Saturday, August 22, 2009

Character is for man his daimon

The Hellenion calendar provides monthly libation to the Agathos Daimon at the end of the modern month, or the 2nd of the Athenian calendar, but not really knowing much of this, I decided to see what I could find in my books instead of the usual usage of my GoogleFu. Walter Burkert in Greek Religion mentions only lightly the Agathos Daimon, or the good spirit, while going on more in length to the daimon in general.

"The etymological meaning of the thoroughly Greek-looking word daimon is once again impossible to discover with certainty. Nevertheless it is clear that the early uses of the word neither the status of a daimon in relation to the gods nor its character is defined, to say nothing of its conception as spirit. In the Iliad, the gods assembled on Mount Olympus can be called daimones, and Aphrodite leads the way ahead of Helen as daimon. A hero may rush headlong 'like a daimon' and still be called god-like, isotheos. Conversely, the demons that fly from Pandora's jar are personified as 'illness', nousoi, but are not called daimones; the death-bringing spirits of destruction, keres, are called theoi, as are Erinyes in Aeschylus. Possession, too, is the work of a god. Daimon does not designate a specific class of divine beings, but a peculiar mode of activity (Burkert 180).

This I found interesting, because the Good Daimon, the Agathos Daimon appears to have cult practices attributed to it. The first wine libation is done in its name. An interesting passage mentons that "Plutarch uses the word proper to burn sacrifice, but this is no offering to an Olympian, it is simply the solemn pouring out of a little of the new wine, that so the whole may be released from tabu. This 'sacrifice' of the new wine, is to begin with, made to nothing and nobody, but bit by bit a daimon of the act emerges, and he is the Agathos Daimon." (Harrison 277)

It is known for taking the shape of a serpent, at times a winged serpent.

Burkert later continous to assert that daimon is more akin to a force, a power that drives man forward where no agent can be named. We probably call this in modern terms the Will, Desire, Drive, Passion or Stubbornness, depending on the qualities. If you feel that it is acting in accordance with you, it is called syn daimon, and when the tides turn the other way it is pros daimona. Perhaps it is too much on my part to think it resembles what Thelemites call "achieving your true Will."

From what I gather, the Agathos Daimon is formed after the application of mindful actions, perhaps even pious ones. From that, the good daimon is borne forth. I had originally began to think that the Agathos Daimon was something akin to a "spirit guide" or a "guardian" of some sort, now I find that this is incorrect. However it is also noted that Pythagoreans were able to hear and see the daimones (Burkert 180).

Burkert makes the distinction that the daimon is not, in essence, a spirit as we define it, but a force. Harrison, in her book Epilogemena, mentions that it is a fertility spirit whose cult predates the Olympians. The Agathos Daimon are the snakes appearing on the kerykeion, or caduceus of Hermes, "had the power to compel fertility" (279). I have never seen the association of fertility with the caduceus, much less with Hermes.

I find that the following two quotations sums up quite nicely what I have begun to understand on the nature of the daimon. "The ordinary man sees only what happens to him, unpredictable and not of his own enacting, and he calls the diving power daimon, something like fate, but without any person who plants and ordains being visible. One must be on good terms with it: "The daimon active about me I will always consciously put to rights with me by cultivating him according to my means. (181)"
"Man's daimon is his destiny." Thus strikingly does Heraclitus make reference to this fact. He extends man's vital essence far beyond the personal. The personality is the vehicle of the daimon, which is not confined within the limit of the personality, and for which the birth and death of the personality are of no importance. What is the relation of the daimonic element to the personality which comes and goes? The personality is only a form for the manifestation of the daimon. **

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Project MUSE

I came across a fantastic online resource that is invaluable to me. It is the American Journal of Philology, and it has all of their publications available online.

About the Journal:

Since its founding in 1880 by Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, the American Journal of Philology has helped to shape American classical scholarship. Today the Journal has achieved worldwide recognition as a forum for international exchange among classicists and philologists by publishing original research in Greek and Roman literature; classical linguistics; and Greek and Roman history, society, religion, and philosophy. In-depth coverage and a substantial book review section are featured in every issue. AJP is open to a wide variety of contemporary approaches including literary interpretation and history, textual criticism, historical investigation, and epigraphy.

Issue number 513, vol. 129 num. 1 contains A Trickster's Oaths in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes and The Legacy of Aphrodite: Anchises' Offspring in the Homeric Hymn.

