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Author Topic: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)  (Read 6041 times)

RandallS

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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2012, 08:19:49 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;67152
While the Greeks and Romans were very fond of correlating other cultures' deities with their own, that doesn't mean those other cultures necessarily did the same, nor that they agreed with the Greeks' or the Romans' identification of their deities.

Bingo -- and for me to be sure the paired deities are the same, I would expect both cultures to have identified them as such (in mainstream thought) -- and pre-conquest. Culture A agreeing after it has been conquered and controlled by Culture B is very weak evidence IMHO.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2012, 08:21:38 am by RandallS »
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2012, 08:54:39 am »
Quote from: NibbleKat;67102
What I'm trying to say is, although I am a hard polytheist, I agree with you. :)


Wow, it's a rare phenomenon when someone agrees with me. ;)
 
Quote from: SunflowerP;67152
If you're suggesting that soft polytheism was the norm for all the ancient world (i.e., not just the Greeks and Romans), and that hard polytheism didn't appear until modern times - cite your sources, please.


It's not about sources, it's more of a personal observation.

I think "soft polytheism" and "hard polytheism" are modern categories that wouldn't have mean much in antiquity. In Egypt, theology was very fluid, so gods from different parts of Egypt were usually equated or blended when different towns came into contact.  There's also the theory that ancient Egyptians saw all gods as one god, like in Sigfried Morenz's book, "Egyptian Religion". I don't know if I would go that far, but I think the politically supreme god of any given time (Amun-Ra in the 18th dynasty, for example) could be considered the single manifestation of all gods. The cult of Isis during Hellenistic and Roman periods was a universal deity who absorbed local goddesses, and as she says in The Golden Ass: "my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable customs and in many names, for the Phrygians call me Pessinuntica, the mother of the Gods: the Athenians call me Cecropian Artemis: the Cyprians, Paphian Aphrodite: the Candians, Dictyanna: the Sicilians , Stygian Proserpine: and the Eleusians call me Mother of the Corn. Some call me Juno, others Bellona of the Battles, and still others Hecate." In Greece also, major gods absorbed local ones, not just foreign deities like I mentioned in my earlier post, and took on the names of the local gods as epithets. Artemis was called Dictynna, Aphrodite was called Cypris, Cytherea, and Acidalia, after local variants of what was considered the same Olympian deity.

It appears to me that in the ancient world, gods were identified with other gods all the time, and a different name didn't equate to a different deity. Hard polytheism is big among modern pagans, which seems like a reaction against the Dion Fortune-esque "all gods are one god, all gods are one goddess" idea common among Wiccans and Neo-Wiccans. Maybe non-Wiccans take it to the other extreme as a means of escaping Wiccan concepts, which pervade most of neo-paganism, but I don't think it's any more historically accurate.

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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2012, 11:55:15 am »
Quote from: LiminalAuggie;67129
So, reading this thread, the line "What's your name when you're at home?" popped into my head, from the game of questions in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I haven't thought of that play in years but it seems really apt here. Does Hermes just go by a different name when He's in a different area and performing a slightly different function for different people? Quite possibly. And I think even hard polytheism might soften a bit when it concerns tricksy jack-of-all-trades gods of travelers and outsiders who get around a lot.

The question I'm still gnawing on is basically whether "Gaulish Mercury" is Roman Mercury getting around to different areas, or is the "Mercury" job title just picked up by various other Celtic gods because there's an overlap of function. Round and round and round, and I expect the answer changes depending on which group of colonized/Romanized people are worshiping in which time period.

 I think with the Gaulish Mercury-- that's both a case of NOT Mercury (Romans slapping names on Gods they either don't fully understand or care to understand to make integration easier), and of, like I said above, Roman soldiers looking at a statue of Mercury that's dedicated to a god they "re-named" that ISN'T Mercury and still seeing THEIR Mercury. The waters lessen their muddiness when it comes to this point with me, I think..
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2012, 01:04:29 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;67173
Wow, it's a rare phenomenon when someone agrees with me. ;)
 


It's not about sources, it's more of a personal observation.

