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

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Beneath The Parthenon: Life, Secrets and Mysteries of The Free World's Icon (3)

The Parthenon, of course, is the grandest temple to Athena in the history of Greece, but it is also a temple that represents how the ancient Greeks viewed the universe, and all that made the reality of the world for Hellenes. 

Athena, Goddess of war but also of universal wisdom, intellect, and strength stands center to all when looking through the entrance, and Her statue is a world all unto itself. 

It stood around 4o feet in height, filling the room, symbolizing that the Gods are greater than humans, and made of the finest gold and ivory ever seen. The sculptor, Phidias, intended the statue, known as Athena Parthenos, to spare no expense in representing the full glory of Athena.

Starting at the top, is the helmet of the Goddess, and whose center is occupied by the Greek Sphinx. One such notable of its kind comes from the story of Oedipus, a Heroic traveler who outsmarted the infamous Sphinx that held the City of Thebes hostage, and as a result, became the City's King.

The Greek Sphinx bears the head of a person (usually a woman), the haunches of a lion, and the wings of bird. The wings represent heaven (the realm of the Gods), the lion body represents Earth (the realm of mortals), and the head is so that the two realms can communicate, or rather, so that man can talk with and learn from the realms.

But the Sphinx itself is not evil or something which desires malice. Statues stood guard at temples and even cemeteries or burial grounds. While some may interpret the Sphinx as being wild and chaotic, it can actually be a very intelligent and tamed guardian of civilization, especially in the presence of Athena. The danger is simply that ultimate knowledge can be a very perilous pursuit, perhaps some of which is even better suited to be left for Gods and not mortals. 

On either side of Athena's helmet stands the mighty Greek Gryphon, an animal seen in many cultures, but the Greek being identified by its flawless posture and amazingly detailed beauty. It possesses the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, all being composed of highly powerful animals, and having nothing to do with any image of mortals. 

Their purpose is therefore, and always has been, their own, which is to guard highly valuable treasures of the world. Being that the Parthenon was also intended to be the greatest treasury of Athens, their presence in the temple alongside Athena is not a surprise.

Over Athena's golden peplos, the traditional feminine robe of Athens, She wears the Aegis, the description of its existence going all the way back to The Iliad, predating even the Parthenon itself by around 400 to 500 years. Holding the Gorgon head in the center (a previously untamed spirit of the wind or perhaps Medusa herself), the Aegis was an animal fleece used as armor, but this one was empowered and kept by Zeus Himself, and given to His daughter Athena. It is therefore, quite literally, armor of heaven, Divine protection and power impenetrable. 

The Ageis was created by Zeus during the Titanomachy, which is also depicted through the Parthenon, and came into being after Zeus slayed and flayed the hide of the Gorgon Aix during the war. This could therefore be the Gorgon depicted on the armor itself, and not Medusa.  So whether the Gorgon be the ill-fated monster killed by Perseus and gifted to Athena, or the trophy from victory over the rebellious Titans, is our interpretation or belief. I myself would say it's likely Aix. 

The head of the statue is believed to have had a somewhat opened mouth, to represent air, or that which gives life. 

Going to the bottom of the grand statue, around the edges of Athena's sandals, was the depiction of the Centauromachy, which was essentially when Greek Heroes like Theseus overcame natural chaotic forces and banished them from human civilization, the Centuars being at the center of the chaos because the Centaurs in question found themselves unable to control their barbaric side. So upon Athena's feet, almost under them, that which threatens civilization is subdued.

In Athena's left hand is Her spear and shield, and at Her left side is the snake of the Polis of Athens, which requires a somewhat detailed explanation to understand. 

The outer portion of the shield holds the depiction of the Amazonomachy. This was the war between the Greeks and the all female warrior nation known as The Amazons, of which there could have been way more than just one conflict, because not only are they in The Iliad, but also the story of Theseus. Nevertheless, it is all represented on that shield. 

No one knows exactly who these women warriors were, but the Greeks ultimately defeated them, and that victory on the shield of Athena represents the triumph of civilization over barbarism. Keep in mind, barbarian didn't necessarily mean ruthless or evil to the Greeks, but simply people who did not speak Greek. Thus, we could also be looking at the fact that the ancient Greeks or Athenians eventually ruled the world around them.

The snake is probably one of the most misunderstood images and realities to modern readers and onlookers. The snake represented the beginning, the ground from which the Athenian City came, and that such a natural force, while uncontrollable in the wild, was tamed by Athena to the benefit of humanity. 

This is a reality for all of our cities in the world even to this day. All of it comes from, and starts at, the ground.

Finally, in Her right hand, She holds about a 6 foot tall statue of Nike, the Spirit of victory, or Goddess of victory to some. She holds a laurel crown in Her hands, about to place it upon Athena's head, representing that Athena is the victor in all battles that She fights. 

