V. Poseidon’s Family
If you want to read about the traditional understanding of Poseidon’s family, go here or here. I’m not going to write about that, because it’s easy to find, because the Hellenic pantheon is arguably one of the best-known ones, and because I’m opinionated and contrary.
For those keeping score: Poseidon made Himself known to me when I was sixteen, and He remained a huge influence in my life between the time when we first met and when I invited Him into my home, a span of about three years. I offered Him vows of service and dedication – temporary vows, I’ll note! – around the time I invited Him to move in, though I realized pretty quickly that it would be for keeps. I studied a little – I did, in fact, pick my way through Burkert’s Greek Religion – but for the most part I ignored source material, be it primary or secondary. It wasn’t until Odin entered my life and I started studying the Heathen source material that Poseidon decided it was time for me to round out my education. It wasn’t until Odin adopted me and ushered me in to this huge, often boisterous Family, that Poseidon pushed for me to become involved with His family.
Over the years I’ve described coming to know Poseidon’s Family, through Him, a bit like coming to know one’s in-laws. For a long while, that’s exactly how I thought of it. The Family Odin brought felt like coming home. It was a good fit, it culturally made sense to me, it was a native tongue, so to speak. Being with Poseidon’s Family felt a bit like being in a foreign country, barely knowing the language, and trying to understand the culture. They mattered to me, because They mattered to Him, but in the very beginning, there was no real connection except through Him.
The following list is not so much ordered by importance to Him as I perceive it, but rather the order in which His Kin was made known to me, the Ones He decided I needed to honor, because of His honoring Them.
The very first connection He brought up (though in hindsight I do see that there was another ‘very first’ connection made, that first night I met Him) was to Selene. The first necklace to ever adorn any statue of His that I had was a crescent mood pendant, and the moon is the calendar maker in my devotional calendar. The connection to the tides, the power the moon has over water, the fact that we are largely made up of liquid . . . there are deep, powerful mysteries to be explored, and He has insisted I spend time there. I noticed, when I paid attention, that the cycle of the moon influenced how He and I were able to communicate, back when it was brand new. We cycle through different ways of speaking, though the default has always been a sharing of emotions. Not so much words, but sometimes memories pulled up to evoke a particular emotion, or just a press of an emotion randomly, out of context. It’s a hard way of communicating, but seems to be His preferred way. He has always preferred to skip words whenever possible; language is so cumbersome.
The next connection He encouraged – and really, this may be the first ‘Family’ member as we understand family – was with Apollon. Now, this was an easy connection to encourage, not the least of which because Apollon is a very important Power to a very important friend of mine, and He would continue to show up in the lives of people I’ve interacted with over the years. The connection between the two is strong, deep, and enduring. When I try to put it into English and into contexts we can understand, I say things like, Apollon is Poseidon’s favorite nephew, favored even above His own offspring, or: Apollon has the feeling of an heir to Poseidon, or: Apollon is one step closer to humanity than Poseidon is, but in the same realm/type of being. Their interests overlap continually. They have Delphi in common, They have Zeus in common, there are sea connections to both of Them. Connections are easy to find. In my personal devotion, the emphasis on awareness, compassion, and healing speak as strongly of Apollon as they do of Poseidon, and Apollon has shown up during a number of yoga sessions over the long years. There is warmth and affection flowing between the Two of Them, and it’s wonderful to be able to see that.
The remainder came at roughly the same time as one another, so no particular order still: Hera and Zeus were introduced to me because it was a Thing to Do – though They would both hold a very important place in the sustaining of my Marriage later on (more on that later). Both of these Powers hold an important place in my Husband’s heart, although I do suppose I need to come clean about a few things right here.
The first is: I don’t buy into the typically espoused hierarchy of the Hellenic gods. I’m not convinced that we aren’t placing our human ordering of society upon Them, which They graciously allow because it helps us frame Them into contexts we can better understand. I view the Powers as sovereign entities unto Themselves, and I sort of see Them all as what we might call kings and queens in Their own right. I do get a sense of Them deferring to Zeus in some matters, and I’ve certainly witnessed Poseidon doing so, so I don’t see it as a black and white issue.
The second is: my understanding of Poseidon and Zeus is that They fill pretty much the same niche. That is, I’m pretty convinced that Poseidon was a supreme deity in the lands He was worshiped before Zeus became a major player (whereas Zeus was already a major player in other places) and that as the worship of both spread and cultures came more into contact with one another, Zeus won the popularity contest as it were. I’m not convinced that the Two are all that concerned about names, and as I’ve said before, I believe They play loosey-goosey with Their names. Part of me wants to toss it all in and just decide that Zeus is Poseidon, except since I’ve interacted with Both, I really can’t do that and stay sane. But I do think that at times, the being who was written about as Zeus was Poseidon, and vice verse. Which brings me to:
The third is: Poseidon and Zeus (and Hades, I feel) are equals. In my own personal worldview, Zeus is only ‘the King’ because They allow it to be so, not because of any better ability or whatnot on Zeus’s part. And it really reads to me as as a high king among kings, rather than king and subjects. (Yes, I realize I have a Poseidon bias. D’uh.)
