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Author Topic: Other Pagan: Anyone familiar with Rhea?  (Read 1554 times)

laluna01

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Anyone familiar with Rhea?
« on: January 30, 2020, 10:03:03 pm »
Extremely new to anything involving paganism, I'm not even familiar with the name of practice involving gods/ goddesses/ deities/ patrons/ matrons is called...or if those are even all the same thing...or if there even is a name for that!

Me registering to interact on this forum (made an account today) has been my first genuine step towards ANY of this. However, I've always held a strong curiosity for it all. I've experienced plenty of what I think are  signs, for a while, I didn't think anything of them/ wrote them off as just random interesting experiences (I have a list of them in another post)

but I'd say accumulatively they might have potential to mean something...however, as stated, I don't know anything! So I turn to you guys, the educated community, for any guidance or knowledge you may have to offer!

Eastling

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Re: Anyone familiar with Rhea?
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2020, 03:38:07 am »
Extremely new to anything involving paganism, I'm not even familiar with the name of practice involving gods/ goddesses/ deities/ patrons/ matrons is called...or if those are even all the same thing...or if there even is a name for that!

The word I would use for that kind of relationship with the divine is 'devotional,' but other people may come at it from different angles.

Quote
So I turn to you guys, the educated community, for any guidance or knowledge you may have to offer!

With Hellenic deities, Theoi.com is almost always a good place to start. Here is their page on Rhea. As usual, though, there's a lot more to say on her than that in the context of modern pagan worship. I've been researching Rhea on and off for a few years, as I suspect her of having some kind of complicated role in my eclectic path, so I can provide some insight.

I'm going to digress a bit, though, because a single deity's background gets tangled up in other stuff fast when you start digging. My forte in Hellenic mythos is the Minoan substrate and I've been working slowly on developing a Grand Unified Minoan Theory of some kind, so I'll be summarizing some of that here when I talk about Rhea.

Despite being technically a Titaness and not an Olympian goddess, Rhea was heavily worshiped in ancient Greece. She appears to have been most strongly associated with the island of Crete, specifically Mount Ida--which leads me to believe at least part of her origin is in the Minoan pantheon. This would fit neatly for another reason: pretty much as soon as the Phrygian goddess Kybele appeared in ancient Greece, she was identified with Rhea. Kybele originates in the same part of ancient Anatolia as did the ancestors of the Minoans according to modern archaeology. In addition, evidence (admittedly somewhat scarce) suggests that the Minoans had ecstatic, performative rituals and festivals, and Kybele's worship is known to have had similar elements.

So what exactly was going on with the Minoan proto-Rhea who so readily syncretized with Kybele?

I've hypothesized based on my research that the Minoans conceived of each major mountain on their island as the home/heaven of a goddess who sat enthroned at the top, reigning over the land around and guarding the great resource of the once-forested mountainside: the trees who were each mountain-goddess's daughter(s) (conceived as a forest goddess or as a set of nymphs, depending on the region or the telling of the tales). As regional elites rose to power, they built narratives wherein a regional god conquered the forest-goddess(/nymphs) with his double-sided axe (actually quite useful for chopping down trees, it turns out--its representation as a symbolic scepter-like object in the hands of a goddess only shows up later), married her, and elevated her to cosmic status by turning her into a ship-goddess sailing through the sky--these established the legitimacy of elite dynasties by conferring the blessing of the forest-goddess and the (eventual) approval of the mountain mother-goddess on the families associated with the regional gods. That right-to-rule was continually renewed and reinforced by mystic performances of ecstatic song and dance where singer-priest(esse)s told the regional version of the story of how their rulers' ancestral god seduced and married a powerful goddess and faced down the wrath of her even scarier mother.

While the above is speculative, it's reasonably well attested that the Minoans spoke of Mount Ida as the goddess Ida Mate or the Idaian Mother. This goddess would have been one of the prototypes for Rhea and possibly Demeter as well. The latter seems to have largely been assigned the mytheme of the wrathful mother in a less political context, as the Hellenic Greeks had a more complicated sociocultural relationship with divine kingship than many of the societies of the Aegean and Ancient Near East that preceded them. Rhea's political associations evolved to become somewhat more abstract.

The Rhea of the Hellenic myths we have today stands in stark contrast, personality-wise, to the character suggested by the orgiastic nature of the ancient rites of Kybele and the speculated Idaian Mother. That's not surprising, as Hellenic versions of old myths tended to focus on the dignity and rightful authority of the proper divine protagonists, as a way of reinforcing the social order in a chaotic political landscape. Here Rhea generally appears as a cool, regal grandmother, calmly moving behind the scenes of myth to ensure that the Olympian gods remain the rightful rulers of the cosmos. She is an active agent together with Kronos in the deposing of the previous rulers of Heaven, rather than just his consort; and when the time comes to kick Kronos off the throne for being a child-eating creep, she rises to the occasion as well. When Demeter's wrath brings the natural order to a halt, Rhea, ultimately, is the one to convince her to come back home and turn the life back on for Earth...and it's worth noting that descriptions of this event tend to use slightly maenadic language to talk about this, implying a certain vestigial ecstatic nature, perhaps.

Though by this point Rhea and Demeter are firmly separate goddesses and not just different facets of the ancient Idaian Mother, they can be seen as complementary, slices of the same cosmic pie. In fact, we can add Hera to that equation to an extent.

