Hellenismos and the Future of Paganism: An Interview with Rebecca Buchanan

I'm going to ask this question because it's something that I've seen asked before on multiple email lists (I mean no disrespect to Hermes and Mercury by doing so): Do you believe Hermes and Mercury are the same God? If so, how do They differ? If not, do you see any relationship between Them at all?

Personally, I do see Them as the same God; but that's just a feeling on my part. I know Hellenistai and Religio (Religio Romana, the reconstruction of ancient Roman Paganisms) who argue that They are distinct Gods.

Debating the true nature of Gods can be a lot of fun (especially when wine and chocolate are involved), but—ultimately—these are Gods we're talking about. We can never say or know with absolute certainty.

As a Pagan, my beginnings were with the Fellowship of Isis. I received a great deal of my ritual training via some wonderful women in a group called "The Iseum of the Nine Muses" so I have to ask: Do you do anything special for the Muses? I'd love to hear a bit about how you honor Them. 

I created a ritual for Them, which is currently posted on the NA site

I also honor Them on the Festival of the Muses (about 24 March). This year, I hope to incorporate Them into my commemoration of the Martyrdom of Hypatia, as well, as I believe the Muses inspire philosophy and science, in addition to art.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina recently published a lovely devotional to Hecate titled Bearing Torches. I know Hekate is a fairly well-known Deity in contemporary Paganism, and Her veneration crosses religious boundaries and occurs in Hellenismos, Nova Roma, Wicca, and many other Pagan religions too. For those who might be interested in honoring Hekate, can you describe a typical offering or ritual?

My devotional practice is composed primarily of three parts: a weekly rite, writing poetry and hymns, and artistic projects. 

I honor Hekate every Wednesday along with the other Deities in my personal pantheon. I light candles (if it's safe to do so), sprinkle the altar with khernips, and offer up whatever thoughts or prayers or thanks come to mind. (Khernips recipes vary a little; mine is water and salt; I douse the match I use to light the candles in the water to purify it.) 

More specifically, I have written a large number of poems in Her honor, and crafted several hekateons from clay. I placed one of those on my altar and gave the others away to devotees who needed representations of Her for their own sacred spaces. From the outside, it may look like I'm just sitting around scribbling or playing with mud. But, to me, this is devotional work

How do you feel personally about honoring more than one pantheon of Deities? Within Heathenry, this is discouraged (though personally I think our ancestors were polytheists, period, without the xenophobia toward other Gods that has evolved as an unfortunate part of the contemporary reconstruction). How is this treated in Hellenismos? Does it play any part in your own religious practices? Do you think it can be done respectfully and if so, how?

To answer the first question, I have no problem with people honoring the Gods and Goddesses of multiple pantheons. Our ancestors did the same. They were very pragmatic. If a God called, they answered. If a God could do something for them, they honored that God. 

Precisely. I agree wholeheartedly. I've always thought that to behave otherwise is disrespectful to the Gods and courting Their . . . if not displeasure then certainly disappointment. But please continue. 

Honor as many Gods as you feel called to do so. Just do so in as respectful and culturally-appropriate a manner as possible. For instance, I write my poems in honor of the (Greek) Gods in English, as that is my native tongue; but I don't employ Shinto or Navajo rites to honor Them. I stick as closely as possible to what we know of the ancient Greek rites.

As for the second question: in my experience, most Hellenistai are open to honoring the Deities of different pantheons. The ancient Greeks were merchants and sailors and soldiers and they got around quite a bit; they would have been exposed to the Gods of other cultures.

There was a temple of Isis in ancient Athens, for crying out loud, and a temple to Isis and Serapis on Delos, which is the sacred birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.

In terms of my own religious practice, I may be Hellenic, but I do occasionally honor Isis and Anubis. And I have written poetry in honor of the Gods of multiple pantheons, from the Norse to the Canaanite to the Hawaiian. If I feel inspired to write it, I do so.

2/16/2011 5:00:00 AM
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