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Author Topic: Hero archetypes in paganism?  (Read 2439 times)
Unmutual
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« Topic Start: February 08, 2009, 02:20:05 pm »

Just researching pagan paths at the moment, as they seem to encompass many things I have always believed but have never really explored spiritually. I'm exploring how far these things match up with ideas I am comfortable with before plunging properly. In advance, thank you for any help.



One thing which for years I have privately at least, held in place of a proper belief system is a series of "heroes" drawn from myths and fiction. These operated for me as a moral code, an ideal to strive towards and source of strength. It's not like I worshipped them, certainly not. But I have always used the concept of the characters themselves as a personal guide for my behavior and sense of self-improvement.

It sounds nuttier written down than in my head  Smiley

It's not something I've come across yet in books/site, but it does seem to correspond to the importance of symbolism and tradition in pagan paths, drawing on the symbolic concept of a particular deity or animal because of a personal response.
 

So is there any place for hero archetypes in paganism, either personally or in things you have seen other people believe?

Thanks any responses and debate.
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« Reply #1: February 08, 2009, 04:05:50 pm »

So is there any place for hero archetypes in paganism, either personally or in things you have seen other people believe?
Sure.  A lot of pagans of various sorts look to the gods themselves as archetypes, so there is no reason why a hero archetype would be innappropriate.  It's not uncommon to view the gods nonliterally, and therefore, use their stories and myths as a sort of guideline or code of conduct.  The myths of these gods often intertwine with ordinary heroes, extraordinary heroes, and heroes that are almost godlike themselves.  Hercules, the demi-god hero of Greek myth, is a good famous example of a pagan hero.  There are others, such as Achilles, Odysseus, etc.  And that's not even getting into other mythologies.  The Irish hero Cuchulainn is one of my all-time favorites.  I'd say heroes can definitely hold a valide place in paganism. 
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« Reply #2: February 08, 2009, 04:28:10 pm »

So is there any place for hero archetypes in paganism, either personally or in things you have seen other people believe?


Don't laugh (okay, go ahead and laugh), but in my very personal Wiccan-ish practice I use superhero archetypes. Specifically, Storm of the X-Men, and the Sub-Mariner. Both these characters touch a deep chord in my psyche (in one case going all the way back to childhood), and they serve as representations of the feminine and masculine divine for me.

And in some of their attributes, they serve as models of behavior. (Storm more so than the often arrogant Sub-Mariner.)
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« Reply #3: February 08, 2009, 09:18:50 pm »

Don't laugh (okay, go ahead and laugh), but in my very personal Wiccan-ish practice I use superhero archetypes.

Hey, me too! I use a DC model, though -- Batman/Joker/Two-Face/Poison Ivy/Harley Quinn. I haven't got it fully worked out, yet, but watching Batman: the animated series as a child helped shape my worldview (so did Captain Planet), and now I'm working on incorporating those archetypes into my spirituality. Smiley
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« Reply #4: February 08, 2009, 10:43:13 pm »

Just researching pagan paths at the moment, as they seem to encompass many things I have always believed but have never really explored spiritually. I'm exploring how far these things match up with ideas I am comfortable with before plunging properly. In advance, thank you for any help.



One thing which for years I have privately at least, held in place of a proper belief system is a series of "heroes" drawn from myths and fiction. These operated for me as a moral code, an ideal to strive towards and source of strength. It's not like I worshipped them, certainly not. But I have always used the concept of the characters themselves as a personal guide for my behavior and sense of self-improvement.

It sounds nuttier written down than in my head  Smiley

It's not something I've come across yet in books/site, but it does seem to correspond to the importance of symbolism and tradition in pagan paths, drawing on the symbolic concept of a particular deity or animal because of a personal response.
 

So is there any place for hero archetypes in paganism, either personally or in things you have seen other people believe?

Thanks any responses and debate.


I definitely think so. However, the ancient Greek concept of the hero, within a religious context, was somewhat different from our 21st century Western ideal. A hero to the Greeks was often a man or woman who acheived lasting fame...or infamy. A courageous war hero, a wise ruler, or a serial murderer might have been equally likely candidates to receive 'heroic' honors after death.

