Mark


Funny thing about gods, the way they get a point across.  When I was waiting to learn if I would become a writer for The Wild Hunt last summer, I made a deal with Athena: help make this happen, and I’d knit her a scarf.  Knitting, it turns out, is a bit of a bitch for those of us who didn’t start before we needed reading glasses, and even a scarf has been hard enough that I’m nowhere near done with that offering yet.

  

This month for Noumenia, I performed divination to see if any particular deity is planning to take an especial interest in me this month.  As pictured, I drew M, mu, to wit:  “It is necessary to labor {Mokhtheô}, but the change will be admirable.”

I really don’t know how divination works for other people, but most of the time these phrases don’t make a whole lot of sense in isolation.  There needs to be some discernment, some sign or inclination that brings it together.  In this case, not sure what god might be indicated, I tried the Quaker practice of letting names rise.  Hephaestus didn’t seem likely as he watched over this past month, but labor made me consider him.  Hermes occurred to me, but also didn’t seem quite right.  But when I thought of Athena, I got that thrum in my head which I’ve come to recognize as positive, and I knew she wanted me to finish that scarf.

Later on in the day, I returned a library book I’d ordered by mistake.  I wanted the next Percy Jackson book, and got the two series mixed up, so I had a book I’d already read instead of the proper one.  I didn’t even know the name of the book I needed, but I checked the library shelf and there it was:

The Mark of Athena.

With apologies to my sources


A large number of people told me what they think of the Percy Jackson books, and when I wrote my article I didn’t use almost any of it.  I found myself fascinated by the kids’ perspective, which is so often minimized in every situation, and made it all about them.  In fact, I wish I’d been able to find more kids to talk to.

For what it’s worth, despite there being a couple of really angry posts about these books, I found fewer sincerely negative critiques by adults than I found children to interview.  Most of the blog posts I located talked about how “lots of people dislike” these books, and then gave mostly favorable reviews.  The people I interviewed were mostly the same:  they would dislike one aspect or another, such as the depiction of a particular deity (Dionysos and Persephone, most frequently), or dissatisfaction with liberties the author took with one or another well-known myth, but that’s it.  And in my interviews, no one brought up the impact of these books on neurotypical people, or the completely dismissive way that Rick Riordan treats worship of the gods (which are certainly legitimate concerns), but I attribute that lack to ignorance about those issues among the people I spoke with.

But there’s a whole new Norse series starting soon, so these questions will surely surface again.

Hellenists and Pagan parents, can you help a reporter out?


After expressing my opinions on Percy Jackson, I find myself assigned an article on the topic for The Wild Hunt.

I’d like to talk to Hellenists who love, hate, or are ambivalent about these books, so long as you’ve got reasons and can explain them!

However, I also want to talk to the kids who have read them, which means I need some Pagan parents to introduce me.  Yes, allowing one’s children to talk to strangers is not without risks, but I am more than happy to do what I must to mitigate those risks and maintain parental comfort levels.  In a perfect world, I’d like to talk to your kids directly (phone or some other way that I can hear their voices), because we communicate differently in writing than we do when talking.  Parents are welcome to listen in, although I’d prefer they zip their lips and let the kiddies say what they will without prompting.  However, if sending questions via email and receiving transcribed answers is all you’re comfortable with, I’ll take it.  I will also allow the parent to control what identifying information I include in the story.

My gods are stronger than fiction


I recently started reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians.  I was kind of aware of these books, but only barely, and it wasn’t until I was poking around Amazon for tridents and had it vomit up a lot of Percy Jackson stuff that I had any clue that Poseidon is a significant force.  Being that I didn’t even know what the books were about, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that I had no clue how much some of my co-religionists hate them.  As it happens, I don’t hate them, but what’s worth exploring is why.  I’ll start with the problems noted in that Tumblr post I just linked.

  • Rick Riordan misrepresents the myths and/or the gods.  One word here:  Homer.  You can’t tell me that the way he depicted the gods, particularly in the Odyssey, didn’t tick a few people off.  I don’t know if Homer believed in the gods, but he certainly wasn’t afraid to cast them in a bad light, and frequently.  My gods are stronger than the ones Homer depicted, and the ones Riordan depicted, in part because they understand that any press is good press.  Get people thinking about the gods, and some of those people are going to start worshipping the gods.  If Homer didn’t cross the line of hubris, Riordan probably hasn’t either.  (Although, if Homer really was blind, perhaps that wasn’t an accident, hmm?)  Myths are stories from a long time ago.  Stories = fiction, fiction = made up, made up= not true, not true = I’m not expecting them to reflect my personal experience with my deities.  I get why some of the depictions inspire rage, but my gods are stronger than fiction.
  • These stories are damaging to people with dyslexia and ADHD.  I have neither, so I can only express a personal opinion here:  the author is positing that those with divine blood have these conditions, not that those with these conditions have divine blood.  I can’t say if that depiction was insensitive, or ignorant, or hamhanded, because for some reason I can’t find the links the original poster embedded.
  • The author doesn’t believe in these gods.  Um . . . so what?  The gods do not require our belief, and can use someone to their own ends whether or not they have belief.  If the theoi restricted their work to only those few of us who actively honor and praise them, well, it would be a pretty small field.  Perhaps they wanted to plant the idea in thousands of young kids that the Greek gods are real, knowing that some portion of Riordan’s readership would begin sneaking offerings off of their plates to those gods.  The gods are stronger than fiction, and know how to use it, and its authors.  I think that’s awesome.  It reinforces my belief, my awe, my love.  It’s much more clever and subtle than any mortal mind could have orchestrated.  It’s brilliant in that vaporize-me-if-I-look-too-close kind of way.

Remember what happened to the Panchem Lama?  After the Dalai Lama declared his next incarnation, the poor tyke and his family disappeared, and the Chinese government declared another boy to be the next Panchen lama instead.  It’s an obvious attempt to stifle Tibetan resistance by controlling its religion, rear a child that is a mouthpiece for Chinese control.  But what if the Chinese, much to their chagrin, actually have the true Panchen lama on their hands?  Isn’t that what an enlightened being might do?  Might it not screw up Chinese designs a bit if their fake turned out to be the real thing?  It could happen that way, because the gods are stronger than fiction, even fiction manufactured by the state.

I was relatively comfortable in my ill-defined Paganism, which included a ritual every year or so if I was with people, but no obligations, no offerings, no calendar, no nothing.  I was also quite content in my decision to watch the series Xena: Warrior Princess from start to finish, knowing how wrong they got the myths and how annoying the characters (mortal and immortal alike) are in that show.  My took me out of my comfort zone was an encounter with Ares while I was watching:  the god Ares, not the leather-bound sex symbol who portrayed him.  It led me to seek a teacher in Hellenismos, to learn about ancient and modern practices, and to honor the theoi on a daily basis.  If the gods could use a dog of a show like Xena to get to me and transform my life, how much more can they do with a series like Percy Jackson?

Mark my words, many of tomorrow’s Hellenists will be born of these books.  It doesn’t matter what they “got wrong,” what matters is that minds are opening.  The gods are stronger than fiction, and they know how to use it to their own ends.  Hail the gods!