Showing posts with label Paganism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paganism. 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, August 7, 2023

GOP Senate Runner Wants To Wipe Out Pagans

I would have thought that the religious ignorance and hate of 20 years ago vanished with simpletons like George Bush, but apparently that's not the case. 

In 2022, Hung Cao was the republican nominee for the 10th Congressional District of Virginia. He lost to the democratic runner. However, he is now running against the Democratic Senator Tim Kaine in the same State. 

You'll probably remember Kaine as the Vice Presidential running mate for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Keep in mind, Kaine is a United States Senator, not a Congressman, so the seat that Cao is currently seeking would be higher than the one he just lost, although it's also probably true that Cao stands little chance of success.

But in an interview this summer, Cao made a statement where he expressed extreme discontent with the fact that Christianity has significantly declined in America, and in addition, blamed namely Wiccans for taking over parts of California (America's most populous State), ending by saying that "we can't let that happen in Virginia."

For one, neither Wicca or any religious minority has taken over any State or even any significant part of one. In California, Catholics currently make up the largest religious group, who are Christians. But hypothetically speaking, in any given place where Wiccans or Pagans have a large grouping, they have never posed any threat or advocacy against the religious freedom of Christians or any religious group.

While this hate speech is being specifically directed toward Wiccans, it's a safe bet he would include all Pagans and Polytheists in the mix. For someone who is a historian, we all know this is the kind of rhetoric with which massive oppression and crimes against humanity start.

There would, of course, be only one way that Cao could use the law to stop non-Christians from becoming significant, and that would be to find ways to attack their religious rights (persecution). 

What's astounding to me is that he is also a decorated American veteran. I would expect more sense and decency from someone who has fought for freedom. Not to mention that being an ethnic minority himself should make him more aware of the propaganda and hate he's spreading. 

Cao would say he believes in the Constitution and religious freedom, but this is untrue if he also believes the government can use its power to stop a religion from growing. The real truth is that Cao believes in freedom for people like himself, and he knows the end of Christian dominance in America is on the horizon.

In truth, I have feared this kind of day would come once Christianity realized it was on the road to losing absolute power. It is in the religion's history to use force against people who refuse to accept it. However, I suppose the good aspect of it is that we no longer live in a time where this kind of hate speech is ignored and not called out. People like him have lost the ability to keep things concealed.

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. In the picture above of Ikaros, notice to the left that Athena has Her back turned to him. 

"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.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

When Myths Manifest, The Meaning Maintains

I think the fact that ancient Greeks had religion and life intertwined goes beyond just religious devotion. It was and is because the world of Gods, Heroes, monsters and myths were clear in everyday life.

Today while I was maintaining my temple's outside sanctuary, I noticed a spider resting on the Athena statue, and there were no spiders on any of the other several statues surrounding it. 

If you click on the picture, it will enlarge and you can see the insect.

Certainly nothing unusual about a spider on an outside object, but Athena's was the only one that seemed to draw the creatures. Why would this be relevant to Greek religion and how in the world could it possibly expand the mind into universal thought?

Simple enough on the surface. In Greek myth, the story is that Athena created the spider, but how and why She did it is a fascinating concept and mystery, and also one that continues to have a valuable teaching for us today.

Arachne was an incredibly talented mortal weaver, and a maker of wonderous tapestries. So much so that no other human being could outdo her. Eventually, she allowed arrogance to take over her mind and proclaimed that she was greater at her art than even the Goddess Athena, who is the Goddess of domestic art.

Athena heard and accepted the challenge, although tried to talk some sense into Arachne first, giving her the opportunity to rebuke her arrogance and let it go. Arachne refused. The mortal woman weaved her best work, but Athena, knowing the beautiful things of heaven and beyond that mortals could not possibly see, created a far more glamorous piece.

Arachne was defeated. As punishment, Athena turned her into a spider, but not without her talent remaining with her. To this day, spiders continue to weave beautiful and elaborate webs. I find it to be like looking upon the remnants of an ancient battle, and the side that lost doomed forever to drag along the ruins of what they once were.

So walking along during a typical day in 2023 CE, what does seeing a spider on Athena's statue wish to teach the passerby? That the Gods are supreme, and we are not. The lesson, as common as it may sound, is to look upon this and know who the Gods are. Even if you're not religious at all, the lesson is know who you are, know your place, know your limitations. 

Wisdom, in short, is knowing you are not a God. Stop and reflect on this truth. But also on the understanding that you don't have to be a God either. You are still capable of great wonders within your own boundaries. 

The tragedy of Arachne is that her ruin did not have to be. She could have lived a very successful life, if she had only realized that her talent came from Athena, and that without the Gods, she was nothing. 

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

How Can Reincarnation and Ancestor Worship Coexist?

