Gods of the Greeks by Karl Kerényi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one book that will take you to the very beginning of creation and take you all the way up to the birth and death of Dionysus. Get ready for a roller coaster because that is what Greek mythology really is, a roller coaster. Different Gods and Goddesses are sometimes identified as each other. Sometimes the son is the father to a God depending on the Author that you read. Karl Kerenyi pulled from different sources and they each have their own version. He read from Homer, Hesiod or Orpheus. Kerneyi's style can be tough to get through. He tells the story and then midway gives you explanations and counter explanations. I shall try to give an accurate summary.
Orkeanos was a river god who with his wife gave birth to the Titans and creation. Some say that the Goddess Nyx dropped an egg and the Earth and sky fertilized it cause the egg to hatch. Orkeanos had a wife a wife Thetis and they had a daughter called Tethys. Sometimes those two names are interchanged as though they are the same identity. The next generation was Oranos and Gaia who gave birth to the Titans. The Titans are strong and powerful yet unworthy of worship. Kronos was the king and he was weary of his son, a son usurping his throne. What did Kronos do? He put one son down to the depths of the sea and the others he ate. Zeus would be hidden in a cave and nursed by nursemaids. Zeus was would rise up and challenge the Titans. There were Castrations involved that went through generation to generation. Seems father and sons had issues. Once the Titans were defeated they were banished to Tartarus. After the defeat of the Titans a group of giants rose up. Zeus would later challenge and take on Typhon the dragon. Gaia, Rhea and Thetis are sometimes seen as a triple goddess or three parts of the same being. The trinity theory run through the Morai who are the fates that determine the life of men and gods. The Erinye are avengers, The Grai are triple deities born with grey hairs. At times they are seen as one other times as three. Euribya is a goddess like this andd she is called the steel hearted Goddess.
Demeter or the mother is sometimes conflated with Rhea and or Gaia. Zeus makes love to her or rapes her and begets Persephone and then he rapes her. Hades is scene as a dark cthonic aspect of Zeuss. Hades abducts Persephone with Zeus's permission. This cause Demeter to go into mourning and all of agricultural to shut down. She stop in a kingdom and teaches the mysteries to her followers there. Eventually Persephone returns after eating a pomegranite. Hermes, Hekate and the Helios play a role. Some legend s hold that Persephone never bothered coming back. She reigned as Queen of the underworld. Of course we all know that she returns for part of the year and then goes back to the underworld. The legend does hint at female sovereignty in approving a marriage, which is why Zeus had to do it behind her back.
Persephone is not the only deity to spend part of the year in the land of the dead. A young queen fell in love with her father and begat a child. He was killed in a hunting accident but since Aphrodite loved him so much he only had to spend a limited time of the year there and then he rotates back and forth. With this very reminiscent of Dammuzi and Ishtar. In fact Ishtar is Aphrodite in Greek guise. Ishtar was born from an egg in the river that was pushed up by fish. Aphrodite was born in the sea from the castrated testicle of Ouranos. She was the Goddess of love. At first she was wed to Hephastos the blacksmith good who was a dwarf and lame. But that was not destined to last. She ended up cavorting with Aries, the God of War. Later on she would wed Pygmaliona dwarf king who fell in love with her statue.She would also couple with Hermes and bear children the most noteable is Hermaphrodite.
Aries was Zeus's least favorite. Hermes was born from Zeus and an nymph named Maia.He would start out his life by tricking a tortoise and killing it and stealing it's shell to make a musical instrument. Next he would steal Appollo's cattle. This caused a dispute and Hermes would give him the musical instrument later on. There was an exchange of gifts. Hermes is a master thief, flatterer and word smith. He would beget Pan, a satyr type being. He would make his way to Olympus and be adoptd by Dionysys another hormed deity. Hephastos was the first born of Hera and Zeus but was cast out for being ugly.
The book has lots of info. It tells about the four generations of human being. Also covered is the life and death of Dionysus. This book is packed with information. I read through it really quickly but it is dense. Hope you enjoy.
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