Athene & the Elephant

(This just sort of came to me a couple days or so ago, and so I wrote it down. As best as i can tell, I can’t connect it to ancient ideas and [dare I say?] beliefs, so take this as you will. Though, by sheer coincidence, just before posting this, I took a chance on a search for ‘elephant athena”, and found this –interesting, eh?)

Hermes watched carefully as Alexandros of Makedon followed his own gilded thread of fate into India, and just then, Athene peered over His shoulder.

“Ah, my sister, I was just watching, wondering if he was going to make it. It is better than a play, to me.”

“The Dread Sisters are never wrong, though. I hear that even if They ever are, They have ways of fixing it so that only the Protogonoi would know, and few Olympians would ever suspect.”

“It’s still fun to watch, when I haven’t anything better to do. It’s like the mortals with their mythology, telling Our stories, even the same way, and knowing how it’s going to end, well, watching it on stage is different from knowing the outline of the plot.”

“Fair enough, dear half-brother.” She took down Her helmet and adjusted a pin holding her hair together. “So, when Our people make contact with the Hindu people, they’re going to make some associations.”

“When will they learn that other gods are individuals?”

“They feel it’s complimentary, Hermes. ‘The Gods of Hellas are the Gods of civilisation,’ ergo, even civilised people outside of Hellas worship the same Gods, just with local names. Or so goes the logic, at least.”

“This political turn is starting to bore me. Which animals only previously know to the Hindu people do you want?”

Without hesitation, Athene pointed to the elephant.

“Oh, that’s not what I expected. I mean, the owl is stealthy and patient, and it hunts. That pachyderm is big and tramples the foliage, and all it eats is foliage. It was also relatively easy for them to tame.”

“This is all true, but it’s certainly the wisest creature on this continent, after mankind.”

“And you say so, because?”

“It’s tamed because it wanted to be. It’s big, but only violent when provoked beyond reason, because it knows that’s the only time it needs violence. In the wild, when it is allowed to behave naturally, it is the only beast that truly knows to honour the gift of life the gods have given all tribes of man and beasts –just look.”

Athene pointed Hermes to a small tribe of elephants in the jungle, carefully having laid a burial mound over their matriarch, now stood vigil. Infants of the pack wailed -like Greek women at a funeral. Each animal waited its turn to take a little water before returning to the three day vigil among the elephant burial grounds. She then pointed out another pack of elephants outside a small village in Africa, in a region of the continent yet unexplored by Hellenes; the village had just been visited by a fearsome storm, and a man and his dog who had been unshielded by a house, lay dead, and the elephants covered him with a burial, out of respect.

“It’s a simple form of religion,” the grey-eyed and unowned one pointed out, “but for a creature so far from man’s genetic material, they have been granted the wisdom to know the gods, and so not only do I favour them, but I believe our father will, as well.”

“But what gods do they honour?”

Athene thought for a moment, and then suggested, “they clearly honour the gods of the earth, and of intelligence. They cannot speak the names of these gods, so they could never ask the gods their names. They know only some basic vocabulary of any language of man, so formulating a question on paper or in the mind is outside their abilities. They therefore honour whatever gods will accept them. The Hindu people treat them with honour, so those amongst the Hindu honour Hindu gods. Those there, amongst the Maasai, if the elephant is tame, it worships the Maasai people’s gods. Why should they be any different from human beings? There are several species of elephant, with dozens of tribes, each.”

“You were able to see all that?”

“Of course. My vision is finely attuned to scouting out the wisest creatures, and the wisdom of these creatures is like the brilliance of the sun when compared to the twinkle of a star.”

“Stars are really whole galaxies, just as the humans see them from Gaia, you know?” Hermes pointed out.

Athene slapped the back of His head in that sisterly way, and said, “I know that. It’s the metaphor that’s important —and you know that, too,”

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Haides & Persephone

Zeus laid with Demetre, wishing to take Her on as a second wife, but Demetre not only cared of Her sister Hera’s objections, but simply wanted Zeus for no more than to become a mother, and so Hera found no reason to be jealous. When Demetre gave birth to Persephone, all rejoiced, and Demetre took to doting on and indulging the young Goddess.

…but time flies when one is having fun, they say, and so Demetre took no real notice of the fact that Persephone had become of age to be wed, and Zeus, assuming Demetre was paying attention, had betrothed Persephone to Haides, who had taken a liking to the girl. On the day agreed upon, Haides took Persephone from the Boiotian town of Livadeia with Him to the underworld, and Demetre asked Persephone’s friend, the naiad Herkyna, what she saw.

