Today's topic for the 'Beginner's guide to Hellenismos' is geneology, and specifically the generations of Gods and how we relate to them in our modern worship. The ancient Hellenic philosophers and mythographers were in agreement that the Gods created the universe--or are the universe itself. There are many variations of the divine family tree, and in the ancient writings, there are also creation stories that range beyond this basic framework. When Hesiod wrote his Theogony, he was adament about the sequence the Gods appeared from Khaos. Within the nothingness, Khaos appeared, then Gaia as the earth Herself, the Tartaros and Eros. The Gods and Godesses who rule over the cycle of night and day followed after and then, slowly, the earth itself took shape. The pre-Olypic and Olympic deities came into being. the universe as we know it was born.

Roughly divided, all our Gods and heroes (who were often raised up to become Gods in their own right) fit into five generational categories. These are the:
  • Protogenoi
  • Uranides
  • Titanes
  • Olympic Gods
  • Heroes/deified mortals
The Protogenoi are the Gods from which the universe is made. They are Gods like Khaos, Gaia, Ouranos, and Nyx. In general, these Theoi are more abstract and less defined than, say, the Olympians. They are cruder, more powerful Gods who, together, form the tapistry of earth and life. We simply could not live without Them as They are the air we breath, the earth we walk on, the water we drink and the death that eventually lays us to rest. and yet, neither we, nor the ancient Hellenes revered them often. They are distant and hav very little to do with the individual's lifecycle.

The Uranides formed the world created by the Protogenoi into the world we know now. They are the children of the Protogenoi and They are in charge of  more specific domains. They give us the constellations, intellect, light, memory, navigation, and many other things without which we simply would not be able to live the life we live. Like the Protogenoi, these Gods make up the tapestry of the universe and did not recieve much direct worship in state festivals.

The Titanes are Gods with whom we are more familiar. They are Helios, Hekate, Lêtô, Selênê and many others. This is the first generation of Gods we are more familiar with by name than function--and also the first generation whose names don't always directly relate to the domains they are familiar with, although we know them through mythology. Lêtô, for example, is identified as the Goddess of motherhood and protectress of the young while we mostly know her as mother of Apollon and Artemis. These Gods often times--but not always--recieved individual worship and were sometimes included in state festivals. They feature in mythology and possess well-rounded personalities that we know (unlike, say, the Protogenoi).

We all know the Olympic Gods. They are the Gods we worship most. They are also the sole 'generation' of Gods who span two generations: they are the children of the Uranides (like the Titanes), and the children of the Olympians. Zeus and His brothers and sisters for example, were born from Rhea and Kronos (both Uranides), but Their children (Hēphaistos, Artemis, Apollon, etc.) are also counted amongst the Olympians. In general, if a Gods is said to reside on Mount Olympos, They are known as an Olympic God. Alternatively--or perhaps erroneously--the Olpmpic Gods are interpreted to be solely the Dodekatheon, the Twelve Olympians who ruled over humanity and the Gods from the top of the mountain. The most canonical version of the Dodekatheon is: Aphrodite, Apollon, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hēphaistos, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. Theoi who were held in high regard in a certain city-state would have held the thrones, according to the people who lived in that city-state, and many different Gods have been counted amongst the Dodekatheon over the centuries. Needless to say, most (state) worship in ancient times focussed on the Olympians.

The heroes of Hellenismos recieve(d) quite a bit of worship. Many heroes were local ones, but we have all heard of Hēraklēs, of Perseus and Theseus, of Atalanta and Odysseus. These heroes represent the most powerful, most virtuoes of all humans and teach us the qualities the Theoi enjoy seeing in us. Many of these heroes were fathered (and sometimes mothered) by the divine and they are thus part of the divine line. In fact, the heroes can be counted amongst the Olympians.

While the main body of our worship focusses on the Olympians, the Olympians did not come to power in a vacuum. The Old Gods presided over the building blocks of the previous generation, like the Olypmians preside over the building blocks of all three. Looking over the list, it's easy to trace the domains of the Olympians back to their predecessors--or even the God or Goddess They hold sway over directly. While the Olympian generation of Gods rule our daily lives, They operate in the framework of the Titans, the Uranides and the Protogenoi. These intricate lines built a web that is of vital importance to see in order to understand not only Hellenic mythology but also the Gods themselves.

Take, for example, light. Light allows us to see, the sun that provides it gives us heat and makes it possible to grow crops. Without light, there would be no life, so let's trace the concept of light through these generations:
  • Protogenoi: In Ancient Hellenic literature, Ouranos is the son and husband of Gaia. In some versions of geneology, Aether, God of Light is his father. He Himself is God of the sky.
  • Uranides: Hyperion is the God of light, father of Helios, son of Ouranos. Theia, Helios' mother, incidentally, is the Goddess of sight. It is interesting to note that the ancient Hellenes believed that light came from the eyes, so that the eyes allowed us to see what's in front of us. Sight.
  • Titanes: Helios is generally considered the God of the sun--either as the sun itself or as the driver of the chariot that guides the sun across the sky dome every day. Hyperion is His father.
  • Olympians: by Hellenistic times Apollon had become closely connected with the sun in cult. and in his epithet 'Phoibos' He became the shining one, the God to thank for the light.
  • Heroes: there are many heroes who were involved with the sun in some way to remind us of this fact. Take Phaëton, son of Helios, who attempted to drive his father's chariot but lost control and set the earth on fire.
Save for Apollon (but He is included because He was/is so often conflated with Helios), all of these Gods are related. Their domains are related. Their tasks become more focussed, specialized, specific, but all their domains are on the same tree--the same subject: light and all it does. It's also interesting to note that in some versions of genealogy, the Horae (seasons) are said to be the children of Helios.

We see this tracing of domains through the generations a lot in Hellenic mythology, if not in family line then in a system where abstract concepts are passed down to younger Gods in a more specialized version. For example, Uranides Iapetos (God of the mortal life-span) and His son Menoitios (God of violent anger and rash action), Titanes Pallas (God of warcraft and the Hellenic campaign season of late spring and early summer), and Olympians Ares and Athena were all involved with warfare, although the act became more and more defined through the generations.

When we pray for something in a specific domain, we often focus on the Olympians who rule over it. Logical, as They seem to have taken over these tasks from the older generations. Yet, there is value in looking beyond the Olympians on ocassion, if only to understand better how these domains influence our lives. This is why it is worth the effort investing time in genealogy.