Archive for August, 2009

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Thoughts on Ares

August 27, 2009

He is the essence of masculinity. He is not human, and thus he is not truly a man—and yet he is. He is masculinity; he is humanity. He is the thrumming of manliness, of heat, of passion. He does not pity women, nor look down upon them. Instead he, wildest of the Olympian gods, curls his rough arms around Aphrodite’s soft skin and worships women as she, too, worships men.

It is easy—though foolish—to see Ares as a god of one thing alone: as the god of war. But he is much more than just that. He is an Olympian god, and his influence stretches to death and life, to passion and apathy and to hate and love. His realm overlaps with Aphrodite’s in more ways than the casual observer would notice. She rides in his chariot and he dances with her cooing doves. She has her moments of hard, relentless fury, and he has his moments of silent softness. They kiss and embrace on beds made from human bones, and neither complains, for it is not in their nature to complain.

He is not a cultured god. He is wild and rough and, perhaps, he is slightly insane. He does not accept solid boundaries; his domain is the blurring of pleasure and pain, the yielding of flesh to death and orgasm. He gives hot-cold smiles to those who draw his gaze, and he does it without the need for drama or excessive theatrics. This is not just the face that he wears – this is him. This is who he is.

He does not need to hide behind layers of illusion. He is courage and strength, physical and otherwise. He is blatant and fierce. He is the god of drunken men brawling in the streets, and he is the god of brave soldiers who fight for what they believe in. He is not a god who flinches from horror, and yet he is not, despite what some might think, a god who actively seeks out such horrors. He does not inflict them upon those who are undeserving – he is not a bully, and he is not a brute. He is a god.

He laughs at death—valiant and cowardly alike—not because he is a sharp-beaked scavenger hopping closer to peck out the eyes of the dead, but because it is only in death, and the briefest seconds before it, that those who fight truly belong to him. The shades of soldiers stand above their corpses and wring their hands, and it is he who speaks with them and gives them the courage to forget their tears and turn triumphant faces towards the sky as Hermes Pompaios approaches to guide them to the Underworld.

He is still worshipped – perhaps not consciously, but each spear or gun or broken bottle that is raised is raised for him. Each scream of wordless rage is screamed for him. The fighters might be unaware of who they serve, but they do serve him. They spill blood in his honour and he smiles upon them for their worship; and he smiles even more widely when they are wounded and die. The bravest of soldiers may eventually leave the Underworld and join his palace of blood and bone; he does not let them rot in Hades for eternity, for those that die in battle belong—truly—to him.

Courage and cowardliness fall equally under his sway. His influence is not a hazy grey or shimmering gold – he is dark red, hostile and bleeding and almost-black. He is the colour—and, thus, he is the god—who does not sit back and wait for attention, if he wants it. He demands it with slaps and bites and screams, and he does not take no for an answer. He is the nature of mortality, a god of death but not the god of death. He does not create the transition between life and death: he merely carries it with him. The scent of rot and charred flesh drifts around his skin like a vile, ever-lingering perfume. He does not mind, though: such smells affect most other gods, including hard-hearted Athena, but they do not bother him.

His half-sister Athena is Strategy—remote and distant and cold—and he, her balance, is Passion. He does not stand back and play games of chess. He throws himself into the battlefield – he fights amongst his men. He becomes real blood and bone for them: he is the barring of teeth in not-quite smiles, he is the flash of thunder that rumbles through the sky, and he is the blood. He is always the blood.

He does not condemn nor condone humanity. It is alien to him, and yet he knows and understands it better than he will ever understand himself. He is the nature of the beast within humans: he is wild and primal, a savage amongst savages. He does not hold up his hands and whimper apologies for who he is; he does not lie and say that his lust is beyond his control. He takes responsibility for his own actions, and he respects those who do likewise. Heroes—who so often blame their shortcomings on their gods—do not draw his smiles; it is the common man, the truly human man, that he laughs for and fights beside.

