Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Monday, September 19, 2022

Defeat Bad Spirits & Negativity Like An Ancient Greek


The strife of a positive life is real for everyone, and I would say especially for Pagans and Polytheists because they understand both their own and the universe's contribution to the factor. I know from experience that the way you live, think, speak and act will determine your quality of life. Since 2009, I have worked to build a Hellenic practice of piety and purity both for myself and in my own temple's rites.

Purification Processes
Being free of impurity physically, mentally and spiritually, is to banish and keep miasma from our minds, bodies and souls, and relieve our everyday lives from the toxicities that so often impede human prosperity and separate us from the Gods. Let's begin with the mind. This is of the utmost value to your life and physicality, for without the mind, the body is nothing, and it's proven science that your thoughts, mentality and state of mind will effect your body and life for the better or worse. Your brain soaks up everything it comes into contact with. Therefore, it's imperative that you only expose it to positive things as much as possible. Make a daily, conscious effort to ignore all willful negativity. This can be very hard because modern news and media have conditioned us to depend on alarmism. We have been so programmed that we actually think we need negative outlets to survive and remain informed. We don't. If you must watch news, I would suggest your local station. They're not as bad. But as the saying goes, if it doesn't invoke goodness, let it go. I'm not saying ignorance is bliss, I'm just saying that I have survived the end of the world since Y2K. There is no better way to captivate an audience. Shock value sells like hotcakes. Therefore, turn it off, forever. Also refrain from associating with negative people, and finally but equally important, guard against your own negativity.

Moving on to the body, which is purely physical purification. If you defile yourself or expose yourself to filth and harmful substances, it will create pollution. Take a bath or shower every day (you'll feel the difference), put on clean clothes, and don't be exposed to unnecessary impurities. The body can be purified of miasma through washing with purified water, spring water, or seawater/sea salt water. If you encounter an extreme situation such as coming into contact with a dead human body, you'll need sulfur, and a good scrubbing with lava soap should clear that up. On a more basic level, a good diet and regular exercise are exceptionally terrific for maintaining a healthy body and mind. Not only were ancient Greeks very athletic people, Games were religious events, and while there was no 2nd or 3rd place, every athlete was strong and benefited from the training.

Finally, we come to the soul. Not only are our spiritual selves kept pure by our connections to the Gods, but piety as well maintains spiritual stability and strength. Piety is not only found in doing rites properly, but in thinking and speaking rightly. That is to say, respecting the Gods and Higher Powers. I was once visiting a couple of friends, and while on the topic of ancient Greece, they for some reason decided to start talking badly about the Gods. I kindly got up and left, not only because I didn't want to be around hubris, but because I could feel the pollution and negativity building in the room. Simply put, be a devotee, not a defacer.

Purifying Sickness
We all get sick, whether it be a simple cold or a more serious infection. Once you have recovered, throw away the clothes you wore while sick, wash your body in seawater or sea salt water, and rinse with spring or purified water. End with a prayer and sacrifice to Apollon, God of healing and purification. If you have a disease that cannot be cured, just be sure to always maintain it as best you can. If you're given medications, take them. If your doctors tell you to do something, do it, for they too are servants of Apollon.

Securing Your Home (Hearth Rite of Hellas)
Your home is one of the most valuable places, which is why I spent years performing and perfecting this rite without ever having a single failure.

Take a bowl of clean water and mix it with sea salt. This rite works best with either seawater or water mixed with sea salt.

Light the flame of your home's hearth, which for most people today would be the stove. If you have an electric stove that does not produce an actual flame, put a lit candle in the center during the rite. If you have a fireplace, even better. Make a fire there.

Light a cone of frankincense to Hestia, which is also a cleansing element, and then invoke Her. "Blessed Hestia, Goddess of the home and hearth, I pray that you will shine forth in my home and life today and grant me peace and love, and lift me into the presence of The Dodekatheon, that I may know their mysteries, powers and wisdom."

Take the bowl of water and hold it over the hearth with the following prayer, "Lord Apollon, God of light, and mighty Poseidon, God of the sea, I ask that you bless this water, to drive out evil and negativity from all it touches, and shake loose the bonds they have on this home."

Pour a libation to the two Gods. Take the bowl of water into every room of the house and sprinkle it on every wall, floor and ceiling (don't forget closets). When done, pour the water outside. 

Pour a libation to Hygeia. Take a stick of white sage and light it. Once again, go into every room and draw a pentagram, starting from the bottom left, and each time you draw it, recite the words, "I draw the Star of Hygeia, to banish from this place all evil and ill." Hygeia is the Goddess of physical and mental health and protection, and Her symbol all the way back to ancient times is the five pointed star, but not the pentacle. Draw the star toward every wall, each time reciting the invocation.

End the rite with a final prayer to Hestia. "I bring my holy and sacred rite to a close with a prayer to Hestia, for She is first and last. Home of the blessed Gods, be with me forever." This rite can be used to dispel anything in the home that is hostile to the people there, whether it be simple energy or a bad spirit.
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These simple measures and rites will help you in your daily life as a Hellenist.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

The Pythia Was An Oracle, Not A Psychic


In Delphi I shall build my rich temple to be an oracle for man, and her words shall never fail. 
- Apollon.

Her words were just that, amazingly accurate and wise, and she made Delphi the religious and cultural center of the ancient world. Even today, people still come from all over the globe to see the ruins of the sanctuary, where they continue to discuss ideas, beliefs, history and current affairs from their homelands. Delphi always serves its general purpose no matter how long the site has remained abandoned. It's no wonder that it's considered a world heritage location. But I also think the role of the Pythia, and indeed that of the Greek oracle in general, has been misunderstood by modern man, and sometimes even by ancient man.

