PBP H is for Hellenic Traditions. I know this is way late, I meant to get this up Monday but the weekend was spent attending to some very important personal issues and soul-searching. For the rest of the week I’ve been attending to manual labor and the gardening. Oh how I love spring!
I thought I should write about this subject because I worship primarily Greek deities. I worship them in my way I guess because though I don’t have relationships with Anglo-Saxon or even “Celtic” deities, I see the world in a more Anglo-Saxon and Celtic lens. I am not sure why then, I have built relationships with the deities I have – really I have no clue how or why the gods choose who they do. I suppose I started worshiping Aphrodite because I was a newbie once too and without a lot of direction I went with the kind of “occult” knowledge my family all endorsed: Astrology. I don’t regret this decision but I’m not sure this is a good way to choose your deities. I sometimes wonder if I’ve “done it wrong” in the sense that my deities and practice do not traditionally match up. Dionysos I had an interest in but also had some experiences that pulled me towards him. At one point I had intense learning experiences with Irish deities the Morrigan and the Daghda – but I do not today work with these deities much at all and I certainly don’t perform rituals to them. Hecate I had a personal and decent experience with so I am still feeling this relationship and practice out.
So, let’s talk about Hellenism and why I am not really a Hellenic Pagan. First, I believe that most folks who call themselves Hellenic Pagans worship the big 12 Gods or the Olympians. While I have a great respect for all gods and goddesses, I don’t generally worship the big 12. I worship Aphrodite and Dionysos (who is sometimes a member of the 12). Hecate is not a member of the 12. Also, both Aphrodite and Dionysos are gods that may have been imported from other cultures to Greece so it’s debatable how “Hellenic” these cults are to begin with. In keeping with that, I am not even sure I worship in a traditional way. I don’t always keep altars in my home or anywhere. I would like to, and I have in the past, but in general, I do not. Offerings I to the gods are chosen by what I “feel” is right. I have no historical basis and aside from occasionally attempting to recreate an ancient Dionysian festival or ritual, I don’t use research to worship my gods. I want to be clear here that I think it’s perfectly fine for folks to worship in this way but if you do, be clear about how you will label yourself because people who do spend hours researching have every right to take offense to being lumped in with us doing our own thing folks.
Despite that I may not label myself a Hellenic Pagan, I do have a lot of common ground with them aside from my chosen gods. The biggest thing I have in common with Hellenic Pagans is kharis, or grace. Grace is the notion of a special state of good will, or love between humans and god, humans and other humans, and even sometimes humans and natural forces. I think it’s interesting because the notion of grace used to be much more prevalent in American society up until it was overtaken by the notion of “luck.” When I was an English student at university I remember an entire lecture once on when “luck” and the phrase “good luck” replaced “god bless” in our culture – which shows a shift in thinking away from states of grace into a more secular notion. Another way I am like Hellenic pagans is in my own personal belief in piety. I am always working to be more mindful of my gods and spirituality – to live in a way pleasing to my gods. (I said I am working on it, not that I am the perfect example of a pious pagan.) To me, relationships with gods like relationships with people take work. The amount of work you put into it is your piety. Being a religious person should not be easy. If it’s an easy choice it’s either the wrong one or it doesn’t count for much. Finally, while I am not sure I’d say the traditional Greek virtues of self-control, moderation, hospitality, and reciprocity are my only virtues or values they certainly are at the top of my lift of “values.” My own personal interpretation of these values certainly probably differs from that of an ancient Greek but I value them in my own way. In these ways, I do not differ so much from Hellenic Pagans when it comes to the philosophy of what’s important in religion but this may simply be because much of Western culture and education builds on a Hellenic model.
My own practice while differs greatly from ancient Greeks worship, is not so different from Hellenic Pagans. Aside from the gods I keep and how I keep them, I offer my gods physical things. I offer my gods libations, food, and other symbolic gifts. I live my life in a way to please my gods. I tattoo symbols of my gods on my body like other Maenads before me. I use trance techniques and have an ecstatic practice. I have fun with phallic loaves of bread, processional, and ritual dress. Despite these similarities, I still would not call myself a Hellenic Pagan.