Friday, November 23, 2012

VftSW: We’d Foolishly Not Learned His Side

In my dream last night we helped a woman from church move out of her boyfriend’s trailer. She was sort of a friend of a friend. I didn’t know her very well. Ends up, none of us knew her at all. She stood 5’8” or so, appearing to be in her early thirties, slim-waisted and athletic figure. She quietly told people what to do with the boxes. We did not hurry, apparently not expecting the ex-boyfriend to return.
So, of course, he showed up. He was about the same height as her, a little beefy and brown haired. He didn’t seem at all threatening or aggressive. He didn’t try to push me out of the way or threaten to punch me. If he had it might have ended up better for everyone involved. He was young, innocent and heartbroken. I yelled at him to stay out and reminded him of the restraining order. Oh, I’m 6’1” and heavy. My aggressiveness startled him into tears. Pandemonium erupted behind me. I got distracted and he snuck by me. Iinside the trailer another guy man-handled him a little to keep him away from the ex-girlfriend. I got in between them too. That’s when she started talking to him.
Oh, great! This was just one of those scenes that some couples delight in throwing. We’d all gotten suckered into their little drama and now they were going to get back together. I left. Outside the cars of the helpers packed the drive way. I made my way through ending up walking along the ditch alongside the driveway. Some odd pieces of metal caught my attention and I bent to examine one. It was sort of like a metal arrow head. As I’d walked away I heard the heroine of this little scene say “If you loved me, you’d put this plastic bag over your head and suffocate. I’ll close my eyes.” Squatted down I heard him storm out of the place. She stepped to the door and taunted him, saying, “I’ve opened my eyes and you are still not dead.” As I stood, she bent to examine some of the little metal arrow heads over closer to the house. She never noticed me as she turned and went into the trailer, slamming the door behind her. I headed for my truck. That’s when I heard the screams, gunshots, yelling, more screaming and more gun shots. It wasn’t the heartbroken boyfriend. He’d peeled out already and his truck pulled around the corner gaining speed. I jumped into my truck, dialing 911. I was out of there before she figured out I wasn’t in the trailer.

There are two sides to every story and in my dream we’d foolishly not learned his side.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

TFBT:The Divine Descendants of Telephassa

The descendants of the fair beauteous Telephassa represent a unique clan of deities among the immortals of Greek mythology. These Theban gods were as independent of the Olympians as the children of Night with whom “intercourse was inconceivable” or the often monstrous and generally marine children of Pontus. That is to say, no Olympian ever intermarried with Pontus’ fifty grand-daughters the Nereids; goddesses of the waters, with the exception of Poseidon who politically speaking was required to do so. The race of the Olympians and that of the Theban deities are as unique to one another as the Vanir and Aesir in Norse mythology. Maybe as antagonist too.

It began as it usually does in Greek myth, with young girls playing by the edge of the wine-dark sea; in this case Princess Europa and her maids frolicking among the springing roses and the sound of the waves. As usually, there is something beautiful to attract the maiden. In this case it was a beautiful bull. “all his body was of a yellow hue, save that a ring of gleaming white shined in the midst of his forehead and the eyes beneath it were grey and made lightning of desire; and the horns of his head rose equal one against the other” (Moscus 2.77) The girls petted him, played with him, garlanded his horns and then most unusually Europa climbed atop his broad shoulders. He trotted through the soft sand, waded into the water and before the startled girl knew swam towards the west, racing across the deep bellows of the Mediterranean. The bull was actually Zeus King of the Gods. Europa and Zeus spent many years together as man and wife. Europa bore him three exceptional sons, who lived exceptionally long lives and ended up as judges in the underworld. Most unexpectedly the bachelor-brother wed in the afterlife the mother of Heracles. Europa was the sole daughter of the Oceanid Telephassa.

Telephassa and her son high-spirited Cadmus set out in search of her daughter, his sister. But before we can tell of their adventures and the gods born of their blood, we must first follow the history of bullish Zeus.

The cloud-gatherer, that’s an epithet for the King of the Gods, the cloud-gatherer came to power by usurping his father’s throne and defeating the mixed-blood cousins who revolted against him. (There will be internal revolts and two sets of earth-born giants, but that comes later.) The next challenge to Zeus’ hegemony was the monstrous immortal storm god Typhon. As the sky-filling monster rose to Olympus, all the other god fled, leaving Zeus alone to defeat this latest manifestation of Chaos. Zeus didn’t do too well. He ended up bound in a cave with his “sinews removed”. Understandable Typhon was in a mood to party. The musical entertainment came in the form of Telephassa’s son Cadmus. Cadmus performed before the mind-boggling beast, entertaining at first and then eventually, like Hermes with Argus, lulled the “unthinkable” to sleep. Either Cadmus, Hermes, Hermes’ grandson pan or an obscure god named Aegipan snuck into the cave, unbound Zeus, replaced his sinews and armed him with lightning. Zeus was victorious and not forgetful of his brother-in-law’s assistance.

