30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 30 ~ Advice for seekers

* For most people, your “patron deity” will be related to your stage in life (Apollon and Artemis have domain over protecting children and adolescents) or your careers and hobbies. Very few of you will have a close personal bond with a deity that may make you seem crazy or unstable. This is a good thing.

* While “magics” are not a central focus for Hellenismos, as they tend to be with other paths, it was used in ancient times (often in a for-hire context, but protective talismen were used by many, and by Roman times “curse kits” were popular throughout the Empire). Not everybody needs it, and I’d wager that it will remain a small and controversial aspect of the religion in its current state, if only due to the popularity of certain schools of philisophy and ethics.

* While you don’t have to be a scholar, it still is best to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially when encountering people on-line.

* Most Hellenists are actually very friendly, even if we’re anti-bullshit. Don’t be afraid to ask us things or comment on our blogs.

* The religion doesn’t begin and end with Attik Platonism, but then if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ve at least figured that much out. Explore different ethical and philosophical systems and regional religions for what works best for you — and think about why it works best.

* The Maxims of Delphi are not “holy commandments”. They were written by the Seven Sages, most of whom were Ionian or Doric, and only one of whom was Aeolic, and Lesbian, not Boeotian (though one anonymous source cites Acusilaos as one of the Seven, it is unknown if he was Peloponesian or Boeotian). Their importance is going to vary, and it’s often debated exactly how much importance these Maxims even had in ancient times — even people with a Phd in Classical studies don’t definitively agree as to whether the Maxims of Delphi were regularly regarded as “great wisdom” or “quotable proverbs” (similar to the ending of Aesop’s Fables) or if they were simply a social conditioning tool and writing exercise for children. Maxims 73 (“Be happy with what you have” Κτωμενος ηδου), 130 (“Do not begin to be insolent” Μη αρχε υβριζειν), and especially 132 (“Be ready to die for your homeland” Θνησκε υπερ πατριδος) seem to support the latter hypothesis, as adult men have already passed compulsory military service and so meditating on that “wisdom” seems a bit redundant. Sure, there is wisdom in these proverbs, but clearly not for everybody, and especially not at every stage of life. The “Ten Commandments” of Abrahamic religion are, by their own mythos, “handed down divinely”; the Maxims of Delphi were created by man.

"Of the Earth", Gaia-Kybele, by J. Young


* Just because a secondary (typically “modern” — 17th Century or later) source uses words like “archaeology” and even if the guy has a degree does not make it credible. I can’t think of any well-known or easily identifiable examples for faulty scholarship of polytheism specifically, but Naked Archaeologist Simcha Jacobovici has a BA in Philosophy and a MA in Political Science &mdasj; at best, this qualifies him to be a diplomat, and doesn’t even qualify him to teach Philosophy at a community college, his History Channel special, Exodus Decoded has been heavily criticised by real archaeologists and real religious scholars, using very simple tactics to mislead viewers, and then mangles Anglicised Hebrew with the original, something that I very seldom see novelists do, all in an attempt to perform retrograde etymology, much like the Resurrect Isis guy does to claim “Genesis = genes-of-Isis”. True, there is some decent stuff on the telly, but if you’re going to absorb cable documentaries, note the by-lines and titles of the speakers interviewed, and check up on their credentials and claims. There are some well-knowledged and scientific-minded laypersons out there, but since they don’t tend to have an agenda, they come off “fair and boring” and tend not to have television shows.

* That said, you DON’T have to be a scholar to practise Hellenismos. You don’t have to be a puffy-chested philosopher, either. Hellenion’s website, for example, has ritual outlines and a calendar of festival cycles, and you can just go from there.

* Eschew anti-intellectualism.

* Embrace xenia.

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 29 ~ The future of Hellenismos

Like any minority religion, the future of Hellenismos is dependent upon those who practise it. People have to be dedicated not only to traditions, culture, and mythology, but also to growth: Population growth of the community (be it through “family building” or through outreach), spiritual growth, and the growth of organisations and informal groups that are and will become the public face of Hellenic polytheism — from umbrella groups like YSEE to generalised ritual groups like Hellenion to Thiassoi both big and tiny dedicated to all of our gods and goddesses from Zeus to Hera to Dionysos to Aphrodite to Eros to Gaia-Kybele to Asklepios to Hekate to Priapos to Kirke.

