Friday, October 19, 2018

Was Ancient Greece Sexist?

Historians usually pin up ancient Athens when they want to talk about the sexism that existed in ancient Greece, or at least Athens of the Classical Period. While I am certain that sexism existed, as it has existed in many forms throughout human history, I have also found myself increasingly skeptical of its magnitude in ancient Greece. 

Ancient Greek sexism is normally applied to a starting point with the writer Hesiod, although the alleged statement he made about women isn't even 1% of his writings. What we must remember about Hesiod's writings is that, what we have today, could, in some cases, be entirely different from what he actually wrote. It's very possible, and likely, that Greek cultures down through the centuries did their own editing based on the culture of their time period. Unlike the bible, there was no "change nothing nor add nothing" when it came to Greek literature. But in the Hesiodic writings, it is claimed that he said that anyone who trusts a woman is a fool, and that she is after everything you have. But depending on translation, such as the one found in my copy, what he actually said was that to trust a woman is to trust a flatterer; do not trust flatterers. Hesiod was only able to look at the world from his own eyes, which were that of a man, so the flatterer to him would have been a woman, whereas a flatterer to a woman may have been a man, and that to let your lust lead you astray without thought and reason, may end up costing you everything you have. He was probably more so warning against a lack of moderation and recklessness than against women themselves.

We are led to believe that in the more Archaic Era of Athens, according to Plato's Dialogue of Critias that, "Military training for both men and women was very common in the ancient days. Athena was adorned with armor - an indication that all the female and male creatures that live together can pursue in common the special talents that are suited to each (Plato Complete Works, 1,296).

But even in the Athenian times of Socrates and Plato, we find that the City, ran by men, venerated a Goddess (Athena) as the Patron of the City, and did so in place of a male God (Poseidon). That's not something you'd expect from a culture that is overly sexist. You normally see that in monotheistic cultures where the worship is centered around one male deity. While the religions have many prominent female figures like the Virgin Mary, they are never considered divine or deified. You'd also not expect a culture, like ancient Greece, to be highly sexist while putting their trust in a female oracle, who was the greatest and most revered one of the ancient world; the Oracle of Delphi. The office was always held by a woman, who had been appointed by Apollo. So a mortal woman was always selected to bring the messages of the Gods to mankind, whereas in the male-dominated monotheistic cultures, women weren't even allowed to be clergy.

Being that Greece in the times of old was not a unified nation, but rather a collection of numerous City-States with their own laws, governments, calendars and religious denominations, it would also be entirely inaccurate to assume they were all the same when it came to societal roles. The women of Sparta were highly revered by the men. Women in Sparta could own land, receive an education, and gained a reputation for being the heads of their households. The Spartan society wanted thriving soldiers, and an essential part to that was a thriving female population to have and care for the men in the military, and naturally to look after things while the men were away at war. So you can't really say that ancient Greece was "this way or that way," because each culture was different.

If you knew nothing of ancient Greece and went back in time to judge their culture by simple appearance, it would shout at you, "We revere the female as well!" There would be no doubt as to what your eyes and mind would automatically interpret as the religious and spiritual foundation of their culture, and in many cases, even in the foundation of their societal roles.

Depending on where you went in the ancient Greek world, and the time period, you were likely to find women in several professions, including priesthoods. A notable woman may have even found herself being worshiped by a locality after her passing, like Helen of Sparta/Troy. Did sexism exist? Of course it did. But were women always viewed as moles of society? Certainly not.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Work Cited

*Hesiod, Works and Days, trans. Lattimore, Richmond, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperbacks, 1991. Print. (pp. 63).

