Showing posts with label Heroes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heroes. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Can Heroes Pray For Mortals?

In ancient Greek religion, Heroes form a wonderful and unique part of our spirituality, whether they be Heroes from ancient times or Heroes from one's own personal family who met the criteria. While Heroes do provide a bridge between humans and Gods, they are not merely intercessors, like saints would be to Christians.

Heroes have their own individual wills, personalities, powers and can act entirely of their own accord. Whereas saints do not. They have no ability to act on their own powers. We can worship a Hero and ask for their help entirely as the individual that they are, whereas a saint simply relays one's prayer to deity as their one and only function. Secondly, Heroes do not have to have lived perfect lives. Their Heroism just has to outweigh anything else.

However, the fact that Heroes can have their own functions also means they can do what they are able, and praying is one of those. They no doubt prayed and sacrificed to Gods during their human life, and quite possibly know a said God or Goddess far better than we might at the present time. Most certainly, the Heroes are very practiced in ancient Greek worship and therefore know how to connect with the Gods. It's wise, in my view, to ask a Hero to pray for you. It's certainly not foreign to ancient Greek belief to think that the Gods can act through Beings below them, as it were.

In my personal life, I have 3 main Heroes (which is not to say that I don't pray to others). Those 3 are Theseus, Bellerophon and Ajax (my temple's Patron Hero). I find Ajax to be the one for my interceding specifically, probably because of the nature of His Patronage in my life. But sometimes, when I'm in a very difficult or scary situation, I'll simply say, "Ajax, please pray for me." I might also include, "remember my past sacrifices to you and please pray for me."

And as always, immediately after I finish that one short sentence, calmness and a strong sense of love and assurance descends upon me, as if from the heavens themselves. It's an incredibly unique and beautiful feeling. Of course, asking a Hero for this kind of assistance is all about increasing your chances of gaining the attention of the Gods. Apparently, Ajax can do that extremely well for me, because it never fails to be immediately helpful in changing how I feel or interact with a situation.

Equally important, it's also about devotion, piety and humility, which will always get you a long way with the Gods and Heroes. Some people think they can order Gods around, coerce Gods, and some people even think that they are Gods. But when I say, "Ajax, remember my past sacrifices to you, and please pray for me," I am saying also that I am mortal and there are things which the Higher Powers can do better than me. I am humble in your presence and trust in you. I realize your place above me and accept it as a wise person would.

So in short, I enjoy this as part of my own personal practice. Of course, that's not saying that anyone else has to adopt it for their own. 

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

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

St. George - The Saint Copied From Bellerophon

The Day of Saint George passed back in April, and there are still images and articles about it going around on Facebook and cultural news websites. But one thing I have noticed since becoming a Hellenic Polytheist that probably most Greek Christians and other Christians around the world have not, is that he is copied from the ancient Greek Hero Bellerophon. 

As you can see in the pictures above, Bellerophon from the 4th Century BCE and St. George from the Common Era, the two are basically identical. This was probably done by the emerging Christian church to get the Greeks to convert more easily to Christianity. Of course, when that didn't work, the church used force, but that's not really the topic of this post.

Bellerophon was sent to destroy the Chimera, a vicious fire breathing monster that ravaged the countryside of Lycia, an area in Asia Minor (keep in mind that dragons also breathe fire, which was the monster that St. George battled). 

After being given the winged horse Pegasos by Athena, Bellerophon was able to attack the monster from the sky with His lance, with which He killed the monster, or in some versions, used the lance to shove a clump of led down its throat, which was melted by the monster's hot breath and killed it. Bellerophon was mainly the Patron Hero of Korinth, which was His birth City, although in His lifetime, it was actually called Ephyre.  

If there's something I would want modern Greek Christians to take away from this, it's the fact that they are following a religion that stole their birthrights and ethnic identities, and tried to wipe their ancestors from the face of the Earth with nothing less than genocide. 

And that, if they feel so inclined, they have the power and the right to return to their ancestral religions, and instead of St. George, call on the original that actually has Greek blood, instead of a Saint and an entire religion that is completely foreign to the Greek identity. When looking at the picture above, if you feel cheated as a Greek, you should. Christianity isn't who you really are. It's who you were indoctrinated to be.

