Essentially what? (4)

The Gods are not without darker or aggressive sides and They take part in what harms human life. They have dealings with all things, good and bad, and in Their actions or forwarding of Their different agendas individual lives will inevitably be destroyed, sometimes thousands as in the case of earthquakes, plagues, or storms. It’s not that They have fun or enjoy creating havoc (well, most of Them don’t): often it’s the natural consequence of Their roles and goals. But there’s one thing in the Gods’ nature that is common to all of Them, albeit in different degrees: Their openness to make deals with humans!

That’s where the essential benevolence of the Gods can be found. They are not closed on Themselves, running about Their businesses unaware of us or ignoring our existence. On the contrary, They know we’re here, They contact or hear us and, in the use of Their freedom, are willing to make contracts with us for the mutual benefit of Gods and humans. And that’s something that’s true even for the most aggressive and darkest of deities in the form of apotropaic worship. i.e., the performance of sacrifices not to ask for blessings, but to request a God or Goddess to leave and take His/Her doing with Him/Her. So, for instance, disease could be faced both by requesting the help of a deity of healing or by essentially bribing a power of plagues to leave; protection against a wight of havoc could be gained by either calling on a protective god or by sacrificing to the former and ask it to leave the individual/community alone. So regardless of Their darker or lighter individual natures, Their normal or exceptional course of action, all Gods share a benevolent essence in Their openness to make agreements with humans. It doesn’t mean that They will accept every proposed deal, either because They can’t or won’t (They’re free not to), and indeed some deities are more sociable and hence more open than others. But all of Them have that predisposition, even if only to a small degree.

There’s one final point to consider and that’s the role of reason. Superstitio is born out of and sustained by fear, whereas Pietas, while it may share the same feeling in its origin, develops into a rational agreement of rights and duties, a gift for a gift, an exchange that implies the recognition of the human party as a junior partner of the godly community. A long way from the submissive behaviour that turns us into slaves and again a manifestation of the Gods’ essential benevolence. Or at least that’s the way I see it.

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