*Plato, Plato Complete Works, edited by Cooper, M. John, Indianapolis, Indiana, Hackett Publishing Company, 1997. Print. (pp. 1,296). 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Everyday Environmentalism For The Pagan

As Pagans, and lovers of Nature, we all care about the environment and the Natural World around us, so it's no wonder that many of us consider ourselves strong environmentalists. However, one problem is that the world is a big place, and it's easy for us to find ourselves overwhelmed. But in ancient Greek times, each person, citizen or priest was responsible for their specific precinct, city, sanctuary or temple alone. One person couldn't run the whole Greek land, but with each person doing their part in each little section, the whole land vibrated. I have incorporated this idea into my own personal environmentalist efforts, and I encourage all other Hellenes and Pagans to do the same. Take a look at the picture on the right. This is a very small section of forest behind my home that I decided to sponsor, if you will, and I take regular trips through it to make sure the forest floor and trees are clean. 

On the outside, a forest like this may look presentable and fresh, but you would not believe the amount of trash I pulled from it just today. Look at the picture on the left. And by the way, that big plastic bag I used to hold all the trash was also found in the forest. The forest has two major issues that it has to deal with. One is, of course, careless humans, and the other is the fact that it stands next to a public dumpster, so there's the possibility that trash could accidentally blow through it and land in various places. 

Upon noticing the area being in need, I walked out there and worked as long as it took, releasing much sweat and pain, but eventually I recovered the landscape, and at the end, I praised Artemis and declared my labor as an offering to Her and the woodlands and forests She loves so much. I don't consider just stone and brick structures to be temples of the Gods, but also the woods, rivers, fields, and so on. These things over which the Gods rule are also their temples and sanctuaries, and that's why I, and all Pagans and Hellenes, should work to keep them clean, safe and protected. It took only about 30 minutes of my time, and it didn't require superhuman abilities or machines. Yet, I still cleaned up this entire section of forest all by myself using only my hands, a large bag, and devotion in my heart. I hope all of us will find the same in ourselves for the world around us.

When you have accomplished the work, you will feel amazingly good about yourself. You might even come to discover wonderful natural places that you never knew existed around you. It may also even give you a great sense of pride and belonging in your community. I know when you're laboring, it gets frustrating to think of the fact that you wouldn't have to be out there if people weren't so stupid, and that you will probably have to go out there again in the future because of them. But pray for those people, and be a good example and role model for them. The world is full of followers, not leaders. We need more of the latter.

Note that when deciding to sponsor a piece of natural land that is not specifically your own, make sure that you have permission to be on it. If the land is owned by a private person or company, just ask. Most people probably wouldn't mind giving you permission to clean it up for them. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Has Atlantis Finally Been Found?

It's been part of our ancient Greek heritage since the time of Solon, who delivered it to Plato via the ancient Egyptians. The two major countries of the ancient Mediterranean before Rome spoke of this place in great detail, about a mighty naval power beyond the Pillars of Herakles (Straits of Gibraltar), that met the wrath of the Gods for its arrogance and was wiped away by the sea. Plato, being a non-fictional writer, or at least someone who placed his stories among actual people and places, intrigued so many for countless years, and drove their ambitions to discover this lost world. I, being a lover of history, researcher, and who has even went on some archaeological digs in his life, have also spent many years pondering the whereabouts of its ruins. When I was in college for the first time at Davidson County Community College, I even tried to form an archaeological research team to try and find the location, but sadly it never got off the ground.

Many people have proposed possible locations for Atlantis throughout the world. For many years, I thought the Azores were the remains, as they are obviously shattered islands in circular shapes beyond the Pillars, as Plato described, but I now believe Atlantis lies as the ruins of something called the Eye of Africa, which you can see in the picture on the left, taken by NASA. Many do not know about this spot. But if you research it by simply looking at it geographically from all angles, you can see that it rests on the western tip of Africa, beyond the Pillars, and that the sea clearly once reached its frontal canal which is still visible and leads into the circular shapes that Plato described. The shapes are argued to be natural land formations that just so happen to resemble Atlantis exactly (whatever), but even if they are, they could have been a place chosen to build the Atlantean civilization on. Enlarge the image and you can even see, on the cliffs surrounding it, the marks of rivers and waterfalls that fell into it, which Plato also talked about. The outer landscape clearly shows a massive influx of land into the continent from this region, indicating perhaps a tidal wave or some other great inrush of water for one reason or another. 

