Friday, March 6, 2015

How to pray to the Khthonic Gods

"I know you aren't supposed to kneel to the Ouranic Gods, but what about the Chthonic Gods? I've seen that their altars are meant to be ground/floor level so would we kneel but still raise our arms? Or how would that go really? Because I see them needing to be praised as well, but technically they are Underworld Gods and would be metaphorically below us, so by raising our arms would that be offensive to the Ouranic Gods?"

Khthonic (from Greek χθόνιος khthonios, 'in, under, or beneath the earth', from χθών khthōn 'earth') literally means 'subterranean'. It refers both to earth deities like Gaea as to underworld deities like Hades. earth deities usually received worship like the Ouranic Gods (although not always) while Underworld Gods received a different type of worship (although not always).

For these Khthonic Theoi, an offering pit--'bothros' (βόθρος) in Greek texts--was used. Bothroi were usually dug when the occasion called for it, and closed up afterwards. Khthonic Theoi received special nighttime offerings of black animals, unmixed wine and special libations of milk and honey. Animal sacrifice was always done in a holókaustos--a sacrifice where the entire animal was burned and none of the meat was saved for human consumptions.

Hómēros in the Odysseia writes Circe advising Odysseus how to perform a libation to the dead:

"Draw near then, as I bid you, hero, and dig a trench two feet square, then pour a libation all around to the dead, first of milk and honey, then of sweet wine, thirdly of water, sprinkled with white barley meal."

The ancient Hellenes shaped a 'negative' (part of a) ritual by a reversal of normal practices. As normal practices dictated the practitioner stand before an altar with their hands raised, it's quite logical that they performed ritual to the Khthonic deities on their knees, hands down on the soil, sometimes beating down on it to draw the attention of the deities residing below. Where women wore their hair up or covered for standard ritual, they wore their hair down in Khthonic ritual.

Worship of the Underworld Khthonic deities was reserved for special occasions--mostly vengeance, death, and purification surrounding both. If the Underworld Khthonic Gods were worshipped in a state festival, They were generally worshipped in their Ouranic epithets.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Runners, register for the Olympus Marathon

Olympus marathon is the international mountain running event in Greece, carried out on Mount Olympus, known in mythology as the home of the Gods. The route revives a sacred trail followed by ancient Greeks every year in order to honour Zeus. It kicks off at the remains of the sacred city of Dion with athletes reaching up to 2,800 meters.

Participation is at 50.50 euros. Each participant will receive the race technical T-shirt along with his/her bib number on race’s eve. All athletes cross the finish line within the time limit (10 hours) will receive a remembrance medal. All athletes will also have access to a pasta party on the race’s eve, catering during the race, and a meal after the race. Each participant can print out through the event’s website a certificate showing ranking and time, only when the official results will be announced. The event is held from June 26 to June 28, 2015, with the following schedule:

Friday, June 26, 2015
19.00 to 22.00. Athletes registration, Nautical Museum

Saturday, June 27, 2015
10:00 to 23:00 Athletes registration.
19:00 Children’s Races Games (Olympus Kids and Olympus junior)
19:00-22:00 Pasta Party
20:15 Technical briefing

Sunday, June 28, 2015
4.20 to 5.20 bus departure from Litochoro park to the archaeological site of Dion
6.05 Start of the race
10.45 to 16.05 Finishes of the athletes
17.00 to 17.30 Awards
19:00 to 20:30 End 10th OM-Party
Registration is open from January 23 through to May 15. Participants need to be aged over 18. To participate, runners should have previous experience in similar kinds of races with at least 2 mountain/trail events of over 20K and 1200+ or 1 of 35km and 2200+ over the last two years. Athletes also need to present organizers with a medical certificate. Applicants without this experience will be rejected and have 50% of their entry fee refunded.
If you are a runner with the appropriate funds and qualifications, this might be the marathon for you; a pilgrimage of sorts, to one of the most well-known and sacred places in Greece.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Labrys celebrates the Theogamia, 2015

I am very happy to share with you Labrys' ritual for the Theogamia. 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.

They have a large variety of rituals and festivals documented, including their 2015 Lênaia festival in honour of Zeus Teleios and Hera Teleia. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

'AEGEAN ∙ The Birth of an Archipelago' now in Rome

'AEGEAN ∙ The Birth of an Archipelago', an exposition on the Aegean Sea and its influence on Hellenic life which was previously hosted in Athens, is coming to Rome. This reports The Greek Reporter. The exhibition in Rome is part of a series of Greek events organized in Rome in the framework of the World Exhibition EXPO 2015 in Italy, May 1 through October 31. It's hosted at the Exhibition Centre Vittoriano in Rome as of February 16.

