Honoring the Blessed Gods of Olympus

The Meditations Blog


And now to Athena

As I move on, I move on to the goddess that has been the one true constant in my life, Athena. I will start by retelling a bit about my life so that you understand why this particular deity has been so important to me. 

I was born on the island of Puerto Rico, a beautiful place with a lovely culture and a latinic language (Spanish) with a distinct dialect based in the Southern Spanish dialects of Al-Andaluz, or Andalucía. To many who speak Spanish in the Americas, the Spanish of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic often sounds a bit low class, because the Andalusian twang and rhythm is, in Spain, sometimes considered low class. However, these are lively, energetic, constantly evolving dialects that can be said to be like the Vulgar Latin of ancient Rome, which was often looked down upon by the elites yet was the basis for all the Romance Languages we know today. 

Puerto Rico is a land of heat, beauty, elemental change, and great history, including some of the first places in the new world where African Slaves were freed, or brought over as free people, to work and build a better life (as well as in chains, no desire to white wash that) and a place where what we often refer to as “Hispanic Culture” blossomed and was passed on into non-Spanish speaking countries such as the USA. (Mexican culture is another great spreader of what is called “Hispanic” though Mexican culture is quite distinct from most others, with the immense influence of native american culture that makes it so special)

So, I was born into a rich heritage that includes the influence of Native Taino, African, Spaniard, and American influences, and part of this is the mish mash of religious traditions, from Catholic and Evangelical to traditional African beliefs that over the centuries has become known as Santeria (it refers to Saints, which are used to represent the traditional African Orishas, or Gods, in a context made more palatable to the Christian rulers of the island for most of its recorded history. 

So through life I was aware of a variety of beliefs, superstitions, and odd practices while my mother rarely if ever discussed such things with us, her children. But I would eventually become semi-familiar with these things as I explored on my own.

It wasn’t an easy life for me. My father left us when I was nine years old, and my sisters were younger, and before that he was abusive to us and to my mother who was herself abusive having never known anything but in her whole life, and by the time I became an adult, I was a mess of a human being who found himself at a loss as to how to actually be a human being, much less a truly good one. To this day I still have trouble caring about people, and love, well, love is a mystery of divine proportions that I may never truly understand, though I admit to having felt something I think is love from time to time. 

I knew I was gay early on, and…

I am not sure this is the right place for  this, but I did experience sex a bit too early in life. I  don’t call it molestation or abuse because it was not an adult who did that to me, but whatever I call it, I only now find myself acknowledging that that experience also damaged me, almost as much as the beatings and verbal abuse of my parents and the absolute apathy of my grandparents.

Know that I do not tell you these things to make you feel sorry for me, you shouldn’t, that boy is dead. I grew out of him and put him to rest, but I did grow out of him, so I find it important to acknowledge him and remember those times when he was so innocent, so cute, so brilliant yet totally unprotected and completely lacking in any encouragement from any corner, be it at home or in school. No one expected anything of me, so I became nothing. 

I developed a dislike for Christianity fairly early on too, and though my mother was abusive and scary sometimes, she was never a religious zealot, so eventually she did acquiesce to my desire not to go to church, and partly she agreed with me, though she still had faith in her god, that the people of the church were little more than hypocrites. Mind you, I might say the same of her, but the bible did teach her to use corporal punishment on her children, so I guess she wasn’t actually being a hypocrite.

I rebelled against it and went full on obnoxious atheist, and by the time I was 13 I was telling anyone and everyone who even said the word Jesus in front of me that they were wrong and there was no such thing as God. But, to be honest, there was still a part of me that believed. Not in Jesus, but that the universe was not just what we see but it had another level, a divine level. Could I have said as much then? No, I did not have the vocabulary. 

It was during this phase in my life, the rebellious pseudo-atheist phase, that I developed an interest in ancient history and ancient myth. I read the Icelandic Eddas, parts of the Finnish Kalevala, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and novelizations of Homer and other ancient tales. I am by no means an expert, though, as I do tend to forget details, which often forces me to look things up that I remember only in outline, but that’s ok, the age of the internet was not so far away, and looking things up would soon become easy as a click, click, and a click.

