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What should I call myself?

Post  ayma_nidiot on Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:59 pm

I have just started to follow the ancient Greek religion recently. I understand that this religion is called by many names, including "Hellenism," "Dodekatheism," "Olympianism," etc. When someone asks me what my religion is, I would like to say, "I am a _________." What should I put in that blank?

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Re: What should I call myself?

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Sun Nov 10, 2013 2:13 am

I am part of a particular Mystery school of Hellenic religion, so I don't have this particular problem to deal with. However, before I became Orphic, I was still a practicing Hellenic polytheist, and I felt similar to you. The problem with the word "Hellenismos," is how so much of it is tied into not just religion, but also culture. To call oneself an Hellene is to say that one not only worships the Hellenic gods, but also takes part in any number of culturally Hellenic things that have nothing to do with Hellenic religion. So you could call ourself an Hellene, but you might find yourself explaining the subtle nuances of the word.

Dodekatheism means "belief in 12 gods," so you could also use this word. It also has some problems, though. There are 12 principle gods in Hellenic religion, yes, but there are many more entities within Hellenic religion that are worshipped. Dodekatheism seems too limiting a word.

Then there is Olympianism. This is the label I used for myself, and it's the one I feel most appropriate. No one who's ever read any kind of Greek mythology has any doubt what the word Olympus refers to. It instantly conures images of Zeus wielding a thunderbolt or Artemis pulling back her bow. To say that one is an Olympianist is to say "I am a practitioner of the religion of Olympus." Can't get any more accurate than that, IMHO.

Happy soul-searching ^^

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Re: What should I call myself?

Post  hhodios on Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:27 am

Hellenic (or Greek) polytheist is how I say it, but I get that Hellenic can imply cultural aspects. I don't have a problem with Ancient Greek culture other than the slavery, so it's not a big deal for me.
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Re: What should I call myself?

Post  Erodius on Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:14 am

hhodios wrote:Hellenic (or Greek) polytheist is how I say it, but I get that Hellenic can imply cultural aspects. I don't have a problem with Ancient Greek culture other than the slavery, so it's not a big deal for me.

Except, with all due respect, I see a few considerable problems with both of those terms.

First, 'polytheist' places undue emphasis on the number of deity, which is itself problematic to define. Certainly, Classical Olympiac religion included currents that would have been definably polytheistic. But, especially in later Antiquity, also numerous monotheistic, henotheistic and kathenotheistic currents. 'Polytheism' is not a religion, it is a category of religions, and an awkward one at that. No Jew would ever say he/she is a 'Judean monotheist'.

Second, calling oneself 'Hellenic' for the above reasons seems much like, for example, a person from, say, as a random example, 'Turkmenistan' saying "I'm an American, because I like Civil-War-era American culture." Well, I think that hardly makes one an American. 'Hellene' and all its derivatives do not sometimes imply a culture, they always do. Furthermore, they do not necessarily imply anything 'ancient' at all. Any person from modern Greece calls him/herself a Hellene. The Greek Orthodox Church is the 'Hellene Orthodox Church' in Greek. Greece itself is the 'Hellenic Republic'. Calling oneself a Hellene if one is not Greek, does not speak Greek, is not culturally Greek (it hardly matters what one 'thinks' about Greek culture, what matters is whether or not you live it), strikes many Greeks themselves as very arrogant, presumptuous and culturally ignorant.

Furthermore, strictly speaking, even if you are a student of Ancient Greek religion, and try to put what you've learned into practice, what you are doing is not ancient Greek religion. No matter how dedicated one is, and how closely one follows 'scholarly' writings (which are, sometimes, totally wrong), what one is doing in such a case is practicing a self-invented religion inspired by ancient Greek religion. Of course nobody can stop you if that is what you wish to do, but you've got to be honest about it and not claim to be doing something you aren't.

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"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: What should I call myself?

Post  acdcguy1920 on Fri Nov 15, 2013 12:26 am

I prefer Hellenismos as it has historical value. My problem with Olympianism is that it excludes all the gods that do not reside on Olympus like Hades and Pan just to name a couple. Also it doesn't include spiritual entities like nymphs, satyrs and daemons.

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Re: What should I call myself?