With this growth, there should be both dedicated de-facto clergy and community builders, and always at least a slightly larger number of “laity” — people who are religious, but who prefer a role as part of the masses, not as one in a spotlight within the religion. After all, if the social sciences have proved to us nothing else about ourselves, they have shown that the influence of a priest or city councilman has a far lesser effect on what we do with our lives than our friends and families.

I’d like to see the erection of new temples and the increase of semi-public and public dedicated sacred spaces within my own lifetime. This can only happen with not only people dedicated to making it happen, but also dedicated to acquiring resources; I’ve seen people with only part-time employment raise the funds and equipment to film feature-length underground-indie films, so while I know that many (if not most) Hellenistai are far from rich, I also know that a few people dedicating themselves to fund-raising for lasting projects can do it. The projects probably will take several years to finalise, but it’s possible with the right people channelling the right dedication into the right areas.

I’d also really like to see a certain mentality, or at least a certain camp that champions it, to basically lose the last remaining threads of genuine respectability it clings to, because the underlying game of “divide and conquer” that camp is best known for will become the downfall of Hellenismos if enough people are either stupid enough to get sucked into it, or apathetic enough to ignore the need for a necessary attention to everything that is at fault with that sort of thinking. Don’t become consumed with bringing others down &mdasjh; but don’t be so naive as to assume that a certain “Pope No-Life & His Talking Butt-Plugs” can’t bring real harm to a community if left unchecked; when everything one touches turns to rust, it’s best for others to take note of that and, like a colony of ants who’ve noted a member infected by cordyceps, reduce that member’s ability to infect others with the brain disease.

I’d like to see a reduction of growth from Christianity, at least to a greater extent than what’s alleged in some more recent surveys, and especially a reduction in its most harmful sects: Fundamentalists and Evangelists. I have little, if any problem with the meat-and-bones of things the composite character of “Jesus” is said to have said, and so I have no problem being asked to tolerate Quakers, Menonites, Shakers, other pacifist sects, and basically any Christian who will not pose a threat to those exercising their right to freedom of religion. Political clowns and “real-life Internet trolls”1 like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Glenn Beck and others pose a real threat to polytheism, if given any sort of power. For any Hellene to advocate any such person who advocates that sort of “religion” into a public office is to take a dump on the altar of the Theoi and on whatever hero-cult to United $tates “founding fathers” may exist:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” —Thomas Jefferson

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the Common Law.” —Thomas Jefferson

“If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both here (England) and in New England.”
—Benjamin Franklin

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” —James Madison,1803 letter objecting use of gov. land for churches

“Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1,500 years?” —John Adams

“The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole cartloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity.” —John Adams

“The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession.” —Adraham Lincoln

I’d also like to seem in my lifetime, true peace and harmony for polytheists in Hellas. While her people have decriminalised Their worship (all of five years ago), there are still social injustices faced by many who do so with any degree of public knowledge. This is also a problem I want to see eradicated within the Anglosphere, but it exists to a far lesser extent in recent years. I know this may be a little too much to ask, but if you don’t ask, then you never know what you might get; if you do ask, then there’s at least a chance.


1: Quote goes to my humanoid meat-based house-mate.

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 28 ~ One misconception about Hellenismos you’d like to clear up

I have something of a laundry list of misconceptions I regularly see from people, some of which, like “Hellenismos is Neoplatonic dick-baggery”, or “Eros is a god of one-night stands”, I seem to have already said something thourough in an effort to clear up, and at this point, I don’t think there’s much more room to “clear up” the idea that only fanatic Thiassoi cultists can be “real Hellenes”, if only cos most of the literature from primary sources to YSEE to Hellenion stresses all gods (or at least the “Olympian Twelve” plus Hestia and Hades) and also philosophy and ritual, avoiding (when possible) talk of us wackier types, even if not explicitly renouncing us — and I think that this very blog, along with a few others, also stresses that us wacky ones very much are a part of the religion, just not a part that is going to have immediate or regular appeal to all Hellenes — though in a “pan-Hellenic” context, we may provide valuable insight to worship of various deities, both directly and indirectly.

Is there really even one more misconception that I can clear up to any extent that I haven’t already? I may be a verbose little queen, but a man even of my own sort can only say just so much.