My teenaged flirtation with these things became nearly obsessive later on, another one of my quirky traits, and I developed a desire to know more about these myths and started buying books by the likes of Kerenyi and Burkert, which allowed me to make a distinct connection between the fanciful myths, which I saw early on not as religious but as superstitious, and the honest faith of a people. Hellenismos. 

It never occurred to me that there could be people who still worshipped these Gods then, at least not early on, but at this point, I had become aware of neo-pagan movements. I knew no details, but as the internet age dawned, it became clear that there were things such as Wicca and Asatru out there, yet it never occurred to me then to search out people who might worship the Greek Gods, because at this point I still didn’t see the Gods and Goddesses of myth as part of a real religious system, I still saw them as anthropomorphized superstitions. But in hindsight I see a path developing here, a path that would lead me to Hellenismos. 

I already said, I am a mess, but I manage to hold down a job, barely sometimes, and what were once crippling issues have abated somewhat today, yet in this phase of my life, my issues were a real and constant problem for me. I had many jobs, some for as little as a month, but one at a restaurant in Stamford Connecticut, where my mother had moved us when I was 12 or so, had lasted me four years. When that restaurant closed suddenly (I could write a rant on restaurants doing that to their employees on purpose) I was able to get a job at another right next door, and there I befriended many people, including a lovely young Greek woman named Maria. 

I have always had an easy time being liked at work, though I find it difficult to make friends outside of work, because I tend to be sarcastic and funny and irreverent, and so one day she invited me to go with her to Greece. I was never able to make that trip, but I asked her to bring me back something, anything, that she thought might say “Hector” to her. 

She came back with tons of beautiful pictures, and some of our co-workers were there with her, and when she came back to work she made me an offering of a gift. A small statue of Athena. 

By this point all the cards were on the table. All the paths in time were heading toward this moment. All the reading, all the assimilation of data about these gods and their myths had lead to this. This moment when the Goddess of wisdom would “reveal” herself to me. 

OK, it sounds a bit like wishy washy superstition, right? I agree, but I don’t see this as some kind of divine sign. Athena didn’t make Maria buy me that statue, but I took it as a moment of revelation, of something that was already in my mind, already percolating in there, and caused it to come into focus, and that focus was Athena and her divine power. 

Understand that I tend to look at the universe and even religion in a rational sort of way. I see the Gods as fundamental parts of our cosmos, and that in their sentient and eternal power lies all the possibility and probability of the universe, but I do not see them as micro-managing the universe. They are not pulling our strings. They may encourage with their presence, inspire with their gifts, but they do not force us to do anything we do not want to do. 

And so it was that I was inspired to take a step onto a path, a path that had, probably always, been leading me to her. Athena, divine wisdom, divine protector of civilization and the art of thought (Science) and the inspirer of philosophy. 

I began my journey onto a path that will likely continue my whole life, a journey of control and self awareness to calm the demons that have plagued my mind for so long.

And so here I am, about to tell you what I feel and think about Athena, my patron deity, who is my guide and lead through life...
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O Helios

O Helios

Golden hued son of Hyperion
Flying high above the winds
Look down upon us, O Lord, and see
For through our toil, our love, our sadness we seek you

To see the beauty of the earth with your light
To feel the heat of it on our skins and be happy
To lie under the rays of the sun and adore you

O Helios

Resplendent son of Hyperion
Upon a chariot of gold
Shine down upon us, O Lord, and bless us
For in this, your season, we are made glad to seek you

To be enriched by your heavenly light
To seek pleasure in the joys of life
To dance upon the shifting sands and adore you

O Helios

All seeing son of Hyperion
Looking down upon the ever changing earth
Set your divine eyes upon us, O Lord, and see
For in this time of joy and bird song, we need you

To guide us with your light
To warm us with your heat
To feel you upon as and know we are also loved
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Before I move on to the next point… Hekate

Before I move on to the next point in the star, I want to take a few posts to talk about Hekate.
I am, of course, somewhat familiar with this Goddess, as she is well attested in Hellenic literature, but her origins are murky and her place in the pantheon nebulous. Not an Olympian Goddess but a Titan, her power remained hers in the great mythic cycle because of her aid against the Titans. She retained her divine honors on Earth, in the Sky, and in the Seas, and her place in the realm of the Underworld is well known, for it is through this connection that her current role among some neo-pagans as a Goddess of Dark Magic and such is drawn.