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

Red-figure plate showing Bellerophon riding Pegasus and chasing the Chimera. Picture taken by a Baltimore painter at the Monsters: Fantastic Creatures of Fear and Myth exhibit in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome.

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.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Heraklean Hope

The story of Herakles, if we are to accept part of the myth as at least metaphor, has always realized one profound thing for me in my life as a Hellenist. That is, the ideal that there is nothing you cannot come back from, nothing which you cannot make amends for and be a better version of yourself.

In at least one version of the myth that we are today familiar with, Herakles, in a fit of rage, killed His entire family, meaning wife and children. Now we don't know if that was literal or a metaphor to describe the severity of an offense. We should also take into consideration the fact that Herakles was probably a military veteran who could have suffered from PTSD, and didn't hurt innocent people out of His own free will.

But not even the worst crime man could commit meant that He was beyond redemption. The 12 Labors were His opportunity. They were near impossible feats, extremely dangerous, and probably expected to kill Him at some point. But if able to succeed, all of Herakles' crimes would be pardoned. He reached this goal, and was not only exonerated, but made a God, Zeus' own son. In ancient Greek religion, Herakles is worshiped as both a Hero and a God, and is actually considered to be the God of Heroes themselves. Quite an elevation from where He began in life.

When looking at my own shortcomings and mistakes in life, I often think about this story, and say to myself, What I have done isn't even remotely comparable. I know there's a way to put it all behind me. The life, tragedy and triumph of Herakles is not merely mythology. It's an affirmation of hope for all of humankind. There is nothing you cannot come back from, nothing which the Gods are not willing to forgive you for. You need only pick up your sword and start marching. 

Are you determined to kill the monsters? Do you desire to find the universal keys? Can you discover how to tame the wild beasts? And are you willing to even face death if it means you might survive free and accomplished? No matter what's in your past, if you wake up tomorrow and make yourself determined to fight any enemy, endure any pain, and face any fear to become a new person, the Gods will notice you.

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

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Riace Bronzes: A Hellenist On The Unsolved Mystery

Most people have probably already seen these two statues, but know them by sight only, because there are no other details, not even that modern archaeologists can tell. No one knows who the statues depict or how they even ended up where they were found. 

For those who may not know, The Riace Bronzes refers to two magnificent bronze statues, believed to have been made in Attika or Argolis in the 5th Century BCE, and somehow ended up at the bottom of Italian waters in a place called Calabria. The pieces are not only notable because of their mystery, but because of their amazing precision and detail to the, apparently, human makeup. 

When the Greek Reporter released a recent article on the topic, it grabbed my interest because I love historical mysteries, not to mention that I am a devoted Hellenic Polytheist.

The first question would be, if the statues were made in Attika or Argolis, how or why did they submerge off the coast of Italy? Let us consider that the 5th Century BCE was the era in which the Parthenon was built. So there were magnificently well known artists in that area during that period, who could have been commissioned by people outside the region to make statues or buildings for them. 

We must remember that the most famous artist of the Parthenon was formerly the artist of the statue of Zeus at Olympia, which was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. He had been called on, or hired, by Pericles for the Athenian Akropolis.

Even today, the best way for an artist to make a living is to find patrons. Without people who admire and are willing to buy your work, you travel the road of the starving artist. It's very well possible that these statues could have been made in Attika to be shipped to people or cities in other parts of the Greek world, and either fell overboard or went down with a sinking ship. 

They were obviously foundered while on the way to their location. People don't normally order expensive bronze statues only to throw them in the ocean. So although they were found near Calabria, we can't confirm that's where they were headed. Nevertheless, somewhere in the Western Greek World around that region is a safe bet.

Ancient Greeks began settling in this Italian area as far back as the 8th Century, which means the patrons, or whoever ordered the statues, were likely of Greek descent or at least had an admiration for Greek culture.

But who are the individuals depicted? I would theorize Greek Heroes. While Greeks settled in this area much later than the Heroic Age, Heroes of Greece were believed to have traveled to the area long before. Odysseus, and very notably Diomedes who commanded at least 80 ships in the Trojan War. 

After the war, He exiled Himself into Italy for fear of his life and even founded cities there, one of which is called Arpi, which is only around 3 hours away from Calabria's region itself. Who's to say that at least one of the statues didn't depict Diomedes and wasn't going to Arpi? Two perfectly depicted human images traveling together, I'd say there's a good chances we are looking at Heroes. Which ones, though, sadly remains unknown. But let's look upon the genius of the ancient Greek mind and marvel at what we do know about them.

