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Author Topic: Ancient gods in a modern world?  (Read 25886 times)
Waldfrau
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« Topic Start: February 13, 2009, 07:06:35 am »

Do you think ancient deities have changed over the centuries or is their perspective of things still rooted in ancient times?

How do they relate to issues of the modern world?

Do they have archaic/ancient characteristics or perspectives you find sometimes hard to deal with (or do they find it sometimes hard to deal with your modern perspectives)?
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« Reply #1: February 13, 2009, 09:38:27 am »

Do you think ancient deities have changed over the centuries or is their perspective of things still rooted in ancient times?

I think that with all things in the universe, they are not static.  They grow and change over time like the rest of us.  However, being eternal, they may change over longer periods of time.

Quote
How do they relate to issues of the modern world?

Well, I think that their spheres of influence grew to adapt to the times.  For example, communication is in Hermes' sphere of influence so I consider him to be the god of the internet.  Zeus could be the god of the electricity flowing through the walls as well as lightning.  Ares could now wield an AK-47 instead of a spear Cheesy

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Do they have archaic/ancient characteristics or perspectives you find sometimes hard to deal with (or do they find it sometimes hard to deal with your modern perspectives)?

I'll let you know as soon as I figure this one out Wink
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« Reply #2: February 13, 2009, 09:54:48 am »

Do you think ancient deities have changed over the centuries or is their perspective of things still rooted in ancient times?

How do they relate to issues of the modern world?
I agree with Melamphoros. I don't see why deities can not change and grow as the world and universe do. Nothing in Nature is stagnat and they are apart of Nature, so this tells me they change with the universe.

Even though this world has changed since the ancient times, many of our worries are the same, just in different context. Many people have to work about money and jobs... of that falls under prosperity. There are still many many deadly illnesses and diseases... so deities of health and healing are probably still busy.  Wink

Do they have archaic/ancient characteristics or perspectives you find sometimes hard to deal with (or do they find it sometimes hard to deal with your modern perspectives)?
Hmmm... well the only thing I can think of is how some war/battle deities and so darker deites were said to like some bloody and unpleasant sacrifices. Now whether or not this is true, I don't know, most of the information on the Celtic gods that wanted those kinds of sacrifices were give to us by Ceasar and he isn't always a reliable source.
I personally would not sacrifice any living creature to any deities.
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« Reply #3: February 13, 2009, 10:09:37 am »

Do you think ancient deities have changed over the centuries or is their perspective of things still rooted in ancient times?

How do they relate to issues of the modern world?

Do they have archaic/ancient characteristics or perspectives you find sometimes hard to deal with (or do they find it sometimes hard to deal with your modern perspectives)?

I have met people, online at least, who seem to get personally insulted at the idea that the gods might be treated and dealt with in a modern context.  They will point to extant writings and say - see, that was written in xxxx, they didn't even have that thing you're offering back then!  And why would they care about the task you're talking about?  It isn't mentioned in the myths so  - on and on.  Their view is that the gods are ancient and unchanging and it is somehow sacrilegious to approach them on our terms or within our cultural world-view.

It is as if any changes, adaptations, evolution, etc. that occurred before the myths were written down were fine and natural, but once written they were set in stone for all eternity and no changes, adaptations, evolution, etc. is permitted from that point on.  This, to me, always seems like an attempt to bind and contain the gods, to tie them safely into their stories and not have to deal with them as real beings or have them really intrude into modern life.  It then becomes an archeological, intellectual, and literary pursuit rather than an active religion.

To me the history is valuable in the same way that knowing the background of a person you respect is valuable.  I don't say the origin, because I don't believe they sprang full-grown into their myths.  The earlier stuff just wasn't written down for the most part, and we are left with an arbitrary 'starting point' to our studies.  Many people (not actual scholars, usually, but armchair folklorists and historians) dismiss unwritten variations and folk carry-ons of these tales as not canon, even when the variations come from the same geographical locations as the original tales.  Only the ancient manuscripts hold the truth, and all investigation must start and stop there.

If the gods live in a truly separate place and have had no continued dealings with humanity since their tales were written, and simply shook their collective heads and withdrew from contact when we developed new ideas and cultures, then maybe they don't recognize chocolate or new incense blends or newer ideas about what constitutes morality or value.  I prefer to think they approve of these new things, or maybe even inspire them.  At the very least I think they accept them.  I'm sure some ideas and inventions have fallen by the wayside, and these may even be the ones the gods truly did disapprove of.