But I am not going to lecture you on what Hekate is in the myths, but rather what she means to me. Which is how you should assume all my posts work.

I acknowledge four main aspects of Hekate.

1: Moon goddess.
2: Protector
3: Avenger
4: Psychopomp

Lunar Deity:

The first, lunar deity, is an aspect she shares with others, especially Artemis and Selene. You should know that I don’t think the Moon is a deity, nor the Sun, nor the Earth. These are physical bodies in a physical universe governed by the rules of how that universe works. But the Moon (and Sun and Earth) are symbols of divine powers. Symbols that come down to us from our ancient ancestors. They saw the moon as something mystical, magical, or divine, and as such, we do too, even if we do so from a different perspective brought about by a greater knowledge of what it actually is.

Moon deities seem to have some aspects in common. The bring light, they change, they signal the passage of time, they are dark and light, bringing with them aspects of something fearful that the light of the moon either sheds light on or drives away. It would be a gross simplification to say that the Moon deities are all one deity, that would be to give the Moon itself the central role of deity, but it is not, it is just a small planetary body in orbit around a much larger one.

Lunar deities are deities whose power we are affected by in day and night, but more so at night, because just as the light of the sun tends blind us to the moon’s presence, so too does day often, with all the hustle and bustle, blind us to the things that worry us. Lunar deities tend to be more mellow seeming, yet fierce and even dangerous in truth. Again, an aspect of the night, which seems so calm, yet can hide many dangers. 

I’m crazy, you say? Look at Artemis, she is wild and motion and the fierce huntress, but remember, in her common guise as daughter of Zeus, she is often seen as a very young woman, a girl even, and who hasn’t seen a pretty little girl and thought “how cute” never once considering she may hold in her pocket the knife that might end your life. 

To me, Lunar deity means ever changing, ever in flux, ever to be careful of. 

Protector:

All deities, in one aspect or another, have aspects of protection. It only makes sense, but Hekate is indeed a goddess of protection. Whether she protects by shedding light upon your path, or is called upon by women to protect them in times of vulnerability, or by witches who seek her blessing upon their amulets of protection, she is a protector. Like Artemis, she is also a protector of children, and as a Goddess of women, this is to be expected. If there is anything women seek protection for, it is their children. 

Interestingly enough, her role as protector can also be a dangerous one. Like Athena, how far will that protection go? To the destruction of entire nations? You just never know with a power like Hekate, because hers is a power that stretches far into the other realms of the world and is even Titanic in nature. Titans were not subtle. 

I think that Hekate is a power around which one must tread lightly, not because she is indifferent or prone to attack, but because we mortals are often too quick to call upon Gods and often, if a God were to lends said assistance, it can come with unforeseen consequences. And while it is one thing to seek the protection of your children from harm, it is another to seek their protection through the destruction of another.

I, personally, seek her out as a lighter of my path, protecting me by illuminating my mind to danger, never seeking to invoke her name in vengeance. 

Avenger:

This is linked to the above in that, as we would see in the story of Medea, Hekate, who was Medea’s Goddess, aided her and it lead her to ruin. 

Vengeance, you see, is very destructive, but more so to the one seeking it than to the one who is being targeted. But there is something different about Hekate as Avenger of wrongs, and that is Justice. But Hekate is an overwhelming power, and if you seek her strength in your act of vengeance, do be careful, for as Medea showed us, the cost of that vengeance can be horrific indeed.

