This could get interesting….
This blog is long overdue.
As a devotee of Eros (His is my primary cult worship as an Hellenistos), I’ve been meaning to get this, or something like it, going for some time and I really should have gotten around to it already.
Keep watching this blog for more posts about my Eros worship, some of which may prove barely coherent, as I know for a fact that Eros can be a real mind-fuck (ow).
As far as where the title of this blog comes from, Thespiae was the largest city in the ancient Hellenic city-state of Boeotia, and home to the largest centre of Etos worship in the ancient world.
I warn you all right now that I will also, at some point or another, deviate from just talking about Eros, but expand to others in the group of Erotoi (Love Gods), of which there is a large and pretty convoluted list kept by this worshipper.
Disclaimer: I’m not actually from Thespiae — I’m from metro-Detroit. I make no attempts to say that I or my practises, beliefs, ideas, incoherent ramblings, and other such written errata are totally representative of all Eros worship in the modern world. While my Brain of Holding (History Facts)* allows me the ability to speak with some measure of authority on ancient practises, I’m also sure that there are at least a few people who may just know more than me (but in all honesty, within the modern Pagan & Polytheist community, there are most definitely a lot more people talking a lot of crap and merely claiming authority). If you want to take my word for everything, that’s surely within your rights, but if you think that I may be talking crap, check my facts with a credible source and if something doesn’t match up, tell me and source it so that I can be provided with the information necessary to reconsider my position. If you’re another Eros cultist who has serious issue with some of what I say or do, let me know what you say and do so that perhaps I may reconsider what I say and do. Basically, my spiritual life is pretty far from static and I’m open to refining my beliefs and practises (within reason). Of course, being an Hellenic polytheist engaged in the reconstructionist (small “r”) method, one of the first things that became apparent to me is that even within the cult of Eros, things differed from slightly to wildly depending on the era and the polis, and things grew and evolved from the relatively xenophobic “Classical” age to the cosmopolitan “Hellenistic” age both socially and religiously. Basically, the reconstructionist method is fluid-enough to allow for certain differences of practise, much less certain differences of theology: I may reconsider things, but whether or not I actually change my mind or practise will depend on a certain number of things.
*$1 to the first person who catches the D&D joke
One thing that I always loved about Hellenismos is that many of the Theoi (Gods and Goddesses) have both urban and rural aspects and many others are neither inclined toward one place or another; the few Theoi that may even seem “strictly rural” are still very important to urban life. Basically, Hellenismos is a religion that, unlike some other Pagan or Polytheistic religions, makes no pretenses about the alleged virtues of rustic live over city life; all directions of human living are spiritually valid on an equal playing field, so to speak.
Still, though, I like to think that the ancient Hellenistai had been quoted as saying “the Gods of Hellas are the Gods of civilization” for a reason.
One of the most obvious Theoi “of civilization” would be Athene: The namesake for the very large and very ancient city of Athens. The legends behind the founding of Athens state that Athene and Posiedon were feuding over who the city belonged to, and Athene won this dispute with the creation of the olive tree. Also being the Theon of wisdom, Athene seems a natural comrade of large universities and museums, halls of learning and collected wisdom of generations passed and present.
Museums themselves are named for the Mousai, and statues of the Mousai graced the entrance to the Library of Alexandria — Alexandria being the largest city in the world, in the days of the ancient library. The Mousai are the companions to Apollon, a Theos whose domains include education, medicine, and the arts — all institutions that typically experience greater growth, development, and cultivation in large urban areas before such is experienced out in the countryside.
Hestia (and her Roman “equivalent”, Vesta), in ancient times, was believed the heart and hearth of not only every home, but every polis.
Lykia Poet has written a very interesting article in her own blog citing the presence of Aphrodite in every city by way of common doves (commonly known as pigeons). The Cult of Eros and the Cult of Aphrodite have been heavily entwined with each-other, in both ancient and modern times, and while more often pictured with hares on ancient pottery, doves are another animal commonly held sacred to Eros.
Hermes is traditionally associated with messengers, commerce, and living by one’s wits. Urban life is brimming with all of that — not so much in rustic areas. And while city folk depend on farmers and keepers of livestock (another one of Hermes’ domains being cowherds) for food, rural dwellers benefit greatly from the money brought in from the cities — Hermes is a sly one, isn’t He?
Dionysos was honoured both in the woods and in the theatre. Theatres are typically best off in large cities, packing an audience in from wall to bloody wall, bringing in just enough of a din to make the make-believe on stage (or even the screen at our modern cinemas) all the more lively.
I’m rather torn about this (as I said in the comments on The Wild Hunt‘s post:
On one hand, if it were bought by a private group of polytheists (or even just one insanely wealthy polytheist), then there would be a much higher chance of this temple being restored to its former purpose — and how amazing that would be! On the other, I’d rather see it turned into a state-run museum (or some such “historical site”) than have some fat-cat buy it up for the land and sell everything on it to other museums.
According to Hellenised Phygrian mythos, Kybele was originally born Agdistis, an hermaphroditic being who the Gods then castrated out of fear. The God/dess was then renamed Kybele, and was worshipped by some Greeks as Rhea, though Walter Burkert’s Greek Religion gives (pp177-179) reason to believe that the name “Kybele” was common in Hellenic worship and that “Meter Kybele” was often-enough worshipped alongside Dionysian worship. It’s also of note that Kybele’s son Attis is mentioned in the Orphic Hymns (Athanakasis translation: Orpheus to Mousaios; line40 “And I invoke Mother of the immortals, Attis and Men”, and line 20 of the same hymn references the Korybantes) and Orphic Hymn 27 “To the Mother of the Gods”, is clearly about Kybele (line 13: “all-taming, saviour of Phygria,…”; and line 14, “child of Ouranos,…”, Ouranos being the Hellenic God of the Sky, though Theoi.com relays the Phygrian Sky God counterpart in the Hellenic pantheon as being Zeus); the fact that the ancient Greeks worshipped Kybele is not a “might have”, “maybe”, or “if they did” matter, She very obviously was revered by them and Her cult was as thoroughly Hellenised as that of Adonis by the time of Homer.
