I haven’t been writing much lately because, as I mentioned in another post, I’ve been very busy and I’m also working towards a deadline on my novel (I’m aiming to finish part 1 of 3 before October). I will eventually write my second S post for Pagan Blog Project, but in the meantime, I’m moving on to T because my chosen topic inspires me today.
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We don’t decide which God or Goddess comes to us. Sometimes it’s a powerful Olympian who rules over mortals and immortals alike, or a Chthonic deity whose kingdom is the Underworld… and sometimes it’s a nymph with few temples or cults, but deserving of worship nonetheless. That’s what happened to me with Thetis.
Who is Thetis? Apart from in the Iliad, she is little attested in Greek myth. Her primary identity seems to be as a sea Goddess: she is one of fifty daughters of Nereus, often depicted as their leader, and she is described as Halosydnês, Brine-Born. According to Homer as well as Apollonius Rhodius, she was raised by Hera. She seems to be a rather strong-willed Goddess, as it can be seen in her determination not to marry the mortal Peleus, as well as in her actions that sometimes opposed those of other Gods – for example, freeing Zeus when the Olympians put him in chains, and fostering Hephaistos after Hera rejected him. Thetis is independent, something of a free spirit.
But if you delve a little deeper into her mythology, you’ll discover that Thetis is also nurturing, protective, and motherly. Of course, she is most famous as the mother of Akhilleus; but she also sheltered Dionysos when Lykourgos was after him, “[taking] him to her bosom, frightened” (Iliad, Book 6), and she cared for Hephaistos after his fall from Olympos crippled him. It is in this maternal aspect that Thetis first came to me.
Throughout my Hellenic journey, she has been the Goddess to whom I turn for comfort and spiritual guidance. Her presence has truly been that of a mother. Though she is not the only maternal Goddess, nor the most renowned – that would be Demeter, without doubt – she is the one I feel most comfortable calling upon when I need a bit of spiritual TLC. It was Thetis who came to me with arms wide open when I needed her most, and who asserted her presence in my life. She has soothed me more times than I could count, and for this reason, I hold her in high regard.
So he spoke in tears and the lady his mother heard him as she sat in the depths of the sea at the side of her aged father, and lightly she emerged like a mist from the grey water. She came and sat beside him as he wept, and stroked him with her hand and called him by name and spoke to him: “Why then, child, do you lament? What sorrow has come to your heart now? Tell me, do not hide it in your mind, and thus we shall both know.”
– Iliad, Book 1
Though Thetis can be a fearsome sea nymph, she is also a nurturer, caring and comforting towards those who seek her out. To her, Akhilleus is not the terrible warrior before whom the Trojans flee in fear; he is her child, a child in need of his mother’s arms. That, in my opinion, shows the essence of who she is.
She may be a Brine-Born Nereid. But to me, first and foremost, she is Mother Thetis.