But as avenger of wrongs, Hekate is a useful deity to include in your prayers, and like others, such as Zeus and Athena, it is perhaps left up to them and fate what that Justice is rather than seeking to enact it yourself. 

Psychopomp:

It is my firm belief that like Hermes, Hekate is a psychopomp, a guide of souls. Now, considering I don’t actually believe in an afterlife, what does that mean to me? I believe that Hekate and Hermes are powers of transition. That as Hermes allows for the transition of the living into the dead, that instant when one becomes the other is his, and that in turn, that moment when dead things become living, that belongs to her. That part of her power, part of her domain, is that spark, that moment, that little reaction between disparate elements that produces something that is actually alive. In a sense, she brings the animating spirit across the divide between the divine and the physical into the world just as he takes it out again. 

To be honest, I hadn’t given it that much thought until just now, when the basic idea that has always been in my head, that Hermes and Hekate formed part of a chain of events that resulted in life and death, came head long into my head and actually flourished. (This is partly why I do this blog, it helps me think, focus my thoughts) And now I must meditate on it, see how much further the idea goes. 


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Zeus

I am moving on from Zeus, but before I do, I want to set down a couple of the things I have managed to glean from my attempt to focus on him and his power.

1: He is Supreme.

This is not to say all powerful, but that his power to affect the universe around us is the most potent because he is, as myth would put it, the king. He is the arbiter, the decider, the one who is, for lack of a better word, the city manager of this universe. Gods act, but it is through Zeus that those actions take form in our universe.

2: He is vast.

To say a God is a vast entity is, well, stupid, of course they are vast, but in Zeus there is a different vastness. It is something hard to explain, but because of his role as King, his power and form is such that under no circumstances could I ever claim to truly understand him. The vastness I speak of is a vastness of power, of presence, in time and space, in the air, the water, and in death. It is hard for a mind, trapped in mortality, to come to an understanding of him.

3: He is powerful.

By powerful, I mean that even in our modern, Abrahamic world, the power that is Zeus is still very much worshipped even by those who claim, and will claim vehemently, they do not. The old testament Jehovah is very much like Zeus, and the ancient YHWH/El shares so many attributes with Zeus that historians, mythographers, and anthropologists would all have to lie to not classify him as the “Sky God” of the ancient Hebrews.

4: He is father.

One of the roles readily identifiable with Zeus, clear in his epithets and myths, is that he is a father. Father of heroes, of Gods, of men and women. He is progenitor and lord of house, and his role as father extends not just to the mythic impregnation of virgins, but to his role as the father of nations. All over the world, Gods that can be identified with Zeus, sometimes almost directly, sometimes with tenuous connection, have proven themselves the founders of entire civilizations, and as such, he is also…

5: He is civilizer

In ancient times, people believed that it was not just customary, but a religious obligation to be kind to strangers. To be welcoming of guests and to render them aid when needed. In our Western world, where all we seem to care about is ourselves, this is an ancient custom that can use reviving. Among the Greeks, this was also a custom, and Zeus, like YHWH, is said to have set forth the destruction of humanity (I don’t take myths literally) in order to end their shameful treatment of each other.

The crime for which El/YHWH destroyed the world was not gay sex, it was that, like Zeus, he is Lord of Hosts and as such the unwillingness of a people to behave in a kind and welcoming way to each other offended him.

This is Zeus (The Sky Father) as civilizer, as encourager of civility and kindness. In my opinion, one of his most wonderful aspects.

6: He can be angered.

In the West we tend to think of Gods as either capricious or as these strange emotionless things that spend eternity staring at their navels, but the history of religion teaches us that Gods can be angered. We may not understand fully the reasons, and we may often not even be the reasons, as we human beings are so egotistical, but Gods act, and often their actions mean horrendous turmoil. If we accept that Zeus is the Sky itself, and I do not, then we accept that storms, tornados, lightning strikes, etc., are his actions. If we do not, then we accept that some part of him is the divine force that allows those things. Are they a sign of  his anger? I don’t think so, but I do think that the turn our civilizations take, the life and death of them, can be. It is unfortunate that we so often blame stupid things, like gay men kissing or abortions (looking at you, tea party nuts) or some other stupid sin when perhaps it is the way we are in general that angers him. Our destructive, polluting, careless use of this world, this gift, we have been granted.