In modern times, at least in the circles I’ve run in, Kybele seems most-revered by Pagans in Transgender/Transsexual, Intersexed, and “gender queer” (a uniquely modern Western take on the “third sex” concept) circles, most likely because of Her origin mythos stating that she was born Intersexed but then castrated to appear more typically “female” (thus the few genuinely Intersexed-born people I know feel a sense of relation, as such is typically the fate of Intersexed-born children), and the practise amongst Her order of priests, known as the Gallos, Galli or Gallai, to become voluntarily ceremonially castrated during an ecstatic rite and, by some sources, then adopted a “woman’s role” by taking on feminine dress and identity (thus securing Her reverence among many Transgendered, especially Trans Woman [Male-to-Female] pagans and polytheists).
The cult of Attis is an interesting one. On one hand, He’s technically the son of Kybele, in the mythos, but in a similar way that Aphrodite is the son of Oraunos: When the Gods castrated Agdistis, They cast off the male organs and from where it fell grew an almond tree. When the nuts ripened (hee hee), one was picked by the nymphe Nana and laid in Her bosom, where it was forgotten about. The almond then somehow burrowed into Her womb, and ta-daa! Attis was born! So perhaps then Kybele is technically His father, biologically speaking? Nana then abandoned the child and He was cared for by a billy goat (or adopted by Agdistis, now renamed Kybele, depending on the version), and later Kybele fell in love with the long-haired youth, who was driven mad by Kybele’s True Form, inspiring Attis to castrate and emasculate himself. Attis was then taken on as Her lover and servant, and according to some existing mythos, when Attis died, His body became the evergreen pine.
Now this is important to Hellenic polytheists who are also Greek nationals because cremation was, at various points in ancient Hellas, the most common (though hardly the only) “disposal method” (for lack of a better term) employed in death rites. Originally, the Hellenes practised inhumation, or natural burials (as opposed to embalming prior to burial, as the Babylonians and Aegyptians practised each practised some form of), and it’s believed that cremation was a practise imported from Asia Minor that quickly became popular in the cities. During the Roman era, cremation was the preferred method of treating the corpses of the upper classes of both Rome and Hellas.
When Christianity finally dominated the political climate of Europe, cremation practically disappeared — in part because Christianity’s Jewish roots forbids it, and in part because it was viewed as a distasteful remnant of paganism that had no place in a Christian society. Thus, even though there are no written laws either condoning or condemning cremation amongst ancient Hellenic polytheists, many Pagans (many who employ reconstructionist methods, many others who do not) may choose cremation over burial as a means of psychologically strengthening the bonds that one has with the ancient polytheists of Greece and Rome — thus, Hellenistai and Roman polytheists may feel an especial urge to be cremated. Cremation may also seem especially attractive to the urban Hellene because the dense populations make for limited burial space within the city limits, or for even the rural Hellenistos, where the dominating cemeteries may be Christian and not municipal.
[the following was originally posted in a rougher state in my personal blog]
Once upon a time, the word “apple” was used to describe any old piece of fruit, not just the rose-related fruits known to English-speaking people to be available in varieties known as “Granny Smith” and “Braeburn”. It’s true, look it up [try etymonline.com]. This is evidenced by the Latin root “pomun”, which also gives root to the name of the goddess “Pomona” who was observed by both ancient Romans and by modern practitioners of Religio Romana as the Goddess of all Fruit trees and fruit orchards, in modern botanical circles, a “pome” fruit is a member of the rose-related genus that produces pears, apples, and quince.
Thus, the ancient Greek word that was translated as meaning “Golden Apple” in English did not mean “Yellow Delicious”. In modern English, it would more appropriately be translated as meaning “Golden Fruit”, but since English-speaking people have this bad habit of both changing meanings of words at the drop of a pin and another bad habit of sticking with old translations, no matter how ridiculous it may make things read later, we English-speakers still read that Paris was chosen to judge “the fairest” Goddess by giving her a Golden “Apple”, which now lacks the extremely broad definition that it once had. We thus conjour up mental images of Eris tossing in a Yellow Delicious, a variety of rose-related fruit that did not exist in Homer’s time.
The old Greek kydonion malon, the term for the fruit now known as “Quince” in English, is a figurative term, compared to pomodoro, the Italian word for tomato with a literal translation to “apple of gold” or, more accurately in 21st Century English, “fruit of gold”, even though tomatoes are not botanical pomes and due to being vine plants, would have been outside of Pomona’s domain. The fact that the most-current and most-accurate translations of Plutarch state that it is quince, not “apples”, that were a traditional wedding offering to Aphrodite in ancient Greece just further supports that the idea that Eris threw forth a golden “apple” which would soon spark the Trojan War is preposterous — she presented the Olympians with a Quince that bore the fated phrase “for the fairest”.
Now, in lieu of quince, an “apple” of modern definition may make an adequate substitute, as in the U$, quince are typically harder to come by and “apples” are cheap and plentiful; quince are typically only available seasonally, and in very limited quantities, at Whole Foods and other specialty grocers, whereas modern apples are often found year-round at any grocery store and even at many convenience stores. The fact that the modern “apple” is very closely related to quince and a botanical descendant of the ancient fruit is all the reason one needs to support its validity as a substitution for quince in ritual or as a votive gift — but it is in this author’s humble opinion that when and where available, the use of a quince is to be regarded as preferable to the modern apple or even a pear (which is also very closely related) substitute.