Suppose that you wanted to gain an understanding of Christianity - where would you start? With Freidrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, Edward Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Geza Vermes' Jesus the Jew, the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Elaine Pagel's The Gnostic Gospels, John Dominic Crossan's The Birth of Christianity, and Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth? Certainly there's a lot of great information covered in these volumes - well, except for Lindsey's - and they shed some fascinating light on the history of the Church and the content of its beliefs - but I suspect that most people would feel that a much better place to start is with the foundational texts of the religion itself: the Gospels, Paul's Epistles, early apologists such as Tertullian, Clement, and Athenagoras, prominent figures such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and the Spanish Mystics such as John of the Cross and Theresa, Martin Luther, the various Councils, Encyclicals, and Papal Bulls and so forth. Once one has a firm grounding in the thought and mileu of Christianity, then it is appropriate to look at outside sources, academic scholars, informed critics, and divergent trends. I suspect that for many this would be the natural and obvious approach to take with the material - yet, in the Hellenic Polytheist community, many seem to reverse the process. When a curious newbie asks for a recommended reading list, people usually throw academic tomes at them, and almost never suggest that the individual actually begin with what the ancients themselves said about their religion, preferring instead books written during the 19th and early 20th centuries, whose scholarship in many cases is out of date, but whose influence has remained powerful nontheless. What a difference it would make if, instead of Burkert, Nilsson, Harrison, and Neuman a person was first exposed to Homer, Hesiod, Herakleitos, Arkheilokhos, Pindar, Herodotos, Plato, Xenophon, Plutarch, Pausanias, Arrian, Athenaeus, Iamblickhos, Porphyry, and the Emperor Julian. Once they have been exposed to the culture, religion, and philosophy of the ancients, then they could take a look at what others have said, how this material has been interpreted, what patterns have been drawn from it, and so forth.
I suspect that if this were the common practice, many of the most divisive controversies and flame-wars that have wracked our community would be dissolved. For all too often, it seems that the most vocal antagonists are basing their arguments on the works of scholars and seem completely unaware of material and arguments that exist within the lore itself to counter these views, since the scholars, after all, aren't going to include material that completely refutes their pet theories and biases. And one should always be aware that an author has a bias. This is especially the case with those authors who were writing in the last two centuries and moulded the material to fit their political and religious agendas - one sees this in the view that 5th Century Athens was a bastion of civility, rationality, and moderation in stark contrast to the superstitious Christian Dark Ages, and in feminists who envision a universal, peaceful, agrarian matriarchy that spanned the globe before the coming of the evil, patriarchal, war-making Indo-Europeans. Of course, as I said, everyone has their biases which shape how they perceive and present the material - even, and perhaps very pronouncedly, ancient authors - but when one has a guiding methodology such as reconstructionism - which looks back to antiquity for inspiration - then I think that preference should be given to primary sources, as opposed to their modern interpretation. Once you have familiarized yourself with the material, then you can draw your own conclusions, extrapolate and hypothesize as you will. Because, therein lies the real key: in Hellenismos, there is no central authority, no absolutely definitive theology, sociology, or psychology which all adherants must accept. We are encouraged to think things out for ourselves, and when it comes down to our relationship with the Gods, no one person's experiences carry any more weight than another's. However, if most people seem to be in agreement about certain features, then one must either concur with them, or admit that they are out of line with the tradition itself. It is intellectually dishonest to assert that your own pet theories were maintained by the majority of the ancient populace, especially when the facts suggest otherwise.
Perhaps one of the most pronounced cases of this is the criticism leveled against the notion of 'patronage' by "Purecreature". It is unfortunate that he has fallen into such practices, because he does raise some significant questions about the concept. For instance, I will grant that many take this relationship much too far, transforming the Gods into intimate bosom companions ("Buddy Zeus"), or who intuit from their experiences some grand cosmic destiny. I have also seen people infer that they must have a patron since everyone else seems to, and they are somehow deficient because no God has tapped them on the shoulder. I've also seen people mistake an interest in a deity, or some part of their realm, or some experience with a God as a sign of patronage. "Oh, I like yellow! And poetry! And I got over a case of sniffles after praying to him, so Apollo must be my patron!" And I've often seen people who identify so much with a deity that they become completely closed off to all of the other Gods, even hostile to those they perceive as in conflict with their chosen deity - beliefs which are largely in opposition to the spirit of polytheism, and as our sacred stories advise us, potentially psychologically damaging. (The story of Hippolytos comes foremost to mind in this context.) So, on those grounds I can definitely agree with the criticisms leveled by "Purecreature", and as one who does have a patron, I can attest that this relationship can often be demanding, with special obligations that are not attendant upon most other divine relationships. Those who claim patrons because they think it'll add a cool new level to their spirituality and gain them some status points in the community have no idea what they're getting themselves into. And in my case, it was Dionysos who initiated the relationship - I was quite resistant to it at first, and tried my best to get out of it a number of times, but the Gods are much more patient and persistent and powerful than I think we give them proper credit for at times. So, I am not in total disagreement with "Purecreature" regarding this issue - but in making his point, he has erred from the truth in a number of ways, and I believe that the contrary view should be presented, especially since he is making assertions that his views are consistent with ancient Hellenic thought and practice, when they most clearly are not.
I will be responding throughout this piece to "Purecreature"'s article "Patron" and "Matron" Gods which he describes as "Ahistorical, unsupported, and just unrealistic". (I am assuming that this is in reference to the concept of patronage, and not commentary on the quality of his own work, although considering the material I intend to present, I am not entirely certain of that.)
The modern perspective, which lacks any intrinsic relationship between art and religion, has a more Gnostic vocabulary. We seek direct cause-and-effect relationships. If we feel drawn to a God, then we are ‘called’. Whims become ‘messages’. Dreams become ‘visitations’. And the individual declares the God their ‘patron’.
"Purecreature" here seems to be suggesting that we moderns, because of our inartistic and irreligious heritage, cannot properly make distinctions between the different types of dreams that we have, as if we couldn't tell the difference between, say, giving Angelina Jolie a rub-down with scented oils and having a heart-to-heart with a deity while one sleeps, or even simply having a dream pregnant with symbolism which, if properly interpreted, can be seen as a form of communication from the divine. Maybe "Purecreature" simply associates with a different quality of people, but I don't know anyone even remotely familiar with mystical practices who would assume that every dream they have has some profound signifigance. Further, "Purecreature" seems to be suggesting that the ancients, far wiser and more cultured than us, never interpreted their dreams as communications from the divine, or believed that the Gods could directly appear to a person while he slept. This, of course, could not have been further from the truth.
