A fictitious dialogue between a Pagan and a Hellene

I used some quotes from this video I discovered today on Youtube to create a kind of fictitious dialogue between a Pagan and a Hellene. I just wanted to respond to some of the claims in the video and thought this «dialogue» would serve my aims admirably. I’m gonna link the video at the end of the article.

PAGAN: Hi, I am a Hellenic polytheist and I want to talk with you about my religion.

HELLENE: Hi, I am a Hellene. Please tell me more about you religion.

PAGAN: Okay. My religion is called Hellenism or Hellenic Polytheism. I use both terms interchangeably because they are largely the same thing. Hellenic Polytheism is a religion based on ancient Greek religion. (4:28)

HELLENE: If it is based on ancient Greek religion, it cannot be Hellenism and therefore, according to your own understanding of these terms, not Hellenic. But good to know. Now I have more reasons to not use the term «Hellenic Polytheism.» But please continue.

PAGAN: As I said, I am a Hellenic polytheist. But I also practice modern Witchcraft. (21:12)

HELLENE: Modern «Witchcraft»? That does not sound very Hellenic…

PAGAN: A lot of people came into Hellenism through modern witchcraft. Magic is a hotly debated topic in our community. (18:45)

HELLENE: Well, in the Hellenic community it’s not a topic at all. I mean, there is literally no such topic in Hellenism. Modern day Hellenes are not very superstition-friendly, to put it mildly. A lot of us were raised in a Christian home and discovered our ancestral ways during adolescence, so I guess we are «once bitten, twice shy» when it comes to superstition. The one time I remember this subject coming up was when some magician practiced goetia or black magic, as you would call it, to kill Vlassis G. Rassias. He produced a katadesmos (curse tablet) with, hmmh, I think with the names of some chthonic gods on it. Anyway, in the end he threw it in Vlassis‘ garden, if I remember correctly. Vlassis laughed about that superstitious mind and said something like: «The gods despise magicians anyway, so who cares…»

PAGAN: Well, I think that magic is compatible with Hellenic polytheism. The ancient Hellenes did magic … it did happen, we do have evidence of it … (18:45)

HELLENE: Yes, people in Greece practiced magic. Just like they practiced murder, war and other things that are not necessarily relevant to eusebeia. Just look on how the Greeks viewed «Witches,» namely as dangerous or disgusting or both. It kinda looks that Hellenes and Pagans have a totally different understanding of «magic.»

PAGAN: There are various opinions about magic in Hellenic polytheism. Not all Hellenic polytheists are the same. Some are reconstructionists, others are revivalists. Reconstructionism is all about historical accuracy while Revivalists are more the creative type of people (20:25). I myself am a revivalist and practice some festivals of the Wiccan wheel of the year. (21:12)

HELLENE: Reconstructionism. Revivalism. Wicca. Witchcraft. What does all of this have to do with Hellenism? Would it not be more accurate to call your religion «Neopagan Polytheism» or «Hellenistic Neopaganism»?

PAGAN: A lot of times people think that the adjective form of Hellenism is «Hellenistic.» It’s not. The adjective form is «Hellenic.» «Hellenistic» specifically refers to a time period between the death of Alexander the Great and the rise of the Roman empire. (3:40)

HELLENE: That’s my point, I mean if you don’t practice Hellenic religion, what’s the point of calling your religion «Hellenic Polytheism»?

PAGAN: Well, let’s make it clear, Hellenism is not a monolith. Say it with me: Hellenism is not a monolith. Ancient Greece was not a monolith. (5:06)

HELLENE: I agree. That’s why I found Paganism’s obsession with ancient «this» or ancient «that» very odd. But I guess, if you have no access to Plethon, Marullus, the later Demeter Cult, our lore and customs, you can only turn to the published past of Hellenism. I am beginning to think that it’s fortunate that many Greek sources have not been translated to English.

PAGAN: Religions change over time. Ultimately, it is up to you to create a practice that works for you. A 100% accuracy is impossible. But I think a 100% accuracy is not such a good thing because then you gonna get weird things like sexism and animal sacrifice. (24:20)

HELLENE: I think the line between «reconstructionism,» as you call it, and reenactment is very subtle. «Revivalism,» on the other hand, appears to me as «do what you want, call it what you want, but try also to take into account the general historical context.» Both lack authenticity, in my view. «Reconstructionism» has its focus on aspects of the past; «Revivalism» seems to be arbitrary and doesn’t take into account the cultural imagination. For example, you called animal sacrifices «weird.» Perhaps they do appear «weird» to people who are not members of Hellenism, who don’t know the internal perspective, but Hellenes know the meaning behind the sacrifices. Today, animal sacrifices are not necessary and therefore not part of Hellenism. But this does only go for present-time Hellenism. Who knows what the future brings? The world is changing and so are people’s needs. I also have to say, Hellenism has it’s very unique way to approach the past. We or some of us -I cannot speak for all Hellenes- use the terms «revitalization» and «re-Indigenization.» «Reconstructionism» and «revivalism» could not work for us, at least in my understanding. The result would be a cliched photographic reproduction of an undefined past, and wouldn’t even work for all, since Hellenism is subject to local factors and other specifics. Revitalization and re-Indigenization, on the other side, take into account both the culture and the living presence. In my view that’s the main difference between Hellenism and Paganism, resulting from their different historical backgrounds.

PAGAN: Hellenism is a pagan path.

HELLENE: The Hellenism I know is certainly not. We are not pagans, never were and never will be. Look, I don’t know you, your background, your needs. But I understand where you come from, I just disagree with the labels you use and your opinion about my culture. I also would like you to see and understand the Hellenic perspective. Perhaps one day you will. It was a pleasure to meet you.

What is Hellenic Polytheism? | Hellenism 101 by Fel the Blithe