Ancient Greek religious historians know well the story of King Croesus of Lydia in Asia Minor and his consultation with the Pythia. Planning an invasion in the East, he asked if he would defeat the Persian Empire. The Pythia responded by saying that if he invaded, he would destroy a great empire. He didn't realize, however, that it would be his own. But the bigger picture is that ancient Greek historians and probably the priests of Delphi thought his question to be very odd, in that Croesus clearly did not understand the purpose of a Greek oracle. She was not there to predict the future.

She was a counselor to mankind, blessed by Apollon to give the best advice possible. She was suited to tell people the best courses of action, or which God to appease, in a given cirumstance. For example, one of my favorite oracular responses in Delphic history has to do with the Persian Wars in 480 BCE. When the Persians began the invasion of northern Greece, the Pythia told the Delphians to pray to the Winds, because they would be Greece's strongest allies. Soon after, a very violent storm gathered in the north and sunk or beached atleast 20% of the Persian fleet, while the Greek ships remained untouched. This is factually recorded. The Pythia did not predict the future here, she told the Greeks where their greatest allies were.

As the oracle of my temple, my wife is pretty much the same way. Even when I myself have asked her questions, she has always responded with advice, not predictions, and yet that advice can still secure a great outcome because it comes from a God. Apollon does not attempt to dictate or live our lives for us. He wants us to think, grow and become the best we can be.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sources
Scott, Michael, Delphi A History of the Center of the Ancient World, Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 2014.

Stagman, Myron, 100 Prophecies of the Delphic Oracle, Prophetic Advice from the God Apollo, City-State Press, 1999.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Why Don't The Gods Talk To Us Like People Do?


The Gods have spoken to common man in many different ways down through the Ages, sometimes in forms contained in mystery. Even today, each individual can have their own unique way in which the Gods convey messages to them, and that particular method is appropriate for, and best understood by, that person. For me personally, the Gods normally respond to my prayers with answers that effect my emotions. For example, let's say I ask Athena for help in a legal matter (which thankfully I've only had to do once), or I pray to Hera for marriage counseling. They will answer by giving me a total bodily feeling. If things are going to be okay, to put it shortly, their presence will feel peaceful, happy, and relieving. Fortunately, I've never had a prayer answered to the contrary, at least not that I can recall at this time. When the Gods turn their attention to you, your mind and body feel it. 

The Gods spoke to ancient man much in the same way they speak to us today, through signs, omens, dreams, emotions, seers and oracles, each one possibly becoming a little more direct than the previous. If you know anything about the Oracle of Delphi, Apollon spoke through the voice of His Pythia to give advice to mankind, but even then it was very short and often encrypted (He likes to give us things to figure out for ourselves. He doesn't attempt to make our choices or live our lives for us). We may wonder why all this is the case. Certainly the Gods can do whatever they want, yet they do not stand before us and talk to us like our friends and family do on a daily basis. Why do they prefer natural, mental, emotional and spiritual communications? I start these kinds of discussions by saying that I am wise because I know that I don't have the answer. So that leaves us with philosophy and examination of the possibilities.

I would first entertain the idea that the Gods are indeed, or at least can be, directly around us, but we cannot generally see them because our eyes are not adjusted to the plane upon which they live. We know there is a reasonable possibility that other universes exist parallel to our own, yet we cannot see them in our bodily form (although some Gods, such as Helios the Sun and Selene the Moon, are exceptions, but they still don't come down and talk to us). Even in the universe we can perceive, there are signals, waves and lifeforms all around us at this very moment that our eyes cannot elevate or descend to. Nevertheless, these invisible things still have an impact on our universe, our world, and our lives. We can't see the forces moving things along, but they still do. We can't see all that exists, but they remain all the same. And if there are things we cannot see because our perception is limited, then certainly there are also things we cannot hear because of that shortcoming. Is it generally possible that we simply cannot see or hear the Gods with our mere physicality? If so, it may be why the Gods communicate with us through sights and sounds that we can perceive, or at least perceive more easily. 

Of course, the Gods can and have fully formed to people in the past, or have shown themselves to humans. There are always exceptions when the need has risen, but that's not normally how they interact with us on a regular basis.

The second possibility is that the Gods enjoy giving us a textbook of universal answers that we can always live by. For instance, "When you see me send the wind that way, when you see me make the animals do this, when you hear that sound, when you dream about that, when you feel that emotion, that's how you know." The Gods can speak to all of mankind in forms that are ultimate. In many ways, we've already come to understand and accept universal signs. We know to get inside when the clouds turn black, to plant only when we see the soil is fertile, and to listen to our instincts about other people and places. 

Additionally, some may even believe that it's not possible for our mortal bodies to stand in the full presence of a God, citing the version of the story of Zeus and Semele when Zeus reluctantly killed Semele because She was unable to withstand His radiance. I don't believe this, because it would be to say that the Gods can't contain themselves. But of course, I also admit that I know nothing as well. 

Finally, I'd say it's possible that the Gods don't usually come to us on our level because, unlike our friends and family, we are not their equals, nor do the Gods exist for our purposes. They answer our prayers, protect us, give us blessings and advice, and keep order in the universe, but they're not our coworkers or office party. Their positions are extremely sacred, royal, and hold responsibilities that we could not even begin to fathom. I delight in the simple fact that the Gods like, love and are intrigued enough by humans to give us as much of their blessings as possible.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Hellenism Lost Is Honor Lost


During the last few years, part of my Hellenic studies has been the examination of modern Greece and its people (who are predominately Orthodox Christians). In any case, most Greeks today are not Hellenists, and there is no debate whatsoever that ancient Hellas was far stronger, far more prosperous, and far more successful in government and economics. But on a personal level, I have also routinely noticed the decline in human character.

