30-Day Religious Meme: Day 1, Beliefs – Why Hellenismos?

The short version is ‘the Greek Gods are the ones who called to me ever since I was a child’. But that is about as satisfying as ending a story with “and then the girl woke up”.
Now, the long version is an entirely different manner. I’m probably one of the few polytheists that I know who has absolutely NO problems with the CORE message of Christianity, that is the stuff that is attributed directly to Jesus in the Gospels. The problems I have are with the way some Christians have ‘interpreted’ these words. I also have no problem with acknowledging Jesus AS a god while saying he’s not MY god.

The reason for this actually goes back to my religious and cultural heritage as the daughter of a Greek Orthodox Christian priest. If I had been male, I might never have listened to the call of the Greek Gods. Why? Because from the time I was a young child I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps in the clergy — in service to ‘God’. The sticking point in this plan is very simple, the Orthodox Christian church DOESN’T HAVE FEMALE CLERGY. Add to that the fact that I felt dissatisfied with the other Christian denominations because I felt like they were ‘Christianity Light’ and other denominations were out of the question for me even though some of them DID have female clergy.
Back in the mid-1980’s very few people that I knew even thought past the Wiccan model of Paganism. Everything else was ‘lost’ to us because it had been ‘destroyed’ by Christianity in the time period that has been labeled ‘the Burning Times’ (which historically didn’t happen the way that a lot of Wiccans would like to believe). The model I had to work with was a dualistic model based on a Goddess and God with eight Festivals spread evenly throughout the year. Some variants of Wicca were ‘soft’ polytheistic in outlook (all Goddesses are one/all Gods are one) and others were ‘hard’ polytheistic in approach (the Gods and Goddesses are discrete entities) although there was still a paradigm of invoking only ONE Goddess and ONE God in any ritual, based mostly on the purpose behind the ritual. To me this didn’t feel right, it felt not only exclusionary but also it felt like the participants were trying to COERCE the universe into doing what the participants wanted to happen — instead of asking.

This lead to a fallow period in my life where I actually TRIED to fit my spiritual and religious self into the Orthodox Christian mold (although I also tried Roman Catholicism in this period as well — and it still felt like ‘Christianity Light’ to me). I attended church regularly, sang in the choir, and even stood up as ‘koumbara’ (something like a godparent or sponsor) for my two room-mates when they actually had a church wedding to formalize their civil marriage. Unfortunately  during that period of time, one of the room-mates actively discouraged me from my non-Christian beliefs because it would “reflect badly” on her while she was doing her bachelors and masters degrees in one of the campuses of the University System of Georgia. She didn’t even want me attending a meeting to form a pagan student group. The problem, I later realized is that she was what I have come to look at as a ‘rabid’ Christian — one that no matter what the denomination is extremely set in the ‘Christianity is the ONLY way’ mindset. And after she separated from her husband, (they are still married as of this date as far as I know because SHE will not pay for a divorce), I ended up continuing to be her room-mate for about another five years. 

It was during this time that I started quietly doing things to express my spirituality, but not SAYING what the actual reason was for them. Yes, I had gotten to the point where I had to lie in order to maintain MY truth. Believe me, that is not an option that I wish for anyone — it is probably as rough as being ‘closeted’ is for some gays.  Then things started breaking open for me because of a physical move. My room-mate and I moved to New Orleans. For those people who do NOT know, New Orleans is a city that is very open to “alternate spiritualities” because of the prevalence of the voodoo community. When I couldn’t find a regular job quickly, I turned to something I had done as a side-line for (at the time) almost 20 years — I set up as a Tarot Card reader in Jackson Square. While I was learning to navigate the world of this particular subculture within New Orleans society, I became actively Pagan again and especially after breaking ties with my former room-mate have never felt like I had to ‘hide’ my religion again.
I was still more-or-less working within the Wiccan paradigm during this period, more towards the ‘hard’ polytheist end of things, but knew that Wicca as a religious framework was not for me. I gravitated towards what I now know to be the beginnings of my understanding of myself as a Hellenistai (practitioner of Hellenismos). I started maintaining a candle on whatever surface I was using for my altar and making daily offerings of coffee to Hestia and various types of alcohol to other members of the family of Greek Gods. My pagan friends understood that certain things were going to be done first every day — regardless of what else was going on. Even Hurricane Katrina didn’t stop me from giving Hestia her cup of coffee every morning when I made coffee on my gas stove for me and my neighbors who drank it. And none of them batted an eye when She got hers FIRST.

Hurricane Katrina was a turning point for me in other ways. After I evacuated from New Orleans to Huntsville, AL I found an ADF grove. Now, despite my mother’s side of the family being French-Canadian (aka Gaul/Celtic), I just didn’t resonate with the Celtic gods that this particular grove focused on. BUT, one of the members of that grove (Thank you Ben, wherever you are) gave me a link to check out — www.Hellenion.org and I also found Neokoroi about that same time because of the cross-pollination between those two groups. Lo and behold, I had discovered a world that I had not even imagined existed — the world of Hellenismos. I truly felt that I had come home. This home has not been without its own struggles but it’s still where I belong.

I am not through with this journey and am working to incorporate my writing into my practice because I hope to create a legacy for my daughter and all the other children growing up within Hellenismos. It is sometimes an effort, but ultimately it will be worth it because she will not have to blaze trails the way I and others of my generation in the United States have had to do. We as individuals and as a community need to do this or our struggles to create something good will go to waste.

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