The 'Aegean' exhibition is split into three sections. The first goes back to the beginning, telling the story of how Aegeis, a vast landmass that emerged from the Tethys Ocean, emerged from the Tethys and eventually broke up to become the Aegean, explains Zouros. Intense volcanic activity in the region and how this shaped the archipelago through the eons is the subject of the second section, which explains how the still-active volcanoes of Santorini, Nisyros, Methana and Sousaki in Corinthia, which form the Aegean Volcanic Arc, helped shape islands such as Milos, Lemnos, Santorini, Kimolos and Samothraki. The third section explores ecosystems in the region by explaining the evolution of its biodiversity through displays of primal flora and fauna – such as a short-necked giraffe from Chios, a dwarf elephant from Tilos and an early antelope from Samos. The predecessors of modern man are also present in this section in the form of plaster casts of three humanoid skulls.
A key element of the exhibition is the impressive findings of the Lesvos Petrified Forest, such as petrified tree trunks, leaves and root system segments. The exhibition in Rome is expected to contribute to the promotion of the Lesvos Petrified Forest and the various geological monuments along with the rich cultural heritage of the Aegean islands. Coincidentally, as of this summer a direct flight that connects Rome with Mytilene is planned; an air route that will facilitate the visit to the Lesvos Petrified Forest and the Lesvos Geopark.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sex and shrines

"I was reading up on your 2013 post about Anthesteria in preparation for tomorrow night when I came to the bit about covering your altars to prevent miasma. My main altar is in my bedroom. Should I be covering it every time my husband and I have sex? Have I been polluting my altar for years?"

The post in question can be found here. In it, I talk about covering your main household shrine as a sort of tribute to the fact that for the final two days of the Anthesteria, all temples were closed besides the one of Dionysos. Seeing as this festival is partially an underworld festival, it carries miasma. It is a practice I have adopted for anything underworld-related; I also do it when someone close to me dies, for example, until I can purify myself.

Sex in Hellenismos is.... complicated. Hellenic society was complicated when it came to sex; the ancients saw sex as completely natural and--unlike many today--had no inhibitions and very few taboos when it came to straight up heterosexual sex. Anything else had societal stigma's attached to it. They did however have many thoughts and rules surrounding ritual cleanliness--miasma and katharmos.

The ancient Hellenes viewed sex differently than we do today. In general, they accepted lust for sex as a disease--as madness that needed to be given in to on occasion to preserve sanity. It was the result of a disturbance of the healthy equilibrium between body and mind. Sexual desire made one loose mastery of their intellect--which was a huge ideal in ancient time. Women shouldn't be encouraged to give into that madness too often, but husbands did have the legal obligation to relieve this need in their wives at regular intervals so as to prevent them from becoming dangerous.

Mikalson in 'Ancient Greek Religion' mentions that intercourse led to miasma and that a bath was required before entering a temple after intercourse as a form of katharmos. He, however, does not give a source, and I don't know one either. It is a reoccurring idea, though, mostly centred on the male's excretions during the activity. The Hellenic religious organization 'Labrys' echoes the sentiment, but also without sourcing.

I keep my altar in my bedroom as well--as we live in a one bedroom apartment and we have sliding doors to corner off the bedroom during the night. During the day the space is part of our living room. What I do have is curtains to shut off  the bed from the room beyond and thus creating a temporary barrier between the bed and the altar. When I make love to my girlfriend, I'm mindful to keep these curtains closed. Honestly, I mostly do it because otherwise I feel like there are Gods watching with popcorn, but hey, miasma is an issue too.

We all incur miasma, every single day of our lives. It has nothing to do with sin, shame or guilt. Miasma is a consequence of living. We breath, make decisions, come in contact with others, and along the way, we become too human--for lack of a better term--to petition the Gods. The divide between the purity and cleanliness of the Theoi and our human mortality and imperfection, keeps us away from Them. Miasma is not about being physically dirty, although that is a part of it, and katharmos is not about becoming physically clean, although that is a part of it as well.