Herkyna relayed to the Goddess that Haides had informed the girls that by the arrangement of Zeus, Persephone was to be Haides bride, and so by tradition, She was to leave with him. Persephone and Herkyna were playing with Persephone’s pet goose, and Haides approach frightened the poor bird into the cave of Trophonios. Persephone went after it, assuring Haides of Her hesitance to go with Him to the underworld, at least until She had informed Her mother, but Haides, overwhelmed and impatient, chased the goose further into the cave, causing Persephone to go after it, then further down, down, down…..

In the underworld, Persephone didn’t fear re-crossing the river Styx, for She knew in Her immortal state, She had nothing to fear, but She admitted that She couldn’t remember the way back out, and Haides refused to tell Her, preferring attempts to coax the girl to stay with Him, hoping to assure Her that He meant Her nothing but the eternal love that only the lord of the dead could show — for what is more eternal, save the deathless ones, than death? In perfect love, Haides offered Persephone a pomegranate, which She finally accepted when She realised that Haides had denied Himself so that She could live in luxury as Queen of the Underworld.

Above-ground, Demetre flew into a rage upon learning that Zeus had arranged a marriage for Persephone without Her permission, casting Gaia’s face into an ice age until Zeus finally swore to let Their daughter return to Demetre, but by then, Persephone had already eaten the pomegranate and sealed Their marriage, but Demetre, still furious, insisted that it was only because Haides had tricked Persephone, and refused to accept a life where She wasn’t an active eternal mother.

In compromise, Zeus proposed that for a quarter of the year, Persephone would be with Haides, and for the opposite quarter, She would live with Demetre, and during the times in-between, She could travel freely between the worlds. The result of this that we see is the seasons.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Boeotian Theoi: Haides

I know, I know, it’s cheesy to do the “spooky” deities around this time of the year, but as in most incidents in life, I just re-assure myself: It could’ve been worse. Also: Better to do cheesy stereotypical actions as an insider than as an outsider.

So, Haides, eh?

The cult and temples to Hekate was small, but Haides’ cult is TINY, in comparison. TINY. The primary reason for this is obvious: Death is a spiritual pollutant, so while the Lord of the Dead must be afforded His due measure, one isn’t really given an incentive to do more than that, is one? Those called to His service, even today, are regarded suspiciously or, at best, as “odd, but necessary”. For some reason, the screenplay-writing industry, especially since about 1985, wants to make Haides synonymous with the Christian “Satan”, even though this is probably the sloppiest parallel that could be drawn (the Abrahamic tale of Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden by the aid of the serpent, unnamed in Genesis, but commonly syncretised with “Satan” by most Christians, comes closer to the mythos of Prometheus, for example, — but that’s another story for another time), as Haides’ role in Hellenic mythology? He is Lord of the Dead and His domains most commonly include funerary rites and necromancy. His epithets even include Νεκρων Σωτηρ (Nekrôn Sôtêr), “Saviour of the Dead”. It’s clear that Haides wants little, if anything, to do with human beings until we’ve passed on, so the only reason I can figure why His name has become synonymous with the Christian “Hell” and linked to an Abrahamic daimon that first gives people knowledge, and then tests individuals’ virtue (and by Jewish tradition, this is clearly in a context of testing man for G-d, as Jehovah’s servant) is pure, unadulterated ignorance.

Hesiod described this son of Kronos and Rhea as “strong Haides, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth”, and some translators feel that Hesiod’s use of “Zeus Khthonios”, “Zeus Who dwells within/under the earth”, in Works & Days is another name for Haides — which makes sense, as Zeus’ domain is clearly as a Sky-God within Hesiod, and so this could extend Haides’ domain to the fertility of the earth, which logically, He’d also be connected to via the mythos of Persephone, whose return to Demetre’s side on Olympos heralds the spring thaw. This also makes sense biologically, as the decay of bodies both animal and vegetable renews the earth’s fertility; death and decay are thus part of the cycle of life.

Another name for Haides that I see in the works of Hesiod, Aidoneus, is translated by Theoi Project as “the Unseen”. I’m unsure if this is the reason for or the result of the ancient custom to avert one’s eyes when sacrificing to Haides, but either way, it seems fitting; the Host of the dead is unseen to those still living.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Hekate & Witchcraft

I find it hard to bring up Hekate and not express my thoughts on Hekate and Witchcraft.

For starters, it’s impossible to deny with fact the deep and ancient connection Hekate has to witchcraft. It’s also damned near impossible to sugar-coat the ancients’ view of this goddess as rather frightening in a way.

Euripides and Apollonius Rhodius portray Medea as a priestess of Hekate, and by Apollonious’ account, she only assisted Jason because Hera had convinced Eros to make Medea fall in love with Jason. It is also by Apollonious’ account that Medea of of blood-relation to Kirke, Who, by the benevolence of Zeus, cleansed Medea and Jason of the miasma of murdering Medea’s brother — and this cleansing took place after several instances where Medea used her craft to the aid of Jason. To simply be a witch in ancient Hellas was not a great crime, nor was it apparently regarded as something frowned upon by the Theoi.

