Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Equate with Care

Recently, I've been seeing some talk on if deities like Helios, Ra, and Sol Invictus are all the same God or entirely separate Gods. The biggest driving force behind this seems to be the small little fact that we only have one sun. If we only have one sun, then it kind of makes it hard to maintain a completely hard polytheistic stance for certain individuals. Therefore, they equate solar deities with relative disregard for whether or not those deities share the same domains or fulfill similar roles. You also run into the fact that in some cultures the sun deity is female and not male. The most two prominent examples for me are Sunna and Amateratsu. So if your logic is simply "All Sun deities are the same deity" and you equate Ra with Amateratsu then you are generating a bit of a problem.

Generally when folks equate two deities they equate deities of the same gender. Hence why people don't tend to say that Hera is the same as Indra or that Isis is the same as Apollon. However, by saying that Amateratsu is the same as Ra you 'break' this 'rule' and therefore have to open yourself up to other interpretations. If we are equating gods only on what natural phenomena they are associated with, why don't we equate say Zeus and Pele? Maybe Brigid and Hephaestus? Even equating based on role and function can get kind of messy, Brigid and Hephaestus are both smithing Gods, can we equate them on these grounds? I think most people would say no.

Then what does it mean for these Gods who rule over domains that there is only one of?  How do we potentially reconcile this dissonance? Well, I don't know how much this will help you, dear reader, but this is the ways in which I can reconcile it.

In the case of ruling over things which there are only one of, such as the Sun, or ruling over phenomena, I think it is best to look at those things as symbols of the God's power. For Ra the Sun represents his immense and mighty power, for Helios the Sun represents his watchful eye (and those two examples are way oversimplified, I know.) I have seen folks use the symbolism explanation for Zeus's association with lightning and rain taking those as symbols for his might and fertility (respectively). I just don't see why they can't do that for Gods so obviously different as Ra and Helios and Amateratsu.

In the same vein as this, they could very well 'share' the role. The example I saw used was Hades and Anubis, does that mean that there are different afterlives assuming of course, that they aren't the same. I'd have to answer with a resounding 'yes'. We don't give the gods a lot of credit sometimes, is it so hard to believe that beings with the power and ability to act with agency on our lives wouldn't be capable of 'creating' multiple afterlife scenarios? Does that mean I think that there is an afterlife for each and every Death God and Goddess? Absolutely not, however I wouldn't be surprised if there were in fact multiple possibilities for the afterlife. 

In the case of having similar roles, I think it could very well be an expression of a different God in a different culture, however I think that you have to examine that God or Goddess in their entirety and really meditate on whether or not they are truly the same entity and not make snap judgements by going "Hearth Goddess, Hearth Goddess, definitely equal". You must examine the God or Goddess fully and then really decide if it is the same as a God or Goddess within your own pantheon. After all, just because I am a student doesn't mean that all other students are me. Likewise, we know each doctor is an individual. Dr. Martinez is not Dr. Li simply because they have the same role in life.

So then, that comes to the question of how many Gods and Goddesses exist. I have heard some Hellenists state 12, 24, or 36 with all other Gods being aspects of those. Some Hindus state that there is only one God with all other Gods being aspects of that one God. Many Shintoists would state that there are 8 million gods(kami), if you translate the phrase literally at least. Colloquially it means that they consider there to be a practically infinite number of Gods(kami).

How then do you decide who is right? Most people simply go with whatever their particular faith says or model the number off their faith's 'central' Gods. Though many faiths don't require the adherent to 'come up with' a number. That is something that is completely and totally going to vary from person to person. Me? I'm going to just say I flat out don't know, and am only equating when I just feel really strongly about it. So far I've only equated Neith-Athene-Saraswati and Hanuman-Hermes-Mercury and Sol-Helios. That's it. I used to equate Freyja and Aphrodite but I've since pulled that back for further examination. Regardless of the equating I have made though, I won't begin to worship Athena in an Egyptian or Hindu fashion. I will treat them separately and as if they are all distinct individual goddesses, because at the end of the day I'm just incapable of being one hundred percent certain. I'd hate to rob a god or goddess of what they rightly deserve because I've made a mistake and confused them for some other deity.

Our ancestors used equating the gods as a means to understand foreign gods and cultures. I'm also sure that there must have been some dissonance in finding out that someone else also believed that their gods and goddesses had absolute control over the universe. Instead of taking the route of 'shared power' they took the route of 'same gods, different names'. I personally suspect that the first answer is right for some gods and the second is right for others. Which is which for which particular god and goddess is up for us to deduce on our own.

I guess if you could take anything from this it would be two simple things. Treat each God and Goddess as if they are distinct and equate them with care. 

Athena by nattywoohoo on Flickr 


Neith and Amun by risotto al caviale on Flickr

Saraswati by Delphine Wa-Dag on Flickr

14 comments:

  1. I would say that they are all right. The deity or deities that apply to a certain person or people are all they have "chosen" so to speak. BTW, I don't know how you have the balls to put your blog on facebook. My family would kill me if they saw my blog, especially some of the youtube vlogs I do.

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    1. I basically think that each person has to do what is right for them in determining the 'number' of deities.

