Apotheosis: Semele Thyone and The Upper and Lower Faces of Divinity

There is a difference between the way deities appear to one another and the way that they appear to us. The way that they appear to us is shaped by our expectations, the way we speak to them, and also by decisions that they make about what we are and are not ready for. The way deities see one another is shaped by their chosen role with respect to the pantheon they exist in, which is often far more complex than what any one human will see when they call that deity.

There is potentially great spiritual benefit in starting with the most comfortable face of a deity and shaping what we see to be more congruent with the higher nature of the deity.

By way of explaining this idea, I turn to the myth of Semele, as written by Nonnus. To orient you: Semele is the mother of Dionysos and a wife of Zeus (one of several). These two deities are her divine allies, and her divine antagonist is Hera, with whom she shares some personal traits, and whose dark reflection — pride and jealousy — she struggles with.

Where as Alcides is given the name Herakles when he is ready to pursue deification, Semele’s mythic persona is called Thyone. Thyone could be seen as a goddess of ecstatic revelry, and perhaps ecstatic trance states as well.

The Face Zeus Chose

[319] Now he leaned over the bed, with a horned head on human limbs, lowing with the voice of a bull, the very likeness of bullhorned Dionysos. Again, he put on a shaggy lion’s form; or he was a panther, as one who begets a bold son, driver of panthers and charioteer of lions. Again, as a young bridegroom he bound his hair with coiling snakes and vine-leaves intertwined, and twisted purple ivy about his locks, the plaited ornament of Bacchos. A writhing serpent crawled over the trembling bride and licked her rosy neck with gentle lips, then slipping into her bosom girdled the circuit of her firm breasts, hissing a wedding tune, and sprinkled her with sweet honey of the swarming bees instead of the viper’s deadly poison. Zeus made long wooing, and shouted “Euoi!” as if the winepress were near, as he begat his son who would love the cry. He pressed love-mad mouth to mouth, and beaded up delicious nectar, an intoxicating bedfellow for Semele, that she might bring forth a son to hold the sceptre of nectareal vintage. As a presage of things to come, he lifted the careforgetting grapes resting his laden arm on the firebringing fennel; or again, he lifted a thyrsus twined about with purple ivy, wearing a deerskin on his back – the lovesick wearer shook the dappled fawnskin with his left arm.

[344] All the earth laughed: a viny growth with self-sprouting leaves ran round Semele’s bed; the walls budded with flowers like a dewy meadow, at the begetting of Bromios; Zeus lurking inside rattled his thunderclaps over the unclouded bed, foretelling the drums of Dionysos in the night. — Dionysaica, Book 7.

Zeus is fairly multifaceted, but in this particular scene, we see a side of him rarely seen elsewhere: a god of intoxication, a god of ecstasy, a god of raw nature: animal, plant and thunderbolt. He made himself, in some ways, a reflection of the nascent Thyone, choosing an aspect of himself which was congruent with her nature.

In other words, Zeus chose to present himself in a way that would best help Semele to develop into the goddess she was meant to be. It was not the whole of Zeus, not his truest face, nor even an accurate representation of what is actually at the transcendent heart of Zeus, as a deity.

Semele knew it, and as we shall soon see, it is this which contributed to her downfall.

The Face of Zeus Semele Invoked

[333] “A fine wedding-fit you have found me – the sneers of women! The attendants about me slander me, and far above the rest I fear the rough tongue of this garrulous nurse. Remember who wove the wilywitted fate for Typhon, and brought back to you the stolen spark of your thunder! Show it to my father, who got it back, for old Cadmos demands of me a proof of your bed. Never yet have I seen the countenance of the true Cronion, never beheld the flashing gleam from his eyelids, or the rays from his face, or the lustrous beard! Your Olympian shape I have never seen, but I expect a panther or lion – I have seen no god as a husband. I see you something mortal, and I am to bring forth a god! Yet I heave heard of another fiery wedding: did not Helios embrace his bride Clymene with fiery nuptials?”

