Showing posts with label Gods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gods. Show all posts

Monday, December 4, 2023

New Ways, Old Thinking, In Belvidere

Northern Illinois has a plethora of very quaint and beautiful small municipalities. I've had the pleasure of living in several of them throughout my life in this State, such as Galena and Elizabeth. One of my favorites is Belvidere, a beautiful City with a vibrant atmosphere situated East of Cherry Valley. One of the most attractive things about these locations is the creative culture.

As I was driving through Belvidere today on an errand, I took notice to one of their community statues that you see in the picture, of heroic police and firemen protecting and helping the vulnerable child, and I could not help but note also the clothing on the statues (in this case, scarfs, which are a seasonal dress).

As humans, we do a lot of things subconsciously, even from our distant past that seems to carry on through evolutionary timelines. In ancient Pagan times, it was not uncommon at all for citizens to clothe statues of their Gods and Heroes during certain festivals or times of year. In Greek culture, you have traditions like Panathenaia, and even if there wasn't a special occasion, one would not have considered it odd to see a Cult cleaning and robing their Cult Image at the beginning of the day.

While the people of the City today may not interpret the act in the same way as ancient man, or even as a religious devotion, I think there's something in our soul that never goes away, that always, in some form, calls out to where we truly came from and where we can never truly separate ourselves. It goes back, I think, to what a Hellenic friend of mine told me a long time ago when we were talking about Greek Christians who still have statues of Greek Gods in their homes, businesses or restaurants. Simply, "It's in their blood."

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

Monday, November 27, 2023

The Ancient Chaotic Void Still Exists, But The Gods Fill It

The other night, my wife and I were watching one of our favorite TV series together, and one of the main characters was talking about his unwavering devotion to his religion. He faced so many persuasive opportunities for his own personal gratification, which he desperately longed for, but it was always on the condition that he betray his spiritual convictions, and that he would not do. He basically said that without Higher Powers, nothing else mattered. While the character was not the same religion as us, I could not disagree with his general conclusion.

The ancient Greeks believed that the universe began as Chaos and a vast void, then after a long passing of time, Order came and the void was filled, and in that Order was life, in a nutshell. It's the creation of all that exists today according to the ancient Greeks.

That void was generally conquered by the Gods, but I think the battle between Gods and Chaos can sometimes find itself at a constant. Throughout Greek religion and myth, even though the Gods brought Order, there were still Heroes who had to kill or conquer many things that disrupted the common good of life.

I've said in the past, and meant it, that even if someone offered me a billion dollars on the condition that I renounce the Gods, I would not do it - nor would I even need time to think about it. Because I know that no matter how much material I have, without the Gods there would be a hole that could never again be filled in my life. If all you have is the mere physical, which eventually fades or goes just far enough to indulge the carnal, that won't be enough. Most of us need something eternal and undying. Over 60% of studies have shown that religious people are less depressed.

I think that somewhere inside of us, and in the universe itself, there remains the threat of that vast void, and it will consume us if the Gods aren't there. No amount of money or mansions can conquer it. I'm not saying that financial success can't bring a substantial level of happiness, or any said success in the mortal world, but without the Gods, you're always going to feel a blackness or a bottomless pit inside you somewhere. There is something we long for that the mundane simply cannot satisfy. 

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

Sunday, July 30, 2023

How A Hellenic Marriage Endured The Impossible

I certainly will never pass myself off as a licensed relationship counselor, but from my own relationship of the last 14 years, which was a Hellenic union and marriage, I know what creates strength and weakness, love and hate, union and dissolution.

I remember a long time ago a friend of mine, who wasn't a Hellenist or any religion as far as I knew, asked me to pray for her marriage, as it was on the verge of divorce. I said I'd ask Hera for help (Queen of heaven and the Goddess of marriage).

A few days later, my friend told me that her relationship had miraculously improved. I haven't heard from her since, and I hope things are still going well, but the first point is that when you put Hera at the center of your union, it will never break.

Of course, it was first Aphrodite, Goddess of love and passion, who brought my wife and I together. Still to this day, after the better part of 20 years of being together, we still have just as much passion for one another.

The hard part, at the beginning of our relationship, was that neither of our families approved. They either felt one wasn't good enough for the other, or that it was something that was happening too fast and hasty. But sometimes, that's the way the universe works.

So literally, we ran away together. We didn't care what others thought. She left her home, and I mine. We didn't look back either. For a short time, we were technically homeless until we managed to get into a hotel here and there, in which we stayed until our first apartment was finally secured.

When you want to be with someone and the opportunity to change your life for the better is there, don't bother yourself with the opinions of other people. Listen to what the Gods and your heart tell you. 

Some may be critical of spontaneous love, but I can verify that it is an indicator of the strongest kind. If you have to work to get someone to love you, it's just not meant to be. A natural connection does not require labor, nor can it ever be destroyed, just as energy itself cannot be.

When we rented our first apartment together in High Point, North Carolina in the summer of 2009, we were so poor that I was astounded they even gave us one in the first place, and as nice as it was to add. We literally had nothing but our laptops, clothes to sit on, and an air mattress for sleep. 

But we were as happy as we could be, even though we didn't have any material. We didn't even have good jobs at the time. Nevertheless, we were delighted just to be with each other in our own place, away from everything and everyone else. Therefore, I'd say the second phase is finding someone who is willing to run away with and love you for you only.

