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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in greek mythology

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Recently, I received a message about health and healing. The questions centered on healing from physical injury, support during surgery, and common practices in ancient Hellas in these types of situations both of the injured and their families. Seeing as most of us will most likely wat to request the healing aid of the Gods at one point in our lives, I though I would make a blog post out of it.

In ancient Hellas, people got sick just like we get sick now. With the poorer hygiene conditions and often heavy physical labor that was undertaken, epidemics one one illness or another must have been quite common, and accidents were prone to happen. As such, there were quite a number of deities who were especially prone to help humanity recover from diseases and injuries.

When we discuss health and healing, we must first look at the worship of Asklēpiós. Asklēpiós was, and is, a much beloved Theos. He started out being honored as a hero--the son of Apollon and Koronis--but became a God in His own right because of his healing skill. It seems Asklēpiós was such a fine healer, He could even bring the dead back to life, even though He is no longer permitted to do that. Apollon presides over the healing proccess as well--in general with the Hellenic deities, younger generations preside over the building blocks of the previous generation, so while Apollon has 'healing' in His portfolio, much of the actual healing is done by his younger son, and specific subsets of healing are distributed amongst Asklēpiós' daughters.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, Thanks for sharing! These are deities that most Hellenists, myself included, should probably honor more.

The last I wrote of Hēraklēs, our hero had successfully navigated Eurystheus' scheme of getting him killed by help of Artemis. Hēraklēs completed another labour, made Artemis happy, and saved the day. All was well in the world of Hēraklēs. At this point, Hēraklēs is aware he still has eight labours ahead of him: he completed three successfully, but the labour with the Lernaean Hydra was disqualified because he had accepted the help of his nephew and lover Iolaus. It was most certainly an unfair ruling, but nothing can be done about it: Hēraklēs must continue with his quest in hopes of cleansing himself of his crime.

The fourth labour is to capture the Erymanthian Boar, which got his name from the mountainside and swamp it roamed on. It seems Eurystheus realized that capturing something can be a lot more deadly than killing something, especially when that something is bigger and badder than any of its peers. That said, Hyginus in his Fabulae describes that the task was not to capture the boar, but to kill it, which Hēraklēs accomplished. As far as I am aware, though, he is the only one. Pausanias mentions the boar in his 'Description of Greece', saying:
 
"There is also a legend that Heracles at the command of Eurystheus hunted by the side of the Erymanthus a boar that surpassed all others in size and in strength. The people of Cumae among the Opici say that the boar's tusks dedicated in their sanctuary of Apollo are those of the Erymanthian boar, but the saying is altogether improbable." [8.24.5]

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, Thank you for sharing the story of Herakles' 4th labor! I really appreciate that you found differing accounts fro

Asklepios (Aesculapius) is traditionally described as the mortal son of Apollo by Koronis or Arsinoe who was then deified after death.  Traditionally it is said that as a babe Asklepios was cut out of his dead mother’s body and raised by the centaur, Kheiron, who taught him the arts of healing.  He later became so proficient that Zeus ended his life to maintain status quo.  Asklepios then was raised up as a god with many temples where people would seek cures.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Brokaw, This is a very good question. I agree with Sallustius' view, which is that there are twelve divine powers we call the

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Young Hermes finds his grandfather sitting on his throne pensively gazing across his island lost in thought.  “Grandfather tell me a tale.”

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“My tale is a tale of heartache and joy lost,” said his grandfather, never once looking at the child at his feet.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thank you again for recounting the God lore! I like the child/grandparent storytime motif.
  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw says #
    Happy to share! I'm glad you like it!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dionysus and the Fermented Grape

Ah the fermented grape. How many ways may I sing your praises? You age to sometimes sweet or paper dry perfection. So many different varietals, so little time. Since the days of ancient Greece, wine has been a heartily enjoyed fruit beverage of choice. Here's a little suggestion for the autumnal equinox: hold an old-fashioned Greek symposium. Invite a round table of your nearest and dearest and pick a good juicy topic of discussion. If you really want to get authentic, take a nod from Plato and get a spirited debate going about the different kinds of love.

Have everyone bring a different bottle of wine. Stick with the Greek theme. An excellent choice is always a fresh and sassy Roditis. Serve feta, Kalamata olives, grapes, pita bread, hummus and a couscous salad with fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Shake up a dipping dressing of yogurt and honey on the side. When the discussion has waned and perhaps people are slurring their words a bit too much to continue to debate intelligently, make a toast to Dionysus, lusty god of wine and the dance.