He is a guardian of the boundaries that he himself crushes. He supports his men and women in both life and death, and he never fails to urge them onwards. He is courage and conviction, and he is blood – both the spilling of it and the creation of it. He has a hand in rebirth, and yet he is not a khthonic god. He is earthly, but he does not sink into—and beneath—the earth. That is not his domain. He is the rush of passion and the end of it, and he is the swirl and spill of blood in veins. What happens beyond that is not his concern.

He is not malicious. He does not strike, strike and strike again. If he is wronged, he repays the wrong in kind and moves on. He does not simmer in fury and plot and plan – that is Athena’s domain, not his. He does not hold grudges: he did not rage at Hephaistos for snaring him and Aphrodite in the golden net. He merely sat back and accepted the fury and hate that pounded against his skin – it poured through him like a vessel, and then thrummed away into the veins of his ever-there children and attendants. It is they who hold grudges, who sulk in mutinous silence, and who make human hearts ache and bleed at their very presence; that is them, not him. He does not care for hearts, only for blood—and that is an apt way to describe him, not as a god of war, or bloodlust, or frenzy, or manliness, or courage (for he is all of these things and many more besides), but as a god of blood.

He favours not those who compare themselves to him, but those who do not. He charges into battle—both at its head and in its midst—to fight alongside those who spill for him: who scream and bleed and live and die. Those are his true followers, the men and women who, more often than not, never once say his names whilst they live. But they believe, regardless: they believe that flesh bleeds when it is cut, and that is all they need to know.

He is not gentle, and he is not meek. He is not the wolf in sheep’s clothing: he is the hunter that chases the wolf, delighting in its life and its death and its streaming, red blood. He sits in his throne of bone alongside the likes of Apollon and Dionysos, and he smiles to them: a hungry smile that makes even them—even them—shiver and pull back from him. He is born to bleed, and they are born to never bleed. They fear him, and they hate him, and they love him, and that is all he needs.

He is not soft: he is hard and furious. He is always ready for sex and war – he cares only for the breaking of bones, the tearing of flesh and the streaming of blood over skin. He does not disguise who he is with clever half-truths. He holds his head high and smiles. He lives and he dies as both a man and a god, and that is all that he knows, that is all that matters to him. He is Ares: fierce, unrelenting, bleeding. That is all.

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Aphrodite: Goddess of Death

August 25, 2009

Aphrodite is perhaps best described as a goddess of life, for she presides over so many aspects of it. She is not just love, or beauty, or sex, or women: she is all of those things and many more besides. She is at once removed from humanity—Aphrodite Ourania, ‘heavenly,’ the goddess who mixes the cosmos with a golden smile—and utterly tied together with it – Aphrodite Pandemos, ‘lover of all people,’ the goddess who is often portrayed as nothing more than a divine prostitute.

But she is more than that, too. She is the mother of all of the loves; including Eros, who is both one of the oldest gods and the force of Creation, and the bittersweet boy-god who delights in playing with the hearts of others. One would not be wrong to call her a goddess of love, but she is beyond just that. She is not a simple daimona, with just a single thing in her domain; she is an Olympian goddess who has control over the heavens, the earth and the sea – and even the Underworld.

At first glance, it isn’t easy to see how Aphrodite is linked to death. She is a goddess who makes bodies warm and hearts beat, who fuses together atoms and breathes life into the lungs of babes. But as she is a goddess of life, so she is a goddess of death.

Mourning—pining for one who is cold and dead and no longer in your arms—falls into her domain. And, thus, she is a goddess of mourning; and of despair and suicide. She is that which drives lovers together; and she is the all-consuming rage that drives one to crimes of passion. She is not cold and dead like the shades, but she does not need to be. She ties them to the Underworld and keeps their smoky, hazy selves in vaguely human form. She is often the root of their death, and she is that which causes their loved ones to sob and rage at their funerals.

She is a goddess, then, of the transition between life and death. She could be adequately described as a goddess of passion—after all, love and hate are barely different; it is apathy that is the true opposite of them, and thus it is apathy that she has no control over—but still, that is not all she is.