[348] Thus Semele prayed for her own fate: the shortlived bride hoped to be equal to Hera, and to see at her nuptials the spark of the thunderbolt gentle and peaceful.” — Nonnus, Dionysiaca, Book 8

“You Olympian shape I have not seen,” says Semele.

She’s right. She isn’t seeing Zeus the way other deities see him. She is seeing him only as he has thus far presented himself, a near-reflection of Thyone, her mythic self. Being who she is, she wants all of the revelation right now. 

More than that, she isn’t contented to glimpse the raw power of Zeus, she wants to show it to other people. She wants the ceaseless mockery and skepticism that she faces to stop, and to make everyone shut up about how she “really” got pregnant. In all of this, I can’t help but think of the plight of god spouses in the modern day, and the throngs of people looking to somehow disprove or dismiss this phenomenon. Nothing has changed, apparently, but if you follow the Hellenic tradition, this story is ammo.

So Semele tries to speak what is a sort of invocation of the true, Olympian Zeus.

Indulge me as I talk about the power of words, and how much more important they are than intentions, when you are calling a deity into manifestation. Words shape the way you think. They shape your expectations.

She calls Zeus: His Spark, His Flashing Gleam, His Rays of Light, His Luster, Fiery Zeus. She is then, in short order, burned to ashes.

Curiously, what she calls isn’t really any closer to being who Zeus really is than what she was getting previously. It was simply what her jealousy and desire for being exalted prompted her to imagine: the most powerful, intense, ‘real’ and tangible thing possible.

We do, in a very similar way, get people who need their experiences of the gods to be painful, overwhelming or oppressive in order to feel that those experiences are legitimate. They may not articulate it in this way, but the degree of attention given to unpleasant experiences as opposed to gentler and fulfilling ones that further our spiritual development is well documented. The latter too often gets an eye-roll. We don’t want that. Like Semele, we want people to believe that these experiences we are having are real. Being spiritually invalidated hurts.

[351] Father Zeus heard, and blamed the jealous Portioners, and pities Semele so soon to die; but he understood the scheming resentment of implacable Hera against Bacchos. Then he ordered Hermes to catch up his newborn son out of the thunderfire when it should strike Thyone. He spoke thus in answer to the highheaded girl: “Wife, the jealous mind of Hera has deceived you by a trick. Do you really think, wife, that my thunders are gentle? Be patient until another time, for now you carry a child. Be patient until next time, and first bring forth my son. Do not demand from me the murderous fire before that birth. I had no lightning in my hand when I took Danaë’s maidenhood; no booming thunder, no thunderbolts celebrated my union with your Europa, the Tyrian bride; the Inachian heifer saw no flames: you alone, a mortal, demand from me what a goddess Leto did not ask.” — Nonnus, Dionysiaca, Book 8

Semele’s death was partly caused by Hera’s goading, but truly, Hera’s words to Semele would have had no sting if Semele had not been sneered at by everyone, including her own father who, himself, married a deity. She, in turn, began to doubt her own relationship with Zeus, and wanted to see who her husband really was.

Importantly, this is a feature found in the other godspouse apotheosis narrative: the tale of Psyche.

This was carried out at once, and those splendid sisters then made their way home. They were now gnawed with the bile of growing envy, and repeatedly exchanged loud-voiced complaints.

