Things I Don’t Believe In … In My Own Religion

I should put a disclaimer here that my religion is more Hellenist-leaning than actual Hellenic reconstruction. I respect reconstructionists for all their study and hard work, but that’s not something I do or find personal value in. In other words: it doesn’t blow my skirt up the way it does for some other people. My religion is more like a revival than a reconstruction. The gods to whom I am devoted are the gods of Hellas. I keep some ancient practices such as libations and honoring Hestia first and last before any formal prayer or ritual. I celebrate the Hellenic holidays—one way or another—usually in small acts and offerings to charity. I keep a jar in my cupboard for Zeus, to thank him that my pantry is always full. I think that’s about it. I pray. I pray pray pray. I pray informally, but I do pray.

But, as teased, here’s the big list of things I don’t believe in or do:

I don’t make lustral water. I don’t always remember to wash my hands before I pray.

I don’t wear robes to do rituals. I hardly ever do rituals.

I don’t make burnt offerings. I don’t set aside part of my meals for Hestia. (I really should though. That is a practice I embrace.)

I don’t believe the gods are all how they are described in the various hymns, epic poems, and myths. I believe those things give us some idea about the nature of the gods, but the gods reveal themselves differently a lot of the time.

What else don’t I do?

I don’t believe in miasma. I believe a good god who is a “friend of humanity” understands that we’re dirty creatures and that sometimes we need them most when we’re dirtiest. I don’t believe a god discriminates based on whether or not you smell of sugar and spice or sun and sweat.

That’s an important one.

Other than candles or incense, I don’t give material offerings at my shrine. I don’t believe offerings of that kind are in the spirit of ancient offerings. I believe offerings are, in part, about sacrifice. What sacrifice is an orange and a flower to me when I can just go to the grocery store and get more anytime? I believe the money spent on things like fruit and flowers that would rot and go to waste is better spent on a charity in the god’s sphere of influence.

I don’t say things in Greek because I would butcher the pronunciation and because I don’t think it’s necessary. I believe addressing the gods in your native tongue is an intimacy.

I don’t believe gods get offended by a whole lot except active ingratitude and hubris. I don’t believe there is such a thing as sin and, therefore, it is impossible to sin against the gods.

While I do believe in divine retribution, I think you have to really, really push the limits in order for it to be enacted on you. If you’re worried about incurring divine retribution, you probably haven’t done anything near awful enough to incur it.

That was weird—making a list of things about my own religion that I don’t believe in. Like a backward, hand-walking catechism.

I’m sure if I have any Hellenic Reconstructionist followers, they can give me another whole big giant list of things I don’t do. My practice is, admittedly, awfully minimalistic and my spiritual beliefs are broad and extremely liberal. (Lazy future cult leader’s way out.)

What don’t you believe about your own religion? I’m fascinated to find out. Let’s go to our cult clubhouse, sit on our lily pads, and discuss. I’ll make French onion soup, (I make a mean French onion soup), and this time I’ll even remember to save a bowl for Hestia.

-M.

About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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4 Responses to Things I Don’t Believe In … In My Own Religion

  1. TPWard says:

    I’m not a reconstructionist either, and while my practice resembles yours much more than it would something followed in the Athens of antiquity, the tone of this post is really quite dismissive. Maybe you’ve had bad experiences with people telling you what’s what – people sure can be jerks – but I suggest you focus on the positive aspects of your relationships with gods rather than telling people what you don’t like about things you don’t actually do. The world has plenty of negativity in it, and I’m betting you have a lot of light you could be shining instead if you just give yourself a chance.

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    • M. Ashley says:

      Point well taken. I thought it an interesting personal experiment to define what I do believe by clearly delineating what I don’t believe, sort of like painting a figure by the manipulation of negative space. I can certainly see how the post could seem dismissive, though. That was not my intent. I think it was directed much more internally than externally. Focusing on the light is certainly a better way to go in the future.

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  2. I’m more of a revival type myself. Reconstruction has its merits, sure. But it’s not for me. I’ve studied and know my lore but my practice is more modern. Time didn’t stop after the last recorded myth got written down. Humans kept going and growing, and the gods did as well. Why limit practice to interacting with an older, possibly outdated version of a deity when They’ve surely had experiences that have changed Them in some ways? I mean, if it makes some folks happy to stick to an ancient script, ok. But I’d rather not. I’m Heathen, so offering mead is a staple for me. But I love dedicating actions or activities as offerings. (Like brushing my kitties for Freyja.) I’m also not totally on board with the whole Ragnarok story. It seems too “good vs evil” to me. Our stuff was recorded by Christians way after the conversion, so it does have some spin to it. Ragnarok, to me, seems a little too Revelations. I do feel that there is a cosmic death/rebirth cycle. But I don’t think it’s exactly like the story says. I catch quite a bit of flak for that, but I don’t care. 😊

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    • M. Ashley says:

      You have an excellent point (several actually) about the gods having changed over time just as we have changed. I think their expectations have changed as well. I don’t believe they would expect, for example, live animal sacrifice in contemporary culture when that’s neither possible nor desirable in the way the ancients did it.

      I do think they expect more nuanced understandings of the lore now, as you have with Ragnarok. We understand so much more about the mechanics of the world, I believe we are expected to see layers that perhaps the ancient layperson did not see. What you said about a Christian understanding is especially important. Even though the Greek myths come directly from the Greeks (sort of), everything we were taught about them in school comes from a Judeo-Christian perspective. It is ours to see past that.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply.

      Liked by 1 person

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