Sunday, June 12, 2016

Essay: Worshipping Virtuously

This phrase in ancient Greek is the result of my effort to find a description for “proper worship” in the Triskelion which would be succinct and multi-aspected. “Λατρεύειν ἐν ἀρετήν” (“latreuein en aretin” – lit. “worshipping in virtue” or “worshipping virtuously”) encapsulates my beliefs regarding proper, respectful, mindful, well-rounded, informed/educated, willing, and just worship and religious Work («ργον» -“ergon”). It speaks of religious responsibility, following the example of the Gods, and pursuing excellence in religious matters. “Λατρεύειν ἐν ἀρετήν” is about truly, faithfully, virtuously practicing the Triskelion.

It has other connotations as well. For instance, it refers to the ideal and desired/preferred mindset and mental-emotional state for entering and facilitating ritual. According to Triskelion standards, one should enter or perform ritual while in a state of purity. The obvious expression is physical cleanliness and ritual purifications. There is also a mental-emotional level though, and that is entering ritual space or beginning ritual “in virtue”. Specifically, this means entering ritual free – at least, temporarily – of negative and overly intense emotions and thoughts, such as anger, sorrow, hatred, sexual arousal and so on. The practitioner may very well exhibit any of these during ritual if the situation (Gods, Spirits, ritual energy and atmosphere) incite them or they may express them from the beginning if the working in question is a special case that warrants such emotions (e.g. malefica, sex magic, ecstatic worship, funerary rites etc.). However, most cases of ritual (“default rituals”) need to be experienced and performed in a balanced, pure, and energetically ideal state of mind and soul; that is “ἐν ἀρετήν” – virtuously.

Theologically, “λατρεύειν ἐν ἀρετήν” hinges upon the beliefs that: a) the Gods are the source of virtue(s) and of many other good and desirable qualities and attributes, b) that they impart those virtues and qualities/attributes to us, and c) that they have a vested interest in our improvement and thus guide and support us towards it*. Therefore, to worship virtuously is to act “godly”, to accept and utilise the aforementioned gifts granted to us by the Gods. This, too, is an act of worship and honour in its own right. Moreover, “λατρεύειν ἐν ἀρετήν” can be further defined as part of or similar to «εὐσέβεια» (“eusebeia” - “piety”), a central tenet of Hellenism. 

That said, none of these mean that failing to always follow and realise this idea and goal is condemnable. Effort counts (although success is always best) while perfection is impossible. Even if failure to comply to such standards occasionally causes displeasure to the Gods and, possibly, repercussions, these are neither punishments for some kind of “sin” nor transgressions eternally divorcing us from the Gods**. Rather, the displeasure and possible repercussions are reactions to specific actions or lack thereof (such as miasma or disrespect) and not a judgment of the practitioner and their effort in general. In this case, we’re talking about religious conduct and what is the best/ideal way to approach it, not moral-ethical consequences or trappings. 

In conclusion, it is important – in the Triskelion – to practice the religion in one’s best possible state and ability.  Λατρεύειν ἐν ἀρετήν” is a continuous effort towards improvement and quality religious practice.


*This does not mean all Gods or Spirits have such interest in humans, or that all of them are benevolent, or that such interest is permanent, or even that only naturally benevolent Gods and Spirits express it. This belief has its own prerequisite beliefs and conditions such as referring only to Gods or Spirits with whom the practitioner has forged relationships of reverence and devotion, or Gods and Spirits that have particular requests or reasons for involving themselves in the practitioner’s life. In general, however, in Hellenism and the Triskelion, we operate with the idea that most divinities (Gods & Spirits) we interact with are of the benevolent or, at the very least, of the amiable-towards-humans kind. In Hellenic belief, the “big Gods” tend to care for humanity, both in terms of feelings and in terms of actions (imparting virtues, blessings etc as mentioned in the essay) beyond their standard care for the world.

**Barring, of course, actual such transgressions, although none of those have anything to do with worshipping virtuously; when murder or desecration, for example, occur, the person in question has long since left the side and path of the Gods and virtue. This is not a case of “bad people aren’t really Pagans/polytheists/witches” but rather that said transgressions have such effects (energetically, spiritually) that those people practically cannot worship virtuously, despite their efforts. They may very well believe and self-identify as *insert Pagan/polytheist identity* but on a practical, energetic level, they are “powerless” (that is, devoid of many relationships and connections to Gods and spirits – not necessarily all, and it definitely depends on the case, but as a rule of thumb, grave crimes have grave consequences, religiously speaking).