Scholarly Resource

Adult Home Study for Hellenic and Roman Polytheists 

How do we know what we know about the gods? Much of our knowledge comes from mythology: ancient tales about the gods, fantastic creatures, heroes, and mortals.

There is another meaning of the word “myth”: “widely held, but false, ideas or beliefs,” and all too many of the readily available sources of information about mythology fit that definition. A vast majority of the general population discovers Greek and Roman mythology from motion pictures, video games, and general texts like D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. A few more have read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and Apuleius’ Golden Ass.

Yet more scholarly, in-depth resources are available to polytheists who want to learn about mythology. The fields of history, archaeology, anthropology, religion, literary criticism, art history and psychology all look at mythology from different perspectives.

  • History examines how the myths were composed, who told or wrote them, and what people said about them.
  • Archaeology identifies mythological motifs found on objects and structures, and tries to determine their meaning to those who viewed and used them.
  • Anthropology seeks to understand the cultural reasons for the creation and  transmission of myths, and the relation of myth to rituals such as rites of passage such as the transition to adulthood, marriage, and death.
  • Religion regards myths as sacred stories that explain the creation of the universe, and teach moral truths, and seeks to understand the relationship between mythology, belief, and ritual.
  • Literary criticism investigates the sources of myths, the oral art of storytelling, motifs and themes, the composition of texts, style, meaning, and comparison of different versions.
  • Art history focuses on images from mythology throughout history, the religious and symbolic meanings, and artistic techniques. 
  • Psychology delves into the myths as archetypes and symbols, expressions of the collective unconscious, or as a symbolic language to help individuals find meaning and negotiate challenges.

You’ll notice there’s some overlap between these fields. And you should remember that scholars don’t talk to people outside their fields as much as they should.

Many people are initially drawn to the gods after viewing a work of art or reading a story. Some of us have an experience in nature, or in an altered state of consciousness. Becoming aware of a deity is known as an ephipany or personal gnosis, a subjective perception or experience of the presence of the divine. It can be a feeling that a place is sacred, a sense that there is a greater power than ourselves in the universe, or a realization that a higher power has brought about a particular situation.

So, how we know what we know about the gods is…complicated. To really know something, one must regard it from different angles, and take time to understand it. Taken altogether, it’s fairly obvious that each of us necessarily has a different interpretation of mythology, depending on our personal study and experiences.

Unfortunately, many Hellenic and Roman and polytheists have only read the basic mythology titles listed above in their study of the gods. A few more have read books on devotional practice, but most of us haven’t gone much further in our studies. And, because the sources we’ve read just scratch the surface of available knowledge about the gods, our understanding is so superficial that many of us lack the vocabulary to describe our beliefs, and may even harbor misconceptions about one or more gods that harms our relationship with them. Not only does this impede our spiritual progress, but it makes it difficult to talk about our religion to another person. “I worship the gods of the ancient Greeks,” really tells them nothing, except that one is a polytheist.

Since you’re reading this, I assume your religion is an important part of your life, and, if so, your understanding of it deserves to be developed to the best of your ability. I realize not everyone is interested in or has the temperament for research, and that books can be expensive and difficult to obtain. However, most libraries have sections on the fields above, quite a lot of solid information is available online, and it can be done in easy-to-digest bites.

Here are some ideas for study that can help to enrich your understanding and interpretation of mythology:

  • Read about a Mystery cult, a hero cult, the cult of the nymphs, the Roman Imperial cult or the deified personifications of the virtues in ancient Greece and Rome.
  • Visit a museum and learn about the archaeology of the regions in which your deities were historically worshiped.
  • Learn the names and significant events of the different time periods in the ancient Mediterranean. How did agriculture, literacy, mathematics and theater affect society and religion?
  • Mark the locations of temples dedicated to one of your deities on a map. Are they focused in one area, or are they widespread? What conclusions can you make based on this information?
  • Read the Orphic hymn(s) about a deity to whom you feel little connection, and read a list of their epithets and cult titles. Think about whether the deity seems more approachable, or just as inaccessible.
  • Study a work of mythological art. What does it tell you about the meaning of the subject in the era in which it was created?
  • Read an article on Hellenic or Roman mythology from the viewpoint of of a modern monotheistic or polytheistic religion.  
  • Learn a bit about C.G. Jung’s psychological theories and use of mythic symbols, or Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.
  • Choose a favorite myth and see how many different versions you can find. Are the versions from different times, different places? Do they  have similar or different meanings?
  • Learn some of the terms used by scholars to describe key concepts in the study of religion. Which of the concepts applies to your own beliefs and practice?
  • Prepare a meal from an ancient recipe using ingredients that were available in antiquity.
  • Find out what the ancient philosophers and critics thought about an epic poem or drama.  
  • Select an art or skill favored by one of your gods, study it, and try applying in your own life. For instance, you could dedicate a study of strategy in honor of Minerva and apply one of the techniques to help win a game, or learn a little about weaving to make a wall hanging to honor Athena.
  • Choose an ancient war. What issue(s) led to conflict? How was it resolved? What were the chief deities of each side? Did religion, omens, or religious rites play any part in the warfare? Were there heroes of the war? Were legends told about them? Were they given offerings such as a monument or hero-shrine? 

