Hellenism (religion)

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This article is about modern Greek reconstructionist polytheism. For the historical Hellenistic religion, see Hellenistic religion.

Hellenism (Greek: Ἑλληνισμός), the Hellenic ethnic religion (Ἑλληνικὴ εθνική θρησκεία), also known as Dodekatheism (Δωδεκαθεϊσμός), Olympianism, or Hellenic Neopaganism, refers to various reconstructionist movements that revive ancient Greek religious practices, emerging since the 1990s.

The Hellenic religion is a traditional religion and way of life, revolving around the Greek Gods, primarily focused on the Twelve Olympians, and embracing ancient Hellenic values and virtues.

Groups and self-designations[edit]

Ritual performed by members of the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes.

Hellenic Reconstructionism exists in Greece and in other countries. Leaders of the movement claimed in 2005 that there are as many as 2,000 adherents to the Hellenic tradition in Greece, with an additional 100,000 who have "some sort of interest".[1] No official estimates exist for devotees worldwide.

There are no official naming practices for this religion, but there does seem to be an informal naming convention, based on academically accepted descriptive definitions, adhered to by groups and most individual believers. Hellenismos is the most common term, used chiefly as an identifier for the modern, reconstructed polytheistic religion by its adherents today but it can also refer to the ancient Greek religion.[2] The term originally stems from a systematization and revival of Greek religion done by the Roman Emperor Julian. Julian used the term to describe traditional religion of the Greeks[3] (The word can also have other unrelated meanings in modern Greek.) Additionally, subgroups use a variety of names to distinguish branches focusing on specific schools of thought, or modern traditions focusing on the public practices of individual city-states. These subgroups can be described as denominations. Hellenic religion, and Hellenic polytheism can be said to be used interchangeably to refer to the religion, and are synonymous. The phrase Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism refers more to the methodology used to revive the religion, than the religion itself. Dodekatheism and Olympianism are other names, though less commonly used.

In Greece[edit]

Modern Hellenic temple built on private land of Aristoteles Kakogeorgiou, in Thessaloniki.
Priest performing ritual.

The first Greek organization to openly support the religious revival of Hellenic religion was Ύπατο Συμβούλιο των Ελλήνων Εθνικών (Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes or YSEE), established in 1997,[4] and is publicly active. YSEE is a founding member of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (now European Congress of Ethnic Religions) and hosted the seventh annual WCER Congress in June 2004.[5] YSEE is also a member of the European Union's action programme to combat discrimination. The organization primarily refers to the religion as the "Ethnic Polytheistic" or "genuine Hellenismos"[6] or simply "Hellenism" in English translations, and its practitioners as Ethnikoi Hellenes, "Ethnic Hellenes".

Another very active organization since its founding at 2008 is Labrys religious community. Labrys has focused primarily on the religious aspects of Hellenismos or Hellenic (Greek) polytheism, avoiding anti-Christian rhetoric and politics, establishing weekly public rituals [7] and engaging in other aspects of practical promotion of polytheism like theater and music.[8][9][10][11][12] Labrys has also promoted among Hellenic polytheists worldwide the need to actively practice household worship and the idea that family and community should be the starting points of religious practice.[13] The community has been organizing since 2008 the largest festival in Athens and also actively participates and supports the religious aspects of the oldest Hellenic festival in Greece, Promitheia[14] which is held every year on Mount Olympus.

Other Greek organizations, such as Dodekatheon (Δωδεκάθεον, Dōdekátheon, Of the Twelve Gods),[15] the Helliniki Hetaireia Archaiophilon (Societas Hellenica Antiquariorum), the Thyrsos use a combination of terms interchangeably, including ἑλληνικὴ θρησκεία (hellēnikē thrēskeîa, translated as "Hellenic religion"), Hellenic polytheistic religion, and Hellenism.[16][17]

Dodecatheon and YSEE both use the terms "traditional", "ethnic", and "genuine" to refer to their religious practices, and YSEE is a founding member of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions.[18] Greek polytheist author Vlassis Rassias has written a popular series of books on "Christian persecutions against the Hellenes," and the "Church of the Hellenes" organization goes so far as to call for the wholesale extermination of Christianity,[19] while the Athens based group Ellinais emphasizes "world peace and the brotherhood of man."[20]

