Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eros, Peace and Pleasure

Not knowing where else to put forth some of the thoughts in my head at the moment, I thought I'd put them down here, in the special place I've set aside for sounding knowledgeable.

My divine fixation for the last year or more has been on a somewhat unpopular love god of the Hibernian persuasion. Sometimes when I share this with folks, I get a bit of a blank look. A lot of pagans (or more specifically, a lot of Wiccans), familiar with the clear, "single function" divisions of labor among Greek and Roman gods, don't understand why I'd spend time with a love deity if I wasn't specifically looking for love. There are two misunderstandings occurring here; the first being that the Celtic deities are necessarily restricted to a single function, and the second being that love deities are necessarily restricted to the realms of physical or romantic love.

Óengus Mac Óg is a more multifaceted character, in contrast to, say, the Greek or Roman male embodiments of love and desire. He's really more of an Apollo than a Cupid - the image of goodly male youth, a magician and a warrior - though he retains the tricksiness of Eros/eros all the same. True, he spends much of his time in the stories helping couples survive against the obstacles that face them. And while that illustrates his nature quite excellently, that's not all there is to him. Eros, in the psychological, philosophical sense as I see it, isn't a matter solely related to dating or sex. Eros is agape, descended into the realm of the flesh. Eros is relation and delight. A hedonism stopping just short of bakkheia, a bright flame tempered by the tranquility of water.

Aside from playing matchmaker for mortals, deities of love - Aphrodite, Bast, Inanna, Frigg (even Freyr, who is more often thought of as a god of agriculture and fertility, was said to "bestow peace and pleasure upon mortals," which I think is a good example of what I'm talking about) - have a certain kind of wisdom to impart. Those who might find themselves shying away from the decadence and frenzy of figures like Dionysus and Pan would do well to place themselves at the feet of one of these divinities. In fact, those who are shy in general might do so. Those who suffer from a lack of self-esteem. Those who suffer from inconvenient bouts of anxiety and existential dread. (Why worry when you are pleased with yourself, with who and what you are? Self-love can be just as powerful and valuable as selfless love.) I could tout the power of charm and charisma where it pertains to personal and business relations, but I find little poetry in that. An invitation, the bestowal of favor - enjoyment, an indulgence, the giving of praise. These are the ties that bind human beings together. It's no small thing.

I personally find it significant that the first record we have of a consciously neo-pagan organization was the Church of Venus, in Russia. I compared eros to agape earlier, and self-love to selfless love...I think eros may be a decidedly non-Christian kind of love. I its literal sense, eros, "desire," is more selfish in nature. And when you're coming from a cultural or religious upbringing in which you were taught to deny yourself (your Self?), I really don't think there's anything wrong with that. Seeing to the contentment and satisfaction of others is all the more enriching, I think, when you know that you are entitled to the same. Catholic guilt doesn't really allow you to take pleasure in receiving compliments, or being a target of admiration, or anything gratifying in life, really. Who needs Satan, when Óengus the Perfect is already doing a great job of corrupting my childhood values?