30 December 2008

Hermes of the Digital Age

2 comments:

Today, I fly to my mom's house to spend the remainder of my school holiday, so I have a treat for you all: an image of Hermes. This is the first time I have used my oil pastels, ink pens, and watercolor pencils in about three and a half years, and I'm not exactly Velazquez here, but I hope you enjoy it.

Created with oil pastels, ink, and watercolor pencils, with text added via GIMP image editor.

Io Hermes! Please keep me safe as I go on my journey today!

28 December 2008

An Apollonian Trinity?

1 comment:
One of the songs on my Apollon playlist, “To Those Who Cry,” is a Christian Rock song by 1000 Generations. For many of us, Protestant or Catholic rock songs come to mind when thinking about the Far-Shooter (e.g., “Kyrie”), along with more traditional polytheistic music (such as “A Walk with a God” or the Petros Tabouris Ensemble's “Paian”).

Interesting lyrics in this song include: “You give me comfort. You give me love. You give me wonder I could not dream up. You give me a father, and you've given me your son, given me your spirit. You've given me the one that I can cling to. I can hold onto you in these times of doubt and fear.”1

To me, at least, that we can think about these songs from other religions and apply an Apollonian meaning to them is a product of the God's brilliance. When I first heard it, the song “To Those Who Cry” made me think of Apollon because he is the God who kept turning me towards Hellenic Polytheism (though I struggled mightily), cumulating in some support through a rough patch in my life a little less than a year ago (I was in a foreign country for six months, and the adjustment issues were complicated by the high latitude AKA lack of sunlight, so I probably also had SAD). Apollon was my Apollon Soter before he progressed to his more traditional aspects as Apollon Hekatus (Far-Shooter), Apollon Maleatas (Healer), Apollon Thearius (of the Oracle), Apollon Aguieus (Street Guardian), and Apollon Musagetes (Leader of the Muses).

Sometimes, these songs even give us something more interesting to think about. “To Those Who Cry” makes me think about Apollon's relationship to other deities, more notably about his relationship to Asklepios and Zeus. My mind immediately equates the Father to Apollon, the Son to Asklepios, and the Spirit to Zeus, and I want to discuss the reasons why because it seems like it may illuminate something about the deity, and secondly because I thought of it about an hour before this week's Kyklos Apollon ritual.

Ovid (yes, the Roman) describes the birth of Asklepios. The god's mother, Koronis, cheated on Apollon, Averter of Evil and Leader of the Muses. Apollon learned of this and, in a fit of anger, let fly one of his arrows to destroy her. Relationships between Gods and mortals in mythology end with children if nothing goes wrong, and this relationship proves no exception: Apollon had made Koronis pregnant. When he realized that the had potentially destroyed his offspring, he tried to undo what he had done and discovered that he could not avert her death. He took the baby from its mother's womb and placed the child in a cave (which, at least to me, is a yonic symbol, indicating a form of second gestation).2 Asklepios's birth has many interesting parallels with another deity born of a mortal woman, Dionysos. Semele, incinerated by Zeus when she asked him to appear to her as he would to his wife, and Koronis, destroyed by Apollon as a gut reaction, show how dangerous liaisons between mortals and deities can be, but they also provide a link and history for the new deified child. Asklepios and Dionysos also show interesting parallels with the Christians' Jesus, who received supernatural powers from his divine father YHVH, including the ability to heal the sick and cheat death. Asklepios faced his own mortal destruction at the hand of his grandfather Zeus because his awe-striking powers defied the natural order of things. Apollon deified him.3

The Spirit in “To Those Who Cry,” ties itself to Zeus in my mind because Zeus communicates the Fates and his will to Apollon, who once gave mortals hints about what was to come at Delphi. To Apollon is extended the privilege of oracular utterances. So, the Spirit represents the connection between Zeus and Apollon, and it infers Zeus.

