Sunday, January 26, 2014

Zeus and Hera, the Hieros Gamos of heaven.

Though there wasn’t any kind of established orthodoxy in Hellenic religion with regard to theology (or anything really, except at extremely local levels, it seems) the mythological corpus seems to imply a few things about the ancient religion that were, it seems, accepted as being true by the majority of Greeks. One of these seems to have been the concept of the Hieros Gamos, which translates as Sacred (or Holy, perhaps) Marriage.

The division of the world into domains, such as Sky, Earth, Sea, and Underworld meant that those domains also had Lords, as the Greeks interpreted the Gods as being a monarchy, and Ladies, since the Greeks also saw the Gods as having relationships of a human type. This meant that the Lord of the Sea, Poseidon, also had a wife who was the Lady of the Sea, Amphitrite, and these domains could be seen as kingdoms, making Poseidon not just Lord, but King of the Sea and Amphitrite his Queen.

In the realm of the Underworld it was Hades who was King of the Underworld, and Persephone was his Queen. But among the realms, none was more powerful as that of Sky, and its King was also king over all the other domains, like an Emperor, and that king was Zeus and his Queen none other than Hera. This was a marriage celebrated by the Greeks as both sacred and holy, and the union between the two was of great importance to the entire mythos, as so many figures of myth owe their lives to Zeus (he fathered so many of them) and their adversity to Hera, who is said to have hated so many of them due to their illegitimate births.

But this is not a blog about myths and their details, but rather about the Gods and me, and so I seek to understand here, and in January, the month of the Theogamia, a feast celebrating the Hieros Gamos, how this affects me, a single gay man in 2014.

Together, Zeus and Hera form the divine marriage of heaven, and as such, they are also the divine couple to which people should make their vows of marriage, but Zeus is also a God of Oaths, and Hera is a punisher of oath breakers, and as such it is not just this bond we call marriage (which had a different meaning to their culture than it does for ours today) but oaths of all types.

Never promise something you know you can’t deliver on, and certainly never vow to do it, and absolutely never do so in her name. Failure is one thing, we all sometimes fail to do things we really tried our best to do. Do not fear that you have failed her, or that she will be angry with you. Your attempt, if it was true and not your own lame self justification, was what fulfilled your promise.

Since as a gay man in a state not likely to allow me to marry any time soon, and since I am not likely to have anyone in my life wanting me to marry them any time soon, that aspect of the Hieros Gamos would seem to be illegitimate to me, but it isn’t, because the Hieros Gamos is not just about marriage, but rather it is also about the marriage between two divine forces. In this case, the marriage of heaven and earth, for in this case Hera can very much be identified with the earth, is of paramount importance to all of us for these two divine forces are about us all the time. Under our feat, in our blood, in the very air we breathe, and not just literally but spiritually as well.

There is a fundamental universal set of forces at work here, and while they are surely more complex a matter than just a “marriage” it is important to here understand that term, marriage, as meaning the complex interaction of things as they join or are joined by other forces.

We human beings, and all life really, is intimately reliant on the marriage of forces that surround us. From gravity and the interaction of matter with its environment to produces different states of matter to the forces of evolution and behavioral norms we must all abide with as a species, these things all marry, they combine and interact, to produce us.

Think about that the next time you think of Hera as “Goddess of Marriage” and understand the magnitude of that simple statement.

So it is that I celebrate the Hieros Gamos, divine marriage, sacred marriage, and understand that it applies to me not only at a human level, where the promises I make are sacred obligation to try my best, but also that at a cosmic level, which I also see as a spiritual level, it is responsible for the state of the universe itself from the broadest of perspectives to the smallest.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

At the heart of it...

Why do I worship Zeus, Athena, Apollo, etc.? Is there a logical reason, or is it something all together different? Is it just gut feeling?

I am not sure I could explain it to you, except to say that my logical mind, my heart, and my spirit (that sum total of who I am, not some magical being) seem to all say “this is the truth.” Not that Hellenismos is “The Truth” and all others are wrong, but rather that my belief that “God” is not a singular being, but a multiplicity is the truth and that all of us see, hear, feel that multiplicity in a different way. That individually we do, but also as cultures. This also leads me to believe that the forcing of the divinity into a singular form (well, no religions is truly monotheistic) is an error for which we as a race of beings is paying the price.

That may be a partial answer as to why I am a polytheist, but not as to why I am a Hellenistos.

In my, admittedly limited, experience, the religions of ancient Europe have fallen. Christianity, with its tyrannical view of all other religious piety did its best to bury them, to kill them off. The Celtic religious system is lost, many neo-pagans like to follow it, and I think they have managed to construct something lovely from the scraps left to us, but it is an error to say they are reconstructing the Celtic faith when there is simply too little left to actually do that. Part of me believes many neo-pagans choose it precisely because of this, as it allows them to do or claim whatever they want, but that is fodder for a different discussion.

