LGBT History: Mythology I

The long and short of it is the idea of “gay gods” and “lesbian goddesses” is about as silly to me as the idea that there are “straight gods” and “straight goddesses”. What I mean by this is that deities definitely appear to have their preferences. There are deities who are (at the very least) bisexual as we moderns would understand it, but the thing is, sexual orientation wasn’t really a thing until modern times. In many societies, as long as you “did your duty” and had children, you could have lovers “on the side” and no one would give a fuck.
If you were a man; at least it’s difficult to find a lot of material on lesbians in pre-modern societies (though depending on where and when you’re looking, you might have better luck). I think there is definitely a misconception among some that the phrase “gay/queer god” somehow means that I think the deity can only be worshiped by gay or bisexual men. Such people usually say “Well, I’m straight and I worship X.”  Let start with an easy group of gods; Greek and Roman Gods

Greek and Roman Mythology

It isn't a secret that Greek culture - and to some extent, subsequently Roman culture as well - had a more lax attitude toward same-sex relationships compare with to some modern Western nations *cough*. Though there is some debate about exactly how widespread tolerance was, evidence of gay themes is overwhelming in artifacts. Artwork on cups and vases, literature (such as Plato's Symposium) and stories are full of gay and transgender themes. A book could be written on the number of "gay" myths and stories, but here are a few of the most significant:

Homoerotic Trinity - Eros, Hermes, and Heracles make up a homoerotic trinity presiding over homosexual relations.

Eros - Eros is the Greek god of love and beauty. He stands over love with Aphrodite. He is also considered a protector of liberty. Additionally, Eros stands for homosexual love between men and adolescent youth. Certain Greek armies made sacrifices to him before battle, because the love between male soldiers was believed to ensure military success. 

Hermes is the messenger god, also associated with roads, doorways, and the protection of travelers. He has been worshipped as a god of fertility, dreams, and the protection of cattle and sheep. Some of his lovers include Apollo, Perseus and Crocus

Heracles (Hercules) - The Greek hero Heracles is half-god and half-man. His father was Zeus and his mother was Alcmene. His supernatural origins gave him the gift of great strength. He is said to have married the Amazonian Queen Omphale of Lydia, but also had a host of male lovers including: Iolaus, Nestor, Philoctetes and Telamon.

Apollo is one of the more popular of the Greek gods, and the twin brother of Artemis. Apollo is associated with the sun gods. He presides over religious and civil law, and even foretold the future. Carrying a lyre that symbolizes music, poetry, and dance, Apollo is a patron of the arts, poets, and muses. His bow symbolized death, terror, and distance. He is also associated with crops and herds. Apollo is the only Greek god who did not sleep with Aphrodite, but he did sleep with her son, Hymen. Apollo's other male lovers included: King Admetus of Thessaly, Amyclas and his son Hyacinthus the king of Sparta, Branchus, Cyparissus, Daphnis, Hylas, Iapis, Orpheus, Paros, Phrobas, Potneius, Troilus, Thracian singer Thamyris, Tymnius, Zacynthus, and the ram-god Carneius.
 
Artemis - Twin sister to Apollo, the Goddess of the Hunt was by differing accounts a nearly asexual virgin or a lesbian with many nymph lovers, including Cyrene, Atalanta, and Anticleia as well as moon goddess Dictynna. By some accounts, she was Calisto’s lover before the nymph was raped by Zeus. Researcher Johanna Hypatia-Cybelaia writes that lesbian and gay devotees worshipped her as Artemis Orthia, and that lesbian port Pamphilia referred to the goddess in hymn as Artemis Pergaea.

Aphrodite - While the goddess of love is not identified prominently as lesbian herself, the Greek poet Sappho (as in Sapphic) of Lesbos (yes, as in lesbian) told many homoerotic tales and named Aphrodite as the greatest patron and ally of lesbians and homosexuals within the Greek pantheon of gods. Because love is love

Dionysus is the Greek god of wine, intoxication, ecstasy, sensuality, rebellion, and drama. He is said to have an effeminate, androgynous, or transgendered appearance. He is considered a god of women, and men are often excluded from his rituals. Dionysus is bisexual. His male lovers included: Achilles, Acoetes, Adonis, Ampelus, Hermaphroditus, Hymenaeus, Laonis, and Prosymnus.

Pan - Many mythological texts and artworks connect Daphnis to the satyr Pan, God of Wild, Countryside and County music. Pan frequently was depicted in sculpture chasing both women and men around with his always-erect penis and oversized scrotum. Half man. Half goat. Bisexual. Size queen.

Hymen is the Greek god of marriage, as well as music. He is openly bisexual. Among his male lovers were: Apollo, Thamyris, Argynmus, Dionysus and his primary lover was Hesperus.

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 water, rain, life, youth, and homosexuality.

Antinous was purely and profoundly homosexual, even if the concept of Homosexuality in ancient Rome was quite different from our modern definition; Antinous never-the-less was understood to be of essentially the same nature as a modern homosexual. He was deified and worshiped as a god because he had been the beautiful lover of Hadrian, Emperor of Rome. Many other attributes of divinity were attributed to Antinous, but the foundation of his divine nature was based on his homosexual beauty.

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