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Intro & some general questions

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Intro & some general questions

Post  makaros on Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:24 pm

Hi everyone,

I've been reading over this forum for the past couple of days, looking into the links, mulling over which book(s) to buy, etc. My background is generalized eclectic paganism though I have been more of a reader than practitioner in the past..I recall two or three times I've done ritual. Ever since I left Christianity as a teenager I've been searching and fairly recently came across reconstructionist polytheism. My first encounter with it was Asatru, which didn't suit my tastes. I felt as though I needed something with a strong intellectual foundation, strong historical basis, and a belief system that was structured but not too much. I'd considered Greco-Roman polytheism in the past but 1) I thought it too obvious (silly, I know) and 2) I still had a hard time accepting hard polytheism mostly due to my past with Christianity, which I recently overcame. In an attempt to answer my own questions, I went to a Wiccan forum and after researching reconstructionist polytheism for quite a while, I knew immediately that I'd evolved from that. It's just not for me. I'm currently working on my master's in ancient and classical history after getting a BA in History two years ago. To put it mildly, historical accuracy and scholarship matter to me. But so does mysticism.

So this is where I am. I am somewhat attracted to Religio Roma because it seems to allow for a higher degree of flexibility (in honoring gods not specifically within the pantheon) than Hellenismos (please correct me if I'm wrong). I am also concerned about orthopraxy and the like. See, it's not the structure I'm opposed to (the only Christian service I've ever enjoyed from an aesthetic standpoint is Catholic Mass..the ritual and structure are very appealing to me), I am just overwhelmed by the amount of information and religious texts I have to absorb. I don't mind researching, it's just frustrating as a newcomer because I want to begin practicing right away. I really do feel a strong attachment to Olympianismos. I just have a few questions, and your opinions are very welcome.

1) For you, why do you choose Hellenismos over Religio Roma or vice versa? Is the distinction/choice a matter of cultural preference, cultural cohesion, or is it more personal?

2) I've found very few to zero books that deal with Religio Roma as it is practiced today by modern adherents. I assume this is a result that we're all taught from early on that the Romans just copied the Greek deities and anyone else's they liked. Any leads or ideas?

3) Do you have any advice on how to reconcile my past/present beliefs that the world is comprised of energies and deities with which we can interact as humble students (for lack of a better term) with what appears in Olympianismos to be a much more subservient role in which we ask the gods for help with matters, interact with them as piously as possible, and swear off any attempt to manipulate/harness/tap into energies exist all around us? I believe Orphism addresses this more directly but I'm not sure where the line is drawn and, again, the role of subservient worshipper brings a memory of Christianity that is surely misplaced. I just need someone to flesh this out a bit for me. Smile

I understand some of what I have written may offend those of you who have long experience in Hellenic polytheism but I assure you I mean no offense. I'm a curious newcomer grappling with old and new ideas. I am simply trying to feel my way into this. Thanks for any thoughts, questions, comments! Smile
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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  Erodius on Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:07 pm

1. I am an Orphic. There were Roman Orphics and Greek Orphics, I and many others of the Orphic religion consider that the Twelve Gods are the genuine and supreme gods of the whole cosmos. From our perspective, the difference between Greek and Roman praxis is only a minor liturgical one. I am familiar with both liturgical forms. Of course, I am also a classicist, so I sort of have to be.

2. I'm of the opinion that there is no need for any such thing. Learn from people, rather than books by some yahoo who may or may not have any idea what he/she is talking about. My advice, only spend money on primary sources and texts. Nothing anyone has to say is on par with those. However, we have a few adherents of the Roman rite around here, and others who are familiar with it.

3. In Orphism, the relationship between mortal and god is one of selfless devotion and loving surrender in order to effect the dissolution of egoism. There is no attempt or even belief in the possibility of manipulating divine power. Instead we work toward dissolution of the ego to receive a bestowal of pure anamnesis, should the Gods judge it rightful for that to happen. The relationship in other forms of Olympianism varies, but it is usually one of a just sovereign to his/her subjects. The purpose of religion, in this reckoning, is to achieve eudaimonia, a state of respectful and pious worship of the Gods, which in turn results in the best possible life for the worshiper.