Pausanias, in his Description of Greece, describes a temple in Mantineia as dedicated to Aphrodite Symmakhia; ‘ally (in love).’ He also describes a temple in Argos, that is dedicated to Aphrodite as ‘the bringer of victory’, or Nikêphoros. In Sparta, he describes a temple of Aphrodite Areia, ‘warlike.’ Korinthos has a temple of Aphrodite Hôplismenê ‘armed,’ and a temple of Aphrodite Melainis, or ‘the black.’

She is described as having Ares, the Olympian god of War, as a consort. What they have in common, one can infer, is that both are gods of passion. His is darker, hers brighter – or so some would think. But love causes as much death as war; and patriotism, or the all-consuming love of one’s country, which drives so many to the battlefields, falls under her domain. She is the mother of Deimos and Phobos—the gods of terror and panic, respectively—as well as Harmonia, the goddess of harmony in both love and war. Thus Aphrodite gains connotations as a goddess of war; she is a goddess of the passion of the battlefield, of mourning the dead and, also, of survival.

Hyginus, in his Fabulae, identifies Aphrodite with the Roman goddess Venus; the Souda identifies her with the Syrian Astarte; Herodotus, in his Histories, identifies her with the Assyrian Mylitta, the Persian Mitra, the Skythian Argimpasa and, finally, with the Egyptian Hathor. Other writers too draw comparisons between Aphrodite and these foreign goddesses; and she has also been associated with the Norse Freyja, the Armenian Anaitis and the Armenian Astghik.

Venus is associated principally with love, beauty and fertility; also motherhood and domesticity. She is identified with the Roman Cloacina, goddess of sewers and sexual intercourse in marriage; with the Etruscan Turan, goddess of love and vitality (who is constantly paired with her young lover Atunis—or Adonis) as well as egg-laying birds; with the Roman Murcia, goddess of sloth; with the Roman Libitina, goddess of death, corpses and funerals; with the Assyrian and Babylonian Ishtar, the goddess of sexuality, fertility, love, war and sex; and, finally, with the Sumerian Inanna, goddess of sexual love, fertility, childbirth, rain and storms.

Astarte is the goddess of fertility, sexuality and war. She is associated with Juno, the Roman equivalent of the Greek Hera; with the Syrian Atargatis, goddess of generation, fertility, useful applications, the protection of water, the earth, destiny and social and religious life; and with the Phoenician Tanit, a virginal lunar-goddess of war, the heavens, mothers, nurses and fertility.

Mylitta, or Ninlil, is the goddess of the air, the south wind and mothers. Mitra is the goddess of treaties, agreements, promises, oaths and alliance, of fortified city walls, borders and contract, of piety and friendship, of the sun and light. Argimpasa is the goddess of fire, water, love, fury, fertility and the seasons. Anaitis is the goddess of fertility, maidens, wisdom and healing. Astghik is the goddess of fertility, love, the light of the sky, love, maidenly beauty, water sources, springs and the moon; and she has been identified with the Assyrian/Babylonian Ishtar.

Hathor is the goddess of feminine love, motherhood, joy, the dead, music, dance, foreign lands, fertility, childbirth, beauty, eternity, life, inebriety, women, wives, mothers, the sky and nature. She is associated with the Egyptian Bat, goddess of the cosmos, and the Egyptian Sekhmet, protector of pharaohs and goddess of hunters, deserts, war, dread, the sun, death, destruction, disease, healing and blood.

Freyja is the goddess of love, beauty, fertility, childbirth, jewellery, treasure and the seasons; and she is also associated with war, death, prophecy, magic and wealth. She is identified with the Norse goddesses Frigg (goddess of prophecy, women, marriage, love and childbirth) and Gefjun (goddess of ploughing, virginity, fertility, prosperity and happiness) and the seer Gullveig.

Aphrodite, then, is a goddess of love and hate, of life and death, of sex and war, of creation and procreation, of marriage and prostitution, of beauty and of pleasure; and that is merely under the name of ‘Aphrodite’. When you take into account her identifications with foreign deities, she becomes the goddess of love, hate, life, death, sex, beauty, fertility, war, pleasure, dance, childbirth, treasure, the seasons, prophecy, wealth, magic, women, marriage, virginity, the earth’s fertility, happiness, music, eternity, and so on.

