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FAQs for Beginners

Post  Erodius on Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:13 pm

What is Hellenismos?  
Hellenismos, in its deeper meaning, is the noble path that promotes the development of personal excellence known as aræti (arete; Gr. ἀρετή, ἈΡΕΤΉ). It is a way of life, working with the natural world by means of Natural Laws, through the worship of the Twelve Gods, and examining life through means of genuine philosophy.  

Isn't this word associated with the Roman emperor Julian?  
Yes, it is associated with Julian, but not exclusively. The use here of the term Hellenismos is, in part, a token of appreciation for something that Julian did.  That is the extent of connection to him on this website.  Hellenismos is also a word used by Greeks to refer to all things Greek, not only philosophy and the worship of the Gods.

Who was Julian and what did he do?  
Julian (332-364 CE) was the last Roman emperor who honored the Gods.  He endeavored to rule as a philosopher-king and attempted to revive philosophy and the worship of the Gods. Although the term Hellenismos is sometimes associated with Julian and with Rome, the slant on these pages is decidedly Greek.  This website is not a vehicle to promote or negate any of Julian's personal beliefs.

I have heard other names used by people who worship the ancient Gods; I'm confused?  
There are many terms currently in use, such as Hellenismos, Olympianism, Dodekatheism, Hellenism, Hellenic paganism, Hellenic reconstructionism, Ancient Greek religion, or simply, the worship of the Classical Gods.

People who practice this way of life have somewhat varying beliefs and often the name they choose to represent their beliefs often reflects this variance.  The terms Dodekatheism or Olympianism are particularly appropriate here because this website promotes the worship the Twelve Olympian Gods and their accompanying pantheon. 

How do you practice your religion?  
Genuine Hellenismos is a path, a journey, a way of living your life, the way of aræti.  We practice what is called eusebeia (εὐσἐβεια), which is a type of piety, a reverence towards the Gods, your parents, the world, the cosmos.  Therefore, you could say that Hellenismos is eusebeia by which one develops aræti through committed noble action.  Eusebeia is a word that is similar, but not identical, to religion.  Another word, thriskia (Gr.θρησκεία), is usually translated as "religion" but thriskia (Gr. θρησκεία, ΘΡΗΣΚΕΊΑ) refers more to the outward forms and ritual.  The concern here is the transformation, the progress of the soul, the outward forms and ritual being secondary.

I'm still unclear; is Hellenismos a religion?  Could you elaborate a bit further?  
Hellenismos is both a religion and more than a religion.  Hellenismos is the heart of our religion.  Hellenismos is a way of life which utilizes genuine philosophy and which has as its outward expression thriskia: religion.  Thriskia is the organized worship and ritual of the ancient Hellenic polytheistic tradition, especially the outward expression of belief in the Theoi (the Gods).  This word is translated as "religion" in the English language.  When the belief system of Hellenismos is put into practice and organized into temples and ritual, this is called thriskia.  To say that Hellenismos is merely thriskia would be misleading being that Hellenismos is not creedal but philosophical, in the highest sense of the term.  In other words, Hellenismos is based more on the manner in which we live our lives rather than organized outward forms and beliefs.  Thriskia is an aspect of Hellenismos, but is not inclusive of its entire meaning.  It must be emphasized that religion with its forms and rituals is only an outward form; if one's way of life does not reflect into the religion, such thriskia is an empty shell.  You can say this of any religion but it is particularly important to the creator of this website and his teachers in Greece.

Hellenismos is more than thriskia because it can exist independent of the outward forms; Hellenismos beats in our heart, our soul.  So this is why we say that Hellenismos is both a religion and more than a religion.

Are you connected with YSEE or Dodecatheon?
This website has no formal connection with any particular group although we have friends in many.

But you represent that this site is what the Greeks say, do all Greeks believe as you present Hellenismos here?  
The knowledge found on this website is the genuine Hellenismos, as I have understood it, as taught to me by my teachers from Greece.  Certainly there are many Greeks who have differing beliefs, some of whose beliefs I am aware of, but to what I have been taught, I have tried my best to remain true; if there have been mistakes, it is this author's fault and not his teacher's.

Do you take the position that the Gods of mythology are real entities, sentient beings that could be aware of me?  
Yes, the Gods exist as conscious entities.  There are also impersonal deities such as Justice, Law, Nature, etc., but the Olympian Gods, such as Apollo, and myriad other deities, are conscious beings living at a very advanced level, and their demeanor is inclined towards your benefit.

I thought these beliefs vanished centuries ago?
This religion was persecuted and driven underground, but never fully extinguished. Its philosophies survive and prosper throughout the world in many ways.

In any case, there must be only a tiny percentage of the world's population that worship more than one God?  
Although the numbers be small, the influence is considerable and significant.

Do I need to believe in these Gods to participate?  
Many people have had some kind of experience that engages them.  A friendly and nagging curiosity is appropriate.

I was taught that polytheism is primitive?
If polytheism is primitive, how did it produce some of the greatest minds and technologies ever known, personalities such as Aristotle, Euclid, Hippokrates, Lycurgus, Pericles, Pheidias, Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates, Archimedes, to name but a few? Indeed, the whole of Western Civilization has it's foundation in Hellenic culture and discovery.  Science and mathematics, art, music, philosophy, and democracy harbor unmistakable roots that can be traced directly back to this Hellenic world, a world intertwined with polytheism.

Why would you worship Gods who were defeated by monotheistic religion?
The Olympian Gods are sovereign.  They have, obviously, allowed their cultus to diminish for whatever reasons of their own, but cultus is not the same as sovereignty and as the Olympian Gods have dominion over the Natural Laws, the concept that they could somehow be defeated is absurd.  

