Hellenismos as a Living Tradition relevant to the UK
As a young child my bedtime reading was the Greek myths. I was fascinated by tales of Gods and Heroes, of how the natural world was inhabited by nymphs and daemons and by how closely entwined the realms of Gods and mortals were. The Gods walked on earth, consorted with mortals, heroes and heroines became deified and became themselves Gods, and others shape changed into flowers, trees or animals, merging with the natural world, and giving their names to the flowers, trees or other concepts, which they became, – such as Narcissus, who falling in love with his own reflection in the river, thinking it was a beautiful water nymph, was transformed into the narcissus flower which grows by the river, bending ever over the water to gaze upon its own reflection; and the Mountain Nymph (or Oread) Echo, who loved Narcissus, but ignored by him due to his love for himself, and cursed by Hera for her deception of the Goddess, such that she could only repeat the last words that another person had just said, pined away, and faded until she was but a voice, echoing what others said. At the same time, the myths contained wisdom and lessons about life, the importance of virtue and the heroic quest, of piety, of honour, the dangers of Hubris or excessive pride, of self-obsession, of greed and other human vices, and the common pitfalls that could befall mortals. The human condition is explored to its full in the Greek myths. What was also apparent was how much of our everyday language comes from Greek mythology, words such as echo, atlas (from the Titan Atlas who carries the heavens upon his shoulders), cloth (from Clotho, the youngest of the three Fates, who spins the thread of life), hypnosis (from Hypnos, the God of sleep), Ocean (from Okeanos, the God of the rivers and seas) and many more. Greek mythology and the Greek Gods are inherent in our very language and culture.
As I grew older and went to high school, I began to study English literature and poetry, and again, the Greek and Roman deities appeared, from Chaucer to Shakespeare, to Byron and Keats, and even in modern poetry. Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, written in the 14th Centure CE, tells of the Greek hero Theseus, though embellished with the values and chivalry of medieval England. Shakespeare’s epic poem Venus and Adonis is based on Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and presents contrasting views of love and passion, with an Elizabethan veneer. Lord Byron wrote The Curse of Minerva whilst in Athens, to express his vehement disapproval of the removal of the Elgin marbles from Greece (the Romantic poets didn’t distinguish between the Greek and Roman pantheons as many modern pagans do today), and was so enamoured with Greek culture, that he joined the Greek War of Independence to help the Greeks fight against the Ottoman Empire, such that he is still revered as a National hero by many Greeks today (including the teachers of my Hellenic tradition). I have always felt that there is a strong connection between British culture and the Greeks, and the Hellenic path has certainly been with me for as long as I can remember. I think I knew of the Hellenic Gods before I heard of Jesus or the Christian God, and most certainly well before I knew anything at all about the Celtic or Saxon Gods.
When I went on to University and began a Humanities degree, I studied the works of Plato, and Classical Greek tragedies and Comedies, such as the works of Euripides, Aeschylus and Aristophanes, and I was hooked.
Throughout my life I felt particularly drawn to Dionysos, the God of Wine, with all his contrasts – He who is perhaps the most human of Gods, but also the most Divine, who teaches the mysteries and brings us liberation. When I began to seek out pagan groups in my late teens, I was surprised that given the influence on our culture and language of the Greek and Roman religions, that there were very few pagans in the UK who actively worshipped or celebrated the Hellenic Gods. Those who were eclectic in practice would sometimes include them amongst other deities in their rituals, but few seemed that interested, inclining more towards what they deemed to be “’native” traditions such as Celtic or to a lesser extent Saxon or Norse, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that so much less was known about those traditions or deities. However, being a seeker of wisdom and generally interested and curious in a lot of things, I explored many different paths throughout my life, both Eastern and Western. I explored Buddhism and Hinduism, which I still have a lot of respect for, trained as a Priestess in the Fellowship of Isis, was initiated in Wicca, which I pursued as my primary path for many years, explored Druidry and spent a year or so studying Heathenry, and of course, living in Wales for the past 30 years, studied the Welsh Celtic tradition. But the Greek Gods continued to call to me, and I wanted to honour them not just as part of an eclectic Wiccan or neo-pagan tradition, but to explore more traditionally Greek ways, with every holiday to Greece I had, increasing that desire. We are lucky that so much literature and archaeology has survived from Ancient and Classical Greece – though so much more has been lost, destroyed and burnt by Christian fanatics from the time of Constantine onwards. But nevertheless we have a wealth of literature, myths, philosophy, plays, hymns and ritual texts, as well as material remains. Far too much for the religion to ever have been destroyed completely! What’s more the philosophies continued to be developed in the works of the Neo-Platonists over the following centuries up to the present day. In my research and search for others who honour the Hellenic Gods, after encounters with various Reconstructionist groups (mainly American), I came across people who practice a tradition passed down and practiced through generations, that has developed organically and naturally though the ages, though firmly rooted in the myths, philosophies and spiritual practices of the ancient mystery traditions. This is not the same as Hellenic Reconstructionism which attempts to re-create the mainstream rituals and religious practices of Ancient and Classical Greece, but is a tradition which includes ideas and practices which have developed through the philosophical schools throughout the centuries, but based on the mystical traditions known as Orphic.