The Egyptian system fares much better, with so much study having been done and so many monuments to their culture and religion remaining to guide people, but it is not a European system, not Indo-European, and I admit to having a hard time relating to it in any meaningful way. I admire the magnificence of what they left behind and the influence they had on the world around them, including the Roman and Greek worlds, but in the end, I simply find nothing there that touches me on an emotional level.

The Germanic religions, both of the Norse and of the Germanic peoples of the mainland are fascinating, and I was drawn to them once, having read the Eddur, but culturally I feel distant to them. I love the myths, the stories, the way they envisaged the Gods, it was all so beautiful, yet distant to me that i could not see myself relating to the Gods that way.

The Hindu religion, of course, is still very much alive, with tons to draw me to it, including the music, culture, vibrancy that is very much a presence in the world today. Hinduism is actually a growing system of belief (as is Islam) and I could, possibly, have been drawn to the many philosophical, religious, and spiritual paths it offers, and in some ways I am, having made its music and meditation a part of my life, but religiously, I felt distant from it as well.

There are, of course, a myriad of other systems. From the Taino culture of my birth place, though that is lost and mostly speculative, to the Aztec and Inca religions, of which much is known, including the influences the Aztecs had on the Carribean tribes. There are African systems of belief that, in some forms, have come down to me in my culture, but alas, I am not much for believing in magic (divinity is not magic, but that too is fodder for a different discussion) and the Aztec religion always seemed so barbaric to me.

Europe was where I needed to draw inspiration from, and as far as having a long standing relationship, me and the Graeco-Roman myths go way back. One of the first books I ever read that didn’t have a kid a cat and the moon in it was a book on Greek myths (as well as a book on astronomy, got them both from school and both were in Spanish) And I always found those stories fun, but later on, even as I read other things, like the Eddur, I also continued to find and read new books of myths. They seemed endless to me. By this time, of course, I was already in the US proper and was reading these in English, and the public library in Stamford, CT actually had a really good collection of books of myths, legends, and astronomy, the Eddur were even in both English and Icleandic (my first real exposure to a language other than English and Spanish) and I even learned to read some of the Icelandic by extrapolating the Germanic roots in relation to English (just don’t ask me to do it today, I might come off a fool now) and so, I remained a fan of the Graeco Roman myths.

I was brought up a Pentecostal. In Puerto Rico we went to a Pentecostal church, though my mother, noticing my eventual lack of interest, did not try to force me to go. By the time we came to the mainland, I was completely disconnected with that church (thank heaven, really, as the stories friends told me about what some of the pastors were up to with the young boys might have lead me to kill someone) and though I sometimes went to accompany my mother, I usually just stayed home and read comic books or watched TV, or sometimes, books on myths and astronomy.

This love of the mythic stayed with me, but at this point I was much more of an agnostic than anything, and it wasn’t until I was at a job, I may have been 23 at the time, that that connection became a true reality for me.

I had become convinced, by then, that the church was wrong, that there wasn’t just one “God”, and I was struggling to make sense of it, and one day this lovely young woman I worked with came back from a vacation in Greece and out of the blue hands me a token of her visit. There it was, a small statue, the kind they sell to tourists in stalls in outdoor markets, yet it struck me like lightning.

There she was, Athena, our lady of wisdom, and as I looked at it and thanked her, I also saw other things, other connections in my life that, to be honest, I had never thought of before. My name is Hector, the name of one of the great heroes of Greek epic poetry, my great grandmother’s name was Basilia, my grandmother’s name was Providence, and my mother’s name is Minerva. (I was corrected by my mother, I though my great grandmother’s name was Sofia, but that was someone else in the family)

Don’t get me wrong, I am not the kind to draw ridiculous conclusions from coincidence, but at the moment, right then and there, those coincidences came together to push me into a decision, and that decision was simple, yes, there isn’t just one God, and to connect to them you need a system, and here it is, right in front of you, dumbass!

Of course, making that decisions was the simple part. Reading and loving myths is all well and good, but in many ways reading mythology is like reading comic books in the 70s. Lots of great stuff, but very little depth. I needed to fill in the huge voids myth leaves by learning how the people of Greece and Rome worshipped these deities, what other lesser known stories they told about them, etc.

And that’s where it began. With children’s books, disillusionment with monotheism, and a sudden realization.

Why I remain a Hellenistos, though, well, that is actually simple enough to answer. It makes me a better person. I have learned to be a better man through my connection to the Gods, and I hope to continue along that path to a better me until the day I die and am taken back by the earth from whose mass I am formed.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The New Year

Happy New Year

…but, I have fallen behind, and as the new year starts I am choosing to make my best effort to continue this blog, to seek to meditate on the gods and place here my impressions. But, I also want to do better at conveying some of my emotion about the Gods because my writing does tend to be rather dispassionate.

My love of the Gods is not just academic, I do feel them in my life, in the world around me, in the cosmos, and I have not done a good job of conveying that, so, I hope to do much better on that note.

Wish me luck...