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

Sunday, January 15, 2023

How Hellenism Humbled A Man's Masculinity


I would not pass myself off as the most masculine of men. But then again, I don't know if there is such a thing. We all have masculine and feminine traits within us, it's just that normally one set is superior to the other. I grew up in a southern Christian region of the nation, in a religion where women are responsible for evil and a society where men are the superior sex (whether directly implied or mentally conditioned). All of us who grew up in my era, know that the worst thing a boy could be called was a girl. The sexism was/is real, and so was the sex supremacy. As a male, I assumed there would never be anything I would need from a female. Now that's not to say that I didn't like women, but I had always been taught to pray to a male God for anything of consequence. Being a man, we are taught, is the most important thing, and that anything which deviates from that is disgraceful. That's why feminine and gay men and transwomen are looked at with constant disdain while masculine and lesbian women and transmen are entirely ignored by criticism. The sexism and bigotry manifests itself in many ways, and those who promote it don't even realize they're doing so.

I think one of the reasons religions like Christianity are so focused on the walls of churches is because, when you step outside, the world yells at you that feminine Divinity is everywhere. All sorts of manifestations would align themselves along with the masculine. And so when I became a Hellenist, the entire world changed. It wasn't an anti-masculine reality, just one that realized the importance of femininity, and also how valuable those Goddesses and Heroines are to my life. When I need strength and protection, it's Athena I pray to. I may be a man, I may be a martial arts champion, and I may be tall and strong, but She's my Akropolis, and to feel Her power and presence, makes me realize, among other things, that strength and glory are not dependent on masculinity. Sometimes they come from the feminine. Not only does it open your mind to the universe and thus makes the mind more enlightened, but it grows your love for the Goddesses. 

Among the many lessons I have learned from Goddesses, such as Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena, and Demeter, one that continues to stand out is that the feminine is an equal part to the essential stability, order, power and goodness of life and the universe. Their Divinity is also nothing to be scared of or feel threatened by just because they exist. The "war of the sexes" is really a modern social construct of sexist societies. It makes a man, no less of a man, to need a Goddess in his life, nor does it make a woman, less of a woman, to need a God.

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Put The Iliad Under Your Pillow


For as long as I can remember back to childhood, I have had problems with nightmares and generally bad dreams when I sleep at night. Often these dreams make absolutely no sense, but are still terrifying nonetheless. However, there have interestingly been rare occasions when I realized I was dreaming and invoked Gods like Athena to destroy the dream or the evil therein, which She did. Many, many years ago, I dreamed I was being attacked by a vicious and giant snake. Snakes themselves are not evil, but there are snakes that can harm you, and probably malevolent spirits that can take the form of one. It's also possible that it could have been a manifestation of negative things in my life at the time. The giant serpent, whatever it was, attacked me like a monster defending its lair. Why I was there, or why the snake had come to me, I had no idea. It was so real I could actually somewhat feel its fangs the first time it bit me. But I closed my eyes and earnestly asked Athena to come fight for me. She did. The creature was destroyed and the dream ended.

Now during childhood, I was Christian (Southern Baptist), probably because my late grandmother Faye was my only teacher in the ways of religion and spirituality. She instructed me to put a bible under my pillow at night. "You'll have dreams," she explained, "but they won't be bad ones." It was probably a local southern belief system, but I tried it any way. Being that it happened during my time as a child, I honestly cannot be sure of its exact effectiveness. But today, as a Hellenist, I interpret her advice to mean a religious book or text, something that possesses Gods, Heroes and their powers and goodness. So for the last two nights, after having numerous nightmares up to that point, I tried putting The Iliad under my pillow.

I'm happy to say that it works. My dreams have been drastically decreasing in their scariness. Last night, I had none at all, only dreams that were good or neutral. In terms of Hellenism, I would venture to say that this practice could include anything that talks about Gods and Heroes, like The Odyssey, the various mythologies and stories, and the writings of the philosophers that talk about the Divinities, such as Plato and Democritus. I suppose it would depend on the book or text that you prefer or feel a connection to. The copy of The Iliad I use is a very old translation that was published in 1944 (now out of print). One of my favorite parts in the text is, "Whoever departs from the Gods, I find to be in wanting." I agree. My life would not be complete without the Gods. Thus, I keep the Gods with me at night by sleeping with the book that has them in it. It has noticeably helped me get better rest. If you're having sleeping problems, this general practice might be worth trying. 

I would also think it would have to be an official book or text from Hellenic religion, and not simply a modern writing that happens to have the Gods in it. Below I will list some examples.

Official
The Iliad
The Odyssey
Hesiod Works and Days, Theogony, Shield of Herakles
Any book of the Greek Myths
The Homeric Hymns
The Orphic Hymns
Plato Complete Works

Not Official would be anything that is not from ancient Greece. For instance, a history book written by a modern author, such as Greek Religion by Walter Burkert or The Hemlock Cup by Bettany Hughes. These are not religious or spiritual writings. 

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

How I Know The Gods Love Humanity


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Fight

Pagan Flash Fiction

We all have our own battles. Mine began in three phases the night my physical life began to slip away.

Flashback to before the coma. For eleven years, I served the Greek Gods, but the road to Olympos had been winding, confusing and treacherous for many moons.

*
I went into battle that morning to protect the ruins of an ancient Greek temple, and that's where I received the concussion. Protests and human barriers of the still devoted soon became entrenchments. Each shield and baton that struck my body took more of my will to carry onward. Then the stone was hurled and sent me into blackness. The doctors did not expect me to live.

