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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Is A Second Heroic Age Possible?

The ancient Heroic Age of Greece gave us many of the Heroes we pray to and admire today in Hellenic religion. Many think these days to be long gone, and even Hesiod, as far back as he goes, wrote that man has entered an Iron Age that is anything but Heroic. In many ways, this line of thinking is correct. However, Heroes never stopped being made, or at least, the possibility never ceased. The particular Age is not a necessity. The Heroic Age is so named simply because it was the time period when there was a great birth of Heroes known and documented. 

I have said in the past that a Hero or a Heroine is someone who is self-sacrificial, and capable enough to do good things that the common man or woman is unable or unwilling to do. The ability to be a Hero lies within all of us. I think on the cases where someone miraculously lifted a car off of their loved one who was trapped beneath, demonstrating literally superhuman strength in a time of great need. The power of a Hero only needs to be channeled, activated if you will. To be a Hero, we need only pick a noble mission and complete it, whether we free someone from entrapment beneath a 4,000 pound vehicle, or simply give love, compassion and hope to someone who has none. Often times, that mission includes thinking about someone other than ourselves, and through that goodness and nobility, we reach a spiritual level where we are much closer to the Gods, even in the afterlife.

Now it should also be kept in mind that good deeds alone didn't always make a Hero. There were many ways to become one. Simply suffering a spectacular death might make someone a Hero. But there was also nothing exceptional about the deaths of Heroes like Theseus, Odysseus, Achilles and Oedipus. Theseus simply died from a bad fall essentially, and Oedipus, by all accounts I have read, basically died of natural causes. What's exceptional is the life they led. And it's also true that there are no living Heroes. All Heroes of the status have passed on into higher levels of spiritual and Divine existence, but their lives on Earth helped determine that.

The qualifications for Heroism can still be met today and Hero status achieved. In fact, I would argue that there are certainly many Heroes, both of ancient and modern time, who live Divinely powerful and influential in the afterlife, but we don't know of them because they were largely unknown, or their families didn't believe in Hero veneration. With the right achievement, humans could even enter a Second Heroic Age. What keeps us from a second Age of such excellence is our mentality. A great many people today either only care for themselves or don't care about anything at all. In short, few people care about things anymore. When criminals and the tyrannical king of Crete threatened Greece and Athens, Theseus took out His sword and stopped them all. Today, it is likely that no one would do anything. They would simply accept their situation and live under the terror. And people who didn't live in their path would most certainly not care at all. "At least it's not happening to me," is the modern mentality that allows all wrong to flourish," and the idea that, "There's nothing I can do," is the attitude that prevents any and all achievement or betterment in life.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Can Prayer Be An Offering?

Once when I was doing my weekly rite of Athene, I had to prepare and execute a little more quickly than usual because of some other pressing obligations later that day, and in so doing, I did not have anything to present to Hephaistos, Nike, or the Spirits and Heroes of the day who are associated with Athene. But then I remembered the belief that some Hellenes hold, which is that the Gods love it when we recognize them and their greatness, and since the prayers I used did just that, I thought it would be sufficient. I didn't think about the question until later in the day, but it inevitably surfaced: can prayer be an offering? This could be an important question for people who find themselves in a daily rite or ritual without anything to give for one reason or another, but still need or desire to make that connection with the Gods, Spirits or Heroes.

The answer is absolutely, a prayer can most certainly be an offering, especially if you wrote it entirely yourself for that specific Divinity or Divinities. If the Gods take delight in our recognition, then all things given in those respects are gifts that show our love and devotion. This is what an offering is in its entirety. And the Gods never forget. Athene remembers what happened 5 minutes ago just like She remembers what happened 5,000 years ago. She knows how I prayed last week, and how the Greeks prayed on the shores of Marathon. I believe the Gods remember our devotions in whatever form they take.

A prayer that is written by you can also be a great offering to the Gods in the sense that it aids in rebuilding the Hellenic religion. Anything we build or create in honor of the Gods, Spirits or Heroes is an act of devotion, reverence, gift, offering, etc. So when you create your own prayer and write it down in secure records, like a book or a protected journal, you have brought into existence another delightful piece of Hellenic religion and the recognition of the ancient Gods in our world. It's a wonderful offering or gift, especially if those writings later go on to be largely used in Hellenism, or discovered by historians and archaeologists later on as they try to piece together a past understanding of contemporary ancient Greek religion.

