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

Difference Between A Sacrifice and An Offering

In Hellenism and contemporary Pagan and Polytheism, we are familiar with the terms sacrifice and offering. 

Some people use them interchangeably, and I suppose on the surface it's not really a big deal, as some consider sacrifice to be anything made scared, but I think it's worth discussing that the two are not historically the same thing generally speaking.

A sacrifice is normally something of exceptional cost or worth to you, that you give up to the Gods, and in so doing, make sacred. 

In ancient Greek times, this would have encompassed livestock a lot, because they met the above criteria. Giving up sheep, goats, and cattle was, or could be, very costly to the livelihood of the average person.

Yet that willingness to still risk the loss in order to show love, admiration, and request favor from, the Gods, is what made it a sacrifice and a sacred act. The willingness to go long was believed to have grabbed the Gods' attention more.

Today, of course, it doesn't have to pertain to livestock because most people don't live that kind of life anymore. Now our costly sacrifices would be things like money, valuable properties, and our physical time and labor. Even large portions of food and drink, things that take a lot of effort to put together, would be sacrificial.

An offering, however, is a general gift, such as a votive statue, libation, a valuable, or some appropriate foods. They are things that are more readily available and not as costly; easy for pretty much anyone to obtain.

If I give a fresh bar of soap to Aphrodite for Her baths, a libation of olive oil for Athena, or burn incense to Zeus, those would be offerings. This is a bit contradictory to me, because I have normally called all of my burned offerings sacrifices, but to be more accurate, I should use the term offering: my burned offering.

Then again, if it were a huge portion of incense, it may be able to be called sacrifice, but that would take an almost comical pile. Not something normally done. 

Often these days, I find myself paying more attention to how I term things, especially publicly. In many cases, I felt the term offering had been used in the religious communities almost to the point of being cliche or monotonous, so I didn't really like using it a lot.

But as a Reconstructionist Hellenist, I find myself more and more concerned with historical accuracy and appropriate piety on a regular basis. It's a lifelong learning experience. Do I think the Gods are petty and care about which term you use? Absolutely not. But the properness sets the human mind correctly. 

In the Goodness of the Gods, I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,

Chris Aldridge.

Pendants From Greece Hold More Natural Power

In the modern Greek Polytheistic community, some people may not be too explorative about jewelry or necklaces, even if they are religious. 

In fact, with the exception of my own works, I haven't read a book on the topic that really puts any significance on it. I'm not being critical; it's just an observation.

But I am most certainly someone who loves anything I can carry with me that reminds me of, or connects me with, the Gods and Heroes, especially when its a remake of what once existed.

In the picture above, you can see my own that I recently purchased from Greece herself, Athens specifically. The coin is a replica of the Athena Tetradrachm, meaning it was worth the value of four drachmas in the ancient world, eventually working its way up to a standard form of currency. 

The silver mines were located probably in Laurium in the Athenian countryside. This particular coin originally came into being in the late 6th Century BCE. More importantly, the coin is a direct connection to Athena, not just by Her frontal image, but by the AOE on the back, 

AOE means Alpha, Theta, and Epsilon, or Of The Athenians. The coin embodies all that is Athena and Athens (the Goddess and Her beloved City).

After I received the pendant, I put a chain on it to wear around my neck during the day, not really giving it that much thought. I didn't even try to put any energy or blessings onto it myself. It was intended for purely cosmetic purposes.

But I noticed that when I wrap my hand around and just hold it, Athena's amazing presence comes over and calms me, no matter how frustrated, angry, sad or hopeless I may be feeling at the time. It's like a cure-all for the mind and emotions.

The only thing I can figure, as to the pendant's natural power, is that it is directly from the land of Athena Herself, and carries on that ancient connection that has existed for thousands of years. 

Not even pendants that I have bought of Athena in America and placed blessings upon have had this kind of natural, never-ending spiritual strength. And of course, when you have a pendant with this kind of natural power, adding prayers, hymns or other spiritual significance along with it will only strengthen it further for you, and perhaps others as well. 

I would definitely recommend to anyone wanting Hellenic jewelry for religious purpose, to consider Greek sellers. There is just a charm that you cannot get anywhere else.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,
Chris Aldridge. 

When The Soothsayer Showed Up The Scientist

Perikles is an ancient Greek who needs no introduction, but a very notable religious and spiritual event surrounding his life is easily passed under the radar. 

Perikles came from a very powerful and respected military and political family of Athens. Combined with his intelligence and love for discovery, he was destined for greatness. 

When it came time for his education, his parents, for some reason, decided that Anaxagoras should be one of his two teachers. Anaxagoras was the infamous skeptic from Ionia (the coastal region of Asia Minor). 

