Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wrestling with Terms: Hellenismos or Hellenic Polytheism?

I have been struggling to define or label the religion that I practice (in regards to the specifically Greek path that I walk). Where my Witchcraft practices are concerned, I am clear. (Traditional Craft -- Robert Cochrane style.) But I keep that very separate from my Aphrodisian practice. And my Aphrodisian practice has blossomed into a relationship with many more of the Olympians than I had ever thought it would. Dionysos, Athena, Ares, Hephaestos, Hermes, Pan, Hestia. Non-Olympians, too -- Persephone, the Muses, the Graces.

Furthermore, I strive to work with and honor these Deities in a Hellenic manner. I've researched ritual practices, from ancient to contemporary, and I use them instead of the Craeft or Neo-Pagan structures that I originally used.

But what is it called? Is it Hellenismos? Is it Hellenic Polytheism? Or is it something else entirely?

I shy away from adopting the term Hellenismos, and the following is a bit of my recent reflection on why that is:

There is a lot of history to choose from, and a wide variety of city-states. Practices *and* beliefs evolve with time, distance and usage...

My research on Aphrodite alone (which has been fairly extensive) shows that she was worshiped in widely divergent ways in different parts of the Greek world. Her worship in Paphos doesn't look a lot like her worship in Athens or even Corinth. There are festivals to her that are called by the same name, but that are practiced entirely differently depending on locale. She has epithets, attributes and myths that seem local and unique to certain venues. Foreign influences made their marks right from the beginning.

Place and time, even within Hellas, alter both practice and belief.

... But I have the sense that "Hellenismos" is both a "rigid and exclusive" (see note below) term that perhaps might be rooted in a specific time and place within Greek history that cannot, therefore, also include other times or places within the larger scope of Greek history.

Re: "rigid and exclusive." I know that many people use these words with a high degree of negative connotation. I do not. I simply pose them here as being opposite to "flexible" and "inclusive." Hellenismos does not seem inclusive, and I don't think it should necessarily strive to be so.

Though I understand that the term "Hellenic Polytheist" is also debated, I think it has the flexibility and inclusiveness to apply to me. The noun fits. (I worship multiple Deities.) The adjective fits. (Those Deities are from the Hellenic pantheon, and I strive to work with them in a Hellenic way.) Therefore, the term fits -- for me.


helleneste said...

I've struggled with the same issue and settled on "Modern Hellenic Polytheist", to add the flexibility to adapt the wisdom and culture of the ancients to modern culture. I don't feel beholden to certain things like the Delphic Maxim "Rule your wife.", and I think the distinction of the modern revival of the ancient religion is valuable.


Laurelei said...

You make a great point here, Alexandra. I like the addition of "modern" as a descriptor. I am not trying to recreate the ancient religion, per se. Instead, as you indicate, I am reviving or restoring what I see that was wise and beautiful and True in it. You've phrased it very well, I think.

carlos said...

hi how are you, i think the ciuestion of the deity is the same, of course this is done very particular in every region of Greece, as well as in the case of Catholics, the cults of the saints is practiced in a deiferente to another is, as at the end of our religion is hellenismos, a hug.