Divine Roles Across Cultures
- Word count: 1128
- Category: Culture
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Select one common divine role that recurs in world mythology.
Possible options of divine roles include the following: father or mother divinities, divinities of war, home or hearth divinities, divinities of love, divinities of wisdom, divinities of medicine or health, divinities of the wind, divinities of agriculture, divinities of the sky, ruler of all the gods, and so on.
Identify the role in the title of your table.
Select two myths, each from a different culture, in which the divine role appears. Identify the divinity names and cultures in columns A and B.
Complete the table by answering each of the five questions for both selected divinities.
1. How is this divinity portrayed? Describe the divinity’s role within the myth. The role of Zeus is as Lord of the Sky and Father of gods and mortals. He is portrayed as the most powerful god ever, intensely disliking those who were wicked. Additionally, he was known to protect the weak and was involved with many mistresses. Odin, the Allfather, was the Chief God in Norse Mythology, the god of war, magic and the lord of those who fell in battle. He is often depicted with only one eye because he sacrificed the other for wisdom. He is the overseer of Valhalla, the place in Asgard for half of all men killed in battle.
2. Is the divinity male or female? What function does this gender play? Zeus is male and as such, more powerful than any female deity. He was depicted as strong and he was dominant over all the gods. As a male god, Zeus made life possible and without male seed females could not give birth. Females served as wives and mistresses in a less over-bearing role. (University of Phoenix World Mythology: An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics 1994.) Odin is a male god, and this was important to his role as god of war because males are physically stronger that females.
3. What are the divinity’s attributes, such as divine powers or characteristics? What objects does the divinity possess, such as a weapon or animal, that assist him or her? Zeus as the Lord of the Sky, was able to control conditions of the atmosphere, including lightning bolts and rain. Whatever his lightning bolt came into contact with was set on fire. (University of Phoenix World Mythology: An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics 1994.)
Zeus is pictured either sitting on his throne or standing with an eagle and a lightning bolt in his hand ready to end the lives of the wicked. Odin, like Zeus was the chief god and was feared by all; he was pictured sitting on his throne. He was known to be deceptive in battle and he had a temper. He was recognized for his wisdom, knowledge and sorcery. Odin had two ravens whose names meant thought and memory and they were always with him, although they flew away to learn what was happening in the places Odin was not. He also had a spear that always hit at what Odin had aimed.
4. Within the myth of origin, how does this divinity compare with other divinities? How does this divinity interact with or compare to divinities of the same gender and to divinities of the opposite gender? Zeus is the god of all gods and humans, no god compares with him. He defeated his father and fought the Titans for his authority. Zeus was feared by all and had a temper.
He is superior to other divinities, both female and male. His interaction with females was sexual and included both goddesses and humans. Odin worked in concert with his brothers to kill a giant whose blood, flesh and bones were used to create the universe and middle earth where humans lived. Odin helped to create the universe, not just gods and humans, as is the case with some other creation myths. He caused conflict and incited war. Odin had two wives. I could find very little of how he interacted with any other gods of either sex. There were tales of his involvement with other creatures, not only humans.
5. Identify one character from contemporary culture that shares characteristics of each divinity, and explain why you chose each character. What real-life ideals does this divine role represent? How attainable are these ideals? One character from contemporary culture that has some similar characteristics to Zeus is Superman. Although Superman was humble, always just, imbued with a sense of morality and did not abuse his powers, he was super human and had powers humans did not.
Zeus was revered, called upon for assistance and he helped the weak, just as Superman did. The ideal here, I believe, is an all-powerful god to believe in and be taken care of just by worship and obedience. This ideal is attainable through faith in one’s true god. One character from contemporary culture that has some similar characteristics to Odin is Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea. I think this is appropriate because he is all-powerful in North Korea and feared by many in his country and others. His ability and choices to instigate argument are similar to Odin’s desires and actions. The ideal I see in the mythic Odin is winning in battle, even through trickery, at any cost. This ideal is attainable in places willing to behave in that manner.
Write a 150- to 350-word short essay addressing the following: Why do so many cultures have divinities in similar roles?
There are many cultures that have divinities in similar roles, such as creator, father, protector, wise one, love-giver, savior, destroyer, health-giver, wisdom-giver and agriculture-helper, to name a few. The reason for this is that the human race has a universal need to understand nature, its beginnings, purpose and to achieve a sense of control over what happens.
Reasoning is basic to humans and sometimes feelings and emotions, including fears and desires, need to have recourse and so, we reason about those and where there is no help or explanation, we believe in something to help us get on with our lives with meaning and enlightenment. For ancient peoples, without the benefit of science and the scientific method, so much of what happened to and around them, especially in nature, needed an explanation. Such understanding would help to give the people some control along with choice. An example of this would be a culture praying to their agricultural god for a good harvest. We can imagine many other scenarios, where, in the absence of knowledge, it was created and used as they developed it to suit their lives.
University of Phoenix. (2004). Myth and knowing: An introduction to world. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, HUM105 website.
University of Phoenix. (1994). World Mythology: An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, HUM105 website.