Showing posts with label Ancient Greece. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ancient Greece. Show all posts

Monday, August 22, 2022

Becoming An Ancient Greek Priest In The 21st Century


Hellenism is sometimes thought of as a priest-free religion. This claim is both true and false. True in the fact that we do not have priests in the Christian sense. We are not dictators of worshipers or intercessors for Gods. No person needs us to connect with the Higher Powers. Anyone, being so inclined, can approach the Gods in prayer, sacrifice and divination. Anyone can also build or open their own temple or sanctuary. In short, no one needs a priest to be a Hellenist, at all. The Hellenic priest or priestess does not even spiritually own the temple or sanctuary in which they serve. It belongs to the God or Gods it represents. For example, in ancient times, you would not have been called the priestess of the Parthenon, but the priestess of Athena Parthenos. The temple is Her home, and only Her's. And while there was, at one time, an altar to The Dodekatheon (The Twelve Gods) in the Athenian Agora in 522 BCE, there was no temple to all of the Gods. Temples and sanctuaries were dedicated to one God or even one Epithet of that God.

But the claim is false in the idea that ancient Hellenism had no clergy or leaders. There were absolutely priests and priestesses of temples and sanctuaries, and leaders in seership, prophecy and public rites. Priests and priestesses are servants of the Gods, caretakers of temples and sacred areas, protectors, advisors and counselors of their Demos (community), and leaders of rites and sacrifices to see that such functions are properly carried out. And last but not least, we never stop being students of Hellenism. Clergy are very valuable to Hellenism today for several reasons. We are a very small religion, even within Paganism and Polytheism, and therefore Hellenists may find little to no resources, support or education without dedicated and experienced practitioners. I can't list how many times people have called or messaged me throughout the years for help in practicing the religion. And while a practitioner can do anything on their own, it's nice and supportive to have someone to turn to for services instead of having to rely on someone like a Universal Minister who probably has no idea about Hellenism whatsoever.

Walking a little more down the ancient road, the first known record of ancient Greek priesthood comes from the Linear B tablets of the Mycenaean Age (the Homeric civilization that fell by 1199 BCE shortly after the Trojan War). It may be rather fortunate that Mycenae was destroyed by fire, because it preserved the clay tablets instead of decimating them. They tell us that priesthood was already well-rooted in society by this Era. Priests kept guard over temples and maintained the sole power to unlock their doors. In short, they held the only keys. Not just anyone was given responsibility or access, which shows that priests and priestesses were highly valued. Not only were they charged with the typical rites and sacrifices, but they also presided over oath-taking, marriages, and burials. Normally, clerical offices were assigned by sex - priests for Gods and priestesses for Goddesses. Although this wasn't always the case; the Oracle of Delphi is an example of the deviation from that norm.

In The Iliad, Book 1, the Trojan conflict begins with Apollon's Trojan priest, asking Agamemnon and the Achaeans to return his daughter they had captured. The priest made this petition in the most generous and humble terms. When Agamemnon refuses and treats the priest with hostility, Apollon becomes so enraged that He descends from Olympos and starts shooting the Greeks dead with His arrows. Only when Agamemnon returned the child and made proper sacrifice, did the Archer relent. This tells us that not only were priests and priestesses loved by the Gods, but Greek culture potentially paid a heavy price for wronging them.

If one wanted to become a priest in ancient times, there were several ways they could go about it. However, it wasn't a full time job. Clergy were normally chosen for a specific time or event. The first way, and probably the oldest, was by a hereditary line. If your mother or father held a priesthood during their life, the office could be passed down to you, along with the education of the office. The second way was through rulership. If you held an administrative power in the City government, especially as a Head of State, you could be tasked with certain clerical duties of that City. Various other ways to priesthood were elections chosen by lot, appointments, or even purchasing (the latter being the most rare). I would also say that someone is automatically the priest or priestess of a temple or sanctuary they establish.

If you've decided to become a priest or priestess, you likely feel it as a calling and even a duty. You would have to, because the commitment of dedicated clergy requires it. I've been a priest since 2010, and I can tell you that you have to commit yourself to seeing the best and worst of the world. You will do many other things with your life, but none will likely compare. It's a serious job you have to enjoy and feel responsible for, never taken with a light heart. The good side is that I get to lead rites, run my temple, write books and blogs, and do public speeches. The bad, or less than good side, is that I may have to do a burial for a child, go visit a dying person, or help the extremely ill and disabled. One might even find themselves visiting areas of natural disasters. I imagine that the Pythia didn't always have happy questions or easy advice to give. People had far more troubles in ancient times than they do now. She probably had to hear unpleasant things and counsel people as best she could, and also worry about what happened to people who misinterpreted her. Life at Delphi wasn't always the shining gold, silver and bronze gifts from the City States that decked the grounds. Yet she still did her job. If you're serious about it, it's not always an easy profession. You don't have to put yourself in danger, but there's a lot more that may call you than just the sunshine and roses. It can work on you, and the life itself always requires study and commitment, both to the Gods and your fellow man. That's why I get frustrated when I see people grasping for ordinations for mere prestige or because they want some kind of authority over something. 

However, I will still argue that being a priest is more delightful than anything else. Even though it was not a way of life in ancient Greece, I can think of nowhere else I'd rather be than in my temple, making sacrifices, and caring for all things spiritually dear. 

Along your path to becoming a priest or priestess, you should first consider it a priority to gain at least a basic knowledge of the religion and the clerical duties from credible sources, and understand that such a pursuit never ends; you are always learning. I always tell people that the easiest way to do this all your life is read, read, and read some more. Read every credible source you can get your hands on. Read Greek myth and philosophy as well. In fact, be steeped in it. There is a great wealth of diversity in the myths and the great thinkers of ancient Greece. It will help you realize your own beliefs and worldviews, and I dare say, turn you into a philosopher yourself. Finally, establish your own temple or sanctuary. That will be the most readily available avenue for you to enter the role of a priest or priestess. I did a blog post in the past on how someone can establish their own such community and keep it. To read, follow the link in the sources at the bottom of this post.

In ending this discussion, my goal is to make the reader realize that clergy is a journey, not a destination. Do you have the drive, wonder and love to take it? If so, then may Olympos smile on you. If not, that's okay too. Personally, I think the Pagan and Polytheistic communities have too many leaders and not enough followers. It's fine to just be who you are. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sources:

Burket, Walter, Greek Religion, Blackwell Publishing, Malden, MA, 1985.     

