Sunday, July 31, 2016

TFBT: Ben's Curriculum, Part VI

9.  Brood of Echidna


 "Men say that Typhoeus the terrible, outrageous and lawless, was joined in love to her Echidna, the maid with glancing eyes. So she conceived and brought forth fierce offspring; first she bare Orthus the hound of Geryon, and then again she bare a second, a monster not to be overcome and that may not be described, Cerberus who eats raw flesh, the brazen-voiced hound of Haides, fifty-headed, relentless and strong. And again she bore a third, the evil-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess, white-armed Hera nourished, being angry beyond measure with the mighty Herakles . . . She (Echidna) was the mother of Chimera who breathed raging fire, a creature fearful, great, swift-footed and strong, who had three heads, one of a grim-eyed lion; in her hinderpart, a dragon; and in her middle, a goat, breathing forth a fearful blast of blazing fire”  (Hesiod, Theogony 306)


Echidna was the Mother of All Monsters.  Okay not all of them, but so far we have Orthus, Cerberus, the Hydra, and Chimera.  Other authors add; the Crommyon Sow and the Sphinx of Thebes.


In theory much of the struggles in Greek mythology represent the gods (and civilization) creating order out of Chaos and the heroes, especially Heracles, slaying the monstrous representatives of Chaos; the monsters.  Orthus was a two headed dog, Cerberus a multi-head dog, the Hydra a nine-headed poisonous serpent, the Chimera had three different heads and breathed fire, the Crommyon Sow was a giant pig and mother of a similar beast, the man-eating Sphinx was half womanish with a lioness’ body serpent for a tail and wings.  Their mother was a man-eater, half an immortal “maid with glancing eyes”, and half serpent.  And we won’t even describe their monstrous, wild and immortal father.  He almost destroyed the universe.  Here’s the catch, most of them were someone’s pet.[i]


Orthus was a sheep dog for King Geryon.  Geryon was a three-bodied monster from another lineage of monsters.  Geryon wondered if he was divine or mortal.  Heracles made the decision by slaying Geryon and his guard dog. 


Cerberus is the three headed dog is the pet of Lord Hades.  Cerberus guards the gates of Hell.  Sounds pretty ferocious right?  Let’s think about that.  A dog can’t bit a ghost, he’s not keeping them in.  He’s attempting to keep us form accidently wandering.  Dogs are man’s best friend. 


The Hydra was a nine headed poisonous serpent ruining the countryside.  Hera, Queen of the Gods was his wet nurse.  When Heracles cut off one of the Hydra’s heads, two more appeared in its place.  The hulking hero ended up slicing off a head and holding the neck, so his therapon could scorch the stub.  Then on the next.  When they found the immortal invulnerable head, they buried it under a rock.


The Chimera was brought up by Amisodarus, king of Caria.  He used the monster on his enemies in battle.  Talk about a weapon of massive destruction.  It was slain by a hero and another monster from the other monster lineage; Pegasus, the uncle of Geryon.


The Crommyon Sow and her descendants were just giant pigs rutting and tearing up the country-side.  Their lineage was killed off by the heroes, who sacrificed and ate them.


Hera, asked the man-eating Sphinx to lay waste to Thebes.  The Olympian gods didn’t exactly love the Theban deities.  When Oedipus defeated the Sphinx at her own game, she leapt onto the rocks and killed herself, just like the Sirens (who were once beautiful maidens but made some bad life choices.)  Oh wait!  They were all immortal.  Remember no one really dies in Greek mythology.  The Sphinx and the Sirens just became goddesses of the funeral rites living underground sort of like the guard dog Orthus lived above ground and his brother lived below ground in the same role.


Jenny Strauss-Clay (Hesiod's Cosmos) is kind enough to refer to the "monsters" of Greek mythology as "hybrids".  Their "monstrousness" seems due, not to their vastness or evil intent, but because they are not theomorphic like ourselves.  We lucked out.  The gods could have decided they liked their monsters better than us and they would have been the “heroes” hunting us to extinction.

