Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nutball Ex-Girlfriends...of the Gods!

A few weeks after I moved in with my fiancee, he received a raving email from his nutball ex-girlfriend that said, in part, "I feel sorry for that poor woman you dragged from Nashville."

We had a good laugh over it--dragged? Hardly! I leaped into his big van-shaped silver chariot with my critters and my stuff faster than you can say "nutball ex-girlfriend". But then, envisioning me being dragged off to Oklahoma by the hair must help her justify her view of him as a bad guy which, I'm sure, helps her cope with the fact that she lost him.

Which got me thinking...

Maybe the whole "all unwilling" version of the Persephone myth, (which--one absconded lady to another--I don't buy in the least), was started by one of Hades' nutball ex-girlfriends--jealous of the fact that Persephone got the hook-ups with the wealthiest god of all while she was stuck fending off the lusty advances of far less commitment-minded deities.

Well, that's my theory anyway.

Blessed by the Mystery,
-M. Ashley

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hades--Good Guy, Bad Press

After watching the wonderful Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I went online and poked around the IMDB message boards a bit, (yes, I'm that big of a film nerd). I found this post quite provocative:

Disney's Hercules, Clash of the Titans, and this...

In the original Greek myths, Hades was a fairly stand up guy. Yes, he ruled over the Greek equivalent of Hell, but he also handled the Greek equivalents of Heaven, Purgatory, the Pearly Gates, etc. Persephone's main complaint about being his wife was not that he was cruel- he lavished her with all the luxury he could afford, and he was the richest of the gods- but because he was her father's older brother, and thus considerably older than her.

Greek myth is full of awesomely evil monstrous beings, from Titans to the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, to those cursed by gods (of which, Hades was responsible for far less than many of his brethren... Athena, who's almost always portrayed as kind and generous, turned a woman into a spider for BEING A BETTER WEAVER for crying out loud). Why do modern storytellers think Hades makes such a great villain?

Mostly the responses to this post focused on what Persephone's real grievances were with Hades, which for me is far less interesting than the actual question posed, (especially because I don't believe Persephone actually had grievances with Hades. Standard Homer aside, I think she was not quite "all unwilling".)

In my opinion, the reason we see mainstream media vilifying Hades is that it is difficult for a mind steeped in Christian mythos to accept the ruler of "Hell" as anyone other than Satan himself. In this system of thinking, Hades being portrayed as he actually is would probably cause an outrage. Hades is the judge of souls for both good and ill and Persephone is the intermediary--the two together representing justice tempered with mercy--the exact dynamic between Christ and "God the Father".

And how dare we, even in the interest of accuracy, compare these Pagan deities so directly to the Christian ones? How dare we imply that the Christian mythos is not entirely original?

When a story dares to honor the Gods by educating a new generation about them, I think it is acceptable to make a few concessions like this to avoid the project being quashed before it ever sees the light of day. The real trick is making it provocatively accurate enough to inspire people to investigate the myth behind the myth and, hopefully, the deeply moving spirituality behind it all.

-M. Ashley

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hellenism: What I Believe, What I Stand For

The following is adapted from the original Y.S.E.E. mission statement to reflect my own viewpoint. I agree with the organization on almost all points of its cosmology, except that which posits the God/esses are neither male nor female (I believe they are distinctly either male or female); and all points of its mission statement except those that are bitterly antagonistic to Judeo-Christian traditions. I have great affection for all religions, and though I have chosen to leave the tradition into which I was born, I will always bear it, and those who walk that path, great respect.

In that vein I would like to say that the God/esses are who they are, regardless of what names we use for them, and in their infinite love for us, they don't care what we call them, just so long as we keep calling.

This is the link to the original document, should you wish to compare my version to it:

-M. Ashley (Andjelagenia Musaios)

(What We Believe,
What We Stand For
by Kresphontis on behalf of Diipetes,
published on Green Egg journal, issue no 109, Summer 1995
Edited and adapted by M. Ashley, Spring 2010

Hellenism (ELLENIKON ETHNISMOS) is not simply a Religion and Cosmology, it is a certain form of human consciousness and an everyday ethos.