Of course, finding someone who only wants you for you may not be that easy if you're rich or well off. In that case, I really can't give advice because I've never been rich. But what I can say is that someone who wants you when you're poor, won't leave you when you're rich. So if you want a lifelong partner, get one either when you're poor, or who doesn't know you're not.

However, we could not have possibly guessed what was to come next, something that would change so many lives, including ours, forever; a severely premature baby. Even though Gryphon pulled through amazingly after being born at only 24 weeks, he still has issues he will have to work through throughout his life.

Why does this have such an impact on the marriage between my wife and I? Because over 80% of marriages with children with disabilities end in divorce or separation. Ours never did. That's not to say it hasn't had its difficult times, but the hardships uniquely made us stronger together.

When Gods like Zeus, Athena, Artemis and Apollon are part of your life, you realize that you have a duty and an obligation to others, no matter how difficult things may become at times. It was mine to love my wife and be there for my son, because I had assisted in bringing this union together and creating our child. My personal feelings and stresses are irrelevant when it comes to duty.

In short, Hellenism instills in you honor. Honor is the most important of all virtues, because without it, there is nothing you won't do under the right circumstances. Honor puts the personal to the side and brings to the top what is simply right and what is simply wrong. Would it have been much easier to leave my marriage? Quite possibly. But easy isn't always right, nor does it always make you better.

Additionally, the more you experience hardships and trials together, the more love and strength your connection will have. Don't run or recoil from challenges if they come. Instead invoke the Gods, take each other's hand, and push through them. Whatever you do, never see one another as the enemy or the reason for your troubles. You are in it together. Your partnership is supposed to help you manage things better. Use it.

Life is not easy. It's a full time job, full of stress, health and financial issues, and sometimes even legal concerns. But I tell you truly, the Gods and your love will bring you through all of it.

One might say, "Yes, but why bother? If it's been that hard a significant amount of the time, wouldn't it be better to just not go through it?"

The answer is, if you never want to change for the better and you don't want to get the most out of a relationship, then no, it's not worth your time. Otherwise, it's worth every step. You'll notice progress for the better, just as we have. Things have always improved slowly but surely. We are a world better off now than when we first met. It's not even a close comparison. For two reasons; the Gods and the refusal to give up.

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Humans Aren't Gods, and Pagan Groups Need To Stop Telling People They Are

Many people come to Paganism out of a longing for the old Gods, to find community where they otherwise would not, and to reach their own unique sense of purpose and achievement. Most people find the Gods, their purpose, and equally important, themselves. These are all fantastic things. 

But perhaps in an attempt to raise people above the levels they came from, or out of delusions of grandeur, or perhaps even out of actual belief, there are Pagan systems that tell people they are Gods, equal to Gods, work with Gods, and are the same as Gods. 

Whenever I hear someone say they are a God, or that some other person is a God, if prompted I always say, "Oh, yeah? Make it rain." I don't respond this way to be a jerk, but to wake them up to an important reality that can become dangerous to neglect.

Our religious and social ancestors had no problem with worship or religion. In fact, to the Greeks, there was no word for religion because life was religious. They were not Christians nor Abrahamic, and yet, they still realized that their Gods were greater than themselves. They still prayed, worshiped and sacrificed to them because they held status, power and wisdom far above their own.

Humans are not the same or equal to the Gods. If we were, we would not be called humans. We do not take their places nor work with them, because we are not on the same levels at all. We are mortal, we hurt, we bleed, and we die. Gods do not. 

The idea that Pagans did not worship is simply incorrect at best, and a lie at worst. However, it did not mean they saw themselves as degenerates. Quite the contrary, they could be Heroic to the point of eternal glory. Simply put, the Gods had their place and mankind had theirs. Nothing deplorable about any of it.

There are many reasons humans should not consider themselves Gods, but here are the core ones to my mind.

1. Humans simply aren't. Truth has a place in human life.
2. It gives a false sense of achievement; people don't have to do anything else in life.
3. It can create dangerous self-righteous authority over other people and things.
4. Self-harm can follow from thinking you're something you're not.
5. To not give the Gods their proper place is an affront to the sacredness of Divinity.

It does not matter how big, strong or successful you are, you are not a God. But you also don't have to be. Who in the world ever thought or assumed that human beings couldn't be great as a human? 

Ikaros was, mythologically, among the first two men to achieve flight. That in itself was greatness. But because Ikaros failed to understand his proper place and tried to soar higher than a mortal should, he fell and drowned. 

It was not that he didn't reach greatness, but that he didn't acknowledge what greatness was for a man. He had achieved all a man could, filling his cup of glory to the top, if only he hadn't tried to make it hold more than it naturally could.

Imagine it. He could have brought the knowledge of flight to mankind, made himself rich, loved and admired for eternity. There would have been nothing inglorious about his life. If only he had understood the difference between Gods and men.

"Didn't some of the Heroes become Gods after death?" Yes, but it was after they had transcended the physical realm, and many of the Heroes were part Divine to begin with. And not all Ascended people are Gods either. They are more powerful than physical humans, but still not Deities. 

In closing, I will say that when it comes down to personal belief, should others really concern themselves with that? I'd say normally not. If someone believes they are Superman, who cares? But if they put on the costume and go to jump off a building, should we as a community tell them that they are indeed Superman and to go ahead? 

