I – Observations on the Iliad (PBP Week 18)

I’m re-reading the Iliad and happened to need an “I” post.  So I though, “What the hell?”

Instead of writing a book report, however, I’ll just keep this short with a few observations:

1.  This is some really gorgeous writing!  The scene where Athena and Ares meet on the battle field is literally awe-inspiring.

The first time I read Homer I was a teenager and found this really dry and tedious next to the Odyssey.  In retrospect, I’m not sure why.

Also, any one who things gorn is a modern invention needs to read some of these battle scenes.

2.  There has been some discussion lately about whether the ancient heroes were looked upon as role models for how to live a virtuous life.  Obviously the pro position is being held by people who have never read the Iliad.  Hector:  Wonderful father, husband, and son.  Ideal patriot.  Achilles:  Self important dick.  (There’s a reason so many people who read this root for the Trojans.)

But the victor?  The greatest  hero Greece has ever known?  Spoiler:  It’s not Hector.

3.  I’ve been disturbed about how the Gods are portrayed in Homer – especially in the Illiad.  Apollo kills thousands of mortals – mortals who argued in favor of acquiescing to His priest’s wishes – to make a point.  Zeus ardently supports the Trojans, and particularly Hector, only to abandon them in the end because His intention was for the Greeks to win all along.

(Ares, on the other hand stands by those He loves and is willing to start a war with Zeus in order to avenge His son.  He gets more interesting to me every day.)

Then I realized that Homer is illustrating some very basic, if unfair, truths about the world – and doing it disturbingly well:  Bad things happen to good people.  The actions of leaders affect those who follow them, however innocent.  People die for “no reason.”  And we can’t always understand the will of the Gods.

It is not our place to try.  Our place is honor the Gods and to strive for excellence despite what fate has in store for us.

And in that, I guess the heroes really are excellent role models.

Fangirlishness

Once again, a ferocious debate is raging in pagan blogosphere and I find myself caught in the middle.  I’d like to be a partisan in one of these someday.  It looks like fun – all that righteous anger and willingness to take offense at the slightest contradiction must be really cathartic.

Respect.

Maybe next time.  On the whole “worshiping Batman” controversy, while many bloggers I have a lot of respect for rage on, I’m firmly in the middle:  I see the absurdity of both sides.

This all started, as far as I can tell, with a person saying “I do this thing.  It’s basically the same as what you do, just more modern.”

A bunch of other people responded with “It’s really not the same at all and here’s why.”

This quickly degenerated to “You’re an intolerant meanie!” versus “Yeah, well you’re shallow and vacuous!”

Then some other people, whose practice is somewhat related to the first person’s but really not what anyone was talking about, jumped in with “How dare you call me shallow and vacuous!”

And it all went down hill from there.   Me, I made popcorn and settled in for a fun read.

But it preyed on my mind and in the middle of the night, I decided to write this after all.  *shrug*  I hadn’t done a blog post in awhile and this topic interests me.

Stevie+Ray+Vaughan

Then there’s this guy.

On one had, I am a fangirl, pure and simple.  It’s in my nature to become obsessive about various pop culture phenomenon.  It took me a long time to learn not to be ashamed of that.  I will delightedly spend hours arguing with you about who was the best Doctor (Tom Baker, thank-you-very-much) or the relative excellence of Jimi Hendrix verses Jimmy Page (why bother though?  They’re both freakishly talented.)  I include Hendrix – as well as Jim Morrison, Marc Bolan and many others – among my revered dead.

I have found spiritual inspiration from Neil Gaiman‘s Endless.  When I visualize Ares, he wears the face of Kevin Smith.  When I was younger, before I found paganism, I considered the Force as a religious paradigm.

I have even written Harry Potter fan fic.  (Eep!  Didn’t intend to admit to that one…)

However, I work very, very hard not to be a fangirl about my Gods.  It would be blasphemous to reduce any deity to the level of Lucius Malfoy or John Constantine, even in my own mind.  (As a result, though, I tend to second guess the passion I feel for the Gods.  Something I really need to work on if my relationship with Them is to develop much farther.)

English: The writer Alan Moore Español: El esc...On the other hand, I have no problem believing that ideas and characters from fiction, if given enough energy over time from enough people, or perhaps really intense energy from someone who knows what she’s doing, can develop a life of their own.  They can be magically useful, so why not religiously? Besides, if Alan Moore believes it, it has to be credible!  (Blatant example of fangirlishness provided for your benefit.)

On yet another hand (I have lots of hands) I am a relatively hard polytheist.  Gods are Gods, heroes are heroes, thought forms are thought forms.  They’re not the same thing.  (Well, except Hercules – the hero who became a God.  And Dionysos – who has a grave and could be considered hero as well as Deity.  And…  not making my point really well here, am I?)

The thing is though, while no one believes that Batman or Lucius Malfoy were ever real, living humans, the heroes of ancient Greece were never thought of as fictional.  They are our glorious ancestors.  Even with a modern’s skepticism – (Is that really the grave of Achilles?  Or just the grave of some guy someone decided to call by that name?) – and nervousness about taking mythology too literally, I see that as a major difference.

But in the end, if you’re not practicing my religion, what do I care?  Because it will make “us” look silly in the eyes of those who lump us all together and who will probably never take any of us seriously anyway?

*shrug* I’m a fangirl.  I’m used to looking silly.

But if you say you are practicing my religion and what you’re talking about is extremely different – even to the point of being directly opposed or, at the very least, disrespectful – to what I do or believe, don’t I have the right to say “maybe not so much?”

Does it really all come down to words and titles yet again?  Who gets to decide what a Wiccan is?  Or a Hellenic Polytheist?  Or a Christian?  It’s really easy to say the members of those faiths get to define the term, but that’s begging the question.