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

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Hunting Hydras Might Still Be A Pastime

All of His Labors were terrifying and near impossible, but one that seems to be remembered easily by most people is that of the Hydra. I have said in the past that monsters are still monsters even if we've grown used to their presence and call them by different names than in times of old. In fact, a monster is simply defined as an animal of great size or ugliness that incites fear and panic into people. So in search of the truths behind ancient Greek stories, I began to study the second Labor of Herakles in a bit more detail, and what I found piqued my interest greater than ever. But before I begin, let me briefly describe this Labor in order to familiarize the reader.

The monster was more specifically called the Lernaean Hydra, after the coastal springs and fresh lake area that formed the waters, known as Lerna Lake. Today, the water source is extinct. It sits right near the ocean shores east of Arkadia. The monster that lived there was said to have nine or ten heads, depending on the source, and that each time one was cut off, more would regrow. Not only was the beast of immense size and power, it possessed deadly and poisonous breath and blood. Herakles managed to defeat the creature by cutting off eight heads and burying the ninth under a rock.

In the picture above, we see an ancient depiction of Herakles fighting the Hydra. We may not think at first glance that the Hydra looks a lot like an octopus. Octopuses have eight arms and one head, making nine ends, and if they lose an arm, it can regenerate the lost limb in pristine condition. The arms even have their own minds. The animals can also grow to immense size and possess incredible strength. They also carry very painful and deadly venom that can be inflicted upon prey or opponents. Is it possible that the Hydra was exactly this, and that Herakles managed to kill after it had haunted the inhabitants of the area with deadly attacks and/or harassment? They can most certainly kill a human very easily with their poison, and depending on size, might even be able to drown a victim. I think the evidence all points to a very menacing, multi-limbed water monster that we today call the octopus, and to take out one of this magnitude on its own turf with bear hands and sword, would be something most definitely unique and Heroic. The only setback is the fact that the Lake was a freshwater source, and these animals cannot live in that. But who knows? In ancient times, there might have been a part that flowed into it from the sea, or perhaps the inhabitants just thought that the creature came from the Lake but didn't always live there. Maybe the actual battle took place in the sea.

Assuming I am correct, these monsters still live with us today in abundant numbers. The hydras have even become a favorite meal, interestingly, in the Mediterranean, and far East. But generally, they are simply beautiful and fascinating creatures to watch and study. They've even been known to create their own communities. They are very intelligent and resourceful, and have been here for nearly 300 million years, which predates modern humans by a long shot. If only they had been able to talk and take notes, what a world of fascination they could reveal to us.

So the next time you take a dip at the beach, don't forget that the Hydra may still be watching, and in the case that you encounter one, it's probably not a good idea to try to be another Herakles if you can avoid it. There was only one.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Monday, July 5, 2021

In Search of Greek Heroes: Ajax

Welcome to my summer series for this year, In Search of Greek Heroes, where I hunt for the facts and myths behind the greatest Heroes of ancient Greek religion. Today we are looking for the mighty Ajax. You may have heard of Him before in less epic narratives. If you look on or underneath your sink, He's probably a household name you know. The toughest cleaning agents ever made for common man have been named after Him. But the real man comes to us from Homeric Epic, The Iliad. Hellenists like myself go to great expense and labor to furnish and decorate their temples, sanctuaries, treasuries and libraries, so I was delighted when Ajax became the Patron Hero of my temple this year.

When I teach about this great Hero, I normally begin by telling people that there were, in fact, two Ajaxes, those being Ajax the Great and Ajax the Lesser. The one normally worshiped is Ajax the Great. Of course that's not to say that Ajax the Lesser cannot be. All of the great men of Homer are considered Heroes, even some who were not Greek. While Achilles was the greatest warrior of the Hellenes, Ajax was by far of the greatest stature and strength, referred to as the Bulwark of the Greeks, possessing a fearless character and a highly intelligent mind, probably notably when it came to battle and strategy. He was also known primarily as a defensive fighter of the Greek lines, camps and ships, and a man of great honor and nobility. In fact, there are no Homeric depictions of Him initiating a fight, only defending against attacks, and after the duel between Him and Hektor, which is called as a draw, the two men exchange gifts with one another. Ajax was also notable for fighting to recover the bodies of dead Greek warriors for proper honor and burial. One of the most favored of the Greeks by the Gods as well, as Poseidon, at one point in The Iliad, uses His trident to restore Ajax's strength.