I think "soft polytheism" and "hard polytheism" are modern categories that wouldn't have mean much in antiquity. In Egypt, theology was very fluid, so gods from different parts of Egypt were usually equated or blended when different towns came into contact.  There's also the theory that ancient Egyptians saw all gods as one god, like in Sigfried Morenz's book, "Egyptian Religion". I don't know if I would go that far, but I think the politically supreme god of any given time (Amun-Ra in the 18th dynasty, for example) could be considered the single manifestation of all gods. The cult of Isis during Hellenistic and Roman periods was a universal deity who absorbed local goddesses, and as she says in The Golden Ass: "my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable customs and in many names, for the Phrygians call me Pessinuntica, the mother of the Gods: the Athenians call me Cecropian Artemis: the Cyprians, Paphian Aphrodite: the Candians, Dictyanna: the Sicilians , Stygian Proserpine: and the Eleusians call me Mother of the Corn. Some call me Juno, others Bellona of the Battles, and still others Hecate." In Greece also, major gods absorbed local ones, not just foreign deities like I mentioned in my earlier post, and took on the names of the local gods as epithets. Artemis was called Dictynna, Aphrodite was called Cypris, Cytherea, and Acidalia, after local variants of what was considered the same Olympian deity.

It appears to me that in the ancient world, gods were identified with other gods all the time, and a different name didn't equate to a different deity. Hard polytheism is big among modern pagans, which seems like a reaction against the Dion Fortune-esque "all gods are one god, all gods are one goddess" idea common among Wiccans and Neo-Wiccans. Maybe non-Wiccans take it to the other extreme as a means of escaping Wiccan concepts, which pervade most of neo-paganism, but I don't think it's any more historically accurate.

 
Well, I personally started as soft polytheist and ended up an hard polytheist because my practice proved me wrong, and that was long time before Dion Fortune was a blip on my radar - while I think there's a point where hard plytheism and soft polytheism meet, I find the equating of hard polytheism to 'trendy new age stuff' or a defense mechanism against association with Wicca a pretty superficial (and slightly offensive) assumption and - one without too much foundation.

There's no way to know for certain whether soft or hard polytheism were the norm in past but then we don't live in past- if today two deities that were conflated present themselves as different entities with a different modus operandi and I decide to treat them as different beings, it has nothing to do with distancing myself from Wicca (a religion I respect even while not adhering to it) or new age or a desire to be trendy - it's just the way reality works for me and i am perfectly fine with it working differently for different folks.

Also, that passage from the Golden Ass equates basically every known female deity with Isis... I would be more inclined to see it as a proof that the author saw Isis as the ultimate feminine than as evidence that soft polytheism is historically more accurate.
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2012, 01:07:56 pm »
Quote from: NibbleKat;67178
I think with the Gaulish Mercury-- that's both a case of NOT Mercury (Romans slapping names on Gods they either don't fully understand or care to understand to make integration easier), and of, like I said above, Roman soldiers looking at a statue of Mercury that's dedicated to a god they "re-named" that ISN'T Mercury and still seeing THEIR Mercury. The waters lessen their muddiness when it comes to this point with me, I think..

 
True, true. And that sort of common, everyday person's perspective on their gods is really fascinating to me. That might be part of why I never felt any real emotional connection to the Hellenic side of things, because all I was ever exposed to was the whole codified myths and structure of the Olympians, and my scope of worship is quite a bit smaller than that.

I do wonder, though, about all of Hermes' titles and various places of worship. Is it a case of Barista Hermes and Record Store Hermes, just moving around to different jobs, or do you think it could possibly be individual local gods getting absorbed into one official Hermes?

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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #20 on: August 03, 2012, 01:42:24 pm »
Quote from: NibbleKat;67178
I think with the Gaulish Mercury-- that's both a case of NOT Mercury (Romans slapping names on Gods they either don't fully understand or care to understand to make integration easier), and of, like I said above, Roman soldiers looking at a statue of Mercury that's dedicated to a god they "re-named" that ISN'T Mercury and still seeing THEIR Mercury. The waters lessen their muddiness when it comes to this point with me, I think..


There's some evidence that the continental Mercurius wasn't the pagan god Mercury but actually Saint Mercurius.
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #21 on: August 03, 2012, 02:00:48 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;67184
There's some evidence that the continental Mercurius wasn't the pagan god Mercury but actually Saint Mercurius.