Cadmus and his mother Telephassa headed west looking for Europa. Somewhere around Thrace in Northern Greece, Telephassa supposedly passed away. Cadmus traveled upon eventually asking the oracle at Delphi for advice on how to find his sister. The Oracle at Delphi was ruled by the archer god Apollo. This son of Zeus had his own monster to slay. When Apollo looked for a place to build his oracle, he asked the advice of the Naiad Telphusa (Tilphousa) in central Greece. She recommended Delphi. Apollo went there and encountered the Python. This bloody serpent terrorized the neighboring country-side when not fostering the monster Typhon. Apollo slew the monster and established his oracle.

The oracle told Cadmus to follow a cow and where it lay down to build a city. The son of Telephassa and his men did as the god directed. Upon arriving at the locations Cadmus sent his men to fetch water so they could sacrifice the cow to Apollo. Instead of water they found a serpent just as Apollo had when following the directions of Telphusa. Most of Cadmus’s men were killed, but Cadmus succeeded in slewing the monster. The goddess Athena appeared instructing him to plow the land and sow it with the serpent’s teeth. Cadmus did as instructed. The crop that grew was armed warriors. Just as when the blood of Uranus splattered across the broad fertile earth and the Giants clothed in bronze armor appeared, so did warriors appear around Cadmus. Either one told him to mind his own business or he tossed the bones of our mother (gold from the earth) amidst these dogs of war. In either case the earth-born warriors attached one another. Unlike Zeus who slew all the giants when they arose, Cadmus befriended the survivors of this wild melee. The survivors were called the Spartoi and their descendants intermarried with the descendants of Cadmus.

But there was one problem. The dragon at Thebes was not just a dragon it was the daughter of the war god Ares. The serpent was also the daughter of the erinnye Tilphousa or maybe it was the goddess Demeter furious over the kidnapping of her daughter. In either case the god Poseidon raped the goddess at the spring Telphusa. In order to make up for the crime, he served Ares for some time, just as Apollo served Laomedon and Admetus for crimes against Zeus.

At the end of his incarceration, Zeus rewarded his brother-in-law with a bride of his own; Harmonia the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Their divine descendant’s included two of his daughters were goddesses. Whom Pindar in the Olympian Ode II refers to as, "Daughters of Cadmus; Semele from your high place amidst the queens of heaven, and Ino Leukothea, you who dwell by the immortal sea-nymphs,” Additionally, his grandson Dionysius was an Olympian, grandson Melicertes was worshipped throughout the whole of Greece (Cicero, De Natura Deorum 331) and son-in-law Aristaeus was a god per Chiron and Pindar. (Pythian Ode IX) And of course, Heracles was a member of the royal house of Thebes.
And yet for gods they were much troubled by the Fates. Harmonia and Cadmus were banished from their home and eventually turned to snakes. Leucothe, Melicertes and Dionysus all had to be rescued at some point by the daughters of Nereus, Semele was struck by lightning, Autonoe tore her own son limb from limb and the whole mortal branch of their race was eventually erased by the wars of destruction purposely designed by the Olympians. But, in the end Heracles took his place on Olympus and wed Zeus and Hera’s daughter Hebe. Dionysus, great-grandson of Telephassa, took his own throne among the twelve accompanied by his divine wife Adrianne (another descendant of Telephassa and his deified mother Semele, called Thyone by the gods.)

Images thanks to New York Public Library

Thursday, November 15, 2012

VftSW: The Things Above

Something interesting happen with the dogs today.  Derby is so visual, she will stop to watch an eagle float by overhead and knows enough to wait for the mate to appear.  So, this happen with Hilde.  It was light enough to see, but Hilde always keeps her head down sniffing things and looking for a place to leave her mark.  As we approached the next grove of tree along the way, she started circling head down oblivos to her surrounding.  Her surrounding certainly noticed her.  I sat two streaks of  royal flush flash across the headwaters of the creek and then disappear behind the trunks of the their respective young alders.  Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the nervous shake of a tiny tail.  A small flew two feet above Hilde's head to reach a stout tree and then froze there in plain view.   With some signal unknown to me all three of the aerial critters scrambled higher into their assigned trees and came to roost safely out of range of Hilde's bit.  Not that she ever noticed.  Isn't it amazing how involved we can get with things below, and ignore the things above? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

VftSW: Derby is a Quick Study

When Derby and I return from our evening walk, Hilde is in the garage waiting for us.  My Black Labrador hits the water bowl or tries to play with my wife’s Miniature Schnauzer.  The little salt’n’pepper princess only wants to sniff “The Black One” and that’s it.  I take Derby off the leash and put Hilde on.  We walk.  When we come back Derby meets us at the back door to the garage.  She tries to play with Hilde, while I fill her water and food dishes.  Derby eats. Hilde gets a treat. I go in the house. 