Many moons ago, northern Africa was not a desert. It was actually a very lush landmass with bodies of water. Due to climate changes and natural disasters, it became a desert, and as the desert moved in, more people fled East and settled on the only body of water left in that region, the Nile. And there, they founded Egypt, or Kemet. With them, these people probably brought the knowledge of Atlantis, some may even have been refugees or descendants of refugees from the destroyed Empire. 

The archaeological tragedy is that we know the Sahara was once a lush landscape, but we've never fully excavated it because of the immense dangers of the region. It's very hard to get a constant flow of supplies into the middle of a desert, not to mention the threat of thieves or terrorists who could assault helpless researchers. My bet is that remains of Atlantis are scattered all over the northwestern African desert. 

But as we research and ponder, let us also not forget the lesson of the Gods, delivered by Lord Poseidon, about this place. Hubris leads only to our destruction. Who knows, perhaps Atlantis knew of an impending natural disaster, but chose to ignore it because they thought they were greater than the Gods, as some people still think today, and their arrogance led them to find out the worse lesson for mortals, the lesson that you're not a God.

For more information on this spot, see the following Video.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Aphrodite ~ Her Real Character

Even as far back as ancient Greece, there were people who feared the power of Aphrodite. Of course, that's a bit misleading because the Greeks feared the powers of all Gods, not just Her. To act as though Aphrodite was the only One who sometimes caused men to cower is simply untrue. All of the Gods were both loved and feared. But love and sex were, and still are, extremely powerful forces, and when something takes possession of us, even if it's part of our natural state, we can sometimes find ourselves afraid and therefore think of it as terrible or mischievous. However, in reality, Aphrodite is not a Goddess who does bad things, no God is. She was worshiped and celebrated all over the ancient Greek world. Even though Her dominant epithets may have slightly differed from region to region, She was still the same Goddess. For example, to some, Her sphere of sexuality may have been more geared toward marital unions, while others viewed Her as present in sexual activity in general. There can be no doubt that Her realm gives life to us all. Without sexual union, humans would go extinct. We don't often think about it, especially if we have achieved great success in life, but the basic intercourse of sexuality is the reason we are even here in the first place, and therefore it's something to love and celebrate. 

Although, despite the fact that She was so widely loved and served by so many, modern authors of ancient Greek history, at times, take the liberty to portray Her as a force that the Greeks resented and preferably wanted nothing to do with, one that was dreaded most of all. But as Socrates said in the Dialogue of Theaetetus, it is not possible for a God to wish for wickedness upon mankind. It's also important to remember that there was no dogmatic belief system in ancient Athens. The Greeks were more so concerned with practice, instead of the personal beliefs of each person. Therefore, what one Athenian believed about a God, could be different than what another believes about them. Just because they write those beliefs down, no matter how famous the author, doesn't necessarily mean there's a universal consensus. In fact, it's probably a safe bet that we have lost most of the things that were written down in ancient Greece.

The ancient Greeks were certainly people who were far more sexually free and accepting of the wonderful things about sexuality than the later Christians who took over the West, and although places like ancient Athens in the Classical Period are routinely portrayed as sexist and fearful of the female, their religious devotion does not seem to coincide with that image. After all, the men dedicated the City to a Goddess (Athena), and did so in place of a male God (Poseidon). On the Acropolis, the holiest of holy places for Athens, which was a City dominated by men, there stood a shrine to Aphrodite and Her son Eros, the God of love. One of the most well known festivals held in Her honor in Athens was called Aphrodisia, and is the first festival of the Athenian new year. Her most famously known devotee from ancient times is Sappho, another female, who was elevated to the rank of the 10th Muse. And Aphrodite Herself was known to the Athenians as Heavenly, Averter of Unlawful Desire, and Common to All People.

In the book Greek Religion by Walter Burkert, the section on Aphrodite is very clear on Her purpose and Divinity.

"Aphrodite's sphere of activity is immediately and sensibly apparent; the joyous consummation of sexuality" (Burkert, 152).

