30 August 2010

Everyone Has First Amendment Rights, So Let's Actually Do Something Productive

Short note: I moved into an apartment on August 15th to start graduate studies, hence not posting since August 10th. The apartment is awesome, although the living room’s smoke alarm is really sensitive, and I am somewhat anxious about lighting incense because I don’t know how excitable the alarm in my bedroom will be. That’s it from me. Now on to business as usual.

Hrafnkell made a post on PAGAN+politics called “Islamophobia and an American Heathen,” which I highly recommend you read. While my blog should not deviate too far from its focus on Hellenism, the post — and comments — are very important to the polytheistic movement as a whole.

We all know that the core texts of Islam and Christianity contain elements that portray polytheism as something hostile and demonic. To Muslims, polytheism is shirk, the most heinous and unforgivable crime in their religion because it denies the One True God. Other things, including liking the Beatles too much, we can also consider as shirk, so it’s not like we’re special anymore to them. Christianity believes that the only way to attain salvation is through the One True God and Yeshua, the Jewish Rabbi whose break with tradition resulted in the religion we know today.

No one who believes in the Bill of Rights can say that we should deny them the right to assemble as they please in a location they have bought, no matter how much anxiety we feel about how much each individual adherent believes in their divisive sacred texts. As Epictetus says in his Enchiridion:
Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.
If we think about this quotation, we can clearly see that reacting to what people do — say, building a religious center — as if we controlled their actions will only create frustration and divide us into camps that really shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Because we can control our responses, we should instead look beyond situations and see the larger picture.

If our goal as an alliance of polytheistic faiths is to reduce stigmatization of our faiths and to counter anti-polytheistic propaganda, we need to concentrate on these campaigns, not just tearing down the people who we know oppose us. A lot of people have started initiatives, but they probably wouldn’t mind having our help.

If you aren’t already helping and would like to, join an interfaith group. Share information about the World Congress of Ethnic Religions on Facebook, Twitter, and in person. Let people know about indigenous Americans’ struggles for basic protections/respect and support them as people with somewhat similar goals who might be awesome to work with in the future. Support Pagan Pride Day. If people ask why you don’t discuss Easter plans, give them a real reason. Interact with mainstream blogs and counter Abrahamic arguments with our own. Even people in dangerous locations can interact with Internet-based advocacy groups, and everyone can demand to know politicians’ stands on First Amendment rights for religious minorities such as Hindus, Buddhists, and polytheists.

As Aias from the Hellenistai Forums said, our ancestors were completely unprepared to deal with One True Wayist Monotheism. However, we live with people who believe in that stuff, so we are in a much better position. We know the good and bad of each of them. Can’t we learn from our ancestors’ mistakes and actually start addressing the problems?

10 August 2010

Making Room for Hêphaistos

Until several hours ago, Hêphaistos had no online temple (that I could find in a Google search) where devotees could write their prayers and praise the God. I think that online temples are great ways to honor the Theoi because the Guestbook prayers remind me of written prayers and affirmations in antiquity.

Why I Was Looking

I’m finally taking the test for a driving permit sometime this week, most likely Thursday, and I wanted to pray to him for success on my exam.* Hêphaistos seems like the most appropriate deity for this kind of prayer because of his position among the Gods as the master craftsman, inventor, and tinkerer. He has always seemed very awesome to me for having androids/automatons in his workshop, and I connect him to most mechanical items in my life.

What I Did

So, because I had nowhere to pray but my lonesome shrine, I spent an hour creating a rudimentary online temple for Hêphaistos using Google Sites.

You can find it here: http://sites.google.com/site/templehephaistos/

I am especially excited about the image I chose because I had never seen it before and it seemed like the best celebration of Hêphaistos. It depicts him celebrating his marriage to Aphrodite.

If you are a devotee of Hêphaistos and would like editing privileges, please let me know.

* There are many reasons why I’m in my twenties without one (mostly related to anxiety and a lack of time), but I really need to correct this and want to do well on the test and on the road.

05 August 2010

Happy Panathenaia!

Panathenia 2

Outside of time, in the depths of myth, Athene competed with Poseidon for the new city that would become the main seat of her cultus for generations. Poseidon, the Shaker of Earth, brought white muscled horses that flowed like the foam of the sea’s great waves. They gleamed and glowed in the fresh sunlight, and the people wished to make him their patron because they loved the way the strong beasts took grain from their hands.

Athene struck the Earth with her palm in anger at his great gift. From it came a tree that gave liquid gold — the best oil they had tasted, fresh and sweet on their skin and in the fires that hissed with their dinners. Poseidon’s gift was good to them, but they needed more than horses to fill their bellies and the award went to the one who holds the aegis, the great daughter of Zeus.
Panathenia 1
Happy Panathenaia. Today, I made my offerings to Athene, including a blue crocheted swath of fabric to drape over her statue. I dripped olive oil onto the agalma’s head* and traced it down across the statue with my fingertips so it glistened. Afterward, I secured the fabric across her shoulders using some scraps from its creation.

In addition to the crocheted garment for the small statue on my general shrine, I offered her flowers, blueberries, and honey-scented incense, along with a closing libation of wine. In the background, I ran through a YouTube playlist to Athene compiled from various devotional videos other devotees have made, mostly in Greek, and stumbled through the Orphic Hymn to Athene in Greek without actually speaking (one of the YouTube videos in the list is just a recitation of the hymn).

And so I leave you with these words from the Iliad, from when Odysseus and Diomêdês raid the Trojans’ camp at night. Odysseus prays:
O child of Zeus who bears the stormcloud, hear me. In hard hours ever at my side, you follow every move I make: tonight befriend me most, Athêna. Before we two retire on the ships let us bring off some feat to gall the Trojans. (Fitzgerald translation, X.308-312-ish)

02 August 2010

Hellenistai Project: The Wiki and the Media Reviews Site

Ruadhan of Hellenistai has lots of good ideas for ways to get involved in our community. Right now, the Hellenistai Wiki is accepting submissions for its Mouseia Agon. The poetry from it will be used to dedicate the Wiki project, so the subject matter should involve Hermes and/or the Mousai. The deadline is 20 August 2010, and winners will be announced on 27 August 2010. Learn more here.

He has also started a media review site on the main Hellenistai page. According to the site, it will provide media reviews/commentary
of relevance to the Hellenic polytheist community (recon or otherwise). There are a lot of books out there of varying quality and sometimes people just don’t know where to start — there are also lots of other media items, including (but not limited to) films, music, and games, that may be of interest to the Hellenic community, also of varying quality, and you may want to read a review first before picking them up or checking them out for yourself.
If you would like to contribute regularly, please follow the directions in this post. Otherwise, there are already a few regular writers: Aingeal Oreiad and Ruadhan, along with Kyrene (who will contribute seasonally). If you don’t want to contribute, I recommend adding it to your blogroll.

Full disclosure now: I am also writing as a seasonal person on the site. My focus, which came to me yesterday while listening to Hadestown, will be called Highway to Hades — a section that discusses modern interpretations of the Underworld, its denizens, and the Gods who rule it. Wherever you turn, Hades is a politically-charged realm. Struggles to reach Hades become struggles against political apathy or commentaries about the economy. And when they don’t, the stories get personal. The title comes from a line I thought up while in the UK a few years ago. (One of my friends ran with it and wrote a really awesome song that she performed on guitar in a pub.) The first post, “Rivers of Frogs,” focuses on the musical adaptation of The Frogs. I will wait a few entries before tackling Hadestown because every song is packed with tons of symbolism and awesomeness. Thank Gods I still have my literary criticism book on hand.