The more one studies, the more one can deepen their relationship with their deities, the more clearly one may be able to explain their religion to others, and the better equipped one may become to counter criticism of their beliefs.

Libraries are Magic!

Around age 10/11 I was diagnosed with ADHD. As long as I took my meds, I could focus in school and could continue my reading habits. But I was only on meds for a few years. I’m not really sure why the meds stopped, maybe my new GP didn’t agree with pumping a young child full of stimulants? I honestly have NO recollection of why my treatment stopped. But it did. So around age 14, I stopped reading regularly.

I would read the mandatory novels for school (maybe, mostly I used Spark Notes) and I would read one or two novels a YEAR for recreation. This continued into adulthood. The problem was, with untreated ADHD I had such a hard time following a book that I would just give up reading anything longer than a short story. It was SO frustrating as someone who had always loved reading.

The only way I could read a novel would be if I set aside the time to read it front to back in one sitting. Otherwise, if I read a chapter here and a chapter there, I would totally forget what was happening. This lead to re-reading the previous chapters over and over, which is not only time consuming but so infuriating. Reading became hyperfocus/all at once or zero focus/none at all.

Because of this, if I feel the urge to read I just re-read the same few books over and over time and again because I’m familiar enough with them that I can follow them if I read them over a longer period of time. (It’s like putting on your favorite movie in the background that you don’t actually have to pay attention to in order to enjoy)

Okay, enough of the tragic backstory. Let’s get to the plot…

Libraries are Magic.

A few days ago I needed to print some stuff and my flat mate’s printer stopped working. Rather than trekking into town to go to the office supply store (where I usually do my printing), I decided to wonder down the street to the library…

Before this week, I could count the number of times I’ve been in a public library in the past twenty years on one hand. I haven’t had a library card since I was 9 years old. This was back when you had to look through the card catalog to find a book, it was a LONG time ago. 

Because of my reading difficulties, I’ve had no use for public libraries. They give me anxiety. I haven’t actually finished a book in over FIVE years. I’ve started a few, but I never finish them. This is not something I am proud of. I feel shame for not being able to read and enjoy novels like I used to when I was a kid. I was always ahead in reading comprehension compared to other kids my age but I feel like now, I still have the reading comprehension of a 12 year old.

Now, Christchurch has a lot of libraries. The Christchurch City Library network consists of 22 libraries for a city with a population of 375,000.  I mean, maybe other cities have this many? But I wouldn’t really know since I’ve never paid attention to them. That just seems like A LOT of libraries in one city!? And the thing is, they are AMAZING libraries. 

I had previously been in about three of them around the city and they are all very modern looking. I remember thinking they seemed pretty nice but I was usually just there to use the computer for 5 minutes, so I never actually explored. 

Last week I read [this post] about libraries and I realized how long it had been since I had REALLY explored a library. Libraries I remembered didn’t have any of these modern wonders people were writing about. I was pretty inspired by that post and so I decided to overcome my anxiety this week and get back into the library. Instead of just running in and out of the library to print what I needed, I decided to get a library card. 

When I walked in, I timidly asked a woman at the help desk for assistance. I told her I wanted to get a library card and she took me over to another desk. Because of my anxiety regarding libraries, I had done extensive research on what I needed to get a library card – so I was already prepared with my ID and proof of address.

She had me fill out the membership form and she opened a drawer and asked me what colour I wanted. You get to pick a colour of library card! (I obviously got pink, seeing as it is the best colour) She registered my card in the system and wrote my name on it and handed it to me. 

I guess she registered that I looked like a lost puppy because she asked if I knew about all the things my brand new card entitled me to. I admitted I hadn’t had a library card in nearly twenty years and she looked as if that was her absolute favorite thing to hear.

