The Dangers of de-Mystification


I loved Greek myths when I was little. I loved that Athena trounced Ares on the regular and that she cared about the same kind of book-learning wisdom that I, and my privileged family, loved. I loved that Hera, for all that she was kind of annoying, did not just lay down and take it when Zeus cheated. I loved the wild youth of Artemis, and that she wasn’t sweet or kind but was truly fierce in a way Tyra Banks will NEVER understand. And I found ways to work their worship into my life, even as a self-identified Christian, when I spoke to the moon, or did my maidenhood ceremony with my motherGaia's Blessing, by Snedecor.

But, just as the ancient Greeks worshipped their heroes, so did I. Antigone just about blew my mind (and even if I didn’t want to end up the way she did, you better believe I looked at the way she stood up to her uncle and cheered and wished my uncle were half so awful so that I be that cool). And the monsters? The Harpies can hardly fail to inspire your imagination, and in them it is easy to see the hunger, the snatching, selfish NEED that we all must carry somewhere inside us …

When I learned about them, really learned about them, I realized that they didn’t “really” mean to the ancient Greeks what they meant to me. That my use of them, my appropriation of them, wasn’t “authentic.” And as I started to learn more about ancient Greece – and, for example, the meaning of a motherless virgin like Athena who wants nothing to do with power for women – I began to have a great respect for what the world might have looked like for them.

The myths stopped being about me. And when they did, I stopped having a personal relationship with them. And when that happened, when the mystery about their place in the world was gone, I could not worship them any more. Not even in the little syncretic way I was attempting.

Maybe I should post a disclaimer on my site so that unsuspecting worshippers won’t stumble into relativism and out of their sacred cosmoses.


2 responses to “The Dangers of de-Mystification”

  1. I can’t agree that your ‘appropriation of Greek Goddesses isn’t authentic’. Oh yes, the records we have today come down to us mostly in male voices, from men who lived in a society that feared and hated women, but are we much different than that today? We women have made some progress in our modern societies, yet we continue to search for strong female images, and yearn to create our own myths in our own voices.

    I don’t believe the myths and characters from ancient Greece were born in a vacuum, but that they were revised, re-written and co-opted from earlier times, changed to appeal to the audience of the day. In much the same way as many stories and figures in the church were borrowed from paganism, or medieval tales such as Beowulf were amended by clerics for a Christianized audience.

    Clarissa Pinkola Estes has a lot to say in Women Who Run with the Wolves about de-constructing myths (in this case fairy tales) and rebuilding them in a more ‘authentic’ way for women and girls, perhaps even closer to their original form.

    So… a reinterpretation for today’s women and purpose is as authentic as the Greek myths were in their time. There is nothing to say we cannot appropriate an Artemis or an Athena and revitalize her for our modern needs.

    Your words are beautiful, I hope you won’t abandon them altogether, nor your site, Women in Greek Mythology.

  2. […] goddess with child, from Anatolia (courtesy )Recently I read a blog from a site entitled Women in Greek Mythology, where the author laments the ‘Dangers of […]

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