Monday, June 21, 2010

To Helios

Rising in glory you bring light to the land
And the warmth of your countenance brings joy
As the breezes of morning make way for the hot day to come
Fighting hard to cool to air in the Summer

Racing toward midday your chariot gleams
And your immortal steeds strain to pull you
As the minds of man are turned to the fruits of the Earth
Feeding the soul and body

Heading toward the horizon you see the gates
And you smile and look down upon us all
As the toils of man approach their end, and the evening's revelry awaits
Searching for meaning in the dance

Setting in hues of red and orange and violet you rest
And your day's work is ending
As your bright white fire is hidden from the view of man
Sleeping and traveling in the eternal land of dreams

Lampontas and Adonaia

Every Year, at the turn of the season from Spring to Summer, I celebrate Lampontas, a holiday of my making celebrating the Sun God Helios at the height of his arc on his annual journey across our skies. His mighty travel across the day time skies will be shorter from now on, and his visit in the land below longer.

This celebration has, of late, taken on an additional component to me that is of special relevance to me, because in Ohio, the Columbus Gay Pride March and Festival is held every year on the same weekend as the Solstice (Generally, that is, as the Solstice moves along the week as all other dates do) and as a result, it is a time of celebration and festivity that, for me, is very appropriate to a celebration of the warmth of Summer and the joy of life, and, you know, if there is one thing we gays know how to do, it’s throw a party.

But this Summer I was also met with a special reminder, a blessing from the Gods, and that is a reminder of the power of friendship and the love people so willingly share with one another in the name of that friendship.

The Gay Pride Festival, and my personal reminders to myself with regard to Helios, brought me into a focus about certain things which I too often ignore in my life, friendship and family, and how friendship is often the family we want, while the family we were given is distant. That the love we feel for our parents and siblings, a love so deep it knows no measuring, can be opened up to include people who share no blood, except that which we all share, the blood of humanity.


I have been doing some reading on Adonis lately, and today I received a Facebook invitation to join a group dedicated to the celebration of a Festival in his honor. I found myself longing to know more, and I am going to look for more info, not on the myth, which I have read many many times, but on his cult and the deep felt sorrow and the expression of that sorrow that made his cult so popular.

An antecedent to the cult of Jesus, another dying Hero/God figure probably manifesting the same core deity, Adonis’ death was mourned by women, big pots with small gardens in them were grown on roof tops and at the time of his mourning were thrown from the rooftop, a symbol of his dying and the dying of nature (we would likely celebrate such an event in Winter, but in the Middle East and in many parts of Greece, this would likely have been in the horrid heat of Summer, when the growing of things was made so difficult by the lack of rain and the oppressive heat. The women wore clothing that were either dirty or reminiscent of the dead, they shore or yanked out their hair, and beat their breasts in mourning, and the wailing of their mourning could be heard throughout.

I am certain that the cathartic nature of this ritual of mourning could do many of us good, releasing all that inner anger, hurt, pain, and sadness to the dying god, and in so doing becoming better able to deal with the world around us.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Culture of Shame

As I was pondering Hermes a bit today, and thinking about our religion in general, is struck me, and not for the first time, that one thing our religion has that the monotheistic religions do not, is a lack of enforced shame.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that while our religion does give us some strictures, so moral and ethical guidelines by which to live through myth, philosophy, and the often fragmentary maxims and fables that enforce an idea of place and propriety to mankind, these do not seek to ever make us feel shame for being ourselves. Your race, gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, even your personal religious beliefs are almost irrelevant to the religion/philosophy as a whole, and I say religion/philosophy, because I am beginning to think of Hellenismos as more of a philosophy than a religion, and Hermes, in many ways, is central to this subtle but monumental shift in how I see both this path and myself.

I suppose one has to think of Hellenismos as a religion because the term has come to mean a system of beliefs that orbiting a central set of theological ideals or centered on the writings or philosophy of a particular “holy man”. Because Hellenismos is focussed on the Gods, it must be a religion, yet the Greeks themselves never had a word, until Christianity forced it on them, for what we call religion. To the Greeks, life, religion, philosophy, and ritual, which is part of both religion and culture, were all just part of being Greek. They didn’t distinguish between religion and daily life, because the two were inseparable.

The cultural rituals of life, the rites of passage, the rituals for birth and death, they were all mixed together both with the Gods and how they were seen by the people, and with the culture in general. And Hermes, that God that links all things together, that travels the paths between all things, is there at the heart of this, something which our current culture struggles with as it attempts to separate religion and state craft.

I am not suggesting that state and religion should, in our times, be once again united, I think we are all seeing how disastrous that can be as the religious right tries to merge their fundamentalist, often times radical and even tyrannical, ideals into politics and government, but certainly we need to acknowledge as a people that religion was never meant to be separated from our daily lives, only from how government behaves, what laws are passed, and whether or not our government should have a right to enforce a particular set of religious beliefs on the population.

To this end, I think acknowledging too that religion and philosophy are not really separate things is very important.

A philosophy is a set of beliefs, but one that is not really dictated to the adherent that he may never question, but taught that he may explore and conclude from as he is capable and willing to do. All religions, from the most polytheistic and free form to the most dogmatic and monotheistically stringent, are also philosophies, but the difference, I think, lies in whether a man can come to his own conclusions about it without fear of reprisal from other adherents, and in this respect, “Pagan” religious philosophies, including Hindu and Buddhist systems of philosophical exploration, have the Judaeo-Islamist-Christian world beat, because none of these try to dictate a single path that can only be followed one way. Some of these, like Buddhism and Daoism, have even become almost exclusively philosophical, allowing their adherents to apply what they learn from their explorations to whatever theological system they may have been acculturated into.