In my life as a Hellenic writer, I have myself composed numerous new prayers, around 250 to be close to exact, and those writings are published in book form so they can be distributed to Hellenists and Pagans. Of course, it wasn't an easy process. All the prayers of mine that people now see have been in the making since 2009. It's taken me 7 years to assemble them all. In my advice, if you want to give a continuous, custom offering to the Gods, then custom prayers are a good way to do that, if it's all you can present for any given reason. Furthermore, publish them if you can and wish. Create your own website or blog and post them as your contributions to the worship of the old Gods. Pray often.

In the Goodness of Olympos,
Chris Aldridge.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Age of Iron and The Fate of Humanity

Hesiod, the ancient Greek writer, talked about the present stage of humanity, naming it the "Age of Iron." Although Hesiod has been dead for almost 3,000 years, reading his prophecy is an eerie thing because, the more you study it, the more you realize how accurately he is describing our own present time, and what's more disturbing, is that he lists it as the last Age of Man, although he does talk about human life beyond it, so we are led to believe that human life may resurface. He describes it as a time of complete dishonor and immorality, a time when people who do evil will be praised, and those who seek to do what's right will be condemned. That humanity will be plagued with evil and pain, that children would harm their own parents, and would carry out acts of unscrupulousness even in front of the Gods. Shame will be nowhere. The fate of this Age is its ultimate destruction by the hand of Zeus, the King of the Gods.

When I look at the world around me today, I see so much of Hesiod's forecast. In many ways, those who do evil, immoral or unscrupulous things are held in praise, or at least not held in contempt by our society. If an armed citizen stops a mass shooting, the media does not praise them for the hero that they are. Rather, all we hear about is the shooter, and while they are not glorified, our society tries to consider their lives and feelings. Children also go to great lengths to dishonor their parents, as Hesiod said they would. How many times have you heard of someone taking away the money and/or property of their elderly parent, abusing them, or dropping them off outside a nursing home and diving away, leaving them to the mercy of whoever is found to care for them? Simple immoralities and disasters also plague us. For example, lies are more profitable than truths, goodness rarely receives any support, wars over riches are commonplace, hard work never ceases to be a requirement for living, and pain is everywhere and in mostly everything at some point. Hesiod predicted that these things, and things similar to them, would take place in the Age of Iron. But what else exactly does Iron mean? For we know that we live in a time of many, many elements. So what does he mean by calling it by this metal? I think iron could also be a metaphor for the technological or industrial age, because we have a reliance on iron to do our work for us. Even in the realm of modern fiction, one of the most popular superheroes is Iron Man. Iron is the way Hesiod found to best label our time period. 

This is one of the reasons I feel it's so important for us to focus on doing good things and be charitable toward others, so that our race of humans may avoid the eventual and ultimate displeasure of the Gods. And I still retain hope for our Age. I do not believe we are inevitably fated, but that we can alter ourselves, as we do have the power to change its course. The fact that we are more than capable of doing good and making the world better, means that we are not doomed to the contrary. And fortunately, the Gods are still with us and still give us their help and assistance against evil or chaotic things. This is why when I do my prayers to Zeus each week as the highest God, I begin by saying,

"Zeus, be merciful toward our Age, and guide us, for we are Iron."

Our fate, should our Age continue its road, is that it will cease to exist. It might even be that we end up destroying our own Age before the Gods can, that we will destroy our own race of humanity by our actions. Hopefully, however, we will change ourselves, and beyond our time, a new Age will emerge to bring a brighter day for humankind. But as I live each day, I see myself as someone who can make that new Age possible in my own time. We can change it. We can be the new.

In the Goodness of the Dodekatheon,

Source: Hesiod. Trans. Richmond Lattimore. The Works and Days, Theogony, The Shield of Herakles: The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperbacks. Print. (39).

