Posts Tagged ‘Hermes’

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In-Between Devotee

January 6, 2010

I soak my skin in ink,
In the heat and sweat
Stirred by being close to you –
This is my offering.

I stand on the bridge.
It arches high up to Olympos,
But its edges touch dark Dis.
It is your world; this is your home.

You do not live fully in
The world of light and sensation,
Nor in the cool depths of the dusk.
You live in the space in-between:

The bridges looming over the motorway,
The paths winding through the unknown,
The shore beside the rumbling sea,
And the long shadows of the twilight.

This is where I find you, my lord.
The in-between, which straddles each world
Without living truly in any, is where you linger.
It is where I belong, alongside you, Hermes.

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Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite

December 12, 2009

Trans: Athanassakis.

Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite
Sing to me, O Muse, of the works of golden Aphrodite,
the Cyprian, who stirs sweet longing in gods
and subdues the races of mortal men as well as
the birds that swoop from the sky and all the beasts
that are nurtured in their multitudes on both land and sea.
Indeed all have concern for the works of fair-wreathed Kythereia.
Three are the minds which she can neither sway nor deceive:
first is the daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus, gray-eyed Athene.
The works of Aphrodite the golden bring no pleasure to her,
but she finds joy in wars and in the work of Ares
and in the strife of battle and in tending to deeds of splendor.
She was first to teach the craftsmen of this earth
how to make carriages and chariots with intricate patterns of bronze.
And she taught lustrous works to soft-skinned maidens
in their houses, placing skill in each one’s mind.
Second is hallooing Artemis of the golden shafts,
whom smile-loving Aphrodite can never tame in love.
For she delights in the bow and in slaying mountain beasts,
in the lyre and the dance and in shrill cries
and in shaded groves and in the city of just men.
Third is a revered maiden not charmed by the deeds of Aphrodite,
Hestia, whom Kronos of crooked counsels begat first
and youngest too, by the will of aegis-bearing Zeus.
Poseidon and Apollon courted this mighty goddess
but she was unwilling and constantly refused.
She touched the head of aegis-bearing Zeus
and swore a great oath, which has been brought to pass,
that she, the illustrious goddess, would remain a virgin forever.
Instead of marriage Zeus the Father gave her a fair prize,
and she took the choicest boon and sat in the middle of the house.
In all the temples of the gods she has her share of honour
anbd for all mortals she is of all the gods the most venerated.
Of these three she can neither sway the mind, nor deceive them.
But none of the others, neither blessed god
nor mortal man, has escaped Aphrodite.
She even led astray the mind of Zeus who delights in thunder
and who is the greatest and has the highest honour.
Even his wise mind she tricks when she wills it
and easily mates him with mortal women,
making him forget Hera, his wife and sister,
by far the most beautiful among the deathless goddesses
and the most illustrious child to issue from crafty Kronos
and mother Rhea. And Zeus, knower of indestructible plans,
made her his modest and prudent wife.
But even in Aphrodite’s soul Zeus placed sweet longing
to mate with a mortal man: his purpose was that even she
might not be kept away from a mortal’s bed for long,
and that some day the smile-loving goddess might not
laugh sweetly and bosat among all the gods
of how she had joined in love gods to mortal women,
who bore mortal sons to the deathless gods,
and of how she had paired goddesses with mortal men.
And so he pleased in her heart sweet longing for Anchises,
who then, looking like an immortal in body,
tended cattle on the towering mountains of Ida, rich in spring.
When indeed smile-loving Aphrodite saw him,
