My 12 year old daughter just came to me with a concern about an assignment she has. She has to write a report on a Greek god/goddess and then dress up as that figure for class to read her report.
I told her that it is perfectly OK to learn about the subject and even to write the report but she is well within her rights to go to her teacher and share her concerns about the dressing up part.
How do you all think I should handle this if the teacher pushes this? Am I overreacting in thinking that this is an inappropriate assignment? Like I said, I don’t have an issue with them learning about the subject, but the dressing up part is taking it too far, imo. It should at least be completely voluntary. I don’t see this as anything different than requiring students to dress up as Jesus or Muhammad.
As long as she’s not dressing up as, say, the way that Aphrodite is traditionally depicted as being created (nude, coming out of the sea), I don’t really see an issue.
Knowledge of Greek mythology is an important part of any classical education. Dressing up as a Greek goddess doesn’t mean worshiping that goddess. If a kid were to dress up as the bad guy in a play, that doesn’t mean that the kid thinks that murder is a good idea, either. It’s just dress-up.
(For whatever it’s worth, my sisters and I were very “into” Greek mythology, the Iliad/Odyssey/Aeneid etc as kids, and would play long make-believe games and theatrics involving those characters. We definitely weren’t worshiping those characters; we just liked the stories, which are ageless.)
ETA: As far as thinking of them as being like Jesus or Mohammed, no one thinks of those gods and goddesses as anything but mythological anymore, and haven’t for some time. They’re more like legends than they are deities in the way our culture views them: the ideas about them helped shape our culture, but not our religious beliefs. The closest analogy I can imagine would be dressing up as ancient Roman heroes who may or may not have existed.
I think my biggest concern is that it’s* DD* that is uncomfortable about doing it. She is very serious about her faith and she feels strongly that this isn’t right. It’s not me that has objections to it, it’s her.
I find this sort of stuff hard to understand as a non-American as here in the UK and Ireland where I attended Catholic schools classical mythology and literature were major parts of the curriculum and the main teacher of Latin and Greek was a very elderly priest. He of course used Greek myth all the time and in other lessons such as English Chaucer, Byron, Shelley and Keats popped up who were are all rather fond of using allusions to myth. We saw it as just literary conceit. America seems oddly enough to have retained elements of a Puritanical strain that has disappeared centuries ago in England where much of that sort of outlook originated.
As long as this is being presented as mythology, there isn’t any real issue with the project from a Catholic standpoint. However, no student should be required to dress up in a way that makes him/her feel uncomfortable. If the teacher insists, I would report her/him to the administration for bullying.
I don’t remember if Greek mythology was in my high school curriculum per se but I know my childhood was steeped in it; books, movies and popular culture have always featured lots of it without raising any eyebrows so I don’t think the impression you’re receiving is accurate (based on my experiences at least). I could be atypical but if anything I’d say my childhood was entirely typical.
I read Greek myths to my children as bedtime stories and I hope they will become avid classicists one day.
Suggest to the teacher (or have your daughter suggest, then go in afterwards and re-suggest if the teacher ignores/denies the suggestion) that your daughter provide a different visual learning aid (that’s what her dressing up as X goddess is) due to your daughter not being comfortable dressing up as a pagan goddess and you supporting her with her decision.
Since your daughter is the one uncomfortable, I would first try talking to her and explaining that as a faithful Catholic she is still able to dress up as a mythological creature. Explain to her that it’s just acting out a part like in a movie or play. Find out what it is that makes her uncomfortable about it. But if she still feels like it isn’t right for her to do so, I would let the teacher know she will not be dressing up for her report. It’s up to the teacher how to handle that, so you will need to be willing to accept the fact that the teacher could deduct points for non-participation. Stand by your daughter’s decision and support her in sticking to her decisions. It’s wonderful that she is standing up for what she feels is the right thing to do. Be thankful for that! Worse that will come out of this is a bad grade, but at 12 years old that really isn’t that big of a deal.
Dressing up as a Greek mythological character is not incompatible with the faith in any way.
