11 January 2013

Action This Day

Pagan Blog Project - Week Two - A #2 - Athena

I've always loved Athena, but I have only recently started "working" with her. When reading my favorite and first book on mythology in middle school, Athena's story was one I never forgot. (The other being Hermes, but that's another post.) I loved how bad-ass and military she was. I loved her spear, shield, and helmet. I loved her gloriously being born from Zeus' head. I loved that she wasn't like other women and goddesses. I wrote a small short story on her in high school, "A Day in the Life of..." and I wrote about Athena, focusing not on her aspect of a warrior goddess, but on her aspect of wisdom and protection.

As an adult Pagan, I never "worked" with Athena. No devotions or altars or rituals or anything. All of the things I used to admire about her in my youth had become things I'd rejected in my adulthood. To be honest, I've known too many fluff-bunnies who worked with her, who thought she was so cool and bad-ass (which she is, to be fair.)  And the contrary sour-puss I am, I've always resisted working with the "popular" deities and instead tend to gravitate towards those who are cool but not over-played, unique, but not obscure.

So basically, I'm a hipster and Athena was too mainstream, so I never worked with her because I'm too-cool-for-school. (not to mention the weird feelings I have about Athena and feminism and her being a daddy's girl and enforcing the patriarchy and all of that other stuff...)

But I had a tarot card reading recently and it was recommended that I start paying attention to certain deities, and Athena, being included in the list, just fit. Much to my surprise.

Athena is a goddess of wisdom, and I like wisdom, and I need it as I work my way through grad school. She is a goddess of courage, and boy do I need courage because these classes are hard. She inspires, and I could sure use some inspiration in my life right now. She is a patron of civilization, and as I'm becoming a social worker and working with society, her aspects of fostering a fair civilization seem to work, right? Especially when paired with law and justice, because as a social worker I'll be working towards those things as well. And while she is a goddess of "just warfare", and even though I'm a pacifist, well, my battlefield can be the mean-streets of Durham, and my spear, helmet, and shield can be my master's degree and the knowledge gained and the wisdom earned through school. As she's a patroness of mathematics, well... I'd like to not fail my statistics classes so I can use all the help I can get, there. I can use her strength and strategy and cunning as I try to adjust to my new life. And she fosters the arts and I like art, too, and I'd like to keep on writing (my art) even though I'm a social worker now. And oh boy, how am I going to pull this off without a little bit of style and finesse, if not with some help from the goddess of skill herself?

Of course Athena isn't only those things. She's much more, and we all are, and that's a lesson to be learned, too. So I think about her stories and what she can teach me as a woman, a student, and someone who fights for social justice. I try to learn from her examples of both success and failure, because as I enter into this new stage of my life, I'm met with both success and failure as well. And that whole Orestes thing, well, that just reminds me to look past the surface and understand why people the way they are, that we are all products of our environment, and yes, Athena was/is, too.

I was chatting with a good friend and told her about my epic tarot card reading, mentioning the gods I'd be working with through grad school, including Athena. She said "you mean you don't work with Athena already?" and I thought "what? no way!" My friend looked around my house, at all of the owls tucked away in every corner, my stack of women's studies, post colonial, gender theory, social justice books dominating one book shelf, not to mention more owls, owls and owls, and she said "well, I just thought with the whole owl thing..."

But my friend was totally right. Working with Athena has been a really good, meaningful, and obvious fit. Though I haven't worked with her intentionally until recently, Athena has always been with me. She has been with me since I picked up that myth book, and even before. She's been with me through high school and college, into adulthood, through my marriage and as a writer and a coffee shop manager. And Athena is with me especially now, when I have something to give her and she has something to give me. When both of us are finally and intentionally good for one another.

(Even if working with her might be a little mainstream fluffy Pagan!)


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  2. Ah. You too were warped, uh, influenced by reading D'Aulaires' at a tender age. :)

    Yes, it might seem a bit at odds to be a pacifist who honors a goddess of "just warfare." But as I remember the myths, Athena didn't do much physical fighting. She was the strategist; actually plunging into battle was more Ares' style. And honoring a goddess of strategy (and the arts and wisdom and all those other good things) sounds wise and not remotely fluffy.

    1. Thanks for taking the time out to reply, Silvernfire! And yes! If I had a penny for every time a Pagan said they got their hands on D'Aulaires' as a child...

      You're right about your comments about Athena. As I've started to work and study with her, I've come to realize how multifaceted she really is. I've also come to understand Greek society a bit more, and to realize just what "just warfare" might have meant for them, as well as what it can mean for me.

      I think a lot of my original Baby Pagan bias came from the fact that I grew up in a military town, and some interpretations of Athena gave her a very distinct slant. But what I've come to learn is just because she shows a particular Mask to others, that Mask doesn't have to be the Mask I see and know. (and the same goes for other Deities as well!)

      Her strategy and wisdom has been of great use to me as I've started graduate school, but also have helped me to grow a bit as a Pagan, too, and move past some old biases. (Though those old first impressions are hard to get rid of sometimes, aren't they?)

      Thanks again for your comment! It really is appreciated!

  3. >>And yes! If I had a penny for every time a Pagan said they got their hands on D'Aulaires' as a child...

    *raises hand* Second grade. Guilty as charged. Hermes, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Demeter, Hestia...

    1. thanks for stopping by, BB, and yes! another life touched by D'Aulaires! It should be required reading for Pagan children or something, hahah!