Archive for October, 2009

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Delphic Maxim 8

October 21, 2009

Delphic Maxim 8: Be Yourself.

In the modern world, it is easy to forget ourselves. Traditional roles–particularly traditional gender roles–blur together; we can be anything we want, especially in the Western world… and yet we’ve forgotten much of who we are.

We know what we want: we want that pair of shoes, that job, this many children, that religion. We know what we need: food, shelter, drink, love, warmth. And yet we don’t know who we are, at the core of everything. We hide ourselves behind material goods and wants, and we try to forget everything else.

Who am I?

I am a daughter. I’m a half-sister, a cousin, a niece and a granddaughter. I’m a friend, a college student, a young woman, a teenager, a girl. I’m a dreamer, an idealist, an introvert and a believer in choice & chance & fate. I’m a consumer in a Capitalist society. I’m working class; English; white. I’m also a human. But what, exactly, does that mean?

I have skin, blood, teeth, hair. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth and two ears. I’m left-handed and able-bodied. I blink. If there’s a loud, unexpected noise, I flinch. If someone hits my leg, it twitches.

I’m part of something bigger than just myself and yet, paradoxically, I’m nothing more than just me. I play roles, and create personae to deal with those roles. I gather props, set the stage – and is that so different from lighting incense, and setting up an altar?

I come to the gods as I come to everything: with my roles mixing together, creating something that is individually me. I don’t approach the gods wearing a conscious ‘mask’, but my roles are there–and, when I approach the gods, I gain a new role, that of servant to the divine kings and queens I have chosen.

But I don’t lose my other roles. I don’t suddenly stop being a student, a young woman or a daughter. I don’t step away from the altar and become a different person. That, in my humble opinion, is what seperates true religion from abstract thought. I approach the gods clean, but wearing my daily clothes; and I wear jewellery for the gods in my day-to-day life that reminds me constantly of their presence. I’ve not invited the gods into a tiny, enclosed part of my life, but right into it. I think of them very regularly, and try to honour them in every action. It brings me closer to them, and them to me, and I prefer it that way.

As the Delphic Maxim says, then; Be yourself. I try–and I think that I, personally, am starting to get the hang of it. I am myself: and my friends and my gods accept me for that.

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An Exploration of Peitho

October 17, 2009

As the goddess of seduction, Peitho is intimately connected with fertility, sex, pleasure and love. She is also connected to the natural order, to the workings of the kosmos and the continued survival of the human race – and, of course, it is by her will that humans (and certain other animals) are able to have sex simply for the sake thereof.

In myth, Peitho is commonly paired with Aphrodite – either as her daughter (as indicated in the Sappho, Fragments 96 and 200; and Aeschylus, Suppliant Women, 1039) or, else, as her companion. They share the sacred attribute of the dove, too. Peitho’s sacred ball of binding twine is interestingly linked to Tykhe’s ball of fate; the goddesses are quite often given the same parentage, and the links between love–or, at least, sex–and chance or fate are extremely strong.

A further, interesting parallel between fate and Peitho is shown by Nonnus when Aphrodite enters a weaving contest against Athene: ‘Pasithea made the spindle run round, Peitho dressed the wool, Aglaia gave thread and yarn to her mistress. And weddings went all astray in human life.’ (Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 24.261.)The three Moirai–Klotho, the spinner of the thread of life; Lakhesis, the apportioner of lots; and Atropos, the cutter of life–are sometimes said to be led by Aphrodite (in the Orphic Hymn 55 to Aphrodite; in Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.19.2; and in Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 41.155). Here, then, Pasithea can be identified with Klotho, Peitho with Lakhesis, and Aglaia with Atropos. Plato has this to say regarding the Moirai: ‘The Moirai, daughters of Ananke, clad in white vestments with filleted heads, Lakhesis, and Klotho, and Atropos, who sang in unison with the music of the Seirenes, Lakhesis singing the things that were, Klotho the things that are, and Atropos the things that are to be.’ (Plato, Republic, 617c.) Peitho-as-Lakhesis, then, controls that which has passed–such as the birth of the kosmos, the ability of humans to enjoy sex for the sake of itself and the tried-and-true methods of seduction–, Pasithea-as-Klotho controls that which is–the blurring of the now: reality and imagination, hallucination and truth–, and Aglaia-as-Atropos controls that which will be–the beauty of tomorrow, the joy of a heavily pregnant woman, the opportunity of marriage.

