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HELLENISMOS - ÆLLINISMÓS - ΕΛΛΗΝΙΣΜΟΣ
THE ANCIENT GREEK RELIGION


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DEFINITIONS OF ÆLLINISMÓS

Ællinismόs (Hellenismos, Ἑλληνισμός) is defined as the ancient Greek religion.
We use this term, but in reality, there was no word in antiquity for Greek religion until well into the Christian era, and then this word...
Ællinismόs
...became a vehicle to distinguish the older polytheistic traditions from the new monotheistic religion. 
The definitive Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott defines Ællinismόs as: "imitation of the GreeksHellenism, use of a pure Greek style and idiom." [1] Therefore, Ællinismόs is defined as anything Greek, even such things as the Greek Orthodox church, Greek cuisine, or Greek music could be called Ællinismόs. Nonetheless, in the framework of philosophy and religion, Ællinismόs is the word that has come to refer to the worship of the traditional Gods of ancient Greece, but why?


ǼLLIN, SON OF DEFKALÍOHN

Where does the word Ællinismόs come from? There is a story which explains. According to the mythology, Promithéfs (Prometheus, Προμηθεύς), the Titan friend of mankind, had a son by the name of Defkalíohn (Deucalion, Δευκαλίων).  

"There is a land encircled by lofty mountains, rich in sheep and in pasture, where Prometheus, son of Iapetus, begat goodly Deucalion, who first founded cities and reared temples to the immortal Gods, and first ruled over men."  [2]

Defkalíohn and his wife Pýrra were the only human beings to survive a great deluge produced by Zefs (Ζεύς). The God had decided to destroy the corrupt race of man [3]. Defkalíohn and Pýrra, however, were spared, because of their uprightness and piety. After the flood, they were the only people left and they grew despondent and could not endure their loneliness. They prayed to Zefs that he either destroy them or give them the company of other people. In response, they received an oracle in which the God told them to toss the bones of their mother behind them as they walked. After some thought, they understood the oracle to mean that they should throw stones behind them, for stones are the bones of  Mother Earth. When they did so, the stones (λᾶες) transformed into people, and from these people, the Earth was repopulated [4]. This is the mythology.

Defkalíohn and Pýrra produced a son by the name of Ǽllin (Hellen, Ἕλλην[5]. The word Ællinismόs is derived from his name. Ǽllin is a man's name not to be confused with the woman's name Ælǽni (Helen, as in Helen of Troy, Ἑλένη). The Greek people are said to be the descendants of Ǽllin, because each one of the four sons of Ǽllin founded one of the major peoples of Greece: the Dorians (Δωριεῖς), Aeolians (Αἰολεῖς), Ionians (Ἴωνες), and Achaeans (Ἀχαιοί) [6]. It is also from his name that we get the word Ǽllinæs (Hellenes, Ἕλληνες), the people of Greek, or Hellenic, heritage. This is why, when we speak of Ællinismόs, we speak of the Greek tradition, but yet we still do not know why the word has come to be equated with the religion.


JULIAN THE PHILOSOPHER-KING

The term Ællinismόs is also associated with the last pagan Roman Emperor [7], Julian (emperor from 361-363 CE), who endeavored to rule as a philosopher-king and attempted to revive the worship of the Gods. This was after Christianity was established in the empire by his immediate predecessors. Julian was in the blood-line of Constantine and was raised a Christian, but he secretly converted to the old religion. When he became emperor, he "came out of the closet" and began his campaign to restore the ancient cults and philosophy. Julian used the word Hellenismos to refer to the religion.

Before Christianity, there was no specific name for the Greek religion. It was unnecessary. All worship of Gods was, simply, religion (
θρησκεία
). 
After Christianity, there was need for a word to differentiate between the old religions and the new Christian religion. Why was this necessary? Because Christianity is monotheistic and exclusive (claiming exclusive access to the divine) while the older religions are polytheistic and tolerant. Christianity condemns the older religions as false, and was already on the road to prohibit and persecute them, and this did indeed happen just eighteen years after Julian's death (363 CE) beginning in 381 CE during the reign of Theodosius I.