I was talking with a friend and fellow Hellenist who actually lives in Greece today, and I happened to ask if there are any ancient cemeteries still standing. It's a part of history and archaeology that I find very intriguing as you can learn a lot about a person, their family and community. For me, there's just some kind of unexplainable mystique to it all. I ask myself, who was this person and how did they live and die? I remember when I visited Lincoln's Tomb in Springfield, Illinois. Standing before the burial chamber where Lincoln's remains rested just a few feet beneath me, not only did I ponder the president's life and times, but thought that if I could see the bones today, Lincoln's skull would still have the hole from the assassination. I know it may sound morbid, but to me it's simply a fascinating idea to be in the presence of such relics.

So when my Hellenic friend responded to my question by saying that, yes, indeed there are some ancient burials still visible, but people have littered them because they don't care, it saddened me at how far the culture has fallen. I secondly remembered a few years ago when I saw images of a ruined temple of Aphrodite in between two apartment buildings that was also covered in trash. 

In ancient times, people wouldn't have dared to desecrate a temple or a cemetery. Not only because they feared Divine punishment, but because it was simply wretched. People had real honor, character and respect in the old times. To the ancient Hellenes, not only were graves considered to be active places of the deceased, but each year in Athens they would hold days of honor called Genesia, starting on September 5th, during which time they would adorn graves and give an abundance of food, drink and sacrifice to the dead. They even believed that during the festive days in discussion, the spirits of the deceased would return to visit the Polis. To show any kind of disrespect toward places of burial would have been unimaginable to say the least.

But when humans lost the honor and dignity that Hellenism brought to the Hellenic people, they also lost their sense of sacredness, even of their own personal human life and behavior. It is this loss of the spiritual world and of the physical self that has greatly aided in the decline of Hellas and her people. I'm not saying that only Hellenists are honorable, but it clearly brought a world of difference to the Greeks that they no longer have, and their culture has paid the greatest of prices.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Source - Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, Harvard University Press/Blackwell Publishing, Malden, MA, 1985.

Monday, July 11, 2022

A Hero, The Love of A God, and Hyacinth Hysteria


Long before the Hellenes invaded Troy, a cult center stood in Mycenaean Hellas between 1750 and 1050 BCE, southwest of Sparta in a City called Amyclae. The burial mound that allegedly held the remains of the Hero rested beneath a statue of Apollon Himself. The Hero was Hyacinthos, or as we've come to call Him today, Hyacinth. His story has circulated around the world as one of the most beautiful myths, but has also stirred debate over the nature of the tale. Who was He exactly, and what are the real details of His amazing yet short life?

Hyacinth was a Spartan Prince of exceptional handsomeness and became loved by the God Apollon. They played together and the story goes on to say that He was a lover of the God, but Hyacinth was also sought after by Zephyrus and Boreas, the Gods of the West and North winds, and no doubt mortal pursuers as well. However, Hyacinth only wanted to be with Apollon. Some versions say that Zephyrus orchestrated the young man's death out of jealousy by causing a discus He was throwing to fatally wound Him in the head. Other versions paint the event as entirely accidental. In His memory, Apollon took the blood of His slain friend and created the Hyacinth flower, and it of course became sacred to Apollon. The story even goes on to say that Apollon eventually resurrected Hyacinth in some fashion, because later Spartan depictions of the youth show Him with a beard in heaven. Today, Hellenists such as myself still hold Hyacinthos in their theology and spirituality, where He is both a Hero and a God.

Some mythologists and readers of today raise an eyebrow at the tale because they interpret it to be one of pedophilia or immoral attraction, but I would argue completely differently. 

We must first remember that, not only is the age of consent younger in every culture with shorter life expectancy, but the story simply says that Hyacinth was a youth or young man; it does not say how old He was. This becomes interesting when examining Spartan and ancient Hellenic culture in general, because reaching adulthood wasn't an age as much as it was an achievement or milestone after completing the City's rites of passage. For the Spartan, one would only become a man and gain citizenship after he passed the Agoge, a 13 year training period that started at age 7 and ended at 20, which is about the time a man grows his beard. In Homer, whose writings deal entirely with Mycenaean culture, Telemachus also becomes a man once his beard has grown in. This means that in ancient Sparta, someone who was 18, 19, or even 20 but not yet graduated and bearded, might conceivably have been considered a youth or young man. Adulthood was a title that was earned, not merely the attainment of an age in and of itself. In conclusion, it's entirely possible that Hyacinth was an adult man by our modern standards, but not yet by that of His culture.

Of course, all of the aging information is only one part of the equation that we can use to theorize and create questions. The other part has to do with the connection between the God and youth itself. Love was very much an umbrella term. The ancient Hellenes had 8 different kinds of love, not just sexual, and they were all powerful and valuable. These 8 kinds of love were sexual, friendship, playful, humanitarian, longstanding, self, familial, and obsessive. The Hellenes understood that in addition to romantic partners, love manifested in many different ways, which is how a polytheist should see it. 

There was love between friends, playful and flirtatious love between individuals, love of the human race, matured love, love of self, love between family members, and obsessive love - such as being so in love with someone they are always part of you or always on your mind. It's not necessarily an unhealthy love. 

For a couple of examples, I fantasize about my wife all the time. I'm simply fascinated by her and want to know everything about her life. The Hellenes would definitely say that I have an obsessive love among others. After high school, I had a best friend I always hung out with, and we did everything together for about 5 years. We even went to the movies and slept over at each other's houses. I loved him, but it was not sexual, it was friendship love. 

So what was the nature of the love between Apollon and Hyacinth? It could have been many things, and I think we today would be foolish to think the ancient cultures were the equivalent of our own. Hellenic religion is beautiful and full of wisdom and knowledge, but it can also hold things that are greatly mysterious, and for us to think about throughout our lives.

