Sky Father: Definition & Concept

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the topic of sky fathers, which is a cross-religion term encompassing heavenly deities who are often the most powerful in their respective religion.

Modern Families

The modern family is a diverse organism. As short as fifty years ago, many families were made up of one father, one mother, and children. Families today are formed with a diverse and ever-changing amount of people: there are single-parent homes, combined families with multiple children and step-children, even houses with two parents of the same sex. Regardless of the makeup, there is still usually someone considered a father-figure - someone who assumes the stronger, perhaps more disciplinary, of the two traditional roles.

Like families, polytheistic religions of the past also had father figures: a strong, commanding presence often tasked with controlling the biggest factors on human lives and keeping the other gods in check. Across religions, these heavenly figures have come to be known as sky fathers.

What is a Sky Father?

A sky father is the most powerful male deity in a religion, often at the head of a polytheistic pantheon. In addition - and as the title suggests - the deity also often resides for the majority of his existence in the sky, usually with powers over the weather as well as the other gods.

Sky fathers are often compared with their opposite earthly deity, the Earth Mother. Gaia of the Greek religion, who embodied the earth and all of the parts of nature not reserved for control by other gods, is one example. Whereas earth mothers are often female and earthbound, sky fathers are more powerful, often male, and without limits on their movement through the various worlds of each religion.

Examples of Sky Fathers

To better understand sky fathers and their typical characteristics in polytheistic religions, let's examine a few sky fathers from separate religions and mythologies.

Zeus, ancient Greece

Zeus is perhaps the most recognizable sky father character in western popular culture. Considered the king of the gods in ancient Greek mythology, Zeus lived in the sky high atop Mt. Olympus, where he controlled the weather, often casting thunderbolts down upon those who displeased him.

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