She is a goddess of the earth, as Aphrodite Pandemos (lover of all people); she is a goddess of the sky, as Aphrodite Ourania (divine); she is a goddess of the sea, as Aphrodite Aphrogenês (foam-born); and she is a goddess of the Underworld, as Aphrodite Tumborukhos (gravedigger). She is a goddess of the night or darkness—as Aphrodite Skotia (dark)—and, also, a goddess of the day or light, as Aphrodite Khryseê (golden). She is a goddess of love and of war—she is Aphrodite Pandemos and Aphrodite Androphonos (killer of men).

It is impossible—and impractical—to consider Aphrodite in just a single light, either as a goddess of life or death. In order to fully comprehend who Aphrodite is, you have to understand that she is a goddess of balance, of blurring, but definite, lines. She is a goddess who hides her true, dark face behind the mask that humankind has created for her – but she is still that goddess. She is still Aphrodite, and that is all that one truly needs to know.

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Fiction: Hekate and Hermes: Crossroads and boundaries

August 22, 2009

He, she thinks, licking her lips, is everything that she loves about herself. No, no, he is not just that. He is everything that she loves and everything that she hates. He is the shadows to cool and comfort her when the light—the bright light that she has grown unaccustomed to in the gloominess of Hades—burns hot-fast-sharp enough to hurt. She bleeds for that light; smoke pours from her mouth and eyes, her own power streaming away from her – from her own imbalance.

And thus, when the light stings and her smoke flees, she turns back to the darkness, back to him. He is always there – not pushing, not demanding, just there. He opens his arms to accept her; she pushes the low rim of his hat aside and kisses the warm skin of his brow. It shouldn’t be possible, not for a god whose very lips are dark with shadow, but he’s always warm, as though fire burns under his skin. She loves that; and maybe she hates it a little, too. Maybe she hates him a little.

But in that moment, with her body nestled against his and stealing the warmth from his skin, she does not think of love and hate. No: she thinks, instead, of another lover – her only other. She is of the night, of gloomy death and prophecies of thus; and so perhaps it was natural that she would fall into Hades’ bed, one Summer night when they were drunk on their own despair. Summer is Aphrodite’s season, after all—her domain does stretch to the Underworld, of course: for she is a goddess of life and, thus, of death—and she had not seen Hermes for almost a month. Time travels differently between the worlds; and although she knew that it had been only a month, it had felt like endless, lonely years. Hades, hungry, kissed her first. She remembers that clearly, despite the fogginess of her mind and of their encounter. Passion fueled them, then, but it did not hide how much Hades repelled her, when their chitons were strewn beneath them and all she could feel was his cold, hard body against hers.

But she does not like to think of such times. She kisses Hermes again—lips to lips, this time—and thinks instead of her seduction at this lovely-awful god’s hands. He was not cold and indifferent like Hades; instead, he brought her cool skin to quivering life with his hands and tongue. She only has to press her fingers to her tongue to feel the echo of her taste and his combined in her mouth – light and shadow, summer and winter, ice and fire. He has never bored her: she is inexperienced and he is not. She chooses to spend her days in Hades with only shades and barely-there nymphai; and he flies through the air, over the earth and through the seas. She envies him that: he is a messenger, bound to them all, and yet he has more freedom than she—lady of the Underworld, minister to Persephone and one-time lover of Hades—will ever have.

Now, though, Hermes pushes the darkness out of her mind with kisses that set her nerves on fire. He does not ask questions, nor comment, nor laugh at her cold, fevered hands that glide over him, awkward and fumbling as ever. He just kisses her, breathing heat into her body, and she responds as she never did for Hades.

Later, she lifts her head from the ground and looks at him. Her skin is flushed, now; and his is cold and pale. The balance has been restored – and when he leaves, he will be warmed by the sun and the kisses of nymphai and his wife, and she will lose her heat to the creeping cold of the Underworld. But such thoughts are not for now: and so when she looks at him she casts all of her thoughts aside. She—Hekate, queen of ghosts and necromancy, lady of blood and life and death—becomes almost mortal with her open expression and too-moist eyes.