Many people believe that Julian actually coined the term 
Ællinismόs
, but the word can be found in literature at least as early as the second century BCE, therefore long pre-dating the emperor. [8] 
Yet the term is connected with Julian, an association that is made not only by scholars, but also by those who admire him in the contemporary community of those who worship the Gods.
It could be said that the use of the term 
Ællinismόs
as specifically designating the Greek religion and philosophies is a direct result of the way in which Julian used it. 

So now we know why a word which originally meant "anything Greek" has come to refer specifically to the ancient Greek religion.


ÆLLINISMÓS IS THE WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT GODS OF GREECE
 
Ællinismόs is the worship of the ancient Gods of Greece. Who are these Gods? The most important deities are outlined in the story of the origin of the Gods said to have been articulated by the great theologian (Θεολόγος) Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς) and which can be found in the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony. This narrative gives us not merely a story, but it delineates a purpose for which one might desire to engage in such a practice. Beyond the major Gods of the theogony, there are hosts of deities, millions upon millions of deities who permeate every corner of the Kózmos (Cosmos, Κόσμος). The worship of the Gods involves certain practices, but Ællinismόs is a way of life, which, if engaged in with one's whole being, is transformative. Ællinismόs is a religion which recognizes that the universe is sacred and those who participate in it desire to fully experience that sense of sacredness and wonder. To fully involve oneself with Ællinismόs is to be completely engaged in the world as it is.


ÆLLINISMÓS IS RELIGION, YET MORE THAN RELIGION

The outward expression of Ællinismόs is called religion or thriskeia (θρησκεία)It is the temples, the vestments, the priests, the incense, the rituals, etc. To say that Ællinismόs is only thriskeia would be misleading, because Ællinismόs is not merely concerned with outward forms. While religion is an aspect of Ællinismόs, the manner we live our lives is actually more important. If one's way of life does not reflect into the religion, such thriskeia is an empty shell. Ællinismόs is more than thriskeia because it can exist independent of the outward forms. Ællinismόs beats in one's heart; it impregnates one's soul. And the Gods exist independent of thriskeia, independent of religion, independent of our worship of them.


ÆLLINISMÓS IS A UNIVERSAL RELIGION

Ællinismόs is a universal religion, arguably the first universal religion. It is not an ethnic religion appropriate only for Greeks. While it was born in Greece, its religious view is not limited to its land-mass, but it incorporates an understanding of the entire Kózmos (Cosmos, Κόσμος). The supreme Gods of the religion are clearly presented as Gods of the entire universe, not simply local deities who live on top of Mount Ólympos (Olympus, Ὄλυμπος), a mountain of Greece. The theology of Ællinismόs was formulated by Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς) who revealed the origin of the Gods and the hope inherent in their providence. In ancient times, Ællinismόs spread quickly beyond the confines of Greece's geography, expressing itself especially after the conquests of Alǽxandros the Great (Alexander, Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας). Had it not been hindered and persecuted by Christianity and Islam, it would have spread throughout the world. In a way, it actually has done so. Ællinismόs is the inheritance of all people.


ÆLLINISMÓS IS THE FOUNDATION OF OUR SOCIETY

Ællinismόs is the foundation of the European tradition, having exerted enormous influence from ancient times to this very day. To understand this point of view, here are several examples. If you study ancient Greece, it is obvious that all these examples are either directly or indirectly related to the religion.

The pre-Socratic philosophers are called the Natural Philosophers because they studied nature. This branch of philosophy became what we now call science. It could be said to have its roots in the Orphic view of materialism.

The festivals of Diónysos had a chorus of men who sang hymns. These choruses eventually developed a separate leader and in time there were three. What began as hymns eventually became stories acted out by these three men, and this, in brief, is the birth of drama. And these dramas were religious offerings to Diónysos in the winter festivals (Διονύσια) in his honor. The plays written by the ancient Greek dramatists are the foundation of all plays in the western tradition, drama, comedy, opera, movies, even the sitcoms you see on television.

What we now know as medicine has direct roots in the Hippocratic writings and the work of Galen (Κλαύδιος Γαληνός) an ancient Greek physician. If you have trouble seeing how medicine is connected with religion, when the ancient religion was banned in late antiquity, the Christians initially had trouble getting medical help, because medicine was so intertwined with the religion.

The magnificent sculpture of ancient Greece was revived in the Renaissance, and its influence remains powerful as the ideal of balance and beauty.

