I’ve added my first new page to DeoMercurio.be for 2016; the topic, modestly enough, is the nature of the gods. Please have a look (French version here, English version here) and feel free to leave comments in the comments section below.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this new page is more philosophically oriented than most of the pages are. As elsewhere on the site, I try to cleave close to the sources (religious inscriptions, depictions, other kinds of monuments, and classical texts); in this case, I spend a fair amount of space commentating on the viewpoints of various philosophical schools on the nature of gods. I’m all too keenly aware of the limits on my knowledge of ancient philosophy—so please set me straight if I’ve made any obvious blunders. Hopefully my tone towards Epicureanism doesn’t come across as hostile; I’m all for a big-tent polytheism in which (as I have argued in an earlier post) the cultórés of deities should put ourselves on guard against being too dogmatic in our assertions. (No matter how bad the Epicureans suck. 😉 ) I do claim the privilege of the practitioner of a non-creedal religion in permitting a degree of uncertainty in belief. As a teenager, and then in my early 20s, I went through a variety of theological opinions, from Wiccan-style archetypalism through advaita monism and even atheism, before becoming a really convinced polytheist from reading—believe it or not—the 5th-century Neoplatonic philosopher Proclus’ Elements of Theology. Through all this, my affinity for Mercury and his divine entourage hardly wavered, and the sustaining strength that comes from pious practice has counted for a lot more in my experience than my fluctuating opinions* on theology.
This is a bit paradoxical, perhaps, considering the way Platonists have insisted on the primacy of mind and ideas over mere base matter. But as the divine Iamblichus explains, acts of worship are not basically material, but serve to elevate our natures beyond the material, taking into account the fact that our souls are embedded in matter. To be strictly honest, I’m not properly a Platonist myself anyway, even if Platonic theology makes a huge amount of sense to me† as it applies, shall we say, beyond the lunar sphere. For this-worldly philosophy, the Stoics seem to me to have at least as much to offer. Nor do they, or anybody else, get the last word. We should read Gramsci and Foucault, and for that matter Oscar Wilde, and see what they know. Truth may or may not be one eternally; since our own cultural context and worldviews are subject to endless evolution, we’d still need to adjust our perspectives continually to glimpse that eternal truth. (Take that, scripture-based fundamentalism.)
I won’t call it a New Year’s resolution, but one of my medium-term goals is to write whatever pages on DeoMercurio.be need to be finished up (there aren’t so many, after all), so that the next step can be focussed on making ongoing improvements and updates. Hopefully by the end of 2016, all the links on the French side of the site, at least, will go where they’re supposed to.
Speaking of 2016, can I just share how tickled I am that we’re now in a year divisible by 144? This is year Fourteen-Gross.‡ Enjoy it, folks, this is the only such year any of us is likely to experience!
In other news, I can’t shake the feeling that January is high holy times for Ancamna—that lovely goddess who deserves to get more press. (Grace Ibor drew a wonderful image of Ancamna, of which a prayer card is available from Galina Krasskova’s website.) The Ides of January (i.e. the 13th) also featured the dedication of an altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Silvanus, Diana Sancta, the Genius of the Catabulum, and the other immortal gods in Mogontiacum (Mainz) in 208 CE. (I gather that the catabulum will have been a sort of customs dépôt for goods entering the interior via that Rhenish port city—alternatively, the word was also (later?) used simply for a stable.) Anyway, this is as good a day as any—and perhaps better than most—for honouring the Gaulish Silvanus, who I’ve mentioned in a number of previous posts, as well as the Gaulish Diana, who I should write more about. One would, of course, have been offering gifts to Jupiter Optimus Maximus anyway, as it’s the Ides. 🙂
* It’s possible my opinions might even change again in the future. Can you imagine anything more shocking?
† To the extent that I’ve actually understood anything about it! This may well be debatable. 🙂
‡ When before have you ever enjoyed a year whose only non-trivial factors are 2 (five times over), 3 (twice over), and 7? I ask you.