she fell in love with him, and awesome longing seized her heart.
She went to Cyprus and entered her redolent temple
at Paphos, where her precinct and balmy temple are.
There she entered and behind her closed the shining doors;
and there the Graces bathed her and annointed her
with ambrosia oil such as is rubbed on deathless gods,
divinely sweet, and made fragrant for her sake.
After she clothed her body with beautiful garments
and decked herself with gold, smile-loving Aphrodite
left sweet-smelling Cyprus behind and rushed toward Troy,
moving swiftly on a path high up in the clouds.
And she reached Ida, rich in sprigs, mother of beasts,
and over the mountains she made straight for the stalls.
And along with her, fawning, dashed gray wolves
and lions with gleaming eyes and bears and swift leopards,
ever hungry for deer. And when she saw them, she was delighted
in her heart and placed longing in their breasts,
so that they lay together in pairs along the shady glens.
But she herself reached the well-built shelters
and found the hero Anchises, whose beauty was divine,
left alone and away from the others, by the stalls.
All the others followed the cattle on the grassy pastures,
but he was left alone by the stalls, and away from the others
he moved about and played a loud and clear lyre.
And Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus, stood before him,
in size and form like an unwed maiden,
so that he might not see who she was and be afraid.
When Anchises saw her, he pondered and marveled
at her size and form, and at her glistening garments.
She was clothed in a robe more brilliant than gleaming fire
and wore spiral bracelets and shining earrings,
while round her tender neck there were beautiful necklaces,
lovely, golden and of intricate design. Like the moon’s
was the radiance round her soft breasts, a wonder to the eye.
Desire seized Anchises, and to her he uttered these words:
“Lady, welcome to this house, whoever of the blessed ones you are:
whether you are Artemis, or Leto, or golden Aphrodite,
or well-born Themis, or gray-eyed Athena,
or yet perchance one of the Graces, who with all
the gods keep company and are called immortal,
or one of the nymphs who haunt these beautiful woods,
or one of the nymphs who dwell on this beautiful mountain
and in the springs of rivers and grassy dells.
Upon a lofty peak, which can be seen from all around,
I shall make you an altar and offer you fair sacrifices
in all seasons. And with kindly heart grant me
to be an eminent man among the Trojans,
to leave flourishing offspring behind me,
and to live long and behold the light of the sun,
prospering among the people, and so reach the threshold of old age.”
And then Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus, answered him:
“Anchises, most glorious of all men born on earth,
I surely am no goddess: why do you liken me to the immortals?
A mortal am I, and born of a mortal woman.
Renowned Otreus is my father–have you perchance heard his name?–
who is lord over all of well-fortified Phrygia.
And I know well both my language and yours,
for a Trojan nurse reared me in my house; and she took me
from my dear mother and devotedly cherished me when I was little.
For this reason indeed I know your language too.
But now Argeiphontes of the golden wand carried me off
from the dance of hallooing Artemis of the golden shafts.
Many of us nymphs and maidens, worth many cows to their parents,
were playing, and endless was the crowd encircling us.
From there Argeiphontes of the golden wand abducted me
and carried me over many works of mortal men,
over much undivided and uninhabited land, where beasts
which each raw flesh roam through the shady glens,
and I thought that my feet would never again touch the life-giving earth.
He said I should be called your wedded wife, Anchises,
and sharing your bed would bear you fine children.
But when Argeiphontes had shown and explained this to me,
again he went away among the tribes of the immortals;
and so I am before you because my need is compelling.