Of course, we can talk about many trinities in Hellenic Polytheism, and the Zeus-Apollon-Asklepios trinity only exists from an interpretive standpoint (I haven't come across anything in the mythology pointing to one). The Fates, Seasons, Furies, early conceptions of the Muses, Graces, and many other deities make up the real sets of trios. An example of a real masculine trio is that of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, who divided the realms into three portions and have equal dominion over them. What is interesting about inferred masculine trinitarian relationships in polytheism is when we can see how the connections indicate their functions and the progression of divine power (King of Gods » Deity with many merits » Healing god). It also shows us that, contrary to some individuals' beliefs (none of whom probably read this blog), Christianity's idea of death and resurrection gods or deified mortals (Jesus) was nothing new under the sun. Christianity just simplified and mass-produced traditional spirituality.

We see Apollon in a lot of Christian music because Christians appropriated Apollon's symbolic language for their new religion. Polytheists recognize these symbols, and many of us do not have qualms about using modified interpretations of their music to supplement our small polytheistic music playlists. This is not “reclaiming”; it is appropriation. Our spiritual ancestors did it. We can, too.

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1000 Generations. “To Those Who Cry.” To Those Who Cry. Simplistic Records, 2006.

Ovid, Metamorphoses. Trans. Charles Martin. (New York: Norton, 2005), 76-77.

Atsma, Aaron J. “ASCLEPIUS: Greek god of medicine & doctors.” The Theoi Project. Accessed 28 Dec 2008. http://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Asklepios.html.


24 December 2008

Parthian Chicken and a Cooking Experiment

No comments:
I ran into Frances Bernstein's Classical Living: Reconnecting with the Rituals of Ancient Rome in the library growing up, one of those miscellaneous world religion books in the Dewey 200 stacks that provided my first adult introduction to the idea of ancient polytheism. At that point, my parents and I had already spent several years going to Neopagan circles hosted by a couple at our church, so the idea didn't seem that odd to me. (It was about two years before I ran into Sannion's Sanctuary, so I must have been between thirteen and fifteen.) The book isn't in print any longer, but I found an inexpensive used copy to keep because I remember wanting to make most of the recipes in it as a child.

Well, today I finally got my chance and made Parthian Chicken, which is based on an authentic Roman recipe. I do know how to cook, so I modified it slightly to include a pinch of thyme leaves, but the rest is according to the book:


1 chicken
1 ½ tsps ground black pepper
½ cup chopped parsley
pinch of caraway seeds
2 tsp salt
2 cloves [I added four] garlic
4 tbsp water

Now, the recipe calls for the non-chicken ingredients to be blended together, but I doubt that the Ancient Romans had blenders and I know that my father does not have one in his house, so I got creative and used his acceptably sharp knives to chop everything as finely as possible before mixing them together in a bowl. The chicken needs to be cut apart, which my father did for me because I don't know how to deal with whole birds, and the entire thing bakes in the oven at 450°F for an hour and twenty minutes.

This is what it looked like when done:


To accompany the dish, I cooked up some linguine. The linguine was served in a sauce composed of five garlic cloves (chopped), sliced black olives, and the remaining sprigs of parsley. For a fruit/vegetable side dish, I chose sliced apples because I thought they complemented the meal well.
Classical Living is a great book. I am by no means a Roman polytheist, but the recipes for food and offerings are fantastic if this one is any indication of the rest. The author, Frances Bernstein, has gone on at least one archaeological dig at Pompeii, and Ancient Rome is her field of study. Had the Greek pantheon not called to me so strongly, the influence of this book in my youth would have led me to Religio Romana. The book goes through the entire Roman year, depicting festivals and giving suggestions for prayers, libations, and festivals to “reconnect with the rituals of Ancient Rome.”

My Cooking Experiment, though, did not come from her book. My younger sister decided to bake a pumpkin pie, and she had batter left over that she wanted to throw out. I decided to add flour to it because I wanted to know what pumpkin pie batter bread would taste like. Now, this could have ended as a disaster, but it did not. In fact, the bread is quite good and would probably be even better with some butter. From the looks of my sister's pie, which has pieces of cooked egg on the top because she didn't mix it as thoroughly as she should have and has something against using an electric mixer, it may even have exceeded what the batter was intended for.

I offered the first hot pumpkin pie batter dinner roll to Demeter, and it's sitting in an offering bowl right now. Thank the Gods this experiment turned out well.