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Soul's Journey: Ancient Greek Afterlife from Start to Finish

"Not a man alive can send me to Haides until it's my time, and when it is my time, be I brave or coward, nothing can stop it." - Homer.


During my life as a Hellenist, I have more than once happened upon questions concerning the ancient Greek afterlife. What is it? Why would you want to go there? What happens? What are your goals? The curiosity and desire for possible knowledge never ends, and deservedly so. 

Especially in our time, it's only natural that people be exceptionally wonderous, for not much has been seriously written or thought about on the topic in over 2,000 years, certainly not in a serious religious context. Nevertheless, belief in the old Gods continues to rise and death impacts us all, from the passing of people we know and love to the realization that we will one day join them.

I intended to answer all of those questions and more. Although the interesting factor is that the afterlife is not the primary focus in Hellenism. We believe in an elaborate world full of possibilities, and yet, the beyond is not our primary target. It's also very relevant to say that not all Hellenists believe the same things about it. There is no holy book.

Using my own worldviews along with Greek myth and religion from times forgotten, I will attempt to paint the most vivid depictions possible, from the last breath to the final destination, if there indeed is one.

Section 1: Get Some Coin!
Bad news! Or maybe good depending on how you see it. You're about to take your last breath. Thanatos, the Spirit of death, is here. Hopefully, you're also being visited by Makaria, the Spirit of blessed death. 

But before now, did you ever stop to wonder what it's like to stop existing in your current form? What it's like to go to sleep for decades, only this time, to never wake again?

Some indeed are terrified at the mere thought. Bad news certainly, although Plato said that death isn't the worst thing that can happen to a man. The truth is that you're not dead, your body is. Death is not the ultimate end but a transition. It may, therefore, be inaccurate to call it the afterlife because life does not cease, it simply changes.

Take the air in one last time, then exhale. Your whole life flashes before you, then you blackout. All physicality has ceased. Your current life is over.

Since most people today are not Hellenists, I hope you left instructions. Your body, being dead, is now considered a pollutant upon the living, and anyone who comes into contact with it will need to later cleanse themselves with sulfur to purify their own body and life. Although in today's time, the undertaker will probably bear most of the burden.

At your funeral, coin of proper value will have to be placed with your body. Why? Because soon, in the spiritual world where you now stand, you will meet Charon the boatman, and you'll need that transcendental payment for him to boat you across the rivers, but more on that a bit later.

The good news about the money is that the exchange rate from ancient to modern time is very affordable for even the poorest of people. One coin, or obol, would be placed in the mouth of the body. Today, that value would be 10 USD. There are very rare $10 coins that can be purchased through the US mint, but it would be very costly and not arrive in time. However, paper dollars can be exactly exchanged for gold coin dollars at most banks. All 10 can be placed in the mouth, which would be the traditional method.

Why the mouth? It must have been believed that the mouth was the place from which the soul emanated, because part of the coin practice was to seal off the entrance the soul could use to return to this world. It makes sense. The mouth is where the very breath of life comes from. It was time for the soul to pass on and therefore had to be directed into the next realm. And so what better way to make sure the soul can retrieve the ferryman's fee?

I have also heard of coins being placed over the eyes or in the hand of the body, but I think that's more modern than ancient.

Coin Practice Continues Today!
Leaving coins for the dead has, in fact, never left the human condition. If you take a stroll through a large graveyard or cemetery, you may see a tombstone or marker with a variety of coins on it, especially if the deceased was military. The love of War Heroes is very ancient Greek. Heroism on the battlefield also wasn't only reserved for Kings and Generals. All of the Homeric warriors are Heroes, and a City or Locality in the ancient Greek world might even worship a soldier as a Hero if they came from, and died in service of, that City.

Coins left today on graves normally have several meanings depending on the value of the currency, usually having something to do with the visitor's relation to the dead person.

The Funeral
According to ancient Greek customs, your body must go through proper funerary rites. It must be washed and dressed in clean clothing or garments, something that, again, the undertaker would handle today. However, a female member of your family must anoint the body with olive oil.

"I anoint you in the good name of the Hermes, the Guide of Souls, and for Haides, Receiver of the Dead."

Believe it or not, much of the same funerary customs in ancient Greece are still observed today in the West. All those years you may have spent as a Christian, not knowing you were performing Greek Polytheistic rites during the funerals of your friends or family.

The cleaning, dressing and laying out of the body for viewing with the feet facing the door and the head resting on a pillow, the area decked with funerary decorations, memorabilia, and emblems of mourning such as wreaths and flowers, the recitation of songs and prayers, accompanying the deceased to their final resting place, and even the feast or reception after, all originated from ancient Hellas. A laurel wreath should also be placed upon your chest. 

However, if it is all ancient Greek custom, your body will not be buried until nightfall, at which time you would have the pall bearers and a procession that includes friends and family. At the gravesite or cremation location, a final funerary speech would be given, hopefully in good praise of you.

The end comes when you are lowered into the ground or set ablaze in cremation. The only thing that will remain of your old self above ground is the tombstone or marker, although you are never completely separated from the living. 

In Greek belief, your grave is a direct link to you in the Underworld or afterlife, and libations can be poured down to you from that very spot. In fact, at the funeral, a declaration is recited to make your memory last forever, and then libations of water, olive oil, milk and honey are made, one for each declaration, then the vessels are broken onto the ground as the pourers turn away from the deceased.

