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Author Topic: Syncretized Gods and the Mental Lock Up It Causes.  (Read 9664 times)
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« Topic Start: January 01, 2011, 04:58:34 pm »

I've been reading Geraldine Pinch's Egyptian Mythology the last few days. I found a lot of the information about the timelines and whatnot to be very helpful, however, I'm finding myself vastly confused now that I'm in the gods/goddesses section of the book. It seems to me that every god is a part of every other god! Ptah is a creator, but so is Amun and Re and Atum and Khnum and and and. Hwt-Hrw is a the Eye of Ra, but so is Sekhmet and Nut and Neith and and and. Then you have Nun, who is the primeval waters and his mate, Mehet-Werit, but then later on, they're both absorbed by other deities...

I find it difficult to figure this all out and keep them straight.

How do you do it?
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« Reply #1: January 01, 2011, 10:34:32 pm »

I've been reading Geraldine Pinch's Egyptian Mythology the last few days. I found a lot of the information about the timelines and whatnot to be very helpful, however, I'm finding myself vastly confused now that I'm in the gods/goddesses section of the book. It seems to me that every god is a part of every other god! Ptah is a creator, but so is Amun and Re and Atum and Khnum and and and. Hwt-Hrw is a the Eye of Ra, but so is Sekhmet and Nut and Neith and and and. Then you have Nun, who is the primeval waters and his mate, Mehet-Werit, but then later on, they're both absorbed by other deities...

I find it difficult to figure this all out and keep them straight.

How do you do it?

I don't.  Cheesy Honestly at this point I try and work with the Main Point and whatever that touches, I can reasonably work with. This can span numerous gods or timelines (OK to Ptolemaic). It's difficult, but at this point in time I don't even bother trying to fit the Gods within certain boundaries. They overlap at will and if they're okay with it, I guess so am I.

(I really got this driven home when I researched Menhyt and Pakhet, both deities who syncretized with numerous gods, and have their own origins clouded in a lot of mystery.)
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« Reply #2: January 02, 2011, 02:49:15 am »

I find it difficult to figure this all out and keep them straight.

I get it, conceptually. Hornung and Reidy provide pretty good explanations.  I struggle when it comes to the experiential piece.  As an artist I sometimes pray to Ptah.  I know there's a Ptah-Sokar-Ausir connection. I'm just not sure how to work with that.  Ptah and Ausir feel similar, though Ptah feels more earthy and more immediate. There have been a few times when I've gotten this sense of him taking hold of my hands and guiding me to do something that worked after hours of feeling blocked.  He's "Ptah who hears prayers", and he has that epithet for a reason.    Ausir provides the same gentle guidance, but it's quieter, and feels more "internal", if that makes sense.  He seems to care more about what I am than what I do.

Sometimes when I sense Ptah's presence, I wonder if it's just Ptah...or if Ausir is ever somewhere in the mix. Is the "similarity" I feel there because it's a real similarity, or because I'm dealing with syncretism?  I'm not sure I'd be able to tell, and that's frustrating to me.  And where is Sokar in this whole situation?  He hasn't really shown up. Maybe the Gods know that all three at once would break my brain.   Huh

So, in answer to your question, Sekhemib-Nymaatre, I'm in the same boat you are.  The Netjeru are complex beings and syncretism isn't really something we encounter in Western religions.  Also, the ancients didn't really have a problem with what we perceive as contradictions. They had several creation myths and they didn't see this as a problem.

A friend of mine once told me that the reason for this is because "Creation is too big to fit into just one story," and I really liked that.  I like that my religion gives me these sorts of contradictions because it gives me the opportunity to contemplate many layers of meaning.  It results in a more holistic picture, overall.

If anyone has deeper insights into this I'd love to hear them.  I don't know a lot of people who have deep relationships with syncratic Gods
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« Reply #3: January 02, 2011, 10:58:50 am »



I find it difficult to figure this all out and keep them straight.

How do you do it?

I really enjoyed that book in general although her Aset/Isis section annoyed me since she mentions Plutarch for a lot of it. 

I view them as aspects of that deity.  As in Aset as Mehet Weret is a creator goddess who can be in the form of a cow or a hippo, Aset as the Eye of Ra is the fiery cobra who protects the sun god and creates human kind from her tears, etc.  Gods are far more complex than we give them credit for I think. 

