I’m convinced that J R “Bob” Dobbs is an avatar of Hermes. News at 11. http://www.subgenius.com
Those of you who pay attention to my personal blog, Twitter and what-not probably already know that this last few weeks, my life has been consumed with finishing up this novel I’ve been working on — and for several months prior, I’d been wrought with a sort of spiritual turmoil due to a reconstructive surgery, wherein a grafting failed and I had to get a re-grafting nearly nine months later, just to look like a human being again. I’m not happy about the last part — but the book is generally welcome drama, and I’m very proud of the ways the Mousai have guided my word-smithery.
Then there’s the Hellenistai forum, which is kind of in a class by itself. In fact, I appointed my friend Renee (a very smart and proud self-identified recon-lite Hellenic pagan — join the forum and read her intro for details) as a temporary forum admin while I took a hiatus to crack down on the last-minute revisions to my novel. All worth it, even if I did wake up no less than three times one night last week due to nightmares that the forum was turning into a Lord of the Flies-like scenario. (First time I woke up, I’d received a frantic call from Renee to help her delete two dozen accounts registered by one girl who missed the name-change request thread and then registered two-dozen or so accounts cos she couldn’t decide which new forum name she wanted; second time, in my dream I’d received another frantic call from Renee cos her girlfriend, Gavin, had flipped her shit at somebody on the forum, prompting a mass exodus from the forum by many people, and we had to e-mail them all personally to beg them to come back. Strange times….)
But on a more serious note, if this forum has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me that… well, the Hellenic polytheist / Hellenismos community in Hellas is actually much saner than a certain other forum had led me to believe — at least if the two resident Hellenes on the forum are anything to go by. In fact, I think the Hellenic community in the $tates (and elsewhere) can learn something from this.
1) Be tolerant of other people’s practises. Seriously, this isn’t rocket surgery. There is plenty of room for argument about the modern direction revived ancient practise should take, but there really is no need to be a dick about it. If somebody is not identifying their religious practises as Ethnokos Hellenismos, Hellenismos, Hellenic reconstruction, or simply as being wholly revived ancient observance, then they’re obviously not subject to the standards implied by those who do identify their practises as such. If somebody is defining their practises as picking up from the Hellenistic period onward, then obviously it’s going to be somewhat different from somebody who prefers to pick up from the Classical period.
Sounds like just plain good sense, right? Well, it never ceases to amaze me how many Amerikans will sit and build straw-men and slippery-slopes over something that just seems simple. Fact of the matter is, those who claim there practises as A when they’re actually doing X are still pretty rare. Even if they get more populous, it’s generally easy to be able to tell who’s talking out of their arse by doing a cursory amount of research on Google Books, for starters.
Now, it’s my personal opinion that some nit-pickers actually have the common sense to see and understand this, but would rather turn their personal issues with one or two people into a veritable crusade for their own sort of One True Way-ism — which, again, ignores the fact that even in ancient Hellas, “one true way” was as foreign a concept as worshipping the Gods of the Cherokee Nation. Were there some similarities between the practises of Boeotia and those of Attica? Sure, but there were also plenty of differences that Athenians regarded as barbaric of the Boeotians, and Boeotians regarded as pretentious of Attica. There’s nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade, but make sure it’s a spade first before you take the risk of committing an intolerance.
2) Note to classical philosophy buffs: your ways are not superior. It says something when a significant portion of the Hellenic community $tateside can claim that they’ve met only one NeoPlatonist (at best) that they’ve liked. I don’t know what it is about NeoPlatonism that attracts dickweeds, but seriously, I’ve only come across one NeoPlatonist in the last five years who wasn’t a total jerk about it, and I keep forgetting that she’s a NeoPlatonist. At this point, the rest of us are all well-aware that Christianity was heavily influenced by NeoPlatonism, Orphism, etc… — if only cos you won’t shut up about it. Some of us don’t have an adversarial relationship with Christianity and simply dislike it on its own merits, and some of those merits simply happen to cross over with NeoPlatonism or whatever other school of classical philosophy that you’re being a dickweed about. Don’t be a dickweed to those who simply have their own philosophies that they’ve arrived at and are getting along with just fine — it’s rather unbecoming of one who supposedly has this super-evolved soul.