Perhaps the earliest account of dreams in Greek literature comes to us from Homer, where he writes of the two different types of dreams kept by Zeus:
"Two gates there are that give passage to fleeting dreams; one is made of horn, one of ivory. The dreams that pass through sawn ivory are deceitful, bearing a message that will not be fulfilled; those that come out through polished horn have truth behind them, to be accomplished for men who see them." (Odyssey 19.562)
Throughout both the Iliad and the Odyssey the Gods frequently appear to individuals in dreams. Plato, who usually disagrees with Homer's portrayal of divine matters, admitted that dreams could come from the Gods (Timaeus cc, xlvi, xlvii) and both Cicero and Macrobius had enlightening explanations as to how the Gods could communicate with mortals through dreams:
"Now (Posidonius) holds the view that there are three ways in which men dream as a result of divine impulse: first, the soul is clairvoyant of itself because of its kinship with the Gods; second, the air is full of immortal souls, already clearly stamped, as it were, with the marks of the truth; and third, the Gods in person converse with men when they are asleep." (Cicero, De Divinatione I, 64)
"All dreams may be classified under five main types: there is the enigmatic dream, in Greek oneiros; second, there is the prophetic vision, in Greek horama; third, there is the oracular dream, in Greek chrematismos; fourth, there is the nightmare, in Greek enhypnion; and last, the apparition, in Greek, phantasma, which Cicero, when he has occasion to use the word, calls "visum." "Nightmares may be caused by physical or mental distress, or anxiety about the future; the patient experiences in dreams vexations similar to those that disturb him during the day. We call a dream oracular in which a parent, or a pious or revered man, or a priest, or even a god clearly reveals what will or will not transpire... We call a dream a prophetic vision if it actually comes true... By an enigmatic dream we mean one that conceals with strange shapes and veils with ambiguity the true meaning of the information being offered, and requires an interpretation for its understanding." (Macrobius, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio)
Herakleitos went even further when he wrote, "A man in the night kindles a light for himself when his vision is extinguished; living, he is in contact with the dead, when asleep, and with the sleeper, when awake."
Perhaps the most famous examples of phantasma or theophany in dreams occurred in connection with the God Asklepios, at whose healing sanctuaries individuals would practice dream incubation, or sleeping inside the temple, whereupon the God would appear to them in a dream and prescribe the remedy for their illness.
A few examples of inscriptions left by individuals who visited his sancturaies should suffice to show how commonplace the practice was:
"Alcetas of Halieis. The blind man saw a dream. It seemed to him the god came up to him and with his fingers opened his eyes....At daybreak he walked out sound." (Inscriptiones Graecae, 4.1.121 - 122, Stele 1.18)
"To Valerius Aper, a blind soldier, the god revealed that he should go and take the blood of a white cock along with honey and compound an eye salve and for three days should apply it to his eyes. And he could see again and went and publicly offered thanks to the god." (Inscriptiones Graecae, 14.96)
"Cleimenes of Argus, paralyzed in body. He came to the Abaton and slept there and saw a vision... When he woke up he took a bath and walked out unhurt." (Inscriptiones Graecae 4.1.121- 122; Stele 2.37)
But Asklepios was not the only deity who could appear in dreams to heal people:
"They celebrate orgies, well worth seeing, in honor of Dionysos, but there is no entrance to the shrine, nor have they any image that can be seen. The people of Amphikleia say that this god is their prophet and their helper in disease. The diseases of the Amphikleans themselves and of their neighbors are cured by means of dreams. The oracles of the god are given by the priest, who utters them when under the divine inspiration." (Pausanias 10.33.11)
The Phokians were not the only people to whom Dionysos paid visits in dreams:
"There is a legend that after the death of Sophocles the Lacedaemonians invaded Attica, and their commander saw in a vision Dionysos, who bade him honor, with all the customary honors of the dead, the new Siren. He interpreted the dream as referring to Sophocles and his poetry, and down to the present day men are wont to liken to a Siren whatever is charming in both poetry and prose." (Pausanias 1.21.1)
And regarding Pindar and his encounter with Persephone, Pausanias wrote, "When his fame was spread abroad from one end of Greece to the other, the Pythian priestess set him on a still higher pinnacle of renown by bidding the Delphians give to Pindar an equal share of all the first-fruits they offered to Apollo. It is said, too, that in his old age there was vouchsafed to him a vision in a dream. As he slept Proserpine stood by him and said that of all the deities she alone had not been hymned by him, but that, nevertheless, he should make a song on her also when he was come to her. Before ten days were out Pindar had paid the debt of nature. But there was in Thebes an old woman, a relation of Pindar's, who had practiced singing most of his songs. To her Pindar appeared in a dream and sang to her a hymn on Proserpine; and she, as soon as she was awake, wrote down all the song she had heard him singing in her dream. In this song, amongst the epithets applied to Hades is that of 'golden-reined,' obviously in reference to the rape of Proserpine." (9.23:3-4)
Pausanias took dreams so seriously that he refused to write about the Eleusinium at Athens because of an experience he had, "I purposed to pursue the subject, and describe all the objects that admit of description in the sanctuary at Athens called the Eleusinium, but I was prevented from so doing by a vision in a dream." (1.14.1-3)
Practically the whole of Xerxes' carreer was guided by dreams in which the Gods communicated to him and advised him about upcoming battles. (Herodotos 7:12-18) Similarly, most of the important incidents in the life of Alexander the Great were precipitated by divine dreams.
Justin records the dream of Olympias regarding Alexander's birth:
"Alexander, when he died, was thirty-three years and one month old. He was a man endowed with powers of mind far beyond ordinary human capacity. His mother Olympias, the night in which she conceived him, dreamed that she was entwined with a huge serpent; nor was she deceived by her dream; for she certainly bore in her womb a conception superior to mortality; and though her descent from the Aeacidae, a family of the remotest antiquity, and the royal dignity of her father, brother, husband, and indeed of all her ancestors, conferred sufficient splendour upon her, yet by no one's influence was she rendered more illustrious than that of her son. Some omens of his future greatness appeared at his birth. Two eagles sat the whole of the day on which he was born on the top of his father's palace, giving indication of his double empire over Europe and Asia. The very same day, too, his father received the news of two victories, one in the war with the Illyrians, the other in the Olympic games, to which he had sent some four-horse chariots; an omen which portended to the child the conquest of the world." (XII.16)
Plutarch records several dreams that led to Alexander's forces taking the beseiged city of Tyre:
"During this siege he had a dream in which he saw Heracles stretching out his hand to him from the wall and calling him. And many of the Tyrians dreamed that Apollo told them he was going away to Alexander, since he was displeased at what was going on in the city. Whereupon, as if the god had been a common deserter caught in the act of going over to the enemy, they encircled his colossal figure with cords and nailed it down to its pedestal, calling him an Alexandrist. In another dream, too, Alexander thought he saw a satyr who mocked him at a distance, and eluded his grasp when he tried to catch him, but finally, after much coaxing and chasing, surrendered. The seers, dividing the word satyros into two parts, said to him, plausibly enough, "Tyre is to be thine." And a spring is pointed out, near which Alexander dreamed he saw the satyr." (Life of Alexander 24.3-5)
Plutarch also records a dream that Alexander had which led to the founding of Alexandria in Egypt:
"Then, in the night, as he lay asleep, he saw a wonderful vision. A man with very hoary locks and of a venerable aspect appeared to stand by his side and recite these verses: Now, there is an island in the much-dashing sea, In front of Egypt; Pharos is what men call it." (Life of Alexander 26.3)
Curtius records a dream in which a divinity in the form of a snake led him to an antidote for the poison that Ptolemy was struck by:
"For when Alexander, wearied by fighting and by anxiety, had taken his place beside Ptolemy, he ordered the bed on which he himself slept to be brought in. As soon as he lay down upon it, he immediately fell into a profound sleep. When he awoke, he said that in a dream a serpent had appeared to him, carrying an herb in its mouth, which it had indicated to be a cure for the poison; and the king declared too that he would recognize the colour of the herb if anyone could find it. Then, when it was found - for it was sought by many at the same time - he placed it upon the wound; and immediately the pain ceased and within a short time the wound was scabbed over. The barbarians, since their first hope had proved vain, surrendered themselves and the city." (IX.8.26)
Perhaps one of the most famous accounts of a God appearing in a dream to Alexander comes to us from Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews:
"Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddus the high-priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifice to God, whom he besought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them; whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent. Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced, and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king.
