Yesterday I talked about my sovereign and how I chose my path. Today, I’ll do my best to explain that path, as it’s an old and somewhat complicated one.
All faiths incorporate some set of behaviors it requires its followers to adhere to. For Christianity, the 10 Commandments would be an example. In the Quran, there are also rules for how to govern actions, make decisions and dress, in order to both show reverence to their deity and to be a model example of their faith. Hellenism is no different.
In ancient Greece, an oracle in the Temple of Delphi, by the name of Pythia, served as the temple’s priestess. The first Pythia was established in the 8th century B.C. and prophesies given by this figure, who came to be known as an oracle because of their accuracy, were said to come from the gods themselves, particularly Apollo. She was considered the most powerful, authoritative and prestigious woman in the classical world. The oracle is one of the most well-documented religious institutions of the classical Greeks. And this oracle is said to have provided the 147 Delphic Maxims that those of the Hellenic faith are to follow.
These 147 aphorisms (or general truths or principles) are inscribed at the Temple of Delphi, placed there by a Pythia sharing Apollo’s wisdom, or potentially the Seven Sages of Greece between the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., depending on who you ask. In either case, these aphorisms, including the most famous one “Know Thyself,” have endured through the millennia and are still used as a yardstick for modern Hellenism. As there are way too many to post here, you can view the 147 Delphic Maxims online with a quick search. I suggest doing this, as they include gems like, “find fault with no one,” “be accommodating in everything,” and “work for what you can own.”
So, I know what you’re probably thinking… “Really? 147 rules for one faith?” Yes, it’s a lot, but they’re easier than you think. First, don’t think of them as rules. They’re more like ‘suggestions.’ They’re there to guide, to motivate and to help the worshipper recognize where to place attention or blame. Second, there are negative maxims like “shun murder” and “do not be discontented by life,” which I find refreshing. It’s okay to hate things as much as it’s okay to love other things. Without hatred, love would be a lost concept, so it makes sense to have some prohibitions among the maxims. Lastly, these maxims were written in order to give ancient man a sense of duty, and were inscribed after being passed down verbally to the illiterate masses. Because of this, a few maxims are repetitive and redundant. Reinforcing those maxims helped non-readers retain the important stuff among the vast amount of teaching.
Some Hellenic believers also go on pilgrimages to Greece as part of their worship. Others, like myself, are more solitary, and instead offer gifts in the form of votive offerings on the Hellenic holidays that celebrate Poseidon. In truth, Poseidon only has one holiday a year, Poseidea, which is in winter, but I also celebrate the Hellenic New Year, which is in mid-summer. That June holiday is dedicated to the hearth, and because of my background in cooking and kitchen business, I think it’s an important one to celebrate. On both holidays, I try to get to some body of water (ocean, lake, pond, etc.) and offer traditional Greek shows of wealth, like foods, precious metals and oils. I say a few prayers, thank them all (and especially Poseidon) for their graciousness, and leave the biodegradable items behind. In the past, certain sects of religion offered animal sacrifice; however, modern followers, or reconstructionists, like myself don’t find this practice humane or necessary so we offer other items that don’t involve bloodshed.
I’ve adopted an alternate religion, one that Americans don’t typically recognize on their calendars. I don’t, therefore, celebrate the religious holidays that have become American holidays in the past few centuries, like Christmas and Easter. My family does, as they still identify as Christian, so I participate only as a gift-giver and celebrant. I can bake a Yule Log [which is a symbol of Polytheistic faith by the way], enjoy their company, and still celebrate my own holiday when it rolls around. Unlike many modern American holidays, Hellenic holidays are lunar, meaning they follow the movement of the moon to dictate what day they fall on, rather than the Gregorian calendar. For example, Christmas is always December 25th, but Poseidea, because it’s marked by the first new moon after the winter solstice, can fall any time between mid-December and mid-January. My husband, because he’s wonderful, holds onto my holiday gifts until Poseidea rolls around, which can sometimes take weeks after the Christmas holiday has passed. We’re the only ones on the beach when it’s blustery and cold, but it’s still beautiful.
I hope this answered some of your questions. As with any religion, there are gray areas and areas for debate. Consider replying or emailing email@example.com with your questions.