The gods are real. Archetypes are just a false form of polytheism created by "rational" people because they won't allow themselves (or can't) to believe in something more. It's the same thing as reducing the gods to being "aspects" of one ultimate creator or reality (which is a form of monotheism).
What a great exchange of thought, thank you all!
My personal take on this matter:
I completely understand your resentment about people calling Gods archetypes.
You may want to know, that Carl Jung who created the term "archetype" was equally abhorred, but by the abuse of the term. Atheists started to explain archetypes as something like general profile types, like Zeus being the ideal leader type, And Hephaestus more like the nerd technician.
But that is NOT, I repeat NOT what Jung meant with archetypes. For Jung Archetypes are more like spiritual beings that live in the common consciousness of a people and that develop in that common consciousness which is their living world.
Jung never meant the term to mean: A God is just an archetype, a stock character. Sure the Greek did divide people in something like 50 stock types. Maybe you ever saw this picture of Johannes Vermeer
. This is what was called a Tronie
, not meant as depiction of a true face but of a particular stock character.
To paint Gods as stock characters is ludicrous, because that is not what the Gods were and are to the people. For the people they have always been real living beings, though of a different nature than humans. Though they were held in high esteem for their benign powers (and also feared for their anger), humans did not feel inferior to the Gods, nor did they feel the need to submit to the Gods, like in Abrahamism. They were just another class of beings and they are fallible like Human beings. Actually the Gods are not simplifications but extremely complex beings and not easy to understand. that is why they are depicted in various ways and why there has always been a variety of ideas on their nature as well.
Tribal Gods were considered to be the ancestral forefathers from whom tribal people descended and remained spiritually connected, Hence the later role of tribal gods as as creator and fertility gods. But Gods were also adopted when people merged.
As tribes merged and started to fight under Kings they brought their Gods with them to the Kings court and that is where the Gods were given separate roams to rule over, thus ensuring that every god was given proper regular honoring by creating specific festivities connected to their specific role. In Greece this occurred in a much earlier period than in Northern Europe. The Edda is the reflection of that. It is this "division of labor" that leads to the misconception of (misunderstood) "archetypes". Mind you, Even before that tribal Gods had specific roams to protect. For instance the tribal God of river people will also be the river God. Like a father also has one or more occupations, so have Gods. Gods have duties to fullfill and they have obligations to people that worship them as well. They are not like the egocentric, ruthless Abrahamic God, that rules as he pleases, and makes servants subject to his plan, and otherwise deems them obstacles. No, good Gods play their part serving the common interest.
And so yes, the roles of the Gods do change with the times and needs of a people and this is completely natural and as it should be. Jung might have said, they change with the change in the common consciousness. That does not mean they are just ideas of people. People themselves also change their role with times and needs. Change does not imply a being does not exist, rather continuous change is a foundation of living beings. Gods are immortal but their reign is taken over by other Gods of new generations. Like Zeus taking over from Cronus taking over from Uranus. That is natural. They are natural beings (not supernatural = fantasy).
The unchanging nature of the Abrahamic God rather makes him suspect of being a cartoon figure like superman who is not able to free himself from the pages of his book and is doomed to remain the same becoming more outdated as people evolve.
For that reason it is also wrong to follow Abrahamism and create a canon and regard the Edda as some sort of scriptural base for belief. As Hildeburh pointed out our ancestors did not have such "religion". Gods are simply part of every day reality and tradition. It is part of the people. It is Abrahamism that made religion into an ideology and a separate thing that can thus be conveniently imposed on other peoples all over the world, regardless of their culture.
It is the priest cast that developed in mass societies that started to commercialize religion as they developed as a separate cast. They turn religion into a orthodoxy as the end of an evolutionary process. At first they are fore-tellers who read the signs in nature, in the end they have become book interpreters who steer people by their interpretation of Gods will. They become ventriloquists and their God their puppet. That is monotheism, the total corruption of the mind that theocracy brings.
Their efforts have been to destroy peoples traditions so they can rule over them by their imposed ideology in which they have put themselves in power.
But Gods will not die. Even after a thousand of years of total brainwash on the people, the Gods are still there. The greatest success that Abrahamism has been able to achieve is atheism. Atheism is as unnatural as Abrahamism, and the result of peoples total rejection of Abrahamism. It is the mirror image of Abrahamism. It is a result of Abrahamism imposing on people only two choices. Either accept their repressive ideology or be an atheist. They never allow the choice to be something different than those two choices. So Abrahamism produces atheists in a huge way, and that actually suits their demonic God well, as his jealous nature does not allow the worship of other Gods. It still fits his megalomaniac strive to be the only worshiped God. Because this God too lives in common consciousness of his people. But the problem is not that he does not exist, but that he is a power hungry oppressive God.
The Jews have a story that this God offered himself to all the peoples in the world, but they all refused to worship him, only the Jews were willing and that is why they are his chosen ones. Of course no people wanted to freely worship this God, he is oppressive. (This was acknowledged by early Gnostic Christians who regarded Jahweh as the evil Demiurch and Jesus as the savior from him, of course they were eradicated). Now the Pagan Gods are no hush bunnies themselves. But Pagans were never their servants. (That slavery started at the big temples) Our ancestors would use the Gods when they needed them, and develop a special relation with one or some of them. Only tribal Gods were worshiped regularly by all in common ceremonies. This was seen as vital to the well-being of the tribe.
No we are not going to introduce orthodoxy as Raging Pagan suggests. Sure then the experts on the writings will volunteer as our priests and interpreters of the will of the Gods. And that is the road of degeneration that leads to Abrahamism. No We do not need such scriptures, all people have direct access to the Gods, no middlemen needed. Sure a specialist like a Shaman comes in handy to solve problems with the spirits, but we do not need book experts for contact with the spiritual world.
That does not mean these stories do not have great value. We need storytellers! The stories and fairy tales have innumerable value. Like Einstein said
: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
We need story tellers. What we do not need is explainers, moralizers. Those actually kill the stories with their own interpretations. The stories pose questions, it is for each listener to ponder on them.
The best description of the Gods I have come across is this one
the latest fairy tale about Paganism from Abrahamism was this one