She pulled up the CCL website and walked me through EVERY part. I mean EVERY part. She showed me how to search the entire city catalog online, how to places holds (if you want a book from a different branch they will transport it to your favorite branch and keep it on hold for you for only $3!! OR if you have disabilities which limit your access to the library it’s FREE!!), how to create reading lists, how to see what I have checked out and when they’re due back, if I have late fees, basically everything you need when you want books or media. 

THEN she showed me the eLibrary!! With my library card, I have access to over 47,000 ebooks and audio books to download FOR FREE. Including everything from major literary works to cookbooks to scholarly articles to resources on how to learn new hobbies. Basically anything you want is available to you digitally now. Click of a button. 

There are also all sorts of community events and classes you can go to that are all sponsored through the library. 

At this point, I am blown away. I am actually crying at the idea of all of this knowledge and all of these resources being readily available to me FOR FREE

This woman looks at me, sees I’m crying and just smiles the most genuine and loving smile any stranger has ever given me. (I suspect most adults don’t usually have this reaction to getting a library card. But I’m not most adults.) I imagine it must have been pretty satisfying to her to get a REAL reaction to how MAGICAL the library is. Look Claudine (I asked her name), I am 100% here for you taking me on this incredible journey from my faded memories of cranky old librarians and dusty books and jettisoning me into the 21st century. THANK. YOU.

Once she releases me to browse on my own, it is like I have landed in some uncharted territory that is full of spectacular things to experience. 

Our library is complete with self service checkout and return stations, computer areas, flat screen tvs, cozy reading areas, huge media libraries, free wi-fi, some apparently have cafes, others have Xbox360 or PS4 to play, and of course…thousands upon thousands of books. 

I eagerly approached the catalog computer and type in the title of a book our midwife recommended. Bam. Not only does it show me all copies available within the 22 libraries, it shows availability, holds, wait lists etc. I click on the title and navigate to the page that shows it’s available at that branch and where to find it. It was as if I just became my own librarian! 

I’ve always been a fan of numbers so the dewy decimal system is a fave of mine. I have absolutely NO trouble finding the book on the shelf. I traced my fingers over the library sticker and thumb threw the pages and clutched it close to my chest. It was my first library book in twenty years and I was emotional.

I wandered around every section, mind racing with what I should read. I sort of ended up psyching myself out about the fact just because I had access to the library didn’t actually cure my ADHD and reading issues. So I decided to just go print what I had originally come in for and check out the pregnancy book. 

During my two hour visit, I had to ask for help about five times. But after my experience with Claudine, I didn’t feel ashamed to have to ask questions that were probably common sense. The workers helped me every time and never made me feel judged, even when I asked where the kids chapter books were. Or how do I log in to the computer now that I have a card. Or how do I check stuff out.

When I scanned my card at the checkout computer, it felt like that beep was the indication of a whole new exciting part of my adult life. I cannot even describe how happy I was to check out a book. 

I now have the CCL app on my phone, a list of books to check out and a plan to go back this weekend. I even applied to be a book shelver at one of the nearby branches AND I started reading a new novel today!!

I am really obsessed with the idea that these great big, amazingly accessible, places of adventure exist and it’s FREE. I feel like I’m a kid all over again.I cannot wait to see where this rekindled passion leads me.



So go to your local library, check it out. PLEASE! I bet it will blow your mind. 

weirdling  asked:

I have zero experience with witchcraft and have known no one personally who has. However I am incredibly curious and would love to begin experimenting, although from lurking the subject looks vast and cryptic. Where would I begin?

Considering you have no previous experience with or knowledge of the contemporary practice of witchcraft, I would suggest you first begin by reading and surveying literature that examines the history of witchcraft beliefs and practices. I realize, for many who are new to exploring witchcraft, there is a strong temptation to delve directly into the practical aspects with a desire to experiment a little. There are any number of practical-oriented books and online resources that are helpful in this area; however, these are generally written from the author and practitioner’s perspective, relying heavily on personal insights and intuitions. Developing a familiarity with the historical background of witchcraft, up through the modern period, will allow you to approach those practical materials with a more discerning and critical eye, helping you determine the credibility of a source and sift out from a text what is suitable to your needs and purposes.

I recommend starting with academic and scholarly resources, ethnographies, and texts or records of historical value. I compiled a short list of some recommended reading:

Books / Resources

For good measure, I’ve included a few texts below that serve as practical examples of early modern to contemporary witchcraft and cunning folk practices:

  • Mastering Witchcraft (1970) by Paul Huson. An early book of practical contemporary witchcraft; considered by many to be a classic.
  • The Grimoire of Arthur Gauntlet, editor David Rankine (2011). “a 17th Century London Cunning-man’s book of charms, conjurations and prayers”. Sloane MS. 3851: compiling elements of folk magic, the Heptameron, the writings of Agrippa, the Arbatel, Discoverie of Witchcraft, the biblical Psalms, etc.
  • Crone’s Book of Charms and Spells (1998) by Valerie Worth. This book details various charms, amulets, and herbal preparations. Some suggested materials for use are rare or exotic.