The murder Medea committed against her own children seems to be an invention of Euripides, as earlier poets (as early as the 7th Century BCE) described their death variously as an accident or at the hands of Corinthians. By Theban tradition, Medea also cleansed Herakles of the murder of Iphitus, and remained in Thebes under His protection until she was eventually driven out in spite of their Heros’ protests.

There is no single internally consistent narrative of Medea, and the use of her character as a cautionary against witchcraft in specific seems to be an invention of Seneca the Younger, who was later adopted by early Christians as being allegedly posthumously baptised by the Apostle Paul (who is the source of the majority of what it wrong with Christianity). Ovid, drawing more directly from Hellenic mythology and folklore, paints still a tragic Medea, but one more sophisticated than a morality tale. Pindar also cites Medea as a founding seer of the city of Cyrene; Herodotous describes her as the founder of the Medes people, and others describe Kolkhian colonies venerating Medea as a foundation heroine after staking out to discover her tomb; even today, the Kolkhian (West Georgian) city of Batumi maintains a statue of Medea at the centre of the city, assuring us that one tribe’s “mad deceiver-sorceress-child murderess” is another tribe’s Founder Heroine. By Diodorus Siculus, Hekate is the mother of both Kirke and Medea, further cementing Hekete as a Theon who looks favourably upon the practise of witchcraft.

The witchcraft of Medea seems to be predominantly herbal magic and the invocation, or supplication of deities —mainly Hekate— and spirits, and this is what Kirke is portrayed as practising, as well. Whether or not the Theoi approve or disapprove of these spells incantations and potions is apparently based on intent: If the pharmakeia is using this as a tool of aid to others, or benevolent self-improvement, or throwing curses justly toward another, then one is in Their favour; if she has unjust ill intent toward another, or is seeking self-improvement with malevolent intent, then the Theoi act accordingly. Kirke, being a Goddess, seeks to attack Odysseus and his men with Her own magic, but Odysseus is given guidance by Hermes to a magical herb to protect himself — then hijinks ensue, and Odysseus and Kirke are wed and, by Hesiod’s account, She bore him three sons.

That said, pharmakoussai were viewed suspiciously in ancient Hellas, and the kult of Kirke in particular seems to be mostly contained to the Pharmakoussai Islands (Farmakonisi) off the coast of Attika, and the Kirkaion Mountain (Mount Kirkeo) in Latium, where Athene was also worshipped. It’s hard to really make a clear distinction in a lot of rituals that are defined as “magic” what it supplicatory of the Theoi and what attempts to coerce Them, and this can be confusing or even seem hubristic to an outsider, but frankly, in some spells and incantation, the only ones who really know is the practitioner and the deity(s) addressed, and is it really any-one’s place to say that a Deity is being coerced or controlled when the practitioner and the Deity both know that is clearly not the case? Even outside of Kirke’s cult, specifically, there was no shortage of pharmakoussai mixing herbs, selling amulets and curse kits, and performing simple divinitory rites outside of the ceremony and auspices of the public oracular shrines. Their main purpose seemed to be to sell medicinal and/or mood-altering herbs with specific instructions and generally be ignored or whispered about in-between — that’s not necessarily a sign of Divine disfavour so much as a sign of social disfavour; likewise, there were people whose sole function in the local community was to handle funerary rites so that the family didn’t have to pollute themselves with it, and while there is certainly writing warning us of the spiritual pollutant of handling the dead, even earning us an Olympian disfavour, clearly the very purpose these people took on earned them Khthonic favour, while also earning all the whispers and assumptions of others. There also seems to be a strong link between pharmakoussai and necromantic rites and oracles. One could argue, I suppose, that funerary rites are necessary and witchcraft is not, and I’d agree that in most cases witchcraft probably isn’t necessary, but at the same time, in certain climates and taking on a raw food diet, fire wouldn’t be necessary, but it’s still a tool that the Theoi have given us, and its necessity, its good use, or its ill use is all what we can make out of it: I can move to a Polynesian island and eat a raw diet and I’d never need fire again, and could maintain reasonably healthy, but I’d also know there is only so much space on a Polynesian island, and only just so many Polynesian islands to go around, that clearly fire is necessary to some people and it has to be.