I would write more, but I'm away from a computer at the moment and am typing this on my cellphone. Haha.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  Saesara on Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:14 am

Hi Makaros! Do you mind if I ask what you plan to do with your masters in classics? I'm currently a classics undergrad student, but I'm double majoring with biomed. Classics, while my passion, has always seemed impractical as a career choice. Sad

Don’t be too nervous, with your strong academic background you're probably going to very quickly know more than those of us who have been practicing for years. To answer your questions the best I can:

1. Like you, I come from a very eclectic background. I was raised Protestant and found "wicca" (Read: eclectic Paganism that bad books led me to label "wicca" for far too long) when I was about 12. I went through many different varieties of practice and ways of doing ritual before I found the reconstructionist religions. What remained throughout the different practices, however, was the Greek Gods. For me it was an easy choice. This Greek side of things was a clear choice because I love the Greek Gods. Why that is I do not know, but I never felt the same praying to Egyptian, Roman, Nordic, or any other pantheon. (For the record, I do not identify as Hellenismos, I prefer 'Hellenic Polytheist' because I disagree with Hellenismos's stance on a few issues.)

2. I can't really hep you out much here. :/ Karl Kerenyi has a book on both the Greek and Roman Religions, and he's always a good source. I do have to say that the Greek and Roman gods are NOT the same! The Romans didn't just take the Greek Gods and change their names. They took the Greek Gods, mixed them with the gods of the surrounding area of Latium, and made them less dynamic. For example, Aphrodite as Venus lost her war associations. I think, in general, the Roman Gods are more simple than the Greek Gods (you dont have to worry about attributes varying from city-state to city-state).

3.) The official Hellenismos stance is of subservience to the Gods. I personally prefer this stance. It's not the only way historically, however. A lot of Greek camps of thought viewed themselves as divine (gods) stuck in a mortal body. Empedocles claimed that he had become a God. The Orphics (correct me if I'm wrong, Erodius) believed this. The people of Sicily would actively threaten the Gods since the relationship was seen as more equal. Theurgy was a practice that would coerce the Gods. Pick up a copy of "The Greek Magical Papyri" by Benz, and you can see plenty of examples.

I don't mind the surrender because it is out of love. The surrender is my choice, no one is forcing it on me.

As for tapping into natural forces around me...I already told you I don't agree with Hellenismos on everything. Wink

_________________
“…but now it seems that I alone of all men am bound to be deeply grateful to the ruling gods, to all of them, surely, but above all the rest to the Mother of the Gods. For all things am I grateful to her, and for this among the rest, that she did not disregard me when I wandered as it were in darkness.”
-Emperor Julian, Hymn to the Mother of the Gods

"I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven; But my race is of Heaven alone."
-Orphic Tablets
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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  Erodius on Fri Apr 26, 2013 11:49 am

(For the record, I do not identify as Hellenismos, I prefer 'Hellenic Polytheist' because I disagree with Hellenismos's stance on a few issues.)

Like what, if I may ask? Ellinismos does not, for the most part, take any stance at all either in support of or in opposition to much of what the 'issues of today' are.

I do have to say that the Greek and Roman gods are NOT the same! The Romans didn't just take the Greek Gods and change their names. They took the Greek Gods, mixed them with the gods of the surrounding area of Latium, and made them less dynamic. For example, Aphrodite as Venus lost her war associations. I think, in general, the Roman Gods are more simple than the Greek Gods (you dont have to worry about attributes varying from city-state to city-state).