Hellenismos refers to the native religions of Ancient Greece, whereas the term Hellenism refers to a love of or study of anything Greek. Orphism is a mystical tradition or traditions within Hellenismos, based on the teachings of Orpheus, the famous musician who was said to have calmed wild beasts with his music, even lulling Cerberus the guardian of Hades, and charming stern Queen Persephone and mighty Plouton, the Goddess and God of the Underworld. Orpheus may or may not have existed, we have no actual proof of his existence, but a number of myths and legends, and writings, texts and philosophies which are considered to be Orphic. Orpheus is said to have reformed Greek religion, and to have put an end to human sacrifice. He may well have tried to put an end to animal sacrifice too, but this was far too ingrained in Greek culture and he was unsuccessful, though many texts refer to the followers of Orpheus as being vegetarians, and Orpheus is often depicted surrounded by animals, suggesting his love for and care of animals. If Orpheus existed, it is likely that he lived around 2,000 BCE or earlier, and may have been of Thracian origin. In images he is generally portrayed wearing a Thracian hat. Some scholars believe that Orphism was a precursor not only to the Classical Greek religions and the great philosophical traditions of Ancient Greece, but also gave rise to the Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions (see Ralph Abraham, Orphism: The Ancient Roots of Green Buddhism at ralph-abraham.org). Theosophists (and some Buddhists) believe that Orpheus was a previous incarnation of the Buddha, teaching a philosophy of peace and benevolence. So what are the teachings of Orphism? Orphism and Hellenismos have survived and
The author on the steps of the Temple of Apollohn in Cyprus
developed through the works of the great philosophers, from ancient times, throughout the ages to the present day, particularly Pythagorus, Socrates, Plato, and the Neoplatonists. The Greeks are a nation who have always been proud of their past, their philosophers, myths, temples, architecture, sculpture, and all those largely Pagan things which Greece is famous for. Paganism/polytheism was therefore never entirely stamped out by Christianity in Greece, but carried on in the art and philosophy, the retelling of myths, and in folk practices. Paganism just went more underground. The Neoplatonist philosophers during the Christian era had to at least be nominally Christian, though evidence exists that pagan practices and beliefs carried on in secret. The C14th CE philosopher Georgius Gemistus Plethon, for example, a Greek scholar of Neoplatonic philosophy during the heavily Christian Byzantine era, and Chief Magistrate of Theodore II, founded a Mystery School in which he taught polytheism, and his students prayed to the Olympic Gods. After his death, manuscripts were found which he had not made public, due to their what would be considered then, heretical nature. His Nomon Singrafi, or Nomoi (Book of Laws) detailed his esoteric beliefs, and discussed daemons, astrology and the transmigration of the soul. He recommended religious rites and hymns to petition the Classical Gods, such as Zeus, whom he saw as universal principles and powers. The document was unfortunately destroyed due to its “heretical” nature. Plethon’s friend Marsilio Ficino, an Italian scholar and Catholic Priest, was one of the most influential humanist scholars of the early Italian Renaissance, reviver of Neoplatonism, and the first person to translate the Orphic Hymns, as well as the writings of Plato, into Latin. Although there are some fundamental differences between Neoplatonist philosophy and that of Orphism, Neoplatonism does preserve some Orphic ideas, and it is likely that just as the Neoplatonist philosophers may have been outwardly Christian, but practiced their pagan religion in secret, that so did other less well known Greeks, and that Orphismos and Hellenismos survived through family traditions passed down in secret through the generations.
The author’s garden altar
Side by side with the continuation of philosophical and hidden family traditions in Greece and Rome, the theurgic tradition first developed by the philosophers, developed further through its contact with other religions and mystery traditions. The neoplatonist philosophers were heavily influenced by the Chaldean Oracles and their Middle Eastern ideas and deities. Following the persecutions of pagans by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, the neoplatonist school firstly was influenced by Christianity, and the philosophers had to be at least nominally Christian, or to adapt their philosophy so that it wasn’t overtly Pagan, but talked more of The One, whilst still developing meditative and theurgic practices. But persecutions continued, and following the subsequent closing down of the Platonic Academy by Emperor Justinian in 529 CE, the Neo Platonist Philosophers fled to Persia, where they were welcomed by the Persian Philosopher King, and met Sufi, Asian, Egyptian, Middle Eastern and Jewish mystics. From this meeting of different traditions, the theurgic practices were developed and refined, and the first Hermetic school was formed. Hermeticism was later brought back to the West and influenced Renaissance magic and the Western Mystery Tradition. So Western Magic is also heavily influenced by Greek thought, as is every other aspect of our culture.
In Orphic tradition the Nativity, Epiphany or birth (Genethlia) of Dionysus is celebrated in the evening of 24th December, and is the beginnng of 12 days of ritual worship of Dionysus the Saviour, and with each day one of the Olympian Gods (and their Divine Consorts) is also honoured. In Orphic myth, Dionysus has two (or three) births hence He is known variously as the Twiceborn (Digonon) or Thriceborn (Trigonon) God.
In His first birth He is born to Persephone, as the infant Zagrefs (Zagreus), sired by Zefs (Zeus). This first birth is known as the first influence of Zefs. Zefs united with Persephone in the form of a serpent, and from this union Zagrefs was born. Zefs was pleased with his son and enthroned him, naming Him as his successor, and gave him His thunderbolts and sceptre, and presented him to the Gods as their king. But, spurred on by the jealousy of Ira (Hera), the Titanes (Titans) smeared their faces with gypsum, and lured Zagrefs away and distracted him, giving him seven toys, referred to as the toys of Dionysos, such that He put down His thunderbolts and was unprotected. One of these toys was a mirror, and Zagrefs became fascinated by His reflection in the mirror, and whilst he was distracted by His own reflection, the Titanes grabbed him and prepared Him for a sacrifice, cutting Him into pieces with knives, but carefully preserving his heart and limbs. Then they took the remaining pieces of his flesh and roasted them on spits and each ate a portion. Zefs smelt the burning flesh and sent Athena to rescue the still beating heart. Athena took the heart of Dionysos Zagrefs to Zefs in a silver casket, and Apollohn took the limbs of the child and interred them at Mount Parnassus. Zefs then struck the Titanes with a thunderbolt and from their ashes He fashioned the races of mortal beings, who have immortal souls, from the essence of Dionysos Zagrefs, but also the sinful flesh of the Titans and are chained to a sorrowful cycle of births and deaths. But in His compassion, Zefs also conceived of a solution to the problem of the sufferings of mortal life.
Zefs made a potion from the heart of Zagrefs, and gave it to Saemaeli to drink, and She became pregnant with Dionysos. Saemaeli was the daughter of Kadmos and Armonia, Armonia being the daughter of Aphrodite and Ares. Zefs fell in love with Saemaeli and promised to grant her anything she desired. Ira, having discovered the affair between Her husband and the girl, convinced Saemaeli to ask Zeus to appear to her in the same form that he appeared to Ira in. Zefs was unable to refuse this request because he had made an oath, and appeared with all his lightning and thunder. Saemaeli was burned up by His divine flames, but wreaths of ivy grew around the babe in her womb, protecting Him from the flames, and Zefs rescued the baby, and sowed him up into his own thigh, until He was ready to be born, to teach the mysteries and free mortals from the cycle of births. Thus was born Dionysos Aelefthaerefs, Dionysos the Liberator.