I would encourage you to talk to your daughter about being scrupulous or otherwise unbalanced in her approach to the faith. There is absolutely no reason to be uncomfortable with this, from a faith perspective, and to feed her fears by agreeing with her is harmful to a correct development of her conscience (IMHO).
Now, some kids don’t like to dress up b/c they are self-conscious at that age, don’t want to be “different” or think it’s too “baby” (our sixth graders don’t want to be a Saint in our Saint parade b/c it’s not cool). That is a totally different issue.
Exactly. The OP might point out to her daughter that in medieval morality plays people would dress up to depict Pride, Envy, Gluttony, and other vices. To dress up as a Greek god or goddess is more like dressing up as a Greek idea of a certain personality type, or as a movie character such as one of the Disney princesses. It is a drama exercise.
In contrast, something that would be a violation of conscience would be if the student were to be asked to make a ritual invocation or an offering to a supposed deity other than the one and only Almighty God, or to act as if the deity were a real entity rather than an historical idea, a literary character or a mythological concept.
Certainly any parent with questions or concerns about an assignment like this ought to contact the teacher and ask for a clarification of what the student is supposed to be accomplishing. Ask with an open mind, though, because there is no reason this is automatically something forbidden to Catholics, OP.
She might want to choose an obscure figure, such as Hestia. Not often depicted in Greek art, she was the virgin goddess of the hearth, home and chastity and appeared as a modestly veiled woman. Her symbols were the hearth and the kettle.
She could also choose Agnostos Theos, “the Unknown God,” whom Paul used to preach to the Athenians. This was the deity the Greeks invoked in order to cover their bases, because they were concerned about offending one of the gods by leaving them out. They thought everything people did was the concern of some god or other–as Paul pointed out, they were very religious people. She ought to note that Paul did not chastise the Greeks for all their gods, but used their religious interest as a starting point for a conversation.
How exactly does one dress up as a Greek god(dess) modestly?
I’m looking at representations of the Olympians, and there seems to be a lot of nudidity, or at best a droopy towel around the waist.
Just looking at the 12 Great Olympians:
Zeus looks like a guy with longish curly hair and beard, sitting in a sauna – i.e., just a towel. Might have a staff in his hand.
Poseidon: Looks a lot like Zeus, only he has a trident.
Hermes is starkers except for the WWI helmet with wings on and the caduceus.
Ares: Also starkers, but with a helmet with a big poofy crest on it.
Apollo: Wears a cape. Or plays a harp. Doesn’t seem to do both.
Hephaestus. I can’t find any traditional representations of him. I hope he’s smart enough to wear an apron. You don’t want anything, um, dangling in the way when your hammering on an anvil. Oh, and traditionally he has a clubfoot and is pretty ugly.
Hades seemed to wear duds, especially with his three-headed dog was nearby. Seems to be a practical concern.
As for the goddesses:
Athene seems to wear a longish tunic or robe, with helmet, spear and/or shield.
Artemis wears a short tunic or chiton (?), often carries a bow and arrow.
Aphrodite: Starkers, or appearing caught mid-disrobing.
Hera wears regalish robes, sometimes carries a staff, sometimes seems to wear a crown-y headdress.
Hestia wears full robes and a veil over her head. Downright demure for an Olympian.
Demeter also has a full wardrobe, sometimes carries a cornucopia.
Seems the female Olympians (Aphrodite excepted) went for the cover-up, while the guys generally liked to let it all hang out. Go fig.
This. Keep an eye on this too, as someone who has struggled with scrupulosity I can say it can be very stressful, and had lots of anxiety from it. I get a lot of comfort when I remember about God's love.
And one las thing. I use to use large white pillow cases for my kids costumes. They were on the small side at this age and they went past the knees. I cut holes for the head and arms, and used some flower garlands from Hobby Lobby. Worked well.
Except that her discomfort seems based on a faulty premise - that dressing in imitation of whatever figure of Greek mythology is somehow incompatible with the Faith - which it clearly isn’t, as amply explained in the other posts.