But it seems that very few people even believe in them anymore.
The Gods do not particularly care whether we believe in them or not. They are free of egoism. It is similar to the law of gravity; whether we believe in it or not does not have any bearing on its existence or power. The Gods are not petty; they have other concerns, and it is not certain that their public worship is one of them.

"God has his instruments.  He uses what tool he pleases.  He is not responsible to man.  Do we know the ways of God?...God performs his miracles as seems good to himself." (Marius musing about the character of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, 1862, Jean Valjean, Book Seventh, Chap. 2, trans. by Charles E. Wilbour; found here in the 1998 Everyman's Library edition, Alfred A. Knopf, on p.1382)

But if the Gods do not care if we believe in them, perhaps they exert no influence on our society.  
The influence of the Gods is and has always been enormous, whether mortals perceive it that way or not. Concerning humans, their principle care is the progress of the soul. Their influence is independent of the belief-systems of mankind, yet they influence these belief-systems. If one wants to consider the influence of the Gods on human society post late-antiquity, we could consider many things in history...the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the re-emergence of science, the rebirth of democracy, these may all be considered as expressions of the Gods exerting their influence. And it should be considered that the ancient religion, despite common misconceptions, did not entirely disappear, as can be demonstrated in the appearance of the Peloponnesian Platonist and obvious believer, Gemistos Plethon, in Florence in 1438 and in the poetry of Michael Tarchaniotis, amongst others. There are a handful of practitioners of the ancient religion of whom we are aware, who were alive during and just before the Renaissance, and there is awareness of the existence of their students. Truly it is logical that there must obviously have been many other practitioners, both scholarly and otherwise, of whom the scholars are not aware.  In fact there were and still are.

You say that your philosophy is tolerant, but didn't the Romans, who also worshiped your Gods, persecute the Christians in the most brutal ways?  
The persecution of Christians was a governmental act of the Roman Empire, not an act of priests, temples, or the common people.

Well, at least speak plainly and be honest: you are pagans, right?
Some people use that word. Pagan was a highly derogatory term in ancient times and it inspires variously fear or ridicule in modern times. For many, it is comparable to using the "N-word" instead of "African-American" or "Black".

Is this a satanic group? Do you worship the devil? Do you glorify evil?
In a word: NO. The very concept of "the devil" is foreign to the worship of the Gods.

If your question is...do the Gods promote evil?...the answer is very definitive: the Gods are purely beings of great light.  They enlighten the universe with their light.  There is nothing at all whatsoever dark or evil in them.  Evil is small thinking, very tiny thinking.  It involves tremendous ignorance.  The Gods are incredibly evolved beings whose thinking is vast and enlightened, the exact opposite of evil.  "Whereas, the truth is that God is never in any way unrighteous--he is perfect righteousness; and he of us who is the most righteous is most like him."  (Plato's Theaetetus, 176, translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892, found in the 1937 Random House edition on p.178-179 of The Dialogues of Plato Vol. II)  "...the Gods are the suppliers of all good, and of no evil.  For that which is primarily good, gives subsistence to every good from itself, and is not the cause of an allotment contrary to itself..." (Proclus' The Theology of Plato, Book I, Chapter XVII, translated by Thomas Taylor, found in the 1999 Prometheus Trust edition on p.99)

Those who worship the Gods are particularly influenced by the Gods, Gods who help them pursue heroic and ethical principles such as the Delphic Maxims or as exemplified in the writings of Plutarch, who was a priest of Apollo, Æpictitos (Epictetus), and numerous other authors and teachers from our tradition.

"Socrates: A just and pious and good man is the friend of the Gods; is he not?  Protarchus:  Certainly he is.  Socrates:  And the unjust and utterly bad man is the reverse?  Protarchus:  True."  (Plato's Philebus, 39, translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892, found in the 1937 Random House edition on p.374 of The Dialogues of Plato Vol. II)

I have heard scholars say that polytheism has no real ethics; if ethics are to be found, they will only be found in the philosophers.
This website attempts to follow the tradition of Orpheus, which could be said to be the cradle of philosophy.

Some of these same scholars, and self-described followers claim that Hellenic polytheists are not concerned with what you believe, but that they are only concerned with ritual observances.
If a religion is primarily concerned only with correct practice, using ordinary logic one can see that such a religion is based on an empty shell, a façade. It is what is concealed behind the outside that must be important, the very heart of it, for there to be intrinsic value in a tradition. If there is nothing beyond the façade, just what exactly do you have?

The author of the Derveni Papyrus instructs his readers with these words: “As for those who have merely witnessed holy rituals while participating in public festivals, I am not so surprised that they do not understand them, for it is impossible to hear and at the same time comprehend their meaning.  But those who receive instruction in the rituals inspire wonder and pity.  Wonder because they think that they understand something before even performing the rites, and then leave after the rituals without understanding and without even asking questions, as if they actually understood.  And they are to be pitied because they spent money to learn yet they go away bankrupt because they have no comprehension.  They go with great hopes for knowledge and after they finish they don’t even have their hope.” (Derveni Papyrus Col.20, loose trans. by HellenicGods.org)  This is not the admonition of a teacher who does not care what his reader believes.

