Seafarer Mama/Karen enjoys writing about spirituality as it is expressed in our everyday lives.
A Contemporary Look at Mythology
My daughter and I have recently read through the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. We have enjoyed it so thoroughly that we want to move on to other series by the same author. In the meantime, I am inspired to offer a reflection on the themes in these stories that I have found important.
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is a contemporary lesson about Greek mythology that teaches some useful values for the present age.
There's Power in a Name
There is one thing that Percy learns fast, and that is to not say aloud the names of monsters. Half-bloods must take precautions. Because of their great power over the fate of the world, monsters are forever stalking them to take their lives so that those who are more powerful and want to use that power for selfish means can have a greater edge. Saying the name of a monster is tantamount to calling that monster closer to you. Demigods must remain thoughtful about the words they choose.
Gods and Goddesses
They also learn that speaking the names of gods and goddesses too casually can be considered disrespectful and bring on their ill favor. Sometimes a godly parent will save you from undue suffering, but you can still suffer some loss or an extra set of challenges on a quest from slighting an Olympian goddess or god. Saying "oh my gods!" or "by the gods!" is safer because such expressions avoid taking in vain the name of a specific deity. But make sure that such an expression is not said while making an oath. That is a foolish risk to take.
It is okay to address a god or goddess by name when one meets the being in person, but they also like to be called "my lord" and "my lady." If you are taking time alone to speak to your godly parent, as if in prayer, addressing the deity as "Mom" or "Dad" is okay.
Octopus at sea
Respect and Appreciation are Important to Success
Humility is Rewarded
The half-bloods at camp learn early to sacrifice to the gods. It is a form of respect, of giving back from the good fortune that one has enjoyed. They also learn that a thank you for a kindly intercession from a specific God or Goddess will increase the chances that you will be bestowed helpful gifts to aid you in the success of future quests. Often, the help comes from one's own godly parent, but other Olympians will also aid you.
Unfortunately, Percy has trouble moving beyond the feelings aroused in him by his close encounters with Ares, the God of War. Ares set up Percy for blame in the disappearance of two gods' symbols of power ~ Zeuss's lightning bolt and Hades's helm of darkness. Ares plants Zeuss' master bolt in the backpack he gives Percy for his quest through the Underworld to free his mother from the netherworld of being neither dead nor alive. When it is discovered that Percy is in possession of the master bolt, Hades also suspects him of harboring his helm of darkness, though he doesn't have it on him.
When Percy returns to the world of the living, he discovers Ares with Hades' helm of darkness. He battles Ares for it and gives it to one of the "Kindly Ones" (Furies) to return to the lord of the Underworld, and this act also releases his mother from his realm. He also returns to Zeuss his master bolt. Zeuss still thinks he stole it and is angry with him, but his godly father, Poseidon, stays the hand of his brother against his son.
Though Percy has gained an godly enemy in Ares because his anger with the god prevents him from being able to show him the respect due a deity, his courage in returning the lightning bolt to Olympus gains him the favor and protection of the major and more powerful deities, the Big Three ~ Zeuss, Poseidon, and Hades.
Olympian deities have and bestow powerful gifts ~
Levels of Spiritual Development and Human Civilization
Humans have always had a spiritual connection to one another. We are often drawn more easily to those who appreciate us and the gifts we have to offer. These are usually our friends. For demigods, those people are often a godly sibling, or someone that will later invite them to participate in an important quest. Quests are opportunities to prove the possession of heroic qualities, such as Courage, Integrity, and Faithfulness. Friendships between demigods are often developed from their enduring hardships together and proving their loyalty to one another. When demigods know that others have their back, their trust in them grows.
Then there are the people that we are drawn to despite ourselves. These individuals are put in our path because they have something to teach us. Through our interactions with them, we can learn to appreciate and respect a wider array of differences between people.They make us think hard about what our priorities are, about what is most important to us, and often create situations in which we must stand up for what we believe in without alienating ourselves from others. Will we decide to take the path of love or of greed? Those guides can be teachers, deities, or other demigods. In Percy's case, Clarisse, the daughter of Ares, is one of those guides. So is "Mr. D" (Dionysus).
