I am a polytheist, which means that I feel that each god is a unique entity with their own unique character, but I also consider the gods in their full complexity to be far beyond my mortal understanding. I think that the gods show us what we can understand of themselves, and that what we see is never all there is, and that whatever we are shown, whatever we are able to perceive, is a great gift. And I think this has always been the case.
There was variation in myth–many times there were several different versions of a god’s parentage or other characteristics. Was Aphrodite born of seafoam, born of the blood that fell into the sea whe Ouranos was castrated? Or is she the daughter of Zeus and Dione? In one sense it may not matter, Aphrodite is Aphrodite regardless and is always a part of the pantheon–but an Aphrodite who is older than the Olympians, who has no daughterly connection to the king of the gods, has a different relationship to the other gods and a different place among them.
There was variation in practice–think of Artemis. Almost everywhere, she is a young, unmarried woman, freely roaming the wilderness, a patron of beasts and/or hunters. In Ephesus, however, her iconography told a different tale–rather than the youthful goddess, bearing a bow, with her skirts tied up to facilitate running through the woods, we find a more maternal image, crowned, ornamented with a large number of what appears to be breasts. Again, both are Artemis, but each holds a somewhat different place.
What I see in a god, what I understand, what I perceive, may not be exactly what you see and understand and perceive. In part that is a caveat (for when you read what I write :)), but in part it is also an invitation.
Categories: Pagan Op Ed, Polytheism
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