USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Athena’
Childhood
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Myths

Athenaaaaa!

Megan is a sophomore in my french class. I’ve known her for a year. She’s a sweet, very soft spoken intelligent girl. She loves horseback riding. She’s majoring in creative writing and wants to be a screenwriter for Pixar one day.

When I first introduced this project to her she got real excited because she loves mythology. Megan is not religious but spent a lot of time trying to figure out of she was when she was little. When I brought up examples to her, in explaining folklore more in depth, her ears sang when I mentioned “Greek Mythology”. She starting spewing out how much she loved taking basic latin in middle school.

When she was in middle school, her latin teacher assigned all the students new names for the few weeks they would be in the course. Each student was given a God or Goddesses’ name for the duration of class. Megan got assigned “Athena” goddess of War and Wisdom.

“I took this, and just…ran with it.” She laughed. She got very interested in greek history and mythology. She started looking up elements that were important to the gods. Sacrifice, prayer, and loyalty. So she started talking to friends and asked those that had religious affiliations or religious backgrounds what it is they did for sacrifice, prayer and loyalty. She took these influences and her own and came up with her own nightly ritual to her favorite goddess Athena.

She would lay in bed, hold her hands together and close her eyes. She would start off with “Dear Athena…”. Megan says that most of the time she would ask the goddess for superpowers or a letter from hogwarts. Very pre-teenage-ry thoughts. She then closed the prayer with “Amen.” then Megan would drink a glass of water. She drank the glass of water for three reasons. One, she wanted to prove her loyalty to the goddess. Water is as valuable as life itself. Ending the prayer with a sip of water let her know she truly believed in the goddess. Two, she thought it was most likely to make her “wish-prayer”come true. And lastly, she would drink water at night and not drink with her food in the morning as a way of sacrifice.

Analysis: It’s really interesting how she composed this Pagan-Christian-Harry potter religion. She took pieces from all the religions that she simply learned from some of the friends around her and came up with this new unique style of worship. A worship to a goddess that had a religion and had a way to worship her properly. I think it’s great that she took something taht everyone makes a large deal about in life – religion – and made it her own. Religion is a huge part of how cultures exist. By her transforming it she’s making it truly personal; between her and her goddess. Which is all that mattered in religion in the first place. That golden relationship between you and your God.

Legends
Material

Athena and a Bow and Arrow

Informant A is a 17-year-old Sophomore at USC studying Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis on Neuroscience. She is ¼ Greek Cypriote, ¼ German and ¼ Argentinian but she strongly identifies with the Greek side of her. She spent 9 years in Greek school and goes to Greece every summer. She speaks Greek with her grandparents.

A: Let me think of some good legends that I’ve grown up with…mostly the Greek myths. We would, um I knew them in English when I was younger because we got introduced to them in elementary school, and then I told my grandparents I was really interested in them and so they actually found me a Greek version so that I could read it in Greek and solidify my learning there. But we would talk about, um well mostly the PG ones, you know Greek mythology. And one of the ways children were often entertained in Greece was to tell them these myths and stories. These stories were used not only to pass time, but to also carry down values.

The one, I think the one that we would talk about the most is Athena. So Athena, the Goddess of wisdom, but also the Goddess of war, and her affinity is the olive branch, but also the bow and arrow. And my grandparents have always been like, ‘You’re a little Athena! You like to learn, but you’re also really feisty, so you got the war in you’ and to actually perpetrate that, my grandfather once actually went to our backyard and cut a little branch off of an olive tree and made a bow and arrow out of it for me. Kind of a fake one because you couldn’t actually shoot with it, but he like sharpened an arrow, like not sharp enough to kill an animal, but sharp enough to hit a target. And we had that fun together making that, because he’s an engineer so he like makes random stuff. He taught me a lot like how to measure batteries, and play with a solder machine, so I had a lot of fun sharing that with him and learning about what I could do. And actually too Athena is the goddess of weaving, which is why I knit with my grandmother, it’s a fun way to create with her and connect, which is how you leave a legacy, by creating something meaningful.

Me: So do you still have this bow and arrow?

A: Oh gosh I think I left it in Cypress. I’m sure it’s in a closet somewhere with my name on it. I must have been like nine or ten so it’s been a while.

Me: So you talk about how your family prized you for being like Athena, would you say that this is prized in the larger Greek community? Like you say Athena has the wisdom but also like the fire behind it.

A: Absolutely. I think that’s something that really encompasses all the women in my family. My family is mostly women. Although the ‘take charge’ role in mostly cultures is dealt with by men, in my family it is the women who are the strong ones. My family mostly grew up in the Cypress villages farming though which is why they value me going to school so much, and starting early, and are so amazed by how much I know and how I wanted to learn more, just like the values Athena prizes.

 

Analysis:

Here informant A talks about some of the values that her Greek culture prizes and how her family compares her to the Greek Goddess Athena. The Greek legends and myths are extremely important and popular to them, so much so that the Greek stories and their values will come up within conversations in her family. She also talks about the folk item, the bow and arrow, that came out of the conversations with her family and also emphasizes how important these values of strength and wisdom especially are to them, enough so that her grandfather would take the time to make a bow and arrow for her.  She also explains a bit about how unlike most cultures, the Greek myths, like Athena, have influenced her family to prize strong women rather than only strong men.  Her grandfather was proud to show her bits about engineering and then encourage her to be an engineer, instead of some culture where this might be frowned upon.  These stories also helped tie together the informants family and connect the generations.

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