Mythology Monday: Janus

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“Life isn’t fair! Why should death be any different?”

“Did you ever stop and wonder if maybe that attitude is why the gods are dead?” I asked. “People don’t believe in gods because they can’t wrap their minds around the idea of someone allowing all the terrible things in the world to happen.”

“Reality has teeth and claws. It’s rarely pretty and never fair. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

I clenched my fists. “Why? I get that no one has the power to interfere now, but when the gods were in power, how could they let things get this bad? You’re here every day! You hear the stories of murder, thievery, and worse. You see the children who starved to death. This isn’t a recent development. Why didn’t you stop it?”

“We gave humans free will—”

“That’s bull!” I exploded. “If you have the power to stop someone from getting killed and don’t, you’re just as guilty as whoever pulled the trigger.”

“Where do you draw that line, Persephone? There are billions of humans, and a handful of us—”

“Who allowed humans to get to the billions? That was greed, plain and simple. More humans equaled more worship. And really, between the God of Mist, and the God of Doorways, and the god of every other useless thing, you couldn’t at least try?”

“You’re angry. I understand. You didn’t see this side of the world back in your flower shop. Your mother kept you sheltered. It’s a bit of a shock at first, but—”

“But what? Over time I’ll get used to it? Used to seeing children in the court of the dead? Used to watching husbands cry over lost wives? Why should I get used to it when I can do something about it?”

“You can’t save everyone. You just don’t have that power.”

“But you did! You each had the power to grant immortality!” I threw my hands in the air. “Why were only some people given the gift? My mother has the power to make things grow anywhere. How come people are still starving? Are you all so full of yourselves that you think you’re any more deserving of these gifts than any one of those humans?”

~@~

Persephone makes a brief reference to Janus, the Roman God of Doorways. Like the God of Mist and the God of Fog, she’s wrong to write Janus off as a minor deity. Janus/Jana was actually two gods, hence the two heads, and was worshiped as everything from the sun, the moon, to the space between passages, i.e. doorways, beginnings, endings, transitions, war, peace, birth, death, traveling, the list goes on and on because if something has a distinct beginning, end, and transition between the two, Janus presides over it. Thematically, Janus is important in Persephone as a coming of age novel.

For a long, long time they were regarded as the highest of gods and got dibs on all the sacrifices, like Hestia. Janus has two faces, one to look in the future, one the past. In this regard, they are similar to the Greek Fates, but there was no Greek equivalent to Janus in its entirety, though Greek mythologists played around with the idea of Janus in their own stories later.

Janus may have fathered some children, but a lot of those stories are Greek additions to his mythology. He’s an interesting conundrum in Roman mythology as his role touches on/overlaps the roles of so many gods in the Pantheon. Popular theory is that Janus either predates the Roman Pantheon all together or was developed in an isolated bit of the culture and later worked into the mythology.

I’m not even going to try to get into the myths regarding Janus, because there’s a lot of discussion/argument about whether the god playing the role of Janus in any given myth was him, or if his name was stuck in as a replacement or a straight up mistake in translation/assumption. (Janus for instance has nothing to do with the month of January, though for a long time scholars thought that was the case).

In mythology, Janus is complex and fascinating, and I encourage you to read more about him. 

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