Saturday, August 20, 2022

In Hellas, Disabled Could Still Be Devotee

Gryphon In The Nashville Parthenon

When I saw that the Greek Reporter had posted an old article recently about disabled people in ancient Greece, it made me think back to a discussion my wife and I have had over the years. The article discussed the archaeological discoveries that ancient Greeks built ramps in buildings and temples for disabled citizens. This is a stark contrast to other cultures in the ancient world where disabled people were not only thought to be cursed and impure, but were all but exiled. In Abrahamic religions, that people today assume to be the ones of love and care for all, the Jewish temples did not allow disabled or deformed worshipers to participate in their functions. There was even a case in Israel in 2015 where a mayor banned a bar mitzvah for disabled boys. Now I'm sure he came under a lot of fire from the modern Jewish community, but he still did it or tried to. In ancient Persia, where Islam would later find a foothold, there were no depictions of any people except those who were "normal" as it were. Even in Iran today, disabled people face constant discrimination and exclusion from society. Simply put, no one cares about them. In the Abrahamic field, Christainity is the only religion that doesn't think of the less physically fortunate as something taboo, although they may believe that having such conditions comes from deity, which is still a gloomy hypothesis. 

But in ancient Hellas, not only do we find depictions of disabled and elderly people, but also that they were not kept exempt from religious activities or public affairs (all of which were religious). The theological and philosophical discussion my wife and I have engaged in on the topic has to do with our son and a part of Greek myth. For those who may not know, our son Gryphon was born in 2010 at 24 weeks, severely premature. But thanks to the Gods, excellent doctors, and loving parents who never gave up on him, he survived. In fact, he started his first day of middle school last week. Of course, he does have some disabilities. He has cerebral palsy, uses very little verbal communication, and has some tightening in his left calf. But he can still walk, run and play, and live as normally as his circumstance can. The additional topic of the discussion is the ancient myth of Hephaistos having disabilities, and yet he was still a highest God and an amazingly beautiful and powerful creator. Of course, I don't think most Hellenists today believe that any God is disabled, but that part of myth shows, I think, that being disabled in the old Greek world was not a curse, an evil or an impurity, and could therefore enter the presence of the Gods like anyone else.

It has been a wonderful pleasure watching our son grow into a Hellenist. The best part is that we have never taught or told him to be. Our children can follow any religion they want, but he began visiting our Athena sanctuary on his own and praying to Her in his own personal ways. Disabled as he may be, he seemingly finds most of his patronage from Athena. The Gods do not exclude him in any way because of his uncontrollable conditions. In fact, they nursed him through the hardest parts. I've never seen a boy as happy as Gryphon, while having so many reasons he could choose to be the opposite. The Gods gave the world a very special gift in Gryphon, and I think they want people to see that.

Please take some time to read the Greek Reporter's article.

In the Goodess of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge. 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Pythia Was An Oracle, Not A Psychic


In Delphi I shall build my rich temple to be an oracle for man, and her words shall never fail. 
- Apollon.

Her words were just that, amazingly accurate and wise, and she made Delphi the religious and cultural center of the ancient world. Even today, people still come from all over the globe to see the ruins of the sanctuary, where they continue to discuss ideas, beliefs, history and current affairs from their homelands. Delphi always serves its general purpose no matter how long the site has remained abandoned. It's no wonder that it's considered a world heritage location. But I also think the role of the Pythia, and indeed that of the Greek oracle in general, has been misunderstood by modern man, and sometimes even by ancient man.

Ancient Greek religious historians know well the story of King Croesus of Lydia in Asia Minor and his consultation with the Pythia. Planning an invasion in the East, he asked if he would defeat the Persian Empire. The Pythia responded by saying that if he invaded, he would destroy a great empire. He didn't realize, however, that it would be his own. But the bigger picture is that ancient Greek historians and probably the priests of Delphi thought his question to be very odd, in that Croesus clearly did not understand the purpose of a Greek oracle. She was not there to predict the future.

She was a counselor to mankind, blessed by Apollon to give the best advice possible. She was suited to tell people the best courses of action, or which God to appease, in a given cirumstance. For example, one of my favorite oracular responses in Delphic history has to do with the Persian Wars in 480 BCE. When the Persians began the invasion of northern Greece, the Pythia told the Delphians to pray to the Winds, because they would be Greece's strongest allies. Soon after, a very violent storm gathered in the north and sunk or beached atleast 20% of the Persian fleet, while the Greek ships remained untouched. This is factually recorded. The Pythia did not predict the future here, she told the Greeks where their greatest allies were.

As the oracle of my temple, my wife is pretty much the same way. Even when I myself have asked her questions, she has always responded with advice, not predictions, and yet that advice can still secure a great outcome because it comes from a God. Apollon does not attempt to dictate or live our lives for us. He wants us to think, grow and become the best we can be.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sources
Scott, Michael, Delphi A History of the Center of the Ancient World, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 2014.

Stagman, Myron, 100 Prophecies of the Delphic Oracle, Prophetic Advice from the God Apollo, City-State Press, 1999.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Why Don't The Gods Talk To Us Like People Do?


The Gods have spoken to common man in many different ways down through the Ages, sometimes in forms contained in mystery. Even today, each individual can have their own unique way in which the Gods convey messages to them, and that particular method is appropriate for, and best understood by, that person. For me personally, the Gods normally respond to my prayers with answers that effect my emotions. For example, let's say I ask Athena for help in a legal matter (which thankfully I've only had to do once), or I pray to Hera for marriage counseling. They will answer by giving me a total bodily feeling. If things are going to be okay, to put it shortly, their presence will feel peaceful, happy, and relieving. Fortunately, I've never had a prayer answered to the contrary, at least not that I can recall at this time. When the Gods turn their attention to you, your mind and body feel it. 

The Gods spoke to ancient man much in the same way they speak to us today, through signs, omens, dreams, emotions, seers and oracles, each one possibly becoming a little more direct than the previous. If you know anything about the Oracle of Delphi, Apollon spoke through the voice of His Pythia to give advice to mankind, but even then it was very short and often encrypted (He likes to give us things to figure out for ourselves. He doesn't attempt to make our choices or live our lives for us). We may wonder why all this is the case. Certainly the Gods can do whatever they want, yet they do not stand before us and talk to us like our friends and family do on a daily basis. Why do they prefer natural, mental, emotional and spiritual communications? I start these kinds of discussions by saying that I am wise because I know that I don't have the answer. So that leaves us with philosophy and examination of the possibilities.

