xenios zeus

A note about Zeus

I’ve mentioned this before, but Zeus is one of my favorite gods. I know that many people might be puzzled by this. For many people Zeus is the god you either condemn for his infidelity or just laugh at. I can certainly see where these people are coming from, but I see him differently.

If you are just looking at the myths, you might get wonder why any woman would want to worship him. As a counterexample I want to name Aeschylos’s play The Suppliants. In this play, 50 sisters are fleeing from Egypt to escape a forced marriage to their cousins. In Argos, a city in Greece, they ask the king to protect them. And it is made very explicit that the king is obligated to help them if he doesn’t want to arouse the anger of Zeus. In ancient Greek religion Zeus was, among other things, the protector of refugees. So here you can see Zeus as a protector of women!

I love that Zeus, the most powerful of all the gods, protects those who have no one else, like refugees (as Zeus Hikesios, Zeus of the Suppliants) and strangers (As Zeus Xenios, Zeus the friend of strangers).

Now this is my own personal interpretation, but you could also look at his many illegitimate children this way. Children born out of wedlock were (and in some places still are) outcasts. Zeus is very closely connected to them and in a sense, to mankind in general.

I think this is a very comforting thought.

I want to make one thing very clear though: I have no problem with people disagreeing with me on this. If you don’t like Zeus, that’s totally fine. And if you like joking about his infidelity, that’s okay too. I myself have shared a few of these jokes on my blog because I thought they were very funny.

My issue is not that people are criticizing him. I actually think this is important. There is a lot to criticize about his portrayal in the myths. My issue is that the criticism is making up an overwhelming majority and that some people seem to reduce him just to that. “Zeus is an adulterer and that’s all I need to know because what else is there, right” seems to be a widespread attitude. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the “All problems in Greek mythology were caused because Zeus put his dick in something” meme and sadly some people don’t take this as a joke but think that to be true.

So yeah, I’ve already made several posts in defense of Zeus, but I think they are important.

An Introduction to Epithets

Culturally, we probably know the Greek gods better than any other pantheon. We can attribute this in part to artists and poets–Byron and his crew loved our gods and loved to write for them, and I think I’ve seen more art depicting Aphrodite than I have any other individual, immortal or otherwise.

We know them by their ancient names: Athena, Zeus, Persephone.

The ancients, however, knew them by other names as well. Zeus was Zeus, of course. But Zeus was also Zeus Maimaktes. He was Zeus Xenios. He was Zeus Meilichios. He was Zeus Teleios, Zeus Ktesios, Zeus Polieus.

Some epithets are functional. Zeus Maimaktes, or “Blustering Zeus,” reminds us that he is a storm god. Zeus Xenions, “Zeus of the Stranger,” is concerned with hospitality above all, with how visitors and guests are treated by a community. Another civic-minded form of Zeus is that of Zeus Polieus, or “Zeus of the City,” whose concern was the safety of the polis or city. Zeus Meilichios, “Kindly Zeus,” is a household god who helps maintain the prosperity of a home and is often represented by a snake. Another household Zeus also represented in this way is Zeus Ktesios or “Zeus of Household Property” who is the provider of abundance in a household’s larder. Zeus Teleios–“Zeus of Marriage”–and his counterpart Hera Teleia were honored together in their roles as protectors of the marriage bond.

Other epithets referred to a particular location where the deity was worshipped. This wasn’t simply a matter of emphasizing the god’s attachment to the local area. Sometimes a regional difference was considerable–Artemis in Ephesus, for example, was represented far differently than Artemis in the rest of Greece.

In most of the ancient Greek world, Artemis was most often depicted as an athletic young woman, dressed for the hunt, possibly accompanied by the animals, such as the deer, under her protection. In Ephesus, however, the most common depiction was very ancient and very unique–that of a more mature, statuesque woman wearing a tall crown and decorated with rounded objects that have been variously identified as breasts or eggs; she, too, is typically associated with wild beasts.

It is uncertain how closely the ancients associated a deity under one epithet with the same deity under another name–Artemis in Ephesus again being a good example of the differences that could exist. Did they think of Zeus Meilichios as the “same guy” as the Olympian Zeus of myth and drama? Again, I don’t know. I do know that when you called him Zeus Meilichios, he was given different treatment in a different venue, received different offerings, and was often perceived as manifesting in a different form. But does taking the appearance of a snake make Zeus someone other than Zeus? Leda and Europa, who knew him as a swan and a bull respectively, would beg to differ.

