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PATRON DEITIES IN HELLENISMOS

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One often sees individuals in Hellenic discussion groups saying they are "working with" a particular Goddess or God. This terminology is somewhat problematic when applied to Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion. This idea of working with a deity is often connected with the idea of a patron deity, a God or Goddess to whom one gives extensive cultus, sometimes exclusive cultus. Where did the idea of having a patron deity come from? Many people who practice Ællinismόs migrated from various neo-pagan religions such as Wicca, where the idea of patron deities seems to be common. When such individuals come to Ællinismόs, they simply carry on a practice which they feel comfortable from neo-paganism, so they say, for instance, "I work with Hecate" or "I work with Apollo." From the perspective of this website, the idea of "working with" a deity is somewhat confounding, as though someone is working with some kind of abstraction, for the Gods are personal and friends of mankind. In reality, this author assumes that people who say such things simply mean that they love a God and that this deity is greatly influencing their life. It is only natural that one is attracted to one or more deities, more so than others, and it is never wrong to love a God.

There is historical precedent for the patron relationship, in particular, as it applies to the pólis (Gr. πόλις), the city-state, in antiquity. Such a deity was thought of as the protector of the city, a most famous example being the pólis of Athens, actually named after the tutelary deity. In this essay, we are not discussing or questioning the idea of patron deities of city-states, rather, we are considering the use of this terminology as it applies to individuals.

In the mythology, there are examples of heroes having a special relationship with Athiná, as can be seen with Odysséfs (Odysseus; Gr. Ὀδυσσεύς) and Perséfs (Perseus; Gr. Περσεύς). There are other cases as well, such as the relationship between Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα) and Thiséfs (Theseus; Gr. Θησεύς). These alliances between the heroes and, usually, Goddesses, are not quite the same as what is understood by the term "patron deity." In Orphismós (Orphism; Gr. Ορφισμός), we speak of a particular pair of Olympian Gods having a special interest in each individual. It is said that the Goddess prepares the ground in a series of "trials." Sometimes in these relationships, the Goddess may appear malevolent, as in the very special instance of Íra and Iraklís (Heracles or Hercules; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς).

Some Hellenic reconstructions have a problem with the idea of patron deities. It may be that the underlying prejudice against such an idea is a desire to distance Ællinismόs from the neo-pagan community, which is seen to accept the practice. Perhaps the most compelling argument from this quarter against patron deities is the accusation of ývris (hubris; Gr. ὕβρις), false pride or insolence, believing oneself to be elite and better than other people because one has somehow been chosen by a Goddess or a God. Irregardless of the power of such an argument, if some type of patron relationship exists for an individual, is it not, ultimately, a personal matter? And, if genuine, shouldn't it be entirely unaffected by the opinions of those outside the relationship? Such relationships are sacred and, in reality, private. Who is in a position to judge other people in something so personal? There are many people who use the term "patron deity," who simply mean that they love a particular God, and this is a beautiful thing. Another reconstructionist argument suggests that having a patron deity diminishes the importance of the entire pantheon, even going so far as to challenge the validity of such a person legitimately practicing the religion, but this is an exclusivistic judgment that is not particularly helpful. It has also been pointed out that if one worships only one of the Gods, that this is actually a form of monotheism, but, more accurately, what we have is something different...a monolatry (monolatry; etymology: μόνος "single" + λατρεία "worship"). Monolatrism is the exclusive or almost exclusive worship of only one deity while acknowledging the existence of other GodsThis would seem to be an accurate description of many who have patron deities. Yet some people who claim to have a patron deity also say they are Dodekatheists, but they only have cultus to one God, or sometimes two, or a handful of Gods. So there are various practices.

The arguments of the reconstructionists are ultimately not satisfying, for to merely reject the idea of patron deities, or actually any idea, simply because it does not have substantial evidence from antiquity, or to say that we must worship all the Gods because this was how it was done in ancient times, is only an argument of someone who wants to accurately reconstruct something, but not actually addressing how such a practice may or may not have anything to do with reality. A tradition to have any kind of ultimate validity, must have some kind of foundation that goes beyond a circular argument which only refers back to itself. Following this logic, other than simply reconstructing a religious tradition, why would it be important to concentrate on more than simply one deity? There is an explanation. If the patron relationship is such that the individual worships only one deity or a haphazard collection of deities, such a practice would imply a misunderstanding of how the Gods function in the Kosmos. All deities are important, but in particular, the Twelve Olympian Gods, who have dominion over the Natural Laws. These deities have sovereignty over the very way in which the universe functions and, therefore, are critically important to everyone. There is a logic, a harmony in how they function. Their positions are not arbitrary. The associations that are known of the Gods, such as that of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) with music, are genuine, but these deities have a more profound dominion. This subject is brought up because sometimes an individual will latch on to a deity because he or she feels concordance with something that the deity in question is known to have an interest in. But the purpose of the Gods, in particular the Olympians, is dramatically more expansive than a simple interest in a particular human activity. 

To exclude or marginalize people who hold contrary views serves no purpose other than creating disharmony and ill-feeling amongst those who love the Gods, and some of this is simply feeling uncomfortable with what is viewed as "foreign" terminology. No one knows the heart of other souls, except perhaps the Gods. We have our viewpoints and we should express them, but we can live with the viewpoints of others, in harmony, if we try, and it is helpful to consider, as previously stated, that it is never wrong to love a God.



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; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase 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 Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). 



PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. 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 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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