That unsound old fool, as far as I’m concerned, has issued a personal challenge, and I accept. Hex me now, I’m waiting.
…also, maybe it’s cos it’s WAY past my bedtime, but I think my parody managed to be immensely deep, there. Take a night off from sleep, re-read it, and then really think about it, if you don’t see it right away.
Perhaps some will find it odd, but in my reading (some tales for the first time, some for the first time in a very long time) for yesterday’s post, I noted some similarity to the nature of Ares’ mythos and my beloved Narkissos. Now, I make no secret of the fact of my reverence of Narkissos as a holy daimon, and feel His mythos alone are sufficient evidence that, even though without any evidence of ancient cult, this was likely His status in His native Thespiai.
…but I digress.
The most famous of Ares’ mythos, His adulterous affair with Aphrodite, is quite naturally suited to a cautionary tale against letting one’s ego run wild, while Narkissos’ is so deeply associated with the idea that one not even be familiar with the myth to have an idea what it must be about, so long as one has even a passing familiarity with what the English word “narcissism” means in casual every-day use.
The differences to each myth are important to consider, as they are clearly two stories with different intended audiences and so different nuances of morality lesson, but both carry an underlying theme of the dangers of letting one’s ego take control of one’s affections, and thus better judgement.
In “The Story of Narkissos”, we have a young man so consumed with the idea that no-one is good enough for His own affections that He’s cursed to stare Himself into a flower by deities closely bound to Eros; in some versions, He is portrayed as literally rejecting the Gods of Love, creating a hubristic bend to His own self-absorption.
Then we have the affair of Ares and Aphrodite.
I’m tempted to regard the story as the odd Roman influence in Hellenic mythology (as the pattern is usually in reverse), as both Venus and Mars are regarded as the patron and matron deities of Rome and a mythological narrative is an easy way to explain this. Unfortunately for my hypothesis, all I really have are my own suspicions, as the most basic elements of the myth pre-date any serious Roman influence by about five-hundred years, as best as we can tell, anyway. Still, interesting idea, and clearly a potential reason for the myth’s lasting popularity, if not at all a reason for the myth’s origin.
Regardless of the underlying origin of the myth, there are elements that clearly serve as a cautionary tale against unbridled ego and lust, and potentially against “class-climbing”.
Aphrodite is a married woman, and while infidelity in men has been accepted for millennia, not so much for women (in spite of all evidence to the contrary that women are just as much predisposed to it, if not actually possessing of a higher biological interest in multiple partners than men have), so their affair is conducted in secret — right from the beginning, this is something that is clearly not designed to be a story giving people the go-ahead to sleep around as a married woman or with married women, since even the theoi are given to a belief that it’s wrong1. At some point, Hephaistos decides to trap the problematic lovers, humiliating them for going behind His back and making Him look a fool.
Now, some of this is negated by the possible divorce of Aphrodite and Hephaistos; this is alluded to in Homer (in later naming Hephaistos’ wife as the Kharis Aglaia, Who bore Him the younger generation of Kharietes), and other poets describe it more explicitly — but then later Ares is the victim of Ahrodite’s infidelity with Adonis, giving Ares an irony of fate. Unfortunately for Adonis, His fate is to be far more tragic than Ares’, as Ares’ boar form gored the youth — but perhaps not-so-unfortunate, as Aphrodite’s love for Adonis renewed Him, finally making it clear to Ares His folly of ego, assuming that He could somehow be “enough” for Aphrodite’s affections.
In both stories, there is a variation of self-absorption that seals each fate: Narkissos staring Himself into a flower, Ares’ repeated humiliation — and each time, at the hands of men who can certainly be characterised as “weaker” (Hephaistos, the cripple, and Adonis, the effete). While certainly there are obvious differences in each story, they each share a common theme of “keep your ego in check”.