One of them began: ‘Fortuna [Tykhe, Fortune], how blind and harsh and unjust you are! Was it your pleasure that we, daughters of the same parents, should endure so different a fate? Here we are, her elder sisters, nothing better than maidservants to foreign husbands, banished form home and even from our native land, living like exiles far from our parents, while Psyche, the youngest and last offspring of our mother’s weary womb, has obtained all this wealth, and a god for a husband! She has not even a notion of how to enjoy such abundant blessings. Did you notice, sister, the quantity and quality of the precious stones lying in the house, the gleaming garments, the sparkling jewels, the gold lying beneath our feet and all over the house? If she has as handsome a husband as she claims, no woman living in the whole world is more blessed. Perhaps as their intimacy continues and their love grows stronger, her god-husband will make her divine as well. That’s how things are, mark my words; she was putting on such airs and graces! She’s now so high and mighty, behaving like a goddess, with those voices serving her needs, and Winds obeying her commands! Whereas my life’s a hell; to begin with, I have a husband older than my father. He’s balder than an onion as well, and he hasn’t the virility of an infant. And he keeps our house barricaded with bards and chains.’
The other took up the grumbling. ‘I have to put up with a husband crippled and bent with rheumatism, so that he can succumb to my charms only once in a blue moon. I spent almost all my day rubbing his fingers, which are twisted and hard as flint, and burning these soft hands of mine on reeking poultices, filthy bandages, and smelly plasters. I’m a slaving nursing attendant, not a dutiful wife. You must decide for yourself, sister, how patiently or–let me express myself frankly–how menially you intent to bear the situation; I can’t brook any longer the thought of this undeserving girl falling on her feet like this. Just recall how disdainfully and haughtily she treated us, how swollen-headed she’d become with her boasting and her immodest vulgar display, how she reluctantly threw at us a few trinkets from that mass of riches, and then at once ordered us to be thrown out, whisked away, sent off with the Wind because she found our presence tedious! As sure as I’m a woman, as sure as I’m standing here, I’m going to propel her headlong off that heap of riches! If the insulting way she’s treated us has needled you as well, as it certainly should have, we must work out an effective plan together. We must not show the gifts in our possession to our parents or anyone else. We must not even betray the slightest awareness that she’s alive. It’s bad enough that we’ve witnessed the sorry situation ourselves, without our having to spread the glad news to our parents and the whole world at large. People aren’t really fortunate if no one knows of their riches. She’ll realize that she’s got elder sisters, not maid-servants. So let us now go back to our husbands and homes, which may be poor but are honest. Then, when we have given the matter deeper thought, we must go back more determined to punish her arrogance.’ — Apuleius, The Golden Ass

This jealousy, and the sisters’ subsequent evil counsel, is what ultimately causes Psyche to doubt Eros, and ultimately betray him.

A moral to this story is: when mortals take it upon themselves to judge the arrogance of other mortals, rather than leaving this solemn duty in the hands of the deities themselves, they cause much purposeless misery for the deities involved. Such accusations are more frequently rooted in the accuser’s jealousy or insecurity than they are in any actual wrong-doing. 

So, yeah. Being a dick to godspouses is essentially the same as being a dick to the deity they are married to. So don’t do that.

The Apotheosis of Semele, and the Faces of Zeus

Many people talk about Semele’s Hubris in connection with this story. I want to point out, though, that being immolated is a common feature in apotheosis narratives, and that Semele is ultimately brought up to Olympos and honored as a deity in her own right. If you want to choose a story to show why you should be less arrogant with mysticism, Semele is sort of a bad choice.

Unlike the ordinary hearth fire which Demophon was placed in, or the funeral pyre which Herakles lit for himself, Semele is burned up directly by Zeus’ divine power. Semele very literally went out in a blaze of glory. 

Here, once Zeus has given up hope, he calls Hermes to snatch up his brother.

[351] Father Zeus heard, and blamed the jealous Portioners, and pities Semele so soon to die; but he understood the scheming resentment of implacable Hera against Bacchos. Then he ordered Hermes to catch up his newborn son out of the thunderfire when it should strike Thyone. — Nonnus, Dionysiaca, Book 8

This is the first time, other than in the traditional plea to the Muses for inspiration, that Semele is called Thyone in this text. This makes sense to me. Obviously, she has had a very intimate relationship with a deity, has imbibed a great deal of that energy, and through intense and intimate communion with a deity, her Mythic Persona has been very well developed.

More than that, I interpret that the lightning did not strike Semele’s physical body. Rather, only because she was already attuned to Zeus’s energy, only because she had such a well-developed mythic persona, could she receive the killing fires. She had to exist in Zeus’s world in order to be influenced by him. When Thyone received that divine fire, Semele, or the mortal persona, was reduced to smoldering ash.