“Domestic Gods” ― An Article About Worship in the Home

No comments:
Sometimes Google News gives me blather about liberals and Baal worship, but other times it presents some really nice jewels of worship. Take this recent article by Catherine Moye at the Finanical Times, “Domestic Gods”:

John Radford, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of East London, argues that it is the older religions, such as Hinduism and even ancient Greek polytheism, which place the most emphasis on having a religious spot in the home. “At first, religion was not separately magical; it was just part of what you did to make the crops grow and therefore, being just another part of life, it didn’t necessarily require a different centre of worship,” he explains.

Other faiths used the home because, due to persecution of one kind or another, they had no choice. “That was certainly the case with Judaism over the centuries,” he says. “And Christianity grew up in opposition to the traditional religion; it was an alternative religion and therefore they tended to gather in the home for convenience’s sake. The home was the proto-church.”


The article discusses the place of the home in Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim worship, and it's a fantastic reminder that all religions, no matter how theologically different they are from Hellenic Polytheism, have similar physical approaches to space and the divine. Some religions even prefer home worship to worshiping in temples, churches, or synagogues.

For American polytheists (referring to polytheists in the Americas, not just from the United States), the home takes on additional importance. Most of us do not have the resources or the time to take trips to Greece, Italy, England, or other countries once dominated by polytheism, where we may visit temple ruins or feel more connection to our Gods in the landscape. We instead make small shrines in our homes for use by ourselves and, if we are lucky enough, our small communities. [Native American holy sites and divinities, while more accessible from a land standpoint, are not open to us for some very good reasons (actually, many good reasons) and I strongly discourage it. Let's not repeat what happened when the ancients tried to syncreticise Zeus with YHVH. Please. That was a disaster.]

These shrines or tributes to the Gods are extremely important from a spiritual standpoint because they anchor us in our traditional spirituality, a collection of polytheistic traditions that once claimed all of Europe and the Middle East.

So, as you celebrate this month, remember that you're taking part in something larger than yourself, even larger than your religion, and that polytheism got there first.

Good luck with relatives, and happy holidays! Io Helios!

23 December 2008

Poetic Offerings to Our Theoi

2 comments:
Sometimes people say that modern Hellenic Polytheism lacks authenticity because most cannot offer hecatombs or even small animals to the Gods (which, unless they go to a Chthonic deity, are shared in a communal meal). Other people claim that sacrifice itself is an outmoded concept. Many of these people consider old blood sacrifices only when they talk about the word and do not consider that other individuals may consider the bloodless offerings sacrifices as well. One example of this is something said a long time ago in the blog A Don's Life in which the writer criticizes the recent resurgence of polytheism in Greece in part because the concept of sacrifice has changed in the past several thousand years (well, the ritual participants also prayed for world peace; I would have prayed to Athene and not Zeus, but I don't really think that's a stupid thing to pray to the Theoi for).

In the first few centuries of our Common Era, many individuals used a “sacrificial hierarchy” to designate how pure offerings were. Pure thoughts, hymns, and incense were considered more spiritually significant offerings than blood sacrifice.1

Poetic compositions must fit after hymns because poems frequently offer rhythmic regularity, but are not usually sung or chanted to music. I would place recitation of set hymns (Homeric and Orphic, for example) at this level as well. Adding music provides a “frame” for the composition, which makes it more pleasing if poetry is paired with the correct melody, so sung hymns and lyric poems fit at the same level (the one above recited poetry and hymns), along with some spoken word.

In the spirit of the bloodless offering, I present the following poems to three gods:

I. For Hermes

The god sits perched on
that pear tree, dangling sandals.
Carefree, he watches
your quick-darting hands
pluck the bowing branches' jewels.

II. For Dionysos

Rush, agèd vine-blood,
over the parched soil, moisten
our gods' needy lips.
Once, before the torch-bearer
presented that first
gleaming krater, all danced through
life without passion
and the gods knew not that high
offering. Then you came
from the mountainous east, hands
bearing green tendrils
while Maenads danced in circles
crying “Evohé!”
You filled our cups then, and we
repay you with praise.