"And when Jaddus understood that Alexander was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests and the multitude of the citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to a place called Sapha, which name, translated into Greek, signifies a prospect, for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple. And when the Phoenicians and the Samarians that followed him thought they should have liberty to plunder the city, and torment the high-priest to death, which the king's displeasure fairly promised them, the very reverse of it happened; for Alexander, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high-priest in purple and scarlet clothing, with his mitre on his head, having the golden plate whereon the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself, and adored that name, and first saluted the high-priest.
"The Jews also did all together, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about; whereupon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him disordered in his mind. However, Parmenion alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass that, when all others adored him, he should adore the high-priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, 'I did not adore him, but that God who has honored him with his highpriesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dion in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians; whence it is that, having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the Divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind.'" (11.317-345)
So how can "Purecreature" question the role that divine visitation in dreams played in our religion? It is far from a marginal thing, arising from modern man's desire to read more into his dreams than is really there - this is, perhaps, one of the oldest, most consistent methods of communication between the mortal and divine worlds, accepted even by individuals such as Cicero and Plato who were skeptical when it came to popular religion generally.
But "Purecreature" does not stop there. He goes on to say:
The notion that a God might arbitrarily ‘select’ and ‘tutor’ one individual runs counter to our religion. It is, quite literally, hubristic, and something that would have been frowned upon even in Homer’s time.
I suspect that "Purecreature" is the only one doing the frowning here. While this relationship certainly wasn't commonplace in antiquity, and individuals such as Lucian were less than inclined to accept these claims at face value (see, for instance, the scathing remarks that he makes about Alexander of Abonoteikhos and Peregrinos) it certainly wasn't unheard of, nor viewed by the ancients as contrary to their religion. In fact, a number of antiquity's most prominent figures claimed precisely this sort of direct mentoring and favor by the divinities.
Perhaps the clearest example of a 'patron' relationship was that of Odysseus and his Goddess Athene, as described by Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey. Homer describes Odysseus as "of many counsels," an epithet commonly used for Athene. He has Athene address Odysseus thusly:
"Crafty must he be and knavish, who would outdo thee in all manner of guile, even if it were a god encountered thee. Hardy man, subtle of wit, of guile in satiate, so thou was not even in thine own country to cease from thy sleights and knavish words, which thous lovest from the bottom of thine heart! But come, no mpore let us tell of these things, being both of us practiced in deceits, for that thou art of all men far the first in counsel and in discourse, and I in the company of all the gods win renown for my wit and wile." (Odyssey 12)
Further, in book 20 of the Odyssey, Athena says, "O hard of belief! yea, many there be that trust in a weaker friend than I am, in one that is a mortal and knows not such a craft as mine; but I am a god, that preserve thee to the end, in all manner of toils..."
Throughout his adventures, Athena is constantly at his side, offering assistance. In just the Iliad She stands beside him and offers advice (2.279) she sends a bird to Odysseus to let him know that she is constantly watching over him (10.274), Athene hears Odysseus' prayers and responds (10.295), Odysseus dedicates his spoils to her (10.571), Athene saves Odysseus from the attack of the Trojan Sokos (11.437), during the funeral games for Patroklos, Odysseus prays to her to help him win the footrace (23.769) and she trips Aias so that Odysseus could win (23.774). The instances of her intervention on behalf of Oddyseus and his family in the Odyssey are far too numerous to mention!
And consider, for instance, how Aiskhylos came to become one of the world's greatest dramatists:
"Aiskhylos himself said that when a youth he slept while watching grapes in a field, and that Dionysos appeared and bade him write tragedy. When day came, in obedience to the vision, he made an attempt and hereafter found composing quite easy." (Pausanias 1.21.2)
Arkhilokhos wrote, "But I am a servant of Ares the lord, and of the Muses' whose enamoring gift I know well." (Frag. 1) A famous inscription from Paros tells the story of how Arkhilokhos came to be a poet:
'They say that Arkhilokhos, when he was still a young man, was sent by his father Telesikles into the countryside to the parish called Leimones to bring back a cow to be sold. He got up very early while it was still night and the moon was shining and started to take the cow to town. When he came to the place which is called Lissides, he thought he saw a group of women. Thinking they were leaving their work in the fields to go to town, he went up to them and began to taunt them. They received him with ribaldry and laughter and went on to ask if he was taking the cow to sell it. He said "Yes". They told him they would pay him a fair price. No sooner were these words spoken than the women and the cow vanished; but at his feet he saw a lyre. He was shocked out of his wits, but when after some time he came to his senses, he concluded that it was the Muses who had manifested themselves and presented him with the lyre. He picked it up, continued on his way to the town and told his father what had happened. When Telesikles heard the story and saw the lyre he was amazed. His first act was to have a search made for the cow all over the island; but he could not find it.' (Arkhilokhos T4 Tarditi 22-43.)
On Mount Helicon, a rustic farmer named Hesiod was tending his sheep when some Nymphs who presided over a nearby oracular spring approached him and "taught him a glorious song," (Theogony 22-23) and according to Philostratos, (Life of Apollonius of Tyana 5.15) Aesop received his gift for telling fables from Hermes, who was pleased with his humble sacrifices.
Jane Ellen Harrison, in Themis: a Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion writes regarding Epimenides, "Plutarch in his account of the purification of Athens in the days of Solon says of Epimenides that he was a man of Phaistos, son of the nymph Balte, 'beloved of the gods,' and 'an adept in religious matters dealing with the lore of orgiastic and initiation rites.' It was because of this that he was reputed to be son of a nymph and gained his title of Koures." (pg 52)
Herodotos, recounts the story of Aristeas, who was a shaman that learned his craft directly from Apollo:
"For Aristeas, they say, being inferior to none of his townsmen in birth, went to a fuller's shop in Proconnesus and died and the fuller shut down his workplace and was gone to make an announcement to those related to the corpse. Then, when the account was scattered throughout the city that Aristeas was dead, into disputes with the speakers came a Cyzician man who had come from the city of Artace and he asserted that he had meet with him as he went toward Cyzicus and come into speeches with him and that man disputed vehemently, while those related to the corpse at the fuller's shop were present with what was needful with the intention that they would take it up. But when the building had been opened, Aristeas appeared neither dead nor living. Then the seventh year afterward he appeared in Proconnesus and composed those epic verses that now are called Arimaspea by the Greeks and, when he had made the composition, was made to disappear the second time.
"Those accounts those cities give, but the following things I know occurred to the Metapontinians in Italy two hundred and forty years after the disappearance of Aristeas, as I concluded and found in Proconnesus and Metapontium. For the Metapontinians assert that Aristeas himself appeared to them in their country and bade set up an altar for Apollo and stand a statue by it with the appellation of Aristeas the Proconnesian, as he asserted that to them quite alone of Italians Apollo had come to their country and he himself, the one who was now Aristeas, was his follower, but then, when he was the god's follower, he was a crow. He in fact said that and was made to disappear and the Metapontinians say that they sent to Delphi and asked the god what the apparition of the human being was and Pythia bade them obey the apparition and, if they obeyed, it would come out better for them. And they accepted that and caused it to be brought to completion. So now there stands a statue with the appellation of Aristeas by the image itself of Apollo and round it laurel trees stand and the image is set up in the public square. Now, about Aristeas let so much be said." (4:20)
There were also the nympholepts who retired to caves and grottoes where they lived in intimate seculsion with the nymphai who adopted them, and in turn, whose holy sites they tended.