1: Of course, that’s not to say that women in Hellenic mythos are never allowed to own their own sexuality; from Athene resisting the advances of Hephaistos and raising His and Gaia’s jizz-spawn as Her own, to Demeter’s single motherhood, to Artemis cursing peeping toms watching her bathe, to Selene enchanting Her favourite twink to eternal youth and sleep so that She could lay with him. The difference for Aphrodite is that She’s married, and so fidelity is expected, as is being open to Her husband’s desires; if, like Demeter and Selene, She was unmarried, She could presumably bed and molest ALL THE MENS to Her liking. Which, yeah, compared to how Zeus’ mythos has him sticking his dick in everything, and as everything, is a total double standard and totally unfair, and Hera’s attempts at retribution hardly seem to get through to Him, but that’s not really the point of the mythos, now is it? No it’s not.
I love Adonis.
Though there’s Peanut Gallery commentary decrying any worship of Him and Kybele in a Hellenic context as “un-Hellenic”, it’s pretty obvious that Their cults had been thoroughly Hellenised by the time of Hesiod (if you haven’t seen people making such ridiculous claims, consider yourself lucky; in fact, I consider myself a lesser person for even mentioning it). I find myself especially fascinated with Ptolemy Hephaestion frequently linking His love as shared with Aphrodite and Apollon, which may seem unusual to those who are only familiar with the versions of Aponis’ mythos that link Him with Aphrodite and Persephone.
“Adonis, having become androgynous, behaved as a man for Aphrodite and as a woman for Apollon.” – Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Bk5 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)
There’s a fragment from Hesiod that describes Adonis as the son of Phoenix (son of Amyntor), and most primary sources name His mother as Smyrrhna, who had a metamorphosis into the tree from which myrrh resin is harvested.
In myth and in cult, there are many easy comparisons to Dionysos — from a position in life-death-rebirth cults, his apparent links to sexuality, vegetation, and Khthonic deities (especially Persephone), academic and ancient syncretic likening to Osiris, and the public face of His cult was decidedly female (though this is where things begin to differ — male Dionysians existed in ancient times as much, if not more, than in modern — male Adonians, at least in the ancient Hellenic world [I haven't a clue about the Phonecian or Syrian world where it's clear His cult originated], seem apparently non-existent and, even in modern times, seem few, at best). But at least in the Hellenic world, it’s very clear that they are not the same — in some mythology, Aphrodite bore Adonis a daughter, Beroe, who is one beloved of Dionysos.
His cult likely came into the Hellenic mainlaind through Kypris, the birthplace and local name for Aphrodite, and by about the 6th Century BCE, was already well-known in Hellas. This is not insignificant: This not only cements a relationship with Aphrodite’s cult, it also really shows the aforementioned Peanut Gallery where to stick it — MWAHAHAHAHA!!!
Seriously, folks, at this point in time, I think it’s safe to admit that the Adonis cult was thoroughly Hellenised. The academia really try to “un-Hellenise” Adonis, and indeed, many of these arguments seem to make sense, until you get into several glaringly apparent facts:
1) Adonis is a central part of Aphrodite’s Hellenic mythology — and I word it this way because a ssignificant amount of Her mythology and cult is clearly “imported”, comparative mythologises easily link Aphrodite to nearly every Near Eastern Goddess from the Babylonian Ishtar to the Zoroastrian Anahita. If one is going to conclude that Hellenic polytheists should worship only Hellenic deities, then there is an awful lot of archaeology that could easily reason that Aphrodite’s cult is not “indigenous” to Hellas any more than that of Adonis’.