I think one thing that I haven’t really stressed enough is how Hellenism is for ANYBODY who is called to the Theoi:

  • You don’t have to be of or largely of or of any amount of Hellenic ethnicity — after all, I’m not (at least probably not until you go back to the Keltoi in Thrake, and with as much Black Irish1 in my father’s side of the family.
  • You don’t have to be a chest-puffing Neoplatonist more interested in talking than worship — I know very few Hellenes who are, and those I know who do fit that description have very little real respect in the actual community of Anglophonic Hellenists.
  • You don’t need a lot of expensive statues and junk to set up a proper shrine. In ancient Thespiai, the original image of Eros was an unwrought stone. All you need is an adequate amount of space, a small bowl for libations, a candleholder (for safety), some sort of incense burner, and (at least ideally) some sort of representitive image/s for the god/s. My first shrine was honestly just a spare custard cup, a small clay holder for a chime candle, cone incense on a piece of aluminium foil, and a computer-print-out collage of ancient statues; that was all I had, at first.
  • While usually a good idea to learn the Hellenic language and play ancient music (even if only in recording) for the Theoi, this is not necessary, either. It was common for ancient Hellenes to believe that all cultures worshipped their gods, just under different names (and they often believed this no matter how ill a fit two deities were, so long as they shared a superficial characteristic or two), so if this is held to be true, then logically it’s at least a little difficult to truly offend certain Theoi with words or music. Still, I recommend that people learn what they can, and explore as much music as possible; the Theoi are gods and goddesses Who all delight in beautiful things, Hellenic is a robust and ancient language that has lent significant vocabulary to English, and beautiful sounds of all sorts impress the gods of Hellas.
  • You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to approach the Theoi. Remember, Hephiostos is lame and dwarven. It is, though, best to take care of oneself as best as one can; if the mortal world has graced you with healthcare, then by all means, make use of preventative care, and exercise your body whenever possible, in the best ways possible — maybe that means you should swim competitively, or maybe that means you should stick to low-impact water aerobics.

One thing to remember is that, while in ancient times, there were differences between the classes and locations to the practises and hymns, at its core, Hellenismos was for everybody. Temples were attended by everybody, and so in this mnodern age, there is no real reason to believe that Hellenismos is no less for us Hellenising barbaroi than it is for those who speak native Hellenic.


1: An Irish Keltic ethnic group, usually characterised as having dark hair, darker eyes, and a somewhat Mediterranean appearance; currently, geneticists think the origins of this particular group is the Iberean peninsula, others turn to traditional folklore and history, which suggests a migration from Thrake.

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 27 ~ How Hellenismos has helped me in difficult times

I really don’t know why I never changed this topic. Anybody who’s read this far can probably figure out how a religion like this can help a person through difficult times — unless, of course, that mushy grey stuff between one’s ears exists for the sole purpose of keeping one’s skull from caving in.

When I’m upset or distressed, I typically light a candle and some incense and pray. It’s not a big thing, but it’s a thing to do. I don’t live in ancient Thespiae, so I can’t really go to a temple.

If I feel the situation calls for it, I do a divination to get an answer to interpret, but sometimes the answer to the answer doesn’t come right away, in which case, I figure the situation is not of immediate concern.

But hey, look, pretty music!

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 26 ~ Any “secular” pastimes with religious significance, and why

In traditional polytheism, it’s hard to truly separate out the religious from the secular, since it’s all got a connection in the lives of mortals. In the modern day, traditional polytheists will often look for historical and mythological connections and justifications for pass-times and politics, but those who do not see the possibility of, or even a realistic need to separate from the Abrahamic supremicist culture will advocate an approach of putting aside one’s religious differences with others to reach a political and social goal for the community; in that action, one’s religion and ethics may still be important, but simply guiding one to ignore the differences to reach a compromise. Ideologically, it is only traditional polytheism, not Abrahamic religions, which offer this option: In Rome, Christians were actually given immense freedoms (contrary to what the fairytales in state school history texts claim), and the political compromise was that they simply had to pay a tax to the cult of the Emperor as a secular action, consider it as a rent payed to be a Roman, and this is even advocated by Christianity’s own mythological figure of Christ, in Matthew 22:21, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…”. Rome didn’t care that Christians didn’t want to acknowledge the Roman gods as gods, they just wanted Christians to pay their taxes which, in Rome, were funneled through the cult of the Emperor, and even Christianity’s highest figure agreed with that. But a religion is more than the sayings of its most cherished figures, and as much as traditional polytheisms are more than their mythologies, so is Christianity and Islam, whose extra-mythological traditions include forced conversion and spiritual disharmony with one’s neighbouring religions.

