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?

    Modern Views on Pre-Hellenics

    1. How do your own practices relate to those of the pre-Hellenics?

    The more I learn, the better I can answer this question. I give sponde in spontaneous thanks, made in good faith as part of a prayer and promise of more sacrifice if the god(s) answer my prayer, or as part of a routine ritual or celebration. I also resonate with the ancient practice of sacrificing artwork to one or more deities. I find natural settings moving in the same way the pre-Hellenics did, I imagine. I might witness a clear day after the rain, smell the clean air, see the sun lighting vibrant leaves, and feel truly alive. At times like this, I pause and acknowledge it – with a kiss on my fingertips, a drink-offering, and perhaps say out loud, “Oh, you are beautiful.” or “Thank you for this beautiful day.” I also have erected an altar to Gaea and Zeus in our home, as well as an image of above the stove/hearth which itself I consider both an embodiment of her and an altar itself.

    Ambrosian Iliad, Achilles sacrificing to Zeus

    Ambrosian Iliad, Achilles sacrificing to Zeus Image via Wikipedia

    2. What is the relationship between deity and the natural world? Do the gods control physical phenomena, do they personify it, or do they have some other relationship?

    It depends on the deity. Chaos, Nyx, Gaea, Uranus, the Titans and some of the gods after them like I think are embodiments of the ‘natural world’ and concepts. Mnemeosyne can’t be anything but Memory, for example; compared to Apollon who is light, music, archery, and plague. I think it would be a stretch to say that Chronos literally ‘controls’ time if He was subdued by His son. Rather, I think that because Zeus overtook Time and exiled Him, the gods became time-less or ‘distanced from time’ and thus unaffected by Him directly.

    However, with each generation of the gods Their spheres of influence become more complex and overlapping. As Yvonne so eloquently says, “Poisidon is the horse and Athena is the bridle.”, there is more control involved with each successive generation, and in a way of speaking, more consciousness that rises out of that realm (at least, that which we can relate to). That is why it’s easier to pray to Asklepios than it is to Apollon, and Apollon compared to Zeus, and Zeus compared to Uranus, etc. They become more personable and thus more like personifications.

    3. What is the significance (if any) of the origin and history of a deity?

    The origin and history of a deity is a lot like the origin and history of a word. For example, in Old English a ‘reeve’ was a royal official responsible for keeping the peace. A reeve of a shire (county) was a ‘shire reeve‘ or Sheriff. Knowing the roots of a word deepens our understanding of the word. It is so with the gods. Understanding Their roots enables us to understand Them more deeply. By understanding Their origins, we can also understand what They might embody or personify in the modern world.

    Which god should I pray to when my computer breaks down? Should it be Hephestos for His realm of all things metal-work? Or should it be Hermes for His realm of speed, commerce, and communication? Examining Their roots enlightens us as to Their root meaning or root concerns, and therefore, how They apply to us today (or how we can apply to Them).