By Zeus I beseech you and by your noble parents,
for base ones could not bear offspring like you.
Take me untouched and innocent of love
and show me to your father and wise mother
and to your brothers born of the same womb;
I shall be no unseemly daughter and sister.
Quickly send a messenger to the Phrygians, who have swift horses,
to bring word to my father and to my mother in her grief;
they will send you much gold and many woven garments,
and do you accept all these splendid rewards.
Once these things are done, prepare the lovely marriage feast,
which is honoured by both men and immortal gods.”
With these words the goddess placed sweet desire in his heart,
so that love seized Anchises and he addressed her:
“If you are mortal and born of a mortal woman
and Otreus is your father, famous by name, as you say,
and if you are come here by the will of Hermes,
the immortal guide, you shall be called my wife forever.
And so neither god nor mortal men will restrain me
till I have mingled with you in love
right now; not even if far-shooting Apollon himself
should shoot grievous arrows from his silver bow.
O godlike woman, willingly would I go to the house of Hades
once I have climbed into your bed.”
With these words he took her by the hand; and smile-loving Aphrodite,
turning her face away, with beautiful eyes downcast, went coyly
to the well-made bed, which was already laid
with soft coverings for its lord.
On it were skins of bears and deep-roaring lions,
which he himself had killed on the high mountains.
And when they climbed onto the well-wrought bed,
first Anchises took off the bright jewels from her body,
brooches, spiral bracelets, earrings and necklaces,
and loosed her girdle, and her brilliant garments
he stripped off and laid upon a silver-studded seat.
Then by the will of the gods and destiny he, a mortal,
lay beside an immortal, not knowing what he did.
And at the hour shepherds turn their oxen and goodly sheep
back to the stalls from the flowering pastures,
she poured sweet sleep over Anchises
and clothed her body in her beautiful clothes.
When the noble goddess had clothed her body in beautiful clothes,
she stood by the couch; her head touched the well-made roof-beam
and her cheeks were radiant with divine beauty,
such as belongs to fair-wreathed Kythereia.
Then she roused him from sleep and addressed him thus:
“Arise, Dardanides! Why do you sleep so deeply?
And consider whether I look the same
as when you first saw me with your eyes.”
So she spoke. And he, arising from sleep, obeyed her forthwith.
And when he saw Aphrodite’s neck and lovely eyes,
he was seized with fear and turned his eyes aside.
Then with his cloak his handsome face he covered
and spoke to her winged words in prayer:
“Goddess, as soon as I saw you with my eyes
I knew that you were divine; but you did not tell me the truth.
Yet by aegis-bearing Zeus I beseech you
not to let me live impotent among men,
but have mercy on me; for the man who lies
with immortal goddesses is not left unharmed.”
And Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered him:
“Anchises, most glorious of mortal men,
courage! Have little fear in your heart.
No need to be afraid that you may suffer harm from me
or from the other blessed ones, for by the gods you are loved.
And you shall have a dear son who will rule among the Trojans,
and to his offspring children shall always be born.
Aineias his name shall be, because I was seized
by awful grief for sharing a mortal man’s bed.
But of all mortal men your race is always
closest to the gods in looks and stature.
Wise Zeus abducted fair-haired Ganymedes
for his beauty, to be among the immortals
and pour wine for the gods in the house of Zeus,
a marvel to look upon, honoured by all the gods,
as from the golden bowl he draws red nectar.
Relentless grief seized the heart of Tros, nor did he know
whither the divine whirlwind had carried off his dear son.
So thereafter he wept for him unceasingly;
and Zeus pitied him and gave him high-stepping horses,
such as carry the immortals, as reward for his son.