2) It’s absolutely likely that Adonis’ cult was “imported” at the same time as Aphrodite — and even the much-touted Walter Burkert, apparently Greek Religion is a veritable gospel to some people, sure seems to agree with this idea:
The cult of the dying god Adonis is already found to be fully developed in Sappho’s circle of young girls around 600 [BCE]; indeed, one might ask whether Adonis had not from the very beginning come to Greece along with Aphrodite. For the Greeks it was well-known that he was an immigrant from the Semetic world, and his origins were traced to Byblos and Cyprus. His name is clearly the Semetic title adon, Lord. For alll that, there is in Semetic tradition no known cult connected with this title which corresponds exactly to the Greek cult, to say nothing of a counterpart to the Greek Adonis myth. (pp176-177)
Indeed, investigating Near Eastern mythology, the closest deity with a cult matching the Adonis cult is we see named is “Tammuz”, not Adonis. Perhaps “Adonis”, in this instance, is merely a loan-word made name?
3) The name Adonis, while clearly being the sticking point for identifying His cult as “foreign”, as a language arts major I can clearly see as a mere convention on the same level as “Kytheria” or “Kypris” as a name for Aphrodite — and one clearly accepted as “Greek enough” for many scholars for centuries — indeed, Thomas Taylor takes “Kypris = Aphrodite (= Venus)” for granted in translating the Orphic hymns — and indeed, Cyprus was Hittite land until fairly late Bronze Age; which would be roughly the period estimated for the import of Aphrodite and Adonis cults. Indeed, in most mythological traditions, Cyprus is also the birthplace of Adonis, not merely His cult — so it obviously flabbergasts that somehow this can make Aphrodite “Hellenic enough”, but not Adonis.
One can clearly only begin to imagine the whys and such for the reluctance to accept Adonis cult as “Hellenic enough”, when all evidence clearly shows that it is so. One idea may simply revert to etymology — though clearly acceptable early on in the Hellenisation of Adonis cult practise, later it became a sticking point due to what would now be called racism or nationalism — kinda the same logic “birthers” use to accuse President Barak Obama of being born well-outside U$ soils, in spite of all clear evidence to the contrary. Another idea being that since His cult, in ancient times, was dominated by women to the point of apparently becoming female-only kept the cult well outside the “mainstream” of the civic religion, and so, in a sense, “foreign” to ancient writers, who tended to be men — it could therefore arguably be sexism that kept the Adonis cult regarded as “foreign”; if one considers that many often wrote of the Adonis cult and its symbols with a hint of derision (it’s arguable that the old idea of “green leafy salad = women’s food” is an idea started in ancient Hellas — not only is lettuce sacred to Adonis, but one writer once joked [or perhaps seriously believed] that lettuce causes male sterility), this hypothesis makes a lot of sense on paper.
But perhaps I digress….
I was initially attracted to Adonis as an extension of the “flower boys” — His floral associations include roses (in some versions of the mythos), windflower / anemone poppies, and the “adonis” genus of flowering plant. I make no secret of my veneration of Narkissos as a Daimone and Hyakinthos as hemitheos. Even Krokos, Paeon, and Orchis have found their ways into the mythos I hold dear. The “flower boy” myths intrigue me on many levels: For starters, think about what a flower is — not what it represents in this culture, but what it is. It’s a part of certain plants, but which part? The genitals. In a certain light, it can seem kind of perverse how much cut flowers —severed plant genitals— play a part in (especially heterosexual) romance, courtship, and marriage. The boy gives the girl a cluster of severed, essentially hermaphroditic genitals to show he likes her. A few centuries ago, especially the middle classes, the boy’s visit would then only really last as long as it took for girl to pluck the protective petals from around the reproductive centre. Near the end of the wedding ritual, where people especially like to be surrounded by these hermaphroditic plant parts, the bride throws another bushel of genitals on her friends, with the hope that the cycle will start anew.
And if that’s not enough for you to handle? In many flowers, it’s the especially phallic-looking bit in the centre that’s the “female” part of this hermaphrodite.
It’s clear that Western culture is seriously obsessed with sex and sex organs — even when it tries to pretend it’s not, it’s filling children, especially girls, with an onslaught of symbols of fertility and virility and Martha Stewart is joyfully arranging severed genitals in various vases, often with the especially phallic lady-bits, right there on daytime telly (that woman seriously seems to love her lilies and callas — which aren’t lilies, they’re arums, and their “male bits” are typically attached to the “female bit” — now THINK ABOUT THAT).