III. For Apollon

I know you. You ward
your devotees from afar.
You are the brilliant
God who fastens his soft hair.
Tell me, lord of light,
what offering pleases you most?
Hunger-sating zone
Or wine splattered on icy
ground? You once enjoyed
hecatombs with votaries
whose long pilgrimage
meant a sacrifice no less
than the bulls slaughtered
on an altar bearing your name.
My skill with a knife
will not let me give what you
so rightly deserve—
Lord, consider a different
offering, a bloodless
hecatomb written to please
deathless minds and ears.
Like incense, may this give you
pleasure, radiant one.

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1. Bradbury, Scott. “Julian's Pagan Revival and the Decline of Blood Sacrifice.” Phoenix, 49:4 (1995): 334.

19 December 2008

In Praise of Dionysos

4 comments:
Blessèd, blessèd are those who know the mysteries of god. Blessèd is he who hallows his life in the worship of god, he whom the spirit of god possesseth, who is one with those who belong to the holy body of god. Blessèd are the dancers and those who are purified, who dance on the hill in the holy dance of god. Blessèd are they who keep the rite of Cybele the Mother. Blessèd are the thyrsus-bearers, those who wield in their hands the holy wand of god. Blessèd are those who wear the crown of the ivy of god. Blessèd, blessèd are they: Dionysos is their god!1


The Rustic Dionysia happens sometime this month. In ancient times, each area decided for itself when the festival would fall, but HMEPA estimates that it began on the 10th day of the month Poseidon.2 The above quotation comes from the chorus of Euripides' Bacchae, and I thought it an appropriate tribute to the God.

Dionysos presides over a unique ecstatic relationship between him and his worshipers, a voluntary possession that confers certain benefits to those who accept him and, in the case of Thebes, penalties for those who don't. Yet many people still have problems accepting him (myself included) because of his associations with excess, and, like stubborn children, we prefer exerting active control over our lives to letting a divine power make decisions for us. The difficulty people have with accepting him is shown in the conduct of mortals in his cultic foundation myths:

Now Lykourgos, son of Dryas and king of the Edonians, who lived beside the Strymon River, was the first to show his hybris to Dionysos by expelling him. Dionysos fled to the sea and took shelter with Nereus’ daughter Thetis, but his Bakkhai were taken captive along with the congregation of Satyroi that accompanied him. Later on, the Bakkhai were suddenly set free, and Dionysos caused Lykourgos to go mad [. . . .] [The Edonians] took Lykourgos to Mount Pangaion and bound him, and there in accordance with the will of Dionysos, he was destroyed by his horses and died.3


As you can see, godhead does not equate universal acceptance, and establishing a cult in a new region can meet strong opposition. Yet, by expelling Dionysos from his realm, Lykourgos invites disaster as surely as Pentheus does in the Bacchae or the sailors in the Homeric Hymn to Dionysos (#7). As Dionysos presides over ecstatic experiences, and as some more modern interpretations of his power lead to a binary opposition between things "Apollonian" and "Dionysian" (the former being logical and reasoned, the latter being illogical and spontaneous), perhaps so many of those people pushed him away because they felt uncomfortable with Dionysos's power to make lives go topsy-turvy with his vine-given powers. On the other hand, people need time to relax and have a good time or risk developing the very insanities that they run from.

To celebrate the season of Dionysos, it is thus important to indulge in our impulses for a time, maybe even lose ourselves in the present moment. De-stress this holiday season by watching a comedy or tragedy, imbibe alcohol or caffeine, or do something spontaneous. Do these things for the God so that he knows you haven't forgotten to include him in your life, especially if you practice Hellenic Polytheism—the Delphic Maxims say that we should worship the Gods, and that probably means we shouldn't refrain from some due to personal tastes. Burning incense or adapting ancient Rural Dionysia rituals wouldn't hurt, either.

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Euripides. The Bacchae, Euripides V. Ed. David Grene and Richmond Lattimore. (New York: Washington Square Press, 1968), ln. 72-82.

Hellenic Month Established Per Athens (HMEPA). http://www.numachi.com/~ccount/hmepa/calendars/696.4.Poseideon.html.