"Dionysus, 

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Patronage is a pretty big thing in Paganism these days. I frequently a few Neo-Pagan places, and one of the most ask newbie questions is: 'How do I find out who my patron is?", or a variation thereof. There is nothing wrong with this; modern patronage is a thing, and I have experienced it myself. The interesting change in the last few years seems to be that patronage used to be the exception, now it is the rule. Any person new to Paganism feels they are doing something wrong if there isn't a God or Goddess tapping them on the shoulder right away.

modern patronage, in this context, is the support or encouragement of a patron, where the patron or patroness (and we will get to that) is a divine being. In these relationships, the active party is often the deity in question, who claims the passive human. Some will describe a sense of 'being owned' by their patron. The human becomes a conduit for the work and will of the patron in question, and is required to spend large portions of their lives in active service to that deity. The bond between deity and human is personal. This is what having two patrons meant for me when I was growing up (because They were there long before I discovered Paganism), and this is what the word meant when I first joined the (online) Pagan community. These days, the first part still applies; humans are approached by deities and receive their help. I see less and less of the latter part, unfortunately, and while I think patronage is a beautiful practice, it seems time for a general discussion and some ancient Hellenic examples of why the modern concept of patronage does not apply to Hellenismos.

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  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    The concept of patronage in Hellenismos was described to me pretty much as you laid it out, but my teacher reasoned out an explana
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Like I aid, I am not against the practice at all, and yes, the Gods find ways to reinvent Themselves to the needs of Their modern
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    I don't have a modern patron-type relationship with the Theoi, either. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
 

When we last caught up with Hēraklēs, he had just completed his second labour: to slay the Lernaean Hydra. What his next labour is, depends on the ancient writer you read. Hyginus, for example, remarks that he slew the Erymantian Boar first, while I use the commonly accepted sequence set out by Apollodorus. Speaking of Apollodorus: He has only a few words to spare for this third labour:
 
"As a third labour he [Eurystheus] ordered him to bring the Cerynitian hind alive to Mycenae. Now the hind was at Oenoe; it had golden horns and was sacred to Artemis; so wishing neither to kill nor wound it, Hercules hunted it a whole year. But when, weary with the chase, the beast took refuge on the mountain called Artemisius, and thence passed to the river Ladon, Hercules shot it just as it was about to cross the stream, and catching it put it on his shoulders and hastened through Arcadia. But Artemis with Apollo met him, and would have wrested the hind from him, and rebuked him for attempting to kill her sacred animal.Howbeit, by pleading necessity and laying the blame on Eurystheus, he appeased the anger of the goddess and carried the beast alive to Mycenae." [2.5.3]

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Great that Herakles outwits Eurystheus! Thanks again for recounting the lore in a well-written, entertaining way.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you! Personally, I like the brains-over-brawn labours the best

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Kronos (Cronos) the Titan god of time (khronos) and the ages, typically regarded as destructive and all-devouring.  He is the youngest of the Titans.  Kronos was given a flint sickle by his mother, Gaia, in order to castrate and then depose his father, Ouranos.  She did this in anger at Ouranos’ treatment of their more unusual children. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Lacking ideas (please send me some!), I chose to write about Pan this week.  A divinity whom I know very little about.  Read on to find out what I've learned.

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Pan is the Greek god of pastoral life including shepherds, animals and music.  This rustic divinity is known to dwell in grottoes during the heat of the day and wander the mountains for his entertainment.  He guards flocks, whether wild or tame,

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Nice summary, thanks for sharing!

Hellenic mythology is not known for being overtly subtle about its lessons, but very few are so apparently obvious about it as the myth about Niobe and her children. It is a story most of us know: Niobe, Queen of Thebes, daughter of Tantalos, gave birth to fourteen children, and boasted that she was far superior to Leto, mother to Apollon and Artemis, because Leto had only given birth to two children, and she to fourteen. Rushing to their mother's defense, Apollon and Artemis struck down the children of the Queen in a rain of arrows, and when her husband, Amphion, stood by his wife, Apollon killed him too. So great was Niobe's sorrow that she turned to stone, and the weeping rock still stands at the foot of Mount Siphylus. The retribution is depicted below, on the Niobic krater. 