Friday, December 18, 2015

Why Greek Heroes Are Not Exclusive To Ancient Greek Local Communities

Some Hellenists believe that praying to ancient Greek Heroes, or worshiping them, outside of their local communities in ancient Greece, is not a valid or authentic practice for a Hellene who lives outside of Greece, that these Heroes are only reserved for the precise places where they were prayed to or worshiped. While it's most certainly true that we can have local Heroes of our time in our own land, and such Heroes do exist, it is an extreme fallacy, and simply illogical, to say that ancient Greek Heroes cannot be universal or invoked outside of their homeland, or that such a practice outside of Greece would somehow be "unhellenic."

The first reason why this is faulty logic is because we Hellenes outside of Greece follow the calendar of Attica, which is the calendar of a specific region of Greece, and we incorporate practices from this calendar in many different places in the world. So to say that local Greek Heroes cannot be legitimately honored, prayed to, or worshiped outside of their local areas, and then follow a local calendar of ancient Greece, is a walking contradiction. Why would it be acceptable and accurate to celebrate the observances and practices of Attica outside of Attica, but not to also honor and pray to the Heroes of Attica, like Theseus? 

Literally speaking, our entire religion comes from a different part of the world. If you live in the United States, no part of the Hellenic religion originated here, but we don't tell Americans they can't be Hellenists. Clearly, there is a system of universalism present within the religion. We're not talking about religion from a place like Egypt where it was explicitly tied to the geography in every way. For example, there is only one Nile, but there are rivers and seas all over the world. Why should that only mean those found in Greece?

We also have to consider that some of the Heroes did not stay in one area during their time of heroism. For example, Theseus was born in Troezen, and traveled to Athens, along the way demonstrating His heroism to the Greek people, and after His death, became a protector of the persecuted and oppressed. So which area would Theseus be more appropriately honored, Troezen or Athens? Or can we say that He is multi-regional? I would say most certainly. Theseus is not just the Hero of the Athenians, because the persecuted and oppressed exist all over the globe, and Athens was not the only place where He liberated such people. As long as one gives Him proper Greek respects, I don't see the issue, because as Plutarch said in his writings, Plutarch's Lives, Theseus always helped those who came to Him for help, He did not turn away those in need. Granted, I don't agree with Plutarch on everything, but this seems to be very much in line with the character of Theseus.

Certain Gods also held different levels of importance in ancient Greek areas. For example, Athene was of great importance in Athens, while Apollon was of dominant importance in Delphi, so which Deity should receive the most honor from us Hellenes? Some of the Greek Gods had origins outside of Greece itself, so which region is accurate and which region in Greece is more accurate than the other? Or shall we say that both of the Gods are of great importance to the lives of Hellenes and the religion of Hellenism? 

This is why locality really has no basis in the argument against the honoring of Greek Heroes, because we honor many Beings and things which were local, while we practice in other parts of the world. The simple fact of the matter is that the Heroes traveled about, doing heroic things. Spheres of influence are not exclusive, and sometimes cannot possibly be to, one area, whether we're talking about Heroes or Gods themselves. For example, Apollon is God of the Sun, Zeus is God of the Sky, and Poseidon is God of the Sea, and these things shine and cover over the entire world, not just in Greece. Essentially, I argue that Hellenism can be a universal system in that the Gods, Spirits, Heroes and practices themselves can extend outside of the Greek regions as long as they retain their Greek identity.

To finish by speaking on a UPG level, for what it's worth in the larger Hellenic community, I have had great experience praying to Greek Heroes, such as Theseus and Bellerophon. I can feel them with me when I ask for their presence, because I believe they hear all Hellenes. The Heroes now exist in a divine or spiritual state, which means they are beyond physical boundaries. 

In the Goodness of the Dodekatheon,

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Learning From The Greek Gods: Athene

Athene, spelled in Latin as Athena, is one of the most powerful and influential Goddesses, not just in Greek culture, but ever in the history of the world. She appears on currency and within American states, and Her statues can be seen standing in places around the world, including before the entrance of the University of Athens in Greece. Athene encompasses many attributes and epithets, but some of Her main ones are wisdom, war, and domestic art. She can be prayed to for protection and victory in battle, whatever form that battle may come in, and the wisdom of the heavens and beauty of the arts. Abundantly, I pray to Athene for protection and defense. In the past, I have managed to successfully invoke Her in these regards and the results were beyond any description of amazement. But I also never neglect to recognize Her wisdom as well, for She is great enough to fight, but also wise enough to resolve conflicts without it, and my endless pursuit of wisdom in general doesn't neglect to have Her in mind.

