1.1 Mythology Sources
What are the major primary sources for the mythology of one hearth culture? Are there any problems in interpreting these sources (e.g., the existence of multiple revisions, or the presence of Christian or other outside influences in surviving texts)? (minimum 100 words)
The Hellenic culture has wealth of resources available to learn the mythology and practices of the people. There were numerous poets and philosophers in this culture that helped to spread the tales of heroes and deities throughout the land. One of the most well known of these is Homer. Home is attributed with writing both the Iliad and the Odyssey. These epic poems tell of the city of Troy and the hero Odysseus and his travels. They also introduce us to many different mythological figures, events, and locations. These poems were written between 800 and 600 BCE, but the exact time is not known
(Atsma, Theoi Greek Mythology). The Homeric Hymns were also written in a
similar epic style and include poems and invocations for numerous deities. Several different writers wrote these 33
poems during the seventh to sixth century BCE (Atsma, Homeric
Hymns). They include hymns to the Olympians and other
deities, as well as many of the heroes. Another
valuable resource of Greek mythology is the Orphic Hymns. These hymns are made
up of 87 religious poems from the third or second century BCE (Atsma, Orphic
Hymns). There are poems to many different Gods and
Goddesses, including the Olympians and many of the lesser-known deities.
Outside of these three sources there are multiple other writers whose work survived through the years, including Aesop, Hesiod, Sophocles. These writers gave us a well of information to draw from, making the Hellenic society one of the most well documented of the Indo-European cultures. The only major issues with these sources are the problem of translation and the issue of not knowing the original author, which makes it challenging to know any biases that person may have had.
1.2 Seers at Work
From the lore, pick an example that shows a Seer at work. Describe how this Seer functioned within their culture. Explain how, if at all, this influences your practice (Minimum 300 words).
Within Greek mythology, the most prominent Seer would be Pythia, the oracle of Apollo in Delphi. These oracles lived in temples and were often consulted upon for matters of law, war, and religion. They were also consulted when there were changes to be made to the property of the gods, or if there was a new priest that was to be dedicated
(Mikalson 42). The oracles of Greece also held the power to
establish new cults, institute new festivals, and require sacrifices. All of these descriptions show us that Pythia
was very important and highly honored within the Greek culture, and that her
word was often the final say in debates and arguments. However, at Delphi, prophecies were only
given on the seventh of each month, so their availability to the general public
was limited. Even if someone showed up
on the right day and could afford the cost, it was not guaranteed to receive an
answer from the oracle (Flower 2).
In Delphi, Pythia sat on top of a deep crevice in the ground to practice her divination. The priestess would enter a trance state, which included extreme bouts of ecstasy and divinations that were spoken in an intelligible language
(Luck 37-38). No one knows exactly how these women entered
their trance state, but there are many theories including a simple ritual of
wearing special vestments, touching holy water, and intoxication from fumes
that were escaping from the crevice they were sitting upon. They used this
trance state to connect to the otherworld in order to perform their divinations.
Ultimately, my understanding of Pythia has given me a better understand both of what I want to do and do not want to incorporate into my practice. The use of trance and ceremony to produce effective and deep divinations is a practice that I do want to incorporate into my own methods of performing divination. Additionally, I do hope to be able to provide this service to my community as needed. However, while I understand the need to protect the oracle from massive groups of people, I do not ever want to be as unapproachable as Pythia often seems.
Atsma, Aaron. Homeric Hymns. July 2014 <http://www.theoi.com/Text/HomericHymns1.html>.
—. Orphic Hymns. July 2014 <http://www.theoi.com/Text/OrphicHymns1.html>.
—. Theoi Greek Mythology. July 2014 <http://www.theoi.com>.
Flower, Michael Attyah. The Seer in Ancient Greece. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008.
Luck, Georg. Arcana Mundi. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2006.
Mikalson, John D. Athenian Popular Religion. The College of North Carolina Press, 1983.