XVI. How does Poseidon represent the values of His pantheon and His culture/s of origin?
Confession: I’m a polytheist, and I’m a devotee of Poseidon, but for all of that, I am not a Hellenic polytheist. I find the history of the various cultures in the Mediterranean fascinating, and I do like to learn about them, because I do like to be able to put Poseidon’s historical cult into context when I can. (That, and I simply find history interesting. People are fascinating). Now, maybe it’s because of my history with Poseidon, and how o/Our relationship formed; maybe it’s because during the formative years I stubbornly ignored all the Hellenic stuff; maybe it’s because I grew up in an alcoholic home and do not have an attachment to place; maybe it’s because I’m essentially a loner, definitely an introvert, and do not see family as the be all end all, or at least, I do not understand attachments for the sake of tradition’s sake if there’s nothing else there to keep it together. Maybe it’s because I’m really not a speciesist, and it shows even in this. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, the end result is: the cultures that worshiped Poseidon in history are not my culture, and I don’t feel particularly connected to them.
I believe the gods are real, distinct Powers who are not trapped in the past. I believe that the gods can feel an affection, even a possessiveness, for particular groups of people and cultures, but I also believe They are sophisticated, complex beings Who understand that cultures change over time. I don’t have a great love for our American consumerism culture, mind you, but I also don’t hold any of the various cultures from the Mediterranean world as being some spiritual-cultural center for me, either. I also do not believe that the Gods ‘belong’ to any one culture. Saying ‘Poseidon is a Greek/Hellenic God’ and understanding as anything more than shorthand for saying that Poseidon was primarily worshiped in particular cultures is, to my way of thinking, wrong. Poseidon is not Greek. Poseidon is a God. He’s a cosmic Power. I do believe the Gods do have what passes for Their own cultures and values, but to take cultural values of a particular time and place those values upon our Gods can be a dangerous thing, and it’s something I strongly hesitate to do.
Does Poseidon represent the values of His particular Family? Eh, maybe? I don’t know that They’re a Family the way we understand family, and I think we run the risk of making Them too human when we think about Them this way. Yes, I talk a lot about Poseidon’s Family — I talk about Apollon being His favorite Nephew, for example — but I do so knowing that my words are falling short. I do so knowing ‘family’ is just another way we tell stories about our lives (what is ‘family’ but a story being told about patterns and connections we’ve agreed exist?). In the story of Poseidon’s Family, Zeus is the patriarch, and all fall in line with Him. It’s a story I can tap into, but my reality with Poseidon tells me that that story is a tad bit off. Does Poseidon share values with those in His Family? I believe that’s part of what draws Them together — but I’m not going to name them. I’m not going to decide what those are, beyond what He tells me they are, and I’m not going to decide for others what those values need to be for them.
I’ll own that this may be due to my coming from a secular society that heavily influenced by monotheism, largely Protestantism, that I do not come from families with strong connections to the Old World. I realize that there are nuances that I’ll never understand personally because Poseidon was no worshiped by any of the cultures that I could claim connection to, I went far enough back, and because even if I could, that is not my experience and it does not inform my interactions with Him. I live where I do as a result from a hostile take-over, and I’m one of those people who can only name my ancestors back three generations at most. My life is not rooted in the past the way some people’s lives are. That colors how I’m able to think of things.
Even with that caveat, I don’t view the Gods as ‘belonging’ to specific cultures. Doing so dances too close to comfort to the idea that ‘only certain people’ can worship particular Gods, and I am not going to tell Poseidon, after all this time, that I cannot be His because my ethnicity is ‘wrong’.
Bottom line here is: I care far more about what Poseidon has to say about cultural values of today, than I care about how He reflected values of ages long ago