Thursday, July 3, 2014

Question collections post 3

Sometimes I get asked questions which require only short answers, but which would be interesting to readers of this blog, or questions which I have answered in the past but could bear repeating. I'd like to collect some of those questions today.


"Did you ever felt drawn to the Norse gods? Or any particular deity outside Hellenismos?"

I feel a fluxuating religious draw to the Kemetic belief system—reconstruction of the old Egyptian religious practices. It’s not always there, but when I was looking to commit myself to Hellenismos, it played through my mind quite heavily. Most of the Egyptian religion is not for me, and while the ancient Hellenes made it work somehow, I can’t imagine mixing the two. There is one concept, however, in Kemeticism, that I am drawn to so much: Ma’at. Ma’at, to me, means the active endeavour to promote order (as opposed to Isfet—chaos). This means living to the letter of the law, fostering stability within yourself so you are not swayed by Isfet, and actively removing chaos from the world when possible (the famous shopping cart example comes to mind here). There are philosophical equivalents in Hellenismos, but Ma’at is the Kemetic kharis, or xenia, or any other core value. It’s inseparable from the Kemetic religion, where it would be possible for us to simply not adhere to this.

Solely for the beautiful lifestyle that Ma’at dictates, I considered the Egyptian Gods—who, I admit, speak to me as well. I have never truly worshipped Them—They have never seemed like the forgiving sort, and where the Hellenic Gods accommodated the Neo-Wiccan style rituals of days past, I never felt like the Kemetic Gods would do so. The mythology and the rituals are beautiful, though, and I have often mused about how incredibly easy it is here in the Netherlands to get statues of the Egyptian Gods while I have to mail order statues of the Hellenic Gods. That always seemed unfair to me.

I have a great appreciation for the Norse Gods, and one of my very, very, dear friends is an Asatruar, so I think of Them fondly… but no. Their mythology and their entire feel (if that makes sense) is not for me. they are far more detached than the Hellenic Gods, and I like that the Hellenic Gods are so close to their followers.

So, for about two seconds, there was a chance I would take a detour into Kemeticism first… but it would always have been a detour. I belong here, in Hellenismos, and while I acknowledge all the Gods exist, I am solely called to worship the Theoi.


"Are there many Hellenic Polytheists in the Netherlands? How would you say Hellenismos in Dutch?"

I know of literally three Hellenic Polytheists in The Netherlands (myself included), a hand full in Belgium, and one in Germany, so no… not many, I fear. Which is a shame, because I still long for community. As for how to say ‘Hellenismos’, I either use that term or ‘Hellenisme’.


"Does my shrine/altar where I perform the lustral rite need to be facing any certain direction?" 

In ancient Hellas, the altar—called the bômos—was located in front of the temple, not inside it. If a temple did have an indoor altar, it was almost always used for bloodless sacrifices. The bômos almost always faced east, in front of the temple. If a temple was replaced by another, the altar usually remained in place. In some cases, this led to a misalignment of temple and altar. The altar of Athena Polias and the Erechtheum on the Athenian Acropolis are great examples of this. It was doubtful this was seen as a huge problem, though.

Those who performed the rites—the magistrates, usually, priests and priestesses solely maintained the temples; festivals were officiated by magistrates—stood on the west side of the altar. If you have the choice to align your bômos as such, then go for it, but in many modern households, this is not doable, and I don’t think household altars adhered to the same rules even in ancient Hellas. So, no, I don’t think you need to face a specific way, but if you have the option, face east.


"So, when making khernips, should I cleanse myself with them and then cleanse my deities' altar with them afterward? I've been slightly confused with the order. Thank you! Also, I’ve used bay leaves as the smoldering leaf to put in the khernips, is that alright? I was told it’s fine to use dried bay leaves but I just want to make sure. Thanks again!"

I prefer to cleanse first myself, then sprinkle the space, and then go on with the ritual. In ancient Hellas, celebrants would enter the sacred site after sprinkling themselves and the sacrificial animal, then clockwise walk around the altar. I assume the altar was sprinkled with khernips and barley then.

I haven’t found an ancient instance where bay leaves were used, but modern practitioners seem to use it quite often. It should be fine to use it, except for (maybe) Apollo, as Daphne—his love interest—got turned into the first laurel against his will. Hum… maybe he would actually prefer you use bay leaf, then?

"Do you like praying in dutch? Some people say it's quite a poetic language."

I’m fairy certain that Dutch is one of the least poetic languages in the world, but yes, I appreciate praying in Dutch. I would like to pray in Greek, but my skills with it aren’t high enough to do that without the risk of messing up, and I don’t want to stumble along phonetically praying. At least Dutch is a language I understand and I can vocalize my thoughts and true intentions. There is also something devotional in translating hymns and prayers, trying to find a way to establish flow and trigger memory. I quite like doing that.

1 comment:

Frances said...

Hi! I found your blog a few days ago and I've been browsing through all the posts, they're really useful and thought-provoking. I was a Hellenic Reconstructionist for four years before becoming Wiccan, and now I'm coming back to Hellenismos, which feels more "right".
Anyway, about reciting your prayers in Greek, this is how I do it. When I pray about something personal, I do it in French, but when I recite a hymn I always do it in the original Greek. It's not as hard as it seems, and it helps me feel closer to the Gods to pray to them like people did 2000 years ago. I constantly recite the hymns, at least once a day, so that I can memorize the sequence of sounds (not to mention it helps build kharis). It's not for everyone, but I thought I would just explain that a non-Greek speaker can still pray in Greek :)
On a side-note, have you heard of Daimonia Nymphe? They're a group that plays music in the Ancient Greek style. They do a lot of Orphic hymns, and they're really useful if you want to hear the words spoken and pronounced correctly.