I would first entertain the idea that the Gods are indeed, or at least can be, directly around us, but we cannot generally see them because our eyes are not adjusted to the plane upon which they live. We know there is a reasonable possibility that other universes exist parallel to our own, yet we cannot see them in our bodily form (although some Gods, such as Helios the Sun and Selene the Moon, are exceptions, but they still don't come down and talk to us). Even in the universe we can perceive, there are signals, waves and lifeforms all around us at this very moment that our eyes cannot elevate or descend to. Nevertheless, these invisible things still have an impact on our universe, our world, and our lives. We can't see the forces moving things along, but they still do. We can't see all that exists, but they remain all the same. And if there are things we cannot see because our perception is limited, then certainly there are also things we cannot hear because of that shortcoming. Is it generally possible that we simply cannot see or hear the Gods with our mere physicality? If so, it may be why the Gods communicate with us through sights and sounds that we can perceive, or at least perceive more easily. 

Of course, the Gods can and have fully formed to people in the past, or have shown themselves to humans. There are always exceptions when the need has risen, but that's not normally how they interact with us on a regular basis.

The second possibility is that the Gods enjoy giving us a textbook of universal answers that we can always live by. For instance, "When you see me send the wind that way, when you see me make the animals do this, when you hear that sound, when you dream about that, when you feel that emotion, that's how you know." The Gods can speak to all of mankind in forms that are ultimate. In many ways, we've already come to understand and accept universal signs. We know to get inside when the clouds turn black, to plant only when we see the soil is fertile, and to listen to our instincts about other people and places. 

Additionally, some may even believe that it's not possible for our mortal bodies to stand in the full presence of a God, citing the version of the story of Zeus and Semele when Zeus reluctantly killed Semele because She was unable to withstand His radiance. I don't believe this, because it would be to say that the Gods can't contain themselves. But of course, I also admit that I know nothing as well. 

Finally, I'd say it's possible that the Gods don't usually come to us on our level because, unlike our friends and family, we are not their equals, nor do the Gods exist for our purposes. They answer our prayers, protect us, give us blessings and advice, and keep order in the universe, but they're not our coworkers or office party. Their positions are extremely sacred, royal, and hold responsibilities that we could not even begin to fathom. I delight in the simple fact that the Gods like, love and are intrigued enough by humans to give us as much of their blessings as possible.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Hellenism Lost Is Honor Lost


During the last few years, part of my Hellenic studies has been the examination of modern Greece and its people (who are predominately Orthodox Christians). In any case, most Greeks today are not Hellenists, and there is no debate whatsoever that ancient Hellas was far stronger, far more prosperous, and far more successful in government and economics. But on a personal level, I have also routinely noticed the decline in human character.

I was talking with a friend and fellow Hellenist who actually lives in Greece today, and I happened to ask if there are any ancient cemeteries still standing. It's a part of history and archaeology that I find very intriguing as you can learn a lot about a person, their family and community. For me, there's just some kind of unexplainable mystique to it all. I ask myself, who was this person and how did they live and die? I remember when I visited Lincoln's Tomb in Springfield, Illinois. Standing before the burial chamber where Lincoln's remains rested just a few feet beneath me, not only did I ponder the president's life and times, but thought that if I could see the bones today, Lincoln's skull would still have the hole from the assassination. I know it may sound morbid, but to me it's simply a fascinating idea to be in the presence of such relics.

So when my Hellenic friend responded to my question by saying that, yes, indeed there are some ancient burials still visible, but people have littered them because they don't care, it saddened me at how far the culture has fallen. I secondly remembered a few years ago when I saw images of a ruined temple of Aphrodite in between two apartment buildings that was also covered in trash. 

In ancient times, people wouldn't have dared to desecrate a temple or a cemetery. Not only because they feared Divine punishment, but because it was simply wretched. People had real honor, character and respect in the old times. To the ancient Hellenes, not only were graves considered to be active places of the deceased, but each year in Athens they would hold days of honor called Genesia, starting on September 5th, during which time they would adorn graves and give an abundance of food, drink and sacrifice to the dead. They even believed that during the festive days in discussion, the spirits of the deceased would return to visit the Polis. To show any kind of disrespect toward places of burial would have been unimaginable to say the least.

But when humans lost the honor and dignity that Hellenism brought to the Hellenic people, they also lost their sense of sacredness, even of their own personal human life and behavior. It is this loss of the spiritual world and of the physical self that has greatly aided in the decline of Hellas and her people. I'm not saying that only Hellenists are honorable, but it clearly brought a world of difference to the Greeks that they no longer have, and their culture has paid the greatest of prices.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Source - Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, Harvard University Press/Blackwell Publishing, Malden, MA, 1985.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Greek Balance Will Make The Best Society

Alcibiades and Sokrates (Indulgence and Temperance = Moderation)

The altar of politics is not absent from my personal life, even though it may sound ridiculous for me to then say that I actually don't like politics, and I never bring it into my temple because it has no place there. We are a temple for all people and are bound by our spiritual devotion alone. But when it comes to the kind of America I want to live in, I take time to vote, and sometimes talk about controversial issues on my personal social media and in my personal life, like gun control, abortion, taxation, wages, and unnecessary wealth. Largely, I would be considered liberal, but I am a registered Independent. I don't identify with any political movement because I like to think of myself as a free thinker. I prefer to be a Chris Aldridge who does what Chris Aldridge thinks is right, and not what my party decides is right. 

I think some people, including myself, start out in Hellenism thinking they know everything or have a certainty about specific things, but the more you learn and grow as a Hellenist, you're not only humbled in your knowledge, wisdom and beliefs, but you understand what it really means to live a life of moderation. On the surface, many presume that moderation just means to not eat too much or sleep with everyone in town, but it's a far larger picture than simply a carnal canvas. To find a healthy balance between the two extremes, is how humans retain their civility, justice, and sensibility toward their fellowman, laws, countries and world. Moderation is not abstinence, it's balance. 

Hopefully without being in danger of being called a political Moderate, who is thought to be someone who doesn't actually know what they believe in, I would use my Hellenic education, experience and years on this planet to argue that meeting in the middle, or finding that healthy balance, is the best way to resolve all of the issues facing our societies. When looking at a controversial or hot button topic, I often find myself concluding that both the Democrat and the Republican, or the Liberal and Conservative, are equally wrong, and the cause of their wrongness is the fact that they are going to unhealthy extremes instead of the reason that is found in moderation. 

I won't spend numerous paragraphs giving painstaking examples, so let's just take a look at the issue of gun control for a starting example, since it's in recent news. While I am a supporter of the 2nd amendment, I do support common sense gun reform, as we have far too much gun violence in America today. But one side thinks we should have the wild west on steroids, and the other thinks you should barely be allowed to carry a slingshot, and some would even prefer complete disarmament. What do these ideals create? The first creates, or has the potential to create, dangerous chaos, and the second ideal creates oppression, neither of which is good. So what's the moderation? The moderation would be to have a well regulation of firearms so that bad people won't get them, but to also uphold the human right of self-defense for everyone else who wants to own a gun. In the moderation of the issue, both outcomes are good, there is no bad. 

