Ritual Practice of an Hellenic Atheopagan

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Pagan path of Atheopaganism as it is generally described on this site is free both of credulity in literal gods and of “soft theism”, or the usage of god-images, names and meanings as metaphorical in religious practice.

But for some, this soft theism adds a valued layer of meaning to their practice. Here, guest writer Richard C. Sansing describes how he has cross-referenced figures in the traditional Tarot deck with Classical Greek mythological figures.


IMG_2694[1] (1)
Richard’s Focus

My ritual practice combines the intellectual foundations of Atheopaganism with the symbolism of Greek mythology. My Focus is simple, featuring a figurine of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind and my childhood copy of Aesop’s Fables.

In one of his recent posts, Mark mentioned that he sometimes engages in Tarot card readings. I was surprised, as I had thought of Tarot as being of form of fortune telling. But after reading how he uses it here, I started thinking about whether I could incorporate Tarot into my Hellenic Atheopagan practice. Mark asked me to share the results of my efforts on his blog, and I am happy to do so. Let me emphasize that this is a work in progress. Suggestions are welcome!

Knowing nothing about Tarot, I started by trying to learn the basics, and discovered the Major Arcana, court cards, and pip cards. It turns out that others have tried to combine Tarot with symbols from Greek mythology. I discovered several efforts to associate the 22 cards of the Major Arcana with Greek gods and goddesses, and one effort to do so with the 16 court cards. None seemed entirely satisfying, and so I tried to combine these efforts.

First, I started with the general approach used by John Opsopaus in the system he calls Pythagorean Tarot, shown here.

I deviated from some of his choices, and relabeled “Knight” and “Page” as “Prince” and “Princess” to emphasize the symmetry between masculine and feminine deities. The resulting correspondence between court cards and deities is in the table below.

Tarot symbol

Mythological figure

Meaning

Suit of Cups (water)

King

Poseidon

Power of nature

Queen

Aphrodite

Desire

Prince

Ares

War

Princess

Hera

Marriage

Suit of Pentacles (earth)

King

Hades

The deceased

Queen

Demeter

Agriculture

Prince

Hermes

Messages

Princess

Artemis

Wild nature

Suit of Swords (air)

King

Zeus

Leadership

Queen

Gaia

Cosmos

Prince

Apollo

Arts and music

Princess

Athena

Strategy

Suit of Wands (fire)

King

Prometheus

Teacher

Queen

Hestia

Home

Prince

Hephaestus

Craftsmanship

Princess

Hekate

Guide

Many of these associations are straightforward (Poseidon with water, Zeus with air) but others are not. Hekate could easily fit in the Suit of Pentacles, but she is often depicted carrying two torches, helping Demeter search for Persephone, and so I put her in the Suit of Wands.

The last step was to associate the 22 cards in the Major Arcana with other Greek deities. Having used the Olympic gods and goddesses in the previous step, this was the most challenging task. But using various websites, especially theoi.com, I arrived at the associations in Table 2. I tried to choose deities with characteristics similar to those on the cards themselves.

 

Tarot symbol

Mythological figure

Meaning

Fool

Epimetheus

Recklessness

Magician

Asclepius

Skill

High Priestess

Metis

Wisdom

Empress

Rhea

Motherhood

Emperor

Cronus

Power

Hierophant

Coeus

Intelligence

Lovers

Eros & Psyche

Love

Chariot

Nike

Triumph

Strength

Atlas

Strength

Hermit

Chronos

Time

Wheel of Fortune

The Fates

Luck

Justice

Themis

Justice

Hanged Man

Ouranos

Betrayal

Death

Thanatos

Death

Temperance

Harmonia

Harmony

Devil

Dionysus

Excess

Tower

Eris

Strife

Star

Tyche

Hope

Moon

Selene

Imagination

Sun

Helios

Energy

Judgment

Persephone

Rebirth

The World

Chaos

Beginning & ending

Table 2

Choosing Asclepius, the god of medicine, to represent the Magician emphasizes the Magician’s characteristics of skill over trickery. Ouranos as the Hanged Man refers to his eventual demise rather than his role as the primordial god of the sky.

Going through this process helped me learn a lot about Tarot, and also enriched my knowledge of Greek mythology. I look forward to incorporating Tarot into my ritual practice!

 

 

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One thought on “Ritual Practice of an Hellenic Atheopagan

  1. Your reference to what you’re calling “soft theism”- that is, the use of images of deities in who’s reality we don’t actually believe- brings to mind the almost omnipresent images of Quan Yin, found in the rooms of almost every therapist I know.
    Few of us, I suspect, believe in her literal existence- riding on a lion’s back amid swirling clouds, or tranquilly seated, tipping the flask from which comes the balm of forgiveness- but her ancient persona as “She who hears the cries of the World”, makes her a perfect metaphor, if you will, for a therapist’s work. She brings into our rooms compassion and total, non-judgemental forgiveness- things that most of the people who come to us fervently deny themselves.
    Do I believe in her physical existence, somewhere in the clouds? Certainly not, but her image, central to my room’s altar, reminds me of what we are, and what we could be, and how my work is to help bridge that gap.
    So metaphors have always served us, be it Quan Yin or the Green Man, and their persistence in human existence suggests that a spiritual path that attempts to do away with the images that inspire them tempts irrelevance.
    Watching Atheopaganism’s practitioners tread the delicate path between acceptance and rejection of deistic metaphor is endlessly interesting; who knows where it will end?

    Liked by 1 person

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