Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lesson 12: Modern Reconstructed Rites

(1) Do a basic offering to deity of your choice, then report back on results. How did it feel? Was it awkward? Exciting? Were you worried about "doing it right"? Was it weird to pray out loud (if you did this?)? Were you alone?

(2) If you have worshipped with a Hellenic group, compare the experience to any previous worship experiences you may have had (church, synagogue, circle, etc.). How is our worship similar to these? How is it different?

1) Seeing as I’ve been doing these sorts of offerings for some time now, the awkwardness of the whole process has worn off. It was very calm, comfortable, and as usual, left me feeling a certain sense of satisfaction and peace, despite my (currently) sour mood. It was not weird to pray out loud and I have quite enjoyed it.
2) I have had the pleasure to actually lead rites on two (and soon, three) occasions and I have never done such a thing in another setting so I don’t exactly think it is a 1:1 comparison. Compared to my Pentecostal past, the process was calmer, and less frenzied, though I suspect that was due to it not being a basic offering (I can think of a few where a frenzy might occur.) It was much more still, but we still “sung” (recited rather) hymns to the Gods and gave thanks for their blessings, much as we did when I was a Pentecostal (though, theirs was to Jehovah/the Lord) so it bears some similarity in that regard. Compared to the circles I’ve attended though, it is wildly different. The Circles I’ve been to have felt very “self-help” for lack of a better phrase (not all, but most) and have been very focused on the individuals and not on the Gods and/or Goddesses being honored. They are usually also a tad more theatrical (though, there are a few rituals and celebrations where theatrics would be entirely appropriate) and can be far longer due to the “grounding and centering” process that always goes on. We process, purify, sing hymns, make prayers and give thanks, make offerings, close, then process away. They gather, process( albeit less formally than we do) give background information and introduce the “theme”, call the quarters, ground and center, invoke the Gods and Goddesses, Lord and Lady, or whoever else is being honored, perform the theatrical part, then do it all in reverse again (essentially) just doing the opposite.


It appears I have hit another blue spell in my life.

I'm not exactly sure where these come from quite honestly, all I know is that for about a week and a half things have been getting harder and harder to do, from going to class, to doing homework, to job hunting, even my religious devotionals are becoming more and more difficult to get myself to do. I don't want to do anything, I want to lie in bed all day and be perfectly still.

Obviously, I'm going to try and keep writing and all, because I don't think that lying in bed is going to improve my mood any, but if anyone has any tips on how to feel better or something like that, I wouldn't be opposed to receiving them. I'm only touched by feelings of sadness, being completely demotivated though, that's what is getting to me.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Morning Routine

I have a morning routine.

Now, I know some of the Pagan community kind of shudders when the word routine. They go "Routine? But that gets boring!" or they make a face like this:

But a morning routine, it helps, and it is a sort of prelude to the rest of the day. How so? Well, allow me to explain my morning routine, and what it implies, reminds me of, and encourages me to do. Perhaps it will inspire to form a morning routine of your own


  • I thank the Gods for another day.
This reminds me that it is truly a gift to wake-up to live another day. There are so many things in this world that can end your life unexpectedly and suddenly, from car-wrecks to blood-clots in the brain. Every day which I get to continue my existence is a gift indeed. Every day that I wake up in a bed, with a shower to take, clothes to wear, coffee to drink, and food to eat, this is a gift, a privilege that many people don't have and I am grateful to it. Thanking the Gods shortly after waking for another day reminds me of how fortunate I am

  • I thank Helios for his existence
This one may seem a little strange to some people, but to me it is very important. Helios, is of course, the God of Sun (among a few other things) but it is a pretty safe-bet that the sun would keep shining regardless of if I gave thanks to Helios or not, but giving him thanks I have found very important. The Sun is a beautiful and wonderful gift, it sheds light on the Earth and nurtures our plants. Those of us who have Seasonal Affective Disorder often eagerly await and delight in the longer days coming about. The Sun gives us a ton of gifts, every day, consistently and always, so it only makes sense to give the God of the Sun a bit of thanks every morning. It also reminds me of another aspect of Helios, it reminds me of the Oaths I have made, and the necessity of keeping them. Helios, due to his solar nature, is also a God who oversees oaths. Giving him thanks every morning keeps me in check and line with my own obligations.