Apollodorus, The Library 3.34-35. Sourced from: Atsma, Aaron J. "Wrath of Dionysos 1." The Theoi Project. http://theoi.com/Olympios/DionysosWrath.html#Lykourgos.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Head of Dionysos. Pentelic marble, Roman artwork inspired from Hellenistic models. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Head_Dionysos_Musei_Capitolini_MC1129.jpg#file

16 December 2008

Conceptualizing Cosmology, Redefining Creation I: After the Collapse

2 comments:
First of all, Chaos came into existence; thereafter, however,
Broad-bosomed earth took form, the forever immovable seat of
All of the deathless gods who inhabit the heights of Olympus,
And murky Tartarus, tucked in a cleft of extensively traveled
Earth; also Eros, most beautiful god among all the immortals,
Loosening limbs, dominating the hearts and the minds and the well-laid
Plans both of all the immortals and all of susceptible mankind.
(Hesiod's Theogony, ln. 112-118)

In a book entitled
The Cyclical Serpent, a cosmologist named Halpern degrades the unscientific practices of our polytheistic predecessors because their religious faith made them less willing to make direct observations of the cosmos to verify various models they made of the cosmos. Granted, the Pythagoreans did concentrate mostly on mathematical theory, but they created the foundations of geometry (Pythagorean Theorem, anyone?). In the interest of proving that my education can be useful, I would like to begin a thought problem. The version you are reading is by no means complete and likely contains some logical errors, but over time I hope to refine it.

The Thought Problem
I want to talk about the potential of closed and open universes and what this means (to me) in a polytheistic religious context, not because I feel it is necessary to justify polytheism, but because it sounds fun.

Some Cosmological Concepts
  • A closed universe. In simple terms, closed universes begin with a Big Bang and end with a Big Crunch. This model of the universe is very symmetrical, and it requires that a number called Ω have a value greater than one. [Ω = (3H²)/(8πG), where H is the Hubble Costant now, π is 3.14....., and G is the Gravitational Constant. For Ω > 1, we need a large numerator, meaning a large Hubble Constant.]
  • An open universe. Open universes can be flat or hyperbolic depending on the value of Ω. Regardless, they will never experience a Big Crunch; they will expand for t = ∞. This model requires a smaller Hubble Constant so that Ω is less than or equal to one.
What Is the Divine?
To discuss religious concepts in terms of this modern cosmological viewpoint, we need to think about the Gods; more specifically, we must consider the properties that make something divine. Gods enjoy having worshipers. We know this from ancient literature and modern practice. No God is omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent because they all have relationships with one another that prevent them from taking such power; the universe is a place of many forces, not just one. Zeus swallowed his first wife Metis because that son had the potential to overthrow the newly-crowned Thunderer, and Thetis had to call the Hundred Handers to rescue him when Hera bound him, so even his power is not absolute. Even when flames burned mortality away from Herakles (Zeus deified him), it was in accordance with what the Fates had ordained, for even Zeus must submit to them. Yet deities have far more physical power than mere mortals even when these mortals control the atom bomb, and they have one distinct advantage that surpasses all others: Gods don't die.

Gods and the Early Universe
If we consider this in terms of the two cosmological possibilities that the Fates may have woven into our universe, this becomes slightly confusing. In the former case, a closed universe, the Big Crunch would result either in a singularity (everything goes) or a “bounce” scenario in which the matter would rebound after a certain point. In both of these closed universe scenarios, there exists a point in the contraction point that mirrors what the universe looked like before the CMB (Cosmic Microwave Backgorund) radiation was emitted; that is, it will revert to a plasma state. Even farther along in the contraction phase, nuclear fusion may begin when all of the previously unconsolidated hydrogen gas reaches a sufficient temperature. For the Gods to be immortal and the universe closed, they would have to somehow survive this state, and they would have to survive as the four forces (electromagnitism, gravity, strong, weak) recombined shortly before singularity/rebound. The chaos present at this point would mirror the chaos that existed prior to the organization of the world in Hesiod!

To allow the Gods immortality in this way, it seems that we will have to make some more basic assumptions. If we say that syncreticism exists and that the Gods exist outside of space-time as we know it, if they are more omnipresent (but not necessarily attentive to everything that happens everywhere), and if they interact with us through dimensions that we cannot experience due to our limited capacity, then it is possible that most polytheists worship the same basic core deities. Each species, culture, city, et cetera, will respond to their perception of each divine being in a different way because deities' personalities are complicated, and occasionally some groups will overlook a deity (or deities) because they cannot see his/her/its presence at that particular time. While I do follow Hellenic Polytheism and would only honor deities from other pantheons with people who actually worshiped deities from those pantheons (otherwise how would I get along with my Neopagan relatives?), I cannot assume that all deities that exist in the universe have revealed themselves to my religion. In addition, some faiths are perfectly fine accepting almost none of these deities (e.g., Christianity).