Notice he says, "joyous," not fearful or resentful. There was a time in human history when sex was a way to connect with the Divine, instead of something to be thought of as lowly, impure, or sinful. It didn't keep us from Deity, it brought them to us. And it sometimes seems that the more and more ancient culture and philosophy progressed, the more the Gods were viewed and understood as Bringers of good things, and not Beings to make you fear your humanity or the world. As it was said, I believe by the philosopher Sallustius, The Gods are always good, and never harmful. We would therefore be led to believe that something which is the contrary has not been sent by the Gods.

This progression in theology, and the various ways to connect with the Gods was, of course, interrupted by the Christian take over, and early Christians sometimes used their own interpretation to revise ancient perceptions and beliefs, and when they did this, it was not a flattering view. If there was one thing they hated more than the Pagans, it was sexual freedom exercised by a woman, and Aphrodite, being a sexually strong and independent female Divinity, would have no doubt gotten the worst end of male dominated, Christian supremacist wrath.

Of course, it would be highly dishonest to act as though all ancient Greek men were trusting of women. It would also be dishonest to suggest that every Greek culture was sexually identical, when women in Sparta held more power than women in Athens. And there has never been, in the world's history, a society of matriarchy, and no one's denying that. But I think that, as human beings, no matter our gender, we sometimes fear those of the opposite. Men have feared women because they worry about seduction, temptation, or manipulation, and women have feared men because they worry about misogyny in its many forms. This has sometimes led us to demonize one another, but I think that if we come to terms with the fact that male and female are both blessed beings, we will lose the grip of fear and distrust on our minds.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Work Cited: Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1985.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Validating Ancient Greek Creation Stories, Part II

Last night, I was thinking about yet another book project I could put together, that being my own compilation and interpretation of the Greek myths, from creation to present day, or the end of the ancient Greek timeline before Common Era destruction took place. While writing the first page as a test to see if it was something I really wanted to do, I came to another revelation about ancient Greek creation stories concerning the beginning of the world and the universe. As you may know, it was said that life first came to Earth by the Union of the Gods Gaia and Ouranos. The Sky and Earth was said to have mated and from their Union came the first forms of life on the planet.

While it has been suggested that life may have started by lightning striking the Ocean, which can be interpreted as Sky and Earth meeting, some modern individuals discount this story as being within the realm of primitive perception, because to human eyes, the overhanging Heavens are right on top of the Earth, whereas in reality, they come nowhere close to it. The night Sky does not "lie over us" like a husband would lie on top of his wife. The stars are actually light years away. 

However, if we break this myth down, and look beyond the surface of it, we can see the truth that lies within it. Ouranos, the Heavens above, is also where the lights reside, among them being the Sun. Now within the realm of Ouranos stands this vital life force, without whom life on Earth would not exist. In fact, the Sun is responsible for not only the life that resides on Earth, but for sustaining it. It's a massive compilation of heat and energy, that when directed in necessary amounts onto a planet, sparks and upholds life. So the myth is actually true, that from the Sky came the penetrating fertilization into Mother Earth that She needed to give birth to life, that penetration and fertilization coming from the component of the Sky, the Sun. And not only does the Sky or Heavens above hold our own Sun, but a great multitude of them all over. For the Sky to "lay over" Gaia, is for it to give Her all the life-giving force that it holds. And for that matter, wherever Ouranos hangs over any proper planet, life also has the potential to exist there as well.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Theseia ~ A Way To Celebrate The Oktober Rite

On October 8th, Hellenes everywhere will recognize or celebrate the ancient Festival of Theseus, the founder and Hero of Athens and her democracy, and the slayer of the infamous Minotaur monster who devoured innocent young girls and boys of Athens until Minos met the only man who wasn't afraid of him, Theseus.

Years ago, or so it seems, I constructed a rite to the Hero that anyone can practice, not only during Theseia, but any time they like throughout the year, the purpose being to honor and worship the Hero and bring His presence into one's life and/or home. Permission is granted to the Hellenic and Pagan community to use this rite whenever and wherever they like, so long as credit is given to me, its author.