It really isn't that simple. From very early on, the Romans themselves were quite certain that they were worshipping the same gods as the Greeks and the Etruscans (and, by the Imperial period, the same as nearly every other culture in the Roman world), but rather in a different manner that was more reflective of Italic culture (and which the Romans did consider to be more refined, rather than less). As a war goddess, Venus is called Victrix "the conqueress". Roman cult was indeed likely less varied in epithets and local forms, essentially because Roman cult all arose from the small area of Rome and the surrounding countryside of Latium. Unlike in Greece, there were never really 'multiple city states' as one saw in pre-Hellenistic Greece. Further, the fact that our best attestation of Greek cult shows its Attic form, the variation seen in various local Greek cults would have been at much the same level of variance as between the Roman and Greek cults as wholes. Classical, non-Greek Olympianism is really fascinating.

3.) The 'official' Hellenismos stance is of subservience to the Gods. I personally prefer this stance. It's not the only way historically, however. A lot of Greek camps of thought viewed themselves as divine (gods) stuck in a mortal body. Empedocles claimed that he had become a God. The Orphics (correct me if I'm wrong, Erodius) believed this. The people of Sicily would actively threaten the Gods since the relationship was seen as more equal. Theurgy was a practice that would coerce the Gods. Pick up a copy of "The Greek Magical Papyri" by Benz, and you can see plenty of examples.

Orphics do indeed believe in an immortal soul which is a combination of a divine portion and a fallen, egoistic, amnesiac portion. The telos of the Orphic religion is the anamnesis (un-forgetting) of the fallen soul element to achieve deliverance from an otherwise perpetual cycle of birth, growth, decline, suffering, and death.

However, that is not exactly what 'theurgy' is. Much of what is found in the PGM is not theurgy, it is sorcery/goeteia. Theurgy refers to various ritual acts, primarily of late Platonism and Hermetism (though the word is used in Orphism as well) by which the worshipper attempts to prepare some sort of 'vessel' whether literal, in the case of a statue or a lamp, or metaphorical, in the case of the consciousness, to receive divine numina/theo-servile daimones with the purpose of effecting an advancement of the soul's state toward ultimate henosis — the dissolution of the ego-self into the divine. 'Compulsion' of a god is absurd, but the attempts to do so in the PGM are goeteia, rather than theourgia.

I don't mind the surrender because it is out of love. The surrender is my choice, no one is forcing it on me.

I would say, it isn't really surrender at all unless it is of one's own volition. Forced obedience isn't real obedience at all. Smile

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  makaros on Fri Apr 26, 2013 5:37 pm

Thanks for the replies! Orphic ideas are very interesting to me and I'm reading up on them, Erodius. I do have to say that while in general it may not be a good fit for me, I think the insistence upon building a strong intellectual/philosophical aspect to one's faith is so right and important. I also think one thing I've definitely already learned is that Olympian/Hellenic polytheism is much more heterogeneous that I initially thought! Smile

Saesara, glad to know someone has a similar background as me. And while my degree isn't technically in the Classics, I'm hoping to teach online classes and possibly even get a Ph.D, but we'll have to see about that. Razz I'll definitely have to check out 'Greek Magical Papyri'...I already looked into it a bit on Amazon. I see the general direction you're going with this and I'm happy it's there to pursue. I'm sure 'Hellenic polytheist' is also going to be a better description of my beliefs/practices than anything else. Smile
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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  Erodius on Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:48 pm

I would definitely not recommend using the PGM as any basis for any serious religion. Although there are a handful of pious ceremonies among them, the vast majority of their content is greedy, mundane, manipulative, and in some cases even hateful and violent. Ancient Greek and Hellenistic magic was usually concerned with coercing individuals to fall in love with you, putting any number of vile curses on one's enemies, and causing disease and death. The darker and more sinister the better. Much of it is something like the kind of "do XYZ and all your wildest dreams will come true!" conning that you see on some televangelist shows today. I have read them and own a copy.

Finally, with all due respect, although it is good to familiarize yourself with a variety of ideas in a spiritual search, you should not settle down until you have found the best fit, and once you do, you should stick with it. Instead of following a 'make your own' mentality, accepting whatever you like and rejecting anything you don't, try instead to understand any religious system as it is, as a system of interrelated parts, and rather than just ignoring things you may not like or may not understand, try to learn why such things are the way they are, and see if a reconciliation is possible.

