Were The Greek and Roman Pantheons Your First Gods?

Were The Greek and Roman Pantheons Your First Gods? February 27, 2018

The first time I felt the thrill of the Gods was when I picked up Mythology, the book about the Greek and Roman Gods, by Edith Hamilton. Amazingly, this book is still a bestseller to this day, despite being published in 1942.  These Gods were my first love.  I like to say they were my “Gateway Gods” because they opened the doors to several other cultures of study, spiritual work, and practice.

Selene Greek Roman Goddess Pagan God gateway other pantheon
Image courtesy of Pixabay, CC0.

Some of you may remember the term “gateway drug” being used to describe how pot could induce its users to become more likely to try other drugs.  I think that was a failing of the “Just Say No” movement, because other, more harmful drugs were all grouped together with it, and pot isn’t terribly harmful compared to, say, heroin.  However, the concept of something being a “gateway” to other things stuck with me through the years.  The concept came to me again during my studies of Hellenism, because the Greek and Roman pantheons were my first Gods.

Here are a few reasons why it’s highly probable that your first taste of paganism was also with the Greek and Roman pantheons, but not necessarily your last.

1. There’s a Wealth of Information About The Greek and Roman Gods

Because nine of the top ten mythology books rated on Goodreads are about the Greek Gods, if you pick up any book about mythology or the Gods, it’s more likely to be about those pantheons.

Due to the wealth of writing that survived from the Greek and Roman eras, we know quite a bit about daily life and religious practices.  People appear to love books about Ancient Greece and Rome, possibly more than any other books about ancient religions.  According to Goodreads, all ten of the top ten books in Ancient History are about them or that time.

There also appear have been more books published on their history than almost any other ancient history.  Contrast this amount of information to what we have about the Celts and Vikings, who didn’t have written records, and whose work only appeared after the pagan culture had been active for centuries.  Take, for example, that lovely God Cernunnos.  I love him, just as so many do, but I wish there had been more words written about him.  Even just one book.  Conversely, when I say Zeus, you probably have a lot to say about him.

This wealth of knowledge helps modern-day people understand the ancient cultures and their worship.

2. The Greek and Roman Gods Look Like Us Humans

Artemis or Diana, courtesy of Pxhere, CC0

Greek and Roman statues show the Gods as human, only more divine.  The archetypes they represent are still accurate and relevant to this day, and are attractive because of that.  I might even go as far to say the Greek and Roman pantheons have stronger archetypes than most other cultures to modern day people.

I believe this is because their cultures resemble ours to a certain degree.  We’re told from an early age that Greece was the birthplace of democracy.  Our cultures look fairly similar in the terms of classes, taxes, religious tolerance, and emphasis on war or defense.  However, I’d like to think we’re more advanced ethically than the Greeks or Romans, because women and minorities have more rights, and slavery and rape are outlawed.

Our cultures are similar enough that you’ll especially see a difference if you compare the GrecoRoman Gods to a tribal society’s Gods.  If you want to see an ever greater difference, compare them to the notion of a Christian God, who is unknowable, without a face.  There’s hardly any archetype there besides a heavenly father.

3. The Greek and Roman Gods Are Responsive When Called Upon

Most of the times that I’ve called upon the Greek and Roman pantheons, they’ve worked with me.  That’s huge.  I can’t say that for all Gods or pantheons.  I tried to connect with some Gods and was rebuked; however, the Greek and Roman pantheons seem to give as much as they get, and possibly more.  That kind of responsiveness can mean that people will keep using them before any other Gods.  This may help new pagans open that portal in the mind and strengthen those neural pathways.

Perhaps the easiest Goddess I ever worked with was Hestia. I bought a bronze statue of her and put her over my south altar fireplace mantel. It only took one shotglass of wine for her to bless my home with a great vibe.  I call upon her when I host company, and she makes sure the energy is fun.

4. The Greek and Roman Gods Appeal to Young People

I can’t tell you how often I see references to the Greek and Roman Gods on Witchblr.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s the hashtag on Tumblr which is notoriously populated by young people, me, and a few other people over the age of 29.  “Aphrodite taught me how to love myself” is about as ubiquitous as selfies.  It’s amazing and beautiful that the younger crowds have found her and her immense ability to foster love.

