Gender-Bending and the Divine
Article ID: 13644
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Fire Lyte
Posted: January 10th. 2010
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We all have an idea about whom we’re talking to when we talk to the divine. Obviously, your idea is going to be slightly different than mine. So, before we look at the nature of the God and Goddess, it is important to understand the perspective I will be speaking from. This is whom I am talking about when I speak of the God and Goddess:
“All Gods are one God and all Goddesses are one Goddess”. This motto has become an anthem for modern paganism, more specifically it is an anthem for the kind of polytheism that has become rather prevalent in pagan circles: soft polytheism.
What is soft polytheism, you ask? Thanks for asking! That’s a really smart question to ask, and I always knew you were smart. Well, let me provide you with a quick answer: Soft polytheism is the belief that different deities are just aspects of one prime deity. Or, they could be psychological archetypes (like, the Goddess is the archetypal woman) , or simply personifications of nature.
Contrary to this is hard polytheism, which is the belief that the different Gods and Goddesses of all the cultures of the world are separate and equal and equally real. I fall into the first category. I believe that all of the Gods, Goddesses, and primal forces of the world are simply different faces of one prime God and one prime Goddess.
When I first began to seriously study the neo-pagan path, this concept was a bit foreign, and originally didn't sink in. It wasn't until the last 3-4 years that I really began to understand what this means. If you trace the origin of any deity, you see that He/She evolved from some various incarnation of one God or Goddess or another from any given region going all the way back to the Fertile Crescent and those lovely little Goddess figurines early peoples carved in veneration.
For example: The same Goddess we know as love personified, Aphrodite, has evolved from the Sumerian Inanna (who was over warfare) , the Phoenician Astarte (fertility, sexuality, and war) , the Etruscan Turan (vitality) , and the Roman Venus. She also has much older correlations to various goddesses of the dawn, and others. Yet, we think of her as the silly Goddess who flippantly fixes people up for fun, flies around naked on a seashell, and screws whatever hot boy-toy of the week she feels like. This oversimplified version of this aspect of the Divine works for some people, and not for others.
So, who are the God and Goddess? Surely the cauldron-stirring Cerridwen can’t be the same divine Lady as the compassionate Kuan Yin. Right? …Right? Well, I think that’s wrong.
It should really come as no surprise that the thunderous Thor and the philandering Zeus are linked as well. They are parallels of many male deities in the European-African-Asian area of the world that have relations to thunder, oaks, or both. It is proposed by some that Thor and Zeus are the same as the Roman Jupiter (but that’s kind of a ‘duh’ statement, isn’t it?) .
Well, it’s also proposed that these Gods are equivalent to the Celtic Taranis, the Baltic Perkunas, the Armenian Torq, and the Slavic Perun – among a whole litany of other deities. Names and minor associations may change, but what doesn’t change is the honor people paid to the wild, uncontrollable elements.
And that’s what it all goes back to, isn’t it?
Yes, there are Gods of peace and Goddesses of chess and rulers, both male and female, of every emotion that humanity can feel, and even more under the influence of drugs (see episode 3 for further discussion on that topic) . But, the farther and farther back we go in human history, we see that mankind was simply attempting to box up the wild, untamable landscape of natural phenomenon witnessed by early man.
We didn’t call him Thor or Zeus or Jupiter, but we saw the bolts of light hurtle across the sky, hit the brush on the ground, and create a brilliant fire. We knew this was beyond humanity; it must be divine. So we worshipped this force. We worshipped that great sphere of heat and light and the glowing, gentle sphere of white.
We worshipped the stars and the dirt and the oceans, because it was all so much greater than us, and because we hoped that by appeasing these forces, maybe, just maybe, they might start working in our favor.
Over time these forces were named, renamed, sculpted out of things, carved into things, given birds’ heads or a thousand breasts or depicted riding on mice. They’ve been called an infinite number of names, and will continue to be called even more, but what they represent is something very basic and very primal: the ever-flowing, unceasing, unyielding birth and rebirth of the Universe.
They are fertility. They are the source of all life and the ones who greet us upon our departure from this world. And the best words we can possibly come up with to describe them are God and Goddess. These words are equally adequate and inadequate as they are so far beyond the boundaries of what our minds can conceive that we could never hope to pay them enough homage by labeling them.
I would even go one step further in my description of this divine two-some. They are neither male nor female, as we would like to think. I believe that the reason we give them genders is because that is what we know. We understand that to create life you need an egg and a sperm and a Barry White CD.
However, I think that those ideas fall away when you get to the level of God and Goddess. The creation of life is the most primal of all forces, and it is this last hump we must get over to truly understand the nature of the divine. What I believe, instead, is that they are a representation of balance. When one is life the other is death. When one is the sun the other is the moon. So, when one is male, the other must be female.
However, these roles can change and morph and mutate depending on the given situation. The earliest peoples knew this. The Greeks knew that just because Zeus was a male God it didn’t mean he couldn’t get down with his male cupbearer Ganymede. Heck, if you follow Native American concepts of the divine, you’ll see a whole menagerie of animals which are not clearly defined as male or female, but they are just as potent, just as important, and just as God-like as the African Anansi or the Hindu Ganesh (who are, ironically, depicted as a spider and a multiple-handed human with an elephant head, respectively) .
It is strange to us to see Gods with goat’s hooves or monkey faces, because they don’t look like us, and someone decided a long time ago that God made us in His image. So, that must mean God looks like us. Except, we must understand that we didn’t always used to look like us, and we don’t all look alike either.
So, is God a 6’ 6” blonde with blue eyes and a really big nose? If so, then I’m in luck. Otherwise, I need to get around the idea that God/Goddess/the Divine is anything that my mind could conceive of.
However, we are human, and we do really want an image to picture when we’re talking to our God and Goddess. And, I think it’s ok to do this. Because that is exactly who God is at the time. The Goddess is Frigg when you need her to be. She is also Aphrodite when your love life is down the drain, and, when you’re feeling not so mellow, she is Parvati the Goddess of peace.
However, I tend not to call on the Gods or Goddesses by specific names. Instead, I’ll ask the God of the soil or the Goddess of rain to assist when the garden isn’t doing so well. Or, contrarily, I might ask the Goddess of the garden and the God of storms to do the same thing.
The nature of the God and Goddess is just that: nature. They are the personification of the forces that keep the world spinning and bopping along as it does. The process by which we give them these genders and personalities is called anthropomorphism. This word simply means giving human characteristics to an inhuman force.
Gods are not humans, so they do not operate on the same laws that humans do. They are not bound by the same constraints we are, and that’s a good thing. I don’t think that it would be as awe-inspiring or humbling to worship a deity that was ill-equipped to do the job of ruling the universe because she was having her monthly mood swings or he was too self-absorbed to ask for directions.
Copyright: (c) Fire Lyte - Inciting A Riot 2009
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