Many believe in reincarnation, and we also love to venerate, worship and call on our ancestors, the latter is certainly a structural part of not only Hellenism, but several Pagan/Polytheistic religions. Sometimes I even invoke deceased family members I personally knew in life; not many, but a few rare ones on occasion. For example, my grandmother on my dad's side who always loved me. If I pray to her, it's normally for peace (and it works, by the way). But in any case, there are those of us who wonder how the two belief systems can work together. If the soul reincarnates, how are our deceased there to hear us? How does John exist if John is no longer John but someone else entirely?

First, I think we should consider the fact that, at least in Hellenism, reincarnation is not the only form of the afterlife. In fact, I'd venture to say that it's new to Hellenism in terms of widespread community belief. In ancient times, most people believed in the Underworld (Realm of Haides), the Isle of the Blessed, and for serious offenders, Tartaros, as the destinations for human souls. Although Tartaros is probably not considered an eternal punishment, but largely a place of atonement before one can move on. Remember, in The Odyssey, Odysseus travels to the Underworld and interacts with His dead mother (a family member), and she doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

However, even if in a small measure, there does exist an ancient source for reincarnation explicitly. At the end of the 10th book of Plato's Republic, we read the fantastic story of a solider named Er, who had a near-death-experience and returned to tell about the spectacular worlds of the afterlife. He spends a significant amount of time discussing the reassignment of human souls into other lives. No two ways about it, that's reincarnation. In my view, there are three possibilities. One, reincarnation is not the only afterlife. Two, reincarnation is the only afterlife. Or three, there is no reincarnation, but I think most would reject the last two. However, what if the second one is true? How then could there possibly be logic and reality behind Ancestor Veneration?

I think that the soul is a universal being and a universal reality, not bound to only one manifestation. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, so some part of our passed loved ones or ancestors still exists in a notable form. To us, it may appear confusing, but to the vastness of Divinity and existence itself, it's rather non-issue and simple. Just as we cannot comprehend the universe beyond our telescopes and spaceships, but the universe itself sees and holds it all completely. In terms of Ancestor Veneration, I think of the soul in the example of a caterpillar. The caterpillar becomes a butterfly, but still has caterpillar DNA that can be studied. Or you might think of it in terms of growing into different life stages, but still knowing the past. I, for example, am no longer a student at my first college, but I can still tap into that manifestation. I can remember myself, the experiences, the knowledge, and to an extent, return myself to it to help others. The person I used to be, never completely leaves. 

But as always, I have the wisdom to say that I may not know. What I know for certain is that I believe that reincarnation happens and that it's never stopped me from praying to and feeling the presence of those who have passed on before me.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Paganism Will Find Rescue Behind The City State Wall

In my life as an ancient Greek priest, it has not been a surprising event to receive news that a national Pagan organization has collapsed or been disbanded. It has never pertained to the Hellenic community, but just today I was given word of a fairly large nationwide organization that fell (I'm not going to say which). I have watched power grabs, bigotry and drama become the graveyard of Pagan groups and leaders over the last 13 years. Why it's so common in Paganism, and why we haven't learned from it yet, I have no idea. I think that's one reason my own temple has stood for so long, because we have a strong structure that is intentionally immune to those antics. But the bigger question, I think, is why do small Pagan organizations do well while national ones face dissolution? I think it's entirely because we are trying to be organized religion, which is not compatible with Paganism at large, nor is it how our ancestors did things, and for good reason.

In ancient Greece, every community was spread out across City States and Cults. Sometimes the cities came together to defend against a common threat, but when the war was over, they all separated and went back to their cities and regions. There is no way that one government or one order could have successfully ruled all of the cities as one. The idea alone would be beyond the realm of the ridiculous. There would have been constant strife, infighting, rebellion and coups, despite the fact that they all believed in the same Gods. My own temple serves Machesney Park, Illinois and nearby towns if needed, but I would have absolutely no business going down to Springfield and inserting myself into someone else's temple or organization, even if they were Hellenists like myself.

When we think about the American system of government, we commonly envision Washington D.C. with the grand temples and chambers, but in reality, that's just the place where all of the states meet. The fact of the matter is that American government is mostly spread out over 50 states, 3,006 counties, 19,495 cities, towns and villages, and 13,800 districts, all with their own local systems of governance and regulation. Here in Illinois, we of course call ourselves Americans, but we are also Illinoians. Our government could not possibly govern the people of Florida (even though they are Americans too) because we are just too different. If Illinois tried to rise and govern all the states with Illinois government, it would be a disaster at best.

With smaller organizations, there is also less temptation for corruption and usurping, which are always hallmarks in the destruction of groups. Think about how many people would love to take President Biden's seat, even people in his own administration. Now think about how many people want to take the seat of the Mayor of Machesney Park, Illinois. You probably don't even know who he is. While there would certainly be some individuals who would like a shot, the pile of gold is far, far smaller, and therefore less attractive to tyrants, thieves and corruption. 