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks once again for taking the time to share some important knowledge. Hubris is always a danger, as you've explained from the
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    pssst...in the third paragraph up from the bottom, you may want to change "fowl" to "foul."
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    *whistle* Never happened... (but thank you ;-) )

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's time for a new constellation, and this one is entirely dedicated to two brothers. While there are many twins in Hellenic mythology--Artemis/Apollon, Iphikles/Hēraklēs, Amphion/Zethos, etc., this constellation is almost solely connected to one set of them: Kastor and Polideukes. In fact, the main stars of the constellation are named after them.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    It has long interested me that Kastor and Polideukes were some of the last deities allowed to be honored in the Roman Empire, undo

Demeter. Persephone. Hades. Three names well-known from Greek mythology. Like Perseus slaying Medusa, or Theseus with his ball of thread, the story of Persephone's descent to the Underworld* is one known even outside Pagan communities. The details might be lost, but most people can recite the broad outlines of the tale: Hades kidnaps Persephone and takes her down to the Underworld and her mother, Demeter, is so upset that she withholds her blessings from the Earth. Winter sets in. Only when her daughter is returned does Demeter  allow the crops to grow again.

Like I said: broad outline. There are many, many different ways to interpret this myth -- coming-of-age tale, the reason for the seasons, origins of a mystery tradition, incorporation of a foreign Deity into the indigenous pantheon, and so forth. There are also different versions of this myth -- ancient, modern, feminist, and even (re)written Christian morality plays.

The story often appears in children's collections of Greek and Roman mythology. One of the oldest which has been continually reprinted is Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales. Originally published in 1853, Hawthorne (who uses the Latin Deity names) explicitly notes in his introduction that he sought to render the old myths "presentable to children." He continues: "These old legends, so brimming over with everything that is most abhorrent to our Christianized moral sense. [....] was such material the stuff that children's playthings should be made of! How were they to be purified? How was the blessed sunshine to be thrown into them?"

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  • Sharon Fargo
    Sharon Fargo says #
    After the birth of my daughter three years ago I was filled with so much joy that it was almost painful. Still am. Shadowing that

We pick up this third part of the Labours series with the second labour Hēraklēs has to complete: slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra. The funny thing about this hydra is that no one is really sure how many heads it actually has. The generally accepted number is nine, but ten, or even a hundred are also mentioned. It's also unclear if there was only one head that was supposed to be immortal (as per Apollodorus) or if the creature itself was immortal. The sequence of events, however, is quite clear.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thanks for sharing!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In the blog post about sayings which can be traced back to ancient Hellas or Hellenic mythology, I make mention of Oedipus. The saying he is connected to--the Freudian Oedipus complex--introduced Oedipus and explains the saying:
 

"Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta. King Laius was fortold his son would kill him and marry his mother, and so he left him to die on a mountainside. The child was found, however, and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope. Oedipus eventually heard of the prophecy about him and fled, not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents, who he believed to be his biological ones. Fate would have him end up on the same road as King Laius, and in an argument over whom would step out of the way, Oedipus killed his father. He then traveled on and eventually met and married his mother. The myth continues on, but this is the part where the figure of speech comes from."


Today, I want to go a little deeper into this myth, to a milestone in the life of Oedipus. I quite recently acquired a little vase with a depiction of Oedipus solving the riddle of the Sphinx. It's a replica of a kylix motif. This seems like a perfect opportunity to tackle this story.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Sadly, I would have been Sphinx food.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Same, glad I'm n0t alone ;-)

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

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Title: Orpheus

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A little over a week ago, I introduced a new series for the blog: a short series about the labours of Hēraklēs. In that post, I described the life of Hēraklēs up until the point where he set out to complete the tasks. Today, I'm taking you through the first of twelve labours: Hēraklēs' challenge to slay the Nemean lion.

The Leon Nemeios (Λεον Νεμειος), or Nemean lion has been described with a large variety of parents. Selene is mentioned by Aelian and Seneca, amongst others, but one of the drakons is also possible, especially Echidna. Diodorus Siculus, in his Library of History describes the lion so: 