7: He can love.

Zeus is seen in myth as rather fickle, horny, and even rapey, but let us set aside those myths for a second, as more often than not they speak of human dynasties seeking to connect themselves with the King of Olympus, but there are also moments when he is seen to show tenderness to Hera, and to a few others, and in some myths, he is also the father of divine love.

Zeus loves mankind, but we are not his only love, we cannot be. God loves life in all of its many manifestations, and it is incumbent upon us to respect that life and, since we are part of the cycle of life, to be so with respect and care. To be part of the food chain is natural, to be cruel about it is not, and we have to learn that and then teach that as part of our religion’s teachings.

8: He is warrior.

Zeus is King, and in ancient times Kings did not sit by and give orders in the safety of their castles. Kings strode into battle, sometimes at the very head of their armies. Zeus loves the warrior, the hero, the defender. He loves the man, or woman, who puts his sword arm where his mouth is. I am guessing he probably hates most politicians, but hey, I dunno.
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O Sun

O Sun
Lighting the Earth
Giver of life
Giver of warmth

Let not my eyes be hurt by your glory
Nor let them turn away from your light
That I may see what it reveals
And ponder what it does not

O Sun
Lighting the Moon
Revealer of color
Revealer of truth

Let not my eyes be deceived by darkness
Nor in that darkness see only what they wish
That I may always seek reality
And help others to this goal

O Sun
Lighting the Skies
Bringer of morning
Bringer of dusk

Let not my heart be lost to lies
Nor by obsession be drawn by what I see
That I may know when to trust
And when to turn away and flee

O Sun

Lighting the way

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I have not given up on this blog. I am just having a hard time right now, will get back to it...
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O Moon

O Moon
Man has sung praises to your beauty
From times now forgotten
We marvelled at your face

O Moon
Of the many names
Who has been made symbol of divinity
And inspired dreams of eternity

O Moon
Mistress of the tides
Master of cycles
Keeper of secrets told to you by children

O Moon
Lovely and serene
Whose visage serves many
Artemis, Selene, and Hekate

O Moon
Worthy of our wonder
For you remind of so much
In man’s dreams and hopes

O Moon
Let us rejoice in you
Let us wonder at your beauty
Let us never forget the stories you inspire
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Zeus, ever living!

Among the Gods of Olympus, Zeus is the one that resembles the God of the Jews, Moslems, and Christians. Not Jesus, that figure most resembles a conglomeration of several other Gods, including Apollo and Dionysus, but God the Father.

This isn't so much of interest to me theologically, since I accept the Olympian paradigm as my only paradigm, but it is important to me when I realize how much of my culture, the languages I speak, and the morals and ethics I was taught from my youngest days has evolved as part of the greater influence that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have had on Western culture.

I mention Islam because as a hispanic, Islam had great influence on Spanish culture and language, just as the Gypsies and Catholicism have, but it isn't about the details of that influence, but how  it has all merged into my own personal culture and how my perception of the Gods is influenced by it.


This is why, for example, when I hear people say "God" in my mind the image of Zeus is usually what pops up, because Zeus' imagery was used early on by the Greeks and Italians (of varying Italian cultures of the time) to create the image we now so often associate with the Abrahamic God.

This is not surprising, since that God, known to the Jews as YHWH, or Yahweh, was also, by all accounts, a sky god, and therefore, in essence, the same spiritual entity we call Zeus, but just as the Greeks gave to Zeus imagery and iconography based in their own culture and understanding, the Jews did the same for YHWH.

Zeus, the ever living God of the Sky, Lord of Heaven, Lord of Hosts, of the Rains, the Thunder, The Storms that bring life and change to the Earth could have those very attributes placed after the name YHWH and I doubt any Christian or Moslem or Jew would argue.