In Hellenic spirituality, Hyacinthos can be prayed to for prophecy, music, hunting, sporting, and of course for a strong connection to Apollon. His patronages probably include hunters, athletes, musicians and oracles. In other attributes, He is also a Vegetation God of rebirth and renewal. Good offerings and gifts to Him would be the Hyacinth flower, sunflowers, lyres and music.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Animals Do Have Religion


It's a common assumption that no other animal, except humans, has religion. Of course, there are many things wrong with this analysis. For one, animals cannot talk to us and there is no machine that can read minds. So we have no way of knowing if other beings have religion or spirituality in any form. Second, religion is an incredibly broad term. Some people today even think it only applies to Christianity or other monotheisms, when the fact is that the term encompasses anything that is a formation centered around the belief in and veneration of Higher Powers. There is no requirement for a holy book, a church, or even a congregation. So, with that being the case, do other animals have religion?

Yes, they absolutely do. Let's begin with the elephant, which is one of the most intelligent non-human beings on the planet. The average person probably has no idea that these animals worship the moon, as they have been observed waving branches at the waxing cycle. They also take ritual baths in the moonlight when it's full, and they will bury their dead with food and flowers (a common practice among ancient humans to accompany the deceased into the afterlife). Not only that, but elephants also show additional veneration for the sun and stars. Chimps have been seen dancing at the onset of storms and at water sources, that can only be interpreted as ritualistic or religious behavior, and when a member of their community dies, their funerary customs are nearly identical to that of humans, which include silence, corpse preparation, and visitation. It appears that the more intelligent a species is, the more likely they are to believe in or venerate Higher Powers.

Generally speaking, I have always been perplexed at the assertion that non-human beings don't have religion, because have you ever asked them? Has your household pet ever told you that they don't believe in Gods? Has anyone taken mindreading surveys from birds, deer and foxes? Exactly how do we know how other beings see the world and their own lives? Religion is expressed in the ways that a given devotee can present it. Dogs, for example, cannot talk, so naturally they cannot verbally pray. They also cannot build anything notable, so of course they don't have temples or churches. If they were to express religion, the manner would likely be something completely alien to us. We simply would not recognize it. With most other animals, it is simply not possible to measure the religious or spiritual, and it is therefore foolhardy to draw ultimate conclusions.

Lastly, in the broader picture, I don't see why it would matter even if no other animal had religion. There are lots of things that only humans do or can do. We're the only ones who wear clothes, have cars, TVs, computers, nations, flags, armies, books, medicine and science to name a few, but that hardly means that those things are false or invalid. Perhaps is it precisely because we are the most intelligent that we can experience the Gods the most.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_behavior_in_animals

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Depression Relief Proves Divinity


Religious people tend to be less depressed than non-religious. This is not an opinion, but the fact of 61% to 67% of studies on the subject. It's been something long thought to be true. While there are always exceptions to every rule, the over all reality is that people who are religious and spiritual tend to have better mental health, which you would think shatters the idea that religion is a "mental illness," as some non-religious people ridiculously claim. The bigger picture is that this is hard evidence that Divinity exists. Why? For the simple fact that depression is a real condition, a chemical imbalance, and thus, it's not something that you can "believe" away. In order for the affliction to be conquered or controlled, order and balance must be restored. So what do religious people have in this case that non-religious do not? The presence of Gods and ascension inside and around them.

All that is Divine can do good for the human condition. Take the Sun for instance, which was and still is a God to certain people and groups. The Sun's light and rays have proven healing powers (Apollon being God of the sun and healing). The light can as well push depression out of the mind and even heal infants of jaundice. The Sun saves the babies from permanent brain damage and death caused by this affliction. Again, jaundice is not something you can "believe" away. The Gods are literally staring us right in the face if we would simply open our eyes and look. Higher Powers are obvious.

Being someone who has battled severe depression and severe anxiety disorder in his own life since I was a teenager, I can attest to the power of the Gods in confronting the conditions. The medicine provided by the Gods and my doctors also helped a great deal (as they were meant to), but without the Gods themselves I feel I would have simply been soiling the problem. The Gods are the ones who lift our minds to a higher plane. Our lives become unbothered, at least in my experience, by the typical obstacles of mundane life. When I walk into my temple, all my troubles leave my mind. When I sit in the hot rays of the Sun, it's as if nothing else matters, an overwhelming sense of good, love and security takes over.

Perhaps this observation has been with us even as far back as ancient Greece, when Homer wrote, "Those who depart from the Gods, I find to be in wanting."

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Christianity Trembles Before The Pythia


For over a thousand years, the Oracle of Delphi gave the counsel of Apollon to the ancient Hellenic world. She was not, by any means, the only Oracle around. But she was, without a doubt, the most loved and revered. Fortunately today, centuries after she vanished, we still have records of the amazingly accurate words and sound advice she gave to mortals.

When her time came to an end during the rising Christian era takeover, allegations and legends came to surround the event. Some claim she was murdered by the Christian invasion. This could be a likely case, as we know that the Christian Emperor Theodosius the First ordered the temples closed, Games stopped, and the old religions outlawed. Considering that we know for a fact that the early Christians spilled seas of Pagan blood, it's not a farfetched idea that the Pythia (Oracle of Delphi) defended her temple and was killed. We know the murders happened and that Christian leaders and emperors ordered the attacks. Specifically considering people like the Pythia and Hypatia of Alexandria, we as well know the early Christians hated nothing more than a powerful woman. What remained of Delphi's wealth and treasures then faced certain destruction and looting. Another mystery is where her body, and those of the past Oracles, were buried. But if the last Oracle faced a mob of zealots, they destroyed her body, and if they knew the location of the graves or tombs of the women who preceded her, they destroyed and looted them.