I find it hard to get close to Aphrodite. Not for lack of trying, mind, but perhaps she senses something about me (In Real Life™, I tend to be generally more comfortable getting emotionally close with men, while women I tend to befriend more casually — and the few exceptions to this kind of prove the rule, in their own unique ways), and either decides to maintain that distance, or simply appoints any and all contact to be through one of “Her Boys”: Either Eros, Whom I’ve already become especially close to, or Adonis, another Flower Boy for my bouquet.
Narkissos, I consider especially precious. My own views of His mythology apparently differ from the mainstream, and the versions of His mythos I hold most dear (and indeed, there are dozens of ancient re-tellings and re-imaginings — the Battlestar Galactica franchise has had fewer re-interpretations by a wide margin) seem rather obscure, even if they’re versions that still seem to maintain the dominant trappings of the popular versions. To me, He is a holy daimon: A spirit of self-love, and a protector of those unloved. His namesake flower is sacred to Him, as are mirrors and reflecting pools; the species narcissus poeticus is especially sacred, as this is the exact flower He gave form to. He comes to you in a form reminiscent of you see yourself, perhaps a daimon of the Ego Ideal. He is the son of a nymphe and river god of Thespiae. His spurned lover, Ameinias, became anise; you can help to heal the tears Narkissos shed for both His own cruelty and for Ameinias with an offering of anise. Also, a bit of anise in a coffee for a reading may shed light on who loves you. Popularly, at least historically, He seems to have an especial link with gay man, and “narcissism” was initially used as a term for the “sexual perversion” of male-male love.
Hyakinthos’ flower, contrary to modern assumptions, is the delphinium larkspur. He is the son of the Moisa Goddess Kleio and Magnes’ son Pieros (Magnes being the first, now legendary, king of Magnesia, and a son of Zeus), and in some mythological traditions, He is either brother or cousin to Daphne — and perhaps the common-enough urge to link their myths is part of the collective consciousness trying to remind people of this (presumably?) once-ancient connection. By Spartan tradition, Hyakinthos is identified with the Thessalian Hymenaios, the God of marriage and the wedding bed, carrying associations with virginity, True Love, and legitimate partnership — again, I have to voice flabergastion that at the fact that so many modern Hellenic polytheists insist that only heterosexual partnerships have a right to spiritual or ritual legitimacy. Did Apollon not love Hyakinthos in the mythos? Is a god’s love not legitimate? Is the love felt by a mortal somehow unture? (If so, then logically, no marriage with a base of love, which is indeed what the overwhelming majority of Western marriages are, can possibly be ritually legitimate within Hellenismos — and I seriously doubt that very many people would want to get behind a fringe religion with self-proclaimed “authorities” who endorse a return to strictly-arranged het marriages based in social-climbing and dowries.) Or would people rather wax philosophical about “symbolism” and “metaphor” in myth rather than accept that the best symbol of a thing is the thing itself — and the mythos she the thing itself as a deep love and bond that was met with a tragic end. Though mortals may be imperfect, even flawed things can be true, legitimate — death is the greatest, most glaring flaw that mortals have, when compared to the Theoi, but our deaths are overwhelmingly true, a truth that is glaringly obvious.
And again, we come back to blues — immortal blues for Love Himself. From “…something borrowed, and something blue,” to “L’amour est Bleu” (perhaps is is not insignificant that this song rose to fame via the Hellenic singer Vicky Leandros? LOL). The first I saw Hyakinthos, I knew the Spartans were onto something with their associations with Hymenaios, for the first time I saw Hyacinth (in a dream, mind), He was at a small pool or spring, sitting on a rock at the centre of a thick round of His flower, peacock feathers tied into His hair (giving allusions to Hera, a Goddess whose domains include marriage), and Apollon identifying this breath-taking youth as His beloved Hyakinthos, who He “fought the West Wind for, and won”. Their love, as I see it, is a wedded one that is renewed annually with Hyakinthos’ death and rebirth. He is therefore arguably, too, an Erote of Love Renewed, of Tragic Love, and a god of rebirth from tragedy.
