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Author Topic: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?  (Read 716 times)

Eastling

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Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« on: October 17, 2019, 11:00:38 am »
If you've spent any time researching ancient gods, whether for fun and education or for your personal spirituality, you'll have noticed something: most deities are described as "the god(dess) of" something or another. Aphrodite is the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and often the stars and the sea; Odin is the god of magic, death, prophecy, etc. Sometimes I see this referred to as the "domains" or "spheres" of a god.

But what exactly does it mean to say that Someone is the god of magic or the goddess of warfare? What does a deity's set of spheres or domains say about them and how are they related to these areas of focus, according to your personal path?

A few more specific questions for interested parties to answer:
  • What domains or spheres define your Powers?
  • What does it mean, in your path, for a Power to have such a definition? What is their relationship to those things?
  • Bonus: if you were a god, what would you be the god of?
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Eastling

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2019, 11:06:01 am »
But what exactly does it mean to say that Someone is the god of magic or the goddess of warfare? What does a deity's set of spheres or domains say about them and how are they related to these areas of focus, according to your personal path?

In my path, a Power or set of Powers is liable to have a "Mystery" that they both guard and embody. This is some kind of fundamental cosmic truth, often difficult for mere mortals to express in words (at least directly and succinctly). If one considers a god to be a living story (as I often do), then this Mystery roughly corresponds to the central theme of their story.

My intermingled Powerset of Dionysos, Aphrodite, and the new god Mercury all share a common concern with ecstatic boundary transgression: with the secret that everything is connected and often capable of becoming something else, usually through the power of love.
"The peacock can show its whole tail at once, but I can only tell you a story."
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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2019, 12:47:12 pm »
If you've spent any time researching ancient gods, whether for fun and education or for your personal spirituality, you'll have noticed something: most deities are described as "the god(dess) of" something or another. Aphrodite is the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and often the stars and the sea; Odin is the god of magic, death, prophecy, etc. Sometimes I see this referred to as the "domains" or "spheres" of a god.

But what exactly does it mean to say that Someone is the god of magic or the goddess of warfare? What does a deity's set of spheres or domains say about them and how are they related to these areas of focus, according to your personal path?

I tend to feel that "god of whatever" is basically the preschool version of mythology, the simplified-to-the-point-of-inanity approach that might give a general sense of what's going on but falls apart as soon as one actually starts looking at things closely. (And I kind of despair of the fact that a lot of material never gets past that, and maybe that's a part of why a lot of pagan theology is so puerile.)

To stick with the Greek pantheon since that's the preschool mythology that's most familiar in Western culture - there are two Powers described as "gods of war": Ares and Athena. And obviously these things mean very different things in context, it's not a matter of redundancy, if one looks at what is actually meant by "god of war" for each of them.

I actually have less of an issue with the idea of "domains", partly because it feels like a fuzzier category to me.  Even in D&D (an exemplar of braindead category-based theologizing, but also a major source of that terminology) a god will have multiple domains, and that sense that these are blurry approximations of what the god actually does that can be expressed in these categories. In D&D you can look at gods and go "Okay, this god has Death in their domains and this one has Death and Undeath, one can see a difference in attitude right there!" Or whatever else.  (A while back I had the notion of running a D&D game with 'let the cleric pick a couple domains and then I'll tell them which god/aspect they're dealing with.'  You want "Law" and "Nature"?  Fine, you get Ma'at.  "War" and "Healing"? Sekhmet.  Etc.)

I tend to feel like gods have One Thing they do, that they're fundamentally elemental in that way, but since that One Thing is spread out to all of its actual manifestations it gets fractally complicated.  I have been known to say that Hetharu-Sekhmet is the goddess of Unified Field Theory - in and among bunches of her other things she/they is fundamentally about the forces of attraction and repulsion that govern the fundamental workings of the universe. At the very least she's electroweak and we can argue about where gravity fits like the physicists. But does anyone say "electromagnetism" when listing off her domains?  Nope!  It's joy and beauty and motherhood and music for Hetharu and vengeance and healing for Sekhmet, and they both like a good beer.  All of which, when you look at it, is drawing things together or splitting them apart, sometimes both at the same time, but that's not the level people tend to think.

