Hellenistic Syncretic Polytheism (HeSP)

The only definition for this exists in my About Me or that long post I made after a summertime Twitter situation. This post will serve as a definition reference link so I can link to it whenever I mention the term in a post. The abbreviation is HeSP.

Hellenistic Syncretic Polytheism, when broken down, has these meanings:

Hellenistic: I don’t like this term because I associate it with post-Alexander the Great. Many people who use it actually mean Hellenic, but are misusing adjectives, so it has some ambiguity there, too. However — after conversations on Twitter in the summer and autumn — the term is a good representation for the spectrum of Hellenization that came about due to the three strains (yes, a simplification — any historian will say “well this is way messier than you’re making it sound”) of (1) continuous exposure to the Hellenic Gods since antiquity; (2) reintroduction of major writers in Hellenic philosophy during the Renaissance, and (3) the combined impact of colonialism, modern Classics, and the Neopagan revival.

A combination of the three is the reason most of us non-Hellenic Americans — I’m Scandi and Québécoise, for example — learn the Hellenic Gods from childhood, not the Norse, Celtic, and so on. This has a significant impact on many of us because we end up worshipping the Hellenic Gods and do not necessarily develop noncolonizing ways for integrating the Gods into our religious practice.

For people who do not worship the Hellenic Gods (or who worship only one or two), this could easily be replaced with a word denoting the main pantheon one worships.

Syncretic: The actual outcome will be a new thing that combines the root culture (e.g., American, Brazilian, French) with some level of Hellenization, and the worship of the Athanatoi will thus be Americanized, Brazilianized, or *-ized. Rather than pretending to be what we’re not, it’s better to respectfully acknowledge that this is a New Thing, and we should spend some effort considering theological questions like:

  • What does household worship look like when you do not worship the Gods of your ancestors, or you worship some combination?
    • How do you reconcile and approach the different cosmogonies and theogonies?
    • Are certain Gods syncretized with each other?
    • Do you venerate your ancestors using Gallic, Roman, Norse, &c. methods or is it imperative that ancestor veneration be integrated into the religious paradigm of the main pantheon you worship?
  • The syncretism will look different depending on heritage and local custom.
    • For example, my family is Swedish/Norwegian on my mom’s side; we’ve done St. Lucia’s Day since I was a young girl, and saffron buns are such a staple during the holiday season that I actually committed to learning how to make a gluten-free version so I could still eat them. The aesthetic in the horror film Midsommar looked like the heritage art in my maternal line’s family homes, and the hygge thing sweeping America right now is a commercialized mashup of hospitality stuff we learned as kids and self-care. (My dad’s side didn’t pass down as many traditions, just genealogy and ancestral crimes because my ancestors conquered Québec.) American families without this heritage will not likely have the same traditions or outlook. That’s OK. I offer saffron buns to Hêlios sometimes.
  • What are the holidays that matter?
  • Work has already begun in polytheism as a whole on theology and philosophy in schools ranging from Stoicism to Platonism and beyond.
    • What does this project look like, and how are these ideas integrated and successfully, sensitively adapted to new paradigms as New Religious Movement (NRM) polytheisms grow?
    • Mystery traditions. What do we do about those? How do those develop? How are they to be marketed accurately?
  • How does what we do relate to the Hellenes and to their struggles for religious freedom and decolonization? How do we come into a space where we can respectfully dialogue and ensure that religious seekers know the differences? As a start, the major difference between Hellenic and Hellenistic is that Hellenic denotes a strong commitment to Hellenization through learning from and integrating with Hellenes, not just their Gods.

Polytheism: Yes polytheism. Do I actually need to say anything about this? If so: There are many Gods.

That’s essentially it, and I acknowledge that there are more questions in here than answers, especially in the syncretism part. Questions make things exciting, though, because it means we have so much room to grow into as long as we prepare ourselves and commit to excellence — there is such fruitful space for exploring them and coming to solutions that can bring us into proper relation with other people and the Gods.

And Happy Noumenia. 🌒


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