Hellenism perceives Cosmos (KOSMOS, i.e. the Universe) as an ever-existing Being, which not only was not created by some "creator" God out of nothing (EK TOU MEDENOS), but on the contrary allowed the Gods themselves to be created through its procedures. Hellenism understands Cosmos as APEIRON (Apeiron, Infinity) in great, wonderful order and therefore in Hellenic language Cosmos means also jewel (KOSMOS, KOSMENA). Gods were born inside the Cosmos and live inside it -they are part of it. This is our real dispute with Monotheism; not the number of Gods (One or Many, Mono- or Poly-) but where the God or Gods stand in relation to the Cosmos. For Monotheists the Cosmos was created by an ever-existing Being outside it (so in this macro-historical level it is nothing more than a mortal creation). For Monotheists Cosmos is a creation that has to obey the laws of its creator. For Hellenes, the eternal Cosmos emerges always from inside itself (ANADYETAI AFS EAUTOU) and is the creator of all Gods, which have to obey its laws. In the Hellenic Cosmology, these laws are :

ANTIPEPONTHOS: Untranslatable into English, but roughly meaning "all events influence others" though without "cause and effect",
NOMOS: The entirety of the universal physical Laws), and
ANAKE: Need and Fate, which all Gods respect and obey.

Due to the eternal nature of Cosmos itself, the Hellenic perception of KRONOS (Time) is not linear (as the followers of Yahweh or the modern rationalists declare), nor circular (as many Judeo-born occult dogmas teach) through the OUROBOROS symbol (the tail-eater snake), but spiral and leading to APEIRON. Through this shape of Time, the annual circles, the lunar circles, the human (and all) life, and the art of Prophecy, are fully interpreted. History is never repeated, just similar to the point that identical events happen but always under different circumstances. And the death of humans (and of all mortal forms of life) happens as the philosopher Alkmaion declared, simply "because it is impossible for the end of the circle to touch the beginning". In other words, because it is impossible for the old to become infants again.

For the Hellenic Tradition, or at least its part not yet influenced by the "moral" ideas brought over from eastern civilizations by such famous philosophers as Pythagoras and Plato, no such thing as the "karma" of the eastern theocrats exists, and no "judges" exist in the skies or elsewhere. All dead become automatically holy and then they are born again until through ARETE (Virtue) one day their PSYCHE escapes from the spiral of Time, thus becoming primitive God, DAIMON, a word with a positive meaning for Hellenes, in contrast with Judeo-Christian definitions. We do not believe in METEMPSYCHOSIS (Re-incarnation) suffering or prospering in this life to pay for or be rewarded for the bad or good actions of previous lives, but instead simply in PALIGENESIA (Rebirth). This perspective distinguishes us from the theocratic dogmas that terrify their believers with "punishments" etc. We love or hate completely outside karmic designs and dualisms. No dualism of "Good and Evil" exists in the Immortal Cosmos, nor such things as the miscellaneous "moralities" that all the dualistic dogmas teach. We become virtuous only because we choose to be such.

Our Gods are many and we understand them as completing the make-up of the Universal Sphere of Cosmos to its maximum potential and whole. Thus, from the DODEKAEDRON, a geometric shape (that fills up the sphere to its maximum) we imagine twelve planes, each one presenting a God inside the Cosmos and we define our Hellenic PANTHEON (PAN TON THEON, All The Gods) as DODEKATHEON (Pantheon of The Twelve Gods).The Twelve Gods of ours live inside the Sphere of Cosmos and form its various behaviors.

Our Twelve Gods are also called OLYMPIOI (the Olympians) not because, as many want to believe, they dwell on Mt. Olympus, as the mountains with this name numbered not one but eighteen throughout the Hellenic World. This is just a poetic conception, similar to the one that wants Pan to dwell in the forests of Arcadia. The word "Olympus" comes from the verb LAMPO (shining). Our Twelve Gods are the "Shining Ones", and the real "Olympus" is not a geographical but a spiritual place, where the Gods really exist.

