Quotes from ‘Magic in the Ancient Greek World’

Magic in the ancient greek worldLévy-Bruhl helps us to understand why statues and figurines were treated in this way, without resorting to a notion of irrationality defined (in our Western manner) by a failure to draw the proper dividing line between animate and inanimate objects. In Greece in particular, matter itself could have an ambiguous status. To give a specific example, or some highly educated thinkers such as the late seventh/early sixth-century BCE philosopher Thales of Miletus, stones that had magnetic properties were thought to contain souls…It is not hard to see how magnetic stones that attracted to iron fillings, in the absence of an available electromagnetic theory, could be thought to be animate – in other words to contain a soul. Reality as we know it in the mechanical, casual Western view, with its sharp dividing line between organic and inorganic matter, is collapsed in Thales’ view of the magnet…”

 

“Greeks harbored many different beliefs about dead souls, and scaled them in different ways, from heroes who rested at their leisure in the Elysium fields and the Isles of the Blessed, to an altogether different sort of underworld community whose anger was beyond human appeasement.”

 

“The shocking and bizarre nature of an epileptic seizure, as every Greek who knew Herakles’ own sufferings could attest, was so extraordinary that it almost begged for divine explanation. But to the Greeks, the fact that a divinity could invade a human body was a familiar experience, most famously illustrated in the case of the Pythia at Delphi being invaded by Apollo who thereby provided her with an oracular voice. In this case Apollo’s divine visitation was invited and controlled and unlike a sudden epileptic seizure, where it was not even clear which divinity might in fact be present…. The Greeks construed an epileptic seizure in terms of divine invasion, and in anthropological terms this kind of cultural phenomenon is called possession. The issue now for the patient, however, according to the author of On the Sacred Disease, was to determine which divinity was responsible for the possession.”

From, Magic in the Ancient Greek World by Derek Collins

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ‘The Whitening Thief Latent White Supremacy in Percy Jackson’ by Maxwell T Paule

This exceptionalism is then explicitly tied to the Greek gods or their direct offspring who serve as the movers and shakers of world events. World War II is described as a “fight between the sons of Zeus & Poseidon on one side, and the sons of Hades on the other,” and among the list of notable divine offspring Riordan lists William Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. (And yes, it is only white men who are cited as famous demigods in this book.)

Creating a world in which the divine offspring of Greek gods shape the course of western civilization is already sipping at a pretty racist cocktail, but Riordan goes much further when he explains that all of these offspring are considered to be part of the same genetic bloodline. One character specifically says of the dozens of demigods assembled at “Camp Half-Blood” (No, I’m not making this up, that’s… really the name. For real.): “We’re all extended family,” and as Percy meets various campers, he repeatedly notices a “family resemblance.” To put this distinction between demigods and mortals into starker relief, Percy later receives a sword that can harm monsters and demigods, but learns from Chiron that “the blade will pass through mortals like an illusion. They simply are not important enough for the blade to kill.” (Emphasis added to highlight the absurdity of this sentiment.)

In short, Riordan has imagined that western civilization — which he here equates with Civilization Itself — has been shaped by a genetically distinct population with divine parentage who are all, to a person, more important than the entirety of the general population. We’ve now moved from sipping that racist cocktail to slamming the whole damn thing. Especially when you consider that all of these gods and demigods are white, and the only two (yes, two) people of color in the entirety of The Lightning Thief are monsters (Medusa and Charon) with foreign accents (I know).

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