[i] "They say that the Lion of Nemea fell from the moon (Selene). At any rate Epimenides [C6th B.C. poet] also has these words : ‘For I am sprung from fair-tressed Selene the Moon, who in a fearful shudder shook off the savage lion in Nemea, and brought him forth at the bidding of Queen Hera.’" (Aelian, On Animals 12. 7)

TFBT: Ben's Curriculum, Part V

A nice, wild-haired young man named Ben, contacted me one day.  He was wanted to learn about Greek mythology in the esoteric sense.    It was an opportunity for our own personal spiritual growth by studying these old “truths”.   Here is the basic out-line of the curriculum for our one-on-one course. 


7. Proto-event, Once, and For Always   


You know how people talk about circular time?   The theory is that the cosmos is a great cycle that repeats itself over and over again, maybe with a big boom.    Sort of; 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4……..  Most people believe in linear time.  Sort of; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…End.  In Greek mythology it doesn’t work like that.  Time does not repeat itself. There is no Judgement Day or Ends of Days.  Rather, there is the Proto-event with no historical context for understanding it, the first time it definitely happens, that’s Once and then the next time is For Always.  Sort of; 0, 1,  


Lenny Muellner and Jenny Strauss-Clay are clearly smarter than I and better to explain this.  So I refer you to the following blogposts where I reviewed, summarized and use their materials on this topic.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

TFBT: Ben's Curriculum Part IV


6.  Sacrificial Gods, Sacred Kings, and Vegetation Deities   


Okay, this is a little awkward.  So, let’s start with a joke.  (I think I saw this cartoon in Playboy years ago.)  Imagine a large cementary, tombs and gravestone flowing off into the distance.  In the foreground is a flying saucer and two cute little aliens.  One of them with his eyes bugging out is staring at a large carved marble crucifix of our Lord in his Agony.  You know the type graphic and unnerving.  The horrified alien says to his buddy.  “If that’s what they did to their god, just imagine what they will do to us!”


There are several “sacrifical gods” in Greek myth who “die” and are resurrected; most famously the demi-god/poet Orpheus, the goddess Persephone daughter of the grain-goddess Demeter, and the wine-god Dionysus.  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about their cults;


Orphism…is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices… associated with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who descended into Hades and returned. Orphics also revered Persephone (who annually descended into Hades for a season and then returned) and Dionysus...who also descended into Hades and returned. Orpheus was said to have invented the Mysteries of Dionysus…Classical sources, such as Plato, refer to "Orpheus-initiators" (Ὀρφεοτελεσταί), and associated rites… As in the Eleusinian mysteries, initiation into Orphic mysteries promised advantages in the afterlife.”   

  • So for those that don’t recall Orpheus entered Hell in order to rescue his wife Eurydice.  Shortly after his failed attempt he was ripped apart and eaten by the female-followers of the wine-god Dionysus (Ovid Metamorphoses 10&11)  
  • As to Dionysus the early Christian writer Clement explains in, Exhortation to the Greeks 2. 15, that Dionysus was orgionally called Zagreus.  As a child little Zagreus was ripped apart and eaten by Titans.  His sister Athena managed to save his heart.  Clement’s reference for all this is the Hymns of Orpheus.  In due time Zagreus is resurrected this time under the name of Dionysus.
  • Persephone daughter of the the grain-goddess had a little easier “death” and resurrection.  She was abducted and forced into marriage by her Uncled Hades, Lord of the Dead.  But she get to go hang out with her mom every so often on the surface.  (Homeric Hymn to Demeter)


The point of these myths is this; if they made it to Hell and back, so can we.  We join their mysteries follow the rituals and attain a happier place after death.  Presumably the Elysian Fields or Isle of the Blest, but poets could be stoned to death for talking about this stuff too much, so we don’t know the specifics. 