The pursuit of philosophy in Hellenismos IS the practice and is vastly more important even than ritual observances. Truth is the issue and, therefore, the Hellenic philosophical journey is not a matter of adopting a credo of beliefs or rituals. In our tradition, ritual is a symbol; it is a symbol of what we believe. How you come to believe or not believe is the heart: logic, experience, questioning pre-conceptions; this way of life challenges the attitude of blindly following prescriptions. Belief, or more accurately, conviction, is critical in Hellenismos. Any person can do a ritual or follow various observances. But conviction cannot be put on like clothing; it must be achieved. Hellenismos is not exclusivistic because it recognizes that the development of conviction, or wisdom, is evolutionary.  Beliefs come and go but genuine perception evolves, leading ultimately to insight.  Unlike religions that exclude those who have not adopted particular creedal beliefs, Hellenismos recognizes the natural evolutionary nature of the development of wisdom. To demonstrate this vividly, examine the dialogues of Plato wherein he utilizes the so-called Socratic method of argument. It can be observed in the Dialogues that ultimate conclusions and definitions are rarely realized, but the elenchic process encourages the participants to grow and deepen their perspective on such concepts as Justice or the Good. This process is the Hellenic way, not ritual observances, which, as already stated, are symbols. They are important, but it is what the symbol points to that is important, not so much the ritual observances themselves.

To conclude, the commonly held position that Hellenismos stresses orthopraxy (correct practice) over orthodoxy (correct belief) cannot be viewed as particularly relevant as an appropriate lens to view how our tradition functions and what it considers valuable.  A more useful statement might be that belief (Gr. πίστις, pistis) is regarded primarily as subjective opinion and not true knowledge, and that the genuine path is the one which goes after truth, regardless of whether such journey confirms our preconceptions.  This is the authentic path to aræti, the only real concern. The Hellenic philosophical view concerning belief is a major factor contributing to tolerance in our tradition.

Wait now, didn't you just say that the terms orthopraxy and orthodoxy are neither way relevant to Hellenismos?
If you understand these terms to mean that the genuine Hellenismos is not credal (orthodoxy) but is only concerned with arete, noble action (orthopraxy), then the terms apply and the common statement, that Hellenismos is primarily concerned with orthopraxy, is correct.

You say that Hellenismos is ethical, but I've read some of your myths and what I liked about them is that they are more amoral and realistic, some of your Gods are evidently evil, creating natural calamities and such.
The myths are literature written by mortals who, in most cases, were deeply inspired. But these myths are written in Mystic language. They describe things which are experienced by the Immortals and can only be understand by us to a certain degree.

As already stated, all the Gods are completely good and mean well to all beings.  They do not have an evil or "dark" side, but  are beings of great enlightenment.  When you speak of natural calamities and describe such things as evil, this brings up a rather complicated subject of what is on the one hand natural but painful, and on the other, what is unnatural and hurtful.  One definition of evil could be the later: that which is unnatural and hurtful.  Such acts are impossible for Gods as they represent the natural law of the Kosmos and they are not petty.  To be hurtful is small-minded, but the mind of a God is vast indeed.

From another perspective, evil can be defined as a type of ignorance.  If a God truly is a God, it cannot be ignorant. This can be perceived with logic. If you worship the Gods, they must be worthy of worship. Therefore they must be greater than we are. If this is so, then they must be more intelligent than we are. It requires a very long conversation to arrive at the conclusions which I propose, but what I say is that evil is not really "anything;" evil is, rather, action based on the absence of something. Evil is ignorance, gross ignorance. It is difficult to demonstrate anything that could be called "evil" that cannot be shown to be gross foolishness in the long run. Consequently, if you attribute evil to the Gods, you must believe that they are ignorant. If this be so, then they are not worthy of veneration and if we were to worship such a being, we would be misled. For instance, those who followed even human leaders such as Hitler; these people were misled.  But the Gods are not ignorant; they are vastly aware and enlightened.

To clarify further, when we say that the Gods are good, we are not talking about relative situations, situations that can be defined as good or evil based on how we perceive them.  We are speaking of a more basic goodness.  The Gods are connected with the natural world but they do not cause natural calamities, despite what may appear in some mythology.  On the other hand, the Gods, in particular the Olympians, have an interest in our progress and have dominion over the Natural Laws which govern this progress.  Therefore, the Gods are well-meaning and we say that this is good.  The Gods have a vast understanding, and we call this enlightened, which we also call "good."  There is much more that can be said on this subject.

You say that this religion is tolerant, but you have made some rather definitive statements.  
Tolerance is not wishy-washy.  Tolerance is not vague.  This website does not promote an "anything goes" philosophy.  This website has a perspective, unquestionably.  Among people who follow this tradition, there are very, very strong opinions. Those who have differing viewpoints are welcome to them, but to be tolerant does not require one to agree with nor accept as valid every idea, and to not agree with every idea does not imply myopia.

Perhaps you misunderstood me; to give an example, on your website, you discuss Orpheus as though he was a real person, but scholars argue about this.  You don't give both sides of the argument.
In general, this website presents the tradition.  The tradition and those in Greece who practice this tradition refer to Orpheus as a historical personage; therefore Orpheus is presented as such here, and the same convention applies to much of the information found on the site. Regarding your conclusions as to what is true or false, that is your personal journey.  There is a vast array of arguments for many positions regarding Hellenismos.  First and foremost, this website is presenting a tradition; beyond that, if deemed useful, opposing arguments may be presented.  Nothing here is designed to be a catechism of belief.  It is all up to you.  For those who feel affinity to what is presented, there is opportunity to get more deeply involved through contact with people who hold this tradition.

Give me some clues as to what Hellenismos is all about?  Development of personal character. Heroism.  Reason.  Freedom.  Justice and the promotion of just government.  Wisdom.  Music.  Poetry.  Medicine.  Mathematics.  Science. Piety.

I have heard a scholar say that to practice the ancient Greek religion, you must offer animals in sacrifice and that anyone who does not do so, is not practicing the ancient religion.  
It is not at all necessary to sacrifice animals in order to make offering to the Gods.  This scholar is ignoring information that is very well known: the students of Orpheus and Pythagoras prohibited blood sacrifice very adamantly.

