Saturday, 1 September 2012

Pagan Idolatry



A modern representation of Venus-Freyja (source: Bree)
When I consider the Gods I do, unavoidably, consider the many representations (written, painted, sculpted) that mankind has made of them. If I think of Venus in corporeal terms I imagine her as an immensely beautiful woman with full hips and breasts, and no hint of prudishness about her. I confess that I imagine her as ethnically European – whether her hair be blonde or dark. The more I think of Venus in this way the more absurd my imaginings seem for being so hopelessly centred in Western perspectives on this mighty Goddess. If I see her as merely a European Goddess of sex and fertility then perhaps my imaginings can be forgiven, but I do not live in Europe so why should I revere a specifically European Goddess? Or do I imagine that, regardless of place, she hears the prayers of those who call her Venus or Freyja or Aphrodite (or some other European title given to her) but not those who may call her Rati (Hindu), Ishtar (middle eastern), Qetesh (Egyptian) or some other name? If the Goddess of sex and fertility is universal why should I not also imagine her in the image of these Goddesses? But the images I have seen of these non-European Goddesses are for the most part alien to me – they do not resonate. Like Cicero, I imagine the Gods from a perspective of cultural bias. Under the guise of an Epicurean philosopher he wrote:
“what is naturally the highest form of existence, whether because of its supreme happiness or because of its immortality, should also be the most beautiful. And what arrangement of limbs, what cast of features, what shape or form can be more beautiful than the human? … if the human figure is superior to the form of all living things, and a god is a living thing, then a god surely has the most beautiful form of all; and since it is agreed that the gods are supremely happy, and that no one can be happy without virtue, and that virtue cannot exist without reason, and that reason can be found nowhere but in the human figure, then it must be conceded that the gods have human form. But this form is not really corporeal, but merely resembles a human body; it does not have blood, merely the semblance of blood [Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods].”