But I digress.

Things I do that people might not consider explicitly religious in 2011 often have an ancient relationship with tranditional polytheism, and even a subculture that is thouroughly secularised still takes ancient Hellenic influences. Things like painting, music, gardening, etc…, don’t necessarily have to be religious — there are plenty of pictures, songs, landscapes, and so on that, for their creators and designers, had no religious significance, but at the same time may actually have such for an on-looker. I’ve no reason to believe that Gavin Friday specifically called on the guidance of Eros or Erato in composing, say, “Caruso”, but as an devotee of Eros, it’s hard not to see the God’s influence.

..in fact, the whole Shag Tobacco album has been described by the artist himself to be an intricate art-rock opus “about a man who comes home to make love to his wife/partner”. It’s really hard for a devotee to not see the guidance of Eros in that. It’s actually kind of hard not to see the guidance of Eros, Apollon, the Moisai, in all of Mr. Friday’s work, and I once paid over $50 (*before* shipping) for a copy of Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves on eBay, proving my most expensive CD to date, and if it were something I didn’t get some spiritual meaning from, I’d probably be rather embarrassed to admit paying that much for what’s essentially a used CD — out-of-print, sure, but used, and I’d long had a pirated mp3-copy of the album for years, prior. It’s also hard not to see Gavin Friday’s pagan sensibilities in general, even when naming his new album (first in sixteen years) catholic.

Maybe that’s it? When one has decided to integrate the Theoi into every aspect of one’s life, it becomes actually difficult to not see how one deity or another has influenced decisions from politics to film to favourite cheeses, and so it becomes harder to say which activities are “secular” with religious significance? That’s pretty much where I’m at, right now. True, I’m not one of those people who has to cast bones before switching brands of toilet paper, but if I think about it for even a moment, I can see how this deity or another may have shaped that decision, I can see the hand of Apollon in the films of Christian Derek Jarman, and I feel Eros in “I Got You Babe”.

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 25 ~ Favoured ritual tools, and why

I probably should have re-titled this, but it feels a little late now.

This really depends on the ritual in question.

For devotionals, I love incense, and a lot of my statuary is pretty expensive (at least relative to my budget) and took me quite a lot of time to save up for, so I have some special sense of attachment to the statues for that reason alone. My Eros & Psykhe was the most expensive, to date, followed by Hermaphroditos.

I love my shells on my Eros shrine and devotional altar, cos I’ve found ways to assure that they big ones would be more than decorative.

I also LURVE my scrying bowl. It was a gift from some-one in the old full_moon_swaps gift-exchange LJ community. I regularly contemplate painting it, the exterior, cos it would look gorgeous, if I did, but I never start to, cos I can never completely decide what colours to use for everything.

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 24 ~ Personal aesthetics and Hellenismos

How do I answer this?

Personally, I can’t think of any sort of aesthetics that would be prohibited by any sort of traditional polytheism. Hell, one of my friends is a Hindu and has been gravitating toward the Horrorcore scene, and while I think most of the fans of that scene look like they just rolled out of bed, you know, I can’t think of anything from what I know of Hindu religions, much less Hellenic polytheistic religions, that would outright prohibit dressing like an evil clown and spraying your friends with soda.

Granted, that’s not to say that it’s all “anything goes”, especially when one is of especial cultus to gods whose domain includes aesthetic arts. I generally put time and effort into my own appearance — even my “wearing rags to do yard work” look isn’t complete until I’ve taken a light shower, washed my face (including toner and moisturiser), lip balm, sunblock, my hair tied back, and a handkerchief to dab (never wipe) sweat — and expect any-one practising a traditional Hellenic polytheism, and so generally understanding of ancient Hellenic ideals, to do so, as well. I don’t expect such others to dress in any of the same ways I do, but I do expect to notice at least some minimum amount of effort toward an intentional appearance, at least most of the time. That appearance can be “soccer mom” or “misanthropic quasi-goth” or anything outside or in-between.