I am still confused.  I thought that people in the ancient world worshiped the Gods to appease them and ask for favors?  
We do indeed worship our Gods and we do indeed ask their assistance, but Hellenismos is a noble journey, not simply a matter of "what can I get for myself."  It has a goal.  It has a vast, heroic goal.

If, as you say, you don't just appease your Gods and merely ask for favors, just what do you do to please your Gods?  
Perhaps this is best answered by quoting Plato: "...what life is agreeable to God, and becoming in his followers?  One only, expressed once for all in the old saying that 'like agrees with like, with measure measure,' but things which have no measure agree neither with themselves nor with the things which have.  Now God ought to be to us the measure of all things, and not man, as men commonly say: the words are far more true of Him.  And he who would be dear to God must, as far as is possible, be like Him and such as He is.  Wherefore the temperate man is the friend of God, for he is like Him; and the intemperate man is unlike Him, and different from Him, and unjust.  And the same applies to other things; and this is the conclusion, which is also the noblest and truest of all sayings, --that for the good man to offer sacrifice to the Gods, and hold converse with them by means of prayers and offerings and every kind of service, is the noblest and best of all things, and also the most conducive to a happy life, and very fit and meet.  But with the bad man, the opposite is true: for the bad man has an impure soul, whereas the good is pure; and from one who is polluted, neither a good man nor God can without impropriety receive gifts."  The text goes on to describe the importance of honoring one's parents, honoring the dead, giving hospitality to ones friends and fellow citizens, and much more.  (Plato's Laws IV, 716, translated by Benjamin Jowett, 1892; found in The Dialogues of Plato Vol.II, Random House edition, 1937, on pp.488.)

But can your Gods grant you favors?
The Gods will help you; they support you; they have an interest in your well-being and in your progress.  Our tradition is a little different; if we are willing to exert effort and try, and if we are pious and ask for their help, the Gods will work by our side and assist us. There is a story from Aisohpos (Aesop; Gr. Αἴσωπος, ΑἼΣΩΡΟΣ) about a man whose cart was stuck in the mud (Herakles and the Waggoner).  He prayed to Herakles to help him.  The God appeared and said, "Get up, man, and put your shoulder to the wheel."

Another factor that must be kept clearly in view: the Gods are guardians of the Natural Laws and never violate them.  Consequently, we do not promote a superstitious belief.

I have prayed to "God" and even to some of your Gods, but my prayers go unanswered either way.  
The cursory view of prayer is a major source of atheism, no doubt.  Traditionally, it is said that the Gods are "a million times wiser" than us.  What this really means is that their understanding and ability are vastly superior to ours and, because of that fact, their actions are understandably beyond our full comprehension.  Our view of a solution to a problem may be incorrect or incomplete.  The Gods wish to help us.  Truly help us.  They are not simply vending machines: "say a prayer, get a favor."  The Gods are concerned about our development of arete, our progress, our evolution.  This evolution occurs over many, many lifetimes.  It may appear to us that we are not receiving their help, but that is because we are too close to our problems to clearly understand the solution to them.

Oh, you are not skeptical?  Is it inappropriate to be skeptical?  
It is perfectly appropriate to be skeptical.  We are free.  We take the philosophical attitude.  We are not blind believers.

Well, if this is the case, is it appropriate to pray at all?
Yes, perfectly.  "Apollo, help me in my difficulty," is an appropriate prayer.  Leave the time-frame and actual solution to the God.  Be prepared to do everything in your ability to improve your situation. Expect nothing; that is, be humble in your expectations.

But in reality, you can pray as you wish, however you wish, and whenever you desire to; it is a highly personal matter.  The Delphic Maxims say "Pray for things possible."  This author likes to approach prayer in a similar manner to the understanding of oracles in the ancient world.  They were interpreted.  If one approached with egotism, the results could be disastrous, yielding a complete misunderstanding of the answer (see Herodotos, Book I, 46-87).  Likewise, if we assume that the Gods will answer our prayers to our specifications, we may be very disappointed.  For more views on prayer in Hellenismos, visit this page: Prayer In Hellenismos.

Can your Gods perform miracles?
We do not believe in miracles per se, miracles being something that defies Natural Laws.  The Gods are not above Natural Law: they are Natural Law.  Just as we ourselves can change things in the world, the Gods have a tremendously greater ability to influence phenomena and propel factors into action.  Therefore, they can exert influence and impact our lives.  In addition to their immense ability, the Gods are also wise in a way that is beyond our comprehension, as the wisdom of a parent is unable to be understood by an infant.

I would think that the very existence of a God defies natural laws.  
Quite the contrary.  The Gods exist because of evolutionary laws in the natural world.  There could be nothing more natural than the Gods.

Are the Gods above or beyond the physical world?  
The Gods are part of the natural world and the path of Hellenismos is an endeavor and philosophy which recognizes that the cosmos is governed by Natural Laws.  

Don't you think that science is a better way to understand the universe?
Hellenismos is a natural philosophy. Consequently, it does not bear an inherent conflict with science, unlike such a potential of religions with creeds.  Science is the friend of philosophy.  However, it is not wise to view science as credal; the discoveries of science are somewhere on a continuum from ignorance to absolute knowledge.