I also know that Mehet Weret and Iryt Ra (Eye of Ra) are deities of themselves.  But I also think they are epithets and even parts of Mysteries of certain gods which describe certain functions and aspects of those deities. 
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« Reply #4: January 02, 2011, 11:58:54 am »

How do you do it?

For the most part, I just accept that Ptah, Amun, Ra, Atum, Khnum, etc. are all creator Gods... somehow. Maybe I should be trying to analyze this more or get it to work logically, but it ends up being a lot easier to just accept that it's true, strange as it is.
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« Reply #5: January 02, 2011, 02:11:18 pm »

How do you do it?

I truly, honestly don't find it complicated, which makes it hard for me to respond to questions rooted in an assumption that it is.  In a lot of ways, it's a lot like people.

Say I know Pat.  Pat likes to garden, Pat makes a killer casserole, Pat sings in the local theatre productions, Pat works as a doctor.  It's all Pat, but if I go to the clinic with a sore throat, I'm not dealing with Pat, I'm dealing with Pat who comes to rest in Doctor.  The concept of "doctor" is independent of Pat, but Pat fully instantiates it.  Pat also does all this other stuff that doesn't have a direct bearing on being a doctor.

Sekhmet is the Eye of Ra.  Pat is the doctor.  Hetharu is also the Eye of Ra.  Fred and Julie are also doctors.

Khnum is a creator.  Ra is a creator.  Khnum-Ra is a consulting specialist. :}
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« Reply #6: January 02, 2011, 02:41:05 pm »

Sekhmet is the Eye of Ra.  Pat is the doctor.  Hetharu is also the Eye of Ra.  Fred and Julie are also doctors.

Khnum is a creator.  Ra is a creator.  Khnum-Ra is a consulting specialist. :}
So, then, one can choose to interact with the syncretic when the need for a merged deity is there (Hetharu-Sekhmet as Eye of Ra) or can interact with the singular when the need arises (Sekhmet as Physician)?
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« Reply #7: January 02, 2011, 04:55:05 pm »

So, then, one can choose to interact with the syncretic when the need for a merged deity is there (Hetharu-Sekhmet as Eye of Ra) or can interact with the singular when the need arises (Sekhmet as Physician)?

Exactly.  The gods aren't syncretised all the time, they're only syncretised when they're syncretised.
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« Reply #8: January 02, 2011, 08:02:16 pm »

I truly, honestly don't find it complicated, which makes it hard for me to respond to questions rooted in an assumption that it is.  In a lot of ways, it's a lot like people.

Say I know Pat.  Pat likes to garden, Pat makes a killer casserole, Pat sings in the local theatre productions, Pat works as a doctor.  It's all Pat, but if I go to the clinic with a sore throat, I'm not dealing with Pat, I'm dealing with Pat who comes to rest in Doctor.  The concept of "doctor" is independent of Pat, but Pat fully instantiates it.  Pat also does all this other stuff that doesn't have a direct bearing on being a doctor.

Sekhmet is the Eye of Ra.  Pat is the doctor.  Hetharu is also the Eye of Ra.  Fred and Julie are also doctors.

Khnum is a creator.  Ra is a creator.  Khnum-Ra is a consulting specialist. :}

You really rock at explaining things!
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« Reply #9: January 03, 2011, 09:32:15 pm »

I truly, honestly don't find it complicated, which makes it hard for me to respond to questions rooted in an assumption that it is.  In a lot of ways, it's a lot like people.

Say I know Pat.  Pat likes to garden, Pat makes a killer casserole, Pat sings in the local theatre productions, Pat works as a doctor.  It's all Pat, but if I go to the clinic with a sore throat, I'm not dealing with Pat, I'm dealing with Pat who comes to rest in Doctor.  The concept of "doctor" is independent of Pat, but Pat fully instantiates it.  Pat also does all this other stuff that doesn't have a direct bearing on being a doctor.

Sekhmet is the Eye of Ra.  Pat is the doctor.  Hetharu is also the Eye of Ra.  Fred and Julie are also doctors.

Khnum is a creator.  Ra is a creator.  Khnum-Ra is a consulting specialist. :}

Since we can't give karma, I give you cookies! This is pretty much exactly how I find it too, and I am in the same ship when you mention you don't find it complicated (I mean in a way it is, but thats the Mystery of it all). It just... Is.
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« Reply #10: January 03, 2011, 11:13:57 pm »

Since we can't give karma, I give you cookies! This is pretty much exactly how I find it too, and I am in the same ship when you mention you don't find it complicated (I mean in a way it is, but thats the Mystery of it all). It just... Is.