For instance, we have an inscription from the Fifth century in an Attic cave at Vari from Archedamos the Theran, nympholept:
"Archedamos the Theran, a nympholept, at the instructions of the nymphs worked out this cave" and "Archedamos the Theran cultivated a garden for the nymphs".
From the same period, but in a cave near Pharsalos, a Thessalian man named Pantalkes wrote:
"The Nymphs made Pantalkes a gentleman they who walk these places; and made him overseer. He tended these plants and shaped things with his hands and in return they gave abundance for all his days."
Onesagoras, the Cypriot devotee of the nymph at Kafizin, seems to have dedicated an inscribed pot after his retirement, in which he calls himself the good steward of the nymph.
And from 3rd century ce, a gravestone inscription of Chrysogonos of Kos calls himself "servant of the nymphs".
The Gods frequently appeared to individuals and charged them with the duty of spreading their cults abroad. For instance, Physkoa, called a "beloved of Dionysos" was charged with bringing his cult to Elis, and was afterwards honoured at Olympia with a chorus. (Pausanias 5.16.6-7) Loxo, whose name means "partner of Loxias" was a Hyperborean, the sister of Hekaerge and Opis, and was said by Kallimakhos to have brought his cult to Delos and instituted the practice of young girls sacrificing their hair to the God. (Hymn 4.292) Kleoboia was given the task of bringing her mysteries from Paros to Thasos by Demeter (Pausanias 10.28.3) just as the Scythian Anacharsis was inspired to institute the worship of Magna Mater among the Skythians, for which act he was murdered. (Herodotus 4.76-7)
We also see that individuals received special attention and miraculous intervention by the Gods.
Regarding Kreusa, daughter of Priam, Pausanias writes:
"About Kreusa the story is told that the Meter Theon and Aphrodite rescued her from slavery among the Greeks, as she was, of course, the wife of Aeneas." (10.26.1)
Regarding the body of Hektor, Homer in the Iliad writes:
"But the dogs of the Greeks did not deal with the body of Hektor, for Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, drove the dogs back from him by day and night, and anointed him with rosy immortal oil, so Akhilleus, when he dragged him about, might not tear him and Apollon protected it from the rotting heat of the sun." (23.185)
Regarding the Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis Herodotos writes:
"Amasis made friends and allies of the people of Kyrene. And he decided to marry from there ... [so] he married a certain Ladike ... But whenever Amasis lay with her, he became unable to have intercourse, though he managed with every other woman ... So Ladike, when the king did not relent at all [in accusing her of witchcraft] although she denied it, vowed in her heart to Aphrodite that, if Amasis could have intercourse with her that night, since that would remedy the problem, she would send a statue to Kyrene to her. And after the prayer, immediately, Amasis did have intercourse with her. And whenever Amasis came to her thereafter, he had intercourse, and he was very fond of her after this.Ladike paid her vow to the goddess; she had an image made and sent it to Kyrene, where it stood safe until my time, facing outside the city." (2.181)
Alexander the Great was given special recognition by the Gods, who repeatedly assisted and guided him throughout his spectacular career.
Ephesian Artemis assisted at his birth, even as her temple burned:
"She is called Diana, because she makes a kind of day of the night; and presides over births, because the delivery is effected sometimes in seven, or at most nine courses of the moon; which, because they make mensa spatia, "measured spaces," are called menses, months. This occasioned a pleasant observation of Timaeus (as he has many). Having said in his history, that "the same night in which Alexander was born, the temple of Diana at Ephesus was burned down," he adds, "it is not in the least to be wondered at, because Diana, being willing to assist at the labour of Olympias, was absent from home." But to this Goddess, because ad res omnes veniret, "she has an influence upon all things," we have given the appellation of Venus, from whom the word venustas, beauty, is rather derived, than Venus from venustas." (Cicero On the Nature of the Gods II. XXVII)
Strange things occurred when Alexander visited the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi:
"And now, wishing to consult the god concerning the expedition against Asia, he went to Delphi; and since he chanced to come on one of the inauspicious days, when it is not lawful to deliver oracles, in the first place he sent a summons to the prophetess. And when she refused to perform her office and cited the law in her excuse, he went up himself and tried to drag her to the temple, whereupon, as if overcome by his ardour, she said: "Thou art invincible, my son!" On hearing this, Alexander said he desired no further prophecy, but had from her the oracle which he wanted. Moreover, when he set out upon his expedition, it appears that there were many signs from heaven, and, among them, the image of Orpheus at Leibethra (it was made of cypress-wood) sweated profusely at about that time. Most people feared the sign, but Aristander bade Alexander be of good cheer, assured that e was to perform deeds worthy of song and story, which would cost poets and musicians much toil and sweat to celebrate." (Plutarch, Life of Alexander 14.4-5)
Diodorus Siculus record Alexander's visit to Oracle of Ammon at Siwah:
"When Alexander was conducted by the priests into the temple and had regarded the god for a while, the one who held the position of prophet, an elderly man, came to him and said, "Rejoice, son take this form of address as from the god also." He replied, "I accept, father; for the future I shall be called thy son. But tell me if thou givest me the rule of the whole earth." The priest now entered the sacred enclosure and as the bearers now lifted the god and were moved according to certain prescribed sounds of the voice, the prophet cried that of a certainty the god had granted him his request, and Alexander spoke again: "The last, O spirit, of my questions now answer; have I punished all those who were the murderers of my father or have some escaped me?" The prophet shouted: "Silence! There is no mortal who can plot against the one who begot him. All the murderers of Philip, however, have been punished. The proof of his divine birth will reside in the greatness of his deeds; as formerly he has been undefeated, so now he will be unconquerable for all time." Alexander was delighted with these responses. He honoured the god with rich gifts and returned to Egypt." (XVII.51.1-4)
The trek to visit Siwah was long and arduous, and Alexander and his men would not have made it without divine assistance:
"At all events, during the journey which he made at this time, the assistance rendered him by Heaven in his perplexities met with more credence than the oracles which he afterwards received, nay, in a awy, the oracles obtained credence in consequence of such assistance. For, to begin with, much rain from heaven and persistent showers removed all fear of thirst, quenched the dryness of the sand, so that it became moist and compact, and made the air purer and good to breathe. Again, when the marks for the guides became confused, and the travellers were separated and wandered about in ignorance of the route, ravens appeared and assumed direction of their march, flying swiftly on in front of them when they followed, and waiting for them when they marched slowly and lagged behind. Moreover, what was most astonishing of all, Callisthenes tells us that the birds by their cries called back those who straggled away in the night, and cawed until they had set them in the track of the march." (Plutarch, Life of Alexander 27.1-3)
Diodorus records further instances of divine favor for Alexander:
"As the king began his march out of the Troad and came to the sanctuary of Athena, the sacrificant named Alexander noticed in front of the temple a statue of Ariobarzanes, a former satrap of Phrygia, lying fallen on the ground, together with some other favourable omens that occurred. He came to the king and affirmed that he would be victor in a great cavalry battle and especially if he happened to fight within the confines of Phrygia; he added that the king with his own hands would slay in battle a distinguished general of the enemy. Such, he said, were the portents the gods disclosed to him, and particularly Athena who would help him in his success." (XVII.17.6-7)
But the Gods could show their favor to unimportant individuals as well. Consider, for instance, the following inscriptions:
1. Thanks to Minerva, that she restored my hair.
2. Thanks to Jupiter Leto, that my wife bore a child.
3. Thanks to Zeus Helios the Great Sarapis, Savior and Giver of wealth.
4. Thanks to Silvanus, from a vision, for freedom from slavery.
5. Thanks to Jupiter, that my taxes were lessened.
6. I pray for the safety of my colony and its senate and people, because Jupiter Best and Greatest by his numen tore out and rescued the names of the decurions that had been fixed to monuments by the unspeakable crime of that most wicked city-slave who refused to work...