Frankly, I am inclined towards atheism: it seems absurd to believe in God, much less Gods.
Far be it for this author, who spent most of his 60 years as an agnostic, to try to convince you otherwise.  If this is your conviction, you will not find an argument here.  If, however, you are open to an opinion, I would propose that the agnostic position is superior to that of the atheist, and skepticism is far greater than blind belief, by a long shot.  Nonetheless, I offer this for your amusement.  Recently this author heard an interesting story about Joshua Bell, the great classical violinist, documented in the book The Fiddler in the Subway by Gene Weingarten.  Mr. Bell went into the subway disguised as a common street musician and proceeded to play a dazzling concert of Bach and other masterpieces.  For all practical purposes, he was ignored and viewed as a nuisance.  My question: if the average person cannot recognize tremendous genius in their midst, how could they possibly recognize a God?  Frankly, I suspect that the Gods reveal themselves when they wish and for reasons of their own. If one has closed the door, the Gods never force, because they never violate our freedom, for it is said that the Gods love freedom and want freedom for all beings.

I am quite familiar with ancient mythology.  You must not have studied this long enough to realize that there are different and contradictory stories about these Gods that I do not see on your website.  
Mythology is very complex.  In general, this website presents its own perspective.  Simply because you do not see a familiar story about a deity, or a different variant of this deity's mythology, does not mean we are unaware of them.   We have our own perspective on the myths, and within our own community, we also have our own private opinions.

I would like to examine your Bible.
Hellenismos, as with several other religions, has numerous books but nothing exactly equivalent to the Christian Bible.  Our theology is complex.  There is no single book which contains all of it.  We utilize many, many texts and also the advice of learned and spiritual people who teach orally.  The words found in books are hints, like a finger pointing at something; the pointing finger is a signpost, a direction, not the actual thing itself.

Nonetheless, I have looked through this website and you say many things.  Are you not trying to tell me how to think and believe?  
The website presents a tradition as understood by its author.  This presentation is not designed so much as something to believe, but something to be realized.  The hope is to encourage one to think things out for oneself, in the manner of the Dialogues of Plato, and to prod the true student of philosophy to great accomplishment.  So, we have two things: 1) a tradition of beliefs and ideas and facts, and, 2) philosophical inquiry.  These two can work hand-in-hand in an atmosphere of openness, particularly when the participants interact, but we are trying to avoid the idea that what is presented is a doctrine.

Your myths seem contradictory and contain objectionable things that I cannot accept.
In this case you need the assistance of a knowledgeable person to explain the hidden meaning of the myth.  The message within mythology is hidden between the words.  If you accept the cursory interpretation of a myth, you have likely misunderstood the myth.

I am a Christian and I would like to present a different viewpoint to your constituency.  
To be frank, your viewpoint is readily available elsewhere, so this would not be welcome, nor do we desire to preach in your churches.

But are you not trying to capture the members of my congregation?  
No. We are not a threat to you and do not wish to convert anyone. Our assumption is that anyone truly a part of any congregation has made up his/her mind and is happy with their religion.

Is not the whole purpose of your website to convince people to believe in your Gods?
Not particularly.  The aspiration of this website is to be of assistance to those who already have such a conviction, to be informational, not evangelical, and to demonstrate the position of its creator so as to enable those of like interest to meet and share.  It is the conviction of this author that belief in a God or Gods cannot be taught.

I have a patron deity and I do not worship all your Gods.  
While not neglecting your relationship with any one deity, we would encourage you to investigate and understand that the Dodecatheon acts as a whole, as well as the extended pantheon around the Olympians.

I practice Religio Romana, the ancient Roman way.
The Italian peninsula was littered with Greek colonies in ancient times, and with their colonies came Hellenismos, along with the Orphic tradition.  Our practices somewhat differ from yours, but there is a strong relationship.

Are you Wiccan?  
No, Wicca is an entirely different religion.  Many people discover Hellenismos through involvement with Wicca but the two are entirely different.

I've been told that the transition from Wicca to Hellenismos is smooth and seamless.
Perhaps that is true of many of the self-proclaimed Hellenic groups that exist outside of Greece, but it is not quite true with this tradition, the tradition presented on this website.  It is recommended that when you approach this tradition, that you come fresh, with no preconceptions and try to learn what is presented and not simply assume that some other tradition is the same as ours.

I'm afraid that this makes me rather uncomfortable.  
We are not here to make people feel comfortable.

Well, all religions are really the same, don't you agree?  
No.

The ancient Greeks practiced syncretism or haven't you studied that?  
Yes, certainly there is talk of syncretism in the writings of Herodotos and many others.  The position of this website is not to confirm or refute syncretism between religions.  The author of this website prefers to present simply the tradition which has been taught to him and to leave speculation about syncretism to those who are interested in it.

What is wrong with eclecticism?  
Nothing, depending on what you mean by the term.  If by being eclectic you mean that you have an open mind, are tolerant, and have seen truth in many traditions, this would certainly be a good thing.  But it is beyond the scope of this website to demonstrate how different religions and philosophies may agree; we are presenting the Greek tradition.  At the same time, however, we are not denying that there is much common ground between various traditions.  

But there is a type of eclecticism that presents a problem.  Eclecticism can be a type of Protagorean view, with all its inherent contradictions.  Protagoras, the famous sophist and philosopher, made the notorious statement, "Man is the measure of all things."  This idea was refuted most famously in Plato's Theaetetus.  The most general interpretation of Protagoras' statement is that there really is no actual truth but that everything is in the eye of the beholder.  In contemporary terms, this is called "I'm okay; you're okay" or the " 'anything goes' philosophy' " or "this is just your view," as if there is no possibility of an accurate, objective view.  This relativism, when applied to religions or philosophical systems, becomes an absurdity and an insult when views within them are not compatible, but such incompatibility is glossed over for convenience sake.  Genuine philosophy is not so open that it just accepts anything as true.  Such thinking is a type of deliberate intellectual laziness that commends others for their ideas so that oneself can also feel comfortable in one's own ignorance.  But actual reality is what it is, despite our feelings about it.  As a gross example, in mathematics, 1+ 1 = 2, regardless of our feelings concerning the equation.

