Another pagan deception or Colonialism is in vogue

A relatively new pagan con is on its way, it’s called “Hellenic Herald” and it is coming for your money. As always in cases like this, the label here is quite simply fraudulent.[1] For the trained eye, it is easy to see through their facade.[2] The lack of knowledge about the difference between a “Hellenic polytheist” and a Hellenist, the “work” with “energies,” and the practice of “Paganism and Witchcraft” speaks volumes. Concealed behind the designation “Hellenic” is nothing else than paganism, that is, the exact opposite of Hellenism. There is nothing new in that of course. Label vertigo is as integral to paganism as pollen to the flower. But fraudulent labeling is only one part of the problem, as we will see below. The “Hellenic Herald” is not an isolated incident, but one link in a chain of pagan scams that sprung up recently, suited to enrich the inventor and damage the rest. But who cares about the rest as long as your desires are satisfied.

It is increasingly clear that paganism stands for the abuse, utilization, commercialization, consumption, colonization and distortion of other people’s ethnonyms, cultures and religions. In this case, the con-trick is build upon the ethnonym “Hellenic.” The pagans behind this “Herald” pretend to be part of and speak on behalf of the Hellenic community. But life is not some Role-playing game, where we have to pick the right costume and wand if we want to win the prize. Actions define people. Thus, selling yet another version of paganism as Hellenism, you demonstrate exactly where you stand when it comes to the Hellenic community. The general line of action or marketing is, of course, characteristic of all by-products of monotheism, but none of them goes so aggressively after the exotic “gold,” none of them goes so far as to claim to be part of the Hellenic community. Paganism tops them all, but it is not alone in this, it simply lives the dream of the current era: everything is for sale.

The motto of the postmodern era is: “Me, my, myself, mine.” Everything else is reactionary or, in the best case, uneducated. Well, ethnocentrism is not exactly renowned for being aware of the boundaries and the relativity of one’s culturally determined perspective.[3] So you can be whatever, whoever you want. You can be Hellenic, ancient Egyptian or native American. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you are you. The German psychoanalyst Rainer Funke describes this kind of self-staging as follows: “Nobody has the right to say what is good or bad, right or wrong, healthy or sick, genuine or false, real or an illusion. What matters is the self-determined self-posturing — that you are you.”[4]

You can buy, use, consume and dispose of anything according to your whim. Cultures, religions, even identities and languages. The best example of this is the so-called “Xenia Declaration,” another masterpiece of pagan propaganda supported by a number of occult, New Age and pagan groups, including the “Hellenic Herald.” Xenia (from xenos, foreigner) is the Hellenic concept of hospitality and guest-host relationship, it is socially regulated and placed under the protection of the gods (Zeus Xenios). The creator of the “Xenia Declaration,” an outspoken occultist, altered the meaning of the Greek term “xenia” from the outside to fit her gender ideology, which has no place in Hellenism anyway and is also irrelevant to the concept of xenia itself, which has nothing to do with people’s gender or sexual orientation. It is just ignorance painted in the colors of the rainbow. However, this is just one of many examples of pagan colonialism. The phenomenon of cultural appropriation is well documented in paganism.[5]

Cultural appropriation itself, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in the capitalist economic order. “So cultural appropriation, the notion of cultural appropriation is itself rooted in consumer capitalism and in a Western notion that culture can be owned. That it is an object a commodity that can be owned. The second assumption in cultural appropriation is that the unauthorized use of cultural material deprives its owners of rights and benefits or harms them in other irreparable ways … So the unauthorized use of someone else’s culture either takes something away from them, which is rightfully theirs or harms them, for example, by promulgating harmful stereotypes, negative stereotypes … Cultural appropriation is always about power and it is not just about the transfer of cultures or the enjoyment of one culture by another culture.”[6]

Cultural colonialism, the original term for what is now known as cultural appropriation, is not condemned, on the contrary, it is encouraged, justified and even rewarded, although the culturally damaging impacts of this practice are known. It is not considered deplorable, but rather the stairway to self-realization. Since we are already on the subject I would like to address the relationship between markets and violence. The whole New Age industry lives on colonialism. The exotic, the “other” sells. But there is another reason that makes ethnic or indigenous cultures lucrative targets for con-artists, imposters or “wannabes”: they are vulnerable and cannot defend themselves effectively. The perpetrators know they get away with it. “Indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to their culture being appropriated by non-Indigenous people, and due to their minority status most often are not listened to by the mainstream populace.”[7]

