Today I ran across yet another post on another website alluding to mythological writings detailing Zeus raping this and that immortal or human. Yes, the Greek myths are replete with these particular myths. Sadly, most have not learned how to properly read such myths. I get rather tired of having to tell people that the myths are meant to be read allegorically and not literally. I guess I have come to the point at which I would expect that most should already know this simple fact. One main reason is that the ancients said as much themselves, so, for me, there is no debate on the subject.
The plain fact of the matter is that, if we take such myths literally, then we can present no argument against the monotheist who may cite such things as some kind of proof that Paganism is degenerate. They have always done this and they have used the myths to support their spurious arguments almost from the very beginning. There really is no excuse if we Pagans letting them have the high-ground in this way.
Instead, along with pointing out that the myths are to be read allegorically for the lessons we can flesh out of them, like the ancients did, we should also realize that when we read them literally we are falling into the same trap that the monotheist is already in. They are literally trapped by their holy books, which they (generally) MUST see as literal and inerrant. Otherwise, their faith is in vain. Because of this, they become dogmatic since their salvation depends on it.
Please, let me explain something that should not need to be explained but, sadly, does. If you have to read ANY of the ancient myths literally, then you become a dogmatist and the parts you believe must be read literally become something necessary to your religion. In such an event, a holy book which contains at least the literally-read myths would need to be created, and a college of priests would have to be ordained who could interpret it (because it still could not be read literally). In such an event, we would have made ourselves into virtual monotheists by default because what we would believe in would not be our multiple deities, but our precious holy book. THIS is why we don’t go there.
So, please, let’s get this straight once and for all. Zeus did not rape anybody because the myths are not literal and he is a spiritual being, like all the other blessed deities. So, it’s not funny, nor does it make you seem intellectual or knowledgeable, to put “cute” memes up about Zeus raping women or to otherwise insinuate that he did.
As to what such myths may be meant to teach, that is for you and I to fathom because the myths were not made for the ancients alone and not for only one person. They were made for us all to interpret in our own best way. The myths are not dead, but alive. They are alive because we are able to interpret them and incorporate them into our own lives. They help us to understand things in ways that we might not otherwise.
So, please, don’t dwell on the details. Don’t read them in a literal fashion. Open your mind up to what they may mean for you and for others and then you will become open to a universe that you would never have experienced otherwise.