It is this second, (or third) birth of Dionysos that we celebrate on 24th December, and it is known as the second influence of Zefs. The date is set not according to the Roman calendar, but according to to the Hellenic Zodiacal Mystic calendar. It is the fourth day of the fourth month of the Mystic Year, the month of Aigocaerus, or Capricorn , ruled by Iphaistos, the Smith God who governs the Natural Law of Morphe or form. It is on this fourth day of the fourth month, which falls on the evening of 24th December, that we celebrate the first appearance of the God in the world, the influence of Zefs on the soul, and fulfilment of Zefs’s divine providence.
On the Twelve Days of Dionysos we recite hymns and make offerings to Dionysos Aelefthaerefs each day, as well as to the Olympian of the day and the divine consort of the Olympian, beginning with Aestia (and Iphaistus), who rules the first Orphic month of Libra on 24th, then Ares (and Aphrodite) on 25th, Artemis (and Apollohn) on 26th, Iphaistos (and Aestia) on 27th, Ira (and Zefs) on 28th, Poseidon (and Demeter) on 29th, Athena (and Aermes) on 30th, Aphrodite (and Ares) on 31st, Apollohn (and Artemis) on 1st January, Aermes (and Athena) on 2nd January, Zefs (and Ira) on 3rd January, and finally, Demeter (and Poseidon) on 4th January.
Happy Gaenaethlia Tou Dionysos!
A Song for the Birthday of Dionysos (to the tune of Deck the Halls)
In a basket, lowly, hidden
Sweetly sleeps the newborn king
Born a saviour, come to free us
And to Earth great joy to bring
Watched over by nymphs and satyrs
Away in the mountains wild
To lead us all to joyous rapture
Dionysos, Divine child
Dionysos, Dionysos, Dionysos Divine Child
Lead us on to joyous rapture
Dionysos Divine Child
TO ALL THE BLESSED ONES
By Ariadni Rainbird
Oh blessed gods to Thee I pray
Eos who heralds the light of day
Spreading with joy your rosy glow
Awaken my mind, my body and soul
Oh gracious Goddess of the dawn
Through Thee each new day is born
As rises high the Golden Sun –
Helios the all-seeing one
Oh Mighty Titan, Lord of light
Who rules the day with unconquered might
Watch over me lord, I plea
And steer me on the path of piety
Theia Euryphaessa’s Mighty Son
– The Far Shining Goddess of inspiration
And who’s Father is Hyperion
– Lord of light, the All High One
Oh Titans, powers of natural law
Forefathers and mothers of natures awe
I call on Thee – expand my soul and mind
Great Iapetus, ancestor of mankind
Thou who governs mortality
May my life be true, just, and worthy
Thǽmis, Divine Law, Justice and Truth
Of Oracular power, giver of sooth
Mother of the blessed Horai
And Who bore by Zefs the holy Moirai
Eunomia, Dike, Eirine, never cease,
In giving Wise counsel, justice and peace
Clotho, Lachesis and Átropos, fates dread,
Spinner, measurer and cutter of life’s thread
Prometheus too was sprung from Thee, Titans great
Who’s name means Foresight, seeing our fate
Who brings progress and the holy fire
That illumines our minds and sparks our desire
To create and to grow to learn and problem solve
Who with Blessed Dioni helps us evolve
Oh Dioni, Oracle and prophetess,
Sister to Phoebe, Mnemosyne and Themis
Each Titan and Titaness with a unique role
In awakening and stretching the human soul
Okeanus, the river that around the earth flows
Firstborn Titan from whom Gods and men arose
Help us connect to the source of our being
The waters of life forever overseeing
The Okeanides are Thy blessed daughters
With Tithys, Mother of rivers, clouds and fresh waters
I give honour to Thee Gods of primal creation
Accept my offerings and adoration
Kreios who measures the temporal portions of the year
Let me tread the path with a heart with no fear
Thou who governs the stars, and beginnings anew
Let me face each beginning with a heart that is true
And Blessed Mnemosyne, Thee I beseech
To bless me with memory and the power of speech
For time destroys all, yet itself is immortal
Whilst memory preserves, and opens the portal
To a life that’s divine, blessed and free
I call on the bright one, the Goddess Phoebe
In whom the sources of oracular ability we find
And Coeus, Titan of the questioning mind
By Coeus, Phoebe bore Astæría, the starry one, bright
Goddess of falling stars and oracles of night
Who, bore Hekate, the holy dark maiden,
Goddess of Virtue who reveals what is hidden
And Phoebe by Coeus also Leto bore
Who bore the divine twins, on Delos’s shore.
And I call on great Rhea, mother and queen
And Kronos who ruled the Golden age supreme
Who wears the crown and holds the rod
That passes the power from God to God
First great Phanis from the cosmic egg emerged
The egg created when Chronos and Ananke merged
Time and Necessity in sacred elation
Forming the cosmogenic substances of creation
To reveal the mysteries in all their glory
Phanis, the revealer, the beginning of the story.
Both male and female, Oh being of light,
From Thee came Nyx, Goddess of night
Who holds the mysteries in her dark cave
And to whom Phanis the rod of kingship gave
All potentials of the Universe are Thine Goddess profound
And Phanes’s light reveals the forms that are found
Nyx, Whom the Gods consult and of whom all are in awe
Dark Lady of mysteries, Thee I adore.
I give honour too to Thy Divine progeny
Ouranous the foundation of divinity
The abode of the Gods, whose aetherial nature whirls
through the cosmos and permeates our souls
Panypertatus Daemon the most exalted and high
Accept my offerings, Lord of the Starry Sky.
The rod of Kingship was passed to Thee
The progression of aether coming to be
And to Gaia, Earth Mother, of Queenly form
from whose womb all earthly life is born
Fertile goddess with prolific powers
Producing grain, fruits and flowers,
To Thee all mortal life owes its birth
I honour Thee Mother, with love and mirth
From Oranous and Gaia the race of Titans were born
And Kronos took the rod and the crown
And Kronos and Rhea in turn, with grace
Produced Zeus and Hera, and the Olympian race
The personal Gods whom we adore
Who govern every natural law.