[389] So she spoke in her pride, and would have grasped the deadly lightning in her own hands – she touched the destroying thunderbolts with daring palm, careless of Fate. Then Semele’s wedding was her death, and in its celebration the Avenging Spirit made her bower serve for pyre and tomb. Zeus had no mercy; the breath of the bridal thunder with its fires of delivery burnt her all to ashes.

[396] Lightning was the midwife, thunder our Lady of childbed; the heavenly flames had mercy, and delivered Bacchos struggling from the mother’s burning lap when the married life was withered by the mothermurdering flash; the thunders tempered their breath to bathe the babe, untimely born but unhurt. Semele saw her fiery end, and perished rejoicing in a childbearing death. — Ibid.

So, a couple of things, here.

Zeus had a choice about how to present himself. He was not the unrestrained volcano who was just so powerful that he lava’ed all over his beloved, just by virtue of proximity. Greek deities are powerful, yes, but we need to remember that they are not ignorant or clumsy. Zeus had carefully constructed something safe for her, something actually beneficial for her spiritual development. He had every expectation that he could marry this woman, have an ongoing relationship with her,  and conceive a child without any ill effects.

He did not want to present himself in a way that hurt Semele, but he promised, and then he had no choice. Because of the nature of their relationship, he was compelled to appear exactly as she asked.

Metaphysical Notions

An unbridled experience of the divine can destroy us, but it can also deify us. The pure essence of divinity can kill us, if we take in more than we are ready for, but little dribs and drabs over time prepare us for immortality without incinerating everything all at once.

A deity has many faces. Not all are congruent with their highest nature. The upper face of divinity has to do with the role that a deity plays with respect to their pantheon or the cosmos, generally. The lower face of divinity is what myth describes: a thing comprised of energies and symbols.  The divine influx comes from the upper face of divinity, and flows through the lower face to us, allowing us to receive that influx and draw ourself up, or out, or toward their reality.

Because of the way we work with our deities, we sometimes drag the way that they manifest for us off-course. We see Semele doing this when she asks specifically for all of the incendiary aspects of Zeus to manifest for her, which he warns her extensively is a terrible idea.

I conjecture that the ideal way to go about developing a relationship with a deity is to begin with the aspect that feels most comfortable, to identify the higher nature of the deity, or their role in the universe/pantheon, and lastly to work toward building a better connection between our personal face of the deity (indeed, it seems that the face of Zeus Semele received was designed specifically for her), and the higher nature of that deity. It is this which will allow us to gradually acquire the divine influx, rather than being reduced to ashes by it.

This idea of an upper and lower mythic reality seems to resonate to things I discovered in my study of the Mithras Liturgy.

The aspects of deities are often called by their qualities, or their titles and epithets. It seems like a good path forward from here would be to craft a ritual that describes the anatomy of the situation, and the direction we intend to drag it in. That would, in turn, be another tool for developing more beneficial and accurate gnostic experiences with deities.

32 comments

  1. moonfire2012

    This was very enlightening to read. Its interesting that some behaviors dont change over the eons. Ive been thinking a lot about the concept of divine natures and their many aspects lately. Even before I read this, I knew I would never want to summon Loki as Worldbreaker, His firey, destructive nature, to see His “true” self. I have asked Him to appear and interact with me in an appealing, recognizable form, which He usually does unless He is trolling me. People dont realize there is power in the gentle, in the less destructive but still primal forms. Mostly, I connect with Loki strongest by feeling His presence, when I cant see Him. I agree on not being a dick to other godspouses, but some of them DO have big egos and act cliquish. They befriend those they want and treat the rest only with politeness, taking away even that if you say the wrong thing or offend them even in the slightest way. This usually goes with the attitude that they are the god’s favorites. They get the most loving, most erotic and exciting parts of the god while less favored ones get the crumbs that fall from the table. Actions speak louder than words, thankfully, especially when said god contradicts what the others proclaim and gives you more love than they think you deserve. But I have taken the high road and let Loki deal with any problems instead of me arguing with them. I dont want to make the same mistake Psyche’s jealous sister did and make it worse. I also would have dumped the loser mortal husbands, but thats just me;)

    • Sebastian Lokason

      “People dont realize there is power in the gentle, in the less destructive but still primal forms.”