I’ve always been an aesthete and quite a dandy. As a little kid, I delighted in getting “dressed up” and would think of any excuse to do so. When I switched to a state junior high and high school, I became one of those kids who went nuts now that I didn’t have to wear a school uniform, in spite of the efforts of nearly every adult in my life at the time begging with me to knock it off with the flamboyance — apparently, I’d have “plenty of time” to look like Marc Bolan after I became an adult.

While I’m hard pressed to instantaneously recognise any explicit relationship between my Mod dandyism and Hellenismos, if I think about it just a little, it really all makes perfect sense:

*Beau Brummel, often regarded as the archetypical dandy, caused a sensation when he abandoned the powdered wig (long before a tax on the powder caused it to fall out of fashion) and decided to wear his natural hair cut “à la Brutus” — calling to mind images of ancient Rome.
*Lord Byron fought for Greek independence
*Oscar Wilde praised the ancient Hellenes on all levels.
*Colin MacInnes’ novel Absolute Beginners, long-influential in the Mod subculture includes a supporting character referred to only as “The Fabulous Hoplite” and described as have a “Caesarian” haircut, which remains somewhat popular in Mod circles.

The Hellenic influence on Dandy subcultures has always existed, and though the clothing often associated is a far cry with the reality of ancient painted stoneworks, it’s easily reasoned that the “fabulous simplicity” of the now-white statuary and columned temples was an influence on the lines and daring use of solid colours from Beau Brummel to Oscar Wilde to Pete Meaden.

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 23 ~ Philosophy and Ethics

I admit, without pride, that I have dreaded this post simply because the way some people will cling to Socratic/Platonic or Aristotelian, usually the former, ethics as some end-all-be-all defining point of Hellenismos gives me mixed emotions: Usually a mix of annoyance and irritation.

Knowledge is virtue and virtue is happiness in Socratic ethics. This model of ethics is very compatible with modern science, and explicitly so, since the word “science” is from the Latin scientia, “knowledge”. Fair enough. This school definitely has its uses and benefits, but when you get to the heart of his philosophy (later adopted and adapted by his student, Plato), it’s very clear that personal development surpasses material wealth, and it’s easily interpreted that his own philosophies had an edge of cynicism, and it’s debatable whether or not Socrates himself believed that humans could ever become truly wise. I can definitely see why this is attractive to Græco-Buddhists, or non-syncretic Hellenes simply coming from a Buddhist background, but most of the people I see espousing “virtue” as the ONLY Hellenic ethic seem to completely miss the entire point of Socratic ethics: Either they are on a crusade of One-True-Wayism (if man cannot truly become wise, then why should one man tell another that the other’s ethics are flawed?), or for all intents and purposes, they seem only really interested in Hellenismos for their own financial and otherwise personal gain — the very antithesis of Socrato-Platonic “virtue”. And I’m not even touching the basic contradictions of logic I’ve gotten out of some people (though, to be fair, still far from all) after introducing the Socratic Paradoxes such as “No-one desires evil”, but then in the next breath, so-and-so is accusing others of doing so; when the Socratic answer is “only those who lack knowledge may desire evil things” and so on, assuming that if somebody just had enough knowledge of an evil thing, then he wouldn’t desire it — which simply invites more questions about the true nature of such things and the true nature of knowledge, which invites more questions, and more, and it’s back-and-forth like this until the sun explodes. Kudos to Socrates for finally admitting his own inherent ignorance, at least within the rules of his own logic, but shame on everybody else who has dared to assume that they know better than Socrates.

Aristotelian ethics place self-realisation and happiness above knowledge as the only true virtues, but it’s related and clearly not completely divorced from the Platonic school, meaning it will ultimately run into many of the same paradoxes. One’s civic life and material gain are simply a means to the hoped-for end of self-realisation, so I can see how this might be a hit with people who read a lot of Nietzsche in high school, but it’s not going to too well with those too-aware of humanity’s inherent faults and how this can simply offer a “get out free” card to those who simply want to take such routes to self-realisation rather than any amount of heavy introspection. And while Aristotle has been highly influential in the sciences, keep in mind, Ayn Rand was a fan of Aristotle, and that woman has written some of the most truly wicked books in human history. Is any school of ethics that open for such blatant misunderstanding truly a good one? By Socratic logic, probably not, but then it’s not really for me to say, is it? With Aristotle, I tend to put his teachings through a fine sieve, cos there’s a lot of wheat, but also a lot of chaff that needs to be expelled or refined for the greater good.