What evidence from where? And I'm pretty sure the Romans brought Mercury to the Continent long before Christianity...
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #22 on: August 03, 2012, 02:02:04 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;67152
:eek::confused:

If that's not what you're suggesting, the only other way I can read it is as a gratuitous jab at those who consider it more polite to not assume that deities with similar areas of influence are the same being.

Sunflower


This.
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #23 on: August 03, 2012, 02:03:43 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;67169
Bingo -- and for me to be sure the paired deities are the same, I would expect both cultures to have identified them as such (in mainstream thought) -- and pre-conquest. Culture A agreeing after it has been conquered and controlled by Culture B is very weak evidence IMHO.


This is why I like hard evidence.

Which is so difficult to find. :( *footstomps*  Especially if it might be true for one or more deities, but then not for another one or two in the same pantheon... assimilations being different for the whole group.

One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just isn't the same... *Muppet arm-flail*
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #24 on: August 03, 2012, 02:07:16 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;67173


It appears to me that in the ancient world, gods were identified with other gods all the time, and a different name didn't equate to a different deity. Hard polytheism is big among modern pagans, which seems like a reaction against the Dion Fortune-esque "all gods are one god, all gods are one goddess" idea common among Wiccans and Neo-Wiccans. Maybe non-Wiccans take it to the other extreme as a means of escaping Wiccan concepts, which pervade most of neo-paganism, but I don't think it's any more historically accurate.


Gods in some cultures were part of tribal ownership. Even when neighboring tribes worshipped the same deity, each saw it as their own cultural property. The whole issue of Odin/Woden/Woutan is that everyone tried to claim descent from him, rather than him being universal.  The All-father concept occurred later on.

When the Anglo-Saxons went to the isles they didn't take the Continental Nerthus with them, they worshipped a new earth, Erde. One was distinctly different than the other. Today we can look at Njord and Nerthus and say that they were the male and female equivalent of the same thing, but that doesn't mean that the original worshippers saw it that way at all.

I don't disagree that gods were blended and shared, but I think even when this happened it was still from the mindset that now this deity is exclusively ours, and separate from other deity. Perchta was belonged to her people, Holda to another, even though they were likely the same deity. But people wanted that hard polytheistic distinction of ownership.

I hope that made some sense.
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #25 on: August 03, 2012, 02:09:05 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;67173
 
It appears to me that in the ancient world, gods were identified with other gods all the time, and a different name didn't equate to a different deity.  


But not all the time.

The Vikings, if you plopped one into the middle of India, for example, might take one look at Kali and say, "That's not my deity, even if she does have qualities of one or more of my gods."

It's different in every case, so it's hard to make a blanket statement about it.
And, we can't prove that just because the Romans came in and put a Roman name on a Gallic god, the Gauls thought, "Oh. Hey. It's all the same goddess," so much as "Hey. These new guys stuck a new name on my goddess, who I will still see as Sulis."  You know?

So... yes and no.
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #26 on: August 03, 2012, 02:55:24 pm »
Quote from: NibbleKat;67185
What evidence from where? And I'm pretty sure the Romans brought Mercury to the Continent long before Christianity...

 
Shaw makes a good argument for it in Uses of Wodan. In summary, while Tacitus might equate Germanic gods with Roman ones, that has nothing to do with whether or not the tribes did. Any other scholarship on this association is long after the conversion of Christianity.

Votive altars to Mecurius(whatever)have been dated to a time after Christianity was beginning to have some influence. Mercurius was a martial saint, associated with the sword, and is a much better fit with the continental Woden of battle than Mercury the god.

There's a lot more but that's the gist of it.
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #27 on: August 03, 2012, 04:23:40 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;67191
Shaw makes a good argument for it in Uses of Wodan. In summary, while Tacitus might equate Germanic gods with Roman ones, that has nothing to do with whether or not the tribes did. Any other scholarship on this association is long after the conversion of Christianity.

Votive altars to Mecurius(whatever)have been dated to a time after Christianity was beginning to have some influence. Mercurius was a martial saint, associated with the sword, and is a much better fit with the continental Woden of battle than Mercury the god.

There's a lot more but that's the gist of it.

I'm a little confused, which is not difficult to do with me.