After a lot of research into the workings of miasma, I have come to the conclusion that miasma is linked to distraction. Anything that takes your mind off of the Gods during ritual can be considered miasmic. For example, murder causes miasma (when not committed as part of a war, soldiers were not tainted with miasma for killing their enemies), but only once other people became aware of the fact that you had committed an act of murder. As such, if you were exiled and you travelled to another town where no one knew what you had done, in essence, you were not miamic to the rites and people around you. If you can keep your head in the game the morning after and you have taken the proper steps to clean both yourself and the space, then by all means, do the rites. If you can't, well, then it doesn't matter where the shrine is located, now does it? If you mind is still on last night's events, you have no business petitioning the Gods anyway.

Real talk: we don't live in ancient Hellas anymore and while I am a huge stickler for practicing Traditional Hellenismos, not all of us have a huge altar in our garden that we can perform sacrifices at twice a day. Most of us don't have a wood stove or some such to offer at. We live in the now, and as such, we are forced to take certain liberties and deal with the consequences. As such, I would encourage a barrier, but if you don't have one and you have sex next to your household altar, make sure you and the space are clean when you give sacrifice. Sprinkle khernips, take a bath, change the sheets, make sure your mind is entirely on the ritual and not last night's marathon session. Give the Theoi their due in an area that is clean and tidy. Compartmentalize.

So no, I don't think you need to cover your altar whenever you have sex (although I would encourage some sort of barrier between your altar and the bed out of respect). I do think you need to do much more extensive cleaning of the space if you have your altar in your bedroom and you've just had sex. The sight of crumpled sheets and your sleeping lover would undoubtedly bring distraction, and that I would warn against. As a final note: enjoy each other. Share love. These things are far too important to hold off on. Your worship matters but it can be adapted to suite the needs of the entire household--and at its core, that is the main focus of Hellenismos: providing a healthy relationships with the Gods to our family so they in turn may bless us and guard our household.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Behold the face of an Amazon warrior!

Protothema reports on a remarkable feat of modern skill and ancient beauty: the woman depicted below was created by tested and tried methods to restore a face on a skull. In this case, the skull belonged to a teenage Amazonian warrior.

The remains of a 2,500-year-old female body unearthed at the Altai Mountains suggest that she may have been a member of the elite all-female virgin Amazon warriors revered by the ancient Hellenes. She lay entombed beside a much older man, accompanied by shields, battle axes, bows and arrowheads. A close examination of her body indicated that she had once been active, a skilled equestrian and archer. Furthermore, nine horses, four bridled, were buried with her, accompanying her to the afterlife.

Aged sixteen at the time of death, the teenage warrior girl’s face was revealed using intricate taxidermy techniques. Siberian archaeologist Dr. Natalya Polosmak had located the remains of the teenage warrior in 1990. Buried in her riding clothes, with horses, Polosmak explains that representatives of the little-known members of a Pazyryk elite, in which women, for social and economic reasons, were allowed to be war-like were buried in this way, these women were known from multiple mentions of the legendary Amazons. Hippokrátēs wrote of these women as a Scythian group famed for their mastery of mounted warfare:

“The women, so long as they are virgins, ride, shoot, throw the javelin while mounted, and fight with their enemies. They do not lay aside their virginity until they have killed three of their enemies, and they do not marry before they have performed the traditional sacred rites. A woman who takes to herself a husband no longer rides, unless she is compelled to do so by a general expedition.”

Saturday, February 28, 2015

PAT ritual announcement: the Anthesteria

At dusk on Sunday, one of Hellenismos' most important festivals (if one can give classifications to the festivals at all) starts. It's the Anthesteria, and held in honor of Dionysos Limnaios, wine, and the dead. The Anthesteria was held annually for three days, the eleventh to thirteenth of the month of Anthesterion. It is an ancestral festival, the oldest of the festivals for Dionysos in Athens, a time of reflection and trust in the new growing season to come, a time to celebrate with the spirits of the departed the indefatigable resurgence of life. The festival centred around the celebration of the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage, whose pithoi were now ceremoniously opened, and the beginning of spring. The three days of the feast were called Pithoigia (after πίθοι 'storage jars'), Khoes (χοαί 'libations') and Khytroi (χύτροι 'pots'). For more information about the festival, please go here.

For those of you who would like to join Robert and myself in ritual, elaion has a first: a ritual a day for the duration of the festival, so three days in total, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. There is a PAT ritual event on the Elaion Facebook page that we would love to have you join.10 AM EST. The ritual itself can be found here for day one, here for day two, and here for day three.