      This. I have had some terrifying experiences with the gods, to be sure, but the ones that have left the biggest impact on me have been moments of kindness, of trust, of love. I think we have a real serious problem in the polytheist community (and especially where devotional polytheism and spirit-work overlaps) of seeing ordeal work and the Kill You and Eat You sides of the gods as somehow “more” legitimate and people who get kinder, gentler deities or kinder, gentler experiences with said Kill You and Eat You deities as “less” legitimate; there is this attitude that if you’re not trembling with fear every time you deal with a god, you must somehow be fluffy. Meanwhile I have always looked at the “look at how spooky and ultra-serious and hardcore I am, look at how scary my Powers are” routine as a bit of attention-whoring and hyperbole. And I say this as someone who works with Very Dark Gods (TM) and sees faces of them that aren’t so dark (while I’ve also seen their darkness). We as a community need to stop dismissing people who walk with the gods and who have a “lighter” and less ordeal-y walk with them – I highly doubt that every ancient polytheist was some sort of hardcore ordeal worker, yanno?

      • moonfire2012

        Exactly. I want to add that the corporate gods of modern civilization put us through enough daily ordeals, so the old Gods know this and do t want to add to it.

  2. Beth

    Reblogged this on Wytch of the North and commented:
    Just as with Thenea’s previous posts on this topic, this is quite amazing. It speaks to me on a number of levels, particularly this, which has some relevance to why *my* Odin is the way He is: >>Zeus chose to present himself in a way that would best help Semele to develop into the goddess she was meant to be. It was not the whole of Zeus, not his truest face, nor even an accurate representation of what is actually at the transcendent heart of Zeus, as a deity.>> Uncomfortably true, but yes.

    • moonfire2012

      I was taught when I used to be christian “we see through a mirror darkly” as regards to the Divine”s true and highest nature. That we can only experience certain aspects of it while mortal because basically otherwise it would kill us. When we ascend to higher natures ourselves, we will be able to handle far more of the Powers’ true natures. I. believe this applies to all of Them.

  3. Heather Freysdottir

    “Zeus is fairly multifaceted, but in this particular scene, we see a side of him rarely seen elsewhere: a god of intoxication, a god of ecstasy, a god of raw nature: animal, plant and thunderbolt. He made himself, in some ways, a reflection of the nascent Thyone, choosing an aspect of himself which was congruent with her nature.

    In other words, Zeus chose to present himself in a way that would best help Semele to develop into the goddess she was meant to be. It was not the whole of Zeus, not his truest face, nor even an accurate representation of what is actually at the transcendent heart of Zeus, as a deity.”

    In light of many of my experiences with Loki, this absolutely fascinates me. May I contact you privately, Thenea?

  4. moonfire2012

    I wanted to ask if I may contact you privately also. I have a couple of questions, and experiences to share regarding deification.

  5. Sebastian Lokason

    “A moral to this story is: when mortals take it upon themselves to judge the arrogance of other mortals, rather than leaving this solemn duty in the hands of the deities themselves, they cause much purposeless misery for the deities involved. Such accusations are more frequently rooted in the accuser’s jealousy or insecurity than they are in any actual wrong-doing. ”

    I have a stalker (I won’t even use the word “troll” at this point) who is fond of accusing me of “hubris” because I offer professional channeling/”godphoning” services and I can’t *~really know the mind of a god~*. Except said person inquired about my services with perceived interest in purchasing them (I have screenshots of her inquiries), before she was outed to be a noxious troll, and the thing is, she claims to be a Hellenic Pagan, and to my understanding oracular work was A BIG THING in ancient Greece. It’s been my observation over my years as a polytheist that when someone throws around the word “hubris” at other Pagans and polytheists, they are the most guilty of it themselves, because that’s for the gods to judge, not for mortals to judge. My concern is my own devotional life, I do not take it upon myself to police the devotional life of others, not just because of this, but because I am too busy attending to my own devotional life to even care if others are “doing it wrong” or not and especially not to point it out to them if I think they are; if someone accuses me of “hubris” it not only tells me they’re an arrogant shite, but that they clearly aren’t busy enough attending to their own gods and their own devotions and ought to first look in the mirror.

