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Contradictory Gods


Active Member
Many Indo European Cultures have deities which seem to contradict themselves or have either unexpected or at least head scratching traits.

A few examples:

Artemis was considered to be goddess of virginity, but also in some places and times was revered as a goddess of fertility. She also is a goddess of child bearing, but was blamed when children were stillborn, as it was believed that it was her arrow that killed them.

Apollo is the god of healing but also was prayed to for the purpose of sending plague.

Odin is commonly sited as a god of knowledge and wisdom but also is considered the god of war and death.

Thor is god of strength and protection and is seen at first as a strong brute of a god, but he is also called a "deep thinker"

Hera is goddess of marriage and monogamy, but she's married to Zeus. No further explanation.

Dionysus is said to have given intense ecstasy and happiness, but also gives wrathful punishments using the other.

Freyja is said to be goddess of magick, art and expression, which likens her to Athena and seems to be a very independent goddess. Then many gods call her, what we would call, a whore, being a goddess of beauty and sexuality, likening her to Aphrodite.

While we're on Athena, a goddess revered as a matriarch of women, sides with Poseidon when her own priestess is raped by him.

I'm not trying to judge the gods, I just think that this opens up a great discussion. Why are the gods so contradictory? Does it emphasize their individuality and unpredictability, does it add to their complexity as abstract entities or is it something different?


Brother, some thoughts.

I think it is the complexity aspect one, and of course two - just plain good, memorable tales where hidden truths can be interwoven :D Also truth often seems paradoxical because mystery that is there alongside it and because our perception is limited. Personas that make up a man or woman who they are as a whole often seem in contradiction, and the Gods naturally are more complex.


Aura of atheification
Premium Member
One thing I have learned from the Tao Te Ching is that the path to religious wisdom comes not from knowing the right way so much as knowing how to accept and transcend contradictions.

In practical life it is often destructive to attempt to use simple guidelines and expect the results to be consistently wholesome. As the saying goes, one must take the bad along with the good (when it comes to concrete situations and/or people, and perhaps even gods). Ideals are fine and good, but ultimately we must deal with what is at hand.

Also, several of the examples above seems to arise from a tribalistic mindset, where one's good fortunes were often difficult to distinguish from the ruin of one's rival neighbors.


Jai Lakshmi Maa
Similar to Sees response,

Many traditions see the contradictions as two sides of the same coin. One does not know light without shadow, joy without grief. Therefore, the gods embody polar opposite traits as a way of expressing this idea.



ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
Staff member
Premium Member
Yin and yang, harmony and balance, supplementary and complementary (or opposite) aspects.


Consults with Trees
Staff member
Premium Member
I don't see the contradiction. The various Pagan gods, where they aren't literally intended as personifications of reality/nature, have domain over such forces. I can't think of any force or power in reality that cannot be both beneficial and adversarial depending on the circumstance and perspective. It would make a great deal less sense to me if the gods didn't accurately represent this quality of reality/nature.

I can't recall where I read this, but it has been observed that modern Westerners perceiving the old gods to be "contradictory" is very much a product of our dualistic mindset. This mindset was not pervasive in antiquity. It made perfect sense to our ancestors for a deity to be both creative and destructive. As a non-dualist, it makes perfect sense to me as well.


ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
Staff member
Premium Member
It made perfect sense to our ancestors for a deity to be both creative and destructive. As a non-dualist, it makes perfect sense to me as well.

Lord Shiva is a perfect example of the destructive and creative process... destroy the old and worn out to create new. Even stars do that when they go supernova. Mm... maybe that is Shiva at work. ;)