As a final comment, eclecticism is a little like an "open relationship," and the problem with open relationships is that there is, ultimately, a dubious commitment and a frail fidelity.  Eclecticism can be very exciting, just as it is exciting to have numerous sexual encounters.  But tasting has limits.  Eclecticism is appropriate for those who have not found their path; commitment is appropriate for those who have.

What is the connection between Hellenismos and some of the television programs like Hercules or Xena: Warrior Princess?  
None at all, whatsoever.  They are a source of much misinformation about Hellenismos, things that must be undone before you can even begin learning.

You see, I am attracted to the Hellenic Gods because I love fantasy movies and stories.  I believe in magic and many other fantastic things.  
The Hellenic tradition is the hard way of absolute reality . . . there is no fantasy here.  Before you are able to get even so much as a glimpse of true understanding, you must face your landlord, your boss, feed your children or face your parents, pay all your bills.  All these things, the dirt all around you, the wrinkled faces you pass on the street, cleaning a mess in your kitchen, politics, going to work every day...all these seemingly ordinary things....this is what our tradition is about.  If you are not interested in being in the real world, move on and find something else.

Please don't get me wrong: this author loves fantastic stories and great works of imagination.  Perhaps the creators of such works have some genuine insight.  But it is critical not to blur the line between exciting lands of imagination and the real world.  I promise you: the real world, the world of Hellenismos, is, in the end, far more fascinating, colorful, magical and vast than anything you will ever see on the silver screen or in books of the imagination.

This is hypocritical.  Hellenic mythology is filled with fantastic stories that even a child would not believe.  I view them as no different from our fantasy movies.  
Not by a long shot.  To begin, genuine mythology describes divinity.  Divinity is an expression of the natural world, but at the divine level, not the mortal level.  So, from our perspective, it is fantastic.  The stories concerning divine beings were created by mortals, usually in poetic language.  Nonetheless, many of those who left us this inheritance were inspired.  Yet they told these stories in the imagery of their time.    

Even in antiquity, the myths were subject to gross misinterpretation.  For this reason, Socrates (as told by Plato) strongly disliked the myths.  In his utopian vision, as described in the Republic, Socrates insisted that myths depict the Gods accurately, without such poetic language and license.  And his view proved to have merit when Christian critics used the myths as an easy target, interpreting them literally in order to humiliate the older traditions.  To give example, they called the marriage of Zeus and Hera incest. The better understanding of the myths concerning Zeus and Hera is as follows: Zeus is the king of Gods and the father of Gods and men.  Hera is said to be his sister and wife.  The deeper meaning of this mythology is that Zeus is the manifestation of the active cosmogonic (from "Cosmos") substance: Water (called variously, from this perspective, Water/Fire/Æther). Hera is the manifestation of the receptive cosmogonic substance: Earth.  These cosmogonic substances are primal: from the beginning.  Therefore, poetically, they are siblings, i.e. brother and sister.  Without the interaction of Earth and Water, Zeus and Hera, there is no creation; therefore, they are, poetically, married. So, you can see that this mythology has nothing to do with incest at all.  The knowledge of the Gods is intimate and private.  It is not meant for the mundane.  Therefore, the meaning is often hidden in Mystic language which cannot be understood if you do not know the keys to its' interpretation.

This is your viewpoint, but I have seen other groups that have all kinds of ideas.  
Many people view the spiritual journey as a type of whim shopping, picking up things here or there that give you pleasure and ignoring any things that displease you or are difficult for you.  This website attempts to present a particular tradition and an understanding, whether pleasurable to any individual or otherwise.  The object is not to provide exotic ornaments to decorate your mind, but to attempt to present what is learned and, hopefully, present what may be helpful to others.  We do not condemn the ideas of other groups, but we do not condone them either; we have our own tradition and are, simply, presenting it.

Nonetheless, on your very website, you have mentioned mysteries.  This is what I want.  I desire to know about the esoteric, deeper things.  
If you wish to learn the deeper things, pick up some Plato.  But you may be rather disappointed.  "The deeper things" have little to do with divination, clairvoyance, burning incense, ringing bells, and mystical chanting.  As for the Mysteries, they are means for advancing your soul.  To practice the Mysteries is difficult.  It means facing your life.  Not some "other" life....THIS LIFE.  The Mysteries have nothing to do with escaping your day-to-day world in exchange for something... well....mysterious.  The word, after centuries of confusion, is loaded.  If you want to know what the Mysteries are all about, start at ground level, forget all your preconceptions, and start fresh.  The connotations that this word has picked up are flat-out incorrect and, unfortunately, are often the source of much mischief.  

But in my daily life, I have frequent visitations of Gods and Goddesses! I hear messages from them and they are constantly guiding me!
My opinion?  I have no idea.  People confront me with such fantastic stories on a daily basis, stories which, by ordinary logic, would push the limits of what is considered rationally reasonable.  Do I deny them? No.  Do I confirm them.  No.  I have no idea what to say to such claims.  But I will say this.  I attempt to practice the true philosophy.  Consequently, I AM SKEPTICAL.  I do not take things purely on faith.  I am not naïve.   Even of experiences of my very own: I am skeptical.  I think it is far preferable to be grounded in the day-to-day world, the world which some people like to think is very, very mundane.  It is in this gritty world that I have found great inspiration.

