Empedocles: Fragments and Commentary
Translated by Arthur Fairbanks 1864 -1944
I first came across the name Empedocles while reading The Praeger Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Civilization. Yes I am that level of history geek that I read an encyclopedia front to back A-Z. The entries were good short reads while I was on break at work. I always got a book in my locker. Anyways it is a good acquisition for any serious scholar, I got mine used for three bucks from the local pagan shop The Magical Druid a few years ago.
So back to the subject at hand Empedocles. He was a Greek Philosopher that lived 490 – 430 B.C.E. making him a contemporary of Zeno of Elea. The thing that caught my attention about his entry was that he had written an alternative cosmic cycle myth. I was curious to see what other origin myths the Greeks had come up with apart from what Hesiod and Plato had wrote. Apparently this philosopher had written two works On Nature and Purifications. The surviving works are in fragments and partially preserved as quotes in other authors works which is the “Commentary” part of the book. Aristotle and Plato are the authors that are used specifically as the commentators in the back of this book. Which because of its age is available free on the internet here is Empedokles books if you want to read it for yourself.
My assessment on the works themselves; I think that this is a great original source read for modern pagans. It is one man struggling to explain his vision of the forces of nature and comes up with the idea that every thing comes from the polarity of Love and Strife. He describes what we now call Yin & Yang. He talks about after the influence of the polarity struggle every thing is made up from the four elements Earth, Air, Fire Water. He teaches reincarnation and transmigration of the soul. Wiki says this is because he was influenced by the Pythagoreans. Yin & Yang, the Four Elements and Reincarnation! Empedocles is teaching Wicca 101!
On a theological note the Deities that he references in his works are The Muses, Aphrodite, and Strife.
The Triumph of The Sea Gods; The War Against The Goddess Hidden in Homer’s Tales. By Steven Sora.
This book blew my mind when I read it. I have been obsessively reading about ancient cultures for years trying to understand the how all the oddities that just don’t add up. From sacred geometry, parallel myths, complex astronomy, megaliths, lost civilizations like Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu. This book suddenly made every thing I have been reading make sense.
It is hard to compress a all the information in to a few paragraphs but I will try and perhaps it will be enough to inspire you to read this book for yourselves. Steven Sora boldly makes several arguments in this book that is not only believable it also challenges common assumptions about the origins of western culture. One of the things that he writes about is that Plato’s Atlantis, and Homer’s Troy are two variations of the same story. He then presents compelling evidence that this Trojan civilization is not in modern day Turkey but on the coast of Portugal. Some of the evidence he uses is the descriptions of weather and geography in Homer’s tales fit the Atlantic Ocean not the Mediterranean sea. He also uses archaeological data, and linguistics studies to support his case.
As for the books sub title “The War Against The Goddess Hidden in Homer’s Tales” He claims that the combined disaster of war and natural disasters of earth quake and tsunamis had a profound and demoralizing influence on peoples’ faith in the goddess centered religion(s) making the it easier for the incoming patriarchal religions from the Indo-European cultures to take over. I am just summarizing but it is worth it to read his detailed analyzes.
The author also spends a few chapters taking the reader through Odysseus homeward journey describing the most likely locations for his various ports of call. I don’t want to spoil it for the reader so I will not say were he ends up but when you find out I think you will be surprised.
I can honestly say stumbling upon this book at Half Price Books was meant to be. It honestly feels like I have been looking in all the wrong places for the answers to the questions burning in my mind. For I truly believe that understanding mankind’s ancient past is the key to finding out what 42 really means, well at least to me.
Arcana Mundi; Magic and the Occult in the Greeek and Roman Worlds – A Collection of Ancient Texts Translated, Annotated, and Introduced by Georg Luck.
This book is contains pieces from 130 ancient text ranging from the eight century BCE to fourth century CE. Georg Luck has arranged these text in to six categories: Magic, Miracles, Daemonology, Divination, Astrology, and Alchemy. He gives introductions to each category and explaining its importance in the ancient world. The texts he uses illuminate the migration and acceptance of ideologies from outside cultures like the Egypt and Persia. Most of these text give first or secondhand accounts of the various subjects and how the impacted everyday life in Ancient Greece and Rome.
In his selection and presentation of these text Georg Luck tries to show how peoples attitudes toward magic evolved. The epilogue takes the reader in to the lingering legacy of ancient magic in the middle ages, particularly in the church. If he had an agenda in this book it was to illustrate where these church practices originate. He does so in a rather scholarly way that I feel doesn’t bash pagan or Christians. He includes a very interesting Appendix article titled Psychoactive Substances in Religion and Magic that hypothesis that both the Old Testament and the Early Church used incense with psychoactive substances to enhance their religious experience. There is also a glossary of Greek and Latin words that are relevant to the subject of ancient magic.
I think this book is a great research tool for anyone wanting to delve deeper in to the subject of magic learning where traditions started and how they were practiced. This book is also great for anyone studying early Christian history along with ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian cultures. I enjoyed the read, personal I feel the older the source materials are the closer we are to understanding how our ancestors thought. Learning the evolution of cultures helps us not only understand our past, it helps us see where humanity is possibly heading.
Hellenismos Today by Timothy Jay Alexander is a book about Hellenic Reconstructionism, or in other words a a modern pagan religion based off ancient Greek religion. It is a hard polytheist moment based that to quote the author ” focuses primarily in the public or popular religion of ancient Greece.” I feel like the author spends a lot of the book trying explain how it is not like Wicca / neo-paganism and poring out watered down Greek history and philosophy. While an it is an interesting way to consider worshiping the Greek Pantheon it is just one way at looking at Greek reconstructionism.
- Polythestic Reconstructionism
- Ancient Greek Religion
- Gods and Goddess
- Ethics -(these are based off the Maxims of Delphi)
- Role of Clergy
- Rituals & Rites of Passage
- Holidays & Festivals
- Magick & Mysticism
- Appendix I: Works and Days of Hesiod
- Appendeix II: The Theogony of Hesiod (note: both copies of Hesiod’s work presented in this book were translated by Hugh G. Evelyn White 1914 and edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
- Appendix III: The Emperor Julian’s Oration to the Sovereign Sun (translated by Taylor Thomas in 1793 and edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos by Timothy Jay Alexander is the complementary book to the Hellenismos Today. As you can tell from the Chapter list below there is a lot of copy paste from the previous book, although the Appendix offer greater variety and complement the ones provides in Hellenismos Today. This book places an even bigger emphases on orthopraxy than the previous one did but offer little profound insights.
- Intro to Hellenismos
- Three dimensions of Worship
- Prayer & Hymns
- Rites and Ritual
- Festival Calendar
- Temples, Shrines, Statues & Images
- Appendix I: Sallustius : On the Gods and the Cosmos (translated by Gilbert Murry 1925, edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
- Appendix II: The Emperor Julian’s Oration to the Mother of the Gods (translated by Taylor Thomas in 1793 and edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
- Appendix III: The Homeric Hymns (translated by Hugh G. Evelyn White 1914 and edited by Timothy Jay Alexander)
- Appendix IV: Epithets of the Gods
- Appendix V: A Glossery of Greek Words
Overall I felt Booth books fell a little flat for my taste. If you don’t already have a decent grasp on neo-paganism ideas and language the average reader may get lost. and the historical reverences and examples could really use some more fleshing out. In general I would say if you want to read these books get a copy from the library cause it is not really worth the purchase.