If this account of the final Pythia is true, so could be her alleged final prophecy that she gave to her killers before they took her life, saying that the Christians would lose in the end. Specifically, "One day Apollon will return and He will stay." More broadly, we might interpret this to mean that the old religion cannot be kept oppressed for long, nor can the Gods be defeated, and that it's only a matter of time before they regain their rightful places. If she did make such a prediction, it needs to be added to her list of accuracies.

In our time, Christianity continues to significantly decline, both in America and around the world. In fact, it's always had trouble keeping power, largely relying on the force of government for most of its existence. But the more freedom of religion has spread, the greater their loss in numbers. In the United States, Christians make up 65% of the population, which is a 13% drop from just ten years ago. In truth, this is nothing new, as Christian numbers in America have been continuously falling for the last three decades. Catholicism, the largest Christian religion, has suffered a worldwide drop of two million in just the last three years. If the trend continues, American Christians will be a minority by the year 2042 at the latest, with Christianity itself becoming one of the fastest declining religions on the planet. In short, Christianity is losing power amazingly fast.

Meanwhile, non-Christians religions continue to grow. The old religions, Hellenism among them, even gaining enough foot in Greece again that the Christian government recognized them as an official religion once more. Polytheism and Paganism are among the fastest growing, or more accurately, fastest returning religions in the world. The last prophecy of the Pythia has come true.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The Cave From The Common

To look at some of the gorgeous and breathtaking caves of the world, it's not hard to see why they were sometimes used as sanctuaries of Gods. We can find ourselves feeling as though we are entering another world, leaving our own realm for an entirely new one, that even separates us from our past. In ancient Greece, I don't think this revelation changed much in the minds of worshipers, for they used these beautiful caverns to connect with the Divine world. Of course, they also built amazing temples and outdoor sanctuaries, but it appears that the Hellenic mind believed there were many ways to find the Gods. I also share that worldview. In fact, when I built my Elizabethan Sanctuary of Artemis back in 2016 when I lived in Elizabeth, Illinois, I chose to construct it within a solid, enclosed area on all sides except the entrance. It was the closest I could come to a cave-like structure on my property. It also seemed to give the precinct great protection from the elements. 

On the Akropolis in Athens where Athena's grand Parthenon stood, simple cave sanctuaries could also be found on the cliffs. Zeus, Apollon and Pan all have such precincts there. But when we look deeper into the structures of caves, whether simple or elaborate, their many functions for religious purposes are revealed. You don't really have to build anything because the structure is already there by nature, the inside provides a cooling from the summer heat that would have especially been sought in a Mediterranean summer, some caves have their own water sources that might be used for purification or even drinking, and it's easy to store offerings, gifts and religious objects in safe and hidden places. There's simply just an otherworldly feeling about these majestic parts of the Earth, that by going into Gaia, we can find ourselves and our links with the universe.

I myself personally prefer a temple or built sanctuary, but all my life, I have found so much peace and wonder in the natural world. As a child and teenager, the forests of North Carolina were my running grounds. My late grandfather would even take me to the next City and its nature preserve to see Boone's Cave. I found it as mysterious, intriguing and even scary as the myths he would tell me about it. The inner workings of the Earth have become part of the human experience, religious or not. They remain as some inherent presence of our being.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Is Giant DNA Still With Us Today?

Robert Wadlow and His Father, before 1937

As far back as ancient Greece herself, there have been stories of giants who walked the Earth, made trouble for smaller people, and even unsuccessfully warred against the Gods. While people today scoff at the idea as a mere fairytale or a story invented to make kids go to bed, I've taken time to do my own brainstorming as a mythologist on the topic, and I have developed a theory to present. Generally put, the stories of giants are not false, incorrect or misinterpreted.

Let's begin by examining the average height of an ancient Greek male, which was 5'7". Even today in America, that has only increased by 2 inches. Six footers and above like myself, are not the norm. However, we also know that there have been extremely rare cases of people who have grown to extraordinary size and height, such as Andre the Giant and Robert Wadlow, Andre being 7'4" and Wadlow 8'11", and from my own state of Illinois. 

These incredibly large people achieve their status not through a fairytale, but hard genetics. Both men had what is called gigantism, which is the result of abnormal or very overactive hormones and glands. And here's the kicker about Wadlow; at the time of his death, they could not conclude that he had reached his maximum growth. That's right, it is possible that he could have gotten even bigger. He also possessed amazing strength, perhaps the kind that would have been used to help build what we know as the Cyclopean Walls.

An average person looking up at these colossal people would certainly think of them as what they literally are, giants. Because these conditions of great size are science, what if it is, in fact, the rare DNA of ancient giants, that continues to sometimes be handed down through the human line? People today think of giants as those who reach to the clouds, and are even monsters, but that doesn't have to be the case. To me, there is no question as to whether giants existed. We have seen them with our very eyes.

Our ancient past isn't as distant as we have been led to believe, nor are the old stores as far fetched as we have been taught by the modern education system.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Sources: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Wadlow

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Fire Didn't Raise No Fool

Prometheus gave humans fire in order to advance our minds, that is what the ancient Greeks believed. Humans were made last, and there was nothing left to give us in the way of natural weapons or abilities, and so the Gods gave us an amazing mind, that we could be superior to all the animals around us. The beginning of that development was the gift of fire that the Titan blessed us with. While most people of our modern Age may think nothing of the story outside of a cultural worldview long passed, science proves that it's actually true. As with mostly all the Myths, our educational system of today leads us to discount rather than examine them.