If classical philosophy works for you, excellent. Feel free to share why and how, but please leave your pretensions at the door.
3) Terminology wars are pretentious, silly, and distracting from what’s really important: our practises. This is one of those things where the line is kind of blurred between what’s shared opinion and what’s an objective fact, but I’ve noticed, as have others, that those more interested in engaging in terminology wars are those who’ve said next-to-nothing, at best (though usually they say absolutely nothing) about their home practises. If you’re more concerned about what other people are calling themselves than with cultivating practises and sharing those experiences with others for the sake of building community, then there is something wrong. If you’re doing more perpetuation of terminology war than community building, then there is something wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, the occasional argument of what constitutes This or That is all well and good, that’s how these things become defined, but when the discussion stops being constructive debate or spirited argument, and turns into something ugly that drives people away from the community, the problem isn’t that those who were driven away are “inherently un-Hellenic”, the problem is that your priorities need to get some serious overhaul.
Now, are there nut-bags in the community as it is in Hellas? Of course there are. There are nutbags everywhere. At least one person I know said she had an experience with one small group of people in YSEE who outright told her that because she’s of Syrian ancestry, that she had no right to practise the Hellenic religion. Now, I know of others who’ve had completely contrary experiences with YSEE, stating that despite having no traceable Hellenic ancestry, YSEE members have been tolerant and welcoming — so obviously that one person was unfortunate enough to run into a few nutbags.
I’m not saying that the community in Hellas is perfect, and I’m not saying that it’s inherently better than it is $tateside, at least not totally. But the few Hellenes in Hellas I’ve encountered have been sane and tolerant, within reason. I think certain factions of the Amerikan Hellenic community needs to keep that in mind — unless, of course, such people are all too happy to be seen as nutbags who care more about waging personality wars over a personal vendetta than they do about the religion.
At the very least, you don’t want to know Eros like I know Eros.
He’s a possessive Theos. He has this distinction of being one of the oldest of all the Theoi, one of the Protogonoi, yet is in this timeless form, appearing at first glance to be one of the youngest. If you have more than one sibling, you’ll know that the oldest and the youngest tend to get what they want and keep it — at the very least, until they either don’t want it or have no use for it and send it down to the next one or it gets thrown out or given to a charity shop. I don’t see Eros outgrowing me anytime too soon. I also get Him implying all over the place that the only reason I have any sort of relationship with Apollon, and any direct contact with any other Theoi is because He OK’s it. He likes to wave His Proto- status around like half-naked guy with a string of sausages at a Bear Night. Sure, I had my “first contact” with Apollon, but I guess that’s not what’s important — what’s important is he keeps repeating that damned line from the closing cab scene in the Breakfast At Tiffany’s film — and what He says, goes. He’s a billion years old and was here before all of them but Nyx and Erebos. He caused the birth of the Moirai, with the implication that He can steer fate, when he chooses. And if Eros wants you, Eros can have you, and if you think The Others will contest this, you’re wrong.
He’s got a “trickster” element to His personality, so he’s not subtle. He’ll even throw two, maybe three very similar things at you within the course of a week and make you guess which is yours. If you guess wrong, He’ll let you know — and it won’t be subtle. This also means that he’s a tease.
He’s not merely a Lover, He’s a Creator — and you better live up to what he knows you can make with your maind and hands. And like any young human lover, He’ll let you know when he’s dissatisfied with your prezzies. Just like a Starfucker at a WeHo party, he wants his offerings from his adoring creative people to be custom made especially for Him, and if that’s not possible, He wants it expensive. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear He’s been hanging out with Aphrodite for far too long.
