Posts Tagged “neopagan”

The Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes Spring Equinox ritual at an ancient temple of Goddess Artemis in Peloponnese, Greece, in March 2016. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons / via Religion News ServiceI saw this article on the Religion News Service and thought it interesting. There are people trying to revive the ancient Greek polytheistic religion, as RNS explains, right here in the US (WebCite cached article):

[Article subject Dean] Cameron’s group has 15 members who regularly attend events and prayers, but the Facebook group it maintains has almost 160 members.

Local U.S. Hellenic chapters do not report to any national or international body. Worship is based on word-of-mouth traditions and classic ancient literature, said Cameron.

The Hellenes of Dodecatheon, a loose organizational group, reports around 2,000 followers in the U.S., but 100,000 believers use the traditions as a baseline for their religious practices.

Hellenism is a mainly domestic religion in which prayers and offerings are given in the home. There are designated holidays for different gods, but much of the worship is a guessing game based on scholarly interpretations of ancient text.

“As you can imagine, it’s really hard to find a Hellenic calendar,” Cameron said.

The neopagan movement stems from ancient Greek mythology that centers on religion, philosophy and tradition.

The article explains that this movement began in Greece, the religion’s native country, but due to the influence and power of the Greek Orthodox Church, it’s illegal there.

I’m glad those involved are willing to admit this revival of Greek polytheism is a “guessing game,” because it is. The forms of worship from pre-Christian Greece have — in spite of a wealth of literature, especially mythology, left behind — been lost. It’s interesting, too, that the focus of this revival is domestic. Ancient European polytheism was multi-layered; there were immediate-family rites, extended-family rites, tribal rites, community rites, state rites. These were done in homes, in the wild, in small private sanctuaries, and in magnificent temples. All these approaches could vary considerably. On top of these, and the fact that each state had its own form of religion, there were also the “mystery religions” to which some (in some locales and times, many!) belonged. Those, themselves, sometimes were subsumed as parts of the tribal, community, or state religions. I just don’t see all of that complexity in what these people are doing … but I suppose it could come in time, as more people become part of this movement.

This isn’t the only example of an attempt to resurrect a pre-Christian religion. For example, Asatru is a modern version of the old Norse religion. And there folks who call themselves Druids and want to recreate the old Celtic religion. There are, in fact, lots of kinds of Neopaganism, as well as other things like Wicca, which pretends to be a long-lost pagan religion, but which actually is a modern invention.

What many of these reconstructed/rebuilt/restored/reacquired religions miss, is the underlying approach of the religion. Modern people are looking for spiritual experiences and insights, because they’ve been raised under the influence of a soteriological religious tradition (i.e. of Christianity, and in turn to Abrahamic beliefs). But ancient polytheism was predicated on something very different. It was, in its essence, propitiatory. That is, its rites and customs were intended to curry the deities’ favor and mollify them so they wouldn’t afflict harm on people or even wipe them out. Granted, in classical times, ancient polytheism began to veer toward a deeper “spiritual” approach. This is especially true of the “mystery religions.” But even then, most of these “mystics” still practiced propitiatory rites nonetheless. Any reconstructed religion that doesn’t take this into account, isn’t really a reconstruction … it’s a new invention, but cloaked behind the trappings of an older religion.

I do, however, wish these folk luck in their effort to recreate an ancient religious tradition. I hope they’ll probe deeper into the tradition they want to restore, and move in a direction that’s not anachronistic.

One final pedantic note: I must point out, it’s not entirely anachronistic for people to “invent” new forms of polytheism! This actually happened in the ancient world, probably many times. We know, for example, that the cult of Serapis was, more or less, an invention of the regime of Ptolemy Soter, one of Alexander’s generals, as he took control of Egypt. It was a hybrid cult, joining native Egyptian religious practice with Hellenic traditions. (A deity called Serapis mights have predated Ptolemy’s rule, but he and his dynasty actually built the Serapis cult — and the Serapeum — and made it prominent.)

Photo credit: Religion News Service.

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Not for saleI suppose it was inevitable. Whenever there’s a problem, psychics, mediums, gurus, witches, warlocks, and assorted other “New Age” types always amble in and claim to solve them using incantations, spells, offerings, dancing, hand-waving, appeals to “energy” and “balance” and whatever other idiotic but enlightened-sounding hoo-hah they can cook up. So it only stands to reason that they’re now preying on people involved in the real estate market, promising to magically make everything better, as the Boston Globe reports (WebCite cached article):

Enrobed in black and swathed in jewelry, standing in the kitchen of a foreclosed Peabody house, Salem witch and self-described psychic Lori Bruno feels a heaviness, a constriction, and she scatters salt, wafts incense, splashes holy water, and clangs bells in an attempt to expunge it.

