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On Poetry for Strange Gods
Every month, the members of Neos Alexandria study three different Deities for our Gods of the Month Club. Originally, the Deities were limited to the official Hellenistic-oriented pantheon of Neos Alexandria itself. This year, though, members agreed that we could start looking into Deities outside ancient Alexandria, allowing for some very lively discussions (is Brigid three Goddesses or a trinity?) and comparisons (who knew Athena and Kali had so much in common?).
Early on in the GMC program -- though I can't remember exactly when -- I made a capital-P Promise that I would write at least one poem in honor of each Deity for that month. So far, I have managed to keep that promise. And, I have to admit, I have been very surprised to discover that it is not my matron and patron Deities that I am most excited to write for (though I will take any chance to pen a poem for Hermes or The Charites), but rather those Deities with whom I have only a passing familiarity or no familiarity at all.
I remember the month when Neith was selected. My initial response was "Um ... she's like the Egyptian version of Athena, right?" Well, not exactly. The two Goddesses do indeed have some areas of interest (like warcraft and weaving), but they are distinct Deities with their own personalities and histories. I learned a lot about Neith that month, came to appreciate Her as a Goddess in Her own right, and was inspired to write two very different cosmogonic poems in Her honor.
Then there was the month Seshat was chosen. I responded with a puzzled "Who?" Turns out that She is a fascinating and quite ancient Goddess, connected to wisdom, writing, literature, architecture, and mathematics. Plus, She wears a cheetah dress. Not many Goddesses can pull off that look. Ultimately, I was inspired to not only write poems in Her honor, but also craft several star-shaped plaques.
Probably the biggest surprise for me that has come out of the GMC program is my new appreciation for Deities that I previously ... well ... had no interest in. I thought of them as, I am ashamed to admit, silly. Not worth the effort. Like Herakles. You know, the big, dumb ox of a demigod who slept and ate and adventured and murdered his way across Greece and lands beyond, before he was finally offed by his third wife and ascended to Olympus.
Yeah ... well, there is actually a whole heck of a lot more to Herakles than that, as I came to see through discussions with those devoted to Him, through reading books about Him, and through writing poems in His honor. I came to see Him, not as that dumb ox, but as a man of all-consuming passion. He did nothing in half-measures. He fought and He loved and He mourned and He killed, and He felt it all, intensely, completely, insanely, deeply.
That is the Herakles I honor in my poems.
So, here is my challenge to all of you. Pick a God or Goddess or hero or spirit or Power. Study that Deity. But, do more than that. Don't just intellectually analyze that God. Pick up your pen, and write for that God. Write about that God. Write to that God.
You will be surprised at what you discover.
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