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  1. #21
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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by SunflowerP View Post
    And it is a cromulent word, and also potentially very useful.

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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by Megatherium View Post
    One is that while some people may see the level of pantheonic (there he goes again!) diversity as evidence of an inherent falsity of polytheistic traditions, I would disagree. I think humans are fundamentally unable to really understand Deities, and all of our myths, iconography, etc are ways in which we establish a point of contact with beings who are fundamentally other. I think there are many ways to establish such relationships and pantheonic diversity reflects the myriad of ways one can do so.
    As the token monotheist (yes, I know I'm far from alone!), I'd like to comment upon this. No Christian, Jewish, or Islamic tradition which I am aware of denies the existence of a plethora of spiritual beings of different personalities and power. What I see it boiling down to in my own monotheistic paradigm is that there is One GOD...but that even then that God is manifested as at least three (but I personally believe ten) different Persons.

    Below that supreme level, though, there is (IMO) a dizzying array of spiritual beings that I only know enough about to get myself in trouble. I'm now convinced that there are a LOT of angels...so many so that, even if only one percent of them are really interested in events on earth, that one percent is sufficient to supply personal guardian angels for every individual human being, and also angels with responsibility to oversee churches, neighborhoods, cities, governmental entities, possibly even major corporations--and the waiting lists are centuries long....

    Baptist practice generally frowns on excessive interest in angelic or spiritual matters, which gave me a few guilty feelings when I first began to seriously consider these matters some thirty-plus years ago. However, I felt then that if you wanted to really get to know a factory owner then getting to know the workers who had been on his factory floor for many years was not a bad step. Since then I've become more comfortable in my fascination with angels; I think that God intentionally designed them to be fascinating creatures.

    However, I do see this Reality in the overarching context of a bitterly fought spiritual war in which there is a great deal of espionage, deception, and counterfeiting. Within that context, the monotheistic ideal makes a great deal of sense. If you approach the man at the top and make a positive and direct connection with Him...then working with those in the hierarchy under him becomes easy.
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  3. #23
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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by Megatherium View Post
    What is interesting about the level of "pantheonic" (I made up a word! hooray!) diversity in India is that it has so many features that historical Germanic religion lacked. India has been a literate society for a long time, it has a professional priestly class, it has an incredible amount of written material (some of which is widely if not universally revered), and a greater degree of political unity (though political unification of the subcontinent was fairly sporadic until the Muhgal-British-Modern states more or less succeeded each other).
    I think this can be attributed to the harshness of life in the north of Europe compared to the variety of climates and eco-systems in South Asia. There are rivers that boats fish on; rivers fishermen can wade into and cast nets; the seas are calmer than than the North Sea and North Atlantic; the climate in South Asia is conducive to growing a wide variety of vegetation and raising animals. Just about the only time of the year when things stop is the monsoon season.

    Given all that, there was more opportunity for philosophy, poetry, science, medicine, technology, religion, linguistics, to flourish. In a word, people had the luxury of time. The people of Northern Europe were no less intelligent, because they did come up with some humdinger ideas and technologies. Their focus was more on survival, witnessed by the number of gods and goddesses, and other beings that had to do with the fertility (or not) of the Earth: Jord, the Earth herself; Freyr; Thor; Sif; the Jotnar who were always looking to wreck things; Skadi and Ullr being gods of the harshness of winter; the gods of war Odin, Freyja, the Valkyrjur.

    In Hinduism there is only one god who is associated with preserving and maintaining balance in the universe and on Earth: Vishnu. There is only one goddess associated with good fortune and is the Earth herself: Lakshmi (Bhudevi or Bhumidevi is her aspect as the Earth), Vishnu's consort. I think the comparisons and contrasts can go on. But I think there are definite reasons for the disparity in pantheons and cultures.
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    Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
    Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - The Yajurveda

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  4. #24
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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by Jainarayan View Post
    I think this can be attributed to the harshness of life in the north of Europe compared to the variety of climates and eco-systems in South Asia. There are rivers that boats fish on; rivers fishermen can wade into and cast nets; the seas are calmer than than the North Sea and North Atlantic; the climate in South Asia is conducive to growing a wide variety of vegetation and raising animals. Just about the only time of the year when things stop is the monsoon season.
    This is one of the things I've thought a lot about in terms of the development of theologies.

    To throw another one into the mix, Egyptian cosmology has the world as fundamentally good and abundant, so it partakes of that similarity with the Hindu. However, the Egyptian paradisical status is precarious and requires constant maintenance: they were aware of the interplay between the powers of the river and the powers of the desert, poised between flood and sandstorm, and saw the idealised state as one in which each was in its proper place and poised to balance the other, because only when all of those interlocking forces were correctly aligned could the proper conditions be upheld.

    So while there is no need to have every power focused on the production of abundance or the harshness of nature, every power must be subordinated to the obligation to participate within the bounds of upholding the balances among all the powers, because otherwise all the bits go to pieces.

