Posted by: aediculaantinoi | July 30, 2012

In Praise of Loki (and kin/friends), Day Six

It’s getting toward the height of the dog-days now, and the moon is inching toward full on this Monday–that is, “Moon-Day,” named not only after the moon, but after a certain Norse deity called Máni who is a moon-god. (And who else is a moon-god, at least in some of his forms?–Antinous, of course!) So, if you have been following the theme I’ve been doing recently, you should know who the two honorands are today; and if not, then you need to go back to lore-school. ;)

Before getting into the particulars of the dogs of the day (!?!), I’d like to talk about something else that my series of posts honoring Loki and his family illustrates, I think. It’s a concept that, despite being rather obvious to myself and to a variety of other polytheists, seems to be completely and utterly lost on others. It’s really a matter, in my opinion, of understanding polytheism itself, full-stop.

There’s a lot to recommend polytheism as a viable, sensible, and practical theological system to underlie one’s religious notions and spiritual practices. Star Foster has talked a bit about the fact that modern paganism is really the only modern religion that can lay claim to polytheism over and above all else (despite the disagreement with this assertion that some of the commenters on the entry had). The diversity it entails as a necessity; the mutual respect for other paths and multiple ways of doing things, even when it comes to approaching the same gods within the same overall cultural framework; the preference for multiple possible answers and a variety of truths as opposed to one singular, irrefutable, unquestionable, “my-way-or-the-highway” approach to most theological questions…and the list goes on. But, one thing that I also like about it, and that I think some people still tend to miss despite being polytheists in name, is that in a polytheistic framework, the gods are interdependent, not independent. No god arises in a vacuum, really, and thus no god is “bigger than” or “more important” than any other, because all of them rely on at least a few others, even for their very existence.

I’ve met a number of pagans who are true henotheists: they are dedicated to one and only one god, but they readily acknowledge the existence of other gods, and may even join in honoring them on occasion. I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.

I have, however, met a number of what I’d call pagan monotheists, who seem to think that their god is the only “real” god, and all others are false or useless. It was notions like this that lead me to break away from previous groups with which I’ve been involved.

There are also others who seem to adopt a monotheist-monist viewpoint, and think that really any deity worth dealing with is just a form of their own deity. The tendency to adopt a viewpoint like that with some super-syncretistic deities–including Antinous–is also quite disturbing and upsetting. That there is a god called Antinous who is syncretized to Hermes, Dionysos, Apollon, Osiris, Silvanus, Pan, and others does not mean that Antinous “replaces” all of those other gods, any more than the existence of Serapis replaced Osiris, Apis, and Ptah (and others), or Zeus-Ammon replaced Zeus or Ammon, or Hermanubis replaced Hermes or Anubis…and the list goes on. The continued existences of these gods was a cultic reality that can be pointed to quite specifically, including in instances in which, for example, Hermanubis AND Anubis are honored in the same inscription!

The Obelisk of Antinous–often considered one of the most important ancient texts for understanding his cultus–lays out this matter quite perfectly. Antinous does not achieve his deification alone; he has the help of Hapi, Thoth, and Re-Harakhte. THere is also a beautiful set of images in which Antinous goes before various gods and asks for particular blessings, from Ammon and Thoth and others, and is granted those blessings and powers. It is an extremely beautiful and touching set of scenes, in my opinion, and shows that there is no harm in one divine person being dependent on, indebted to, or empowered by another.

Our own practice of polytheism, by its very nature, presupposes this as well. We ask our gods for their favor, and we receive it in various ways. If it were all about independence and self-sufficiency, then none of us would have need to pray to any gods in the first place. We’d just do fine on our own. Clearly, that’s not the case! So, we, and our gods, are like The Beatles, because we “get by with a little help from [our] friends,” eh? ;)

But, back to our friend Loki and his relatives! ;)

Yesterday, I mentioned this phenomenon of scholarly lykotheomonism as it applies to Fenris, Garm, Geri and Freki, and our honorands for today, Skoll and Hati. With Skoll and Hati, though, we get a kind of possible “out” from it, and a hint toward what I’ve suggested in previous days: namely, that Fenris may be the father of at least Hati, in the name given as Hati’s father, Hródhrsvitnir, which means “fame-wolf,” being a likely epithet of that most famous wolf, Fenris. If Fenris is Hati’s father, then, who is Skoll’s? Why not Fenrish again? And, who is their mother? Unlike the idea I adopted with Garm in relation to Geri and Freki, here I’ve gone with something different. Geri and Freki, despite their names meaning “greedy” and the possibility that they are also epithets of Fenris who were individualized, are the “nice” wolves of this group, and thus their mother being Garm (who is fierce, but nicer than Fenris, in my understanding) makes sense to me; that isn’t the case for the mother of Skoll and Hati, however–but then again, we don’t ever get to know her properly because of her fate. So, you’ll see how it goes below…

Just like with the poems for Geri and Freki and Garm, my title here is a translation of what Skoll and Hati seem to mean. Also, as a quick note, Arvakr and Alsvidhr are the horses that pull Sól’s chariot (though you can figure that out from what is below!), and there are also two children in Máni’s chariot, Bil and Hjúki–and, though their story is very interesting for a variety of reasons, I can’t help but see their names and think of True Blood–I know, I’m horrible. ;)

There are some poems to Skoll and Hati, as well as to Sól and Máni generally speaking, in Galina Krasskova’s edited anthology Day Star and Whirling Wheel: Honoring the Sun and Moon in the Northern Tradition, which I’d highly recommend!

As I said at the start of this post, we’re in the time of the dog-days, when the sun is at its hottest, thus I praise Sól today as well; and we’re inching toward the full moon on this Moon-day, so I also praise Máni; and in doing so, I also give praise to the wolves that pursue them across the night, who are the grandchildren of Loki and Angrboda.

