i did this other thing

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The Muse Whispers to Hesiod

I’m thinking of punching a few small, unobtrusive holes along the bottom and selling it with a printed calendar. I’d include four sets of Command strips to post it to the wall without damaging it. After the calendar is over, the painting itself would be suitable for framing.

ETA: You can’t tell from the photo (I’m going to wait until it’s completely dry to scan it), but the Muse’s colours are all mixed with an iridescent/sparkly medium, so She shimmers. I hope it shows up better in the scan, tomorrow.


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About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Thanatos

Hesiod, Theogony 758 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“Nyx (Night) carries Hypnos in her arms, and he is Thanatos’ (Death’s) brother . . . And there [near the house of Nyx in the underworld] the children of gloomy Nyx have their houses. These are Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), dread divinities. Never upon them does Helios, the shining sun, cast the light of his eye-beams, neither when he goes up the sky nor comes down from it. One of these [Hypnos], across the earth and the wide sea-ridges, goes his way quietly back and forth, and is kind to mortals, but the heart of the other one [Thanatos] is iron, and brazen feelings without pity are inside his breast.”

Where Haides is the Lord of the Death, Thanatos is the God or Daimon of Death itself. Though the occasional sacrifice was offered to Thanatos in specific, He was given no temples or public altars and shrines.

The differences between Theoi and Daimons in ancient Hellas seems a bit blurrier than some people believe, and one region’s Theos would be another’s Daimon, or even one person’s Theos would be…, and so on. This is why I don’t whinge about how the word “polytheism” somehow implies a lack of acknowledgement and/or honour given to spirits (and no, this is not a strawman, I’ve seen a few people claim this), and why, most importantly, I don’t describe my beliefs as “both polytheistic and animistic”, because traditional polytheism tends to imply a degree of belief in peripheral daimones. In Hesiod’s Theogony, the birth of Thanatos seems to imply a Daimonhood, but I don’t really have a concrete opinion of one way or the other in regards to Thanatos.

Basically, Thanatos’ existence as a separate entity from Haides is why I specifically describe Haides as “Lord of the Dead”, and ancient thought does seem to have a similar separation of Haides from being “God of Death” and instead describes Him as “God of the Underworld” or “God of the Dead”. Where Haides governs the dead, Thanatos delivers death. Thanatos also, even per Hesiod, seems to exist outside of Haides’ governance, and acts outside of Haides’ order.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Boeotian Theoi: Haides

I know, I know, it’s cheesy to do the “spooky” deities around this time of the year, but as in most incidents in life, I just re-assure myself: It could’ve been worse. Also: Better to do cheesy stereotypical actions as an insider than as an outsider.

So, Haides, eh?

The cult and temples to Hekate was small, but Haides’ cult is TINY, in comparison. TINY. The primary reason for this is obvious: Death is a spiritual pollutant, so while the Lord of the Dead must be afforded His due measure, one isn’t really given an incentive to do more than that, is one? Those called to His service, even today, are regarded suspiciously or, at best, as “odd, but necessary”. For some reason, the screenplay-writing industry, especially since about 1985, wants to make Haides synonymous with the Christian “Satan”, even though this is probably the sloppiest parallel that could be drawn (the Abrahamic tale of Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden by the aid of the serpent, unnamed in Genesis, but commonly syncretised with “Satan” by most Christians, comes closer to the mythos of Prometheus, for example, — but that’s another story for another time), as Haides’ role in Hellenic mythology? He is Lord of the Dead and His domains most commonly include funerary rites and necromancy. His epithets even include Νεκρων Σωτηρ (Nekrôn Sôtêr), “Saviour of the Dead”. It’s clear that Haides wants little, if anything, to do with human beings until we’ve passed on, so the only reason I can figure why His name has become synonymous with the Christian “Hell” and linked to an Abrahamic daimon that first gives people knowledge, and then tests individuals’ virtue (and by Jewish tradition, this is clearly in a context of testing man for G-d, as Jehovah’s servant) is pure, unadulterated ignorance.

Hesiod described this son of Kronos and Rhea as “strong Haides, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth”, and some translators feel that Hesiod’s use of “Zeus Khthonios”, “Zeus Who dwells within/under the earth”, in Works & Days is another name for Haides — which makes sense, as Zeus’ domain is clearly as a Sky-God within Hesiod, and so this could extend Haides’ domain to the fertility of the earth, which logically, He’d also be connected to via the mythos of Persephone, whose return to Demetre’s side on Olympos heralds the spring thaw. This also makes sense biologically, as the decay of bodies both animal and vegetable renews the earth’s fertility; death and decay are thus part of the cycle of life.

