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Author Topic: How important is history?  (Read 23469 times)
Ellen M.
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« Reply #45: June 07, 2010, 05:22:54 pm »

Therein lies the problem:  mythology is not canon, dogma, or creed nor was it ever intended as such.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  poets are NOT priests.  Mythology is nothing more than a compilation of fictional stories akin to a modern day novel.  The epics were written for entertainment, not theological discourse.  Theology remained with the priests and the philosophers.

The priests. The upper-class echelon of society. A very small segment of the population, dictating religion. And the gods are dependent on what the priests say? And the priests have special access to information the rest of us don't? There are plenty of instances, both ancient and modern, of priests abusing their position and being influenced by money, power, and politics to the detriment of any sort of religion and spirituality. Why trust priests?
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« Reply #46: June 07, 2010, 06:01:23 pm »

The priests. The upper-class echelon of society. A very small segment of the population, dictating religion. And the gods are dependent on what the priests say? And the priests have special access to information the rest of us don't? There are plenty of instances, both ancient and modern, of priests abusing their position and being influenced by money, power, and politics to the detriment of any sort of religion and spirituality. Why trust priests?

To expand on this, in Ancient Greece there are instances where priesthoods would be bought and sold.   The only function of a priest back then was maintaing the temples (cleaning and other upkeep) and taking a share of sacrificed animals as payment.  They were not spiritual leaders in the modern sense of the word and thus had no more authority that the average poet when it came to spiritual matters.
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« Reply #47: June 07, 2010, 06:33:04 pm »

Therein lies the problem:  mythology is not canon, dogma, or creed nor was it ever intended as such.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  poets are NOT priests.  Mythology is nothing more than a compilation of fictional stories akin to a modern day novel.  The epics were written for entertainment, not theological discourse.  Theology remained with the priests and the philosophers.


Actually, many of the classical 'myths' we know today are modern derivations of ancient religious prayers and poems. The plays, which we may think of today as solely 'entertainment', were created as part of religious ritual and festivals. The roots of theatre lie in the rites of Dionysos and the poetic competitions of the agon.

The theological experts, at least in ancient Athens, were not the priests (priesthood being, in many cases, a civic posting arrangement filled by particular families) but the exegetes. And in many cases the philosophers challenged common religious practice and belief, rather than supported it. And were sometimes prosecuted for it.

Modern conceptions of priesthood and theology can rarely be successfully grafted onto ancient practice.
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« Reply #48: June 07, 2010, 08:02:16 pm »

Oh, I have thought outside my box, trust me.  However, it just doesn’t hold up to logic in the end, nor is anyone’s argument very convincing.

The reason why our arguments do not live up to your logic, is because we do not follow your logic, nor is it our own logic. We are not expected to follow your logic anymore than we are expected to follow Randall or Lyric's logic. Nor are we expected to follow the logic of ancient philosophers OR priests.

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Therein lies the problem:  mythology is not canon, dogma, or creed nor was it ever intended as such.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  poets are NOT priests.  Mythology is nothing more than a compilation of fictional stories akin to a modern day novel.  The epics were written for entertainment, not theological discourse.  Theology remained with the priests and the philosophers.

Here is where I side with Ellen M. and Melamphoros: priesthood (NOT exegetes) become involved with politics and money very early. One would argue that most temples in Athens and Rome, by the time of the Classical era, was populated with those who came from very influential families, or bought they way in. Thats not to say that they didn't care for the Gods or not give them their due, I am not saying that.

I also don't think we should throw out the baby with the bathwater here. Myths were not fictional to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but they weren't always considered to be of the literal truth, or the ONLY version of that myth.

There is then also the fact that many myths (for the sake of conversation, I'll use Greek and Roman solely) that came down to us, whether by poets or philosophers, came from a relatively late period (although by no means modern) of Greek and Roman history. There are even comments from the people who wrote these myths that by the time it has come down to them it has become distorted, or that perhaps the myth was never solely Greek/Roman at all, and came from a different area that was then subsumed into Greek/Roman myth.

I'm not saying we should be taking myth as dogma, but I don't think we should disregard them entirely. Darkhawk made a good post a couple months ago at looking at the elements of myth and what they accomplish.