    (It's not just the river and the desert in the dualisms; the entire landscape was written in those delicately poised oppositions, down to 'the river flows south to north and the prevailing winds are north to south', and thus the world is made for travel by river so long as those forces continue doing their thing properly.)
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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by Darkhawk View Post
    This is one of the things I've thought a lot about in terms of the development of theologies.

    To throw another one into the mix, Egyptian cosmology has the world as fundamentally good and abundant, so it partakes of that similarity with the Hindu. However, the Egyptian paradisical status is precarious and requires constant maintenance: they were aware of the interplay between the powers of the river and the powers of the desert, poised between flood and sandstorm...
    Very true. I think we'd find some kind of balancing act or way of maintaining equilibrium in most cosmologies... light and dark chasing each other, weather and seasonal cycles, etc. The Hindu concept is not as obvious. The duality is between the (major) gods and goddesses.

    For example, the goddesses Lakshmi, Radha and Sita (aspects of Lakshmi); Durga and Kali (aspects of Parvati, Shiva's "wife"); and Saraswati, the respective consorts of Vishnu, Krishna, Rama; Shiva; Brahma are more than female counterparts or "wives". When Vishnu takes an earhly avatar, Lakshmi incarnates along with him. They are actually the energy (shakti) of the male gods. Without their energy, the male gods cannot act. Without the male gods, the goddesses have no purpose. Without acting on anything, what is the purpose of energy?

    There's a story about Vishnu and Lakshmi in which Vishnu was greatly disrespected by a prominent sage. The sage kicked Vishnu in the chest. Vishnu forgave him (he's forgiving to a fault), but Lakshmi was outraged, more at Vishnu for tolerating and forgiving such disrespect. It must have been a particularly egregious act of disrespect for the goddess of good fortune, grace, charm and beauty to be outraged. She did the divine equivalent of going home to mother... she left Vishnu, alone and upset. He wandered around, letting his duties fall by the wayside. Because without his energy, shakti, wife, he couldn't do anything. After some convolutions in the story Vishnu and Lakshmi were reunited and all was well with the world and Vaikuntha (their spiritual abode).

    Some Hindus also hold that one cannot obtain Krishna's grace without appealing to or being devoted to Radha. Their divine love is so intense that they're often referred to and thought of as a single entity, Radha-Krishna. Shiva and Parvati also have a combined form.

    It seems balance is something humans need, can't get away from, and weave into their mythologies and cosmologies.
    śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
    śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
    Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
    Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - The Yajurveda

    "Anyone can pray to the Gods in whatever manner he likes." - Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson

  6. #26
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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by Jainarayan View Post
    The people of Northern Europe were no less intelligent, because they did come up with some humdinger ideas and technologies. Their focus was more on survival, witnessed by the number of gods and goddesses, and other beings that had to do with the fertility (or not) of the Earth: Jord, the Earth herself; Freyr; Thor; Sif; the Jotnar who were always looking to wreck things; Skadi and Ullr being gods of the harshness of winter; the gods of war Odin, Freyja, the Valkyrjur.
    I'm not sure that the number of gods/esses in Germanic societies is a consequence of survival, the Romans, Egyptians and Hindus have quite a few, possibly a good number more than the Norse. Considering the Norse of the Viking age traded, raided and settled all through Europe and as far as Central Asia, I think we can safely say they had a wider focus than survival.

    Freyr and Thor are certainly connected to fertility but that is not their only focus of their cult, as for Sif, so little is written about her and no active cult has been found so it is difficult to assess her role; other that wife of Thor and mother of Ullr.

    Whilst to is easy to assume that the Jotnar are always assosiated with opposition and chaos, it is not so simplistic. The dichotomy between gods/esses and Jotnar in Norse mythology is not so clear cut; Jord for example is the daughter of a giantess (Nott) which makes Thor part Jotnar, Odin is the son of a Jotnar (Bestla), Skadi is a Jotnar and Freyr married a Jotnar (Gerd); kinship is a complicated issue in Norse mythology.

    Ullr (whose name means glory) has become the god of snow, there are in fact Ullr festivals in ski resorts, but it appears from the sources that he was attested as a member of the Aesir gifted with a bow, skis, the son of Sif and stepson of Thor and kennings that suggest he was a warrior. There was an active cult of Ullr near Stockholm, many oath rings were found in this excavation, possible suggesting oaths were sworn to him or associated with him.
    Last edited by Hildeburh; 18 Mar 2017 at 05:46 AM. Reason: Spelling

  7. #27
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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by Megatherium View Post
    So I’ve recently been a little fixated on the following article (http://odroerirjournal.com/pantheon-what-pantheon/) which, very briefly, questions the extent to which the “Norse Pantheon” as articulated in the Eddas is an accurate representation of how historical Heathens saw their Gods and the relationships among them.
    The Eddas reflect Viking age Scandinavia and in the case of the Prose Edda the Pantheon has been systemised and euhemerized. The Eddas are a snapshot of a specific age and time, they do not reflect the entirety of historical heathenry which would have exhibited variations according to time and place.