Prehistoric man did indeed have fire, and we now know that because they had fire and were able to cook with it, the human brain grew. Because of the fact that food became more digestible, far more nutrients went into the body as opposed to earlier primates who couldn't use the tool. In short, it is a literal fact that the gift of fire advanced the human mind. In the broader view of humanity, it literally gave a rocket boost to human evolution itself. Fire later became used in sacrifices and was considered a sign of the presence of a God. Fire, when big enough, would also keep nightly predators away, and so it became known as that which drives away evil. 

Of course, the ancient Greeks had no knowledge of this prehistoric and modern science, so how did they know? Who told them? The Higher Powers and Intelligences of the universe, whom all humans have an inherent connection and quest for because of schema, created that realization. Simply put, the Gods told them. Today we are often raised and trained to be afraid of fire. I remember when I was growing up, just lighting a stove scared or made me very nervous. We should most certainly be careful with it, because after all, it did come from Powers beyond our control, but I think that the more we grow accustomed to the natural world and our natural selves, we understand the Divinity and wonderfulness of it all. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Holy War That Shook Ancient Greece To The Core

As we saw in the First Sacred War, the victory of the League of Delphi resulted in the destruction of the town occupying its harbor and the restoration of Apollon's Temple. Delphi had won her first holy conflict, but it would be only the beginning of religious and economic fights over the center of the Greek world. 

Athens has always taken powerful and pivotal roles in ancient Greek history, and even today they hold tremendous influence as the capital of modern Greece and the most populated City of the nation. Although, we must remember that in ancient times, Greece or Hellas was not a unified land. Each City State had its own government, laws and religious observances. In the decade of the 440s BCE, the imperial power of the City of Athens began to flex its muscle into central Greece, and the fact that Delphi was there did not go unnoticed, neither by Athens or its biggest rival City, Sparta.

Not only had Athens spent a lot of time, money and effort dominating the Delphic sanctuary with their own dedications and even a treasury whose ruins still stand today, but Athens also started to control and influence all the areas around or within proximity of Delphi, and the people who would strike this match were the Phocians. Phocis was a central region of Greece in which Delphi resided, and the people wanted to incorporate it into their jurisdiction, probably not only because of the influence it held over the Greek world, but the immense amount of wealth that was accumulating there. But it appeared as though the Phocians were not strong enough to do it on their own. They managed to enlist the powerful aid of Athens in removing the independence of Delphi.

Sparta had frequently consulted the Oracle of Delphi and had begun establishing their presence in the sanctuary. They did not like the fact that Athens was literally the master of the Temple and the City, so they decided to send troops to overthrow the Phocian control and return Delphi to its full independent state in 449 BCE. Sparta succeeded and Delphi was again ruled by Delphi alone, which the people of the City and Temple were extremely grateful for. They even erected dedications to the Spartans for their liberty. 

However, the victory was brief. Two years after the Spartans left, Athens sent its troops under the command of Perikles and restored Phocian rule, establishing a tug of war in central Greece. But by 445 BCE, independence was again won by Delphi, noting the fact that Athens had to eventually turn its attention fully to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War by 431. Athens, at that point, simply did not have the time or power to keep Delphi locked, and would end up losing the war to Sparta after nearly 30 years of brutal fighting. Further conflict would not return to the City of Delphi for around 100 years later, what would come to be known as the Third Sacred War. For the time being, Delphi would once again remain a free State.

Read my post on the First Sacred War here. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Sources

Scott, Michael, Delphi, A History of the Center of the Ancient World, Princeton Publishing, 2014.

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.

Note To The Reader
Thank you so much for taking time to read my latest writing. Without your viewership, my site would have no purpose. The upper right side column of the site holds some of my best books if you wish to read more of my materials. Thank you again, because while Polytheism and Paganism are growing religions, we are still a minority, and Hellenism is a minority within that minority. Your readership and financial support makes it possible for Hellenists like me to continue helping and representing our religious community and likeminded people. To this day, I have published over 300 posts on history, myth and religious practice for our people. If you have already read all of my books, you may send a donation to my PayPal address at chriswaynealdridge@gmail.com. May the Gods smile on you.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Massachusetts School Bans Odyssey Because Of "Sexism and Hate," Proving How Little They Actually Know About It


The declining intellect of some members of the human race never surprises me in this day and age. A Massachusetts school has actually banned The Odyssey because it teaches "sexism, racism, ableism, antisemitism, and violence." Good Gods, I don't even know where to start, but I'll try, because I'm a Hellenist of 10 years who has actually read the works of Homer and studies ancient Greek religion and civilization. The first thing these historically illiterate people need to understand is that Homer was not merely a Poet to the ancients, He was history. To them, He was simply reciting things that had happened long ago, not advocating a political or social position. It would be like accusing someone who writes a US history book of being sexist, racist, or whatever it may be. 

Claim 1: The Odyssey is sexist. 

False. The Odyssey holds Goddesses and mortal women to some of the highest levels of honor, power, virtue, wisdom and nobility. Without Athena, Odysseus and His son would not have been safe from the suitors. In the beginning, Athena even makes a plea for Odysseus to Zeus, showing how valuable it was to have the favor of female Divinity. If it hadn't been for Penelope's persistence and dedication, Ithaca might have been lost. Without Nausicca, Odysseus may have died before even reaching home. Or perhaps you might think the story is somehow sexist because men at times encounter female opponents or villains. But this is a huge fallacy, especially considering that there are many female Heroes, and male villains as well such as the Cyclops and the suitors who are depicted with great disgrace. At this point, you're finding sexism only because you desire to.

Claim 2: The Odyssey is racist.