Today’s youth culture is mirrored in the ancient cultures, which also admired youth and fitness.  Artemis and Apollo are eternal youths, strong and capable.  Even Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is represented as an athletic girl.

Apollo, eternally beardless. Courtesy of Pxhere, CC0.

The Greek and Roman Gods may also appeal to young people due to their younger-minded specialities such as love, witchcraft (Hecate), and drinking (Dionysis).  Add to this the plethora of children’s books about the Gods such as Percy Jackson, and you’ll see other attractions and relatable characters to young people.

5. They Opened My Way to Greater Paganism

Once I read all I could about the Greek and Roman Gods, I had a thirst for more knowledge, specifically, about my own ancestry cultures.  The familiarity of those Gods and the pervasiveness of their culture gave me confidence to look into other ancient religions.  They helped open the way to several other pantheons and spiritualities, but they’ll always be my first love and my right hand for most of my spiritual practice.

Selene Greek Roman Goddess Pagan God gateway other pantheon
Selene, Courtesy of Wikimedia

So what about you?  Did the Greek and Roman Gods spark your interest when you were a pagan noob or a witchlet too?  Did you grow your practice from there?

I’d love to hear your opinions.  Comment below or in social media to discuss. Until next time.

* bright blessings *

~ Starlight Witch ~

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  • Brianne Raven Wolf

    I liked your article, and yes, when I was younger, and even now, I read and am reading older references to the Greek and Roman Goddesses and Gods. Currently I’m reading Mystery Cults of the Ancient Worlds by Hugh Bowden. I mostly wanted to get his perspective of how Hekate helped Persephone. My main Goddess is Hekate, I have Demeter on my altar, my earliest Goddess and still one of them is Luna, I honor the Celtic God Lugh, but I’m following a Hekatean path now.

  • Deborah Mary Shearer

    oh yes, Athena was always my model, she is everything I strive to be, cool, calm, logical, and a lady of many talents. One of the first books I read and had read to me was called, A History of Greece and it started with the myths, with some beautiful colour plates and it also started me on history as it took the story all the way up to the death of Alexander the Great. On my alter I have a number of owls, a statue of Bast and two hares

  • Anne Hatzakis

    I’m still a Hellenic Polytheist (as if you couldn’t tell by my picture). One problem that I have with Edith Hamilton is her misconception of Hestia as having “no distinct personality”. Other pantheons may call others, but the Daughters of Kronos are my Ladies!

  • Yes, I do love the Greek/Roman culture of the Ancient, Pagan world – it’s awesome to see all the things and philosophy they developed, they were at least as smart as we are, no doubt some were even a lot smarter than us ! In my life, Pallas Athena and Apollo are very important ! I even think my very dear and wise Auntie Jenny (who was my mentrice and “parent”) must have been an “incarnation” of kind, wise but also strong Pallas Athena – and my (unfortunately: late) boyfriend an “incarnation” of lovely Apollo (yes, my BF was beautiful, kind and good beyond imagination !)
    And of courseI I love Gaia, Mother Nature/Earth her self – to me she is the most important of all and it really makes sense: Aren’t we all children of Mother Nature/Earth ? Of course we are ! Anyway, the Greek/Roman culture is one of the most valuable and interesting I’ve ever encountered, besides Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy.. (key phrases: “Compassion” and “Dalai Lama”).
    In a weird way I have a feeling I’m somewhat like Odysseus – because I always try to think (and meditate) my way outta problems, I try to outsmart my opponents, just as he did.. Though I always try to avoid fighting – I prefer using diplomatic ways, to keep the peace !
    Odysseus was by far the smartest Greek hero of his time: he “invented” the (in)famous “Troyan Horse” – and as we all know it worked perfectly well, to defeat the Troyans..! Btw. the Troyans were traders and sailors, so (besides Hermes, the Protector of Traders – and Thieves !) Poseidon, the awesome Master of the Oceans, was very important to them. And it was believed Poseidon “created” the first horses.. So horses were also regarded with great respect by the Troyans. That’s the reason Odysseus adviced to build a large, wooden horse ! Yes, Odysseus was a very smart & cunning man, he succesfully used his knowledge of the Troyan cultrure against them and that made the Greek army to be victorious in this epic and legendary war ! (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliad and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey )
    Blessed Be, my very dear Pagan friends !

  • roberto quintas

    It’s a good article. If and when we start a relationship with higher beings, it’s a good starting.