Lulu Press, Inc; 1st edition (April, 2007)
Paperback: 140 pages
Tim Alexander is probably one of the most controversial figures within the community of people that worship the gods of Greece, yet he has written three books and owns one of the major forums that is populated by practitioners.
This was his first book, and I found it to be a wonderful source of information for people interested in the reconstruction of the ancient Greek religion. Over half of the book is source material: Hesiod’s Works & Days and Theogony, Julian’s Oration to the Sun (as Appendices) and the Maxims of Delphi (as half the chapter on Ethics). Yes, all of these are available online, but it is very nice to have them available in book form, especially combined with good information about the ancient Hellenic religion. It is also written simply, so should be easily understood by even the most beginning practitioner as well as the complete lay person should a practitioner want or need to provide a loved one with an introduction to the religion.
The first 2 chapters describe what “Polytheistic Reconstruction” means and how it differs from Neopaganism as well as provide a history of Greece and it’s religion. He emphasizes personal devotions because in ancient times religion was not separate from daily life and the household practices were at the center of the religion. However, he does not make mention of WHAT those practices are or how to do them.
The following three chapters are brief introductions to the Gods, Cosmology and Ethics, providing a basis for the ancient views on these subjects. I was pleased that he included a chapter on clergy because so many modern worshipers are coming from religions that require an intermediary between them and God, and thus have difficulty understanding this concept–with the household being such a huge focus, it is vital that newbies get this information as often and thoroughly as possible (at least in my own opinion).
It is not until Chapter 7 that he describes how to do basic Hellenic ritual that he first mentioned in Chapter 2. Here he includes a short prayer to Aphrodite, an outline of what a ritual should look like and information about different types of offerings and sacrifices. My only issue wit this chapter was that it was entirely written in paragraph form, and I think an outline format might be more useful to the new practitioner or layman. The following chapter is basically just a list of the Athenian months, the monthly holy days and the Athenian festivals. He does however remind the reader, “these calendars will be localized and each temple, cult or organization may include modern festivals in addition to ancient ones.”
The final chapters discuss Divination, Magick & Mysticism and how they do and do not fit within Hellenismos. The divination chapter is rather light, basically just listing the types of divination and stating that “some Hellenic Reconstructionists may have limitations on what forms are appropriate for themselves or even for others.” He doesn’t however tell the reader which ones he listed are and are not appropriate “”to avoid controversy.” I don’t understand why this one section of the book is written to avoid controversy but none of the others are–he is entitled to his opinion in his book and makes no qualms starting what is and is not appropriate in other chapters. The chapter on magic(k) & mysticism provides the reader with the differences between the two terms, which I think is important because many of the converts or people interested in Hellenismos are likely to be coming from a Neopagan tradition that embraces magic(k), and thus are not likely to distinguish the two as was done in ancient times. This is always a controversial subject amongst people that worship the Hellenic gods, but I think he has done a very good job at explaining the difference between the two and what is and is not acceptable within Hellenismos.
I found the book to be lacking in detail and I think he should have waited to publish this together with his second book, but it is a VERY basic primer for someone interested in a quick foundation. I recommend it for the person wanting to learn about Hellenismos and how it differs from other religions that worship the Greek gods.