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I never knew that the stars and black holes were the Gods?  The Gods are not static, for the state of perfection is a well-oiled machine that flows impeccably and flawlessly.  If something is perfect, it has no faults, and if it has no faults there is no reason for it to change in order to become better nor is it in the position to potentially become worse due to change. 

I have a feeling this is a point where no one is going to budge on, seeing as it seems to me this is something you hold very personally. You believe the gods are perfect, where many of us do not believe the gods are perfect, and therefore we believe they can change because then that makes them IN the universe and apart of it, where you do not(?). Correct me if I'm wrong, but thats what I'm getting from what you've been saying in this thread.

In which case... no one is going to grow "out of [their] box" or adhere to anyone else's "logic", since the fundamentals of what we believe are so different, and are just that: fundamentals.

I would also like to point out that perhaps not all Gods are the same. Some may work on fundamentally different levels than Others. Some may require that "change", while others do not?

But this is just my two cents.
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« Reply #49: June 07, 2010, 08:23:15 pm »

Theology remained with the priests and the philosophers.

I hold all three of those categories of people on the same level of truthiness.  Would you be willing to explain what makes theologists and philosophers more... well, not infallible, exactly, but more likely to perceive truth than poets?

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« Reply #50: June 07, 2010, 09:18:49 pm »

The Gods are not static, for the state of perfection is a well-oiled machine that flows impeccably and flawlessly.  If something is perfect, it has no faults, and if it has no faults there is no reason for it to change in order to become better nor is it in the position to potentially become worse due to change.

This may seem an odd question, but how do you define "perfection"?

I'm asking because you seem to be saying that the gods are perfect and therefore unchanging.  Does that mean they're omnipotent, omniscient, or any other omni?

As others have said, it seems we've hit on a point of fundamental disagreement.  You believe the gods to be perfect and unchanging.  I don't.  Well, actually, I don't have any particular opinion on most of the gods, because I have no direct experience with most of them.  I only have beliefs (for want of a better word) about Brighid (and Raven, to a MUCH smaller extent).  With regard to Brighid, I don't think She is omniscient or omnipotent.  I'm not sure if I think She's perfect, because I'm not sure what definition we're using for perfect.   Cheesy

Another salient aspect of the discussion is the difference between paths.  As others have also said, you seem to be coming from a pretty strict recon perspective.  So your belief that the gods are perfect and unchanging might be a fundamental belief in that path (I know so little about Roman Recon that I have no idea of that belief is part of it or not).  Similarly, your approach to mythology, priests, etc., might also be fundamental to your path.  However, someone coming from a non-recon perspective might -- and clearly does -- have a different perspective.  That doesn't mean either way is wrong.  It just means they're different.

Unless you're prepared to say that Religio Romano is the One True Way, of couse.  Maybe you are, but that's obviously going to be a point of disagreement.   Cheesy

I'd also like to clarify the point I was originally trying to make way back when I said:
I think part of my position on this question -- and it sounds like Ellen is thinking in a similar vein -- is based on the understanding that the gods "live" in the modern world with us.  IOW, the gods are ancient, but that doesn't mean they're stuck somewhere way back in time. 

My sense of Brighid is that She is part of today's world, and, therefore, understands perfectly well why and how I can serve and relate to Her in today's world.  I, personally, don't think She expects -- or even wants -- me to attempt to accurately replicate Her ancient worship, even if we knew what that was.

YMMV, of course. 

On the point of "change", I don't think the gods change their fundamental natures.  When I said that I think the gods are part of the current world and not stuck back in some ancient time, I meant that the gods are fully aware of "current events", so to speak, and can adapt to changing societal developments.  They don't necessarily require the exact same kinds of offerings, f'ex, because they know that our current society does not allow things like human or animal sacrifice.  That doesn't mean they don't require offerings at all, or would be satisfied with just any old thing.  It just means that they can understand and accept that we can't sacrifice a virgin or a goat, and have to substitute something.