Ajax met His untimely end when the Trojan War starts to come to a close. There are different explanations as to why it happened, but it is generally accepted that He committed suicide. If true, we know today that there are lots of reasons why veterans of wars meet these ends. But one of the great things about Greek religion is that while something such as suicide is not admired, it is always possible to be redeemed from errors. Just because you commit an offense in this life, does not mean you cannot ascend to higher levels in your more enlightened State. After His death, Ajax received Heroic honors, worship and even festivals in the Greek world. The island of Salamis even hosted a temple and statue to Him, along with a festival called Aianteia. He also became a Hero of Attika who received worship by the Athenians and statues in His honor.

At the turn of the 21st Century, archaeologists began to excavate around the area where it was believed that the residence of Ajax or at least His family once stood, on the island of Salamis. They brought to the surface a palace of over 8,000 square feet. The structure, it was found, had been abandoned around the time of the Trojan War. Pausanias, the ancient Greek traveler and writer who lived in the Roman times, reported that abnormally large bones had been found on the seashore of the former Trojan landmass, near the Greek City of Sigeion. These, he wrote, were declared those of the washed out grave of Ajax. The bones were ordered to be reburied by the Emperor of Rome. There appears to be no modern coordinates for these remains or their new burial site.

My Temple's Prayer to Ajax
written by me.

O' great Ajax,
colossal to men,
noble to Heroes,
holy to Gods,
as our sacrifices pour out,
and burn sweetly to you,
bless our prayers,
that your strength empower us,
and your shield and spear defend.
Watch our backs,
guard our temple,
protect what is ours,
and clothe our bodies and minds in the armor or heaven.

In the Goodness of Ajax,
Chris Aldridge.

Monday, January 27, 2020

How We Know Achilles Existed

When people hear of the Tomb of Achilles, they don't realize that from Alexander the Great to Emperor Julian, and even as late as the Ottoman Empire, people have written of their visits to the site. We have multiple sources, some not even Greek Polytheistic, who testify to the existence of this structure and the remains of the Hero therein, and being that Achilles died during the Trojan War, His body would have been immediately accessible to the Greeks for burial, so there's no chance that someone far later discovered remains somewhere and interpreted them to be Achilles. Like the existence of Troy itself which was proven by archaeology, Homer's works are literally records of real places and Gods of cultures, so why are they also not records of real people? Achilles existed most certainly, and people visited His resting place well into the Common Era.

What makes the Tomb of Achilles lost today, however, is the fact that the marker is gone, as it was only identified by a pillar, and there's no record of exact coordinates. His remains lie unnamed somewhere near Troy. In other words, we'll probably never find it, and if we do discover His remains, nothing will be proof enough for a skeptical scientist. They will always find a way to deny what they don't want to accept, and always find ways to accept what they don't want to deny. Furthermore, what if there are actually no remains left? What if they have all withered away at the mercy of the elements? But what we can say for certain is that He was real.

The only general location of His resting place, which has been drawn, photographed and filmed many times, is a large mound called a tumulus, which is a man-made mound that normally presides over a burial site. Certainly not uncommon, as Greeks were burying war Heroes in mounds as late as the Battle of Marathon, long after the Trojan War. The town that was founded around or in the vicinity of the tomb, called Achilleion, was abandoned in the Hellenistic Era, leaving everything around it to fall either into the hands of ruins or bandits. However, the mound itself still remains and can be visited to this day.

Tumulus of Achilles on Video

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

An Amazing Visit To A Local Hero's Tomb

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

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

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

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

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

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Challenge To Champion ~ When Gods Knock Us Down

I find myself intrigued when the Gods send Heroism disguised as disaster. Last night, I was reading the myth of Meleager and the Kalydonian Boar. The basic idea of the story was that Artemis became upset with the fact that Her worship was being neglected in Kalydon, a City in the Greek region of Aetolia, and so She sent a powerful, gigantic boar to ravage the land and prevent people from carrying on their daily lives. At least, this is the beast's origin that this particular myth provides. Meleager and some other local hunters including the woman Atalanta, took up the job of tracking down and killing the beast once and for all, which they successfully did at the hands of Atalanta and Meleager who led the party and delivered the final blow. 