Other philosophical schools had ethical systems that placed happiness and the acquirement of human pleasures as its greatest virtue, though the route to this happiness varied by school, and one of the most basic misunderstandings of the Hedonistic schools is that they had varying degrees of expected social responsibility as they espoused the quest for happiness. Where Kyrenaics, named for Artstippus of Kyrene, advocated the philosophy of “eat, drink, and be merry — for tomorrow, we may die!”, expecting students of that school to take even the most fleeting of indulgences for the moment may become lost forever. Conversely, the Epicureans stressed that true pleasure came from acting for the greater good, and that any potential indulgence must be weighted against any potential for negative consequences, not only to oneself, but to one’s friends, family, and society.

Then there are the Cynics, named for a caustic nickname for Diogenes of Sinope, κυνικός (kynikos): “dog-like”, and born of the teachings of Antisthenes, one from the Socratic school and who had previously studied rhetoric under Gorgias; Diogenes was Antisthenes’ only real student, and was most famous for taking the teachings to their logical extremes. He made a virtue of extreme poverty, and made his “home” during his time in Athens out of a discarded washtub outside the temple of Kybele. His goal in life was to challenge established Hellenic customs and values, for if any custom and value unable to hold up to scrutiny, then is it really true? If the Internet existed at the time of Diogenes, I’ve no doubt that he’d have a free blog updated at the library and would be regarded as a troll for regularly challenging, even if not explicitly disagreeing with or insulting others’ points of view, especially when that point-of-view has gained mainstream acceptance. Interestingly, by ratio, well-known Cynic women are greater than well-known Platonic women because the logical challenge to the Hellenic norm would be to regard women as absolute equals, and this continued into early Stoicism. Clearly, the challenges to social conventions made by Classical Cynicism can be a good thing, but this simply can’t be seen by those who slavishly adhere to tradition on appeal to tradition alone.

Personally, I see the least flaws with the Hedonistic schools and with Cynicism. In Platonism and Aristotelian philosophies, I see a lot of intellectual chest-puffing and theoretical talk, virtual masturbation of the intellect, and not a lot that offers a real lifestyle. It’s a philosophy for thinking, not really for living. There are bits to pick out here and there for life, but the dominant function of Platonism is spiritual braggadocio, and the majority of people it seems to appeal to are those who desire that rather than its actual lessons and this is apparent in the fact that Platonism requires more thinking than living. Platonic and Aristotelian ethics are therefore rather shallow in the grand scheme of things, as evidenced by the rather few who align themselves with those philosophical and ethical school and actually make good of themselves as a result. I’ve so-far only met one self-described Neoplatonist who didn’t need a swift punch in the mouth, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this was actually in spite of Plato rather than because of Plato; after all, some LaVeyan Satanists are absolutely lovely people and this is clearly in spite of their philosophy and associated ethics, because they’ve rules-lawyered the book and seen the loopholes that allow for social responsibilities and empathy within the philosophy rather than slavish adherence to only the most obvious results of such a school of thought. So yes, of course there are Aristotelian Hellenes who have never touched themselves while reading Nietzsche and of course there are Platonic Hellenes who aren’t just looking for “something like Christianity, only not”. It seems the most logical conclusion is that these folks are so in spite of the real worlds of those philosophies, not because of them.

That’s not to say that Hedonism, especially Kyrenaic, and Cynicism are not without faults, but the weight of their merits tend to be greater than the weight of their faults by many times.

As a devotional polytheist, and especially one with a strong relationship to his gods, my ethics are guided first by the Theoi: Any human school of philosophy is simply another way to tie my practises to the ancient Hellenes, and a way to address and challenge my own beliefs about mortal life and the nature of the Theoi. If I were to put my ethics in bondage to a human school of philosophy, then why not just regard the Theoi as “thought-forms” or “archetypes” rather than literal entities? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking those who do, cos if they get value and good from doing so, then it is a good thing. But personally, I’d be uncomfortable with such an arrangement. I find greatest happiness and pleasure from British Dandy philosophies, related to Hedonistic schools, relaying that the greatest pleasures start with a base of a well-crafted personal appearance. True dandies don’t just make careful use of clothing to create an appearance of gentility, but will adapt their clothing, hair, etc, to situations to achieve a desired reaction from desired people. Life is altered to further establish this harmonious appearance and, if successful, happiness and pleasures will be had by all graced by a dandy’s presence. It’s a focused extension of Hedonistic schools given to the fact that our own lives are given limited control to the greater good, but maintaining the optimism that every little bit helps to bring beauty and harmony to the world, even in bleak surroundings.