Post  Thrasyvoulos on Fri Nov 15, 2013 12:31 am

acdcguy1920 wrote:I prefer Hellenismos as it has historical value. My problem with Olympianism is that it excludes all the gods that do not reside on Olympus like Hades and Pan just to name a couple. Also it doesn't include spiritual entities like nymphs, satyrs and daemons.
This depends on whether you take an absolute, hard polytheistic stance or the more historically accurate, nuanced "softer" polytheism that regards the entirety of the cosmos to ultimately consist of one entity. With the latter view, this criticism of Olympianism tends to fall apart.

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Re: What should I call myself?

Post  Erodius on Fri Nov 15, 2013 8:11 am

acdcguy1920 wrote:I prefer Hellenismos as it has historical value. My problem with Olympianism is that it excludes all the gods that do not reside on Olympus like Hades and Pan just to name a couple.
No, it doesn't. No more than 'Buddhism' would indicate that the Buddhist religion reveres exclusively the Buddha, or that 'Christianity' is only about Christ.

'Hellenism' has numerous problems. For one thing, it is very vague, and does not even necessarily refer to any religion at all. An academic historian of Greece is a Hellenist in the parlance of academia, Jews of Antiquity who adopted Greek customs are called Hellenists in the New Testament, and further, to someone who speaks contemporary Greek, 'Hellenism' simply means 'Greek-ness', and for most of them, it implies membership in the Greek Orthodox Church.

In Greece, the usual term is ᾽ἐθνικὴ θρησκεία᾽ which means something like 'the native religion.'

A major benefit of 'Olympianism' is that, first off, it is not ambiguous. Second, even average people will probably understand the basics of what you mean without your having to explain it to them (is a word even a word if it has to be explained every time you use it?). Second, it is an actual English word, used formerly in scholarly circles when referring to Classical Graeco-Roman religion, though it has fallen out of scholarly use in more recent times due to what I would call a case of trivial hairsplitting amongst scholars.

Also it doesn't include spiritual entities like nymphs, satyrs and daemons.
Yes, it does. Olympiac cult implies the inclusion of other lesser divinities by default, by virtue of the fact that such a thing as an Olympiac religion that specifically excludes non specifically-Olympic deities simply does not exist, and never has either.

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"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: What should I call myself?

Post  Linda on Sat Nov 16, 2013 4:32 pm

I sometimes call myself a Hellenic recon, that works rather well in my language. But most of the time I don't use a label like that, I rather say that 'I beleive in the ancient gods' with or without the addition of 'the Hellenes', depending on the situation. (In Sweden people rarely connect Hellenes with Greeks by the way) I rarely use the word 'Olympian' because then everyone seems to just be thinking of those athlethic games, and then I know I have tonnes of explanations to do. After all, the way I feel, these games have very little to do with our religion these days. It's almost as if I was to say Oh, you're a christian, you're one of those who take a pine indoors and hang decorative things in it in December
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Re: What should I call myself?

Post  Erodius on Sat Nov 16, 2013 6:06 pm

I rarely use the word 'Olympian' because then everyone seems to just be thinking of those athlethic games
Actually, if you wanted to be more clear, a worshipper of the Olympiac deities would be called an 'Olympiast.' The '-ist/ast' suffix is used in Greek to refer to worshippers of various cults. So a worshipper of Juno-Ἥρᾱ is a Ἡραϊστής 'Heraist' in Greek, a worshipper of Pluto is a Πλουτωνιαστής, a 'Plutoniast', of Jove-Ζάς a Διαστής 'Diast' and so on and so forth.

If you need a reason to study Greek, this might be one in and of itself. There are words already to refer specifically to things that you'd need a whole sentence to explain in other languages.

_________________
"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: What should I call myself?

Post  Linda on Sun Nov 17, 2013 10:25 am

Erodius wrote:[If you need a reason to study Greek, this might be one in and of itself. There are words already to refer specifically to things that you'd need a whole sentence to explain in other languages.
That's how it always is! Very Happy You create the words you need. There's not a coinsidence the Inuits have 50 words for snow.
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Re: What should I call myself?

