Friendship is very important — and by this I don’t mean casual friendships of affinity.
Friendship has changed a lot since antiquity. I came across a book review (for something I haven’t read). The review made me look at some web clippings I’ve made across the years, in addition to some old KALLISTI posts and some recent (and not-so-recent) self-revelations.
For reference purposes, here are the Delphic Maxims related to friendship:
Φιλοις βοηθει – Help your friends
Φιλιαν αγαπα – Love friendship
Φιλοις ευνοει – Be kind to friends
Φιλιαν φυλαττε – Guard friendship
and one of the Tenets of Solon:
Do not be rash to make friends and, when once they are made, do not drop them.
Intimate friendship (and perhaps close friendship) is the category that I believe falls under the maxims and ethical guidelines in Hellenism surrounding this type of human relationship. One of the things I find very discordant and discouraging as a Hellenist in America is that friendship is too casually attained; the other is that people throw friendships away for romantic/sexual relationships when the two are not functionally the same.
I can’t help but relate “‘mysterious reasons having little to do with decision'” (a line quoted in that review) to friendship at first sight. Most of my closest friendships have developed organically, often based on intuition, in cyberspace or the analog world.
After converting to Hellenic Polytheism, I started practicing more discernment. Once one has friendship as a value, friendship becomes something very different from how our culture views it. It’s important to be measured in attachments because whomever you befriend is a long-term commitment. Le needs to be worth it.
This was scary to me. I had few opportunities to make friends until college. This is well into the age when most new adults shift to choosing romantic partners, and they prune many childhood friends. College friendships always seemed transient. One of my problems growing up, and indeed into adulthood, was that I often felt like an inflated ball bouncing between deep, five-hour long intellectual conversations.
One of my closest friends in college — someone who could handle those conversations — wounded me with a single comment that drove a silent wedge between us. On Easter, she said that she had been to a service. At this point, she was studying Buddhism as part of her major, and her art project for her double major was heavily invested in Buddhist iconography. She actively participated in and helped run the college pagan group alongside me. I expressed surprise because I hadn’t known she continued with Christian services at college. She commented, “At least I believe in my own salvation.” She came from a Lutheran family, and I suddenly started wondering what she was doing in those spaces if she didn’t view the religions as equal — or why she kept being involved even if she’d been called back to the faith of her childhood. I had grown up being evangelized at every moment I was out of the house. Several years of college had almost made me forget what that felt like because Massachusetts liberal arts college Christians are very nice people. It all came rushing back immediately.
Starting in my early to mid-twenties, the epithets I give to Hermes most frequently come in a bundle: friend and guide. (Friendship itself is sacred to Zeus, admittedly.) I view Hermes as a friend because he’s gone beyond professional patron. Currently, he’s so involved in the process of my writing, constructed languages, and the prayers and sacrifices surrounding them — in addition to the general good feelings I have about him — that it’s complicated to tease out the precise reasons I use that word. Using the word friend just is, and I trust the god.
Five years ago, after moving to my current city, I started reading things about friendship because I realized that it was about to get a lot harder (and I read “30” broadly, as I was way younger than 30 when I read that). Two of the pieces I’d like to share are from Brain Pickings, “Love Undetectable: Andrew Sullivan on Why Friendship Is a Greater Gift Than Romantic Love” and “Reclaiming Friendship: A Visual Taxonomy of Platonic Relationships to Counter the Commodification of the Word ‘Friend’.” The second one has some great graphs. Reading up on friendship didn’t make things less hard. Most of my friends are digital, and one of the strengths of online friends is that you know that the relationship isn’t threatened by distance.
My fascination also led me to build oath-bound friendships (or friendship marriages) into my epistolary fiction podcast, Epiphany; in its main cultures, a person is generally expected to maintain 1-3 oath-bound friendships in addition to a functional/love marriage. The gods to whom one swears friendship oaths vary by culture. In one of the cultures, Anumga rules friendship in addition to things like geometry, diplomacy, sailing, climbing, writing systems, philosophy, and filial duty. Likhera, Le Who Brings Together, is another culture’s friendship goddess. Likhera also presides over diplomacy, knot-making, rhetoric, education, and philosophy, and le’s the default patron of the jomela, that culture’s third gender.
The graph that I typically use regarding friendship is one that I found on Tumblr from TheOpenedBox.com, which describes a four-level system:
If you’re not in a place to view the image, it differentiates among intimate friends, close friends, casual friends, and acquaintances. Most of the people whom anyone knows will not be intimate friends.
Finally, I’d group “persons of affinity” under a community category — they’re not necessarily in the friendship chart because communities are not necessarily made up of people whom one knows directly. As an example, even if I don’t know someone in the polytheistic community very well, I may check in with lim if it looks like le’s experiencing a bad time.
Most people have a troll hiding inside of them, and everyone is guaranteed to have a bad day when that troll gets let out. My tolerance for extending basic courtesy is quite high, but I do try avoiding people with habitual bad behavior. Also, leaders are people — if a leader does something incorrect, that’s yet another example of humans fucking up. People do that all the time. If a leader fucks up and doesn’t seem to understand why (remember “moon-blood and not die”?), that’s when it matters.
But beyond that, friendship is ultimately about cultivating mutual excellence and finding companionship — not, as the piece I referenced at the beginning noted, letting bullshit about unworthiness or “we’re all sinners” get in the way of the awesome people we can meet and come to know in this life.