(William Stearns Davis, ed. Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-1913, Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 268, 289)
And from Asklepios' sanctuaries we find:
"O Lord Asclepius, whom we have invoked for many things and on many occasions, both at night and during the day, in private and in public, it was you who to our satisfaction and in fulfilment of our excessive desire granted us the opportunity of reaching a calm haven, as it were, from the vast sea and utter dejection, and allowed us to offer our greetings to the common hearth of mankind, in which there is no-one under the sun who has not been initiated; but I venture to assert that no Greek to this day has had more benefit from it than I have. Although I am quite accustomed to saying all this - still, I must not hesitate to acknowlege it again. Therefore we do not shrink from our habit and omit these daily addresses of ours, but we retain this habit precisely because we have been used to it from the beginning."
"I, M. Julius Apellas, was sent forth by the god, since I fell sick often and was stricken with indigestion. On the journey to Aegina, not much happened to me. When I arrived at the sanctuary, it happened that my head was covered for two days during which there were torrents of rain. Cheese and bread were brought to me, celery and lettuce. I bathed alone without help; was forced to run; lemon rinds to take; soaked in water; at the akoai in the bath I rubbed myself on the wall; went for a stroll on the high road; swinging; smeared myself with dust; went walking barefoot; at the bath, poured wine over myself before entering the hot water; bathed alone and gave the bath-master an Attic drachma; made common offering to Asclepius, to Epion [his wife], to the Eleusinian goddess; took milk with honey. I used the oil and the headache was gone. I gargled with cold water against a sore throat, since this was another reason that I had turned to the god. The same remedy for swollen tonsils. I had occasion to write this out. With grateful heart and having become well, I took leave." (IG iv Syll. 3.11170)
"Dedicated by Diophantus of Sphettus. I, a beloved temple attendant, say these things to you, Asclepius son of Leto's chld. How shall I come to your golden abode, O blessed, longed-for, divine head, since I do not have the feet with which I formerly came to the shrine, unless by healing me you graciously wish to lead me there again so that I may look upon you, my god, brighter than the earth in springtime. So I, Diophantus, pray you, save me, most powerful and blessed one, by healing my painful gout: in the name of your father, to whom I offer earnest prayer. For no mortal man may give release from such sufferings. Only you, blessed divine one, have the power. For the gods who are eminent above all gave you to mortal men as a great gift, the compassionate one, the deliverance from sufferings. Thrice-blessed Paeon Asclepius, by your skill Diophantus was healed of his painful incurable ailment. No longer does he appear crab-footed nor as if walking on cruel thorns, but sound of foot, just as you promised." (IG i2 4514)
"Ambrosia of Athens, blind in one eye. This woman came as a suppliant to the god. Walking in the sanctuary, she mocked at certain of the cures, claiming it was unbelievable that lame and blind people should have recovered their health merely by experiencing a dream. She incubated in the sanctuary and had a dream: the god appeared right up close to her and told her that he would cure her, but that she would have to pay in sacrifice a silver pig as a memorial of her foolishness. So saying, he made an incision in her sick eye and poured in medicine. The next morning she departed, cured. (IG iv2.1.121-2, Stele A).
"A man whose fingers, with the exception of one, were paralyzed, came as a suppliant to the god. While looking at the tablets in the temple he expressed incredulity regarding the cures and scoffed at the inscriptions. But in his sleep he saw a vision. It seemed to him that, as he was playing at dice below the Temple and was about to cast the dice, the god appeared, sprang upon his hand, and stretched out his [the patient's] fingers. When the god had stepped aside it seemed to him [the patient] that he [the patient] bent his hand and stretched out all his fingers one by one. When he had straightened them all, the god asked him if he would still be incredulous of the inscriptions on
the tablets in the Temple. He answered that he would not. "Since, then, formerly you were incredulous of the cures, though they were not incredible, for the future," he said, "your name shall be Incredulous." When day dawned he walked out sound."
"Euphanes, a boy of Epidaurus. Suffering from stone he slept in the temple. It seemed to him that the god stood by him and asked: "What will you give me if I cure you?" "Ten dice," he answered. The god laughed and said to him that he would cure him. When day came he walked out sound."
"Purecreature" goes on to say:
Thomas Harrison writes in his book "Divinity and History: the religion of Herodotus": "Fifth and fourth-century Athenians ... did not see gods popping up here and there." And neither should we.
As a matter of fact, the Fifth and Fourth century Athenians did quite frequently describe this phenomena, as "Purecreature" would be aware of if he actually bothered to read the writings that those individuals have bequeathed to us, as opposed to simply relying on academics to interpret the religious practices and mindset of the ancients for him.
Perhaps the most famous example of such a direct epiphany occurred to the Athenians at Marathon:
"While still in the city of Athens, the generals first sent to Sparta the herald Philippides, an Athenian and a long-distance runner who made that his calling. As Philippides himself said when he brought the message to the Athenians, when he was in the Parthenian mountain above Tegea he encountered Pan. Pan called out Philippides' name and bade him ask the Athenians why they paid him no attention, though he was of goodwill to the Athenians, had often been of service to them, and would be in the future. The Athenians believed that these things were true, and when they became prosperous they established a sacred precinct of Pan beneath the Acropolis. Ever since that message they propitiate him with annual sacrifices and a torch-race." (Herodotus 6.105.1)
Battlefield epiphanies were actually quite frequent at the time:
At Tanagra, Hermes Promakhos led Tanagran ephebes into battle. (Pausanias 9.22.2. 2) Following a promise made by the Spartans and after receiving favourable sacrificial omens, the Dioscuri fought alongside the Lokrians against Kroton, wearing scarlet cloaks and mounted on white horses. The Lokrians had also furnished a couch on their ship for the heroes. (Justin 20.2f) Because of their relationship with the Opuntians, the Lokrians called upon Ajax son of Oileus before the battle, and left a space for him in their battle-formation. He appeared and gravely wounded an enemy soldier, who was afterwards sent by the Delphic oracle to Leuke, where Ajax appeared to him together with Achilles and several other legendary heroes and healed him. (Konon 26FgH1.18; Paus. 3.19.12f) A large hoplite was seen by a warrior called Epizelos and killed the man beside him. Epizelos lost his sight as a result of the experience. (Herodotos 6.117) Pausanias records that a man was seen killing Persian troops with a plough, and was later identified as the hero Ekhetlaios. (1.32.5) Two large figures, believed by the Delphians to be the local heroes Phylakos and Autonoös, whose precincts lay nearby, were seen harrying the Persians. (Herodotos 8.38f) At Salamis, Athenian sailors reported seeing visions of armed men coming from Aigina and stretching their hands out in front of the Greek triremes; these were believed to be the Aiakidai, whom the Athenians had previously called upon for assistance. (Plutarch's Life of Themistocles 15.1) Also at Salamis, the Athenian forces saw a woman shouting commands and reproaches at the Greek forces. (Herodotos 8.84.10) A serpent was seen with the Athenian fleet. This was later identified by an oracle as a manifestation of the hero Kykhreus, a sanctuary of whom lay nearby.(Pausanias 220.127.116.11.) The woman who threw the tile that killed Pyrrhus was said by the Argives to have been Demeter in human form. (Pausanias 18.104.22.168). Poseidon appeared and helped the Mantineians against the Spartans. (Pausanias 8.10.8)
An inscription dating from about 300 B.C., refering to Phillip II's invasion of Laconia reads:
"This manifestation also of your might did you bring about, Asclepius, in those times when Philip led his army against Sparta, aiming to destroy her kingly power. It was to them that Asclepius, answering their call for help, went from Epidaurus, because he honoured the progeny of Heracles. He was on his way at the same time that this boy who was ill came from Bousporus. As he made his way, you met him face to face, Asclepius, resplendent in golden armour. On seeing you the boy held out his arms in prayer and uttered this appeal: "I have no part in your gifts, healer Asclepius: take pity on me." You then said clearly to me: "Be of good cheer: I shall come to you in due season - only stay here - when once I have warded off dreadful disaster from the Lacedaemonians, because they have kept the commandments which Lycurgus handed down to the city after consulting the oracle." So he went away towards Sparta; I was prompted by the thought to go and tell the Lacedaemonians all about this miracle. They heeded what I said, the message of salvation, and you, Asclepius, saved them. They proclaimed that all men should receive you with hospitality, and called on you as the saviour of spacious Lacedaemon." (J.U.Powell, Collectanea Alexandrina Oxord, 1925 pp. 134-5.)