“Energy goes into things, and it soaks up,’’ the 71-year-old explains after performing a short blessing on the property, in a cluster of homes on a Peabody side street. “You clear that energy.’’

With the real estate pendulum seemingly suspended midswing — experts predicting foreclosures to rise this year, a continually cluttered inventory, home values in many cases dramatically low, and a national home vacancy rate above 10 percent — some are seeking metaphysical intervention.

But it’s not just New Age cranks and freaks who are in on this racket; there are some Christian exploiters, too:

But when energy or the spirits aren’t called upon? The saints are.

Specifically, St. Joseph, husband to the Virgin Mary and patron saint of carpenters. Sellers looking for help will bury a small statue of St. Joseph upside-down near their realty sign.

“Some people perceive this as a good-luck charm; others see it as something much more divine,’’ said Phil Cates, founder of St. Joseph Statue LLC, which sells kits with 4-inch and 8-inch statues.

I don’t have any statistics to back it up, but my skeptical, ametaphysical intuition tells me that none of this bullshit helps at all.

Here’s the thing about the real estate market — and the same applies to just about any other market, too. It’s in the shitter for the simple reason is that pricing is all out of whack. Buyers aren’t able to get as much credit as they once could, due to the aftereffects of the 2008 credit crisis, and sellers have unrealistic ideas about how much their homes should sell for, because of the housing bubble that burst and caused the credit crisis. This has created a pricing gap which most people simply refuse to cross.

Unfortunately, the real estate market will not improve, until people are willing to cross that gap, and then start doing it. Until that happens, all the New Age bafflegab and metaphysical nonsense in the world, will make no difference at all. The bottom line is twofold: If you’re having trouble selling your house, lower your price; if you’re having trouble buying, find a way to raise your offer. This is the kind of economic compromise by which all markets work. It’s time to stop assuming that real estate is somehow magically different from any other type of market.

Hat tip: Consumerist.

Photo credit: Kerim.

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Sistine Chapel ceiling, VaticanIf you search the Internet for the phrase “spiritual but not religious,” you’ll get thousands of hits. (Try it on Bing, Yahoo, and Google, if you want.) Here is but one example of many I might offer, from the Louisville Courier-Journal:

About a dozen people huddled at a Poplar Level Road coffeehouse on a recent evening, drawn by the discussion topic, “I’m Not Religious … I’m Spiritual.”

They spoke of their alienation from clergy, creeds, congregations and sermons of condemnation.

They spoke of connection to the divine through laughter and nature, of mystic connections with deceased love ones, of the awe of a newborn baby or the Milky Way on a clear winter night.

People widely assume this phrase has some meaning … but in reality, it’s a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as “spiritual but not religious.”

This may appear an extreme statement, but it’s not. I base it on standard dictionary definitions of the word “religious.” Have a look at the following such definitions:

Source Definition


a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Encarta Dictionary

people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity or deities, and divine involvement in the universe and human life

American Heritage Dictionary

Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe


a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices (with religious meaning “relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity”)

Compact Oxford English Dictionary

the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods

All of these definitions of “religion” — along with others that I might offer — also cover the meaning of the term “spiritual.” Ultimately, everything “spiritual” is also — again, according to the above definitions — “religious.”

I understand there are folks who object to the trappings of “organized religion.” The Courier-Journal article I cited makes that clear. The truth, however, is that “religion” need not be “organized” in order to be “religion.” Three of these definitions explicitly state that “religion” can be either “personal” or “institutional” — meaning that “organization” is specifically not a criterion for “religion.” It is, therefore, quite possible to have a “non-organized religion” in addition to an “organized religion.”

It’s time for believers in non-institutional or non-standard religious notions — including all the varieties of “New Agers,” neopagans, adherents of Wicca, witchcraft, even Buddhism and other metaphysical philosophies, etc. — to stop misrepresenting themselves and admit what they are: Religious. Honest, it won’t hurt you to ‘fess up to the truth. You might not want to connect yourself to the negative connotations that are usually associated with the word “religion”; but the metaphorical shoe fits, so wear it. If other “religious” folk are making you look bad, then do something about it, instead of trying to divest yourself from them.

Note: I now have a static page which goes over this in a little more detail.

Photo credit: Richard Carter, via Flickr.

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