Thursday, January 28, 2010

Midwest Hellenic Fest

Glaux (my gf) and I are interested in starting a festival/conference/campout for the Hellenic community. This comes from a place of, "We want to attend this festival, but it doesn't exist yet." Not being ones to just sit and sigh about that, we are willing to put our many years of festival and event coordination experience into play to make the thing exist.

We are members (and resident caretakers) of Our Haven Nature Sanctuary in Southern Indiana, a 175-acre piece of land dedicated to "all positive paths." We practically live there in the summer, and we know beyond a doubt that we can secure a date for the 2011 season.

Glaux and I are both organizers for one of the major festivals that happens at Our Haven and for one of the smaller, newer ones. I was a Coordinator with Indy Pagan Pride Day for years, and I was heavily involved with the largest student programming board on Indiana University's campus as an undergrad. My point: we have oodles of event planning experience. We know how to put together a festival successfully.

We are both newer to Hellenismos, in particular, but not to the Gods or even all of the practices. Our experience, though, is that one doesn't have to be an expert to plan an event. You bring in the experts to teach the workshops, lead the rituals, host the discussions, etc. Planners only plan.

Our vision is to host a pan-Hellenic festival -- one in which both the Traditionalist and the Innovator are welcome. Sounds radical and scary, I know. But we've seen amazing results from our pan-thelemic festival -- Babalon Rising. There, magickal groups who've been in-fighting for a century camp right next to each other for a week, attend the same classes and rituals, speak civilly to each other for a change, and manage to learn and grow.

A Midwestern location offers some benefits. Namely, it is centrally located for US-based Hellenics. And Our Haven offers some great facilities: hot showers, on-site food vendor, a lighted and covered pavilion, a central fire pit, a spacious main field with lots of fire rings, a children's play area, and several shrines to the Gods.

This would be in the summer. Perhaps to coincide with the Hellenic New Year? It would be an opportunity to present basic and advanced concepts, meet in person with folks we know only from teh Intrawebs, honor the Gods together as members of a larger community, see and experience ritual concepts, discuss and debate in authentic and real-time conversations.

Firstly, are there folks out there who would be interested in attending this type of festival? And, secondly, are there experienced, knowledgeable people reading this who would be interested in joining Glaux and I on the planning committee? We're thinking a committee of five or so to start (including us).

Feel free to e-mail me personally, too.

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.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Menelaus-Helen-Paris= Ares-Aphrodite-Ankhises???

I just wrote this in the forums, but I want to pose this idea (and its questions) to several sets of folks. Please forgive the cross-posting, my loves....

I have a thought/idea that I would like to explore in fiction, and I want to get some input from folks who are well-studied in such things.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a historical fiction writer, and I am primarily concerned with the Universal Truth that underlies a story -- and a little less concerned with the absolute historical truth.

I also ought to confess that I harbor some resentment toward Homer. I feel that he has done some disservice to Aphrodite (and others) in his codifying of the myths. She, in particular, had been a foreign goddess -- and an old one, at that -- with a fairly well delineated set of traits. He stripped her of her war-like aspects and demoted her by re-creating her birth story.

I wrote the following in my writing journal tonight...

“She loved Menelaus like no other. History and myth haven’t told that portion of my sister’s story well. For Helen, the Spartan queen, her strong war-king was a far greater prize than a pretty shepherd. Paris was her duty, as the golden goddess of love made clear, and Helen loved him as much as her body would allow. Her heart, though, had been wedded to the towering, thundering, iron-hardened warrior who swept across the sea to reclaim his beloved queen.

“If she was Aphrodite made flesh, he was Ares.”

I’ve written Sappho as a priestess of Aphrodite, and now it is Helen’s turn. She was the queen of war-like Sparta, a city-state that honored the goddess of love equally as a goddess of war. This comes truer to Aphrodite’s original nature, born to the Hellenes by the sea-faring Phonecians who knew her as Astarte and Ashteroth. To the Sumerians, she was Ishtar, a lady of love and war whose myth includes an important romance with a shepherd.

Aphrodite’s dual nature was split in Hellenic myth. She longed to be reunited with her war-self, always taking risks to connect with war-like Ares. The pastoral affair was kept, though, in the tale of the goddess and her own Trojan shepherd.

That’s fantastic! I’ve never read anywhere that the love triangle underpinning the Trojan War (Menelaus-Helen-Paris) was a shadow image of the love triangle that the Greeks made of the original Ishtar/Tammuz myth (Ares-Aphrodite-Ankhises). In the Homeric version, Ishtar is separated into Aphrodite and Ares (Love and War). But the story wasn’t originally a conflict. From this basic conflict, though, the Trojan War springs – with Aphrodite’s own war-like nature and her need to support and nurture the agricultural elements featured center-stage.

Maybe someone else has written about this. I need to see if I can find a treatment on this concept.

My questions to you learned folk:

Have you seen this concept elsewhere? (If so, where? Sources, please, so I can follow up with my own research.)

Does it ring true? (It certainly did for me, but I think that is obvious.)