Think of it like this:
  • At the center of the Hellenic world is the home. The natural order here is governed/embodied by Hera, goddess of marriage and domestic authority; she generates the children that give the home its life.
  • Beyond the home is the field. The natural order here is governed/embodied by Demeter, goddess of agriculture and the harvest; she generates the grain that feeds all humans living on the farmed land.
  • Beyond the field is the wilderness, full of unknown danger and unpredictable resources...and somewhere in it, a mountain where the gods live. The natural order here is  governed/embodied by Rhea; she generated the gods themselves. (It's worth noting here that Rhea's iconography tends to depict her with wild animals.)

Framed a different way you could put in more gods and goddesses, but this simple versions helps make my point here: Rhea is an embodiment of cosmic order, divine justice served, and the rightful authority of the gods, but by the same token she represents something that will always be at least slightly wild and untamed. Her Hellenic name means flow/ease, all as one concept: her nature was conceived of as a generative flow eternally radiating the goodness of the cosmic order and ultimately the very nature of the universe at its most benevolent.

All that was a lot of tl;dr and a little abstract so I'll do a bit of a summary here.

By my research, Rhea appears to be a powerful goddess who (as a Titaness from a mostly-deposed generation of gods) mostly operates in the background of events; she governs the rightful authority of the gods as well as the generative forces at work at the highest, most cosmic levels of the world. Depending on the tradition, she may be represented as an almost fully "orderly" figure, with only a hint of wildness, or she may be downright Dionysian, but she is always associated with spheres beyond human mastery and understanding.
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Anon100

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Re: Anyone familiar with Rhea?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2020, 03:55:53 am »
Extremely new to anything involving paganism, I'm not even familiar with the name of practice involving gods/ goddesses/ deities/ patrons/ matrons is called...or if those are even all the same thing...or if there even is a name for that!

but I'd say accumulatively they might have potential to mean something...however, as stated, I don't know anything! So I turn to you guys, the educated community, for any guidance or knowledge you may have to offer!

I was about to post this when I saw Eastling had posted as well. I bow to his knowledge but will add a few items.

As Eastling mentioned, some terms would depend on which path you follow or which terms feel appropriate with that path or deity - some branches you'll find Patron and Matron are terms which just wouldn't fit and others they well might.
As of Rhea, she's a Titaness from the classical Greek and so it would be worth you looking at our Roman and Hellenic SIG section. I've ended up leaning more towards a Celtic direction ( and even that's a vague description as Celtic is then split into various locations ;) , naming religion can be awkward at times especially as some of us bleed outside of the boxes while others strictly follow traditions, and still more have found uncharted paths so to speak ) so can only offer a few links I've quickly googled, hopefully they'll lead you to an idea of things to start searching for.
Again I should add that I'm not well versed with Hellenic works or with lots of Pagan sites so it's worth verifying what you learn on multiple sites, with members here who do follow that path and by looking for references to original sources ( the link Eastling provided should give you a good start to getting accurate info [ there can be a mix of great info, good UPG and nonsense online so it does require sifting at times ]) -

https://www.greekmythology.com/Titans/Rhea/rhea.html
https://www.greek-gods.org/titans/rhea.php

https://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/the-minoan-path/meet-the-minoans-the-great-goddess-rhea.html
https://www.goddess-guide.com/rhea.html

Sorry I can't offer more but I hope that helps give you some direction to look in :)

Jenett

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Re: Anyone familiar with Rhea?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2020, 02:53:31 pm »
Extremely new to anything involving paganism, I'm not even familiar with the name of practice involving gods/ goddesses/ deities/ patrons/ matrons is called...or if those are even all the same thing...or if there even is a name for that!

You've already had some great replies, so I'm going to start by saying that you don't have to figure this all out immediately! It's fine (and I tend to think preferable) to be prepared for it to take some time.

Think of it this way: even if you meet a human you really like and get along well with, it takes time to figure out how the two of you interact, what things you like doing together, what things aren't a good fit, which things you do because they really love them (even if that's not really your thing), and what things they make you better at (or you make them better at.)

All of this can and often does also apply to deities.

The second thing is that there are lots of different kinds of Pagan practice relating to working with / honoring / worshiping /etc. deities. Reconstructionist is one option, but there are plenty of others.

My path is religious witchcraft, and I have material about building and developing a relationship with particular deities on my website, and you might find that useful. I also recommend a really excellent list that Darkhawk and Valentine, both long time members here, did on the different kinds of relationships and modes people have with deities.

A few other notes:

Matron is a term you'll see around (from people thinking you need a female version of 'patron') but it's a modern construction that is a bit weird in a historical context. You do not need a binary gender model, or one deity of each. Plenty of people have a particularly strong connection/commitment to one deity, but others have two, three, regular interaction with deities with a particular focus or interest, or varying degrees of interaction with deities depending on situation.

(I have two primary deities I work with in my personal practice, four I work with regularly for coven and tradition reasons, and about half a dozen more I do periodic work with for specific reasons. Plus some stuff that doesn't fit in tidy categories, like my ongoing Venus and Jupiter planetary magic work.)

Rhea is in fact one of the deities my tradition has worked with for a long time, mostly in that sense of deeply rooted pragmatic flow and ease that Eastling talks about. My impression has long been that people have different experiences with her depending on their own nature and goals, and there's a fair bit more variability than there is with some deities.
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