X – Xena, Warrior Princess, or “Gee, I hope my Gods Have a Sense of Humor” (PBP week 47)

I have a confession to make.

I am a huge fan of Xena: Warrior Princess, despite its horrific history and its ridiculously inaccurate costumes.  Even despite its questionable to horrifying portrayal of the Gods.

So, I sincerely hope the Gods have a sense of humor about stuff like this.  They’ve been portrayed badly in pop culture long before this show came along and I don’t remember any reports of mass smitings going down, so maybe I’m OK.  I take comfort from the Odyssey, and its scandalous tale of Ares and Aphrodite told for amusement.

The characterizations of the Gods in the show range from refreshing (Hades), to questionable (Athena, Ares), to horrific (Aphrodite.)

Ares is the deity that appears most often in Xena, and I don’t imagine He would mind His characterization much at all, despite being the chief villain.  He’s pretty much used to that, I’d think.  He is shown to be a serious badass (though, of course, Xena always gets the best of Him) and He gets all the best lines.  On top of that, the actor Kevin Smith (no, not THAT Kevin Smith, this Kevin Smith) is one big hunk ‘o’ tasty.

When I envision the real Ares, it’s this image that comes to mind.  Haven’t noticed any objections so far.

Hades, too, comes off pretty well compared to other modern interpretations.  He is a little on the wimpy side, what with getting His helmet stolen and losing control of His realm and all, but He is refreshingly not evil.

Athena’s characterization isn’t too bad either.  She’s sympathetic, but cold, and in the end completely daddy’s girl.  She cares about humanity, but when it is “Us vs them” She unashamedly takes the side of the Gods.  The actress, Paris Jefferson, is gorgeous and has the most amazing grey eyes.

I can’t imagine Her being at all happy about that outfit, though.

The same is true of Artemis, costume wise.  All that skin cannot be good.

I haven’t seen the episodes She appears in – they are part of the “Twilight of the Gods” storyline which makes me incredibly uncomfortable (even my fangirlishness has its limits.)

So I can’t speak to how She is portrayed, except that the actress is too old, but I have no problem seeing Artemis in this image.

Cupid is shown as a teenage momma’s boy and Discord, well… Discordians may approve of Her portrayal, actually, though she is a bit petulant.  Dionysos, called Bacchus, appears in one episode “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”  I honestly don’t remember how they wrote Him, as I was too busy being alternately horrified and amused by the demonic vampire maenads.  Many other Gods make appearances in the series and I haven’t seen them all.

Now comes the real trouble.  The second most divine appearances in the show are from Aphrodite.  I really, really hope Aphrodite has a generous sense of humor.I suspect She does.  Otherwise the regular portrayal of Her as a lingerie clad air-headed mean girl would have resulted in some serious smiting.  (*Note to self:  see if you can find out how Sam Raimi’s, Alexandra Tydings‘, and Lucy Lawless’ love lives have been going.)

Then there’s that whole “Twilight of the Gods” story line I mentioned earlier.  Xena gets the power to kill Gods and does so with abandon, in order to protect her daughter Eve (this is when the show decided to throw Christian mythology into the mix.)  Ares and Aphrodite survive, having become mortal (temporarily) but that’s about it.  There’s more to it than that, but as I said even my fangirlishness has it’s limits.

And yet, I can’t resist Sam Raimi‘s ridiculously campy style, I adore Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor, and I am delighted by the occasional appearances of Bruce Campbell as Autolycus.

Most of all I love the story of love and heroism among women.


So still a fan, even though I watch it less than I did before becoming a follower of the Greek pantheon.  And even though occasionally when I do watch, I sometimes feel I should take a shower to clear away the miasma and then make conciliatory offerings.

Are your Gods often portrayed in fiction?  If so, how well?  Do you approve, ignore it, or take offense?  Do you disapprove and watch anyway?

T – Gods, Technology, and the Modern World (PBP week 40)

(So far I’ve been doing these posts a few days ahead and scheduling them for Friday.  This is the first time I didn’t do that and, what do you know?  My family decided they really needed my undivided attention yesterday.  Ah well, so I’m a little late.)

There are those who believe that new Gods have been born, Gods of the information age, Gods of the Industrial Revolution.  That television is our new God.  Or the Internet.

This might be true, but when I look at these marvels of the modern age, I don’t see new deities emerging.  I see instead proof that the old Gods are still actively educating and inspiring mortals.

From a Hellenic perspective, I can’t use the Internet without thinking of Hermes.  Is there an invention out there that speaks more of Him?  I mean, worldwide instantaneous communication?  Come on.  As a God of Travel, I imagine He delights  in the automobile and the jet airplane.  I see His darker side in the spread of cyber crime.

I believe Hephaestus gave us the modern steel that supports skyscrapers, as well as the internal combustion engine.  I see the hand of Demeter in the new strains of wheat that have helped ease famine in many parts of the world.  And if Prometheus stole fire from the gods for the benefit of mankind, could he not also have stolen nuclear power from the sun itself?  I imagine Ares delights in the use of automatic weapons and patriot missiles.  Dionysos taught us to make not only wine, but I believe the modern entheogens like LSD and MDMA as well.  (I mean the drug is even called ecstasy!  Seriously.)

Just because we know the names of the historical figures who invented our modern tools, does not mean they weren’t divinely inspired.  And just because humanity has misused so many of them doesn’t make them less divine.  The holy is dangerous, almost by definition.  How may have died by Prometheus’ fire over the millenia?  How many lives ruined by wine?

In the end, I don’t believe we need new Gods.  Whatever the future brings us, the Gods we know are already on it.