So, why are they worshipped so differently?

It started with the Jews, of course, who were not always a monotheistic people. Through their history, they have been a small group. Even in the heyday of their ancient history, theirs was never a large culture. They were always a small group amidst enormous powers. From Egyptians and Babylonians to Assyrians and Persians, the Jewish people have always been a small minority. Their cultural history speaks of their enslavement, their escape, and their turning to their God to help them, and one cannot deny that their survival speaks to some kind of divine intervention, since so many other, larger, cultures have vanished while theirs has managed to survive, at least religiously. They gave thanks for his help, and interpreted it in ways that, to me, are odd. They turned to him as their only God, and then, after who knows how long, contrary to all other evidence, turned to a belief that he was not just their only God, but THE only God.

This break with the previous polytheism of this Semitic people lead to what we call the Abrahamic faiths of today, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (I would argue that none of these are truly monotheistic, but that is something for another day) and eventually to the fall of ancient Paganism in Middle Eastern and European culture, but Paganism (here used to refer to the ancient polytheistic religious systems) did not simply disappear. The people continued traditions that were common among Pagans, festivals that would not die were simply assimilated into Christianity (Christmas, Easter) and other traditional celebrations were Christianized, even if they remained local.

One of these were the visual aspects of religious representation in art. To this day, Christian imagery retains a decidedly Greek and Roman look. Statues are don mostly in a Greek/Roman form, including robes and other adornment, and even imagery of other figures in their mythos, like Angels and Demons, are done in forms that retain that Greek and Roman artistic sensibility. This means that images of Jesus, Mary, and Jehovah are often reminiscent of the images of Zeus and other deities of the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Etruscans.

So, you see, even in these religions that claim to have only the one God, the Gods echo, for while religious zealots, philosophers, and commentators may seek to reduce them to a singularity, in our hearts we all know that the universe is inhabited by, guided by, moved by not one, but many forces and wills. Zeus, ever living, survives even in the differently told stories of the monotheists, in the colorful stories of the Hindus, in the quiet seeking of the Buddhists, and in the prayers of children who fearing the thunder call to him, by whatever name they know, to protect them.
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What the world needs are Amazons

I was reading an article on a news website today. “Women’s Rights curtailed the world over” read one of the headlines, and a part of me felt very sad. I turned to my faith, as I usually do. Oh, I don’t immediately pray about everything, but from time to time, reflecting on the Gods, on their influence in the world, their mythos, their power in the very myths that are part of our daily lives, and in doing so, another story crossed my path. It was the story of the writer and artist of Wonder Woman and their final arc on the series.

Now, obviously, Wonder Woman isn’t part of my religion, but Wonder Woman, as a character, is enmeshed in daily battles with evil, with trickery, even with the Gods themselves in order to persevere against injustice, and she is an Amazon.

An Amazon!

See, in my religion, the Amazons are seen as a bit of a problem. To the ancient Greeks, women of such ferocity and power were seen as a threat. The story of the Amazons ends with their defeat, and it is a defeat that ends with the notion that Greece, or at least those parts of Greece involved, are saved from them. To the patriarchal culture of the West, these barbarian women with their immense talent with the sword, on the horse, and as an army were not just a military threat, but a threat to the established order of things. A threat to the power of men over women.

This lead me to consider that, maybe, what Hellenismos needs to do is encourage the rise of a new tribe of Amazons. Not an army of women laying waste to the world around them, but rather, a culture of power emanating from within, with the support of the men around them, to not allow themselves to be mistreated.

In the West we often speak of helping women in the world, and Hellenismos is, for the most part today, a religion that seems to encourage the exploration of both masculine and feminine power not only in the divine, but in humanity, so perhaps, just perhaps, what the world needs is more Hellenismos and less Abrahamic chauvinism. Perhaps what the world needs is Amazons, born to a myriad of cultures but all screaming Hail Artemis in the face of any man that tries to cow them.
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