Thursday, July 16, 2015

TBFT; Still Fruitful After All These Years

Maya M, asked if I thought that after the veil was pulled; “do gods retain any ability to reproduce?”  She's  asking a rather unknowable and abstract question.  But I have a few insights to share.   

In reading “Awakening Osiris” by Normandi Ellis, I somehow got the impression that when Hathor kicked in the blue door of Heaven, he met a lot of “unknown” gods.  That is to say gods with no cult or worship that are only referenced in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  That notion transferred into my studies of Greek myth.  Let introduce you to a few “unknown” gods in Olympus
·      Alexiares and Anicetus, the twin sons of Heracles & Hebe.[i]
·      Diomedes given nectar and immortality by Athena.[ii]
·      Dionysus’ mother Thyone and wife Ariadne[iii]
The point being;  here are a bunch of gods that we know about occupying Olympus, just imagine how many more there could be that we don’t know about.   

That said, the suggestion that Zeus of all people could no longer father sons, is a violation of Jenny Strauss-Clay’s Law of Once and For Always  and as  Deborah Lyons points out in Gender and Immortality, “The beds of the gods are always fruitful.   These two laws in place it might seem odd that Zeus and Hera only had three children.  I once asked Prof. Seemee Ali, (from Carthage College)  what child was born of their coupling on Mt. Ida during the Trojan War (Iliad, Book 14)  Her response was that what was born that day was a new dispensation established between Hera and Zeus that smoothed the way towards the war’s foretold conclusion.  Abstractions like that can occupy a lot of rooms in Olympus above and Hades below. 
So I see plenty of evidence the divine kept reproducing like rabbits even after they quite joining with the daughters of men.  

[i] "Herakles achieved immortality, and when Hera's enmity changed to friendship, he married her daughter Hebe, who bore him sons Alexiares and Anicetus."  Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 158 
[ii] According to the post Homeric stories, Diomedes was given immortality by Athena, which she had not given to his father. Pindar mentions the hero's deification in Nemean X, where he says "the golden-haired, gray-eyed goddess made Diomedes an immortal god." In order to attain immortality, a scholiast for Nemean X (J.B. Bury, Pindar: Nemean Odes) says Diomedes married Hermione, the only daughter of Menelaus and Helen, and lives with the Dioscuri as an immortal god while also enjoying honours in Metapontum and Thurii.
[iii]  After her death, Semele was led by her son out of the lower world, and carried up to Olympus as “Thyone” (Pind. Ol. ii. 44, Pyth. xi 1; Paus. ii. 31. § 2, 37. § 5; Apollod. iii. 5.)  "And golden-haired Dionysos made blonde-haired Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, his buxom wife: and the son of Kronos made her deathless and unageing for him." (Hesiod, Theogony 947)


  1. Thank you for this post!
    The concept of continuing reproduction of immortals of course poses the problem of space and resources, if they inhabit the world that we know. (My Zeus once says that "if mortality (of gods' children) hadn't appeared spontaneously, it would have had to be introduced artificially to prevent overpopulation.") So we must postulate a parallel world with a capacity for limitless growth, like the Underworld.

    Even in this case, however, at least one limited resource remains: the use of the humans and their sacrifices. Like many others, I hesitate to accept as "real" gods those who are without cult and worship. The great exception are the Former Gods, i.e. the deposed Titans who live without a cult (though the most important of them - Cronus, eventually was furnished with a cult). However, the rule of Zeus is characterized by its dependence on humans. Olympian gods are to humans what an ecologist would call "the next trophic level", and this is most evident in cases of human sacrifice. We are told that gods eat ambrosia and drink nectar, but at the same time they insist very much on receiving sacrifices. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter and Aristophanes' Birds (not to mention the heretic Lucian) suggest that without sacrifices, the allegedly immortal Olympians would starve.

    It is easy to see that such a religion without some behavioral and population control of gods is problematic. Gods may quarrel, putting humans in crossfire, without a good way out (as in the Hippolytus; also the Aztecs during the celestial war between the Smoking Mirror and the Feathery Snake). Worse, unlike the racketeering gangs who at least protect their victims from other similar gangs, polytheistic gods do not protect humans from exploitation and abuse by upstart new gods (in the Bacchae, Zeus and the other old gods abandon the Thebans to the mercy of upstart Dionysus). Small wonder that in Europe and Western Asia, people eventually got fed up with their old pantheons and traded them for the One True God, though this brought new problems.