Hestia firstborn, who tends the sacred flame
The fire at the centre from whence all came
Who sets into motion the soul on its path
The Demiurge, the first and last,
Ares who rules the battle which is life
Thou who thrives in times of strife
Give me the courage to face life head on
To go bravely into the battle throng.
And Thy daughter Eris, Goddess of Strife
Who rules the challenges that bring growth in life.
Artemis, lithe, swift huntress of souls
Give me the energy to achieve my goals
With your silver arrows aiming true
You help the souls progression to virtue.
Hephaestus, God of crafts and archetypal flame
Mighty and strong, skillful, though lame
Giving beauty and form, making manifest
Ideas and aspirations, the goals of our quest
Hera, beautiful queen of the skies
Noble and regal with wide open eyes
All seeing, Goddess who torments the soul
With challenges to make us whole
Yours is the law of Eros, attraction
That stimulates human and divine interaction.
Poseidon, Lord of the sea and of storm
The law of progress is Thy dominion
The journey is Thine, God of travel and horses
As you help ships to stay on their courses.
Grey eyed Athena, who art crafty and wise
Who Sprung from Zeus’s head armed and full size
When He swallowed Thy Mother, Metis, of good sense.
You rule the law of co-influence,
And fair Aphrodite, Goddess of love
Who brings harmony from the heavens above
Bring peace to our hearts, lightness and Joy
Mother of playful Eros, the winged boy
Whose arrows shoot straight to the heart and inspire
The flames of passionate love and desire.
Next I praise Golden haired Apollohn bright
God of music, science, Art and light
The Natural Law of freedom is Thine
Liberate me, lead me to the life divine.
And to Hermes too I offer up my praise
Messenger of the Gods, with wiley ways
Guide of souls with winged feet
Guide me when my life is complete
Son of Maia, Violet-haired Goddess of the Spring
Loveliest nymph Who takes care of every living thing.
Zeus, Thundering God, who rules the skies
All is seen by Thy divine eyes
Lord of life in the realm divine
The earth and all that lives is Thine
Demeter who gives us the grains and the seeds
Oh Blessed Mother who cares for our needs
Bringer of peace, who taught mankind the skills
To plough and to sow, to rid us of ills
Oh Queen of the Earth, of abundance and growth
Energise our souls to move towards divine truth.
And Thy blessed daughter Persephone,
Plouton’s Kthonic Queen, Holy Kore
Soteira, Saviouress, daughter of Zeus
First Mother of Dionysos as Zagreus
In Plouton’s dark realm you spend half the year
All who know Thee face death with no fear
Though to Thanatos too I call
On whom the measure of our lives must fall
I pray Thee not in haste to take my last breath
But when it comes, to grant a peaceful death
I call on Great Aesclepius, healer of mankind
And Hygiea, – bless me with good health, Goddess kind.
Panacae, Goddess of Universal Cure
Give me strength when sickness I endure
Aid me to recuperate O Iaso
The healing process is Thine, Oh Acaso,
Aglaea, Splendour and Beaty from Thee are poured
When glorious health is once more restored.
To Plouton the keys to earth’s mysteries belong
In Thy dark kingdom, deep and strong.
And for Lord Dionysos I carry the rod tipped with pine
Who teaches the mysteries and gives the aethir of wine
Thrice-born God crowned with ivy and vine
Liberator, saviour, God of ecstasy divine
And wise Ariadne you took to wife
Who teaches the mysteries of the labyrinth of life.
To the nurses of Dionysos I also pray
To Ipta, Great Mother who hid the babe away
To Leucothea, protector of the divine child
And to Palaemon, doomed to dwell in oceans wild
To Chiron, best of centaurs, gentle and wise
Healer and teacher, with the power to civilize.
And to Silenus, wise satyr, teacher and guide
And to Pan who is Nature, in whom we abide
Earthly, aetherial, watery, firey, whole
The substance of all, and all are of Thee, Great soul.
To Phisis, all parent, ancient and divine
Mother of all, all sustaining, all life is Thine
To the nymphs, to the Satyrs, to the Nereiads and Dryads
To the Korybantes, Kouretes, Oreads and Naiads
And to the Great Mother of the Gods, Meter Theon
Source of life whom all depend upon
To the Anemoi, the winds, Boreus the North’s icy blast
Notus’s hot and humid clouds from the south are cast
From the West are blown Zephyrus’s sweet breezes, bringing flowers,
Whilst from the East Eurus brings Autumn rain and showers.
And swift-footed Iris, robed in the rainbow
Lighting the darkness with many-hue’d glow
Herald of Hera, glory of the sky
Blazing a glorious trail as You fly.
And fair Adonis loved by Persephone and Aphrodite
Who engages the soul with thought of absolute beauty
The Goddesses hearts with love are burning
For Beauty is The object of every love’s yearning.
And as the daylight fades and night draws near
And the silver light of the moon and the glow of stars appear
I call on Selene, blessed Queen of the Night
All-seeing Goddess, diffusing silver light
Shine on me I pray with Thy prosperous rays
Watch over me through the night and accept my praise.
Agathos Daemon, noble spirit, bring wisdom and good health,
Come with Tyche Agatha, pouring forth a fruitful store of wealth.
And as I prepare myself for sleep
I call on Hypnos, my soul to keep
Thou who takes away cares, and gives repose
From whom healing and peaceful rest flows.
And I call on the Oneiri, Blessed powers of dreams divine
May peaceful and inspiring dreams be mine
Morpheus, shape my dreams, whisper gently to my mind
The will of the Gods and of heaven kind.