For another example, I believe Brighid has always been concerned with social justice (a relatively new term for a pretty old concept).  Back in the Bronze Age, that might have taken the form of concern about the "ambue", or the "cowless" ones of the society -- IOW, those who had little or no resources.  Now, however, we don't measure our wealth in cows.  So Brighid isn't going to worry about someone who literally owns no cows.  Rather, Her concern is going to be with those on the fringes of our current society, that is, low income people, or those who are facing some other kind of social justice issue (racism, etc.).

So, Brighid's area of concern hasn't changed, but how that area manifests in human society has changed.

This is the same point Darkhawk (I think) made about communication.  As you agreed, the gods of communication (whoever they are in whichever pantheon) would probably include the internet in their area of influence now, since it's currently a primary mode of communication.  But the internet didn't exist thousands of years ago.  And something else might take its place in the future.  So how can it be included in their area if they didn't change in some way to include it?

None of that means that any of the gods change in the sense of changing their personalities, their fundamental needs, their natures, etc.  But they do change to accommodate developments in the world, like the internet or laws against murder.  And those changes aren't good or bad, they just *are*.

I hope I've been able to explain my position clearly (this time  Wink ).  I'm interested in how others feel about this approach to the concept of "change" and the gods.
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Ellen M.
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« Reply #51: June 07, 2010, 09:51:59 pm »

The theological experts, at least in ancient Athens, were not the priests (priesthood being, in many cases, a civic posting arrangement filled by particular families) but the exegetes. And in many cases the philosophers challenged common religious practice and belief, rather than supported it. And were sometimes prosecuted for it.

Do you have any sources for that off the top of your head? I'm not asking to challenge you - this actually sounds fascinating and I'd love to read more about it. (Inner classical archaeology nerd showing. Cheesy)
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« Reply #52: June 08, 2010, 01:27:25 am »

Do you have any sources for that off the top of your head? I'm not asking to challenge you - this actually sounds fascinating and I'd love to read more about it. (Inner classical archaeology nerd showing. Cheesy)

No problem; I quite agree: the compexity of intersectionality between civic and religious law and custom in this regard is fascinating.

The classic (heh.) reference which comes to mind is Plato (Laws) - idealized city, yes, but founded and extrapolated from existing custom (and interesting reading all the same).

A major secondary referred source is found in Felix Jacoby's Atthis: the local chronicles of ancient Athens (which you should be able to access via google books). Later scholars such as Parker (in his book Miasma) refer to this work.

Also, there's a few articles that can be found via jstor discussing this work:

   Jacoby's Treatment of the Exegetes
   James H. Oliver
   The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 75, No. 2 (1954), pp. 160-174 
(article consists of 15 pages)
   Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/292033


   The Exegetes of Athens: A Reply
   Herbert Bloch
   Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 62, (1957), pp. 37-49 
(article consists of 13 pages)
   Published by: Department of the Classics, Harvard University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/310965


The Exegetes of Athens and the Prytaneion Decree
Herbert Bloch
The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 74, No. 4 (1953), pp. 407-418
(article consists of 12 pages)
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/292058


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« Reply #53: June 08, 2010, 02:28:36 am »

I'd also like to clarify the point I was originally trying to make way back when I said:
On the point of "change", I don't think the gods change their fundamental natures.  When I said that I think the gods are part of the current world and not stuck back in some ancient time, I meant that the gods are fully aware of "current events", so to speak, and can adapt to changing societal developments. 

...

I'm interested in how others feel about this approach to the concept of "change" and the gods.

I've always ascribed to this notion (though you put it much better than I could have). I think you gave a great example with Brighid (and it rings very true to me, although I am just barely beginning to get to know her).

There are plenty of examples of the gods not necessarily changing, but adapting to fit with more modern forms of worship, such as via syncretism: Brighid took on the persona of St. Brigid; Tonantzin became the Virgin of Guadalupe and the rulers of Mictlan became Santa Muerte; some of the loa became saints. Their fundamental natures, from what I know, didn't change; all that changed was how they interacted with and what they required from their followers.