Although, one must remember, that being skeptical of a present situation or belief does not necessarily make one an atheist. Anaxagoras could have believed in the Gods the same as anyone else, even if he didn't buy everything that everyone told him. For example, I can believe the Earth is a God without believing its flat. I can believe the Sun is a God without believing in geocentrism. 

Nevertheless, it is safe to say that Anaxagoras was not too fond of oracles and seers, nor did he like to think that natural events were, or could be, the cause of Gods. 

When Perikles was a student, the head of a ram was sent to him, probably to his home. But this ram was very distinct in that it only had one central horn upon its head. Presumably, it was taken to have a prophetic meaning, so a Seer was called upon to interpret it. They concluded that the central unified horn meant that Perikles would one day be first and foremost, the most important, in his City's politics. 

Anaxagoras, on the other hand, was determined to prove that it meant nothing by opening the ram's skull and showing that the horn was a deformity and nothing more.

While Anaxagoras certainly proved that the horn was a natural malfunction, his hubris made him ignorant, and in the long run, completely wrong. While he was carnally correct, the Seer was visionarily accurate. 

Perikles DID become exactly what the Seer had predicted. What Anaxagoras did not understand is that the Gods can use the natural things around us, no matter their state, to relay messages to us.

I'm not trying to tear down on Anaxagoras. I'm simply saying that, far too often, scientists and skeptics such as himself do indeed have a great deal of knowledge, but they also can't see beyond their own noses. Science, especially today, is all physical, and the physical can only see so far. The spiritual, however, has no bounds whatsoever. The scientist is knowledgeable, the spiritualist is wise.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,
Chris Aldridge.

*Picture- Anaxagoras by Eduard Lebiedzki. This work is in the public domain because its copyright has expired in countries where copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years. Work can be found here.

*Literary- Aird, Hamish, Pericles, The Rise and Fall of Athenian Democracy, The Rosen Publishing Group, New York, New York, 2004, pp. 24-25.

Secrets Of The Ancient Greek Treasury

Entrance To My Temple's Treasury

Over the last three years, I've spent a lot of time filming and talking about my Illinois temple, but I haven't really discussed one of its most beautiful and traditionally vital assets; the treasury, and what it means to have one in ancient Greek religion. We may assume that it's self-explanatory, but as with mostly all ancient history and modern adaptation, there's a little more to understand about it.

Before I reveal some of the secrets of my temple's treasury, it would be beneficial to discuss what a treasury is supposed to be used for. Take a visit to Delphi today and you'll see the remains of the Athenian Treasury, although I would argue that the entire City itself could have been considered one, because of all the votive gifts and financial powers that were funneled into that sanctuary and temple by the various City States. Greek treasuries found in sanctuaries or part of temples were used, of course, to house precious and valuable gifts made by the City in devotion to the God or Gods of the location. 

But it could also as well or additionally be used to store and protect the City's wealth and profit gained from war, conquest and trade. Some may have considered no better way to protect such vital necessities than to place them in the treasury of a God. Indeed, this would have been a completely accurate theory, as punishments were most harsh for stealing from a God or their sacred areas. I can but imagine the amount of money and beauty that were in those ancient safes. Today, not a spec remains, and certainly it is probably mostly because the Christians stole it, but it's also true that cities themselves would have looted one another in war. Hopefully, we Hellenists today won't have to worry about either.

Walk into my temple's treasury and you'll find everything from statues and trinkets to beautiful clothing and jewelry, and even bottled water from major rivers, given by devoted people who have traveled to my temple. Even gorgeous libation vessels have been gifted to our temple. The actual dollar amount that my treasury holds has never been calculated, but for a small country temple, I imagine it's a sustaining wealth. I keep it and the temple under heavy lock and key when I'm not there.

The Interior Of Our Treasury

But the true secrets and wealth of such a Greek wonder lie in the devoted themselves. Each treasury has its own unique character and spirit. The people who come to fill it throughout its life will also be unique in their own. This is where people will tell their stories to the Gods, to our community, to our clergy, and also to future generations. It is far more than a simple religious safe. It's a shrine to human life, and most importantly, the belief that we all matter and make a difference in this world.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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.


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

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. 

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.

The Controversial Subject of Animal Sacrifice

It's no secret to history, and no doubt to any logical mind, that the ancient Polytheists (not just Greeks) participated in the practice of animal sacrifice to their Gods, and not in small amounts. At the Panathenaia, for example, Athena received a sacrifice of 100 oxen, which were then used in a great banquet to feed the worshipers. There are also vase paintings from around 500 BCE that show bulls being led to the altar of Athena for sacrifice, with the Goddess lording over the procession. While people in mainstream society, and even many modern Pagans, may find the act to be cruel at best, what does animal sacrifice really entail? What is the reality of it all? Are we really appalled by it, or are we just being reactionaries to something that has been made taboo? Is our condemnation of it real, or manufactured?