If the Moirai have decided that some-one’s fate shall include the mastery of magical herbs and incantations, then that person will fall upon that path, and it would be within the will of the Theoi that they are doing so. Whether they use that tool for necessity, for good, or for ill is also something that would be offered to them by the Moirai, as would whatever retribution that other deities deem necessary. That said, clearly Hekate will only have so much of an interaction with the majority of Hellenists, but Her closer bond with Her pharmakoussai is something I wouldn’t too eagerly denounce — I mean, really, the “why not” should be obvious. 😉 But really now, I’m not here to bad-mouth another Hellene’s work/service to a deity, especially when all the real evidence suggests that the Theoi only have really specific incidental issues with whitchcraft — just like the issues They have with sexual intercourse are very specific.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Notes on Hekate of Boeotian mythos

In Thebes, there was a woman named Galinthias. She was a midwife who delivered Herakles from the womb of Alkmene, her childhood friend. Alkmene’s pregnancy offended Hera, and cursed the young woman’s birth pains to never cease. Galinthias, worried her friend would be driven mad, first appealed to Hekate, who concluded that the curse was placed by another Deathless One, and She could not remove those, but perhaps appealing to the right Deity would earn the sympathies of the one Who could. Deciding No-One higher up than the Moirai, for even the other Theoi were bound to Their tapestry, Galinthias then appealed to the Moirai, Who Themselves were becoming exhaused by the sound of the laborous woman’s screaming, and removed the curse in order to hear Themselves think.

When Hera realised Alkemene had given birth to a son, Herakles, She spoke up that Her own curse had become removed because a silly girl took advantage of the Moirai in Their confusion. The Moirai concluded that Hera was technmically correct (the best kind of correct) and it was decided that Galinthias’ fate was to be transformed into a ferret, a creature that looks most absurd in mating and birth labour. Hekate, though, was sympathetic to Galinthias and the girl’s desires to remove Hera’s curse, and did not fault the girl for failing to discover that it was Hera who cast the curse, and therefore only Hera who could be appealed to lift it. Out of kindness, Hekate made the ferret one of Her sacred workers on Gaia’s face, and in Thebes, the animal was held in esteem as the nurse of Herakles, their native Heros.

By Hesiod’s account, Ouranos and Gaia begat Koios (the Titan Theos of the North, also “the Inquirer”) and Phoibê (the “Bright”, the Titan Theon of prophecy); Koios and Phoibê begat Perses (the Destroyer) and Asteria, the Titan Theon of the Stars, astrology, and necromancy. It is Perses and Asteria Who are the parents of Hekate.

As per the playwright Aeschylus, Phoibê is regarded as the previous oracular deity of Delphi, later succeeding Her reign and bestowing Delphi as a gift to Apollon, Her grandson via Leto. Phoibê is also associated with the moon. Asteria, after the Titan war, was pursued by Zeus, but She did not want Him, and so first transformed to a quail, then lept into the sea, swam out, and became the island of Delos, where Apollon was born.

It is through Asteria that Hekate inherited the gift of necromancy and oracles from the dead. Some ancients also may have believed that Asteria was also worshipped as a goddess of prophetic dreams.

Though Hesiod names the mother of Kirke as Perseis (Destroyer) and Her father as Helios; Diodoros Siculus names Kirke’s parentage as that of Hekate and Aeëtes. Some also regard Perseis as an epithet of Hekate, though it seems Hesiod gives Perseis a genealogy distinct from Hekate, and Perseis’ mother is Tethys (“Nurse”) and Okeanos. It’s therefore easy to see Perseis and Hekate as one-in-the-same, as these themes are recurring and may be considered too lofty for an Okeanid. Light bearing. Destroyer. Nurse. Sight.

If one is to syncretise Kirke then as a daughter of Hekate Perseis, this undoubted maintains Hekate’s associations with practising witchcraft rather than merely casting spells and curses Herself for the mortals who supplicate Her.

By Hesiod, Kirke is the mother of Odysseus’ immortal son Latinus, father/ruler of the Tyrsenoi, who have since been identified with the Etruscans, and also Telegonos, Whose story is the subject of the now-lost Telegony, which only exists in summary.

The Scholia of Pindar seem to identify Hekate and Perseis with the name Khariklo (“Graceful Spinner”) who is identified in these notes as the daughter of Perses and Okeanos — and also a daughter of Apollon. Even without meditating on this, this gives the appearance of further linking Hekate and Apollon.

These notes also revive previous themes, as Khariklo is identified as the wife of the Centaros Kheiron, the mentor of a young Dionysos and also Asklepios.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Adonis & The Phoenix

[An aside to the Boeotian Theoi blog project.]

As I alluded in my previous post, I’ve been noticing a vague connection between Adonis and the Phoenix as recognised in Hellenic myth. As per Herodotus and Ovid, the phoenix is reborn from an encasement in myrrh (Ovid also includes herbs), and myrrh is an important part of the story of Adonis’ birth.

A surviving fragment of Hesiod‘s Ehoiai describes Adonis’ parents as “Phoenix and Alphesiboea”, though this is identified as Phoenix, son of Agenor. Still, it was mis-remembering this fragment that inspired this painting of mine.

