Zeus Worship

Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

Zeus Worship


This was on CNN via the AP

Zeus makes a comeback in Greece

POSTED: 6:24 p.m. EST, January 21, 2007

Story Highlights --

Pagans honor ancient Greek god near 1,800-year-old temple

Roman Empire banned worship in late fourth century

No one permitted on temple grounds

Pagans won court case recognizing ancient religion

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- 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.

But participants did not try to enter the temple itself, which is closed to everyone, and no officials sought to stop the ceremony.

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.

"Our message is world peace and an ecological way of life in which everyone has the right to education," said Kostas Stathopoulos, one of three "high priests" overseeing the event, which celebrated the nuptials of Zeus and Hera, the goddess of love and marriage.

To the Greeks, ecological awareness was fundamental, Stathopoulos said after a priestess, with arms raised to the sky, called on Zeus "to bring rain to the planet."

A herald holding a metal staff topped with two snake heads proclaimed the beginning of the ceremony before priests in blue and red robes released two white doves as symbols of peace. A priest poured libations of wine and incense burned on a tiny copper tripod while a choir of men and women chanted hymns.

"Our hymns stress the brotherhood of man and do not single out nations," said priest Giorgos Alexelis.

More than a mere re-creation

For the organizers, who follow a calendar marking time from the first Olympiad in 776 B.C., the ceremony was far more than a simple re-creation.

"We are Greeks and we demand from the government the right to use our temples," said high priestess Doreta Peppa.

Ellinais was founded last year and has 34 official members, mainly academics, lawyers and other professionals. It won a court battle for state recognition of the ancient Greek religion and is demanding the government register its offices as a place of worship, a move that could allow the group to perform weddings and other rites.

Christianity rose to prominence in Greece in the fourth century after Roman Emperor Constantine's conversion. Emperor Theodosius wiped out the last vestige of the Olympian gods when he abolished the Olympic Games in A.D. 394.

Several isolated pockets of pagan worship lingered as late as the ninth century.

"The Christians shut down our schools and destroyed our temples," said Yiannis Panagidis, a 36-year-old accountant at the ceremony.

Most Greeks are baptized Orthodox Christians, and the church rejects ancient religious practices as pagan. Church officials have refused to attend flame ceremony re-enactments at Olympia before the Olympic Games because Apollo, the ancient god of light, is invoked.

Unlike the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the old religion lacked written ethical guidelines, but its gods were said to strike down mortals who displayed excessive pride or "hubris" -- a recurring theme in the tragedies of Euripides and other ancient writers.

"We do not believe in dogmas and decrees, as the other religions do. We believe in freedom of thought," Stathopoulos said.

Bill Weintraub:

Zeus of course was the chief of the Olympian gods.

His temple and statue at Olympia were arguably the greatest in the ancient world -- his statue there, by Pheidias, was considered one of the wonders of the ancient world and the greatest work in Greek sculpture.

Zeus was married -- to Hera.

But he also had a male lover -- a youth named Ganymedes.

Whom he made immortal.

Now I said in the like water in the desert message thread that "Christ is resurrected by his loving father."

And that we can read the resurrection story in psychological terms as a re-birth of masculinity.

Something similar is going on with Zeus and Ganymedes.

According to the poet and classicist Robert Graves, the name "Ganymedes" means "rejoicing in virility."

Nowadays Graves is sometimes considered controversial.

But, as I said, he was both a poet and a classicist, and I think he often gets to the truth of things.

Zeus took the mortal prince Ganymedes and through his love made him into an immortal who "rejoices in virility."

Let's look at some pix:

Here's an 18th-century artist's conception of the temple at Olympia.

Actually, the statue would have been larger in relationship to the temple, because the ancients had the impression that if Zeus stood, he would literally have raised the roof.

Here's another representation of Zeus, although some people think this is his brother Poseidon:

Here's Zeus courting Ganymedes:

Notice that Ganymedes is holding a cock, which was a courtship gift.

And that he's resisting Zeus -- which he's supposed to.

He's not supposed to simply give in to him.

His resistance is a sign of virtue.

And he's only desirable if he's virtuous.

So this painting -- which appears to be in the interior of a drinking cup, the sort that would have been used at a symposium or all-male dinner party -- actually is delivering a moral lesson.

The CNN / AP news story asserted that "Unlike the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the old religion lacked written ethical guidelines..."

But that's a tad misleading.

There were all sorts of guidelines, and those ethical lessons were delivered in a great many ways.

Here's Ganymedes in Olympus, the home of the gods, serving as Zeus' cupbearer:

And here's another of him serving Zeus, who now takes the form of an eagle:

So these are very powerful images, and they were literally part of everyday life for Men in the ancient world.

Can they be again?

I still have a post pending from Jedi -- let's call it JEDI REVOLUTION -- where he talks about the need to establish a new religion.

While Robert Loring has said we don't need yet another religion.

But we do, in my view, need spirituality.

There needs to be a spiritual underpinning to human life and to human sexuality.

There was such a spiritual underpinning for Greek men and for the Love of Men in ancient Greece.

And that there are people in Greece who are looking at that old religion and thinking about it -- is, again in my view, a good thing.

Guys -- whenever you see things like this, you need to think about

what you once had;

what has been taken from you;

and what you could have again.

Bill Weintraub

© All material Copyright 2007 by Bill Weintraub. All rights reserved.

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