Mockery and Hatred

Hail to the grandmother and grandfather
of the pack of wolves whose circuit never ceases,
the pursuers after the chariots of sun and moon.

With howls and barks and words of disdain
the hard-pressed Arvakr and Alsvidhr
flee in fear before Sól’s bright vehicle;

the son of the great devourer
sings his song of poison and derision
throughout the day behind the solar car.

The other chases the silver-lit conveyance
where Bil and Hjúki huddle down in terror
that such relentlessness is at Máni’s heels;

the son of Hródhrsvitnir, the fierce Mánagarmr
begotten from a frenzy of resentment
persists in endless flight after the lunar carriage.

Who was their mother? None knows the name,
for they say it was children or father
who ate her after she whelped the twins.

When their father was fettered, the great fame-wolf,
the two sons were cursed with their continual course
after the ill-favored children of Mundilfari.

At Ragnarok, the beautiful sky-carts will be devoured
by Skoll and Hati, sun-swallower and moon-marauder,
and the two wolves, sated, will be eaten in turn…

To dazzling Sól in her bright chariot,
to Máni in his blue-white-shining ship,
and to Skoll and Hati, grandsons of Loki and Angrboda–hail to all!

*****

Hail to Skoll and Hati, and to their father Fenris, and to Loki and Angrboda, and to Sól and Máni–may their course go on forever!


Responses

  1. Great, now I’m hearing Bill say “Hjúki” in his Sookie voice. Thanks! o _ O

    • Sorry! :(

      Of course, with how Bill talks, it would come out as “Hyuckeh” in this weird sort of way…!?!

  2. I’m trying to wrestle out something in my head about “hard” polytheism and syncretism, and I’m not quite sure what my question is, so I hope it’s okay to unpack a bit here.

    In one way, I get that all gods can be considered unique, discrete entities, though interdependent. There are a lot of guys in the world who look like me, I am told, but I would be resentful if I was treated as interchangeable with them, if people called me by their names, etc.

    On the other hand, when the gods become tied to shared realities… I’m not sure how to phrase this. The star Sirius corresponds to many deities and to different deities in different cultures. But there is only the one star Sirius. I’m wondering how to hold this idea that they are separate though apparently share something in terms of relation to one physical expression of reality.

    • This same matter also arises in relation to the moon, sun, planets, and the earth itself, amongst other things. Let me see if I can explain this in a useful way…

      There’s lots of earth deities–Gaia, Tellus Mater, Geb, and so on; and, even within certain pantheons, there’s multiple earth deities–in Greece, there’s Gaia, Rhea, and Demeter, and in Rome, there’s Tellus Mater, Ops, and Ceres, for example. Apart from the diversity both within and between these different theologies (i.e. sometimes it’s a god rather than a goddess, as in the case of Geb, etc.), there’s a kind of basic difference that has to do with geography. Now, apart from that meaning that, obviously, Greece is a different geographical area than Egypt and elsewhere, and thus the culture that sits there and grew up there is, thus, “in a different place” than the other ones, it has a more particular meaning where hard polytheism comes in. Gaia is “earth” insofar as it applies to Greek culture; Geb is “earth” as far as Egypt goes; and so forth. Each culture, in other words, understands “earth” in a divine manner through its own particular lens and filters, which may not necessarily apply in other places. Gaia doesn’t seem to mean as much in the desert sands of Egypt, for example, and thus that earth-goddess can’t exactly be said to be the earth-goddess of another place. (And, this is independent of individual territorial land deities, spirits, and so forth in each place as well–the “earth deity” is the deity of the largest possible size, as it were, and reflects the largest view of the cosmos and of the earth from the viewpoint of the culture concerned.)

      With something like Sirius, we’re in a somewhat better position to theorize this because of the reality that comes into viewing anything that is far away: parallax. If one person is standing some distance apart from another, and yet they’re viewing the same object at a further distance, it will necessarily appear in a different manner to each observer. Likewise with the deities involved in stars, and in particular with Sirius: one culture sees Loki, another sees Shiva, another sees Sothis, another Hermanubis, another Sirius or Maira, another Taliesin, etc. The persistent canid identifications with all of those, though, is very interesting, and that suggests something that does appear to transculturally underlie these perceptions of the same natural phenomenon…what, I’m not sure, but I don’t really think it suggests a soft polytheist “oneness” to all of those figures, since in Greece (for example), those are the hounds of heroes or heroines, in Egypt it’s a major (good!) goddess, and in Iceland it’s a major (not-always-good!) god, etc. So, even though there’s similarities involved, there’s also profound differences that come down to culture as well.

      While that may not be an appealing or useful set of understandings for you, does the way I’ve explained it at least make some sense? I hope so! ;)

  3. It makes sense, and to me speaks of one way of understanding the gods as an intersection of the geographic and the cultural, but then that feels too reductive. I suppose it becomes more confusing to me in this contemporary Neopagan context, when the Egyptian gods and I have a particular relationship but I could live down the street, or in the same house with, someone who relates more with the Greek pantheon, or some eclectic combination of groups.

    • Perhaps what someone needs to do–and maybe I will attempt it in a future post!–is sort of look at how following a particular tradition, or being in contact with certain deities from a culture, sort of makes one into an “ambassador” for them, but also an “embassy” for them, in both the classical sense but also the more modern sense, in that we then become a little bit of Egyptian (or Greek, or Roman, or Irish, or Icelandic, etc.) soil in our own person through which to interpret the actual soil beneath us, and the culture in which we find ourselves. Hmm…

  4. [...] because all of them rely on at least a few others, even for their very existence.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus on the virtues of polytheism.That’s all I have for now, have a great day!Filed Under: Paganism, Religion Tagged With: Dan [...]


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