Because of my interest in Boeotian traditions, especially of Thespiae and the surrounding area, I often revert back to Hesiod. Hesiod names a beautiful Thessalian boy beloved of Apollon, Hymenaios — or at least this is the Evlyn-White translation of the relevant fragment. The pseudo-Apollodoros notes a Thessalian Hyakinthos was seduced by Apollon away from Philammon, and that this Thessalian youth was accidentally slain by discus. Clearly this mythology is an example of one-in-the-same, simply with different names. At this point, I’m convinced, and urge: Whether you call Him Hyakinthos or Hymenaios, call on Him to bless the bond of love.
I’ve long realised that the “Easter symbols” I grew up with, and encouraged both at my old Catholic school and my Anglican family, have nothing to do with Jesus or even Christianity. These are fertility symbols that have nothing to do with death and apothesis.
But where Wiccans and pagans of ancient Northern European traditions recognise these as symbols of Oestere, I posit that these are symbols of Eros.
First we have daffodils — an English hybrid of Narcissus Poeticus — the species of flora that was once the Thespian youth Narkissos, the boy who spurned Eros for his own reflection. My mother and hers always decorated our baskets with plastic or silk yellow and peach-coloured daffodils, so while this may not seem an “Easter symbol” to some, it’s one that I cannot shake.
Then there are the eggs.
“Firstly, black-winged Nyx laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebos, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest.” (Aristophanes, the Birds)
And so we have glittering, coloured eggs for Eros.
In ancient art, Eros and Erotes were frequently depicted with hares, and those beloved of the Gods (here, Ganymedes and Zeus) with cockerels — making it easy to discern where “bunnies” and “baby chicks” come from; after all, as the image of Eros in art became younger and younger, it’s certainly logical that these symbols of His feast will, as well.
I admit, the lamb is harder to connect, but growing up amongst Polacks, you notice their tradition of the “butter lamb” which, being made from milkfats, reminds us of the fertility of Eros and his cult in Thespiae. The Simnel cake, coated in marzipan, an almond paste, reminds us of Eros, as the force of fertility itself, which formed Attis from the cast-away “boy parts” of Kybele — and the hot cross bun, traditionally filled with currants and raisins, reminds us of Eros’ similarities to Dionysos.
Even the modern custom of “Easter chocolates” brings to mind modern “Valentine’s Day” traditions — and thus the cults of love and fertility.
Well, the “tl;dr” version that I usually give people is “because these are the only deities who’ve ever been receptive to my worship”.
The long version goes something like this:
I was raised in a predominantly pair of Anglo-/Catholic households. My father was Catholic, though raised Episcopalian (and would often trash-talk non-Irish Catholics), my mother was raised in Catholic churches, but only because my maternal grandparents were so entrenched in an Anglican identity that they had a sort of pseudo-nationalistic issue with the Episcopalian church, and my grandparents had a more influential hand in raising me. I went to Catholic school, but on a choral charity, and while I went through first confession and communion, I was never forced by my father to have a confirmation when I was about thirteen, cos at that point, he had remarried and could tell that I preferred my step-mother’s meeting house (she was Quaker), and making me go through a confirmation that I wasn’t into would have been a greater heresy to him than letting me go to Meeting House — plus, even though I never formally threatened to, I think he was afraid that I’d make a scene if he made me do it.
Despite having grown up with an obviously very devout father, my mother was never that into it, and I never really was, either — church was where I went to sing and develop my love of tacky art. I rarely paid attention to the mass, and since I was never quizzed on it, I had no interest in doing so.
