Posts Tagged ‘Fate’

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Porphyry – On Images – fragment 8

November 25, 2009

‘The whole power productive of water they called Oceanus, and named its symbolic figure Tethys. But of the whole, the drinking-water produced is called Achelous; and the sea-water Poseidon; while again that which makes the sea, inasmuch as it is productive, is Amphitrite. Of the sweet waters the particular powers are called Nymphs, and those of the sea-waters Nereids.

Again, the power of fire they called Hephaestus, and have made his image in the form of a man, but put on it a blue cap as a symbol of the revolution of the heavens, because the archetypal and purest form of fire is there. But the fire brought down from heaven to earth is less intense, and wants the strengthening and support which is found in matter: wherefore he is lame, as needing matter to support him.

Also they supposed a power of this kind to belong to the sun and called it Apollo, from the pulsation of his beams. There are also nine Muses singing to his lyre, which are the sublunar sphere, and seven spheres of the planets, and one of the fixed stars. And they crowned him with laurel, partly because the plant is full of fire, and therefore hated by daemons; and partly because it crackles in burning, to represent the god’s prophetic art.

But inasmuch as the sun wards off the evils of the earth, they called him Heracles (from his clashing against the air) in passing from east to west. And they invented fables of his performing twelve labours, as the symbol of the division of the signs of the zodiac in heaven; and they arrayed him with a club and a lion’s skin, the one as an indication of his uneven motion, and the other representative of his strength in “Leo” the sign of the zodiac.

Of the sun’s healing power Asclepius is the symbol, and to him they have given the staff as a sign of the support and rest of the sick, and the serpent is wound round it, as significant of his preservation of body and soul: for the animal is most full of spirit, and shuffles off the weakness of the body. It seems also to have a great faculty for healing: for it found the remedy for giving clear sight, and is said in a legend to know a certain plant which restores life.

But the fiery power of his revolving and circling motion, whereby he ripens the crops, is called Dionysus, not in the same sense as the power which produces the juicy fruits, but either from the sun’s rotation, or from his completing his orbit in the heaven. And whereas he revolves round the cosmical seasons and is the maker of “times and tides,” the sun is on this account called Horus.

Of his power over agriculture, whereon depend the gifts of wealth, the symbol is Pluto. He has, however, equally the power of destroying, on which account they make Sarapis share the temple of Pluto: and the purple tunic they make the symbol of the light that has sunk beneath the earth, and the sceptre broken at the top that of his power below, and the posture of the hand the symbol of his departure into the unseen world.

Cerberus is represented with three heads, because the positions of the sun above the earth are three-rising, midday, and setting.

The moon, conceived according to her brightness, they called Artemis, as it were, “cutting the air.” And Artemis, though herself a virgin, presides over childbirth, because the power of the new moon is helpful to parturition.

What Apollo is to the sun, that Athena is to the moon: for the moon is a symbol of wisdom, and so a kind of Athena.

But, again, the moon is Hecate, the symbol of her varying phases and of her power dependent on the phases. Wherefore her power appears in three forms, having as symbol of the new moon the figure in the white robe and golden sandals, and torches lighted: the basket, which she bears when she has mounted high, is the symbol of the cultivation of the crops, which she makes to grow up according to the increase of her light: and again the symbol of the full moon is the goddess of the brazen sandals.

Or even from the branch of olive one might infer her fiery nature, and from the poppy her productiveness, and the multitude of the souls who find an abode in her as in a city, for the poppy is an emblem of a city. She bears a bow, like Artemis, because of the sharpness of the pangs of labour.

And, again, the Fates are referred to her powers, Clotho to the generative, and Lachesis to the nutritive, and Atropos to the inexorable will of the deity.

Also, the power productive of corn-crops, which is Demeter, they associate with her, as producing power in her. The moon is also a supporter of Kore. They set Dionysus also beside her, both on account of their growth of horns, and because of the region of clouds lying beneath the lower world.

The power of Kronos they perceived to be sluggish and slow and cold, and therefore attributed to him the power of time: and they figure him standing, and grey-headed, to indicate that time is growing old.

The Curetes, attending on Chronos, are symbols of the seasons, because time journeys on through seasons.