*
I entered a vast desert. So hot even the sand burned my feet. A glimpse of a glittering oasis caught my eye on the horizon. But the sun was blazing close and relief was so far. I knew I would die here soon. Then he came, with grains of sand shooting forth like falling stars before his bare human feet. Blowing forcefully from his nostrils and stabbing the ground with his scepter, he struck my soul with his stare. "Khnum?" I whispered, his wavy horns reminding me of the fresh waters I so desperately wanted to reach.

The god of the Nile lifted his staff and pointed toward the oasis. Then he redirected its tip toward me, ready to thrust. I knew the choice. I dashed, Khnum charging in pursuit. The heat and sand choked my throat and burned my eyes, but the river came closer with each pounding of the desert floor. Surely I would soon see the tip of his scepter protruding through my stomach, but the muddy banks finally oozed between my toes as I fell to my knees and devoured the water.

*
I lifted my eyes to find myself in a thick forest surrounded by a rainbow of lotuses. They came from the ground and sat upon the streams that passed. They even descended from the trees and to my nostrils. But the peace and fragrance were temporary. The petals blew off and turned into sharp, shooting splinters. I couldn't dodge them all. My arms and legs were ripped. Then the shattered flowers came together and there she was, Saraswati, the Hindu goddess, playing her guitar, the soundwaves becoming beams of energy that invaded my head and began to drag me into a deep state of sleep and paralysis. I collapsed onto my side, tears flooding the blood-soaked soil as my eyelids came closer together. But I refused to accept such a fate. Slowly I pulled myself back up, every muscle to a standing position feeling like a knife. She stopped playing, her smile fading into nothingness.

*
I stood in a city, bright white all around, and a towering cathedral before me. But it was a strange city, for dead silence filled the air like a ghost town. Like a deadly arrow aimed to rip out my heart, a sword of fire zoomed by my head and encircled my body before lodging into the blocks beneath my feet. I sighed and looked behind me. "Long time, no see, Mike," I commented, as the archangel approached, his wings fluttering majestically in the sun.

"I used to be your closest patron," he reminded. "Spent many battles together, and now you've become ancient Greek," he smiled.

"Our days are long gone, angel," I replied. "You betrayed me."

"Well, details. Let's see how far you've really come since then."

Michael retrieved his sword like a magnet and charged. We threw fists and feet as I tried to avoid the death of the infernal blade, but I was eventually knocked to the ground. Michael raised his sword high, "What was that prayer you were always using?" he asked, "Glorious prince of the heavenly host, Saint Michael, protect me from evil!" His words echoed in the world around me as the fire from his sword left and encircled me.

Of all places, I could not remain here. I came back to my feet, leapt out of the blaze and grabbed the sword. We wrestled back and forth again. But this time, the prayer was mine, "Holy Athena, beloved daughter of the King of all Gods, remember my past devotion and please come fight for me."

I opened my eyes. Michael was gone. I could see my friends and family again. I had pulled through my hardships and made peace with my past. I was ready for my new life.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Each Time I Break, The Gods Put Me Back Together


There comes a point in every Hellenist's life, I think, when the Gods have shown themselves so many times that it becomes absurd to fear anything but them. The reality of the presence of the Gods becomes self-evident. Recently while talking on the phone with an old friend, they too said the Gods have saved them so many times that a blind person could see it, metaphorically speaking. I didn't take a lot of time to explain my own experiences, but the conversation did take me back to some very notable times in my life, ones I haven't really talked about that much.

One of the greatest potential disasters I found myself in, along with my wife and son, happened on our moving journey from North Carolina to Illinois in late 2012. What we couldn't pack into our cars, we sold before leaving, but all of the items that we did pack weighed down my wife's car so much that the back right tire began to split open. That's right, there was so much weight that it literally squashed the guts out of the wheel. I didn't even know that could happen, nor that it would take place in the worst possible circumstance; the middle of a remote Indiana interstate. Fortunately, there was a sideroad for emergencies.

However, we were in a bad situation. We were stranded with our two year old baby, and the cold night was coming. I began addressing the problem as any sensible man would. I pulled the spare out of the back of my wife's car and slid the jack underneath to change the tire, a fairly simple process. Except the jack was so badly bent that it was disabled. So I stayed with our son while my wife took my car and drove to a local Walmart to purchase a new one. It was already completely dark by the time she returned, and as bad fortune would have it, the new jack broke when I tried to lift the car with it.

At that point in my life, my anxiety disorder was at its peak. I became hysterical. But I turned my emotions and voice to the sky as I looked up and yelled, "Gods please help us!" Shortly after that, a young couple spotted us and pulled over. The man was a mechanic and managed to use the old jack to finally get the spare on the vehicle. From that point, we managed to make it within twelve miles of our destination in Freeport, Illinois before another tire gave out (Illinois is a long way from North Carolina). We came in with one car on a wrecker, but we nevertheless made it. We were determined to start a new life. 

If the Gods hadn't heard my plea and sent that couple toward us, I have no idea how things would have turned out because, at the time, we did not have roadside assistance or any kind of close emergency contact. But when I think back on this time, I realize it was by no means an isolated incident. I could write a book about all the times the Gods clearly came to the rescue of my family and I, and in the worst situations that seemed hopeless. There are many mysteries in this world, and so many things we cannot understand. But what I have always known for certain is that the Greek Gods are real.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
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.

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.
__________________________________

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.

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