Have you ever even read the first book? At the beginning of the story, Poseidon is away delighting with the Ethiopians, a race different than that of the Greeks. So let's put this into perspective. One of the greatest Gods of the caucasian Greeks leaves Greece to go feast and celebrate with the black Ethiopians, and this is supposed to signal racism. In what reality? Odysseus travels to many foreign lands of people different than the Greeks, where He often receives their aid and protection. Sometimes, people in The Odyssey even sacrifice to foreign Gods when they are in foreign lands to gain divine favor outside of their own culture.

Claim 3: The Odyssey supports ableism. 

What shall we say of the idea that abled people are more favored than disabled people in The Odyssey? I would imagine it thinks disabled people can be very capable, since at the end, Odysseus, in the form of an elderly wobbling man, outdid and defeated the younger, stronger suitors in the bow contest, and then killed them all. So the allegation that The Odyssey "doesn't like disabled people," is an invention at worst, and out of context at best.

Claim 4: The Odyssey is Antisemitic. 

The largest culture closest to the Jewish people in The Odyssey would be the Phoenicians, who were a semitic speaking people. While they resided in Israeli territory, they in fact had trade and influence all over the Mediterranean. Hardly something you would expect from people who were allegedly hated by the Mediterranean at the time, but there is something vastly important to consider. They were not enemies of Odysseus. They were friendly, helpful and essential to Odysseus completing His journey. In fact, in Book 8, Odysseus blesses them by saying, "The Gods shower down their grace upon these people, so that no evil dwell among them forever."  Odysseus bears no ill will toward the Phoenicians, but in fact is grateful for their presence. Some might even argue that the Phoenicians would not qualify as Jewish people, since their king Alcinous prayed to a Greek God after the blessing of Odysseus was given and encouraged his people to do the same: "Herald, stir the mixing bowl and carry drink to the entire hall, that our dispatching the stranger to his land may be with prayer to Zeus the Father."

The antisemitism that's allegedly in the story was, in fact, pulled out of someone's butt in the year 2020 and placed there. If anyone can locate a section in The Odyssey that is blatantly antisemitic, please post it in the comment section and we will examine it. 

Claim 5: The Odyssey is violent.

Violence is part of the nature of the universe, and part of human nature when necessary. Get over it. Sometimes violence is needed to create, build and preserve. You think the Earth came into being peacefully? You think there were no violent events? What of the United States that gives you the freedom to speak against literature you dislike? You think we maintained our way of life through campfire songs? Get real. Teaching children that there's no such thing as violence is to make them ill-prepared for the real world. It may be unfortunate, but sometimes violence is necessary. On a side note, you know other books and stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, that are violent? Harry Potter, but even with the immense violence and the clear transphobic attitude of JK Rowling, I bet they are still on the shelves of every public school library. 

In conclusion, yes, it is true that in parts of ancient Greece (not all), women were not equal to men. Although they were highly revered and privileged in Sparta, a kingdom which also appears in The Odyssey. But it's also true that women were not equal to men for most of American history as well. So are you going to ban US history books? And what of the violence? You'll have to ban US history for that as well. 

Disabled people in ancient Greece, unlike in other parts of the known world, could become valuable members of society, such as Seers. Some cultures, notably the Abrahamics, wouldn't even let disabled or deformed people sacrifice in their temples or at their altars because of their disabilites or deformities. The Greeks weren't that ignorant. And as said before, the Greeks routinely interacted with the many races and cultures around them. They traded with them, learned from them, and made friendships and alliances. This is not the conduct of racism or antisemitism. 

There is not, nor ever will be, such a thing as a perfect history, culture or people. You're going to end up banning every book known to humankind. The point of history is to learn, but this is the blatant erasing of it.

Update - Apparently the book hasn't actually been banned, there has simply been discussion of it, but nonetheless, it was strong enough to create news headlines, and accusations that should be addressed. 1/5/2021.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

Chris Aldridge.

Work Cited: The Odyssey, translated by Laurence of Arabia aka T.E. Shaw.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Preordained Death: Feelings of Fate

The ancient Greeks, to a good extent, believed in Fate, as is evident in their mythologies and religious beliefs. Homer, the ancient Greek Poet, once said that no one can send Him into the Underworld until it is His time, but that when it is His time, nothing can stop it either. So the question begs, are our lives preordained in the sense that we have a time to live and a time to die? I talked with my wife about this idea briefly last night. I myself have always believed the words of Homer concerning the situation, but through philosophy, I think I have been forced to add something onto it.

I do think that most people will not die until it is their time. How many brushes with death have people had and missed it? There are lots of people in the world today who should be dead, but they're not. So it's clear that there was an aversion to the end of their lives at that point. However, we must also consider another fact. Nature always has anomalies. So when we ask ourselves, can someone die before their time? In some cases, the answer would have to be yes. Because if people couldn't die before their time, the Gods would not acknowledge such a thing as murder. A human life could not be taken unjustly if no one died until their time. So the fact that the opposite is true, shows that not everyone will make it to their destined time, whether it be because of murder or a natural cause of death. However, I do not think that's the norm. I think the vast majority of us will not die until our time, or for that matter, experience anything we are not supposed to.

But at the end of the day, I know the Gods are good, and along with Homer's words, I live my life in a state of comfort.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ceres V. Jesus In Missouri: Outcry Over Capitol Dome Statue

A statue of Ceres, the Roman Goddess of agriculture, is set to take place atop the capitol dome in Missouri, and this has drawn outcry from a conservative representative, Mike Moon, who has asked the governor to stop it from happening, citing the argument that if he were to put a statue of Jesus in the same place, there would be great opposition. As someone who is a strong servant of the old Gods (Greek), and also who believes in the separation of church and state, I thought I would give my outlook on this controversial matter, as I do not think there is really a comparison between a statue of Ceres and the theocratic dictation that many Christian representatives wish to institute among the American people.

