“Acts of Speech” and Other Thoughts

•12/08/2020 • Leave a Comment

I recently purchased the book “Acts of Speech” by Kaye Boesme, who has been one of my favorite bloggers on Hellenic polytheism. I highly recommend both the book and Kaye’s blog. The book is primarily of Kaye’s poetry on the Theoi. It’s well done.

Kaye’s blog “Kallisti” and Elani Temperance’s “Baring The Aegis” are my go-to recommendations when it comes to blogs on Hellenism.

Currently, I’ve been settling into my new house with my partner in Northern New England. It’s been a quiet time which I’ve appreciated. I’ve been able to get some more reading done as well as process some thoughts. Perhaps more on that another time.

I have formally signed up with the Orphismos group/tradition that I’ve been studying with for months (the one affiliated with the HellenicGods.org site). It feels like the right religion for me.

I am finding less and less in common with Neo-Pagan derived polytheists, even Hellenic polytheists, these days. I was feeling this before, of course. But I am very curious about Hellenismos as it has allegedly continued throughout the ages in Greece. However, much of the literature is only in Greek (which I really should learn).

After having been Wiccan and a NeoPagan for many years, I am skeptical of any claim of polytheistic survivalism through the Christian Era into modern times. And yet groups like YSEE claim otherwise. I feel as though I cannot evaluate these claims due to not being able to read the language most of the evidence is in. (I really need to learn Greek.) Purely hypothetically speaking, if it *is* a polytheistic survival.. does that make reconstruction of a living religion unethical?

I can’t say I’m always enamored with YSEE’s standpoints, yet at the same time it does not feel like LARPing to me the way that NeoPaganism does. In my opinion, the best book on modern practice of Hellenismos is Labrys’ Hellenic Polytheism: Household Worship.

Some have misinterpreted the emphasis and usage of the word “ethnic/ethnikoi” in YSEE to mean that they are folkish, however according to their own account, they are about the Hellenic culture, not bloodline/heredity. If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you know that I abhor folkishness. I do feel a bit of concern that YSEE marriages are only between a man and a woman, but they are also open to LGBTIQ folks.

(I’m not joining YSEE at this time. I have my own beliefs. I’ve just been trying to understand the issues involved, particularly since a lot of modern Hellenismos from Greece was written by YSEE founder, Vlassis G. Rassias.)

Movin’ On Up

•11/14/2020 • 1 Comment

Last week, I moved out of Boston where I had lived for 8½ years to a house with my wonderful partner in Northern New England.

We did this for several reasons. For one, Boston was expensive and the small apartment that we moved into last January was an awful experience…a multi-unit building with disruptive neighbors.

Another was that with COVID-19, we could no longer really enjoy the things we loved about living in the city. Dining out at the plethora of vegetarian restaurants. Seeing friends. Going to movies, museums, etc. We’d been stuck at home and with terrible neighbors. 

Also, my partner’s parents live up here, so it felt important during COVID times to be around family in a way where we could establish a bubble. 

I’m sad about leaving Boston, but I also knew it was time. I moved there in 2012 after having received an organ transplant. Prior to that, I spent two years on death’s door in dialysis 3 times a week.

I knew I’d wanted to do something different with my life. So I moved to Boston to live in a Quaker-based intentional community with 19 other people. It was the best decision I’d ever made.

Along the way, I met an amazing woman and fell in love with her. We moved in together.

I even found a pretty decent job in the field I’d worked in for years. Unfortunately, I had to give up with the move.

However, it’s worth it. 

While it’s not super-fancy, I’m so happy to have so much space here. It feels massive compared to where we were. And so much quieter. 

The kitchen is at least 3x bigger than what we had in Boston. I have a cabinet for my tea collection. We have a large basement for ample storage. There’s even a small garage that we cannot use for a vehicle which I can use for my own temple space. 

It’s like I don’t know where to begin. I’m no interior decorator, but I can’t wait to create a space for the beloved Theoi. 

I have a firepit that I can use for offerings to Estia and other deities. I’m really excited!

May the gods dwell in my heart always and guide me.