The ideas of the great philosophers, in particular, Sokrátis (Socrates, Σωκράτης), Plátohn (Plato, Πλάτων), and Aristotǽlis (Aristotle, Αριστοτέλης), are the foundation of philosophy in the West. These philosophers were not atheists at all, as can be decisively proven. Not only were they not atheists, but their philosophies are actually dependent on religious ideas. It is well-know that Orphism had a seminal influence on the Platonic philosophers.

How does all this manifest? In many ways. Here are a couple examples. If you do not know the ancient mythology, your enjoyment of Shakespeare, for instance, is significantly limited. Actually, for anyone well-read, you will find references to mythological stories in all the great literature. I find such references in recently written books and in the speech of even ordinary people. Quite honestly, it is impossible to escape the influence of ancient Greece and its religion. Even Christian theology owes a great debt to the Neoplatonists as did the entire medieval viewpoint which shaped their kingdoms and politics. This is just a hint, a smattering of the influence.

Those who wish to foster Ællinismόs in one's own life are encouraged to become cultured and engaged people. In particular, the study of history, from ancient times to the present, is a profitable tool in one's understanding of the action Gods in human history. If those who saw to your education left this area lacking, one must make an effort to educate one's self. The Mousai (Muses, Μοῦσαι) are present in the great works of art, music, dance, theatre, and writing. The bountiful richness of these traditions is permeated with the presence of Gods, regardless of the personal beliefs of those who created them, for the Gods are not one's beliefs or practices; they transcend religion and philosophy.


WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A PRACTITIONER OF 
ÆLLINISMÓS?

Sociologists say that groups which do not have distinct boundaries do not survive. Indeed, they point out that without some homogeneity, there actually is no group. This understanding is at the heart of a controversy which erupts from time to time in the various groups which practice Ællinismόs, and it is an important consideration since this religion is being introduced outside of Greece. As Ællinismόs is introduced, a unique opportunity presents itself only once: we are building a foundation. 

The exact meaning of the term Ællinismόs in its contemporary context and what it includes or excludes has become somewhat controversial. 
A major concern is the tendency
 to 
develop a type of exclusivistic orthodoxy, something which is alien to the true spirit of 
the religion
This orthodoxy is usually associated with groups which identify themselves as reconstructionists, i.e., those who are attempting to recreate the ancient religion as closely as possible. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who would seem to be recklessly importing foreign ideas into the religion, principally from Neopagan groups such as Wicca. The issue is important and delicate because, on the one hand, if there is not a clear boundary as to what the religion includes, then, as the sociologists say, there really is no group and survival is impossible. Yet on the other hand, there is a quality of toleration which is well known in our religion which must be preserved. This author would propose that there is a problem with both tendencies. The issue of importing Neopagan ideas and magic into the religion is addressed elsewhere in several essays, so here we will only discuss the idea of exclusion.

We would like to use the word Ællinismόs in a more inclusive spirit, inclusive of all those who
 claim allegiance and commitment to the Hellenic tradition. This author takes the position that such individuals belong under the umbrella of Ællinismόs and should not be somehow excluded and made to feel inadequate. 
Mean-spirited pigeon-holing violates the spirit of 
Xænía 
(Xenia, 
Ξενία)
, Hospitality, which is sacred and is protected by Zefs 
Xǽnios
(Zeus Protector of Hospitality, 
Ζεύς Ξένιος). The epithet of Zefs, Xǽnios
, comes from the word 
xǽnos (ξένος), which means "stranger," so Zefs is the God who protects strangers. Therefore, even though the practices of others may make them seem as strangers to us, this does not exclude them from Ællinismόs, especially when an individual has loyalty to Ællinismόs. We should treat them with great hospitality, even though we may not agree with their beliefs.

Those individuals who are connected with this website belong to a tradition that is purely Hellenic, taught to us by Greeks. In general, we do not mix different practices and beliefs. Yet we do not sit and point fingers and say who is or who is not Ællinismόs. We simply practice our tradition and attempt to mind our own business, and we try to be welcoming and friendly, to the best of our ability. It seems to this author that this approach would be the most fruitful to all parties, cultivating growth between people and warmth of heart. We can each have our traditions and philosophies and hold strong to them, while respecting the viewpoints and traditions of others.
 