    Tyr and Thor as sons of Odin is a good example, given that Thor was more widely worshipped across the Germanic world it is likely that Thor may have become son of Odin when Odin's cult gained ascendancy. Tyr is named in the Prose Edda as son of Odin and in the Poetic Edda as son of Hymir but Tyr literally translates as god as is cognate with Zeus, so it seems he may have predated Odin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Megatherium View Post
    I find this an interesting question because it seems to me that the way a particular culture understands its pantheon of deities is something which is in constant flux.
    Not necessarily in constant flux but cults would have had regional variations, in terms of the empasis on specific gods/esses, local cults, times and places dedicated to honouring deities. Warfare, trade and migration would have lead to syncretism or even complete anilation of regional cults, this could be a slow or rapid process.

    Quote Originally Posted by Megatherium View Post
    I suspect that cultures which have a (relatively) high level of literacy and/or political unity, a professional religious class, and denser populations (such as Greco-Roman, South Asian, and Chinese cultures) may have a greater degree of pan-cultural coherence in the way in which a pantheon is understood than in cultures (such as temperate European ones) which are lacking some of the above mentioned factors.
    Heathenry was tribal, there was no centralized state or state religion as there was in classical Greece or Rome. But even in pre Christian literate societies where there was a state religion there also existed local and family cults, which exhibited great variation.

  8. #28
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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by Hildeburh View Post
    The Eddas reflect Viking age Scandinavia and in the case of the Prose Edda the Pantheon has been systemised and euhemerized. The Eddas are a snapshot of a specific age and time, they do not reflect the entirety of historical heathenry which would have exhibited variations according to time and place.

    Tyr and Thor as sons of Odin is a good example, given that Thor was more widely worshipped across the Germanic world it is likely that Thor may have become son of Odin when Odin's cult gained ascendancy. Tyr is named in the Prose Edda as son of Odin and in the Poetic Edda as son of Hymir but Tyr literally translates as god as is cognate with Zeus, so it seems he may have predated Odin.
    I've always felt that the idea of Odin as the father of all the Gods;

    - Was a late development
    - Reflects the dominance of a particular social class rather than a universally held idea
    - Seems like an attempt to force a hierarchical structure on a religion that didn't have the level of self-organization to exhibit such traits

    While the idea that Tyr had a more prominent role than Odin is difficult to directly prove, the links between Tyr and Zeus/Jupiter are interesting, and I imagine that in some times and places there was likely a Germanic deity with a name related to Tyr that had a prominent role.
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    Re: Variation in Pantheons

    Quote Originally Posted by Megatherium View Post
    I've always felt that the idea of Odin as the father of all the Gods;

    - Was a late development
    - Reflects the dominance of a particular social class rather than a universally held idea
    - Seems like an attempt to force a hierarchical structure on a religion that didn't have the level of self-organization to exhibit such traits

    While the idea that Tyr had a more prominent role than Odin is difficult to directly prove, the links between Tyr and Zeus/Jupiter are interesting, and I imagine that in some times and places there was likely a Germanic deity with a name related to Tyr that had a prominent role.
    The names of the Old Norse Tyr, Old English Tiw (named in the futhorc as Tir), Gothic Tyz (named in the Gothic Tyz rune) and Old High German Ziu decend from the proto German Tiwaz (named in the proto germanic futhark) which in turn decends from the Proto Indo European *deiwós (shining one).

    Of the reconstructed PIE pantheon Dyḗus Ptḗr (shining sky father), was the likely head of the pantheon, through sound changes this name eventually became the Proto German Tiwaz and through further sound changes became the various Germanic names for Tyr. So Tyr's name has an excellent pedigree. The word Tyr is the noun for god so bynames that include the word god once alluded to Tyr rather than Odin.

    It is likely Odin superceeded Tyr, when Odin's cult gained ascendancy and along with that adopted some of the mythos surrounding Tyr. We can see from Tacitus that it is Tyr that is equated with the Roman war god Mars not Odin. Even the later (11th century) Adam of Bremen's account of the cult centre of Uppsala rates Thor as the "mightiest" god who sits on the central throne.

    As evidence goes in Heathenry there is a strong case that Tyr was pre-eminent and predated Odin. Cults waxed and waned and varied from region to region in the polytheistic world, unfortunately due to the paucity of written sources we have a rather skewed veiw of Germanic mythology.

    Odin was definitely the god of warriors and kings that fact is pretty clear from the literature but hierarchical structures were already present within these societies, the most powerful being the comitatus. I think attempts to organise polytheistic religions stems from a Christian worldview.

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