However, the last two days, when Hilde and I returned Derby wasn’t waiting for us.  She didn’t attempt to engage Hilde in play.  Rather he was sitting upright atop her bed.  She sat head up and sphinx-like, forepaws crossed at the “wrists”.  It was as if she waited politely for something. 

I finally called the friend who’d housed her the week before.  It ends up that she feeds her own dogs their medicine each evening by crushing it up in a spoonful of wet dog food.  If Derby sat politely and waited her turn she’d get her own spoonful, sans pill.  Derby is a quick study!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

TFBT: Heroes and Hydriades

 The gentleman to the left might not be a hero. And though we have not visual evidence that the ladies are water nymphs (Hydriades), it seems unlikely that they are a troop of Artemis’ Oreads fresh from the hunt.   So, what do wet hink is happening?  I wonder if women and men view the scene differently. According to the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, in the painting "a group of nymphs have been surprised, while bathing in a secluded pond, by a satyr...Some of the nymphs …are trying to dampen the satyr's ardor by pulling him into the cold water” The satyr half-heartedly resists the naiads’ fun, bewitched by their beauty. 
William-Adolphe Bouguereau:
Nymphs and Satyr, 1873
Hylas and the Nymphs - 1896 - John William Waterhouse   
In “Hylas and the Nymphs”  on the right the pond in question is not made for rowdy Oreads to romp in.  It is safe to assume these are the naiads of the pond.  Hylas sailed with the Argonauts as Heracles’ squire.  The handsome young man went to fetch a picture of water and met the water goddesses. The nymphs do not attempt to cover or hide their bodies, coyly cocking their heads, reaching and grasping Hylas and toying with their hair.
Neither scene is typical of the response of nymphs surprised at their bath.  For;  the laws of Zeus order thus: Whosoever shall behold any of the immortals, when the god himself chooses not, at a heavy price shall he behold.”(Hymn to the Bath of Pallas, Callimachus 97)  Beside the general running for garments and shielding of the greatest goddess in attendance, the wayward hunter stumbling upon the scene pays the “heavy price”.  Actaeon torn to shreds by his own dogs by order of the skinny-dipping Artemis and Tiresias blinded by the surprised Athena.

Hermaphrodite the handsome son of Hermes and Aphrodite, was the great-grandson of Atlas, whence called by the patronymic Atlantius. (He was raised like his grand-father by the nymphs of Mount Ida.)  As a young man he wandered through the hot woods one day; lying down beside the well of the Naiad Salmacis. Apparently the spring-goddess did not possess the bewitching beauty or wilily ways of the water nymphs above. This daughter of the River Meander fell in love with Hermaphrodite. He failed to appreciate her charms, but found her waters charming.  As he slipped naked into their embrace, Salmacis prayed to the gods that they might remain united forever. Some god granted the request, and when Hermaphrodite rose dripping from the well rather than the tan muscular frame, he found his body white and soft with swelling breasts upon his chest Hermaphrodite’s, anger was so great that a cursed laid ever after on the well, that whatever manly man bathed there would find himself emasculated.  A vaguely similar tale tells about Narcissus at a well and another love sick nymph, but the poets (Homeric Hymn 19 to Pan 1) tells us the nymph in question was an oread.

John William Waterhouse (1849-1917),
''Ulysses and the Sirens'' (1891).
Achelous river-god of Aetolia sired three beautiful daughters; playmates of the famous Persephone.  When the goddess disappeared from the face of the earth.  Persephone’s mother Demeter gave the Achelo′is wings to more rapidly look for their girlfriend.  Eventually, the desperate goddess sought out all-seeing Helios the sun-god, who told her that her daughter now reigned as Queen of the Underworld.  Something went wrong with the Achelo′is at this point.  These Hydriades  flew off to some distance shore and spent their days luring passing sailors to their deaths on a rocky shore.  Sort of like the Sphinx outside of Thebes, except that were more similar to Harpies.  Above; Odysseus

warned by Helios’ daughter Circe, escaped the danger of their song by stopping the ears of his crew with wax so that they were deaf.  Odysseus heard the music by tying himself tied to the mast.  Interestingly, when the Argonauts passed by the rowing heroes were unaffected because (as Sir Francis Bacon explains in “The Wisdom of the Ancients” because the singer Orpheus sat in the bow singing hymns.  The sirens got their comeuppance when they entered a singing contest with the Muses.  They lost the contest and consequently lost their wings. (Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 34. 3)  (Other sources claim they, again like the sphinx, flung themselves down on the rocks when failing in their task.)
So in general, young heroes and hairy satyrs stumbling across a limpid pool of hydriades might end up enjoying himself, one way or the other, possibly as the boy-toy of a group of goddess immortal and forever young.  Though hunter's stumbling across other classes of classical nymphs haven't scored so well.  Heroic hunters coming across a refreshing spring and a love sick nymph might not end up living happily everafter, but the nymph in question might end up disappearing.  With Hydriades and minor goddesses of a more sinister sort, apparently failing in their seductive water-based role can have fatal consequences. 
All images thanks to Wikipeida.