Peitho was, in Classical times, portrayed merely as the goddess of seduction, persuasion and charming speech – this was emphasised by the titling of her, in the works of some Classical authors, as ‘winning Peitho’ (Aeschylus, Suppliant Woman, 1035; and Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 41.250), and ‘she to whom nothing is denied’ (Aeschylus, Suppliant Woman, 1035).

A modern contemplation of Peitho allows for further consideration of her nature and her influence.

As the goddess of seduction, Peitho naturally presides over the methods of seduction: hers are the candle-lit dinners, the love poetry, and the first spark of desire, the seduction that wings through the veins as eyes meet. She is mostly unconcerned with animals and the behaviour of them – they offer her no incense and worship her with their hands and lips, as humans do, honouring her in all of the pleasures that the body can indulge in. It is no surprise, then, that Peitho is sometimes numbered among the Kharites (Hermesianax; Pindar, Eulogies Fragment 123; and Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 24.261) – for she presides over pleasures, but hers are the pleasures of the body, rather than of the spirit.

As the goddess of persuasion and charming speech, Peitho acquires influence over bribes, persuasive speech, compliments and flattery. Anacreon outright identifies Peitho as a goddess of bribes and bribery – ‘And in those days Peitho did not yet shine all silver.’ (Anacreon, Fragment 384) This indicates that, ‘in those days’, Peitho had no care for money–beyond how it could be used to gain pleasure–and yet, with the changing times, she took more of an interest in it for how else it could be used. Further to this, and as a goddess of the pleasures of the body and the sensations that affect it, Peitho is easy to name as the goddess of prostitutes; Pindar, in Eulogies Fragment 122, identifies ‘guest-loving girls’, i.e. courtesans and prostitutes, as ‘servants of Peitho in wealthy Korinthos.’

In combination with Bia–the goddess of force, might, strength and compulsion–Peitho, also, is the, or rather a, goddess of rape. One could say that Peitho is the goddess of rape victims, and Bia the goddess of rapists; this is somewhat confirmed by the depiction of Peitho as fleeing rape scenes in Greek art. Ibycus expands on this idea of a softer, maternal Peitho in his Fragment 288: ‘Euryalos, offshoot of the blue-eyed Kharites, darling of the lovely-haired Horai, Kypris and soft-lidded Peitho nursed you among rose-blossoms.’ Nonnus, in Dionysiaca 3.84, calls Peitho ‘the friend of marriage’ and the ‘nurse of the baby Erotes’.

One can identify Peitho as a goddess of wisdom – in the wisdom of marriage, the knowledge of the human body, and the understanding of pleasure and love. Pindar, in Pythian Ode 9.40, states that, ‘Secret, great Phoibos, are the keys of wise Peitho to love’s true sanctities.’ This somewhat blurs the idea of Peitho as a mindless creature who cares only for sexual gratification–a stereotype linked also to her mother and/or mistress, Aphrodite–and adds to her nature as a goddess of marriage. Nonnus, in his Dionysiaca 25.150, notes that ‘Peitho shook a brazen spear and turned into Pallas Athena to stand by Minos in the fray.’ Athene, of course, is the Olympian goddess of wisdom, strategy and rationality (among other things) – and combining these two quotes, by Pindar and Nonnus, gives the revealing identification of Peitho as a goddess of the wisdom of marriage, sex, pleasure, love and so on; she holds ‘the keys’ to true love, and she is unafraid of deferring gratification in becoming ‘Pallas Athena’ in order to fight for her mistress/mother.

