Many are those that focus on female divinities, leaving male divinities in the shadows if they get mentioned at all. This is a shame. Here I will share my thoughts, stories and prayers on male divinities.

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Sun Myths and Science

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Of all the myths, it is the myths of the sun that give me the most trouble.  The typical sun myth is that the divinity of the sun rides around the earth in some type of conveyance and then takes a different one or a different form to return to the original starting point.  This myth stems from the original belief that the sun travels around the earth.  It is the ancient’s explanation for the days and nights.  Yet we of the modern era know this is incorrect.

 

The romantic part of me prefers the poetic tale that the Greeks tell of Eos flying or riding before the Sun as his herald, while Hemara draws back the curtains of Nyx and Erebos, so that the light of Helios is visible.  Helios is then followed by the Hesperides who again draw the curtains of Erebos so that Nyx can have her sway.  Then Helios rides in a golden ship (presumably with his chariot and winged horses) on Okeanos back to his starting point.  I like the complicated movement of it all.  The visual that it gives me is entrancing and entertaining.  I also like the tale of the seasons caused by Demeter’s mourning over her daughter’s forced annual stay in the underworld.  My logical brain is more forgiving of Demeter and Persephone’s myths. 

The myths of Helios, however, give me fits.  The earth actually pirouettes continually around the sun, sometimes leaning toward and sometimes away.  It is the turning on the axis that sets the days and nights.  We know that when one side is having day the other side of the earth is having night.  We also know that it is the tilt that sets our seasons. 

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Since we know that the sun’s myths are inaccurate for the sciences of here and now, how do you deal with it?   Do you ignore it?  Do you keep logic separate from mythological?  If you are a polytheist, how do you account for the many different sun gods from all the different cultures?  We only have one sun.  I have a hard time picturing a chariot relay so that each god takes a turn.  So how do you work out this modern corundum?  Or is it only me that has trouble reconciling this duality of viewpoints?

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I am a Hellenic Pagan, dedicated to Zeus, living in the Colorado mountains with my husband, our son, two cats and a yellow lab.  In the little bit of free time that I have, I enjoy reading and crafting.

Comments

  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus Monday, 01 July 2013

    First of all, the ancients did not think the earth was flat. That is a modern myth, and no one with any familiarity with ancient science would repeat such nonsense.

    Secondly, anyone with access to a telescope can directly observe the phases of Venus, which is one of the crucial pieces of evidence that convinced Galileo of the correctness of heliocentrism.

    But the most important point is that ancient solar myths do not purport to describe the physical geometry of the solar system, unless one artificially and anachronistically imposes a naive, literal interpretation on them.

    Ancient Pagans did not look to their mythology to explain scientific facts. They looked to science for that, obviously. And the science of the ancient world was quite advanced. The Ptolemaic explanation of planetary motion was widely accepted only for two reason: it was consistent with observations and it could be used to make accurate predictions. It was only once more accurate observations could be made that the Copernican system could be proven to be a better model than the Ptolemaic one.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Monday, 01 July 2013

    Good post -- except why attack Editor B in your first paragraph? The post would read a lot better with an explanation of how we know that the ancients weren't flat-earthers (something I bet a lot of people don't know) rather than the jab at Editor B.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Monday, 01 July 2013

    I was always taught that until telescopes were invented, that the ancients thought the world was flat and that the sun traveled around the sun. I may not be as well read as some but more so than many, so I'm certainly not the only one.

  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus Monday, 01 July 2013

    The fact that ancient scientists were well aware of the spherical shape of the earth is so well known that getting it wrong is really inexcusable. In fact, the Greek astronomer Eratosthenes accurately calculated the circumference of the earth well over 2000 years ago. Other ancient scientists made calculations of the distance from the earth to the moon and also of the size of the moon, but these calculations were hampered by the technology of the time, which didn't allow for accurate measurements (but they had the basic theory right, which only requires a little trigonometry).

    In this day and age with google, wikipedia, etc, no one has any excuse for being completely ignorant of such basic facts. And even without teh interwebs, any decent popular science book will explain this (my favorite is Isaac Asimov's "The Universe").

    The harsh nature of my response is not due to Editor B's ignorance, thought, but rather in response to his lack of intellectual curiosity for never having bothered to ever do even a minimal amount of investigation into what ancient scientists actually knew, AND in response to his readiness to believe the old "flat earth" myth without having any basis whatsoever for believing it AND for his eagerness to participate in passing along this lie.

  • Editor B
    Editor B Monday, 01 July 2013

    I've come to know AP as one of those sharp-tongued people who do not suffer fools gladly. Happily, the substance of his commentary is often thought-provoking, so I've trained myself to suffer his incivilities gladly.

    I'll be the first to admit I know little about the topic, but it took me about five seconds to grab a quote from Wikipedia. "Many ancient cultures have had conceptions of a flat Earth, including Greece until the classical period, the Bronze Age and Iron Age civilizations of the Near East until the Hellenistic period, India until the Gupta period (early centuries AD) and China until the 17th century." Perhaps this is inaccurate. I'll take it with a grain of salt. Common sense tells me that some ancient cultures probably did believe in a flat earth and some did not. So I think Host's wisdom stands, and can be synthesized with AP's comments to something even wiser and more nuanced.

    And I would be remiss if I failed to express my gratitude to Aj Brokaw for raising what I consider to be an important, provocative, basic and rich question for our consideration.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Monday, 01 July 2013

    I wanted to get other view points and am glad that others are finding this useful though I admit to having harder time dealing with those that wish to flout their knowledge with an attitude of utmost superiority instead of just share it. Teach me yes, lecture me with haughty nose in the air, no.

    I have an engineering background. So my logic function is rather strong and these myths are in conflict with that. I have yet to find a way to sooth those wrinkles out to my satisfaction. So I'd like to understand why the ancients said what they did if they did know that the world was not flat. Saying it was just from an observer's point of view just seems too simple for such a detail oriented and complex culture.

  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus Monday, 01 July 2013

    The curvature of the earth is instantly obvious to anyone who has ever traveled on the open seas. Records of such seafaring go back at least to the early 3rd millennium B.C.

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