Here’s the awkward part of this conversation.  A billion of us still worship one of these gods and perform the rituals.  Annually, we kill Him. Annually, He is risen indeed.  His body is ripped apart and eaten, often weekly.  And on top of all that we drink His blood. (The ancient Egyptians ripped apart Osiris, the god of everything good and fed the good parts to the crocodiles.  The vikings used Balder the god of everything good in Norse mythology for target practice until they accidently killed him.)


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

TFBT: Zeus' Wives and Lovers, Part II

Recently Maya M and I were discussing the loves of Zeus.  To our surprise we cannot find papers on this topic, nor papers on his “official wives” per Hesiod.  Now it is time to discuss them.   Hesiod discusses Zeus’ queens in the Theogony 886-923

·      His first wife was the Oceanid Metis, later Zeus himself gave birth to Athena from his head.   
·      Zeus' second wife was his aunt the first-generation Titaness Themis, who bore the three Horae and the three Fates
·      Zeus then married his third wife, another Oceanid, Eurynome, who bore the three Graces.  
·      Zeus' fourth wife was his sister, Demeter, who bore Persephone
·      The fifth wife of Zeus was the first-generation Titaness Mnemosyne, from whom came the nine Muses:   
·      His sixth wife was a second generation  Titaness Leto,   who gave birth to Apollo and Artemis
·      Zeus' seventh and final wife was his sister Hera, who the mother by Zeus of HebeAresEnyo, and Eileithyia.

First, I am not buying this “list of official wives.”  There is no evidence within the Theogony and little without[i] that there was a big wedding ceremony with ritual and cake for any of these goddesses with the possible exception of Hera.  The only place where Hesiod supports his notion of Zeus’ “wives” is (886] “Now Zeus, king of the gods, made Metis his wife first,” and [921] “Lastly, he made Hera his blooming wife”.    Nowhere else in the Theogony is anyone but Hera, Zeus’ wife.  In my opinion Hesiod’s list is just a bowdlerization of Zeus’ bed-hopping trying to legitimize his Olympian children. 

Demeter along with Leto and Hera are the only of Zeus’ top   lovers who make the official wives list.  Tellingly, when Zeus talks about his lovers he makes no mention of their children.  I think that is because in fact the god was infatuated.  To quote Ronny Cammareri in the movie Moonstruck,   
“Everything seems like nothing to me now, 'cause I want you in my bed. I don't care if I burn in hell. I don't care if you burn in hell. The past and the future is a joke to me now. I see that they're nothing. I see they ain't here. The only thing that's here is you - and me.”

The list of wives seems a little bit more Machiavellian to me.  Before, I start on the analysis of the list of wives, I’d like to point out that the first 5 did not produce sons.  Whether Hesiod picked out the list or Zeus picked out his wives, the list shows some serious thought in the advantages gained in each marriage, the power to steal or co-opt, the mysteries or alternative theogonies to pull into Zeus realm of influence, the allies to make and the chance to reduce power hungry heirs and potential rivals. 

Metis seems like a really good wife to start with.  She is Wisdom itself and one of the older daughters of Oceanus.    Marrying a daughter of the Great River Ocean might be a way to make an ally of the Titan and his three thousand sons.  “ Styx, eldest daughter of Oceanus”  (Hesiod, Theogony 775) Might have been a better choice to insure there was an alliance  but there is that taboo on co-mingling with the Children of the Night and other occupants of Hades realm[ii]  so Styx and Zeus’ other early ally Hecate are not an opinion as brides .  Which brings us back to Metis.  Once again, she is Wisdom manifest.  Zeus co-opts her divine identity by swallowing her.  Good start on a power grab.