    I also agree that the gods tend to use a “volume control” when they deal with us depending on where we’re at, at the time.

    Good post, as usual 🙂

    • Thenea

      “My concern is my own devotional life, I do not take it upon myself to police the devotional life of others, not just because of this, but because I am too busy attending to my own devotional life to even care if others are “doing it wrong” or not and especially not to point it out to them if I think they are; if someone accuses me of “hubris” it not only tells me they’re an arrogant shite, but that they clearly aren’t busy enough attending to their own gods and their own devotions”

      Yes. Yes. Yes.

      I mean, it’s competition that’s behind it, right?

      Devotion is not a zero-sum game. Someone else’s powerful relationship with a deity isn’t subtracting potential. In fact, if you ask me, it’s adding it. Deities expand to fill whatever space we give them in our world, or in our hearts.

      When we divide our communities through competition, we are not getting closer to the gods. That’s just not how that works. Those same women sneering at Semele could have easily invoked Zeus and hymned his manly beauty, dancing in the blood of freshly slaughtered cattle, and also been wives or consorts of Zeus. I mean, the guy gets around. He has not been known to be like, “Oh. Sex? No thanks.” But instead, they chose to mock someone who had that experience. The end result? No one remembers their names. If a person, in the religious sphere, prioritizes human recognition over divine love, they will most likely have neither.

      Kind of stream of consciousness: There is no shame in being the person who loves first, or recognizes love first, in a relationship with a deity. There is not less honor in committing yourself to winning a deity’s love. The love you get is not some fixed amount. You can start with no relationship at all with a deity, and end up someplace really wonderful. Or you can start with a really strong connection to a deity, and it might go nowhere. It’s all about the work that you put into the relationship. If you happen to have started from nothing with a deity, you are, in many ways, better able to help others to build a relationship with them.

      • Sebastian Lokason

        I have never understood the tendency of people to compete with each other over who’s more devoted, and particularly the mockery of godspouses. I say this as a godspouse, so I’m a bit biased. Do the gods not deserve love, themselves? When someone mocks a godspouse for being a godspouse, this is what I’m hearing: “A god is just a Job and not a person and doesn’t deserve to be loved, appreciated, and given succor and comfort.” It doesn’t compute to me. I would think that a Very Important Person with a Very Important Job To Do would need more love and emotional support, not less.

    • Thenea

      Separated for organizational purposes: “to my understanding oracular work was A BIG THING in ancient Greece.”

      Yes. Very much yes. There was this place called Delphi? Also, the Heirophantos of the Eleusinian Mysteries was an oracle. And oracles did not oracle for free, either.

      I think the thing is, in modern Hellenic religion, that oracular work is associated with titles and offices. To oracle, as a Hellenic Pagan, is often perceived as raising yourself up over other people. I see comments like, “So and So thinks she is the freaking Pythia.” Essentially saying, “We should get to choose who our leaders are. You do not get to appoint yourself.”

      Oracular work and authority are often conflated, so everyone wants to do it, and no one wants anyone else to do it. Which is silly.

      There is no longer a religion of the state. There is no longer THE Pythia, or a temple at Delphi to house her trance states. This is an age of many Pythias. It is an age of many Heirophants. People need to chill. There’s a lot of work to be done. We aren’t going to run out of important roles to be filled.