      I put it on my Facebook simply because I don't believe in concealing such a big part of me. My religion isn't something that I can just squirrel away when inconvenient. I'm honest about it in my waking hours and I'm honest about it online. Hiding something that permeates my life at all levels is ludicrous.I came out of the closet once when I came out as gay, I'm not coming out of a closet again.

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  2. Since all are pieces of the one~ I am~ presence~ Then perhaps we should recognize each as one lifetimes individual frequency's during that incarnation.

    But in the complex nature of existence on the other side of the veil, is it possibly that perhaps they are androgynous?

    What if like two halves of the brain that may contain a gender polarity~ (often why these individuals had consorts or "another half" if you will.
    Maybe even taking turns for different incarnations.

    Its all so very interesting~ <3
    I would love to study the time periods when these stories were supposed to have occurred, and look at each culture and the similarities and differences.

    I wonder if there's a pattern. ^.^

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    1. Hi!

      I'm going to be perfectly honest and say that your first paragraph sounds like new agey gibberish. I'm not saying that it is, but I am saying that if you want your idea to be comprehensible you might want to elucidate a bit more on what you mean :)

      To your other on the gender thing, I think for sure that the gods don't have a sex, as for a gender? Also unlikely that they have a 'true' gender, but they appeared as male or female in specific cultures for specific reasons. We do have direct examples of androgynous deities such as Olokun appearing as male and female in different regions so it isn't a particularly crazy thought. It just isn't a conclusion I'm seeing these folks equating everything with everything else making. I haven't seen a single person equate Artemis with Cernnunos for example.

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  3. I think all those gods are different ways of understanding the Sun and expressing our relationship to it. Helios and Sol Invictus and Amaterasu are all the same thing, that is, the Sun. But they are all different understandings of the Sun and different relationships to it, as informed by various cultures.

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    1. Yes, but then that denies that those divinities exist. If you don't believe in the gods, that is your view, but I do. I don't say Poseidon or Zeus or Demeter or Ge don't exist simply because they have natural associations, why would I do it to the sun deities? They all have the sun as a symbol, but those gods themselves are not symbols of the sun.

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    2. It does not deny that those divinities exist! Helios is the Sun. The Sun exists. Therefore Helios exists. Helios is not just in my head, I can literally point to where Helios is, outside myself.

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    3. See, but it does though because Helios is *more* than just the Sun. He has domains outside of the Sun just as Zeus has domains outside of lightning and rain. Do you see what I'm saying? Helios isn't the simply the sun. The Sun is a force of nature, Helios does not. This isn't a post that addresses pantheism or atheism. If that is your slant, quite honestly, your comments are irrelevant on this particular post.

      I don't care about atheistic and pantheistic viewpoints, and quite frankly got tired of arguing about them a long time ago. You are free to have your opinion, but do realize that pantheism and atheism are both as irrelevant to this post as a Christian commenting on here about how the Sun represents the love of God.

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    4. Helios is a god. Helios is the Sun. The Sun exists. Therefore this god exists. But atheism is the belief that there are no gods, so this is not atheism. And I don't see how this would be pantheism either? Animism, maybe, but I believe my view is in line with the ancient Greeks.

      What domains does Helios have outside of the Sun?

      "The Sun is a force of nature" - what do you mean by nature?

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    5. Well he is the God of Oaths for a start.

      What you are saying amounts to calling something with no agency, will, or awareness Helios. Not to mention other Gods like Ra and Amaterasu both had multitudes of roles and domains outside of just being associated with the Sun.

      A 'force of nature' is just that, a force of nature. A actor of the world with no will or consciousness in of itself, but which can be acted upon and influenced by the Gods.

      Again, I hold my stance. I see the Sun as representing Helios. The entirety of the divinity of Helios is not summed up within the Sun. Helios does not begin and end with the sun, nor does Amaterasu and Ra.

      If you are looking to change someone's view go to r/changemyview on reddit. You frequent there enough according to your user history. I'll save you and myself time and say upfront that on this particular Helios issue, you aren't changing my view. If you want to discuss and/or debate something else relevant to this post, go right on ahead.

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    6. And yes, I'm not going to get into a semantic argument with you about what 'nature' means. That is an endless and tiresome loop.

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  4. Helios is the Witness of Oaths. He is that because he sees everything. He sees everything because he's the Sun, looking down on everything. So that's part of being the Sun.

    I don't think your stance is historical. It's not the same as that of the ancient Greeks, who considered Helios to be the same as the Sun. Read any passage quoted here; you'll get a sense of the identification.

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    1. I don't have to have the same stance as the ancient Greeks. I'm a reconstructionist, not a re-enactor.

      Again, I think it is best to look at that symbolically, if you don't that's your thing. I take the Sun as being symbolic of how Helios operates, I identify the sun as representing him, not him as the Sun itself. The sun doesn't delight in offerings, the sun doesn't keep oaths. I'm not a 101er, I'm well aware of how the Greeks saw Gods like Helios and Selene. I don't have to mimic their opinions.

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  5. Conor O'Bryan WarrenAugust 5, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    Test comment one two.

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