In my religion, Demeter would be the equivalent of Ceres, and indeed, She has many similarities to Ceres in the Roman Polytheistic culture. So should the statue of Ceres return to the capitol dome? Well, for one, I think the representative who attacked the statue is severely misguided. If he put a statue of Jesus up there, we all know it would be with the intent to impose Christianity on the state of Missouri, and he proves this by citing the bible, calling Ceres a "false god," and further stating that Missouri has "no need for any other gods." Clearly, he doesn't think any religion is valid except his own, and has absolutely no respect for any other culture. Therefore, for him to erect a statue of Jesus with his personal intent, would be completely different than a statue of Ceres for the purpose of a simple ideal or symbol. The people placing the statue of Ceres aren't trying to force everyone into Roman Polytheism, because no one in the State Assembly follows that religion in the first place. The statue isn't being erected for religious dictation. 

Therefore, I do not see an issue with the statue of Ceres being atop the capitol dome, because it was likely not erected for reasons of violating the religious rights of anyone, or of imposing a certain religious ideal. There are also no religious laws being made. Quite likely, Missouri placed it there to symbolize abundance, prosperity, and general success for their state, which are the things Ceres represents. She might even stand for a sense of multiculturalism, since agriculture is essential to every human culture in the world. In other words, what matters is intent.

It should also be noted, that Greek and Roman Gods appear in many places in our country. The Lady of Justice, or the blind folded Lady, is Themis, the Greek Goddess of Divine Law. Athena sits on the seal of California, and another depiction of Ceres can be viewed on the seal of New Jersey. The statue of liberty itself is a Roman Goddess, Libertas. The Missouri Capitol building is even a mirror copy of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. Ancient Greek and Roman civilization basically built the Western World. There is no denying that the influence is significant on the United States. If Mr. Moon wishes to "get rid of Pagan things," he has a lot more to remove from our nation than just the statue of Ceres. He would have to uproot the entire foundation of the country and every state therein.

You can read the story here. But what do you think? Is the statue of Ceres atop the capitol dome a violation of the first amendment or the separation between church and state? You decide.

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.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Are You Truly Socratic? It Can Change Your Life

Socrates taught to think for yourself. But I have found that many of us, even as we grasp that concept, don't do it in the way Socrates did. The mere fact that several of us are persuaded by the opinions of others, or have a crisis of faith at times, proves this. Last month, as I was going through my routine of scouring the used bookstore in Freeport, Illinois for lost ancient Greek treasures to house and preserve in my private library, I had the privilege of stumbling upon a title called "Socrates' Way" by Ronald Gross. It's not an antique publication by any means, as it was published in 2002, but the writer of it has helped even someone as studious as me. In a nutshell, the book teaches the reader how to think like Socrates in a way that will not only change their life, but help them build confidence in their own beliefs and judgement. While Socrates was always committed to learning something new, he held firm to the things he truly believed or found to be accurate. Such was the case during his trial, when he refused to denounce the validity of his mission, or that he had been sent on it by Apollon.

I think too many of us allow others to determine how we think and feel about something, even things we hold deeply dear to our lives and worldviews. In other words, I think people have a bad habit of letting other people think for them. The Oracle of Delphi told people that it was up to them to make their own personal judgement regarding the advice she gave. Even the world's most renowned Oracle did not try to make people follow a particular line of reasoning, and yet her predictions and teachings were still true to their core. A good example of this was the legendary response she gave to Croesus, who inquired about invading Persia at that time. She stated that if he did, he would destroy a great empire. She was right, but it was his own empire that he destroyed, even though he interpreted it to mean the Persian, which came to be known as the Battle of Pteria. She was correct, he just made the wrong judgement for himself. Another was when she told Socrates that he was the wisest of all men. He did not interpret it to mean himself personally, but rather, that the wisest of men, like Socrates, understand that their wisdom is little to nothing. It was up to the receiver to ultimately decide the meaning of her words for their lives, or even to reject it.

Part of being Socratic, and really being Hellenic, is not to have arrogance in your beliefs, but confidence. Even in liberal groups like the Pagan community, you can find people who will tell you that you are doing things wrong with your religion or spirituality. When I was a Neo-Pagan, I had people left and right telling me I was wrong, sometimes calling me a heretic. There are even rare times as a Reconstructionist when I encounter an individual I don't agree with. For example, I have read some Hellenists who don't pray to Greek Heroes outside of Herakles, because they believe it to be a localized custom and not relevant or appropriate for someone outside of that locality. Many years back, I even met a guy who didn't believe that humans can talk to the Gods directly, but that we have to ask lower spirits for intercession, essentially. While these people may be a minority in the community, they still exist. Of course, I disagree with all of their views. One might call be a "PanHellene," because I incorporate ancient Greek spirituality from everywhere in the religion. I pray to all and firmly believe that we can talk directly to any level of Divinity, but if I allowed their opinions to tell me how to think about the Gods and my religion, I'd never feel spiritual or anything like myself. I have enough confidence in my own beliefs and views that I'm never thrown off my course. For the longest time, I allowed myself to be disrupted through a lack of confidence, and eventually, grew sick to death of it. I became tired of letting other people, even those close to me, tell me what to think or how to feel. You'll notice that you feel depressed, enslaved, even hopeless when you allow this to happen, but when you finally become an individual, you feel liberated. There's a reason for that, the reason being that you were always meant to be your own person.

This doesn't just go for religion and spirituality either, but all things that make you an individual. If we allow other people to tell us what to think, or how to feel, we will have a change in our minds and emotions every single day of our lives, because there's always going to be someone with a difference or disagreement. When you let someone put their own mind inside your head, you've lost all.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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