Plutarch, in his Life of Phocion, 28, records odd happenings during the Macedonian garrisoning in Athens:
"But the proceedings seemed sufficiently imperious and arbitrary, indeed rather a spiteful and insulting ostentation of power than that the possession of the fortress would be of any great importance. The resentment felt upon it was heightened by the time it happened in, for the garrison was brought in on the twentieth of the month of Boedromion, just at the time of the great festival, when they carry forth Iacchus with solemn pomp from the city to Eleusis; so that the solemnity being disturbed, many began to call to mind instances, both ancient and modern, of divine interventions and intimations. For in old time, upon the occasions of their happiest successes, the presence of the shapes and voices of the mystic ceremonies had been vouchsafed to them, striking terror and amazement into their enemies; but now, at the very season of their celebration, the gods themselves stood witnesses of the saddest oppressions of Greece, the most holy time being profaned, and their greatest jubilee made the unlucky date of their most extreme calamity. Not many years before, they had a warning from the oracle at Dodona that they should carefully guard the summits of Diana, lest happily strangers should seize them. And about this very time, when they dyed the ribbons and garlands with which they adorn the couches and cars of the procession, instead of a purple, they received only a faint yellow colour; and to make the omen yet greater, all the things that were dyed for common use, took the natural colour. While a candidate for initiation was washing a young pig in the have of Cantharus, a shark seized him, bit off all his lower parts up to the belly, and devoured them, by which the god gave them manifestly to understand, that having lost the lower town and seacoast, they should keep only the upper city."
This is remarkably similar to the account that Herodotos gives of what happened during the Persian sacking of Athens a few generations before:
"Moreover Dicaios the son of Theokydes, an Athenian, who was an exile and had become of great repute among the Medes at this time, declared that when the Attic land was being ravaged by the land-army of Xerxes, having been deserted by the Athenians, he happened then to be in company with Demaratos the Lacedemonian in the Thriasian plain; and he saw a cloud of dust going up from Eleusis, as if made by a company of about thirty thousand men, and they wondered at the cloud of dust, by what men it was caused. Then forthwith they heard a sound of voices, and Dicaios perceived that the sound was the mystic cry Iacchos; but Demaratos, having no knowledge of the sacred rites which are done at Eleusis, asked him what this was that uttered the sound, and he said: "Demaratos, it cannot be but that some great destruction is about to come to the army of the king: for as to this, it is very manifest, seeing that Attica is deserted, that this which utters the sound is of the gods, and that it is going from Eleusis to help the Athenians and their allies: if then it shall come down in the Peloponnese, there is danger for the king himself and for the army which is upon the mainland, but if it shall direct its course towards the ships which are at Salamis, the king will be in danger of losing his fleet. This feast the Athenians celebrate every year to the Mother and the Daughter; and he that desires it, both of them and of the other Hellenes, is initiated in the mysteries; and the sound of voices which thou hearest is the cry Iacchos which they utter at this feast." To this Demaratos said: "Keep silence and tell not this tale to any other man; for if these words of thine be reported to the king, thou wilt surely lose thy head, and neither I nor any other man upon earth will be able to save thee: but keep thou quiet, and about this expedition the gods will provide." He then thus advised, and after the cloud of dust and the sound of voices there came a mist which was borne aloft and carried towards Salamis to the camp of the Hellenes: and thus they learnt (said he) that the fleet of Xerxes was destined to be destroyed. Such was the report made by Dicaios the son of Theodykes, appealing to Demaratos and others also as witnesses." (9.65)
But of course, these types of direct epiphanies were not limited simply to the battlefield.
In the early third century, the presence of the manifestation of the Gods was well attested. A stone found on the outside of the city of Miletus said: "Ever since she has taken on her priesthood, the gods have been appearing in visitations as never before, to the girls and women but also, too, to men and children. What does such a thing mean? Is it the sign of something good?"
Artemidorus in his Onicritica writes:
"Some of the gods are intelligible, others perceptible: intelligible are most of them; perceptible only a few...Of the gods we call some Olympians,...some celestial, some terrestrial...Of the terrestrial gods, Hecate, Pan, Ephialtes and Asclepius can be perceived by the senses (but the latter is also considered intelligible at the same time.)....Of the aforementioned gods the Olympians are helpful to the great...when appearing to them, the celestials to the middle classes, the terrestrials to the poor." (II, 34)
Proclus wrote, "In all the Initiations and Mysteries the Gods manifest themselves in many forms, assuming a great variety of guises; sometimes they appear in a formless light, again in quite different form."
Carl Kerenyi records the words of Herakles from a papyrus, regarding the Eleusnian mysteries thusly, "I was initiated long ago. Lock up Eleusis, and put the fire out, Dadouchos. Deny me the holy night! I have already been initiated into more authentic mysteries.... (I have beheld) the fire, whence (...and) I have seen the Kore." (Eleusis p. 84)
Porphyry wrote, "Crowned with myrtle, along with the other initiates we enter the entrance hall of the temple, still blind, but the hierophant who is within will soon open our eyes. But first, for nothing is to be done in haste, let us wash in the holy water. We are led before the hierophant. From a book of stone, he reads to us things which we must not divulge, under penalty of death. Let us say only that they are in harmony with the place and circumstance. You would laugh, perhaps, if you heard them outside the temple, but here you have no desire to laugh as you listen to the words of the elder (for he is always old) and as you look at the exposed symbols. And you are far from laughing when, by her special language and signs, by vivid sparkling of light and clouds piled upon clouds, Demeter confirms everything that we have seen and heard from her holy priest. Then, finally, the light of a serene wonder fills the temple; we see the pure Elysian fields; we hear the chorus of the blessed ones. Now it is not merely through an external appearance or through a philosophical interpretation, but in fact and in reality that the hierophant becomes the creator and the revelator of all things; the sun is but his torchbearer, the moon, his helper of the altar, and Hermes, his mystical messenger. But the last word has been uttered: Knox Om Pax. The ritual has been consummated, and we are seers forever."