A true hero [in that context] is compelled to regularly return in spirit to the land of the living. Regardless of their behavior in life, the Gods give them no choice but to punish evildoers and help protect the innocent. Sometimes this must be a divine reward (imagine a fallen police officer able to return as some kind of 'guardian angel'), or the worst kind of punishment (imagine a deceased wife batterer compelled to aid women fleeing abusive men). Heroes and heroines we honor [in a religious context] might be departed family members, historical figures also honored by the community, or deceased individuals who have acheived some kind of local celebrity.

It is vaguely reminiscent of the cult of personality which today surrounds certain dead Hollywood actors, rock stars, and even the occasional serial killer [in America].

Today? I still make frequent sacrifices to Herakles, even though in the myths He was deeply flawed by our standards. He is a divine symbol that men can make mistakes, pay for the them, and yet still find a place in the community afterwards. The road was extremely difficult for Herakles, and it cost Him dearly, but in the end He was redeemed. I'm not a criminal or ex-con, but I find it reassuring that even a Demigod can royally screw up and find His way back from the brink.

I also greatly admire the strength, courage, physical prowess, endurance, and lust for life that Herakles embodies in the myths. Whenever my body hurts but I must go on, or I need to find the will to face some crisis or other, I appeal to Herakles Son of Zeus for aid.   

P.S. One of my favorite historians, Eugen Weber, once said that our modern concept of the hero as a paragon of moral virtue, began with the martyrdom of Socrates.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2009, 10:55:04 pm by Aetius, Reason: added words for clarity » Logged

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« Reply #5: February 09, 2009, 06:15:31 pm »

One thing which for years I have privately at least, held in place of a proper belief system is a series of "heroes" drawn from myths and fiction. These operated for me as a moral code, an ideal to strive towards and source of strength. It's not like I worshipped them, certainly not. But I have always used the concept of the characters themselves as a personal guide for my behavior and sense of self-improvement.


It sounds like you and I might need to have a chat sometime Smiley I think I have a similar way of thinking about spiritual heroes or guides from myth, not as gods, but as really important figures or archetypes that I look to to help me to find some kind of power or understanding of parts of myself. For example, I think of Sue Brideshead from Jude the Obscure as a real hero (though she comes to a terrible end...) because she is determined to free herself from artificial social restraints. I love Medea (not because of what she does, but because of the earth/goddess religion tradition she seems to come from). I think of Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stevens, and John Ashbery as literary heroes who help me to understand how to use the imagination to transform depression, anger, loneliness, etc, into art. Art and imagination are a big deal to me. I think of them all as not just people or characters, but representations of a particular kind of force that humans can tap into. I must admit, I mix together real people and literary people and traditional mythic people without much attention to the differences.

Do you know much about Tarot cards? I have found the High Priestess to be another personal source of strength and guidance.
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« Reply #6: February 15, 2009, 06:01:37 pm »


Thank you all for your guidance, and individual stories. I'm glad this is something which is seen as acceptable. I'm going to enjoy exploring this futher.
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« Reply #7: February 22, 2009, 06:38:21 am »

It's not like I worshipped them, certainly not.

I think there is room for Ancestor worship in Paganism, in my own tradition it is very important, and ancestors can very easily emcompass cultural heroes. All worship really means is to show something as having worth. Nothing wrong at all with worshipping cultural heroes, giving them offerings, asking for their assistance and blessing.

I cannot imagine my religious life without such a relationship as a matter of fact.
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« Reply #8: February 22, 2009, 07:24:48 pm »

I think there is room for Ancestor worship in Paganism, in my own tradition it is very important, and ancestors can very easily emcompass cultural heroes. All worship really means is to show something as having worth. Nothing wrong at all with worshipping cultural heroes, giving them offerings, asking for their assistance and blessing.

I cannot imagine my religious life without such a relationship as a matter of fact.

*nods* Indeed there is very much so room for ancestor veneration (rather than worship, which I think many of my deceased relatives would take offense to). I don't think there is anything wrong with having a separate space up to dedicate to your ancestors and ask advice from them from time to time (this is also one of the staples of Kemeticism).
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