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. Also: this is question collections post number sixty. Sixty! With an average of four answers per posts, that is at least 240 questions answered--say 250 because I like whole numbers. 250 answers. Quite the achievement. Here is to at least 250 more!


"Do you think it would be appropriate to replace Greek words in prayer with the closest equivalent English words? I have a lot of trouble with Greek pronunciation, and I worry that this focus on language ends up distracting me from prayer, and by extension from the Theoi."

A good while back, I wrote a post about the importance of language in ritual a while back. Mostly that was me waxing poetically about an issue I had not yet resolved. I still haven't. I don't speak Greek, let alone ancient Greek. I do promounce the names of the Theoi in Greek as much as possible--which ususally is not quite a huge difference from the English.

Upon reading your question I contemplated how problematic this fact is to me. Upon the aforementioned contemplation, I can say that I don't rightly mind the fact that my worship is practiced in a mixture of Dutch, English and the odd word of Greek. Language is a human thing anyway; I can't imagine the Theoi are hindered in understanding my hymns and prayers because of the language I use.

Practicing in ancient Greek is probably more Traditional--and if I spoke it, I would use it. Perhaps I will learn enough ancient Greek one day to practice in it--who knows--but even in that case, the meaning of the words is more important to me than the words themselves.

I can understand how distraction by language might worry you. You know, at the end of the day, we do the best we can. If (currently) the best you can do is using the English pronounciation of the names of the Theoi, then do that. Just honour Them. Give Them Their proper due. Nothing matters above that.

~~~

"I have lately been having trouble getting myself to do rituals, and this causes me to feel very guilty - I feel sometimes that Hellenismos isn't for me. But - I want it and feel connected to it. What should I do? Thanks."

Some things I can't answer for an individual. Wether Hellenismos is the right religion for them or not is one of them, sadly. There are so many variables at play here--why are you having trouble getting yourself to do rituals, for example? Is it a matter of time? Effort? Money? Embarresment? Devotion? Are there ways to go about it that would alleviate these reasons? Doing it once a day? Doing only festival rituals?

If you have contacted me to alleviate your guilt and get a pass on rituals, well, I am not your priestess. This is not Christianity; there is no pardon for behavior that runs counter to the religion's practice. In Hellenismos, you are responsible for your own behavior and by acting, you accept the subsequent reaction. I can't tell you in the Theoi mind that you do not actively practice or do so only rarely or reluctantly. I would never presume to interpret the minds of the Theoi that way. I also cannot tell you if your issues with active practice mean Hellenismos is for you or not.

My advice to you would be to look inside yourself and try to pinpoint why, exactly, you are feeling this reluctance. I fear that that is the only way you might find an answer to the other question. Best of luck to you!

~~~

"I am looking for the "ancient writers" who used the terms Khryseoi and Agryreoi and gave the description below.

'According to some ancient writers, the spirits of the Silver Age also became daímones: the daímones agryreoi. They were described as earth-dwelling fertility spirits who proferred mankind with rich harvests. They were inferior to the Daimones Khryseoi. The former resided within the earth, while the latter occupied the air.'"

That quote is from this post of the Beginner's Guide to Hellenismos. The ancient writer is Hesiod, in his Works and Days:

"First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympos made a Golden (khryseoi, Ἁγνοι) Race of mortal men who lived in the time of Kronos when he was reigning in heaven. " [109 ff (trans. Evelyn-White)]

