We all know (or should) the death and rebirth of the Sun King. The war between the Oak King and Holly King. And all other dying god themes. It's very very repetitive in nearly all mythology.
I would like to share with you a fun filled, uncommonly spoken of "fact" that the "gods" that are so very dear to us were all believed to have died at some point. Albeit, some have strange resurrection powers! It is not just the Norse pantheon that believed in mortal gods and goddesses. All of them did. We catch the mythology that the prized gods killed off the unwanted ones, but we tend to picture them as entirely immortal otherwise. Frankly, we don't end up noticing the unwritten parts. The tombs that have been erected and honored all over the world; tombs of fallen deities. This is equally supported recently by scholars that are finding evidence and proposing educated guesses that many deities were in fact once human heroes, kings, healers, and wise men. After death they were venerated and their legends grew. Ancestor worship is not uncommon and neither is the belief of spirit ascension before and after death. The idea of a human becoming a god is, well, just as repetitive as deity mortality.
If you would like to read more about this, I suggest you read Golden Bough by Frazer found online perfectly free.
Here is an excerpt:
" The grave of Zeus, the great god of Greece, was shown to visitors in Crete as late as about the beginning of our era. The body of Dionysus was buried at Delphi beside the golden statue of Apollo, and his tomb bore the inscription, ?Here lies Dionysus dead, the son of Semele.? According to one account, Apollo himself was buried at Delphi; for Pythagoras is said to have carved an inscription on his tomb, setting forth how the god had been killed by the python and buried under the tripod....
"The mummy of Osiris was to be seen at Mendes; Thinis boasted of the mummy of Anhouri; and Heliopolis rejoiced in the possession of that of Toumou."
Let's not forget the most recent, Jesus and Prince Siddhartha. Many people that Christian's call saints could also be considered the "gods" of our time. Their remains are often kept preserved as carefully as possible just as the Egyptians mummified their dead to maintain a makeshift immortality. I've seen many such "relics". Catholics believe that these relics hold power and there have been many claims of miracles surrounding them. Miracles after death is a big part of a saint's work just as ancient gods still continue to assist us.
So essentially, even the gods are deceased spirits that have gone on to, perhaps, a higher existence. Remember them this Samhain when you reflect on the day of the dead.
But how do they continue to live?
"Incarnations" or "reincarnations" of deities is a common belief throughout the world. So technically, they could be alive again, somewhere.
This reminds me of a quote that always stuck in my mind. I'm not Christian, but in school, Hebrews 13:2 made me think and still does to this day!
"Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it."
If you take the time to trace "angels and demons" to their origins, they tend to be pagan gods and if you don't want to believe that, for the sake of the fluidity of this essay, let's leave it at "higher beings". This quote demonstrates the belief in these beings having, not only human form, but mortal qualities, otherwise, why would they require hospitality?
This brings me to the second theory of most religions, that of gods working through others and objects by means of possession. This is the alternate belief of actual incarnated beings. Egyptians Pharaohs, for instance, were believed to become the vessel of their god. This allowed the god to interact with the people on a personal level. A priest of the individual regions would also have a full size statue of their god that they would dress and present food to daily, treating it as if it were entirely alive. These were the ways that the ancient people brought new life to their deities. I recommend Tour of Egypt online for good Egyptian information although I also enjoy many of the National Geographic books. Theoi is excellent for Greek information, a gold mine really!
This can be seen in miniature in our own practice in the taking up of "god form", drawing down the moon, horsing, and personal altars dedicated to a deity. This can be seen more intensely in the form of priests, priestesses and pagans that are very serious about being devoted to a particular deity. That deity works through them more freely. In theory, this is how we keep our deities "alive" and anchored in our world. Like heroes of the past, they may be dead but never forgotten. They are forever alive in memory and spirit. And it is also a reason why they need us and why many notice the persistence of a particular spirit in their life.
Food for thought! I hope I gave you something to ponder today. ;)