On a snowy Saturday evening in Astoria, New York, members of the Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes (YSEE), Greek followers of their ethnic religion, gathered together to celebrate the winter solstice in a festival known as Triespero. Triespero is the celebration of the birth of Hercules. As tradition tells us, Zeus made the sun stand still for three nights so he could mate with the mortal woman Alcmene.
For the followers of the ethnic Greek religion, also known as Hellenismos, the Triespero bares modern importance, celebrating the rebirth of Hellenism for the Greeks and the rest of humanity. The community’s mission is to reintroduce Greek people to their ancestral/ethnic traditions. In a speech given after the ritual, it was said that the hope of Hellenism is to restore and promote reason in the world and to banish ignorance. Triespero marks a time to remember that Hellenism still lives on and serves to be a light for all people across the world, to reclaim their own ethnic religious identity, just as many Greeks are doing in Greece and across the world.
The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year, for those who live in the northern hemisphere, and is the official start of the winter season. For three nights, the sun stands still, and then it is reborn, slowly moving upward in its elevation in the sky. This signifies renewal, new life, rebirth and the promise of restoration that will soon to come. There is a much deeper significance that I see in the winter solstice, which the Greek tradition can illuminate for us.
In the Greek tradition, the sun has played an important role. It was personified firstly as the god Helios and latter was attributed to Apollo. The sun also played a large role in Greek philosophy, becoming connected with the Logos of Apollo. Logos was in use in Greek thinking centuries before the writings of the Christians, who used the Logos, to describe Jesus. The Logos, while many know of it simply as “word”, it has many meanings. The one meaning I prefer is reason. Logos represents reason, order, the principle of accord between extremes. It is the guiding force of the world, the principle which shapes the world. Simply, the logos is the Order of the Universe.
The sun is the symbol of the Logos. For Plato, in his Republic, the sun is a metaphor for illumination, and plays a central role in his allegory of the cave. Greek philosophy would see the sun as The One, representing the Beautiful and Good. There are messages and lessons for us to take away this solstice season. As the sun is reborn on the winter solstice it is a rebirth cosmologically. The cosmos experiences a rebirth of order to the universe. The Order of the Logos is restored; the cosmos is as it should be once more.
We are also reminded that even in dark times, the light will eventually be restored. Darkness, or ignorance, the lack of knowledge cannot win out forever. The darkness of the middle ages did not last forever, eventually mankind experience a rebirth in the Renaissance. Being an American, I see our nation facing a dark time, a very troubling and challenging time for us in the coming years. It is not just in the United States, but the whole world today faces many challenges with regards to false news, misinformation, societal ignorance, hatred, violence and many other ills which hinder the promotion of reason.
However, just as the sun is reborn, we must not lose hope. We must not give into despair, we must remember that light wins, it conquers all. This is a very special winter solstice, and I encourage everyone reading this to become their own sun, embrace the logos and embody its divine light. Shine that light onto the dark, illuminate ignorance with reason. This means when we come face to face with ignorance, falsity, that we speak up. Be active, do not sit idly against the dark, conquer over it. Educate yourself and educate others. Be the voice of reason, the voice of Apollo, the Logos.
“Hail to you, lord! Freely bestow on me substance that cheers the heart.” –Homeric Hymn to Helios
About our guest: Angelo Nasios holds a B.A in religious studies and is prospective graduate student in ancient history. He is the author of Tarot: Unlocking the Arcana, a blogger and host of a YouTube channel. Angelo is a member of the Supreme Council of Ethnic Hellenes, followers of the ethnic Greek religion.