Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Shrines for Wells and Water Blessings

In ancient Greece, even major Gods at times took on a very local and personal role in the lives of worshipers. Poseidon, for example, is God of the sea, but being also the God of rivers, He is worshiped as a God of fresh as well as salt water, and can be credited for the creation of even the smallest portion of water such as those found in wells and springs with the mere strike of His mighty trident.

Keeping in mind the fact that there was no separation of religion and personal life for the ancient Greeks, I decided to make my new home as religious as possible. When I moved, I realized I had a whole bunch of statues that I had to make places for, lest many of them end up in the storage basement. Therefore, one thing I did was to create a Poseidon shrine above the main water source of my home (the kitchen sink), with the hope that Poseidon will always bless not only our own water, but the very source from which the city itself gets its water.

The shrine is not large or expensive to build at all. The small, colorful statue of Poseidon was purchased from Greece, but of course, it's not the only place you can obtain said pieces. Either way, the actual cost of the statue is very low given its size. Then it simply stands on a platform above the water source in the home. If you choose to create one, that's all you need. You don't have to be as colorful and fancy as the one I have built in my own home, and at this shrine you can not only invoke Poseidon for water blessings, but also pray and offer to Him in general. After all, it is a place of naturally flowing water. When you build it, do so with the these intentions. If you don't have a statue, you can use something which symbolizes Him, like a trident, sea shell or seahorse for examples.

The following is a prayer one can use to officially open said shrine and bring in Poseidon's presence:

O' Lord Poseidon,
great God of Helicon,
from the heights of Olympos,
and the cool depths of the Earth's rivers, wells and springs,
hear my humble supplication,
and let your beautiful presence dwell here, 
at this shrine built to your Honor.
Strike here, your trident,
that pure and refreshing waters always come forth,
for all who dwell within this household.
Let it be done.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Validating Ancient Greek Creation Stories

Ancient Greek myths, especially the stories of creation, are often regarded by mainstream society and the educational system as primitive and holding no value or truth to them. In short, the idea that they should be discarded, while the mainstream monotheistic religions claim that their own stories are the most logical and likely. But when you've spent time as a Hellenist, especially religiously, and you've deeply studied and deciphered the myths, you realize the immense amount of truth behind them. Comparing some of the myths to what we know or think regarding science today, I will explain these examples.

Let's begin with the first myth relevant to ancient Greek religion, that being the story of creation. The ancient Greeks believed that, in the beginning, there was simply chaos, immense disorder. Then, after a significant passing of time, the chaos stopped and the Earth or Gaia came into Being. If we apply this to what science thinks the beginning of the universe was like, we find a perfect match. There was nothing but chaos and disorder in the beginning. Not only did we have the Big Bang, but the Earth itself went through collisions, impacts, separations, and eruptions. However, eventually, the chaos stopped and there was order in the universe. And, unlike modern religions that wrongly date the age of the Earth to be mere thousands, the ancient Greeks never attempted to put a number on it, because they knew it was massive. Today, we know this to be true. The Earth is over 4 billion years old, not 6,000, and while the idea of a flat Earth is still accepted by some people even to this day, an ancient Greek named Eratosthenes correctly calculated its circumference, thus proving Earth to be round.

According to the ancient Greeks, once the Earth came into Being, She first gave birth to monsters. Today, we know this to be true because, at least when it comes to large forms of life, dinosaurs and other prehistoric giants roamed and swam upon the Earth. Now the myth does not directly describe a dinosaur itself as far as I can recall, but nevertheless, the ancient Greeks knew that a world of monstrous beings predated us. When mankind did finally arrive on the scene, he was said to have come in five Ages, or stages. In short, what we would call today an evolutionary pattern. The ancient Greeks knew that man today was not the same as man who first started out upon the Earth, that man and civilization changed over time. It's also worth noting that the Greeks believed that man was created last, after all the other creatures of the Earth. Because of this, all of the natural weapons and abilities had already been given to all the other creatures. There was nothing left to give man in this regard. This is why we don't have the power to really harm other animals with our hands, but they can often devastate us with a single blow. Instead, the Gods gave us a great mind, that we could find ways to rule over our shortcomings in the animal kingdom. And so, we have. 

The beginnings of ancient Greek myth also began to advance our understanding of bodily anatomy. It was said that when Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man, Zeus punished the Titan by chaining Him to a mountain, and each day, a liver-eating bird could come and peck out the organ, only for it to grow back the next day so that the punishment may be inflicted again. Today, we know that the liver is the only organ that has the ability to regenerate itself.

It's no wonder that so much of our modern science derives from that which was started by the ancient Greeks, and it's proof that theology and science can exist together, because for the ancient Greeks, there was no separation of religion and everything else in life. It was all rolled into one, and still, their sciences advanced because the Gods encourage the pursuit of knowledge. They do not like ignorance, especially willful ignorance. If the ancient Greeks had been allowed to continue on through the centuries, instead of being forcefully disrupted, persecuted and destroyed by dogmatic monotheism, who knows what we might know or be able to do today?