To those of you who give a shit about sources, references, footnotes, bibliographies, and all that: Why don’t you just leave me alone and go get your PhDs in photo-sourcing?

This is a Tumblr blog. A fucking Tumblr blog. It is not connected with Harvard University’s library system, and is not meant to be a scholarly resource. It’s just a bunch of cool images I found on the web and otherwhere. I am not going to fact-check the veracity of the info provided by otherwhere; I am not going to provide links back to otherwhere; I am not going to turn this blog into a well-organized repository. That’s a lot of work that nobody’s paying me to do. 

One easy option is for you to go away. Leave me alone. 

Another option is to start a campaign to shut this blog down because I don’t live up to your expectations.

Your third option is to enjoy the pretty pictures and hang out with me while I get all nostalgic about the NYC I used to know.

I don’t give a shit which option you choose. But I do wish you’d stop complaining. 

(Thanks, by the way, to all of you who are just hanging out with me and enjoying yourselves. I like you a lot.)

anonymous asked:

Do you have a list of best online/book resources for greek mythology? TY is by and large the best online resource - scholarly, well sourced, and pretty to look at. is also very good if you want to read the actual ancient greek texts themselves or reference them 

as for books, defs the actual ancient greek sources. i know i say this all the time, but you really can learn a lot from reading the ancient greek material itself and supplementing it with some historical context 

catsstarwarsandharrypotter  asked:

I'm writing a paper on the women from lotr and the silmalrillion, do you have any good suggestions for points and or sources?

I love it when people write about Tolkien’s ladies!!

Good luck, and I hope you consider posting your paper online when you’re finished - this fandom is always hungry for more meta!

seagodofmagic  asked:

Hey there! Are there any good scholarly resources that specifically discuss the Hamilton-Laurens relationship? I've read the chapter on them in the Chernow bio (and followed his footnote to the Flexner biography, which is basically a 1970s nightmare in book form), but I'm hoping you can point me in a better direction?

Hello!  Here are two books regarding queer history that @publius-esquire has blogged a lot about.  I haven’t read these books yet, but the quotes I’ve seen from them seem to handle the Hamilton/Laurens relationship and general queer history quite well.  You could also ask publius for her full opinion on these books:

The Overflowing of Friendship: Love between Men and the Creation of the American Republic by Richard Godbeer

Male-Male Intimacy in Early America: Beyond Romantic Friendships by William Benemann

anonymous asked:

Hello, sorry to bother you. I was wondering if you knew any good books/sources to read about Artemis/Diana, primarily her role as a protective and/or vengeful goddess? Such as the story of her and Actaeon, or Arethusa, or Bouphagos. I hope this makes sense and is not too much of a bother.

hi there - that makes perfect sense and it’s not a bother at all! i really enjoy doing this kind of bibliographic research because i’m a giant loser, so for real, if anyone is after similar book recs i am absolutely happy to oblige.

okay now so before i start this is really a general point for all my followers, not this anon in particular, but if you’re looking for info on artemis or female deities in general, please be really really careful about your sources!!!! there are a LOT of books out there about moon goddesses and associated religious practices that should absolutely not be used as any kind of scholarly/academic resource, mostly dating from the seventies and eighties and mostly written by people with a religious investment in the concept of powerful female nature deities. in saying that i’m not knocking wicca or neo-paganism or reconstructionism, you do you, but there is a very big difference between peer-reviewed scholarly research and “the earth mother told me in a dream”. most of these books are misleading, poorly-researched, or just willfully wrong. (yes, i am still bitter about that virgin post.) you can usually spot these books a mile off and there are plenty of reliable sources out there, but please do take care to evaluate your sources on topics like this with a critical eye!!! (the same STRONGLY applies to websites - i would take any information from websites other than maybe theoi with a sack of salt when it comes to stuff like this)  

saying that, artemis is not a big speciality of mine but i took a look through our catalogue and these are the least earth-mother-y/most reliable-looking ones i could find. obviously if i’ve messed up or if anyone knows any better resources, please let me know!

that’s unfortunately all i could really find, but i hope that’s a start! and again, i am always happy to dig through catalogues for you guys, i 1005 unironically love it, so if anyone has a topic they’d like a hand researching please do hit me up