Hephaestus and How Brokenness Contributes to Creativity

Now that’s a title! We love the idea of pounding down the home stretch of 2014 with some Greek god lovin’:

hephaestus-satyr_002_610_300_s_c1_center_centerby Allison Stieger

In examining the world’s myths for clues to creativity and living a more creative life, it can be helpful to look at the archetypal qualities of gods and goddesses from different cultures, and how the creative impulse manifests itself in the stories of those gods. I’ve recently spent some time with the Greek god Hephaestus, and I’ve come to believe that he has, in his myths, some interesting things to teach us about how to use all the parts of ourselves, the whole and the broken, in bringing new ideas into the world.

Hephaestus is the god of the forge for the Greeks, of metalworking and fire, particularly volcanic fire. He is known as Vulcan to the Romans, and his name is used as a synonym for fire by both Greek and Roman poets, particularly fire in service of the creation of art. His origin story is told differently by different poets. He is either the son of both Hera and Zeus, or is the son of only Hera, a retaliation for the solitary birth of Athena from Zeus’ head. In any story about Hephaestus, however, he is lame. He becomes lame by being thrown from Mount Olympus, and he is often shown in later myths or mythic images being supported in some way.

He is also, for the Greeks and their poets, one of the gods who fill the role of culture hero for humans, teaching them how to make art and the importance of doing so. He is the patron god of those who work with their hands to form metals, making art and weapons. He does the same himself, creating beautiful and clever objects. We have several myths in which Hephaestus uses his skill at the forge to create a trap for another god or goddess (the fine chain he makes to hang over his wife Aphrodite’s bed to catch her with her lover is an excellent example).

For the Greek aristoi that many myths were written for, Hephaestus was, like the many artisans who worked in classical Greece, an object of scorn and ridicule. It was not uncommon for the lame to become metalworkers, and Greek citizens loved the beautiful Apollo, and denigrated the ugly and lame Hephaestus and those who followed him. (Classical Myth, Powell, page 175)

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