People in the ancient world met and traded, but they did not live under one rule. Now Greece today is ruled by one government, certainly more than in any ancient period, but the present Greece is not even a shadow of what it once was. Most of the people are far more passive, oppressed and less motivated, if they even have any idea as to their ancient identities.

I advocate, not just for my own religious community, but all Pagan and Polytheistic organizations, to exist as numerous independent entities across the country and world. If faced with common threats, we should of course unite, and when good comes from it, we can meet and interact, but we should then return home and not attempt to rule one another. Sometimes we are trying to cover too much ground with too much diversity. The longer you extend a tape measurer, the more flimsy it becomes until it collapses. We should adopt the idea of the City State and the Locality for each community, in that each local area is encouraged to have their own temple or organization which is solely for the people of that area. Not only will it make Paganism stronger and harder to destroy, it will increase support for all Pagans out there.

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.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

How To Build Your Own Pagan/Polytheistic Community

For 10 years, I have successfully owned and operated my own ancient Greek temple as its Head Priest, eventually building a physical temple location and sanctuary in Machesney Park, Illinois. I have called my temple simply "Temple Of The Greek Gods." Over the years, people have asked me for advice on how to build their own temple or Pagan community in their area. These inquiries have compelled me to write this entry. I can tell you from experience that it takes strength, knowledge, and wisdom to run a longstanding or lifelong community. You have to truly want it. If you do, then let's begin.

Who Are You?

The first question is, who are you? You may think it's an easy question, but you'd be surprised how many people struggle with their identities. What is your religion? Are you positively sure that's what you are and you're not going to change it? Are you certain this is your lifelong path, your true identity? You'll need to make that ultimate conclusion. If you have any doubts whatsoever, consider waiting until you are positive. Exploration is fine, and you will only benefit from it.

Secondly, what kind of religious or spiritual community do you want to establish? Obviously, I speak from an ancient Greek viewpoint, so mine would be a temple. However, I feel that any Pagan or Polytheist can use this information to their advantage. So what do you want to build? A Temple? A Coven? A Grove? A Church? Exactly what is it?

And lastly, what kind will it be? Even Polytheists and Pagans have denominations and paths. A Hellenic temple can be either Reconstructionist or Neo-Pagan, or like mine, a place for anyone who wants to worship the Greek Gods (although the temple rites and beliefs themselves are traditional and Reconstructionist). Not only do you need to know your religion and the kind of organization you want to build, but also where the area of focus is going to be within said community.

Write The Laws

ByLaws are necessary for any legitimate organization. Not only are they going to make your operations run smoother, but most states require ByLaws in order for them to recognize the organization. Think of it as your organization's constitution. Take your time, sit down, and write out everything you want the organization to uphold and follow. Create the clergy office, ranks, membership, and codes of conduct for all actions that the organization will or could take. For an example, see my own temple's ByLaws by clicking here.

Create A Physical Establishment

There are 2 main steps to creating a physical establishment. The first is to make a physical building or gathering place. It doesn't matter how small it is, or even if it's just a place in nature that you all go to from time to time. You have to start somewhere, and from that point, you will continue to get new ideas and find new opportunities for material growth. When I first started my temple, we didn't even have a place to gather. It was just a cheaply and often badly made wordpress website in High Point, North Carolina. From there, as I moved from place to place with my family, we rented and bought places that had extra rooms and grounds that could be used for temple purposes. 

The second is to be active as clergy. As a Priest or Priestess, not only do you run your organization, you are spiritual support for your members and friends. Besides operating the organization and leading its rites, decide what services you will perform for people. Examples: Rites of Passage, Marriages, Funerals, Blessings, Counseling, Prayer Requests, Public Speaking. If you are always there for your people, they will grow to trust and respect you. They may even come to love you. However, always be humble toward others. I have also seen this as a problem in some Pagan circles. People with high positions or experience, can get cocky and obnoxious. Be humble, compassionate and have an open ear to others. Have your own beliefs, but never ever think you know everything. People will be completely turned off by you.

Consider Incorporation

A number of religious organizations file Articles of Incorporation with their states. Each State has its own requirements, but it basically puts you on file with the State. The government recognizes you as a real entity, recognizes you as its clergy, and is a pathway to 501C3 status. Incorporation is not required at all, but it could be beneficial.

Keep Leadership Closed

I feel this is one of the most important qualities of a Pagan organization today, and that is what I call closed leadership. Over the years, I've seen too many Pagan groups that have been ripe with power grabs, and in the end, some of the organizations were just decimated. Let it never be open to interpretation, debate or vote that you are the one and only owner and head leader of the temple. If people don't like it, let them leave. Do not tolerate anyone who tries to seize power or authority in any way. Kick them out. If and when you do decide to appoint lower level officers to help you in the functions and duties of your organization, take time to know them. Only ordain and allow people into control who you have no reason whatsoever to distrust. I have operated my temple for 10 years. To this day, I still only have 1 lower officer who I have ordained. He works as the 1st Priest of my Cabinet. As Solon would have said, don't be hasty to make friends.