Another fact worth noting is that these Twelve Gods are not the same Twelve Gods for all Hellenes as some leave Dionysos out, some leave Hestia, etc., replacing them with others. It is the number that counts, not the names of the Gods which in any case number in the thousands- and we must underline here that Hellenism honors and worships not only conscious forces and energies of Nature (as almost all Pagan religions do) but also abstract Ideas, such as Harmony, Eunomia (personified Order), Justice, Freedom, Beauty, Luck, etc. For us, the Ideas are alive and have form and consciousness; they are real deities that simply show themselves through the functions of the human mind.

A basic ("for beginners") form of invocation of the Twelve Olympian Gods, a Pantheon that was worshiped at least since the 16th Century before the Judeo-Christian Era (they are named U-ru-pa-ja-jo in the Linear B inscription of Pylos), and openly until the 9th Century of our times (when the last remains of worship of the ethnic Hellenic Gods were exterminated in Lakonia, under the persecutions by "Saint" Nikon the so-called "Metanoite" i.e. "Repent") is the following:

(The Gods are being invoked in "couples" according to the elements and functions that each "couple" supervises).

* Hestia (the power or denization and of common ethos: all invocations start and end with her:
* The honored God or Goddess of the Hellenic lunar month
* Hephaistos - Hestia
* Ares - Aphrodite
* Apollo - Artemis
* Hermes - Athena
* Poseidon - Demeter
* Hera - Zeus

Understanding the structure, nature and distribution of the Cosmos in this way, Hellenism can be understood as a political and social "how to" theory that means to fill the every day life with its principles of Dignity, Freedom, Beauty, Honesty, Variety, Tolerance, Candor..

We represent an ethos and a cosmology that never allowed the existence of priestly castes, unquestioning obedience, fear or guilt (Hellenism knows nothing about the word "sin"), dogma, missions, or "sacred" books. We know that we tread the correct path and that the Gods support us.

We are in full solidarity with all groups and movements all around the Globe, that work for the restoration of their traditional/indigenous ethos and religions, and also with all the others who fight the multi-faceted war for Freedom, Tolerance, Respect for Nature and Direct Democracy in all levels of every day life.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Eleusinian Wheel of the Year: Sabbat Edition

After living with the moon-correlated Eleusinian calendar for a day, I have to admit I am still a bit unsatisfied. Perhaps it's the Celtic blood in me, but I am deeply attached to the eight high days. So, while I figure out which way I will eventually zag, I thought I'd post the calendar adapted to the eight-Sabbat system and provide a little more explanation about each rite. I'll start with the cross-quarter day the Celts used to mark their new year, as it is pivotal in the Demeter/Persephone cycle as well.

(Festivals written in caps are the main eight, while those in regular type are sort of mini-rites that prepare for the major high days. The dates I use are the actual astronomical dates for the quarter and cross-quarter days.)

November 7: SKIRA
Descent of the Maiden; Demeter Becomes Crone
This is a time to give thanks to the source of all life for your success; to take note of what you have learned and gained; to store resources in a place of protection; to face fear of the unknown; to celebrate courage, transformation, and independence while yet acknowledging the many ways your loved ones, both living and dead, have helped along the way.

This complex of rites includes the joyous Stenia Festival in preparation for The Mysteries

The 21st (Winter Solstice): Stenia Festival
Persephone Brings Light and Life to the Darkness; On Earth, Demeter is Cheered 
A time of great joy and celebration, remembering that the sacred aspects of sexuality and the renewing power of humor are integral to the ongoing creative process. This is a time to personally identify with the Earth and the creative power of the Goddess.

Dedication and Crowning as a Mystai of Demeter
The cycle of the blessed seed is shown as the mystery of the soul revealed. Initiates are cleansed, blessed and consecrated as Children of Earth--Children of the Great Mother--Kin to Queen Persephone.