I first learned that there were options besides Christianity when I was five and my sister started dating the HK Chinese exchange student, whose family is Taoist and retained a lot of the Chinese polytheistic traits in their household religion and mixed in some Confucianist philosophies (for some reason, I didn’t realise that there were still Jewish people until I was seven and my father bought The Sound of Music on VHS, and I got a lesson about Nazis from my mother and grandmother, I guess I just believed, until then, that after Jesus “rose again”, Jews converted — like I said, I was seven). The Chinese are pretty well-known for their very personal approach to religion — take what works for you, and as long as it doesn’t make you a burden to those communities, have at it. This strikes me as a tad ironic when you consider that the reason that Chinese Communism works for China is that their society was very Collectivist to begin with, but then I suppose this kind of makes a little sense when you consider that you can best serve the collective when you’re at most peace with yourself, and so an individualistic approach to religion can work for a collectivist society in that sense — but I digress. It was shortly after my sister married Chan when I was six (yep, pretty much right after she finished high school, as she’s about thirteen years my senior) that I started becoming conscious of other religions, but not really looking too much into it, if only cos of the hissy-fit my father put up that his step-kid “married a heathen”.
Now, in my Catholic school, as I said, I was there on a charity program, and my family was pretty poor, even for the charity cases. My father dumpster-dived and our larder had Government Cheese, Government Peanut Butter, and these ominous cans of Government Pork — my mother was a registered nurse, but my father was an odd-job man throughout the 1980s, I have a younger sister, another half-sister (who spent summers and alternating school holiday weeks with us), and after Nik moved out, we often had a couch-surfer (usually my father’s sister Karon, occasionally one of his AA buddies), so my mother’s salary didn’t go very far, and when she lost her hospital gig, the Salvation Army Rehab Clinic she then worked at paid even less. A couple of the nuns at St. Adalbert felt sorry for me, this gifted kid (both in voice an with a 157 IQ) from a dirt-poor family, who had barely any books of his own. I was often offered doubles of less-popular titles or “beaten up, but still readable” copies from the donations to the school library; one of the nuns offered me a copy of D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths when I was about eight, and yeah, it was a little below my reading level, but I took it because I loved the paintings that illustrated it. Eventually, I started reading it, and fell in love with Apollon and Hermes and Narkissos, the Gaia & Ouranos painting has made a lasting impression on me and how I regard Them. Their version of the Judgement of Paris and the war with Troy I don’t recall as being as Bowdlerised as it could have been (but then, it’s been years since I had a copy of that book, so don’t quote me on that). It broke my heart when my mother told me that the Greek gods “weren’t real” and that even the people of ancient Greece “eventually learned better” — which I now find rather odd, as my mother’s typical views on religion were rather agnostic.
Like I said, my mother’s words were kinda crushing, and so I was just kinda spiritually flailing. When my parents divorced, that was ugly, and at least at my Catholic school, I would have been better off as a bastard than with divorced parents, socially — if it wasn’t for the fact that I already didn’t get the appeal of Catholicism, I would have rejected it right then and there, cos kids can be fucking ridiculous. I saw all the after-school specials, I knew that what my parents were doing had no reflection on me as a person, but try explaining that to a bunch of vicious tykes your own age who can’t stand the fact that your teachers are reminding them all that you’re smarter than them, oh, and add to that the fact that you’re a runty kid, so yeah, I sure was popular that year. Still, aside from that, I knew Christianity and I didn’t fit, cos a lot of it made no sense, especially when you start getting to the arguments that “Jesus = Son of God = God”:
Did you watch the video? That’s seriously how much sense all of that shit makes. It’s one big logic fail, and when you have a ten-year-old pointing this out to his father, and the only explanation he can offer is “but it’s true”, serioiusly…. Needless to say, at about the age of eleven or twelve, I started looking for a new religion fast. The problem with that is, at that age, no matter what kind of a genius you are, the books in the adult section are dry and boring, and trying to find adults willing to tell you about things like that without parental consent are rather hard to come by — nay, impossible. Thankfully, this was the 1990s, and so I had a then-primitive Internet (accessed by the Lenawee County Public Library, after a heart-breaking move from Toledo, Ohio, a city which I loved very much), which gave me access to all sorts of lovely things.
