Gryphon In The Nashville Parthenon
When I saw that the Greek Reporter had posted an old article recently about disabled people in ancient Greece, it made me think back to a discussion my wife and I have had over the years. The article discussed the archaeological discoveries that ancient Greeks built ramps in buildings and temples for disabled citizens. This is a stark contrast to other cultures in the ancient world where disabled people were not only thought to be cursed and impure, but were all but exiled. In Abrahamic religions, that people today assume to be the ones of love and care for all, the Jewish temples did not allow disabled or deformed worshipers to participate in their functions. There was even a case in Israel in 2015 where a mayor banned a bar mitzvah for disabled boys. Now I'm sure he came under a lot of fire from the modern Jewish community, but he still did it or tried to. In ancient Persia, where Islam would later find a foothold, there were no depictions of any people except those who were "normal" as it were. Even in Iran today, disabled people face constant discrimination and exclusion from society. Simply put, no one cares about them. In the Abrahamic field, Christainity is the only religion that doesn't think of the less physically fortunate as something taboo, although they may believe that having such conditions comes from deity, which is still a gloomy hypothesis.
But in ancient Hellas, not only do we find depictions of disabled and elderly people, but also that they were not kept exempt from religious activities or public affairs (all of which were religious). The theological and philosophical discussion my wife and I have engaged in on the topic has to do with our son and a part of Greek myth. For those who may not know, our son Gryphon was born in 2010 at 24 weeks, severely premature. But thanks to the Gods, excellent doctors, and loving parents who never gave up on him, he survived. In fact, he started his first day of middle school last week. Of course, he does have some disabilities. He has cerebral palsy, uses very little verbal communication, and has some tightening in his left calf. But he can still walk, run and play, and live as normally as his circumstance can. The additional topic of the discussion is the ancient myth of Hephaistos having disabilities, and yet he was still a highest God and an amazingly beautiful and powerful creator. Of course, I don't think most Hellenists today believe that any God is disabled, but that part of myth shows, I think, that being disabled in the old Greek world was not a curse, an evil or an impurity, and could therefore enter the presence of the Gods like anyone else.
It has been a wonderful pleasure watching our son grow into a Hellenist. The best part is that we have never taught or told him to be. Our children can follow any religion they want, but he began visiting our Athena sanctuary on his own and praying to Her in his own personal ways. Disabled as he may be, he seemingly finds most of his patronage from Athena. The Gods do not exclude him in any way because of his uncontrollable conditions. In fact, they nursed him through the hardest parts. I've never seen a boy as happy as Gryphon, while having so many reasons he could choose to be the opposite. The Gods gave the world a very special gift in Gryphon, and I think they want people to see that.
Please take some time to read the Greek Reporter's article.
In the Goodess of the Gods,