Moderation is the realization that both over indulgence and starvation are equally destructive, and that the best answers to the human condition mostly lie in the middle or the healthy balance. Civilization is in so much constant chaos because we have most people taking one extreme or another, causing balance to be thrown off. Ancient Greek ideology can solve every problem in our world today, if we were to ever adopt it again.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Cave From The Common

To look at some of the gorgeous and breathtaking caves of the world, it's not hard to see why they were sometimes used as sanctuaries of Gods. We can find ourselves feeling as though we are entering another world, leaving our own realm for an entirely new one, that even separates us from our past. In ancient Greece, I don't think this revelation changed much in the minds of worshipers, for they used these beautiful caverns to connect with the Divine world. Of course, they also built amazing temples and outdoor sanctuaries, but it appears that the Hellenic mind believed there were many ways to find the Gods. I also share that worldview. In fact, when I built my Elizabethan Sanctuary of Artemis back in 2016 when I lived in Elizabeth, Illinois, I chose to construct it within a solid, enclosed area on all sides except the entrance. It was the closest I could come to a cave-like structure on my property. It also seemed to give the precinct great protection from the elements. 

On the Akropolis in Athens where Athena's grand Parthenon stood, simple cave sanctuaries could also be found on the cliffs. Zeus, Apollon and Pan all have such precincts there. But when we look deeper into the structures of caves, whether simple or elaborate, their many functions for religious purposes are revealed. You don't really have to build anything because the structure is already there by nature, the inside provides a cooling from the summer heat that would have especially been sought in a Mediterranean summer, some caves have their own water sources that might be used for purification or even drinking, and it's easy to store offerings, gifts and religious objects in safe and hidden places. There's simply just an otherworldly feeling about these majestic parts of the Earth, that by going into Gaia, we can find ourselves and our links with the universe.

I myself personally prefer a temple or built sanctuary, but all my life, I have found so much peace and wonder in the natural world. As a child and teenager, the forests of North Carolina were my running grounds. My late grandfather would even take me to the next City and its nature preserve to see Boone's Cave. I found it as mysterious, intriguing and even scary as the myths he would tell me about it. The inner workings of the Earth have become part of the human experience, religious or not. They remain as some inherent presence of our being.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Friday, March 18, 2022

The Sacred War To End All Sacred Wars


Even after 245 years of fighting, it seemed that people still had not learned that Delphi would always defend itself against invasion and desecrations. Just 7 years after the last war has ended, a new threat emerged on the southern plain of the City in 339 BCE, as the City of Amphissa (a region of Phocis) began to take possession of and cultivate the sacred land of Apollon that was always supposed to remain untouched without exception. It belonged exclusively to the God.

Delphi was a beautiful place of architectural and dedicatory advancement during this period. Its previous wars and the great conflicts between the Cities involved had not inflicted any damage on its religious functions or the love and devotion that people continued to retain for this center of their world. In fact, most Cities had an interest in protecting it, but religious and diplomatic unrest seems to have always been a danger from those who felt they had to compete.

After Philip II had won the last Sacred War for Delphi in 346 BCE, an agreement of peace between the parties had keep confrontation rather lowkey. That was until the people of Amphissa, or at least their government, came into the picture. It does not appear that there was a cease and desist order for uprooting Apollon's land, and it could be argued that even if there had been, the League of Delphi would have sought punishment for the offense. Amphissa was to face a military conquest by the Delphic Forces. 

Philip was naturally chosen to lead the assault, but his mentality and strategy seems to have been different this time. It appears that Phillip viewed the Fourth Sacred War as the war to end all Sacred Wars. Not only did he plan to defeat Amphissa, but conquer all of Greece itself in order to bring stability amid the Wars. He successfully invaded the City, exiled all of its citizens, and allowed Delphi to take control of it. And by 336 BCE, all of Greece would come under Phillip's authority. Although he was not universally opposed by mainland Greeks. The Cities of Thessaly, Argos and Arkadia fought on his side, while various other States led by the great powers of Athens and Thebes fought against them. The armies of both Athens and Thebes were decimated at the Battle of Chaeronea, which brought the war to its official close. As a result, the Hellenic League or League of Korinth came into being, consisting of the united City States that would later be used in the Eastern campaigns of Macedon. 

Phillip may have conquered the Greeks, but in reality, he was not that much different from them. He worshiped the Greek Gods and lived by Greek culture, as would his successor. While Phillip was viewed by many as the Lord of the peace that had been absent for so long, it also made him a target for those still determined to resist and/or who had major problems with him. Only 2 years after his ultimate victory, Phillip was assassinated. His son, Alexander the Great, became the king of a united Greece in a final overthrow of the Persian Empire, which he achieved. But Alexander would also die only 13 years later, and His Empire divided among His generals.

It appears that Phillip and Alexander, who fought alongside His father in the Delphic Wars, had achieved their goal, as there were no more Sacred Wars of Delphi. The only other conflict that came to be termed a Sacred War was actually a conflict between Alexander's generals after His death over control of the regions of the Empire. While Delphi was, of course, included in the Empire, it was no longer specifically about them.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.


Sources
* Scott, Michael, Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World, Princeton Publishing, 2014.
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expansion_of_Macedonia_under_Philip_II#Fourth_Sacred_War  

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Is Giant DNA Still With Us Today?

Robert Wadlow and His Father, before 1937

As far back as ancient Greece herself, there have been stories of giants who walked the Earth, made trouble for smaller people, and even unsuccessfully warred against the Gods. While people today scoff at the idea as a mere fairytale or a story invented to make kids go to bed, I've taken time to do my own brainstorming as a mythologist on the topic, and I have developed a theory to present. Generally put, the stories of giants are not false, incorrect or misinterpreted.

Let's begin by examining the average height of an ancient Greek male, which was 5'7". Even today in America, that has only increased by 2 inches. Six footers and above like myself, are not the norm. However, we also know that there have been extremely rare cases of people who have grown to extraordinary size and height, such as Andre the Giant and Robert Wadlow, Andre being 7'4" and Wadlow 8'11", and from my own state of Illinois. 

These incredibly large people achieve their status not through a fairytale, but hard genetics. Both men had what is called gigantism, which is the result of abnormal or very overactive hormones and glands. And here's the kicker about Wadlow; at the time of his death, they could not conclude that he had reached his maximum growth. That's right, it is possible that he could have gotten even bigger. He also possessed amazing strength, perhaps the kind that would have been used to help build what we know as the Cyclopean Walls.