Now, for some reason, I got an idea in my head that since my family is Northern Irish, English, and Cornish, I was going to go with some flavour of Celtic polytheism — and hey, I was able to find information on that on-line. I printed out some info on Celtic ritual, deities, a few holidays, and I attempted for a few years to learn about and commune with those gods and goddesses. For three or four years, in private, I tried and failed, and ultimately got a message I interpreted as a very firm “No”.
There was a big agnostic/atheistic dry-spell for me (more about that on Day 21), and this reached a sort of climax after I had spent two years in several different cities (though mostly Los Angeles; Cadillac, Michigan; and Chicago), I was in Charlottesville, Virginia, and had all but solidified a decision to move back to Ann Arbor (a move I still insist is temporary, despite now entering my sixth year back) and had one doozy of a week, so I bought myself a new set of clothes in an attempt to cheer myself up, and when I got back to the apartment of the friend whose couch I was staying on, I discovered she wasn’t back yet, and I had forgotten the spare key to get in, and it was starting to rain. I started muttering this really hopeless little prayer to Zeus, as that was honestly the only name that popped into my head, and as I was wrapping it up, my friend’s boyfriend came out (apparently he had overslept and was running late — but I had assumed the place was empty, so I didn’t knock) and the rain let up to a bright sun.
When I returned to Ann Arbor, I was stubborn for about the first year, and gave very little mind to the Charlottesville incident, but the important growth there was that I had pretty much stopped identifying my religion as anything I had previously done before. Then one night in 2005, on my computer, I was reading some batshit gay-related site a friend had sent me, and for some reason, the only thing that stuck with me was the Greek references and how this prompted searched for Hellenic polytheist groups. I found Kyrene’s site and joined HellenicPagan, Neokoroi, and Hellenic_Recons pretty much instantly, then KyklosApollon and other groups, and that’s how I ended up in the Hellenismos community.
But that’s not the question — the question wasn’t “how”, it was “why?”
The fact of the matter is, the only philosopher who ever really appealed to me was Diogenes, so the “virtue and ethics” that many Hellenists go all chest-thumpy on matter a whole lot less to me — plus, there’s a quote that Kyrene has always kept in her sig-file on the e-mail lists that always stuck with me:
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” -Marcus Aurelius
…I’m not into intellectual masturbation, and that’s what I see from the overwhelming majority of the people stressing the importance of philosophy (especially Platonic philosophy); just a bunch of gas-bags who’d rather chest-thump and argue, and look down on every-one while trotting out maxims that include “down-look no-one”. Obviously, it’s not the philosophy that draws me.
The community, I’ve learned to live with. As far as I’m concerned, the on-line Hellenismos community that I’ve come to be a part of is really not that much different from my own family (which, unlike the Hellenic community, I am thankfully estranged from): You’ve got members who love each-other, members who aren’t crazy about each-other but can still get along, members who barely put up with each-other, members who outright can’t stand each-other. I like to think I’m some-one who has settled into a position that most people aren’t crazy about me, and a handful have grown to love and accept me for various reasons; there are only a few people I consider myself close to, but like I said, it’s kind of an ersatz family — but I wasn’t really looking for that, either.
I’ve also tried to intellectualise polytheism versus monotheism; the best explanation I’ve come to is that if we look at the universe as beginning with One, and that One was a perfect deity, then becoming Two and then Many was not forced upon One, or that would mean either a) that One was never One to begin with, and/or b) that One would be imperfect to just fall into becoming Two; therefore, becoming Two and then Many was a perfect decision, and Many is what is perfect. Even male-male pairings in birds will adopt eggs so that Two can become Three, then Four, then Countless.
