I was watching one of the Percy Jackson movies with some friends when the subject of Hellenic polytheism came up.
One of the movie’s characters had just shouted “Oh my Gods!”, which made me smile. You don’t hear that very often in the media! Upon hearing that my friends smiled too, but for a different reason.
“That’s so weird,” said one of them. “Oh my Gods! I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that before.”
“That’s because nobody believes in the Greek Gods anymore,” said someone else.
Nobody believes in the Gods anymore? Nu-uh.
“That’s not true,” I said. “Hellenic polytheists still exist.”
They all stared at me with that expression that mingles curiosity and surprise. For a second, I wondered if I should tell them that I still believed, but one of my friends interrupted me.
“Okay, but it’s still weird. Why would anybody believe in the Greek Gods?”
This is something I’ve heard quite often, and which really bugs me. Why is it any more absurd to believe in Zeus than in Jehovah, or Allah, or Brahma? Like every other religious believer, I find solace in my faith. I have experiences that cannot be explained by science – dreams, strong intuitions, coincidences-that-aren’t – but instead of attributing them to God, I attribute them to Gods.
What’s weird about that?
I exist. My religion exists. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you, but it makes sense to me.
Hellenismos is a breathing faith, a way of life. Hellenic polytheists aren’t nerdy history teachers with an unhealthy obsession with Homer (okay, some are, but not all of us). Mostly we are ordinary people following what we believe is our purpose in life.
We believe in honouring tradition, but we don’t live in the past. Our faith is a faith of yesterday, but also of today and tomorrow. We seek to learn from our ancestors and apply this knowledge to the world we live in so that we can serve our Gods in the best way possible. Though we don’t have a “Holy Book”, we find wisdom in the words of ancient writers such as Homer, Hesiod, or Plato.
We are not historians. We are simply trying to live an honourable life dedicated to the Gods, like the Ancients did. We believe in kharis – making offerings and libations to please the Gods, because they are so much greater than we are, and it is in our best interest for them to look upon us favourably. We believe in celebrating the traditional festivals, and keeping ritually clean. We believe in hospitality, honesty, modesty, moderation, and so much more.
We are not Wiccans, or other Neo-Pagans. We do not believe in a Lord and Lady, or in a Maiden, Mother and Crone, or in magick; our Gods are the Twelve Olympians, all separate entities with their own distinct personalities. We believe that all power lies in their hands, and that attempting to elevate ourselves above their will is hubris.
We exist. There aren’t many of us, but we could be anyone. We are teachers, lawyers, cashiers, botanists, waiters, doctors, real estate agents, artists, shopkeepers. Some of us say “Oh my Gods”; some of us don’t. Some of us are open about our beliefs; some of us aren’t. But whether or not you were aware of it, we are real, and so is our religion.
We are Hellenic polytheists, and we believe in our Gods as much as Christians or Muslims or Hindus believe in theirs.