Celebration of Demeter's Divine Laws; Remembering our Divinity
We pause in our lives to focus on the sacred values that a spiritual awareness imparts to the life experience. We consider the powers, influences and blessings of the Holy Mother and Daughter. We honor the Great Mother and our inherited Divinity.

This series of rites and festivals culminate with the ascent of Persephone from the Underworld.

March 6: Rites of Proerosia
Pre-Plowing/Planting Rites
At this time we prepare for our goals, considering not only the practical preparation, but also honoring the forces of divine power that are in play. A time of new beginnings requires sacred prayer, study, education, learning new skills and procuring resources.

March 13: Rites of Arkichronia
Creation of Fertility Talismans. Combining Earth and Underworld Powers
There is a magic that is born from the union of life and death. Now is a time to allow the highest influences to combine with your ideas and aspirations. Know that creativity has been influenced, even fed by the barren times. Realize and utilize the effects of the past on the present.

March 20 (Vernal Equinox): Rites of Nestia
The Sadness--Queen Persephone Must Leave Her Beloved Plouton
We celebrate both the value and sadness of sacrifice and honor right sacrifice as service and noble action. We give up a well-worn path in order to reach a future goal. We release the sadness of the past while retaining the beauty of our best moments as we proceed forward with our lives.

The Ascent of the Maiden. Persephone Becomes Kore. Joyous Reunion of Mother and Daughter
This is an ideal time to begin any new creative endeavor. The childlike energies of excitement and joy fuel the process. Joy and Knowledge are united to forge a powerful beginning.

Celebration of New Green Growth
We celebrate the early successes of new beginnings while continuing our right action and prayers. We are grateful for the source of our tools, materials, energy and inspiration. We continue toward our goal while maintaining a healthy sense of humor.

June 21 (Summer Solstice): FESTIVAL OF CHLOAIA
Festival of Flowers; of Verdent Demeter and Kore
All that we have worked for now brings its first rewards. We celebrate the pleasures of success while remembering to honor and thank the divine source of life. We continue to seek support through prayer.

The First Harvest. Demeter is Harvest Queen. The Seed and Maiden are Matured
At this time we gather in what we have sown, reaping the rewards. Blessings abound and now is a time to give thanks.

September 22 (Autumnal Equinox): FESTIVAL OF KALAMAIA
The Threshing. Freeing the Seed Grain from the Chaff. 
We see what is good in past experiences and choose to release those influences we no longer want. We make decisions of where best to spend our resources, keeping some for now, some for the future, and some to devote to the sacred. We honor the source of our bounty and those who taught us the skills by which we profit.


Blessed By the Mystery,
-M. Ashley

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Neokoroi Noumenia

If I haven't already mentioned it, Neokoroi--The Temple Keepers is a marvelous, active and intelligent group of Hellenic Polytheists. One of the things they do incredibly well is supply the community with extremely well-written and, most importantly, entirely do-able rituals. As day follows night, so the new moon follows the dark. The following is the Neokoroi Noumenia (new moon ritual), to be performed on the night of the new moon--the night after Hekate's Deipnon.


-wash face and hands-


O Athanatoi, (Deathless Ones) Gods of Starry Heaven, broad Earth, and the Great Below. Xairete, Theoi!

Hear, and attend. Bless us with your presence, as we would honor you.

Libations (spondai):

Receive these libations, and rejoice, for your joy is ours this night.

Hestia, Goddess of the hearth, keeper of the Sacred Flame, guardian of the home, for you I pour out the first portion, as yours is the first and the last.

-pour a portion of wine or other liquid offering into the libation bowl-

Be well disposed.

For the gods of the Noumenia, I pour out the next shares, for it is under your auspices we gather tonight.

For Apollon Neomenios, Lord Apollon, Phoibos, golden-lyred, Shining Leto's glorious son.

-pour libation-

Be well disposed.

For Selene, Titaness, brilliant, crescent- crowned, lamp bearer, who courses among the stars,

-pour libation-

Be well disposed.