I love you, she thinks, as she always does.

And his lips twitch, as they always do; for he is language, he is thought verbalised – and yet he will not answer her unless she speaks the words aloud. He would not do her such an injustice as to act as though she is beneath him, that her body and mind is his alone to read.

But she will not speak the words herself. To do so would be to become truly mortal, to lose her divinity and yield to the pleasures and pains that Aphrodite and her Erotes bring in their laughing, golden wake. She is not ready for that—not yet—but perhaps, one day, she will be.

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Thoughts on Pothos

August 22, 2009

He is longing; he is yearning. He is passion for that which we do not, or cannot, have. He—delicate, tender, flighty—is never satisfied, for it is not in his nature to settle for anything less than the best. He is the wish, the need: he can never fully appreciate that which he already has because he always wants something else, something more.

He, quite unlike his brothers, struggles against the unrelenting Moirae and their ever-so-rigid rules and decrees. He is not one of the gods of law: he does not accept or acknowledge authority, for it is not his concern. His thin wings are trapped and torn by the Moirae’s rigidity: he is the essence of flexibility, shifting from one wish to another, from one destiny to one not quite his own.

He infects hearts, not minds. He is utterly illogical, and thus cares nothing for politics and debates – and laws. His only laws are his mother’s whims: for he is constant only in his affection for her, there-but-not, attainable and yet completely not. He draws away from arguments – he shivers and wraps his warm, shredded wings around his body, as if in defence against the barrage of unmoving ice that drips from the lips of the Fates.

He is a god of choices, or, rather, of unsettlement, of choosing to never choose the path of ease and idleness. He strives forward constantly, improving himself with his every breath, and urging his followers to do the same. Only when they are as perfect as they can be—for they are, after all, only human—is he satisfied with them: for he does not appreciate laziness and lack of effort. He deals, instead, in tokens such as sweat and blood – he wears his own painted across his skin, swirls of translucent sweat mixing with the thin sheen of fresh blood, as a sign of his divinity, and of his own, relentless quest to become truly Perfect.

He, carrying his twisting vine of passion, flits through the air and caresses the throats of his victims – wary and unwary alike; it matters little to him. The vine in itself is both a symbol of his power and a weapon; for those who do not heed Pothos’ influence fall into despair and, often, find themselves curling a noose around the echo of the vine. But his vine isn’t merely a tool of destruction: it, a gift from Dionysos, symbolises Pothos’ nature as a god of pleasure, of the yielding of flesh and the blurring of blood and wine. He is the pursuit of pleasure: sometimes self-destructive, sometimes self-improving, but always, ultimately, a profound and life-changing experience.

That, then, is what—who—Pothos is, and that is what he offers: the chance to better one’s self through constantly seeking that which one does not have. He looks upon those who stumble and pause in their Quest with perfect indifference; but should they continue, striving on, on, on despite the obstacles that face them, then his indifference melts and he laughs and cheers for them. He does not know who will ultimately succeed or fail in their Quest: and he does not care. He lives in the present—yearning, always yearning, and pushing his followers endlessly on—and he expects the same attitude from those he chooses, regardless of whether they are truly ready for his influence or not.

He knows that nothing will ever be gained from endlessly fretting about the past and the future instead, he throws himself into pleasure, into whatever will improve him. Do not waste your life worrying, he advises with shining, smiling lips; dream forever, and act on your dreams: reach out and seize them, for if you do not, then no one will.

That is who he is, and that is what he gives those who ask. Longing, yearning, passion: Pothos.

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Hermes Khthonios and Hekate Khthonia

August 19, 2009

Hermes is, perhaps, one of the more underappreciated gods. He is an Olympian, and thus respected for that: but that is not all he is. He has another duty, far more grand than his role in the myths as a simple messenger, and that is the role of guiding the dead to their final resting place. He lead the dead from their bodies to the Underworld, to be taken in Kharon’s boat into the realm of gloomy Hades. In this role, he becomes a god not just of the earth and skies, but of beneath the earth: he becomes a Khthonic god. He becomes Hermes Diaktoros or Pompaios—the guide—and Hermes Kataibatês, the descender.

