Saturday, October 25, 2014

Question collections post 8

I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"What kind of incense can I offer to Aphrodite? Thank you! :-)"

The Orphic incenses prescribe a hymn to Aphrodite, so as far as the go-to guide for incenses goes, the Orphic hymns aren't helpful. That said, there were a few staples. Frankincense (λίβανον) is one of them. Frankincense is tapped from the Boswellia sacra tree. The bark is stripped off, and the tree 'bleeds' tears of frankincense, which are allowed to harden before being cut off. There is great variety in quality--colour, purity, aroma, age, and shape--and, thus, in price. Another staple is Myrrh (σμύρναν). Myrrh is harvested in the same way frankincense is, and is commonly harvested from the species Commiphora myrrha. Myrrh gum is waxy, and coagulates quickly. It becomes rock hard very fast, and becomes glossy. The gum is yellowish, and may be either clear or opaque. It darkens deeply as it ages, and white streaks emerge.

Myrrh, especially, is connected to Aphrodite in legend. It's said that Myrrha (or Smyrna) was a young princess who refused to honour Aphrodite, and so She made her lust after her own father. Eventually, she was turned into the first Myrrh tree. Apollodorus, in his 'Bibliotheca':

"And Adonis, while still a boy, was wounded and killed in hunting by a boar through the anger of Artemis. Hesiod, however, affirms that he was a son of Phoenix and Alphesiboea; and Panyasis says that he was a son of Thias, king of Assyria, who had a daughter Smyrna. In consequence of the wrath of Aphrodite, for she did not honor the goddess, this Smyrna conceived a passion for her father, and with the complicity of her nurse she shared her father's bed without his knowledge for twelve nights. But when he was aware of it, he drew his sword and pursued her, and being overtaken she prayed to the gods that she might be invisible; so the gods in compassion turned her into the tree which they call smyrna. Ten months afterwards the tree burst and Adonis, as he is called, was born, whom for the sake of his beauty, while he was still an infant, Aphrodite hid in a chest unknown to the gods and entrusted to Persephone. But when Persephone beheld him, she would not give him back. The case being tried before Zeus, the year was divided into three parts, and the god ordained that Adonis should stay by himself for one part of the year, with Persephone for one part, and with Aphrodite for the remainder. However Adonis made over to Aphrodite his own share in addition; but afterwards in hunting he was gored and killed by a boar." [3.14.4]

"Hi, I watched your "making manna" video tutorial, and I couldn't really understand what you said was in the yellow glass bottle. What is it, and where can I get it?"

I had to watch my own video again to remember a yellow bottle, but I think I know what you mean. The yellow bottle is used to store my bio-ethanol, the burning agent I use when building a fire indoors. This is a form of biofuel (fuel derived from biological sources), and a variation of denatured alcohol. It's a clear, flammable liquid which burns without smoke and without scent. As such, it works very well for indoor use. Make sure to use a cast-iron or at least solid container to burn in!

"Is there a greek god of finding missing things?"

Not as far as I know, but in general, Gods and Goddesses whom you have built kharis with will help you when you are truly in need. From a purely personal perspective, Hermes would most likely be able to find your items, seeing as he's been known to hide (and steal) items Himself ;-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pyanepsion updates

A while ago, I decided that on the day of the Hene kai Nea, I'd post a monthly update about things that happened on the blog. I do have to say, the months go by very, very fast.

Changes to the blog:
Anything else?
Pandora's Kharis, a charity circle for and by Hellenistic Polytheists is currently collecting for The Wild Hunt. If you want to donate, you have until tomorrow! Join us on Facebook if you would like to pitch a cause for next month!

Today is also the Khalkeia, the only festival held on a Deipnon in Athens. It was the festival of Bronze-workers, a religious festival devoted to the Goddess Athena Ergane (Εργανη, Worker) and the God Hēphaistos. In ancient Hellas, this was the day priestesses of Athena started work on a special peplos to be presented to Her during the Panathenaia. This festival involved a procession of workers with baskets of grain for offerings as well as meat sacrifices. Celebrate the day by doing something crafty!

Are you looking for an online shop to buy incenses and other Hellenistic basics from? Try The Hellenic Handmaid on Etsy.

That is it for the last month's updates, as far as I can remember. Have a blessed Deipnon!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A possible function found for the Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos Disc is a disk of fired clay currently on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion. It was found in the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the Greek island of Krete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC). It is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. The Archaeological News Network reports that we might be one step closer to figuring this mystery out.

