Monday, April 26, 2010

Words to Live By

I've been pondering the attributes that I takes to be a good Hellenic Polytheist, and the attributes that I value most within myself. Some practitioners of Hellenic Polytheism subscribe to the Metron, an ethics system of "Seven Pillars" which has been reconstructed in various forms. One of them follows:
  • Ethike Arete - the practice of habitual excellence (ethics)
  • Eusebia - reverence, loyalty, and sense of duty toward the Gods (of Greece)
  • Hagneia - the maintaining of ritual purity by avoiding miasma
  • Nomos Arkhaios - observance of ancient tradition, (religious) law, and customs
  • Sophia - the pursuit of wisdom, understanding, and truth
  • Sophrosune - the control of self through deep contemplation
  • Xenia - adherence to hospitality and the guest-host relationship
Laurelei has proposed a system of ethics for the Temple of Aphrodite that I find inspiring:
  • Kharis (grace and reciprocity)
  • Sophia (wisdom and understanding)
  • Eusebia (reverence and piety)
I've been involved in the Caliphate Ordo Templi Orientis for years and as a Thelemite I have some pretty strong Greek ideas of what is right and ethical:
  • Thelema (True Will)
  • Agape (Fraternal Love)
  • Eros (Romantic Love)

Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.
- The Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, sub figura CCXX, as delivered by XCIII = 418 to DCLXVI, Chapter I, verse 57
And then there are the roughly 150 Delphic Maxims, most of which are reasonable, some of which are excellent, and a couple of which are patently ridiculous in modern society.

The good:
8. Be Yourself (Σαυτον ισθι)
15. Help your friends (Φιλοις βοηθει)
23. Long for wisdom (Σοφιαν ζηλου)
24. Praise the good (Καλον ευ λεγε)
25. Find fault with no one (Ψεγε μηδενα)
38. Nothing to excess (Μηδεν αγαν)
55. Give back what you have received (Λαβων αποδος)
56. Down-look no one (Υφορω μηδενα)
62. Praise hope (Ελπιδα αινει)
73. Be happy with what you have (Κτωμενος ηδου)
84. Make just judgments (Κρινε δικαια)
90. Live without sorrow (Αλυπως βιου)
93. Deal kindly with everyone (Φιλοφρονει πασιν)
106. Be grateful (Ευγνωμων γινου)
107. Pursue harmony (Ομονοιαν διωκε)
117. Acquire wealth justly (Πλουτει δικιως)
118. Do not abandon honor (Δοξαν μη λειπε)
124. Love whom you rear (Ους τρεφεις αγαπα)
126. Respect the elder (Πρεσβυτερον αιδου)
The bad:
9. Intend to get married (Γαμειν μελλε)
91. Live together meekly (Ομιλει πραως)
95. Rule your wife (Γυναικος αρχε)
132. Die for your country (Θνησκε υπερ πατριδος)
137. Grieve for no one (Μη επι παντι λυπου)
So how do I synthesize all of this into a workable system that won't drive me crazy? Here then is a personal Metron that I am trying to live by:

1. Kharis - grace and reciprocity
2. Sophia - the relentless pursuit of wisdom and understanding
3. Eusebia - reverence and piety to the theoi
4. Arete - excellence in deed, thought, word, and action
5. Thelema - the pursuit of my life's purpose and my Will
6. Sophrosune - moderation and temperance
7. Hagneia - ritual purity and avoidance of miasma

I think of Xenia as being a part of Kharis, and, as a Hellenic Polytheist rather than a reconstructionist, I hold no truck with Nomos Arkhaios. Rather, I value Thelema, which can be viewed as an outgrowth of Arete, but it has been so central to my own spiritual development that I've given it a pillar of its own. I believe that most of the Delphic Maxims can be sorted into one of these categories, and I'm pretty comfortable with holding myself to these standards.


  1. Why are intending to get married and dying for your country "patently ridiculous in modern society?"

  2. Neither of those things should be expected of anyone in today's society. They have nothing to do with ethics.

  3. I like your personal Metron - it is workable and common sense. I, too, am consider myself to be a Hellenic Polytheist - absolutely not a reconstructionist and a Dianic witch. I have no difficulty combining the two.
    I am also interested in your thoughts about miasma. As a woman, what do you consider to be miasma?
    Blessings nine!

  4. You point out a lot of the difficult to reconcile ones. Here's my approach...

    Imho, the importance of "Intend to get married" was to establish one's own household. Today, I think simply living independently from one's parents is the goal. It has to do with self-sufficiency. Of course, there are some cases where that isn't possible.

    "Live together meekly" I understand as being related to "nothing in excess" and "live beneath your means".

    "Rule your wife" is well...archaic.

    "Die for your country" I do lean towards pacifism, but I respect those people who are willing to put themselves in danger for the community. But for me personally, it translates to protecting the country in more abstract ways and doing my civic duty. Vote, contact representatives, respect other's rights, speak out against injustice, participate on juries, etc.

    "Grieve for no one" I see in terms of celebrating the lives of those who have passed. I think it also relates to holding other people responsible for their obligations and choices as much as holding myself to my obligations and choices.