      • Sebastian Lokason

        The other thing that’s worth mentioning in this context is: I am not a Hellenic Pagan. I sometimes “godphone” for the Hellenic gods, and I have friendly relationships with them, but my “home base” so to speak is with the Norse pantheon and the infernals. One of the problems I’ve noticed in the polytheist community (not saying *you’re* doing this, I’m just talking about the community in general and some people out there) is a tendency to judge everyone by the standards of one pantheon/culture. For example, just because something applied in ancient Norse culture and with the Norse gods doesn’t mean it would apply all across the board: I can make fun of Loki (my father) for tying his balls to a goat and getting it on with a horse, but I don’t make fun of Zeus for changing himself into various animal forms and having relations in said form, because Loki and Zeus have two very different personalities (putting it _mildly_). Because of the assortment of gods that I deal with in a professional capacity, I very much understand about “code-switching” between pantheons and cultures, but unfortunately there are polytheists out there who seem to not understand that their concept of “hubris” doesn’t necessarily apply where I’m from (nor should it really apply in the first place; to accuse someone else of hubris is, well, the height of hubris, and if a person has to start their sentence off with “I have the humility to…” they clearly don’t).

        That said, yes, what you said about Hellenic Paganism not being a religion of the state. *nods vehemently* And, I have never considered myself an authority on anything, just because I can godphone. I didn’t ask to have this ability, it just happened, and They told me to use it. It’s a lot of work, it’s not glamorous work, and it is often exhausting. I don’t think I’m a Pythia, I’m just this dude who got roped into something I didn’t sign up for, and I didn’t say no because I understand there’s a need for it.

      • Thenea

        The idea you bring up about “home base” is very important. I know some Vanatru folks who work with Greek deities, and I don’t think it works the same way for them as for me.

        I think that when deities enter into a different pantheon’s space, it’s a hospitality situation. They respect the philosophies, rituals and ethics of the place they are visiting.

        Even if I were to work with Norse deities, it wouldn’t make me a Heathen. That’s not my home base. The rules about how divine relationships work, on a more general level, will tend to follow Mediterranean rules, rather than Northern ones. That doesn’t mean that I don’t owe a foreign deity respect, or that I should not consider their personality when speaking to them. It really just means that my extensive work with the Mediterranean powers is going to color the way I work with deities, no matter where they come from.

        Followers of Team Norse certainly have some concept of what arrogance is and what it means, but it’s not nearly the same. Norse deities are not obsessed with humility. Greek deities understand that, and if you home base is with the Norse, they realize that they can’t apply their Greek standards to you.

        Likewise, Greek deities may call you to their service, or to their bed. However, it’s not the same as with the Norse Pantheon, where Odin and Freya are building armies for Ragnarok, or collecting the souls of the battle-slain.

        Norse deities probably would not call someone whose home base was Hellenic Paganism for their fiefdoms. It would be rude to the Hellenic Pantheon.

        It’s for this reason that I really think that each Polytheistic tradition needs its own ritual tech. The way the metaphysical universe responds to someone from one trad is going to be non-identical to the way it responds to someone from another trad. The spiritual principles are different in each religion.

        You can use Heathen or Christian or African techniques to commune with Hellenic deities, but porting those techniques over into the Hellenic tradition is non-ideal.

  6. Narda Fenrirsson

    Reblogged this on Keeper of my Keys and commented:
    “I conjecture that the ideal way to go about developing a relationship with a deity is to begin with the aspect that feels most comfortable, to identify the higher nature of the deity, or their role in the universe/pantheon, and lastly to work toward building a better connection between our personal face of the deity (indeed, it seems that the face of Zeus Semele received was designed specifically for her), and the higher nature of that deity. It is this which will allow us to gradually acquire the divine influx, rather than being reduced to ashes by it.”

    Of all the good bits in this post, this one is jumping out the most right now.

