I am the first to admit that I am, and have been for years, something of a feminist. In my youth I was rather aggressive about it. However, the one thing that always made me sit back with a rather perplexed look on my face is the historical revision that often accompanies this, particularly in various flavors of paganism, that was, even in my youth, very hard to swallow. It is the so called Her-story (so called on the premise that history is from the male perspective and therefore leaves out important things about feminine history including matriarchy etc). The thing is that much of this her-story is fabricated, or created by taking a mythical element and off-centering it, and in the process typically villifying gods, if not utterly dismantling their domains and powers and reassigning them to various goddesses (though under the guise of giving back the original distribution overtaken by the male conquering Indo-european sky gods).
Now in Hellenic religion we have many wonderful myths and cults of goddesses, particularly that of the Great Goddesses (Demeter and Kore). However like all gods and myths, the are not set apart without interaction of other gods and goddesses taking place. There are many instances, for example, of Apollon and his twin Artemis having a prominent depiction in relation to these goddesses, not to mention Hermes! Therefore when dismantling happens something valuable and worthwhile is being thrown away as the gods play important parts in the mysteries for the journey of the soul and the journey of Persephone. It is hardly by mistake that in Messene, according to records of Pausanias, that is a great grove Apollon Karneios and an image of Hermes carrying a ram are near a statue of Hagne (another name for Persephone) in the very grove where the most important rites of Demeter and Kore occurred, so great that Pausanias describes them second only to those performed at Eleusis. Therefore we have a very clear problem here for anyone trying to issolate the goddesses and their worship from the presence and domains of other gods. Of course when entered into discussion with any such person they say that they practice the prehellenic traditions of Greece of the worship of the Great Mother and Persephone…all of which is really frustrating, especially considering that the mystery program at Samos is supposed to be of greater antiquity and featured a mother (Rhea) and son (Zeus) predominantly. Not to mention that there really isn’t evidence available for what any such cult, if it existed as such, even looked like. Certainly nothing that can be brought into an argument without a great deal of creative interpretation. And I am sorry but the killing or dispute with a female figure doesn’t necessary mean that it indicates an aboriginal conflict, though I have seen that used alot by her-story authors.
But I think the villifying of the gods gets to me even more. I have seen people say outrigt tha they don’t like Apollon because he slayed the goddess Pythia. Now that gives me a pause for a few reasons. 1) Pythia wasn’t the name of a goddess, Pythia is a priestess of Apollon..though it is possible that like many other of Apollon’s epithets that Pythaea could have been attached to his twin, particularly as there are other versions of the myth that say she helped me to destroy the dragonness. 2) It was a dragonness, a great serpent, named Delphinia, an offspring of Gaia (as most dragons seemed to be, or offspring of other deities) and as such provided a kind of guardian role of a sacred spring. 3) the allegorical nature of myths means that you cannot just get the meaning by looking at what the myth is literally saying. Myths function with purpose, so it is a mistake to look at this myth and take away that it is a reminent of a god overtaking a goddess cult because you have a male god killing a female serpent. Even if she was a kind of semi-divine figure, there is no evidence of an achaic cult to the dragonness that I have ever read about…and in fact the local cult before the arrival of Apollon was that of Gaia. Now considering the rather volatile relationship that Gaia often has in myths with her divine descendants, turning in favor and against them alternately, it is not surprising that she resists the presence of Apollon initially. But it every myth you have a divine being who acts as a kind of opposition that a god or goddess must overcome. Hera is usually set in this position, but as she laid aside her anger at the birth of the twins, it is allotted to another divine figure. Gaia plays a great part because her oracles, those which came on dreams serve as a predecessor to the oracles of Apollon. The myth shows natural evolution at work as well as other things going on. Apollon, in a trade with Poseidon has gained Poseidon’s half of Delphi and therefore becomes a co-shareholder automatically with Gaia of the sacred area (which is populated by some goat-herds and the stream jealously guarded mythically by Delphinia), however Apollon takes an active role in Delphi. This doesn’t mean that Gaia is phased out or removed, and Apollon has epithets elsewhere that address him as being of the earth, and even his sacred luarel is born from the earth where she has swallowed Daphne according to one version of the myth. This doesn’t even account for the fact that Themis (who is acclaimed in several places, including by Aeschylus, whose family was a priest family of Eleusis) that Themis and the earth was the same, and was the very goddess who nursed the newborn infant Apollon, it sheds a new complexion on the matter. And then there is the fact that the serpent figures prominantly in many examples of art and iconary of the god. So for herstory pagans to come and say that Apollon is an invading god who overruns the oracle and kills the local goddess is so far off the mark that it is insulting. And of course this doens’t even get into what is said about other gods such as Zeus in particular.
In my opinion pagan adherents of herstory do as much damage to the polytheistic religions as some of the male victorian interpretors and historians who put little merit or focus on the goddesses. The reality is a complex web of both gods and goddesses are of equal necessity, and their mythical entanglements and affairs create a complex allegory of the cosmos and the journey of the soul. There are six male gods of Olympos and six female goddesses (and likewise an equal division of Titans and Titanides) for a reason. It is the natural appartation of power. We don’t need it warped in either direction for the male or for the female. I mean really, even the Amazons were acclaimed as daughter of Ares and Apollon too carries the epithet Amazonias, and for as much focus as herstory folks place on Amazons you would think that would count at least a little.
Let us have balance, harmony and moderation and not just spin off ideas without any evidential substance just to satisfy egos. Men are not greater than women, women are not greater than men…same true of the gods and goddesses for even Hera was considered to be of great prestige and rank as was her spouse. We do ourselves a disservice to consider it an either/or matter.