I don't know enough about the Saint Mecurius to make a good argument about this; I'd better do some research.  I always get a little knee-jerk reaction when it comes to "saints" around this time period because of the ones that were once pagan deities that the Christians converted into saints (the Goddess Sequana vs. the male St. Sequanus).  

I'm just not certain if you are saying that the god is actually the saint, or the saint was actually the god. Sorry if I'm being fuzzy-headed.
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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #28 on: August 03, 2012, 04:48:10 pm »
Quote from: NibbleKat;67198
I'm a little confused, which is not difficult to do with me.

I'm very good at not making a lot of rambling sense.
Quote

I'm just not certain if you are saying that the god is actually the saint, or the saint was actually the god. Sorry if I'm being fuzzy-headed.

I'm not saying either, actually. I'm saying the Mercurius votive altars were (possibly) the saint, not the god. Two different beings but only one really influencing continental worship.

Another thing to mention is that while Tacitus says the tribes worshipped Mercury he got his information secondhand. So someone could have relayed the information back and he was all "Oh, ok, so basically that's our Mercury?"
« Last Edit: August 03, 2012, 04:48:46 pm by Juniperberry »
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

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Re: Hermes and Mercury (We go 'round again)
« Reply #29 on: August 03, 2012, 05:59:08 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;67152
If that's not what you're suggesting, the only other way I can read it is as a gratuitous jab at those who consider it more polite to not assume that deities with similar areas of influence are the same being.

 
Quote from: NibbleKat;67186
This.


I guess my slightly mocking sense of humour doesn't translate well in text. My apologies.
 
Quote from: SkySamuelle;67182
Well, I personally started as soft polytheist and ended up an hard polytheist because my practice proved me wrong, and that was long time before Dion Fortune was a blip on my radar - while I think there's a point where hard plytheism and soft polytheism meet, I find the equating of hard polytheism to 'trendy new age stuff' or a defense mechanism against association with Wicca a pretty superficial (and slightly offensive) assumption and - one without too much foundation.

There's no way to know for certain whether soft or hard polytheism were the norm in past but then we don't live in past- if today two deities that were conflated present themselves as different entities with a different modus operandi and I decide to treat them as different beings, it has nothing to do with distancing myself from Wicca (a religion I respect even while not adhering to it) or new age or a desire to be trendy - it's just the way reality works for me and i am perfectly fine with it working differently for different folks.

Also, that passage from the Golden Ass equates basically every known female deity with Isis... I would be more inclined to see it as a proof that the author saw Isis as the ultimate feminine than as evidence that soft polytheism is historically more accurate.


If there is an ultimate feminine from which other goddesses derive, isn't that soft polytheism? Like I said, I think both the "hard" and "soft" polytheism are unhelpful modern categories, but we can agree to disagree :)

I can't say I'm that invested either way, as I don't really believe in gods as actual beings, but more as human-made representations of nature and society that reflect the culture that imagined them. In that way I guess every deity is unique because it is a particular culture's lens through which they view a certain natural or social phenomenon, it just seems to me that it was far more common in the ancient world for deities to become absorbed by, blended, or equated with other deities when different groups of people come into contact with each other.

That's what my brain says, anyway. I'll admit I've had some experiences that would lead me to believe otherwise if I wasn't such a bitter skeptic :p
 
Quote from: Juniperberry;67188
Gods in some cultures were part of tribal ownership. Even when neighboring tribes worshipped the same deity, each saw it as their own cultural property. The whole issue of Odin/Woden/Woutan is that everyone tried to claim descent from him, rather than him being universal.  The All-father concept occurred later on.

When the Anglo-Saxons went to the isles they didn't take the Continental Nerthus with them, they worshipped a new earth, Erde. One was distinctly different than the other. Today we can look at Njord and Nerthus and say that they were the male and female equivalent of the same thing, but that doesn't mean that the original worshippers saw it that way at all.

I don't disagree that gods were blended and shared, but I think even when this happened it was still from the mindset that now this deity is exclusively ours, and separate from other deity. Perchta was belonged to her people, Holda to another, even though they were likely the same deity. But people wanted that hard polytheistic distinction of ownership.

I hope that made some sense.


That does make sense, and it's a good point I hadn't considered.

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