Keep All Forms of Drama Out

Whether it be clergy, members or friends of your organization, don't allow drama to enter it in any way. For instance, if I see someone on my temple's Facebook page insulting, disrespecting, or even laughing at a post in a way that is obviously meant to cause offense, I ban them without question. Not only will keeping drama out of your organization make it stronger and more credible, it will create a far safer and welcoming environment for people who are sincere. You also want your organization to be taken seriously, which will not happen if someone sees bickering and fighting.

Don't Be Political

The United States and the world have an array of political ideologies, and neither one fully agrees with the other, sometimes even violently or abusively. You yourself, or anyone in your organization, can be political on their own and in their own name, but do not bring it into your organization. I myself can be quite political privately sometimes, but I have never posted any of it on my temple's Facebook page or made it a part of my temple speeches or rites. As an example of what is political, think of it this way. Talking about LGBTQ rights is perfectly fine. Talking about how dumb a politician is, is political. As a Priest or Priestess, you want to be a humanist. You don't want to make anyone feel excluded or in danger when they come through your doors. Do not talk political, nor make a political belief part of a membership or clergy requirement. The only exception would be people who espouse hate. Always kick hate out without question, even if they do it on their own time. Someone who is a member of a hate group for instance, should have no place in your organization.

Open a Serious Website and Publish Serious Writings

There is nothing quite like a professionally made website for an organization. It will help people find and learn about you. You also do not have to spend a lot of money on it, you simply have to make it look professional and organized. My temple's site is operated through blogspot, and costs a whole $12 a year to keep active. Keep things updated on it, and post seasonal newsletters. My personal website and blog is also hosted by blogspot, which brings me to the next point. One does not have to have a separate website for this. That's just the way it happened to work out for me. But write and publish serious writings on your religion, your religion's history, and even your own personal experiences on a regular basis, and post them on your website. Your writings are theological and philosophical sources that will help others in your spiritual community find guidance and place. Whatever kind of site you open, for the love of the Gods, make sure you purchase your own domain. I hate it when I see places still attached to things like "freewebs" or "blogspot." If you're not serious enough to spend $12 a year on a domain, what does it show to others?

Hold At least 3 Public Events a Year

My temple holds at least 3 public events a year. That's the advice I would give to others as well. It doesn't matter what kind they are, but hold enough throughout the year that you are regularly active. If you go too long without doing anything, people will think you have closed or aren't serious.

Do Not Rely On Generosity

Truth be known, if I had waited for others to help me fund and build my temple, I would still be waiting. My entire temple and sanctuary and everything in them were paid for and built entirely by me. No matter how many products and services I have offered, there has never been anywhere near enough money to create anything that I have now. Unfortunately, you can only rely on your own labors to build the things you want. It's perfectly fine to be open to donations, but don't let that be any source of income for your organization, unless you manage to turn it into a multi-million membership. 

Never Become Discouraged

The most important factor in keeping a minority organization above water is to never become discouraged by anything. You will have times when you feel like the project is going slow, you might even be bored at times. But keep focused on the larger picture, and that is the life and purpose of your organization. Even if you have a low membership, use your sources to reach out to interested people and teach about your religion and philosophy. That's why you're there, not to be the most famous. When I started my temple's Facebook page, I had to work for years before it reached the thousands of supporters it has now. My page has over 3,000 likes, which for a religion as small as mine, is outstanding. I even beat some of the local Universalist churches.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Happy Building,

Chris Aldridge.

Friday, May 21, 2021

In Search of Greek Heroes: Bellerophon

Welcome to the new series I have decided to dedicate my blog to this summer, In Search of Greek Heroes, where I search for the facts and myths behind the greatest Heroes of ancient Greek religion. Today we are looking for the magnificent Bellerophon.

Also known as Bellerophontes, His name means either Wielder of Missiles or Slayer of Belleros. If the latter, it means that this name was given to Him later in life. Therefore, the question would then be, what was His original name? It has been suggested to have been Hipponous. However, this name was also given to other figures in ancient Greek history. It appears to have been a general title for certain kinds of men. If Bellerophon was not His original name, we may never actually know what it was. His birth and death dates remain unknown, but is believed to have lived before Herakles, who, according to some, lived around 1303 to 1259 BCE, which means Bellerophon predates the Trojan War. Writings of Him go as far back as Hesiod and Homer, who lived during the Archaic Age, around 750 to 650 BCE.

