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Author Topic: Syncretism of deities in Hellenic practice  (Read 314 times)

Eastling

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Syncretism of deities in Hellenic practice
« on: January 08, 2018, 12:57:34 pm »
Does anyone else have experience with syncretic Powers in practices drawn (in part or in full) from Hellenismos?

I noticed from early on, even once my practice became heavily Hellenic in some parts, that my perceptions of the Theoi often blended and overlapped. Dionysos as my primary god took on aspects and stories from Zeus and Hades and evinced a complex relationship with Apollo. My attempts to find Ariadne turned up connections with both Persephone and Aphrodite, to the point where I ultimately started describing her as the intersection of both.

I knew this sort of thing was common in Kemetic practice, so I took to describing it as "Theoi behaving like Netjer." I assumed it came from my focus on Cretan/Minoan religion, which would have been influenced by Kemet (and vice versa). However, it seems to run deeper than that.

Some of it is certainly just my personal path--for example, Ares was and is worshipped as a god in his own right even if my particular practice presents him to me as "really just Aphrodite in drag and a bad mood." But some of it seems to reflect the tendency of overlap to occur in a multicultural society's religion.

One of the more puzzling syncretisms I've noticed in my work is that of Hera and Demeter. The Zeus/Dionysos/Hades and Aphrodite/Ariadne/Persephone models are to some degree attested in my research. But I've seen little comment on the fact that Hera and Demeter have some very similar attributes. Both are frequently given the role of divine consort of Zeus, and there's no account of Hera attempting to persecute Demeter or the Kore over this the way she did Zeus's non-Olympian lovers and their children. Both goddesses govern key aspects of civilized order and prosperity: Demeter the agricultural field and the grain that comes from it, Hera the marriage bed and to an extent the birth that comes from it. Both have stories attached of wandering away from their rightful position and then being reconciled to it (although Demeter's is much more famous, and Hera's seems to be largely lost).

Has anyone else noticed similar overlaps, whether of the gods I've mentioned or of others? How do you deal with it in your own practice?
Utterly Pure, a virtual shrine in progress to Ariadne; Someday Comes Back, my general mysticism/pop culture blog.
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The words of Dionysos and Ariadne from the mouth of their beloved son: Rule with your heart; live with your conscience; love and be free.

TransporterMalfunction

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Re: Syncretism of deities in Hellenic practice
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2018, 02:49:36 pm »
Has anyone else noticed similar overlaps, whether of the gods I've mentioned or of others? How do you deal with it in your own practice?

As I have just started getting seriously into my own practice, I don't have any good thoughts or answers. But I wanted to thank you for bringing up these syncretisms - outside of the Apollon/Dionysus/Hermes connections, I hadn't heard of any of them before. It is something for me to keep in mind!

When I see similar themes running through the mythos of different deities, my current tendency is to view it as just that. I believe that these undercurrents can help me form a fuller picture of a deity and Their relationship to the pantheon as a whole, but thus far it hasn't changed my practice. It just adds context and paints a fuller picture of the cosmos. It doesn't affect my worship of Them at this stage in my religious development.

I also think that, just like you said, a lot of it is our personal path and what threads we see between the Theoi and how we relate to Them. I laughed at the 'Aphrodite in drag and in a bad mood'!
Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned to you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book II

Louisvillian

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Re: Syncretism of deities in Hellenic practice
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2018, 07:38:29 pm »
Does anyone else have experience with syncretic Powers in practices drawn (in part or in full) from Hellenismos?
My practice is primarily Roman, but overall syncretic. The Romans were certainly better known, and better recorded, for their syncretism and eclecticism. But that's not to say the Greeks were entirely averse to it; they absorbed gods and practices especially from the Near East; a great deal of iconography, myths, and characterization of the Olympians comes straight out of Near Eastern religion. And that's just looking at it from a historical perspective, seeing the evolution of the religion over time. Among the Classical-era Greeks themselves, they syncretized certain gods quite often in practice--even if poetry and myth conveyed a different narrative. And rather than slow down, all of this intensified in the Hellenistic period.

Megatherium

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Re: Syncretism of deities in Hellenic practice
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2018, 10:22:55 pm »
Does anyone else have experience with syncretic Powers in practices drawn (in part or in full) from Hellenismos?

Although I am not a Hellenic or Roman polytheist, I have enjoyed the writing of Edward P Butler who produces great (if really complex) texts on Polytheism from a Platonic perspective. In the linked article below, he discusses in some detail this tendency for deities to take on aspects of others. May it serve you well.

Article: https://henadology.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/wp32-butler-pp3538-version-2.pdf

Author's blog: https://henadology.wordpress.com/
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Eastling

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Re: Syncretism of deities in Hellenic practice
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2018, 01:45:58 pm »
Among the Classical-era Greeks themselves, they syncretized certain gods quite often in practice--even if poetry and myth conveyed a different narrative. And rather than slow down, all of this intensified in the Hellenistic period.

That's more or less what I've noticed. The poetry that survived to give us pan-Hellenic pictures of the Theoi does its best to separate them out neatly, but when you research imagery and practices it all starts to crisscross over itself.

Definitely the Hellenistic period, as empires expanded and absorbed new culture and religion, saw an increase in this, especially when it came to syncretizing Theoi with foreign (or "foreign" considering there was usually earlier influence as well) deities.
Utterly Pure, a virtual shrine in progress to Ariadne; Someday Comes Back, my general mysticism/pop culture blog.
Everything dies, baby: that's a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.
--Bruce Springsteen
The words of Dionysos and Ariadne from the mouth of their beloved son: Rule with your heart; live with your conscience; love and be free.

Louisvillian

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Re: Syncretism of deities in Hellenic practice
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2018, 01:09:44 am »
Definitely the Hellenistic period, as empires expanded and absorbed new culture and religion, saw an increase in this, especially when it came to syncretizing Theoi with foreign (or "foreign" considering there was usually earlier influence as well) deities.
Some things went in a different direction-- for instance, Helios during the Archaic period had a distinct role, and certain myths pertaining to him, as we can see in Hesiod and other poets. But during the Classical period it was frequent for Helios to be merged with Apollo as the sun god, just as Artemis came to be conflated with Selene and sometimes Hekate as the moon goddess. But in the Hellenistic period, Helios seemed to regain a distinctiveness, though possibly only so he could be conflated with Near Eastern solar gods while Apollo retained his rather unique set of attributes and traits. At the very least, we do see a lot more imagery specific to Helios in Hellenistic art, perhaps culminating in the Colossus of Rhodes.

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