As well as the mythological connections of being born from an encasement of myrrh (think about it, it’s a tree resin, and Adonis is typically described as being born literally from myrrh bark, which has to be cut into to gather the resin; myrrh resin was basically His amniotic fluid), Adonis and the phoenix basically both have life-death-rebirth mythologies (though Theoi Project ignores Adonis’ veneration as a deity [yet, oddly, accepts Kybele as being thoroughly Hellenised], even a vague familiarity with the Adonia is enough proof of not only His being regarded as reborn, but also of deification), even if you consider Herodotus’ rather bizarre account of a younger phoenix encasing its deceased father in myrrh, thus becoming the father to the reborn phoenix (as well as its own grandpa — holy shit, the ancient Greeks really did invent everything).

Interestingly, though the phoenix is typically described as being a variegated saffron-to-scarlet colour, there’s an anthropological theory identifying the phoenix with Old World Flamingoes (and this theory is apparently supported by biologists naming the order, family, and genus of all species of flamingo) because the salt flats where flamingoes are fond of nesting can become far too hot for humans, or many (if any) other predators to walk across, and anybody who’s watched the air over an outdoor grill in the summer would know that the extra-hot air sort of “dances”, which could create the illusion of flame. To protect the egg from the heat, flamingoes build nests of mud, which keep the egg cool enough not to cook, but which could also look like perhaps a mound of ash from a distance. The Greater Flamingo, which is native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and SW Asia (making it the most widespread flamingo), does have variegated colouring, even if not matching the classical description of the phoenix. In fact, the Hellenistic mosaic above (found in the former ancient suburb of Daphne, in what is now Antakya, Turkey) certainly seems to support the identification with flamingoes and the phoenix.

Though initially an association I formed from a mis-remembering, I’ve grown to further and further associate the phoenix with Adonis, and I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but simply couldn’t think of an appropriate moment to post it.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Ares & Aphrodite & Adonis & The Phoenix

Eros was out with Aphrodite, and the Goddess commented on the body of Ares as He practised His battle exercises, and pondered out loud to Her friend how exciting it would be to be in his arms and beneath Him. You see, as much as She loved and took satisfaction from doting on Her husband, Hephaistos, while the Smith of the Theoi had great arms, that was about it — he was dwarven and his spine crooked, and His face so far from conventionally attractive that His own parthenogenic mother was said to have thrown the quasimodian child from Olympos, crippling Him. Aphrodite alone saw a beauty in Him beyond the gifts He fashioned for Her, and truly loved Him, but He was merely a good husband: Reliable, well-providing, and They shared a bond almost familial. Ares, on the other hand, She suggested to Eros, would make a magnificient lover: Exciting, daring, and what She’d heard from mortal women was that what soldiers lacked in money, skills, and conversation, they made up for in bed.

Eros remarked that it was near Her birthday, and so if Ares was what She wanted….

Ares then approached the pair and poked fun at Eros’ delicate features and small arrows when compared to his own javelin. Eros’ then pulled one from His quiver and wished it an absurd weight for its metal. He handed it to Ares, saying, “This one is far heavier than it looks, try it and see.” Ares scoffed, and took the arrow, which he quickly learned surely must outweigh his own weapon in spite of being less than a third the length and a quarter its thickness. Realising He’d been tricked, his face became sour and he attempted to return it, saying, “It is too heavy, take it back.” Eros replied, “Keep it, it is a gift”, and Aphrodite smiled when Ares threw the empowered arrow to the ground in frustration, scratching His own foot with it as it landed.

The affair was conducted as any illicit affair, which for Aphrodite always remained exciting and worth every second They risked exposure — while Zeus’ affairs were no secret, as a married woman, Aphrodite was held to greater expectations of fidelity, and while She loathed the double-standard, She revelled in the excitement it created, always unsure of whether She feared or yearned for the affair to be found out.

Then Aphrodite learned of Her carrying of twins, at a time when clearly She would be unable to pass Them off as Her husband’s. As She fretted over this with the Kharietes, Hephaistos overheard, and devised a humiliation for the pair. Being not only a master craftsman, but also inventor, He was finished with His trap long before Aphrodite even began to show, and even managed the assistance of Apollon. When Aphrodite met with Ares in one of the magnificent rooms of Her palace built by Hephaistos, when the weight of their bodies combined (so as not to accidentally ensnare Kypris on her own) shiofted to the centre of the bed, a heavy net fell upon Them, and Apollon illuminated the room so that the outer wall was transparent, and all of Olympos could see Them in such a precarious state.

Aphrodite and Ares endured stares and pointed fingers and even laughter, and so when Ares and Aphrodite were finally freed, Ares flew into a rage, and took it out on Eros, for passing Him the arrow that made Him look a fool. In a panic to cease the beatings, Eros offered Ares and Kypris a compromise: He would convince Hera to grant Aphrodite a divorce, which would free the pair up to be together. Hera was receptive to this offer, but only if Aphrodite could find Hephaistos a suitable wife, so She arranged Hephaistos to be wed to Aglaia.