According to His story, Bellerophon was the Prince of Korinth (a City that, in Bellerophon's life, was actually called Ephyre), born to Poseidon and the mortal woman Eurynome, who was queen and wife of the King Glaukos. Growing into a man of superb strength, ability and beauty, He was admired by the people of the City, but when He accidentally killed His brother, He was exiled to find a way to purify Himself of the killing, as would have been ancient Greek custom. Murder, and we are lead to believe here, even manslaughter, was considered to be among the worst of pollutants upon a human being, and in order for them to be a blessing to the City or be in the presence of the Gods again, they would have to be purified of the pollution. 

In Argos, He found a man who could and would purify Him, King Proetus. Being restored to good standing as He was, His hard times were just beginning. The king's wife wanted to sleep with Bellerophon, but the Hero refused her, being of such honor to not offend or wrong the man who had given Him such wonderful hospitality and assistance. However, the wife became enraged at the rejection, and falsely accused Bellerophon of raping or attempting to rape her. She demanded that her husband execute Him, but the king did not want the pollution. So he sent Bellerophon to the King of Lycia in Asia Minor with a note saying to kill the young Hero. The King of Lycia also refused for the same reasons. However, The Lycian king thought of a way around the offense. He sent Bellerophon to kill an infamous beast that had been ravaging the countryside, a horrid creature known as the Chimera, half lion, snake and goat.

Athena gave Bellerophon a golden rein by which He could tame the winged horse of the Gods, Pegasos, and use him to destroy the monster. Upon the back of Pegasos, the Chimera was unable to strike Bellerophon in any way. There are conflicting accounts as to how Bellerophon killed the beast. One says He shot it to death with arrows. Another that He placed a clump of lead onto the end of a spear and rammed it down the throat of the fire breathing monster. When it melted, she died. And finally, that He used the lance to stab her to death.

He then returned to Proetus, who was not finished devising ways to kill Him. He sent the Hero on a campaign against the mighty Amazon women whom He also defeated. Nothing the king tried could conquer the young man, and he concluded that He must truly be loved by the Gods. Proetus gave Bellerophon his daughter in marriage. But during His life among mortals, He began to think of Himself as a God, and wanted to fly to Olympos on Pegasos. The horse, however, threw Him off and He crashed back down to Earth. We are told He lived out the rest of His life with His injuries.

Finding Bellerophon isn't an easy task, as traces of Him are not anywhere near as readily available as people such as Alexander for instance. 

One of the most compelling things is the Tomb of Bellerophon that still stands today in Lycia, which is a rock-cut temple tomb near Tlos, an ancient citadel in southern Turkey. This tomb was discovered empty. However, the porch has a relief of Bellerophon slaying the Chimera that can still be seen today. The tomb and those around it are not easily accessible, but people still visit and enter the structures.

The tomb is only dated to the 4th century BCE. However, it's also possible that the remains of the Hero could have later been placed there. Today, we have bodies from Egypt dating back thousands of years. Why couldn't the ancient Greeks or Lycians have had remains that dated back about a thousand? The tomb also appears to hold 4 to 5 chambers, which could have been used for the wife and children of Bellerophon or His descendants. No one knows. It's a place of great mystery and intrigue.

Moving on from the tomb, I decided to look for Bellerophon in the mentioning of regions outside of Greece as well. The Amazon warriors, whom He fought, were thought to be Scythians, as called by the Greeks, who are Iranian in origin. This means they were Persians. So is there any mention of Bellerophon in Persian history or myth? For starters, there are creatures in Persian myth that have a resemblance to the Chimera, those being the Manticore and the Shahmaran. What the Chimera actually was, if something different such as a deformed beast, we may never know, but there are similar mentions of this creature in the myths of the East as well as the West. While  Bellerophon was not found in Persian religion by my research, the creature that is central to His story, we might conclude, was in one form or another.

Bellerophon remains one of the most beloved and worshiped Heroes of ancient Greek religion to this day, where He will continue to be found in the hearts, minds and prayer books of so many.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thinking You're A God: Disappointment and Destruction

I've always been a person to never care what others believe, or how they see themselves, as long as they don't bother me. In other words, if they're impacting no life but their own, I couldn't care less; it's their own business and their right. However, that doesn't mean I can't still have an opinion about one belief or another. For example, I have talked about how bankrupt Christianity is quite often, but I still think Christians have the right to practice their religion. Just because I disagree with it, doesn't mean I hold malice or negativity toward the person(s).

One thing I have grown very weary of is people who think they are Gods, or that they are Gods in their own right, and they exist in many communities, but largely, they can be found in Paganism. Now I'm not talking about the belief in Divine favor. There is a difference between saying, "I am blessed by the Gods, or, I am part of the blessed creation of the Gods," and, "I am a God." The former simply acknowledges you as a worthy individual who is part of the cosmos that the Gods create and govern. The latter, however, implies that you are the God themselves, or a God individually, and therefore have the same Divine power and authority.