The statue we have come to know and love as Athena Parthenos, that once stood immortally on the Akropolis and still stands grand today as a replica in the Nashville, Tennessee Parthenon, is of course the representation of mighty Athena, but also of the immeasurable value that She gives to humanity; civilization, the taming of chaos, and freedom of the mind. In short, life itself. 

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

Sources and Citations: Athena Parthenos

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Riace Bronzes: A Hellenist On The Unsolved Mystery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Beneath The Parthenon: Life, Secrets and Mysteries of The Free World's Icon (2)

Akropolis Rising

The great structures of the Akropolis that we know, study and visit today took inconceivable amounts of manpower and untold sums of resources to build and maintain. As the old saying goes, Rome was not built in a day, and in fact, when Rome invaded, they took lots of treasures from Greek temples, even before Rome became Christian. 

It's also true that neither Athens or Western Civilization were built in the blink of an eye. It took backbreaking labor and treasuries stretched to their limits. But the devotion, power and money they brought in afterwards made the City or region far grander.

When the Persians tried to invade Greece for a second time in 480 BCE, they managed to penetrate enough to destroy everything on the Akropolis. So the buildings we see now, or the remains of them, were built or reconstructed after the Persians lost the war and were driven back across the Aegean to Asia Minor. This means that other buildings stood there previously. 

Shortly after, great Athenians like Perikles decided that Athens had to show Persia and the world who had won, and rightly so. New projects and recovery efforts were set into play, with great men like Perikles and an army of builders, sculptors and artists at his side. Athens was determined to be the greatest it had ever been, and it accomplished that goal, bringing in what we have come to call the Golden Age of Athens.

Who Is This Perikles People Speak Of?

The ideal of a free people, of a democracy and a republic, came from the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans. It did not come from Abrahamic society because they have never ruled without authoritarianism or totalitarianism, and it did not come from an atheist society because there has never been such a society in human history. The ancient Gods, cultures, and their people take us to the peaks of the human summits, and the best of the human experience.

It's important to begin the modern Akropolis with the genius of Perikles, as he spearheaded the first project thereon, the Parthenon. Dubbed the First Citizen of Athens by the historian Thucydides, Perikles was born in 495 BCE into a very respected and prosperous military and political family, and rose to the ranks of a revered Statesman, politician, Orator, and General.

Not only did he elevate Athens closer to heaven than it has ever been before or since, his speeches have circulated around the world and through time to even inspire people like Abraham Lincoln when he wrote the Gettysburg Address, thinking of Perikles' Funeral Oration as the basis.

Perikles loved his City, her people, and believed they could be the leaders and benefactors of the entire Greek World. However, he was not unaware of the greatness of other cities, temples and the people who built them, which is why he employed the best artists he could find to build the Parthenon, including the famous sculptor of Zeus' statue at Olympia, Pheidias.

Before the Parthenon, the temple at Olympia was the greatest of the Greek World; Perikles was about to outdo that. He called on the best of the best to raise the columns, lay new foundations never before done, do the 360 degree sculpting (also never before done on a Greek temple), and build the grand statue of Athena Parthenos that would stand inside the Parthenon to a height of 40 feet, made of pure gold and ivory.

The Parthenon's total cost to build, not maintain, was 7 million USD, or 470 Silver Talents in Hellas. Perikles would live to see his great vision reach completion, but unfortunately, only for 3 years. He died in 429 of the infamous Plague of Athens that struck during the Peloponnesian War.

But the real glory and all the mysteries of the Parthenon and the temples around it would come into being inside their doors.

Part 3 Coming Next Week.

In the Goodness of the Gods,

I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,

Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Beneath The Parthenon: Life, Secrets and Mysteries Of The Free World's Icon (1)

Some may think it typical, or even a cliche symbol of the free and democratic world. However, it was, and remains not only one of the greatest human achievements in history, but is shrouded in life, mystery and secret that many today still have not learned.

The building that still refuses to fall even after 2,500 years, was far more than just a passion project for Perikles. It is a temple of a Goddess still worshiped today, a defense and refuge against invasion, a treasury, and a keeper of universal wisdom, much of which remains untapped by humans; a temple whose light descended and touched everyone and everything around it. And while Perikles did receive criticism for the construction invoice, the Parthenon has more than paid for itself since that time, as 7.2 million tourists visit the location each year, bringing in untold sums of money to the City. 

The Parthenon is far more than "just another Greek temple." It is its own Library of Alexandria, housing the faith, passion, fortune and knowledge of Athens and the Greeks. It is among the greatest of human experiences, and that's why it has never left our hearts. Millions still visit her remains, and millions more study her, because there is just something that keeps drawing us back to that high ground over Attika, to that land that rests at the center of the Earth, and all that made and gave birth to the West that so many of us call home. And when we couldn't find a way to visit her original resting place on a regular basis, we built replicas near home, like the Parthenon of Nashville, Tennessee. It's as if we know where we truly came from, whether by blood or ideology. 