That said, I do think that the gods can change if they choose to (and who are we to question it?), and that change isn't better or worse, it just is. While we shouldn't expect the gods to change to suit us, we also shouldn't expect them NOT to change to suit us.
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« Reply #54: June 08, 2010, 06:14:30 am »

I'd also like to clarify the point I was originally trying to make way back when I said:
On the point of "change", I don't think the gods change their fundamental natures.  When I said that I think the gods are part of the current world and not stuck back in some ancient time, I meant that the gods are fully aware of "current events", so to speak, and can adapt to changing societal developments.

Jumping off: I think that can actually very well be *part* of being perfect - assuming the Gods are indeed perfect, which I'm not at all convinced of. Being perfect can mean being able to continuously adapt to the circumstances you're living in. Being a perfect wife, for example, would be a very different thing now than it would have been in the 1950s, and is a very different thing in the US than, say, in Japan. That, to me, means that the assumption the Gods are perfect doesn't have to mean they're unchanging at all.

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« Reply #55: June 08, 2010, 03:56:05 pm »



Working with Chabas' words, and with things I was thinking in the shower today...which seems to echo some of the other thoughts put down here already.....

I think perhaps that we should not think the word "change" at ALL, but the word "adapt."

I see foxes in the city now. Deer, too.  Their environment has changed, so they have adapted to fit the needs of the new world. It doesn't mean that deer won't stop congregating in herds and dropping their antlers after mating season, nor does it mean that the foxes will suddenly become herbivores.  They are still the same beasts, but now the deer have to learn to graze in parks and front lawns and my boyfriend's roadside garden... and the foxes may still eat mice, but they might find them outside the McDonald's dumpster, in which they also may scavenge for food.

The beast isn't changed.  The instincts haven't changed. They've just adapted to the new world that IS changing around them.

That's my two cents, and the best analogy I have.  

Another way to look at it is... if the gods don't adapt to the changing world, then they're pretty stupid/inept/out of touch.  You really think that Ares hasn't adapted enough to know that during warfare, we're not still chucking spears at each other?
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« Reply #56: June 10, 2010, 10:06:49 pm »

Greetings, all!

I'm in the process of comparing my specific interests and/or gifts with the paths, practices, or religions that seem to fit me. I'm happiest when I'm surrounded by - and steeped in - Nature: animals, plants, rocks, crystals, the Elements, and the power moving through them all that I gratefully receive to sustain my own energy. I have a sense of Great Spirit throughout us all, but I feel that I'm not yet as open as I can be to that all-encompassing "One and Many". I find I could go on and on about these feelings, but since they don't add to this topic, I obviously need to look for the right one to post them on. In the meantime...

I've been reading about various paths, and Druidry is not only fascinating but enticing, if that's the right word. What I've read about it makes my energy tingle! I have a concern, though, that I realize now has always been in the back of my mind. It would be a question in most cases, I think, regardless of which Pagan path I'm exploring.

How important is history? So many religions and/or practices go back ages and ages, and I don't usually find a resource about one of them that doesn't start with extensive lore. While I respect historical information and lore, I've never had a good head for absorbing and retaining it (them?). And while I very much admire those who are able to grasp the foundations and nuances that history provides (my husband, for instance, is brilliant at remembering and recounting lore), I have a hard time remaining engaged when I try to study it.

Can I immerse myself within and live life as a Druid without emotionally or intellectually embracing the historical foundation that came before?

Are "traditions" and "history" the same? If so, can Druidry be lived without its traditions? Or can traditions be observed as modern adaptations without knowing the lore that began them?

I wonder if any of you have thought about these questions or actually been confronted with them as you've journeyed your own paths, and I'd be grateful for any insights, advice, or opinions you can share.

With respect,
Ashwren Windintree

history is something that many so-called practitioners know nothing about, you can call yourself anything and go through the motions with anything but that doesn't truly make you anything. History is the beginning and duration of something within a period of time. We have to keep it real and remain within our own history and blaze our own trails. History can educate you but not necessarily include you,, its a birds eye view. I like the medieval period but my own time is the 21st century ,, I can pretend I'm medieval but I would look pretty rudicules,,,all you can really do is take bits and pieces of druidry and reform it for present day ,,,knowing your history is very important when it comes to magic   Miss A
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