Turning To Stone

•10/23/2020 • Leave a Comment

Lately, in the Hellenic polytheistic world, there’s been a bit of a stir regarding a statue of Medusa with the head of Perseus that was first created a few years ago but is being installed temporarily in NYC.

Some Hellenic traditionalists are upset because it is profanation of the original Greek story. It has been called “anti-Hellenic”.

(Unlike the later Roman version, Medusa in Greek myth was never a priestess that was raped and then punished by being turned into a monster that turned people to stone, but rather had always been a monster.)

To me, however, it’s clearly a riff off of the Roman version. My impression is that those who are upset over it is because their beloved mythology is being used in a way that promotes….feminism! (gasp!)

I have noted that I have not seen this sort of outcry among the very same Hellenic traditionalists regarding the new Hades videogame which takes a great deal of liberties from the original myths.

I don’t really oppose that. Just making the point that it seems their outrage is selective.

As a feminist, I applaud the statue. It’s a striking and provocative piece of art. Though it was not intended by its creator to have anything to do with the #MeToo movement, it does coincide with it.

I have seen the statue being named in Hellenic traditionalist circles as “anti-male”. If that’s the case, would the (more popular) statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa be “anti-female”? Would a statue of the Minotaur killing Theseus also be ‘anti-male’?

There is a tendency to view anything feminist, which seeks equality in a patriarchal world, as being “anti-male”. As the saying goes, “To the privileged, equality often looks like oppression.”

While I don’t think we need to twist or re-examine all of our sacred mythology in order to fit our ideological narratives, I do think that good art can sometimes help us confront and challenge us on our societal shortcomings.

People are being raped and sexually harassed. Stand up against it. Whether it’s women, men, children, whatever. Those are the monsters among us. Not the feminists.

May virtue prevail.

Hypocrisy

•09/29/2020 • 4 Comments

There’s been a topic that keeps on creeping into the Hellenic forums that I frequent (reddit, Discord, etc.) regarding magic, spells, and witchcraft and its place in Hellenism.

Recently, I made a comment in a forum that I believed witchcraft was miasmic which upset a bunch of young Hellenists who incorporate witchcraft into their practice.

First and foremost, my tradition teaches that witchcraft and magic is miasmic. It draws one’s attention away from where the true religion is: the Theoi.

The point of the religion is to be closer to the Theoi and part of that means to not focus on the Ego, which can separate us from knowing or perceiving the Theoi.

But the tradition also teaches against divination…and while that’s not really my thing, I’ve had divinations done for me in the past by professional diviners. I don’t really mind people using divination, personally.

No, my opposition is more than my tradition’s teaching against. That’s just something I can hide behind. A justification.

I have a deep and personal dislike of the mixing of these influences (Wicca, magic, the occult) with Hellenism because of its ubiquity. Yes, part of that rationale is because it distracts from the worship of the gods and makes it more difficult for others to take it seriously as a religion. But that strong reaction, is and of itself, is of Ego. And it separates me from the Theoi just as much as the practice of spells do.

May the Theoi help to bring me in right relationship with Them.

Update on Orphism

•09/08/2020 • Leave a Comment

One of the problems with joining a tradition with secret lessons is that there’s not many people to talk about it with.

I *want* to write about my thoughts regarding the Orphic tradition I’m learning. I like processing it with other people but as it is preferred that I keep it to myself, I will prove worthy of the trust put in me. 

The lessons are coming along well, even if at points it seems to diverge from what I read in academic texts regarding Orphism and the Underworld. The Orphic gold tablets, specifically. 

Much of what I’m learning is cosmology and view. Orientations. Building the base. Which is interesting but doesn’t really help me on a day-to-day basis. We’re taught (and this is on the website) to work towards attaining arete (virtue), but (thus far) there’s little that goes into detail about how. I am not yet at a point to where I’m learning ritual so it’s compartmentalized into the abstract.  

This is not to slight my teacher at all (who has been excellent and has put up with me). It’s the nature of the instruction. Erecting a foundation.

In the meantime, I do a ritual about once a week, on the weekend. (It’s not always easy to do it during the week when I work 10-hour shifts and share my temple space with my partner’s work-from-home space.)

