, varying the colour to please the eye, and to be a natural source of delight. The entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum."

The name derives from the Greek ὀρείχαλκος, oreikhalkos (from ὄρος, oros, mountain and χαλκός, chalkos, copper or bronze), meaning literally 'mountain copper' or 'copper mountain'.

In January 2015, a team of divers have discovered dozens of pieces of ancient metal from a shipwreck, aged 2,600 years, off the coast of Sicily island, in the south of Italy. The lumps of metal were arriving to Gela in southern Sicily, possibly coming from Greece or Asia Minor. The ship that was carrying them was likely caught in a storm and sunk just when it was about to enter the port. They were unlike any metal ever found. Analyzed with X-ray fluorescence, the 39 ingots turned to be an alloy made with 75-80 percent copper, 15-20 percent zinc and small percentages of nickel, lead and iron.
The mining of orichalcum would have made Atlantis (or Santorini) very wealthy as it seems the metal was only mined there, and orichalcum was considered second only to gold in value.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Exercise and Hellenismos

Perhaps no other civilization has held fitness in such high regard as ancient Hellas. The idealism of physical perfection was one that embodied ancient Hellenic civilization. The appreciation for beauty of the body and importance of health and fitness throughout society is one that is unparalleled in history. The ancient Hellenes believed development of the body was equally as important as development of the mind. Physical well-being was necessary for mental well-being, with the need for a strong, healthy body to harbor a sound mind. Many founding medical practitioners facilitated the growth of fitness throughout ancient Hellas, including the likes of Herodicus, Hippocrates, and Galen.

Gymnastics, along with music, was considered to be the most important classroom topic. Gymnastics took place in palaestras, which were sites of physical education for young boys. The palaestra consisted of an indoor facility for gymnastics, in addition to an outdoor area for running, jumping, and wrestling. When adulthood was reached, typically between the ages of fouteen and sixteen, the site for fitness training switched from palaestras to gymnasiums. Exercise in the palaestra and gymnasium was supervised by the paidotribe, who is similar to the modern fitness trainer. This idealistic fitness situation existed most strongly within Athens and in Sparta, but was widespread throughout.

Training in ancient Hellas, particularly for the Spartans, was structured and extremely intense. Spartan training began for men at a very young age. At seven years old, Spartan males were sent to military and athletic training school where they were taught toughness, discipline, pain endurance and survival skills. The Spartan life centered around military training and toughness. Spartan males were soldiers from the age of 13 to 60, and even the women were taught physical and gymnastics training.

The ancient Hellenes relied mostly on body weight exercises--work-outs without instruments. Push-ups, pull-ups, and box jumpes were favourites. They excelled in cardio practices like mentioned above, but the ancient Hellenes weight trained as well--with activities such as stone lifting, stone throwing, wrestling and rope climbing. They also lifted each other, animals, and whatever else was heavy and handleable.
In order to get the actors in shape for the movie '300', a grueling exercise routine was created, based on the ancient Spartan training regime. It included plyometrics, sprinting and intense weight training. They used such equipment as barbells, kettlebells and medicine balls instead of stones and animals, though. At the end of the four months of training, the actors where invited to complete the '300' graduation workout which involved performing the following exercises in sequential order. The combination of all repetitions for all of the exercises totals 300 repetitions. Note, every featured Spartan warrior in that movie was required to complete this test.
  • 25 pullups
  • 50 deadlifts at 135 lbs
  • 50 pushups
  • 50 box jumps onto a 24 inch box
  • 50 floor wipers at 135 lbs
  • 50 kettlebell clean and presses at 36 lbs
  • 25 pullups
Gerard Butler--who plays King Leonidas in 300--told Men’s Health:

“You know that every bead of sweat falling off your head, every weight you’ve pumped — the history of that is all in your eyes.  That was a great thing, to put on that cape and put on that helmet, and not have to think, shit, I should have trained more. Instead, I was standing there feeling like a lion.”

I work out. Mostly cardio, but I do some bodyweight strength training as well, kettlebell workouts, and some light lifting. I can tell you right now that I would not be able to complete that routine even if I had a year to train. I am awed by these men, and I am awed by the physical prowess of the ancient Hellenic soldiers--especially the Spartans. But having said that, every time I get on my mountain bike for a grueling trail ride, or push up the kettlebell until my arms shake, I think of them and I feel just a little closer to the Gods. A little closer to the ideal They have for humanity.

I believe physical exercise, eating healthy, and being in shape to the best of your ability is part of Hellenismos. I believe it's one of many ways in which we honour the Gods. Now, I know not everyone is physically ready to be a Spartan warrior. If, for you, lifting one kilo weights is the max of your ability, then do that. Go on a walk. Do a situp. Dance during your cleaning. Think of your body as your altar and take just as good care of that as you do the other tools with which you honour the Gods. Bring out your inner Spartan!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dusting off my mix-tape series! Input wanted!

Every month, Hellenion members pour a libation to a different Hellenic God or Goddess. I'm not a member of Hellenion, but I did partake in this practice for one Hellenic year. Every month, I would make the libation to the God honoured that month and create a mix-tape, a wonderful idea I gratefully stole off of Sannion. This is an overview of those mix-tape and any subsequent ones I have done.
I would like to dust off this series, but I don't know which of the Theoi to make a mix-tape for! So, if you would like to request one, please feel free. Who do you feel close to who is not yet on the list? Who would you like me to choose music for? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pindar's Paean VI

I was going to do an actual post today, but then life exploded, so I am going to leave you with some words of beauty today: Pindar's Paean VI, for the Delphians to Pytho. The poem was performed at Delphi for a festival called the 'theoxenia', at which gods were entertained.


O golden Pytho, that art famed for thine oracles! I beseech thee, by the Olympian Zeus, with the Graces and Aphrodite, to welcome me at this sacred season as a prophet of the tuneful Pierides. For, beside the water of Castalia, with its outlet of brass, I have no sooner heard a sound of dancing reft of men, than I have come to relieve the need of the townsmen, and of mine own honour.
 
I have obeyed my dear heart, even as a son obeyeth his kind mother, and have come down to Apollo's grove, the home of garlands and of banquets, where, beside the shadowy centre of the earth, the maidens of Delphi fiill often beat the ground with nimble step, while they sing the son of Leto.
 
And, whence the strife of the immortals arose, of this the gods are able to prompt sage poets; while, for mortal men, it is impossible to find it.