Not only is this just foolish and arrogant for a mortal to think, it's also dangerous. I think that once humans convince themselves that they are Gods of any sort, they end up also deciding that they are subject to no authority but their own, and can therefore do whatever they want, even to other human beings. I think it lays groundwork for great harm. Think of the story of Phaethon. He was even allegedly born of a God, but was too mortal to control the Sun chariot that he so desired to ride. In short, Phaethon wanted to take the place of the Sun God, and ended up not only dying, but nearly killing every other human around. Humans are not given Divine power for good reason. 

And even if such a person who fancies themselves a God doesn't end up doing harm to others, I gather that eventually, the Gods will give them a good lesson in humility, which is their own choice, but I would still advise against it. Consider the story of Arachne. She was a mortal weaver of amazing talent who considered herself to be even greater than the Gods, namely Athena, who taught her a grave lesson in who a God is, and who a God isn't. Literally, Athena tells us to know who is God and who is not. We must acknowledge this for our own sake. Even if the Gods do not teach us a lesson, we will end up destroying our own selves. Now yes, some of the ancient Heroes eventually became Gods, but that was after their death and their rise to that stage by the favor of the Gods themselves. In short, after their rise to a higher state of enlightenment, and some of those Heroes were already considered to be half-God in the first place due to their Divine parentage.

The biggest thing to understand, I think, is that you don't have to be a God. You are a blessed human being, and as such, you have your own distinct abilities and even mortal powers. Each being in and of the Universe has their place, and within that place, they can wield great influence in their own respect. Simply because you're not a God, doesn't mean you're weak.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

What If Your Significant Other Is A Christian?

I got in my older chariot today, named Saturn, and dashed around the American Polis of Machesney Park, Illinois. I always love it whenever work or pleasure takes me to meet new people, see new places, and experience new things. During my outing, I happened to look on my phone and saw that someone I am connected to on Facebook, and who follows the old Gods like me, asked what they should do if their significant other is or wants to be a Christian. The person cited the many centuries of persecution that we have faced at the hands of the Christian church as a point of contentment. I thought about replying with a short comment through my phone, but later concluded that this question is something that, I think, requires a good, thought out response.

Perhaps I should start with the time that my wife and I first met and started living together. She was Wiccan at the time, and while I entertained Paganism and practiced Witchcraft, I was still a Christian theologically. That was my only view of deity. I would invoke Jesus, Mary and St. Michael, for instance, in my spells, and read the bible for incantations like Psalms. My wife, on the other hand, had nothing to do with any of it. Later on, through strong spiritual experiences, we both became the same pre-Christian religion, that being Hellenic Polytheism. Fortunately, the theological divide was very short lived. However, our love for one another never dissipated because I was Christian. The strength of a relationship is found in the bonds of commonality rather than the divisions of beliefs. In other words, if you have more in common with the person than the opposite, you shouldn't have a problem.

If your significant other is Christian, I would simply say this. Start by letting them have the same religious freedom that we demand for ourselves. Let them believe and worship however they want. So long as they are not disrespecting you or interfering with your own religious freedom, let them have their space the same as you would in any other situation that requires space. I've seen many couples who are Pagan/Christian and get along, apparently, just fine. You should also keep in mind that while it's true that the Christian church has persecuted and destroyed us for centuries, your significant other alone didn't have anything to do with that. It would be unjust to charge them with a crime they have not committed. 

However, the real problem may come if you have children with them. Anyone who is devoted to their religion, will likely want to raise their children in it as well. You're going to want to teach them ancient values and beliefs, and your significant other will want to teach them normally opposing ones. So before you create children, perhaps you should make sure you've worked out a compromise that can work for both of you. If you just jump into childbearing without first establishing an understanding, it will lead to serious conflict, most likely. You might even end up finding that the best course for both of you is to not have children at all. 

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.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Why Is "Evil" Controversial In Paganism?

Evil may be a bad word depending on your Pagan or Polytheistic tradition. Many people in the modern Pagan community don't like using it because they don't believe in absolutes or an inherent value, believing that good and bad, positive and negative, are both possible from anyone or anything, while some Reconstructionist religions like mine talk about evil many times in their myths and morals. You don't have to look far at all to find the word in Hellenism. Delphic Maxim 31 explicitly and simply says, "Shun Evil." But many Pagans, I would imagine, do not think that things are as simple as good and evil. 

In many ways, they are correct. Absolute evil means that nothing good can come from it, but any being with free will can choose to do good, and if they can make that choice, then they are not absolutely evil, because they have the capacity for the opposite. However, I can certainly say from experience that there are people and things that prefer to act on their hostile and evil sides, at least toward certain people anyway, and that person may unfortunately end up being yourself. 

