Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Morality, Mortals, and Gods

The Gods don't share our morals

Jason Mankey wrote this post about how the "Gods are changing". It was a good read(and I suggest you read it), and I'm not going to go full-critique mode on it, but the thing that struck me the most was that he assumed that because our interpretation of the Gods changed the Gods themselves changed. It doesn't necessarily follow though, because someone told a happy-go-lucky story about Pan, it doesn't mean that Pan changed. If I wrote a story about Odin taking up the hobby of drag and embracing  his inner drag queen, it doesn't mean that Odin has become cosmically in touch with his feminine self. It means that I wrote a story where Odin was a drag star. 

The story of Pan helping Rabbit was made for children, so the fact that it didn't highlight his sexual proclivities doesn't surprise me. He then goes on to talk about how in the 19th century, the view on Pan changed and makes the slightly erroneous conclusion that thus, Pan has changed. Pan didn't change, society changed and so they changed the way they talked about Pan.

Most stories about the Gods bring out and highlight specific attributes of them. No single story of ours will express their fullness, no matter how badly we wish it so, and no sanitation of the Gods image is going to change that they have aspects and sides which are disagreeable to modern culture.

Which brings me back to my first sentence. The Gods don't share our morals. The Gods have their own standards and guidelines, that I would think vary from God to God. The standards that Dionysus sets for his devotees is going to be a helluva lot different from the standards set by Amaterasu for her devotees. This means, quite simply, that each God and Goddess (and I really and truly believe this) has his or her own moral compass and the things that their devotees feel is right does not dictate that. The Gods are the Gods.

Hermes is a God of Thieves, while in our modern society (indeed, in societies everywhere for most of time it seems) thievery is a bad, and nasty thing, Hermes being the patron of thieves would indicate to him that it is not. He is, after all, a humorous God (some would put him into the 'Trickster' category) which, inevitably, makes him a very cunning God. He is also a deft, and nimble God, and you see these things coming to a head in the act of home robbery. The fact that we don't like getting robbed does not matter, he delights in the things that go into a good robbery.

Likewise, even though many modern persons find prostitution to be 'low' or 'immoral' we find that Aphrodite is also the patroness of prostitutes. It does not matter whether we like or hate prostitutes, she is their patroness because of the function. It is not for love or attraction or passion, it is for money (on the prostitutes side) and to fulfill a base desire (on the john's side). 

(Just to be clear, I support the rights of sex workers and the legalization of prostitution)

Now, going into the darker, heavier stuff.

So then, you might ask, how might the Gods react to someone getting raped?
Honestly, I don't think they care too much. I'd like to say otherwise, I'd like to pretend that every God cries out for vengeance and sends malevolent daimones out to get the rapist, but I don't think it works like that. Some gods, I can imagine, would have very specific cares if certain kinds of people were raped (virgins, wives, husbands, their devotees) but I think the majority of Gods would see it and go "Whelp, the humans are raping each other again". Up until a point though. When a person cries out to a God for vengeance against anyone who wronged them or someone they care about, the gods and goddesses take notice. You petition them, and they may punish the person, they may bring them sickness or ill-fortune or otherwise hurt them. They may assist in bringing them to justice (depending on the God petitioned of course). When you petition the Gods for an injustice, they take notice. You bring the harm to a cosmic level, a case of the one who broke the rules of man and harmed not just you, but society as a whole. The Gods may punish this person, or it may be outside of their powers to do so. However, you have brought it to the attention of the Gods, and some Gods will remember that person as vile and wretched (because, I think, for just about every act, good and bad, there is some God who at the very least is annoyed by it). Not to mention the fact that they have brought a blackmark against their family's honor by their actions. Talk to your ancestor's spirits, petition them too for vengeance if you seek it. Get their advice and comfort. If the Gods have unique moral compasses, our ancestor's will be more in line with our own, so you may find that they are more understanding of your pleas.

I'd like to reiterate though, the Gods are not amoral or immoral, they have their own standards of morality. Though, most Gods, I have noticed, take oath-breaking and betraying loyalties to be a huge 'no-no'. That seems to be a universal that applies in many areas (Because after-all, a majority of rapes  according to that page seem to be committed by friends of the victim, which is a  huge violation of loyalty and trust, which the Gods seem to abhor)

Another point, which I will expand on in a later post, is to remember that because the Gods have their own morals and do not necessarily share ours, you may find that as you become more devoted to them, you will have to increasingly step out of your comfort zone. If a God is only ever 'asking' you to do things you are comfortable with, you might want to really sit down and analyze and think about these things, and figure out if you are putting words into the God's mouth. Remember, when in doubt do some divination, or get someone else to do some for you. It can be tricky sometimes, to separate the moments when our sub-conscious is telling us what it wants and when a God is giving us marching orders

Let me close with this though, do not think that because a God or Goddess does not share your morals, it doesn't mean you shouldn't pray, meditate, and think on them and how they would view a moral situation. It can help to understand how Athena might see a one-night stand, and how Aphrodite might see it. It lets us look at it through different view points. It also doesn't mean that they don't understand that you see it as bad, much as many Americans know that Muslims don't eat pork, but we can't quite know the revulsion they feel towards it. The same goes for our concerns. Some Gods will understand, some won't. Even if you think they might not, pray anyway, you may find that they do, or despite not knowing it fully, they will offer some level of comfort and strength.

Portrait of a Devotee by williamcho on Flickr

You may be wondering why I mentioned rape specifically. I did it because this month I have decided to support and promote RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network). This should take you to the mission statement. For the month of April any donation made will be matched. Even if you only can give a few bucks, it'll make a difference. Maybe choosing to use rape as the specific example was too much, but it brought it to the forefront of your mind, didn't it? Please, check out the organization even if you don't think you are going to donate any money. Spread the word. Something.

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A young man living in North Texas. He is an actor, a Hellenistos, and a proud member of Hellenion.