Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On the Old Gods of Hellenismos

When Hesiod wrote his Theogony, he was adament about the sequence the Gods appeared from Khaos. He knew the generations of Gods that came before the Olympians, and respected Them for being in that line.

"Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods. And she brought forth long Hills, graceful haunts of the goddess-Nymphs who dwell amongst the glens of the hills. She bare also the fruitless deep with his raging swell, Pontus, without sweet union of love. But afterwards she lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.

[...] But Rhea was subject in love to Cronos and bare splendid children, Hestia, Demeter, and gold-shod Hera and strong Hades, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth, and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, and wise Zeus, father of gods and men, by whose thunder the wide earth is shaken. These great Cronos swallowed as each came forth from the womb to his mother's knees with this intent, that no other of the proud sons of Heaven should hold the kingly office amongst the deathless gods. For he learned from Earth and starry Heaven that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, strong though he was, through the contriving of great Zeus."

There are about fourty names inbetween those two parts, but for this post, I wanted to focus on these: the ancient Gods that make up our universe--the pre-Olympians. Yesterday, Facebook brought me a wonderful discussion about Them, and I discovered that not everyone realizes the importance the pre-Olympian Gods have on our world. Contrary to the Olympians, the pre-Olympians are actually of the world; They, together, form the tapistry of earth and life. They literally make up our universe.

The Protogenoi (Πρωτογενοι) are the First Born Deities of the Hellenic Kosmos. They are the building blocks of the universe, primordial Deities. The Protogenoi we know of are: Aether (Αἰθήρ, 'Light'), Ananke (Ἀνάγκη, 'Fate' or 'Compulsion'), Khronos (Χρόνος, 'Time'), Erebos (Ἔρεβος, 'Darkness'), Eros (Ἔρως, 'Desire' or 'Love'), Gaea (Γαῖα, 'Earth'), Hemera (Ἡμέρα, 'Day'), Hydros (Ὑδρος, 'Primordial Waters'), Khaos (χάος, 'Chaos' or 'Air'), Nêsoi (Νησοι, 'Islands'), Nyx (Νύξ, 'Night'), Ôkeanos (Ωκεανος, 'Water'), Ourea (Oὔρεα, 'Mountains'), Phanes (Φάνης 'Procreation'), Pontos (Πόντος, 'Sea'), Phusis (φύσις, 'Nature'), Tartaros (Τάρταρος), Thalassa (Θάλασσα, 'Sea'), Thesis (Θεσις, 'Creation'), Uranos (Οὐρανός, 'Sky').

Then came the Titanes Gods (Τιτανες Θεοι): the twelve Uranides; Kronus (Κρονος, who rules of time and the ages), Okeanos (Ωκεανος, God of the great earth-encircling river Okeanos, the font of all the earth's fresh-water), Iapetos (Ιαπετος, God of the mortal life-span), Hyperion (Ὑπεριων, God of Light), Krios (Κριως, God of the constellations), Koios (Κοιος, God of the inquisitive mind), Rhea (Ρεα, Goddess of female fertility and the wild mountains), Tethys (Τηθυς, Goddess of nursing and of the underground sources of fresh-water), Theia (Θεια, Goddess of sight and precious gemstones), Phoebe (Φοιβη, Goddess of intellect), Themis (Θεμις, Goddess of natural order, divine law and tradition) and Mnemosyne (Μνημοσυνη, Goddess of memory, words and language), and the four Iapetionides; Atlas (Ατλας, God of astronomy and navigation), Prometheus (Προμηθευς, God of forethought and crafty counsel), Epimetheus (Επιμηθευς, God of afterthought) and Menoitios (Μενοιτιος, God of violent anger and rash action).

Another generation down are other Titanes: Ankhialê (Αγχιαλη, Goddess of the warming heat of fire), Asteria (Αστερια,Ggoddess of the oracles and prophecies of night), Astraios (Αστραιος, God of the stars and planets, and the art of astrology), Aura (Αυρα, Goddess of the breeze and the fresh, cool air of early morning), Klymenê (Κλυμηνη, goddess of renown, fame and infamy), Diônê (Διωνη, Goddess of the oracle of Dodona), Êôs (Ηως, Goddess of dawn), Eurybia (Ευρυβια, Goddess of the mastery of the seas), Eurynomê (Ευρυνομη, Goddess of water-meadows and pasturelands), Helios (Ἡλιος, God of the sun, oaths and sight), Hekatê (Ἑκατη, goddess of (the protection against) magic, witchcraft, the night, moon, ghosts and necromancy), Lêlantos (Ληλαντος, God of air and stalking prey), Lêtô (Λητω, Goddess of motherhood and protectress of the young), Melisseus (Μελισσευς, God of honey), Mêtis (Μητις, Goddess of good counsel, advise, planning, cunning, craftiness and wisdom), the (Elder) Mousai (Μουσαι, Goddesses of music), Pallas (Παλλας, God of warcraft and the Greek campaign season of late spring and early summer), Persaios (Περσαιος, God of destruction), Phorkys (Φορκυς, God who presides over the hidden dangers of the deep sea), Selênê (Σεληνη, Goddess of the moon), and Styx (Στυξ, Goddess of the Underworld River Styx and of hatred).

Many of these presided over the building blocks of the previous generation, like the Olypmians preside over the building blocks of all three. Looking over the list, it's easy to trace the domains of the Olympians back to their predecessors--or even the God or Goddess They hold sway over directly.

The Olympians did not come to power in a vacuum, and I think to banish all who came before from your worldview and religious life is a disservice not to just the Protogenoi and Titanes, but the Olympians as well. The Old Gods are just as Deathless, just as present, as the Olympians. They are more passive, surely, than the Olympians, but no less worthy of honor for making this world such a beautiful place to live in. They don't have festivals, and They recieve less honor than the Olympians, but when I look at Helios, I thank Him for His warmth and for the growth of the crops, when I look at the starry dome of the night's sky, I remember that without Ouranos, we would have no atmosphere (modern scientific interpretation alert) to breath. While the Olympian generation of Gods rules my daily life, They operate in the framework of the Titans and the Protogenoi. Do I honor all of them regularly? No, defintely not, but some of them? Yes. Most certainly.

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