Monday, February 04, 2013

Struggling With Aspects of Greek Culture/Religion

Long story short, a while ago I had decided to abandon Hellenic religion, as I was more interested in certain Egyptian gods, and felt like my own worldview was more in line with certain kinds of pagan witchcraft in that I think of life as sacred and cyclical, and also that I believe in gender equality and free sexuality. That's simplifying a lot, but let's just go with it. I am drawn to Egyptian gods and culture because it was one of the few cultures, ancient and modern, in which women had pretty much equal legal and social standing. Sexuality was not a problem, and virginity was a non-issue. In contrast, ancient Greek culture was generally very restrictive of women and female sexuality, though men were free to do what they wanted sexually as long as it didn't infringe on someone else's property.

People may be wondering what this has to do with religion, but I think these attitudes are reflected in religious views, as virginity is sacred to goddesses like Hera and Artemis as a prerequisite of marriage (for women). Greeks also valued virginity as being equivalent to purity in other goddesses, such as Hestia and Athena. Not only that, but many of the male gods assert their dominance by raping (or attempting to rape) mortal women and goddesses, for example, Zeus' countless forced sexual encounters, Poseidon's rape of Medusa, Apollon attempted rape of Daphne, and Hades' abduction of Persephone. I just don't personally find this militantly patriarchal attitude relevant to my spirituality.

Well, that's all well and good, and while I still feel in tune with the Egyptian deities I was following, and the witchy path of liberation and celebration of nature as a manifestation of divinity, I do feel drawn to Greek deities I used to follow, and miss some aspects of my Hellenic practice. The problem is, I don't know how to reconcile that with the rest of my political and spiritual views. I am extremely drawn to Lady Hera, but at the same time, she represents the patriarchal ideal of the chaste wife who is often the recipient of her husband's dominance rather than an independently powerful goddess. Also, when I follow Hera, I feel like I turn into a much haughtier and socially conservative person than I am regularly, so I'm not sure how to handle that. Adopting a more traditional ancient Greek cultural perspective puts me in conflict with my more modern socially progressive views. I don't know if this makes sense to anybody, but that's what I'm struggling with at the moment.

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