I think that we are quick to reject the word evil out of existence simply because we don't actually understand what it means. We're so used to being conditioned by the mainstream to think that evil is a Christian concept of ultimate inherent character, but it's not. Evil is simply the opposite of good, or the absence of good. So therefore, we have to ask, is it possible that someone or something can do the opposite of good, or that a thing cannot possess any good qualities? Most certainly. Someone or something who tries to murder you or destroy your family, isn't good or creating any good. It may cause you to do something that results in good for yourself, but they and their act themselves are not good in any capacity. Or perhaps a more common example, if you have a severe mental disorder, like depression, that drives you to want to commit suicide, it is also something that carries no good, and in fact, is in direct opposition to what a "good" brain or mind would be.

In my view, the only Ultimate Good in the Universe, that has no capability or desire of evil, is the Gods and the Higher Powers, like the Spirits and Heroes. Because the Gods were made from all that is good in the first place, and because they are the most powerful of all things and are never able to be conquered, evil can never consume or impact them in any form. In fact, the Gods exist explicitly in opposition of evil, chaos and disorder. This is why evil or negativity runs away when the Gods and Heroes are invoked successfully. It becomes vanquished immediately. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Riding The Fence of Devotee and Defacer

Most Pagans and Polytheists love and are extremely reverent of the Gods, but I have noticed a trend that seems to be growing at a somewhat alarming rate online, and that's the people who like to not only make fun of the Gods, but sometimes horribly disrespect them in the name of good humor, but for the Pagan or Polytheist, there should be nothing good about dishonoring your Gods. One of the most common examples I have seen is people making fun of Zeus' love affairs, calling and depicting Him horribly and dishonorably, sometimes even making the story out to be something it wasn't. I even had the misfortune of reading one Pagan writer long ago who directly insulted one of the Pagan Gods, calling Him a scoundrel on the simple basis of some of the myths that have surrounded Him over the centuries. This person, interestingly, would have also considered themselves a devout Pagan, but the thing is, you can't flip the Gods off today and serve them tomorrow. If you're a servant or devotee of the Gods, that position demands seriousness and respect, not lollygagging and affronting. Just as you can't say you respect your parents if you curse at them, you can't say you are devoted to the Gods if you hate or disregard their position of respect. That position of respect, by the way, is Godhood. 

Some people have responded to my critique of this kind of Pagan humor by bringing up ancient Greek playwrights who made fun of the Gods at times, but what we have to realize is that these people were not mainstream citizens. Most people were not playwrights, and in fact, Euripides of Athens was scrutinized for the heresy, if you will, that sometimes found its ways into his work, and he spent his last days in voluntary exile in Macedonia. The normal Greek or Hellene would have never even uttered a disrespectful word about the Gods, let alone make defamatory banners or public posts. Someone who did those things would have likely been considered to have entered into a state of miasma (pollution), and that would have to be purified before they could return to sanctuaries or other grounds upon which religious functions were held.

I'm not saying it's wrong to have a sense of humor. I love to joke and laugh about things, but my motto is also this: Don't say anything about the Gods that you wouldn't paint on the side of their temples. If someone declared themselves to be your friend, and then painted something defamatory or that made fun of you on your house, or posted it on the community board at the library or school, would you consider that person to be a true friend? If not, then why should the Gods consider you to be a true devotee if you treat them the same way? If you ride the fence between devotee and defacer, you're eventually gonna get really back jock itch.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mental Miasma Is Real

All religions, that I know of, have an emphasis on being clean and pure, especially before religious or spiritual activity. Even Christianity, the religion that is supposed to accept the dirtiest among us, often has holy water at the doors of its churches for people to use before they enter. Specifically in Hellenic Polytheism, we routinely practice purification not only of our clothes and bodies before rituals, but also of the altar, altar tools, and offerings themselves. We even clean our statues on a regular basis, sometimes ritually. Nothing is left to chance with negativity or impurity, because we believe that too much negativity or miasma (pollution) on something, in whatever form that pollution may be, can hinder one's connection with the Gods, if not disrupt it completely. This holds dire consequences in both the short and long term. In the short, it may obstruct your ritual activity. In the long run, it can have a profound impact on your relationship with the Gods and therefore your general feelings and attitudes in daily life. The good news is that miasma is normally easily remedied with simple purified sea or sea salt water and good hygiene. The only thing that would require higher measures would be unusual miasma like coming into contact with a dead body. In that case, you might want to use sulfur for purification along with the other elements. A good scrubbing with Lava soap might do the trick.

But I think there is another form of miasma that I myself have experienced, and that may be overlooked in some circles, and that's the pollution of the mind. Mental negativity on the quality of life is not just an opinion, it's scientifically documented. Think about it, the body cannot live without the mind. In fact, you cannot do anything correctly or productively without your brain. If it is in disrepair, you will be too, and the bad part is that a mind which has been damaged a lot or allowed to deteriorate, can take a little while to mend, although it's certainly possible to do so. So what do I mean by mental miasma? It is any ailment of the mind that causes you to lose connection with the Gods or Higher Powers in any way. This normally happens during prayers or rituals, but can impact you at any time. It's really a problem with people who have depression, anxiety or other mental problems, but it also consists of simple negative thoughts entering your consciousness during the given time period that disrupts your connection with the Gods. It can actually make you feel so terrible that you don't feel as if your prayers or rituals did anything, literally a feeling of nothing. It's the worst state you can find yourself in. 