"They [the gods] who dwell on Olympos made a second generation [of men after the Golden Race] which was of Silver (Argyreoi, Αργυρεοι) and less noble by far. It was like the golden race neither in body nor in spirit." [121 ff (trans. Evelyn-White)]

~~~

"When emptying the kathiskos each month, what do you do with the contents? I know better than to throw them away because they are offerings and are marked as sacred, but do you bury it in a flowerbed or...?"

I used to add the contents of my kathiskos to our compost pile, now I have moved and we have not yet installed a compost heap, they get buried (deep) in the yard to basically fulfil the same purpose. It seems only right to do something with it that will provide life.
A bit of Hellenic mythology today, to foster more understanding of the pantheon. Have you heard of the enforcers of Zeus? They are four winged deities who stand at attendance at Zeus' throne on Olympos. They are four siblings who are the children of Styx and Pallas.

We all know about the Titanomachy, the war for dominance Zeus waged with his father Kronos. At the start of that war, Zeus gathered His allies about Him. Styx chose His side and She brought Her four children into His service. These four are Nike, Zelos, Kratos, and Bia.

Nike (Νικη)
Nike is most often portrayed as a young woman with a billowy dress and beautiful wings attached to Her back. She is the personification of victory and therefor a very valuabel allie of Zeus. Her precense by His side was--literally--what granted Him victory.

Zelos (Ζῆλος)
Zelos is the personified spirit of rivalry, emulation, eagerness, jealousy, envy and zeal. They sound like negative traits but they can be put to good use; they are motivational. Zelos is the spark that puts people into motion--the spark that helps them strive for more, for better.

Kratos (Κράτος)
Kratos is the personification of strength, might, power and sovereign rule. He is the very personification of authority--something that Zeus obviously cannot be without. With Kratos by His side, no one has more authority than He.

Bia (Βία)
Bia is the Goddess of force, power, might, bodily strength and compulsion. It is Her who allows Zeus His supreme rule--she is His enforcer, his bodyguard so to speak. The traits She provides Him with allow him to hold on to His power and rule forever, dominantly, over the other Olympians.
An aryballos (ἀρύβαλλος) was a small spherical or globular flask with a narrow neck used in Ancient Hellas to contain perfume or oil. They are often depicted in vase paintings where they are used by athletes during bathing. In these depictions, the vessel is at times attached by a strap to the athlete's wrist, or hung by a strap from a peg on the wall. The original shape of them is a bit boring. Over the years, though, the ancient Hellenes thought of something novel: animal shaped ones! I spent at least an hour yesterday googling as many as I could find an I'd like to spare you the search. So here are some of the cutest aryballoi in ancient Hellenic history.

Oh--point of interest: hedgehogs are among the most common forms of faience oil flasks. The center of production of these vases has traditionally been identified as Naukratis, a Hellenic trading colony on the Nile Delta, in Egypt. Faience, by the way, is the conventional name in English for fine tin-glazed pottery on a delicate pale buff earthenware body, originally associated by French speakers with wares exported from Faenza in northern Italy. The term 'faience' has been extended to include finely glazed ceramic beads, figures and other small objects found in Egypt as early as 4000 BC and elsewhere in the Ancient Near East, the Indus Valley Civilization and Europe. However this material is not pottery at all, containing no clay, but a vitreous frit, either self-glazing or glazed.

600 BC, East Greek, Hedgehog
 
600-500 BC, East Greek, Hedgehog
 
630 BC, Corinthian, Owl
 
620–590 BC, Corinthian, Bird
 
600-500 BC, Rhodian, Rooster
 
600-500 BC, East Greek, Fish
  
600 - 550 BC, Corinthian, Hare
You know what? Sometimes things just do not work out. Sometimes you have a string of days that do not work out. I'm on the tail end of a string of bad days and I won't lie, it got me down a little. I'm only human, right? I try t pracice Arete every day but some days you just have to curl up into a ball and wait it out. Now I'm recovering from my epic curl-up fest, I turn to the ancients for some words of wisdom. That's always soothing to me.

Today's words of wisdom will come from Plato and Plutarch. The subject? Lot. Sometimes things happen because they just happen. There is nothing to be done against it. You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to it. Thanks Plato, thanks Plutarch. that is what I'll do today.


Plato, Republic 604c-d)
 
“The best way to deliberate about what has happened is just as we might in the fall of dice: to order our affairs in reference to how the dice have fallen where reason dictates the best place would be, and not to stumble forward like children shocked at the outcome wasting time with crying. Instead, we should always prepare our mind towards addressing what has happened as quickly as possible and to redress what has fallen and what ails, erasing lament with treatment (or 'therapy').”
 
Plutarch, De Tranquilitate Animi 467b
 
“Plato likened life to a dice-game in which we need both to throw what is advantageous and to use the dice well after we’ve thrown them. And when we are subject to chance, if we take good advice, this is our task: though we cannot control the toss, we can accept the outcome luck gives us properly and allot to each event a place in which what is good for us helps the most and what was unplanned aggrieves the least.”
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.


"Do you think that, everytime people with Hellenic blogs reblog an aeshetic/moodboard of a certain deity or reblog a hymn, then that counts as a form of devotion? Kinda like an indirect prayer? Or maybe even buying new crystals for altars or something small like that? I like to think that when I reblog a post for my gods it's a way of showing my devotion without actually praying or pouring libations."

The traditional manner of prayer is accompanied by physical sacrifice and is performed in a ritual context. A sacrifice to the Gods is a way of bonding, of kharis. It's a way of showing our devotion to the Gods and bringing Them, actively, into our homes and lives. It's a way of acknowledging Their greatness and recognizing our loyalty to Them.

Traditionally, dedicating activity is not a way to honour the Gods. After all, it does not relate to Them directly, does not strengthen our bond with Them and They get nothing out of it. The energy is directed at other people, not upwards to the Gods. A small portion of that energy might 'bleed' up to Them but it's not going to establish kharis in the same way as sacrifice does.

Being actively engaged with your worship through blogging, shopping, prettying and cleaning shrines and even talking about Them with others, in my opinion, is something you do for you, not for the Theoi, but it does have value. It keeps the Theoi at the forefront of your mind and helps you practice arete, the act of living up to one's full potential.

If you are actively engaged with the Theoi on a day to day basis, you'll have an easier time motivating and reminding yourself of your actual practice. Daily sacrifices become easier to integrate, the Theoi become a priority much more easily than when you are not actively engaged with Them, and you'll simply feel more... Hellenistic. It helps. But I do feel like you do it for you; the Theoi get nothing out of it directly. They do, however, end up with a more engaged worshipper and that most certainly has its own (great) value!

