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Author Topic: Chief Gods  (Read 3939 times)
treekisser
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« Topic Start: April 15, 2010, 10:48:39 am »

Having been broadly monotheistic for a good while, I seem to be shading slightly into polytheism now, which has made me think about what it means to be a 'chief' god.

I know some pantheons are headed by a god. If you pray to another god from that pantheon, do you also feel obliged to acknowledge the chief god in any way? Does your patron have anything to say on the matter? Or is it simply something between the gods?
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« Reply #1: April 15, 2010, 11:01:13 am »

I know some pantheons are headed by a god. If you pray to another god from that pantheon, do you also feel obliged to acknowledge the chief god in any way? Does your patron have anything to say on the matter? Or is it simply something between the gods?

::shrug::  I feel obliged to honor all the deities in the pantheon.  If you're asking, does Zeus get special consideration from me because he's King of the Gods--not particularly, no.  That's his role in the pantheon, but it doesn't necessarily mean that he gets a greater share of worship, as I understand it.  I guess that would fall under "something between the gods", although...  It's not that it's totally irrelevant to me, it's just not got much to do with whether I honor him and if so in what measure.  If that makes sense.
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« Reply #2: April 15, 2010, 11:11:36 am »

I know some pantheons are headed by a god. If you pray to another god from that pantheon, do you also feel obliged to acknowledge the chief god in any way? Does your patron have anything to say on the matter? Or is it simply something between the gods?

I don't feel obliged in that way, per se... As Star said, it's more like an obligation to worship all of Them. Also, I can't go to Anpu for everything, so I pray to the other Gods of the Kemetic pantheon for certain things. If I'm feeling sick, I pray to Aset or Sekhmet, etc. Ra is no different, though usually it's indirect prayer, such as appreciating the warmth of the sun. And as far as I know, Anpu doesn't care, because no matter Who I pray to, He's still the One closest to me.
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« Reply #3: April 15, 2010, 11:13:30 am »


I honestly think that the concept of "chief god" is ... overrated?  Overplayed?  Not as broadly applicable as one might think?  Possibly relating to hegemonial influence from monotheisms and/or Classical mythology (not my field, so I don't know for certain if the status of Zeus in the Greek or Iupiter in the Roman is correctly portrayed in pop literature).

Many pantheons have creator gods; those aren't necessarily "chief gods", as a glance over Greek mythology with its sequence of deposings can show.  Pantheons of urban cultures tend to have gods of civic authority (I believe Zeus would be one of those; also Heru for Egypt).  The gods themselves may have leaders they look to in particular circumstances, who may or may not be the same as civic authority gods (pop Greek suggests Zeus, but the Contendings for Egypt notes Ra for Egypt ... who wrote to Nit asking for advice/wisdom, and who was at one point strongarmed by Wesir's authority, which suggests that the more one knows the more complex it gets).  Then you have gods who are warleaders, or the ones the gods look to for wisdom or insight, or various other forms of chieftain.

And I think it gets more nebulous in parts of northern Europe where one has all kinds of different types of kings, and thus who is the chief in a particular circumstance depends on the framing context, which land you're on, and so on.  (I've seen heathens frothing at the mouth at the sort of play Odin gets in some circles, for example, some even blaming the concept of "chief god" there on Wagner.)  I'm less familiar with this - honestly, my framework on it is heavily influenced by an excellent but unpublished novel written by a heathen friend which is basically about the interplay between kinds of kings in a fantasy world - but I know there's some stuff in Irish lore about it too (hence the concept of "high king", being a king-the-other-kings-listen-to...).


As an Egyptian polytheist, I can see arguments that I should recognise Ra, Wesir, Heru, Djehwty, Atum, Aten, Amun, and possibly Nit as "chief god".  (Okay, the Aten is a limited time-period thing, but!  I'm still tickled by the existence of modern Atenists.)  I have a desire to acknowledge Ra, mostly because of the centrality and importance of solar stuff in Egyptian religion (which is not entirely separate but also not entirely the same as "chief god" status), and relationships or lack thereof with several of the others, but nothing specific.

Perhaps if I were clearer (or less clear!) on the mythology I would be more useful on the subject. Wink
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« Reply #4: April 15, 2010, 12:16:57 pm »


Personally, I pray to the gods that have interest in me and the Divine - I don't usually bother gods that don't have an interest in me.  That's from a combination of courtesy - I'm not gonna bug people that I've nothing to do with, I'm not gonna bother gods that I don't have a relationship with either.  And, of course, sheer laziness/self-overburdening.  I put a lot of energy into the relationships I have - I don't have time OR energy for MORE!