As a modern polytheist, I think that’s something we have to decide for ourselves as individuals. I don’t think the use of epithets is required in order to honor the gods, but it can add to our practice and to our understanding of deity.

anonymous asked:

Is guest right a thing any where in history? I understand the historical precedence for condemning kin slaying, but is breaking guest right as terrible in real world history or is that a unique part of ASOIAF?


In many premodern cultures, guest right was considered sacred and breaking it was right up there with matricide or patricide in terms of crimes against the natural order set down by the gods. In Greco-Roman culture, for example, the right of xenia or hospitium was enforced by Zeus/Jupiter in his role as Zeus Xenios. Zeus would enforce this by disguising himself as a beggar (sometimes Hermes/Mercury would hang out with him, as he was the patron god of travelers) and then showing up to people’s houses, punishing people who turned him away and rewarding the generous. 

Ovid formalized this tale in his Metamorphoses, where he tells the story of  Baucis and Philemon, who take in Jupiter and Mercury and treat them generously while their rich neighbors bar their doors. In return for their generosity, Jupiter and Mercury spare them from a flood that wipes out the entire town for failing their duty of xenia. 

Likewise, a lot of Greek tragedies have their roots in breaches of hospitality. The fall of the House of Atreus is littered with murdered guests and guests being unwittingly offered human flesh, the Acheans during the Trojan War have the support of Zeus because Paris abducted Helen while a guest under Menelaus’ roof, Penelope’s suitors in the Oddessy die because they have abused the right of hospitality. 

And you see this in other cultures too - in Norse mythology, Odin/Woden frequently disguises himself as a traveller and shows up at the front door of King Geirodd to test him. Geirodd, being a sadistic bastard, has his guest chained between the two fires of his hearth to torture him and refuses him food or drink. Geirodd’s son takes pity on the traveler and gives him food and drink. Odin reveals himself, slays the wicked king, and elevates the son in his place.  (btw, Tolkein totally stole his look for Gandalf)

You can find very similar stories in Celtic myths, and in the Upanishads of Hinduism, where the maxim “Atithi Devo Bhava” means “the guest is god.” 

Guest-right is not GRRM’s invention.

iris-has-a-hippie-blog  asked:

So, you know how Haides is often referred to as The Rich One? Do any of the other gods have a name like that? Specifically Aphrodite. I've seen lady if Cythera and Lady of Cyprus, but no one seems to use those.

