And Euripides Was A Better Writer Than Aeschylus Anyway

The ADF e-mail lists are often quiet, often noisy, sometimes interesting, sometimes not, just like, well, like most e-mail lists. (As opposed to forums, which are always noisy and seldom interesting, but that’s just my opinion! >8) While I’m not allowed to repost messages from any of the lists, I did want to mention the contents of one that was put on the Hellenic Kin’s list last week. The poster felt that she was being called by the goddess Athena to do spiritual work with her, but she was reluctant to respond because she had an issue with Athena. Specifically, that during the story of the trial of Orestes, Apollo argued in Orestes’ defense that killing one’s mother wasn’t as grave a matter as killing one’s father, because mothers only nurse the seed of the male and therefore the relationship between mother and child isn’t as strong as the one between father and child. And that Athena cast the deciding vote to acquit Orestes, and that therefore this meant that Athena hated women.

A lot of stuff to address there for a modern Hellenic Neo-Pagan priest, eh? Fortunately, many of the other members of the Kin gave her the good advice of “be receptive and ask her what she wants from you” that I would have given as well, for any general query of this sort. No harm in doing that, and if a god’s demands are more than you’re willing to give, you can always say “no thanks”. But I did respond with a few other points, and I figured those would be good to share here as well. Since I *am* allowed to repost my own stuff from the lists, I’ll save myself a bit of typing:

Mainly I wanted to note here that the issue you’re having a problem with isn’t really from a myth, is it? It’s from a play. A play that was written by one man and entered into a competition with other plays at a festival. Not exactly what I’d consider “the word of the gods”, any more than the average Christian would consider the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ” an accurate depiction of their god’s beliefs or tenets. And even if we do take “The Eumenides” as an accurate account of how the Greeks viewed their gods, I just reread  the relevant bits of the version at the Perseus Project  (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/) , and after Apollo says the part about women being merely vessels, Athena turns  the proceedings over to the jury without commenting on Apollo’s claim. And when she  casts the tie-breaking vote, she votes for mercy, not for “I think women suck”. I’m not reading this as an anti-feminist decision on her part.

Now, if you’re upset because the ancient Greeks really did believe that thing about women only acting as vessels to the life-giving seed of a man, well, yeah. Like most of our Ancestors, they weren’t perfect, and like some of our Ancestors, they could be downright stupid in some ways. My grandfather, a skilled lawyer and a talented spy (no, really. he was), believed to his dying day that smearing butter on a burn was the best way to treat it. And my grandmother was a talented teacher and school superintendent, and never managed to stop smoking. Dealing with that dissonance between revering our predecessors and understanding their flaws is part of the human experience, and doing that at a cultural level is part of the Pagan reconstructionist experience. Welcome to the club. >8)

I suppose I could have extended the list of personal failings of my Ancestors (couldn’t we all?) but you get the idea.

On a personal note, I believe that the gods do change over time – more slowly than we “Children of Earth” do, sure, but I definitely don’t believe that they are completely static and unevolving. If the gods are being honored and made offerings to by modern Pagans (and worse from the view of the Ancient Greeks, modern Pagans most of whom don’t speak Greek), then presumably they will either adapt to our modern needs, or choose not to accept the offerings. And if a god contacts you by whatever method and wants you to talk to them, presumably they believe that you can do something positive for them, whether you think so or not. You don’t have to accept, of course, but I ask you not to reject the offer out of hand.

And many have already written about the relationship between the “real” gods and the stories that are told of them. We in ADF don’t have an official “party line” on the nature of the divine, so it’s unlikely that we’d ever have an official stance on this issue anyway. We leave it up to our members (and everyone else, really) to decide that for themselves. I would only point out that a lot of the stories we hear about other people aren’t true either, or are at least a little exaggerated, and would we really expect that to be any different for the gods? Work with them, honor them, build a relationship with them, and that will be more important and more wonderful than what anyone else thinks about them.

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

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One thought on “And Euripides Was A Better Writer Than Aeschylus Anyway

  1. (Comments from the original post on our old site:)

    Posted by Eric Klinert:
    Thank you for this article. The final paragraph, especially, reminds me of one of the things I value most about ADF: its relative lack of dogma, allowing the light and space for a multitude of different approaches to the divine, in the form of whichever deity, deities, or hearth culture speaks to that individual, allowing for fellowship with others while valuing, even encouraging, each individual’s personal pursuit of gnosis.
    Sunday, November 15th 2009 @ 11:27 AM

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