Gods and Goddesses in modern fiction

And then I mean other than in stories about wicca or stories that take place in Roman times for example. I really mean modern stories. The past week I’ve spent reading Rick Riordan’s series Heroes of Olympos and the Kane Chronicles. If you are interested in mythology, I really recommend the books! Let me explain a bit more, just to tempt you…
In the Percy Jackson series and the Heroes of Olympos, we meet the children of the Greek gods. Yes, indeed, demigods, similar to Hercules, Jason and Perseus, the great heroes of the past. But didn’t I say modern stories? Well, yes. You see, the gods are powers of the earth, guiding what happens, and they are still here today. They reside where human society is strongest. Accordingly, they have moved from Olympos to America. And, seeing they never change, they continue to get children with mortals. Greek mythology really comes to life, with gods and monsters and supernatural beings still present in today’s world.
Of course, we know this. Gods are omnipresent, not only the Greek ones, interacting, helping and guiding us. This is not always how it happens in Heroes of Olympos. Gods are not all helpful and have agendas of their own. They often, however, need humans to help them.
This is where the Kane Chronicles are similar. Gods need humans, but this time mainly those descended from pharaohs. They are capable of magic, channelling the powers of nature and of the gods. I loved this, undoubtedly, as it comes so close to how I feel about magic! It is different in the book, of course, but it gave me so much inspiration for my own practice, even though I’m not Egypt oriented.
Conclusion: if you like Egyptian and Greek mythology, these volks by Riordan are must reads! I’m looking for more books, however, so if you have any suggestions on fiction where gods and goddesses play a (big) role, I’d like some recommendations!


Goddesses of the low countries

As you know, I live in the Netherlands, traditionally the ‘low countries’. More than 60 percent of the Dutch people live under sealevel, protected by the dykes, but if you look at estimated maps of the Netherlands in the past (distant past), the land looked quite different. There weren’t any dykes then, and the water level was probably different.

This was the time that the ancient tribes lived, the different farmer cultures that we only recognize by their pottery (that’s how I was taught in primary school). It’s a bit more recent that I began to develop an interest not necessarily in these cultures, how fascinating they might be, but in their religious life and the gods and goddesses. The world around me, the landscape and the way the seasons affect local nature, that is what I base a big part of my own practice on. So, naturally, I want to know about local deities!

Last year, when my cousin and I went to the museum of Antiquities in Leiden, we saw the tributes to Nehalennia. This goddess had temples in Zeeland (the southwestern part of Holland), close to a route from the mainland to Great Britain. In Roman times, merchants from Europe’s mainland paid tribute to Nehalennia in order to get home safely after their travel. She was depicted with a dog and apples, probably as a very powerful house goddess. She was the trigger to wanting to discover more!

Godinnen van eigen bodemDuring a weekend in Groningen I finally was able to purchase a book I wanted for quite some time about the goddesses of the low countries. Nehalennia is obviously portraited in that, but also, one of my favourite fairytale characters was! Who would have thought? Frau Holle, who brings snow to the world when her cushions are shaken. That is mainly how I know her from Grimm’s fairytale, but other elements are also important. She is a goddess of the netherworld, judging those entering her realm. A very powerful goddess and a very powerful image. Tomorrow, I will do a meditation, hoping to meet her for the first time.

One last goddess that was new to me, or actually a group of goddesses, were the Witte Wieven (White Ladies). They reveal themselves in misty surroundings. Perhaps that is too much, they show themselves as mist, as wisps of fog. I now pay much more attention when I cycle through fog, rather then trying to get through as fast as possible. These goddesses are known for predicting the future, but as fog tends to do, they can also lead you in the wrong direction. This makes appeasing them with cake for example a logical step, because you don’t want to get lost in the fog.

These are three goddesses from my home country, goddesses of the low countries. Every place will have its own traditional gods and goddesses, not always conforming to the pantheons. Do you know any from your place?

Learning about ancient cultures

As a pagan, you can get much information from books and the internet, but for some things, especially ancient cultures and their practices, you want to see how the people lived. Though I’d love to visit all kinds of places to gain some understanding of what life was like, and I’m certain you’d love that as well, truth is I don’t have the means to do that. I’ve been to Rome during grammar school, but that’s the only time I went somewhere with so much ancient history contained in the city. Athens is on my bucket list, I’d love to visit Scandinavia, and Egypt is a country I just have to visit one day, but as I said: traveling is expensive, and I have other priorities.

Luckily, you can learn much from the artifacts people used and their art and writing. And examples are scattered through various musea all over the world. Pictures can only do so much, but in a museum, you can see genuine objects, sometimes even touch them, as a sort of substitute for ‘the real thing’ when you travel.

Yesterday, my cousin and I went to the museum of antiquities in Leiden, the Netherlands. Our main goal was to see the coffins of Amun priests and the large Egypt exhibition, because my cousin has always loved ancient Egyptian culture. She even journeyed through Egypt for several weeks, and is longing to go again, though right now that isn’t a good idea. She used to have many books about Egypt and small statues and scarabs scattered throughout her room. She’s a good 8 years older, and my brother and I used to play with those statues. She never minded.

Hieroglyphs, papyrus scrolls, an actual mummy of a small child with the artifacts buried with him during the burial rites and paintings of the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Everything you imagine when you think of Egyptian culture (except for pyramids… almost everything then) had a place in the museum. It occurred to me, seeing all the artifacts and the reconstructed burial sites, that religion was a part of everyday life, something I would like, but am not familiar with. Many major religions have specific days on which to celebrate, and many people practice their religion only then. For Egyptians, and the same holds true for Romans and Greeks (they also had an exhibition hall, though much smaller), there were moments every day to thank one or more gods, to honour them or to ask for favours. I’d like that.

Another find in the museum was the goddess Nehalennia, to whom travelers offered before crossing the canal to Britannia from modern day Holland. She appears to have been an indigenous goddess in Gallica, adopted by the Romans that conquered Europe up to the river Rhine, which crosses the Netherlands. She maintained her own status and wasn’t equated with any previously honoured goddesses, as probably happened with many indigenous gods and goddesses. From the altars dedicated to her, which were all extremely similar, I only learned she was associated with dogs and with apples, but not much more. She has a very homely feel to her, and I can imagine people offering to her and asking for a safe return to home. I do want to learn more about her, so I will use the media I employ most: books and the internet! This trip to the museum has given me much that I can work with 🙂