Plotinus wrote, "There we must ascend again towards the good, desired of every soul. Anyone who has seen this, knows what I intend when I say it is beautiful. Even the desire of it is to be desired as a good. To attain it is for those who will take the upward path, who will set all their forces towards it, who will divest themselves of all that we have put on in our descent:--- so, to those who approach the Holy Celebrations of the Mysteries, there are appointed purifications and the laying aside of the garments worn before, and the entry in nakedness--- until, passing on the upward way, all that is other than the God, each in the solitude of oneself shall see that solitary-dwelling existence, the apart, the unmingled, the pure, that from which all things depend, for which all look and live and act and know, the source of life and of intellection and of being." (First Ennead VI, 7)
Plato in the Phaedrus (250) wrote, "There was a time when with the rest of the happy band they saw beauty shining in brightness,--- we philosophers following in the train of Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we saw the beatific vision and were initiated into a mystery which may be truly called most blessed, celebrated by us in our state of innocence, before we had any experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we saw shining in pure light, pure ourselves and not yet enshrined in that living tomb which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned in the body, like an oyster in his shell."
Pindar wrote, "Blessed is he who has seen these things before he goes beneath the earth; for he understands the end of mortal life, and the beginning (of a new life) given of God." (Fragment 102)
Psellus says that when the initiate was raised to the "Sublime Degree of the Epoptae, he beheld the divine light."
Plutarch in On the Soul wrote, "At first one wearily hurries to and fro, and journeys with suspicion dark as one uninitiated: then come all the terrors be initiation, shuddering, trembling, sweating, amazement: then one is struck with a marvellous light, one is received into pure regions and meadows, with voices and dances and the majesty of holy sounds and shapes: among these he who has fulfilled initiation wanders free, and released and bearing his crown joins in the divine communion, and consorts with pure and holy men, beholding those who live here uninitiated, an uncleansed horde, trodden under foot of him and huddled together in mud and fog, abiding in their miseries through fear of death and mistrust of the blessings there."
Aristides records an experience in which 'there came from Isis a Light and other unutterable things conducing to salvation. In the same night appeared Serapis and Aesculapius himself, both marvellous in beauty and stature and in certain aspects resembling each other' (Sacred Discourses III).
In the Liturgy of Mithra we read, 'Thou shalt see a youthful god, lovely in form, with red locks, wearing a white tunic and scarlet mantle, and holding a bright crown.' (Dieterich, p.10)
Apollo "speaks without priests or prophets. This god takes the initiative himself and completes the oracle of his own accord." (Lucian, De Dea Syria)
"With such thoughts, sitting amongst the suitors, he saw Athene and went straight to the forecourt, the heart within him scandalized that a guest should still be standing at the doors. He stood beside her and took her by the right hand, and relieved her of the bronze spear, and spoke to her and addressed her in winged words: 'Welcome, stranger You shall be entertained as a guest among us. Afterward, when you have tasted dinner, you shall tell us what your need is." (Homer, Odyssey, ll. 118-124)
"Pallas Athene … standing close beside him [the Greek hero Diomedes] spoke and addressed him in winged words: 'Be of good courage now, Diomedes, to fight with the Trojans, since I have put inside you chest the strength of your father incredulous … I have taken away the mist from your eyes, that before now was there, so that you may well recognize the god and the mortal. Therefore now, if a god making trial of you comes hither do you not do battle head on with the gods immortal not with the rest; but only if Aphrodite, Zeus' daughter, comes to the fighting, her at least you may stab with the sharp bronze.' She spoke thus, grey-eyed Athene, and went." (Homer, Iliad 5.131)
"The power of heaven is great and has no bounds; whatever the gods determine is fulfilled. I give you proof. Among the Phrygian hills [of Lydia in Asia Minor] an oak tree and a lime grow side by side, girt by a little wall … not far from these two trees there is a marsh, once habitable land, but water now, the busy home of divers, duck and coot. Here once came Juppiter [Zeus], in mortal guise, and with his father herald Atlantiades [Hermes], his wings now laid aside. A thousand homes they came to seeking rest; a thousand homes were barred against them; yet one welcomed them, tiny indeed, and thatched with reeds and straw; but in that cottage Baucis, old and good, and old Philemon (he as hold as she) had joined their lives in youth, grown old together, and eased their poverty by bearing it contentedly and thinking it no shame. It was vain to seek master and servant there; they two were all the household, to obey and to command. So when the heavenly ones reached their small home and, stooping, entered in at the low door, the old man placed a bench and bade them sit and rest their weary limbs, and Baucis spread on it a simple rug in busy haste, and from the hearth removed the ash still warm, and fanned yesterday's embers and fed them leaves and bark, and coaxed a flame with her old breath; then from the rafters took split billets and dry twigs and broke them small, and on them placed a little copper pan; then trimmed a cabbage which her spouse had brought in from the stream-fed garden. He reached down with a forked stick from the black beam a chine of smoke-cured pork, and from the long-kept meat cut a small piece and put it in to boil. Meanwhile their talk beguiles the passing hour and time glides unperceived. A beachwood bowl hung by its curving handle from a peg; they fill it with warm water and their guests bathe in the welcome balm their weary feet. They place a mattress of soft river-sedge upon a couch (its frame and feet were willow) and spread on it their drapes, only brought out on holy days, yet old and cheap they were, fit for a willow couch. The Gods reclined. Then the old woman, aproned, shakily, arranged the table, but one leg was short; a crock adjusted it, and when the slope was levelled up she wiped it with green mint. Then olives, black and green, she brings, the fruit of true Minerva [Athena], autumn cherry plums bottled in wine lees, endive, radishes, and creamy cheese and eggs turned carefully in the cooling ash; all served in earthenware. Next a wine-bowl, from the same 'silver' chased, is set and beechwood cups, coated inside with yellow wax. No long delay; the hearth sends forth the steaming feast and wine again is brought of no great age, then moved aside, giving a space to bring the second course. Here are their nuts and figs, here wrinkled dates, and plums and fragrant apples in broad trugs, and sweet grapes gathered from the purple vines, and in the midst a fine pale honeycomb; and - over all - a zeal, not poor nor slow, and faces that with smiling goodness glow. Meanwhile they saw, when the wine-bowl was drained, each time it filled itself, and wine welled up all of its own accord within the bowl. In fear and wonder Baucis and Philemon, with hands upturned, joined in a timid prayer and pardon sought for the crude graceless meal. There was one goose, the trusty guardian of their minute domain and they, the hosts, would sacrifice him for the Gods, their guests. But he, swift-winged, wore out their slow old bones and long escaped them, till at last he seemed to flee for sanctuary to the Gods themselves. The deities forbade. 'We two are gods', they said; 'This wicked neighbourhood shall pay just punishment; but to you there shall be given exemption from this evil. Leave your home, accompany our steps and climb with us the mountain slopes.' The two old folk obey and slowly struggle up the long ascent, propped on their sticks. A bowshot from the top they turn their eyes and see the land below all flooded marshes now except their house; and while they wonder and in tears bewail their lost possessions, that old cottage home, small even for two owners, is transformed into a temple; columns stand beneath the rafters, and the thatch, turned yellow, gleams a roof of gold; and fine doors richly carved they see, and the bare earth with marble paved. Then Saturnius [Zeus] in gentle tones addressed them: 'Tell us, you good old man, and you, good dame, his worthy consort, what you most desire.' Philemon briefly spoke with Baucis, then declared their joint decision to the Gods: 'We ask to be your priests and guard your shrine; and, since in concord we have spent our years, grant that the selfsame hour may take us both, that I my consort's tomb may never see nor may it fall to her to bury me.' Their prayer was granted. Guardians of the shrine they were while life was left, until one day, undone by years and age, standing before the sacred steps and talking of old times, Philemon saw old Baucis sprouting leaves and green with leaves she saw Philemon too, and as the foliage o'er their faces formed they said, while still they might, in mutual words 'Goodbye, dear love' together, and together the hiding bark covered their lips. Today the peasants in those parts point out with pride two trees From one twin trunk grown side by side. This tale I heard from staid old men who had no reason to deceive. I saw myself wreaths on the boughs and hung a fresh one there, and said: 'They now are gods, who served the Gods; to them who worship gave is worship given." (Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.618)
"Jove, Neptunus, and Mercurius came as guests to King Hyrieus in Thrace. Since they were received hospitably by him, they promised him whatever he should ask for. He asked for children. Mercurius brought out the hide of the bull which Hyrieus had sacrificed to them; they urinated in it, and buried it in the earth, and from it Orion was born." (Hyginus Fabulae 195)
"The Nymphai one day became visible to [the shepherd] Kerambos as they danced to the strumming of his lyre. Pan, in good will, gave him this advice: to leave Othrys and pasture his flocks on the plain, for the coming winter was going to be exceptionally and unbelievably severe.
