09 February 2013

Colonial remnants

Many cities on the East Coast began as major colonial hubs, and Apollon is the god of colonies. The New Haven Museum sometimes has free admission days (usually on Sundays).

Connecting with the history of an area is something I highly recommend to transplants. Especially on the East Coast, we may know history in generalities, but the particulars of an area may be entirely different from what we might expect. As a side effect of my research into and worship of the Erinyes, I often think about the history of land, its inhabitants, and former conflicts. To me, the land remembers things that happened long ago. The Erinyes, unlike people, do not forget crimes.

When I walked through the New Haven Museum earlier this year, I learned about the history of biking, the port history of New Haven Colony, and countless other things. “Poseidon is important here” is one of the main points I took away from this interaction.

But Apollon is always here. He is the leader and protector of colonies and new towns, Αρχηγετης (Arkhêgetês).

I walk everywhere. Sometimes, when the sunlight hits the streets just so, I think about the development of the city and the watchful eyes of the God of Colonies. As with the transition from youth to adulthood, how do we know when a colony has matured enough to cut off its hair? Can we even draw parallels between the life cycle of a city and the life of a human being? Would we need to forget it had been a colony first, and that the people had come from elsewhere?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Philosophy and myth are surprisingly unhelpful. All we have is the breeze from the Long Island Sound, the oyster farmers, and whispers from educational institutions.

But still, I hear the murmur of the wind and think of Apollon and Poseidon. I think about several-ton exhaust fans falling from rooftops during the hurricane and the inertia of centuries-old institutions. I think about dried olives from Italy, eat scallops and seaweed from the Sound, and wonder at a place that has festivals for oysters instead of apples.

4 comments:

henadology said...

This resonated with me, particularly inasmuch as I've been doing some work lately on Plato's Republic and, to a lesser extent, the Laws. I was struck by two things. First, the far greater symbolic and psychical than narrowly "political" significance of the Republic's guardian city, which is really, it seems to me, about the necessity for the soul of a kind of imaginal "citizenship". Then, regarding the Laws, I think we find exactly what is lacking in the Republic, the sense of history, the sedimentation, which is particularly evoked by the maintenance in the colony of the worship of the Gods of the natives (848d). This is very different from the relationship of the guardian city to its exterior, a relationship which is haunted by the category of "barbarians", despite Plato's rejection of that concept at Statesman 262d. I believe that these categories, though they are political on the surface, bear a deep relationship to the issue of the exteriority of pantheons to one another, and that when we think about the "colony" as such, we are also thinking about the relationship between individuals, human or divine, and these structures, with their history that transcends and enfolds us in their stratification.

Kaye said...

That's an interesting way to look at Plato's Republic. I don't think it's possible to separate things from their history, and any attempt to do that would end up looking like one of those mid-20th century dystopian novels. I think a lot of those dystopian societies ultimately fail because they focus on eradicating the past ... and I think that's a good reflection of reality.

European colonial baggage has, though, made it more difficult to honor local gods and spirits with authenticity. Gods and religious rituals are a fantastic means to cultural identity, and for those our ancestors have harmed, it creates a certain amount of vulnerability.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

I am a proud Connecticut swamp yankee, whose religious beliefs are heavily influenced by 'Neo' Platonism. Locally, I honor the God of the French River and the Nymphs of the local swamps.

The nature spirits have haunted this land for billions of years. They saw the newly-formed Moon, red-hot in the sky. They saw the dinosaurs and the Ice Ages. They saw the first humans arrive here. I respect the Native Americans and their culture. We Hellenists simply have a different, no less authentic, way of honoring the local divine powers.

Aetius

Anonymous said...

Oops! My bad...I meant to say "...the local Native Americans and their culture."

Aetius