Of the Hours, some are the Olympian, belonging to the sun, which also open the gates in the air: and others are earthly, belonging to Demeter, and hold a basket, one symbolic of the flowers of spring, and the other of the wheat-ears of summer.

The power of Ares they perceived to be fiery, and represented it as causing war and bloodshed, and capable both of harm and benefit.

The star of Aphrodite they observed as tending to fecundity, being the cause of desire and offspring, and represented it as a woman because of generation, and as beautiful, because it is also the evening star-

“Hesper, the fairest star that shines in heaven.” [Homer, Iliad 22:318]

And Eros they set by her because of desire. She veils her breasts and other parts, because their power is the source of generation and nourishment. She comes from the sea, a watery element, and warm, and in constant movement, and foaming because of its commotion, whereby they intimate the seminal power.

Hermes is the representative of reason and speech, which both accomplish and interpret all things. The phallic Hermes represents vigour, but also indicates the generative law that pervades all things.

Further, reason is composite: in the sun it is called Hermes; in the moon Hecate; and that which is in the All Hermopan, for the generative and creative reason extends over all things. Hermanubis also is composite, and as it were half Greek, being found among the Egyptians also. Since speech is also connected with the power of love, Eros represents this power: wherefore Eros is represented as the son of Hermes, but as an infant, because of his sudden impulses of desire.

They made Pan the symbol of the universe, and gave him his horns as symbols of sun and moon, and the fawn skin as emblem of the stars in heaven, or of the variety of the universe.’

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Why Persephone?

October 6, 2009

In my quest to better understand Persephone, I have found myself pausing at this particular point. Why is it that Hades chose Persephone—or Kore—to be his wife? It was not merely her maidenhood, her sexual innocence; and nor was it her gentle, sunlit nature. To boil it down to her as the ‘essence of spring’ does an injustice to this goddess – for she is the embodiment of change, of all of the seasons, of the natural order. But as Kore, she was not such things. She was just Demeter’s daughter, just the maiden accompanied by nymphs. And yet Hades saw something in her, this girl—or rather, this pretty puppet, a flower not yet opened—and he fell in love with her. The heart of one such as Hades was warmed by her and, inflamed by Eros’ eager smiles, he stole her away.

I believe that Hades recognised his equal in Persephone. He did not part the earth and incite Demeter into almost killing gods and humans everywhere just so that he could have a pretty little doll sit on his lap. No: he brought her into the Underworld and helped her become his equal. And she, in return, accepted the pomegranate seeds—Hera’s seeds; the seeds of marriage—and they were wed.

One might wonder how, and why, Hades and Persephone are equals. Prior to his abduction of her, they were not: in spirit they were, but in terms of influence they were all but opposites. Persephone was responsible only for spring growth, for the gentle blossoming of flowers; and Hades was the King of the Underworld. Persephone was also living her immortal life in Demeter’s shadow; she was watched constantly by her, and those that vied for her hand were turned away by her mother, not by her. If Hades had not abducted Persephone she, arguably, might never have reached her full potential: she would have likely lived forever in her mother’s shadow, responsible only for the beginning of spring.

With the help of Zeus and Gaia, according to the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Hades was able to steal away Persephone, unnoticed by all but Helios and Hekate. There is significance in this: Helios, lord of the sun, sees everything that occurs throughout the day; Hekate, queen of necromancy and ghosts, would know of everything that occurs throughout the night. Thus the transition of Kore to Persephone—girl to woman—is echoed not only in Persephone’s annual return from the Underworld and the awakening of the earth, but also in the time in which she was taken: at dusk or dawn, the in-between times.

In art and myth, Persephone is often described as a “young” goddess. She is a youth; stolen from the sunlight before she can achieve her true form, and yet she is not a child. She is at the in-between stage, the ‘dawn’ of womanhood: she is the quintessential woman-child. In abrupt, modern terms, she is a teenager. She does not yet know the delights and sorrows of being a woman; she is not a matron, and she will never be a crone. She is caught at a stage of hormones, a twist of cool logic and sharp emotions – and thus can be seen in how she behaves as Queen of the Underworld.

