An Appeal to Modern Writers, Mythologists, Seers, Oracles, Diviners, and Devotees of the Gods

iced coffee

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been silent here since I started my MFA program, largely because the moũsai (muses) and my work ethic have given me little rest.  But I was deeply moved to return when I came upon the stories of a modern writer.  I just can’t wait to share this!  Let me introduce him:

Eric Burns of Banter Latte described why and (perhaps more importantly) how we need to create our own mythology in a way that it can live in harmony with science (or at least not contradict it too badly) and reflect the world today.  At risk of obscuring his message, I’ll simply quote his first article on the subject “Mythology of the Modern World: Introduction and Coffee” in its entirety below.  I recommend starting there, and then checking out all of his modern myths.  Also check out the comments – they’re both amusing and enlightening – he often explains his choice of names for particular gods and loci.  My only regret is that he seems to have stopped writing in 2007, which leaves me both unsatisfied but also compelled to carry this on further.  You can find more of his stories and essays on modern mythology in the side panel there under the Blogroll or under the Must Read! header, but I’ll probably repost my favorites here too.

When you’ve read this appeal, consider your role in modernizing mythology.  What myths would you tell to explain modern mysteries?  How would you retell the old myths in a way that’s relevant today? Continue reading

From Atheism to Paganism

Atheist Badge

Atheist Badge via Wikipedia

The issue of returning to Paganism from Atheism came up in a thread on MysticWicks.com:

…It’s been years since I’ve been a “practicing” pagan, and I largely consider myself a non-theist these days. However, I don’t particularly want to be.

I was happiest when I felt a strong spiritual connection, and I generally had a positive outlook, because I felt in control of my life via magic and ritual, and cared for by the Divine.

I first started falling away from it when my husband and I moved in together. (I officially considered myself a pagan at 16, moved out of my parents house at 19, and am currently 25.) It seems so strange, but living with my conservative parents, it was so much easier to do rituals… even if most of my supplies and books were hidden away, I spent every night alone in my room, and had all the privacy I wanted. Not that my husband minds, but I just don’t like the idea of running off to the bedroom (or sending him and the cats to the bedroom, as he has suggested) if I want to do a ritual. I feel timed, and a bit awkward knowing someone is aware of what I’m doing, when I consider it private. (A bit like talking through the bathroom door…)

I’ve spent so much time as a cynical atheist, and defending the (shocking!) idea of not believing in God to a few nosy co-workers, that I almost feel… too stubborn? to go back to believing in a higher power. I feel like it’s conceding or something.

I’m not opposed to the idea of non-theist witchcraft, as there are still some “spiritual” things I believe in (karma, energy, etc.) without believing in God, but believing in magic without a higher power seems almost blasphemous to me. Egotistical, at least. When I would do rituals, I would consider it a prayer or a request, not “controlling” the energy and elements myself… – humangirl

My advice for her, and others, considering returning to paganism:

It took me time to adjustment to practicing rituals while living with my husband and negotiate the space-sharing issues. So I know what that feels like – to feel self-conscious while living with another person, even one who is supportive and understanding of your practices.

There is a bit of pride wrapped up in being Atheist because that involves a level of certitude; it’s a personal certitude that takes the place of faith in one or more deities outside of oneself, and that can require significant pride to maintain. I say this having been an Atheist.  It was indeed a humbling experience to first doubt that there is nothing outside of the concrete physical world, and later to believe in something more.

If you are not certain about the existence of any deities, well, then you’re Agnostic. And that’s fine.  But if you don’t believe in gods in any way, shape, or form, you can still have other ideas about how the world works.  Example: belief in Feng Shui for example doesn’t involve any kind of deity, yet it’s nearly magical the way it functions through the direction and cultivation of Chi.

It’s really going to take some self-reflection for you to find out what you believe. Neither I, nor anyone else, can tell you what to believe.  But once you do realize what your belief is, then you just need to come to terms with it. If you are changing your mind, what is there to be embarrassed about? People don’t stop learning or growing, they continue to do so throughout their entire lives.

Would you consider yourself a Theist?  Atheist?  Monotheist?  Polytheist?  Agnostic?  Have you ever changed from one to the other?  How would you advise someone experiencing a crisis of faith (or crisis of lack of faith)?

The Difference Between Gods and Demi-Gods

Hades with Cerberus (Heraklion Archaeological ...

Hades with Cerberus via Wikipedia

Gods are immortal and have particular domains that They control/embody/personify. Demi-gods, or heros, are descended from god and mortal pairings. Demi-gods have abilities that surpass mortals, can cross domains that gods can not cross (like descending into Hades – something we don’t see any gods but the Chthonic gods do, because it isn’t Their realm [except for Hermes and Iris because They are messenger gods]). Yet mortals don’t have the power of gods and can be subject to the whims of gods. Mortals often have a special relationship with their parent god and sometimes are blessed with long life or immortality by their parent god or gods in general. Sometimes they have/had cult worship as well (as in, people pray[ed] to them in addition to the gods).

