My research into the Greek gods has drawn me to the conclusion that they are very comfortable with possession. Much of the ancient literature talks about the gods appearing in the form of an animal or person. Is that a sign of their ability to shift shape, or is it more in their character to simply occupy a physical form which already exists? My gut tells me that using what’s there takes a lot less effort than creating matter from energy.
As evidence that I’m not the best of researchers, I am providing no links to back up this claim. I’ve read tons, but I take poor notes and rely on my memory. Looking back through theoi.com (okay, one link), I can’t find any of what I’m talking about. This is probably why I’ll never be a reconstructionist. Just call me a mystic and do the research yourself. 😉
I wonder about the forms Zeus and Hermes assumed when they visited Baucis and Philemon, and the old woman Athene becomes to speak with Odysseus and challenge Arachne. Ares is even more interesting: there’s more than a few references to someone “walking with Ares” or having Ares in his heart, and the scholars say that Homer and his ilk were just metaphorically expressing the character’s murderous rage.
Why are they so sure it’s metaphorical?
Seems to me that the theoi, if not other gods, are more than comfortable inserting themselves into mortal beings. Maybe “possession” is too strong a word, because they influence thoughts and deeds but do not generally take over fully the way a Wiccan or Santeria deity might, or someone in an oracular trance. But possessing part of me is still a form of possession, so I like the word for it.
Words spoken by a stranger on the road may be an omen. Could that be because a god alighted just long enough to take over the tongue at that moment? I give money to beggars as an offering to Hermes. Isn’t it likely he is present to accept it personally? My knees knock and my heart pounds when I am faced with physical confrontation: is Ares bringing my adrenaline to the fore?
If we were possessed by our gods in little ways, every day, would we simply feel closer to them? Do we need more words to describe the range of states that I see as possession?