Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fluidity and Change

Life is a big fluid mess. It is always in motion, in flux, and all things, from the waves of the sea to the minglings of cultures share this very real, and scientifically observed, behavior. All things, it seems, are fluid in their natures, even if they are stuck for long periods in particular forms.

I often refer to Poseidon as the God of Fluidity, but that does that mean, really?

In the last couple of weeks I have been giving bits of thought here and there to Poseidon and what he means. To the idea of a “Sea God” and what that means. To the idea of fluidity, or chaotic change, as a natural force under his dominion, and what that might mean.

A recent post on one of the Hellenic lists made me think about it in a clearer way, because as with so much else, I do try to think of the Gods as cosmic, and as a result I often tend to forget that while we may see the cosmos, our experience of it is at a terrestrial level and on a human level of consciousness and understanding.

I won’t repost the post here, as it is essentially irrelevant to Poseidon himself, but my response to a post about the enormous levels to which people, religions, cultures, etc. are all influenced by each other was to say that all such things are fantastically fluid, and how awesome that is.

It was like, at that moment, when that idea burst into my head, that Poseidon was there and he reminded me that he is the fluidity I was referring to.

You see, when you think about Poseidon, and by extension his epiphany on earth, the sea, you have to take into account some of the more basic functions of the sea, and these are as a means of sustenance, communication through travel, and as an erosive force on the land.

The sea, like rivers, rain, wind, etc, causes a great deal of change in the very shape of the land man occupies. It forces the land itself to alter, to be fluid in its shape and, in many ways, in granting man access to its shores. Through man’s ability to access the sea for sustenance, it caused a great change in man, allowing him to grow as a species, making survival easier. It was transformative. As a means of communication and influence between peoples, the sea was also instrumental in making the ideas of cultures, for good and ill, travel from one culture to another. It allowed the Greeks to learn writing from the Minoans and Phoenicians. It allowed religious and cultic ideas to travel back and forth between the Greeks and the peoples of the lands around them.

In the Hellenic world, the level of religious variance was enormous. From Eastern forms of religious expression entering Greece through the cults of Dionysos and Aphrodite to older forms of religious expression from the Minoan and forms of religious belief that made their way into Greece from Egypt and Italy, the sea always allowed man to share ideas. And the ideas did not just flow in to Greece, but from Greece they made their way all over the Mediterranean. Phoenician art and architecture were, for example, influenced by Hellenic forms, and the Romans fell so in love with the achievements of Hellenic culture that they almost became Hellenes themselves.

The God of Fluidity, who makes all things change, often in unexpected ways, works in all aspects of the universe. From the smallest particle to the largest of galactic super clusters, fluidity and change are universal. Is Poseidon the god of change? Not really, change is an effect of his power, however, and as a result of this, he is also a God who often is forced into the periphery in our polytheistic system because other deities, like Athena, enforce a kind of order on the cosmos that attempts to stem the forces of change.

Interestingly enough, Poseidon is often presented in myth as an almost conservative figure. He demands respect like an elder demands it of children, because the way of society demands children respect their elders, but in doing so, he betrays his very nature as a deity who is fluid and powerful and who, even as he seems to advocate for the old guard, is slowly disarming it and replacing it with the new, because if there is one thng about the sea that is and always will be true, that is that it is always in motion. Always changing. Never exactly the same way twice.

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