It is easy to interpret an ordinary event in spectacular ways.  For example, I enjoy leaving out food for the squirrels in my backyard.  One day, I left out some nuts.  In a half hour or so, I took a look outside.  To my astonishment, there were, perhaps, thirty or more huge crows eating the nuts.  Frankly, I have never seen so many crows in my life, and here they were gathered in my own backyard.  Well now, crows are sacred to Apollo, who I love dearly.  So I became very excited.  Were the crows some kind of "sign" from Apollo? . . .  It would be charming and appealing if they were . . . but perhaps they were just crows eating nuts.  
Logic tells me that the latter is far more likely than the former.

The word for the visitation of a God is theophany (thæofania; Gr. θεοφάνεια). I was taught in Greece that theophany is an extremely rare event; even the very greatest of people have never experienced such a thing. Theophany, if one has been fated to have such a manifestation, may occur, perhaps, once in a lifetime, perhaps a couple times or a handful, but never daily. Such is the traditional teaching.  Further, it must be understood that if a God appears to a person, such an individual is not necessarily any more advanced than others.  Indeed, there are cases from ancient literature when the exact opposite would appear to be true, as in the dreams of the great antagonist figures Xerxes and Artabanus (Herodotus' Histories, Book VII, Chap.11-18).  

How do we interpret our world?
Truly, the world is divine. As such, all that occurs is an experience of the divine. But you must understand that this means everything. If you interpret the world in this fashion, how can you discriminate? But an actual appearance of a personal God who has chosen you to communicate with? There are many issues with such an idea. Are you so special, so much better than others who make no such claim, that an Olympian God, or any God, has chosen to reveal himself to you? Well, maybe he has and maybe he hasn't. I have no idea. But when people expect me to believe something completely fantastic, do not be surprised if I am skeptical. I would expect the same from you concerning my fantastic stories.

There is ample evidence of divination from antiquity.  
Indeed there is.  There is ample evidence from ancient times of almost every type of human activity that you can possibly imagine.

Don't you believe in magic?  
Oh there is magic, truly fantastic, that is based on the natural world. But just because such a thing exists, and that we might even hold such a thing as precious, does not mean that we accept just anything that is presented to us as valid. As in the question above concerning theophany, this author, on an almost daily basis, is exposed to people who claim all kinds of fantastic things. If I were to accept all these things, I would have no credibility at all, and most importantly, I would lose faith in my own judgment. Further, to the best of my perception, most such claims seem to be more consistent with other religious traditions, claims that are made by people who demand, for whatever reason, some kind of confirmation from ours. Subjects such as magic, clairvoyance, divination, necromancy, etc., are not common subjects in Hellenismos. If such topics are your main interest, you will find no help here in furthering your studies. Again, people will claim that such practices as witchcraft etc. are known to have existed in the ancient world. Well, we completely agree. We know they existed in the ancient world. But they have little, if anything, to do with what we here are interested in. Here, we are only concerned with one thing: the development of arete, the genuine Virtue and excellence of true philosophy. This and nothing else, to the best of our ability.  See 'magia' in the Glossary.

You seem to be going out of your way to discourage someone who is interesting in "occult" things.
Indeed, we have no interest in entertaining people who want such things. If this is your interest, you will find nothing here.  The Hellenismos taught here is a genuine path.  If you are looking for something that will give you ecstatic feelings and help you to escape the difficulties of your life, move on.  Hellenismos, rather than helping you escape, will draw you deeper into your life...THIS life...not some "other" life.  Hellenismos is very ordinary.  And even if you follow this path, there are no guarantees: it is your responsibility.  This is always the case, but following this path makes this fact painfully obvious.  But, on the other hand, if you are willing, not just to say you are willing, but if you are truly willing, then you move slowly on this path.  And something happens.  But this something is not necessarily what you may be looking for.  It is hyper-reality.

I am a reconstructionist and I have seen several instances on your site where you point out that one thing or another is misunderstood in modern times and often in ancient times as well.  Shouldn't we follow the ancient way scrupulously?  
I suggest that you read Plato's dialogue Euthyphro and you will see how people in ancient times were just as confused about religion as they are today.  You see, there are several issues.  There is the tradition, there is history, there is the modern world, and there is what is true.  Since, as explained above, Hellenismos is not creedal, we are less concerned with merely what people in ancient times did, and more concerned with what is true.  So, we present our tradition but we advocate the development of aræti and the philosophical attitude, whether these things comply a particular historical instance or not.  I think you will discover that this attitude is very true to the best of what the ancient Greeks were involved with.  Where there are issues described on the site that affirm a correct understanding, irregardless of whether there were some people in ancient times who believed otherwise, such issues are considered very important and the explanation given is not arbitrarily fabricated by the author, but is the result primarily of what this author has been taught.

In what way is your tradition different from other groups out there?  
The most conspicuous difference between this group and others is that we are practicing a tradition taught directly to us by Greeks, a living tradition.  And we are what is known as Philhellenes, i.e. friends of the Greeks.

Yes, I noticed that you even have many quotes from the famous Philhellene, Lord Byron, on your website.  
Byron was interested in not only the ancient Greeks, but he came to love the modern Greeks of his time as well, putting his own life on the line for them, for which he is regarded by contemporary Greeks as a great hero.  Many people of our time are only interested in the ancient Greeks, but could care less about the country today.  Concerning this, we are very different.

In what other ways does this website differ from others?  
Most of the other groups that are online are either practicing a reconstruction or an eclectic creation of individuals' whims, or some combination.

Some groups promote the worship of a single deity such as Apollo or Dionysos.  Some are eclectic and mix their worship with several traditions.  This website promotes Dodecatheism, the worship of the twelve Olympian Gods (and the entire pantheon), along with particular practices; we embrace the entire Hellenic tradition yet are not eclectic: we have our own perspective.