For the Agathos Daimon, winged serpent, god of good fortune, beloved of Tyche, kindly one,

-pour libation-

Be well disposed.

And for all the Blessed Gods, resplendent, beautiful, immortal, I pour now
an equal measure of sweet milk.

-pour libation-

Be well disposed.

Reading of Orphic Hymn

Kind Zeus and Gaia, heavenly and pure flames of the Sun, sacred light of the Moon and all the Stars; Poseidon too, dark-maned holder of the earth, pure Persephone and Demeter of the splendid fruit, Artemis, the arrow-pouring maiden, and kindly Phoebe, who dwells on the sacred ground of Delphi. And Dionysos, the dancer, whose honors among the blessed gods are the highest. Strong-spirited Ares, holy and mighty Hephaistos, and the goddess Aphrodite, foam-born to whose lot fell sublime gifts; and you Plouton, divinity excellent, who is king of the Underworld. I call upon Hebe, and Eileithyia, and the noble ardor of Herakles, the great blessings of Justice and Piety, the glorious Nymphs and Pan the greatest, and upon Hera, buxom wife of aegis-bearing Zeus. I also call upon lovely Mnemosyne and the holy Muses, all nine, as well as upon the Graces, the Seasons, the Year; fair-tressed Leto, divine and revered Dione, the armed Kouretes, the Korybantes, the Kubeiroi, great saviors, Zeus' ageless scion, the Idaian gods, and upon Hermes, messenger and herald of those in heaven; upon Themis too, diviner of men I call, and on Night, oldest of all, and light-bringing Day: then upon Faith, Dike, blameless Thesmodoteira, Rhea, Kronos, dark-dwelling Tethys, the great Okeanos together with his daughters, the might of preeminent Atlas and Aion, Chronos the ever-flowing, the splendid water of the Styx, the holy Daimon and our beloved ancestors too. Then upon the divinities dwelling in heaven, air, water, on earth, under the earth  and in the fiery element. Ino, Leukothea, Palaemon giver of bliss, sweet-speaking Nike, queenly Adresteia, the great king Asklepios who grants soothing, the battle-stirring maiden Pallas Athena, all the Winds, Thunder, and the parts of the four-pillared Cosmos. And I invoke the Mother of the immortals, Attis and Men, and the goddess Ourania, immortal and holy Adonis, beginning and end too which is the most important, and ask them to come in a spirit of joyous mercy to this holy rite and libation of reverence.

Neokoroi section:

O, Makares, (Blessed Ones) as the moon in its cycle is timeless, waxing and waning, it ever returns, so we, the Neokoroi, return each month at the time of the New Moon in the timeless act of worship, echoing with our prayers and our offerings the moon's ageless promise of renewal and return. This night, beneath the new moon, we gather to reinstitute your worship, to reforge the sacred bond of xaris, and to renew the hope with which the Gods bless humankind.

Elthete (Come) Theoi, (gods) Bless us with your presence, and partake of what we offer in reverence of you.

-ennumerate offerings: At this point individual worshippers may choose to make individual or special offerings of their own, the list below may serve as an example-

We offer sweet milk, fragrant incense, and a hymn of praise as sustenance for your hearts. And with our prayers we entreat you:

Watch over us and sustain us. Look kindly on our efforts, for it is through you we receive all blessings.

-At this point individuals may offer prayers of their own, and may add anything to the ritual that they may want to include.-

Final Libations / Last Libation for Hestia:

-take libation glass and bowl outside-

Beloved Theoi, (Gods) we offer thanks to you.

-pour libation to all the Gods into libation bowl-

And for Hestia, as yours is always the first and last.

-pour libation to Hestia into libation bowl-

-pour libation on ground-

Hail Theoi, be well disposed.

-replace libation bowl on altar and extinguish candle-

Hail Hestia--the first and the last.

May this new month bring you inspiration and opportunity as bright as the lovely Selene herself.

-M. Ashley