He gave them as a gift to have, and guiding
Argeiphontes at the behest of Zeus told him in detail
how his son would be immortal and ageless like the gods.
And when he heard Zeus’ message,
he no longer wept but rejoiced in his heart
and was gladly carried by the careering horses.
So, too, golden-throned Eos abducted Tithonos,
one of your own race, who resembled the immortals.
She went to ask Kronion, lord of dark clouds,
that he should be immortal and live forever.
And Zeus nodded assent to her and fulfilled her wish.
Mighty Eos was too foolish to think of asking
youth for him and to strip him of baneful old age.
Indeed, so long as much-coveted youth was his,
he took his delight in early-born, golden-throned Eos,
and dwelt by the stream of Okeanos at the ends of the earth.
But when the first gray hairs began to flow down
from his comely head and noble chin,
mighty Eos did refrain from his bed,
though she kept him in her house and pampered him
with food and ambrosia and gifts of fine clothing.
But when detested old age weighed heavily on him
and he could move or lift none of his limbs,
this is the counsel that to her seemed best in her heart:
she placed him in a chamber and shut its shining doors.
His voice flows endlessly, and there is no strength,
such as there was before, in his crooked limbs.
If this were to be your lot among immortals, I should not chose
for you immortality and eternal life.
But should you live on such as you now are
in looks and build, and be called my husband,
then no grief would enfold my prudent heart.
But now you will soon be enveloped by leveling old age,
that pitiless companion of every man,
baneful, wearisome and hated even by the gods.
But great shame shall be mine among the immortal gods
to the end of all time because of you.
Till now they feared my scheming tattle,
by which, soon or late, I mated all immortal gods
to mortal women, for my will tamed them all.
But now my mouth will not bear to mention this
among the immortals because, struck by great madness
in a wretched and grave way, and driven out of my mind,
I mated with a mortal, and put a child beneath my girdle.
As soon as this child sees the light of the sun,
the full-bosomed mountain nymphs will nurture him.
They do not take after either mortals or immortals;
they live long and eat immortal food,
and among the immortals they move nimbly in the beautiful dance.
The Seilenoi and sharp-eyed Argeiphontes
mingle with them in love in caves where desire lurks.
When they are born, firs and towering oaks
spring up on the man-nourishing earth
and grow into lush beauty on the high mountains.
They stand lofty, and are called sanctuaries
of the gods; and mortals do not fell them with the ax.
But whenever fated death is near at hand,
first these beautiful trees wither on their ground,
the bark all around them shrivels up, the branches fall away,
and their souls and those of the nymphs leave the light of the sun together.
They will keep my son and nurture him.
As soon as he reaches much-coveted adolescence,
the goddesses will bring the child here to show him to you.
And, to tell you all I have in mind,
toward the fifth year I will come and bring my son.
And when you first lay your eyes upon this blossom,
you will delight in the sight, for so much like a god he will be;
and you shall take him forthwith to windy Ilion.
But if any mortal man should ask you
what sort of mother carried your dear son under her girdle,
do remember to speak to him as I bid you:
‘He is the son, they say, of a nymph with a petal-soft face,
one of those who dwell on this forest-covered mountain.’
But if you reveal this and boast with foolish heart
to have mingled in love with fair-wreathed Kythereia,
an angry Zeus will smite you with a smoking thunderbolt.
I have told you everything; with this clear in your mind,
refrain from naming me, and heed divine anger.”
With these words she darted up to the windy sky.
Hail, O goddess and queen of cultivated Cyprus!
I begin with you but now shall go to another hymn.