  • I perform a devotional
This is the last thing I do in my morning routine. It moves my thoughts and mind towards the Gods for the rest of the day, and helps me remember what I stand for, what I strive for, and what I want out of life. It also reminds me of a certain focus for the day, or a certain hope. Apollon makes me think of how wonderful it is to not be sick, a day that begins with Dionysus is often a day that I expect to be acting, Athena reminds me to be studious, and Hermes reminds me of how wonderful it is to not be hit by a car while walking to class. This is the last act of my morning routine, but it ties things together for me. If I skip any of these three things, I often find myself feeling a tad disoriented, but even more so when I skip this part of the routine. It shows my gratitude towards these Gods, and reminds me of the honors due to them.

Sure, sometimes I go "ugh, do I have to do this? I wanna just go eat already" but something inside me goes "Yes, yes you do" and I've always felt the better for it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lesson 10: Ritual Purification and Supplication

     1) Notice the form of the priest’s prayer. How does he address the god? How does he frame his request? What the logic behind it?

     2)What might you assume about his relationship with Apollo based on this passage?

     3) How does this passage compare with the previous one? What differences do you note in the way the two men prepare themselves to address the gods?

     4)How do you feel about the concept of miasma? How do you prepare yourself for ritual (if you do) in terms of purification? Even if you do not accept the ancient understanding of miasma, what purposes might ritual purification serve for worshippers today?

1)  The priest frames his prayer very simply and with what appears to be a common formula. He addresses a few of the things that the God has done that were wonderful, he then states the domain which the God rules over that he wishes to invoke. He then lists some of the things which he has done for the God and then he makes his request. The formula and layout is quite logical once you begin to think about it a bit. First he gets the specific God he want’s attention by requesting his ear and lets the God know that he is aware of a few of his glories, he then lets the God know which of his domains that he has need of, and then goes on to list why the God should assist him (by way of listing past things done merely for honor’s sake.)  and then he goes on to make his request. The priest, in essence, builds his case before he makes his prayer, in hopes that it will make the God more likely to fulfill it, and as Apollo grew angry and began killing those who had wronged his priest, we can safely assume that it worked. 

2) Considering that Apollo grew angry and began a rain of pain, indiscriminately killing dogs, cows, and then people, It is pretty safe to assume that the priest and Apollo had a fairly close relationship, and that Apollo favored the priest considerably.

3) It is markedly more complex than the previous prayer. Achilles undergoes a series of purifications whereas the priest simply walked along the beach and addressed  his prayer to Apollo, not even making a libation. I suppose this comes from two points. The first is that this man was a priest of Apollo and thus we can assume that he has already made many offerings to the God, he also has established and housed  a shrine to Apollo apparently and so has honored him simply for his being Apollo, whereas it would appear that Achilles honors Zeus when he needs his aid, and thus requires special purification and is required to make libations. I’d like to note though, that their prayers follow an extremely similar format though

4) I recall whenever I first got into Hellenismos I was very uncomfortable with the concept of miasma due to my Evangelical background, despite it not being a bad thing, I couldn’t help shake the sensation that “dirty” or “unclean” was considered bad, and I also couldn’t help shake the feeling that the Gods were so persnickety that they couldn’t even handle a bit of dirt on my hands. Overtime I’ve begun to understand miasma in more abstract terms, the purification process was certainly about physical cleanliness for the Ancient Greeks, but it was also about preparing to worship the Gods properly. So, now, when I purify myself, I take the time (however brief) to try to let go of all the thoughts eating at me and to turn my mind towards the deity which I’m honoring, and I honestly do feel that this approach is the better way for me to look at the concept. As I feel the water wash across my hands and face, the sensation helps me to release the various tensions and anxieties to some degree. Viewing it in this way also helps me get past the sensation that the Gods aren’t so snobbish as to automatically reject prayers because the supplicant wasn’t “pure” enough. They may not die, but if they are as wise as we assume they are I can safely say that they have knowledge of death. I heavily suspect that through the act of purifications we don’t remove barriers between the Gods and Us, but rather we remove barriers between Us and the Gods. To put it another way, miasma isn’t a way which the Gods reject us for not being “pure” enough, but a way which we put up mental barriers and blocks between us and the Gods, and purification rites help us get rid of this barriers. Of course, I’m not applying this concept to stuff like unjustified murder, I do firmly believe that stuff like that causes the Gods to rebuke your prayers. I also feel that after a baby’s birth and after the death of a loved one the proper purificatory rites should be observed. I’m sure the Gods have an understanding of these things, but I think it is to our psychological and emotional benefit to observe these rites and traditions as best as we can before we resume normal life. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Be Overcome by Justice (Ηττω υπο δικαιου)

(DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I'm merely giving my opinions and interpretations as I see them as being applicable. We are not an absolutist faith, nor do I personally regard the Maxims as "infallible"  hence why I see the need to update things to a modern equivalency)

Maxim:Ηττω υπο δικαιου or Be overcome by Justice

Modern Interpretation: Be overcome by Justice

Justice is a word which permeates civilized life, it is vital to the very existence of civilization. Without  justice, how do we punish criminals? Without justice, how do we right wrongs? Justice is one of the glues which holds us together, but the concept in of itself is very abstract and very vague, so lets nail down a couple o' things first.

