A handful of semi-related items today…
1. A member of Neos Alexandria, Quintus Poppaeus Sabinus, wrote the other day about a fascinating insight he had regarding Poseidon; he said, “I think of Poseidon as lord of the depths, both sea and land. Think of the ocean of molten magma below the surface of the earth. Hence the connection with earthquakes, I suppose.” (quoted with permission)
This rang really true to me, and I just wanted to spread it around a bit.
2. The other week I posted about an insight I had linking the Internet with Athena. Apparently it’s ringing true for some other folks as well: Sannion has just posted a delightful little fable about how it was all actually Her idea!
3. Two people (one IRL, one online) have asked my wife this week if as a polytheist she is offended by fictional representations of the Gods. Since this question doesn’t generally come up in conversation on a regular basis, she suggested it might be worth exploring here; I agree. We share the same basic attitude, that it depends on the nature of the representation.
For instance, we enjoyed the “Percy Jackson” books, although I quibbled with some of the author’s depictions… but overall the books spoke respectfully and thoughtfully of the Gods and even depicted some routine piety, which was a *huge* bonus! [NB: the following sentence was slightly edited for clarity in post-production.] And even irreverent treatments can be respectful – Thorne Smith’s “The Night Life of the Gods” is hugely irreverent, but is also an extremely funny satire and is obviously based in affection for and (like all good satire) a solid knowledge of the subject matter.
On the other hand, I am always irritated when an author feels the need to insert a disclaimer that of course nobody actually *believes* this stuff any more, even if the rest of the work is well done; and there are plenty of disrespectful treatments out there that I do find offensive (one that leaps to mind is a kids’ picture book called “Tales of Pan” that I wanted to like, but on the very first page the author starts out saying, “In ancient Greece people believed some very silly things; these are some stories of their silly gods and some of the silly tricks they got up to. One of the silliest gods was Pan.” (Paraphrased, but not much.)
So many of the stories that we have about the Gods and that we cling to as true and meaningful come from ancient “fiction” – drama, poetry, and so on – that it seems odd to me to give full faith and credit to those writings and see in them the inspiration of the Gods, but then to say that modern writers could not be similarly inspired. Roberto Calasso, Jo Graham, even Mary Renault – all have written passages (and in the case of Calasso, an entire book) about the Gods that inspired me, and that I am quite willing to believe were themselves inspired. I am deeply moved by the heartfelt poems to the Gods written by the students of Barnard College in their Greek Games, and have sung some of them in worship, although I am sure that most of them were not pagan in any meaningful sense of the term (there are one or two that I wonder about, though!).
Revelation is not sealed, to borrow a phrase from the Christians – and in the end, that is the problem that I have with the extreme position taken by a few “hard” Reconstructionists, such as those referenced in my previous post. In their zeal to ensure that ancient practice is done “correctly”, they squeeze out all but those who would do it exactly their way; and by scorning all modern revelation as “UPG” (always typed with a sneer, I have no doubt) they effectively try to seal revelation and, I fear, doom our faith to die once again.
I do ancient practice – I pour libations, make offerings, and while I can’t burn incense inside because of my wife’s allergies it occured to me the other day that there’s no reason I can’t do so outside at the altar – but sometimes I also innovate. And I believe that if the Gods can speak to us through dreams, the flight of birds, the roll of dice or the selection of a Tarot card, then there is no reason to think they cannot also communicate through a modern work of fiction or a seemingly random song on the radio (radiomancy – yay for new words!).