Meleager became a venerated Hero after His death, not just because of killing the boar, but because of his unusual termination. At the time of His birth, the Fate Atropos connected His life with the wood that was burning on the hearth, presumably in His home, and said that His life would end once the wood was burned up. His mother preserved the wood for as long as She could, but after the Kalydonian Boar hunt, She realized that her two brothers, who had also joined the hunt, had been killed by Meleager. He originally wanted to give the victory of the hunt to Atalanta because She first struck the beast, thus weakening it, but the brothers violently contested on the basis of gender, forcing Meleager to take their lives in defense. Nevertheless, His mother wasn't having it. She burned up the last of the wood, bringing His life to an end. Overcome with grief after realizing what she had done, she committed suicide, which is another moral common in Greek myth; don't be hasty or act out of emotion.

But what I got to thinking about last night was not the Heroic status of Meleager itself, or the hunt for the boar generally. My philosophies were on the intentions of Artemis during this time. She sent the boar, knowing that men and women would assemble to save their people and region from it. She knew they would come together to do something great or beyond everyday human feats. Artemis didn't have to let them kill the creature, but She did provided that they could. In fact, She could have struck down all the hunters, and for that matter, all of the civilization with a single shot from Her bow. There's no real contest between Gods and men. Yet, She allowed the boar and the people it impacted to do battle with one another, knowing that the humans would come out on top and realize that they had reached yet another great achievement in their existence. 

Perhaps sometimes the curses that the Gods send, aren't curses at all, but opportunities. Or maybe there are times when we have to face being challenged, disfavored, or thrown to the bottom of the totem before we find the humility and motivation inside of us to pull ourselves back up to the Gods and human greatness again. It is possible that all of us, at some point, will have our own Kalydonian Boar in our lives, for many different reasons. The only choice is: slay or pay? We're not meant to sit at home and grow old, having nothing in our wake. We're destined to do all that we are capable of, to be as great as we can. And sometimes, the Gods move us off our butts so that it can happen.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dualism In Heroism

Readers may look upon my work concerning Heroes and wonder, "Wasn't that Hero actually worshiped as a God?" Indeed, some Heroes did become Deities, such as Theseus and Herakles. Alexander the Great was also worshiped as a God after His death. So why then do we still refer to these men as Heroes? How can one be both a Hero and a God? 

In ancient Greece, Heroes who became Gods could find themselves being revered as both, a theological dualism. For example, there were religious establishments for Herakles as a Hero, and other establishments for Herakles as a God. He was worshiped as both. Likewise, Heroes like Theseus and Alexander can be worshiped as both.

The question then begs, how can they manifest as both? If you ascend from one level to a higher one, you are no longer on that lower level. So how, then, is one both a Hero and a God at the same time or at different times? A God, or even simply someone who has Ascended to a higher level than that of ordinary mortals, is not subject to the same laws or limitations that we are in the flesh. Within the Ascended Ones lies the power to manifest everything that composes their Being. Just as a God or Hero has different epithets, so they can also have various manifestations at their choosing, and do so for many different reasons. For example, Theseus is a Hero, King, Avenger, Sailor, and a Democrat (meaning the founder and supporter of democracy). He turns His head in many different directions to complete Himself. Sometimes, we need a Hero to protect us, other times a God to lead us, although both can do either. Everyone who approaches the altar/shrine of a Hero or God, will be an individual. The Higher Ones know this fact, and therefore, come to each person as they can best understand and communicate, and in the way that can best address the supplications of the worshiper(s). 

We tend to place mortal questions of limitation upon immortal Beings, which is entirely unrealistic. Even after all of these centuries, there are still those among us who think the Gods are simply mortals with some super powers. This is not so, and I think that we will only begin to understand the true being of Divinity when we start realizing that Divinity is not mortal. Ancient Greek Divinity is so immensely vast and powerful, ever-reaching into any part of the universe it wishes, breaking any and all limitations, and transcending any barrier or border.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Divinity in Daily Life: Anger and Frustration

Recently, I've thought about Gods and Heroes and their involvement in our everyday lives for our benefit. While reading a Pagan book, I came across invocations on restraining anger, but it wasn't Hellenic. So I thought to myself, who would I pray to for restraining anger and helping with frustration in Hellenism? I think this is an important topic to discuss in such a series as Divinity in Daily Life because anger and frustration are among the most common afflictions among the average person these days, and I think my conclusion on the matter is quite interesting. Hopefully, it will help other Grecians and people who pray to the Greek Gods. I also think it's important for religious communities to talk about these issues together because we all face them. As Plato once said, be kind because everyone you meet is facing a hard battle.