Persephone’s relationship with Adonis (which I will discuss in more detail further on) is an echo of this transition. After his death, he spends half of the year in the Underworld with her, and half with in the world above with Aphrodite. To coincide with this, Adonis would spend the autumn winter months with Persephone, and the spring and summer months with Aphrodite: thus their relationship echoes the themes of life-death-rebirth that are so common in the Greek mythologies.

When Persephone is stolen from the world, Demeter proves that she is willing to go to any lengths to get her back. She refuses to let the living things taste fruit and feel warmth—both fruit and heat here symbolising life, as food and energy are required for most, if not all, life-forms. (It is also ironic, then, that the only fruit that can be found in the Underworld—the pomegranate—still grew without Demeter’s influence; if she had killed that, too, Persephone might never have become the Queen of the Underworld.) Thus both Demeter and Persephone are here goddesses of winter; of the hard, cruel, cold months where—and this would have been particularly true in antiquity—jagged, icy death reigns and humanity becomes the prey, rather than the predator.

And then, when Persephone returns from the Underworld, she and her mother bless the earth with life – the flowers begin to grow; the fruits shine; the snows recede. Demeter and Persephone, then, are goddesses of the seasons—for Demeter brings about the changes of summer and winter and Persephone rules spring (as Kore, the maiden, goddess of spring growth) and autumn (as Persephone Karpophoros, the bringer of fruit, goddess of the harvest).

As Queen of the Underworld, Persephone is a much more merciful, benevolent ruler than Hades – and such is shown in how she treats the (would-be) heroes that find their way into the Underworld. When Herakles entered the Underworld, he was ‘welcomed like a brother by Persephone’ (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History); and according to Apollodorus in his Bibliotheca, Herakles passed up victory in his wrestling competition with the Underworld god Menoites ‘at the request of Persephone.’ When Psykhe reached Persephone’s palace, she ‘declined the soft cushion and the rich food offered by her hostess,’ (Apuleius, The Golden Ass) and when she reported the trial that Aphrodite had tasked her with, Persephone immediately filled the box of beauty for her. Persephone took favour on Sisyphus and released him from the Underworld; and when Orpheus sang of his love for Eurydice, he ‘persuaded her to assist him in his desires and to allow him to bring up his dead wife from Haides’ (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History).

However, Persephone also proves that she is not a goddess with whom one can trifle with; when Peirithoos plans to kidnap her from the Underworld for his wife, the youth Persephone blossoms into a woman and deals swiftly with him: ‘Peirithoos now decided to seek the hand of Persephone in marriage, and when he asked Theseus to make the journey with him Theseus at first endeavoured to dissuade him and to turn him away from such a deed as being impious; but since Peirithoos firmly insisted upon it Theseus was bound by the oaths to join with him in the deed. And when they had at last made their way below to the regions of Haides, it came to pass that because of the impiety of their act they were both put in chains, and although Theseus was later let go by reason of the favour with which Herakles regarded him, Peirithoos because of the impiety remained in Haides, enduring everlasting punishment; but some writers of myths say that both of them never returned.’ (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History).

In discussing Persephone and her transition—after her abduction at Hades’ hands—from child to woman, it is inevitable that one must discuss who she has ever taken as a lover. Unlike many of the gods, Persephone did not have numerous lovers – only Hades (to whom she gave birth to the Erinyes, according to the Orphic Hymns 29 and 70), Zeus (to whom she birthed Zagreus, according to the Orphic Hymn 29, Hyginus, Diodorus Siculus, Nonnus and Suidas; and Melinoe, according to the Orphic Hymn 71) and Adonis.

Persephone’s infamous love-affair with Adonis produced no children, and, strangely, did not incite the jealousy or wrath of her husband Hades (though Ares, only the paramour of Aphrodite, was envious enough of Adonis to kill him, according to some classical writers). It could be argued that Persephone’s relationship with Adonis is symbolic of the process of rebirth. Before his death, Adonis spent a third of his year with Persephone—I suggest that this third was the very end of autumn, the whole of winter, and the very beginning of spring. As such, Aphrodite would be cold and in mourning in the months when sex and love would, especially in antiquity, have not been at the forefront of the minds of humankind; and his emergence from the Underworld would coincide with Persephone’s own. Thus the relationship of Adonis, Aphrodite and Persephone would symbolise the entire theme of life-death-rebirth: Aphrodite as the ruler of life, Persephone as the ruler of death, and Adonis as the transition between their realms. Adding to this, both Aphrodite and Persephone share the epithet Despoina—the ruling goddess, or the mistress—and this, I think, lends further credence to the idea proposed.