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hermes, God of Thieves - What Does That Mean?

If you've been Hellenic or Pagan for a significant amount of time, or studied Greek myth, you are probably aware that Hermes has been called, among other things, the God of thieves. I am sure that some people in our modern time have used this to paint the Gods in a negative light, or to make them seem less than completely good. The problem, however, is that the title did not mean the same thing in ancient times that it would today. Remember, the Maxims of Delphi, which are the center of the Greek religious world, say to gain possessions justly.

According to Walter Burkert's Greek Religion, page 157, the epithet of Hermes being the God of thievery referred to "secrecy and cunning, not law-breaking." He uses an example of Hermes "stealing" Ares away from His confines, and thus liberating Him. With that in mind, some may also see this in the adventures of Odysseus when Hermes helps steal the men back from Circe after being wrongfully captured or kidnapped. Now others may site the myth of Hermes stealing the herd of Apollo as evidence of Him being the God of actual stealing, but remember, Hermes also created the lyre for Apollo as repentance for the action. In other words, Hermes acknowledged that the action was not ethical, if we are to take the myth as literal, that is. Many Hellenists probably do not, or discount it all together. 

Hermes is also the God of commerce, which means He deals heavily in the legitimate buying and exchanging of goods and services, which takes place in the world just as much, if not more, than theft.

Even if you refuse to accept everything I have said in the above paragraphs, and instead believe that Hermes is the God of literal thievery, remember that very few things carry a universal negative. A mother is broke, has no help, and her baby needs formula. She has only two choices, she can either steal the food, or let her baby starve to death. Therefore, she steals it. I am not condoning crime at all, but would you call her evil? I wouldn't. I think letting her baby die would have been the evil and the immoral, while the rich company who makes the formula isn't going to be harmed. They will still be rich and probably not even notice the loss.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Source : Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, translated by Raffan, John, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1985. Print. (pp. 157).

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Megazord & Millennals

A little bit of a different post than normal, but one that I still consider incredibly relevant to our generation. When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the original Power Rangers, and I still consider myself to be. I've even met two of the original Rangers in my life, Walter Jones and David Yost, and even though I've been a fan since 1993, I only recently got my hands on the Megazord. I wanted one even back in my young days, but it just never happened. I'm kind of glad, though, because the quality of the original toy was very cheap and not show accurate. However, the one I recently bought from the Soul of Chogokin line, is the best quality ever made. 

Moving on to the point of this post, I was thinking a lot about my own generation, The Millennals, and what influenced us as children. The Power Rangers were extremely popular in the original days. Fans turned entire roads into parking lots to see the live shows with the actors on stage. But what struck me most about my generation is how incredibly tolerant and accepting we are of other people and diversity itself. We are, without a doubt, the least racist, and the least prejudice generation ever in the history of the United States of America. We are also the most community and socially minded individuals ever in the country's timeline. Why is that?

Well, I think it's, in part, because we grew up with things like the Power Rangers. Here was a team of very diverse people. Black, white, Asian, male, and female. They were all different and unique in their own personal ways as well, and they never asked each other what their religion, politics, immigration status, or sexual orientation was. They all worked together as a team. This team effort was demonstrated nowhere better than their zords. Most often, the monster would be too hard to fight as individuals, so the Rangers would bring all of their zords together into one giant fighter, the Megazord, and only then would they win the day. The Rangers taught us the value of diversity, that we're all human and valuable in our own ways, and that sometimes, one person cannot do it alone. It takes the community coming together for the greater good, and that we are strongest and most successful when united. And, most importantly, that we do better as individuals when everyone around us does better. When the community benefits, we all benefit. Had the Rangers been selfish individuals who only looked out for their own personal gain and glory, they would have lost.

We don't often think about our childhood superheroes influencing us in the adult world, but many of our values were learned in the former, ingrained into us from the time we were able to comprehend. The Power Rangers helped raise the Millennals into the wonderful people we are today. The fact that we are the most educated generation also helps a great deal, of course. It's hard to be ignorant when you are filled with knowledge. But I think our path to an open mind started in our early stages of life. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Plynteria Prayer to Athena Polias

Plynteria is one of my favorite ancient Greek religious observances, even though I am barred from its main function because of my gender. Plynteria is the annual undressing, washing and redressing of the statue of Athena Polias (Athena of the City). Only women were allowed to see Athena's statue naked, wash, and redress it. Men either did not, or were not, allowed.

But as a man, there are still things I can do to honor Athena Polias during this time. I can hold a feast in Her honor, and/or just do general sacrifice, prayer and praise, and thus, I have decided to write and share this Plynteria prayer for everyone participating or honoring the time. This prayer can be followed by whatever sacrifice or gift one has for Her.