Among the Heroes, the first I would think to pray to in this field would be Oedipus, for the simple experience He has in this matter, and the fact that He ended His life calmly. Oedipus experienced the tragedy of letting anger and frustration get to Him when He mistakenly killed His father in a fit of rage, not realizing the true identity of the man. I also didn't read anything about Him ending His life in anger, even though He had every reason to be mad at the world and His own misfortune in life. When He faced the Sphinx, her riddle at first must have also tested His mind, but He did not become frustrated. Instead, He maintained excellent fortitude, which is something you'd need to keep a calm mind in things that are very frustrating and angering. So one might recite a prayer such as this:

O' Oedipus of Thebes,
I humbly ask for clarity of the mind,
fortitude against frustration,
and restraint against anger,
that I may continue my road this day without horrid mistakes.

One might also consider Orpheus, a great Divine Musician who was able to calm any raging force with His wonderful lyre. Theseus would also be great to invoke for fortitude. Among the Gods, Athene and Apollo would be wonderfully fit. Athene is a strong, fighting Goddess when needed, but She also prefers peace and diplomacy to war, and tries to achieve that end beforehand. Apollo is the God of Enlightenment, and unchecked anger and frustration is not such a state of being. Therefore, Apollo's great mind can realign us with a prosperous outlook on life. The prayer above written to Oedipus is a structure that can be used for any of the Gods or Heroes mentioned here, just make the proper changes. Life's roads are not without hardships, and sometimes we can find it hard to barely function onward. But fortunately, we have the Gods, Heroes and each other.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Can Anyone Be A Greek Hero?

This is a question I have thought on quite a lot. The Greek Heroes, who can now be prayed to for help and connection with the Gods, once lived with mortals and were at least half mortal themselves. However, being part divine was not something that was essential in order to achieve Hero status.

"Divine parentage is not a necessary precondition, however much the sons of gods are regarded as heroes. Even a criminal who has met with a spectacular end may become a hero, and an enemy of the state may become its champion and protector after his death" (Burkert, 207).

So, in accordance with historical Greek religion, and my own personal belief and opinion on the matter, yes, anyone can become a Greek Hero. But this presents an even deeper, more detailed question. How does one reach this and under what conditions and attributes would one exist in this after their death? This, to my mind, is the more ultimate question that we can examine here, but perhaps never fully grasp as mortals.

I would first begin by saying that, in order to reach Hero status, one must naturally do things or at least one thing, heroic in their life, perhaps in accordance with ancient Greek standards as well. Fortunately, these standards can expand easily into our own time and world, such as overcoming great challenges, saving lives, defeating great enemies, and/or bringing positive revolutionary change(s). In short, anything that lifts us above what the general population is unable or not willing to do themselves. Those such as Theseus, Bellerophon, Jason, they all fell into these categories.

However, I think it's also important to remember that these categories can take on way more than a singular form. In other words, one doesn't have to save lives by beating a Minotaur. They can save lives by rescuing people from danger or giving aid to a homeless, sick or destitute person who might otherwise perish. They can overcome their own great challenges that have been placed before them, and they can cause great change by doing good things for their society, state, country and/or world. It is one's abilities, courage, willingness and drive to do what is right that creates a Hero. And all or any of those great things achieved, will be what the Hero is called on for my mortals. What the Hero does best, or what they wish to be recognized for, is what they continue to do. So, if someone rescues a person from a burning building, firefighters might pray to them for assistance in that pursuit, or people may pray to them for protection from fires. If someone defends a child or woman from abuse, they might later be prayed to for protection for children and women against aggressors. If one drafts legislation to bring, for example, freedom and equality for an oppressed people, and they get their government to pass it, people could pray to them for assistance in liberating those in any kind of unjust societal bondage. Or, if someone simply has a great enough challenge themselves to overcome and they conquer it, people could pray to them for victory in the same or similar challenges.

