Monday, January 22, 2007

Return of the Repressed in Athens

I've been waiting for this for a while: it appears people in Greece have resumed public worship of Greek gods:
A clutch of modern pagans honored Zeus at a 1,800-year-old temple in the heart of Athens on Sunday — the first known ceremony of its kind held there since the ancient Greek religion was outlawed by the Roman Empire in the fourth century.

Watched by curious onlookers, some 20 worshippers gathered next to the ruins of the temple for a celebration organized by Ellinais, a year-old Athens-based group that is campaigning to revive old religious practices from the era when Greece was a fount of education and philosophy.

The group ignored a ban by the Culture Ministry, which declared the site off limits to any kind of organized activity to protect the monument....

Dressed in ancient costumes, worshippers standing near the temple’s imposing Corinthian columns recited hymns calling on the Olympian Zeus, “King of the gods and the mover of things,” to bring peace to the world.
Religion News Blog.

I didn't know that the Romans had banned the worship of the Hellenic gods. It always seemed strange to me that the Greeks had given up their worship of their charismatic (and very human) gods, while the Hindu religion persisted. I recall that in studying the connections between ancient Greek and Sanskrit in a linguistics class on the origins of Indo-European languages, there were many suggestions from the linguistic evidence that the Hindu and Hellenic (and other pre-Christian European) gods had common historical ancestors. (Compare, e.g., Indra and Zeus.)

The Hindu pantheon and religion survived the arrival of monotheism in the form of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and continues to thrive today. The Greek pantheon and religion apparently did not survive the arrival of Christianity in Europe, being banned by Emperor Theodosius I in the fourth century.

It was probably just a matter of time until some Greeks began to publicly reclaim their ancient gods and myths. It's fascinating to see this happen: it seems very much in keeping with other returns to nationalistic and cultural essences (for lack of a better term). It very much seems a reaction to the the flattening effects of globalization. (Interestingly, while the official story was that globalization and telecommunications, etc., were meant to tear down walls, it appears that in fact, globalization has given rise to new sproutings of fences and borders, physical and ideological, all over.)

Even more interesting is that the return of Hellenic belief is, in some ways, a rejection of the imported Middle Eastern religion of Christianity (and its original Semitic language roots and often negative view of the body and its functions), and a form of reconnection with ancient ties to related Indo-European cultures (e.g., Hinduism and Sanskrit).

In any event, I'm sure some Athenians are eagerly awaiting the return of Aphrodite's priestesses. (See also, Tantra.)


Toddy said...

Humans are funny. No matter how far we get, we love fences.

I was telling my wife last night my theory on the degradation of the family unit thanks ot overcommunication. This may sound counter intuitive at first, but here is the theory:

Since we have so many lines of communication open at all times during the day (callphones, text messaging, email) information is disperesed in short, as-it-happens clips, making the dinner table synopsis passé.
I suppose this argument goes for the death of real reportage along with the newspaper. As news happens, it is broadcast instantly, sometimes out of context, making the thoughtful first-time read, along with all the additional perspective, kind of a dead thing.

The idea is flush-out-able but you get the gist.

Toddy said...

Sounds like the Hellenic version of a Renaissance Fair.

Take that how you might naturally take it.

creative-type dad said...

I saw that on Yahoo news. Crazy greek hippies!