Monday, January 14, 2013

Since i am on this kick...

…I'd like to touch on an aspect of the Gods, Zeus and Aphrodite in particular, that is often spoken of but is seldom explored because I think it creates an uncomfortable feeling among Pagans who have had to deal with the universalist aspects of divinity as taught by the Abrahamic religions.

The Chariot of Zeus Project Gutenberg eText 14994

The aspect I am talking about is referred to as "Heavenly" or "Higher" among those who have explored Aphrodite and her aspect of Ourania (her title derived from the same word that gives the protogonos Ouranos his name). This is an aspect of a higher order of being, of potential and possible transcendence rather than immanence in nature and the affairs of mankind. 

Zeus, as king of Gods and men, is also seen, at least by philosophers and such, and one can assume (Though if I were a scholar I would never do that without corroborating facts) that the average Greek probably didn't see the Gods as simple super-humans, but as beings of transcendental power and awareness. That the Gods were worshipped throughout "Greece" and that the Greeks believed that the Gods of foreign people were their Gods in different forms indicates that the Greeks did believe their Gods had transcendental and omnipresent properties.

But, my worship is not about what they did, but about how what they may have done informs my world view and my relationship with the Gods, and I have come to believe, for quite some time now, that the Gods are truly universal and that the idea of aspected divinity, that being divinity that can and does appear differently to different people, cultures, and religious systems is the correct form in which to accept the Gods.

Aphrodite has many aspects, of course, but the two that seem to bookend them all are Porne and Ourania. Now, there is no dogma in Greek religion, but these two aspects of the Goddess that seem to be in opposition to each other to our modern way of thinking, are also fairly common ways to see the Gods. The Gods are often said to have Olympian and Chthonic aspects, two aspects which seem to be in opposition to each other, but which to me always speak to a universality in the power of the Gods.

Zeus Pateras, Zeus Olympios, etc., speak to Zeus as a heavenly deity. As a father god, as a god of the highest places (Olympic referring to the highest place or state of being) he is also a God who is everywhere and can always hear your prayers, so, is he not then a universal being? Omnipresent?

It is aspects such as these, omnianything really, that sometimes make Hellenistoi nuts, because while some philosophers seem to agree that the Gods were universal this way, what we know about Hellenic ritual and practice seem to indicate that the Greeks did not believe this, but rather that Gods could be localized. Thus, Aphrodite Ourania and Aphrodite Porne, both aspects of this goddess that were everywhere in nature all at once, are troublesome. 

Zeus statue

I think where the problem lies is in accepting that the Gods are universal, but their aspects don't have to be. You could, for example, be a gay man and accept that Aphrodite is present in your love making (or your crazy fucking, whichever one you enjoy, or both) yet not accept that she is in the sexual exploits of a Dominatrix. The Dominatrix might disagree, but from your personal perspective, this is true. Therefore different parts of Greece saw the different deities in different ways, in the ways that those deities were said to have interacted with or blessed those particular localities. Therefore a Persian man would see the Goddess in a way that was appropriate for his culture and in a way that he believes the Goddess had interacted with his people. So, if the God(dess) of love is said to have punished the people of his land, he might see her as threatening or punishing, yet if he believes that she has blessed his life and that of his people with much love, joy, and happiness, he would see her very differently. 

It is easy, I think, for people to read myth, philosophy, and poetry of ancient times and forget the human component to religious perception.

Zeus the King of Olympus, sitting on his throne, is a distinctly different image or icon to meditate upon than Zeus Chthonios, or Zeus of the Underworld. It is often easy to confuse an aspect like this with that of say Hades, who is lord of the underworld and therefore very much Chthonic in nature, yet it is important to remember that the ancient people did not get confused about this. Zeus who is prayed to by the people for the gifts of the earth, perhaps in combination with a goddess like Gaea or Demeter, is Chthonic because he is being asked to grant gifts that come from the earth itself. Wealth, good harvests, etc., are all things directly related to the earth and therefore chthonic in nature, and so if Zeus is given credit for granting such gifts to a people, he is interacting with them as Chthonios. 

But the aspect of Chthonios is also linked to the house snake, that spirit of protection that is often depicted as a snake in iconography, and is therefore linked to the earth, and as Lord of Hosts (I'm sure you've heard that before, as the God of the Christians inherited this title from the Pagan Era Sky Father God, who the Gods called Zeus) he is also a God of the home and the protection it provides, a domain often granted to Hestia, Lady of the Hearth. 

So, perception makes a God aspected, as the perception of Zeus as "earthy" makes him Chthonios, but that is excluding the will of the deity, and so I have to ask myself, are the aspects of divinity merely human perception and interpretation of the Gods, or do the Gods consciously (if such a term even applies to such beings) decide to be seen this way?

I can't answer that, I will not pretend to know the will of the Gods, but I do believe that there is a will at work when a deity who is sought out is believed to have intervened is doing so because he wishes to, and that these aspects are therefore part of their nature, a nature which is vast and hard to put into categories, but which can be gleaned through a study of their past actions and the myths that grow around them.

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