Of course, I'm also serving a Greek god, beginning to develop a relationship with a Kemetic one, and building a path that speaks of the Divine directly that seems to have a similar framework to a lot of Kemetic thought with bits and pieces swiped from other places.  (Like sci-fi).  So it's not like I'm not confused enough to BEGIN with ... Cheesy
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« Reply #5: April 15, 2010, 04:28:07 pm »

Having been broadly monotheistic for a good while, I seem to be shading slightly into polytheism now, which has made me think about what it means to be a 'chief' god.

I know some pantheons are headed by a god. If you pray to another god from that pantheon, do you also feel obliged to acknowledge the chief god in any way? Does your patron have anything to say on the matter? Or is it simply something between the gods?


I've always sort of seen gods as beings of equal status, so while someone like Zeus might sit on the throne, he is only first among equals, and really, I suspect that his authority does not extend much past his line of sight.

My particular faith recognizes greater and lesser gods, and acknowledges that the gods of the Wicca are in the latter group.
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« Reply #6: April 15, 2010, 06:07:30 pm »

I know some pantheons are headed by a god. If you pray to another god from that pantheon, do you also feel obliged to acknowledge the chief god in any way? Does your patron have anything to say on the matter? Or is it simply something between the gods?

Pretty much what Star said. I feel obligated to honor all Greek deities. Zeus may be their "chief god" but except in places where he was the area's god, he didn't seem to get much (if any) more worship.
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« Reply #7: April 16, 2010, 06:09:33 pm »

If you pray to another god from that pantheon, do you also feel obliged to acknowledge the chief god in any way?

Not really. I am not someone who is a part of a path which is solely in one area or the other. I follow Dionysos. Where that leads me, I go. I had an interest in Zeus a couple of years ago, but I mistook a lot of things and decided to abandon that path, even though now I can see things much clearer. It kind of freaked me out to try and get close to Him, or any type of Chief god.

However, if I do something for a Chief god, I think its respectful and something we should do to say something like "Hail Zeus, King of Olympos" because well hey, He is. It doesn't hurt me or my relationship with Dionysos to say so. I'm giving Him His dues, which should be accorded to Him. But then again, thats how my brain and world works, so.

Does your patron have anything to say on the matter?

Um. Has Dionysos said anything to me about it? No. But I take a myth (or well, several) of Him very close to heart, in which when a mortal says Dionysos is not a real God, said mortal does not usually meet a happy end, nor is is swift or kind. See Pentheus and Dionysos' aunts. Give the Gods Their dues. All Dionysos wanted was to just be recognized as a God, and to let his worshippers worship in peace. Like I said above, it doesn't hurt me or my relationship with my God to say it.

But then again, I'm not telling anyone to do what I do either. It's up to you to figure out what you want.

Or is it simply something between the gods?

Probably. The Gods don't live behind glass. They've probably changed and adapted since the Western World turned Christian and they're probably a lot more flexible now than they were 2,000+ years ago.


Just my two Canadian cents.
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« Reply #8: April 26, 2010, 06:23:55 am »

::shrug::  I feel obliged to honor all the deities in the pantheon.  If you're asking, does Zeus get special consideration from me because he's King of the Gods--not particularly, no.  That's his role in the pantheon, but it doesn't necessarily mean that he gets a greater share of worship, as I understand it.  I guess that would fall under "something between the gods", although...  It's not that it's totally irrelevant to me, it's just not got much to do with whether I honor him and if so in what measure.  If that makes sense.

I get slightly confused by the Greek pantheon in particular, because judging from translations of some tragedies, there seems to be at least two levels of Zeus: Zeus-as-individual-chief-god, and Zeus-as-some-cosmic-eternal-force. Am I right in seeing this, or is it just seeing things? And if there is that difference, do you lean more towards the individual aspect, or the cosmic one?
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« Reply #9: April 26, 2010, 06:30:52 am »

I honestly think that the concept of "chief god" is ... overrated?  Overplayed?  Not as broadly applicable as one might think?  
....

As an Egyptian polytheist, I can see arguments that I should recognise Ra, Wesir, Heru, Djehwty, Atum, Aten, Amun, and possibly Nit as "chief god".  (Okay, the Aten is a limited time-period thing, but!  I'm still tickled by the existence of modern Atenists.)  I have a desire to acknowledge Ra, mostly because of the centrality and importance of solar stuff in Egyptian religion (which is not entirely separate but also not entirely the same as "chief god" status), and relationships or lack thereof with several of the others, but nothing specific.