Persephone’s relationship with Zeus was one of the most devastating of unions: the King of Life and the Queen of Death. As such, perhaps Zagreus was doomed from the very offset – born of trickery and lies, for, according to such authors as Nonnus, Zeus took the shape of a drakon (a dragon; a serpent) and ravished Persephone. Zagreus was a colossal explosion of Fate—for Zeus and Persephone both influence it, and have been influenced by it—as well as the primal stirrings of desire. Thus Zagreus—and, in turn, Dionysos—is a god with influence over life, death and fate, for he commands his followers to take their destinies into their own hands and twist them into oblivion.

In answer to the question proposed by the very title of this essay—Why Persephone?—I give this: Hades chose Persephone because she was his perfect opposite: feminity to his masculinity, warmth to his cold and light to his darkness. Between them, Hades and Persephone are, also, the very embodiment of two principles that rule supreme in the psyche of humans – the notion of life after death, and the promise of rebirth. They are fair rulers of the Underworld and just governors of fate; and in their capable hands, I am assured that the flow of life, death and rebirth will continue as long as the Moirai—the Fates—see fit.

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Serpentine

October 4, 2009

You are the slow crawl
Of eternity;
Incorporeal,
Serpentine lover.

Lord of the wheel of
Time, necessity;
The Zodiakos
Yield to You alone.

Creator of need,
Of pulsing hunger;
Of far-reaching Phanes,
The father of all.

The passing of time,
The fate of all men,
Is both a blessing
And a curse from You.

You are the King of
A generation
Of kings: but You are
Supreme, above all.

I offer to You,
Lord of the kosmos,
My eternal soul;
It is Yours alone.

Supreme Aion, Lord
Of the Moirai and
Those who govern them,
I ask You one thing:

Please, my King, do not
Be moved to anger
Against me; let me
Stir not Your fury.

I submit to You.
My body, my mind,
My soul; I give all
Unto You, Time Lord.

I hope only that
You are pleased with my
Offering; for I
Would serve You always.

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Aphrodite-Ananke and Creation

September 27, 2009

When you hear the name ‘Aphrodite,’ it is highly likely that you immediately understand who it is one is speaking of – after all, Aphrodite (and the Roman goddess that she was identified with, Venus) is a popular figure even outside of Hellenic Polytheistic circles. However, unless you have delved quite deeply into the Greek mythologies, it is unlikely that you will know who ‘Ananke’ is. She is not a mainstream goddess; she is not Olympian nor an attendant of such, but rather she is one of the gods—the Protogenos or primeval gods—who are principally responsible for the creation of the cosmos and everything within it.

Simply put, Ananke is the god of compulsion, necessity and inevitability. She was born the sister-mate of the Protogenos Khronos, king of time—who is deeply identified with Aion, the Protogenos lord of eternity—and from their embrace Phanes first begun. Phanes, the primeval god of creation and generation, equated with Hesiod’s Elder Eros and the more well-known (and oft-called ‘younger’) Eros, god of love and the son of Aphrodite.

In my personal view of How The Kosmos Came To Be—based on a mix of classical sources—in the beginning, and for unknowable eons, all that existed was Khaos; the deep mists of the void. Khaos existed, and nothing else: she did not breathe, she did not think, she did not live. And yet stirring in her misty womb—perhaps over hundreds of thousands of years; perhaps for even longer—were the Protogenos gods Ananke and Khronos-Aion. Nature, of course, abhors a vacuum; and so it was the eternal pull of inevitability that pulsed together in the barely-there body of Khaos until, finally, the moment arose and Ananke and Khronos-Aion were born, tangled together.

