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Author Topic: Unusual Deity Conflations?  (Read 1050 times)

Hariti

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Unusual Deity Conflations?
« on: August 25, 2018, 06:11:57 pm »
So, I was reading about the Seleucid dynasty, a Hellenistic dynasty that ruled Persia after Alexander's conquests, and I discovered something interesting. Their ambassador to the Maurya Empire, a Greek man name Megasthenes, apparently believed that Krishna was the same deity as... Hercules.

I'm rather flabbergasted by this, personally, as the two have very little in common, but it got me thinking; do you know of any other odd historical examples of seemingly incongruous deities being conflated?
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2018, 09:49:58 pm »
So, I was reading about the Seleucid dynasty, a Hellenistic dynasty that ruled Persia after Alexander's conquests, and I discovered something interesting. Their ambassador to the Maurya Empire, a Greek man name Megasthenes, apparently believed that Krishna was the same deity as... Hercules.

I'm rather flabbergasted by this, personally, as the two have very little in common, but it got me thinking; do you know of any other odd historical examples of seemingly incongruous deities being conflated?

Interestingly I've been seeing conflations of Dionysus and Hades and sometimes of Dionysus, Hades, and Zeus, but I have been unable thus far to verify whether these are modern or ancient conflations.  I'd be interested to find out about that.
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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2018, 11:10:58 pm »
Interestingly I've been seeing conflations of Dionysus and Hades and sometimes of Dionysus, Hades, and Zeus, but I have been unable thus far to verify whether these are modern or ancient conflations.  I'd be interested to find out about that.

That's doubly strange, since they all come from the same tradition!
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2018, 03:04:45 am »
That's doubly strange, since they all come from the same tradition!

Arguable--what we think of as the unified Hellenic pantheon was actually the result of fusing several different strands of tradition from all over Greece and surrounding cultures. The attributes of gods often varied by region--for instance, in Cyprus Aphrodite had a more all-encompassing cosmic character than the pan-Hellenic goddess of love and sexuality. The type of religious movement also played a part in the characterization of deities--e.g., are we talking the civic religion's presentation of Dionysos, or the way he was characterized by Orphics?

Add to this the fact that Greek gods often share domains in complicated ways: both Dionysos and Apollo are gods of music and performance, for example, but in their own distinct ways.

The total conflation of Zeus, Dionysos, and Hades is a fairly speculative one based on the idea that Dionysos originated in Crete as a singular "Great God" companion to the Mother Goddess. However, there is evidence that the ancients observed connections and overlap between the three gods--philosophers such as Heraclitus commented on it, and archaeological evidence indicates that Dionysos was more worshipped than Zeus in Mycenaean Crete, suggesting he may have had pantheon-ruling characteristics later transferred to Zeus. Likewise, there appears to also be some overlap between Hades and Poseidon, as the island cultures of the Aegean may have conceived of the underworld as connected to the sea rather than beneath the earth.
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Hariti

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2018, 03:42:14 am »
Arguable--what we think of as the unified Hellenic pantheon was actually the result of fusing several different strands of tradition from all over Greece and surrounding cultures.

That's true of most, if not all pantheons. I would still say that they come from the same tradition, because once Greece became a unified culture, they were both part of the Pantheon. I mean, the Egyptian pantheon, the Inca pantheon, the Hindu pantheon, and the classical Chinese pantheon all originated as local deity cults that were later unified under a single, state sanctioned religion as part of the larger trend of cultural homogenization. If we treat every, single solitary instance of Gods having local origins as being from separate traditions, I think we would find that there are no traditions with more than a handful of gods.

I can understand how conflation may have happened in earlier periods, but by the classical antique period, the Greek pantheon was pretty well solidified, and it would have been very odd to publicly suggest that Dionysus and Zeus were the same entity. I suppose some of the more exotic cults might have done so in the later classical period, but it would never have been widely accepted.

"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2018, 06:14:47 pm »
I'm rather flabbergasted by this, personally, as the two have very little in common, but it got me thinking; do you know of any other odd historical examples of seemingly incongruous deities being conflated?

There is an Egyptian deity which is a syncretisation of Horus and Set, who are usually polar opposites, rivals and enemies. Perhaps not so strange considering Egyptian cosmology's focus on duality.

Also in a more pop-culture-pagan way, according to the Dresden Files, Odin is Santa Claus, but only after Halloween.

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2018, 04:00:39 pm »
The total conflation of Zeus, Dionysos, and Hades is a fairly speculative one based on the idea that Dionysos originated in Crete as a singular "Great God" companion to the Mother Goddess. However, there is evidence that the ancients observed connections and overlap between the three gods--philosophers such as Heraclitus commented on it, and archaeological evidence indicates that Dionysos was more worshipped than Zeus in Mycenaean Crete, suggesting he may have had pantheon-ruling characteristics later transferred to Zeus. Likewise, there appears to also be some overlap between Hades and Poseidon, as the island cultures of the Aegean may have conceived of the underworld as connected to the sea rather than beneath the earth.