Note: Some articles are not available, even when clicking on the PDF or HTML link, while others are. If you are interested in seeing the rest of the articles, you may want to contact your local public or University library to see if they have a subscription.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Time as sacrifice

Sacrifice, for most pagans and polytheists, means something different when compared to what most people define it as. During the season of Lent, many of my Catholic coworkers let go of something during this time as required by their faith - most of them decided to give up things that were bad for them, like Diet Coke or coffee. I found that to be odd personally, for sacrifice means to "make holy, or sacred." I really don't view Coca Cola to be particularly spiritual, nor do I offer it as a libation, unless I discover that Hermes has a weird particular taste for it.

I have had to curb some habits in my life due to some large changes I had to do, and in regards to ritual and daily practice, I found myself doing less and less due to the lack of time, or just lack of convenience. Convenience being the key [bad] word. Looking in my life I found that I needed to learn to better manage the time I did have: saying I was tired, or I had no time meant I was more than likely spending it doing unimportant things with it when it didn't pertain to work or school. So I reformed myself. I sold my car a year ago in order to save for future out-of-state tuition and living costs for next year, so I've been taking public transportation or walking, to get to work, school and home. Living in southern California made this something to get used to, and it also meant that the hours became something I could not waste - they became invaluable. If I need to do something simple like go to the pharmacy or the bookstore, it meant rerouting my entire commute and scheduling ahead of time to avoid missing a bus. With the current financial crisis in California, many of the routes have been cut or removed. While I find time for work, school, volunteer work, leisure and exercise, I needed to make daily practice higher up in the scale regardless of how late or how early it was.

Today, as I walked home from the market with my green reusable bag full of peaches, bread, soup and Merlot wine, I couldn't help but think that this long walk back to my home was in part, not only preparation for my libation to Hermes, but in essence part of it. It is perhaps no different than those that would peregrinate, with offerings and prayers, to the temple of Hermes in Samos. Every step, every drop of perspiration and each thought full of love and anticipation.

We give much of our time, effort, intellect and sweat in order to reap rewards in the form of monetary currency, to obtain things that support and provide enjoyment in our lives. In the same vein, I find that using my time, effort, intellect and sweat in preparation, service and ritual to my gods to be itself another sacrifice to harvest the joys of life.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Vampires and Dionysus

While I don't expect the gods to be portrayed in a positive light within mainstream media, I was not expecting the turn that HBO's show True Blood took, since it follows a series of novels. Yes, I will openly admit here - I am a fan of cheesy vampire fiction - I can't help it. I should know better. I have read of all Charlaine Harris's books on the Sookie / Southern Vampire stories, and I was looking forward to how they dealt with the storyline of the Maenad. While the stories themselves have deviated considerably to allow more time between characters and plots, this means that the Maenad has ended up with a larger role and characterization in the tv show than in the books. One that is just trite in errors.

I was actually quite excited to hear Dionysos' epithets mentioned in tv - I can only recall a few like Bromios, Bakkhos and 'Hekos, o hekas, este bebeloi' Unfortunately they butcher it because instead of Io! Io! Bromios! it is written out as Lo Lo Bromios!

When the character of Maryann is finally revealed to be a Maenad in a discussion between two characters: Daphne making the reveal to Sam, telling him that according to the Greeks, they are handmaidens of Dionysus, the god of wine. After a few dialogue sentences we get the full meaning of what really is going on -

"Guess what else they call him? The Horned God. Sound familiar?"


"Dionysus, Satan - it's really just a kind of energy; wild energy. Lust, anger, excess, violence. Basically all the fun stuff."

And there we have it folks. While the book did not venture into some correlation between Dionysus and Satan, the producers and Alan Ball felt that it had to, for spookier plot.

While in the book the Maenad would travel seeking tribute in the shape of some sort of sacrifice, it does not seem as such within the show as she seems to take as she pleases, which I guess is the way of honoring Him, while portraying her to be a vile, manipulating, two-faced demon woman. Makes me feel warm inside.


Hermes, draw near, and to my pray'r incline, angel of Jove, and Maia's son divine; Studious of contests, ruler of mankind, with heart almighty, and a prudent mind. Celestial messenger, of various skill, whose pow'rful arts could watchful Argus kill: With winged feet, 'tis thine thro' air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse: Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine: With pow'r endu'd all language to explain, of

care the loos'ner, and the source of gain. Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, Kerukeion, blessed, profitable God; Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, and in necessities to mortals kind: Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear; Assist my works, conclude my life with peace, give graceful speech, and me memory's increase.

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