IMHO, Catholocism adapted the practice of worshiping demi-gods/heros to the worship of their saints (not the same figures in mythology/history, but rather, the very human tendency to elevate certain notable individuals to cult status and ascribing a divine quality to them).

What do you think a demi god is?  What do you think defines a god?

Can the Gods Die?

Asking if the theoi can die is like asking if time can end.

After-all, Kronos is a god. ; )

Chronos Sleeping on Wolff Grave

Statue of Kronos, Titan God of Time & Father of Olympians

I follow the ancient theory that time is cyclical. Pythagoras described history as one Great Year in which the historical cycle comes to an end and the sun, moon, and all other planets return to their original positions. The very same people return to earth and all that had happened will happen again.

It was only later that St. Augustine promoted the Jewish and early Christian theory that time is linear, following an irreversible process, with a unique beginning and ending, and a god that existed before time.

Some things to chew on:

  • The cyclical nature of time is appropriately in line with the theory that the Big Bang repeats itself. The universe (which we could understand as Chaos or “the Void”) expands, but like a rubber band, eventually pulls back upon itself in an implosion before exploding again.
  • Time might appear linear to us who perceive our small length of the great circle as a perfectly straight line with a single beginning and ending.
  • If time is cyclical, then the theoi don’t “die” so much as transform (like Helios into Apollon and Selene into Artemis) through the process and, at the end, revert to the beginning. That is, brought back to Chaos (or “the Void”). Eventually, the Earth (Gaea) is “born” from Chaos, and the theoi are born from Her. And the rest, as they say, is Hesiod.
  • References:

    * Nobel Prize Authors on Time

    Do you think the gods can die?

    Fundamentalist Atheists

    Addendum: There have been some lively comments in response to the post below, but there seem to be misapprehensions that 1) I am calling all Atheists fundamentalists, and that 2) I am defending Abrahamic faiths, or that this blog is about Abrahamic faiths.

    This is not so.

    First, I am talking specifically about intolerance – when it appears among Atheists. Extremists (who are often marked by intolerance) are found in every group, and Atheists are no exception.

    If you are Atheist and tolerant of other people’s religious and spiritual beliefs, then this article is NOT about you.

    If you feel it could be about you, well, then try to take home the message of the golden rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have done to you’.

    Second, please read “About the Author” And “About Helleneste kai Grammateus” before posting.

    Thank you. Now for the post…

    The Major religious groups of the world.

    Major Religious Groups of the World Image via Wikipedia

    I read a new term today: “Fundamentalist Atheists” referenced in KCRW’s The New Atheists.

    The label is meant for those who don’t believe in any deity (soft or hard) and view the influence of any religion or spirituality as a threat to reason and science and fight back. They believe that religion inherently fosters ignorance and war and fight aggressively against beliefs in anything spiritual. Theirs is called the New Atheism movement.

    I would agree that one can be Atheist and be Fundamentalist about it. One doesn’t have to believe in spirituality in order to be so adamant about that belief (or non-belief if you prefer) to proselytize and show intolerance. Continue reading

    The Ethics of Delphi, Solon, & Pythagoras Compared

    This discussion continues from On Ethics, Defense, and Spirituality

    I was asked in a comment what I think of the Delphic Maxims in comparison with Solon’s “Commandments” or the Golden Sayings of Pythagoras.

    The Delphic Maxims are wide and varied, but share aspects with Solon’s Commandments and the Golden Sayings of Pythagoras. Here are some things they share in common… Continue reading

    More On Our Relationship with the Theoi (Gods)

    As an insightful member of my demos said:

    We are like cats to the gods. Sometimes they euthanize us, sometimes they just pick us up and move us to the next room. If you think a god is likely to do the former, try to escape the apartment and find one that will pet you and feed you the good food. If you pee on their furniture, they will get angry. Don’t assume you know what their furniture looks like. If you find one that really tries to understand things from your limited point of view and helps you be generally happy in this life, love them with all your heart.

    The cat without a name

    Image via Wikipedia

    I’d also add, try to understand that when they are taking you to the vet, no matter how unpleasant and scary it is at the time, it is (usually) for your own good.

    When the gods touch my life, I’m sometimes not sure if it will help me or hurt me. Just like when I pick eye-bookers from my cats’ eyes; they shy away a little bit but trust me enough to pick at their eyes and don’t run away. They don’t understand why I am doing it or that it’s to their benefit, let alone when I take them to the vet, but they trust that I’m not trying to hurt them. It should be the same way with one’s patron god(s).