Help for developing the hero within all of us ~
Some humans can see through The Mist
Some humans are either born with the capacity to see more deeply into the spirit of the world, or they develop that gift throughout their lives. Most of them seem born with it, and they attract the attention, and often the affection, of the gods and goddesses on Olympus. These humans know that they do not fit into popular society because they see through the mist of popular societal illusions, and can easily bypass all of the marketing to develop a sense of what matters most. They also attract other mortals to love them as more constant companions while their godly partners are off fighting wars with Titans or gathering on Olympus during the solstices. In the end, they are often helpful in tipping the scale in the gods' favor against the power-hungry Titans.
In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, Sally Jackson is one of those mortals. So is Luke's mother, May Castellan. Anabeth's father, Frederick Chase, is a third. Then there is Rachel Elizabeth Dare, whose strength and courage earn her the honor of becoming the new Oracle of Apollo at Camp Half Blood. All of them play a part in helping the gods win and keeping Olympus from being destroyed in the climactic Titan war. In Sally Jackson's case, she attracts a mortal mate who also joins in the fight for the gods.
Friendships are Developed through Common Experience
Percy completes five quests with an ever-widening cadre of friends. They share destinies designed by the gods, but because they reach beyond themselves they also develop affection and respect for one another because they have been able to depend on each other. Each demigod on a quest has been in a leadership position because their individual gifts were needed and they used those gifts, and their unique powers, judiciously. They have proven that their hearts are in the right place ~ with their friends, and with the gods who gave those gifts to them. They have developed mutual respect, affection, and loyalty.
Dreams carry important Messages
One of the most common conditions of all demigods is the frequency of their dreams. They not only dream often, their dreams are full of meaningful messages.Those messages can be from their godly parent, another deity, a sibling, or a friend. Percy has received dreams from Poseidon, his friend Grover, a fellow demigod named Nico DiAngelo, and his brother Tyson. Those messages are often warnings.
A demigod usually either dreams about an important event related to a quest or does not dream at all. They are usually given information that they will need to use to complete a quest. Often that information is related to the location of an important object or the whereabouts of a missing person.
Dreams take us places
Confidence is Developed through Success in the Face of Immense Odds Stacked Against You ~
Attacking monsters and saving friends is hard work. Percy learned by trial and error, and some tips from friends, how to survive monster attacks as he completed quests that were important to the survival of the deities on Mt. Olympus. He and his friends strengthened their sense of integrity by resisting distractions and temptations to abandon their missions while constantly facing the possibility of their own deaths. They even spent time in the Underworld, so they were not afraid to die. This made them willing to take risks on behalf of one another and the gods and goddesses of Olympus.They developed confidence in their abilities and the quiet strength to resist bullies, both mythical and mortal.
In addition to surviving battles, rising to the challenges they have faced, they also faced their own personal demons, Percy and his demigod friends know that they have in them the integrity and fortitude that moves mountains.
Quiet rest at the end of a Quest
Keep Faith and call on the Gods ~
There are times in all the quests of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series that the demigods needed the aid of their godly parents to make the leap to the next step in their journey. Their own skills and resources only went so far and they needed the power of an Olympian to make their plan work.They encountered objects, either natural or man-made, that they used to reach the next place they were meant to be, and their godly parent or another deity aided them. The important element in this is that the demigods asked their godly parents for the help that they needed. Help was not automatically given, but was only bestowed upon the demigods when they needed it most and asked for it. They had to recognize their need, and later they appreciated the help and offered sacrifices of thanksgiving when they arrived safely back at Camp Half-Blood.
Examples of Divine Blessings
In The Curse of the Titan, Percy's friend Thalia needed to call on her father Zeus to activate a pair of metallic Angel automatons for them to ride to where they needed to go next. She needed to trust Zeus, even though she felt abandoned by him for being left so many years inside a tree. They only had a certain amount of time to complete the quest, so riding on those automatons was important to their success. They trusted the god to respond to their request (a type of prayer), even if it was because their intercession was important to saving Olympus itself.