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Adonis

November 28, 2009

Hand-in-hand, the queens of soft roses and
Sharp thorns stand over the youth Adonis,
Killed whilst his face was still as soft as that
Of one of Artemis’ dark nymphai.

Blood and nectar pours down between them, held
Aloft by Peitho and Hekate. Kind
Thanatos waits; Hermes and Iris, the
Messengers of the gods, stand by his side.

Anemones curl over the youth’s body,
Blowing in the gentle breaths of the winds.
Aphrodite and Persephone kneel
And, together, kiss their boy’s dying lips.

Life streams over his face; his eyes open.

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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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Gender-Changing in Gods and Daimones

November 21, 2009

The theme of gender-changing, whether by one’s own hand or choice or by another’s, occurs frequently in Hellenic mythologies. It is accompanied, often, by gender-reversal; by gods and daimones acting as the opposite gender, rather than actually becoming the opposite gender. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the gender fluidity of the gods (and certain gods in particular), and part to the necessity of their act for their own gain, or for the gain of the entire kosmos. In this essay, I will be discussing, in-depth, the three most notable occurrences of gender-changing – Hermaphroditos’, Agdistis-Rhea-Kybele’s, and Attis’.

The most memorable case of gender-changing is that of Hermaphroditos, the god of hermaphrodites, effeminate men, masculine women, transsexuals, transgenders, etc. Hermaphroditos’ gender-change (or, more correctly, gender-merge) is also his primary mythology. He is rarely named in the literature that points to the Erotes, although he is numbered among them, both by his parentage and divine function; and even the mythology of his birth is short and barely-considered. His pre- and post-merge mythology is barely touched upon; despite his Olympic parentage, he seems to have been all but forgotten by the Classical writers, in all respects other than detailing his merge with the nympha Salmakis.
Hermaphroditos (or Atlantius, as he was once/otherwise known, according to Hyginus, Fabulae, 271), ‘whom in Mount Ida’s caves the Naiades nurtured’ (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.28ff), was a youth comparable in beauty only to Adonis, Ganymedes, Endymion, Hyakinthos, Narkissos, Hylas and Khrysippos. It is interesting to note, here, that several of these most beautiful youths–Adonis, Hyakinthos and Ganymedes and, to a lesser extent, Hylas–all experienced a gender reversal, which will be discussed in Gender-Reversal in Gods and Daimones.
When he was fifteen–‘when thrice five years had passed’ (Met, 4.28ff)–Hermaphroditos ventured from Mount Ida, ‘eager to roam strange lands afar’ (Met, 4.28ff), and eventually came upon Salmakis’ ‘limpid shining pool’ (Met, 4.28ff). Salmakis, upon seeing the beautiful youth, declared her love for him. He, who ‘knew not what love was’ (Met, 4.28ff), rejected her as she ‘besought at least a sister’s kiss’ (Met, 4.28ff). Pretending to accept his rejection, the nympha Salmakis withdrew from sight; and Hermaphroditos, thinking himself alone, stepped into her pool and ‘stripped his light garments from his slender limbs’ (Met, 4.28ff). Salmakis watched him until he dived into the pool; and that–in succumbing to the pull of her water–made him hers, seemingly, for she ‘flung aside her clothes and plunged far out into the pool and grappled him’ (Met, 4.28ff). Hermaphroditos struggled to free himself and, at last, she managed to gain such a hold on him that ‘her clinging body seemed fixed fast to his’ (Met, 4.28ff), and she beseeched the gods to never let their bodies part. The gods (though it is unknown which gods) accepted the prayer and ‘both bodies merged in one, both blended in one form and face . . . they two were two no more, nor man, nor woman–one body then that neither seemed and both.’ (Met, 4.28ff) Hermaphroditos, now merged with Salmakis, emerged from the pool, saw that ‘the waters of the pool, where he had dived a man, had rendered him half woman’ (Met, 4.28ff) and beseeched his divine parents, Hermes and Aphrodite, that ‘whoso in these waters bathes a man emerge half woman, weakened instantly’ (Met, 4.28ff). His parents agreed; and ‘drugged the bright water with that power impure’ (Met, 4.28ff).
Diodorus Siculus described Hermaphroditos, after the merging with the nympha: ‘Some say that this Hermaphroditos is a god and appears at certain times among men, and that he is born with a physical body which is a combination of that of a man and that of a woman, in that he has a body which is beautiful and delicate like that of a woman, but has the masculine quality and vigour of a man.’ (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 4.6.5.) Diodorus Siculus then continued to note that ‘there are some who declare that such creatures of two sexes are monstrosities, and coming rarely into the world as they do they have the quality of presaging the future, sometimes for evil and sometimes for good.’ (Library of History, 4.6.5.)