We still walk in the shadows of her columns. So come now with me. Let us walk and talk once again, you and I.

The reason Greece is so mountainous is because the Hellenes lived next to heaven. In fact, to scale the Athenain Akropolis and walk through the Propylaea on a bright and sunny day is still like walking into heaven. Every Greek City had some form of an Akropolis as a high ground fortification for the State, but the one of Athens has always stood out not only for its uniqueness, but for the immense power the City held over the Greek world.

The Akropolis was literally the holy summit of Athens, rising to a height of 512 feet with a very useful flat surface and spewing with natural water springs. Those seeking a religious retreat or a military advantage on the local landscape could not have asked for a better location. But the Akropolis did not begin with the Parthenon. 

Traces of human settlement go back to 3,000 BCE, which is 2,553 years before the Parthenon was built (construction beginning in 447 BCE), and on the site where the ruins of the neighboring Erechtheion temple now stand, was the location of residence for Heroic Age royalty dating back to Homeric times. Around this time period would have lived the legendary last King of Athens Himself, Kodros.  

Kodros died in 1068 BCE, 68 years before the close of the Bronze Age (the same metal of the Heroic Age), He ruled for only 21 years before the Dorian Invasion forced Him to vacate His throne to save His City from their conquest. The Oracle of Delphi had declared that the only way Athens could be saved was if its King was killed by the hands of the invaders. 

Kodros charged himself right into their ranks, alone, knowing He would be killed. Upon learning what they had done, the fear of the prophecy caused the Dorians to retreat. From that point onward, it was determined that no one could ever be as great a King as Kodros, and the monarchy in Athens was abolished and replaced with the Archonship. The early days of democracy began to echo from the cliffs of the Akropolis.

Throughout the centuries, the Akropolis underwent several different kinds of fortification, even before Kodros lived. Around 1,200 BCE, construction of the legendary Cyclopean Walls began, whose ruins can still be seen today on the southeast of the Akropolis gateway. These walls were so named because it was believed that, due to their enormous size, ordinary men could not have built them. It would have taken the giants known as Cyclopes. These fortifications are not only found on the Akropolis of Athens either, but are spread around the Mycenaean world in Sparta, Pylos, Ithaka and the edges of Asia Minor.

When we think of the Cyclops, the first that comes to mind is the infamous Polyphemus who was responsible for murdering some of Odysseus' men as they tried to get back home from Troy. However, there were many others like the giant, some of whom were employed by Zeus in the Titanomachy to help overcome Kronos and the Titan forces against Olympos, a war that would later be depicted immortally through the Parthenon. These giants were known as excellent engineers in the arts of architecture and metals. There was a brilliant, strong and helpful side to their existence. 

Eventually the Akropolis began to hold mostly religious functions and any other Mycenaean Gods who once stood there were progressively replaced with the mighty Athena alone and Her many manifestations throughout Athenian life, which were Polis (of the City), Parthenon (the Virgin), and Nike (Victory).

However, Athena did not have an open door to automatically rule the holy highland of Athens. Poseidon, God of the sea, challenged Her to a contest for the throne of the City and the patronage of its people. Poseidon contested because, being a seafaring people, He was extremely important to, and fond of, the Athenians. But they were also Stately people, and builders of civilization and democracies, thus Athena came into the ring.

The outcome of this battle would determine the course of the City until its destruction at the hands of Christian fascism during and after the time of Christian dominated Rome, which came to a head around 393 CE when the Olympic Games were outlawed and Greek temples closed and destroyed by the Roman Christian Emperor Theodosius I.

The Mark of Poseidon's Trident
The contest had been simple enough; whichever God could produce the most beneficial gifts to Athens would win its patronage. Poseidon struck the ground with His trident and produced a seawater spring, something which could be used for sea navigation. Some sources say it was a horse that rose from the rocks of the Akropolis. When it was Athena's turn, Her gift was the olive tree, whose economic fortune could always sustain the City. Still today, olives and olive oil are some of Greece's main exports. In 2021, Greece sold over 70 million dollars worth of oil alone. Athena won by one vote, cast by a woman. 

Still today, a lone olive tree stands on the Akropolis, and yet, so does the mark of Poseidon's trident. Deep in the bedrock beneath the north porch of the Erechtheion, a natural formation of three prongs resembling Poseidon's timeless weapon can be seen. Perhaps always a reminder that, win or lose, He would remain valuable in Athenian and Greek life itself. Forever in the rock the mark is lodged, accessible by a small opening and marked by the hole that was left in the roof at His trident came down.

The City had its Patron, its citadel, and its mission. Now it had to build it.

Part 2 Coming Soon.

