When Family “Matriarch” Goddess is Different from Your Personal Goddess

This may not be an issue that comes up for everyone, or even that many people…but it is an observation that I have had over the years. Those who are familiar with Hellenic religion certainly known that regions had certain paternal or maternal ties to specific deities that they are said to be descended from. With gods this usually manifests in the title Patroos which we see for Apollon and Zeus particularly. However I don’t find it the least bit strange for a family to develop a spiritual relationship of descendant that is connected to a particular deity or deities. For instance, as the new first generation founding of my familial cultus, Apollon has taken a position in the household divine hierarchy that relates to my children and family members of my household as Patroos. Aphrodite has seemed to have a longer matriarch claim in the family dynamic, likely passed down in attachment to my Italian paternal line (Romans, recall believed themselves to be descended from Venus), which may be a relationship that transferred to the familial relationship with Aphrodite given the Hellenic focus of the household. I have stated on this blog many times that I never chose to worship Aphrodite, and was never in any fashion called to or attracted to the worship of Aphrodite….she was just always there.

It is perhaps of little surprise that a baby polytheist who is feeling out what deities that they want to give cultus to would easily overlook an influential deity already present in the familial atmosphere and household for deities that they admire or feel a particular calling to worship. This is normal for any kind of personal relationship that is developed between the worshiper and gods, but when you have a principle deity (or deities) that don’t include the already present familial deity one can imagine how that would cause friction. For years I considered the problem to be rooted in the fact that I was a young devotee of Artemis who actively spurned Aphrodite whom I considered soft and ineffectual compared to such a strong and independent goddess as Artemis (which I won’t lie probably added fuel to the problem). However it is dawned on me that the actual root of the problem initially with Aphrodite, had more to do with the fact that while I honored and followed Artemis on an individual and personal level, that I did not give honor due to her to Aphrodite over Artemis on a household level. I have narrated before how this led to years of hostility towards the goddess, as well as significant relationship problems and short-liveliness of said relationships. I also had problems maintaining emotional attachments long term (what I would consider in love with the idea of being in love without experiencing lasting love), and regular disenchantment towards the social world. Despite being a fervent devotee of Artemis and having a good relationship with the spirits of the natural world in the local woods near m home, the sea on the island I was born on and spent my summers, and so on……I was positively misanthropic and disdained the social dependent networks. So there wasn’t just the inability to relate to romantic relationships long term, but a general inability to relate to the social world which I found vain and utterly fake with all of its charms. After my first divorce it occurred to me that Aphrodite was toying with me and in an effort to get her to leave me alone I erected a small shrine in my household. A shrine that I did not maintain well long term (figuring having it there in general was good enough) and therefore still not giving proper respect although having a tentative start to a relationship with the goddess. When I had a second failed marriage in my early 30s I was admittedly angry with the goddess who I felt was instrumental in spinning a match that did not suit. I couldn’t understand what more I could possibly do, even though even after years I still had not invested anything really into her shrine or worship space.

Yet after facing my hostility towards Aphrodite regarding two failed marriage and alot of false starts with relationships, I finally, in the summer of 2013 I believe, held my first Aphrodisia in my home, with plenitude of sweets and gifts to Aphrodite….as well as for the first time in years, actually actively building on her shrine, her seat of worship in the house. Thankfully that same summer…a month later… I met the man I am now married to and have been in the longest committed relationship with. I admit all of these can easily be a coincidence but I do think that coincidence also lines up with the relationship one has with spirits and deities that surround one as well as being part of your own making.  And a foul relationship with a deity can cause an unnoticed psychological removal of the self from everything that deity represents or is involved in. Since I have been worshiping the gods since I was 14 years old it would make sense that a fouled relationship with Aphrodite and the obvious rejection of the prominent role she seemed to try to move into would affect my developing adult relationship with those things which are connected to her.

Now here is where the narrative changes from my previous narratives of my relationship with Aphrodite, I have recently been observing that while Hera has a very honored position in the household as queen of the gods, that Aphrodite herself presides at her shrine like a matriarch of the household overseeing the affairs of the household with a certain flare of authority. As her shrine is now one of the better developed of the household (with the exception of Apollon’s) even now surpassing that of Artemis since Artemis shrine had until recently been plagued with misfortune after misfortune that diminished it from the first time I lost my entire shrine in Hurricane Katrina with the exception of one small statuette that I still have.  Of all the goddesses Aphrodite’s shrine sits in a manner that almost seems dominating. Whereas Artemis’ shrine spot by the door slowly develops in my personal devotion to the goddess, I take care not to neglect the shrine of Aphrodite or to slight it in favor that of Artemis. Aphrodite thus basks at her place within the household and keeps the affairs of the family harmonic, something that I cam grateful for that my husband and I do not succumb to the kind of arguing and fighting that we have both experienced in past relationships.

As such I have finally figured out the formula for dealing with the situation regarding Artemis and Aphrodite, that there is a certain honor and prestige that needs to be given Aphrodite to recognize her place of authority in my family as matriarch goddess and that she is intimately involved in the welfare of the family that must be taken care of even as I take care of my devotional relationship with Artemis and other deities.  I do not have to have a devotional relationship with Aphrodite to give her the accorded proper respect, and this was something that was missing from the way I related to her and gave her worship. I treated her as an after thought, as if anything was good enough with the proper dignity and respect afforded to her place among the gods of my household.  It is different from a devotional relationship but one that is still highly important for the well being of the household, and the relationship the household has with the various gods attached to it. This is the importance and significance of paternal and maternal household deities, the patriarchs and matriarchs of a home regardless if one has one or the other or both) that must take a value of worth and esteem in the familial spiritual practice regardless of what sort of personal relationship you feel towards the deity.

An observation from my experience. Of course it goes without saying that the same can be applied to Patroos deity of the household and one’s personal devotions to another god. It certainly isn’t restricted just to goddesses.

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