But that's why I say that if someone wants to get to know a god they need to pile up all the everything - all the epithets, all the stories, all the symbols, into a giant heap of things to think about, and then try to figure out how to unify that tangled mess of apparently-contradictory Stuff.  Because it's all about one thing, somewhere in there, and when you find something a little closer to that one thing, you're a little bit closer to that god.
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Anon100

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2019, 03:00:52 pm »
I tend to feel that "god of whatever" is basically the preschool version of mythology, the simplified-to-the-point-of-inanity approach that might give a general sense of what's going on but falls apart as soon as one actually starts looking at things closely. (And I kind of despair of the fact that a lot of material never gets past that, and maybe that's a part of why a lot of pagan theology is so puerile.)

To stick with the Greek pantheon since that's the preschool mythology that's most familiar in Western culture - there are two Powers described as "gods of war": Ares and Athena. And obviously these things mean very different things in context, it's not a matter of redundancy, if one looks at what is actually meant by "god of war" for each of them.


Yes to the above.

Excuse me as I ramble and bear in mind I'm still learning, so some of what I say will alter with information.

I'm dealing with and learning about a goddess commonly known for war, but in that you have fear and inner battles; you can touch on death, sovereignty, truth ( and facing it ), responsibility.
Some amazing aspects hidden behind the title 'war goddess' and easily missed if you don't look deeper.

What does their sphere say about them is an interesting one as, again, how we would deal with the pressures of say, being a soldier or surgeon would differ from person to person. With soldiers for instance you can get gallows humor to be able to face the harshness, or cold withdrawl, heightened honour, more respect ( or disrespect ) for life.
So perhaps we could better ask how their personality in dealing with their sphere teaches us about them?

Actually, that's one I think I might want to think about a bit.

If I was a god I'd be the god of long boring speeches ( if this post of mine is anything to go by )

« Last Edit: October 17, 2019, 03:10:24 pm by Anon100 »

Altair

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2019, 06:20:44 pm »
But what exactly does it mean to say that Someone is the god of magic or the goddess of warfare? What does a deity's set of spheres or domains say about them and how are they related to these areas of focus, according to your personal path?

A few more specific questions for interested parties to answer:
  • What domains or spheres define your Powers?
  • What does it mean, in your path, for a Power to have such a definition? What is their relationship to those things?
  • Bonus: if you were a god, what would you be the god of?

I generally agree with Darkhawk's take; in fact, I've seen it in the evolution of my own deities, who started as simplistic "god/dess of X" but then, as I wrote their myths, deepened and turned into much more complex entities. They never lost their original domain, but they and their domain(s) became much more complicated.

Domains of my gods (primary; and other often related domains):
--Generative forces; space, and all the matter and energy within it; physical prowess and sexual drive
--Balance; time and its infinite branches; maintaining order
--Thought and the unknown; transformative forces; magic, mystery, intellect
--Life; birth, motherhood
--Love; romance, family devotion
--Fate; writing and storytelling
--Death
--Sleep; tranquility; music, singing

Those are some of the major ones...but regardless of the complexity of their domains, I usually refer to them by one particular appellation. For example, the first in my list is usually "the Lord of the Stars." A handy moniker, but hardly all that He is.

Not sure how to answer your second question; I'll give it more thought.

The final question doesn't make sense for me. I'm part and parcel of divinity, so in that sense I am a god, as are we all, and I can be esp. conscious of it when I'm inhabited by the particular energy of one of my gods. But to actually become a deity means to embody that particular energy--to BE that domain--full time. That's not something a human being can do.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2019, 06:22:26 pm by Altair »
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Jainarayan

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2019, 10:07:22 am »
But what exactly does it mean to say that Someone is the god of magic or the goddess of warfare? What does a deity's set of spheres or domains say about them and how are they related to these areas of focus, according to your personal path?

Whether we like to look at it this way or admit it or not, I'm going to say the deities are personifications of concepts, ideas, philosophies. For example, on his website Norse Mythology for Smart People Daniel McCoy says For example, Thor, whose very name meant “Thunder,” was not so much the “god of thunder” as he was the god thunder – the divinity whose presence the Vikings felt in the thunder. I might say the same for Hindu deities. We say things like Saraswati is the goddess of learning, speech, arts, music, etc.; Lakshmi is the goddess of good fortune, wealth,etc.; Shiva is the god of dissolution ("destruction" only in the sense of destroying what's old to make way for creation); and so on. It's probably more correct to say Saraswati is learning, speech, arts, music. Lakshmi is good fortune, wealth, etc.; Shiva is dissolution.

We anthropomorphize them because it's often difficult to connect with concepts or what's unmanifested. Krishna says this in the Bhagavad Gita 12.5 (the commentary and reasoning is in the link) "For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifest, the path of realization is full of tribulations. Worship of the unmanifest is exceedingly difficult for embodied beings."

