Exploring Pagans and their relationship with that earthiest of earth symbols, money.
Poseidon, god of the economy
I took an unscheduled blogbatical as we moved into the darkest time of the year, but I have emerged excited that I missed celebrating perhaps the most important historical festival for my patron deity.
Today is when the festival honoring Poseidon, called Poseidea or Poseidonia, was celebrated in antiquity. It's a reconstructionist's nightmare, because virtually no record of what went on has been discovered, but the good folk of Elaion put together a Poseidonia ritual based on their understanding of what festivals were usually like. I didn't see the announcement until just after the agreed-upon time to practice apart together, and I was already late for Quaker meeting, so I had Poseidon close to mind as I joined my local Friends in worship. (I am not a Quaker, although I attend meeting for worship; I have pondered how Quakers and polytheists fit together for awhile now.)
When I sit in the silence like that, it is an opportunity to complete the conversation. Maybe I'm too busy with orthopraxy, or I can't multitask well, but I don't often get messages when I make offerings to my gods. To put it simply, ritual is the way I talk and meeting is when I listen. Today I listened, and pondered how important Poseidon was to the ancient Hellenes. The sea was vital, not only as a food source but as the primary medium of commerce.
Among Hellenic gods, the first one thinks to associate with money is Hermes Agaraios, god of the marketplace. Poseidon clearly has an important role to play as well, and for me that role is that of god of the economy itself. The market is a place of commerce, and Hermes is there for each transaction, for he is also god of luck and thievery. But markets do not function without customers, nor without suppliers. The god who calms the seas, as well as opens the land by creating horses, is needed for commerce to occur. Underneath the transactions are the basic rules which make them possible.
The parallel I draw can be seen in a lively discussion which took place in the comments of Sam Webster's excellent post, A Question of Charity, regarding the concept of a gift economy. Such systems have existed in the past, continue in pockets of indigenous and intentional communities, and the conversation was about whether they could replace our obsession with money altogether. Gift economies follow the same laws of economics that moneyed systems do, which reinforces my belief that we can't change those rules any more than we can change the weather (which is a little bit, and usually with unfortunate consequences down the line that we didn't consider before the fact). In truth, I think we know just enough about how the economy works to muck things up, and not nearly enough to realize how ignorant we are. We're so clueless that we think that, just because we invented money, that we invented the rules it follows, as well.
Poseidon is a patient god, used to taking the long view. He is the earth-shaker, but far more frequently he is the god who chooses not to shake the ground, moving it at an inch per year or less. His nephew Hermes may thrill in the ups and downs of the stock market that make day-traders feel alive, but Poseidon's hand guides the decisions of investors like Warren Buffett, whose strategy is to buy low and hold forever.
This idea requires seasoning, as well as input from others, before I can fully make sense of it. What I know with some confidence is that missing joining some of my co-religionists in celebrating Poseidea was a good thing, because I am on track to understanding how my patron relates to my understanding of money.
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