This isn't to say that I think it's fine to offer a bacon sandwich to Aset when sharing a meal.  If she has a dislike for pork that is strong and well-known enough for it to become a taboo then she is unlikely to have changed that.  She is, however, likely to recognize a two-bedroom bungalow as a dwelling place, accept modern formulations of kyphi and natron, and whatever other earnest and respectful variations have developed over the ages.

Keeping the gods to their ancient ways and societies is fine if you simply admire them as artwork, but if you believe in them as living beings, and deal with them as such, then it is like insisting that a friend of twenty years standing is not allowed to change their hairstyle or their favourite treat.  They may well not change their basic nature, most things/people/beings don't, but their ways of expressing themselves will move with the times.  Trying to hold them back to a safe, stagnant representation of themselves that you found in an old book doesn't work unless they are 'just' stories and not real.

Most of the time, I would rather learn from a sincere practitioner than a precise historian (although I would truly rather learn from the two-in-one).  The history is the easier to find on my own, and I am capable of reading any myth that has been translated into one of the languages I understand, and smart enough to know that those myths need to be related to the cultures from which they came rather than my own.  They are snapshots in an old album, however, not up to the minute documentaries.  The sincere practitioner is my go-to guy for what the gods are doing now.

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« Reply #4: February 13, 2009, 11:18:23 am »

Do you think ancient deities have changed over the centuries or is their perspective of things still rooted in ancient times?


Every thing changes.  If we do not change and adapt, we die.  The gods do not exist in a vacuum.  They are a part of the world, and from what I can tell they live and learn in a similar fashion to us humans.

Quote
How do they relate to issues of the modern world?

How do humans?  We all take in the issues as we are exposed to them and react according to our own natures.  Deity who are involved in the healing arts are aware of the advances and failures of modern medicine.  Those involved in warfare know about the technology of their field as it currently exists.  Agricultural deity know about the advances in farming methods. 

Quote
Do they have archaic/ancient characteristics or perspectives you find sometimes hard to deal with (or do they find it sometimes hard to deal with your modern perspectives)?

I've never encountered a deity who wasn't able to relate to the here and now.  I've encountered two who weren't as up-to-date on the state of the world as is generally the case, but both were the sort of deity whose primary drives haven't really changed since the long ago and far away, and they, much like their human counterparts, don't have much need to modernize their point of view.  While the mechanics of farming has changed, the motivations and goals are pretty much the same as they were when the first farmer poked seed in the soil and prayed for a good harvest to feed their family.  My local land's spirit responds to the same things now that she did when my ancestor's lived in the area.
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« Reply #5: February 13, 2009, 11:20:53 am »

It is as if any changes, adaptations, evolution, etc. that occurred before the myths were written down were fine and natural, but once written they were set in stone for all eternity and no changes, adaptations, evolution, etc. is permitted from that point on. 
Absent

This is why the Druids (and others) didn't write down the lore.  It wasn't just to keep it from being passed around like a cheap romance novel.  It was because once a story is written down, it dies.  So long as the story is being told and retold it will continue to grow and change, to live.
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« Reply #6: February 13, 2009, 12:53:55 pm »



This, exactly.  Mine is a living, breathing system that deals with living, breathing entities, not necrophilia.  I love and value the history, but I won't be limited by it:  our culture has changed so radically since ancient Greece that any attempt at historical accuracy is ALWAYS going to be arbitrary and partial.  And there's absolutely nothing wrong with arbitrary and partial, as long as it's acknowledged as such.

Most sane Reconstructionists and Recon-inflected types already do operate in this space, to greater or lesser degrees, and focus upon the spirit of the thing, rather than the letter; unfortunately, the "letter of the law" types are, like all crazies, a lot louder than the sane ones.