That I may wake refreshed and inspired I pray
To greet the dawn another day
Theurgia is one of the Four Pillars of Orphismos, and refers to communication with Deity through ritual and meditative practices. Making offerings to the Theoi and reciting hymns and prayers is one form of Theurgia, but there are also more contemplative practices, such as quieting the mind in order to allow for direct experience of the divine, breathing exercises which energise the body and soul and work on inner energies. Such meditative practices are generally thought of as being Eastern, rather than part of Hellenic religion, but there is evidence that such meditative theurgic practices were part of Hellenic practice in the past, but that the specific practices have been lost. The philosopher-physician Praxagora for example, discussed the role of pneuma in the body, theorising that this breath-energy had multiple mental and physical functions, much like the Hindu concept of Prana. Stoic philosophers also talked of pneuma, and included it in their cosmology and cosmogenesis. Plato also talked of pneuma, and Aristotle discussed how pneuma is absorbed. At the time that these ideas were coming together in Greece, yogic and Ayurvedic philosophy was developing the same ideas. In the West, this tradition continued in philosophy and early Roman alchemy. However, due to Christian oppression, the development in the Western world was not allowed to continue, and much was lost. Just as Theurgia is one of the Four Pillars of Hellenismos, Theurgia itself may also be seen to have Four Pillars. The following description is summarised from The School of Divine Science website http://www.thedivinescience.com/category/articles.
There can be said to be four main components of theurgy – Theoria, Therapeia, Muesis and Teletas.
Theoria, from which we get the word Theory refers at the outer level, to the investigation of knowledge. However, the “theo” in theoria meansGod, and the theory is therefore about knowledge of the Divine. Ora means speaking, so theory can be said to mean “speaking about divine matters”. IN its internal, mystical dimension, theories the basis and root for several other terms, translating as “seeing”, “viewing a spectacle” and “shining”. The mystical component of theoria thus refers to meditation. Theoria therefore refers to both knowledge and meditation, and particularly the knowledge and wisdom which comes through meditation.
Therapeia, from which we get the word Therapy refers at the outer level to obligatory religious rites, which lead to purification, reform or resolution. In Platonist terms however, it indicates living in righteousness as a general rule (and its therefore closely connected to the Pillar of Areti – ed). Devotional practices of any kind of custom, together with the honest attempt to live a virtuous life through religious practice or personal ethics are encompassed in this term.
Muesis, according to Proclus, is the condition of the seeker as opposed to the adept, and refers to having the eyes shut (from muo-), as opposed to the adept who sees with eyes open. This item can be see to refer to initiation, the portal which the seeker passes through, with spiritual practice, and acceptance into a set of teachings. The rites of initiation themselves are psychologically powerful and transformative, and a transference of power or authority may occur. This is closely connected to the last Pillar of Theurgia, Teletas.
Teletas refers to the sacred rites which are learned following initiation. Before the time of the philosopher Iamblichus, Theurgia was often called “telesiourgia”, which meant “the workings of perfection”. Telos means total and utter completion and perfection. The rituals of teletas are intended to bring about a union of the inner world, outer world and “vast world” simultaneously.
A DAILY MORNING PRACTICE
Set up a simple altar or shrine, with an image of divinity such as a statue or picture or a God/Goddess or both. This may be a deity or deities you feel particularly drawn to, or the deities who rule the zodiacal month, deities of house and home (such as Hestia or the Agathas Daimon) or solar deities such as Ilios (Helios), Apollon or Eos, Goddess of the Dawn. Have a seat, cushion or chair in front of the altar, covered with a linen or cotton cloth, or use a prayer mat on the floor. The prayer mat, or linen/cotton cloth should only be used to sit on for spiritual/theurgic practice.
First thing in the morning on waking up, do some stretches to wake the body up, wash or shower and have a cup of herbal tea with a little honey. Mint is good to wake up and cool the body’s energies, to allow the solar energy to flood in. Honey creates a gentle salve for the throat and helps open the airways.
Sit in fronton the altar/shrine and light a candle and some incense. A short prayer to Hestia may be said as you light the candle, such as “blessed Hestia, bring light to my home and heart”. Joss sticks or incense cones are fine for the morning practice and probably more suitable than charcoal ad powdered incense as it will not be a full blown ritual but a short daily meditation and greeting of the Sun. Open the meditation session with the Orphic Hymn to Iohs (Eos), followed by the Orphic Hymn to Ilios (Helios):
Hear me, O Goddess, whose emerging ray
Leads on the broad refulgence of the day;
Blushing Iohs, whose celestial light
Beams on the world with reddening splendours bright:
Angel of Titan, whom with constant round
Thy orient beams recall from night profound:
Labour of every kind to lead is thine,
Of mortal life the minister divine.
Mankind in Thee eternally delight,
And none presumes to shun Thy beauteous sight
Soon as Thy splendours break the bands of rest,
And eyes unclose with pleasing sleep oppress’d;
Men, reptiles, birds, and beasts, with general voice,
And all the nations of the deep, rejoice;
For all the culture of our life is Thine.
Come blessed power! And to these rites incline:
Thy holy light increase, and unconfined
Diffuse its radiance on Thy Mystics mind.
Hold both arms outstretched and recite or sing “Ie Paean, Ie Paean, Ie Paean” (Hail Great Healer)
Hear Golden Titan, whose eternal eye with broad survey, illumines all the sky,
Self-born, unwearied in diffusing light, and to all eyes the mirror of delight:
Lord of the seasons, with Thy fiery car and leaping coursers beaming from afar:
With Thy right hand the source of morning light, and with Thy left the father of the night.
Agile and vigorous, venerable Sun, fiery and bright, around the heavens you run.
Foe to the wicked, but the good man’s guide, o’er all his steps, propitious you preside:
With various founding, golden lyre, ’tis Thine to fill the world with harmony divine.
Father of ages, guide of prosperous deeds, the worlds commander, borne by lucid steeds,
Immortal Zefs, all-searching, bearing light, source of existence, pure and fiery bright.
Bearer of fruit, almighty God of years, agile and warm, whom every power reveres.
Great eye of Nature, and the Starry Skies, doomed with immortal flames to set and rise
Dispensing justice, lover of the stream, the world’s great despot, and o’er all supreme.
Faithful defender, and the eye of night, of steeds the ruler, and of life the light:
With founding whip four fiery steeds you guide, when in the car of day you glorious ride.
Propitious on these mystic labours shine, and bless Thy suppliants with a life divine.
Hold both arms outstretched and recite or sing “Ie Paean, Ie Paean, Ie Paean” (Hail Great Healer).
Bring hands together at base of sternum/solar plexus, and bow head in reverence.
