The hellenic religious Tradition
Written by the Stilian Ariston, February 25th, “2014”.
Last update: April 8th, “2015”.
1. HELLENISMOS (greek: εθνικός ελληνισμός)
Hellenismos is the indigenous cultural and religious tradition of Greece, and the worldview and ethnic identity of ancient and medieval Hellenes (Plethon, Marullus etc.). Hellenismos is an ethnic religion: “By Ethnic Religion, we mean religion, spirituality, and cosmology that is firmly grounded in a particular people’s traditions. In our view, this does not include modern occult or ariosophic theories/ideologies, nor syncretic neo-religions” (WCER).
Hellenismos is the official name of hellenic worldview and way of life. Hellenic Religion is the most commonly used name of Hellenismos in Greece. “Hellenismos” and “Hellenic Religion” are synonymous. “The term [Hellenismos] was first coined by Emperor Julian […] in the Fourth Century of the Current Era” (Hellenismos.us). Hellenismos means “of the Greeks, Hellenism […]. II. use of a pure Greek style and idiom […].” (Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott: A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 536, 9th ed., New York 1996). The many terms Hellenic polytheism, Greek religion, Hellenismos, Hellenic ethnicum (“Heathenism”) etc. are different names for the same worldview.
“The term ‘Ethnic Hellenic Religion’ means the sum of all views of the ethnic hellenes of the past, present, and future, about the cosmos, the gods, nature, animals and, humans. The Hellenic Religion is polytheistic, native, organic, and above all a natural religion. It was not created by one or more people, ‘prophets’ or ‘god-men’.”
Vlassis G. Rassias: On the differences between ethnic hellenic and christian religion, greek article, retrieved: Juny 15th, “2013”.
“Greek religion: religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Hellenes. Greek religion is not the same as Greek mythology, which is concerned with traditional tales, though the two are closely interlinked. Curiously, for a people so religiously minded, the Greeks had no word for religion itself; the nearest terms were eusebeia (‘piety’) and threskeia (‘cult’).” Encyclopædia Britannica: Greek religion, in: Encyclopædia Britannica Online, retrieved: Juny 15th, “2013”.
The Hellenes are an ethnos. The word “ethnos” derives from the ancient greek éthos (“character, idiom, behavior”). “Ethnos” means a group of people sharing a common ethos. A Hellene is someone who participates in hellenic ethos: language, religion, way of life (“speech, and the shrines of gods and the sacrifices that we have in common, and the likeness of our way of life”, Herod., 8.144). The Hellenes are polytheists, or ethnici (sing. Ethnicus: “Heathen”), Hellenismos thus refers to Hellenic ethnicum (“Heathenism”). Since late antiquity Hellenes have been labeled with “Ethnikoi” (sing.: Ethnicus → “Heathen”) or simply “Hellenes”. Today, ethnic Hellenes are primarily known as Hellenic ethnikoi (lat. Ethnici: “Heathens”) or just ethnic Hellenes (→ “hellenic by ethos”).
Ethnic Hellenes are the contemporary ancient Greeks. We are Greeks who follow the ethnic hellenic worldview, virtue system, religion and ethos (“ethnic”, because Hellenismos was formed by minoan-mycenaean culture. Therefore, Hellenismos is culturally specific, but not ethnically exclusive). The term “Ethnikos refers to those who live and conduct themselves in accordance with their native identity and values” (YSEE, FAQ 3). Being ethnic Hellene means participating in hellenic Ethos (language, religion, way of life). “Hellenism is a package consisting Ethos, worldview, value system”, language, customs, philosophy and religion. It´s a way “of human functioning on both the collective and personal levels” (Rassias). Re-Turning to Hellenism is not about bringing back the past, but the indigenous hellenic way.
The gods of the Hellenes are the well known gods of Homeros and Hesiodos. But Hellenes also honor heroes such as Achilles and Heracles, and nature daemons (daemons are benevolent beings between the Mortals and the Immortals). Many of them also exercise philosophy (mainly Platonism and Stoicism).
The language, cult, ethos, mythos, philosophy, arete and paideia are the pillars of hellenic culture. Paideia is called “the process of educating humans into their true form, the real and genuine human nature” (Werner Jaeger). Hellenismos is not simply a “Religion and Cosmotheory. It is a certain form of human consciousness and an everyday ethos” (Rassias). The myths are also very important. By studying them we obtain a relationship with the Gods. We need mythology in order to approach their presence and being. As practioners of Hellenismos we can not assume away mythology, because the myths are the “reflection” of reality on the souls of the Greeks. Therefore, there is no hellenic worldview without Mythology. Myths are not fairy tales, they rather teach a certain truth in an understandable way. They can be found in the core of the way Hellenes perceived the cosmos. “Every Myth hides within it one of many profound symbolisms. Mortals are invited to seek and research them according to their quality, which is dependent on their Understanding of the Cosmos and Education” (YSEE, FAQ 25).