Ideally, your friends and family will maintain religious honors for you each year. But that's their job. Yours is now to start your journey through the Underworld.

On The River Bank
The River Styx waits for you to cross it. While you stand upon the shore, think of all who have passed here before you, and even Achilles Himself who was dipped into the water as an infant. But why water or a river? How does this manifest into a reality of life after death? Simply put, water is not only the element of spirituality, but the eternal, recycling element of life through which all life must travel. Hermes Himself led you to the entrance where the river starts. Now you wait.

The Styx (Hate) in particular stands as a border between the world above and below, or rather, the living and dead. When Charon approaches you in his boat, you will hand over the 10 gold coins that were left with you by friends or family. You can now board and begin your journey, but don't expect to see all rainbows along the way.

If you do not have the coin to pay Charon, there's bad news. You will not be able to board, and you'll have to wait on the shores for 100 years. But if that is indeed the case, look at it this way, you'll have lots of company especially in today's time.

We might modernly interpret this to mean that those who do not cross with Charon, for whatever reason, remain ghosts. In fact, even Plato talked about the phantoms that haunted the tombs and cemeteries around his area in the Dialogue of Phaedo. 

The Underworld is divided by 4 other rivers. These are Akheron (Woe), Kokytus (Wailing), Phlegethon (Fire), and Lethe (Forgetfulness). All of the rivers have something that links them with death. The hate people have for death and dying, the woe and wailing that comes from everyone effected, the fire that destroys and purifies the dead and the living, and the forgetfulness that the soul goes through to forget its previous incarnation or mortal life (perhaps this explains why reincarnated people cannot readily recall their past lives).

Judges of the Underworld
You probably thought you'd be meeting Haides Himself here, but no. He's very Supreme and has lots of lower officers, if you will, to handle the duties necessary; people He can trust and who lived greatly enough to be able to adequately judge the deeds of men. You will eventually face the 3 Judges of the Underworld. They are Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Aiakos. 

These 3 Judges are also given access to different parts of the afterlife or Underworld. Haides entrusts His very keys to Aiakos. Rhadamanthys will be the one deciding if you get Elysion or not (some may consider Elysion to be the same as the Isle of the Blessed). And Minos who normally gets the last vote. 

The very interesting thing about Minos as a Judge of the Underworld is that we don't actually know who he is. Many automatically connect him with the Minos of Theseus, but historians now think that Minos was a dynastic title, not something reserved for only one person. The Minos of the Underworld is therefore technically not identified. Very fascinating and also a little unsettling, to my mind any way.

Where Will You Go?
With 3 Judges, it may not be outlandish to connect them with 3 commonly known realms of the afterlife. If you were a virtuous and pious person, Elysion is your reward, which is basically the ancient Greek version of heaven. It is nothing but an eternity of peace, beauty and bliss. If you were exceptionally bad, Tartaros will likely be your destination, which is the ancient Greek version of punishment and torment (although, as you will see, it's not eternal). Finally, someone who has been neither good or evil may find themselves a resident of the Underworld or reincarnation.

Er Tells All!
Toward the end of the 10th Book of Plato's Republic, the philosopher describes a man named Er, who had a near death experience, but returned to tell of the amazing parts of the afterlife he had experienced. It is truly a fascinating account, but also very lengthy, so I will do my best to sum it up adequately. 

Er was a solider who fell on the battlefield, but unlike his comrades, he was not completely dead. He recovered, but during the penetration of the other side, he was told that he was to return to the physical world and tell people what he had witnessed.

He described people coming down from heaven and up from the earth, the ones from below being unpurified and the ones from above being holy. The two classes talked with each other about both places, the earthly wanting desperately to reach heavenly, but could not because, presumably, they were still on their journeys below to make up for the injustices they had inflicted on others during their life, each injustice having to be repaid 10 times over.

Er then describes the fate of the most wicked of people, Tartaros. They, he said, had not paid a sufficient penalty and thus heaven rejected them as they tried to go upwards. They were bound by their hands and feet, lacerated, and dragged to the entrance where they would be thrown into the bowels of the gloom. But Er also gives the impression that even if someone is sentenced to punishment, they can ascend after they have served their time.

Er now talks about the many facets of "the light and whorl" which hold all things together in many manifestations, and the souls of the many reaching it over all of heaven and earth. And that among these things, people are given new lives to return to, not always human lives either. Once all was decided, they were immediately launched up into their new births. In other words, Er not only saw people in the bliss of heaven and the atonement of below, but also in reincarnation. 

Of course, keep in mind, this is a very, very brief description; one needs to read the account completely to grasp the true amazement of it all. 

Conclusion
I cannot say for certain what your journey will be, nor mine, when the time comes. But what seems to be a consensus is that whether your next life will be happy, hateful or neutral, or what you may have to go through to get to the life you want, depends on how you have chosen to live the life you're presently in. Keep this in mind always, before every decision, before every action, before every word. Live a pious and virtuous life.

What're my goals? I'd say to reach peace and happiness. That may take a very long time, but that's where I'm headed, friends. 

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

Sources

Adkins, Lesley and Adkins, A. Roy, Handbook To Life In Ancient Greece, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997.

Hellenic Council YSEE of America, Hellenic Ethnic Religion: Theology and Practice, New York, 2018.