But Aphrodite is a fickle woman, and so after the birth of the twins, Phobos and Deimos, She bore Ares a daughter, Harmonia, conceived post-divorce, and soon grew weary of the soldier’s schedule, and took other lovers. Ares didn’t notice at first, then denied it when He did notice, until….

A young woman named Symrnah had offended Aphrodite for failure to honour the Goddess in Her due measure. in retaliation, She cursed the girl with a lust for her own father, driving the girl, in shame, to rape her father as he slept. He awoke and threatened Smyrnah, so she fled, and Eros took pity on the poor girl, and transformed her into a myrrh shrub, so that in death, she’d have no choice but to honour the goddess through the resin the bush produced.

One day out, when a priestess was harvesting myrrh resin, she cut into Smyrnah’s bush, and an infant began to push its head through the wound of the bark. Aphrodite came to see what was going on, and immediately claimed the child when She saw Him and then saw His future face, and saw He was destined to be quite lovely. To protect the child from Ares, She made an arrangement with Persephone, but as He grew up lovely, Persephone refused to give Him up to Aphrodite when She came to claim Him. Apollon offered to take in the youth as the women quarrelled, eventually taking the matter to Zeus, who suggested that a third of the year, the boy could live with Persephone, and for a third, He could live with Aphrodite, and the final portion of the year was for the youth Himself to decide.

Aphrodite chose to avoid the criticisms of Her affair with Ares by declining to marry Him after She and Hephaistos had their own dissolved; it just seemed easier, even though there was an assumption of exclusivity, what with the children and all. Still, Ares was jealous, so She and Persephone realised that Zeus only said “a third of the year”, He didn’t specify that it needed to be one-hundred-twenty days all in a row, so She made all attempts to arrange Adonis’ days with Her while Ares was away.

Still, word quickly came around to Ares that His beloved Aphrodite wasn’t keeping fidelity toward him; and to His own horror, He learned that this other man was a beautiful, effeminate youth who was said to be passed back-and-forth between Kypris and Kore like an accessory, and when not with them, would “lay as a woman” with Apollon, or so they said. Clearly, something would have to be done.

One day, when Aphrodite and Adonis were out in Her garden, Ares transformed Himself into a massive wild boar and charged the youth at full speed, goring vital organs and then tossing the boy into the air before turning around and taking off back to where He came from.

As Aphrodite wailed, tears poured from Her lovely face, and then Zephyros carried them as anemone poppy seeds on His breath, spreading and germinating the flower, creating a trail leading all to the torn body of the dying Adonis. When Ares came in His own form, Aphrodite recognised His eyes in the boar, and would not let Him touch Her. Persephone offered to take Him to the underworld, where His body remained lifeless while roses sprang up in the middle of the lettuce patch from the blood where the beauteous Adonis had died.

The following year, the Phoenix was due for renewal, and so began collecting myrrh resin for its egg. As it coaxed the beads of gum from the shrubberies, eventually it came upon Smyrnah’s bush, and dug its claws deep into the bark, which soon pulled out the long golden hairs of Aphrodite’s beloved youth, who soon after pulled himself from the wound in the wood, for it was the deep love bestowed upon Him in life that renewed Him, love deeper than that which Aphrodite gave to Ares, for Ares was known to be immortal, so He didn’t need it.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Ares & Narkissos

Perhaps some will find it odd, but in my reading (some tales for the first time, some for the first time in a very long time) for yesterday’s post, I noted some similarity to the nature of Ares’ mythos and my beloved Narkissos. Now, I make no secret of the fact of my reverence of Narkissos as a holy daimon, and feel His mythos alone are sufficient evidence that, even though without any evidence of ancient cult, this was likely His status in His native Thespiai.

…but I digress.

The most famous of Ares’ mythos, His adulterous affair with Aphrodite, is quite naturally suited to a cautionary tale against letting one’s ego run wild, while Narkissos’ is so deeply associated with the idea that one not even be familiar with the myth to have an idea what it must be about, so long as one has even a passing familiarity with what the English word “narcissism” means in casual every-day use.

The differences to each myth are important to consider, as they are clearly two stories with different intended audiences and so different nuances of morality lesson, but both carry an underlying theme of the dangers of letting one’s ego take control of one’s affections, and thus better judgement.

In “The Story of Narkissos”, we have a young man so consumed with the idea that no-one is good enough for His own affections that He’s cursed to stare Himself into a flower by deities closely bound to Eros; in some versions, He is portrayed as literally rejecting the Gods of Love, creating a hubristic bend to His own self-absorption.

Then we have the affair of Ares and Aphrodite.

