Monday, February 10, 2014

Mythology Monday: Athena

Guess what day it is!

Not Wednesday.

In fact it is Monday, and you know what that means! I present the next installment of Mythology Monday, this week featuring Athena, goddess of... Well, read on.

Flickr Credit: timknows
Athena
Athena’s a bit of a weird one, if we’re going to be completely honest. She was born when Hephaestus cracked open Zeus’s skull, for one thing. I don’t mean that it’s Athena’s fault Zeus ate her mom, Metis, who endowed her then-born daughter with all her wisdom, but all the same it’s a remarkable beginning.

After she was born Athena became the patroness of wisdom, craft and skill, and battle strategy. This led her on all sorts of adventures, so that she became nemesis enemies with Poseidon and Ares, supported heroes like Odysseus and Perseus, and inadvertently invented the spider. She was one of the contestants for Eris’s golden apple and a prime fighter in the ensuing war, she accidentally killed her best friend, and she was responsible for the Gorgon situation.

Obviously she had a lot of stuff on her plate.

Regardless, she was Zeus’s favorite child, one of the maiden goddesses, and always an important component in any war. Her symbols are often owls, olive trees, and her aegis.

Why I Love Her
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Athena, but I’ll have to admit that I admire the things she stands for. Wisdom, coming up with tricks and plans to win, thoughtfulness, skill. I like those sorts of things, and I appreciate the people in real life who work hard for such things as well. I also enjoy the fact that she’s a strong female character in terms of Greek Mythology. Many female characters are, but I enjoy Athena because she’s willing to sit down and spend time weaving and after that go and kill people with a spear. Not every girl I know is like that.

Why I Don’t Love Her

As said, Athena’s not my favorite. She’s cold, jealous, and one of the nastier goddesses on the spectrum. Her competitiveness, as in the examples of The Judgment of Paris and Arachne, can end up causing wars or ugly little bugs that somehow end up all over the place in my house and I have to work up all these guts to kill them all the time.

Seriously, being a spider would not be a punishment, it would be an advantage. Suddenly you have the power to scare the crap out of everyone and poison bugs and bite people. Where is the wisdom in that, I ask you?

Regardless of my opinions on spiders, I also must admit that I think Athena’s plans and rashness do not often end well. Remaining constant enemies with Poseidon resulted in more deaths than I have time to count, and in many ways I think her violent, if brilliantly tactical, streak alienated her from the rest of the Olympians.

Perhaps being a jaded goddess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Why She’s Important
Despite the spider thing, Athena is a key figure in Greek Mythology. More often than not, she guides
heroes and lights the way for those who are lost, and helps win victory with skill rather than force. I always like to make the distinction between wisdom and knowledge, and Athena’s important because she pays attention to the distinction as well. Her mind is her power, and in real life, that’s how it should be too. In Song of the South, Uncle Remus points out that you should think with your head instead of your foots, and to be able to do that is perhaps the greatest feat of all in daily life.

What do you think of Athena? Love her? Hate her? Share in the comments!

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