I think the fact that ancient Greeks had religion and life intertwined goes beyond just religious devotion. It was and is because the world of Gods, Heroes, monsters and myths were clear in everyday life.
Today while I was maintaining my temple's outside sanctuary, I noticed a spider resting on the Athena statue, and there were no spiders on any of the other several statues surrounding it.
If you click on the picture, it will enlarge and you can see the insect.
Certainly nothing unusual about a spider on an outside object, but Athena's was the only one that seemed to draw the creatures. Why would this be relevant to Greek religion and how in the world could it possibly expand the mind into universal thought?
Simple enough on the surface. In Greek myth, the story is that Athena created the spider, but how and why She did it is a fascinating concept and mystery, and also one that continues to have a valuable teaching for us today.
Arachne was an incredibly talented mortal weaver, and a maker of wonderous tapestries. So much so that no other human being could outdo her. Eventually, she allowed arrogance to take over her mind and proclaimed that she was greater at her art than even the Goddess Athena, who is the Goddess of domestic art.
Athena heard and accepted the challenge, although tried to talk some sense into Arachne first, giving her the opportunity to rebuke her arrogance and let it go. Arachne refused. The mortal woman weaved her best work, but Athena, knowing the beautiful things of heaven and beyond that mortals could not possibly see, created a far more glamorous piece.
Arachne was defeated. As punishment, Athena turned her into a spider, but not without her talent remaining with her. To this day, spiders continue to weave beautiful and elaborate webs. I find it to be like looking upon the remnants of an ancient battle, and the side that lost doomed forever to drag along the ruins of what they once were.
So walking along during a typical day in 2023 CE, what does seeing a spider on Athena's statue wish to teach the passerby? That the Gods are supreme, and we are not. The lesson, as common as it may sound, is to look upon this and know who the Gods are. Even if you're not religious at all, the lesson is know who you are, know your place, know your limitations.
Wisdom, in short, is knowing you are not a God. Stop and reflect on this truth. But also on the understanding that you don't have to be a God either. You are still capable of great wonders within your own boundaries.
The tragedy of Arachne is that her ruin did not have to be. She could have lived a very successful life, if she had only realized that her talent came from Athena, and that without the Gods, she was nothing.
In the Goodness of the Gods,
I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,