Perhaps, if you indulge me by agreeing with everything in the paragraph above, Gods behave similarly to the Hindu vedic scriptures. In Santana Dharma, there is a belief that when one lifetime of Brahma passes and everything goes back to square one, the spiritual message behind the scriptures will exist in oscillations to come because that message is universal and untied to culture. Similarly, perhaps the Gods also have this universal quality underlying our culture-based experiences of them; after this universal cycle ends and the next one begins, the life forms they would reveal themselves to would still have a subjective experience of the true Gods.
Of course, there is the whole question of "does a God exist in the middle of a forest if nobody prays to it?", but I will not open that can of worms today.

Reflections
So, what at the surface appears a conundrum with the closed universe does, after some thought, have fewer issues. As many ancients knew, the mythology does not present us with a
literal truth of the past and future of the world, but a set of coded concepts that the reader must interpret, limited of course to human understanding. How immortal we consider the Gods honestly depends on how we read the myths and whether we think that Zeus was really born on Crete, or Hermes in Maia's cave, or that our specific understanding of these endless beings was first realized there. We can say that the chaos at the beginning mirrors the chaos that may come at the end and that the abstract identities of our gods remain the same even if our specific polytheism, culture, species, or planet do not survive, but any speculation beyond that must be refined by letting science take us as far as it will.

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Halpern, Paul, and foreword by Andrei Linde. The Cyclical Serpent: Prospects for an Ever-Repeating Universe. New York: Plenum Press, 1995.
Hesiod.
Works of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns. Trans. Daryl Hine. Chicago: University of Chiago Press, 2005.
Winter, Sarah Kate Istra.
Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored. 2nd Ed. Createspace, 2008.
Harrison, Edward Robert. Cosmology : the science of the universe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.


07 December 2008

Religious Music This Hellenist Likes

2 comments:
As it is nearing the holidays, perhaps it is about time to make a post on some really cool music out there that deals with the Gods, worship, et cetera. Here are some selections from my music library that have overt or covert connection to the Gods we worship. This is only a small percentage of the music out there.

Apollon Musagete by Stravinsky.

Apollo by Kerry Getz. Strange album, very singer-songwriter. I'm unsure whether the title song is supposed to be about Apollon or the Apollo missions.


The Bacchic Dance of the Nymphs by Daemonia Nymphe.


Building a Mystery” by Sarah McLachlan. While not explicitly Hellenic, I ran into this in early October and couldn't stop listening to it. It reminds me of the Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone, in addition to the way that Mysteries are founded and evolve with time.


Daemonia Nymphe by Daemonia Nymphe.


Euripides' Bacchae by Petros Tabouris. Really interesting musical version of the Bacchae, which is an Athenian tragedy about the coming of Dionysos to Thebes.


The Frogs, a musical adaptation by Stephen Sondheim of Aristophanes’s comedy of the same name. Dionysos and his slave Xanthias go on a quest to the Underworld to bring back a playwright named Shaw (contemporary of Shakespeare) to help solve the world's problems.


“The Gods Favor Those” by Without Mirrors. Interesting piece of music.


“Invocation of the Sun” by Mirabilis


Krataia Asterope by Daemonia Nymphe. Music in honor of the Gods. In Greek. Many places try to categorize them under metal . . . and I'm not quite sure what that is about.


Olympus by Kelly Andrew Kaveny.


Sorrows of Young Apollo by Point of Ares.

04 December 2008

Some Changes and a Weird Link

3 comments:
Those of you who do not use an RSS feed, you have probably noticed by now that I have changed the layout of this blog. The order of my small sticky sections makes a lot more sense now, organized based on what you may find most useful (read: stuff I think you should know about) to items that deal more specifically with this blog (i.e., my humorous/serious bio, hit counter).