The above quote of Diodorus Siculus can be applied, in turn, to the monster-god Agdistis, born of the Phrygian Sky God and Earth Goddess–Ouranos and Gaia–who would later become Kybele, equated with Rhea as Rhea-Kybele, mother of the gods.
Agdistis was, according to Pausanias, born when Ouranos (or, rather, the Phrygian sky god – who Pausanias equates with Zeus, strangely), ‘let fall in his sleep seed upon the ground, which in course of time sent up a Daimon, with two sexual organs, male and female.’ (Pausanias, Guide to Greece, 7.17.8.) Fearing Agdistis–the bi-sexed, and therefore aggressively, and by some accounts, literally insanely, sexual god–the other gods ‘cut off the male organ’ (Guide to Greece, 7.17.8), thus effectively changing Agdistis, a bi-sexed god, to Rhea-Kybele, a solely female god. An almond tree grew from Agdistis-Kybele’s castrated organ, and a nympha daughter of the river-god Sangarios ‘took the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child.’ (Guide to Greece, 7.17.8.)
The child born was the youth Attis; and as he grew, his beauty, which was ‘more than human’ (Guide to Greece, 7.17.8) drew Agdistis-Kybele’s eye. She fell in love with him; and he ‘conquered the towered goddess with pure love’ (Ovid, Fasti, 4.222). Attis swore to her that he would ‘desire to be a boy always’ and that if he ever cheated, the one ‘I cheat with [will] be my last’ (Fasti, 4.222). He cheated, either by having an affair with the nympha Sagaritis (Fasti, 4.222) or by an attempt at marrying a king’s daughter (Guide to Greece, 7.17.8).
Agdistis-Rhea-Kybele, in divine wrath and madness, either then killed Sagaritis–by cutting down the nympha’s tree; ‘her fate was the tree’s’ (Fasti, 4.222)–or showed up at the wedding of Attis and the king’s daughter, whilst ‘the marriage-song was being song’ (Guide to Greece, 7.17.8); either version, though, caused Attis to descend into instant madness. Attis ‘bolts to Dindymus’ heights’ (Fasti, 4.222) and ‘went mad and cut off his genitals’ (Guide to Greece, 7.17.8), until ‘no signs of manhood remained.’ (Fasti, 4.222.) According to Pausanias, she then ‘repented of what she had done to Attis, and persuaded Zeus to grant the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay’ (Guide to Greece, 7.17.8); effectively, then, immortalising him.
This myth–beginning with Agdistis’ conception and ending with Attis’ immortal rebirth–has several common themes. The first, of course, is gender-changing; Agdistis, the bi-sexed, became Rhea-Kybele, a mother goddess, and simultaneously impregnated Sangarios’ nympha daughter, and thus became a father goddess, too. Attis, the boy born of the nympha and Agdistis’ castrated genitals, castrated himself, in turn, and ‘became a model: soft-skinned acolytes toss their hair and cut their worthless organs’ (Fasti, 4.222), thus effectively changing his own gender – and although his gender was changed by his own hands, it was caused by Agdistis-Rhea-Kybele. The second important theme is accidental pregnancy: the Phrygian Sky God’s/Ouranos’ impregnation of Gaia, the Earth, creating the bi-sexed Agdistis; and then Agdistis’ castrated genitals’ impregnation of Sangarios’ daughter, creating the lovely Attis. The entire myth continues the theme of ‘creatures of two sexes are monstrosities’, as suggested by Diodorus Siculus; and is a reoccuring theme within Hellenic mythology. Perhaps the other gods are wary the raw, fertile, mad power of bi-sexed gods; or, perhaps it was simply the prejudices of Classical society, made into divine acceptance through the mythos.

In Gender-Reversal in Gods and Daimones, I will be further exploring the gender switches in the Greek mythos; including Zeus’ gender-switch into Artemis, Adonis’ androgynous nature, Ganymedes’ and Hyakinthos’ apparent femininity and feminine values; and others.

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Confessions

November 17, 2009

She nods to the god in her bed,
And then looks back at his son,
Hermes, borne of another.
“I love him,” she says quietly,
Clouds swirling in her soft eyes.
The messenger of the gods nods,
Takes her hand in his and kisses it.
His voice is midnight-soft; “I know.”

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Short – Hermes

November 13, 2009

Crossroads loom before his shadowy form.
Dogs prowl at his feet, dark-eyed, snarling beasts.
Wings stretch up from his shoulders, as Hermes
Pauses, smiles, and spins his coins through the air.