An average person looking up at these colossal people would certainly think of them as what they literally are, giants. Because these conditions of great size are science, what if it is, in fact, the rare DNA of ancient giants, that continues to sometimes be handed down through the human line? People today think of giants as those who reach to the clouds, and are even monsters, but that doesn't have to be the case. To me, there is no question as to whether giants existed. We have seen them with our very eyes.

Our ancient past isn't as distant as we have been led to believe, nor are the old stores as far fetched as we have been taught by the modern education system.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Sources: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Wadlow

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Shotgun Wedding That Started A Holy War

In the name of liberty, to Apollon's temple once again! 

The bones of the first two sacred wars were now lying still in the soil, but as has been said, only the dead have seen the end of war. 

Historians would more than likely conclude that the conflict had been brewing for a while, but this part of the story starts on the day of a wedding at the sanctuary. A father by the name of Crates became outraged, to say the least, perhaps even insane when his soon-to-be son in law Orsilaus got cold feet and cancelled the marriage. Not only did the father have the groom executed, he also murdered the groom's family members right in the sacred areas of Delphi itself, which was the worst religious offense. The fact that the father supported Theban domination at Delphi and Orsilaus supported Phocis, probably did not aid in resolving tension between the families either. Some say the execution and murders likely had political ends as well as revenge. We will remember that in the last Sacred War, Phocis remained in control of Delphi, and the power struggles between the Cities were far from over.

As punishment for the pollution of murder in a sacred area, Crates and his family were faced with heavy fines, and the feud between Thebes and Phocis over Delphi would only intensify from this point. It all came to a head when the League of Delphi, who has been victorious in the past wars, came to support Theban power, and Phocis, unlike in the last Sacred War, was losing strength and support fast. 

At a meeting between the League and Phocis, which no doubt included talks about the actions of Crates against Osrilaus, the Phocians found themselves to be charged with basically the same thing Crates had been convicted of, impiety, blasphemy, sacrilege, etc. Phocis faced heavy fines as a result. Phocis, however, refused to bow to the League or the emerging Theban power, but at the same time, knew that defiance would inevitably lead to physical confrontation. Therefore, they attempted to end another war before it began. In 356 BCE they conquered Delphi. However, they surely knew that this was not the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning. If they had expected Greece to remain passive, they were wishful thinkers.

That summer, the League forces reunified, retook Delphi, and dethroned Phocis from its position of supremacy. Because of their eventual defeat, and probably their desire to remain important at Delphi, they began to comply with the original demands of the League. But the Third Sacred War was far from even a remote close.

In 355 BCE, the League decided to punish Phocis even more for their actions one year prior and attacked them with military force. The conflict was apparently too much for some of the Phocian leaders to handle, as their General committed suicide and even his replacement was killed in action. Nevertheless, Phocis was determined to take the war to whatever ends necessary to win. They robbed the temple's treasury and broke down valuable metal objects they could find in the sanctuary. This resulted in the immense loss of much of Delphi's history, story and economic stability. The theft was, in large part, to fund their army, but it probably also struck a blow to the spirit of the City, or so they might have thought. Religious work and consultations of the Oracle went on uninhibited.

As the fourth year of the war came in, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before Phocis collapsed, both from bankruptcy and military setbacks. However, a friend of Delphi to the far north would be the one to put the final nail in the coffin: Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. He had received word from the League and was asked to intervene on their behalf, which he did because of his dealings with and great respect for Delphi. By 346, Phocis was not only thrown completely out of the temple and sanctuary, but banned from having anymore influence over it. Even what remained of the Phocian City State was divided up into small neighborhoods, probably an effort by the League and Philip to ensure they could never again unify in power. Finally, Phocis was forced to pay monetary compensation for all they had destroyed and defiled. 

Delphi emerged the victor once again, although they could never get back the originality of their geographical glory. What had been destroyed, was destroyed. But if there's one thing to always remember about ancient Greeks, it is that they will press on despite any obstacles. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

First Sacred War 

Second Sacred War

Source: Scott, Michael, Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World, Princeton Publishing, 2014.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Fire Didn't Raise No Fool

Prometheus gave humans fire in order to advance our minds, that is what the ancient Greeks believed. Humans were made last, and there was nothing left to give us in the way of natural weapons or abilities, and so the Gods gave us an amazing mind, that we could be superior to all the animals around us. The beginning of that development was the gift of fire that the Titan blessed us with. While most people of our modern Age may think nothing of the story outside of a cultural worldview long passed, science proves that it's actually true. As with mostly all the Myths, our educational system of today leads us to discount rather than examine them.

Prehistoric man did indeed have fire, and we now know that because they had fire and were able to cook with it, the human brain grew. Because of the fact that food became more digestible, far more nutrients went into the body as opposed to earlier primates who couldn't use the tool. In short, it is a literal fact that the gift of fire advanced the human mind. In the broader view of humanity, it literally gave a rocket boost to human evolution itself. Fire later became used in sacrifices and was considered a sign of the presence of a God. Fire, when big enough, would also keep nightly predators away, and so it became known as that which drives away evil. 

Of course, the ancient Greeks had no knowledge of this prehistoric and modern science, so how did they know? Who told them? The Higher Powers and Intelligences of the universe, whom all humans have an inherent connection and quest for because of schema, created that realization. Simply put, the Gods told them. Today we are often raised and trained to be afraid of fire. I remember when I was growing up, just lighting a stove scared or made me very nervous. We should most certainly be careful with it, because after all, it did come from Powers beyond our control, but I think that the more we grow accustomed to the natural world and our natural selves, we understand the Divinity and wonderfulness of it all. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Holy War That Shook Ancient Greece To The Core

As we saw in the First Sacred War, the victory of the League of Delphi resulted in the destruction of the town occupying its harbor and the restoration of Apollon's Temple. Delphi had won her first holy conflict, but it would be only the beginning of religious and economic fights over the center of the Greek world. 

Athens has always taken powerful and pivotal roles in ancient Greek history, and even today they hold tremendous influence as the capital of modern Greece and the most populated City of the nation. Although, we must remember that in ancient times, Greece or Hellas was not a unified land. Each City State had its own government, laws and religious observances. In the decade of the 440s BCE, the imperial power of the City of Athens began to flex its muscle into central Greece, and the fact that Delphi was there did not go unnoticed, neither by Athens or its biggest rival City, Sparta.