I think it's also great to remember, as Walter Burkert points out and as I have believed for a long time, that we can always change and become better than we were the previous days. In Hellenism, we can decide to be better and achieve greatness, despite our past. Someone could go their entire lives being nothing or being less than admirable, and still have the ability to reach for greatness should they choose. We always have the ability to do better. We can even become a Hero.

In Memory of Walter Burkert. 

In the Goodness of the Dodekatheon,

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Choosing A Hero In Your Hellenic Practice

There is certainly no lacking of Heroes in the ancient Greek religion, although some are certainly focused on more than others. For example, in no particular order, Theseus, Bellerophon, Herakles and Jason are probably at the top of the list among the most popular. When people ask me, I do say that Heroes are a valuable part of Greek religion, and certainly not absent from my own practice, even though I usually direct my focus to one particularly, and that concept is the topic of this post; choosing a Hero in your Greek religious practice and life. But first, let's talk about some of the functions of Heroes in Greek spirituality.

The Heroes once lived among mortals in the flesh, and aided them with their services and feats. For example, Theseus saved an entire civilization when He defeated the Minotaur and defied the power of Minos. And Heroes such as Theseus were part mortal as well, although it is not impossible in Greek religion for a full mortal to obtain Hero status. In Hellenic belief, the Heroes are between the Gods and mankind, and can therefore act as a connection between the two, as Walter Burkert explains in his famous historical and scholarly work "Greek Religion." Now, of course, the Gods can be reached by mortals as well. We are not cut off from our Gods. In fact, they exist everywhere, all around us, and enjoy taking part in our lives. But a Hero has the potential to gain more attention from the Gods on one's behalf simply because of how they exist in between. Think of it as an ascension to the first level of divinity and then progressing to the top, as you send your prayers. Obviously, we can't ascend to the Gods in mortal bodies, but the Heroes are in spiritual and divine form, and therefore, they can. For example, when I pray to Theseus, I ask Him to speak to the Gods in favor of my family and I. So one of their functions is to assist that connection. But one can also pray to a Hero for connection to a single God or Goddess as well. For example, I may ask Theseus to send my prayers to Hephaistos for fruitfulness in my labors.

Of course, Heroes not only exist to help us connect with the Gods, but also to aid us in our lives themselves, which is why I pray to Theseus for victory in my daily battles and to help me overcome all that seeks to oppress me. Heroes can also be prayed to in order to dispel negativity or a negative presence, especially in the case of someone like Theseus whose crowning achievement was the defeat of a great monster. In short, a Hero can bring the presence of goodness, positiveness and light to an otherwise bad, negative and dark situation. On a side note, it should be recorded that one does not have to specifically be a Hellenist in order to have a connection with a Greek Hero. In other words, you can be a different religion. For example, I've known general Pagans and Wiccans who pray to Greek Gods. I see no reason why they could not also pray to Heroes. 

Choosing A Hero
Choosing a Hero to focus on, if you wish to practice with such a focus, is not one that is complicated or difficult. The first thing one can do is to research and find which Hero they admire and/or feel connected to the most. However, don't focus so much on their myths as you do on their qualities, attributes and crowning achievements. People of extraordinary status tend to pick up myths, rumors and legends in their stories along the way. For example, there are many that accompany Theseus. But Plutarch can't even tell us how Theseus got His name. Once you have decided, pray and offer to that Hero and see the response you receive. Eventually, you will find which Hero you are connected to the most. Once you do, write out your own common prayer to them. This is the one you will recite the most in general prayer, to bring the Hero into your life and attain their presence. A continuous prayer and/or hymn of your own will give you a personal, unique connection, and the Hero may even recognize you only and specifically in that particular recitation.

Once you have reached these levels, where you are certain of who your Hero is, build them a shrine/altar. Place upon it representations of them and let that be a central place for them in your practice. In the picture above, you can see my shrine and small sanctuary to Theseus. It doesn't have to be as elaborate as mine, it can be a simple design. However, over time, you will no doubt come across more decorations and additions to place on it, which is great. Lastly, create a personal ritual that you use consistently when praying at your Hero shrine. As with all of your personal and private rituals, keep them secret, only practiced by you, so that the Gods and Heroes will recognize you specifically through them. I know that I sometimes give details as to some of my personal practices, but for the most part, I keep them secluded within the walls of my family's shrines and sanctuaries.

In the Goodness of the Gods,