The polarity of “light gods” versus “dark gods” is a fairly common one to see in discussion on a lot of pagan forums. Let me tell you, this dichotmy (and the emphasis that some people put on it) drives me nuts. Depending on whom you’re speaking to, “light” gods are the good guys while “dark” gods are the bad guys…or “light” gods are the gods of nice, pleasant civilized things while “dark” gods are those of not-so-nice things, the facts of life which aren’t so fun to think about.

Some time back, on one of the forums that I frequent, someone made a post asking who the dark gods were and who the light gods were, and the standard discussion took place- dark gods are gods of death and war, light gods are gods of law and music and healing and pretty things, blah blah blah. I was inspired to make a post illustrating how this one dark versus light, one or the other laundry-sorting of the gods is rather dismissive of large chunks of the nature of most deities. (Betcha can’t guess who I used as an example…three guesses, first two don’t count!)

Of course, everyone knows who I’m talking about here, so my “Let’s say there’s this god, but I’m not going to tell you who it is…” is lost.Ā  It was also intended to be posted in two parts, with the intended audience answering in the middle. Ah well. I still think it worth posting. (And I’ve revised it a bit from the original)

So there is this god, I’m not going to tell you his name. He is a god of many things- of light, of music and beauty, poetry, truth and healing. He is rational and wise. He is called Radiant, and Averter of Evil, Rescuer, Protector from Harm, Healer. He is known for defending his mother from attackers and insults, his music is unrivaled. He id a god of knowledge. Some consider him a sun-god. Surely, this is a light god I am speaking of, no?

And there is a god who is known far and wide for his wrath. One who, with his sister, killed innocent children for their mother’s insolent bragging; who skinned alive a satyr who dared challenge him to a musical contest and lost. He is a god of death, one who sends plague. His lovers are slain or punished through his wrath- or otherwise meet with tragic endings- the latter, he mourns. He is enigmatic, mysterious, oblique.Ā  There is no question: we are speaking of a dark god, are we not?

The two gods are, of course, the same. The god is Apollo, one thought of by many as a “light” god.

He is not a light god. Nor a dark god. Or perhaps he is both? No, I don’t think that’s true either. Why, you might ask. He reigns over areas that fall on both sides of the coin. I think that’s overly simplifying the things over which he has provenance- take for example healing. Healing is a good thing, no? When we are sick or hurt, we want to heal. We get better, we feel better.

Hold on just a minute there- it’s not that easy, is it? Healing hurts, it’s painful- or otherwise unpleasant. Ask anyone who’s had to go through physical therapy to recover from a traumatic injury. Or someone who is finally facing an abusive past in order to try to move past it. Even a small cut ot minor injury can be extremely itchy or painful in healing.

What about music or poetry- those aren’t unpleasant things, are they? In strictly conceptual terms, no I don’t think they are. But what about the song whose words evoke a flood of tears in its sadness, or the poem that provokes great anger in the reader?

These things, they’re not dark or light, good or bad, they just are what they are. The gods are much the same.

One day last week, I woke up with this thought on my mind “I do not destroy the dark, I illuminate it.” I’ve been thinking about it since then. Light does not remove darkness. When the sun comes up at dawn, the night does not disappear, it moves to another part of the world. When you turn a light on in a darkened room, the darkness is still there, it has merely been hidden by the light and will be once more visible when the switch is again flipped. If there is a dimmer knob, you can see the whole spectrum of degrees existing between the two- a spectrum which shows us that things are not merely “dark” or “light”, but so much more than that.

And the gods, like the things they govern, are also not merely dark or light, but so much more.

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