One of His epithets, Eleutherios (one He shares with Dionysos), is very telling. He will not only inspire the ever-day worshipper to casting down that which holds them back, but if He wants you to, He can very well make you break out of those chains. He won’t make it worse, no, I’m grateful that He’s one of the gentler ones, but he won’t be subtle, either. He can start with giving you just a little taste of what you’re missing out on, even if “breaking free” from whatever is going to have this long transitory period where things are going to be far more difficult difficult and seemingly heartbreaking, what he will show you will be that good that you’ll be willing to go through damned near anything to do what He knows you should.
He’s also very sexual. He’s quicker than any other Theos I know about to use sex as a metaphor. This makes sense, though — as a liberator, the physical motions of orgasm, tension and release, can be potent. Regardless, prudes need not approach Him. I’m under the impression that He has little use for them, and that they may even confuse him, probably considers them “icky” (though this may be largely due to my understanding of Him).
As much as I love Him, though, He can be frustrating, sometimes even infuriating. If you engage Him in a battle of wills, you will not win. If you don’t keep up your end of the relationship, He will not remind you subtly. Subtle is the last thing that occurs to Him, as is sitting back and just waiting for you to get your shit together.
First off, I want to make it quite clear that the more I learn of ancient Boeotian practises, the more I love the way the ancient Boeotians did things. The more I see photos of the modern region, the more apparent how beautiful it is. The more and more, the more I start thinking that the best descriptive for my religion of “Boeotian”. That said, what led me to this was Eros — after all, it where there, especially in the ancient city of Thespiae, where His cult was maintained long before any other region.
Would I say that this is a “patron relationship”? In a way, yes.
Unfortunately, I often find myself having to specify what this way is, because there is a certain “fluffy-bunny school of NeoPaganism” (to differentiate from those more serious NeoPagans) who treat the term “patron relationship with deity” as if it has no meaning. I’m not going to say that they’re “actively working to destroy all meaning” because not only is that paranoid, it’s just not true — and anyway, I highly doubt that these people are even thinking that far ahead, in fact, I doubt that they even can.
But regardless of the facts, there are always going to be those who will misunderstand what I mean, for whatever reason, so here’s a quick explanation (as quick as I can make it, anyway) for what it means to have a patron relationship with a deity:
First off, just like any relationship, this is one that takes work to make real (and just like any relationship, it can become either healthy or dysfunctional, depending on how it’s fostered). You can’t just pick a deity like drawing a card from a fan in a parlour trick and make that Deity your patron. Nor can you just pick a Deity who “seems cool” and declare Them your patron without doing anything to foster a relationship — when you do that kind of thing to people, you’re not their friend, you’re merely an “acquaintance”, at best, or “tag-along”, or at worst, a “stalker”. When you just pick a Deity and decide that they’re your “patron”, best that could happen is the Deity will ignore you — worst that could happen is that They’ll actively work to make you go away (oh, just like with people — except that when a Deity is doing it, you’re probably going to like it a lot less).
You can’t “prove” a patron relationship exists just by pointing out a lot of random coincidences as evidence that the Deity likes you — especially when you admit that you’ve done next-to-nothing to foster a relationship. A genuine Deity relationship is generally rather hard for a person to prove, except to those who also have one (especially one with a Deity you’ve claimed is a patron), and that’s one of the reasons that I’m not particularly “loud” about my own with Eros. Sure, I can illustrate anecdotes that make it clear to me, but if you’re an Atheist, or even simply a pagan or polytheist who doesn’t believe that Deity relationships are at all plausible, then chances are good that there’s nothing I can say that will convince you, so I don’t (and anyway, a lot of my “evidence” is very personal and tend to avoid sharing too much of it with others, anyway — keeping arguments to a minimum is, like, a bonus, if you ask me). But if you’re talking to a person who has a genuine Deity relationship, or one who does simply happens by what you have to say, and it strikes them as total bullshit (and they may even say such, politely), then perhaps this should give you pause to think if this is genuine “evidence”, or if it’s just random coincidence or, at worst, the wishful thinking of somebody rather delusional.
