Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

For the past year-plus, I've been following the Anglo-Saxon hearth, settling on that as my preference over Norse for a few reasons, not least of which is that my ancestry is much more likely to trace back to  England than to Scandanavia. (And because Woden the weary wisdom-seeker appeals to me more than Odin the battle-king.)

One of the beautiful things about ADF is that one does not need to limit oneself to a single pantheon. But it does simplify things to do so.

Which is why I'm surprised to find myself moving toward a dual hearth now. A few weeks ago, some force of the universe – the will of the gods and/or the Amazon recommendations algorithm – pointed me to a book called “The Gods of Reason,” by Timothy Jay Alexander. Subtitled “An Authentic Theology for Modern Hellenismos,” the description further says, “Within this introduction to Hellenic theology, written by the foremost author on modern Hellenismos, you will find a modern theology sourced and adapted from the history, culture, traditions, thought, and ethics of ancient Greece. “

I have been interested in theological thought for decades, and it's hard to come by in modern pagan circles. As a religion that is so much about shared practice rather than shared belief, it's easy to find a book that covers how to conduct rituals and what makes a suitable offering for a given god or spirit. It's not so easy to find one that talks about WHY we should do ritual in a certain way, or what is going on, in the spiritual realm, when we make offerings. Or why we believe there are entities who exist and to whom we should make offerings at all.

So after a few days of consideration and reading through the parts of the book available for preview, I decided that it looked like the theological principles Alexander was talking about need not be limited, that if they applied to the Greeks they would apply to any of the hearths encompassed in ADF. So I bought and read it, and discovered two things:

First, I was right that it was broadly applicable, and on that level I recommend it to any serious polytheist, ADF member or not. Whether you honor the Norse gods, or the Irish or the Gaulish or any other European culture's pantheon, this book will provide some anchors for your faith.

Secondly, the Greeks are fascinating. I had passed over them, and the Romans too, when I was early on trying to figure out where my attempts to develop a hearth should begin, I think largely because they seemed too familiar. We all studied the Greek and Roman myths and history in high school. But while Alexander was unpacking aspects of Greek philosophy and its theological applications, he was also showing me the Greek gods in a new way. Unexpectedly piqued, I then bought “Kharis,” by Sarah Kate Istra Winter – a more general introduction to Hellenismos – and finished it just last night.

Meanwhile, I've added a daily prayer and incense offering to Hermes (every day but Wednesday, which belongs to Woden) to my morning devotional practice. I chose Hermes because I'm currently in a situation where I could use some added income, and he's the one to go to for that. He may or may not become a long-term patron, but he is my starting point with the Hellenic culture.

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