From Khronos-Aion and Ananke’s violent, and yet utterly sexless, embrace, Phanes’ egg was produced; it grew in Ananke’s womb until the time came for it to emerge. And yet there was, truly, no way for the egg to emerge: there was yet no Phanes, no Protogenos pull to reproduce – and so they could not, did not, reproduce. It was only when Phanes hatched from his egg, deep in Ananke’s body, that they became truly, sexually formed: and at that moment, Ananke was torn apart by the immense pressure of generation, life, sex – the immense pressure that was Phanes. Thus, now, Ananke’s divinity rested with Khronos’ still, but she was utterly formless—more so, even, than Khaos.

Phanes’ arrival—his necessary arrival—into the kosmos kicked everything into action. The other Protogenos offspring that had been stirring within Khaos were instantly born – Erebos, Nyx, Tartaros and Gaia; darkness, night, the stormy pit beneath the earth and the earth itself, respectively. Phanes pulsed, everywhere: the Protogenos gods crashed together and life exploded in the far-reaching darkness of the kosmos.

Gaia, with only Phanes’ massively sexual influence and no tangible partner, produced children such as Ouranos, the heavens, whom shortly thereafter became the father, with Gaia, of the twelve Titanes. The Titanes were led by Kronos, god of destructive time, and the bi-gendered god Agdistis, who would later be castrated and become the goddess Rhea-Kybele. However, not all was as perfectly peaceful as it may sound: and the first war between the gods was not long in arriving.

After the Titanes’ births, Ouranos and Gaia continued to come together—he descended nightly to lie with her—and they produced more children, the Hekatonkheires (six hundred-handed and fifty-headed gigantes). The Hekatonkheires were so awful and terrifying to look upon that, after the birth of the first, Ouranos took it upon himself to force each back into Gaia’s womb. This caused her immense pain, and she eventually went to her Titane sons to ask them for their help. Only Kronos agreed to help.

Kronos, as is rather well known, ambushed Ouranos as he descended to lie with Gaia, and castrated him. The severed genitals of the god landed in the sea, mixing with Thalassa’s Protogenos sea-womb – and Aphrodite began to take shape. Over the course of the hundreds of years during which Aphrodite was formed, Agdistis became Rhea-Kybele, Rhea and Kronos’ Olympian children were born, Kronos swallowed all of the Olympians but Zeus, and Zeus, when old and powerful enough, waged war with the Titanes and won the reign of the kosmos.

As such, this time was not yet right for Aphrodite: the Moirai spun the threads of violence, hate and pain, and there was then no opening for a god such as Aphrodite who encompassed both spectrums of emotions and bodily states; the good (such as love, piety and friendship) and the awful (war, torture and death). And as she was growing—slowly and steadily, in the womb of deep Thalassa—the divine essence of Ananke remained torn apart. That essence resonated with Aphrodite’s own: for both are gods of compulsion, of necessity, of want and need and inevitability, and both longed for completion – Aphrodite for the wars to cease and to be born, lovely and whole, and Ananke to return to her mate Khronos-Aion, who continued to turn the heavens without her.

It was inevitable, in and of itself, that Ananke’s loose divinity would be attracted to Aphrodite’s. They drew steadily closer—Ananke filtered through Thalassa’s womb and delighted in the contact with a fellow yearning divine—until, in a burst of what truly could only be described as fate, their essences merged together. Ananke ceased to exist; Aphrodite alone never truly existed. They became one: Aphrodite-Ananke, the Protogenos, Titane and even Olympian goddess of the necessity of procreation, the compulsion of love, and the inevitability of beauty in a world created by such gods as these.

The war between the Olympians and the Titanes ended shortly after, and the time came for Aphrodite-Ananke to, slowly, be born. At this time, Phanes’ influence was still everywhere, pushing at anything and everything to create, create, create; and it was here that ‘Aphrodite’ and ‘Eros’ first met, as she was being born and he was there to urge her on (and yet he was her own child: for he was the son of Ananke and Khronos, and her essence was now so wound with Ananke’s that it would have been impossible—truly, truly impossible—to separate them; they had totally become one).

From the very first, Aphrodite-Ananke and Phanes connected. As the resonance between Aphrodite and Ananke had occurred, it occurred now between Phanes and Aphrodite-Ananke – but the end result was much different. Instead of their essences merging, Phanes wrapped himself around the child-goddess and all but suffocated her in his embrace. From this, a seed of divinity flickered in Aphrodite-Ananke’s womb—a connection—and Phanes poured his entire divinity into Aphrodite-Ananke in a tidal wave that shook the childhood from her essence and brought about, simultaneously, the rapid development of the child, or rather the children, within her womb.