Sit in silence for a few minutes, observing your thoughts. Sit with back straight and eyes closed or half closed. Quietly observe your thoughts without becoming involved in them or becoming attached to them. Acknowledge each thought, and let it go. Don’t try and force thoughts out or to forcefully empt the mind, just be a passive observer. If you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts and wondering off, just remind yourself to gently let those thought go, and to carry on observing your mind. Adopt a position of detachment from the thoughts and the feelings behind them. Let thoughts and feelings rise, and let them go. Continue with this practice for 5 or 10 minutes, or as long as you have available.
Following the observation of thoughts, begin a breathing meditation. breath in to the count of 4, hold your breath to the count of 4, and exhale to the count of 4. Then breath in to the count of 4 again (don’t hold the breath on the exhale). Continue this rhythmic breathing. Visualise a bright light surrounding you and purifying the space around you. As you breathe in, breathe in this white light. As you hold the in-breath, feel the white light filing and purifying you. As you breathe out, breathe out all impurities within you as a thick black smoke. Continue this breathing in white light and breathing out black smoke, until the black smoke becomes less and less dense, and eventually you are breathing out white light as well as breathing it in. Rest in the white light and feeling of peace and energy.
End by saying
“Hail Dionysos, Lord of the Mysteries, who gives the Aethir of Wine,
Hail Ira, Mother of Life, Hail Zefs King Divine
Let me have energy and vigour where ‘ere I go
Yaenito, Yaenito, Yaenito, Yaenito”
I’ve always liked the Hymn Jerusalem, by William Blake, with music by Hubert Parry. The tune is lovely, its upbeat and powerful, and there is some powerful imagery in the words, but the actual sentiments are not really something I can relate to. I’ve been trying to come up with a spiritually acceptable version of it for quite some time, but have been drawing blanks, then it occurred to me, to adapt an Orphic Hymn to fit the tune, rather than trying to de-Christianise the song. There are a few lines within the original which have always made me think of Apollohn (Bring me my bow of burning gold.. etc), so I thought the Orphic Hymn to Apollohn would be the best one to fit, as I could keep and adapt some of Blake’s lines, though the rest would be the Orphc Hymn. So here it is:
Orphic Hymn to Apollohn/Jerusalem mash-up
O Blessed Paean, come to my prayer
Illustrious Power whom we revere.
Slayer of Titys, God of health
Lyconean Phoebus, source of wealth,
Come with Thy countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills
Beyond the darkness, starry-eyed
Earth’s root is fixed firm by Thy will
With golden lyre, the fields from Thee
Receive their rich fertility
Bearer of light, the Muses head
Noble and lovely, with arrows dread
O Delian King, who’s illumined eye
Views all within, and beneath the sky,
Who’s locks are gold, and oracles sure,
Who’s omens good and precepts pure.
Hear me entreat for human kind
Hear, be present with benign mind
For Thou surveyest the boundless all
And every part of this earthly ball
Abundant blessed, thy piercing sight
Extends beneath the gloomy night
Tis Thine all nature to inspire
With music of Thy harmonizing lyre
All strings now tuned to sweet accord
Divinely reverberate each chord
Immortal lyre, touched by Thee
Yields a Dorian melody
All nature’s tribes, their difference owe
And changing seasons from Thee flow.
Hence mixed by Thee in equal parts
Summer and Winter in alternate dance
Come with Thy bow of burning gold
Come with Thy arrows of desire
Come with Thy lyre, O clouds unfold
Come with Thy chariot of fire
O two-horned God, the winds Thou send
The seal of the cosmos, Thine to tend
Hear me blest Lord, in these rites rejoice
Save Thy mystics with a suppliant voice
ORPHIC CIRCLE/PENTAGRAM RITE
This is not a traditional Orphic practice, but something I came up with as a formulaic ritual which can be performed without the need for any equipment or paraphernalia, and can be used to strengthen one’s connection with the Gods, as a learning and memory exercise, to cleanse and purify a space, for protection, healing, banishing negative energies and thoughts, and all the things the Ritual Magick Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram can be used for. In my past Craft and Ritual Magick training, I used to use the LBRP as a quick banishing/cleansing rite, which was easy to perform wherever I was – a standard formula, which once learned needed no preparation or equipment. However, the LBRP is firmly based in a Hebrew Monotheistic theology, using names of God and the archangels, which doesn’t really fit in with my beliefs or practices, and I have tried in the past replacing the Hebrew names with various Hellenic Gods, but it never really seemed to fit. I did some research and found a few different versions of the Pentagram ritual calling on the Hellenic Gods – one by Israel Regardie in his book The Middle Pillar, and another by John Opsopaus, The Olympic Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, as well as others focussing on particular Hellenic Deities. But none of them really seems to fit with Orphic practice, and I decided that something different was needed. Then, whilst performing my daily practice one evening, as I was lighting the 12 candles dedicated to the 12 Olympians, and dedicating each candle, reciting the names, powers and zodiacal correspondence of each, it occurred to me that this could be used as the basis of an Orphic Circle/Pentagram ritual, rather than trying to fit the Gods into the four quarters, as adaptations of the LBRP do. In some ways this rite is more akin to the Runic Circle created by Freya Aswynn, another formulaic rite which I learned and practiced during a time that I was exploring the Northern Tradition. I wanted to make it less ceremonial, and more Orphic. Less about commanding the forces, and more about connecting with the Gods, and the purity, healing and wholeness that brings. I have kept the use of the Pentagrams in the ritual, because the Pentagram is a Greek symbol of wholeness, health and blessings. It should be noted that this rite is not designed to replace traditional Orphic ritual, offerings, prayer and devotional practice, which should I believe take priority. It is designed as an additional, formulaic rite for use when needed.
The Pythagorean Pentacle
Some notes Extracted from: (http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/PP/index.html)
The Pentagram and Hexagram were both used for protection in ancient Greece. The Pythagoreans used it as a sign of recognition, and called the pentagram Υγιεια (Hugeieia or Hygeia), which is usually translated as “Health”, but also means something like “soundness” or “wholeness”, or can be used to signify “Divine blessing”. See the following link for a pronounciation guide http://atticgreek.org/pronunc/practiceUnit6.html The word is associated with the Latin words Vegetus (lively, vigorous) and Vegeo (to quicken). The Pythagoreans also used the greeting “Be sound/whole/blessed!” (Υγιαινε, Hugiaine!) (see Scholia in Aristoph., Nubes 609; Lucian, Pro lapsu 5). Hugeieia (Hygeia) is also the Goddess of Health, (Salus is the Roman equivalent).