The New Age is a hugely increasing market, and markets do not really care about self-determination, collective dignity or the sacred.[8] Profit is the boot, dignity the ant. The Lakota can tell you a thing or two about that.[9] However, paganism does not stand only for colonialism. It also engages in disinformation, perpetuating old, inaccurate stereotypes which paint an unfavorable picture of all ethnic religions that are currently subsumed under the disconcerting term “paganism” which attests a christocentric understanding of religion. And not without reason: paganism emerged from occultism, which is a by-product of Western Christianity. “Neopaganism and the New Age … still very much embrace a Christian worldview, and interpret the religiosity and spirituality of cultural and indigenous religions using Christian superstitions and misrepresentations.” In practice, this means that paganism’s interpretational sovereignty over the so-called “polytheistic religions,” that is interwoven with its aggressive marketing practices, aggravates people’s re-indigenization efforts and the vindication of their ancestral religions. On closer examination, they rely “on Christianity’s false history and superstitious interpretations of natural religions to validate themselves.”[10] This ongoing pagan and occult counter-enlightenment to the disadvantage of ethnic religions is burdening the necessary debates between indigenous movements, their national societies and government agencies over the revitalization of indigenous religions. Sadly this circumstance is rarely taken into account when addressing cultural appropriation.

Underneath paganism’s flowery language, bright colors and tolerance rhetoric, one sees an intransigent intolerance, the desire to control others, and bigotry, which is reflected in their attempt to westernize or, euphemistically speaking, “modernize” indigenous cultures, to change and form them according to their needs, notions or particular ideologies. It seems that cultures and traditions no longer have the right to be themselves. If you force all indigenous cultures (which are all too often reduced to their ancestral cults) into the pagan corset, you get a paganism that hides its inner life behind stolen ethnonyms. All rhetoric about diversity and tolerance is a smoke candle. When the smoke has gone down, you will recognize the same mindset, same terminology, same concepts, same approach and similar rituals behind all appropriated ethnonyms and labels. This aspect is of course only one part of the mosaic, the problem goes deeper.

What we have here is the attempt to change indigenous cultures, in this particular case Hellenism, from the outside into something they are not, to “correct” Hellenes into paganism, detached from their actual needs, historical continuity and linguistic reality. But also ignoring the fact that Hellenism and paganism are differentiated from each other culturally, historically, and by time. Strangers want to decide on the fate of Hellenism, how it should be and what it should include according to them. By doing so, they reveal the toxic self-righteousness underlying the pagan self-confidence, the hybris to pretend that they are part of a specific community, though they have no relation to its people and no bond with their culture. It is Christianity in different terms. The approximation or assimilation of indigenous and other cultures to the Western world (by military operations, economic compulsions, missionary activities or softer methods) is exacerbating the homogenization of the ethnosphere, and it is leading us to a new world, shining in all shades of religious, political and cultural monotheism. Logically, what would follow then would be the “homogenization of the individualistic and objective perspective brought by western imperialism,” which, by the way, is already knocking at our doors.[11]

The historically grown diversity of the ethnosphere is outdated. A homogenized humankind is the future, one in which all ethnic religions, cultures, worldviews and rites land on the buffet, “stripped of their cultural perspective [and] distorted to conform” the consumer’s worldview.[12] For those afflicted, this means ultimately disenfranchisement and cultural expropriation. The ethnosphere’s diversity or polymorphy, as Vlassis G. Rassias liked to call it, is healthy, real, and rooted in people’s local environment, their homeland, where the ancestors are buried and their myths are embedded in. It is this greater socio-cultural context that is lost on the people behind all the “Xenia Declarations” and “Hellenic Heralds;” this is the authenticity that is currently endangered by colonization, the colonization of mankind’s mental landscapes by religious, political and cultural monotheism. In that connection, the term “paganism” is increasingly resembling a hegemonic tool to control or define indigenous religions. Since they have been forced into the “pagan” umbrella, or rather corset, it is easy to apply the “pagan” mentality to them, especially in the digital age.

Online platforms are playing a major role for it. The invention of the internet has led to a situation in which incorrect notions, false statements and lies reproduce each other much faster than ever before. The media make their very own contribution to the confusion of concepts, while crowd-sourced sites such as Wikipedia take biased positions unhelpful to the understanding of things, often imposing a Western notion of history, culture and religion, to put it diplomatically. This gives rise to various unpleasant consequences.