Best wishes in your search.

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  tayarlin on Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:55 pm

Hello! Laughing
May I just say that you, Makaros, sound like an incredibly great person.

Anyway, to answer your questions;
1. My choice was very much a personal one. I from a very rural area and Christianity is the most prevalent religion. I have never connected to that belief system at all. Anyway, I had dappled in Taoism, but found something was lacking for me. I then one day had this urge to research Aphrodite and found Hellenismos that way. After more research I began to devote myself to the Gods and have found my life bettered in ways I've never known before. I feel very connected to the Gods and am guided by Them.

2. Apologies, I do not know anything on this topic. I though I did see a book relating to that on Amazon once, but can't find it again! tongue

3. I wouldn't say serving the Gods is completely subservient. I view it as a building a relationships with the Gods. For example, with offerings we are sharing what was given to us by Their hands. In a way, all is a complete circle and in offering something to them it is solidifying that relationship. We are free to make our own choices, but we are upon a path that the Gods have laid out for us, in my opinion anyway.

I hope these answers made sense and helped your search! Smile

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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  Erodius on Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:33 pm

tayarlin wrote:

3. I wouldn't say serving the Gods is completely subservient. I view it as a building a relationships with the Gods. For example, with offerings we are sharing what was given to us by Their hands. In a way, all is a complete circle and in offering something to them it is solidifying that relationship. We are free to make our own choices, but we are upon a path that the Gods have laid out for us, in my opinion anyway.


This is sort of a complex concept, and it's one that has been debated for centuries, and still continues to be debated — by which I mean, the whole 'fate vs. free will' dilemma. We reconcile the two ideas in Orphism (and some related philosophical systems), by saying that existences of basically Aetherial Essence have full dominion over existences of basically Terrestrial/Hylic Essence. Gods are beings of Aether, while tangible matter, like the body, is essentially Hylic. In this, Orphics say, we are bound in body by Fate, but the Soul has free will, because it is Aetherial and of the same substance as Gods. Our bodies are entirely bound to Fate, but the Soul, we say, can indeed defy Divinity — if it couldn't, there would not be evil or wickedness.

By expressing true, worshipful devotion, through such actions as oblation, as you've mentioned, the Soul demonstrates obeisance to Divinity and rejection of the ills of egoistic avarice. Gods receive nothing from sacrifices; they need nothing at all. However, because the will of a god is Virtue, Gods delight in devotion and aspiration to Virtue, which one cultivates through such examples of right-minded worship. cheers

_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  tayarlin on Mon Apr 29, 2013 10:41 pm

Smile Why thank you!

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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  Saesara on Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:59 am

[quote="Erodius"]


Like what, if I may ask? Ellinismos does not, for the most part, take any stance at all either in support of or in opposition to much of what the 'issues of today' are.

*Sigh* I didn't want to become "that girl" so soon into joining the forum. It's actually what confined me to lurking on the old forum rather than joining. I disagree on the two main points that Hellenismos takes a stand on. I do not think practicing magic is immoral nor contrary to the Hellenic faith (although I differ on my basic definition on the term "magic"). I also do not mind borrowing certain NeoPagan practices... I do so mindfully (I don't point knifes at the Gods or offer menstrual blood to them *cringe*). Some of them are good meditative practices. They're not things I'm here to argue about, I respect that most people who are on here disagree. I just didn't want to misrepresent myself.

As a war goddess, Venus is called Victrix "the conqueress"

I had previously thought the epithet 'victrix' applied more to victory in matters of love (Such as when Pauline Bonaparte was depicted as Venus Victrix). Upon further research, I see what you mean. I guess thats what I get when I take my Roman information from art history class. Rolling Eyes Sorry for the misinformation.