New findings by Gareth Owens, Erasmus coordinator at the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Krete describe the disk as 'the first Minoan CD-ROM’ featuring a prayer to a mother. While speaking at the TEI of Western Macedonia on Monday, he said there is one complex of signs found in three parts of one side of the disk spelling I-QE-KU-RJA, with I-QE meaning 'great lady of importance' while a key word appears to be AKKA, or 'pregnant mother', according to the researcher. One side is devoted to a pregnant woman and the other to a woman giving birth.

The disc was discovered in 1908 by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in the Minoan palace-site of Phaistos, and features 241 tokens, comprising 45 unique signs, which were apparently made by pressing hieroglyphic 'seals' into a disc of soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiralling toward the disc's centre. Many of these 45 signs represent easily identifiable every-day things, but the general meaning has remained unclear--until Gareth Owens, perhaps.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Most Britons want to see Parthenon Marbles back in Athens

If the international news mentions Greece these days, the chances are fair that it's about the Parthenon Marbles. International lawyers consulted the Greek government on the issue of requiring the Marbles over the past week, and that visit brought with it it's own controversy. It also brought the Marbles back in the forefront of the news. A recent poll by the YouGov international market research agency shows that Most Britons want to see Parthenon Marbles back in Athens.

International lawyers consulted by Greek government on Parthenon Marbles issue
The Parthenon Sculptures as seen on display at the British Museum
in London on June 5, 2000 [Credit: Reuters]

The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, is a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin obtained a controversial permit from the Ottoman authorities to remove pieces from the Parthenon while serving as the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803.

The Parthenon Marbles acquired by Elgin include seventeen figures from the statuary from the east and west pediments of the Parthenon, fifteen (of the original 92) of the metope panels depicting battles between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, as well as 247 feet (75 meters) of the original 524 feet (160 meters) of the Parthenon Frieze which decorated the horizontal course set above the interior architrave of the temple. As such, they represent more than half of what now remains of the surviving sculptural decoration of the Parthenon. Elgin's acquisitions also included objects from other buildings on the Athenian Acropolis: a Caryatid from Erechtheum; four slabs from the parapet frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike; and a number of other architectural fragments of the Parthenon, Propylaia, Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Treasury of Atreus.

Ekathimerini reports that 37 percent of respondents said that the ancient sculptures should be given back to their country of origin. Twenty-three percent said the marbles should remain at the British Museum in London. Meanwhile, 32 percent said they were indifferent about the issue and 7 percent said they did not know. When asked about why Britain should give up the artefacts, most of those who argued for their return said that they 'are one work of art and they should be reunited along with the rest of the Parthenon sculptures in Greece.'

The results come in the wake of more heartfelt columns and testimonials in mainstream media outlets. The Guardian, for example, has posted an account by Helena Smith entitled 'As a Briton, I hang my head in shame. We must return the Parthenon marbles'. To quote from it:

"As a Briton, I hang my head in shame but take heart in what the poet Titos Patrikios, an old friend, calls Greece’s “unbeatable weapon”; the common sense of ordinary Britons who for almost two decades have overwhelmingly endorsed repatriation in successive opinion polls. It was another poet, Yannis Ritsos, who summed up the marbles’ predicament best. “These stones don’t feel at ease with less sky,” he wrote. They needed the luminosity of Attica to be appreciated most. More than anything, the argument for the marbles’ return is as much about scholarship as it is about aesthetics or ethics. To go on advocating that Phidias’s masterpieces are better off in London is, in essence, to argue that the finest carvings of classical times are better amputated and broken up."

It's a powerful statement, and as with most of the article, I fully agree. As the article mentions, it's not even about ownership anymore, it's about the fact that these stones belong home, in Attica, and to keep them away from there is unethical, and it needs to end. Thankfully, more an more people are starting to agree.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kickstarter for the reboot of 'Olympia Heights'

Every now and again, I've been known to blog about kickstarters on projects that have to do with Hellenism or Hellenic mythology. Most often I get sent information on the project (please feel free to do so!) and if it appeals to me, I will post it for others to see and spread the word or back. Today, I'd like to do that again on a very awesome project: a kickstarter for a Hellenic mythology comic book! It's the reboot of 'Olympia Heights' and it's a project by Amy Leigh Strickland.