O' blessed Athena,
Aegis-Bearing Daughter of the King of all Gods,
I welcome you as the Goddess of my City,
of the civilization in which I live,
that the goodness of heaven may descend upon us.
Be the Guardian at our gates,
the Watchful Eye at our towers,
the Voice of reason in our government,
the Justice in our courts,
the Teacher of our youth,
good Counsel among our people.
the Destroyer of evil,
and a Goddess who sends to us Heroes.
Still with us today is your Presence,
and still given now is my gratitude and devotion.
Your eyes shine like the stars,
your Divinity as eternal as Olympos itself,
Victory is forever in your hands.
Welcome, Athena Polias,
come to us,
here you are worshiped,
here you are loved,
here you are adored,
here you are needed. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

How To Build An Outside Sanctuary That Will Withstand The Elements

For 2.5 years, my Sanctuary of Artemis has stood completely unmoved without cement, glue or nails, despite the fact that the area gets heavy snow and ice in the winter, and hard and powerful rain and wind storms in the spring and summer. You too can build these kinds of natural worship areas with little labor and low cost. All you need is a little land and personal drive.

Step One: In ancient Greece, sanctuaries were sometimes built in caves, which no doubt provided amazing protection. This did not go unnoticed by me when I built my own sanctuary. I chose sturdy terrain and surrounding buildings. As you can see from the first picture on the left, the sanctuary is basically in a cave-like area. The only fully open direction is the front, or the entrance where the sunlight mostly penetrates. The back, left and right are all cut off by bigger, stronger structures, like my house on the right, my concrete carport behind, and another building on the left that isn't my own. It sits on other property, but is still close enough to protect the smaller structures around it. The sanctuary has no doubt been spared natural destruction in its past because of these factors. The other nice thing is that it provides you with a good level of privacy when you want to go there to worship, pray, sacrifice, or just be alone for a while. So step one is to surround the sanctuary with naturally stronger things. These can be as complex as buildings, or as simple as large trees. Something that is left completely out in the open, is going to get hit by everything around.

Step Two: I employed the soil of Earth Herself to help me stand the structures of the sanctuary. The column in the center that holds the statue of Artemis is actually nothing but a hard and hollow plastic, very light weight. So how does it stay in place without cement or something extremely heavy on top? Answer: soil. In the picture on the right, you will notice the base of the column. The very bottom platform of the column is completely buried by dirt and mud. When the soil was loose and wet, I dug a hole big enough to place the base of the column in, then I packed it extremely with the surrounding mud. Once it dried and hardened, the column basically became part of the ground itself. It's hard to move the ground unless there's an earthquake.

Step Three: Simply put, make sure the vital structures are made for outside, or can at least hold up in such natural conditions. My statue of Artemis is made of pure bronze, and while that may sound expensive and toilsome to carry, it's not at all. I believe the statue was a little over $100 when I bought it, and it's not anymore than 5 or 6 pounds, I'm certain. Yet it's heavy enough to not be moved easily, and strong enough to not be broken down by natural weather. Combine this with the natural footings and the protections of a cave, and you have an amazingly strong sanctuary. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
and Blessings to you all, my friends,
Chris Aldridge.

Friday, May 18, 2018

When The Gods Hear You, You Know It

Moving is highly stressful, not to mention all of the financial dealings you have to go through. But, here I am again, about to move an hour and a half away from my present home to the region of Rockton and South Beloit, Illinois. Since my wife and I have been together, we have moved every year since 2009 up until 2015, when we settled in Elizabeth, IL up to this present date. Why are we moving again, you might ask? Well, human migration really hasn't changed that much since the old days. We used to move where the herds went. Now, we move where the jobs are, such as in my case. I have really enjoyed Elizabeth and the surrounding region, but when it comes down to it, there are just no prosperous jobs here. So my wife landed one out to the east of the state. There's also far more opportunity in our new area for the temple that I run. The hardest part, however, is that you know that moving a house is Tartaros on Earth; no one in the right mind wants to, or enjoys it. The last time, I moved the entire apartment alone, with nothing more than a hand truck and a moving van. Perhaps after I die, I will be the Hero of Movers, or the Patron of Toilsome Endeavors, or something like that.

Some time ago, I was lounging in my car at the park in Stockton, Illinois, thinking about all my stresses, worries and fears. Sometimes, life becomes too hard to deal with on our own, and that's when the Gods are there. My wife told me in the past, "Sometimes, you have to just give it up to the Gods." I tilted my head back, closed my eyes, and began to pray to Athene for strength, and Hermes for success in the move. When the Gods hear you, you know it, because a smothering blanket of peace and love came over me, complete calmness and delight. My troubles troubled me no more. I knew things were going to be ok one way or another, there was nothing to fear. There is nothing that can hold rule over me so long as the Gods are by my side.

The peace simply came in knowing that they heard me. Absolutely nothing had happened yet in regards to the move. We had not even found a new home. But I knew the Gods heard my words, a simple common man, and that alone was enough. Their power and presence is beyond amazing. There are no words which a human mouth or hand can use to describe it. The best I can say is that, when you're in the presence of the Gods, goodness is all that exists there.

In the Goodness of the Gods.
Chris Aldridge.