The Pythagoreans apparently labeled the points on the Pentagram with the Greek letters ΥΓΙΕΙΑ, arranged counterclockwise from the top point (Allman, 1889, Greek Geometry from Thales to Euclid), arranged thus: Υ-Γ-Ι-ΕΙ-Α, but sometimes the letter Θ replaced the ΕΙ, perhaps because when handwritten, the letters epsilon and iota (ΕΙ) could resemble a theta (Θ). Examples are also found where the letters are placed clockwise round the pentagram.
The letters labeling the points of the Pentagram are the first letters of Greek words for the Elements:
Υ (U) Υδωρ (Hudor) Water (same as in Welsh!)
Γ (G) Γαια (Gaia) Earth
Ι (I) Ιδεα (Idea) Form/Idea or Ιερον (Hieron) a Divine, holy thing
ΕΙ (EI) Ειλη (Heile) Sun’s warmth or Θ (Th) Θερμα (Therma) Heat
Α (A) Αηρ (Aer) Air
Aristotle described Four Qualities or Powers: Wet, Hot, Dry and Cold, which produce the properties of the Elements
Fire = Hot+Dry. The Four Qualities comprise two dualities: Hot/Cold (Active) and Dry/Wet (Passive)
As the Qualities are shared by pairs of elements, they fall on four lines of the Pythagorean Pentacle. E.g. Wet corresponds to the line connecting Water and Air, Hot connects Air and Fire, Cold connects Water and Earth. Dry connects Fire to Earth (cutting out Idea or Spirit, which remains separate to the “mundane” elements).
The above referenced article goes into lots more correspondences of the Pentagram, with life stages, planets, the Functions of the Self, Colours, Directions etc. This is overly complicated, and unnecessary for the purpose of this rite. The main point is that the Pentagram is a Greek symbol of wholeness, health, soundness and Divine Blessing, containing and balancing all the Elements and the Qualities or Powers. The correspondences of the points of the Penagram are different to those used in modern Ritual Magick or Craft, but it is not necessary for the purpose of this ritual to worry about the correspondences of the different points, just to be aware of the overall symbolism of the Pentagram, and why it is used.
Mentally prepare – take 3 deep breaths and breath out stresses.
Stand with right palm held above Crown centre
Greet the Gods of Creation (Divine Kings and Queens):
Hail Phanes, Hail Nyx, Hail Ouranus, Hail Gaia, Hail Kronos, Hail Rhea, Hail Zefs, Hail Ira, Hail Elefthereus Dionysos!
Greet the Olympians:
Hail Aestia! Hail Ares! Hail Artemis! Hail Iphaistos! Hail Ira! Hail Poseidon! Hail Athena! Hail Aphrodite! Hail Apollohn! Hail Aermis! Hail Zefs! Hail Dimitir!
Hail Mighty Pan who is Nature, Hail AEkati, Advocate of the Virtuous!
Hail AErohs, who flows between Gods and Mortals!
Hail to All the Blessed Gods, too numerous to name, who adorn and bless our world and lives!
Pour a libation or make an offering if you have one available, or make a personal dedication.
Face East, with two fingers of right hand draw down light from heaven, moving hand from above head to touch two fingers to forehead, intoning:
Bring light to ground, lowering hand to base chakra level, intoning
Touch right shoulder, visualizing beam of light coming from distance in the right and passing through your right shoulder, intoning
Touch left shoulder, visualizing light passing through your body and out through left shoulder and beyond, intoning
Clasp hands in prayer position over heart, intoning
Facing East inscribe a banishing pentagram in the air, beginning at bottom left point and moving clockwise, up to top point, then down to bottom right, finishing at bottom left again. Then inscribe a circle around the Pentagram, anticlockwise from top, intoning
Visualise a pillar of fire beyond the Pentagram (if feeling particularly visual, see the image of Aestia within the pillar of fire). Hold hands palms forward in greeting and intone
AESTIA, KINESIS, ZYGOS
Turn slightly anticlockwise to North East East (NEE). Repeat pentagram and circle with intonation of HUGEIA
Visualise pillar of fire (may visualize Ares within it). Hold hands palms forward in greeting and intone
ARIS, ZOI, SKORPIOS
Turn to NNE, repeat pentagram and circle and intonation of HUGEIA, gestures and visualization of pillar of fire (visualize Artemis) and intone
ARTEMIS, AENAERYEIA, TOXOTIS
Follow same procedure around the circle with intonations as follows:
N: IPHAISTOS, MORPHI, AIGOKAEROHS
NNW: IRA, AEROHS, YDROKHOOS
NWW: POSEIDOHN, PROODOS, IKHTHEIS
W: ATHINA, ALLILAEPIDRASIS, KRIOS
SWW: APHRODITE, ARMONIA, TAVROS
SSW: APOLLOHN, AELFTHAERIA, DIDYMI
S: AERMIS, KINESIS THEOS, KARKINOS
SSE: ZEFS, ZOI THEOS, LAEOHN
SEE: DIMITIR, AENAERYEIA THEOS, STAKHYS
Stand Facing East and repeat the Orphic Cross.
End by reciting:
O Blessed Gods about me, bright Thou art,
Thy power and glory burns within my heart
This place be cleansed and free from ill intent
O purifying fire from heaven sent
All about is clear and all is pure
Shine on Thy mystic, with countenance demure
For I am a child of Earth and Starry Sky
And of the race of Gods am I!