    So I recognize as gods those having a cult - even if modest and limited to a small area. In fact, Semele and Ariadne both had some cult. Ariadne may be an incarnation of an important Minoan goddess. Of course, there are other sources portraying them fully mortal, similarly to Heracles, Asclepius and the Dioscuri. It is curious that, while the Dark Ages after the Fall of Rome were characterized by a stress on immortality, the Greek Dark Ages seem to have put a stress on mortality.

    Many ancient authors have added new gods to the pedigree, but how can we be sure that the motivation was more serious than that of Hesiod to invent the Titan Perses after his brother? In the same Birds, Aristophanes writes of Koalemos, god of stupidity. At least, this god apparently enjoys widespread secret cult in Greece of 2015 :-).

  2. Maya,

    I agree with many of your insight above. However, I object to; "without sacrifices, the allegedly immortal Olympians would starve." I intended to use the Aztecs as examples and then you went and brought them up! The Aztecs believed that without a constant supply of human blood (human sacrifice) the sun would fall out of the sky. Is this not the ultimate in human vanity? As if the sun, moon and very stars above our heads didn't rise and set just fine from the beginning of time. The notion that the gods physical need our sacrifices seems to ignore the Primordial gods and Titans who had no great cults and to ignore the forces of nature; sea, storm, seasons that don't seem to be failing without constant thigh bones. I believe was sacrifice feeds for the Olympian gods is their vanity. They need the praise and honors; sacrifice is just a physical token of mortal's flattering honors.


  3. I almost pity the Aztecs (now after they are safely dead or Christianized, of course). The poor ones felt responsible for the proper functioning of the Universe!
    You are quite right that in Greek mythology, the Primordial gods and the Titans who keep the functioning of the Cosmos receive little or no sacrifices. However, most Olympians (and above all, Zeus) have never claimed to do something useful, just to be strong enough to subdue those who do the useful work, be they mortal or immortal. The Olympians are, as Marxists would say, exploiters.
    I've considered the idea that sacrifices are just for the vanity of the gods but rejected it - maybe too hastily. It seems to me that, at some time, Greeks imported from the Middle East an entire package including the sacrifice smoke as divine food, the creation of humans, and the Flood. However, maybe the original Greek ideas were as you say.

  4. To formulate my thought as clearly as I can: The Olympian vanity may be a sufficient explanation for the sacrifices demanded from humans, once there are humans on the Earth, but can it explain why the Olympians tolerate the very existence of humans? It seems to me that, if a physical need of the sacrifices did not exist, the humans would have been obliterated like the giants and the monsters.


  5. Sent from my iPad

    Maya asked why the gods created mankind. A Talmudic tradition says creation occurred in answer to the prayers of the unmanifest. Mark Twain in "Letters from the Earth" says of mankind, "They are an experiment in Morals and Conduct." Jenny Strauss Clay in lengthy discussion in "Hesiod's Cosmos" points out that the creation of man was a Grand experiment swinging wildly from generation to generation until reaching a viable race with the iron age. Keep in mine this experiment started with the reign of the Titan King Cronus with no women or fire. Still why?

    What inthe time or nature of the Titans prompted them to start such and experiment?


  6. I guess, Cronus had the same idea as Zeus but less success - as usual.

  7. We've talked before about the alleged common feasts of gods and mortals in a past (Golden?) age. I remember now that I've read somewhere in Ludwig von Mises (unfortunately, cannot remember where exactly) that some kings and lords had the habit to go with their retinue to some region under their rule, to spend some time there feasting at the expense of locals, then to go to another place etc. Although the monarch or lord often used the occasion to inspect his vassals and to administer justice, this was basically a form of taxation, in an age when money had only limited use and value (and of course, modern means of transportation and storage did not exist).

    We know from Homer that gods loved to go to the good Ethiopians to feast; during that time, they were out of touch with the land around Olympus and praying and sacrificing to them was useless. It is logical that, from Olympus, the smoke from sacrifices in Ethiopia also could not be smelled, so the only way the Olympians could "collect their taxes" was to go there in person.
    An atheist character of Lucian says that the gods are so inconspicuous that they apparently have emigrated to Ethiopia or beyond the ocean.