Letters to Poseidon

It is a rare thing to find novels which depict the gods. It is even more rare to find gods in the writing of non-Pagan non-fiction writers who are also Dutch. And this is exactly what I have found.

Cees Nooteboom is a Dutch author whose travel literature I adore. His latest book is a collection of short essays mixed with letters addressed to Poseidon. Many Pagans would not recognize this as a devotional work and Nooteboom himself probably thinks he uses Poseidon as a literary tool. At one point he admits the gods are not real, but yet he keeps writing to one. And the letters – apart from showing a deep knowledge of the ancients – are very intimate. Nooteboom knows Poseidon. And though Poseidon does not seem to reply directly, he does speak from the pages.

Letters to Poseidon

The book ends with this paragraph:

“You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?

Nooteboom wonders if Poseidon has seen Jesus walking across the water. How must it feel to see those feet upside down? And what of the doge’s ring? He also addresses the different depictions of Poseidon in Homeric and classical texts, but also in modern art and literature.

“According to Kafka you have never seen the sea, one time at the most, when you climbed Olympos with effort. There the sea lied, deep below you. Big, grey, and moving. The latter it he does not say, that is what I say. The mountain on the island where I love is not as high as Olympus, but once a year I climb upwards and see the sea. Big, grey and moving, as I said. Because you exist beneath the waves, you do not fully know the element that you rule. I am not sure what I have to think about that. A tired god under the sea, that’s how Kafka sees you. underneath a transparent, moving ceiling. Someone who is always counting, (…)”

Oion also makes an appearance as his patron saint: ”

I know him from the winter nights in Amsterdam, when I see his shape above one of the canals. He is a winter man then, high and cool, always moving with is dogs, but in the month of August I find him again on my Spanish islands, he appears there at the end of the night, just after the Pleiades have risen above the horizon, and he flees away in the light of the dawn that once seduce him. (… ) I am always happy to see him, a mortal who was loved by goddesses, and who had the gods against him.”

Surely, even if he is no Pagan himself, this is pagan to us Pagans.

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