The Pagan Piety

English word “piety” comes from Latin noun pietas. Regarding pietas, Cicero (De Inuentione. II, 65-66) says that

[…] some things seem to be a law of nature, which brings to us not an opinion, but a certain innate force, as religion, piety [pietas], gratitude, avenging, obedient observance, and truth. […] they call piety [pietas] what warns us to keep our duty towards our motherland, our parents or others connected with us by blood […].

Pietas, a Latin concept in itself, is used to translate the Ancient Greek term εὐσέβεια (which is also personified in the daimona Eusebeia). Considering the term, W. Buckert says:

Yet the act of sebesthai [to worship] itself does not constitute meritorious piety, it only becomes such when it is subjected to the criterion of the good; this is eusebeia. The sole criterion available is the custom of the ancestors and of the city, nomos: ‘to change nothing of what our forefathers have left behind’, this is eusebeia.

The following excerpt from Isocrates (7. 30) helps to illustrate the concept:

For their only care was not to destroy any institution of their fathers and to introduce nothing which was not approved by custom, believing that reverence [εὐσέβεια] consists, not in extravagant expenditures, but in disturbing none of the rites which their ancestors had handed on to them.

So, put simply, being pious, in its true meaning, which is a Pagan one, is to fulfill your duties to your land and your ancestors, their gods and customs – which are, by extension, your own gods and customs.

That both pietas and εὐσέβεια were used to translate the Hebrew concept of “fear of the god” (וְיִרְאַת יְהוָה) and that this meaning (alongside other derivative senses coming from Christian thought, such as the idea of approaching the dreadful god with humility, trust and love) was the one to enter our modern languages, that is disgraceful. Yet this word’s true, Pagan, meaning is still available, and from this meaning we must take the image of pious men and women we all must be: those who have reverence for our lands, our ancestors, our gods, our heritage.

AVE PIETAS!
ΧΑΙΡΕ ΕΥΣΕΒΕΙΑ!

Aeneas, Bernini
Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (c. 1618-19) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, housed in the Galleria Borghese, Rome. The statue depcits “Aeneas’ flight from Troy, bearing on his shoulders his eldery father Anchises who is carrying the container with their ancestors’ ashes and the statues of the Di Penates […]. The third figure of the group is the young Ascanius who is carrying the eternal flame from the Temple of Vesta” (Daniel Pinton, Bernini).

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On Nihilism

In the nietzschean perspective, nihilism is understood as the devaluation of the highest values – in case of the Western culture, the devaluation of Christian values and its moral interpretation of the world. This devaluation leads to the “everything lacks meaning” attitude, to a general meaninglessness. The consequence is that existence loses its goal or end, it lacks any comprehensive unity and its character is affirmed not as true, but as false.

In the bosom of this nihilism, two different instances grow: the passive nihilism and the active nihilism.

Passive nihilism, the decline of the power of the spirit and a sign of weakness, embraces the general meaninglessness and the general lack of unity and aim and creates new values – values to heal, to calm, to numb – from it.

Active nihilism, the increase of the power of the spirit and a sign of strength, aims the overcoming of the previous goals, manifesting itself through violence and destruction.

While active nihilism can be seen as positive in some contexts, for it is necessary “to philosophy with the hammer” to overcome the previous decadent values, it is still pathologic since it shares the same ground with passive nihilism: the ground of meaninglessness and aimlessness, of disintegration and lack of unity. It must be taken as a transitional stage. In the moment the active nihilism becomes an end in itself, it starts to create its own values as well: reactionary nihilistic values based on opposition.

This kind of valuation, the valuation based on opposition – on the saying “no” to the other – can be seen as a trace of slave morality. Nietzsche says:

“While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is “outside,” what is “different,” what is “not itself”; and this No is its creative deed.”

Friedrich Nietzsche. On the Genealogy of Morals. I, 10.

The active nihilism as creator of values can be seen manifesting itself in some radical milieus today. For that reason, what I intend with this post is to remind that even if active nihilism is necessary to overcome both the religious and secular values inherited from Judeo-Christian moral, it must not be taken as an end in itself. Our task as Pagans is not to affirm ourselves as “anti-this” or “anti-that”, but to embrace a meaningful and holistic valuation of reality based on the values of the “blonde beast”, on the values of Pagan Europe.

fuhrer nieztsche

A Thought on Historical Writing

For sure, modern historiography is (mostly) nothing but a tool for spreading lies and abrahamic propaganda among European peoples and the populace in general. But it was not always so and among Pagans the understanding of the importance of historical writing was completely different:

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?”

Marcus Tulius Cicero. Orator, 120. Translated by G. L. Hendrickson.

muse clio
Clio, Muse of History. Roman sculpture at Vatican Museums, Rome.

Muses, memories and wives

“I will begin with the Muses and Apollo and Zeus. For it is through the Muses and Apollo that there are singers upon the earth and players upon the lyre; but kings are from Zeus. Happy is he whom the Muses love: sweet flows speech from his lips.