In conclusion for this exploration, Peitho is, like all of the Theoi, an extremely complex and multi-layered divinity. She is not a mere ‘daimona’, or a goddess, of just persuasion, seduction and charming speech, but of all of the pleasures (and, inversely, the pains) that affect the human body (and soul) – the love, marriage, sex, war-for-love, wisdom, and so on. She is, I hope I’ve proved, a goddess worthy of honour and praise, and a goddess not to be taken lightly.

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Fiction: Pasithea: Restless

October 15, 2009

The cream walls melt beneath her fingers, gliding down and settling over the carpet. Brown and cream mix together, circling her feet and then spreading up over her bare calves, thighs and hips. The colour clings to her, a second skin of delirium, as she walks silently through her husband’s halls.

“Hypnos?” she whispers, forcing each reluctant word out of the warmth of her body and into the chill night world. There is no answer, and she tries again: this time slightly louder. Still, though, he does not answer; she does not know if he even remains among the living, or if he has once more drifted to the world of the sleeping dead.

The hall hums with energy – it pulses under Pasithea’s restless worry, lending further agitation to her uncharacteristic state. She begins to move more swiftly, shoving her delicate, white feet through the streaming rivers of murmuring colour.

She finally reaches her husband’s door, her limbs heavy and quivering with tension, and Hesykhia, guardian of the sleeping Hypnos, is beside her immediately. Pasithea whispers wordless pain against Heskyhia’s silent lips, softness yielding to harsh as the need to rest overwhelms her spirit. “My husband,” is all she manages to say, her tongue barely able to wrap around the word and force it from her trembling lips.

Soundlessly, Hesykhia takes her into her arms and pushes open Hypnos’ door. The lord of sleep is tangled in the sheets once placed down by careful hands – he stirs as Hesykhia carries his Kharis wife through the room.

“Insanity,” Pasithea breathes as Hypnos stands, his eyelids barely open and his shoulders sagging with exhaustion. Hesykhia, as silent as a gargoyle, hands her to him and they sink, together, to the bed. The door eases shut behind Hesykhia as she leaves; Hypnos kisses his wife’s cheek, breathing in the scent of lilies that lingers constantly against her skin. She continues to whisper: “Madness, delirium, blood, death.”

He, smiling, kisses her eyelids and interrupts: “Love.”

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Linger

October 15, 2009

A kiss: the linger
Of fingers on smooth,
So-sensitive skin.
Love, bright as a bruise,
Something that smiles with
Too many teeth and
Says, I was here,
And I loved this girl.

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Read Write Prompt #24

October 15, 2009

Read Write Prompt #24: Jargon.

Aphrodite.

Incense smoke
Drifts through the air,
Circling lazily around
The diakonoi who linger here.

Rose petals lie strewn at the feet,
They are hieros; the flowers of the gods,
And of this god, Epistrophia,
Most lovely of all the Theoi.

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Ares: the Lover of Love

October 13, 2009

As both the god of war and the ‘counterpart’ and companion to Aphrodite, it is easy to identify Ares as a god of pain. He is the pain of bullets tearing into bodies, of losing limbs in explosions – and the pain, whether momentary or drawn-out, of death. But he is also, as the father of Anteros, god of unrequited love, and the lover of Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and love, the god of the pain of love. The concepts of war and love have been tightly interwoven for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Aphrodite and Ares’ own love affair is testament to this: that love and war belong together, and that you cannot truly have one without the other.

If one considers Ares as a god of pain, he becomes more than the stereotype that many have of him. He becomes god of receiving pain, god of giving pain, and even god of mastering that pain. The giving and receiving of pain is clear in his roles as god of war and god of the pain of love—the heartbreak and heartache that is so oft thought of when speaking of love—but it is only when one thinks deeply on Ares that they can draw closer to a conclusion of who, exactly, he is.

