Archive for the ‘Thoughts On’ Category

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Aphrodite Anaduomenê

January 14, 2010

Aphrodite Anaduomenê is an oft-forgotten aspect of this wonderful goddess. It is not an aspect that is hostile to the interpretation of her as borne of Zeus and Dione, too—it exists separately from the question of her parentage, curving away from such questions with all the speed and skill of the winged divine.

The sea has always represented mystery. It is the Unknown – even more than our sprawling fields or city streets at night, when the amber light of the streetlights or of the lanterns held high can stave away the darkness. The sea cannot be pushed back, cannot be made anything other than well and truly Other. It ebbs and flows, rising and falling—it can crash down in a tangle of shimmering fury, or it can lap languidly against the shore.

Does this not describe Aphrodite, too? Even removed from her oceanic aspects, one cannot deny that this description also fits the goddess of beauty, love, sex and human nature. She might sun herself in summer-light with the Kharites, but she also dances in the winter months with the Erinyes. She is often shown, in art both Ancient and modern, without clothes; suggesting at her open nature, at her willingness to Reveal herself to all whom ask. But so many look only at the surface—at the beauty of the skin—that they do not look beyond, to the mysteries concealed in her veins and behind her smiling eyes.

Aphrodite Anaduomenê, rising from the sea, is the goddess of the otherworldly Unknown. She is a tantalising link between this world—that which is known and can be both experienced and perceived by the human senses—and the world of the gods, which is beyond our limited mortal perception. She, as well as few of her fellows (such as Hermes, the lord of the liminal spaces), represent the Journey, both between this world and the gods’, and in one’s own life.

In life, you cannot know everything that will happen – just as we can only ever guess at what truly occurs within the ocean. Even with our machines and all our modernity, we can never know what truly lurks at the depths of All That There Is. To find out that would be to discover the forgotten Links, to unearth the true depths of human consciousness and to reveal the shadows that linger in every mortal soul.

She rises from the sea to bring this knowledge in her wake. To open oneself to the ecstatic mysteries of Aphrodite is to open oneself to those of Life itself. Beauty, grace and pleasure are masks she wears, and so are grief, pain and loss. One must accept and even embrace each of Aphrodite’s masks to understand the depths of this ancient, sea-rising goddess—and she rises from the sea, the mystery of the Unknown, to help facilitate just this in her suppliants.

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Thoughts on The Hesperides

September 6, 2009

They are the keepers of the golden apples–the glorious, intoxicating apples owned by Hera. The apples draw sunlight into them throughout the day and burn with their own gold-red glows at dusk. The Hesperides, silent and golden nymphai, are the heralds and guardians of the sunsets. It flows in their blood: delicious and honey-lovely.

They have, for skin, golden tree-bark. Their arms are edged with prickles; dark leaves spread out in place of their fingers. Their elbows are like thorns – long, wicked, curved daggers of bone. It is easy to think of them as delicate, fragile, smiling nymphs–but that is not all they are. They are also the cruel daughters of Nyx, gleaming with blood and shining with sunlight.

They are numbered three, or four, or seven, or nine: their true number is impossible to count. Their golden eyes make thoughts flee the mind; they kiss away logic and dance until rationality flees. In the days, they are like plants: feet apart, arms outstretched to the sky, breasts and bellies bared to Boreas’ winter winds. They are silent and still, breathing sunlight into their wide, delicate lungs–until someone dares try to breach their orchard, or until night falls.

At night, they leave Ladon–shimmering, golden, hundred-headed Ladon–in charge of the orchard. They depart to drift through the air, hunting for swirling storm-winds to guide them to blushing newlyweds. They don’t glow gold during the night: they gleam scarlet, though lines of gold thread through the veins and stand vividly out against all that red, red, red. They sing – bridal music and the hums of the dead. They are beautiful and awful, and they are utterly intoxicating–particularly so when they hold one of the apples against their bellies and revel in its golden heat.

They are not merely the essence of sunlight, of sunset. They are guardians of the treasures of the gods: even their beautiful teeth–perfectly white, perfectly formed–are capable of wrenching limbs from bodies and skin from bones. They, like all nymphai, are both wild and civilised: or, at least, they gleam gold under the illusion of civility.

Seductivity boils in their ichor-blood. They are spirits–wild girls–who prey on those who seek that which they guard. It is when someone, human or divine, trespasses that they truly come to life; after all, the night frees them from their stasis but not from their duties. Trespassers are met with the same lovely-awful fate: the naked Hesperides turn from their posts to gaze upon them. They sing and dance, sliding forward and drawing their leaf-fingers over soft lips or bristled chins. They cannot impose themselves upon the trespasser; but if said man or woman pauses to throw his or her arms around the lovely throat of a Hesperide and hungrily kiss them, the payment they offer–the payment ordered by the Moirae–is their lives.

