One of the very first assignments we give to students who are studying with us is the “God in Every Man, Goddess in Every Woman” assignment. It’s a way for students to start learning about the Gods and to make them aware that the divine is in and around us all the time. We tell students to take a person in their lives and compare them to a God or Goddess. We ask the student to tell us about the God or Goddess and then explain how the person shares similar characteristics or qualities with that God or Goddess. By looking at the people around us and seeing how they share characteristics with the divine, it becomes much easier to recognize that divinity within us as well.
One of my students gave us her first entry today and I thought it was extremely well done and very well thought out. I thought I would share it here (with the student’s permission). It certainly made me think and I think it will make you think too!
(My Beloved Sister) and Athena (The Virgin Goddess of Wisdom, Courage, Strategy and Warfare)
According to myth, Zeus was so fearful of the conception of the child that had been prophesied to be even more powerful than Zeus himself (king of the gods and ruler of the universe), that he tricked the mother, Metis (cunning, wisdom and prudence) into becoming a fly and then swallowed her. He was too late, and Athena grew inside him while Metis forged her a suit of armor. The hammering caused him great discomfort that eventually culminated in a massive headache. When an axe was used to split open his head (presumably in an effort to relieve the headache), Athena sprung from his head fully grown and armed. Instead of his rival, however, she soon became Zeus’s favorite child, and was even entrusted to yield the power of his lightening bolt. In contrast to Ares, the god of war, violence, and bloodshed, Athena is associated with the strategy, valor and generalship of warfare and is accompanied by Nike, goddess of victory. She is a virgin goddess, but is loved and revered by the Athenians who look to her as the patroness and guardian of their city.
My sister* is strong, intelligent, and fiercely independent. She is righteous and responsible in her actions, holding herself and those under her care/authority to the highest standard. Though she may appear cold and objective in her relationships, she is exceptionally generous, protective and loyal. She has a brilliant mind with a natural aptitude for math and science, and her impressive education has made her a force to be reckoned with.
Well beyond her years in wisdom and maturity, her competence and understanding levels have consistently surpassed expectations since early childhood. In many ways, it was like my sister was born fully grown and armed. She was able to demonstrate levels of judgement, reason and responsibility you can’t expect from most adult men before she reached puberty. Though to a certain extent, I believe that her maturity and armored personality are a result of early influences and circumstances, her strength and intelligence are unique, and not everyone could have adapted and excelled with such grace.
It is fitting to compare my sister to a virgin goddess, especially one who is most often depicted wearing a suit of armor. Growing up, she always emphasized the importance of modesty, and even still, she is constantly telling me to be more careful in concealing the things that make me vulnerable to others who could hurt me. Even as a newborn, Athena is never naked. My sister is a virgin in the sense that she is untouched and unknown to pretty much everyone, even me at this point. She is unexposed. And though I know there are scars beneath that armor, she is protected, whole and unbroken.
Our father taught us that the knowledge and wisdom from great books are like armor. He used that analogy too. He said he wasn’t exposed to books like The Art of War and The Prince and Atlas Shrugged until he was in college, and that when he discovered them, it was like building a suit of armor. He was finally able to understand the world around him, protect himself, and succeed. In an effort to arm us, and give his own children the head-start that he believed would have spared him so much struggle and pain, he gave us these books, and many more, all before we started high school.
I was a disappointment on this front. I was not able to appreciate the brilliance of Machiavelli and Ayn Rand at the age of 13. And you know, I don’t beat myself up for that, I don’t think most people can. Those things started clicking much later for me, and like mythology, many things still are sinking in at the right time for me. I tend to think my father wouldn’t have been so shocked and disappointed by my reading and comprehension level if it hadn’t been for my freak of a sister who came before me (just kidding, she is a goddess…).
My sister not only read the books he gave her, but sought out the writing of every great philosopher, poet, novelist that he ever quoted (which pretty much makes up most of our dialogue). What’s more, she actually understood them and could have intelligent conversations about them as a preteen. I attend a liberal arts university and I can honestly say that my sister was more well-read as a 16-year-old than any college student I know.
And yet, even though at times I could almost believe that she literally sprung from his head as his mental conception of the perfect child, the two of them have spent countless nights fighting until dawn. Her persistence, intelligence and strategic approach have definitely provided him with a worthy sparring partner. The appreciation and mastery of the art of argument and war that he has always respected and encouraged in her has also lead, I’m sure, to some excruciating headaches (I know they have for me).
Like Athena, however, my sister’s strength and intelligence have made her the favorite. Her loyalty and hard work have earned her his favor and trust, and just as Zeus empowered Athena to share in the power of his lightening bolt, our father has gifted and entrusted my sister with power and opportunity known to very few. Though a great weapon and power in itself, it is only in addition to the already impressive force that she is on her own. The mere force of her will has been enough to defeat even her most formidable opponents in battle. If, however, there is ever a time when this is no longer true, she is equipped with the gifts and support of a very powerful ally.
While her spirit is confident and unflinching, she remains unassuming and heedful of the constant flux of threats and opportunities around her. There is a simultaneously intoxicating and sobering quality to her determination that should not be taken lightly. She is never unarmed, and she is never unprepared. She is strategic and offensive in her
interactions with the outside world, and others look to her as a leader, guide and guardian.
She is courageous and unrelenting in her endeavors, and her achievements are both grand and well-deserved. She is wise, skilled, accomplished and respected in her field, and as with Athena, victory is at her side.
*Name ommitted to protect the innocent :)