~~~

"I frequently hear the list of Olympians ending in "either Hestia or Hermes (or Dionysus)" and this kind of confuses me. I know it doesn't matter that specifically if I worship all 12 (or 14 it seems) of the small part of the pantheon that compiles the Olympians, but personally I'd like to and I'm unsure how this roster is decided I guess?"

The ancient Hellenes did not have a consensus on the Dodekatheon; what mattered was that there was a council of twelve, the Dodekatheon, at all. Who resided on the golden thrones atop Snowy Olympos was subject to debate and varied per location.

The most canonical version of the Dodekatheon is represented in a relief currently located at the Walters Art Museum. The relief dates back to the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD and depicts the Twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession: from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hēphaistos (staff), Hera (scepter), Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt and staff), Artemis (bow and quiver), and Apollon (cithara). No mention of Dionysos.

There is a story floating about the internet and even some modern texts on Hellenic mythology, that Hestia gave up Her throne to Dionysos. Apparently, this is an ancient myth, and the ancient Hellenes would have believed this as well. It's a story so frequently told, one that is so common-knowledge, that very few people bother to check the source. Well, the source is Robert Graves' 'The Greek Myths', written in 1955. From that book (27.12):

"Finally, having established his worship throughout the world, Dionysus ascended into Heaven, and now sits at the right hand of Zeus as one of the Twelve Great Gods. The self-effacing goddess Hestia resigned her seat at the high table in his favour; glad of any excuse to escape the jealous wranglings of her family, and knowing that she could always count on a quiet welcome in any Greek city which it might please her to visit."

Graves provides two sources for this story: Apollodoros’ Bibliotheka 3.5.3, and and Pausanias’ Hellados Periegesis 2.31.2. As you can read for yourself, there is no mention what so ever of Hestia giving up Her throne. In fact, the sources only address the part of Graves' text that follows afterwards, about Dionysos bringing His mother Semele up to Olympos as well.
 
So, did Graves lie? Well, yes and no. Graves is a storyteller; he spun stories based on facts he could find. If he could not find a fact, he made it up to fit the story. Because of this, his books are a great read but they are not reliable as far as ancient mythology goes.
 