Kerambos, with the arrogance of youth, decided - as though smitten by some god - not to drive his beasts from Othrys to the plain ... Kerambos [in his arrogance] taunted the Nymphai [with insults]. After a short while there came a sudden frost and the streams froze. Much snow fell on the flocks of Kerambos and they were lost to sight as well as were the trees and paths. The Nymphai, in anger against Kerambos because of his slanders, changed him into a wood-gnawing Kerambyx beetle." (Antoninus Liberalis 22)
"I entered a forbidden wood [sacred to the gods], and the Nymphae and half-goat god bolted from my sight. If any knife has robbed a grove of a shady bough to give ailing sheep a basket of leaves: forgive my offence. Do not fault me for sheltering my flock from the hail in a rustic shrine, nor harm me for disturbing the pools. Pardon, Nymphae, trampling hooves for muddying your stream. Goddess [Pales], placate for us the Springs and Fountain Spirits, placate the gods dispersed through every grove. Keep from our sight the Dryades and Diana's bath and Faunus lying in the fields at noon." (Ovid Fasti 4.751)
"When a man has made up his mind to descend to the oracle of Trophonios, he first lodges in a certain building for an appointed number of days, this being sacred to the Good Daimôn and to Good Fortune. While he lodges there, among other regulations for purity he abstains from hot baths, bathing only in the river Hercyna. Meat he has in plenty from the sacrifices, for he who descends sacrifices to Trophonios himself and to the children of Trophonios, to Apollo also and to Kronos, to Zeus with the epithet King [Basileus], to Hera Charioteer [Hêniokhos], and to Demeter whom they name with the epithet Europa and say was the wetnurse of Trophonios. At each sacrifice a diviner [mantis] is present, who looks into the entrails of the sacrificial victim , and after an inspection prophesies to the person descending whether Trophonios will give him a kind and gracious reception. The entrails of the other victims do not declare the mind of Trophonios so much as a ram, which each inquirer sacrifices over a pit on the night he descends, calling upon Agamedes. Even though the previous sacrifices have appeared propitious, no account is taken of them unless the entrails of this ram indicate the same; but if they agree, then the inquirer descends in good hope. The procedure of the descent is this. First, during the night he is taken to the river Hercyna by two boys of the citizens about thirteen years old, named Hermae, who after taking him there anoint him with oil and wash him. It is these who wash the descender, and do all the other necessary services as his attendant boys. After this he is taken by the priests, not at once to the oracle, but to fountains of water very near to each other. Here he must drink water called the water of Forgetfulness that he may forget all that he has been thinking of hitherto, and afterwards he drinks of another water, the water of Memory which causes him to remember what he sees after his descent. After looking at the image which they say was made by Daedalus (it is not shown by the priests save to such as are going to visit Trophonios), having seen it, worshipped it and prayed, he proceeds to the oracle, dressed in a linen tunic, with ribbons girding it, and wearing the boots of the native locale. The oracle is on the mountain, beyond the grove. Round it is a circular basement of white marble, the circumference of which is about that of the smallest threshing floor, while its height is just short of two cubits. On the basement stand spikes, which, like the cross-bars holding them together, are of bronze, while through them has been made a double door. Within the enclosure is a chasm in the earth, not natural, but artificially constructed after the most accurate masonry. The shape of this structure is like that of a bread-oven. Its breadth across the middle one might conjecture to be about four cubits, and its depth also could not be estimated to extend to more than eight cubits. They have made no way of descent to the bottom, but when a man comes to Trophonios, they bring him a narrow, light ladder. After going down he finds a hole between the floor and the structure. Its breadth appeared to be two spans, and its height one span. The descender lies with his back on the ground, holding barley-cakes [mazai] kneaded with honey, thrusts his feet into the hole and himself follows, trying hard to get his knees into the hole. After his knees the rest of his body is at once swiftly drawn in, just as the largest and most rapid river will catch a man in its eddy and carry him under. After this those who have entered the shrine learn the future, not in one and the same way in all cases, but by sight sometimes and at other times by hearing. The return upwards is by the same mouth, the feet darting out first. They say that no one who has made the descent has been killed, save only one of the bodyguards of Demetrius. But they declare that he performed none of the usual rites in the sanctuary, and that he descended, not to consult the god but in the hope of stealing gold and silver from the shrine. It is said that the body of this man appeared in a different place, and was not cast out at the sacred mouth. Other tales are told about the man, but I have given the one most worthy of consideration. After his ascent from Trophonios the inquirer is again taken in hand by the priests, who set him upon a chair called the Throne of Memory, which stands not far from the shrine, and they ask of him, when seated there, all he has seen or learned. After gaining this information they then entrust him to his relatives. These lift him, paralyzed with terror and unconscious both of himself and of his surroundings, and carry him to the building where he lodged before with Good Fortune and the Good Daimôn. Afterwards, however, he will recover all his faculties, and the power to laugh will return to him. What I write is not hearsay; I have myself inquired of Trophonios and seen other inquirers." (Pausanias 9.39.5-14)
So, after all of that, I hope that I've demonstrated how little the views of "Purecreature" actually resemble those of our cultural ancestors. More to the point, while the ancients may not have called such relationships "patronage" they certainly would have recognized that one could have an intense, personal relationship with a deity, that this relationship implied certain special obligations, and that in return it entitled the individual to special protection and greater intimacy with the deity than they might otherwise have, and that the ancients certainly did not view their deities as abstract personifications, but as distinct individuals whom one might happen to chance upon during their wanderings.