Weekly Deity: Ganymede


Ganymede and Zeus

Zeus (left) and Ganymede (right)

Ganymede is a Greek mortal-turned-deity.  He is the cupbearer to the gods and is associated with water, rain, life, and youth.  He is also the constellation Aquarius.

Attributes

Ganymede has often been portrayed as a young, attractive male, either shirtless or nude, and holding a pitcher.  Sometimes Ganymede is shown with the eagle that abducted him, and so he is associated with eagles.

Mythology

While out herding sheep for his father, Ganymede is abducted by a giant eagle who bears him away to Olympus.  There he is granted eternal youth and immortality and the job as cupbearer to the gods.  This position had once been filled by Hebe.  All the gods enjoyed Ganymede’s company and felt joy upon him taking his office as cupbearer; all except Hera, who disliked him not only for his place in Zeus’ affections, but also for supplanting her daughter, Hebe.  Being the cupbearer to the gods is a very important and distinguished role as the cupbearer brings the gods their life-giving nectar (or just purified and divine water in some stories).  By some stories, Hera became so enraged that Zeus eventually placed Ganymede’s image among the stars as the constellation Aquarius, which is also connected to an Egyptian god of the Nile and of water.

Ganymede doesn’t do very much in the myths.  He shows up in his own myth, of course, about his abduction.  It is unclear whether the eagle that stole him away was sent by Zeus or was Zeus in disguise.  Both are equally plausible.  It is clear that Ganymede was held in very high regard, not only by Zeus but also by other gods, except Hera.  He does appear in one story with Eros, in which Eros cheated him at a game of knucklebones and Ganymede became rather enraged.

Ganymede is never said to have mated or married, and so has no children.  His father is Tros, from Troy (other accounts say his father is Laomedon, a treacherous king of Troy).  His mother is never named.

Because of the affection (myths vary whether it was strictly affection or a sexual affair) between Ganymede and Zeus, Ganymede is often seen as a figure associated with homosexuality or a deity of homosexuality.

Light and Dark Sides

Ganymede is a figure that begins as a humble mortal but gains immortality.  However, he can’t be said to follow the “divine hero” path, as he was not granted immortality for being a hero–in fact, he never did anything heroic.  He was granted immortality for his handsome looks and for his mind.  Despite his mortal origins, he was granted immortality and raised to the status of a minor god.  His domains include libation, water, rain, life, youth, and homosexuality.

Water is almost always connected to the subconscious mind, the emotions, the soul, and psychic ability, whether in dreams or myths.  Ganymede is a giver of water to both gods and men.  It is not a stretch to say that on his Light side, Ganymede has influence over the subconscious and emotions and such because of this connection to water.  This deity is interesting because he is a minor god, yet he fulfills such an important role to the gods.  The water brings life and sustains life, among the gods and among men, and Ganymede carries the water and pours it out.  In a sense, he rations the water to each recipient, which mean he defines how much life is given at a time.

Water is a changeable element, and Ganymede is deeply connected with water.  He also displays the instability in his myth with Eros in which he becomes enraged at being cheated.  It would be easier to get a better sense of Ganymede’s personality if there were more stories about him; sadly, there are so few to go on that it’s hard to say if he was very changeable or if he mostly stuck to the easy-going nature that he seems to have, and also hard to say what constitutes his Dark side.

When working with Ganymede, I suggest keeping in mind his connection to the psyche, the emotions, etc.  He is largely a Light deity; his Dark side may consist of the potential to withhold water, and thus life.  It also may include a changeable or unstable nature, which may require some caution.  Overall, however, he seems to be more Light than Dark, so I would place him on the Light side of the deity spectrum.

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