Obviously, Theoi who were held in high regard in a certain city-state would have held the thrones, according to the people who lived in that city-state. This means that it's quite likely there were people in ancient Hellas who firmly believed that Dionysos occupied one of the thrones of the Dodekatheon. Most likely, there were also people who believed Hestia did not occupy one of the thrones. It's entirely possible that some people--perhaps even the same people who believed Dionysos was part of the Dodekatheon, but not Hestia--believed that Hestia gave up Her seat to Dionysos. The problem is that there are no ancient sources to support this, and there was most certainly not a wide-spread myth to this effect that held sway in ancient Hellas.

In my personal practice, who hold the thrones of the Dodekatheon is nearly irrelevant. I follow the festival calendar and have my daily ritual practice. through that, all 'major' Theoi are honoured and many of the 'lesser' as well. The pantheon, after all, is much larger than just the children of Kronos and Rhea.

~~~

"I wanted to ask you, if you could make a post about the Underworld and how the judges judge exactly. Because I cannot find anything about it."

I actually did write about that twice, both in a long post about the Hellenic Underworld and in a post specifically dedicated to the Judges of the Underworld. I did not go into detail, however, about how judgement is passed. Mostly because we don't know exactly how and what we do know, well, except for being naked pretty much matches the (ancient Hellenic) court proceedings.

Naked? Yep! You are judged in your birthday suit. Why? Let Plato, in his Gorgias, enlighten you:

"The cases [of the dead] are now indeed judged ill and it is because they who are on trial are tried in their clothing, for they are tried alive. Now many,' said he, `who have wicked souls are clad in fair bodies and ancestry and wealth, and at their judgment appear many witnesses to testify that their lives have been just. Now, the judges are confounded not only by their evidence but at the same time by being clothed themselves while they sit in judgment, having their own soul muffled in the veil of eyes and ears and the whole body. Thus all these are a hindrance to them, their own habiliments no less than those of the judged.
 
Well, first of all,' he said, 'we must put a stop to their foreknowledge of their death; for this they at present foreknow. However, Prometheus has already been given the word to stop this in them. Next they must be stripped bare of all those things before they are tried; for they must stand their trial dead. Their judge also must be naked, dead, beholding with very soul the very soul of each immediately upon his death, bereft of all his kin and having left behind on earth all that fine array, to the end that the judgment may be just.
 
Now I, knowing all this before you, have appointed sons of my own to be judges; two from Asia, Minos and Rhadamanthus, and one from Europe, Aiakos. These, when their life is ended, shall give judgment in the meadow at the dividing of the road, whence are the two ways leading, one to the Isles of the Blest, and the other to Tartaros. And those who come from Asia shall Rhadamanthys try, and those from Europe, Aiakos; and to Minos I will give the privilege of the final decision, if the other two be in any doubt; that the judgment upon this journey of mankind may be supremely just." 
 
It seems the dead were allowed to plead their case, explaining why they felt they had lived as good people. If the judges agreed, they judged favourably. If not, well...
News of the Antikythera shipwreck is not an unfamiliar sight on this blog. The Antikythera mechanism and the subsequent finds on the wreck are spellbinding and have held my interest for years. So of course I am going to report on this too, because my Gods! Researchers from the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts have found a human skeleton at the bottom of the sea floor in the wreck where the famed Antikythera Mechanism was also found.


The recently found remains were pulled from the ship on August 31st. The team first uncovered a skull complete with a jaw and teeth, followed by arms, legs, and ribs. Some parts of the skeleton still remain underwater, but they were left behind and will taken to the surface at a later time.

Now, this is not the first time divers have found skeletons at the site. In 1976, Jacques-Yves Cousteau visited the wreck with his team and uncovered more than 300 artifacts, which included a number of skeletons. The find of human remains marks the first time since the beginning of DNA studies, however, that such an ancient skeleton has been identified aboard a ship and remains preserved. This means scientists have their first real hope of sequencing DNA from a victim of an ancient shipwreck.

Brendan Foley at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who is exploring the wreck site with archaeologists from the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities explained how Nikolas Giannoulakis, a team member, tapped him on the shoulder while out on a dive:

"Talking through his rebreather in muffled excitement, said: 'We found bones! We found a skeleton!' There was no doubt in any of our minds that what were were looking at were extensive human remains. This is the most exciting scientific discovery we’ve made here. We think he was trapped in the ship when it went down and he must have been buried very rapidly or the bones would have gone by now.”

Hannes Schroeder, an ancient DNA expert at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, will recieve samples from the remains for full analysis after the Greek authorities give permission.

“Against all odds, the bones survived over 2,000 years at the bottom of the sea and they appear to be in fairly good condition, which is incredible.” 

If a sufficient amount of DNA is recovered from the bones, researchers could learn a lot, including about the skeleton’s geographic and ethnic origins. Though the bones have been underwater for thousands of years, the bones are largely intact. That quality, combined with recent advances in DNA, should help experts in their analysis.

DNA tests are expected to provide information on the drowned person's age and gender which, if female, would add to evidence that such ships carried passengers as well as cargo, said Ageliki G. Simosi, director of the ministry's department of Underwater Antiquities. Simosi said the latest excavation, conducted 52 metres (170 feet) below the surface by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the culture ministry, had a lot more still to reveal.

"The area is difficult to approach and the conditions are tough. This shipwreck continuously reveals treasures and I believe that this is only the beginning."
Near the end of the month of Boedromion, there was a singular sacrifice organised in Erkhia, a deme of Attica. It was held in honour of the river God Achelous, his intended wife ('alochos') Deianeira, the Nymphs, Hermes, and Gaea. We will be holding a PAT ritual for this sacrifice on the 29th of September, at 10 AM EDT.


In Hellenic mythology, Achelous (Ἀχελῷος Achelōios) is the patron deity of the 'silver-swirling' Achelous River, which is the largest river of Greece, and thus the chief of all river deities. His name is pre-Hellenic, its meaning unknown. His parents are generally believed to be Tethys and Okeanos. Very few of the river Gods have mythology about Them, but Achelous was featured heavily in the legends surrounding the hero Hēraklēs. In fact, we believe the origins for this sacrifice lie exactly there. The myth goes as follows:

Achelous, God of the most powerfully flowing river in Hellas, fell in love with the daughter of the king who ruled the land along the river. Deianeira, daughter of Oeneus king of Calydon came to age as the most beautiful woman in the land. For her hand, her father announced a contest: the strongest of her suitors would win her. Achelous, as a God, was by far the strongest in the region and was sure He would win her. But Hēraklēs had also heard of her beauty so in the end it came down to the two of them.

Hēraklēs was the strongest mortal in the world, but Achelous, being a God, had some advantages over him. He could change his shape at will. He could become a snake that curved like the winding river. He could become a bull that roared like the roaring river. And when He was a bull He could tear the very earth with His massive horns, just as the river carved away the land when it overflowed its banks. Even in the shape of a man, He had the horns of the bull on His head.

The fight was terrible. Achelous thrashed and fought Hēraklēs in all his shapes. When Hēraklēs pinned him, he became a snake and slithered loose. But Hēraklēs gripped him again and this time Achelous tried to shake free by changing into a bull. He bucked and raged, but Hēraklēs drove his horns into the Earth and with a mighty heave, he tore one off. Achelous howled and was forced to submit. As such, Hēraklēs won the match and won Deianeira's hand in marriage. And the people of Calydon won as well as the Nymphs hollowed out the horn and good Earth fills it with all the fruits and vegetables of the harvest. It became the Cornucopia, or Horn of Plenty.

This sacrifice, timed well with the reaping of the final fruits of the Earth before winter, includes all involved with the myth: Gaea's inclusion, as the source of all the fruits of harvest, speaks for Herself, Achelous (as the largest, life giving, river) was included because of His waters and the myth of the Cornucopia. That myth included his intended wife Deianeira and the manifestations of Achelous as the sacred bull, the serpent and the Minotaur--all creatures associated with Gaea. Because of their close connection to water, a fertilizing element, and the creation of the Cornucopia itself, the Nymphs were worshiped as daimons of fertility and vegetation. Hermes, as the Bringer of All that is Good helped bridge the divide between myth and humanity.

We hope you join us for this event on Facebook, and the ritual can be found here.