If I asked you what Hellenic polytheists believe, what would you reply?
“Well, duh. You believe in Zeus and the other Greek Gods.”
Yes. Zeus, Apollon, Aphrodite, Athena, Hercules, Homer and the Iliad, Plato, Socrates – all those are part of the mythological and cultural background of our religion. But what do we actually believe?
If you asked a Christian the same question, they would reply that they believe in Jesus Christ, the son God sent to Earth so that humans could accept him as a saviour and be allowed into Heaven. If you asked a Buddhist, they would tell you the purpose of life is to let go of material possessions and to unclutter your mind so as to achieve enlightenment. If you asked a humanist, they would say they put their faith in humanity and human potential rather than in an outside force. If you asked a Wiccan, they would explain their belief in a dualistic universe and the sacredness of nature.
But what do Hellenic polytheists believe?
As with most religions, Hellenismos is diverse. Some of us believe in reincarnation; some do not. Some of us believe in animal sacrifice; some do not. Some of us believe in Gods as personal patrons; some do not.
Me? I believe that Gods walk among us. I believe that every tree hides a dryad, every spring a naiad, every mountain an oread, and as such, they all should be treated as sacred. I believe that our Ancestors and Heroes watch over us. I believe that my purpose in life is to honour these beings as best I can by living virtuously, and by making offerings to the Gods so that in return, they may be kind to me.
Like the organisation Elaion, I believe in upholding piety, tradition and virtue. I believe in researching the way of the Ancient Greeks as best I can, then adapting them to the modern world. I believe in the wisdom of the Delphic Maxims and in living a modest, honest and kind life. I do not believe in one universal Truth, nor in converting others to my religion. As a polytheist, I believe in many Gods and many ways; while I believe that my Gods are true, I am open to the existence of other Gods whom I do not worship, but who may be just as true as mine. I see no difference between someone choosing to worship Demeter over Artemis, and someone choosing to worship Allah over Yahweh.
I believe in the sanctity of life and of death. I believe that both should be treated with respect and acceptance – after all, we were all born, and we are all going to die. I believe that nobody can be certain of what happens after death, and that the issue is one of philosophy, not of religion. I, due to my personal experiences, believe in reincarnation – but that is only my opinion. Overall, I believe that while we live, we should focus on living a good life, rather than trying to attain a reward after death. That should not prevent us from giving those who have passed on the honours they are due.
Many people, in our modern day and age, fail to look at pre-Christian polytheistic beliefs beyond the basics. We have become mythology; our religions have been simplified to the names of our principal Gods, and a few famous fairytales and legends. Yes, I believe in Zeus, Hera, Artemis and the other Gods of Ancient Greece. But I also believe in so much more. Hopefully, this post will have helped you understand the core of my religion a little more.
Piety. Virtue. Moderation. Respect. Tradition. That is what I, as a Hellenic polytheist, believe.