Zeus' second wife was Themis, who bore the Fatesto whom wise Zeus gave the greatest honor, Clotho, and Lachesis, and Atropos who give mortal men evil and good to have." (901)  Here Hesiod co-opts the power of destiny from the powers of darkness, because he’d already sang at 217 of Nyx; “Also she bare the Moirai (Morae, Fates) and the ruthless avenging Keres (Death-Fates), Clotho and Lachesis and Atropos, who give men at their birth both evil and good to have.”

Zeus then married his third wife, Eurynome, Apollonius Rhodius, in Argonautica 1.498 says "He [Orpheus] sang of . . . how, in the beginning, Ophion and Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus (Oceanus), governed the world from snow-clad Olympus.”   Wedding Eurynome connects Zeus with a primordial goddess and the Orphic mysteries.  

Zeus' fourth wife was his sister, Demeter, who bore Persephone. This gets Zeus involved with the Eleusian mysteries and the Orphic-Zagreus myth.

The fifth wife of Zeus is Mnemosyne, from whom came the nine Muses:   It is these daughters of Zeus who insure his own unfailing glory along with Hesiod’s.

His sixth wife was Leto, who gave birth to Apollo and Artemis  Thereby gaining control of the Oracle at Delphi when Apollo inherited it from this maternal grandmother Phoebe. 

Zeus' seventh and final wife was his sister Hera.   Marrying his sister reduces the possibility of nephews and brothers-in-laws trying to overthrow him.  Conveniently, his sister Hestia and daughters Artemis and Athena chose virginity as a life-style.  His daughter Persephone and ally Hecate seem sterilized by their environment.  And again his first five wives produced no sons.    All a little too convenient for a king worried about a god greater than his father. You’d think he would have married Thetis and co-opted the theogony of Alcman frag. 5[iii] that makes her a primordial creatrix, but obviously he couldn’t do that for the reason above. 

In summary, I think the list of lovers on Mt Ida in the Iliad, really did reflect Zeus lust and passion; these truly were his greatest hits, he might have rearranged the sequence in the arousing retelling.   The list of wives from Hesiod, is something that Hesiod came up with Machiavellian intent, out of context with his own poem and nothing but Ancient Greek bowdlerization.

[i] The Homeric Hymn to Apollo refers to Leto as queenly, but there is no mention of her being the wife of Zeus.  Plus the poet is clearly trying to kiss up to Apollo, so saying nice things about Leto helps his cause.  I just found this; "First did the Moirai (Fates) in their golden chariot bring heavenly Themis, wise in counsel, by a gleaming pathway from the springs of Oceanus to the sacred stair of Olympus, there to be the primal bride of the Saviour Zeus." Pindar, Fragment 30.  And during the passionate tryst on Mt Ida, Zeus refers to his sister Demeter as “the fair-tressed queen” (14.326).  But there is no suggestion that she was his wife and this could just be a flourish to add to the ascending scale of social status with Hera at the top.
[iii] The Power of Thetis, Laura M. Slatkin  footnote 32

Saturday, July 23, 2016

TFBT: Zeus Wives and Lovers, Part 1

Recently Maya M and I were discussing the wives and loves of Zeus.  One of us suggested comparing the first list and the second.  Hesiod lists seven official wives for Zeus in the Theogony.  His list ends with Hera.  Homer has Zeus list his seven greatest passions prior to the moment on Mt. Ida with Hera (Iliad 14.312-328)  To my surprise I can find no papers on this topics. I will start my analysis with the Lovers.

Then in answer spake to her Zeus, the cloud-gatherer: "Hera, thither mayest thou go even hereafter. But for us twain, come, let us take our joy couched together in love; for never yet did desire for goddess or mortal woman so shed itself about me and overmaster the heart within my breast--nay, not when I was seized with love of;”  

  1. the wife of Ixion, who bare Peirithous, the peer of the gods in counsel” 
  2. Danaë of the fair ankles, daughter of Acmsius, who bare Perseus, pre-eminent above all warriors
  3. “(Europa) daughter of far-famed Phoenix, that bare me Minos and godlike Rhadamanthys.” 
  4. Semele bare Dionysus, the joy of mortals
  5. Alcmene in Thebes, and she brought forth Heracles, her son stout of heart,” 
  6. Demeter, the fair-tressed queen;   
  7. Glorious Leto

Universally, his recital of the names of his lovers at this moment is considered a poor way to seduce his wife.  Maybe he is trying to “seduce” himsef.   

