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. 

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