I’m tempted to regard the story as the odd Roman influence in Hellenic mythology (as the pattern is usually in reverse), as both Venus and Mars are regarded as the patron and matron deities of Rome and a mythological narrative is an easy way to explain this. Unfortunately for my hypothesis, all I really have are my own suspicions, as the most basic elements of the myth pre-date any serious Roman influence by about five-hundred years, as best as we can tell, anyway. Still, interesting idea, and clearly a potential reason for the myth’s lasting popularity, if not at all a reason for the myth’s origin.

Regardless of the underlying origin of the myth, there are elements that clearly serve as a cautionary tale against unbridled ego and lust, and potentially against “class-climbing”.

Aphrodite is a married woman, and while infidelity in men has been accepted for millennia, not so much for women (in spite of all evidence to the contrary that women are just as much predisposed to it, if not actually possessing of a higher biological interest in multiple partners than men have), so their affair is conducted in secret — right from the beginning, this is something that is clearly not designed to be a story giving people the go-ahead to sleep around as a married woman or with married women, since even the theoi are given to a belief that it’s wrong1. At some point, Hephaistos decides to trap the problematic lovers, humiliating them for going behind His back and making Him look a fool.

Now, some of this is negated by the possible divorce of Aphrodite and Hephaistos; this is alluded to in Homer (in later naming Hephaistos’ wife as the Kharis Aglaia, Who bore Him the younger generation of Kharietes), and other poets describe it more explicitly — but then later Ares is the victim of Ahrodite’s infidelity with Adonis, giving Ares an irony of fate. Unfortunately for Adonis, His fate is to be far more tragic than Ares’, as Ares’ boar form gored the youth — but perhaps not-so-unfortunate, as Aphrodite’s love for Adonis renewed Him, finally making it clear to Ares His folly of ego, assuming that He could somehow be “enough” for Aphrodite’s affections.

In both stories, there is a variation of self-absorption that seals each fate: Narkissos staring Himself into a flower, Ares’ repeated humiliation — and each time, at the hands of men who can certainly be characterised as “weaker” (Hephaistos, the cripple, and Adonis, the effete). While certainly there are obvious differences in each story, they each share a common theme of “keep your ego in check”.

1: Of course, that’s not to say that women in Hellenic mythos are never allowed to own their own sexuality; from Athene resisting the advances of Hephaistos and raising His and Gaia’s jizz-spawn as Her own, to Demeter’s single motherhood, to Artemis cursing peeping toms watching her bathe, to Selene enchanting Her favourite twink to eternal youth and sleep so that She could lay with him. The difference for Aphrodite is that She’s married, and so fidelity is expected, as is being open to Her husband’s desires; if, like Demeter and Selene, She was unmarried, She could presumably bed and molest ALL THE MENS to Her liking. Which, yeah, compared to how Zeus’ mythos has him sticking his dick in everything, and as everything, is a total double standard and totally unfair, and Hera’s attempts at retribution hardly seem to get through to Him, but that’s not really the point of the mythos, now is it? No it’s not.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

New Goal for the Garden

I found out about cos I love Method brand cleaning products and their refill pouches. The only downside to the pouches is that Lansing doesn’t accept plastic bags of any sort for recycling, so while it’s nice that they provide a significant reduction in waste and resources, before I noticed the url for TerraCycle on a new pouch for dish liquid, my only option was to throw them out.

Trophonius TerraCycle basically collects hard-to-recycle waste items and in exchange for you sending them in (usually at no cost to you, either), they’ll give you at least 2¢ or two “points” to put toward a charity or school of your choice. At 400 points, I can donate bees to an impoverished family through Heifer International.

So, I’ve signed up for several “brigades” (all stuff I use — Method refills, candy wrappers, hair product & make-up packaging and tubes, cheese packaging, old keyboards & mice, old cell phones[50pts], old digital cameras[250pts]) to save up for and send in; I’m also wait-listed for several others. It looks like items can be combined into a single box and sent in together, which is good, cos that makes for less boxes used at any one time.

I have my heart set on bees specifically because of Trophonios, and because bees are pretty essential to gardens. 190709192_60f0806718_o If you’re in the Lansing, Michigan, area, feel free to contact me (ruadhan[at]peacockfairy[dot]com) if you have anything to donate to the TerraCycle box.

Also, since I’m still pretty low on money, I’m going to point everybody to the donations button again, cos it’s absolutely necessary, still.

