18 August 2011

Reinventing Atë

Reinvention, reinterpretation, re-imagining... It's something that goes on in the world all the time. All of it might not be good, but a lot of it is. They did it to Battlestar Galactica, for example, and created something really wonderful.

So is it OK to do it with gods? Absolutely! Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst did it with Eris. Anton LaVey did it with Satan. Wiccans did it with Aradia and Cernunnos (and pretty much any deity they run into, I guess). And historically people have been doing it all the time, of course. The images of mythological characters we know today are mere snapshots in time. They were constantly changing, developing.

So I'd like to spend a little more time considering Atë (Ατη), a goddess I discovered only recently (and wrote briefly of in my previous post); how I understand here, and what I could make of her. The sources I've seen on her are pretty sparse, yet there is something intriguing in her nature. (This is not intended as an accurate historical analysis, merely inspiration from very superficial study.)

So, some of the most pertinent points given about her in classical sources:
  • She is the daughter of Eris (who in turn is daughter to Nyx, daughter of Chaos). (According to Hesiod. Homer makes her a daughter of Zeus, but this is more appealing. Although, Hesiod doesn't mention a father, and Homer doesn't mention a mother, so...)
  • She is a goddess of mischief, and has the power to fool even other gods.
  • She tricked Zeus, who in anger cast her down from Olympus, banishing her for all time.
  • She is associated with rash actions, such as as drinking to excess.

Conclusions? While in historical sources she seems to have been a relatively minor character in the whole scheme of Mediterranean mythology, there is a lot of potential to work with. She seems like an anti-authoritarian, nonconformist figure, unafraid of even the king of the gods. It is not a great leap to picture her as a 'fallen angel' character akin to Lucifer (Zeus 'slung her out of the starry heaven', as one translation of the Iliad puts it). She embodies rash, impulsive, destructive behaviour.

Like the Devil, she is at times seen as both the cause and the punishment for bad behaviour, both the personification of delusion and the ruin caused by it. She doesn't rule an infernal realm, though, nor command legions of demons, but walks among us (or actually on top of us, as some sources say). Seeing her as a sort of female Devil would not be too far a leap to make. She is not plotting to overthrow the other gods, or anything (as far as we know, that is), but she does embody some of the same energy. And, as some have done with the Devil, that energy can be reinterpreted as standing for independence and freedom.

The sources I've seen haven't really described her appearance, so I choose to picture her as a beautiful, youthful woman, with black wings. And an evil glint in her eyes, of course.

(Just for the record, the enumeration of Atë, according to isopsephy, is 309. Gematric correspondences given in Crowley's Sepher Sephiroth include Hebrew words meaning 'a leper', 'field, soil, land', and Minacharai, the angel of the 2nd decan of Taurus. The digits add up to 3, and Binah is a natural Sephirah for a dark goddess. 309 is also three times 103, which has among its Hebrew correspondences 'dust', 'to guard, protect', 'loathed', 'oblation', and 'a calf'.)

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