Not only had Athens spent a lot of time, money and effort dominating the Delphic sanctuary with their own dedications and even a treasury whose ruins still stand today, but Athens also started to control and influence all the areas around or within proximity of Delphi, and the people who would strike this match were the Phocians. Phocis was a central region of Greece in which Delphi resided, and the people wanted to incorporate it into their jurisdiction, probably not only because of the influence it held over the Greek world, but the immense amount of wealth that was accumulating there. But it appeared as though the Phocians were not strong enough to do it on their own. They managed to enlist the powerful aid of Athens in removing the independence of Delphi.

Sparta had frequently consulted the Oracle of Delphi and had begun establishing their presence in the sanctuary. They did not like the fact that Athens was literally the master of the Temple and the City, so they decided to send troops to overthrow the Phocian control and return Delphi to its full independent state in 449 BCE. Sparta succeeded and Delphi was again ruled by Delphi alone, which the people of the City and Temple were extremely grateful for. They even erected dedications to the Spartans for their liberty. 

However, the victory was brief. Two years after the Spartans left, Athens sent its troops under the command of Perikles and restored Phocian rule, establishing a tug of war in central Greece. But by 445 BCE, independence was again won by Delphi, noting the fact that Athens had to eventually turn its attention fully to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War by 431. Athens, at that point, simply did not have the time or power to keep Delphi locked, and would end up losing the war to Sparta after nearly 30 years of brutal fighting. Further conflict would not return to the City of Delphi for around 100 years later, what would come to be known as the Third Sacred War. For the time being, Delphi would once again remain a free State.

Read my post on the First Sacred War here. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Sources

Scott, Michael, Delphi, A History of the Center of the Ancient World, Princeton Publishing, 2014.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

The Ancient Greeks Had Holy Wars, But For Different Reasons (1)

For a long time I've been wanting to write about the Sacred Wars of Delphi and what they mean to our Western world even today. In recent years, it's been a subject that has fascinated me. We think of Holy Wars as modern inventions of radical and extremist Christians and Muslims. The ancient Greeks fought them too at times, but the interesting part is that they were for far different reasons. They were not waged to eliminate another belief system, or to force another culture to adopt Greek religion.

Largely, there were four conflicts that took place over Delphi (the center of the ancient Greek world and seat of Apollon's renowned Oracle). The First Sacred War unfolded from 595 to 585 BCE, between the League of Delphi, consisting of religious tribes that included Athens, Thessaly and Sikyon, and the town of Kirrha (the League being allies against Kirrha). Kirrha was the harbor of Delphi, which meant that it held considerable influence over who and what came and went from the Temple Of Apollon and the Oracle therein. One must keep in mind that the Oracle of Delphi was not only vitally important to her locality, but all of the Greek world who went to her for counsel.

Tensions began to mount when Kirrha basically turned into a region of bandits and extortionists. Not only were people who were going to see the Oracle being attacked and robbed, but the town itself began charging astronomical tolls for those coming through their harbor to consult the Oracle or pay homage to Delphi (this likely also resulted in the theft of valuable gifts being brought for dedication to the sanctuary). Not only were they taking money and resources from Delphi, but also property that rightfully belonged to the God. The last straw probably came when Kirrha started to raid parts of Delphi directly.

The tribes who would form the League of Delphi decided they would unite in Delphi's defense. Along with Athens, Thessaly and Sikyon, the League likely included soldiers from many other parts of Greece that shared in Delphi's sphere of influence, including troops from Delphi herself. The War lasted for ten years. On advice from the Oracle, the League launched merciless and relentless war on the town. But what brought the conflict to an end was the first recorded use of chemical warfare. The League put hellebore into the water supply of Kirrha. It was an herb that simply gave everyone really bad diarrhea to the point that they could not fight. The League was victorious in the end. The result was the complete destruction of the town and the confiscation of its land by Delphi. Said land was left uncultivated and dedicated to Pythian Apollon, His sister Artemis, their mother Leto, and Athena Pronaia. The confiscation was also probably done to make sure the town could not reemerge. It's lack of virtue and justice meant that it had forfeited its right to exist in the eyes of its fellow Greeks. 

The remaining people of Kirrha who managed to escape, went to Mount Kirphe, which is the southern part of Mount Parnassos that overlooks Delphi. The Games of Delphi, or Pythian Games, were born after this, to celebrate the victory, and members of the League would remain as protectors of Delphi.

The First Sacred War was fought in support of religious freedom, not against like modern Holy Wars. Delphi and the League had no interest in the beliefs of Kirrha nor her lifestyles. The League simply wanted Delphi to remain free, open and possess its property, and for everyone to have the safe right to go there for their pilgrimages. I think the War is a reminder to us in the West still today that freedom is not free and that it can be easily impeded if we don't protect it, especially from those who have the money and power to extort it. This factor plays out in our own American government where lawmakers are constantly bribed for their votes, and influential powers that can effect our country if they have a corner on something. However, if enough people simply stand for what's right and use their united powers (through things like voting and community organizing), they cannot be drowned out by the unjust.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Sources, Citations and Credits

Photo: Ruins of Sikyon, Photo by Carole Raddato, Copyright of Author, Not The Creation of Chris Aldridge. Licensed Under Creative Commons (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/). Location (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicyon#/media/File:Sikyon,_Greece_(23187324446).jpg)

Book: Scott, Michael, Delphi, A History of the Center of the Ancient World, Princeton Publishing, 2014.

Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Sacred_War

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Greeks Kept Plague Away Through Piety and Physicians

The ancient Greeks were no strangers to disease. In fact, no human culture ever has been. The Greeks knew that disease and disorders were an issue, which is why they had doctors and physicians. The ancient Greeks were the forefathers of modern medicine. They were also highly spiritual and pious people who often gave more to their Gods than they did to themselves, and it was no different when there was a virus going around. They used medicine, doctors, prayer and sacrifice to combat it. They did not think either method was a waste of time. Plato himself wrote about the success the Athenians once had in keeping infection out of their City through spiritual means in the Dialogue of Symposium. 

"I shall try to go through for you the speech about Love I once heard from a woman of Mantinea, Diotima - a woman who was wise about many things besides this: once she even put off the plague for ten years by telling the Athenians what sacrifices to make." 

Plato was not a writer of fiction. He recorded the actual events of his society and the people around him. The Greeks, for an ancient people, knew quite a bit about the medical field, but no matter how much knowledge they gained or philosophy they discussed, it never made their Gods irrelevant or unnecessary. In fact, any good thing that happened or was discovered, was naturally followed by thanks to a God or Gods for the success. They did nothing without their Gods. Or, in other words, they knew that without their Gods, they could accomplish nothing. 