Olympia Heights was a four part novel series, consisting of 'The Pantheon', 'The Weight of the World', 'The Blood of Athens', and 'The Cult of Kronos' (to be purchased in e-book form here). The Olympia Heights saga tells the story of fourteen Florida teens and one biology teacher who discover strange powers and an ancient, immortal past. They are the Greek Gods, and they have been reborn as mortals after centuries locked away in an underworld prison. As they struggle with humanity and adolescence, the Gods must learn to control their powers and to fight off the Titans who locked them away so many years before.

After the completion of a the original 'Olympia Heights', Strickland now hopes to reboot it as a graphic novel with new villains, new monsters, and slightly modified back-stories. Where the novel series used a Neoclassical account of mythology, the comic will primarily draw from Classical Greek sources. You can pledge to get copies of the first volume; posters, shirts, and other swag; and even signed copies of the original novel series.

The first comic will be a 6" x 9," 200-page volume with full color covers and black and white interiors with halftone shading. Artist will render scenes from the gods' ancient pasts in a modified amphora style. The first volume of the comic spin-off, Olympia Heights: Lightning Rod, will follow Zach Jacobs, the modern Zeus, and feature a new villain never before seen in the novel series. Zach's adventure will include cameos from much beloved Olympia Heights characters.

This project will only be funded if at least $16,000 is pledged by

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Darius Vase

The 'Darius Vase' was discovered in 1851 near Canosa di Puglia. It was created by the Darius Painter, an Apulian vase painter and the most eminent representative at the end of the 'Ornate Style' in South Italian red-figure vase painting. His works were produced between 340 and 320 BC. Many of his works, mostly volute kraters, amphorae and loutrophoroi, are of large dimensions. He most frequently depicted theatrical scenes, especially ones from the Classical tragedies by Euripides, and mythological themes. A number of mythological motifs not represented in surviving literary texts are known exclusively from his vases. He also painted wedding scenes, erotes, women, and dionysiac motifs.

The Darius Vase is his most well-known work now on display at the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale, in Naples. From the website of the museum:

"On the neck of side A there is a painted scene of an Amazonomachia, with Amazons wearing oriental costumes and armed with battle axes engaged in duels - which take place on two levels - against naked Greek warriors wearing crested Corinthian helmets who are equipped with a circular shield and long spear. The figurative decoration of the body is organised into three registers, in each of which there is a seated figure in a central position. In the upper register is Zeus, with a winged Nike kneeling down; to the left are Aphrodite with a swan on her lap and Artemis on a deer, while on the other side are Athena, Hellas, Achates with two torches and Asia, seated on an altar with the image of a deity.
The central band shows Darius on his throne, behind whom stands figures who are presumably members of his bodyguard, carefully listening to a messenger standing erect in the king’s presence on a circular podium, surrounded by seated dignitaries and, it would seem, his pedagogue, who can be identified as the old man leaning on a stick. The last frieze shows five Orientals around a seated man, presumably the treasurer; three of them are kneeling, pleading for mercy. Side B, which has a similar structure, shows the myth of Bellerophon: in the upper part, Bellerophon rides Pegasus while a winged Nike crowns him with a laurel wreath; to the left, a naked young man clasps a laurel branch in his hands while in front of him Poseidon, holding his trident in his left hand, sits on a rocky spur. To the right Pan, holding a pyxis and laurel branch, stands opposite Athena, seated on a rock, with a long spear in his left hand. In the middle of the central frieze is Chimera, depicted as a two-headed monster with a leonine body, the head of a lion and a goat, and the tail of a snake, while on the right two Amazons are fleeing; on the left there are two more Amazons, one of whom is attacking.
The lowest register shows two fallen Amazons, armed with a spear and an axe respectively, and a marsh bird. On the neck of this side of the picture is a Dionysian scene with a group featuring a Maenad and Silenus on the left, a man and a woman on the sides of the fountain and lastly a second Maenad.
The main scene has been interpreted in various ways: the identification of the characters is certain since beside each figure appears the name. What has proven more difficult is contextualising it. Some scholars have argued that it shows a scene from Phrynicos’ tragedy in which Persia is about to declare war on Hellas; more recently, an analysis of the compositional structure has led to the conclusion that the space is used symbolically to allude to the actual space of the theatre with the chorus in the lower register, the proscenium in the centre and the tribune of the gods above. Alternatively, the entire decorative layout could refer to the revolt of the Greek cities of Asia and may re-echo the troubled period of the wars against the Lucanians and the Messapians in Magna Graecia, specifically during the period in which the Darius painter was working."
Pg.072_imatge 01 (original)