Another name for Haides that I see in the works of Hesiod, Aidoneus, is translated by Theoi Project as “the Unseen”. I’m unsure if this is the reason for or the result of the ancient custom to avert one’s eyes when sacrificing to Haides, but either way, it seems fitting; the Host of the dead is unseen to those still living.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Boeotian Theoi: Hekate

[Please note: I want to apologise for skipping over Demeter and Kore at the time I had allotted for Them. Sometimes I think I’ll feel up for doing something, and then allergies or carpal tunnel syndrome, or whatever else goes wrong. I also must confess that I’m not the best at managing the time I have, in part cos I’m just too easily distracted.]

Hesiod, Theogony 404 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
“Hekate whom Zeus the son of Kronos honoured above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honour also in starry heaven, and is honoured exceedingly by the deathless gods . . . For as many as were born of Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Heaven) [the Titanes] amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Kronos [Zeus] did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea. Also, because she is an only child, the goddess receives not less honour, but much more still, for Zeus honours her.”

I’ve found little about Hekate’s shrines specific to Boeotian traditions, but Hesiod apparently considered Her of great importance, and there is evidence that She was a widespread household goddess, with a a shrine at household gates, and at crossroads. At the deipnon (dark moon), the ancients left Her a meal, outdoors, as an offering. In Popular Wicca, She’s often cast as the “crone” aspect of the uniquely modern archetype on the “triple goddess”, while Demetre and Persephone occupy the “Mother” and “Maiden” faces. Indeed, in Hellenic art, Hekate is consistently maiden, young woman, and Hekate Trimorphis is simply all Hekate. According to Pausanius, Hekate Trimorphis was first depicted in art as triple-headed or triple-bodied by the Attic artist Alkamenes, and came much later than the Triplicate imagery of Hekate that’s incredibly popular with Pop Wicca. I don’t reject Hekate Trimorphis images because they are “newer” and thus somehow not “proper recon”1. Indeed, if the only “correct” way to see Hekate is the oldest way, then She should be an invisible Goddess, appearing only as a glimpse of light from the corner of one’s eye, rather than the single-bodied maiden bearing torches. I don’t reject any image of Hekate, and though I see a more spiritual meaning of the epithet, I can see the value in portraying it literally.

She also had an important role in the cult of the Elusinian mysteries. She assisted Demetre in Her search for Persephone after Persephone was taken away to the kingdom of Hades. I’ve never had much interest in the Elusinian mysteries, so unless this changes, I’m going to leave any discussion of them to people who know more about it and have a better understanding of it than I do.

One of the proposed etymologies of Her name is either giving origin to or coming from an obscure Lesbian epithet of Apollon, Hekatos, meaning “one that removes or drives off” or “far-darting one”. The most common offerings to Hekate in ancient times were to ward off evil spirits, as Hekate is the goddess of magic, witches, ghosts, and necromancy; She also is given messages to deceased loved ones. The pharmakis, or witch, Gale, was cursed by Hekate for moral incontinence and became the polecat, which some Hellenes kept as housepets for their vermin-catching abilities. There really needs to be more imagery of Hekate with a lion and / or ferret.

The most common animal associated with Her is dogs, but I’ve always thought of lions when envisioning Hekate, and Theoi Project maintains a very brief sourced passage that one of Her forms is that of a lion, so I assume this personal association as Confirmed Gnosis, though probably not without help of cultural influences, including the English and U$ custom of statues of lions at the gates and doorways of important buildings and stately homes (or even just homes and estates that aspire toward stateliness).


1: …and for the record, it’s been AGES since I’ve seen some-one actually make such a ridiculous claim for rejecting a certain image or aspect or even deity, I even forget the name of the person who did it, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if other people continue to say it, and I just haven’t noticed.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

The Story of Hesiod

Once upon a time, in ancient Boeotia, there was a man named Hesiod. He lived with his father in the town of Askra, which Hesiod hated. Originally, Hesiod’s father was from Cyme, a city in Aeolis once claimed to be Aeolis’ largest and most important city — so I can see why Hesiod hated it in Askra, which was small, rural, and largely insignificant. In fact, there was very little that Hesiod didn’t hate. He hated Askra. He hated his brother. He hated women — and just wasn’t too fond of people, as a general rule, as well.