Here is my first observation.  He lists his lovers in ascending scale of social status;

  1.  The first is an unnamed mortal woman with no family of conseuqence.  
  2. Danaë is a mortal woman and via her son Ancestress of most the royal families of Greece.
  3. Europa is a  mortal woman and descendant of the Nymph Telephassa, whose sons became daemons in the Underwold.  (More on this later but the descendants of Telephassa produced an unusually high number of gods and goddesses.  They were more than merely human.
  4. Semele was a moral woman and descendant of Telephassa and her son became an Olympian god.
  5. Alcmene a mortal woman, wed to a descendant of Telephassa and her son attained Olympus too.   
  6. Demeter, was a second-generation Titaness. 
  7. Leto was also a second generation Titaness. 

With the list actually ending with Hera a second generation Titaness and Queen of the Universe.  Apparently, Zeus while in the process of reliving his glory days wanted to prove to his wife that no one compared to here.

My second obervation is that lovers 2-5 are sort of chronological. 

  • Number two; Danae is the great-grandmother of Number 5 Alcema
  • Number three; Europa is the aunt of Number four Semele.
  • Number four: Semele is aunt to the fourth generation of the husband of number five Alceme

The bedding of Leto and Demeter (in that order I think based on Artemis witnessing of Persephone’s kidnapping the in the HH2 to Demeter.) naturally would have occurred long before Zeus mortal daillances and his passion for Dia, wife of Ixion would have occurred last on a chronological list

My third observation is about the reason why love and passion did “overmaster the heart within (his) breast”on these seven previous occasions.  Pure speculation of course. 


#1)The fact that Zeus refers to this mortal woman as Mrs Ixion, rather than Dia, daughter of Eioneus, makes me wonder if his passion is some how spurred by the fact Ixion was just as passionate for Zeus wife Hera (Pindar, Pythian Ode 2. 32)  To complicate the issue Pindar says Ixion had  murdered his own father-in-law “For this offence he could obtain purification from neither man nor any god, until Zeus, showing himself a “gracious avenger”   took compassion on his suppliant, cleansed him of bloodshed, and even raised him to Olympus”  (Aaron Atsma)  Zeus’ affection for Ixion reminds me of a similar affection and betrayal in Olympus of his son and boon-companion Tantalus. (Hyginus, Fabulae 82 ) I wonder if his affection for Ixion some how was transferred to Dia.


#2)  I can’t explain Zeus passion for Danaë daughter of Acmsius, unless it was her “fair ankles”.

#3-5)  Follow Maya’s Law that “Zeus never liked a true human woman!”  More accurately put;  Zeus has a marked preference for banging Ionians and barbarian babes.

#6)  We have no story about Zeus and Demeter mating and I have no idea why he finds his own sisters so hot.  Oh wait, maybe I just explained that. 

#7)  Leto like Dia might be another case of tranferance of affection.  We have no myth relating Zeus’ opinion of Leto’s “loveliness”, but we know what he thought about her sister Asteria.  Ovid describes the resisting “Asteria in the struggling eagle's clutch [Zeus' disguise]." (Metamorphoses 6. 108)  To escape his passion Asteria turns into a bird and eventually an island. 

In summary, when discussing the list of Zeus’ greatest hits as recited atop Mt. Ida to Hera during an intimate moment.  We can say the following.  They are listed in ascending scale of social status.  The mortal portion of the list is somewhat chronological. Some cases conform to Maya’s Law, he might have a thing for his sister, and he believes as the Rolling Stones did;  “if you can’t love the one you want, love the one you are with.”