Cooper M. John, Plato Complete Works, Hackett Publishing, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1997.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Mythology/Theology: To The Greeks, There Was A Difference

If you've been a Hellenic Polytheist for at least five minutes, you've no doubt heard an argument that you'll hear like a broken record from people in the modern West who are vastly ignorant about the religion.

The first mistake modern people make is thinking all religions are the same, and thus, they assume that the ancient Greeks had a "holy book" of religion and myth. This is utterly false. 

Not only was ancient Greece a collection of City States completely independent from one another in government and beliefs, but there was no law dictating how someone could view the Gods or what stories they could accept or not.

In fact, it's kind of inaccurate to call it "The Ancient Greek Religion" because there were, in fact, many forms of ancient Greek religion and Cult. Sparta and Athens, for example, believed in the same Gods but did not have the same religion or culture. Not to mention the fact that there were cults everywhere that adhered to their own identities. 

So for instance, someone today might say that my beliefs on Artemis being gracious and kind to people is skewed considering the myth of Actaeon, but there's literally nothing in Hellenic religion which says I have to accept that story as literal fact or accept it at all. It's not like Christianity or Islam where the title of the religion depends on the acceptance of one written book or "testament."

We do know that we believe in Artemis as She is, of course. But I don't have to believe everything that everyone tells me about Her. I have the right to my own experiences and perspectives, and it does not denote me as a Hellenist. 

You can believe whatever you want about someone, but it doesn't change them. You can believe that Chris Aldridge is a shapeshifting, blood drinking vampire, but it does not make me one, nor does it make me guilty of said actions.

It's also true that not only could a given myth vary in detail from City to City, but many of them were handed down by word of mouth, which can change and modify with each teller, especially as the time and culture changes. 

In fact, some of the myths we accept today as Greek, were not even composed by the Greeks. The story of raped Medusa that people commonly call Greek in our time, was actually written by a Roman. The original story, which says nothing of rape or punishment, was written by the Greek Hesiod.

This is also not a modern change to Hellenism either. Greeks were not forced to accept a given story. Historically, it's accepted that around the time of the Hellenistic Era, the myths as literal facts began to waiver as a concept. 

But considering people like Plato and Sokrates, I think it began much sooner than that. Those men clearly believed in the Greek Gods but were also philosophers and not necessarily mythologists. They wrote about people's experiences with the Gods instead of taking written myths and saying, "Here's the 100% truth."

Hellenic religion can be hard to understand, but if you ever manage to grasp the core, it'll make perfect sense to you.

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

Chris Aldridge.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Know A Good Omen When It Comes


Omens and signs are talked about extensively in various religions around the world, and notably in that of ancient Greece. They've been proven true to immense glory, and also misinterpreted to perilous disaster. However, those were usually ones of great questions and inquiries. Many of us don't realize that good and bad omens can be sent to us in our general lives each day. They are so beneficial and yet so simple that we may not think about it. One of the unique things about the ancient Greek Gods is that they were always willing to counsel humans, but it was up to the human to take the advice or leave it. The Gods didn't impose it. So we must, to an extent, train ourselves to recognize that advice.

On the first page of Book II of The Odyssey, a man named Aegyptius speaks generally at the Assembly of Ithaka. The dialogue is nothing profound, simply of goodwill toward the person who had called the meeting, which was Telemachus himself. It says that Telemachus, despite his grave situation, immediately saw this speech as a good omen, and burst forth with his own passionate words to the men present. And of course, this helped set the course for the future.

But why would something so simple be interpreted as a favorable sign from the Gods, or from what Spirits or Heroes, it may be? Perhaps to philosophize on this answer, we should go to the later words of the philosopher Democritus. "Now, as of old, the Gods give men all good things, excepting only those that are baneful, injurious and useless. These, now as of old, are not gifts from the Gods."

I would say that it's simply the ability to recognize good, especially when you are in the midst of a turbulent time like Telemachus. I'll describe two sets of omens that I have experienced in my own life, one spectacular and one common. After my son had been delivered in the hospital NICU at 24 weeks, severely premature and his mother with life-threatening complications, the number 4 was his birthdate, 4 was his incubator number, and 4444 was my wife's discharge room number. This is the number of good fortune and prosperity. Sure enough, both my wife and son left the hospital in good health. A more immediate example in my life, I would say, would have been my release from my longtime depression and anxiety medications, which I talked about in the previous blog post. It seemed like a bad situation at the time, because no matter how much I tried, I could not get my doctor to refill it; not even a single word from them. But I think it was a sign that it was time for me to stop, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. 

You recognize good signs and omens by understanding that, whatever the Gods give, it is beneficial.

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

How I Know The Gods Love Humanity


When a Hellenist speaks of the love of the Gods, they may not intend it to be in the way mainstream religions think. Of course, I cannot speak for all Hellenists, but as for myself, when I say that the Gods love us, I largely mean that they are fascinated by humans, and in turn, this does create a certain level of affection. They are everywhere in our world, and with us constantly, sometimes whether we invite them or not. In my personal experience, the Gods have shown an affinity for my own family and I. I have talked about these cases many times, from the conversion to Hellenism that happened to my wife and I, to the recovery of our premature child and various other blessings the Gods have given us along the long and hard road called life. Additionally, I've also had the privilege and honor of seeing the Gods and Heroes brighten the lives of the friends and people around me.

