From the Oak: Let’s hear it for the God!
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.
Who is Kronos?
Kronos (Cronos) the Titan god of time (khronos) and the ages, typically regarded as destructive and all-devouring. He is the youngest of the Titans. Kronos was given a flint sickle by his mother, Gaia, in order to castrate and then depose his father, Ouranos. She did this in anger at Ouranos’ treatment of their more unusual children.
Kronos ruled over the “Golden-Age” of mankind. A time reputed to be prosperous, peaceful and easy. A time when animals spoke with a human voice. Hesiod said that mortal men lived like gods during the reign of Kronos. They lived without sorrow, free from toil and grief. Their limbs never failed. Food was plentiful. These lucky mortals were free from the harm of evil. When their death was upon them, they died as if overcome with sleep. He goes on to say that these “pure spirits” are the guardians of mortal men clothed in mist. They roam everywhere watching judgments, cruel deeds and rewarding the deserving.
Diodorus Siculus described Kronos as the king that caused man to become civilized and received many honors because of this. He introduced justice and sincerity causing mortals of his rein to be described as good-hearted and guileless, living lives of pleasure.
While Ovid described this time as forever spring. He said Gaia was filled with gentle breezes, flowers, food without toil, honey easily retrieved and streams of milk and nectar. This was a time of no battles, no judges and no laws because none were needed. It was an untroubled world containing nothing but easy leisure.
Kronos’ rein was shatter by one problem. A prophecy that said he in turn would be overthrown by his own son just as he overthrew his father. This led Kronos to swallow each of his children as his wife, Rhea, presented them to him. All except Zeus were swallowed and in his place Rhea gave Kronos a stone. With the help of Gaia or Metis (his first consort), Zeus as a youth caused Kronos to disgorge his children. Zeus led his “reborn” siblings into war against Kronos and the Titans. Upon achieving victory, Zeus threw Kronos and the rebellious Titans in to Tartaros as punishment. According to Aeschylus, Kronos cursed his son to suffer the same fate of being dethroned by his own son. Forwarned, Zeus was forever after cautious about who he bedded and when. (Now some myths state that it was a child by Thetis or Metis specifically. But one should notice that the majority of his children are female. Those that are male are either by mortal mothers or “lesser” immortals. There are even tales that neither Ares nor Hephaistos are his and are only called his because of his marriage union.) Once Zeus decided the time was right and punishment was served, the Titans were released from Tartaros. Kronos was made King of the Elysian Islands, home of the blessed dead (where heroes are sent upon their death).
An interesting quote sums up this these myths of succession quite succinctly:
"Another theory also, and that a scientific one, has been the source of a number of deities, who clad in human form have furnished the poets with legends and have filled man’s life with superstitions of all sorts. This subject was handled by Zeno and was later explained more fully by Cleanthes and Chrysippus. For example, an ancient belief prevailed throughout Greece that Caelus [Ouranos the Sky] was mutilated by his son Saturnus [Kronos], and Saturnus himself thrown into bondage by his son Jove [Zeus]: now these immoral fables enshrined a decidedly clever scientific theory. Their meaning was that the highest element of celestial ether or fire [Ouranos the Sky], which by itself generates all things, is devoid of that bodily part which required union with another for the work of procreation. By Saturnus [Kronos] again they denoted that being who maintains the course and revolution of the seasons and periods of time, the deity so designated in Greek, for Saturnus’ Greek name is Kronos, which is the same as khronos, a space of time. The Latin designation ‘Saturnus’ on the other hand is due to the fact that he is ‘saturated’ or ‘satiated with years’ (anni); the fable is that he was in the habit of devouring his sons - meaning that Time devours the ages and gorges himself insatiably with the years that are past. Saturnus is bound by Jove [Zeus] in order that Time’s courses might not be unlimited, and that Jove might fetter him by the bonds of the stars." Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 24 (trans. Rackham) (Roman rhetorician C1st B.C.)
Among the Romans Kronos was known as Saturn or Saturnus (honored at the midwinter Saturnalia festival) and El Olam (El of Eternal Time, Oulomos in Greek) among the Phoenicians who would have festivals and sacrifices in his honor. Pausanias reports a temple within the precincts of the sanctuary of Zeus Olympios at Athens dedicated to Kronos and Rhea. He also reports that Kronos received sacrifices on Mount Kronios in Elis at the spring equinox (which was also the start of the new year) in the month of Elaphios (of the deer) among the Eleans. It is stated that the Olympian games were started to commemorate Zeus’ triumph over Kronos. Pausanias also includes Kronos among those receiving sacrifice at the khthonic oracle of Trophonios which also contained images of him. Lastly, Strabo mentions a temple of Kronos in the city of Gades on an island off the coast of southern Spain.
Now there is a festival that I’ve recently heard modern polytheists celebrating (hence the inspiration for this blog post), the Kronia. The Kronia honors Kronos as a god of the grain harvest depicted with a reaping hook. It marked the end of the cereal harvest and in some areas the beginning of a new year. This was a day where slaves were treated as equals as a remembrance of the “golden age” of Kronos. A modern way to celebrate this day would be to honor Kronos as part of the first fruits harvest, especially if you have a food garden. As the god of time, one could ask for help in harvesting things in life at the right time, neither too early nor too late.
"To Kronos, Fumigation from Storax. Eternal father, mighty Titan, hear, great sire of gods and men, whom all revere; endued with various counsel, pure and strong, to whom increase and decrement belong. Hence matter’s flowing forms through thee that die, by thee restored, their former place supply [reincarnation]. The world immense in everlasting chains, strong and ineffable thy power contains; father of vast eternity, divine, O mighty Kronos, various speech is thine; blossom of earth and of starry skies, husband of Rhea, and Prometheus wise. Obstetric power and venerable root, from which the various forms of being shoot; no parts peculiar can thy power enclose, diffused through all, from which the world arose. O best of beings, of a subtle mind, propitious hear, to suppliant prayers inclined; the sacred rites benevolent attend, and grant a blameless life, a blessed end [passage after death to Elysion]." Orphic Hymn 13 to Cronus (trans. Taylor)
Majority of the information in this blog is taken from Theoi.com, a most excellent resource.
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