She gave birth to Phanes immediately: he was now born again as Phanes-Eros, Phanes-Himeros and Phanes-Pothos – the gods of love, desire and passion. By the time that she finally reached the shore of Cyprus, Zeus immediately met her and ordered that she join the Olympian gods, perhaps recognising the Protogenos stir in her eyes and smiles, and she, in turn, asked Nerites to join her. He refused, and refused again the wings she would offer him, and the first instance of her wrath against a wrongdoer of love occurred; she turned him into a shellfish, and gave the wings to her Erotes, instead.

And, thus, Aphrodite-Ananke became known as simply Aphrodite, and her sons not as Phanes-Eros, Phanes-Himeros and Phanes-Pothos, but simply Eros, Himeros and Pothos. It is these words that even I most commonly use, due to ease, but the deity I refer to each time is the same: ‘Aphrodite’ is the mixture of the essences of Aphrodite and Ananke; ‘Eros’ is Phanes reborn as Eros; ‘Himeros’ is, likewise, Phanes-Himeros; and, finally, ‘Pothos’ is Phanes-Pothos.

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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 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.

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Thoughts on Eros

August 11, 2009

Eros: one of the oldest gods, and one of the youngest. He brings love and hate with his arrows of gold and lead, shot straight into the hearts of the unwary. He is, like Aphrodite, quick to judge and quick to forgive; and he is, like Khaos, endless and infinite. He is at once the winged babe, the dancing boy and the sleek youth of love. He carries lovers’ gifts in his arms and fondly ruffles the hair of those he passes. He is Aphrodite’s more human face, and yet he is far older than her, born from Khaos’ creeping mists.

He is the bitter-sweet love of life, of love, of the world and of one’s soul. He draws his arrows and loosens them on the hearts of those who do not respect him – and those who do respect him. No one, god or mortal, is safe from his touch. Only his respect of Choice forces him to stay his hand when he would otherwise strike at the virgin goddesses with his all-consuming arrows.

He leads the winged loves, the Erotes, in their fluttering flight in Aphrodite’s footsteps. He treads child-delicately and youth-heavily, and he throws himself into love with the reckless abandon of Love itself. He sneers at those who would refuse his passions, and spreads his wings to cover those who follow where he walks. He lives in the company of the gods, but often prefers the touches of humans. He is sharp and cold and hot and soft, wild and civilised, dangerous and peaceful. He is the quick-fingered child-keeper of the heavens, the earth, the sky and the seas.

He is the reaction, the fizzling catalyst who inspires love and hate – equally, and at the command of his laughing sometimes-mother, Aphrodite. He is the playmate of Ganymedes, cupbearer of the gods, and the husband of Psyche, the love of oneself, the soul. He is the father of pleasure and the son of beauty, of night, of nothing and everything. He brushes his hands, feather-light, over the cheeks and lips of his flushed, open, beautiful wife and inspires lovers everywhere to follow his example. He is masculinity and he is feminity, he is the eternal child who gives cheeky smiles and wears his heart on his sleeve.

He throws himself into everything—love, tantrums, joy, pain—and expects the same of his Erotes. He dances with nymphs and muses and plays at the feet of the Moirae. He holds himself to a moral code at once distant and similar to our own, and he refuses to rest his red-hot lips on the brow of those who do not do him justice. He is sin and virtue, platonic and sexual love, he is passion and need and thrumming, pulsing love.

He wraps his arms around his wife and daughter, and all he asks of those who would follow him is that they do not hurt the ones they love. He kisses his little-girl daughter on the forehead and his butterfly-wife on the lips, and he smiles up to his smiling, golden mother. He plays in night and day, dusk and dawn, and his influence is always circling, a hazy red smoke that curls around the skin of lovers and lets them bask in his glow. He blesses with his delicate fingers and draws his teeth over intertwined bodies, and he laughs and basks in his own glow.

He is Eros: the child, the lover. Love.