Ultimately, it was always about the gods for me. It was the gods who piqued my interest when I was a small child. It was the gods who made their presence known to me in their own ways. It’s the gods who I feel are assuring me that I’m “at home” with worshipping this pantheon.
Maybe I didn’t realise it at the time, but I first started to feel the presence of Apollon and the Mousai when I started singing, and even when I was singing Catholic hymns, it was Them I was worshipping — i only became conscious of this later.
I honestly believe that my prayer to Zeus in Charlottesville was answered by Him.
I don’t remember when I first started communicating with Eros, but somehow I know that He’s always been a part of my life, even when I wasn’t yet aware that He was there.
Sometimes the “how” makes little sense to me. I have no real Greek family background (unless you’re one of those whack-a-doodles who believes that the Hellenes and the Keltoi share more in common than a Proto-Indo-European background, like the Milesians of Anatolia are the same thing as the Irish mythological Milesians [seriously, I've seen this from some people]), and it’s not like I have a background in Popular Wicca or ADF or even Norse paganism. I didn’t get a classics degree (no, I dropped out of an English major), and aside from Diogenes, the ancient philosophers are of little interest to me, and I’m more of a Diogenes groupie than one who follows his teachings to the letter (after all, I like my possessions too much to free myself of them) — though I have no problem with those who genuinely use Hellenic philosophy to truly better their lives.
The history, though it’s something that Western culture likes to chest-thump about, is still truly fascinating to me, but it’s not just the history for me. Ultimately, it’s about the Gods, the Heroes, the Daimones, all of these faces and personalities that weave their very essences into the universe and drive it. The gods were how I learned about this religion and all of its own facets and tribal sects, and the gods will be here long after the philosophies are forgotten or rendered redundant, and long after all else has ceased to be. They are the deathless ones, and I’m a part of this religion not to chest-thump and wank intellectually, but to worship those deathless ones.
Maybe not every single facet of my life is entwined with religion, but ultimately, I live this life for them, and on their gifts, and I recognise that, and I love them for it, so that’s why.
Now why I came to the Boeotian tribes was ultimately my love for Eros. His cult led me to learning about Thespiae and Boeotia, which led me to an ever-growing love of those tribes. There is no way for me to do things in perfect replication of ancient Boeotia, but I can make it as close as I can, and that’s all I’ve ever tried to do.
The following came to me, pretty much as-is, fresh from my shower:
I shave my face in honour of Apollon
Preserving the face of an eternal kouros
Keeping the passions for life and art and love
Eager to learn the wisdom of self-betterment
I, too, care for my hair in honour of Apollon
Its strands long in honour of The Eternal Kouros
May its length take my passions and desires
On the breaths of the Anemoi to yourself
And the Mousai, high on Mount Helikon
And may you all instruct me how to mould my passions
In the ways that best honours You.
I perform these tasks daily before my mirror
Which reminds me of how the Thespian youth,
Narkissos, finally wept, and may He, as a beautiful Daimon,
protect me from destructive self-love.
I think I need this more than the last statue I wanted to get.
This would look excellent as a part of my shrine.
I’m kind of debating whether or not I should paint my blank statuary. On one hand, I rather like the look some painted statuary has (some other paint jobs, honestly, I think looks rather tacky), but on the other, I like the sometimes simple, almost Modernist beauty of the blank white alabaster or resins that my table-top statues tend to be. If I ever found a statue that I liked better (which happened at least once already, with my Hermaphroditos statue to the left on the shrine, it’s a replacement of one that didn’t “match” Narkissos on the right), I can sell a blank statue more easily — unless, of course, this novel makes me famous, and my hand-painted things end up fetching “one-of-a-kind” prices or some shite. Pretty much only another Hellenistos would buy a statue painted an amateur, and only a well-painted statue.
Tough decision, indeed.
When I make little crafty things for shrines, I definitely believe that I put quite a bit of “my own energy” into the work, that the Theoi can feel the love and devotion, and maybe even guide my hands as I work. Still, it’s a tough decision to paint a statue or not.