There is a famous statement concerning the Gods: All the happy deathless Gods are free, and they desire this freedom (ἐλευθερία) for all beings; therefore, they never violate our freedom and they never impose their will. Further, it is said that it is best to imitate the Gods and not impose our will over others. Coupled with freedom is tolerance (καρτερία), which is a great hallmark of our religion.

 
THREE CATEGORIES OF ÆLLINISMÓS

1. The Outward Form consists of things such as temples, priestly vestments, candles, incense, etc. used in worship. This is what is called thriskeia (θρησκεία) as outlined above; it is “religion,” the external expression of Ællinismόs.

2. The Inner Form is the deeper understanding of the religion, what we call the Mysteries. This is the application of the teachings of Diónysos (
Διόνυσος) promulgated through the theologian Orpheus (Ὀρφεύς). These are the means to liberate the soul. The Mysteries involve the development of character through virtue (ἀρετή) and compassion (ἔλεος).

3. The Vast Form or the Vast Ællinismόs is the acknowledgement that we do not posses the sole means to liberation. The truth is free and accessible to anyone of pure heart and initiative. 
When we describe Ællinismόs as a universal religion, we say that Zefs is the highest of all Gods, that he is supreme, but when we practice the Vast Ællinismόs, we acknowledge that Zefs may be known by other names and worshipped as such in other religions. We believe that our religion embodies the truth, but that people in other traditions may also possess truth. Therefore, we are tolerant.


How do we practice Ællinismόs?  Please visit this page: The Four Pillars of Ællinismós.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods

FAQ concerning the path of Hellenismos:  
PROJECT STATEMENT

The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.



NOTES:

[1] Greek-English Lexicon (L&S) by H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, 1843.

[2] Ἀργοναυτικά Ἀπολλώνιου Ροδίου 3.1085-1089, trans. R. C. Seaton, 1912.

[3] Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου 1.7.2:

"And Prometheus had a son Deucalion.  He reigning in the regions about Phthia, married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, the first woman fashioned by the Gods.  And when Zeus would destroy the men of the Bronze Age, Deucalion by the advice of Prometheus constructed a chest, and having stored i with provisions he embarked in it with Pyrrha.  But Zeus by pouring heavy rain from heaven flooded the greater part of Greece, so that all men were destroyed, except a few who fled to the high mountains in the neighbourhood.  It was then that the mountains in Thessaly parted, and that all the world outside the Isthmus and Peloponnese was overwhelmed.  But Deucalion, floating in the chest over the sea for nine days and as many nights, drifted to Parnassus, and there, when the rain ceased, he landed and sacrificed to Zeus, the God of Escape.  And Zeus sent Hermes to him and allowed him to choose what he would, and he chose to get men.  And at the bidding of Zeus he took up stones and threw them over his head, and the stones which Deucalion threw became men, and the stones which Pyrrha threw became women.  Hence people were called metaphorically people (laos; ed. Gr. λαοί) from laas (ed. Gr. λᾶας), 'a stone.' "

(trans. J. G. Frazer, 1921.)

[4] Hyginus Fabulae 153:

[5] "That Deucalion was the son of Prometheus and Pronoea, Hesiod states in the first Catalogue, as also that Hellen was the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha." 
 
(Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius Arg. iii. 1086, Hesiod: Catalogues of Women and Eoiae 1, trans. by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914.)

[6]  Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου 1.7.2-3:

"And Deucalion had children by Pyrrha, first Hellen, whose father some say was Zeus, and second Amphictyon, who reigned over Attica after Cranaus; and third a daughter Protogenia, who became the mother of Aethlius by Zeus.  Hellen had Dorus, Xuthus, and Aeolus by a nymph Orseis.  Those who were called Greeks he named Hellenes after himself, and divided the country among his sons.  Xuthus received Peloponnese and begat Achaeus and Ion by Creusa, daughter of Erechtheus, and from Achaeus and Ion the Achaeans and Ionians derive their names.  Dorus received the country over against Peloponnese and called the settlers Dorians after himself.  Aeolus reigned over the regions about Thessaly and named the inhabitants Aeolians."
(Apollodorus The Library Vol. I, J. G. Frazer, pp. 55-57.)  According to the Parian Chronicle (as said in Frazer p. 57 of Vol. I, in note 3), "the change of the national name from Greeks (Graikoi) to Hellenes took place in 1521 B.C."