Hail, children of Zeus! Give honor to my song! And now I will remember you and another song also.”

Homeric Hymn 25: To the Muses. Translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White.

μοῦσα: from *Μονθια (*Monthia), from Proto-Indo-European *men- (“to think”) + *dʰeh₁-, whence μανθάνω (manthánō) [I learn, I know, I understand, etc.] (from Wiktionary). “In this context, it may be remarked that the Muses are connected with memory and remembrance, which is indeed the meaning of the root IE *men- […].” (Robert Beekes. Etymological Dictionary of Greek).

Considering myth and etymological explanations of the name, there is a twofold possible understanding for the symbol of the muses: in one hand they represent the common depository of all the aspects of culture and tradition shared by the collective memory of the folk; on the other hand, they are the memories of the ancestors which are transmitted by blood – i. e. the memories of blood. From both the collective memory and the blood memory knowledge springs forth. Having access to this knowledge is to be “inspired by the muses”. In this sense, the housewife, the matrona, could be understood as the incarnation of the muse in herself, as she is responsible by transmiting both the collective memory (through the education of her children in their early age) and the blood memory (through childbearing) among the folk.

“Raising her young, the woman learns earlier than the man to extend her loving care beyond the limits of the ego to another creature […]. Woman at this stage is the repository of all culture, of all benevolence, of all devotion, of all concern for the living and grief for the dead.”

J. J. Bachofen. Myth 79.

Francesco del Cossa. Polyhymnia, the Muse of Many Songs
Polyhymnia, the Muse of Many Songs, by Francesco del Cossa (c. 1455-1460).

Insights on symbols of European Kingship II

“And Apollo swear also: ‘Verily I will make you [Hermes] only to be an omen for the immortals and all alike, trusted and honored by my heart. Moreover, I will give you a splendid staff of riches and wealth: [530] it is of gold, with three branches, and will keep you scatheless, accomplishing every task, whether of words or deeds that are good, which I claim to know through the utterance of Zeus.”

Homeric Hymn to Hermes. 527-33.

“Then among them lord Agamemnon uprose, bearing in his hands the sceptre which Hephaestus had wrought with toil. Hephaestus gave it to king Zeus, son of Cronos, and Zeus gave it to the messenger Argeïphontes; and Hermes, the lord, gave it to Pelops, driver of horses, [105] and Pelops in turn gave it to Atreus, shepherd of the host; and Atreus at his death left it to Thyestes, rich in flocks, and Thyestes again left it to Agamemnon to bear, that so he might be lord of many isles and of all Argos.”

Homer. Iliad. Book 2, 100-8.

“The primordial figuration of the skeptron [scepter] seems to be the messenger’s staff. It is the attribute of an itinerant, who advances with authority, not to act but to speak. These three conditions – the walking man, the man of authority, the man who carries a word – imply a single function, that of the messenger who unites them all and who alone can explain them. Because it is necessary for the bearer of a message, the skeptron becomes a symbol of its function and a mystical sign of legitimation. From then on, it qualifies the character who speaks the word, a sacred person, whose mission is to transmit the message of authority. Thus, it is from Zeus that comes skeptron which, by a chain successive holders, falls to Agamemnon. Zeus gives it as the badge of legitimation for those he designates to speak in his name.”

Émile Benveniste. Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes II.

 

hermes, zeus, agamemnon
From L to R: Hermes IngenuiRoman copy of the 2nd century BC after a Greek original of the 5th century BC (at Vatican Museus, Rome). Roman Seated Zeus, marble and bronze (restored), following the type established by Phidias (at Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg). Agamemnon sitting on a rock holding his scepter, fragment of an Attic lekanis (around 410–400 BC).

On farming and farmers

“Socrates: ‘[…] Now, we agreed that it is impossible to master all branches of knowledge, and we concur with our countries in rejecting the so-called manual crafts, because they seem to ruin people’s bodies and soften their minds. We said that the clearest evidence of this would be if, on the occasion of a hostile invasion of the country, one were to divide the farmers and the craftsmen into separate groups, sit them both down, and ask them to decide whether to defend the country or to give up the land and guard the fortified towns. We reckoned that in this situation those involved with the land would vote for defending it, while the craftsmen would vote for not fighting, but for sitting tight without effort or risk, as they have been conditioned to do. We judged that agriculture is the best work and the best branch of knowledge for a truly good person, because it supplies people with the necessities of life. We decided that it is the easiest work to learn and the most gratifying to do; that it makes people physically as attractive and fit as possible; and that it affords their minds the maximum possible opportunity for giving attention to their friends and countries. We agreed that agriculture also contributes towards promoting toughness in the people who work at it, since the crops that it grows and the livestock that it tends are situated outside the town fortifications. These are the reasons, we decided, why this means of making a living is held in the highest esteem by States, because it apparently turns out ideal citizens, who are extremely loyal towards the community’.”