But the question remains in the title of this post, how do I know the Gods love humanity? Simple, because they don't have to. The universe is so huge that it's beyond human comprehension. There are places and things out there far more beautiful and far more fascinating than we are, and yet the Gods still choose to be part of ours. Chances are, there is a world out there that puts Illinois to shame, and a lifeform that makes me look unevolved, but if I ask Hermes to accompany me on my travels today, there's a conceivable chance He will. The human being, and the world in which we live, hold a place in the hearts of Gods. I know the Gods love us because there are greater things they could focus their time on, but they choose to spend some of it with us.

And why is that? What is it about us that draws so much attention from the heavens, the Earth, and the Underworld? We humans in general, especially today, may not think much of ourselves. Sometimes we can get so used to something that we take it for granted or end up conceiving it to be dull. But the fact of the matter is that we have become extraordinary beings. For starters, we are the most intelligent and evolved mortal lifeform on Earth, and we can accomplish things that none of the others can. We can build magnificent temples and skyscrapers, travel to other planets, make amazing foods and medicines, produce mansions, machines, and breathtaking art, and even prolong our own lives as time goes on. The Gods love us because there are no others like us here. We make Earth glimmer in the solar system. 

So the next time you're depressed or thinking lowly of yourself, just remember, you're amazing enough that Gods are interested in you.

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

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. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Building A Safe and Effective Outdoor Shrine


No one's happier than a Pagan or Polytheist with yard space. I know I certainly was when I bought my first home. I was already marking out where I would place my temple's shrines and altars, in the rather vast space that had enough room for dozens if I chose. But once you begin a permanent structure of this importance on your property, you may find that it takes a little more work and preparation than initially thought. For this post, I will primarily use my outside shrine of Athena Pandemos as an example, which is pictured above. Feel free to scroll and refer back to it at your own will.

The first step is, of course, rather obvious; finding a suitable or preferred location. For me, my terrain is flat and, in most places, easy to lightly modify with gardening and digging tools. But generally speaking, you want to try and pick a spot that is as independent of outside influences as possible. For example, don't build next to the main road or near a sewer or trash container. The reason for this is because your shrine stands a conceivable chance of being involved in an accident or a desecration. Someone could go off the road and run over it, or contaminants that will create miasma may filter in. My Athena shrine is in my fenced in backyard, among the natural trees and foliage. The only religious structure I have ever built close to my main road is my Boundary Marker because of its function, and I am actually looking at moving it up to my door or steps. Luckily, nothing has happened to it.

Second, you must first place a structure for the shrine's statue to stand upon, and also choose the proper tools and elements by which to firmly install it. Storms will come and bring strong winds along with them. My Athena statue stands upon a Greek Ionic column. Now the other important thing to consider is the material that the column and statue are made out of. Do not use cheap alabaster columns that you can find at craft stores. They will quickly rot in the face of the elements. Even if you paint them, it doesn't matter. They are just not designed to stand up to weather. My column was purchased from a designer that specifically equipped it with weather resistant materials. It is a hard, very durable plastic, but not a cheap one. Its looks, weight and design makes it cost around $150.00. But consider the investment. You will never have to replace it. If you can't afford one, there are other options I will get to a bit later. Your statue, likewise, should also be able to resist the outside weather. There are Greek and Pagan suppliers who make them, and can be found easily online at affordable prices.

The column's base rests in the ground, inside a small hole dug specifically for it to fit in. For a hole this shallow, however, simply putting the dirt back on top will not be enough to hold it against strain unless it is placed within an enclosed area where wind will have a difficult time directly hitting it. For the completion of the base, fill the hole with quick drying cement, which can be purchased extremely cheaply at hardware stores. The kind I have used successfully is called Quikrete. Pack it down, wait for it to dry, and cover it up with the excess soil. As an extra anchor, I also placed a concrete block on the ground on either side of the column, so that if a strong force does begin to push against the base, it will have a harder time uprooting it to the point that it would harm the statue.

Third, place the statue on top of the column with a base sealant. I use E6000 to glue the top of the column and the bottom of the statue together. An abundant amount will greatly secure it against mishaps. You don't want to just stand the statue and leave it without an anchor. Especially if it's a large, expensive one like mine. You want to make sure it cannot be easily toppled, which brings me to the last section of this outline.

You'll notice the nice garden gate that encircles my Athena shrine. That's not just there for decoration. It serves two vital purposes. The first is to close and section off the shrine as sacred. The second is to protect it from overheard dangers, as there are trees directly above it. We don't normally think about it, but a falling branch or even a sturdy twig can destroy or damage the statue or column. But in the case of mine, the falling tree would impact with the iron gate and be unlikely to penetrate. The gate may need replacing depending on the strength of the object, but the shrine will be saved. A strong garden gate of this kind will run you at least $200.00. However, depending on the size of your statue and its location, you may not need it. If you look at the picture and take notice to the altar that is used for sacrifice to Athena, you'll see that it is simply made from straightly stacked concrete blocks. These blocks can also be used in like manner to build a pedestal for the statue, saving you cost on the column, and their immense weight will be enough to keep them in place by themselves. Although you should take note that I do not know if glues such as E6000 will bind to concrete. However, I am sure there are sealants that will. Ask the people at your hardware store. Once you have built the stone column and placed the statue on it, use much smaller blocks or stones, or some other very hardened material, to construct a small shelter around the statue. You must also make sure that said structure won't collapse or fall away. Of course, if you build the shrine away from any direct dangers, you don't need a cover at all. My Artemis shrine looks to the open sky and does not have an overhead for that reason. The protective barriers only need to be in place if there are exterior dangers possible.

