This August marks four months since I went back to serving the Gods, after being Wiccan for two and a half years. Four months is a long time. A short one, too.
How did the change go? Pretty smoothly, in fact. I was called back to the Gods during a meditation at a New Age fair and was already making offerings to them a week later. By the time Beltaine came around, I was completely and utterly devoted to the Olympians.
As you can imagine, when I changed my religion I had to make quite a few changes to my life as well – even though I was only switching from one Pagan path to another. (The truth is, apart from the polytheistic aspect, Wicca and Hellenismos couldn’t be more different.) This raises a question: how much should you change to adapt to your new beliefs? How much is sensible, and at what point can it be considered going to far?
I’m someone who believes that faith, although important, shouldn’t be the centre of your life. That said, these are some of the changes I’ve made since I became a Hellenic polytheist:
1. Doing up (binding) my hair. In the past, I used to always have my hair undone, no matter what. The reason was that I wasn’t very good at hairstyling, and most of the time I just couldn’t bother trying. In Hellenismos, however, unbound female hair carries miasma. It is also a symbol of sexuality: in Ancient Greece, only prostitutes and priestesses of Aphrodite wore their hair undone, and other women doing so was frowned upon. This is why I bind my hair – for modesty, for ritual cleanliness, and for the Gods. Every morning, when I’m doing my hair, I take the time to think of why I’m doing it… and maybe it’s just me, but I like doing a devotional act like that every day.
2. Praying and making offerings. I’ve been praying every night before bed since April 2013. I started when I was struggling with grief and PTSD, and just needed to express my emotions and know that someone out there heard me. Prayer used to be very informal for me, usually sounding like this: “Hey God and Goddess, thank you for this day and all its blessings. I know that you’re always there for me, so I’d like to let you know I’m not feeling too good and would like some support. Thanks a lot. Bless us all. I love you.” Now that I’m Hellenic, I put more time and thought into my prayers, and make offerings as well. My theory is that if you want to be taken seriously, you need to put some effort into sounding serious. Of course, that doesn’t make prayer any less emotional, but it becomes more devotional as well.
3. Studying. I know that studying the faith is a big part of Wicca, but I only started to do it seriously when I came back to Hellenismos. To me, reading Homer, Hesiod or the Orphic Hymns is just as important as worshipping the Gods during ritual. It’s an offering of time, and shows that you are devoted enough to go out of your way and learn about those you worship.
As you can see, these changes take up a lot of my daily life. Where my beliefs used to be something internal, they’re now external as well. To some people, it may seem like I’ve changed a lot, and I take this whole “religion” thing too seriously. I don’t think so.
You see, time is something I’m willing to compromise for the Gods. It’s not something that makes me me. If I were to move to Greece, or change personality completely, or quit my job, or leave my boyfriend (not that I have one) to become a Hellenic polytheist, that, for me, would be going too far. I wouldn’t be okay with that, even if the Gods asked for it. I will offer them a lot, but I still want to be myself to worship them.
However, the most important thing to remember is this: my line between “sensible” and “extreme” changes might not be the same as yours. Binding your hair for the Gods might be too much for you. On the other hand, maybe you’re willing to drop everything in your life for them. “Going too far” is not an objective term.
So what is it? Going too far is doing something that makes you uncomfortable. If your new religion demands something you’re not okay with, don’t do it. No-one will blame you. I made those changes because they were an external reflection of something internal, and I am completely happy to dedicate so much time to them every day. That’s why everything happened so smoothly. It was only natural.
Remember, the Gods have your best interest at heart. If they’re asking you to do things you’re uncomfortable with, and there isn’t an underlying reason… then your changes are going too far. And maybe, just maybe, the Gods that asked for them are not the ones you should be worshipping.