Quote
Bonus: if you were a god, what would you be the god of?

I'd be the God of Snarkiness and Sarcasm.
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 - Skandopanishad
 

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2019, 01:48:55 pm »
If you've spent any time researching ancient gods, whether for fun and education or for your personal spirituality, you'll have noticed something: most deities are described as "the god(dess) of" something or another. Aphrodite is the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and often the stars and the sea; Odin is the god of magic, death, prophecy, etc. Sometimes I see this referred to as the "domains" or "spheres" of a god.

But what exactly does it mean to say that Someone is the god of magic or the goddess of warfare? What does a deity's set of spheres or domains say about them and how are they related to these areas of focus, according to your personal path?

I see them as akin to "Subject Matter Experts." They are the resources which you want to draw on when you want something to be the very best it can be. Now I'm not saying, of course, that another personality...human or divine...couldn't do a competent job designing a summer cabin, say. But a god(dess) of architecture would be the one who might review your plans and say, "Nice job! Not bad! But...you know, if you built that great room wall out another five feet, and angled it forty degrees to the left, you'd get an absolutely spectacular sunset on the days closest to the solstice!"

Moving from ancient times up to today...let's say, f'rinstance, that you wanted to build a killer performing arts theater. You might ask the help of a goddess of music and dance. But she, if she warms up to the project, might turn to a goddess of wisdom to ask how many patrons could be expected on a regular basis and how much funding could be raised without a crippling debt load. Together they might turn to an architecture expert to come up with a basic design blueprint, and s/he might then turn to a structural and systems expert to flesh that design out with elevators, wiring, plumbing, and the like. A god(dess) with expertise in drama might chime in with opinions on how the theater could be made multipurpose for stage plays and the like. When the plans and proposals are done, they might find an expert craftsman to take it from drawing board to reality.

Of course (and that's my intent), that sounds an awful lot like the way we humans build such projects. But is it really necessary that deity take pen and shovel and rivet gun in hand for such an undertaking? As "subject matter experts", they also ought to be aware of humans who are sufficiently capable in these areas, and direct you to them at each appropriate stage of the project.

Now to reconcile that somewhat polytheistic view with my monotheistic religion. While I believe in One God...or, more precisely, that God is One...I also believe that Scripture indicates that there are multiple, complementary personalities active within the Godhead. But I also believe that they love each other so much and work together so well that it really doesn't matter who's "answering the phone" on the day you call in with your request. If I as a Christian am in a position to commence such an undertaking and petition for divine assistance in completing it, I believe that all I have to do is pray, "God, help me to undertake this project and to do the very best job I possibly can with it" without having to be any more specific than that. That prayer, regardless of who handles it on its way to the Throne of God, sets all those wheels I referenced two paragraphs above in motion at once. At least, In My Opinion.

A few more specific questions for interested parties to answer:
  • Bonus: if you were a god, what would you be the god of?

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Yei

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2019, 07:01:45 pm »
If you've spent any time researching ancient gods, whether for fun and education or for your personal spirituality, you'll have noticed something: most deities are described as "the god(dess) of" something or another. Aphrodite is the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and often the stars and the sea; Odin is the god of magic, death, prophecy, etc. Sometimes I see this referred to as the "domains" or "spheres" of a god.

But what exactly does it mean to say that Someone is the god of magic or the goddess of warfare? What does a deity's set of spheres or domains say about them and how are they related to these areas of focus, according to your personal path?

A few more specific questions for interested parties to answer:
  • What domains or spheres define your Powers?
  • What does it mean, in your path, for a Power to have such a definition? What is their relationship to those things?
  • Bonus: if you were a god, what would you be the god of?

If I were to describe this, I would say that each god manifests itself as a 'dynamic force' (or possibly several related forces) which interacts with the larger world (and the dynamic forces of other divinities) through a series of quasi-stable cycles. In turn, these interlocking cycles engender a series of relationships with beings that interact with those cycles. The attributes attributed to each divinity is therefore an attempt to describe how their dynamic forces enter the world, and therefore how we should understand our relationships with them. I think that originally (what ever that means) these attributes would have been understood to be quite complex, creating a more complete depiction of the gods. However, as we have become more distant from traditional polytheistic cultures, these attributes have become more simplified, and reduced in number.

Personally, I prefer to try and understand the gods and their 'dynamic forces' directly, than to rely on attributes, because I feel that will give me a better understanding of the religion as a whole. It can also help an old religion deal better with new/modern concepts, but I haven't experimented with this line of thinking much.