The shrine should now spend time being cultivated by you, the builder and devotee. There's more to a place of worship than just stone and iron. It's sacred to the God it represents. They can even spiritually visit it. It is a holy place for their holy presence, and a center for your supplication for their bliss, blessings and wisdom in your life. Therefore, make it welcoming and devoted to the God. My Artemis shrine will have a fresh pine tree in its precinct this year, dedicated to Her as the Goddess of forests and Her immortality, as pines do not lose their green. The more you love and grow the shrine, the more, I think, you'll be surprised at how the God shows their presence there. After I had built my Athena shrine, an owl took up residence somewhere in the nearby trees and sometimes hoots at night (an owl is Athena's sacred animal).

When you get down to the bottom line, a shrine is really a place where you show a God or Gods how much you love them. It is one of their homes, one of their sacred areas, and one of their universal places for you to welcome them.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

How Do I Tell If It's A God, Mental Illness or Something Else?

Throughout human history, and even today, the Gods speak to us in a variety of ways. But such a claim isn't always perceived in our time as being something normal, when in fact it very much can be. Many years ago when I began seeing a psychiatrist for my depression, I mentioned to her that the Gods give me comfort and that comfort helps me battle the depression. She wasn't hostile or disrespectful, although at one point during the conversation, she asked, "But you don't hear Gods talking to you and telling you to do things, right?" I replied no, because that was the truth. The Gods have never spoken to me in a human-like voice, as my wife or a friend would. The Gods have spoken to me through my emotions, instincts, dreams, and at times, omens. I think this is probably the way they communicate dominantly with most people. Can the Gods speak to us with a human-like voice? Of course, because they can do whatever they want, but perhaps these days they refrain from it because they don't want someone being locked up for insanity when they're not. In the old days, people understood that the Gods are real. Today, many people have been taught that there's no way a sane person could hear a Deity. It's just not the case, however rare it may be.

But what if someone does indeed hear voices talking to them, claiming to be Gods? And what if that person is of sound mind, or at least appears to be? What do we make of it? How do we know it's a God talking to us or if we may be having mental health issues? For that matter, what if it's neither? Is there something sinister, like a haunting or a spirit with negative intentions? To me, the answer is simple. If it's a God talking to you, they're not going to instruct anything bad or harmful, because the Gods are always good. The Gods aren't going to tell you to kill yourself, cut yourself, hurt another innocent person, or anything which is negative or filthy. Miasma (pollution) is not of the Gods.

I think back to the ancient proverb, "If the Gods do evil, they are not Gods." Meaning that if something or someone is telling you to do evil, or is doing evil, they are not Gods, even if they claim to be. So to my mind, that's how you know. It's understanding the difference between good and evil, negative and positive, and the nature of the Gods themselves. Therefore, if you do hear a voice(s) driving you to do the bad things I have talked about, you should probably seek mental healthcare and spiritual counseling from your clergy. A good dose of both will do wonders for you.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Gods Give Us Emotion To Make Us Moral

An epiphany was what my wife and I called it last night, during our discussion on the Gods, nature, and emotion. Many times, we humans tend to think of our emotional side as a weakness, as we are the most emotional of all other beings on the planet. It's true that we can sometimes be irrational, but the benefits of our emotional state far outweigh the debts. In the grand picture of things, it's hardly a weakness, but a necessary virtue. Being the most powerful and smartest mortal creatures on the planet, things would be much, much worse if we didn't have emotion. It also allows the Gods to appeal to our moral, ethical and compassionate side far more than if we didn't have it.

Let's start with an example from my own life, so that the reader may better understand this universal truth. I have a very cute cat named Rosie, who we adopted from a local animal shelter a year or so ago. She is a valuable asset to our family at times, but she also has her many problems. The trouble she gets into will sometimes make me incredibly angry to the point that I want to get rid of her, but here's the thing, I can't. No matter how much I want to pick her up and toss her out my door, my emotions create empathy and love, and make me realize that such an action is not only cruel, but very wrong and dishonorable. More so, the Gods are able to appeal that ethical side to me because of the fact that they enabled me with the emotional capacity for empathy and compassion. If I had no emotion, I could do whatever I wanted to other living creatures and indeed the world around me. No matter what the Gods or humans told me, I would be unable to feel or understand it, and that would be a recipe for disaster.

The same goes for other people. The reason we don't abandon our children, spouses or loved ones is because our emotional states will not allow it. Our ability to love and feel keeps us moral and honorable. If we didn't have that capacity, our species would de-evolve into extinction. The Gods gave it to us because it was necessary for our survival and the prosperity of everything around us. And if we encounter someone who fails to show emotion, such as a sociopath, we consider them to be mentally ill, not a natural production.

Realizing this about ourselves is crucial to beginning to understand the genius of the Gods and the intelligence behind our natural existence.

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.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

It's the age old question, still asked by those who believe in the Gods today. Why is my life so hard? Why do these things happen to me? How come a politician who makes a living hurting people gets to live in a mansion while I live in an apartment and have never hurt anyone? I myself have asked these questions many times, but only today have I arrived at a revelation, if you will, about it all.