Reading this over, I realized that my particular beliefs and interactions have a real influence on my attitude:  I'm a follower of Hermes, god of change and movement.  He's a trickster-ish sort, and, similar to your and Sunflower's experiences with one like that, I've had the distinct impression that he does not want conventional, historically accurate reverence from me.  I ordered a statue that never came (looking back, it was kind of ugly), my door herm got knocked over, and the like.  About the only historically-accurate bit of worship that goes over really well, IME, is the "pilgrimage" I made to his birthplace, and frankincense.  But in all other ways, he seems to want me to get creative, and not be too po-faced about the whole thing.  Thinking about his nature, I'm really not surprised:  if any god is going to say, "Dude, we're NOT in classical Athens anymore," it's him.  Cheesy   Too, I wonder if this is a general god thing, or if it's especially pronounced in him -- the Internet is something that is so perfectly him that I'm not surprised at how keen he seems on the modern world.  Other gods may have differing views.   
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« Reply #7: February 13, 2009, 02:39:19 pm »

   Too, I wonder if this is a general god thing, or if it's especially pronounced in him -- the Internet is something that is so perfectly him that I'm not surprised at how keen he seems on the modern world.  Other gods may have differing views.   

I know I've never felt an urge to find the "proper" way to worship Apollo - there's definitely a sense of "that's nice, and I won't complain - but here and now is where I need you."

Which is good, 'cause I don't want to deal with the historical stuff either.  Busy. Smiley
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« Reply #8: February 13, 2009, 03:33:21 pm »

I know I've never felt an urge to find the "proper" way to worship Apollo - there's definitely a sense of "that's nice, and I won't complain - but here and now is where I need you."

Which is good, 'cause I don't want to deal with the historical stuff either.  Busy. Smiley

I do feel a little more pull to a historically-influenced path, at least, but...  I've never quite pinned down how much of that is just me as opposed to being required of me.  (And if it's required, I've certainly never gotten the sense that that's true in a general sense; rather, it's just part of how things work between him and me specifically.)  I think in the end it comes down to something similar:  "Works for me, as long as you're here."

Which is to say, although I'm not sure there's a requirement there for me to try to do things in a historically-appropriate manner, I've also never gotten a sense that I'm going the wrong direction with it.  I have varying degrees of success, but that seems more a personal failing than an indication that I need to stop what I'm doing, as it usually involves factors more internal to my own mind.  (Which is to say, "my own mind" has not been terribly successful so far with actually processing scholarly sources.  But I'm trying to work around that lack...)
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« Reply #9: February 13, 2009, 05:17:53 pm »

Absent

  Thank You so much for this post.   This ties in so closely to my thread about finding that a Deity is not what i first might have thought.   I certaionly do not want to "ditch" this particular Deity, as they have meant quite a lot to me.   Mea
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« Reply #10: February 13, 2009, 07:21:08 pm »

I have met people, online at least, who seem to get personally insulted at the idea that the gods might be treated and dealt with in a modern context.  They will point to extant writings and say - see, that was written in xxxx, they didn't even have that thing you're offering back then!  And why would they care about the task you're talking about?  It isn't mentioned in the myths so  - on and on.  Their view is that the gods are ancient and unchanging and it is somehow sacrilegious to approach them on our terms or within our cultural world-view.

It is as if any changes, adaptations, evolution, etc. that occurred before the myths were written down were fine and natural, but once written they were set in stone for all eternity and no changes, adaptations, evolution, etc. is permitted from that point on.  This, to me, always seems like an attempt to bind and contain the gods, to tie them safely into their stories and not have to deal with them as real beings or have them really intrude into modern life.  It then becomes an archeological, intellectual, and literary pursuit rather than an active religion.

To me the history is valuable in the same way that knowing the background of a person you respect is valuable.  I don't say the origin, because I don't believe they sprang full-grown into their myths.  The earlier stuff just wasn't written down for the most part, and we are left with an arbitrary 'starting point' to our studies.  Many people (not actual scholars, usually, but armchair folklorists and historians) dismiss unwritten variations and folk carry-ons of these tales as not canon, even when the variations come from the same geographical locations as the original tales.  Only the ancient manuscripts hold the truth, and all investigation must start and stop there.

If the gods live in a truly separate place and have had no continued dealings with humanity since their tales were written, and simply shook their collective heads and withdrew from contact when we developed new ideas and cultures, then maybe they don't recognize chocolate or new incense blends or newer ideas about what constitutes morality or value.  I prefer to think they approve of these new things, or maybe even inspire them.  At the very least I think they accept them.  I'm sure some ideas and inventions have fallen by the wayside, and these may even be the ones the gods truly did disapprove of.

This isn't to say that I think it's fine to offer a bacon sandwich to Aset when sharing a meal.  If she has a dislike for pork that is strong and well-known enough for it to become a taboo then she is unlikely to have changed that.  She is, however, likely to recognize a two-bedroom bungalow as a dwelling place, accept modern formulations of kyphi and natron, and whatever other earnest and respectful variations have developed over the ages.

