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(Odysseus:) 'So I spoke, and my queenly mother answered me quickly: "All too much with enduring heart she does wait for you there in your own palace, and always with her the wretched nights and the days also waste her away with weeping. No one yet holds your fine inheritance, but in freedom Telemachos administers your allotted lands, and apportions the equal feasts, work that befits a man with authority to judge, for all to call him in. Your father remains, on the estate where he is, and does not go to the city. There is no bed there nor is there bed clothing nor blankets nor shining coverlets, but in the winter time he sleeps in the house, where the thralls do, in the dirt next to the fire, and with foul clothing upon him. (11.180-203)
When Odysseus sees his mother in the Underworld, she updates him on his family. It's not as convenience as checking your Facebook newsfeed to see how your brother's doing—and it does involve some unsavory blood drinking—but it does the job.
(Odysseus:) 'Hear me, my lord, whoever you are. I come in great need to you, a fugitive from the sea and the curse of Poseidon; even for immortal gods that man has a claim on their mercy who comes to them as a wandering man, in the way that I now come to your current and to your knees after much suffering. Pity me then, my lord. I call myself your supplicant.' He spoke, and the river stayed its current, stopped the waves breaking, and made all quiet in front of him and let him get safely into the outlet of the river.' (5.445-454)
We get the feeling that praying to an unknown river god is sort of like begging your car to start or your computer not to crash when you have six pages full of unsaved work. And we really wish it worked. (Maybe if we poured some Diet Dr. Pepper on the floor?)
(Odysseus:) '[…] for me alone my strong-greaved companions excepted the ram when the sheep were sheared, and I sacrificed him on the sands to Zeus, dark-clouded son of Kronos, lord over all, and burned him the thighs; but he was not moved by my offerings, but still was pondering on a way how all my strong-benched ships should be destroyed and all my eager companions.' (9.550-555)
We have to ask: how do you know that a god isn't moved by your offering? And if he's not, do you get to eat it yourself?