I’d say I had dandy leanings prior to moving to Lansing, but what established my belief that I truly am was when my house-mate and I saw this tiny little somewhat dilapidated house, in this somewhat squallid portion of Lansing’s eastern Square One neighbourhood — a neighbourhood of poverty and many of the inner-city trappings associated, and I could see this tiny house and its yard and see the potential for a beautiful garden and decor. That’s when I knew I didn’t have mere leanings, but was truly following in the leads of some of the greats who had come before.

My most sacred ethics are happiness to all around me through art and beauty. The wisest and most beloved Theoi are those Who give to Man art and beauty and pleasure. The wisest men to this great tradition are Beau Brummel and Oscar Wilde. Our most famous contemporaries are artists McDermott & McGough and the indispensable Lord Whimsey. Our philosophies are espoused by subcultures such as the Mods and the New Romantics, though like hell will most of them get on well with each-other, and this doesn’t exactly oppose the Cynical and Stoic subcultures as punks and hippies, but the best dandies will see the beauty and harmony of those people, and adopt and adapt.

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 22 ~ Hellenismos and major life events

There’s something to be said for the shared experience of rituals in traditional religions.

I wish I’d gone through the Hellenic childhood rites rather than baptism and first communion — thankfully, I was old enough by the time of confirmation that I was spared being forced into it, out of my father’s fear that I’d make a scene. I wish I’d had the pubescent and adolescent rites — though, most importantly, I wish I’d had the rites for boys.

I don’t usually mention being TS (especially not here) cos it’s another one of those things that is really nobody’s business, but the fact remains that if coming from a tradiotional religious background, with all the gendered rit that comes with that, there is no room for any of the current hipster-TS psychobabble delusions suggesting that TS men have always had “the life-experiences of a man”, cos if one feels one is a man, then “logically” one has always had the life experiences of a man — and ditto for TS women. While I understand the reasons for this hipster mindset (lack of certain specific gendered experiences experiences, or simply the assumption that one of a TS history lacks certain gendered experiences, is often used against TS women by cisgender (non-TS) women to deny TS women entrance to women-only spaces from folk music festivals to public lavvies), ultimately I see a lot of self-induced denial that one has been given a specific lot in life that really is set apart from the overwhelming majority of cisgender people. Sure, one can argue that cisgender individuals, on rare occasion, may have anatomical pecularities, or such-and-such, and so therefore it “doesn’t mean anything”, but in a society that really does give a special status to fertile heterosexual couples, it actually really does mean something to be a transsexual.

As best as we can tell, individuals who would be regarded as transgender or transsexual today have existed since Classical Antiquity; Pliny once even described being witness of a transformation of a woman into a man, and trans women like to point to Roman emperor Elagabalus as one of their own (though, to be fair, this is assumed based on the writings about Elagabalus after his death, and Romans had a habit of further smearing unpopular Emperors after death, and further exalting popular ones; Elagabalus was highly unpopular for many reasons, including the then-unthinkable act of marrying a Vestal Virgin). This creates a specific set of major life events that deserve their own ritual and celebration, and if only there had been an aboveground survival of the ancient religion, would these rituals exist today.

As much as I like to draw comparisons and seek inspiration for how the face of Hellenismos in this day and age should look in Hinduism, I have reservations regarding any comparisons to their hijra caste; like the Gallae, the Indian hijra caste seems to serve a specific function in some religious rites, but I also see nothing suggesting that hijra, unlike Gallae, serve one Goddess or another, whereas Gallae, by definition, were priest(esse)s of Kybele; there are also descriptions from classical antiquity of people who were apparently not Gallae, but could ostensibly fit the current definition of transsexual or transgender individual.

Unfortunately, I know nothing of these specific major life event rituals undertaken by these people, so am left to invent a rite using a loose model of what I do know — and, of course, creating anew is a bit of a pain.

Then there are other “major life event” rites:

I intend to vow myself to a lover in the name of Iolaus, though ideally, I’d like to do so at Theva (modern-day Thebes) at or near the location of Iolaus’ tomb. And any lover I vow myself to will have to swear he’d carry out my wishes for a proper death rite; I want my ashes taken to the Valley of the Mousai, outside Thespiai.