From what I've read so far (OK, admittedly just Hornung, Meeks and Bleeker), 'chief god' can be problematic in Egyptian devotion because of the henotheistic slant. Not to mention the syncretism. No matter how much I admire (oops) Djehuty, I do find it difficult to approach the issue without thinking instinctively in terms of hierarchies of separate divinities.

Eh. Thought I had a point but apparently I just wanted to whine.  Tongue
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« Reply #10: April 26, 2010, 06:32:11 am »


Probably. The Gods don't live behind glass. They've probably changed and adapted since the Western World turned Christian and they're probably a lot more flexible now than they were 2,000+ years ago.


o/t but just wanted to comment how I sometimes wonder whether they relate to time the same way as humans do. If they don't, change and adaptation, if it happens at all, would be on a way different scale.
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« Reply #11: April 26, 2010, 07:17:32 pm »

Having been broadly monotheistic for a good while, I seem to be shading slightly into polytheism now, which has made me think about what it means to be a 'chief' god.

I know some pantheons are headed by a god. If you pray to another god from that pantheon, do you also feel obliged to acknowledge the chief god in any way? Does your patron have anything to say on the matter? Or is it simply something between the gods?


Well, I can tell you that, as a hard polytheist, I do believe in the other gods in the pantheon to which Hermes belongs, but I don't pray to them. Many I just don't want to, because of personality clashes, or general disinterest in them (and them in ME, more like).  For instance, I -respect- Artemis, but I'm a little scared of her, so I don't try to get her attention in any way, good or bad. I have never liked the fact that Zeus cheats repeatedly on Hera, so I am not disingenuous in petitioning him for things or paying him homage... I think he'd see right through that, knowing my mind.

I think it's PERFECTLY fine to go either way, however... maybe meditate and ask your patron what he/she thinks!

If you don't feel like you want to, then don't... In some ways, it might be a waste of either your time or theirs if you do!
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« Reply #12: May 11, 2010, 02:16:21 am »

o/t but just wanted to comment how I sometimes wonder whether they relate to time the same way as humans do. If they don't, change and adaptation, if it happens at all, would be on a way different scale.

I think that it depends on how you view how the universe works. Personally? I think they do. The Gods.. all the Gods on this earth are a part of This Particular Earth. While we were not always the dominant force on this earth (in fact in the grand scale of things, we are very new), we are now. The Gods see us, interact with us, and I think W/we have some sort of symbiotic relationship that quite frankly I don't have the mind to try and comprehend how it works, its just there.

I believe that time goes forward, and while we can connect with the energies of the past, and even bring bits of it back with us to the present, we cannot bring it back, and we cannot remain in the past. Life and Time goes on. Things change. And to fight that change I think makes it worse, because to prevent change brings stillness, and in most cases stillness turns to stagnation. Stagnation, to me, is bad (but then again I have a very Set- and/or Dionysos-like view of change and stagnation. "It's coming whether you like it or not. Deal with it.").

To me, the Gods will change as humanity changes, because everything is connected to each other, even the Gods. They've changed as some of them emerged from Crete or the two kingdoms of Kemet or Mesopotamia or Japan or New Zealand, etc. They changed as their kingdoms peaked to their highest, and changed when they fell. They've seen Christianity take over in many parts where their religions flourished, or really any religion you can think of that exists now where others used to be. They've seen temples desecrated, great works destroyed.

Are there Gods who probably don't give a shit any of this has happened? Oh, most definitely. But then again, I don't think many of Them have worshippers. Many of Their names are probably lost as time has passed. But I don't think everyone God cares for every single human on this earth. I don't see the Morrigan or Brighid or Athena taking a personal interest in what I do, even though I talk with people who are devoted to Them. I also don't see Them just orchestrating something JUST to hurt me. Unless I royally piss Them off in some way, I suppose.

Okay, to cut myself off here before I begin rambling off into space  Cheesy, I do think the Gods change as time as we know it goes on. They are connected to us, and I think if They weren't in some way, They would've buggered off a long time ago when humanity decided to give Them the finger. I think They've changed, and have adapted to trying to contact us, many of us who have grown up under a different religion or none at all. Of course it doesn't always go perfectly, because I've read many stories over the years here of people running for the hills when a God comes knocking at their door.  Cheesy

And I don't mean Change as in suddenly Zeus totally needs a Facebook group or He will be pissed. More along the lines of we live in a totally different society, not the ones They were originally from, and thus unless its something thats harming us, generally the culture boundaries will stay in tact. That and I think they'll be cool with us not sacrificing a hecatomb on their feast days. Unless someone has a 100 cattle to spare?  Wink
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