In The Battle of the Labyrinth, Grover asked for help from the god Pan, and the deity gave it to him in the form of a wild boar. He, Percy, and their other friends rode on the boar to overcome a snowy chasm and to arrive rapidly at the next destination in their quest. Grover's devotion to and faith in Pan was rewarded.
Additionally, throughout his life Percy grows to rely on the fact that water heals his wounds. No matter how badly he is hurt by a monster or enemy demigod, he will be revived and re-energized if he can get to a body of water as quickly as possible. He also knows how to throw a mean tidal wave when he needs to.
Faith carries you the rest of the way....
A clip of quest action
Values present in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians"
Boldly defying titans
Outwitting powerful enemies
Appreciating help and gifts from others
Knowing when to ask for divine assistance
Calling All 21st Century Heroes ~
The myths and legends of old have stayed alive through retelling because they still speak to our souls. We still have things to learn from them. The twenty-first century needs heroes more than ever. The earth needs heroes to save her from destructive monsters. Our economy needs heroes to help balance the power of the world so that it belongs to everyone, not just the multi-millionnaire oil moguls and religious fanatics.
Unity of Body, Mind, and Spirit
The work that needs to be done is both spiritual and physical. As humans, we all have the capacity to make an impact on the destiny of our planet. It starts with small gestures, and we must have faith in their power to advance our mission(s). From recycling to composting to growing our own food organically, our efforts have the potential to tip the scales in favor of our ultimate survival. Yet, enough people need to believe in their own power to effect change. Enough people need to believe that actions growing from a spirit of love for fellow humans and the desire for unity over division are the catalysts that will help us triumph over the forces of greed and destruction.
No matter what our spiritual practices and/or religious affiliations are, we are all human and love is the glue that keeps us connected to one another. Love and kindness will increase the spirit of good will in the world and will be the force that makes the many triumph over the few. The bonds of separation and our fear of tyrants are what keep us enslaved to the greedy. Unity and mutual encouragement are what has made every big movement to improve the human condition successful. Look at the power and success of the Underground Railroad and the Civil Rights movements, and the factory workers' unions. Courageous leaders read, wrote, and rallied masses of people to work toward freedom from tyranny and oppression. Such power can be mustered again on behalf of the earth and all who inhabit her, including humanity. It already has.
Heroes already at work in our world ~
- Amnesty International USA | Protect Human Rights
Online opportunities to become involved in freeing political prisoners around the world, with the ultimate goal of ending global violence. Writing letters takes time, but the time taken saves lives.
- Organic Consumers Association
Research and Action Center for the Organic, Buy local, and Fair trade movements,
- Home | Trust for Public Land
A group that uses donations to help save public lands from development so that every citizen has park land to visit close to home. They often buy property auctioned by owners to keep it natural and secure conservation easements.
- Home | National Parks Conservation Association
The mission of the National Parks Conservation Association is to protect and enhance America's National Parks for present and future generations.
- Heifer International | Charity Ending Hunger And Poverty
Heifer International is a charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities.
- Bread and Puppet: Cheap Art and Political Theater | Puppeteers and Sourdough Bakers of Glover
Sourdough bakers and puppeteers in Glover, VT. One of the oldest nonprofit organizations in the country that uses puppetry to encourage citizens to take effective political action on their own behalf, and on behalf of fellow citizens without a voice.
- Catholic Worker Movement
Description of and links to principal websites about the Catholic Worker Movement.
Are you ready to be a Hero?:
© 2013 Karen A Szklany
Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on November 23, 2013:
Thank you, Bill. I don't remember how we heard about the Percy Jackson series, either, but I guess it was because I have a kid and the type of lit was "on my radar." I had her read about Greek and Roman mythology before I let her at the "Harry Potter" series, which she is up to #5 on already. Rick Riordan also wrote a series based on Egyptian mythology, which we'll read after the Roman series. All of them are great vehicles for learning about classic themes, and great for her reading in tandem with her ancient history studies. :0)
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 23, 2013:
I've never heard of the author or the series, but I love the premise behind it. Thanks for a great review; I think you sold me on it. :) Have a great weekend my friend.