It's interesting to think about when you consider another Indo-European Deity of the dead Veles, is a God linked to the earth and the waters. I don't know if there's any sort of plausible evidence for it all coming out of a splitting of a single Deity, but it's an interesting theory at the very least. Though notably, I don't know if I conflate them, but I see similarities between Veles and Hecate, given that the two of them have associations with the dead, magic, the earth, fertility and so forth.

I also, though I don't consider them Deities, but rather malefic entities opposed to the Deities, sometimes refer to Apep and Jormungand as Apep-Jormungand.
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Jainarayan

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2018, 11:40:42 am »

I also, though I don't consider them Deities, but rather malefic entities opposed to the Deities, sometimes refer to Apep and Jormungand as Apep-Jormungand.

There is another serpentine entity, Vṛtra in Hinduism (the is pronounced somewhere between the i in 'it' and the u in 'put'), that Indra defeated. And there is also Kāliya, a many-hooded snake that Krishna defeated and danced on the snake's heads. It seems that malevolent serpents are a common occurrence.
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Hariti

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2018, 01:09:25 pm »
And there is also Kāliya, a many-hooded snake that Krishna defeated and danced on the snake's heads. It seems that malevolent serpents are a common occurrence.

The flip side of that is that most if Kāliya's people, the Nagas, are actually seen as wise and benevolent. Some examples include Vasuki, Shesha, and Manasa; Hinduism has lots of nice, friendly serpents as well.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Jainarayan

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2018, 01:14:03 pm »
The flip side of that is that most if Kāliya's people, the Nagas, are actually seen as wise and benevolent. Some examples include Vasuki, Shesha, and Manasa; Hinduism has lots of nice, friendly serpents as well.

That is very true. It seems there's good and bad in all groups. :)
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Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - Skandopanishad
 

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2018, 10:37:11 pm »
Arguable--what we think of as the unified Hellenic pantheon was actually the result of fusing several different strands of tradition from all over Greece and surrounding cultures. The attributes of gods often varied by region--for instance, in Cyprus Aphrodite had a more all-encompassing cosmic character than the pan-Hellenic goddess of love and sexuality. The type of religious movement also played a part in the characterization of deities--e.g., are we talking the civic religion's presentation of Dionysos, or the way he was characterized by Orphics?

Add to this the fact that Greek gods often share domains in complicated ways: both Dionysos and Apollo are gods of music and performance, for example, but in their own distinct ways.

The total conflation of Zeus, Dionysos, and Hades is a fairly speculative one based on the idea that Dionysos originated in Crete as a singular "Great God" companion to the Mother Goddess. However, there is evidence that the ancients observed connections and overlap between the three gods--philosophers such as Heraclitus commented on it, and archaeological evidence indicates that Dionysos was more worshipped than Zeus in Mycenaean Crete, suggesting he may have had pantheon-ruling characteristics later transferred to Zeus. Likewise, there appears to also be some overlap between Hades and Poseidon, as the island cultures of the Aegean may have conceived of the underworld as connected to the sea rather than beneath the earth.

Great post. I just wanted to add that the first part of Dionysus's name as the same Indo-European root as Zeus's, also shared by Dios Pater (Jupiter), Diana, and Dianus (Janus) of Roman tradition. The name Dionysus could just mean "Zeus (or God) of Nysus". Hades was conceived as the equivalent to Zeus in the realm of the underworld, and another parallel to this idea in Roman tradition can be seen in the title of "Juno Inferna" to apply to a certain goddess who was not Juno (or Hera) the wife of Jupiter, but Proserpina (Persephone), the queen of the underworld and wife of Hades.

It's also worth noting that the consort of the Egyptian goddess Isis in her Greco-Roman cult was called Serapis (from the conflation of Osiris with the Apis bull), who was identified especially with Zeus, Hades, and Dionysus.

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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2018, 11:14:48 am »
The flip side of that is that most if Kāliya's people, the Nagas, are actually seen as wise and benevolent. Some examples include Vasuki, Shesha, and Manasa; Hinduism has lots of nice, friendly serpents as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if that were common among cultures with theological snakes - Egypt has it too.  Snakes lend themselves pretty readily to both "horrible death" and "rebirth/regeneration" symbology, after all.

Egypt has a lot of snakes that are great if you keep 'em aimed at the enemy and not pissed at you. ;)  Some of them spit fire.
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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2018, 02:26:09 pm »
do you know of any other odd historical examples of seemingly incongruous deities being conflated?
Yes! Dionysus and Jesus Christ.  :)
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Re: Unusual Deity Conflations?
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2018, 02:40:34 pm »
Yes! Dionysus and Jesus Christ.  :)

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