My wife and I have been together for 10 years this year, and not without more than our share of problems, or at least I think so. We've had things to worry us to death, scare us to death, throw our family for loops, and keep us up at night. There were even times when we thought our family was going to be over. You would not believe some of the immense hardships we have had to face in this life. But what I realized today is that we have prevailed over it all in the end. No matter how hard or hopeless it has been, no matter how much we have cried and wanted to punch the world, we have defeated every enemy against us and triumphed over every injustice thrown against us, civilian or governmental. We have nearly faced it all and won. Every. Single. Time.

I have no answer to the age old question, and I don't know if I ever will. Sometimes, the wisest response is I don't know. But there is one thing that I do know with all certainty. The Gods will bring you through it all. I am telling you with the most sincerity that a human heart and mind can muster, let the Gods lead you into battle and you will never succumb. Even when in the midst of the conflict all may seem lost, wait until the end is said and done.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Sense of Faithful Fear

If you base your religion on the views of the ancient Greeks, there's no denying that Greeks do fear, as well as love, the Gods, but it's for a good reason and perhaps not in the way you think.

Firstly, any mortal who doesn't have some level of fear for a God, is foolhardy at best. Fear isn't something that is directly taught in Greek religion, it's simply there by nature. You should fear a God for the same reason you'd fear a bolt of lightning, or a raging sea, because they are more powerful than you and can wipe you from life in the blink of an eye. A God is also far wiser than yourself will ever be. Fear is the result of a recognition of superior power. It is the "right" kind of fear because it breeds humility and prudence. Without a good sense of these things, we may find ourselves in more trouble than we can get out of.

Fear does not mean you're not brave, strong or confident, there is simply a fine line between these things and arrogance and stupidity. For example, saving someone from drowning is brave, strong and confident, but swimming with sharks is stupid, and you will eventually become drive thru for a dinosaur. Fear is merely the recognition of your place and limitations, arrogance is a failure to do so. Now some people might ask me, "Didn't the Heroes do things that most people would have considered beyond human limitation?" Yes, they did, but they were sent by the Gods to do something that was possible. They also didn't sink in over their heads. In fact, the Gods routinely provided them with assistance so they wouldn't. Bellerophon couldn't have killed the Chimera without Pegasos (the horse of heaven). A Hero always knows, recognizes, and most importantly, accepts the difference between themselves and the Divine. Being an affront to the Gods is not what it means to be a Hero.

I find that a lack of fear and piety among Pagans can be an issue. I've seen Pagan writers call Gods "scoundrels," and Pagan worshipers call them "assholes." While it may be rare, it is certainly a real case. A mortal picking a fight with a God is idiotic at best. Probably the only reason they haven't punished those people is because of their forgiving nature, or they think there is something mentally wrong with that individual. At any rate, you're never going to gain the favor of a God by insults, arrogance, or impiety. Even if they don't punish you, they'll probably turn away. Would you help someone who insulted you? Probably not, you likely wouldn't even give them the time of day until they shaped up and treated you with proper respect.

The only time fear is wrong is when it's unwarranted. Fear the Gods because you know they can destroy you, but love them because you know they're kind enough not to, and you will find wisdom. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Bibliomancy Divination In Daily Rites

If your Pagan or Polytheistic religion has religious texts, you may find, like myself, that you enjoy a morning rite accompanied by Bibliomancy. It's not just a Pagan tradition, either. Christians do it all the time. I remember when I was southern baptist, my grandmother Faye told me that when I needed to know something for my spiritual, religious and personal growth, that God would guide to the right passage in the bible. Of course, these days, my texts are things like The Iliad, The Odyssey, and various philosophers like Plato.

In short, Bibliomancy involves the practice of finding selected words or passages in a book for answers to a question, normally guided by the hand of a God or another kind of spiritual presence.

The reason I enjoy Bibliomancy probably better than any other form of personal divination, is because of how detailed the message can be when it speaks to you. Instead of producing a card with brief epithets or a stone with a very general marking, you can actually have an entire response a page or more long.

Like today, as I celebrated the monthly observance of Athena's birthday, I used an antique copy of The Iliad in asking Her, basically, "What message might you have for me today, O' Goddess?" I was guided to page 455, which said,

"Cease from the strife! Let godlike Achilles drive from the city right now the Trojans; for what care I for contention and succor? Do not mistreat the Immortals for a mortals' sake. Thus the rage of Xanthus was tamed, but by the dissension of the Gods, the broad earth groaned."

Really, the entire page talked about me allowing myself to have peace in life, to blame mortals for mortal problems and not the Gods, and that the Gods, if angry at anything, are more so upset with the state of the world, not me personally. It was clearly a message for a man who is being too hard on himself as an individual, and to call on the Gods and Heroes to help fight the things that are overwhelming to me. And lastly, that if I am trying to impress the Gods with my own feats, it may be of little consequence to Beings who are far bigger than myself. In other words, once again, don't be so hard on myself.

The advice of the Goddess was a tremendous blessing. I needed it today more than ever, for Her to say those words. She clearly knew my suffering with the hardships of my life, and the ones I have put on my own mind and body. She came in mercy to assure me of the love of Heaven, and this is one of the main reasons I like Bibliomancy. Through the text, She was able to speak to me with direction and precision, because there were many ways that those words could be utilized.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Source: Smith, William Benjamin, The Iliad of Homer, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1944. Print. PP. 455.