Outside Greece[edit]

Outside Greece, Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionist organizations began to emerge around 1998, with some individuals claiming to have been engaging in some form of reconstructed practice since the 1970s.[21] Old Stones, New Temples (2000), written by American author Drew Campbell, was the first English-language book on Hellenic polytheism, and identifies "Pagan Reconstructionism," as originating from dissatisfaction with the level of cultural authenticity in Wicca and other popular forms of modern Paganism.[22]

In the US, the Hellenic polytheist organization Hellenion[23] also identifies its practices as "Hellenic Pagan Reconstructionism" and emphasizes historical accuracy in its mission statement.[24] The group uses the term "Hellenismos" (Ἑλληνισμός, Hellēnismós) to describe the religion. Hellenion does not provide official membership numbers to the public, but an unofficial estimate of 43 members can be determined for 2007,[25] though this number can only give the roughest approximation, as Hellenion offers hardship waivers to those who cannot afford the typical membership fees.[26] In early 2010, the organization reported 1 demos (fully chartered local congregation) and 6 proto-demoi (start-up congregations not fully chartered with less than 3 members) established, which offer rituals and other events for members and frequently for the public as well.[27] Two of the six proto-demoi cannot be independently verified to exist. Hellenion offers legal clergy training,[28] basic adult religious education classes,[29] and other educational/training courses for its members.[30]

Another American group, Elaion, uses the term "Dodekatheism" (Greek: δώδεκα, dodeka, "twelve" + θεϊσμός, theïsmós, "belief in the gods") to describe their approach to the Hellenic religion.[31] No reported numbers for current membership levels are known to exist.

Other terms in common usage by Hellenic polytheists include "Greek reconstructionism" and "Hellenic Traditionalism".[32]

In Brazil, in Portuguese language, there's the website of RHB - Reconstrucionismo Helênico no Brasil,[33] built since 2003 by Brazilian members of Hellenion and other international groups, such as the American Neokoroi[34] and the Greek Thyrsos.[35]

Beliefs and practices[edit]

Further information: Ancient Greek religion

Hellenic polytheists worship the ancient Greek Gods, including the Olympians, nature divinities, underworld deities (Chthonic Gods) and heroes. Both physical and spiritual ancestors are honored. It is primarily a devotional or votive religion, based on the exchange of gifts (offerings) for the gods' blessings.[36] The ethical convictions of modern Hellenic polytheists are often inspired by ancient Greek virtues such as reciprocity, hospitality, self-control and moderation. The Delphic maxims, Tenets of Solon, the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, or even Aristotle's Ethics each function as complete moral codes that a Hellenic Polytheist may observe. Key to most ethical systems is the idea of kharis (or "charis", grace), to establish reciprocity between humanity and the Gods, between individuals, and among community members.[37][38] Another key value in Hellenic Polytheism is eusebeia, often translated as piety. This implies a commitment to the worship of the Hellenic Gods and action to back this up.

There is no central "ecclesia" (church/assembly) or hierarchal clergy, though some groups (i.e., Hellenion) do offer training in that capacity. Individual worshipers are generally expected to perform their own rituals and learn about the religion and the Gods by reference to primary and secondary sources on ancient Greek religion and through personal experience of the Gods. Information gained from such personal experiences is often referred to in Hellenic groups as "UPG" (Unverified Personal Gnosis), a term borrowed from Ásatrú.

Reconstructionism[edit]

Further information: Polytheistic reconstructionism

In polytheism, Reconstructionism is a methodology which attempts to accurately base modern religious practice on culturally and historically genuine examples of ancient religious practices. The term is frequently used in the United States to differentiate between syncretic and eclectic Neopagan movements, and those based on the traditions, writings, history, and mythology of a specific ancient polytheistic culture.

In contrast to the eclectic traditions, Reconstructionists are very culturally oriented and attempt to reconstruct historical forms of religion and spirituality, in a modern context. Therefore, Kemetic, Canaanite, Hellenic, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic Reconstructionists aim for the revival of historical practices and beliefs of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Canaan and Phoenicia, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Celts, the Germanic peoples, the Balts and the Slavs, respectively.