Poseidon-biased quibbles aside, Zeus and Hera are important to Poseidon, and thus important to me. Despite privately held convictions, I have been known to refer to Them as King and Queen. Whether They’re holding a social order familiar to us for our benefit or whether it’s genuinely Their social order, I can’t deny that They are this point used to being addressed in particular ways, and I’m not going to be the one to stop.
Hades . . . When I’m not trying to quibble about chronology in terms of established worship and Who came from which human culture, and how blurry the lines get between the Three Brothers, I find that I have such warm affection for Hades. I find that Poseidon and I can connect over the love of a ‘younger’ brother. My experience is that Poseidon and Hades have a more easy-going, less fraught with status and posturing, relationship than He has with Zeus. At heart, Poseidon is far more of a chthonic being than I think many realize. (Yes, I also think these Two play fast and loose with one another’s Names.)
Aphrodite, where do I even begin with this one? She came into my life when He pushed me to seek Her out to help me come to grips with my Marriage. I’ve spoken before about how, if He had not been a Power, we could have called the relationship abusive, and He wasn’t the abuser. My proposal and His somewhat shocked acceptance shoved me quite firmly into “how dare I, who did I think I was, what the fuck, is He making fun of me? He has to be laughing at me, there’s no way this could be something He’d actually want, I need to save Him from this mistake by making Him hate me!” It forced me to confront things like my conviction of utter unworthiness, not just of Him but of love in general, and of even deserving the air that I breathe and the space I take up. It was an ugly place, and I was an ugly person to Him for a long time. This is when I truly was able to experience His Family caring for Him as much as He cares for Them, because They tried to intervene. I was able to see just how stupid for each other the Brothers are, and I had the privilege of witnessing Poseidon upbraiding Them for crossing lines that He did not want crossed. It became clear pretty quickly that things had to be fixed, that Poseidon wasn’t able to help me with this thing on His own, and that clearly Zeus wasn’t going to be a huge help either. Since I’d asked Zeus and Hera to bless my Marriage, it sort of made sense to turn to Hera for help, and I did. That wasn’t enough, though She did help me to see myself and my place within the Marriage. For the self-love, and the self-worth, and a bunch of other things? That was when Aphrodite stepped up.
Since then there have been various things. My understanding of Her relationship with Poseidon is . . . hard to put into words. I see Amphitrite as Aphrodite, and I see Aphrodite as one of Poseidon’s divine wives. I suspect that the ancient Greeks tamed Her a bit too much in their stories, and certainly their patriarchal view colors how She’s presented. I adore Her, I am unendingly grateful to Her. She is the first of His Family to have become important to me for my own sake, rather than important to me because She matters to Him. She and Hera both, at around the same time, though I feel less formal with Aphrodite than I do with Hera. There’s a remoteness to Hera – though not a coldness – that I experience, though this does not diminish my affection for Her.
Rhea, and here it really gets complicated, because there is a confusing jumble of worshipfulness, loyalty, piety, obligation, and devotion to Rhea and Ge from Poseidon. I’m not sure that, at least with who He means when He reflects upon these names, that They are not one in the same. There’s a layer of expected structure when we’re discussing Rhea that is lacking when we’re discussing Ge. I’m not sure if this is because we’re forcing Rhea into a particular role – how we think a mother should be seen – that we aren’t forcing Ge into, or if it’s because Their relationship is different, even when He doesn’t seem all that interested in distinguishing between the Two or what. I cannot possibly be expected to explain all of His Mysteries, or even some of them. Just know there is a lot of hand-flailing on my end. “I need words so I can tell these stories! I’m pedantic. Are They the same Being? What do You mean by ‘Yesno’?!”
(Yesno is my most hated answer to receive. He uses it a lot.)
And then we come to Hekate. The easiest way to say it is, Hekate is the Power that Poseidon and I worship together. I mark Her Deipnon every month, and that’s one regular practice He pressed me into, regardless of how I felt about it. (I was ambivalent about it; I suspect that even if I was outright against it I’d still be doing it.) She Matters to Him. A lot. More than makes sense based on any of the stories we have. He explains Her role to me as Her being for the gods what Hestia became for humanity, that to glimpse even the smallest bit of Hestia as the hearth would be to glean some tiny fraction of understanding of Who Hekate is and What She does. There is a kinship between Hekate, Ge/Rhea, and Selene – and this is when I take a moment to reflect and realize that, that first night that I met Poseidon I was at the edge of the sea, crying out to Mama Earth and Grandmother Moon, and I have to wonder—did They usher Him to me? Were they a part of that? I called Them by different names, but what if? Maybe He wasn’t the first I interacted with, even if He was the first that came with a realness – an individuality – that the others hadn’t shown to me yet. Mama Earth, Grandmother Moon, and Some One with a penchant for finding lost young in the dark? All connected to Poseidon, through His admission? I hadn’t put this together until writing this, and I’m honestly a bit shaken.
There are others that matter to Him. We don’t really talk about His Children much; I keep meaning to address that, but He never presses. There are Others that matter to Those that matter to Him, and so They, too, matter – and in this way, coming to know, respect, and develop affection for this foreign, culturally different and confusing Family helped me to understand how family can work, that it’s a series of people who matter to you. My own family is not defined by blood, though I do count people among my family who I share blood with. Being able to articulate to myself how family is made has been invaluable, and that was a lesson I was not expecting.