eosin: (Wuldor)
[personal profile] eosin
In a recent discussion, it occurred to me that many pagan paths with balanced worldviews have gods with light and dark sides. This is something that has its opposite in modern Christianity--you have very clear, obvious, and stereotypical light and dark sides, where one side doesn't really have the features of the other. Within European pantheons, many gods have light and dark sides. Within the Germanic paradigm, it appears that all of the Vanic gods have light and dark sides. However, there are Heathens who treat the Aesir only as light gods, regardless of their behavior, and all giants/etins as dark gods, regardless of their behavior.

Some examples of the two sides of the Vanic gods are:
Ingui-Frey: Fertility, peace, prosperity, stable relationships...but also a dangerous killer, via sword, antler, or bare hands.
Freya: Sensuality, magic, fertility...and a scary battle goddess.
Nerthus: Mother Earth, with all that it brings...and a receiver of human sacrifices.
Wuldor: Bright, wise, skilled...and a relentless hunter that will insure one's doom.

There are some who treat Odin as Jehovah and Loki as Satan, but Germanic paganism isn't part of Judeo-Christian thought and practice. It may be a convenient substitution for converts from Christianity, but it isn't really authentic or historical. And if one considers death to be part of the cycle of life, then the 'dark' traits of gods are part of a balanced whole.

Date: 2010-09-21 07:18 am (UTC)
painandlight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] painandlight
Hehe...Gavin opened her reading page, took one look at this and was all "Oh, you'll have plenty to say in response to this.

But all I have to say, really is that I agree with pretty much everything you say here. I know that not all Christians see their god that way, because I've talked to some who have a much more eh...how to put it...integrated? yeah, let's go with that, integrated view. And also because I used to bounce around to different churches when I was younger and saw a little bit of variation there- not much, but enough to know that there is more than one view and say that I've seen it happen myself...lol...I agree though, that your description is very much the visible majority.

I would have far more to say in response, but you see, I've already said it....

Date: 2010-09-21 07:23 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] freysmuppet
"Are you a light god or a dark god?"

But yeah... I think with most Deities, there is a balance of light/dark. It's not just with the Vanir, but is in other pantheons.

Apollo may be healing and light, but there's also lore of Him flaying people's skin...

Date: 2010-09-21 07:38 am (UTC)
painandlight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] painandlight
But yeah... I think with most Deities, there is a balance of light/dark. It's not just with the Vanir, but is in other pantheons.

Oh, yeah, definitely. Of all the deities that I can really say I know enough about to discuss, I can think of one, maybe- MAYBE two that don't really have much of a "dark" side to speak of- not documented anyway. The deities in question are Hestia (and you're dealing with Fire here, I've got a little UPG with respect to Her and that from a while back that isn't exactly all spooky-dark, but more of an "I Am Much More Than The Meek Little Hearth Fire And You Will See Me As Such"- reminds me more of what little I've been able to read on the Lithuanian Gabija) and Leto, who if nothing else, by speculation and association, has more "darkness" to her.

Apollo may be healing and light, but there's also lore of Him flaying people's skin...

Yeeeeeah. And killing innocent children for their mother's transgression, and...and...and...

Date: 2010-09-21 07:58 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] freysmuppet
And all those shiny fun healing-and-light things, like that.

*nods* Yeah, Frey gets the "God of frith and peace and elven sunshine and lollipops" business, and while His frith-and-fertility face tends to be the most accessible, there is a side of Him which is wild, feral, and downright scary. This isn't just UPG (though I'd be lying if I said I hadn't seen that side of Him myself - not directed at me, but scary enough), but is well-attested in lore like Viga-Glum's Saga and other places.

But you know, those healing-and-light Gods... They're just so niiiiiiice...

Date: 2010-09-21 08:24 am (UTC)
painandlight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] painandlight
Nice. Yeah. For certain particularly interesting values of nice. Well, hell. Even the "nice" healing isn't nice. You've read some of my LJ posts on Apollo and healing. And like anyone else who's ever had to heal from anyhting more serious than a scraped knee, you know that healing fucking hurts.

But they're just so nice and light. *audible eye roll*

and then there are Trickster gods. We all know how much Gavin looooooves the Sparkly Happy Dancing Pixie Hermes God Of The Internet And Practical Jokes. She would comment herself, but I've thrown her out of the room so I can post. She's playing her video games in exile. Heehee.

Date: 2010-09-22 01:10 am (UTC)
nicanthiel: All knowledge is worth having (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicanthiel
And of course Apollo can't possibly be the god of plague that terrorized the Greeks during the Trojan War. >.>

Date: 2010-09-22 01:16 am (UTC)
painandlight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] painandlight
Hush, you! Of course he's not! He's the god of purity, dammit!

Date: 2010-09-22 06:31 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] freysmuppet
Well yeah because Trojans are supposed to protect from plague.


Date: 2010-09-21 07:41 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] freysmuppet
You already have a good idea of what I'm going to say in response, since we've talked about this, so my thoughts on this are more for the others reading. (OTHERS! UDDERRRRRS!)

Most Gods in most pantheons are neither light/dark, wholly good/wholly bad, but are some combination of the two. The Germanic pantheon does tend to bear the brunt of "gods v. giants, good v. evil, order v. chaos". I could pontificate about why this is from a sociological understanding, regarding the background of people who are drawn to Asatru in the United States, but I won't here and now.

But basically, looking at it from a purely religious standpoint, the way Snorri wrote the Edda was casting Odin and Thor as the superstars in the eternal conflict with the giants. Whether or not that is actually how the religion was thought of - and I don't know, but reading accounts by Tacitus and other historians makes me think somewhat differently - that is how it's in practice now. Thus, people relate to Odin as Gandalf Who Can Do No Wrong, when a casual treatment of the lore will show something more like Gandalf and Sauron combined. :P I won't touch the L*k! L guy Loki argument with a nine-foot pole, other than to say my reasons for not dealing with Loki are more personal rather than a dictate for everyone; the reason I don't deal with Loki is the exact same reason I don't work with Odin.

But anyway, to a certain extent, I can actually see the chaos/order dichotomy if one is just looking at the Aesir v. the giants. There might have been some basis to it originally, and even if not, the religion has evolved into what it is now, and to an extent I understand it: these are crazy times we live in, that create much fear and panic.

That said, the Vanir don't fall into that package at all. They are Other. They are both order and chaos, creation and destruction, life and death, beauty and terror. They are light and dark made into something different - a third element, way of being.

And this is of course one of the many reasons why the binary thinking of modern Asatru doesn't do it for me, and the tertiary thinking of revival Druidry does. My cosmology of relating to the Gods and the worlds is not in binaries, but is more complex than that. The Gods v. giants, order v. chaos model seems more Aesic to me, even if it's still not completely true of the Aesir. It definitely falls to pieces when dealing with the Vanir, so a modality that respects the balance of nature and its cycles and complexity is more in keeping with Them, IMHO. And of course the first step is acknowledging the individual Gods, and the way They bring life and the way They give death...


eosin: (Default)
The Pedantic Swordsman

March 2013


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