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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.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 21 ~ Other paths I’ve explored

I’ve had posts like this so often, but I think I’ll make it again, one last time.

I grew up in an Anglo-Catholic household: My mother’s family was Anglican, my father’s Catholic, and my maternal grandparents leaned toward the Catholic side of Anglican, so after coming to the $tates, they went to Catholic churches out of simplicity (and cos I guess they had a problem with the Episcopalians in the area). I went to Catholic school, run by an order of Felician nuns; when I later had a summer job at a Franciscan-run school, I learned that Felicians are regarded as the strictest orders, $tateside, and one of the Franciscans said to me, upon learning I went to a Felician school “I shouldn’t speak ill of another Sister’s calling, but I don’t think my niece should be told she’s going to Hell for ‘developing’ early” — and, in my experiences, that’s really not too far from the truth. In school, my “calling” was as a chorister, that was about it. For the reputation of Felician nuns, I will say that there are some nice ones, and one would often give me first pick of the old books from the school library that would be going to charity or get thrown out. This was how I first learned of the Theoi, after selecting D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myth, though it broke my heart to learn “nobody worships those ‘gods’ anymore”.

When I was in junior high, I gained an interest in modern paganism (mainly through children’s books like Witch-Cat and Gypsy Summer), and got it in my head that since my family is of Keltic origin (my maternal grandfather being mostly Cornish, my father’s family being Ultach [from Ulster]), then I needed to explore Keltic polytheism. I explored both Gaelic and Brythonic pantheons, and attempted to practise a hodge-podge of Keltic reconstruction and Neo-Druidry (at the age of 13, I assumed it was all the same thing, and I gotta say, they have their similarities), but ultimately the message I got from those gods was “thanks, but no”.

See, what turned me off from mainstream Christianity was the fact that it’s expected that one’s relationship with the Divine is going to be very impersonal, even those who just generally “feel God” during menial tasks are kind of regarded as weird; even nutters like Jack Chick force the idea that the Divine is only ever sensed through acts like prayer, since the world itself is so wicked that one has to beg the presence of the Holy Spirit to come to oneself. I mean, if that’s what one truly believes, then I can be courteous and tolerant, as least so much as I myself am given, but in my own experiences, that’s just simply not true —and keep in mind, this is after a heavily abusive past from, ultimately, both parents and other people who were given authority in my childhood and adolescence who really should have known better, from a fifth grade teacher who delighted in telling my mother what a horrible, sinful child I was, to layteachers at a state high school who blamed me for being too advanced for their curriculum, to outright psychiatric abuse that nearly drove me to the Scientologists in my early twenties. The world is full of people who either act in harmony with the world around them, or who are determined to transgress that for their own personal gain.

In high school, my father and I ultimately came to an agreement: Go to mass, or go to Meeting House with my step-mother, and I chose meeting house, but it never really did anything for me, spiritually.

After a horrible experience after being forced out of my father’s home and then taken mighty advantage of by a de-facto step-brother, I turned to LaVeyan Satanism. In some ways, it was very good for me, but in other ways —like how it’s basically a a hodge-podge of Cliff’s Notes of several Ayn Rand novels (who’s “best parts” basically paraphrase Nietzsche, and poorly, and [or so I’m told] occasionally give allusions to Feri) with a little Thelema for Dummies thrown in —it’s completely devoid of real spirituality, and thus cannot foster any real growth. That said, I was never the best Satanist: Closeting my own polytheism aside, the closest I ever got to their “liberal Fascism” was Libertarian Socialism, and since LaVey’s own work stressed the theatrics and shock-value of his own brand of “black magic”, I didn’t see the point and so eschewed that part for the better-humoured rituals of Discordians and Subgenii. I do still consider myself, in some ways, a SubGenius, and since “Bob” is all in SubGenius scriptures, and easily syncretised with Hermes, I don’t see the incompatibility — and hey, you gotta respect any church that not only gladly pays its taxes, but whose only real sin is not sending in your $30 for eternal salvation or triple your money back.

I very briefly, like, for less than a few months, looked into liberal sects of Judaism and Islam before coming back around to the Theoi, and here is where I’ve been since I was twenty-three.

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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.