When Persephone was abducted by Hades, it was Hermes who, at Zeus’ eventual request, flew down to the Underworld to retrieve her. It was not Zeus himself, nor, indeed, any of the other gods, Olympian or not. It was him: the messenger of the gods both above and below the world. Although Persephone did not accompany him back, it would later become Hermes who would descend to take and return her when her six months in the gloomy Underworld had ended.

Perhaps it was in this role, guide rather than messenger, that Hermes Khthonios became so intricately involved with Hekate. She, Persephone’s minister; he, Persephone’s guide. Pausanias and Propertius allude to Hermes Khthonios lying with, and producing children with, Underworld goddesses or nymphai: Daeira and Brimo. Daeira, mother of Eleusis by Hermes, was identified with Hekate through their joint connections to the Eleusinian Mysteries; and Brimo, a goddess of the Underworld, was identified with both Daeira and Hekate. The name ‘Brimo’—the angry, the terrifying—is frequently considered an epithet of Hekate’s—therefore making Hekate the consort of Hermes Khthonios, and, if the connections between Hekate-Daeira and Daeira-Brimo hold, the mother of Eleusis by Hermes.

Further to this, Hermes Khthonios and Hekate did not have just Persephone in common. Both were also guides of the dead: Hermes Khthonios directed souls down to the mouth of the Underworld, and Hekate lead them back up as ghosts. Perhaps, then, they could be said to have a dualistic relationship; for they are both antagonistic and companionable towards one-another, for Hermes Khthonios restricted the shades of the dead, and Hekate Khthonia freed them.

Both Hermes and Hekate have yet another shared aspect. One of Hekate’s two sacred animals is the dog, particularly the hounds of the Underworld (the kunes khthonioi), due to Queen Hekabe’s metamorphosis into a black bitch. According to Apollonius Rhodius, Lycophron, Ovid and Virgil, to name but a few, Hekate’s arrival from gloomy Hades to the mortal world was heralded by the ‘baying in the night’ of dogs. Hermes, too, has a connection with dogs, as the god of animal husbandry and the god of guard dogs. Thus, Hermes and Hekate are bound further: her arrival incites dogs to bay, creatures of which he has dominion, perhaps as a warning to those who would venture into the goddess’ path (and thus be beyond Hermes’ protection of the home and of travellers).

Although one’s personal experiences and alternative sources may contradict a sexual relationship between Hermes Khthonios and Hekate, it is undeniable that there is a relationship. They are the opposite of one-another, the perfect companions and the perfect balance: Olympian-Khthonian and Khthonian-Titanide; light-shadow and shadow-light; sky-earth and earth-sky; and feminine male and masculine female.

Hermes Khthonios could not exist without Hekate Khthonia, and vice-versa. They need each other: the Underworld, the mortal world and Mount Olympus all need balance to exist and flourish, and Hermes and Hekate provide the joined worlds with some of that balance. They are Divinities with a foot in each world, tethering one to the next and yet keeping them separate. They are Underworld gods, earth gods, sea gods, sky gods: and they could not truly exist in any other form.

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Thoughts on Peitho

August 17, 2009

Red, red, red. The colour is hers mostly, Aphrodite’s sometimes. Red: hearts, blood, flowers and pulsing heat. She is warmth, desire, passion; and yet she is none of these. She is seduction, possession, obsession, need. She is the primal side of love – she is the teeth behind the smiles, the nails waiting to rip and tear and bleed. She is blood and hunger. She is the stirring of need, and the naming of thus: she is well-described passion. It is she who pushes mortals to lingering gazes and smooth words; and it is her influence that drives them to rape.

Peitho is seduction; the woman dressed all in red who smiles indulgently and whispers to those who listen for her. She is not lovely nor gentle, and yet she is. She is animal instinct combined with human emotion – she is thrumming desire, pulsing need. She is the herald of Aphrodite, and thus privy to both sides of her mistress: the blurring softness of beauty and love, and the harsh sharpness of addiction and survival. She is necessary in all of this, too: she is what separates man from beast: she is sex for the sake of sex, need for the sake of need.

