Monday, November 26, 2012

A response to 'do we worship power?'

Sorry guys, this will be another blogger reaction. Tomorrow, I'll be back with some good, Hellenistic, postage, but Star Foster over at Pink Beyond Pink got me thinking and because I couldn't figure out what I was thinking, I had to write it down. This is the end result of that thought process. Forgive the chaos, please.

One of Star's latest posts is titled 'Jam Tomorrow: Do We Worship Power?' The core of the post is to question if we--as religionists and/or polytheists--base our worship on the amount of power a Deity has, and if so, if that's the most productive way to go about it. As she states:

"There is nothing new about wanting to worship a god that can kick every other god’s ass. There were ancients who were concerned with that very thing. But when no god is omniscient or omnipotent, and every god has their limitations, does worshiping the Chuck Norris of gods really serve you well? Does it improve your life? Does it make you a better person? Does it build community?

Seems to me it is much better to worship the gods because they are exemplars of virtue. Your gods should reflect your virtues. Saying you are a Thor’s man should say something about your character."

I agree and vehemently do not agree, all at the same time. It's highly confusing. I agree in that I've never understood the desire to place one God (or pantheon) above another in terms of power or reach. Zeus rules over the Theoi, and it's stated that He is the most powerful of all. Awesome. Yet, when He took His privileged position too far, the other Theoi rebelled and They cast Him down for His hubris. Power is only of influence when you have a reference to compare it to: if no one steps up to that plate, you're still powerless.

Also, religion is not a pissing contest. I practice my faith because I believe there are beings more powerful than me, who could--potentially--make my life better, but could far more easily make it worse. I offer sacrifice to these beings because--simply by being more than me, and better than me--They deserve to be worshipped and sacrificed to. It's a natural order thing to me.

I'm a Hellenist. My worship focusses on an entire pantheon of dozens, even hundreds, of Protogenoi, Theoi, Daímōns, heroes and other immortals. While some hold more power, They are all treated with the same amount of respect, love, fear, and consideration. I don't have a patron, and while I may have more or less affinity with certain Immortals, I would never neglect the worship of any of Them, nor would I place the worship of one or a few above the others, outside of the hierarchy established by the ancient Hellens. To do so would be hubris, and I think we all know how I feel about that.

As for honoring Gods because They are exemplars of virtue... It may be the phrasing, but I have difficulty with this. For one, all Theoi have Their epithets. Domains range from the destructive to the protective and back again. Does that make them virtuous?

Until the rebellion, Zeus seduced every beautiful human specimen He laid His divine eyes on. Most of the male Theoi have mythology which focusses on an act of rape on Their part. Hera's jealousy is legendary. Nearly all female Deities--although a case could be made for all--let the male Deities dominate Their lives. The Theoi are so human in Their failings (from a modern standpoint!), that They can hardly be considered exemplars of virtues.

Then again, Their 'flaws' hardly make Them unvirtuous: They still teach a lot of them: temperance, prudence, justice, courage, etc. The trouble with the Theoi and Star's statement--for me--is that all Theoi teach these virtues. All of them have virtues in Their 'base' and in Their various epithets. Choosing one above the other seems counterproductive to the spirits of reconstruction and polytheism. That having been said, there are a lot of people in Paganism--and most likely Hellenismos as well--who do not share my vision upon this issue, and so I understand where Star is coming from.

Treating the Gods as invisible vending machines of multi-colored awesomeness has never sat well with me. I believe it's this mindset Star is critical of in her post. And--when you practice a Recon tradition like Hellenismos--she is critical for a good reason: hubris. Yes, yes, I already came to this conclusion. I will come to this conclusion again and again, because avoiding hubris is one of the (if not the) most important corner stone of Hellenismos. If you commit acts of hubris, all the other pillars are out of the window. You're, pretty much, done.

In my opinion, looking at Gods--or at least the Theoi--as bastions of virtuousness reduces Them to a one-dimensional image just as much as considering Them divine vending machines of quick-fix solutions. Both focus on a single part of Them, and miss the big picture of Their greatness. For me, both outlooks focus on what the Deity or Deities in question can do for you, and not the other way around; something I find incredibly important in my practice.

Still, if I had to choose, I would much prefer someone looking upon the Theoi as exemplars of virtue, than as vending machines. I'd also be much less worried about their health and general well being. Help me make sense of my thoughts, please. What are your thoughts upon Star's post and my response?

2 comments:

Heron Dawning said...

If Stars post would have stated that Gods are the exemplars of 'a' virtue, (or some virtues) that would have made the difference probably....
In a sense for me the Gods are perfect the way they are, imperfections very much included.
Very often indeed bastions of some charactaristic or some virtue or other, but as you said, they are not wholy virtues.

I don't think Star meant to say the Gods are wholly virtues... Just that we should shift our view from : its the God of power lvl 99 to its the God of virtue x.

In a way, saying you are Thors man indeed says a lot about your character... the good and the bad.

Elani Temperance said...

You're right, a lot is in the wording, and your examples make sense. I think a large source of confusion comes from--when looking at this from a Hellenistic POV--saying you're 'Thor's man', while the whole point of a Recon practice is to worship the pantheon. This is removed from Star's post, of course, as she focusses on polytheism, where patrons, matrons and solo deity worship is far more common. Perhaps I'm confusing two issues.

At any rate, thank you for your response. It helped me unravel the mess :)