1) To begin the Rite of Theseus, place in the center of your shrine or altar a statue of Theseus, or a picture or representation of the Hero. Do the proper cleansing of the altar, the offerings, and yourself.

2) Light the flame of the altar, which can be as simple as a candle, and recite the following declaration, "I light the flame of the altar, to burn bright with the Spirit of Theseus of Troezen, Hero and King of Athens and the mighty slayer of the Minotaur, Founder of festivals and the unity of the people who gather in His presence."

3) Bring forth and recite the journeys and times of Theseus with the following recitals, and offerings or gifts placed after each reference or invocation.

Journey to Athens
"The long, lost son of Aegeus He was, born in blessed Troezen, and lifting the great stone to find the gifts His father had left behind, and taking them into His possession, the great sword and sandals, to make His journey to blessed Athens, that He may reunite with His father and claim His birthright. Along the way, many enemies and evildoers did He encounter, and thus He slayed them that they may be punished, and the Hellenic people freed. O' Theseus, who brings rescue from evil and ruthlessness, I welcome you as a Savior, and to you sweet fragrance must be given.

(Light The Incense)

Destruction of the Minotaur
"Sailing the beautiful Aegean, Theseus on the sea, mighty Sailor, He bravely traveled to the island of Minos to free the people of Athens from the tyranny of the Minotaur and the oppression of the Minoan monarch. He confronted the half-man, half-bull monster in the endless labyrinth, and struck the beast dead to the floor of the maze. Never again would Athens yield and submit, for Minos now knew the power of Athena's people. Theseus who brings us salvation from tyranny and oppression, I welcome you as Liberator, and for this greatness, a great libation should be poured to you."

(Pour the Libation)

Unification of Attica and the Founding of Panathenaia
"To the region of Attica, scattered and divided, Theseus brought the Union, both of land and people, into the great State of Athens. He founded its historic democracy which has since inspired the free world, He created its brilliant festival of Athena's people known as Panathenaia, and He pushed Athens to the heights of its most glorious and influential times. I welcome you, Theseus, as the great Unity, the Founder of free government, and the Father of our festivals, and in that honor, I give you a beautiful fabric of my home, robes given for a King, to see you with delight and wrap your statue/image in beauty."

(Wrap the Cloth Around)

4) Grand Invocation
"O' Theseus of Troezen, Hero and King of Athens, slayer of the Minotaur, lead me to victory over the monsters in my life, free me of tyranny, and bring me to liberation, through the goodness of the Gods, and the grace of Athena's blessed City."

5) Closing Prayer
"As I bring my holy and sacred rite to a close, I give thanks to Theseus for hearing my prayers, delighting in my gifts, and blessing my home and life with the goodness and freedom that He brings. As Athens declared, Nothing Without Theseus."

(Blow Kiss of Love To The King)

Final Note- Consider finishing the rite or the day with a feast in honor of Theseus.

Also know that I wrote a book on Theseus some time ago. Consider purchasing a copy if you would like to learn more about Him by clicking on this Link.
Theseus: His Life, Mysteries and Virtues
In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Building Meditative Shrines ~ Inner Spiritual Growth

I have recently started looking into Greek Magic, or what a number of practitioners today would consider and use as magic. Some would actually consider it Mysticism. In any modern practice of the Arts, meditation is a great asset, and for good reason. It is a great way to connect with Higher Powers, bring forth your own personal powers, and to simply grow and develop spiritually.

One of the reasons I regret not becoming a serious worshiper of the Greek Gods in my much younger life is because I was surrounded by nature and natural tools. You may remember, I grew up in very rural North Carolina, literally in the middle of a forest, and my family owned quite a bit of it, with wells and streams running through it, not to mention groves and small hills. This was not my grandmother Sue's home, but rather, my grandfather Pete's, my dad's dad, my infant home. Had I been as devout as I am today, I would have probably built numerous shrines and altars all through those woods and around my home. Maybe even a small temple or two.