Hermes can cross those paths. Hermes can teach us that it is OK to learn from other people, other philosophies, other systems without losing ourselves in the process, and he can teach us that it is OK to explore, to be a man, a woman, a fag, a dyke, a queen, a lumberjack, a liberal commie, or a conservative capitalist pig, and still explore beyond that into the world around you so that you might be at ease with yourself and therefore at peace with the world around you. You don’t have to become a zealot to be loved by the Gods, and perhaps, in zealotry you may lose yourself so much that the Gods no longer find you interesting.

The culture of shame that is so promulgated by the strict religious systems, like Christianity and Islam, is a detriment. It is not ok to be so ashamed of something as natural as sex, sexual attraction, etc. Nor is it ok to shame your children into living lies their whole lives in order to fit into the slave mentality of a people bowing down before their god like dogs before a master.

Hermes, as a force of nature, is free, constantly in motion, and does not allow boundaries to stand in his way while at the same time setting those boundaries so that we may challenge ourselves and learn what we are and are not capable of. How much happier might we be if we allowed ourselves to love anyone, without fear that loving the wrong person would shame us in front of others. How much happier might we be if we set aside all the detritus of the culture of shame brought to us by the God of the desert, and instead embraced the freedom to be fully alive and mortal.

Let Hermes guide you in this, and you may be surprised.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On the mystery that is Hermes.

I am not a scholar, that should be obvious from my writings, but I like to think that I am sharing an experience of something here that helps others, not be like me, but maybe establish their own connection to a greater reality, a greater experience of life and the divine, which I do not insist must be one way or the other, except I am fully convinced it is not monotheistic in nature, but essentially polytheistic.

When I speak of the mystery of Hermes, I am taking about the mystery of his being in relation to his mythos.

Why would a god, a being of such utter pervasiveness and sublime beauty, be a messenger? Why would a God, Zeus, need a messenger? Why do the Gods of Myth always seem to fall into a very familiar pattern derived from human social norms?

The answer to that last question is easy enough, we human beings interpret the world around us by relating it to our own nature, so we envision the Gods as human-like, and we imagine their behavior to be like our own. We also envision the Gods to fit into a hierarchy that fits into our conception of a hierarchy, in the case of Hellenismos, a patriarchal monarchy. A kingdom ruled by Zeus, who is father or sibling to most of his court.

Hermes, often represented as youthful, young even, is then at the bottom of that hierarchy, still a prince of the realm, but a bit far in line for the throne of heaven. Surely this is human interpretation, at least in its details, but what about in its more subtle implications? What mystery lies beneath the truth of this hierarchy, and should it really matter?

In these many years I have come to my own conclusions, they are likely worthless to most of you, as they are simply my own personal gnosis, my own personal interpretation of what I perceive around me, but they are as follows.

The Gods are eternal, I have said this before, and the Gods exist as both part of and transcendent to the universe as we know it. But each god is, essentially, sovereign. The God we call Zeus does not really rule the other Gods, not in reality, but in relation to interaction with mortal life, and in our current age, he does rule in a sense, because his power, his influence on the cosmos, gives him the responsibility to mediate what the other Gods are doing in order to maintain a balance that keeps the universe going.

In this we then see something of a need, a need for a figure to take on a responsibility of fully transcending all that is and, at the same time, immersing himself, consciously, into an full on interaction with all the various realms of reality and with mortal life as well. This being, who we call Hermes, is not so much a messenger as he is a conduit. A conduit between mortal life, physical reality, and the eternal realm that is the ultimate dimension, that which encompasses everything.

The mystery to me is why? Why must such a being provide such a conduit if Gods can accomplish anything?

The answer becomes this. The Gods are not capable of doing everything at all times. Within the reality of their eternal existence, within that eternal realm of infinite possibilities, they can do anything, but our universe is limited, and like a painter with a very limited pallet of colors to paint with, they have to make due with what they have available to them in our realm of existence and work on this canvas with only the colors available to them here.

I imagine that some Gods have such an intense effect on our plane of existence that something, or someone, has to mediate it in order to prevent damaging it, and as such, Zeus and Hermes form that mediating force in the cosmos, Zeus by being the “Lord” that allows such interaction, and is thus the “King” and Hermes, who establishes the routes to be taken, the means by which they can interact with the cosmos, is the messenger that allows that which the King allows to be disseminated into this limited dimension of space and time.

But, in the end, does this really matter to us as people?

In some ways, it does not, but in others it does, because that which happens above, in the eternal realms, is always somehow reflected in our world as well. As above so below, as I have heard said somewhere, and just as the mighty cosmic forces of nature, like gravity, chaos, and repulsion, find manifestation in the behaviors of life forms, so too the divine forces of the universe find manifestation in us as well, and as such, we can learn from what myth and the exploration of it through philosophical exploration of its themes has to teach us so that we can better understand each other and the ways we behave in the world. Just as an exploration of the cosmos and its forces helps us to advance as technological beings, so too does an exploration of the divine cosmos, the divine reality, whatever way we may be capable of understanding it, provide us with a way to improve as spiritual beings.