Merriam-Webster (the online version) defines Justice as follows:
a : the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments
b : judge
c : the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity
a : the quality of being just, impartial, or fair
b (1) : the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action
(2) : conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness
c : the quality of conforming to law

So, taking it as objectively as possible we see that the word justice has two basic components. The first relates to legal justice, and evaluating laws impartially and correctly, the second involves being a fair person and conforming and accepting the laws of our land that are in place.

What does that mean for us?
It means be overcome by justice, when you are evaluating or otherwise acting as an arbiter for two of your friends be fair and be impartial. In your everyday dealings, have a sense of fairness about you and strive to eliminate biases as you recognize them, which is easier said than done. What would this entail? Suppose a clerk gives you the wrong amount of change, according to the values enumerated in this maxim, the right thing to do would be to return the extra change. If two friends are arguing, you do not side with the one who you like more or who is nicer to you, but rather, you side with the friend who objectively deserves your support It is not speeding, even when you know you can get away with it. Being overcome by justice is having the attribute affect every action you take, that of fairness and impartiality.

This can certainly be misapplied though. There are certain laws that definitely violate your freedoms and your rights. When a law is worthy of scorn and worthy of being scoffed at, you must ask yourself (and think deeply) if the law truly deserves to be violated. We are all aware that in some countries women cannot legally get an education, and in these countries any woman who dares to get one is not subduing justice, but rather, she is expressing it to the highest degree that a person possibly can.

Fighting what you know for certain to be wrong, like things which violate the inherent equality of persons, this too is being overcome by justice.


Lessons 8 and 9: Ritual I

(1) What is ritual? What do we mean by this term in a religious context?
(2) Why do we do ritual in the first place? What is its purpose within our religion?
(3) What needs, human and/or divine, do you think ritual fulfills?

1) Ritual, in the most general sense, is an action or series of actions which are repeated at a particular time in a routine fashion. For example my morning, non-religious ritual is wake-up, drink coffee, shower, eat, brush my teeth. It proceeds in this order almost every day. When we move into ritual as a religious act, it is an action, or series of actions done at a particular time for a particular purpose to achieve a particular effect, and is repeated in an extremely similar manner over time, the thing which makes it “religious” is the involvement of deity in one fashion or another.

2)      Ritual establishes and gives meaning to the flow of time and to the flow of life. It establishes order and makes sense of the world around us, and it helps us make sense of our relationship with our Gods. Within our own faith, ritual establishes, reinforces, and strengthens the relationship between us mortals and the Immortals, and it also strengthens and reinforces the relationships between mortals, between family members, and so on and so forth.

3)Ritual primarily fulfills human needs, a need or want to honor the divine, a need to make sense of the world and universe around us and a very strong desire to foster and develop community among ourselves. For the Divine, I have nothing to go on but speculation. I borrow two ideas, one from the Qadish folks and that is the idea that worshipping a deity gives them strength, and the idea of offerings having a sort of ka as the Kemetics view it, I also borrow as this gives the offerings a bit more meaning. I’m well aware that the Ancient Greeks did not have this viewpoint, and believed it was largely for our benefit, but I am reconstructing the faith and religion, it doesn’t mean I have to mimic their viewpoints or beliefs on everything.

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Altar has come a long way

Whenever I first started really digging into my faith:


How things have changed!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I am young.

The realization hits like a stack of books sometimes.

I am young.

Why, of all times do I need to realize this, now? I am young, it is a nervous point for me, a very nervous point. I don't like it. It is a source of anxiety for me. When I am leading and writing rituals I find myself constantly second-guessing myself on account my youth. I mean, I'm not very old. I can't even legally drink yet. It always crops up when I'm leading rites though, or when I'm giving a person older than me a couple of pointers.

I am young.

Something about knowing this sometimes makes things not feel right. I'm trying to get a Demos off the ground, it feels weird organizing things sometimes. Nineteen year old guys don't usually try to do these things, do they? I need to organize community events and try to get people older than myself to help, and that intimidates me.

I am young.

