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Thread: Mental Illness and Miasma

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    Jr. Member eightofcups's Avatar
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    Mental Illness and Miasma

    I've been doing some reading on miasma lately, and I was just wondering if there are any Hellenists on how do they feel about miasma in relation to mental illness and chronic illness in general. I found one article about it but was it focused on how if one works with the ill how it affects you, rather than if you are ill yourself.

    I'm mentally ill (depression and anxiety) and it's been pretty severe for a long time now; would it be pointless for me to even try and approach a Hellenic deity?
    Would ritual purification that get rid of the miasma from my illness? If it does, would I have to cleanse myself several times a day to keep "pure"?

  2. #2
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Mental Illness and Miasma

    So, I equate miasma with physical illnesses that have a viral/bacterial cause, not a mental illness or physical disability. Regardless of what the ancient Greeks would have said 2000 years ago, science knows better now what causes illnesses and disorders...and the Greeks were down with science. To attribute an inherent difference to "uncleanliness" in a modern context is, IMHO a revolting idea. But, when it comes to an actual illness caused by a virus/bacteria/protozoan/etc, I think ritual purification can help one feel better in their recovery (like taking a shower and brushing your teeth after fever-sleep) and offers a practical benefit.

    Then again, I'm not a recon, and I take much of the religions I work with as being cultural constructs, rather than true to the religion (the worship part). While there are some aspects of religious practice that might not be beneficial for some mental illnesses illnesses, I think there are many others that are.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

  3. #3
    Jr. Member eightofcups's Avatar
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    Re: Mental Illness and Miasma

    I like your interpretation of miasma in relation to viral/bacterial cause, that makes a lot of sense to me. As well as the idea "the Greeks are down with science" as you say it.
    I'm new to this, and I just don't want to screw anything up or offend anyone, you know?

    Thank you for your response, it put me at ease and well as cheered me up a little.

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Mental Illness and Miasma

    Quote Originally Posted by eightofcups View Post
    I like your interpretation of miasma in relation to viral/bacterial cause, that makes a lot of sense to me. As well as the idea "the Greeks are down with science" as you say it.
    I'm new to this, and I just don't want to screw anything up or offend anyone, you know?

    Thank you for your response, it put me at ease and well as cheered me up a little.

    Firstly, you are welcome--TBH, I have some fairly strong opinions on the problems of ritual purity in general (though this topic rarely seems to come up on the forum), and the problems of using (IMO) antiquated ideas of "purity" (ritually and otherwise) as some sort of religious test, specifically.

    Secondly, honestly, you are bound eventually to offend someone if you keep at this as your path. I'm at the point where I really don't care that the sheer existence my practice or opinion(s) offends someone anymore--if the way in which I worship is offensive to them*, then they can't be all that secure in their faith. And you will find that there are a number of Pagans and other affiliated individuals that prefer not to identify as Pagan will be offended by someone else's religious practices quite often. Which is something different than someone's honestly different opinion, or valid concern or criticism (when it comes to claiming something as historical when its not, or cultural misappropriation, etc). I've never pretended to be a reconstructionist or be interested in reconstructionism (and my POV on deity in general is fairly unorthodox)...so my opinion may or may not run you afoul of persons that might have a radically different opinion!


    If you are interested in the topic in general, I suggest this (reading it seems like it might invite a miasma of its own, lol---I'm into scholarly stuff, but it looks a bit much even for my nerdiest days)...if you can find it used on the cheap or at the library, etc.


    *there are a few caveats to this...but to borrow (and ruin) a quote, if it doesn't prick their pocket or break their leg, they can bugger off
    Last edited by thalassa; 13 Apr 2015 at 14:53.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

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    Jr. Member eightofcups's Avatar
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    Re: Mental Illness and Miasma

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Secondly, honestly, you are bound eventually to offend someone if you keep at this as your path. I'm at the point where I really don't care that the sheer existence my practice or opinion(s) offends someone anymore--if the way in which I worship is offensive to them*, then they can't be all that secure in their faith. And you will find that there are a number of Pagans and other affiliated individuals that prefer not to identify as Pagan will be offended by someone else's religious practices quite often. Which is something different than someone's honestly different opinion, or valid concern or criticism (when it comes to claiming something as historical when its not, or cultural misappropriation, etc). I've never pretended to be a reconstructionist or be interested in reconstructionism (and my POV on deity in general is fairly unorthodox)...so my opinion may or may not run you afoul of persons that might have a radically different opinion!

    *there are a few caveats to this...but to borrow (and ruin) a quote, if it doesn't prick their pocket or break their leg, they can bugger off
    That's very true. I suppose in all religions/spiritualities one is bound to come across a few people who have the "my way or the highway" approach. I've been on a bit of research binge as of late, and I know I probably haven't even scratched the surface but even with what I've just read so far there are quite a few conflicting beliefs and opinions.
    The 100% traditional, reconstructionist path is probably not for me; but at the same time I want to show due respect to the traditions and culture of the deity/deities I choose to worship. While offending people is one thing (and probably an inevitable thing, at that), the idea that makes me most worried is that possibility of offending a God/dess.

    And thank you very much for the book recommendation, it looks fascinating (oh and no worries I love heavy stuff; I'm a huge nerd too- used to do Ancient History and Archeology and I would read my entire textbook in the first week)!

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    Sr. Member Louisvillian's Avatar
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    Re: Mental Illness and Miasma

    Quote Originally Posted by eightofcups View Post
    I've been doing some reading on miasma lately, and I was just wondering if there are any Hellenists on how do they feel about miasma in relation to mental illness and chronic illness in general.
    The ancient Greeks didn't understand illness the way that we do now. They didn't have germ theory. They didn't have anywhere near a complete understanding of neurology and psychology. We still don't, though we know buckets more than the ancients did. "Miasma" as a concept extended beyond spirituality and religion, and was seen as an explanation for diseases of both mind and body.

    A modern practice of Hellenic and Hellenistic religion ought to take into account the knowledge we have now. As thalassa put it, the Greeks were down with science. Miasma then (in my view) should only be seen as spiritual pollution, the "distraction" from the divine caused by proximity to mortality and its attributes. And I don't think that psychological and emotional issues are something that only mortals deal with, to be honest.

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    Jr. Member Aster Thrakena's Avatar
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    Re: Mental Illness and Miasma

    It seems this issue is already cleared up and thalassa knows her stuff! If you wish to approach a deity of ANY religion, I would highly recommend keeping this in mind, no matter what you ask for:

    No matter what you ask for, you CANNOT expect the deity to do all the work while you sit back idly and wait for a miracle. No matter what path you choose, if there is a deity involved, I would ask them to help you. They will give you opportunities for you to fix yourself (random people coming into your life, maybe a free clinic for a check up, etc) but you have to make the effort to follow through with it. The gods have no wish to force you to get up and go do something, you must make the active choice.

    IF you decide to stay with the Greek pantheon, I would recommend speaking to Apollo or maybe even Hermes if you wish to seek advice, help, or comfort from a god on illness.

    Good news is the gods brought you here! I am sure almost any one of these lovely people, me included, would be more than happy to help you push through your depression. So, they may be working in your life already and you not even know it

    Blessings <3

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