I think I am first safe to say that most Pagans, and Hellenic Polytheists like myself, do not practice animal sacrifice today for a number of reasons. One, the expense. Two, many of us don't feel the need or the desire to go through such pains. And three, there's no need to sacrifice an animal when any meat you like can be picked up fresh at the grocery store and placed on the altar of the God you wish to offer to. It is far cheaper, far less burdensome, and far less messy. We are just as, if not more content, by pouring libations, burning incense, and giving general foods and goods to our Gods. On the other hand, there is also no law in the United States that forbids the sacrifice of livestock for religious purposes. The US Supreme Court ruled, by all 9 Justices, that animal sacrifice for religious purpose is protected under the 1st amendment during a case involving the Floridian city of Hialeah and resident worshipers who preformed animal sacrifice.

So let's break the subject down simply. Mostly no one becomes offended or repulsed if I tell them that I am going hunting. They have no problem with me loading a rifle and putting a bullet through a deer's heart, and afterward, breaking his body apart and using it for meat. They don't think twice about it even if I decide to stuff and put his head on my wall when all is said and done. However, if I put a religious meaning onto it, then all of a sudden, the exact same act becomes an offense. Why? Why is it more wrong to chop up a chicken for my family while praying to a God, than it is to simply chop it up without prayer? It's ridiculous to suddenly make killing an animal a horrid offense the minute it becomes religious, but totally fine if there's no religion attached. The animal dies either way. The only difference in the actual act of killing is that the Pagan may offer the animal to a God as well.

Animal sacrifice, in my view, actually gives the animal more respect and honor than simply putting them through a conveyor belt in a killing house. With the religious aspect, the animal is made sacred and treated with the utmost respect because it is being given to the God. Even more honor is bestowed by the fact that the animal will likely be used for good purpose once the sacrifice is over, such as the oxen at the Panathenaia, instead of being killed for mere sport like many hunters do these days, or being massively killed on farms for mere profit. These are the people and places that truly do dishonor to the animal and commit the horrid acts. They exploit the animal in every way imaginable, and could not care less how close they bring the creatures to extinction. The Pagan or the Polytheist who gives the animal to the God cares for the creature far more than your average, mainstream butcher or hunter. The animal is seen as a sacred gift to the Divine, and a salvation to the people by the food and service that its body gives.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

How To Build An Outside Sanctuary That Will Withstand The Elements

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

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

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

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

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

Labrys & Horns: Review of An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism

Over this weekend, I received a copy of a book that I was hoping would extend my knowledge of ancient Minoan religion, since they are considered a predecessor to ancient Hellas. However, I was disappointed to read a number of entries where the author, Laura Perry, takes liberties with bashing the ancient Greeks and the ancient Greek religion. While her discussion of Minoan religion itself is quite informative and interesting, her allegations and assumptions against the Greeks are simply inaccurate and dishonest, so I wish to take this time to review these parts of her book and address them each individually. 

I first want to point out that Perry gives no sources in her book. While she lists suggestive readings, these are not the same. The reason for that is obvious, we know virtually nothing concrete about the Minoans. You can't have sources on something which no one knows anything about. Therefore, in many cases, her book reads like an opinion piece, not something that is historically scholarly. 

Page 8, "Classical revivals during the Renaissance and again during Victorian times, have helped to popularize the incorrect notion that western civilization began in classical Greece."

Now for historians, there is no denying that the Minoans and their culture moved onto the Greek mainland and inspired the Greeks there. I think, in my opinion, it's fairly obvious that Deities such as the Dove Goddess and the Mistress of Animals later became Aphrodite and Artemis. In fact, the Greeks were no strangers to borrowing things from other cultures. However, they did not borrow anything that didn't fit into the Greek worldview, and therefore, what they adopted was already Greek in the first place. What we know in terms of western civilization today has most certainly came from the Greeks. With Minoan excavations, it's quite obvious that they were different. As Perry says on page 6, "the Minoans weren't the same as Indo-European Greeks - they were a separate, unique people." If they were separate and unique from the Greeks, this means that the two cultures are not comparatively the same, and we must therefore conclude that the ancient Greece we know of had much of its own unique design. The Greeks also perfected things they borrowed into their own culture, and those perfections, as well as the originality of ancient Greece, has in fact given birth to western civilization.

Page 32, "But Theseus didn't exist in Minoan times. He's a Greek culture hero, invented centuries after the collapse of the Minoan civilization, to 'advertise' the Greeks as modern and advanced compared to the 'primitive' Minoans."