My ritual often consists of reading the Orphic Hymn to Æstía to begin as I light an olive oil lamp. Then the Orphic Hymn to Mousaios that calls out to most of the gods. Often I’ll say the Orphic Hymn to Zefs and the one to Íra (Hera). And then end with the Orphic Hymn to Diónysos. 

I sometimes also use readings or prayers found in the Labrys “Household Worship” book which has been an excellent resource. 

I usually will burn incense that is frankincense, myrrh, or both. Or sometimes styrax. If it’s quick and I don’t want to use an entire charcoal for a quick offering, I will often use Japanese incense (sandalwood or “moss garden” or “autumn leaves”). 

I do not have wine, but I do have mead. An affordable but tasty Polish mead bought from a Polish deli here in Dorchester. I will offer mead and filtered water to the gods, along with the incense. 


Recently, I bought a set of statues of the Twelve Olympians as well as one of Diónysos. The Diónysos statue is still en route. I will be moving soon, though, so I won’t be able to get the shrine set up as I’d like to until things are settled.

Aesthetics

•08/17/2020 • 3 Comments

As I work overnights with a lot of downtime, I find myself wanting to spend time in polytheist spaces online since I don’t have a religious community in real life. One of these spaces is Skidbladnir (Skid), a Discord chat associated with r/Heathenry on reddit.

I’m not a Heathen, but I admire what the founders of r/Heathenry and Skid have created. It’s an inclusive space that takes their religious practice seriously. 

One person in Skid was talking about doing a Heathen video that’s the opposite of the “Vikingbro” aesthetic. Instead, focusing on soft colors like pink. I suggested “Grandma Heathenry”: Food, fiber arts, and comfort. 

“You look so thin, Floki..Eat something!”

One of the things that’s irritating about modern Heathenry is the amount of toxic masculinity within. The emphasis on strength and violence, racism, misogyny, anti-LGBTIQ sentiment. The over-emphasis on wolves as symbols. On growling in Heathen-themed music like Wardruna or Heilung.

Of course, we see this aesthetic, or variations of it, within many other polytheisms. 

In Hellenic polytheism, I refer to it as the Leonidas Hellenists. The ones who probably got into Hellenism via the movie “300”. They tend to emphasize Sparta and strength and manliness. There’s also an overemphasis on Stoicism as a philosophy. (Not that Stoicism is bad or wrong, mind you. I’m just observing that it often coincides with toxic masculinity in Hellenic or Religio Romana spaces.)

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with masculinity. There is nothing wrong with strength. I tend to believe what the great Stan Lee wrote “With great power comes great responsibility”. Whether that’s physical strength and power or political power or forms of privilege, those with strength or power have a moral responsibility to protect those who do not..or to speak up for those whose voices are not heard. As our society is a patriarchal one, I feel like men have a moral responsibility in this regard. 

This ethos is generally not shared by those immersed in toxic masculinity. 

As a counterpoint, there is the r/bropill community on reddit which is a very positive, uplifting, and supportive community of “bros”. It’s adorable and I love that it exists even if I’m not a man or a “bro”. 

Because the majority of what we know about ancient polytheistic societies were written about men, we often lose track of the fact that half of these ancient societies involved women. Perhaps they raised families and cooked and perhaps they also farmed and fought. We don’t know their stories. But we know that they, too, were an essential part of these ancient societies.

I don’t want to say that men should be performatively masculine and women performatively feminine because I do not believe in strict gender roles. What I will say is that we see a lack of feminine aesthetic in a great deal of modern polytheisms. 

That’s changing as our communities last longer, as the dialogue in our communities continue, and that more people are exposed to our existence and begin to practice our religions. However, age-wise, we are still young religions. 

Let us be mindful to have our communities be open to female voices and perspectives, to make our communities safe and accepting to all those who are willing to devote themselves to the gods.

Back to aesthetic for a bit, I’ve been intrigued by “cottagecore”, which has been popular among younger folks on social media. From what I gather, it’s an aesthetic that focuses on cottages, gardens, flowers, and freshly baked bread. For some reason that I don’t quite understand it seems very popular among lesbians and other women who love women. 