Post  hhodios on Fri Dec 20, 2013 12:18 am

Erodius wrote:
hhodios wrote:Hellenic (or Greek) polytheist is how I say it, but I get that Hellenic can imply cultural aspects. I don't have a problem with Ancient Greek culture other than the slavery, so it's not a big deal for me.

Except, with all due respect, I see a few considerable problems with both of those terms.

First, 'polytheist' places undue emphasis on the number of deity, which is itself problematic to define. Certainly, Classical Olympiac religion included currents that would have been definably polytheistic. But, especially in later Antiquity, also numerous monotheistic, henotheistic and kathenotheistic currents. 'Polytheism' is not a religion, it is a category of religions, and an awkward one at that. No Jew would ever say he/she is a 'Judean monotheist'.

Second, calling oneself 'Hellenic' for the above reasons seems much like, for example, a person from, say, as a random example, 'Turkmenistan' saying "I'm an American, because I like Civil-War-era American culture." Well, I think that hardly makes one an American. 'Hellene' and all its derivatives do not sometimes imply a culture, they always do. Furthermore, they do not necessarily imply anything 'ancient' at all. Any person from modern Greece calls him/herself a Hellene. The Greek Orthodox Church is the 'Hellene Orthodox Church' in Greek. Greece itself is the 'Hellenic Republic'. Calling oneself a Hellene if one is not Greek, does not speak Greek, is not culturally Greek (it hardly matters what one 'thinks' about Greek culture, what matters is whether or not you live it), strikes many Greeks themselves as very arrogant, presumptuous and culturally ignorant.

Furthermore, strictly speaking, even if you are a student of Ancient Greek religion, and try to put what you've learned into practice, what you are doing is not ancient Greek religion. No matter how dedicated one is, and how closely one follows 'scholarly' writings (which are, sometimes, totally wrong), what one is doing in such a case is practicing a self-invented religion inspired by ancient Greek religion. Of course nobody can stop you if that is what you wish to do, but you've got to be honest about it and not claim to be doing something you aren't.

Your objections are duly noted, of course, I'm not as deep into the knowledge of "our" (i'm not an Orphic) religion as you are. I just want to note that I use "hellenic" as an adjective to "polytheist" to differentiate it from other polytheistic religions, for example Norse polytheism. But it's kind of a moot point since almost nobody knows about it anyway ;)I wouldn't have have any problem with "(ancient) Greek polytheism" either.
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Re: What should I call myself?

Post  Erodius on Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:25 am

"(ancient) Greek polytheism"

Certainly, there is not anyone able to stop you from considering yourself a polytheist, or a monotheist, or a henotheist, or kathenotheist, or what have you. However, the strength of my objection is in that using the number of deity as one's religious designation both creates false sense of unity where it is not, as well as drawing divisions where, I would argue, they should not be.

To clarify, I would think it goes pretty much without saying that your religiosity is much more similar to mine than to that of someone raised in the traditional tribal religion of, say, Papua New Guinea. However, the Papuan's religion would fairly clearly be classifiably polytheistic, whereas, I would call myself, (as most Hindus do, for instance, to the bewilderment of Christians), as world-rocking as it may sound, a monotheist, as would have numerous non-Christian people in the Classical world.

Most of the religiously-practicing Graeco-Roman world of Late Antiquity would have considered themselves to believe in one God (often in the grammatical neuter as τὸ Θεῖον) with a variety of distinct aspects and manifestations — which, was, however, of course, rejected by Christians as 'still polytheism.'

Unfortunately, it is not available anywhere for free that I could ever find, and even the e-text is a bit pricey (about $30, as I remember), and is copy-protected so that I cannot repost it or cut-paste from it (I'd have to screen shot or retype it by hand, which is, I'm sure, probably illegal beyond a small quote-volume) but I cannot recommend Polymnia Athanassiadi and Michael Frede's Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity, which is a thorough, scholarly book, ubiquitously footnoted, exploring the several major non-Judaeo-Christian monotheistic religious segments in the later Graeco-Roman world which are almost always neglected, ignored or deliberately suppressed, either by Christians intent on preserving their façade of uniqueness, or by non-Christians either innocently or deliberately unaware that monotheism was far from rare outside of Judaeo-Christian circles.

_________________
"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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