  7. aediculaantinoi

    Not surprisingly, this intrigues me greatly…

    There’s so much more in the myths that everyone knows (so to speak) about apotheosis than people have perhaps realized previously, so I am thankful to you for drawing this out. People treat apotheosis as this weird and bizarre thing so often in my experience…but perhaps because in my own case, it’s with an historical personage that everyone agrees existed, and we know what he looked like, rather than figures like Semele/Thyone, Ariadne, Psyche, and the like. Double standards much? Meh…

    • Thenea

      I feel like people have cognitive dissonance with apotheosis narratives because it contradicts with the slightly more popular view of divinities as vast, inhuman, far-distant beings who basically do not care about humans very much, but who we slap human-ish faces on to comfort ourselves.

      It is difficult to hold, side by side, the belief that deities are distant, incomprehensible beings beyond human ken, and the belief that a human can become a deity.

      The belief in apotheosis inherently humanizes divinity. It argues that the gods are more human-like, less incomprehensible, far more able to empathize with us, far more likely to care. It necessitates a belief in deities who are willing to share power with human beings.

      I think that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

      We talk much more about deities like Ariadne and Psyche precisely because it’s easier to gloss over the apotheosis thing, and say “Oh, this is clearly a metaphor” or “Oh, Ariadne was an earlier deity.”

      When you’ve got this historical evidence that an actual living person is deified, it’s harder to gloss. People either have to accept that their Volcano Narrative of divinity might be somewhat incomplete, or just not give too much thought to the deity.

      • aediculaantinoi

        Yes, indeed. *nods vigorously*

        I am also both amused and dismayed that often, those who are most vocal about the inhuman, before-time-existed nature of Deities are also often deeply involved in theurgy and/or (neo)platonism…and yet, they’re also often strangely silent about apotheosis, when in fact that’s the expected result of a theurgic life well-lived, and the goal of Egyptian (and later Graeco-Egyptian) devotional practices as well. That particular cognitive dissonance really throws me…

      • Thenea

        The fact that Platonists think that way, I can’t account for. However, a lot of Theurgs take too much philosophy from the Golden Dawn and derivative systems. In the original streams of them, we’re talking about monotheistic mysticism, heavily influenced by Deism (Masonic influence, there).

        In these traditions, understandably, the deity in question *is* the sort of “before time began” kind of entity, who takes a universal, rather than personal view of the world. The deity is uninvolved. It does not reach down to people, rather, people must simply know where to tug, to pull themselves into alignment with it, and thereby to become more perfect and powerful.

        In these traditions, heavily influenced by Christianity, immortality of the soul is taken as a given. The question isn’t whether your soul will continue to exist and have experiences, but rather, what kind of experiences those will be. There is no apotheosis in Deism or Monotheism, because there was one job opening, and it’s already been filled. Rather, the goal is something rather different — to burn away the differences between yourself and the deity, sometimes called “Being unified with Christ-Consciousness.” The path I see laid out in the Greco-Roman apotheosis narratives is one where the person is put through hell in order to find out what makes them truly, spiritually unique. The goals are, in my view, opposite.

        In some ways, I see a lot of ideas, and even rituals, ported straight over to Polytheism from the “WMT” (often code for GD trads) — the timeless, impersonal deity, the notion that the deity will have to break you in order to make you whole, that you need to experience ego-death in order to truly serve the deity with the whole of your being, sacrificing everything that stands between you and that goal.

        And that can be ok, as long as we’re all cognizant of this fact, and aware that the position that these people are taking isn’t how most ancient Polytheists viewed things (which was more based on reciprocity than the unidirectional service to an indifferent power), and that the experiences that will be had of deities practicing in this way will be substantially different from the way they are experienced when one’s practice is more rooted in the symbolism, myth and theology of the original religion.

      • aediculaantinoi

        Yes…theurgy doesn’t have to be that way, but for these folks, GD stuff is definitely in the background pretty heavily, and for all that some of them castigate many for not abandoning their Christian baggage, they don’t seem to see the problem with the monistic assumptions (and their obvious derivations!) occurring in all this.

  8. Pingback: Apotheosis Practices: Creating a Ritual To Unify Divine Aspects, Part 1 | Magick From Scratch
  9. Pingback: A Theurgic Devotional Ceremony For Unifying The Faces of Your Deity | Magick From Scratch

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