Keeping the gods to their ancient ways and societies is fine if you simply admire them as artwork, but if you believe in them as living beings, and deal with them as such, then it is like insisting that a friend of twenty years standing is not allowed to change their hairstyle or their favourite treat.  They may well not change their basic nature, most things/people/beings don't, but their ways of expressing themselves will move with the times.  Trying to hold them back to a safe, stagnant representation of themselves that you found in an old book doesn't work unless they are 'just' stories and not real.

Most of the time, I would rather learn from a sincere practitioner than a precise historian (although I would truly rather learn from the two-in-one).  The history is the easier to find on my own, and I am capable of reading any myth that has been translated into one of the languages I understand, and smart enough to know that those myths need to be related to the cultures from which they came rather than my own.  They are snapshots in an old album, however, not up to the minute documentaries.  The sincere practitioner is my go-to guy for what the gods are doing now.

Absent


I agree with everything you've just said.

One of the deepest fault lines in the Hellenic Pagan community lies between Neoplatonists and their Reconstructionist allies on the one hand, and more eclectic worshippers on the other. Hellenic Reconstructionist belief is often championed by Neoplatonists, who seem to hold that the Deathless Ones are distant and unchanging.
 
Their co-religionists, on the other side of the fence, believe that any attempt at strict Reconstructionism is an attempt to limit the Goddesses and Gods. They believe that the largely Athenian beliefs and rituals which have come down to us, have never adequately reflected the spiritual diversity of 'Classical Antiquity'. My superficial reading is that many of them (including myself) also refuse to discard Homer's concept of deity completely (Goddesses and Gods with 'human' qualities like emotions and aspirations).

Hence the clash between 'Fluffy Bunny' and 'Scratchy Badger'.

Me? For whatever it's worth, I'm somewhere in the middle.
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« Reply #11: February 13, 2009, 07:44:52 pm »

Hence the clash between 'Fluffy Bunny' and 'Scratchy Badger'.

Me? For whatever it's worth, I'm somewhere in the middle.

A fluffy badger?  A scratchy bunny?

Considering our beliefs are somewhat close, I think I'd prefer the first one.  All the extra fur may provide an extra degree of protection in fights Cheesy
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« Reply #12: February 13, 2009, 07:53:06 pm »

Keeping the gods to their ancient ways and societies is fine if you simply admire them as artwork, but if you believe in them as living beings, and deal with them as such, then it is like insisting that a friend of twenty years standing is not allowed to change their hairstyle or their favourite treat.  They may well not change their basic nature, most things/people/beings don't, but their ways of expressing themselves will move with the times.  Trying to hold them back to a safe, stagnant representation of themselves that you found in an old book doesn't work unless they are 'just' stories and not real.

*nods*

At least, I HOPE the gods change with the times.  My most recent offerings to Brighid are ice cream and french fries.  I don't think they had those in Bronze Age Ireland.  Wink
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« Reply #13: February 13, 2009, 07:54:20 pm »

Do you think ancient deities have changed over the centuries or is their perspective of things still rooted in ancient times?

How do they relate to issues of the modern world?

Do they have archaic/ancient characteristics or perspectives you find sometimes hard to deal with (or do they find it sometimes hard to deal with your modern perspectives)?

I could probably say something deep and meaningful about this if I wasn't so tired, but the first thing that came to mind was this episode of the Kemetic web comic I read:

http://netjeru.comicgenesis.com/d/20090203.html
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« Reply #14: February 13, 2009, 07:56:47 pm »

Do you think ancient deities have changed over the centuries or is their perspective of things still rooted in ancient times?

How do they relate to issues of the modern world?

Do they have archaic/ancient characteristics or perspectives you find sometimes hard to deal with (or do they find it sometimes hard to deal with your modern perspectives)?

I forget who it was (I think it might have been Marilyn? either way I fully agree with her post on this subject) but the phrase "The gods don't live behind glass cases" has stuck with me ever since I first saw it. Maybe my ideas are coloured because I am a panentheist, that I believe divinity is outside and inside of nature, and I believe that has some historical basis (the sun was the ba of Ra, Dionysos was sometimes seen as the grapes being smashed underfoot) so it boggles my mind that they would be viewed as distant and not having much to do with us.

Unless they're cheating on us with another planet.  Cheesy
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