Book Review: Hellenismos Today and A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos

Today I am going to give a brief review of two Hellenic Reconstructionalist books available for purchase on the recommendation to me by a listener of my podcast. These books are:

A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos
by: Timothy Jay Alexander
Publication Date: June 7, 2007

Hellenismos Today
by: Timothy Jay Alexander
Publication Date: April 27, 2007 | ISBN-10: 1430314273 | ISBN-13: 978-1430314271 | Edition: 1st

I bought these and three other books on Amazon.com at the same time last year and am finally getting a chance to read them now. Now, Amazon has a suggestion that the two books be bought together and frankly, if I was going to recommend them to anyone, I would recommend the former rather than the latter. As I go into this review, you’ll begin to understand why I chose to review these together.

I chose to read A Beginners Guide to Hellenismos first. I found, while I didn’t agree with everything based on my own research and deductions based on historical text, it is very informative and definitely geared toward a beginner on the path. After all, a beginner has to start somewhere. Just as many Wiccans who are beyond the 101 level of their religious path may complain about Silver Ravenwolf and Scott Cunningham’s books, I have heard Hellenes complain about his books. But, everyone starts somewhere. The book, though, doesn’t seem to give the beginner much of an idea of where to go from there for research.

Outside of mention of Hesiod, Homer and the Orphic hymns, there isn’t much reference to what other ancient texts are frequently cited by Hellenes in practice. Sure, you can dig through his cited sources or read through the generous appendices (which both books have) but I always advocate a suggested reading section for the beginner in any book that claims to be for beginners.

I was disappointed, however, in the rites and rituals section for there not to be a sample ritual of any form present. I don’t particularly need that for my practice, but if you were just starting out and coming off say… a Wiccan path, you would have really no idea how to properly practice. There is information on prayer and some basics on sacrifice and on libation, but nothing to say, “go ahead and get started, but try this on and see how it feels, then adapt as necessary.” Also, I’m always interested to see how others do their own practicing and would have loved to have compared my personal practice to what Mr. Alexander would suggest.

I am not a beginner in Hellenismos at all. I started in the late 90s. Left for a time due to what was, at the time, a rather rigid and unwelcoming Hellene community and have returned within the past five years. I have most of what was included in the appendices in other texts, without Mr. Alexander’s personal edits, and was also sorely disappointed that I appear to have paid for mostly information available to me in primary source books I already have.

Hellenismos Today is essentially the exact same book, stripped down with only the essentials and different sources in the appendices. I have to say, other than that, the only difference in the book is the inclusion of the Delphic Maxims, which I personally think should have been included in the Beginner’s Guide rather than this one. Again, I own the contents of the appendices in other forms so I really didn’t get much out of that book at all. Buying both, was a mistake, it seems. And given the close publication dates of the books, it appears that Hellenismos Today was really just an outline for A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos. Some of the paragraphs in the books are word for word exact copies of one another. That was extremely disappointing. As is the fact that over half, yes over half of the books are devoted to the appendices which are prints of other works edited by Mr. Alexander. Hesiod’s Works and Days, for example… the Homeric Hymns for another.

I would probably recommend the Beginner’s Guide to someone interested in just starting out, but I think, unless you just want a high level overview of Hellenismos without any intention of going further in the study, Hellenismos Today is a waste of money.

Now, these are just my opinions. There are many great reviews of the books available online. Perhaps from people who aren’t experienced or researched Hellenes. So, take it for what you will.

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4 Comments to “Book Review: Hellenismos Today and A Beginner’s Guide to Hellenismos”

  1. Alright, if you’re not pleased with these two books as something for beginners because you find them lacking… then what WOULD you recommend?

    • Well, that’s going to be in my next review, but I do… for beginners, recommend the book Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored by Sarah Kate Istra Winter and anything you can find that Sainnon has put out online. Sarah’s book has some small flaws, which I’ll get into later, but I find it far more beginner friendly and would definitely recommend it.

      That being said, go ahead and get the Beginner’s Guide that Timothy Jay Alexander put out. But I would try to get it used since you are really paying quite a bit for maybe 100 pages of information that is not appendices.

      • I will look forward to your next review then. 🙂 And I try to find used whenever I can anyway. I’m cheap.

  2. You might be interested to look at the recommended books list on hellenismos.us, Timothy Jay Alexander’s website. About Hellenismos Today, he wrote, “It is most likely if you are reading this list, that you do not need this introduction.”

    Sara Kate Istra Winter is listed as a recommendation on there as well.

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