Orthopraxy, the full revitalization and loyalty towards indigenous hellenic culture are some things all Hellenes and Hellenists have in common, regardless of whether they are platonists or stoics. Hellenismos is polytheistic, cosmotheistic and animistic. It’s not a universal religion, but a culturally specific one. “Hellenismos, in its deeper meaning, is the noble path that promotes the development of personal excellence known as aræti (arete; Gr. ἀρετή, ἈΡΕΤΉ). It is a way of life, working with the natural world by means of Natural Laws, through the worship of the pantheon of Gods of ancient Greece, in particular, the Twelve Olympians, and examining life through means of genuine philosophy” (HellenicGods.org). Greek religion is mycenaean-minoan in origin (E. O. James: The Cult of the Mother Goddess, New York 1959).
The YSEE, Thyrsos and the Labrys-Community are the main hellenic collectives. The Supreme Council of ethnic Hellenes (YSEE) is a nativistic movement. A nativistic movement is defined as any “conscious, organized attempt on the part of a society’s members to revive or perpetuate selected aspects of its culture.” (Ralph Linton: Nativistic Movements, in: American Anthropologist. Vol. 45, Nr. 2, 1943, p. 230). YSEE is a foundation member of the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (WCER). The purpose of the WCER “is to serve as an international body that will assist Ethnic Religious groups in various countries and will oppose discrimination against such groups.” Hellenismos is an alternative to the Occident, Orient and Romiosyni.
Minoan civilization (Origin of greek culture and religion)
Mycenaean civilization (Precursor of classical greek culture and religion)
Archaic Hellenism (Homer, Hesiod, Pre-socratic Philosophers like Xenophanes, Parmenides or Empedocles)
Classical Greece (Platonism, Aristotelianism)
Hellenistic Greece (Stoicism, Lucius Annaeus Cornutus)
Late Antiquity/Hellenism (Flavius Claudius Julianus, Sallustius, Sopatros, Hypatia, Proclus, Damascius, Simplicius of Cilicia)
Early Middle Ages (Last Hellenes of Laconia, Hellenes of Mani Peninsula)
Middle Ages (Gemistus Pletho & his circle, Michael T. Marullus, the hellenic “Stradiotto”-mercenaries, Hilysios Kallentzis)
Early Modern Age (Renaissance, Humanism, Nikolaos Politis, Thomas Taylor, Louis Menard, Jacobin Club of the Ionian Islands)
Modern Era (Coalition of ethnic Hellenes in Greece; Foundation of the Supreme Council of the Hellenes “for the Preservation and Restoration of the genuine Hellenic Tradition”; Foundation of the Labrys-Community)
Today (Timothy Jay Alexander; Modern Hellenismos; gained currency in Western Europe & in the USA; Defending Hellenismos against “neopagan” distortion of facts and untruths).
2. THE GODS (ΘΕΟΙ)
The chief gods of Hellenism:
The gods (greek: Theoi) are natural beings, existing within the Universe, unaffected by time and space. They are asexual, impersonal, eternal beings, possessing knowledge and immortality. As divine cosmic forces (greek: dynámeis) they are unalterable and incorporeal. They are not separate from the first cause nor from one another (Sallustius). They aren’t archetypes, personifications or persons (Jean-Pierre Vernant, W. F. Otto). The residence of the Gods is Olympus (“metakosmia”).
By “Olympus” we don’t mean the well-known Mount Olympus which lies between Thessaly and Macedonia. In Olympus “no wind beats roughly, and neither rain nor snow can fall; but it abides in everlasting sunshine and in a great peacefulness of light, wherein the blessed gods are illumined for ever and ever” (Homer: The Odyssey, Book VI). “Our Twelve Gods are also called ΟΛΥΜΠΙΟΙ (‘Olympioi’, The Olympians) not because, as many want to believe, they dwell on Mt. Olympus, as the mountains with this name numbered not one but eighteen throughout the Hellenic World. This is just a poetic conception, similar to the one that wants Pan to dwell in the forests of Arcadia. The word ‘Olympus’ comes from the verb ΛΑΜΠΩ (‘lάmpein’, shining). Our Twelve Gods are the ‘Shining Ones’, and the real ‘Olympus’ is not a geographical but a spiritual place, where the Gods really exist” (Vlassis G Rassias, Hellenism: What We Believe, What We Stand For).
The ancient population of Greece named these beings “gods” because of their functions and activities. Herodotus, 2.52: “They called them gods (Theoi, disposers), because they disposed and arranged all things in such a beautiful order.” The Gods obtain and maintain the cosmic harmony, the natural diversity and laws of nature.
They’re “found within the Cosmos and are concerned only with its perpetual expression, subject to Logic and Anangke (i.e., Necessity). Anangke is the natural and moral Cause that inevitably compels Nature into a rhythmic energy that regulates all that has occurred and will occur. Hence, a Cosmos without Logic is incomplete, which is why the Gods voluntarily submit to the Cosmic Laws that have been shaped from within it” (YSEE, FAQ 21). In Hellenismos the “living Cosmos has emanated from within itself and is eternal. There is no external ‘Cause’ that created all from nothing. The Gods are self-reliant and conscious forces, who are multiple expressions of Unity, emanate from within it and serve its perpetual path” (YSEE, FAQ 19).