I must ask, where is her irrefutable evidence that Theseus was invented and didn't actually exist? Other than her own beliefs, where is the evidence? There is none. But we do have people and even historians who talked about Theseus, Plutarch being among them. So we do have reasonable speculation that such a man was real. As far as Theseus symbolizing an advance from primitive to modern, that may very well be the case. We know based on reasonable historical and archaeological speculation, that the Minoans were known for times of practicing human sacrifice. While probably not commonplace, it likely did exist. Humans being thrown to the Minotaur and killed in order to appease Minos, whether for a divinity or a king, is human sacrifice. When Theseus killed the Minotaur, He literally put an end to such barbaric religious practices and brought the Greek land into a more civilized state. It's also important to remember that Theseus was said to have existed in a time after the collapse of the heyday of the Minoan civilization. Theseus is said to have lived in the 1200s BCE. The Minoan civilization collapsed in 1450 BCE, and therefore, the Minos Theseus knew could not have been any person directly of the Minoan civilization that Perry's book talks about. He may have been trying to bring back the old culture of the Minoans, parts of which the Greeks did not like, among that being the continuance of human sacrifice, and the Greeks stopped it.

Page 40, "This bull imagery carried down into later times when the Greeks portrayed Dionysus with bull horns. This may also link Dionysus with the Minotaur (see below) and other bull symbology from ancient Crete."

Debatable. The bull is a strong symbol of fertility, and Dionysus is also such a powerful God of that attribute. It may have had nothing to do with an originality from Minoan culture. 

Page 60 on Minos, "Here's a tricky fellow, an ancient Minoan god who was demoted to a mortal king by the Greeks."

Again, I would ask for a source on this. We must also consider the fact that, if the original Minos was a deity as Perry argues, it was not uncommon in ancient times for kings to be named after gods. So it's more than reasonably possible that a mortal king of Crete took the name of the god. Some have also suggested that there was more than one king named Minos, which would give more weight to the theory that the name was either adopted, or more of a dynastic title. As I mentioned in the address to the quote on page 32, the king Minos of the time of Theseus came after the collapse of the Minoan civilization. So it's more than possible that the king Theseus fought adopted the Minos name if it's indeed that of a deity in his mission to restore the old religion, as the king was not any part of the actual civilization that preceded him. He was merely a continuance, perhaps someone trying to revive the old culture. Furthermore, the ancient Minoans did not even call themselves Minoan. I don't think we know what they called themselves at all. They were given that name by Sir Evans who unearthed the ruins of their civilization. He chose the name based on the mythical king known to Theseus.

Page 78,  "The difference in the position of the goddesses in these myths - Ariadne and Rhea as independent characters versus Demeter and Persephone being manipulated by men - shows just how different the position of women was in Minoan versus Greek Society."

One thing I have typically noticed about authors like Perry, is that they bash male Gods based on their myths concerning sexuality and dominance, yet never say anything about the female Gods or Divine Beings. They never say anything about Aphrodite's many affairs, or about Her allegedly starting the Trojan War with Her sexual authority. The Goddess of Love is not monogamous at all. She's powerful and She knows it, and She can use that power to get what She wants. Not even Gods can resist Her. She's sexually dominant in so many ways, yet a male God who is sexually dominant, for some reason, gets a bad label. Not all of the myths concerning Persephone even say She was abducted or required to be wed. Some say She willingly accepted Haides as Her husband, although Perry chooses the version that gives strength to her worldview. In my opinion, Perry doesn't seek to give a fair and balanced view of sexual and genderized myth and culture, but simply an anti-male slant. Neither male or female power is bad, both are good and amazing. There is no need, and is in fact ridiculous and childish, to hate or vilify one or the other.

Also, I think it's important that we don't judge the Gods by all of their myths. Not only are there many that vary from Greek culture to Greek culture and sometimes contradict, but the Greeks themselves also eventually didn't see their myths as literal facts, yet still firmly believed in their Gods as good and just Beings, and that's how we should see them as well. We should abandon any myth or story that tries to convince us otherwise. The ancient Greek society was also not universally misogynistic. Each city-state had its own laws and religious practices. Women in Sparta, for example, had more power and rights than women in Athens. Spartan women were highly revered, and were even known to exert control in their marriages. The Oracle of Delphi, considered to be the highest mortal teller and seer in the ancient Greek world, was a woman. Greeks also believed that Hera rivaled Zeus in power. She wasn't His chained dog, but His fierce partner. In fact, Homer refers to Her as "no less than Zeus who delights in thunder." So to argue that women and Goddesses had no prominence or power in ancient Greek culture, is beyond the realm of the ridiculous.

I'd additionally like to point out that, contrary to many modern assertions, there was never in human history a matriarchal culture. While there were cultures where women were leaders, or had more rights, freedoms and values than in others, their culture was still male dominated. 

I just think that Perry doesn't address all the facts, yet clearly seeks to bash the ancient Greek culture. I emailed and invited her to have a friendly public discussion and debate with me, but she declined.