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.

A – Agathos Daimon (PBP week 1)

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 was to make the changes in my religious practice that I’ve been telling myself I’d like to do “someday.”  I’ve decided someday is now.

The first of these things I plan to incorporate into my practice are a trio of household observances undertaken at the time of the new moon, when one month changes to the next.  On the last day of the month is Hecate’s Deipnon, a day of purification when offerings are made to Hecate and the home is rid of anything one does not want to take into the next month.  On the first day of the new month is the Noumenia, a day of blessings.  Offerings are made to Selene, Apollon, Hestia and the household Gods, and the family makes for the coming month.  The third and last day of this triad is when the Agathos Daimon is honored.  While our family will be doing all of these, it is this last practice that I want to talk about today.

“Agathos Daimon” simply means “good spirit.”  He is an entity that watches over the household and the family that resides in it, possibly an aspect of Zeus, as the Father of the Gods often bears this epithet, or Dionysos who shares the epithet.  A serving of unmixed wine was often drunk in his name at the closing of feasts or symposia.  It seems more likely to me that this is a lesser spirit, somewhere between Gods and humanity and possibly a little alien to both.

The Agathos Daimon is often represent as a young man hold a cornucopia, or as a snake.  When the family is on good terms with their Daimon He can provide them with luck, protection, and some kinds of assistance.

My family could certainly do with some luck, protection, and assistance right now.  But that actually is beside the point.

When our family first moved in to this new house early last year, we discovered that a beautiful little garter snake was living under our laundry room.  We see him very rarely and I, as I have learned more about this particular household practice, my thoughts keep going back to him.  I have come to think of him as a manifestation of the Daimon of the house.  Starting this month, when we begin making offerings, we will be doing so in the part of the yard where the snake has most often been seen.

 

Resources:

www.theoi.com

www.hellennion.org

Many thanks to the people at Hellenion for their very useful version of the Athenian calendar and explanations of the festivals.

4 – The Emperor

Card:  4 – The Emperor

Deck:  The Vertigo Tarot

Visual Description:  The Emperor appears to be both puppet and puppet master.  From his fingers hang the strings that operate two marionettes – one is the Fool and the other, a figure in purple that I do not know.  Yet the Emperor’s own head lolls to the side like a forgotten puppet.  His pale hair streams upward in defiance of gravity, his face is a decaying mask, his body wrapped in twine, suggestive of a mummy.  Tangled in the strings of the Fool marionette is a golden scepter.  In the strings of the other is a globe.  Behind him is a rectangular board, with a black rectangle painted on it, creating a border.  His shadow casts strange shapes on the board, bringing another kind of puppet imagery – shadow puppets.

Character Analysis:  Another character I don’t recognize.

Astrological Attributions:  Ares, Jupiter

My Stuff:

Control

Traditional views of masculinity

The Patriarch

Virility

Authority

Caring, protective father

You might think you’re in control, but who’s controlling you?*

The throne and the power behind it

Decaying* systems of power, the “patriarchy”

Zeus

Kronos*

Eric Clapton

(*These are ideas specifically brought to mind by the Vertigo image.  The others come from my understanding of the card as an entity separate from this specific deck.  Which is why some of these things are contradictory.)