I encourage you to browse through my links to resources for Hellenic Polytheists and other polytheists' blogs. As readers have different tastes in what they want to read from the non-Abrahamic religious community, I have made an effort to categorize them by religious tradition.

On another note, what the frak?

02 December 2008

Hymn to Maia

2 comments:
My professor in Classical Mythology commented that, among all the mothers of the Gods, Maia is numbered among those few who does not have much mythology outside of her role as mother of one of the Olympian deities. This modern hymn to Maia will hopefully spark the desire in other Hellenic Polytheists to come up with something to rectify the lack of attention given to this beautiful (and violet-haired!) Pleiad nymph.

* *
*

Among the Blessed Gods who dwell on Mount Olympos sits one who waits patiently for Ganymede, the Gods’ cup-bearer, to reach her with the delightful ambrosia. Sitting among those in the heavens, this lovely and quiet woman braids her violet locks in thick braids to adorn her beautiful crown. Mother of the King of Thieves, you sit among the Gods and are yet distant, watching your son as he playfully challenges Lord Apollon to a contest with the lyre. In turn, each one sings: Argos’ slayer weaves a tale of cunning men doomed but to die, lusting for sparkling gold relics; the master of the lyre chooses a song of the Muses of Mount Helicon. Yet you do not take joy in the music, daughter of Atlas; your mind moves elsewhere to the time when you, nymph, crept in your deep cave on Mount Kyllene, depriving yourself of the joys of your fellow Pleiades and the Olympian Gods. You, Maia, made your bed among the dark springs in the depth of the cave-night, turning your silent solitude into company as you imagined night and day away. To your sisters belonged the forests and traveling in the company of deities like Artemis and Bromius. Yet not even you, venerable mother of a trickster, could avoid the destiny that the Fates wove for you at your birth. Hidden by rock, Eros’s arrows still penetrated you with complacent desire for the Thunderer, and in him the desire to find you.

In the dark of the new moon, Zeus descended onto the cool slopes of the mountains of Arcadia, taking the form of a shepherd who, while sleeping, loses his flock to the amusement of the guardians close by; in this form he approached your cave, calling in to discover what beauty colored his fanciful dreams. As Hera slept in the world above, the God of Strangers found his way to your bed. With locks shading his eyes and a simple disposition, he begged you to shelter him from the beasts that prowled the mountainside, artless in his deception that you saw through, great Maia, because nothing escapes your notice. You let him sit on the rocky bed beside you; when you began your art of love, all were willing, and in the cycles of moon that passed your seclusion hid you from the eyes of Hera as your belly swelled with the fertile seed of that powerful Sky God.

Passing into your cave, the master of the Gods’ assembly brought you trinkets from civilization: pretty woven garments and strings of pounded gold to adorn your white limbs, jeweled hairpins for your wild violet hair, and jeweled broaches for your strong shoulders. You both knew that from your womb would come a God whose achievements would be a testament to you, Maia—from you would come his calculating mind and his discretion, the ability to stalk in darkness as every good thief must. But now the Thunderer civilized you, taming your unruly hair and your unyielding limbs, giving you the skills you needed to make an impression among the diamond-studded heavens. From master-crafted vases he brought you, you learned the art of painting, and from examining the weave of your new cloak you learned how to build the loom. Brewing colored potions to dye the walls around you, your fine brushes traced scenes not unlike those on the libation bowls and amphorae that now surrounded you. From the gold adornments on your arms you learned how to love refinement, but to always temper your discoveries with reason, lest you travel into the open air where Hera would find your swollen belly and know the mind of the God you carried within you. Mistress of Zeus, you respect the power of that great presider over marriage and the home, and you fear for the divine power growing inside your body.

All too soon, you gave birth to him, that craftiest of Gods, the one who passes among the worlds with the most ease. That one brought you the fame you detested, grabbing you with his equally strong arms and pulling you into the strong light of the greater world as he established temples and earned the favor of Hera, Queen of Heaven. But you, Maia, hesitant one: we will always remember you, those of us who worship the Deathless Gods, and we will scatter your name across our prayers and hymns, reciting it as we make the traditional sacrifices. This is my greeting to you, Lady Maia, glorious maiden of Arcadia! I offer this prose hymn in honor of your glory.