Therefore, even now as we face another virus or plague, I don't think we should forget the importance of our spirituality and the salvation and care that it can bring to us. A while back, I was talking with a member of my temple who lives out of state. They claimed they contracted Covid19 and that Apollon instructed them on how to get rid of it. They have since made a full recovery. I note in this story that neither this person nor Apollon turned away from the medical field. In fact, Apollon IS the God of medicine. If we examine this person's story carefully, we see the hallmark of a Greek mindset, which is the combination of spirituality and science. Science is the pursuit of truth, and the Gods are the truth.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Work Cited: Plato Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper, page 484, 201d.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Preordained Death: Feelings of Fate

The ancient Greeks, to a good extent, believed in Fate, as is evident in their mythologies and religious beliefs. Homer, the ancient Greek Poet, once said that no one can send Him into the Underworld until it is His time, but that when it is His time, nothing can stop it either. So the question begs, are our lives preordained in the sense that we have a time to live and a time to die? I talked with my wife about this idea briefly last night. I myself have always believed the words of Homer concerning the situation, but through philosophy, I think I have been forced to add something onto it.

I do think that most people will not die until it is their time. How many brushes with death have people had and missed it? There are lots of people in the world today who should be dead, but they're not. So it's clear that there was an aversion to the end of their lives at that point. However, we must also consider another fact. Nature always has anomalies. So when we ask ourselves, can someone die before their time? In some cases, the answer would have to be yes. Because if people couldn't die before their time, the Gods would not acknowledge such a thing as murder. A human life could not be taken unjustly if no one died until their time. So the fact that the opposite is true, shows that not everyone will make it to their destined time, whether it be because of murder or a natural cause of death. However, I do not think that's the norm. I think the vast majority of us will not die until our time, or for that matter, experience anything we are not supposed to.

But at the end of the day, I know the Gods are good, and along with Homer's words, I live my life in a state of comfort.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Building Your Ancient Greek Pillar Complex

Going all the way back to Mycenean and even Minoan times, the Tree Sanctuary, or as I call it, the Pillar Complex, is one of the easiest and most beautiful outside constructions for ancient Greek rites. The picture on the left is of my own, built for my temple's sanctuary to host public rites. Walter Burkert, in his book Greek Religion, page 28, describes the architecture of this precinct. 

"A large, imposing tree, almost always enclosed by a wall, and so set apart as sacred. The wall may be decorated with stucco or crowned with cult horns. A door, also embellished, leads into the interior, occasionally revealing a stone pillar. Various forms of altars are also shown, and in a number of cases a temple-like building stands opposite the tree. Open, stony ground is sometimes suggested."

My own Pillar Complex follows this basic pattern. It is built before a large tree, and the entire structure, including the tree, is encased by a brick wall (although in ancient times, the wall was probably much higher). The opening in the front leads into the interior where an altar and a stone pillar stands. The ground around it is also of small stones, but leaves in this picture are covering most of them up. The entire Complex is set apart from the rest of the surrounding area as its own sacred precinct. If you have your own property and are wanting to build religious structures, it's a far easier, more affordable alternative to a standing temple, which can take countless man hours, hard labor, and several thousands of dollars. 

Building it out of stone and brick, and having it dominated by a strong tree, is in itself an excellent way to keep the structure standing and protected for a long period of time, and it will give you the ability to hold any kind of festival, rite or sacrifice to any God, Spirit, Hero, Ancestor or Deified Mortal the occasion calls for. In my own, the central pillar acts as a shrine, upon which a statue is placed of the One who is being worshiped at that time. So for a rite of Artemis, I'd place Her statue there during the rites. Of course, the Complex can also be a place for any time one wants to do general prayer and sacrifice. It doesn't have to always be one Deity at a time. Opposite the pillar, as you can see, is the altar, also made of stone and identified by being raised from the ground above the general flooring of the Complex. Upon the altar is also an incense burner to keep incense separate from things on the stone that might extinguish it, like libations or foods.

The first step is to find ground that is suitable. You want it to be as level as possible, otherwise the bricks you lay are all going to be crooked and it will drive you insane. You can also make the ground more level yourself by moving or adding soil. Making the ground proper and ready is a very crucial part, because ones those heavy bricks and stones are laid down, it's going to be very hard, if not impossible, to do anything about it unless you tear up the entire Complex and start over. So it is dire that you make sure the ground is good.

Step two is placing the flooring, which in mine is made of flat brick. The flooring is important because it's going to give the interior balance and stability. You notice that, for example, if you walk outside and just put a pillar on the bare ground, it's going to lean or fall over. Strong flooring helps against this. The brick used for the flooring also forms the altar on the far end toward the entrance by simply stacking themselves a few feet off the ground. The tree in the picture is encased by a wall of very simple red bricks, which are simply laid down and pressed into the soil where possible, all the way around the tree, pillar and altar, leaving a front entrance. Finally, gravel or stones fill the entire interior where the ground would still be visible. All together, the project took me an afternoon, and a cost of only about $60, since the only thing I had to buy was a stone pillar which I purchased at a local craft store, and the decorative flowers which were bought at a department store. Here's the best part, everything else was found around my home. By simply doing some scavenging, I found all the bricks and stones I needed. If you own your own house and land, there are probably more things lying around the yard and basement than you think, especially if you have just purchased the property.

On an ending note, when building an outside shrine, sanctuary or temple, if you can do so near a natural spring or natural water source, that would be the icing on the cake. Many temples and sanctuaries in ancient times followed the same custom, as the natural water can be used for purification of the sanctuary and the people entering it, and even as offerings to the Gods. If you've ever been to Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin and looked at the springs of Brighid, those are natural springs.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

An Amazing Visit To A Local Hero's Tomb

Calm, inviting, comforting, that's all I felt in abundance when I entered the burial place of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Since I moved to Illinois in 2012, Lincoln's Tomb in Springfield had always been on my vacation list. Lincoln is a man who needs no introduction, and His tomb is one of the most beautiful in the state of Illinois. As a historian and an American, the final resting places of Heroes has always fascinated me, to know that their bodies are right there before you, and that if you could open their coffins, you might still be able to see the marks on their bodies and bones from so long ago that marked pivotal moments in their lives. As a member of a minority religion, Lincoln has always held a sacred place in my heart because of the fact that He fought and died for the ideal that we are all created equal, and that the rights of humanity are not reserved only for one race or culture. His body lied before me this weekend, as a martyr to that cause which gave me and my family our blessed freedom upon this land.