Of course, it would be sad now because I had to move a long time ago and the property isn't even in my family's possession anymore. Recently, I even went back to look at it, and it's been utterly destroyed by the new owners in the most filthy way imaginable. The house is barely standing, and old cars and auto parts make up the yard and driveway. However, such a peril was unknown at the time of my childhood and teenage years, and I don't know how much of the present forest has remained untouched. It's possible that somethings I would have constructed might still be there today. Who knows?

But building these special areas not only gives you a place of worship, and expresses to the universe your reverence to the Divinity, it also improves your relationship with them and your own inner mental, physical, and spiritual being. You can create natural places in the meditative world, an area that you yourself can choose to keep exclusive for you to return to in meditation any time you want for prayer, worship, sacrifice, etc. 

The first step is to choose the God you want to honor, but for this post, I'll pick two, actually; Poseidon and Artemis, as I think it will help the reader and practitioner open their perspective on Deity a little wider.

Even though I won't be giving an example of each Olympian here, a reasonable mind would probably be able to make proper equivalents in other meditations that they may create, such as realizing that a natural place for Zeus might be a Peak Sanctuary, or a place for Athena being an olive grove or a shining city. Also note that the meditative building of a temple or shrine may not be something you can accomplish in one meditative session. You may find yourself returning to the spot several times to work on the project. This is to be expected. The point is to develop.

1) As with mostly every meditation, this will require a quiet, peaceful surrounding for the best results. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe deeply; become completely relaxed from head to toe.

2) In your meditative state, you're walking down a stone path toward a wooded area in the distance. Take note to the beautiful nature around you as you make your way. Hear the birds, smell the breeze, adore the green grass and flowers about. Become tuned with the natural world. Eventually, you may even come to hear or see horses and deer, the sacred animals of the two blessed Gods.

3) When you enter the woods, you see a vast forest before you, amazing in beauty and very welcoming. There are no dangers to you here, all is good. You walk through this forest and explore as the bright sunlight comes through from above and brightens the day, much to your delight. Eventually, you come upon a beautiful flowing stream, full of pebbles and rocks, and surrounded by rich soil on its banks that hold thick trees with bright leaves. It's a classic picture for a calendar or a meditation video.

4) Here upon these shores, you will now begin construction on your shrines and altars to Poseidon and Artemis, being to honor Poseidon as the God of the flowing fresh waters, and Artemis as the Goddess of the forest and wilderness; She is as well considered the Goddess of freshwater fish. There will be an altar constructed adjacent to the structure you build, but you may find it easier to start with the altar. Remember also that at the fresh flowing streams, rivers and springs of natural places also reside The Naiads (the freshwater Nymphs). Now's the time to find building material in this realm. Both aspects of the Gods here will be very earthy, so get the materials from there. Start by building the altars to Poseidon and Artemis by collecting rocks from the stream, but not before you have asked kindly of The Naiads and given a proper sacrifice. As for what to offer to them, look around and I am sure you'll find some forest berries you can drop into the waters.

A simple stacking of rocks, elevated upward from the ground, is a classic altar of ancient times. Begin by creating a circle with the stones, the circle being the size you'd like for the altar to be. If you want to make the entire project easier, build the altar in front of a tree stump or other natural structure, as this can later be used as the shrine area. Then simply fill in the open rock circle and keep stacking until it's reached a height of about a foot or two. Now construct the shrine behind it, a few feet away. A shrine is a holy structure made to hold or house images, objects or relics representing Deities or Divine Beings.

Upon this shrine, you can place either small statues of the Gods, which you can take time to carve from the wood around you, or symbols of them would be fine too. You might find deer antlers lying around for Artemis, or a stick that resembles a trident for Poseidon.

5) The final step is consecration of the shrines and their altars. Declare them verbally as the sacred areas of these Gods, and rinse them with waters from the nearby stream for purification. In the last act, ask for Greek Sphinxes to be assigned to protect the structures. When you return in meditation for workings, remember as well the nearby stream. This water can be used each time to purify the altars and to wash your own hands and offerings before you do ritual.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.