Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who Defines Orthopraxy?

I've heard it said throughout the digital agora that is the online Hellenic community that ours is a religion of orthopraxy not orthodoxy. We Hellenics are concerned with the action of doing our faith rather than believing it. So long as we are practicing a kind of "baseline" Hellenic Polytheism we can be included in the hallowed fold.

But what is baseline Hellenic Polytheism and who defines it? The surface answer is that Hellenic Polytheism is best defined as a Recontructionist religion based on information that we have available about the Ancient Greeks. The problem with this definition is that this body of information presupposes that the "Greeks" had some kind of unified practice. In truth the Ancient Greeks were a loose conglomeration of city-states, each with its own rituals, temples, mystery teachings, and, yes, orthopraxy.

So what constitutes modern Hellenic orthopraxy? Is it worship of the Dodekatheon, and if so, which set of twelve takes the honors? Is it the maintenance of a hearth, a Ktesios jar, a bomos, a shrine, a temple? Is it adherence to the Delphic Maxims? Is it adherence to the virtues, and if so, just which ones? (I do like the modern version of the Metron outlined here.) Is it devotion based on the HMEPA? Is it daily offerings? To whom? What kinds of offerings? Who decides? YSEE? Current authors? Wikipedia? If the Gods are still talking to us just how much wiggle room for UPG is there?

Frankly, I have struggled too long and too honestly to develop my personal path for anyone to dissuade me from it by claiming I'm not doing it right. But does that give me the right to claim that I am a Hellenic Polytheist? Can I successfully make the argument that I can be a British Traditional Witch, a Neo-Shaman, a Thelemite, a member of the local UU church, and a Hellenic Polytheist? Why not?


  1. I feel that Hellenic Polytheism is an individual's religion.

    Each of us looks for our own sources to study which is unlike how Christians, Moslems, and Sikhs, for example, are required to study the Bible, Koran, and Guru Granth Sahib.

    There is not one single text which the community is required to study. Instead we have individuals inquiring into literature that they personally feel is relevant for their path.

    There is not even a peculiar pantheon of Greek deities that is mandatory for us to worship. Individuals are mostly, it seems, honoring the deities they feel they should honor.

    This also goes for hero veneration. I do not care for Achilleus but I do like Theseus and Orpheus. As an individual these two heroes interest me and it feels right for me to venerate them.

    I would also like to state that I feel that the idea of orthopraxy does not seem to fit into Hellenic Polytheism. Our religion is unorganized and there is not one creed we know of which defines what is correct practice for all of us.

    Take a look at orthodoxy. Religions such as Rabbinic Judaism, Sunni Islam, Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and Catholicism have orthodoxy. Though they share the concept of orthodoxy, none of these religions have the exact same beliefs. Orthodoxy varies according to religion. The same thing would be for orthopraxic religions. But what about Hellenic Polytheism? Orthopraxy is not uniform in our religion; it varies according to person.

    So what I conclude is that orthopraxy cannot exist in Hellenic Polytheism. It is unorganized, individualistic, and all of us determine for ourselves how to practice the things we research. Even personal gnosis dictates this sometimes.

    You know.. I just realized something. Orthopraxy, orthodoxy, and anything "ortho-" can only exist in a religion that has creeds. That's not us.

    Frankly, I have struggled too long and too honestly to develop my personal path for anyone to dissuade me from it by claiming I'm not doing it right.
    I concur! Also, this reminds me about how rewarding it feels to practice a polytheistic path after one has done so much homework and arranged things on their own.

  2. I understand your frustration with how these words are defined. Some do push the idea of an orthopraxy into a kind of orthodoxy (I have had arguments with one particular individual who does this). Personally, I don't add things from other practices; but, I don't condemn people who do. I do not practice divination for myself; though, I have asked for this from a mantis. I will take signs and omens during a sacrifice and I will act on occasion as a mantis for others. I also belong to a local UU Church; however, I have found that over the years I am now attending more for my husband than for myself
    ;-). This is all a part of both my intellectual and religious growth. My general POV is more associated with the Archaic Period and Epicureanism.

  3. Two individuals may on one occasion agree upon a particular praxis, but the axioms on which they base their praxis may be entirely different, possibly in conflict with each other. On a later occasion that difference may result in the fundamental differences between their "dogmas" becoming quite apparent. Underneath every "orthopraxis" there may lurk an unspoken "orthodoxy." Lured into one praxis, it's easy to be trapped by a concealed dogma that one dislikes as much as one liked the praxis itself. The connection between practice and principles can not be left unexamined. Saying that something is "only" orthopraxy needs to be examined very carefully. It may not be valid or honest or a reliable guide of any sort. Until there is a respectable consensus on the matter, better make praxis a matter of an individual's best judgment.