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Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored Paperback – July 8, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sarah Kate Istra Winter, also known by her religious name Oinokhoe, has been practicing Hellenic polytheism for over ten years; she is devoted to Dionysos, Hermes, Apollon and the Nymphs. Ms. Winter has written for a number of pagan publications, and was the editor of the Neokoroi newsletter He Epistole for several years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Myth and Ritual from Goddard College. Ms. Winter is the founder of Thiasos Lusios (an online Dionysian group), co-founder of the Eranos Agriotheios (Wildivine), and the owner of several polytheist websites which can be found at her homepage, winterscapes.com. She grew up in New England, and now lives in beautiful Eugene, Oregon, where nymphs can be found around every corner.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2 edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143823192X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1438231921
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. S. Roy on July 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
Kharis was one of the first books I came across when researching Hellenismos. It gives an excellent overview of the religion and its practices, and is intelligently written while still being easy to follow. An added bonus is the author's insight into the modern-day Hellenic community, both through her own experiences, and through the Hellenic Polytheist survey in the back of the book. Having read both versions, it's interesting to see the ways our community has grown in just a few short years. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in Hellenic Polytheism, and one I heartily recommend both to newcomers and friends curious about my beliefs.
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Format: Paperback
This short book is one of the best introductions to modern Hellenismos. Virtues of the book include historical accuracy, comprehensiveness, and brevity. Beginners gain from this small book what would otherwise require extensive reading of multiple scholarly volumes. Furthermore, Winter offers this without descending into the condescending style all too familiar from typical pagan beginner books. She writes lucidly without dumbing down, nor shying away from giving her personal opinions. Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is how deftly Winter conveys her views while clearly distinguishing them from historical claims.

The first chapter of the book gives a brief but dense overview of the historical traditions, and the second covers modern traditions.

Chapter three explains the heart of Hellenismos through the concept of kharis, or reciprocity. Winter quotes Burkert: "the bond between man and the sacred is consummated in the continuous exchange of gift for gift" (p. 43). Then she brings this to life in her own words: "Just like you might sometimes buy your spouse flowers for no reason, and that act creates a more loving and charitable bond between you both, so do we give to the gods, knowing they will also give to us when it is right" (p. 43). After this she brings kharis down to earth with practical advice on effective ritual and worship, including descriptions of libations, sacrifices, and first fruits offerings.

A controversial stance is taken in her discussion of animal sacrifice. She comes down in favor of it, as long as it is done appropriately. It is not much different from kosher slaughter in Judaism, she maintains. At the same time, she provides for contrary opinions and suggests vegetarian alternatives.
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I would highly recommend this book to any Pagan interested in the Gods of the Greeks. Well laid out, highly researched, and yet easy to understand and apply to your religious daily practice.

Although this is a beginner level book, the religious concepts are so clear and insightful that people past the beginner stage will find value in this book. This is not a "how to perform a Hellenic ritual book", but a book that delves into the worshippers relationship to the Gods and how to strengthen that relationship. The sources used are listed in the back and that is an excellent place to look to for additional reading, should you wish to dig deeper.

The survey information alone, especially since it is contrasted with a survey the author did a few years ago, is worth the price of the book. I know I was surprised by some of the results!
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Although not strictly a Hellenic polytheist I found 'Kharis' to be a good, solid book. (In fact, it's one of those books of which one says "I wish this book was around...") The book is organized quite well and is easy to follow yet still engaging. Among other things, I loved the sprinkling and elaboration of quotes as they really bring the ideas home so to speak. Although it's a small book (or rather because it is) it serves as a good platform on which to further explore Hellenic polytheism should one choose to while still remaining an accessible reference work in itself.
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(Adapted from a review on my blog. I gave her book a 4.75/5, but I am giving her a 5 here because Amazon's rating system doesn't provide quarter-stars.)

The version of Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored reviewed here is the second edition (ISBN#978-1438231921). Written by Sarah Kate Istra Winter, this nonfiction text intends to give a broad sense of Hellenic Polytheism and how it is practiced in the modern world. To address the many different flavors of Hellenic Polytheism (from traditionalist to "reform"), Ms. Winter has chosen to write inclusively, including some topics that some may consider controversial.

Kharis's binding is good, and the font is very readable. Ms. Winter decided to use in-text parenthetical citations (I prefer footnotes), but their overall effect is not too cumbersome. The sources she cites are listed at the back of the text, and she makes sure to indicate which constitute core reading for the religion and which texts other modern Hellenic Polytheists have written. The editing job is very good.

Some individuals considering Hellenismos and Hellenic Polytheism are looking for guidance, and Kharis adequately addresses their needs. She gives a very thorough briefing on how relationships between mortals and the Theoi work, along with introducing the reader to other forces (the nymphs, daimons, okeanids, etc.). The reader will learn about the Agathos Daimon's importance and some core household religious practices. In addition, the writer goes through the core ritual structure of Hellenic Polytheism, something very important to a religion that values orthopraxy. One more controversial topic is the use of magic in Hellenic Polytheism. In the appendices, Ms. Winter includes the Athenian calendar and briefly describes each of the festivals.
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