Most Hellenic polytheist groups unequivocally state that reconstructionism is not the only correct method of reviving the ancient Greek religion, but do identify a practice as Hellenic only when it embraces the humanistic values and ethical virtues of the ancient Greeks, demonstrates loyalty and reverence toward the Greek gods, and uses a religious structure that would be recognizable to an ancient Greek.[39][40][41][42] These groups make a clear distinction between themselves and the Neopagan movement, and identify some 'Hellenic' groups as "simply disguised as 'Hellenists' for reasons that exist hidden within the depths of their own minds." [43]

Claims of continuity[edit]

Modern Hellenic polytheist organizations are "revivalist" or "reconstructionist" for the most part, but many adherents like Panagiotis Marinis from the group Dodecatheon in Greece, has stated that the religion of ancient Greece has survived throughout the intervening centuries, and that he, himself, was raised in a family that practiced this religion.[44] Whether or not they believe that the Hellenic polytheist religious tradition is continuous, there is evidence that Greek Hellenic polytheists within the modern country of Greece see the movement as an expression of Greek cultural heritage, in opposition to the Orthodox Christianity that is overwhelmingly dominant.[45][46]

Political controversy[edit]

The 2004 Summer Olympics stirred up several disputes concerning Hellenic polytheistic religion.

  • Professor Giorgos Dontas, president of the Archaeological Society of Athens expressed public outrage at the destruction of ancient archaeological sites around the Parthenon and Acropolis in preparation for the Games.[47]
  • Prior to the Olympic Games, MSNBC correspondent Rehema Ellis in a story called It's Greek to Me: Group Tries to Restore Pagan Worship documented the vandalism and arson of a bookstore in Athens which sold books promoting ancient Greek religion. She also interviewed several adherents who were upset about the current state of affairs in Greece. Ellis said: "A contrast in this place where the Olympic Games were created to honour Zeus - now those praying to the ancient gods are criticized for putting too much faith in the past."
  • The Greek Society of the Friends of the Ancients objected to the commercial use of Athena and Phevos as the official mascots of the 2004 Summer Olympics held in Athens. They felt that the caricatured representations of the Greek Gods Athena and Phoebus were disrespectful and culturally insensitive.[48] In a BBC Radio interview on June 26, 2004, Dr. Pan. Marinis President of the Societas Hellenica Antiquariorum said that the mascots:
"mock the spiritual values of the Hellenic Civilization by degrading these same holy personalities that were revered during the ancient Olympic Games. For these reasons we have proceeded to legal action demanding the punishment of those responsible."
  • In May 2006 an Athens court granted official recognition to the veneration of the Ancient Greek pantheon. Referring to the ruling, Father Eustathios Kollas, who presides over a community of Greek Orthodox priests, said: "They are a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion who wish to return to the monstrous dark delusions of the past."[49]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Letter From Greece: The Gods Return to Olympus". Archaeology.org. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  2. ^ http://www.hellenicgods.org/hellenismos
  3. ^ http://www.ecauldron.net/dc-faq.php
  4. ^ "Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes". Ysee.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  5. ^ See YSEE website. With branches also in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Germany, their level of real world public activity, and actual membership levels, the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes can be argued to be the defining lead organization for this movement.
  6. ^ "The organisational and operating structure of the YSEE". Ysee.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  7. ^ "Heliodete weekly ritual". Labrys.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  8. ^ "Attica Dionysia festival 2009". Labrys.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  9. ^ "Attica Dionysia festival 2010". Dionysia.labrys.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  10. ^ "Attica Dionysia festival 2011". Dionysia.labrys.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  11. ^ "Attica Dionysia festival 2012". Dionysia.labrys.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  12. ^ "Kabeiros musical group". Myspace.com. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  13. ^ "Hellenic Household Worship". Labrys.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  14. ^ "Prometheia". Prometheia.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  15. ^ "Δωδεκάθεον - Πύλη". Dwdekatheon.org. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  16. ^ "Societas Hellenica Antiquariorum - Helliniki Hetaireia Archaiophilon". Web.archive.org. 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  17. ^ "Thyrsos - Hellenes Gentiles". Thyrsos.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  18. ^ "Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes". Ysee.gr. 1997-07-17. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  19. ^ Ifikratis. "Who we are - Hellenic Religion. Church of Hellenes". Hellenicreligion.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  20. ^ Ayiomamitis, Paris (January 21, 2007). "Modern Pagans Honor Zeus in Athens". Associated Press. Retrieved February 2007. 
  21. ^ http://thehouseofvines.com/2013/03/25/theres-a-reason-why-zeus-is-king-of-the-gods-and-hermes-isnt/
  22. ^ Campbell, Drew (2000). Old Stones, New Temples. Xlibris. pp. 20–21. ISBN 0-7388-3201-4. 
  23. ^ "Hellenion". Hellenion. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  24. ^ "Mission Statement". Hellenion. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  25. ^ Estimate based on annual membership dues reported in the Hellenion, Inc. Statement of Activities For the Year Ended December 31, 2007 compared to the $10 required membership dues stated on their Member Application
  26. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Hellenion. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  27. ^ "Demoi and Proto Demoi". Hellenion. 2014-03-05. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  28. ^ "Clergy Program". Hellenion. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  29. ^ "Basic Adult Education". Hellenion. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  30. ^ "Hellenion's Approved Programs". Hellenion.org. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  31. ^ "Elaion.org". Elaion.org. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  32. ^ http://www.neokoroi.org/religion/articles/livinghellenicreconstructionism
  33. ^ "Hellenic Reconstructionism in Brazil". Helenos.com.br. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  34. ^ "Neokoroi". Neokoroi. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  35. ^ "Thrysos". Thyrsos.gr. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  36. ^ http://www.ecauldron.net/dc-tahiera.php
  37. ^ Winter, Sarah Kate Istra (2008). KHARIS: Hellenic Polytheism Explored. CreateSpace. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-4382-3192-1. 
  38. ^ http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=1102
  39. ^ "Frequently asked questions about the Ethnic Hellenic religion and tradition: What do you think you will achieve by returning to the Ancient Ways in today's society?". Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes. Retrieved September 9, 2008. 
  40. ^ "On Orthopraxy". Hellenismos.us. Retrieved September 9, 2008. 
  41. ^ "Hellenic Ethics:Living Virtues in Community". The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum. Retrieved September 9, 2008. 
  42. ^ "The centrality of ethics in Dodekathiesm". Elaion. Retrieved September 9, 2008. 
  43. ^ "Wojciech Jan Rudny interviews a constitutional member of the Supreme Council of the Ethnikoi Hellenes (YSEE) on behalf of the polish "GNIAZDO" magazine". YSEE. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  44. ^ Jamil Said (2004). I Still Worship Zeus (DVD). Jamil Said Productions. 
  45. ^ The periodic revival of aspects of the religion, such as in the arts, philosophy & etc is also an expression of a general European fascination with claccisism & Hellenism. International Religious Freedom Report US State Dept. investigation into religious freedom in Greece (2004) and (2005) [1]
  46. ^ Brunwasser, Matthew (January–February 2005). "Letter From Greece: The Gods Return to Olympus". Archaeology Magazine 58 (1). Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  47. ^ Drills and axes ravage ancient Greek site[dead link]
  48. ^ Extrajudicial protest - denunciation - statement of Greek Citizens, concerning the 2004 Olympics’ “mascot” choice
  49. ^ Ancient Greek gods' new believers. Retrieved February 10, 2007, from BBC News [2]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Addey, Tim (2000). The Seven Myths of the Soul. Prometheus Trust. ISBN 978-1-898910-37-4. 
  • Addey, Tim (2003). The Unfolding Wings: The Way of Perfection in the Platonic Tradition. Prometheus Trust. ISBN 978-1-898910-41-1. 
  • Mikalson, Jon D (2004). Ancient Greek Religion (Blackwell Ancient Religions). Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-23223-0. 
  • Stone, Tom (2008). Zeus: A Journey Through Greece in the Footsteps of a God. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 978-1-58234-518-5. 

External links[edit]

Hellenic polytheist organizations
FAQs and articles
Hellenic polytheism in the news