Hellenismos refers to the native religions of Ancient Greece, whereas the term Hellenism refers to a love of or study of anything Greek. Orphism is a mystical tradition or traditions within Hellenismos, based on the teachings of Orpheus, the famous musician who was said to have calmed wild beasts with his music, even lulling Cerberus the guardian of Hades, and charming stern Queen Persephone and mighty Plouton, the Goddess and God of the Underworld. Orpheus may or may not have existed, we have no actual proof of his existence, but a number of myths and legends, and writings, texts and philosophies which are considered to be Orphic. Orpheus is said to have reformed Greek religion, and to have put an end to human sacrifice. He may well have tried to put an end to animal sacrifice too, but this was far too ingrained in Greek culture and he was unsuccessful, though many texts refer to the followers of Orpheus as being vegetarians, and Orpheus is often depicted surrounded by animals, suggesting his love for and care of animals. If Orpheus existed, it is likely that he lived around 2,000 BCE or earlier, and may have been of Thracian origin. In images he is generally portrayed wearing a Thracian hat. Some scholars believe that Orphism was a precursor not only to the Classical Greek religions and the great philosophical traditions of Ancient Greece, but also gave rise to the Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions (see Ralph Abraham, Orphism: The Ancient Roots of Green Buddhism at ralph-abraham.org). Theosophists (and some Buddhists) believe that Orpheus was a previous incarnation of the Buddha, teaching a philosophy of peace and benevolence. https://orphismosuk.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/orpheu-ceb5surydice.jpg?w=300 So what are the teachings of Orphism? Orphism and Hellenismos have survived and developed through the works of the great philosophers, from ancient times, throughout the ages to the present day, particularly Pythagorus, Socrates, Plato, and the Neoplatonists. The Greeks are a nation who have always been proud of their past, their philosophers, myths, temples, architecture, sculpture, and all those largely Pagan things which Greece is famous for. Paganism/polytheism was therefore never entirely stamped out by Christianity in Greece, but carried on in the art and philosophy, the retelling of myths, and in folk practices. Paganism just went more underground. The Neoplatonist philosophers during the Christian era had to at least be nominally Christian, though evidence exists that pagan practices and beliefs carried on in secret. The C14th CE philosopher Georgius Gemistus Plethon, for example, a Greek scholar of Neoplatonic philosophy during the heavily Christian Byzantine era, and Chief Magistrate of Theodore II, founded a Mystery School in which he taught polytheism, and his students prayed to the Olympic Gods. After his death, manuscripts were found which he had not made public, due to their what would be considered then, heretical nature. His Nomon Singrafi, or Nomoi (Book of Laws) detailed his esoteric beliefs, and discussed daemons, astrology and the transmigration of the soul. He recommended religious rites and hymns to petition the Classical Gods, such as Zeus, whom he saw as universal principles and powers. The document was unfortunately destroyed due to its “heretical” nature. Plethon’s friend Marsilio Ficino, an Italian scholar and Catholic Priest, was one of the most influential humanist scholars of the early Italian Renaissance, reviver of Neoplatonism, and the first person to translate the Orphic Hymns, as well as the writings of Plato, into Latin. Although there are some fundamental differences between Neoplatonist philosophy and that of Orphism, Neoplatonism does preserve some Orphic ideas, and it is likely that just as the Neoplatonist philosophers may have been outwardly Christian, but practiced their pagan religion in secret, that so did other less well known Greeks, and that Orphismos and Hellenismos survived through family traditions passed down in secret through the generations. The Orphic/Hellenic tradition presented here is one which has been practiced by families in Greece, and up until recently has been little known outside Greece, but passed on from individual to individual. It is not a reconstructionist religion, and does not aim to re-create the past, or to do things exactly the way they were done in the past, but has developed through time. There are secrets and mysteries which can only be taught on a person to person basis, and will not be presented here, but I aim to present a summary of the basic philosophy on these pages. This site will also contain some of my own thoughts, ideas and syncretic practices, and I will distinguish between what is part of the tradition, and what is my own, or syncretic. So, what is Orphismos all about? Lots of information about Orphismos/Hellenismos may be found at http://www.hellenicgods.org
A good place to start is to understand the basic foundations of Hellensimos. The following is a brief summary of the page from http://www.hellenicgods.org regarding The Four Pillars of Hellenismos:
THE FOUR PILLARS OF HELLENISMOS
1. AKOI(Ah-koh-ee) “Things heard”. This relates to the traditions, stories of the Gods, the myths, rituals, practices and philosophical viewpoints. We accept these things as heritage and are enriched by their beauty, but they must come under the eye of Philosophia. Belief (Pistis) is subjective, and not genuine knowledge. AEpistimi is knowledge.
2. Theurgy. This is communication with Deity through ritual. We are attracted to the Gods as something of great beauty. Communion with the Gods in a formal setting is called Thaeorgia.
3. Philosophia. This is the love of wisdom, and refers to intellectual work which endeavours to discover genuine truth and wisdom, and to challenge our own ideas. This is not self-justifying philosophy aimed at justifying our ideas, but the raw philosophy of Socrates. We attempt to expose the ego, that which takes sides and skews arguments in favour of the defines of preconceptions, rather than the actual perception of reality as it is. So, on the one hand there is what we are taught, the tradition, AKOI, and actual experience of reality on the other, how well we understand the Kosmos, and function within it. Religion without this raw philosophy is belief-based and insubstantial, and Hellenismos without philosophy is a religion of favours and propitiation. If our perception of reality is skewed and incorrect, then our actions follow, and we act badly. If our perception is accurate, we are able to act with more effect.
4. Araeti, Virtue. This is not “the pursuit of glory” as many understand the word, nor is it the Aristotelian list of various excellences, nor is it the Latin “virtis” which is more virility and strength. Areti is the source from which all virtues are generated. Plato said that virtue is a type of harmony of the soul, a type of consent between one’s emotions and one’s reason. Plato also described four principle manifestations of Areti: i. Courage or fortitude (Andreia or Thrasos) ii. Temperance or Moderation (Sohphrosyni) iii. Wisdom (Phronisis) iv. Justice (Dikaiosyni). These are the Four Cardinal Virtues of Classical Antiquity. The achievement of Areti is putting one’s own ambitions aside in favour of what reflects the Natural Laws. It involves the development of perspective in relation to one’s place in the Kosmos, and putting that realisation into action, developing the human conscience, and progress of the soul. The gift of the achievement of Areti is the most pleasing gift we can give to the Gods, all other offerings, such as incense, flowers, wine, are all just symbolic. Areti is exceptional because its effects are significant and far-reaching. The Gods desire us to achieve Areti, and endeavour to help us. So, we discover our religion, and by AKOI we enter the tradition. By Thaeorgia we develop relationship with Deity and strengthen out resonance with the Natural Laws. We apply Philosophia to attempt to become rational and develop wisdom (Sophia). We integrate these into our lives to develop Areti.