"This was a beast of enormous size, which could not be wounded by iron or bronze or stone and required the compulsion of the human hand for his subduing. It passed the larger part of its time between Mycenae and Nemea, in the neighbourhood of a mountain which was called Tretus from a peculiarity which it possessed; for it had a cleft at its base which extended clean through it and in which the beast was accustomed to lurk." [4.11.3]
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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The constellation Draco (from the Greek Drakon, meaning dragon) is identified--funnily enough--with some dragons in Hellenic myth but not others. There are quite a few creatures, after all, who would qualify as a dragon in Hellenic myth. For a dragon or hydra not connected to the constellation, think of the one Kadmos vanquished, for example, or the one Apollon vanquished at Delphi, or even the dragon who guarded the Golden Fleece and was slain by Iásōn. In truth, only two dragons were associated with the myth in ancient times, most notably by Hyginus in his Astronomica: Drakon Hesperios, the Hesperian Dragon, and Drakon Gigantomakhios, the Gigantomachian Dragon.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Release the Kraken...er, Drakon! Great and informative post. Thanks again.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Some of the best epics are not told in a single story, so therefor, I will kick off a mini series today: the labours of Hēraklēs. Hēraklēs (Ἡρακλῆς), from 'Hera' and kleos, 'glory', was born as Alkaios (Ἀλκαῖος) or Alkeidēs (Ἀλκείδης). He became on of the greatest of the divine heroes in Hellenic mythology, and was born the son of Zeus and Alkmene (Ἀλκμήνη), foster son of Amphitryon (Ἀμφιτρύων), king of Tiryns in Argolis. By Alkmene, he is the great-grandson of Perseus, and by Zeus, his half-brother. He is perhaps better known as Hercules, his Roman counterpart. In this first part, I will introduce Hēraklēs and describe his life up until the labours, and then tackle the labours one at a time in coming editions.

Hēraklēs was conceived by Zeus upon Alkmene, as He disguised Himself as her husband, returning early from war. Alkmene accepted Him in her bed gladly, as she was happy to see her husband again. When The real Amphitryon did return later that night, Alkmene realized what had happened, and told her husband. Amphitryon accepted her in his bed, regardless, and so she became pregnant with twins, one fathered by Zeus, and one by her mortal husband. In the words of Apollodorus:

"But before Amphitryon reached Thebes, Zeus came by night and prolonging the one night threefold he assumed the likeness of Amphitryon and bedded with Alcmena and related what had happened concerning the Teleboans. But when Amphitryon arrived and saw that he was not welcomed by his wife, he inquired the cause; and when she told him that he had come the night before and slept with her, he learned from Tiresias how Zeus had enjoyed her. And Alcmena bore two sons, to wit, Hercules, whom she had by Zeus and who was the elder by one night, and Iphicles, whom she had by Amphitryon." [2.4.8]
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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    I really enjoyed your recounting of Herakles' labors. I have a small shrine to Him in my home. Thanks again!
  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I always love your writing style and you always choose the most informative topics on which to po
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you for your high praise It means a lot!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
"...but most of all I love Icarus, who knew the wax would melt but still flew towards the sun."
 -- 'Ik hou van Icarus' - Tjitske Jansen (translated from Dutch)



One of my all-time favorite Hellenic myths is about Íkaros; Daidalos' son who escaped the labyrinth on the island of Krete with wings made of feathers and wax. He was warned not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax, or too low because wet feathers wouldn't carry him, yet Íkaros got too caught up with the marvel of flying, and did fly too high or too low. As a result, he drowned somewhere between the Island and the main land.

Daidalos (Δαίδαλος) was an inventor, a craftsman, who had murdered a gifted student of his--his nephew--in a fit of jealousy. This caused him to flee his home town (most often referred to as Athens, although there are some timeline problems if this was the case) and find refuge on Krete. King Minos saw in Daidalos a gifted man, and asked him to draw and constructed the labyrinth of the Minotaur, son of King Minos. Because he knew the secrets of the labyrinth, and the deformations of the Minotaur, he was never permitted to leave the Island.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Another great post! Thanks! If the Apollo 13 mission to the Moon had not experienced its famous mishap, and the moon shots not b

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

A few days ago, I was perusing my newsfeed on FaceBook, when I came across a comment on the Classical Wisdom Weekly page: "Aphrodite is a whore."

I saw red and had to stop for a moment. Once I was coherent again, I posted a response. It was only a few sentences. I could have written much more; an essay; a whole book even. Suffice to say, those who would label Aphrodite a "whore" have 1) bought into the sexual double standard and 2) have a very shallow understanding of that Goddess.

Yes, Aphrodite is a Goddess with a keen interest in sex (not unlike Freyja, Inanna and The Kathirat), and sexuality is a vital, integral component of being human. But to see her as only that -- an adulterous nymphomaniac -- is to fail to comprehend even a fraction of her majesty and mystery and power. Aphrodite is sex and passion and the giddiness of a new crush; she is new love and love grown stronger with time; she is the love between friends, love between spouses, between parents and children, between siblings, between grandparents and grandchildren. She is love of the natural world, the link between humans and others. She is the fierce protectiveness and loyalty inspired by love. She is love of and devotion to country and community. She is the Goddess who inspires crazy risks and impulsive leaps of faith. She is the anger and rage born of a broken heart; she is the righteous revenge taken for shattered trust and broken promises; she is the grief and anguish felt for a lost loved one, a lost community, a dying country.

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