Xenophon. Oeconomicus, VI.

“Occasionally it would be preferable to seek for the business of commerce, if it was not so risky, and likewise, to practise usury, if it was so honest. Our ancestors estimated so and have put it in their laws: the thief is sentenced to pay double; the usurer, a fourfold amount. Hence it is possible to consider how much worse a citizen they considered a usurer than a thief. And when they praised a good man, they praised him this way: as a good husbandman and a good farmer. The one who was praised in such way considered to have been praised the most greatly. I consider, however, the merchant restless and eager to seek profit, yet as I said above, subject to risk and loss. On the other hand, from the husbandmen the strongest men and most restless soldiers are begotten, their gain results the most pious, the most steady and the least enviable, and those who are occupied with that work are the ones who least think unfairly.”

Cato the Elder. De Agricultura, Praefatio.

“[…] for religious people it [i.e. agriculture] has always been first and foremost a ritual. It deals, for example, with the mysterious forces of growth somehow at work in the seed and furrow. It is carried out on the body of Mother Earth herself. It requires the planter to integrate his movements with beneficent and dangerous periods of time; and it forces him to contend with the spirits of vegetation, particularly those, like the tree and forest spirits, who grow angry when the land is cleared. It requires ceremonial action to assist the growth of crops and renew the earth’s life-giving energies, and it draws the farmer into contact with the dead, for the earth is their abode […]; it allowed the whole world to be apprehended as a living organism, governed by rhythmic cycles in which death and life belong necessarily to one another, and in which rebirth is all the more miraculous for the astonishing increase of new life that accompanies it.”

Peter C. Chemery. Vegetation, In: Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 14.

Oskar Martin-Amorbach, The Sower, 1937
“The Sower”, by Oskar Martin-Amorbach (Germany, 1937).

Insights on Symbols of European Kingship I

“The children of Mars [i.e. Romulus and Remus] were eighteen years old,
And fresh beards grew below their yellow hair:
These brothers, the sons of Illia, gave judgement
When asked, to all farmers and masters of herds.
They often returned pleased with the blood of robbers
They’d spilt: driving the stolen cattle back to their fields.
Hearing their origin, their spirits rose at their father’s divinity,
And they were ashamed to be known only among a few huts.
Amulius fell, struck through by Romulus’ sword
And the kingdom was returned to their old grandfather.
Walls were built, which it would have been better
For Remus not to leap, small though they were.
Now what was once woodland and the haunt of cattle,
Was a City […].”

Ovid. Fasti, Book III.

“Clear morphological relations of a very known type connect regio and rectus to the root rex. […] The important word regio originally doesn’t mean “the region”, but “the point reached in a straight line”. […] Likewise, one must interpretate rectus as “straight in the manner of this line that is traced”. The notion is material as well as moral: the “right” represents the norm; regula is the “instrument to trace the line”; what fixes the rule. What is straight opposes itself, in moral order, to what is tortuous, bent; then, as straight is equivalent to just, honest, so its contrary tortuous, bent will be identified with perfidy, lie etc. […] This double notion is present in the important expression regere fines, religious act, preliminary act of the building; regere fines means literally “to trace the boundaries in straight lines”. It is the operation executed by the great priest to the building of a temple or a city, and which consists in setting the consecrated space on the ground. It is an operation whose magical character is evident: it delimits the interior and the exterior, the sacred realm and the profrane realm, the national territory and the foreign territory. This tracing is performed by the one who is invested of the highest powers, the rex, […] the one who traces the line, the way to follow, who encarnates at the same time what is straight/right.”

Émile Benveniste. Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes II.

[…] the experience of sacred space makes possible the ‘founding of the world’: where the sacred manifests itself in space, the real unveils itself, the world comes into existence. But the irruption of the sacred does not only project a fixed point into the formless fluidity of profane space, a center into chaos; it also effects a break in plane, that is, it opens communication between the cosmic planes (between earth and heaven) and makes possible ontological passage from one mode of being to another. It is such a break in the heterogeneity of profane space that creates the center through which communication with the transmundane is established, that, consequently, founds the world, for the center renders orientation possible. Hence the manifestation of the sacred in space has a cosmological valence; every spatial hierophany or consecration of a space is equivalent to a cosmogony. The first conclusion we might draw would be: the world becomes apprehensible as world, as Cosmos, in the measure in which it reveals itself as a sacred world.

In the realm of sacred space which we are now considering, its most striking manifestation is religious mans will to take his stand at the very heart o f the real, at the Center of the World— that is, exactly where the cosmos came into existence and began to spread out toward the four horizons, and where, too, there is the possibility of communication with the gods; in short, precisely where he is closest to the gods. We have seen that the symbolism of the center is the formative principle not only of countries, cities, temples, and palaces but also o f the humblest human dwelling […].”

Mircea Eliade. The Sacred and the Profane.

romulus
Romulus marking the limits of Rome, by Giuseppe Cesari (1568-1640).