We can learn many great things from Athene, one of them being the necessary components of battle. When Athene fights, She does not hold back. She fights with all of Her might and does not give up. She accepts nothing but victory, and She has always achieved it. When we are involved in our own battles in life, we too should understand that the time for war, or the time to fight, has arrived, and when there is no other choice, we must commit ourselves fully to the defense of ourselves, family and all that we love and hold dear. We too must only accept victory when we have been given no other choice but to achieve it as an outcome.

Athene is also the Goddess of Wisdom. While She is a fierce fighter, She would rather have peace. If She can avoid the conflict, She will. In other words, when a conflict arises, if peace is possible, She will try for it. She only fights when She must. This can also be our own inspiration for how to settle conflicts. Sometimes, fighting is unavoidable, but we should make sure that, before we engage in it, we have tried all other solutions. We too should prefer peace to war, and try our best to make that the outcome instead of jumping right into throwing punches.

Athene's wonderful beauty is also expressed in art, particularly the domestic. When I pray to Her in these regards, I ask Her to, "mold and weave my home into a place of beauty," and in fact, a statue of Her honoring this epithet stands in my home. Domestic art can include anything from weaving and sewing, to the homemade culinary arts (food-making). In this, She comes to provide comfort and happiness in our homes, whether we find that in our beautiful creations for the home, or in the meals we prepare and enjoy with our families. These times and things are very valuable in terms of our satisfaction in life and the contributions and growth to our families.

Athene is strong enough to do battle, wise enough to create peace, and beautiful enough to enrich lives.

In the Goodness of the Dodekatheon,

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gaia Gave Birth To Monsters

This past Sunday, my wife, son and I went to the Burpee Museum in Rockford, Illinois. It's a natural history museum, containing numerous fossils and dinosaur remains and casts. I wanted to go particularly because I am fascinated by dinosaurs and I love natural science and the prehistoric eras. It was amazing to see and learn about things that are millions of years old, to be able to look upon a skeleton and think, "If I were to reach out and touch this, I'd be touching something millions of years old, something that lived before humans and saw things we could not even begin to comprehend. It's really stunning that I could reach out across time." There was even a triceratops exhibit called, "Homer's Odyssey." Being a lover of Greek stories, one can imagine how captivated I was by that. My toddler son also very much enjoyed the exhibits, and humorously tried to open some of the cases to get a better look. Fortunately, however, they were firmly sealed.

To accompany me on my trip, I had a new book concerning Greek mythology, and I was reading up on some of the most popular stories in Greek religion and myth. I have, for a long time, understood that the Hellenes knew a lot about the formation and existence of the Universe. They knew it came from chaos (perhaps their explanation for the Big Bang). They knew the Earth was round while many in later history would continue to believe it was flat. And one Greek human origins story I once read even talked about man coming into existence through different ages (perhaps an allegory for an evolution). The old Greeks were very advanced and have earned a place as one of the most advanced and brilliant civilizations in the history of mankind. So could they have ever possibly known anything about dinosaurs?

I knew there was no, as far as I had read, explicit description of the beasts as we would know them today. However, I got to thinking about it and my reading of the Greek creation stories before the arrival of the Olympians. It was said that Gaia (Mother Earth), had monsters, and sometimes even after the new Gods came to power. Now, the descriptions of the monsters I have read do not fit those of dinosaurs, However, the concept, the idea of vicious monsters themselves, things that were giant and that were early inhabitants of the Earth, are most certainly mentioned in detail in the old Greek stories. I concluded that I could look at it as metaphors or symbols of prehistoric beasts. The idea of monsters that once roamed the earth was not foreign to the Hellenes who lived before us and built our world. It's fascinating to ponder, certainly. 

What do you think?

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Courage and Honor,