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

Monday, April 24, 2023

When The Soothsayer Showed Up The Scientist

Perikles is an ancient Greek who needs no introduction, but a very notable religious and spiritual event surrounding his life is easily passed under the radar. 

Perikles came from a very powerful and respected military and political family of Athens. Combined with his intelligence and love for discovery, he was destined for greatness. 

When it came time for his education, his parents, for some reason, decided that Anaxagoras should be one of his two teachers. Anaxagoras was the infamous skeptic from Ionia (the coastal region of Asia Minor). 

Although, one must remember, that being skeptical of a present situation or belief does not necessarily make one an atheist. Anaxagoras could have believed in the Gods the same as anyone else, even if he didn't buy everything that everyone told him. For example, I can believe the Earth is a God without believing its flat. I can believe the Sun is a God without believing in geocentrism. 

Nevertheless, it is safe to say that Anaxagoras was not too fond of oracles and seers, nor did he like to think that natural events were, or could be, the cause of Gods. 

When Perikles was a student, the head of a ram was sent to him, probably to his home. But this ram was very distinct in that it only had one central horn upon its head. Presumably, it was taken to have a prophetic meaning, so a Seer was called upon to interpret it. They concluded that the central unified horn meant that Perikles would one day be first and foremost, the most important, in his City's politics. 

Anaxagoras, on the other hand, was determined to prove that it meant nothing by opening the ram's skull and showing that the horn was a deformity and nothing more.

While Anaxagoras certainly proved that the horn was a natural malfunction, his hubris made him ignorant, and in the long run, completely wrong. While he was carnally correct, the Seer was visionarily accurate. 

Perikles DID become exactly what the Seer had predicted. What Anaxagoras did not understand is that the Gods can use the natural things around us, no matter their state, to relay messages to us.

I'm not trying to tear down on Anaxagoras. I'm simply saying that, far too often, scientists and skeptics such as himself do indeed have a great deal of knowledge, but they also can't see beyond their own noses. Science, especially today, is all physical, and the physical can only see so far. The spiritual, however, has no bounds whatsoever. The scientist is knowledgeable, the spiritualist is wise.

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

*Picture- Anaxagoras by Eduard Lebiedzki. This work is in the public domain because its copyright has expired in countries where copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years. Work can be found here.

*Literary- Aird, Hamish, Pericles, The Rise and Fall of Athenian Democracy, The Rosen Publishing Group, New York, New York, 2004, pp. 24-25.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Does Medusa Shed A Tear Above My Temple Doors?

Click To Enlarge

Interesting things always happen in the life of a Hellenist, even if sometimes we may not understand them, or misinterpret them entirely. Hellenism is a life of learning, experiencing, and philosophizing. Above my temple doors has long stood a plaque of Medusa, although it was originally white, with a flawlessly smooth surface, and in actuality was placed not to only represent Medusa, but the Gorgon itself, as it is a powerful protective Spirit in Greek religion. In fact, Alexander the Great wore one on His breastplate. In the past, I have also pointed out the fact that the story of Medusa being a vilified rape victim who was turned into a monster is the Roman version. In Hesiod (the Greek), she is a natural born Gorgon (although she was the only one of them who could be killed, and therefore possessed a mortality about her) and there is no mention of a rape or a temple desecration whatsoever. 

Recently I was adding some additional paints to my temple areas. With some left over bronze, I decided to give the Medusa plaque some color. When finished, I noticed an incredibly straight line descending from the left eye, which I thought was strange since the surface of the piece is smooth and I made no additional marks with my brushes. The image appears to be shedding a noble tear as she overlooks the doorways. Of course, I could simply paint over it, but I have decided to let it remain. Could this be something symbolic? If so, what? What could it mean or what could Medusa be trying to tell us?

Well I think there are many ways to look at it, as there are usually numerous ways to view everything in the world and the spiritual realms. I reject the idea that it has anything to do with a sexual assault or unjust sentences because, as I stated earlier, that is not the Greek telling. The first is the simplest. I imagine it's painful, sad and demoralizing to have your head severed off. Secondly, it could represent the strife and endurance of Medusa, and more largely, the Greek people themselves, even in the face of centuries of oppression. Finally, it may signal to an oncoming foe that physical and emotional powers are tremendous here, and no amount of pain or terror will make them run. I imagine the tear could also be a representation of all of these three things combined. Of course, I do entertain the possibility that it is merely a painting error, but as I said, it would seem very odd given the structure of the image.

I was honestly a little hesitant to make this post at first, as I didn't want to seem like a starry eyed zealot who thinks their statues are sobbing. I do not. I think that, if it does mean something, it's a symbol to be interpreted. But in any case, I just couldn't get over the fact that it appeared so obvious, and strangely so. I therefore wanted to talk about it. I'm sure many other Hellenists and Pagans out there will have their own opinions, and I am delighted to hear them, that we may grow in enlightenment together.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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