They wear petals in their tangled hair; during the long, sunny days, flowers twist around their ankles and snare them to the ground. It is these flowers–the trespassers, metamorphosised into plants–that they pluck petals from and shower themselves in. It is evidence of their cruelty and their power: it is the visible evidence that they are far, far superior to humans, even if both they and mortals serve the gods.

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Thoughts on Hebe

September 6, 2009

She is the essence of youth, of life. She is the gay laughter of children, the merry smiles of not-quite adults, and the blushing cheeks of brides-to-be. She is, herself, neither child nor woman: she is the in-between youth with small, firm breasts, a shy mind and an even shyer smile. She does not part her lips and show her teeth when she smiles–it is thin and gentle, wavering with her indecision, as though every move she makes is carefully analysed. And yet there is a joyous, childish freedom in her: her limbs twirl through the air with perfect abandon; her lips part in breathless delight; and she sings and laughs with the careless spirit of a babe.

She is not all gentle, though. She is rival to Geras, apathetic old age. She snarls and strikes with her shining nails – but he is, of course, unperturbed by her rages. She falls in and out of love at the drop of a hat, at the touch of a feather. Her lips taste of immortal ambrosia and her veins are filled with contradictions–blood and ichor, mortality and divinity, life and death.

She is the daughter of Hera and Zeus. She, along with her sister Eileithyia, is her mother’s loving attendant and handmaiden; and she is one of the two cupbearers of the gods. She can bestow youth on any who pleases her, with her breathy kisses and eager smiles–and she can whisper to Geras to snatch the youth away again.

She is the sister of Ares: she bathes him in blood and dresses him in silks. She kisses his spear-slashed skin with her warm, young lips and feels youth slide from her limbs to his. She lets him borrow from her youthful nature at times; secretly, she delights in bloodshed almost as much as he, and she smiles radiantly down on warriors who lift spears and knives and guns and charge bravely forward.

She is the nature of war-dances, and she is the nature of the eternal quest for immortality. She is the goddess who grants immortality–the others can offer only temporary divinity with nectar and ambrosia, with drinks poured by her hand. It is she, eventually, who gives full immortality – with her hands and lips she grants it, kissing and biting at the skin of those who seek her favour until they bleed their last for her. Immortality, after all, comes only in the face of death.

As the patron of young brides, she is companion to both Artemis and Aphrodite. She is, perhaps, a gentler companion than Artemis is used to: but she is no less capable of fury and pulsing, simmering hate than any of the delicate-wild nymphai that laugh and kiss and scream around their goddess.

She is the beauty of youth – the rosy lips and soft thighs, the barely-there freckles that dash over cheeks and shoulders, and the gentle slope of waists and hips. Aphrodite loves her; she dances–flashing her slim, lovely ankles with skirts barely long enough–with the goddess and with Aphrodite’s boys. The Erotes are of her nature as much as they are of Aphrodite’s – frozen in eternal youth, they sing and laugh as they dance, dance, dance with her. She shares kisses with Harmonia and the Kharites, and she glowers at Eris – for she–warm, pleasant youth–has little patience for one as hard-hearted as Eris.

At weddings, she does not cry or hold solemn silences. She laughs and spins and dances – she holds the bride’s train with hands that shake from her endless, youthful energy. She smiles for gods and mortals alike; and the only beings that make her delight falter are the war gods – and the khthonic deities.

Youth, after all, has no influence on the dead.

She raves against death: it is her undoing. Of all the gods, perhaps it is she who fears death the most. She–the essence of immortality, of youth, of life–has the most to lose from dying. And so, artfully, she refuses to do it. She does not hold attendance with Persephone, rising into the sunlit world as Kore; she backs away from Thanatos; and she even flinches from Hermes when he returns from the Underworld. It is her undoing, and so it has become her fear.

She cannot live and dance and laugh and sing in the Underworld – and if she cannot do these, the things that she truly loves, what is the point of it? There is none.

And so, twirling, dancing, smiling Hebe refuses to ever die. It will not happen: she draws the reborn back from the Underworld but she does not touch them. To touch them would be to lose herself – and where would the others be without her dancing, her laughter, and her spinning, heady, intoxicating youth? They simply wouldn’t be: they simply could not exist without her. She knows that and she smiles gratefully for it – for there is no chance of her death whilst there is still desire–need–for her company.

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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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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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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.