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2019, 11:47:02 am »
I tend to feel that "god of whatever" is basically the preschool version of mythology, the simplified-to-the-point-of-inanity approach that might give a general sense of what's going on but falls apart as soon as one actually starts looking at things closely. (And I kind of despair of the fact that a lot of material never gets past that, and maybe that's a part of why a lot of pagan theology is so puerile.)

I tend to feel like gods have One Thing they do, that they're fundamentally elemental in that way, but since that One Thing is spread out to all of its actual manifestations it gets fractally complicated.

This, honestly, has to be the best worded explanation of this situation.  For me, at least.  It sums up a lot of what my own UPG has been to date. 

My understanding has been that deities/gods tend to be far more fluid and fuzzy around the edges in general.  Making them a god of a specific Thing seems far more confining and based on human need to relegate complex understandings to simple box categories than it is a representation of the god theirself.  A god may be more inclined towards a thing, or the best to approach for a specific subject, but that doesn't necessarily diminish their other aspects or qualities.

I've never gotten the idea it's wrong for them to be connected to those attributes or that they do not embody them, but simply that they generally should not be defined by said attributes.  But we can, and do, define them as such... and it's still okay~ Just that these cursory impressions are rather shallow and barely scratch the surface of who and what they really are.

Needless to say, I stay away from saying such and such is the god of this or that.  Unless we are discussing mythology in a general fashion and referencing the ways a god has been worshiped or revered in the past.

arete

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2019, 09:36:06 am »
the god of magic or the goddess of warfare
Both 'magic' and 'warfare' are limited and they have a begining and an end. In order to exist, they must be connected to a limitless, immortal reality. This reality is the Gods. The limitless Gods are the Mothers to everything mortal and limited.

The God (immortal eternal) of Magic (mortal).

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2019, 10:43:24 am »
Both 'magic' and 'warfare' are limited and they have a begining and an end. In order to exist, they must be connected to a limitless, immortal reality. This reality is the Gods. The limitless Gods are the Mothers to everything mortal and limited.

The God (immortal eternal) of Magic (mortal).

That's an interesting take on it.

I'm not 100% sure about the examples used, but I think I can see the broader shape of your idea.

I've almost no personal experience of magic, but in my imagination at least it's possibly one of the very few things in the universe that's truly not limited, at least from our rather limited human perspective.

With that said, warfare, I feel, is a thing which has existed since at least as long as humankind - and (perhaps I'm just a huge cynic) will exist for at least as long as our species.  So arguably an unlimited phenomenon afterall, actually?

Now that I think about it, the same could be said of other phenomena, such as love.

Even something like prosperity, which doesn't necessarily only refer to financial prosperity but to the fact that all societies (even individuals) need a certain level of availability of resources in order to, well, in order to prosper...

Anyone else feel as though a whole new thread could evolve out of some of the above?  (Not sure what it'd be titled, though...)

(Also, just to add for the sake of full disclosure , that I don't actually have deities as such as part of my current path, which is why I hadn't joined in on this thread until now.)
"Everything's made up of elements, right? Earth, Water, Air, Fire and... sunnink. Well-known fact. Everything's got 'em all mixed up just right."
Character Nobby Nobbs in the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel The Truth

Anon100

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2019, 12:26:39 pm »
That's an interesting take on it.


Even something like prosperity, which doesn't necessarily only refer to financial prosperity but to the fact that all societies (even individuals) need a certain level of availability of resources in order to, well, in order to prosper...

Anyone else feel as though a whole new thread could evolve out of some of the above?  (Not sure what it'd be titled, though...)

(Also, just to add for the sake of full disclosure , that I don't actually have deities as such as part of my current path, which is why I hadn't joined in on this thread until now.)

I certainly agree Perdita. Mind if I use your post to start a new thread?

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2019, 02:01:44 pm »
I certainly agree Perdita. Mind if I use your post to start a new thread?

Please feel free - look forward to reading and participating in it.
"Everything's made up of elements, right? Earth, Water, Air, Fire and... sunnink. Well-known fact. Everything's got 'em all mixed up just right."
Character Nobby Nobbs in the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel The Truth

Anon100

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Re: Gods of...what? And what does that mean?
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2019, 02:28:12 pm »
Please feel free - look forward to reading and participating in it.

Thanks Perdita.

I've titled it Change and Deity and its in Gods and Goddesses. I composed it as best I could but it's a bit rough and a fairly open question to allow a lot of different thoughts to be brought in

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