Despite what some few and rather vocal polytheistic traditionalists may want people to believe, there is sufficient evidence that the ancients did believe that Deity relationships were at least plausible. The pythai are one example of this. The Vestal Virgins of Rome are another. The eunuchs in service to Kybele are another. The meneads of Dionysos are yet another good and easily searchable example. There are examples in The Iliad and The Odyssey. If I wanted to spend a week on Google Books, I could dig up more examples, I’m sure. What this says to me is that patron relationships, in ancient Hellas, were something that was sort of on the periphery of mainstream practise — it’s no more required of Hellenic (or any other) polytheists of today to have a strong and genuine Deity relationship than it was then, nor should it be. Trust me, sometimes I feel my Deity relationships with Eros and Apollon (especially Apollon) can be downright antagonistic, and wouldn’t wish this on anybody (well… maybe on a few people… just so they can see what it’s like before opening their fat mouths).
The Hellenic religion, in all it’s forms (both ancient-traditional and modern) should be something that encourages people to grow, and hopefully grow up. This is possible without a Deity relationship — but having one just puts a whole new angle and set of expectations on a person. Trust me when I say that I don’t mention mine as a means to “feel and seem special” — hell, I’m a Leo, so I highly doubt I need Eros or Anybody Else to make me “seem special”. Heck, I have two cats, and to them I’m the Supreme Ruler who gives pettins and stinky canned food, so for all I know, I may already be somebody’s hemitheos in need of appeasing. LOL
There is a concept in ancient-traditional Hellenic polytheism, kharis, often translated as “reciprocity, giving with delight” and it works both ways: If you give with delight to the Theoi, They will give back to you with delight. This goes double, maybe even triple or more (depending on the Theos) for those with a patron-Deity relationship. If you think that just getting up in the morning is enough to give your “patron deity”, then the Deity you want that sort of relationship is probably just sitting there and thinking “uh, dude, you should be doing that anyway, only a weak character will simply do the menial every-day things for a God.”
As many differences as I’ve had with Todd Jackson of Kyklos Apollon, he once said on his group’s discussion list:
The story of Abraham and Issac would have looked very different if the God was Apollon and not YHWH. If it was any of the Greek gods, the point of the story would have been to be so devoted to one’s family and community that sacrificing your own son would have been unacceptable.
I have to say, I agree with that. That’s one of the things I never liked about Christianity — weak character is a virtue to mainstream Christianity. The Theoi, on the other hand, want us to be creative, Deity relationships or not, and think beyond the every-day hum-drum of things that we can do especially for Them. The enrichment of our own lives should go along with that, sure, but unless you’ve been bedridden after a major surgery or an accident or something equally traumatic, don’t assume that simply getting out of bed is going to be especially pleasing to Them, when you should be doing that, anyway.
Eros and Apollon, as well as the rest of the Theoi, have enriched my life in so many ways that if I were to thank Them by simply thinking what I would have done anyway is good enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if I started getting a lacklustre response.
Hellenistai.com will be focused on media reviews of relevance to the Hellenic polytheist community (recon or otherwise). There are a lot of books out there of varying quality and sometimes people just don’t know where to start — there are also lots of other media items, including (but not limited to) films, music, and games, that may be of interest to the Hellenic community, also of varying quality, and you may want to read a review first before picking them up or checking them out for yourself.
If you wish to submit a review, please make sure it meets the following criteria first:
- The piece shows that the writer (you) can demonstrate an adequate knowledge of the sometimes-subtle (sometimes strong) differences between those who identify their practises as “recon” versus “NeoPagan”, if such a knowledge is relevant to the review.
- The piece lists title and publishing/release year as well as author(s) (books), artist or band-name (music album), director(s) (film), design company (game), and ISBN (book); at the top of the review. If you do not know where these items are listed, feel free to ask — I’ve made diagrams just in case. Include an image of the item reviewed when possible (this can even just be a link to the image on Amazon or bn.com, etc…).
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Just relocated the Eros blog to a new home.
Will be updating blog networks and moving Urban Hellenistos shortly.
If you’re at all interested in writing media reviews for Hellenistai.com (will noodle around with that after the other blog is moved), please jot me a note, e-mail, or comment.