I’m getting into it. There’s also goblincore which is similar to cottagecore but with more mud and mushrooms. There’s also grandmacore (which is what it sounds like and, no, I had not heard of it when I first mentioned “grandma heathenry” but that totally works). 

There’s also “cottagegore” which is a Goth or dark version of cottagecore.

I haven’t seen it mentioned but I like the idea of “villagecore” which is like cottagecore but with more focus on community. The pub. Folk music. Going to the local bakery for bread. Locally-owned small businesses. 

Or perhaps I’m just too old to understand this aesthetic stuff and should leave it for the tumblr crowd…

More on Dionysus, wine, Sufism

•08/13/2020 • Leave a Comment

Looking more into the Sufi/Dionysos connection.

The Orphic tradition that I’m learning teaches that wine is the Aithir of Zefs (Zeus) and also the blood of Dionysos. 

This piece talks a little about the connection between Sufism, wine, and Dionysus.

Wikipedia’s entry on the Dionysian Mysteries

“Assuming the Dionysus cult arrived in Greece with the importation of wine, it probably first emerged about 6000 BC in one of two places—the Zagros Mountains and borderlands of Mesopotamia and Persia (with a rich wine culture via Asia Minor), or from wild vines on the mountain slopes of Libya and other regions in North Africa. The latter provided wine to ancient Egypt wine from about 2500 BC, and was home to ecstatic rites involving animal possession—notably the goat and panther men of the Aissaoua Sufi cult of Morocco (although this cult may have been influenced by the Dionysian one).”

It’s a tenuous connection, for sure. 

Here is an album of an Aissaoua Sufi ritual:

Stain your prayer rugs with wine…

•08/05/2020 • Leave a Comment

At our most recent session, my instructor in Orphismos read me some Sufi poetry about wine. 

Wine is, of course, an important spiritual symbol in both Sufism and in this tradition of Orphismos. In his website, Kallimakhos refers to wine as a symbol for the aithir of Zefs (Zeus) that Dionysos gives

The connection with Sufism resonates strongly with me. I’ve had an interest in it going back at least 20 years. I think my first introduction was either a reference in Robert Anton Wilson’s “Cosmic Trigger” or the liner notes of Loreena McKennitt’s “The Mask and Mirror” album

This spurred me on to pick up books on the subject by Idries Shah (who was a friend and associate of Gerald Gardner, creator of Wicca). Of course, right around the time I was beginning to learn about Sufism, 9/11 happened and there was a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment which I wanted nothing to do with. 

For a time, I fancied myself a Pagan version of a Sufi with my Beloved being the Goddess. I showed up to a Pagan gathering wearing a white dashiki and carrying a jug of Carlo Rossi Paisano wine. I wrote bad Sufi devotional poetry. In retrospect, I was a clown and a mockery. 

As I was also studying and practicing chaos magic at the time, I got into the work of Hakim Bey/Peter Lamborn Wilson. Wilson’s loosely self-organized ‘group’ of occultist libertine Sufis, the Moorish Orthodox Church, appealed greatly to me and I considered myself among them for a time. At least, until I found out how serious Bey was about being a pedophile. This was something I wrote at the time:

https://moorishorthodox.wordpress.com/serpent/ 

I cringe inwardly when I read it…

(For the record, though I was a Thelemite and a chaos magician at the time, I am no longer. I denounce Crowley’s influence as much as I do Bey’s.)

But I enjoyed Bey/Wilson’s writing on Islam. He had studied Sufism in Iran under Henri Corbin and Nasr before the Ayatollah’s Islamic Revolution. His works focused on things like the Assassins, Sufism, hashish smoking and other extreme or heretical forms or expressions of Islam. (Like his interest in child-raping, I later found out.) Perhaps it was orientalist of me but as the country was turning against Islam, I was becoming intrigued by it. Or at least my romanticized conception of it.

An ex-girlfriend bought me a Muslim prayer rug which I hung in my apartment for years. I read Rumi, Hafez, Fakruddin Iraqi, Ibn Arabi, and ‘Attar. I’m not sure I understood it fully, nor do I understand it now to be honest. But I figured if I kept reading books on the subject, I would get it. 