Some Hellenic groups study texts and the opinions of scholars and try to recreate the ancient religion.  They are called reconstructionists.  There are others who follow their own intuition and create their own ways of honoring the Gods and worshiping them.  And, of course, there are people who are doing a little of both.  This website promotes a specific framework that is traditional, like the reconstructionists, and also intuitive, so there is similarity to the other groups from these perspectives, but this website represents an already-existing tradition learned in Greece, so it is not a reconstruction, nor is it a creation of pure imagination or inspiration.

This website promotes the teachings of Orpheus and Dionysos.  This may seem very unlike some other groups who appear to entirely exclude or minimize Orpheus from their field of interest.

Finally, and most importantly, we place the emphasis on arete, virtue, as the most important, above everything else; all else is secondary.  If the soul develops true virtue, everything else will fall in place.

I thought that the Orphics are a small sub-sect of the Greek heritage?  
Some scholars have presented it in that way, but it is not true.  Orpheus is known as the great reformer of the Hellenic tradition.  His reforms are the inheritance of all and are incorporated in what is known as the Orphic-Pythagorean-Eleusinian legacy.  It is the lineage of philosophy and the Mysteries, the deeper meaning of the Hellenic path.

Yes, I have heard that this website is "Orphic."  
This website is Orphic indeed, but not any more Orphic than the practices of most Greeks who worship the Gods.  As mentioned above, Orpheus reformed the Greek tradition. And all those who practice Hellenismos benefit from his endeavor.  This website, as the author has been taught, encompasses the entire Greek tradition.  We are not locked into any particular period of ancient Greece, because we are not reconstructionists; we practice an existing tradition, and the teachings of Orpheus are incorporated in this living, existing tradition, along with the rest of its accumulated knowledge and wisdom.

I've been told that you possess the ancient Eleusinian Mysteries.  
No. The bulk of the practices of the Eleusinian and the other famous Mysteries have been lost.  We possess echoes of the Mysteries and are some individuals who know more than others.  In general, we attempt to practice the deeper aspect of Hellenismos, what is most significant to the religion.  This deeper meaning is the heart of the Mysteries.  But the initiations etc. of Eleusis have been lost.  In particular, the genuine and selfless Magic of the Mysteries, the province of the great Goddess Hecate, which require intimate knowledge of the Natural Laws, has been lost.

I have read that the Greeks condemn homosexuality.  
Of course some Greeks condemn homosexuality, some people will in any and every place, yet this author knows Greeks who are entirely tolerant of homosexuality.  Just as there are many disparate views in the United States or any other country, the Greek people have many different opinions.   Concerning our religion, Hellenismos does not either promote or condemn homosexuality.

I have read that the ancient Greek religion in contemporary Greece is connected with fascist causes.
There are extreme right-wing groups in Greece who hold fascist views, as there are in any country.  Such groups tend to make a lot of noise and draw a great deal of attention, particularly since there is such an economic problem in the country causing great misery for the people.  Furthermore, it must be understood that there are widely divergent political views in Greece, and those  who practice the old religion do not all agree in their politics.  We avoid communication with fascist groups and we do we agree with or identify with them.  To the contrary, the Greeks this author knows have exactly the opposite views and any such sentiments should never be confused with our religion.  But yes and very unfortunately, there are some who hold these views even in those who practice the ancient religion, but we abhor such views and struggle against them.

I have read that the Greeks who practice the ancient religion are interested only in those people of Greek blood and that they believe that the ancient religion can only legitimately be practiced by them.  
The Greeks this author knows do not at all agree with this position. They state that the Gods are everyone's Gods, therefore, how could the Gods be only for those of Greek blood? Hellenismos should not be confused with nationalistic trends, trends which have surfaced in many countries.  Of course the Greeks have every right to be very proud of their heritage and they, simply by who they are, will always have a special relationship with this religion and its traditions, but on the other hand, Hellenismos reflects the very reality of the Kosmos and is, therefore, universal.

What is the best preparation to follow Hellenismos?  
Perhaps the best preparation to practice Hellenismos is to study history, from ancient times to the present. If those who educated you left this area wanting, you must educate yourself.  The understanding of history will greatly illuminate your mind and expand your understanding of everything, such that when the teachings of Hellenismos are presented, they will make sense.  Once this is grasped, you will begin to find Hellenismos in everything.

Although I find many of the ideas on this page interesting, I am not sure if I should choose Hellenismos as my religion. How can I decide?  
Those who come to follow Hellenismos somehow discover that they already have a connection; the decision is not to choose a new religion, but rather to commit oneself to something one already finds oneself connected to.  The idea of "conversion" is not a Hellenic idea, but more of a Christian idea.  If the contents of this page sound a bit like an advertisement for people looking for a religion, it is not intended as such. This FAQ is designed to answer simple questions for people curious about Hellenismos.  It is not intended to convince anyone about the existence of God or Gods, a rather futile endeavor, but simply to clarify many ideas about our traditions.

Well then, who are you looking for?  
We are trying to make ourselves and our resources accessible to serious and honest individuals, people who want to make a difference with their life, to make a difference in the world, people who wish to deepen their relationship with Hellenismos, to find a way to put their convictions into practice by means of learning a legitimate tradition. In reality, we are not looking for anyone, but we are available to diligent individuals who feel a connection with what is being presented here and who are willing to start fresh, work hard, and learn our tradition.

How can I get involved with this?  
If you are genuinely interested in learning this way of life, send an email and explain your interest to Inquire.hellenicgods@gmail.com.  You should be willing to meet in person if you live near, or if you are far, at the very minimum, you should be willing to be in frequent contact via phone or Skype.
______
By Kallimakhos
www.hellenicgods.org

_________________
"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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