I still get surprised when people with jobs and families and actual, ya know, big responsibilities take my opinions seriously and take time out to respond to me. It is appreciated of course, it just leaves me feeling weird sometimes when I'm vigorously debating with someone who is 10, 20, or 30 years my senior. I second-guess and wonder at times if I should say anything at all. I wonder if I'm ever actually saying things that are new to them, and I always wonder how much what I'm saying is going to be dismissed as youthful naivety.

I am young. 

I always appreciated the ways my youth has worked to my advantage. I have been pretty keenly aware that I have a relatively healthy body on basically account of my youth. I don't really have to worry about gaining weight, and I still have that get-up-and-go energy most days. But I am just starting to realize the ways in which my youth works against me. The times it demoralizes me, the times it intimidates me, the times I intimidate myself. The way I can't quite seem to express any real gravitas because of it. Not from refusal of others, but from refusal of self. Can I be young and serious? I don't know. It always leaps to mind "youth is wasted on the young", am I wasting my youth? I don't know.

I am young.


Some of my regular readers (if I have any) may recall me a couple of days ago writing a post called "The Losing Team", if you haven't, I suggest you do so. Here is the link. Now everything should be in context.

Despite all my frustrations, bitches, and gripes about the various struggles and frustrations that being a Hellenistos entails, I am grateful for all the people in it, and in the pagan community at large for the things they have done for me.

I am grateful for people like Cara who was willing to take the time out to help a confused person set things straights.

I am grateful for people like John who can give advice without giving orders

I am grateful for people like Todd who understood that sometimes being a little whiny happens

I am grateful for people like Michi who let someone missing the sun in the winter sit in a room dotted with lamps

I am grateful for people like Amos who was willing to trust me enough to give me a bit of responsibility

I am grateful for people like a certain blogger who took the time out out to really read what I wrote, and take the time to give some heartfelt, and much-needed, pointers

I am grateful for people like Suz who was able to get as excited about my projects as I am

I am grateful for people like Lauren who was willing to share a bit of her life with me, and who didn't judge me for having a bad day.

I am grateful for all the people who talked to me, who were willing to get to know me, and who continue to be supportive of my endeavors. Someday, I'll find a tangible way to express this appreciation. Till then, I give you this.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lesson 7: Myth 3/Philosophers

1. Do you believe that everything in the universe has a rational explanation?
2. Give some examples of your ethical values put to practice? Are there any ethical values that you think are important but that you find difficult to follow?
3. How closely related are cultural practices and religious practices? What is an example of a cultural practice of the ancient Hellenics that you don't think should be followed today? (If possible, give references in mythology that indicate they followed the cultural practice and keep in mind that the Hellenic world covered more than just Greece.)
4. How strong are your religious beliefs? How much punishment would you withstand before you would publicly denounce your beliefs? Are you currently afraid to acknowledge your religious beliefs?

1)      That is a very tough question actually, because first you have to define “rational”. If you mean do I think that everything in the universe has an empirical explanation and can be explained using the scientific method I’d have to give a definite and certain no.  There are things which, I suspect, will always transcend even our most rigorous methods of study. I may very well be wrong in this instance, but that ambiguity of certainty does not make me uncomfortable in the least.

2)      Well, my belief that we should mentor the younger folks is expressed by my being involved in my Unitarian Universalist Church’s Coming of Age program. I have other values that are also expressed, such as charity and compassion and kindness, but I don’t want to give specific instances of it. Giving specific instances to say “look how kind and compassionate I am” grinds against the grain too much for me. I do things that make people apply the word to me sometimes, so that’s enough for me

3)      Cultural practices and religious practices are often related to a certain degree. For example, xenia is a cultural and religious practice. Arete is cultural and religious, they inevitably influence one another, however the Ancient Greeks also have a few practices that were distinctly cultural yet not inherently religious. Things such as slavery, not allowing women to really leave the house, the very submissive role of women, not recognizing gay marriages, the stifling of free-speech in some instances, and pederasty are all things which should not be revitalized in a modern setting for certain.

4)      My religious beliefs are quite strong in terms of theological stances, sometimes I get lonely though and struggle with being a reconstructionist and ponder if I should seek out other modes of worship, but I’ve (obviously) pushed through these instances. My faith in my practice being doable gets shaky sometimes, but my faith in the Gods, in prayer, in sacrifice, in worship, and in divination are all quite strong. As for the punishment, I can’t honestly say. I would like to say that I would suffer quite a lot for my beliefs, but I really just don’t know until I’m in that situation.  I publically and readily and openly acknowledge and express my beliefs and have no fears about expressing them.

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A young man living in North Texas. He is an actor, a Hellenistos, and a proud member of Hellenion.