A girl should probably finish a book before reviewing it, but I’m going to tell you right now that I’m totally digging Zeus by Tom Stone. It’s both a personal and historical biography of the god and I just adore the way that Stone manages to straddle the line between treating the stories with reverance and making sure that his audience understands the history that informs the stories.
He does an excellent job, I think, of explaining how the Proto-Indo-European sky god, Dieus, finds his continuation through Zeus and, if you look carefully at Dieus (sometimes called something like Dyaus Fater or Dyaus Pater) you can see how we continue to invoke some memory of him when we call on the gods Zeus, Jupiter, and Tyr.
I often wonder about that–when many different names refer to the same god and when they refer to different gods. I’m prepared to believe that Gotan, Wodan, Odin and Othinn are all the same god under slightly different names. And maybe I’m okay with believing that Jupiter and Zeus are two expressions of the same god. But I’m not so ready to believe that Jupiter and Zeus and Tyr are. Even though I’m perfectly fine with believing that they are indeed continuations of the same god.
A theory we’ve discussed before for why the northern gods are so interested in the lives of humans is that their experience of time is much differen than ours. For them, the present, the past, and the future are all jumbled together in some way we don’t understand. Baldar, for instance, is dead and not yet dead and not yet even born. Loki is Odin’s blood brother. Loki has already betrayed the gods. The world is ending and it is just beginning.
But we experience time linearly. We have a past, a present, and a future and because of this, we can do something that the gods cannot. We can change the future.
Which means that the only possibility the gods have for change comes through us. That’s their stake in us. We bring change into their world through bringing change into our own.
That is, I think, part of the lifecycle of the gods that we don’t quite get, steeped as we are in the mythology of a god who clearly changes but claims he doesn’t. But this is how gods reproduce and pass along their wisdom, through the change people make in the heavens.
For thousands of years, Zeus didn’t have a body. And then we gave him one. And then we relegated him to myth. And then folks came to admit that they believed those myths were true. And so he returned. And so on and so on.
Anyway, it’s a great bookand I’m really enjoying it.
If the past, present, and future are all there in one lump, though, can humans change something that is already part of the story? Then what happens to those parts of the story?
NM, that’s a good question. I think they stay as they are while at the same time, there’s also something new and different and those tensions remain unresolved until such a time that the pressure on the god(s) is such that they branch off into new gods.
That’s how I resolve for myself the obvious way in which Tyr and Zeus come from the same god and yet, clearly, at some point, they became much, much different gods.
I think they stay as they are while at the same time, there’s also something new and different and those tensions remain unresolved until such a time that the pressure on the god(s) is such that they branch off into new gods.
Sort of like country music, you mean.