He is the god of war, as is well-known among even the average person. He is the god of the fever of war, of the blood-lust of war – the singing need to battle that thrums through the veins of warriors. He is, of course, the god of warriors, soldiers, heroes, champions – and under this aspect, he becomes, also, the god of sports and sportsmanship. He becomes, too, the god of challenge, of fighting to get what you want (or need) – the god of rivalry, of stubbornness, and of courage. Homer, in the Iliad (such as 5.454, 5.506 and 17.210) concentrates on this latter aspect of Ares, as a god who leads men into battle and encourages them when they would falter. As the father of Deimos and Phobos—the gods of dread and panic respectively—and as the god of courage, Ares becomes the god of the inversion of courage: he becomes the god of cowardice, whether it is retreating in war, running from a love that demands one too many risks, or turning tail in the face of the unknown. Ares himself boldly strives forward to meet all these things, and yet this aspect is often hard to find in the words of the classic authors and the views of the modern world.

In Ancient Greece, Ares was a god that was feared and—often—outright hatred. He represented many of the ills of the world, especially when one considered him as the brother, lover, companion or so on of Eris, mother of the kakodaimones, the spirits that plague mankind.

But, interestingly, Ares’ Roman “counterpart”, Mars, was much less disliked. Mars was initially a Roman god of fertility, vegetation, fields, boundaries and farmers; it was only when the Roman Empire began to expand that he became identified with Ares and, perhaps as a result, gained associations with war. However, it is my opinion that Ares and Mars are, at the core, the same god. Ares could easily be seen as a fertility god, when one takes into account his relationship with Aphrodite. Aphrodite and her husband Hephaistos had no children together—though they were married and, by several accounts, seemed to have had sex several times—and yet Aphrodite and Ares brought forth, by several different accounts, gods such as Eros, Anteros, Deimos, Phobos and Harmonia, suggesting of fertility and, therefore, the fertile earth (including the fertility of vegetation). Also, interestingly, Priapos, the rustic god of vegetation, fertility and garden produce (who is often considered a son of Aphrodite, though not by Ares), taught Ares to dance, therefore further increasing the link between Ares and fertility and vegetation. As the god of war, the pain of love and courage, cowardliness and sportsmanship—and so on—Ares would naturally be a god of boundaries: the boundaries between life and death, between warring armies, between the human body and the world beyond it, and so on. Ares’ links to farmers and fields are more tenuous—as not many Greek authors, it seemed, explored his links to fertility and the farming men and women who so relied on the fertility of the earth—but the links are there. As a god of warriors, he would also be the god of returning soldiers and warriors, and of the family of those people: who would likely be farmers. He is known as a god of the battlefield, but also, as a god of farming and fertility, he would be a god of the fertile earth and areas that can be cultivated for food – namely fields, farms, and so on.

Ares-Mars, then, is perhaps one of the most irrationally disliked gods. As a god of courage, bravery and stubbornness, he is the patron of those who stand up for what they believe in, or who step in to protect those who cannot protect themselves – the innocent; the young and the old. He is the patron of soldiers, both in war and returning home, and he is the guide of those who die on the battlefield. He is a god who does not hide his true nature behind sweet poetry and gentle smiles – he is the harsh truth of the world, the reality that bites. He is the cruelty in being kind; he is not cruel for the sake thereof, but for the greater good of the individual or community. He is the lover of love, and therefore of life – he protects the next generation, and yet he is constantly demonised, reduced to merely one aspect of who he truly is. He is a god of many more things than just war, or the lust for such; and a person could do much worse than having his guidance and protection as one’s patron or friend.

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Read Write Prompt #22

October 13, 2009

Read Write Prompt 22: Speak Freely.

Ekho.

Her lips are sewn shut,
Tied with delicate,
Silvery spiders’
Streams – the webs of the
Smallest and toughest
Of all animals.

Her ears are hollow,
Dainty and shell-like;
Reaching high into
The sky and yet they
Hear nothing but the
Whispers of the past.

Her eyes are all that
Remains truly bright,
Sparkling with life.
Her words come not from
Her sewn lips, but from
Here, falling like stars.

The twilight warms her
Barely-there frame and
Lends life to her veins.
The wind whistles, and
The words are swept from
Her bright, staring eyes.

I am here.