Sex and the Gods

I know I have talked of this before but it seems that this issue like to rear its head every now and then, and when it does it makes me want to reiterrate these points. In fact I am going to be more blunt in this post than I have been in the past, just because I am tired of hearing the argument.

There seems to be a mistaken belief that is floating around that the Hellenic gods champion, patron or are linked to specific sexual identities. Therefore you end up having some members of the LGBT community celebrating certain gods as homosexual deities (examples of this would be Dionysos, Apollon—especially in regards to the Hyakinthos myths, and Artemis, among others), and then you have some heterosexual screaming their heads off that such and such a god isn’t homosexual, and at times even aggressively ignoring the myths (and associated festivals) in which a god appears to be having a homosexual (or in reverse for the other side of the fence…heterosexual) relationship when this was never an issue for the ancient Hellenes. It really is a sign of the modern culture in which we can be so obsessed with sex-identity that we feel a need to *claim* gods as being a part of our own sexual identities.

Yet when it comes right down to it, it doesn’t make sense on either sides of the fence. The gods don’t possesses biological bodies, they don’t possesses chemical hormones, they don’t literally have forms in the way that we think of it….therefore claiming any specific sexual orientation is rather ridiculous. The gods love, they experience attraction through Eros, and the love and union is going to be carried out on a spiritual level. The soul can’t be said to be strictly female or male, for which I think hermaphroditic images is more closely related to our spiritual existance. Truly though when you get right down it to the souls are aligned, in relationship to the gods, with having a receptive nature (therefore being symbolically feminine as we see in the myth of Psykhe) because we desire to receive the union with the gods. Otherwise I must say that we have no spiritual sexual orientation, and we possess many lives in which we may experience life as male or female, and probably a variety of sexual orientations over the course of our lifetimes.

As such to ignore male or female loves of the gods (depending on your stance) is just a matter of cutting off the nose to spite the face. Those of Kyrene, who celebrate the nupitals between the nymph Kyrene and Apollon were known to celebrate in the Hyakinthia. It is a testimony that the gods were not divided upon lines of sexual preference, and I really don’t see why it should be such an issue today that people feel the need to do so. The myths in which the gods love mortals (regardless of the biological gender of said mortal in myths) are those which worshipers should take in delight and reverence because they serve as messages to our own souls. The gods love humanity.

on honoring mothers and lovers

This was a post that I really had a hard time decided what to call it to best convey what I wanted to talk about, and that is namely the relevancy of honoring the mothers and lovers (not necessarily romantic lovers in the case of some gods but those who loved the god in question and was deified for it) to the worship of that god one particularly *follows*. As one who follows Apollon I have invested a great deal of personal time into learning more, about and intigrating into my worship practices, such figures related to Apollon. I may not extend the same level of importance to all of Apollon’s loves (and I really don’t have the energy because if we look at myths there were *alot* and usually this varied from location to location where there was something legendary individual who was loved by the god) but there are key figures that pop out to me as being of high importance, perhaps because I tend to personally lean more towards the Doric-Spartan culture and their colonies. Therefore it is quite reasonable that I honor Kyrene and Hyacinthus who are two notable figures, the former of which gave her name to an important colony in Kyrene, Libya. And Kyrene recognized its relationship to Sparta (via their colonization at Thera) by annual participation in the Hyacinthia. Typically though I only specifically honor Hyacinthos and Kyrene in an annual sense, though I have images about my house and speak fondly to them at random occassions. This means that I hold Hyacinthia every year at the end of spring as summers dawns, and every August during the Karneia I pay respect additionally to Kyrene who is likewise depicted ram-horned like her spouse Apollon Karneios.

These two mythical beings are particularly relevant to me (among others such as Daphne etc) because of my own position as a follower of Apollon. They represent the work of eros between the soul and the god which is a lovely guide and model for the follower of said deity. This is not uncommon, after all many followers of Aphrodite, for instance, pay particular reverence to Adonis. But it seems to be more stressed among some gods (particularly Aphrodite), and less stressed among others. However, because they represent the union and loving relationship between the mortal soul and the divine they can have potential positive influence upon us, and therefore securing their relevance. Especially for those of us who do not come from any specific hellenic kin-group to which we could attach cultural importance. I do believe that there is a small difference between honoring Hyakinthos as a cultural hero, and honoring Hyakinthos as a personal hero so to speak. On one hand it isabout one’s heritage and the heros of one’s culture and the bound between the culture and a god important to your culture (and therefore all participated in the Hyakinthia anciently in a cultural sense regardless of their personal feeling of attraction towards Apollon. However as individual, especially one not of the culture, we can find relevance and importance in the loves of our gods on a personal level that is beneficial while different than original cultural celebration. This goes the same for nearly every localized relaitonship between a hero/heroine/nymph/prince/princess and a god which similarly celebrated such relationships between their communities and their gods. Therefore anyone who follows a particularly god is bound to find a number of such figures that can enrich their worship and their lives in following said god or goddess.

Now when it comes to the mothers, I really think that she be given, but it does surprise me how little there is out there celebrating the mothers of the gods we follow. I am speaking specifically of the mothers here because typically it seems that honor is extended to the fathers (which is most of the time Zeus, and in the case of the Olympians it is Zeus with the exception of his siblings). These are the orignating source of the gods we adore, and the womb that issued them. Though the exception does seem to be that many who particular love Dionysos do place an importance on Semele. But this should not be disregarded at all among the Olympians either. Especially considering that half of said Olympians have the great mother Rhea as their mother, and how much prodding does one need to give honor and worship to Rhea!? But nearly each Olympian also has a mother (with the exception of Athena whose mother, Metis, was swallowed by Zeus after conception in the myth of Athena’s birth, but even Metis can so be honored). Therefore followers of Hermes’ can give tribute and respect to Maia, those of Artemis and Apollo to Leto,  those of Aphrodite to Dione, Ares and Hephaistos to Hera (again not a difficult one lol).

The way that I honor Leto is by placing her as part of my main shrine to Apollon and Artemis. I have thought many times of giving her her own shrine but I found more often than not that I was including addresses to her in my regular prayers at their shrine, and so I moved her to their shrine. Since there are no traditional statues of Leto to be had, I selected a figure to represent Leto, named it as Leto and set it with a stork’s feather (the stork being the bird representative of her according to Aristophanes). She is also a major part of a major rituals to Apollon. In the Theoxenia at Delphi which celebrated the return of Apollon from Hyperborea she is represented as pregnant and is again honored at the birth of Apollon during the Thargelia. And I give her honor during the time that Apollon is in Hyperborea, the homeland of Leto.

In closing, we can find something valuable to add to our regular worship practices of the god/dess that we follow when we include the loves and mothers of the god/dess. It also developes our own understand of our relationship that we enjoy. It altogether enriches our spiritual lives in my way of thinking.