In general terms, journalism is not what it used to be. Hecticness and faster working processes apparently often lead to an astonishing lack of careful and thoughtful research. A journalist who unreflectedly adopts into his work biased terms, unverified assertions or obviously insubstantial stories is doing neither his readers nor himself a favor. The end result of such a work is not knowledge transfer but something else. However, what generally remains unreflected and untouched is the unquestioned normality we live in, which is the first thing that has to be questioned.

In the end, it all comes down to interests. Indigenous people have different interests and they have a right to see them preserved. They have the right and, moreover, the duty to defend themselves. If you are mature enough to trespass on someone else’s land, then you are also mature enough to face the consequences.

In this context, it is important to talk about cultures. Cultures. Indigenous cultures. Because religion is only one of many aspects of cultures, indigenous or not. We need to bear that in mind and observe the entire culture in order to see things in the right context. Hellenism, for example, is also language, history, music, architecture, politics and many other things. It is part of the broader Mediterranean cultural mosaic that emerged from the commingling of Mycenaean, Minoan and other Helladic cultures. It is not a mere religion. In addition, Greek religion has nothing to do with what we call today “religion” or even “ritual.” It may be interesting to know that there “is no ancient Greek word for ritual; the closest equivalents are perhaps ta nomizomena (customary things) and ta patria (ancestral customs). The basic components of Greek ritual practice include various forms of sacrifice, libation, and the offering of gifts to the gods; purifications, processions, dances, and competitions held in festival contexts; hymns and prayers; and divination.”[13] The ancestral cults of the Greeks are called, among other things, “eusebeia.” Eusebeia is the Greek word for piety and the closest equivalent to “religion.” It is linked to orthopraxy, which basically means to honor “god according to the customs of ones homeland.”[14]

Hellenism is a collective ethos, an ethnic identity that emerged from a specific set of cultural-historical parameters and its diversity is deeply rooted in the local, regional and tribal moment. Hellenism is who we are. As Hellenes, our duty is to expose this flagrant approach to our ways and offer resistance until this sickness ends.

In 390 CE, Antoninos, son of Eustathios, predicted a future where “a fabulous and ugly gloom will hold sway over the fairest things on earth.”[15] Neopaganism and the New Age movement are the proof that we still live in that future. Well, I think it is time for the sun to finally shine again. Time has come for beauty to bloom.

Sources

[1] The “Hellenic Herald:” the official website. On Facebook. On YouTube.

[2] Stilian Korovilas: Discerning the pseudo-Hellenes and pseudo-Hellenists

[3] By ethnocentrism I mean “understanding, and perhaps judging, the professed convictions and other behaviors and cultural products of persons in other societies in terms of the categories and standards of one’s own” (Benson Saler: Conceptualizing Religion: Immanent Anthropologists, Transcendent Natives, and Unbounded Categories, New York/Oxford, 2000, p. 8-9).

[4] Rainer Funk (ed.): Einleitung: Das Leben selbst ist eine Kunst, in: Erich Fromm: Die Antwort der Liebe: Die Kunst des richtigen Lebens, Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 2003, 2nd ed., p. 9). Translated by Stilian Korovilas.

[5] Hellenismos heute: 25 Great Articles & Essays on Cultural Appropriation in Paganism, the New Age and Nationalism

[6] Sabina Magliocco: Cultural Appropriation in Neopagan and New Age Religions: A Conversation. Harvard Divinity School: Center for the Study of World Religions. The event took place on December 1, 2021.

[7] Amal Awad: The new age looks enlightened and exotic because it borrows freely from non-Anglo cultures, The Guardian, April 25, 2021.

[8] Deanna Pan: Millennials and Gen Z embrace witchy, New Age spiritualism, Boston Globe, October 30, 2019.

[9] Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality

[10] Timothy Jay Alexander, Ideon Antron, issue number 2, p. 40-45, 2010.

[11] A. Romm, Y. Corcoran-Nantes and J.J. McIntyre-Mills (eds.): Balancing individualism and collectivism: Social and environmental justice, Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2007, p. 205.

[12] Timothy Jay Alexander, Ideon Antron, issue number 2, p. 40-45, 2010.

[13] Jennifer Larson: Ancient Greek Cults: A Guide, New York: Routledge, 2007, p. 5.

[14] Porphyrios, Letter to Marcella, 16-19,23; see also Xenophon, Memorabilia, 1.3.1

[15] Eunapius, Vitae Sophistarum, 6.9.17.