[7] Julian may not have been the last pagan emperor of the (Western) Roman empire; it is quite possible that Anthemius (Procopius Anthemius Augustus), emperor from 467-472 CE, holds this honor.  Anthemius studied at the Neoplatonic school of Próklos (Proclus, Πρόκλος) and was in the company, thereby, of many prominent pagans. Nonetheless, Anthemius does not appear to have played a public role in promoting the older religion, where Julian obviously did. Sources: Platonopolis by Dominic J. O' Meara, 2003, Clarendon Press/Oxford, p. 21. Also The Last Pagans of Rome by Alan Cameron, 2011, Oxford Univ. Press, p.192.

[8] Diog. Bab. Stoic 3:214. (Diogenes of Babylon).


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"...it is an age since I had a look at Attica. I have hardly been there since philosophy and argument came into fashion; indeed, with their shouting-matches going on, prayers are quite inaudible. One must sit with one's ears plugged, if one does not want the drums of them cracked; such long vociferous rigmaroles about Incorporeal Things, or something they call Virtue!"  Zefs (Ζεύς) to Ærmís (Hermes, Ἑρμῆς) in Timon the Misanthrope by Loukianós (Lucian of Samosata, Λουκιανὸς ὁ Σαμοσατεύς), trans. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 1905.


"...Virtue is manifested, of course, in action, in doing what is just and wise and manly; but you--and when I say you, I mean the most advanced philosophers--you do not seek these things and ensue them, but spend the greater part of your life conning over miserable sentences and demonstrations and problems"  Loukianós to Ærmótimos (Hermotimos, Ερμότιμος, a philosopher 6th century BCE) in The Rival Philosophies by Loukianós (Lucian of Samosata, Λουκιανὸς ὁ Σαμοσατεύς), trans. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 1905.


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              V.

    There is a common-place book argument,
      Which glibly glides from every tongue;
    When any dare a new light to present,
      "If you are right, then everybody's wrong"!
    Suppose the converse of this precedent
      So often urged, so loudly and so long;
    "If you are wrong, then everybody's right"!
    Was ever everybody yet so quite?

                      VI.

    Therefore I would solicit free discussion
      Upon all points--no matter what, or whose--
    Because as Ages upon Ages push on,
      The last is apt the former to accuse
    Of pillowing its head on a pin-cushion,
      Heedless of pricks because it was obtuse:
    What was a paradox becomes a truth or
    A something like it --- witness Luther!

                      VII.

    The Sacraments have been reduced to two,
      And Witches unto none, though somewhat late
    Since burning aged women (save a few ---
      Not witches only b--ches--who create
    Mischief in families, as some know or knew,
      Should still be singed, but lightly, let me state,)
    Has been declared an act of inurbanity,
    Malgré Sir Matthew Hales's great humanity.

                      VIII.

    Great Galileo was debarred the Sun,
      Because he fixed it; and, to stop his talking,
    How Earth could round the solar orbit run,
      Found his own legs embargoed from mere walking:
    The man was well-nigh dead, ere men begun
      To think his skull had not some need of caulking;
    But now, it seems, he's right--his notion just:
    No doubt a consolation to his dust.

                      IX.

    Pythagoras, Locke, Socrates --- but pages
      Might be filled up, as vainly as before,
    With the sad usage of all sorts of sages,
      Who in his life-time, each, was deemed a Bore!
    The loftiest minds outrun their tardy ages:
      This they must bear with and, perhaps, much more;
    The wise man's sure when he no more can share it, he
    Will have a firm Post Obit on posterity.

                      X.

    If such doom waits each intellectual Giant,
      We little people in our lesser way,
    In Life's small rubs should surely be more pliant,
      And so for one will I --- as well I may --- 
    Would that I were less bilious --- but, oh, fie on 't!
        Just as I make my mind up every day,
    To be a "totus, teres," Stoic, Sage,
    The wind shifts and I fly into a rage.

(Lord Byron Don Juan Canto the Seventeenth, V-X)



The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol.
The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian GodsIn front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).











PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this HellenicGods.org, you will find fascinating stories. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally; a literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is often concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING:  HellenicGods.org uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself.  An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website.  For more information, visit these three pages: 

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