In my own experiences, I have consistently recorded these negative impacts of mental pollution on myself. I have noted, for example, the difference in how I feel during a simple prayer when I have a positive vrs a negative mindset or attitude. The first thing I considered was the building up of negative energy and emotions over time, because these can have a lasting impact on the brain. If you're routinely pessimistic about life, hate people or the world, think negatively of yourself or others, or do things to others or yourself that are negative, that can infect your mind with enough negativity to divide your connection with goodness (the Gods). Or, simply not thinking rightly about the Gods, Higher Powers, or yourself can cause it, and I am not talking about your personal beliefs. I am referring to an attitude of pessimism toward the Gods. If you fear things such as, They aren't listening, they don't care, they don't like me, what if I am wrong or doing something wrong, etc. This will overwhelm you with negative feelings of the mind and body and you won't feel spiritual. Furthermore, if allowed to persist, this is how your mind will be conditioned to respond to all forms of spirituality at any time. You'll find yourself in constant combat for the right to simply be spiritual.

So, the question, is how do we curtail mental miasma? The answer is good news. Quite simply, don't be a negative person in your actions or thoughts, and when it comes time to do rituals or prayers, leave all else behind. In other words, focus and don't let go of it. If you feel it slipping away, just realign back to the former state. Think goodly about the Gods and yourself at all times. The Gods are good, they always do good, there's no evil in them, life is beautiful, I am a good person, I can achieve, etc. These self-statements are typically called affirmations, but depending on how badly your mind has been polluted, you may have to do them several times during the day instead of just once or at a certain time. The important thing to always do when reciting these affirmations is to hold firm. Never let them slip away into any form of doubt or fear, because then all will be lost and you'll have to refocus. Just literally shut it all out, give it no consideration or thought at all. It can be a battle, but eventually, your mind will recondition itself and a positive feeling will happen naturally for you.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

If you enjoy my blog posts and writings, please keep in mind that I am the author of several Pagan and fantasy books that are sold at very low prices in the right hand column of my website, some of which have been sold around the globe and loved by all who read them.

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.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Extreme Polytheism In A Sometimes Not So Extreme Community

The Polytheistic and Pagan communities are often broken into two theological classes, those being Soft Polytheism and Hard Polytheism. Basically, Soft Polytheism is the belief that all Gods go back to one ultimate God, whereas Hard Polytheism believes that all Gods are their own separate individuals and manifestations, and are not dependent on any other Deity for their power or existence. So for example, a Soft Polytheist would believe that Zeus, Apollo, and Dionysus are all the same God, whereas a Hard Polytheist would believe they are 3 separate and distinct Gods.

Back when I first began seriously studying Hellenic Polytheism as a religion, I knew right away I was a Hard Polytheist. Soft Polytheism didn't make any sense to me at all because how in the world could a Virgin Goddess who refrains from sexual contact be the same as Aphrodite who loves sexual contact? In some cases, there was too much of an impassable contradiction, but I later came to realize that I was something even more than just a Hard Polytheist, what I came to coin as "Extreme Polytheism." I discovered that some Hard Polytheists, even though they believed in many distinct Gods, still had some Soft Polytheistic views even within a Hard category itself. I found that some, for example, believed in The Olympians in a Hard Polytheistic theology, but believed that the Non-Olympian Gods could be simply different manifestations or extensions of the 12 Olympians themselves, such as the idea that Nike is another manifestation of Athena, or the Wind Gods being an extension of Zeus. I saw that even within Hard Polytheism, there could also exist Soft Polytheism. 

I wasn't having any of that, though. I believed, and still believe, that every single God, Spirit and Hero is their own distinct individual, and not the extension or manifestation of any other but themselves. I didn't see any need, at any point, for a Deity to show themselves as anything other than themselves. Why would Athena, I thought, show Herself as Nike as if Her previous manifestation didn't suffice? It didn't make any sense when paired with the belief in all powerful, individual Gods who could do whatever they wanted on their own. So I became an Extreme Polytheist. I came to believe that Athena and Nike are two separate Deities who, at times, come together for a common goal, but who can also separate and go about their own way with other things. To my mind, there is no Divinity whatsoever who isn't their own independent Being. In some cases, I may be a minority within a minority, but it has greatly broadened my relationships with the Divine.

Although, I'm sure I'm not the only one out there with this perspective, but if we're looking for an official name for our theology (and I do think it needs its own identification), why not Extreme Polytheism?

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.