I had no belief in the Qu’ran or the prophethood of Muhammad. I was a hipster Sufi. Like many in Moorish Orthodoxy, I was more interested in sex and drugs than in actual religion. How could I give up my ego when it was the thing that mattered most to me?  

Things changed for me when I had to face my own mortality. As I’ve written about before, I was deathly ill in 2010. This caused me to seriously rethink my priorities, my orientations, and my life.

It wasn’t until I moved to Boston that I was able to actually engage with Sufism. There’s a House of Sufism here, a branch of the Nimatullahi Sufis. I went once or twice and found it slightly dull but I also knew by then that I was not a real Muslim so that it was not for me.

Yet, something in me yearned for that connection to the Divine. I think my sense of self was in the way. I was too caught up in my own bullshit to ever really progress along the path. 

I hope that is no longer the case. 

Anyway, that was a very long digression to say how much the reference to wine in Sufism and Orphismos resonates with me and why. I long to be “on the path’. I know now how much of my problem is my ego and I wish to overcome it. I am still a clown, of course. Even unintentionally. But I am at least aware now of my clowniness. 

May I someday drink of the Bacchic wine of Zeus!

Orphism II

•07/28/2020 • Leave a Comment

It’s taken me years to reach this point. If it’s the point I hope to be at.

As a Pagan, I starved for something larger than myself. I eventually realized that my ego was the problem keeping me away from knowing the gods. But the Paganisms I followed had no method for overcoming the ego. I studied Hinduism and the Hindus had solutions but I needed a guru to help me navigate through Hinduism, Hindu customs, worship. There’s only so much you can learn online. Still I gave generous offerings and worship to the gods. I did pujas and japa nearly every day. I listened to bhajans and kirtans on my way to and from work. 

But something in me felt that it was too culturally different. Yes, we had Hindu temples in America but they were mostly Indian cultural centers in addition to being for worship. No one tells you what to do. No one holds your hand, which is what I needed. 

You just follow other people and hope not to offend others. I only felt comfortable in one Hindu temple, a Kali temple. Because it was open to all. Even then, I did not know much of what I was doing. I wanted a guru. In the sense of a teacher and guide. The right guru. I did not find one.

I tried Catholicism, which was the culture I was born into, but I knew I didn’t believe in their god. I did not worship their Jesus. But it was a culture I didn’t have to worry about appropriating. I prayed rosaries and novenas to Mary and some saints. My family was Catholic. Perhaps it was more for my ancestors than me. But I loved how Catholicism was still an active source of devotion for many others. I loved the prayer and devotion. I loved that there were two Catholic television stations here. Catholic radio. Every day, there was a saint to focus on. Everywhere you went, there were chapels to pray in. I loved that sort of accessibility to something greater than one’s self. I longed for something like that but for polytheism. For my type of polytheism. 

Orphism keeps the polytheism I already believed in. The gods are many. It keeps the Hellenic gods that I grew up loving from the myths. But the gods are good. There is a focus on overcoming ego, on becoming a better person. There are offerings given, but they are always accepted.  As a headblind polytheist who only got messages from the gods via diviners, this comforts me. I do not have to worry if my offering was accepted or not.

And yet I hesitate because I do not want this to be yet another thing I fully commit myself to for months and then walk away from, distracted, like the infant Zagreus with the Toys.

My instruction is in a tradition that is, in part, secret. I will not discuss anything I am trusted to keep secret and sacred. I have kept my oaths as an OTO initiate and what little training I have received in Gardnerian Wicca. Once I am taught, I will be silent and will not write of anything entrusted to me.

That said, I am obsessed with this tradition and have been exhaustively researching its labyrinthine website reading and re-reading, looking for more information. 

What I can say, based on what is publicly available, is that, at first impression, it seems like some sort of halfway point between Hellenic Polytheism and Early Christianity. 

We are born in a state of ‘sin’ (sort of), out of the ashes of the Titans. Yet, there is that of the Divine within us. We have a savior figure (Dionysus). I do not know full details on worship but from the website it seems that a portion of offerings given are kept as some sort of partaking of sacrament. There’s an emphasis on compassion, eros, and developing virtue. There is an emphasis on the Olympians, in particular Zeus.

