Monday, October 20, 2014

The Devotional Domain: Greek Divinity

And at last, we have arrived at the Devotional Domain specific to those Hellenic rockstars who represent the Greek pantheon!

Greek gods and Heroes are a little bit difficult to pin down when it comes to what they are all about. Some of their attributes are extreme, such as the fact that the gods themselves were considered by their religion to be literally immortal and incapable of death, which is why they are so commonly given eternal punishments like imprisonment or torture rather than ever killed; and there's a very sharp divide between gods and mortal heroes as well, with mortals absolutely capable of heroic action but also prone to death and disaster far more often than their divine patrons. There's also a lot of anthropological and religious untangling to do - thanks to so much of European philosophy being based upon Greek ideals and morals for the past several centuries, many of their ideas about being a hero and doing awesome things have reached a cultural status as the default type of behavior and values for any hero, at least to a western audience, which means that it doesn't feel as specific to readers who have grown up with those ideas as the Devotional powers of other pantheons' Heroes might.

But the Greek Heroes among us are just as powerful and specialized as their friends in other pantheons, and we're here to tell you how! The Greek version of the Divinity Sphere is concerned primarily with the idea of each Greek Hero and later god being uniquely concerned with single and specific areas of power.

Greek gods are extremely specific about their roles in the cosmos; they're often called a pantheon with a god for everything, with a thousand little gods of things as specific as opportunity, boldness or single specific ponds in addition to the great gods most well-known on Olympos. The Olympians themselves are primarily concerned with a single concept or totemic idea, such as Ares representing violence, Aphrodite representing love or Hera representing marriage; they have other smaller associations and occasional cult connections, but for the most part they are all very focused on single areas of influence. This tendency is one of the reasons that study of mythology, which for most European and American scholars was foundationally based on Greek and Roman sources, tries so hard to slot all deities of all cultures into the same "god of X" niche that the Greeks so often fill, which is one of those insidious things that seems like a "universal" trait to those who have grown up in western societies - in large part, we think of gods as being associated with and in charge of a single area of influence because that's what the Greek gods do.

(I could digress into a giant wandering post about how Greek theology, mythology and philosophy basically designed the entire framework that almost all mythographers and half of other humanities disciplines' scholars base their standards of "normal" and "universal" on and how that often leads to total confusion and gross misinterpretation of other cultures' myths that don't match up as somehow being "weird" or "primitive", but you guys came for the power previews, not for my History of Cultural Revisionism seminar. Another time!)

At any rate, the Greek gods are all about being the sole power over a specific area - perhaps with lesser assistants who handle yet more specialized aspects of it, but without any true competition for their area of influence. Connected to that is the pan-Greek idea among both gods and Heroes of utter excellence and skill in a specialized area, most commonly expressed as arete, which is a complex word that means a combination of moral virtue, incredible skill and the realization of one's fullest potential. Heroes of all kinds are commonly said to be striving for or embodying such complete mastery over a particular skill, from Herakles as the undisputed master of strength and wrestling to Penelope as the perfect expression of feminine virtue.

Blessings in the Greek version of the Divinity Sphere have to do with these ideas of specific mastery and eventual lordship over a very specific but totally owned domain. All Heroes can specialize in various things, but Greek Heroes can hyperspecialize if they so choose, trading the ability to invest in generally useful skills for the increased power to utterly dominate their chosen fields. This translates to not only the Heroes' personal abilities and powers, but also to the practices of their followers and eventual cults as gods, and the way they may be able to develop specific expertise that others, being less Greekly excellent, don't have access to.

As with all the other Devotional Domains we've talked about, this is just the Divinity Sphere, and we hope to get to expand into other Spheres sooner rather than later! This brings the Devotional teasers to a close, so if you have things you'd like to hear about next, Cameron is your connection to our secret hotline - drop them for him and he'll make sure to come looking for your answers!