Now I’m off to put on some work jeans and my Crocs [shudder] and go dig a hole for Future Goldfish Pond™ — my goal for the hole? Not my pole, but a depth of at least thirty inches; considering that full-grown shubunkins can be about sixteen inches long, I’d really rather not have to bring them inside during the winter, so this will allow for hibernation. This is also a sacred garden feature. Plus, it also makes more sense that, if I’m going to have narcissus poeticus surrounding the pond, to dig the pond first, so as nothing gets destroyed later.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 14 ~ Pantheon – Nyx & Kybele/Gaia

I tend to regard Nyx and Kybele not as two names for the same Goddess, but as two distinct types of Mother Goddess. Whether “Kybele = Rhea”, I really am not sure, but I know that those who dismiss Kybele’s cult as “foreign” carefully don’t mention that Rhea’s cult is of Minoan origin. There’s also the fact that in Boeotia, Kybele in specific was regarded as a wife or consort of Pan — and if getting a Husband Whose cult can be traced to the Hellenic mainland is good enough to make the Kypriot Aphrodite “Hellenic enough”… Really, some people are major weiners about this, when it’s all really quite logical.

My comprehension of Kybele is also a tad outside the modern “Hellenic mainstream”, and (at least based on what I’ve s-far concluded in my studies of Boeotian traditions), probably closer to an ancient Boeotian understanding — if not a perfect match to Boeotian thought (at least for some poleis), then close enough to be likely accepted, should I finally get that phone booth back in working order. I don’t see Kybele as a match to Rhea, but Gaia, though I honour Gaia and Kybele differently. Let’s compare this Goddess to a a sort of Borg-like entity — They are distinct, but clearly share a consciousness. Where Gaia is the literal Earth, and a living organism, and a Goddess, She’s also rather impersonal1 — this is where Her Kybele form is necessary and also a distinct form for Her consciousness. As Pindar reports of Thebes, I too see Her as a mate of Pan.

As much as Kybele is a nurturing and deeply feeling Mother Goddess, one Who will cuddle you into Her many bosoms, She will sit you down and tell you very frankly what it is. She’s a Goddess of opposites — She’s both a physical and spiritual being, She’s a Goddess of wild things (and indeed, mated with a god of wild things) but Her crown is a city’s walls, and (perhaps most tellingly) Her mythos tell the story of the first surgical “correction” of an Intersex infant because a few gods were offended and disgusted. In part for Her origin mythos, and in part for the story of Attis, Her son, going mad and ritually castrating Himself, Her cult, in ancient times, maintained a priest/ess caste of biological men who willingly submitted to a ritual castration and adoption of feminine identities (and, in modern times, this is often interpreted as having been a haven for trans women and male-assigned genderqueer people — but this is a modern Anglocentric culture’s interpretation, I know of nothing that survives of writings from this priestly caste that articulates their own gender identities), which has given Kybele a special reverence to many transgender and intersex individuals. Unlike Eros, Hermes, and many other Trickster deities, She doesn’t exist in the liminal, in-between spaces — she simultaneously exists on both sides of a divide. Like all mothers, She can be both your greatest ally and worst enemy.

Many modern Pagans and Polytheist have this ridiculously romanticised vision of “nature” and the “natural world”. This idea that an untamed forest is a place of kindness, that the planet will just “give” everything needed to Herself and the creatures that live on Her surface. They forget that Gaia throws tantrums — or, if those fits are acknowledged, it’s always with the adage that “we humans deserve it” — forgetting the ill impact these fits have on other living things. While Gaia tends to eventually sort out Her droughts, and blights, and hurricane devatstations, these events still have impacts on plant life, animal life, human life, and even Her own face. It seems only logical to me that Gaia and Kybele are the same soul — They’re clearly a Goddess of opposites.

Nyx, too, is a Mother Goddess, but also not. She’s the mother of Eros, a creative force, mother of Eris, The Oneroi, the Moirai, Furies and so many other Daimones, but this is not a mother Goddess as we mortals understand the concept.

Queen Alexandra (1844–1925) — widow of Edward VII and mother of George V.

Queen Alexandra (1844–1925) — widow of Edward VII and mother of George V.

It’s like the difference between a fan (short for “fanatic”) and one who just likes something. She’s a goddess Who’s a mother, and She is of great importance to the Gods (on what I gather is a personal level for Them), but at best, we can only catch glimpses, occasional nuggets of how amazing a force She is. She’s a deity for deities — She will graciously accept our worship and sacrifices, but the greatest title Hellenes have ever had for Her is a Goddess of Night — and yet, poetry and hymns exist, and continue to be written for this other Great Mother, whom we’ve only seen in snaps. In comparison, She’s like the Queen Mother to most Amerikans — obviously, she’s of some great importance to some people, obviously a mother, but damned if anybody but very few will ever figure out exactly what she actually does and why she’s treated with such reverence, since she’s clearly not the same as the Queen Regent (reigning queen).

That said, I obviously lack a personal relationship or deeper understanding of Nyx — and unless Eros changes His mind, I won’t need to know any time soon. She’s His mother, via parthenogenesis — She was born with his zygote already inside Her when She and Erebos were formed from Khaos. She’s a Deity that all other Deities hold in great esteem. She inspires the occasional mortal burst of insight to Her nature. That’s good enough for now.

1: But as with all polytheist topics, your mileage may vary.

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About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.