We are born again and again until we, through our actions are released. Ektheosis. Becoming a god from being a human being.“Deification of the Soul” is mentioned a bit in the site but I’m unclear on how that comes about short of developing “arete”, that is…virtue.

I know there are elements of the Zodiac, Natural Law, and Hellenic philosophy (esp. Socrates and Plato) in it. 

Since it’s Orphic, the Orphic Hymns play a significant part in ritual. From the site, it seems holding a “Hestia Candle” during ritual is part of it, symbolic of the torch carried during the Mysteries. I have not been told how to worship. All I have been told is literally what’s on the website. I’m still doing my regular Hellenic worship.

All in all, I’m finding possibility here. I want to develop virtue. I want to overcome my ego but in a way that already affirms the polytheistic truth that I already know in my heart.

This specific tradition of Orphism seems like the right way for me.

Orphism I

•07/13/2020 • 3 Comments

I first started reading into Orphism some years back when learning about the Starry Bull Tradition. 

Recently, I’ve been revisiting it through the website Hellenic Gods 

 ( http://www.hellenicgods.org/) and will be pursuing this path.

So, what is Orphism?

It’s a collection of teachings that is claimed originates from the famed poet/musician, Orpheus. It was a mystical tradition. Unlike a lot of Hellenism, its focus is on the soul and what happens after you die.

The main teaching is this: Zeus seduced Persephone. She gave birth to Zagreus. Zeus declared Zagreus to be the next ruler of Gods and Humanity. The Titans got jealous and conspired with Hera to kill the infant. They distracted the infant Zagreus with toys then murdered, roasted, and ate Zagreus. Zeus finds out about this as they are eating his child and slays the Titans with thunderbolts. 

The heart is saved and later (through the traditional myths with Semele) becomes Dionysus.

There’s a sort of ‘original sin’ mentality involved as from the ashes of the Titans come humanity. However, mixed in with that is Dionysus who is the Savior. 

Through worship, meditation, moral behavior (including vegetarianism), and initiation, a person can become ‘saved’ so that when they die, they do not get reincarnated or go to the regular section of the Underworld. Instead, they say certain pass-phrases and drink from the Waters of Memory and become gods. Being ‘saved’ by Dionysus.

It reads to me almost like a sort of proto-Christianity. It makes me wonder how much early Christianity borrowed from it. Indeed, much of early Christianity was influenced already by Greek philosophy and Neo-Platonism. Perhaps Orphism was an influence as well.

Weirdly enough, that’s sort of its appeal to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a polytheist and have been. But I *like* the idea of a path which stresses morality. My problem with Christianity was always that I didn’t believe that Jesus was the only Son of God. I liked his moral teachings even if I disagreed with his God. Orphism, in my opinion…seems like a sort of place where Hellenism meets with traditional Christianities (Orthodoxy and Catholicism). That’s only my particular read on it. It is absolutely NOT Christianity. It is a form of Hellenism. You worship the gods, not One god. 

I want to be a better and more moral person. It’s something that appealed to me in both Hinduism and Catholicism. But I’m neither a Hindu nor a Catholic. I’m a polytheist. As such, this strain of Orphism very much intrigues me.

Now the particular group I’m pursuing has its idiosyncrasies. For example, witchcraft, divination, magic, and the occult and such are prohibited. I’m just fine with that. I don’t do these things anyway and I prefer being in groups where there isn’t a lot (or any) of that. (Except divination, which I’m OK with but don’t do personally.)

Basically, I want a focus on religion. The worship of the gods, devotion, prayer, offerings, etc. Granted, I can have that without joining a group or even becoming Orphic. I can be Hellenic and be pious. However, as someone headblind to the presence of the gods, I do not receive messages or feedback. This may sound insane to some people, but I want to be told what to do and how to do it by someone who knows more than I do. I don’t want it to be my decision because that increases my own ego and ego, I believe, is at least in part something that separates me from knowing the gods.

It may not be the right fit but it’s something I want to try and to understand.