Other Gods certainly have those! They are called ‘epithets’ and are actually pretty prevalent. An epithet is an attachment to the name of a God or Goddess, used to indicate either a specific domain of the Deity, a specific origin myth or region from which the Deity came, or an entirely different entity, through either domain or origin.    An example: Aphrodite is the Goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. She’s either born from Zeus as His daughter or from the sea foam after Kronos castrated His father Ouranos. In the latter case, Aphrodite is the daughter of Ouranos, a Titan and a half-sister to Zeus. some historians claim Aphrodite was actually an imported Goddess (hence the different creation myths) and used to be a Goddess of war. Some of Aphrodite’s epithets include:   Aphrodite Paphos - Aphrodite of Paphos Aphrodite Diôniaia - Daughter of Dione, daughter of Zeus Aphrodite Anadyomenê - Risen from the sea Aphrodite  Aphrodite Philommeides - Laughter-loving Aphrodite Aphrodite Areia - Warlike Aphrodite   Epithets serve(d) either a ritualistic function or a literary on; hymns and chants are used in both aspects of Hellenismos and in both, destinctions are made between the various epithets of the Gods.    Within ritual, epithets are used out of respect, devotion, and out of practicality. It’s seen as respectful to address the Gods by their various names. It shows you are aware of the mythology and history of the Gods as well as the domains They influence. As for the practical; well, some Gods rule over a variety of domains. Zeus, for example, guards travelers in His epithet of Zeus Xenios but is seen as the bringer of storm-clouds in his epithet of Zeus Ombrios. It’s rather obvious, but getting rained upon is probably not what you were after when asking Zeus for aid on your journey.   Within poetry, epithets are used out of respect, as clarification and to add some flair to the prose written. Certain forms of poetry relied on a set amount of syllables or words to work. Inserting an epithet helped fill the lines so they adhered to poetic rules. When reciting poetry, poets also added epithets to fill in a part of the poetry they had forgotten or to give them some time to remember the next line.    Within polytheism, epithets are of great interest. A short—and VERY generalized—introduction on polytheism for those who are unsure of its meaning; there are two, or three, branches of polytheism; soft polytheism, hard polytheism and somewhere in the middle, is middle polytheism. Soft polytheists believe that Gods with similar portfolios are the same God(dess). An example; Athena, Brighid, Sarasvati, Neith and Minerva rule the virtue of wisdom in their respective pantheons. For soft polytheists, this means they are the same Deity with different faces for each pantheon. Middle polytheists believe that some of these faces belong to the same Deity but definitely not all. Athena and Minerva are the same Goddesses but Brighid, Sarasvati and Neith are so different from each other, as well as from Athena and Minerva, that They can’t be the same. Hard polytheists belief that each and every God and Goddess is a separate entity with His or her own powers, lives and story.   Epithets within polytheism pose a challenge; are all epithets different Gods or different faces of the same God(dess)? I belief Aphrodite Diôniaia and Aphrodite Anadyomenê were originally different Goddesses (although later conflated) but the epithet Aphrodite Philommeides could be applied to both and was never a distinct Goddess. I have no set rule for this; it’s a matter of feeling and mythology. Practically, this destination would mean I would say either this:   “Oh, blessed Aphrodite, Goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite Diôniaia, Aphrodite Philommeides, I call on you, ruler over pleasure, oh, ever-laughing Goddess, now I struggle with love in my life. Aphrodite Diôniaia, Aphrodite Philommeides, daughter of Zeus the all-wise, if I have offered to you once, hear my plea and grant me aid.” …or this:   “Oh, blessed Aphrodite, born from the foam of the sea, Aphrodite Anadyomenê, Aphrodite Philommeides, I call on you, protectress of those who take to the sea, oh, ever-laughing Goddess, now I journey over water to destinations at great distance. Aphrodite Anadyomenê, Aphrodite Philommeides, destined daughter of Ouranos, the primordial father, if I have offered to you once, hear my plea and grant me protection.”   …but I would never combine the two. I’m fairly certain this distinction is either completely unimportant, mildly important or critically important to other practitioners within Hellenismos; there is no set opinion in the Hellenic community on this as far as I’m aware. For me, the use of epithets is important. They teach me a great deal about the Gods I worship and help focus my prayers and rituals.
Zeus and why I like him

Okay, I’ve been wanting to write this for a while now. Since I first learned about Greek mythology, Zeus has always been one of my favorite gods. And I noticed that a lot of people don’t share this opinion. I mean, I totally understand where they’re coming from. There are legit reasons for not liking him. And I don’t intend to change anyone’s mind. But I still want to show that he’s not all bad and that there’s actually stuff you can like about him. I’m gonna divide this little essay into three sections: myth, religion and history.

Myth: I actually really love Zeus’s portrayal in the Iliad. The first time he shows up, the goddess Thetis approaches him and asks him for a favor he still owes her.  And even though he knows he will get into a lot of trouble with Hera for this (which I admit, is pretty funny) he grants her wish. Throughout the whole story he stays neutral even though he likes the Trojans more and his own son Sarpedon is fighting for them. When Sarpedon is destined to die he thinks about defying fate and saving him from battle but even he has to bow to it. He is by no means perfect but he knows he has responsibilities as a king.

Religion: In ancient Greek religion Zeus played a big role in everyday life. In ancient Athens he was the protector of the house against intruders, known as Zeus Herkeios and Zeus Ktesios, the protector of wealth. He was also Zeus Xenios, the god of strangers, the protector of guests and hospitality. 

History: One of my all time favorite books is Xenophon’s Anabasis. It’s set at the end of the 5th century BC and is told by the Athenian Xenophon who was a mercenary in the army of Cyrus who wanted to overthrow his brother Artaxerxes, the Persian king. The plan failed, Cyrus was killed in battle and Xenophon and the whole army were stuck in what is now Iraq. Before Xenophon went on this journey he had asked the oracle at Delphi to which god he’d have to pray to come back safely and the oracle had answered that he should pray to Zeus Basileos (Zeus the king). Xenophon did so and even though the situation seemed hopeless he did finally make it back to Greece alive.

I love this story because it gives you a unique view into how the ancient Greeks practiced their religion but it also shows how Xenophon trusted in Zeus and that he would secure his safe return. And against all odds he made it.

And one last thing: As most people know, Zeus is also the god of rain and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love the smell of the air after a nice summer rain!