As an ancient Greek, I found myself equally fascinated by the ancient Greek Hero worship that goes on at His tomb every single day. For one, the tomb is unique and set apart from all the others in the cemetery as a sacred and protected place, and people will go there to gain Lincoln's favor. One way they do this is by rubbing the nose of His statue outside the front entrance, which you can see my own son doing in the picture above. The nose of the bust is severely worn down from all of the invocations Lincoln has received here. If that's not an example of ancient Greek Hero worship, I don't know what is, and people do it with each passing hour, most not even realizing it. It's wonderful to see how the ancient customs continue over into our own culture.

When you enter the tomb, you find that almost everything is made of beautiful marble, and ancient Greek wave patterns encircle the floor at the main entrance around Lincoln's main indoor statue, or if we're honest with ourselves, a shrine, which you can see to your right. As you walk through the conjoining hallways, you find many other statues and engravings on the walls of His most famous histories and speeches, my favorite being the Gettysburg Address. One statue I really loved was called The Debater, a replica from Lincoln's historic debate with Stephen Douglas in Freeport, Illinois when He was running for president. Freeport was the first city I lived in when I moved to Illinois. Finally, you come to the burial chamber itself. Lincoln's headstone is a massive marble monument. Ten feet blow it rests His remains. Across from His crypt is that of His wife and most of His children. 

Going into Lincoln's tomb, I didn't feel southern or northern; I felt American. I prayed to Him as a Hero of my state several times while I was there at His grave, hoping for His blessings in my life. His presence was grounded toward me, not opposing. I felt that I could stay there all day if I liked. I love this man. If only He could come back and talk to us, the things He could tell and remember. Solon would most certainly be proud of Him, because He didn't do what was popular in His life, He did what was right, no matter how hard. He had enemies at every turn, and yet He still changed the American world forever. Before Him there was slavery and division, and after Him, the American ideal was possible. 

However, not all people have come to my own mindset. Upon leaving, I got into a conversation with the woman who operates the tomb. She is also considered its guard, because there is still the fear that haters will come there and desecrate it in the name of the Confederacy. Only the lowest forms of life destroy the grave of a dead person. I can't imagine how trashy someone's mind has to be, but I am certainly thankful for the service and bravery of the guard. If I lived in the city and didn't have my own career, I'd also be more than happy and anxious to help guard Lincoln's tomb.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Monday, September 9, 2019

What's The Difference Between A God and A Spirit?

At Madison Pagan Pride last Saturday, I had the privilege of leading and teaching a workshop on ancient Greek charms, amulets and talismans. It turned into about an hour long class that ended up hosting a vast array of ancient Greek spirituality and knowledge with about 15 to 20 students. I received nothing but positive feedback from the people. I think everyone loved it. We couldn't have had better weather for the event itself. The Gods certainly blessed us with sunshine and comfortable temperatures.

But during my workshop, there was one question in particular that I thought needed a blog post. Someone asked me to explain what sets a God and a Spirit apart. This can be a bit tougher to explain than one may think. In fact, I myself had to contemplate for several minutes through the class while we explored other things, and I gave examples until I was satisfied with what I had told the person and the other students in attendance. 

There is certainly a fine line difference between a God and a Spirit, although sometimes there might be some disagreement. For example, people who view Nike as a Goddess and those who view Her as a Spirit, or those who think that Morpheus is the Spirit or God of dreams. Even though we might very well find a majority consensus on the two, Hellenism is not really based on a correct belief system, but rather a correct practice. Therefore, if the question is up for debate, and not laid down in Hellenic law, as it were, people can take one position or the other on who is and who isn't a Spirit, or even what constitutes a Spirit. 

On a basic level, one major difference between a God and a Spirit is might and influence. The God is far more powerful and encompasses a far larger spectrum, while the Spirit has a more centralized, simplistic focus. Think of the God as a tree and the Spirit as a leaf. The tree is a whole of the Universe, while the leaf, still just as real as the tree, is an essence of the tree or the Universe, almost a conscious energy, or even an extension, if you will. The leaf can also come down closer to the human realm and even connect you back with the tree at times. Or picture the God as the vast sea and the Spirits as seashells that swirl around in it. So I would imagine it as different levels of Divinity and power. Arete, for instance, being the Spirit of virtue, while a God of virtue is the highest consciousness and power of that realm.

What's interesting and important to remember is that while a God has the power to transcend into a Spiritual presence, a Spirit does not have the power to do the vice versa, because a Spirit is not a God, while a God has all the power to do anything they choose and become anything they want. That's why in ancient Greek religion and myth, Gods were sometimes referred to as a Spirit of something, such as when Orpheus calls Poseidon the Spirit of the deep. It's not that the God has changed from being a God, it's just that they can become and do whatever they want. The Spirit which is a Spirit by its natural being, however, remains a Spirit.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Could Solon Solve Our Economic Crisis?

Class warfare isn't unique to America. The rich and poor have really never gotten along, and have had periods when they are ready to literally start throwing punches, especially when an economy deteriorates into those who have it all and those who have nothing. When the middle class vanishes, the society fractures. It's why Plutarch said that an imbalance between rich and poor is the most common and fatal error of all republics.

In our current political and economic atmosphere in the United States, we once again have the extremes that Athens faced some 2,500 years ago. We have the extremely rich and the extremely poor, and those in power and society who are for the rich or for the poor. Really no one stands on middle ground anymore. But in ancient Athens, one famous Reformer and Lawgiver seems to have done such a good job with these issues that his face was hung inside the United States House of Representatives, although it remains to be seen as to whether or not our government will ever live by his example. His name was Solon, someone who loved the Gods and the people.

He himself was not poor, but he also wasn't dishonest, deceitful or uncaring, which is why the poor loved and trusted him to improve their society. He did not make it illegal to be rich. He allowed success. But he also didn't permit it to be gained through the oppression or destruction of others. He forgave the debts of the poor and outlawed slavery as a condition for repaying debt, as was a custom at the time. In other words, no one could any longer turn you into an involuntary servant just because you owed money. He also repealed the harsh Draco Laws. These laws gave the death penalty even for minor offenses, which probably impacted the poor more than anyone else. Finally, he gave all citizens a voice in the government and established a kind of Athenian congress known as the Boule. Solon literally made life livable for all people.

Last night, I was thinking about how Solon would handle the situation today in the United States, which is much like the one he faced so long ago. What if the best way to handle our social and economic problems is not to destroy one side or the other, but to simply institute and enforce humanitarianism and civilized justice? And more so, has our country lost those two things? I think it has. We have become so obsessed with success and wealth that we actually devalue and exploit people who don't have it. The imbalance that Plutarch called the fatal error of all republics is growing by the day, and we are far past the declaration of war between the two classes; it's already raging.

Perhaps Solon would tell us to be humane and fair, that the best way to solve our problems is to simply give everyone the best quality of life possible. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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