Posted by: aediculaantinoi | April 18, 2014

Toward a Graeco-Egyptian Pantheon…?!?

The following is just crazy enough that it might make sense…or, at least it seems so to me in my current sick state. (!?!)

Reflecting to an extent on some things that Edward Butler said on Wyrd Ways Radio the other day, and likewise on some things he wrote elsewhere, I wonder if it might be possible to construct a Graeco-Egyptian pantheon (perhaps also incorporating Thracian and other elements as well), at least in a schematic fashion, that deals in particular with a lot of the syncretistic deities that emerge within it in an entirely novel fashion.

Take Athena-Neith here, for example:

Athena-Neith with Serapis

With this figure, I’m reminded of some of the Bulgarian Orthodox icons that show Jesus holding up a figure of Mary, as if he is the “father” of her rather than she being his mother. What we have here is Athena-Neith holding up Serapis. While Serapis doesn’t exactly “equal” Zeus, various things seem to go in that direction…but, what if Athena-Neith, in line with a role corresponding to Neith’s creatrix function, was in fact the mother of Serapis (corresponding to the more chthonic side of things, e.g. Osiris and Hades) and Sabazios (corresponding to the more heavenly side of things, e.g. Zeus)? Hmm…

Then, bring in some of the other figures, like Hermanubis and Harpocrates, and of course Isis…and further figures like Karpocrates (a “young Dionysos”-type syncretism)…And, something else I’ve seen recently, which I’ll try to get a scan of or something, are figures of Harpocrates, found in Antinoöpolis, which show him with a rather larger-than-you’d-expect penis (as in “dragging on the ground”): is this a kind of Harpocrates-Priapus, perhaps? And then, there’s Antinous himself, as much a super-syncretistic deity as Sabazios or Serapis, and rather directly related to both, in my opinion…

The whole point of this exercise, thus, being to envision these different syncretistic deities not as mere combinations of what came before, and thus carbon-copy repetitions of them (or, worse yet, as a kind of debasement and sanding out and watering down of the deities), but instead as separate (but related) beings. As Tamara Siuda also said on Wyrd Ways Radio a short while back, with syncretism one deity plus one deity doesn’t equal two, it equals three: each deity individually, and then the resulting combination. So, that means that Hermanubis isn’t just Hermes and Anubis, he’s something else altogether…

Well, in any case: something to keep my illness-addled brain busy for a few minutes, and the hours to come later today.

What do you think?


Responses

  1. That’s kind of what I was aiming for with Neos Alexandria but it ended up going in a different direction.

    • Yes…and, while some of the things going on there (and that have gone on there in the past) are certainly good, there is a bit too much of people still thinking in one-sided terms around all of this, and against syncretistic deities generally in the process of doing so. It’s a real pity that one of the potential overall results has been that missed as a result…but nonetheless, BA is doing a pretty good job generally in at least getting some things out there, and you’re responsible for starting that, so it’s something to be proud of!

  2. I think that one can definitely say that a Graeco-Egyptian pantheon developed over the course of antiquity. The minimal test for this, I’d say, is that one has deities like Serapis that simply can’t be assigned to either the Egyptian, or the Hellenic pantheon. A similar situation, perhaps, is found in the adoption, but with radical transformation, of Buddhist deities from India into Chinese polytheism. It’s this transformation and generativity that makes the difference, I think, between a real hybrid pantheon and a simpler translation relationship between pantheons. Of course, perhaps there’s really never such a thing as a simple translation relationship; maybe translation always involves hybridization, if one looks closely enough. (This is perhaps the appropriate rejoinder to the semanticizing move of certain scholars.)

    The “Athena-Neith” piece is so intriguing to me. To my knowledge, nothing has ever been found that’s labeled “Athena-Neith” or “Neith-Athena”, but the syncretism between them, famous, of course, from Plato’s Timaeus, seems to have become quite productive over time. On the Greek side, Pausanias refers to a temple of “Athena Saïtis” (Athena of Saïs) at Lerna, old enough to be in ruins by his day. We find Egyptian images of which it is quite futile to try to determine whether they depict Athena à la Neith, or Neith à la Athena. Kaper’s book on Tutu (http://books.google.com/books?id=kiQrO70c7nYC) discusses this syncretism more than any other source I’ve found. One of the interesting things about the particular image you reproduce is that she seems to be depicted as a child. This gives a palpable sense of a new creation in progress.

    • Indeed…there’s a profound amount to think about in relation to all of this. Thank you for, as ever, getting the ball rolling on the matter–and also for doing such an excellent job with the interview the other day! Required listening, as far as I’m concerned!

      And, thank you for the recommendation of the Kaper book–I’ll see if I can get a hold of it at some stage! Tutu/Tithoes is an important further (super-!)syncretistic deity to throw into the mix, certainly.

      • You’re very kind. I was just grateful not to have said anything that had me cringing afterward!


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