“The primary physical feature of Hellenic worship is the altar without which worship becomes difficult. The altar is the foundation of becoming aware of the Gods and the specific place of giving honour to the Divine by mankind … The altar is in fact a man-made gateway to communicate with the Gods and due to this it is imbued with a sacred character” (LABRYS: On Altars).
3. HELLENISMOS AND “(NEO)PAGANISM”
Hellenic religion is an ethnic religion. Therefore, Hellenismos can’t be associated with “Neopaganism” or Monotheism in general. It developed within the ancient greek Poleis and its structure was formed by them. Hellenismos is not “pagan” at all. Hellenismos neither maintains contacts nor collaborates with occult and “neopagan” groups. On the contrary, hellenic organizations solidarize and work together with other indigenous religions and traditions across the globe.
“Neopaganism” evolved from 20th century occultism and it’s been influenced by freemasonry, quabbalistic and christian mysticism. Hellenismos on the other hand is an ancient worldview, has been influenced by platonism and stoicism and, owes its present existence especially to Pletho and to the Hellenes of the middle ages. It has its own cultural roots.
Actually, Hellenes are not “pagans” at all. In modern society, this term often refers to ancient or native religions, because it was imposed upon them by monotheism. Just like christianity has imposed itself by the fire and the sword upon the Greeks, Romans and native Americans, it also imposed the “term” “Paganism” upon them. The ancients never called themselves “pagans”. This means that the term “paganism” itself is an alienation.
“The term ‘Pagan’, which in the original Latin is derived from Paganus (peasant), is yet another insult used by the victorious Christians since the 4th Century, to belittle what remained of the Native Religions. They used this to label all those remaining loyal to their Ethnic Traditions, to imply that they were uneducated and uncouth villagers. The term was used for centuries in most European languages to refer to the Ethnikoi. In the 20th Century, it was reintroduced with the suffix neo (viz. Neopaganism), by various Christian-inspired devotees of Esotericism and the New Age. ‘Neopaganism’ doesn’t concern us. It may even be a manufactured ploy to detract from the current world rule of the so-called ‘Monotheists’.” (YSEE, FAQ 24).
Anyway, though some american “Neopagans” claim to be Hellenic polytheists, they are not Hellenic polytheists “but rather members of the so-called Wicca or other ‘neo-pagan’ groups who are simply disguised as ‘Hellenists’ for reasons that exist hidden within the depths of their own minds. Obviously we are not interested in having any relationship with these people. Our Tradition, Religion and Values should not be exploited in any manner, in much the same way that no other ethnic Tradition, Religion and Values should be exploited” (Wojciech Jan Rudny interviews a constitutional member of the Supreme Council of the Ethnikoi Hellenes).
“Neopaganism”, occultism, the New-Age-Movement and other parachristian paths simply don’t concern hellenic culture.
a. In modern Greece the term “Hellenes” means people of Greek origin.
b. Meaning of the Term “Ethnicum”:
The religions of the Gentile nations of antiquity
(in the senses: Gentile): from Late Latin ethnicus, from Greek ethnikos
c. Hellenismos states, that it is the duty of all mentally healthy humans to fight for natural diversity and against all systems trying to abolish the ethnicities (by destroying their ancestral ethos), their pluralism, diversity and traditions for the sake of homogenization. In Hellenism “religion” stands not alone but is an aspect of the general ancestral ethos. It is the identity created by an ancestral ethos we call ethnicum. And ethnicum has nothing to do with political parties or modern ideologies such as Leninism or Nationalism, a “product” of the christian world unknown to ancient Greece. “Nationalism is a modern movement.” (Encyclopædia Britannica: Nationalism, retrieved: march 7th, “2014”.
d. When it is said in a Middle English text written before 1400 that a part of a temple fell down and “mad a gret distruccione of ethnykis,” one wonders why ethnics were singled out for death. The word ethnic in this context, however, means “gentile,” coming as it does from the Greek adjective ethnikos, meaning “national, foreign, gentile.” The adjective is derived from the noun ethnos, “people, nation, foreign people,” that in the plural phrase ta ethn meant “foreign nations.” In translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, this phrase was used for Hebrew gym, “gentiles”; hence the sense of the noun in the Middle English quotation. The noun ethnic in this sense or the related sense “heathen” is not recorded after 1728, although the related adjective sense is still used. But probably under the influence of other words going back to Greek ethnos, such as ethnography and ethnology, the adjective ethnic broadened in meaning in the 19th century. After this broadening the noun sense “a member of a particular ethnic group,” first recorded in 1945, came into existence.
The Free dictionary: ethnic, retrieved: Juny 15th, “2013”.
e. These are not parts of Hellenism:
Monotheism, Christianity, Occultism, New Age-Movement, “Neopaganism” (Reformed Hellenismos, Hellenic Wicca, Neo-Hellenic Polytheism etc.), Hellenistic Religion, Hermeticism, Chakras, Spiritism, Syncretism, Yoga, Golden Dawn, Thelema, Freemasonry, Theosophy, Feminism, Nationalism, Archaeocentrism, Ufo-Religion, Witchcraft, non-hellenic interpretations and non-scientific explanations of the Gods of Hellenism and greek Mythology.