The vase conserved in Naples is apparently important because of its representation of a man counting on a board. This source mentions:
"The man of the picture is a tax collector counting on a special board in which we can read the letters M (= 10.000), Ψ (= 1.000), H (= 100) and Δ (= 10) and the former symbols used to represent the Greek coins (drachma, obol, half an obol and a quarter of obol). The collector has an opened book in which we can read the letters T A Λ and N. These letters correspond to another Greek coin named talent so we can suppose that this counting boards were used to make calculus with different kinds of coins."
The Darius Painter worked in a large factory-like workshop, probably at Taras. It is possible that he was the owner or foreman of his workshop. Many vase-paintings are so close to his style, though not by his hand, that they are attributed to his workshop, but of all the vases created, the Darius Vase is still the one that is best recognised.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Spectator on the Parthenon Marbles

Remember three days ago, when I told you a team of international lawyers is consulting Greece on how to go about regaining ownership of the Parthenon Marbles? One of the lawyers is Amal Alamuddin, a London-based British-Lebanese lawyer, activist, and author. She is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specialising in international law, criminal law, human rights, and extradition. She often works for big name clientele like Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and the former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko. She has been legally involved in many plights, including how to protect children and women in warzones, and ending sexual violence as a whole. She is a respected lawyer, who has a very successful career spanning nearly fifteen years. Since about a month, she is also George Clooney's wife, and that, it seems, has now become her defining feature. Excuse me a moment while I rant at you.

(Photo: Pierre Teyssot/AFP/Getty)
(Photo: Pierre Teyssot/AFP/Getty)
The Spectator, a weekly British conservative magazine, decided to publish one of the most offensive pieces of journalism I have read in a very long time, entitled: 'Tell you what Mrs Clooney. If Greece repays its $240 billion EU loan, we’ll return the Marbles'. Oh, where do I begin... how about at the fact that no person, but especially not a professional, working, woman, should ever be defined by the person she has married? How about at the fact that personal attacks are never justifiable? How about at the fact that it doesn't matter a single bit who this woman is married to in the first place?! And moving on from that topic... whoever wrote this needs a healthy reality check and long overdue history lesson. I'm going to quote from the article a moment:
"Hollywood has a reputation for creating trite storylines in which either a lawyer is cast as the hero or England as the villain. Its latest epic has both, and this one is reality. Little more than a week after her marriage to George Clooney, the world’s most photographed barrister, Amal Alamuddin -Clooney, has flown off to advise the Greek government on how to force the removal of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum.

Given the rioting, economic meltdown and general chaos of recent years, it would be easy to think that Greece had more immediate worries than the whereabouts of a set of decorative stones rescued in the early 19th century — with permission from authorities in Athens — to save them from being chiselled away by peasants for -quicklime. But that misses the point. What would Greek politicians do if the marbles were returned? No longer would they have a patriotic issue to beat their chests about in order to distract from their failures.

In the name of European harmony, we would like to propose a compromise: we will return the Elgin Marbles once Greece has repaid the €240 billion of emergency loans made by EU states during the crisis, and honoured all its government bonds. Until then, we suggest Greece recognises the role Lord Elgin played in rescuing its deteriorating heritage and accepts that the British Museum has done an excellent job in preserving the marbles and displaying them to scholars and the public alike. To have a little bit of the glory of ancient Athens in London hardly seems out of line with the spirit of shared European culture."

First if all, how dare you? Second of all? What are you even trying to say? That Greece is overreacting? That they should just accept the theft of their cultural heritage and leave it at that? That Greece is an unstable, corrupt country that needs help from the big and bright Britain? Because none of those things are even remotely true or anywhere near okay to say. And, again, dragging Clooney-Alamuddin's marital status into this is just a low blow. There are three people on the team of lawyers, all uniquely qualified to traverse this minefield, and neither Clooney-Alamuddin's marital status or her looks have anything to do with that.

This article shows such a terrible disregard for not only the lawyers involved--Clooney-Alamuddin especially, who has been bombarded by paparazzi while in Greece--but also the marbles and Greece as a country. Statements like 'a set of decorative stones rescued in the early 19th century' show such ignorance and disdain that it makes my blood boil. Usually I don't let these things get to me, but sometimes something slips past my misogyny and entitlement-shield and I just... go off.

This issue won't be resolved any time soon, so we might as well gear up for the long haul, but if this is the level of 'journalism' that will cover it, I might end up hiding under a rock until it's over. Sometimes I just can't stand humanity.