Addendum to “The Messy Matter of Divine Affairs”

My partner and I had a lovely dinner with a colleague tonight, who happens to be a Hellenic polytheist. We got to talking about the recent imbroglio***over Hephaestos and His epithet “Lame” and I mentioned the follow up piece that I had written here, in response to a blogger’s conundrum over honoring Gods who have stories of rape in Their canon. We discussed this for a bit and since our friend pays cultus to Poseidon, the conversation eventually turned to the Gods’ in general and Poseidon’s in particular sexual escapades.

Now, we were not being prurient. We were continuing the discussion of how to interpret these tales and my friend brought up a point that I had not otherwise considered and which I want to share here tonight. I mentioned that Poseidon was not originally an Ocean Deity. There are earlier records that pair Him with the Earth, and one, from Linear B tablets that links Him to an otherwise unknown earth Deity. Likewise we know from surviving inscriptions that He was worshipped by several desert peoples who never had any other engagement with anything approximating the ocean. (This came up in an academic class I actually took on ancient religion and we were all wondering why Poseidon was venerated in the desert!). There is even evidence that He and Demeter were once legitimately paired. That got me to thinking. What if some of the accounts of a Deity’s rape were really vestiges of earlier, much earlier traditions. What if, instead of attempting to rape a Goddess, what we have in some of these accounts is an account of a *licit* pairing otherwise lost to written record?

I don’t know if this is the case. I do know that it’s important to allow ourselves both consideration and nuance when we deal with stories of our Gods. These stories never carried the weight of Scripture. I think we must allow for the possibility of multiple interpretations. It makes the canon richer. It makes our relationship with the Gods richer.

Personally, i don’t think that even if my above hypothesis held true in some cases, that it would hold for all. I think instead that accounts of rape point to both a violence and a vigor that we too often forget lies within our Gods, it points to the danger and violent transmutation that can occur when taken up by One of Them. It points to the interaction of opposing Powers and many other things too and sometimes it is as it is, a rape. Still, I think we need to consider it all. The Gods are more complex and multi-faceted than we shall ever know. I think such contemplation makes us richer in our devotions and that’s a good thing, even if we don’t have any answers, even if we don’t agree, even if we’re made uncomfortable by where those contemplations lead.

AT any rate, I was delighted to have been given this nugget of insight courtesy of my colleague. It’s something I may have to research further and it’s not something i’d ever considered before. I really take a great delight in those things that make me think about the Gods in ways I otherwise never would have considered. I consider them great gifts.

***(While we may find such conflicts vexing at first, they can be productive, as here, when from this conflict we all started discussing *why* Hephaestos might be called lame, and what to do with that, and what it might mean. I’m grateful for the productive discussion that came from that, because again, it led me to an understanding of Hephaestos that I otherwise would not have had).

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About ganglerisgrove

Free-range tribalist Heathen, Galina Krasskova, has been a priest of Odin and Loki since the early nineties. Originally ordained in the Fellowship of Isis in 1995, Ms. Krasskova also attended the oldest interfaith seminary in the U.S.- the New Seminary where she was ordained in 2000 and where she later worked as Dean of Second Year Students for the Academic year of 2011-2012. She has even given the opening prayer at the United Nations Conference “Women and Indigeny”. Beyond this, she took vows as a Heathen gythia in 1996 and again in 2004, She is the head of Comitatus pilae cruentae and a member of the Starry Bull tradition. She has been a member of numerous groups through the years including the American Academy of Religion. She has also served previously as a state government contracted expert on the Asatru faith, and been a regular contributor to various print and online publications geared towards modern pagans and polytheists, and for a time had her own radio program: Wyrd Ways Radio Live. Ms. Krasskova holds diplomas from The New Seminary (2000), a B.A. in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Religious Studies from Empire State College (2007), and an M.A. in Religious Studies from New York University (2009). She has completed extensive graduate coursework in Classics (2010-2016) and is pursuing a Masters in Medieval Studies at Fordham University (expected graduation 2019) with the intention of eventually doing a PhD in theology. She has also been teaching University classes in Greek and Latin. As part of her academic career Ms. Krasskova has written a number of academic articles, and also presented at various academic conferences including Harvard University, Claremont University, Fordham University, Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, Villanova University, and the City University of New York. An experienced diviner and ordeal master, her primary interest is in devotional work and the reconstruction of Northern Tradition shamanism. Her very first book, The Whisperings of Woden was the landmark first devotional text to be written in modern Heathenry. Ms. Krasskova has a variety of published books available running the gamut from introductory texts on the Northern Tradition, as well as books on shamanism, runes, prayer, and devotional practices. She is also the managing editor of “Walking the Worlds,” a peer-reviewed academic style journal focusing on contemporary polytheism and spirit work and the first journal of polytheology. While very busy with teaching and school, she does also occasionally lecture around the country on topics of interest to contemporary Heathenry and polytheisms. A passionate supporter of the arts Ms. Krasskova enjoys going to the opera, theater, and ballet. Her affection for the arts began early as she discovered dance, which she pursued professionally becoming a ballet dancer: first with a regional company in Maryland, then in New York City. After suffering career ending injuries, she would find new forms of expression in the visual arts. For a few years Ms. Krasskova co-owned an art gallery in the Hudson River Valley of New York, and over a course of numerous years she has studied a multitude of art mediums: glassblowing, watercolor, acrylic, photography and more! She is now an avid collage artist, acrylic painter and watercolorist and has even enjoyed placement in international artist-in-residencies programs in New York, New Mexico, and Poland. Her work has been exhibited globally from New York to Paris. She has taken her passion for the arts and polytheistic devotion, to create the Prayer Card Project. Since so much religious iconography has been destroyed, or defaced in the course of human history, she is actively making new religious prayers and iconography available to the various modern polytheistic communities to support those who are building their religious communities, building their devotional practices, and hungering for art that represents their religious faith. All while also supporting the artists within these burgeoning communities.

Posted on June 20, 2015, in devotional work, Polytheism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think that the gods change over time, just as we do, but in part They are influenced by the beliefs of Their followers. I believe this is *how* Poseidon became an ocean god. I think They adapt to the standards of the time in which They are worshiped; at least to some degree (though not entirely; primal deities remain very primal.) Odin, for example, no longer seems to demand human sacrifice, though He does seem to appreciate other forms of sacrifice and ordeal work. Rape was expected behaviour in Greek warriors; but certainly such a thing is repugnant to the modern Western mind. I doubt the Greek gods would be much inclined to rape anymore.

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  2. The older academics (late 1800’s to mid 1950’s) followed a thought that the Goddesses were far more sexualised during the bronze age. After the Greek Dark Age and establishment of classical mythology they lost their sexualisation and became virginal. This can be seen, in a sense, as a ‘disempowerment’ of the goddesses to give rank to the patriarchy based pantheon.
    Therefore according to this theory, Goddesses that were married either absorbed their spouses powers and epithets, for example Pallas Athena. Or the story was turned around into a rape tale, e.g. Hephaestus and Athena.
    It’s a contentious theory, but food for thought.

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  3. You make a very good point about the rapes or illicit unions being a method of absorbing into the national cult the divergent local alliances of deities. Regardless of how such unions are expressed in literature, I have little doubt that, for example, in Arkadia, the union of Demeter and Poseidon was seen as not only “legitimate”, but indeed as the primary and orthodox union for both Gods, with other alliances pushed to the periphery. Modern polytheists very much need to master once again this kind of focalization, which is how ancient polytheisms lived and breathed, never in a static national form.

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