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Todd Powelson
Updated and Rewritten 11/22/20
"Athena" by Todd Powelson
"In the symbol the world itself is speaking." - Carl Jung

In the ancient world, Athena was recognized as the goddess of civilization. She was also seen as the goddess of wisdom, arts and craft, inspiration and creativity, skill, strength, and justice. Many of the things I admire. Born a fully formed goddess directly from Zeus' head, Athena is associated with mind and intelligence. She is often called the "grey eyed goddess" or "bright eyes", because she is known for her clear (in)sight and vision. She is the goddess of war, but through planning, strategy, and foresight.

Athena is the helper and teacher of heroes, because she is brave, cool, calm and engaged. You could almost say that Athena runs the show in the Odyssey, regularly helping Odysseus because (she says) he is so much like Athena herself. They're both cunning and clever. Athena also helped Perseus kill Medusa. Medusa’s rage, contained in the head, is worn by Athena and is used by both herself and Zeus as their powerful Aegis (aka Gorgoneion). It's believed Athena also aided the heroes Heracles, Bellerophon, and Jason. Along with Aphrodite and Hera, Athena was one of the three goddesses whose feud resulted in the beginning of the Trojan War.

Athena interacted with people often. She was chosen as the patron deity of Athens after she gifted the city with its first olive tree, and the Acropolis (including Athena's temple) was built around her sacred tree. She is associated with democracy and civic virtue, as is Athens itself. Since the Renaissance, Athena has become an international symbol of wisdom, the arts, and classical learning. Western artists have often used Athena as a symbol of freedom and democracy. Athena would often inspire common and ordinary people to speak her wisdom, or she might visit in an animal form, such as an owl. A human avatar of Athena might include someone like Joan of Arc. I'm always reminded of Athena when I think on or see the painting "Liberty Leading the People" by Eugène Delacroix.

For me, Athena started showing up regularly back in 2019. I'd been revisiting Greek mythology and stories, and a lot of that reading seemed to be somehow related to the Iliad & Odyssey, where (like I said) Athena plays a huge role. But not only that, she'd just appear out of the blue, in seemingly unrelated places. In unexpected artwork, stories, ideas, etc. I don't know, maybe it all really started in October 2018, when I adopted a new dog I named Argos, after Odysseus' dog. But really, I've always loved the ancient world, and have been revisiting Hellenic and Platonic philosophy for years and years, so who knows how and why Athena might decide to stop by?

For whatever reason, Athena got into my head and took hold of my imagination. The thought of her kept growing and growing in my mind, and I started sketching and drawing her all the time. I had two images of Athena that I wanted to develop further, and here she is, reborn (for me) for the first time in this artwork. Here is a link to the second piece, which I finished last spring. Let me tell ya, working on two images of Athena at the same time really puts you into a very strange head-space.

2020, ya know what I mean? Cripes! As 2020 (clear vision) approached, I became more and more determined to finish this here Athena artwork. I can't really explain why, but it seemed like I'd need this artwork somehow. I had the sense that this year, 2020, would be a doozy, although I had no idea how or why. I know its hard to understand but as I meditated on and created this image, I felt like finishing this artwork could help prepare me for what was coming. Athena would help set my head right for the unknown challenges ahead. My very own Aegis or something, I guess. I finished this artwork near 4am on New Year's Eve/Day, 2020. And here she is, and I am grateful.

The truth is, as the goddess of civilization and democracy, I can't help but think there might be something that Athena can teach us all during these very strange times. If the gods live anywhere, and the mystic in me sees divinity everywhere, they live in our heart, mind and imagination. May we have the imagination and inspiration to work toward a better world. With love and compassion for all our brothers and sisters, as well as every living being.

Todd Powelson
Todd Powelson works as a Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Visual Artist.

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