Hesiod did, though, seem to get enjoyment in some form from the things most people disliked, if only because it gave him a smug sense of superiority. He liked work, especially hard manual labour. Actually, I think that was about it. Then one day, he realised that, even more than work, he loved the Theoi. One day, Hesiod’s up on Mount Helikon, tending sheep and hating everything, and a Moisa visited him, as he was out being perfectly happy, with his own little cloud of hateful feelings hoovering above him (as one does, when one’s first, middle, last, or only name is Hesiod), and the Goddess whispered beautiful metres into his ear. “Could it be?” He thought. “Is there truly something more wonderful in life than misery?”

“Indeed,” said the Moisa with a nod, before commanding Hesiod to write it all down.

First Hesiod wrote the Theogony, a grand epic poem of no fewer than 1022 lines, detailing the geneology of the Theoi and the universe They brought together — from Everything’s humble origins as little more than a speck within the great vast tendrils of Khaos’ formless tresses (yes, She is like a Lovecraftian Old One) to the woman Pandora. Pandora was likely inspired by Hesiod’s now long-forgotten ex-wife, Synthykhe1 — she was one of those educated bitches from Thespiai and was the youngest of her family, with three other sisters, so her dowry was, like, two chickens and a used featherbed, and she didn’t dig Askra too well, so she took off one day when Hesiod and his brother were being weiners at each-other, leaving ol’ Hesiod even more broken and joyless than he was before — and that’s a mighty accomplishment. Now she’s a famous hetaera, and making fat cash. Basically, all those “educated Thespian bitches” stereotypes that Hesiod could think of, he put into Pandora so that he could use her as a literary device to support his notion that women can’t be trusted. Or something. Hesiod’s got issues.

Hesiod’s also got family problems. After his father died, he and his brother ended up in a dispute over the estate, and so Hesiod put a big chunk of that (also thinly-veiled) into one of the longest asides ever in his next major poem, Works & Days, and tried to make it some kind of morality lesson. On the good side, we all can rest easy now knowing that whatever family issues we’ve got, people won’t be reading our brother’s side of things for the next 2800 years. Serious, man: Hesiod’s got subscriptions.

He also wrote Ehoiai, or The Catalogue of Women, another geneology — but that only survives in fragments. Another complete work often ascribed to Hesiod is Shield of Herakles, but modern scholars dispute its authorship, some believing it’s about two centuries too new, and too imitative of Homer’s style. Still, some disagree with this modern notion and continue to attribute this one to Hesiod, even though it isn’t that good, when compared to the other two that survive intact.

Some people then claim that Hesiod and Homer competed in a poetry contest, but aside from the fact that Homeric Greek is an Aeolian dialect, there really isn’t much to support that, aside from local tradition, which had a bronze tripod at the shrine to the Moisai at Mt. Helikon that was claimed to have been won by Hesiod in the contest — local traditions also claimed dinosaur bones as those of griffons and demigods, so clearly oral traditions are no more reliable than journalism. Still, it’s possible.

In Hesiod’s later life, we don’t know much from him, but we have a few accounts claiming he was murdered for adultery. I think it was actually cos people finally got tired of listening to how much he hates everything. Hesiod’s got issues, and some people are just prone to snapping like that, put in such close proximity to that kinda pressure. Like, one day, Hesiod’s neighbour is out doing his thing, minding his own business, and then here comes Hesiod, with his moralising, and his prizes, and going on about the economy like he did — and his neighbour knows it’s never gonna end because why? Because Hesiod’s got issues. It was bound to happen.

Then legend has it that Hesiod’s body was cast into the sea and returned to the shores by dolphins (probably after the dolphins did unspeakable things to his corpse — a dolphin will totally perv on you, if you let him, sometimes even if you don’t). Then, his body was put upon a pyre and his ashes entombed with honour at Askra, even though he clearly hated the place, but I guess they figure no better-fitting sentence for being a total wenus than to give him a place of honour in the place he despised most of all. Either way, the hamlet loved him, and so they interred his ashes with honour. Then the Thespians showed up some time later, probably cos of a war or maybe just because Thespiai is wicked-awesome, and the Askrans moved to Orchomenus on the advice of an oracle, and took Hesiod’s ashes with them, and interred them in the town’s agora and was honoured as a heros of Orchomenus’ town hearth, as well. This is Hesiod’s last known resting spot, but clearly the spot isn’t there anymore —thanks, Christians2— and thus ends the story of Hesiod, The Heros Who Hated Everything (and Had to Tell the World About It).

1: I may have just made her up.
2: most likely.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.