Monday, January 30, 2012

Since I am pondering the parts...

Since I am pondering the parts of Artemis, and I am trying to come to terms with what they all mean, I want to touch on a different aspect of my personal theology that may prove useful.

I call them detached or autonomous aspects. These are aspects of deities that take on a life of their own. Aspects of deities which, in the mythic cycle and even in popular belief, become independent entities. These aspects of deities can actually be aspects of many different deities which are seen by the people as the same mythic figure. In practice, there is a fine line between acknowledging Gods and their aspects and angeloi, which I see as small aspects or pieces of a deity which behave like independent beings.

What do I mean by this? I will use a couple of examples...

The Erotes

The Erotes are like little angelic beings that in myth act at the behest of Aphrodite to pierce the hearts of people with their arrows of emotion. In essence, they are little aspects of her, the little bits of her that inspire the varying heart felt emotions of our lives. Things like infatuation, love, jealousy, desire, lust. Are they literal beings? Probably not, but through poetry we have made them real. We recognize in ourselves a little bit of the Goddess of Love and Emotion, and so we picture each of our hearts, our emotional centers, as being manipulated by these little critters. But they are all really her.


Medusa is a different kind of figure. A vengeful spirit, some might even say malevolent, yet also protective. The myth of Medusa is based in the larger epic cycle of the Greeks as the heroes of their legends sought to go forth and conquer the world around them, which included conquering their own fears, fears like Medusa, who represented to them the bitter outrage and fearsome vengeance of the Gods. 

Unlike the Erotes, however, Medusa is not the aspect of a single deity, but rather, an aspect of many as well as an aspect of feminine rage, a rage that must have festered in the hearts of many women in ancient times when women were so ill treated by men. One imagines that in today's world, that same avenging spirit remains very much alive. The essence of what Medusa represents is still very much active in the world today, a world in which women are still often little more than slaves under the thumb of barbaric patriarchal religions like Islam, and no, I won't apologize for that characterization, as I won't apologize for the same characterization of Christian churches which still insist on calling woman the subservient sex.

But the power of what Medusa represents is also something different. The vengeance and protection of the Gods themselves, especially the Goddesses. The myth of Medusa, or rather, of the Gorgons, is rooted in very ancient times, and that of Medusa herself, a mortal woman turned into a Gorgon, is rooted in the mythology of Athena, a goddess known for her rather terrible temper when it comes to propriety. But that myth is also rooted in the idea that the rape of women calls on a deep, dark, power of vengeance, a power that can turn men to stone. That is, paralyze them.

When Medusa is raped in the temple of Athena by none other than Poseidon, Athena, in her rage, transforms her into a Gorgon. To the Classical Greeks this seemed a punishment, but perhaps to earlier people it was understood as something more. Perhaps they understood that this tale spoke of the ultimate violation of a nation, the nation of Athena, being violated by another and the nation itself rising up with power beyond anything it once had and lashing out, protecting itself in the future. See, Athena did not simply transform the poor maiden into a monster, she transformed her into a creature that could protect itself against any attack. That it is Athena herself who in the mythic tale of Perseus helps him kill her, though not her power, indicates that the Goddess has retaken her power, she has made her nation strong. That in her nation women were often little more than property is one of the great dichotomies of the ancients, but myth tells us of happenings, not necessarily of the moral values of those happenings.

Ancient people placed an effigy or mask of Medusa at their home entrances, this symbolized protection, and in this we see a transformation of Medusa, from nearly demonic creature to protective spirit, and so again it seem to represent the power of a divine being.

Both of these types of beings, the angelic, and the demonic (not demonic in the Christian sense) represent aspects of greater powers, but in the case of Gorgons, Furies, Muses, Graces, etc., these can represent more than one being. The Muses can represent inspiration, but the inspiration of Apollo, or Zeus, or Hera, or Athena. The Furies can represent the anger of Gaea, or the vengeance of Persephone. The Gorgons also represent many, and in so doing so, are as agents of greater powers.

They are such because we human beings tend to understand them as such, because in them we are able to separate the aspects of the great Gods that seem undignified or dark and place them somewhere more fierce or terrifying. It would seem unbefitting of the Holy Mother of all things to lash out at us with destruction, so her power made manifest in the world around us can seem like that of Furies, as can the power of any Goddess.

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