an article on Zeus in modern day paganism

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an article on Zeus in modern day paganism

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sun Jun 18, 2006 9:23 pm


I thought it might be interesting to share this with you guys. Any comments are appreciated of course.
Zeus in modern day paganism:

Like Ares, Zeus tends to be overlooked in modern day paganism. Most pagans don't really pay homage to him due to his reputation he gained from mythology. In mythology, Zeus is portrayed as *the* patriarchal deity who spends his time chasing women (mortal and divine) and raping them. Most people tend to take the rape of these goddesses and mortal women literally. Add the myth of a patriarchal evil conspiracy to destroy a peaceful matriarchal society and you get really fast to why few people are drawn to Zeus. Well those aren’t the two only reasons. The third one, in my opinion, is that Zeus for some people is similar to YHWH, the Judeao-Christian god. When people first come to paganism, they usually tend to reject anything that has to do with Christianity which is ludicrous if you think about it. We as a culture are heavily influenced by Christian ideas and principles. It has shaped our way of life for the last sixteen hundred years and these people simply reject anything Christian based on their resentment towards monotheism?
To be honest, I had a similar attitude towards it when I left Christianity and started to look into Hellenismos. Even though I wasn’t ready to reject anything Christian or that was influenced by it, I criticized Christianity. In the beginning I didn’t really notice Zeus. I was to much drawn to the Titans and chthonic deities to really notice him. It wasn’t until I learned of the chthonic aspect of Apollon that I slowly started to take interest in Zeus. Even than, it was months away, before I even thought about devoting my time to him. Apollon and Zeus stand close to each other. Mythological speaking of course. Apollon also chases women and even men, but unlike his father, he’s not really successful at conquering them. I think this show that no matter how much a child wants to be like his father, he will always fail at it. It is normal for a child to try to imitate their fathers, but eventually they realize that they must walk their own path and not their father’s path. That is a path that is not for us. The myths of Apollon chasing women show that.
I’m not suggesting that Apollon is an aspect of Zeus. No, to me Apollon is Apollon. He is a individual, separate deity, just like Zeus. Going back to the rape issue. Zeus is a powerful deity whose influence should not be underestimated. After all, he’s called the King of the Gods and Father of Gods and Men for a reason. People are offended by his ways, the way he acts in mythology, how he cheats on Hera on every turn. The truth is that the social constructs that made up Hellenic society is reflected in their myths on the Gods. When he cheats on his wife and sires offspring with other goddesses and women, he shows the attitude of men those days towards women in general; that they were regarded as a subspecies of mankind, and are only good for procreation. The fact that he even cheats Hera with a boy called Ganymedes is no real surprise either. Boys, aged 12-14 became aware of the attention they were getting from the older men in their town or village, and were tutored by these men into everything they will be confronted with during their life, resulting in a friendship that could turn sexual. In ancient Greece, however, "rape" may have had a different meaning than it does today. It may not have had quite the same negative connotation. This is probably not the only reason why Zeus does not have as many followers as Hekate, Phoibos Apollon, Pallas Athena and Artemis to name a few. It probably has more to do with the fact that Zeus can be overwhelming; he is an authoritarian deity.
To some, such a powerful deity may be frightening, even reminding them of the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. What Zeus and the God of the monotheistic faiths have in common is that they are powerful Gods whose overwhelming presences are felt by those who worship them. That and that both Gods have earth born sons, although YHWH has one, Zeus has many earth born sons. Ancient Greek culture was patriarchal, and did not always have an attitude respectful of or friendly towards women. So should the mythical personality of Zeus be judged upon for what he does in these myths? No. Zeus and the other Gods have a different morality and standards than we mortals. The Zeus of mythology is not the Zeus honored by either the ancient Greeks or the Hellenic polytheists of today. Some polytheists might see Jupiter as the Roman Zeus, and I do see him this way. Some ancient and modern polytheists see Jupiter as the Roman Zeus.
Zeus is a powerful deity, whose worship should not be ignored out of fear or out of resentment of how he behaves in myth. Zeus is among other things called the father of Men and Gods, which refers to the fact that he's King of the Gods and of humans. At the same time, he's also their father and ours. A father, who we turn to, to ask questions, to seek refuge, but like all fathers he could punish us. One of the ethics Zeus wants us to live by is show hospitality to those who seek it from us, to be kind to our guests and friends. The story of Lykeion demonstrates that Zeus does not tolerate people who violate hospitality. To only look at the good side of a deity is ignoring the very essence of human nature and of the divine. Humans have the tendency to be as cruel as loving as they can be. The Gods are both good and evil, even though those concepts are just human inventions to label something they don't always understand. It’s an illusion and maybe also hubris, to say that the Gods are just good or/ and evil. Those notions don't apply to the Gods, because it is not so simple to label something that is difficult and sometimes hard to understand.
Eve if we assign these notions, we must not forget that without the darkness, there is no light and vice versa. If people started to be nice to each other and only them things what they want to hear and not what they need to hear at times, we, as individuals will not grow. Sometimes we need the dark side to show us what must be done. Zeus does that. If we need to be cleaned, even purified from something, we turn to Meilikhos to purify us from these things that plague us. He isn’t just the King that chases women and men, but he also control the weather as Skotitas, Kataibates, Ombrios, Nephelegereta/ Nephelegeretes. He can withhold the rain and clouds, but he can also send storms and descend as lightning to show his symbol of power and to remind us of his power. He can give council to those who need it, and remind people in a time where kings draw their power from Zeus, that their monarchy is founded by his approval. One of the few aspects of Zeus that might be overlooked is Moiragetês, guide of Fate. He commands over the Moirai, but is at the same time subjected to their power, according to Homeros and Hesiodos. As a God of fate, he decides what happens and when it will happen, both on a cosmic and on a small scale.
I have only briefly discussed Zeus here. Zeus has many epithets and to talk about them all, would possibly cover a whole book to do so. And speaking of books, Ken Dowden has a excellent book out on Zeus, that is quit interesting for both the beginner and the advanced learner.
So the question might arise how people should view Zeus? The answer is that they should read and reread the myths about Zeus. They should also read books on daily life in Ancient Greece, the role of women in ancient Greece, etc.... to gain another insight on the matter. To simply say that Zeus is the patron god of the patriarchy is too simple. In order to understand how the ancient Greeks saw Zeus and all the other Gods, one needs to look in to the social structure of ancient Greek society. You might call it a downside to our religion that you can’t clearly draw the line of where their religion begins and end. It is so infused into their daily lives, that the only way to understand it, to study it, is to study the culture as a whole. Than again, I’m not telling anything that most people who will read this might already know.

Quintus Aurelius Orcus
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