Music pulses in her veins. She wears soft animal skins, turned inside-out. She paints her lips with blood. She is not a civilised goddess: she is wild and dangerous, and yet she is soft, too. She does not encourage rape, but it is within her domain. She is deceit, temptation; she is sweetness and soft seduction. She is the enemy of Artemis, protector of maidens and virgin women, for she encourages them to forsake virginity and dissolve their spirits in mindless, animal, pulsing sex.

She draws blood with her kisses; she smiles with too many teeth. She is poisoned honey, gentle sacrifice. She is a primal goddess, borne of hunger and need. Nothing is denied to her: she rides with Aphrodite and her Erotes, and laughs in the face of Thanatos’ cool, creeping death, as no other would dare to do. She joins Ares and Aphrodite in war for love and love for war; and she is companion to both Eris and Harmonia and yet lives worlds apart from them.

She is plunging hunger, stinging lust, itching need. She kisses and bleeds and lives on, pulsing, changing. She is Aphrodite’s daughter and herald and yet she is her own master. She wears roses around her neck and waist and spins into eternity in the arms of blurring lovers – and then she is with Hermes again, kissing her husband with her bloodied lips and smiling against him eager kisses. Theirs is an unspoken agreement, a desire that both and neither name; he does not ask of her discarded lovers, and she does not ask of his.

She is the essence of red-red roses. She spreads their petals and prickles about her skin to remind herself of her dual nature: of her softness and her sharpness, her love and her hate, her gentle smiles and cruel laughter. She is a warrior of love and of pulsing need. She is Peitho.

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Thoughts on Thanatos

August 17, 2009

Death.

He is maggots sliding through empty veins, gnawing at dead flesh. He is the flames that burn to accept the bodies of those no longer in this world. He is the son of black Nyx, and yet his touch—gentle, unassuming, soothing—can strike at any given moment. He was born dead: he has never known warm sunlight or open-mouthed kisses; he does not understand what it means to breathe. He does not know how to live, how to survive.

He is limitless, unstoppable; and yet he tempers his own power. He binds himself to the rules of the Underworld, and to the word of his Lord, Hades. He is the steadfast companion of his drowsing brother, Hypnos; and he rides in his mother’s chariot as she draws her thin mists over the world each night. He lives alone but for his butterflies – magnificent, beating, pulsing, alive. They remind him of his oaths, and they keep him grounded when he would otherwise drift with shadow.

He is not cruel. He does not laugh as he takes the souls of the newly-dead. He inhales their spirits—dead lips to dead lips, cold flesh to cold flesh—and takes them to the mouth of the Underworld. It is not his duty to do this, and yet he does: he cares, though he cannot name such tender feelings, for he does not understand them. He is the brother of the Moirae, the Fates, and he is the minister of Hades. He is a king of kings: neither Hades nor his brothers can control him, try as they might.

He is not violent death: he is the gentle slipping-away of one’s final breath. He is the final blankness that touches the eyes of corpses; he is the carrion, hopping closer to stare at the tantalising flesh of the dead. He is the cycle of life and death, the pulse of mortality. Some say that he is born and he dies with each breath humans take – some say that he was never even born, he simply was, simply is.

He is the everlasting search for truth. He cannot be swayed to leniency, but he is merciful, and he is gentle. He is beyond remorse, beyond guilt; and yet his shoulders are weighed down by the magnitude of his own power. Every death he brings rests heavily upon him, a fresh load for him to carry, and he can barely bring himself to do as he must – but, yes, he must. He cannot control himself any more than Hades, Poseidon and Zeus can: for he is death, and death answers truly to nobody, not even itself. He ignores his screeching, violent sisters and draws his butterflies about him like a cloak. He is a child, a youth, an adult; all of these and none of these. He is what best helps those who look upon him – but he is always dark-eyed, for death is nothing if not the wrapping of shadows around throat and skin.

He is Thanatos. He has a thousand names, truly, but he is who he is, regardless of what he is called. He will visit any who ask, and many who do not: for he is death, death, death.