Further, the fact that our best attestation of Greek cult shows its Attic form, the variation seen in various local Greek cults would have been at much the same level of variance as between the Roman and Greek cults as wholes.

That's a neat point of view I hadn't heard before. I think the biggest difference is in the way the Romans viewed the concept of the Gods. According to Nova Roma, the Gods were seen as numina- faceless and formless manifestations.

However, that is not exactly what 'theurgy' is. Much of what is found in the PGM is not theurgy, it is sorcery/goeteia. Theurgy refers to various ritual acts, primarily of late Platonism and Hermetism (though the word is used in Orphism as well) by which the worshipper attempts to prepare some sort of 'vessel' whether literal, in the case of a statue or a lamp, or metaphorical, in the case of the consciousness, to receive divine numina/theo-servile daimones with the purpose of effecting an advancement of the soul's state toward ultimate henosis — the dissolution of the ego-self into the divine. 'Compulsion' of a god is absurd, but the attempts to do so in the PGM are goeteia, rather than theourgia.

Most of my knowledge of Theurgy comes from a paper on Porphyry's thoughts on it, and he wasn't a fan. I haven't done extensive research on it, nor is it a part of my practice, so I'll take your word for it. Smile I wasn't saying the PGM was an example of theurgy, rather an example of the Ancients trying to coerce the Gods. Poor wording on my part.

And no, don't make a practice entirely upon the PGM. Laughing It's a fun read, and you can glean some useful information from it, but not a practice. It would probably be a bigger shock coming from a Pagan background than the absence of magic completely.

_________________
“…but now it seems that I alone of all men am bound to be deeply grateful to the ruling gods, to all of them, surely, but above all the rest to the Mother of the Gods. For all things am I grateful to her, and for this among the rest, that she did not disregard me when I wandered as it were in darkness.”
-Emperor Julian, Hymn to the Mother of the Gods

"I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven; But my race is of Heaven alone."
-Orphic Tablets
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Re: Intro & some general questions

Post  Erodius on Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:01 am

That's a neat point of view I hadn't heard before. I think the biggest difference is in the way the Romans viewed the concept of the Gods. According to Nova Roma, the Gods were seen as numina- faceless and formless manifestations.

Numina represent the underlying powers of gods without the human-added filter of personification applied to them, and were considered by some Roman writers to have been the way all Romans originally conceived of gods before the practice of various forms of iconography were brought in from the Greek world. The conception of gods as essentially formless was not unique to Rome, however, and was every bit as common in Greece, especially as time wore on, education and technologies grew, and more refined views of divinity became common among even common people — no longer a characteristic exclusive to theologians and philosophers. It is certainly the conception that is almost universal among philosophical schools.

Most of my knowledge of Theurgy comes from a paper on Porphyry's thoughts on it, and he wasn't a fan. I haven't done extensive research on it, nor is it a part of my practice, so I'll take your word for it. I wasn't saying the PGM was an example of theurgy, rather an example of the Ancients trying to coerce the Gods. Poor wording on my part.

And no, don't make a practice entirely upon the PGM. It's a fun read, and you can glean some useful information from it, but not a practice. It would probably be a bigger shock coming from a pagan background than the absence of magic completely.

Porphyry was not objecting to theurgy entirely, but to the way in which his own student, Iamblichus, had interpreted it. His objection was to the fact that he saw Iamblichus' theurgy to feature excessive use of material rituals, glossolalia, and other actions Porphyry considered overly mundane and not conducive to their anodic goals.

Indeed, for the profoundly naïve, stereotypical neopagan 'white-magic' 'everything is peace and love and rainbows and mother goddesses' doer, the content of the PGM might induce a heart attack. Much of the PGM is about as thoroughly black-magic as you can get; which is the case with most ancient magic. The primary goals of most ancient magicians were to hurt, sicken, curse, and/or compel — usually to compel someone to fall in love. Just from personal perusals of the PGM, I would venture that more than half of the conjurings in there are love-related. Oh humans . . . we haven't changed much at all Suspect


_________________
"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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