Darkhawk should get, like, double chocolate cookies.
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« Reply #11: January 04, 2011, 10:29:25 am »

I truly, honestly don't find it complicated, which makes it hard for me to respond to questions rooted in an assumption that it is.  In a lot of ways, it's a lot like people.

Say I know Pat.  Pat likes to garden, Pat makes a killer casserole, Pat sings in the local theatre productions, Pat works as a doctor.  It's all Pat, but if I go to the clinic with a sore throat, I'm not dealing with Pat, I'm dealing with Pat who comes to rest in Doctor.  The concept of "doctor" is independent of Pat, but Pat fully instantiates it.  Pat also does all this other stuff that doesn't have a direct bearing on being a doctor.

Sekhmet is the Eye of Ra.  Pat is the doctor.  Hetharu is also the Eye of Ra.  Fred and Julie are also doctors.

Khnum is a creator.  Ra is a creator.  Khnum-Ra is a consulting specialist. :}

Gah, I came to this party late. This is about how I look at it. I myself have many names, many different aspects of myself that people know, without knowing the whole. You all know me- but you only know one side of me (same for people on other forums/journals/work/etc). So when I look at it like that, it makes a lot more sense. Kudos to Darkhawk for explaining it 1000x better than I could have, though.

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« Reply #12: January 12, 2011, 12:20:41 pm »


That is very much how I understand syncretized gods as working as well. I see the latter listed deity as being the sort of 'mode' that the main deity is in. So Hathor-Nut isn't a merged combination of two goddesses so much as Hathor behaving in a particularly Nut-like way, or otherwise putting emphasis on those qualities.

I do have a question for you Darkhawk, about manifestations of a god. I see that as being different from syncretized, but I am having a hard time wrapping my head around it as someone who leans more towards hard polytheism. I have to admit I'm rather hopeful you'll be able to provide another brilliant explanation.

For instance, Re in particular is considered to have many manifestations, which largely appear as various animals. But how do these 'manifestations' relate back to Re himself and/or what sort of independence do they have from him and each other? Clearly they're not the same as each other or the same as Re himself either, but I'm not sure they're wholly considered their own independant deity either?
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« Reply #13: January 12, 2011, 01:38:45 pm »

I do have a question for you Darkhawk, about manifestations of a god. I see that as being different from syncretized, but I am having a hard time wrapping my head around it as someone who leans more towards hard polytheism. I have to admit I'm rather hopeful you'll be able to provide another brilliant explanation.

For instance, Re in particular is considered to have many manifestations, which largely appear as various animals. But how do these 'manifestations' relate back to Re himself and/or what sort of independence do they have from him and each other? Clearly they're not the same as each other or the same as Re himself either, but I'm not sure they're wholly considered their own independant deity either?

Let me see if I can come up with a useful metaphor, then. Wink

Ah, okay, got it.

Say you call your mother on the phone.  What you get out of that is your mother's voice, most directly, and it's also placed in the context of your particular relationship with your mother and her role as mother.  There is a specific, limited-focus, targetted manifestation there: mom's voice on the phone.  That defines a set of possible interactions, a set of possible experiences, and the nature of what's going on.

Your mother can be doing all kinds of other things when talking on the phone - making dinner, working on the computer, writing a letter, what have you.  All of those other things are also independent manifestations of your mother's existence.  If your mother sends you a fruitcake, that's also a manifestation, one that you relate to in a different way than her voice on the phone.  The fruitcake is an independent entity - in this metaphor, The Fruitcake God - which is also a manifestation of Your Mother.  YOu can relate to just the fruitcake, or your mother by means of the fruitcake, or various other ways of conceiving the relationship between them, but the fruitcake is undeniably something that manifests via your mother, and is a part of her effect on the world.

... I don't know if that makes any damn sense.
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« Reply #14: January 12, 2011, 02:05:23 pm »

... I don't know if that makes any damn sense.

No, it completely makes sense, and I join the chorus of people wishing to inundate you with chocolate. Grin

I've been struggling with the idea of syncretized deities (though not Netjeru) and you've given me a lot to ponder on.
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