Monday, January 16, 2012

The Arrows of the Twins

The question of faith brings up a question. How much of myth, legend, and poetic storytelling should be taken literally, how much as fancy, and how much of it should we assume is meant to teach us something about ourselves, about the Gods, and about the paths of life?

They are questions meant for individual consideration, of course, as each of us has to decide this for ourselves, but I do think it important that we who have walked this path longer reach out with our words so that those who come along behind us are not lead astray by overly zealous or overly literal interpretations of ancient texts.

The title of this post is The Arrows of the Twins, and I titled it that because those arrows, metaphorical arrows I should say, are part of the issue at hand. In myth, several deities are said to shoot arrows at mortals, an act of aggression at best, yet these arrows are almost always allegories for things such as disease, health, love, hate, jealousy, etc. When Eros fires his arrows into the hearts of men it is an allegory for the lust that we men are prone to. When the Apollo fires poisonous arrows, they are allegories for disease, and when Artemis fires her arrows at a birthing mother, it is an allegory for that most tragic of deaths.

The ancients understood, as we sometimes forget, that the Gods are not so much super-people as they are unimaginable forces of nature. Forces beyond our power to fully understand, yet which we must try to understand if we are to grow and evolve as sapient creatures. When we speak to newcomers to our path, our religion, we must try to be clear about this because the mythology studies in schools are useless in educating them about more than the idea that the Greeks were a silly people who believed in a man riding a chariot in the sky.

We must make it clear to them all that our myths are heavily allegorical and that the nature of the Gods is essentially unknowable, even if we can come very close to understanding some of their aspects. That with the good comes the bad, because the Gods act not to satisfy our whims but to assure the balances that keep the universe running.

The Gods are not evil, nor are they good, those are concepts brought to us by the friendly neighborhood Christians who would like nothing better than to convince you that you are an impure sinner that needs them to save you. We must reassure them that the arrows of the Gods are not meant to hurt us or save us, but to assure of us the full breadth of life, which sometimes includes suffering and sometimes joys beyond imagining. We must be willing to question them as well, because the arrows of jealousy can be balanced by the whispers of wise counsel in our ears and the recklessness of love can be balanced by the knowledge that the arrows of Apollo can sicken and weaken you.

We do not have a moral guide in our religion. Even if we did, it would be woefully outdated and old fashioned, so we must remind our young charges that the arrows of the gods can strike and that the best defense is to recognize them and act in accordance with the principals of wisdom, balance, and caring. And so, Apollo and Artemis can strike us down only that we may get back up, stronger and better than ever, but we, not they, make the decision if that happens.

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